When I was married to my first husband, Elliot, he waited tables. He said this was a way not to be a part of the system. Living off the grid. He worked at a Kosher restaurant on Delancey Street. We were living in the East Village then and this was the second wind of an already tumultuous relationship.
So Elliot became friends with the busboy, Raphael. Raphael didn’t speak English that well. He came over from Puerto Rico and also worked in restaurants so he didn’t have to declare his income. Two guys avoiding “the man”.
Anyway Raphael’s living situation was pretty cramped so Elliott asked me if he could come stay with us. There was no end date discussed, but Raphael was pretty cute so I didn’t mind.
When Raphael lost his job he continued to stay with us. We spent most days together while Elliot was at work. One day we went to the San Genaro festival, and that’s when it happened – he held my hand. I didn’t think much of it, but then we were kissing. And then we went home-made love.
A few weeks later he moved out but we continued our affair. It was during the Cuban Crisis and Raphael wanted to go to Cuba and fight against the United States and support the people of Cuba. So off he went. He called me once for money – which I happily sent to him – but I never saw him again.
Eventually I told Elliot about Raphael and about being pregnant. I knew it was Elliot’s baby because enough time had passed. You would think the affair would’ve been the bad news, but he freaked out about the baby. So he ran away from home to apparently run naked in the woods. I took that opportunity to move out. I moved into a nearby apartment so I could stay in the East Village.
During this time, I would’ve done ANYTHING to have a role model. But my liberated, activist lifestyle didn’t have a lot of role models at that point. I tried to go to a friend of the family for advice but he told me to move back in with my mother! Some help he was.
So you’re probably wondering about the baby. So there I was, alone. My husband was unreliable and I couldn’t both support myself and take care of a baby. The only other option was to move home and leave the baby with my parents while I worked all day. So there would be a baby without me most of the time and with a crazy father. I could see how unhappy this child would be. I also would never be able to go back to school. Both the baby and I would have no shot at happiness. None. So I made my choice.
My friend Rita and her husband took me to Queens for an illegal abortion. I was late and made the mistake of calling ahead to let him know. The doctor was worried he would get caught so we rescheduled and came back. The doctor put me under and did the procedure. Afterwards he told me he was a 3 month old boy.
It was 1962. It was not yet a progressive time but I was a progressive and among a lot of women who were forging new territory. People were communicating more and sharing stories of their past. We were intent on growing up and away of everything we knew. We had no role models for this, only the support of each other. It was a fearless and very brave time. Anything was possible, and for women like me, there was no turning back.
When I look back, I think about how my mother inspired me to rebel in so many ways. Not only by driving me crazy, but by leading by example. My mother started working at 14. She lived a life and worked very hard. She backed me up and paid for me to go to Architectural School. In many ways she was my role model.
Each generation moves forward. It’s our nature. To grow. No matter what. We also seem to accept each other more and more. I wonder if this next generation will continue to be independent and living lives where they feel productive and happier. Many say technology brings us together, and I agree with that. But in the 60’s we came together to talk, we didn’t text. We created group after group with the purpose of rallying each other through life’s hurdles. I hope people keep rallying. It changed me, and for that I am very grateful.