Ave Maria Plena Gratia . . . I do not recall the last time I said the Hail Mary with any conviction, the last time I recited it aloud in Latin, as I had been taught by an Puccini loving cop from Brooklyn who used to walk the Fulton Street beat and was the Precint mid-wife . . . how long ago this was was longer ago than when I was a boy of fourteen and in love, as I imagined then, with a local corner grocery store owner’s daughter’s tits. When I was boy, as I have said, of fourteen–what was it then,. what is it now that I can say, need to say, about what, about whom, her, blonde curly hair and glorious tits, Ave Mamaliam in Excelsis.
He was short, the grocery store owner–and this has nothing to do with his daughters tits in early seventies tight sweaters. He had thick glasses; his daughter did not; he had black hair still at his age, and his twenty year old daughter did not . . . and if she had had glasses, I still would have only seen her absolutely glorious tits, or so I said later when describing her, or trying to describe her–I do remember when I was sixteen, my father saying never stare a woman in the tits, always look her in the eye. If she wants you, there will be plenty of time for looking at her tits later.
How could I not say, though, how glorious her tits were because they were glorious, and when it came to tits when I was fourteen, it did not matter if they were Italian-American tits or Irish-American tits, or African-American or Jewish-American tits–human tits were human tits and they were not cow’s udders or gorilla mammaries. I was 14 when I declared to myself under my breath leaving the store, Gloria Mammaliam in Excelsis as I have already said herein. I had the capacity to express women’s–girl’s tits, lips, eyes, faces, legs in religious terms. It was, I canot deny now, quite pornographic–a strange metonymy takes place in pornogrpahy–part for whole, or part equals hole which equals woman in some form of extreme close-up, eclipsing the woman in her entirety. Yes, whole becomes part; part in this extremis becomes hole?
I used to go to this grocery store owner for ham sandwiches, Boar’s Head with tomato and mayo on italian bread. I recalled something of my Catechism. It had no bearing in my desire for her tits that she was Jewish; I did not imagine praising her tits in Latin phrases some old women in my neighborhood still used for God was an affront to anything or anyone. Human tits were human tits and needed to be praised. Ave Mammaliam Plena Gratia . . . her tits were really glorious tits–how many times I imagined my lips around the aureole . . . interesting how this is also used for halos, no?
God, I can still see her tits today, now, in front of me almost–I cannot see her face, nor can I see her in tight jeans–but those sweaters and those tits . . . he was Jewish, the man who owned the store, as I have already said. I knew an Irish-American girl I had an infatuation with at the same time–her tits were–I’m looking for another word to describe her tits. I do not want to use the same word, glorious, but I guess I’ll have to–yes, her tits were also glorious. Whose were the first tits I ever had in hand, and not with sweaters between? I am not really asking.
He had two slicers in his store–East Flatbush, Avenue D; one was kosher, the other was non. Occasionally he’d roll up the sleeves of the button down white shirt he always wore, with a tie, black, also always. Yes, always a white shirt covered by an apron; always a tie. I had been in his store I don’t recollect how many times before I saw the numbers tattooed on his arm–he did have numbers tatooed on his arm. I don’t remember the first time I saw them; really I do not. I do not recall what I said or what I thought. I only recall that I did see them, and I do not know if saw me when I saw them. I do not have any idea what my face must have looked like–I am not going to venture a guess. I was still more curious what his daughters tits looked like under her sweater and bra. She had to always were a bra–her tits were big, must have been heavy–I cannot count how many times I fantasized about them. The underwire in most bras makes them contraptions of minor torture I concluded the last time I helped my wife shop for a bra.
I do not recall what I said or if I said anything or if I asked anyone anything about the numbers tattooed on his arm. My Uncle Sallie who had spent I forget how many years in the Navy after World War Two, the Battle of the Leyte Gulf and duty in the 16-inch gun turrets (the shells were sixteen inches) of the Battleship Iowa, had tattoos but not numbers, simple numerals, black, in a line. I had no idea when I was ten what they meant; I understood the anchor on Uncle Sallie’s arm, as I understood the anchor through the globe on my father’s ensigna from the United States Marine Corps. He was in the battles of Guam, Saipan, Okinawa, as well as the occupation of Shandong, China.
I never asked Joe what they meant or why they were there or why anyone would tattoo numerals on the forearm. I am not even sure if I remember that a friend later told me what those numbers meant. I think I recall a friend who has since died telling me; I don’t think he knew because he was concerned for history or for Jews. Jews were still curiosities for many in my old neighborhood, still mysterious, not helped by the fact that history has caused Jews under even the least hostile environments to wear masks on top of the masks each of us wears by nature or social conditioning. The word for person and the root of the word personality comes from the Latin word for mask, persona. This fact of tattooing was just another piece of trivia; the Germans tattooed them in the camps.
I don’t know what happened to Joe, the grocery store owner on the corner of S_________ Avenue and Avenue D in East Flatbush Brooklyn, after we moved away. I’m not sure if he is still alive; his daughter was four or six years older than I was, maybe she was only eighteen the last time I saw her, a thick voluptuous mass of curly blonde hair tumbling to a green blouse that could not hide . . . Ave Mammalia Plena Gratia . . . repetition, repetition, repetition. Although it did not accentuate just how glorious her tits were to repeat what I said.
I don’t remember whose were the first tits I ever had out of a bra. I’ve said this already. I don’t know why I should remember or why I should have forgotten. I often thought about how many tits I have seen, how many I have handled, fondled, played with, caressed, kissed, cuddled, sucked . . . where was I for my first tits I cannot say–I think I might have an idea who, but discretion, discretion, discretion . . . (the man who used to answer the door naked or semi-naked is worried about being discrete–this is rich).
I really do not remember the first pair of tits I had in hand. I mean naked tits, bald tits, out of blouse and without bra. There were tits inside of these, either of them–there must be a great difference for some to have their tits out of a blouse in a bra and out of the bra–I mean, I can see how there are those who see a great difference–I’m not sure the girl’s father would imagine the difference if she were under eighteen–I’m not sure he would if she were over eighteen. We are still horribly prudish. I’m not.
Upon first writing this, Joe might have been alive; the chances of Joe still being alive are slim, yet men living into their late nineties is not unusual. The daughter with the fabulous great and glorious tits most likely is. I used to imagine many years ago telling a woman in some future that I had had a crush on her when I was a boy. Nonetheless, I don’t know if his wife was older or younger. I never saw anything on her arms; I don’t know if I ever saw her arms. He was closed on Saturdays, opened regular hours on Sunday. I don’t know what I could tell him, or even if I should tell him anything, if I were to see him again, if he is alive, probably not; I thought the other day about his grocery store. I thought about the girl whose tits I had fallen in love with when I was fourteen, a girl who lived around the corner and down the block from Joe’s grocery.
I know I’ll forget this soon enough and perhaps remember it just as easily only to forget it again just as quickly once more. What could it have meant to me even if I were Jewish in Brooklyn, what I saw? How many Jews here were touched by the Holocaust; but I knew later that we were all supposed to be touched by it, but then we believed in a pan-humanity, or at least we imagined we did. We don’t today, in spite of what think, what we say, not as sub-divisive as our diversity has been allowed to become; multiculturalism has been allowed to degenerate into justification for tribal politics.
Lip service, easy enough; lying to one’s self easier. If Jews believe that when a person saves another person he saves the world, how many worlds did the Nazis destroy, I could ask, but I don’t. Do any of us through omission help destroy worlds within worlds. We don’t say enough of what we should say because all of us spend so much of our time chattering away, twittering away our time inanely on social media, hoping that there can be a cumulative effect on our lives, our collective future, as if linearly progressing toward an infinite future will bring us closer to a solution, an absolution, a resolve, a conclusion of enormous magnitude, enormous satisfaction for good. Infinity though is never reachable, never attainable, never ever to come and all efforts at reaching these infinite possibilities that we have become enamored with are destined to fail. One billion to the one billionth power no closer to infinity than three. Our hopes our rocks up the mountainside? Sisyphus, as I have said before in another essay, at least had his rock; we have only our illusions and delusions.
Preaching is easy, though. This I know from experience. I love to preach; practice, though, is always hard enough when done to make things perfect.