The first time I saw Teresa was at the corner of Romaine and Pavonia Aves; we were both 11 years old. I remember very clearly that she seemed much older than me; she had a sophistication and worldliness that I, an inexperienced Midwesterner lacked. She also had a pride about her, bestowing a confidence that I had yet to find.
Our family was always moving around due to my dads work, or lack of, I should say. I met Teresa when dad moved us to New Jersey so that he could commute to New York city. By this time we had already moved several times and I was getting tired of making and breaking friendships; I was determined to see this one through. Theresa taught me a lot about life, and pride of accomplishment. While she didn’t exactly excel at St. Anthony’s elementary she was learning the lessons of Jersey life. She would hold forth to the girls that raptly gathered around her, listening to her plans for the future. She was going to be big some day, people would pay attention to her and she would marry a guy that would give her everything she thought she deserved.
As the years went by we stayed friends and kept in touch even though I ended up in public school and she went to the local Catholic high school, “That’s where I’m gonna find my guy, Angie! You just wait and see!” I never doubted her for one minute, her resolve was astonishing. And find him she did. She was on the fast-track, so was her husband; Jimmy was a wheeler-dealer if there ever was one. Soon they had the big house, the kids, the cars and OMG the bling! No one that was showered with their attention understood what Jimmy and Teresa actually did, “entrepreneurs” was all we knew. And proud! Heavens, all she did was boast about how smart her kids were, the latest diamond ring Jimmy got her or the latest deal she cooked up.
After awhile the gang started to drift apart, partly because of job commitments, but increasingly due to an uneasiness about Theresa and Jimmy’s values. Rumors drifted around about the origins of their wealth and lifestyle. At first Teresa started to hide little things, she would deny the rumors and allegations. Eventually though her boasting won out, “That D.A. doesn’t know who he is dealing with!” We thought that perhaps Teresa didn’t really know what (or who) Jimmy was involved with. But the much publicized trial told a different story, one that painted Teresa as the master-mind, the one who knew “where the bodies were buried.” Jimmy was just the “muscle”. The jury took half a day to find her guilty, handing down a sentence of 20 to life.
Feeling a bit guilty for losing touch I decided to visit Teresa at EMCFW. The person that sat down across from me was just a shell of the person I knew in another life. Gone were the fancy clothes, her styled, coiffed hair was a straggly salt/pepper combination and her complexion devoid of the fancy, expensive cosmetics. One of the CO’s told me that Teresa still tried to “hold court”, still was a wheeler-dealer, albeit on a smaller scale. Now her commodities were mostly sweet rolls and coffee. As we sat there trying pretend the years away it was clear she would never change. And although she had no physical resemblance to the girl I met 30 years ago, she was still the same.
The last time I saw Theresa she still had that haughty look of pride.
**This is another piece inspired by a contest over at k8edid on the 7 Deadly Sins. Check out the entries, lots of good writing (I have humbly entered one on envy). Perhaps the next time you’re tempted you will stop and think of the consequences.