Elena offered us coffee, but we were all full of wine and hummus from Gian’s interview, and Thu then offered us some snacks. Instead, Elena moved the interview up to her bedroom. She sighed happily at a giant collection of family photos on the wall behind us, so we knew where this interview would go.
What is your name?
Do you know why you were named that?
“I chose my husband’s last name and I don’t regret it.”
I was talking about your first name.
“After five other girls, my parents were out of ideas. I’m glad they had one more left in them and that I still like it after 88 years.”
Single or taken?
“I’ll always be Aubrey’s, but I’ve made peace with his death.”
So he was your husband?
“For fewer years than I would have liked.”
And he was a good husband?
“I never got why everyone thought I should disown him for little things. In the grand scheme of everything, I don’t care about cheating or whores or shortcomings as a parent. Sometimes I’d still accept them all just to have him back.”
Stop being a Mary Sue! (Never mind. That exchange made them both sound super-pathetic)
Uh…good for you. What’s your eye color?
“Dark brown, like everyone in the family.”
How about hair color, before it went grey?
“Pure black. I did consider dyeing it back but silver looks the best against my clothes. My life became a lot better once I embraced aging too.”
What was the hardest thing to accept?
Have you any family members?
“I’m glad I made a big family for myself while I could. Four of my kids and all their own families are all I have left. First it was papà and then Aubrey, and then my mum and all my sisters and even my own son. It’s bad enough to go through all of that with so many more by your side. It’s bad enough to be alone at any point.”
Are you popular with in-laws?
“Some of them. My eldest son, Andrea…he had the best second wife. She still lives with me and is like a daughter. Her own mother was an evil monster. But I try to be that second mother to anyone who needs it. I’m a nonna now, even a bisnonna. Being a mother is what I do.”
So is that what you’re most afraid of, dying alone?
Did you ever have any pets?
“The last one I owned was a bulldog with Aubrey. He was a very sweet boy, but I don’t think I’ll own one again.”
Too much work?
“And I loved him so much that I couldn’t take in something so loveable with a short life ever again.”
That’s sad…is the shortness of some lives something you don’t like?
“Yes, but I won’t say it’s my worst dislike.”
So what is?
“I guess it’s an extension of how I feel about Aubrey. It started hitting me the Christmas after my eldest son died. I was still a mess. It was too raw for me to hear the things everyone suddenly had the courage to say about Andrea, and no one stopped to think about respecting the dead for a moment.”
Was it stuff about cheating?
“Everything. Words he said that hurt them and wild allegations of sexual harrassment and pedophilia, and it all came from his own siblings! The kids he grew up besides or was the greatest older brother to. Even if it’s all true, what are they gaining from that? What can trying to make me hate my own child do for them?”
It might be a sense of justice guiding them, or thinking that the last punishment left is to be slandered in death.
“And you’re trying to side with that?”
I mean, that was a–
“Don’t. He suffered enough before his death, and every mother of every rotten son still wants one more day with him. I’d give anything for that.”
…do you have any activities/hobbies that you like to do?
“I still like to fish in the summer. My family got rich off their fishing fleets but it’s so different from that. I like sitting down in my best silk skirts and heels with a fishing rod, soaking up the summer sun in Maine.”
Lovely. Anything else?
“I married very rich, but I always liked working with children. So I used to teach and volunteer at the girl’s school attached to St. Catherine’s, especially before my daughter was born.”
How long did you do that for?
“Up until Andrea died. He used to volunteer with the girl’s choir too, and was quite mad when they kicked him out.”
Why? It sounded like you had a lot of power there.
“But allegations have more power than one mother like me.”
Was it that bad?
“Who wasn’t trying to fuck an adult when they were 15?”
“Of course, all the time. And I had a great life anyways.”
Didn’t hurt at all?
“Not a bit to me.”
Have you ever hurt anyone in any way before?
“Believe me, someone would hear what I said and feel hurt. But truths hurt.”
Ever… killed anyone before?
“Thankfully my family was rich from a great fishing business, not mob violence.”
They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“They’re not, and anyone could ‘help’ organized crime whether they planned to or not. We would supply fish for and cater parties that
What kind of animal are you?
“I never thought about that.”
You’ve certainly had plenty of time to.
“I have, but I’m more content to think of myself as a person.”
Name your worst weaknesses.
“Those I care for. I’ll always put them first, and not everyone sees that as a plus.”
But is there anything about yourself that you’re, you know, critical of?
“Nothing I haven’t accepted a long time ago.”
Do you look up to anyone at all?
“I’ve always wanted to be the person my mamma was.”
Do you think you succeeded? And how?
“She made everyone feel like a loved member of the family. That’s why I didn’t want to judge any of my children. I even would extend my welcome to any of Aubrey’s or Andrea’s whores.”
You sure loved your husband.
“More than anything.”
Are you straight, then?
“Yes, but to be honest, I never got the chance to see otherwise.”
Did you go to school?
“Yes, but nothing that unusual. I finished university but I wasn’t a bright student.”
So no regrets with what you’ve learned?
“No, I have everything I need to have lived this long.”
Ever want to marry and have kids one day? I’d love to hear more about your marriage and kids.
“So I have five kids. Andrea and Gianluca were the twins, and then I had Orlando a year later, then Matteo, and Cristina was a wonderful surprise.”
Did you have a favorite?
“Aubrey wanted Andrea to inherit his bank from the moment they met. He always took him to his office and his meetings and on his business trips. But that made the time I got with Andrea more special. He was so excited about everything he was learning. He was truly a wonderful kid, always the brightest little thing, always the person who got what they wanted. I made sure he got all of that.”
And your other kids?
“I think I still treated everyone fairly. Andrea liked me to smother him while, I don’t know, Matteo and Cristina really didn’t. They were lucky to be born last, and I hope they still like that. They’re so cold to me at Christmas and Easter now.”
Have they ever told you why?
“I know it goes back to Andrea, but I’ll never stop missing him. And I think it goes back to Thu too. She’s such a little angel, and I spend a lot of time on her that I might not on them…but are they clamoring for my attention now? I’m doing what I thought everyone wanted.”
What did Aubrey think of that?
“Andrea was his shining star too.”
Do you think you mattered to Aubrey?
“Of course I did. He just needed girls to be with when on trips and at parties.”
Sounds like he had a lot.
“Oh, he definitely did. Every girl was his fan and they had good reasons to be.”
Do you have fanboys though?
“Oh, there were a lot of boys who had crushes on me. I don’t know what they’d think about me now.”
What do you usually wear?
“It has to be teal.”
And heels all the time? (It was nighttime in her own house, but she was wearing heels)
“Of course. My feet don’t feel right without them now.”
What’s one food that tempts you?
“Anything Gian cooks. I’m excited to see what he has every night, even if it’s simple.”
Is there something you can’t get anymore?
“Leah, Andrea’s wife. She used to bake all kinds of bread and pastries and I can’t find anyone who can do it like her.”
“Oh, what are the names…lots of challah and kokosh and even homemade bagels. Her kids adored them. Andrea was able to take a lot of her recipes but couldn’t get her bread right. He always let it sit for too long.”
And do you bake?
Am I annoying you?
“Not a bit.”
Well, it’s not over.
“Good. I still like you.”
What class are you (low class, middle class, high class)?
“Of course I’m rich, and Caiazzo Fishing still brings in a lot of money. I just don’t need to get any of it now.”
How many friends do you have?
“I used to have a fun group here from St. Thomas Aquinas, but we’re down to four old Italian ladies when you count myself.”
Ever think of making new ones?
“There is Thu, but now, it feels like it’d be a waste to find more.”
What are your thoughts on pie?
“I like tarts, do those count?”
They’re like a sister.
“I’m saying it’s close enough.”
“Right now, I love Vietnamese coffee with Thu. She’s precious. I love everything we can share together.”
What’s your favorite place?
“That’s a hard question!”
Well-traveled, I see.
“Of course I am, but then I feel bad for always wishing I was back home. I love Uptown but I felt more out of place here than ever too. I still do.”
Where did you meet your husband, then?
“See, it was a party in an oceanside villa in Napoli again. We were getting paid well by the Corleonesis and it was because their sons were checking me and my sisters out. But I liked Aubrey better. I liked the way he talked to me and kissed me on the balcony. I liked his plans for his dad’s credit union…he was going so much further than anyone.”
Were you ever interested in anyone else?
Napoli is a big city, though.
“Doesn’t matter. No one was impressing me like Aubrey did, and he came into my life early enough before anyone else worse could.”
That was a stupid question.
“I don’t think so. Most people have other crushes. I was glad most of my kids did.”
So, would you rather swim in a lake or the ocean?
“I’ve always lived on a coast. You’re not swimming if you’re not crusted in salt at the end.”
What’s your type?
“Obviously I married rich.”
What else was there about Aubrey, though? (I think as I wonder what can make cheating feel like no big deal to her)
“Three things: his laugh, his cool temper, his eight-inch pene.
“Oh goodness no. But I’ve overheard Gian talk about his. I think it sometimes works with helping him get over Leah, but I don’t think she would have liked wearing a mask in bed either.”
What did you think about her, anyways?
“She was the first Jew that Aubrey liked, so I was right about her all along. She was a nice girl and a great mother of course, but I used to wish that she reconciled with Andrea and lived.”
Used to, like you made peace with it?
“No, I just liked Thu so much more as his wife. She wouldn’t blindly listen to the kids. They’re my grandchildren, but there’s so much I wish they did differently. There’s no point in blaming Andrea for all their woes. He was the best dad he could be.”
Camping or indoors?
“Usually indoors, but I sometimes would fall asleep on the beach in Brindleton Bay. It was our private beach, and now everyone I shared it with is gone. I wish I could spend one more night sprawled out on a blanket with Aubrey, or singing to baby Andrea before we both fell asleep.”