by Dr. Kris Condi
Environmental specialist Nicola Bosco did not think twice about the random security check before entering the building in D.C. She placed her designer briefcase carrying government papers on the conveyor belt and endured the frisk. The wand went up one side of her body and down the other without a bleep. Her shoes were inspected for any suspicious crevices.
When Nicola’s briefcase failed to roll of the assembly belt she furiously contacted everyone she had seen in the lobby. No one had knowledge of her briefcase. Even the security cameras failed to capture the confiscation. No problem. Nicola had backup; or so she though. All of her computerized data had been seared. In a few short minutes Nicola Bosco went from being a respected special agent to an embezzler of pension funds.
Where else does a scorned woman go but home? Nicola learned the briefcase mishap was a small part of a grander scheme that targeted her family.
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C+. That is the grade forty-three year old Maria Bosco self-assessed. So what if her favorite pair of Hanes struggle rather than glide over her pelvis? Who cares if she blurts out double entendres before clarification? "I will finish trimming my bush later." Or, "Dom could not get it going last night." And, "Dom couldn't get it up," are emblematic Maria Bosco linguistics where "bush" meant tree shrub, "get-it-going" meant the DVR and "get it up" meant the kickstand on her bicycle. In Philadelphia, it was all about football and land, alphabetically and by topic preference.
She dreamed of becoming a teacher but matrimony trumped career. Maria would defend her twenty-five years and thirty pounds later syndrome as true testament to family devotion. No one can deny her seamstress talent at her husband's dry cleaning business nor can one dispute that Maria still regrets her professional calling.
After a daily routine of examining her five foot four inch stature in the mirror, she immediately reduced that C+ grade to a C-. "Not bad after a binging weekend," she said to the swelled reflection. She ambled her way downstairs and grasped the icy, rickety railing on their row house in Powelton Village. Tumbling out of the mailbox was the annual partnership agreement from Nicola. Something with female panache caught her eye. Quickly, she ripped open the elegant envelope.
You know what they say? Forty is the new twenty and our twenty-fifth high school reunion is on March 6 at Philadelphia's historic Bistro Romano's. Enjoy an evening to eat, reminisce and be merry with your HS buddies.
Bistro Romano's @ 6:30p.m.--drinks/dinner with HS footage of us!
Theatre @ 8:00p.m.
We have the during HS photographs.
You send the after graduation snapshots of you through today!
R.S.V.P. The Rockies
Maria moseyed into the kitchen. Dom was reading the sports section of the newspaper and feasting a Sonny's Philly cheese and egg steak sandwich. "We have two months to get in shape." It was a demand not a request. She spread the invitation on top of the sports page.
Dom bit off a generous chunk of the breakfast special. It was his second that morning, or so he thought. The only bad thing about Sonny's Philly steak is there was not another in sight. A pair of dime store bifocals rested across his ears. Already, Maria noticed the dreaded look on Dom's face. He gave a smack of satisfaction, for the sandwich, not the invitation. She also was aware of the growing, painful expression that spread across his face as she eased into his lap.
"Count me out," Dom replied with a savory mouthful at the same time the button on his slacks popped. His zipper glided down revealing a round, hairy abdomen embossed by the buttons' emblem. Maria figured Dom had gained at least twenty-five pounds in twenty-five years; one pound for each year of marriage. She was no better.
Maria placed her hands on both hips. "That's what I am talking about!" She stared at his exploding girth. "I am counting you in!"
The look on his face spelled instant relief as she slid off his thighs. So they both had grown over the decades. His belt hung below a waist that hadn't existed in five years. His backside became so flat that it resembled an old man's patootie. And, where were those two, broad, football shoulders Maria loved to hug? As for Maria, she fought gravity in every apparel format from hat to hose.
"Taking bottom bunk to you last night required more breathless exertion than excitement," Maria stated.
"Too much information!" Sixteen year old Daniella entered the kitchen and exited quickly.
Maria rarely withheld intimacy. In their fourth year of marriage she requested alone time with Dom. A week later he surprised her with a second honeymoon in the Poconos. The results were an astronomical credit card bill mainly from emptying the mini fridge and an unexpected third pregnancy. Maria never mentioned alone time with her husband again. She knew he had plans to surprise her with a weekender at the exclusive Roosevelt Hotel. She hoped the thrill of the leisure treatment would outweigh the consequences of the mini bar.
Maria fastened the invite on the fridge between the high school's notice of an upcoming event and a dangling calendar. "It's on the refrigerator as a reminder and a countdown. Don't remove it. Don't take it to work like my J Crew winter catalog, which got lost in your desk and miraculously found after the sale expired. We have a parent-teacher conference this Friday and the Dry Cleaning Convention next month," she reminded Dom. "Our diets start immediately. We are eliminating snacks and eating healthy foods from now on. Forget finishing that second sandwich."
Dom nodded then swallowed the last bite of smothered cheese. Giving her victory today would be worth the compromising consummation tomorrow. Besides, neither of them could diet and exercise for very long. By the end of the day, one of them was sure to indulge in some kind of delectable snack. He knew she saw him tucking the remainder of that second sandwich in freezer wrap but chose to ignore his actions.
"I bet proportionately I lose more weight quicker than you," he gambled and immediately regretted the bet. Why did he always have to make every issue a competition? Because people have always challenged him and although he almost never won in competitive affairs, that thirst to succeed, to be that number one person either solo or on a team, had always appealed to him.
"You're on!" Maria said with confidence. "But, we can't tell anyone about our diets. I don't want people asking about calorie-counting or lost pounds."
He wished Maria offered to pick up his button but she hadn't. She still had squatting ability and when duty called her to bend, she only showed modest signs of an upright struggle. He waited for her departure then stooped, sweated, and searched under the baseboard heater for his button.
"What are the Rockie's?" Daniella asked upon returning to the kitchen. She studied the invitation on the refrigerator door with diligence.
A gnaw clenched Dom's stomach. "Surely you've heard of the senior Rockie?"
"The boxer movie," Daniella assured.
"Before senior year this bulldozer of a kid named Ricolus Sandino transferred into our high school and became quarterback and team captain. He dated the head cheerleader. They were prom king and queen. He had a shiner for prom." Dom chuckled. "They married after graduation."
"Rocky. I get it. Because of his name," she reasoned.
"No." Dom shook his head. "Being Rockie has been a football tradition. Your brother was the school Rockie. Remember?" How could she be so naïve when it came to a Rockie title?
"Vaguely," Daniella replied. "I was twelve."
"Sandino ate glass and had an unbelievable sixty-five yard spiral," Dom explained, lost in thoughts. "He spent a weekend in the hospital having shards cleaned out of his colon. The doctor ordered the guy benched the rest of the season but Rockie was looking to snag a college scholarship. He dragged his pathetic body to practice the following Monday and every practice thereafter. He took the homecoming game to a new level with a record-breaking victory."
"The world doesn't revolve around football," Daniella said
"Since when?" Dom's head popped. "Sandino is the luckiest guy in the world." He shrugged. "The guy's got everything."
Daniella picked up the button under the baseboard heater and placed it on the table with ease. Before walking away she called over her shoulder, "He doesn't have Mom."
Their talks became fewer and shorter these days. Just a year ago, neither father nor daughter could sleep so they made brownies to Letterman's monologue. They talked past midnight about Philadelphia, Daniella's homework, and their mother's most recent hobby. Dom slept well that night.
Dom made a mental note to check if the evidence was still there, stashed away in his desk drawer at the downtown Bosco Cleaner's location, where he kept it concealed for twenty-five years.
Was Maria as perpetually clueless as Daniella?
"172! I gained thirteen pounds since Thanksgiving." Maria read the blinking digital scale with fear. "That's not so bad?" It was a question better left unanswered. She held up a pair of her favorite sweats and said, "The last day for wearing you. She immediately broke off her commitment to size ten because size fourteen knocked on her abdomen's door.
The reunion invite had Maria retrieving her cheerleading gear from the attic. A tiny wool sweater with a Philly emblem stared back at her. The faded tag inside the mini-skort boasted a size two. She hung it on her closet door as a reminder of her once petite body. It was also the size she planned to sport at the most significant occasion in two decades. The annual Super Bowl party at Sonny's always had been the most important event in Bosco Philly history. The reunion became a target date to shape up, trim excess fat, and look glamorous.
She then reefed through her clothes for any acceptable outfit to squeeze into by Friday. The gloves she tried wriggling into wrapped around her fingers in a tight grip. Those expensive slacks from a three-piece, navy pin-striped pantsuit that always made her look ten pounds thinner no longer zipped. The luxurious Ralph Lauren silk dress refused to slip over her head or up her hips. Her black heels were too snug for her feet to fit comfortably. She admitted her toes looked fat; not puffy, not swollen, but fat and all because she overate for the last two and one half decades; and had three children.
She found one ray of hope with Maggy London's chiffon, trapeze dress with a satin collar. After struggling with the zipper, which only rose to her lungs, she grappled with the hook then gave up all hope of ever fastening let alone looking acceptable. The dress was so tight and unyielding that it tugged at the slightest movement.
"That looks nice," Dom said as he made his way to kiss Maria goodbye. "You don't look that fat."
She looked in the mirror again. Is he kidding or is he just stupid? Her small head peeped from the neck hole. The dress looked like a stuffed tent and the contents inside cried for evacuation!
"I look mummified!" She shouted and Dom scurried from the bedroom. When it came to age and weight, he should know better than to perpetuate conversation, compliments included.
Daniella slid into the master bedroom and handed a post-it note with an address and telephone number. "It's the best in the city. Besides, you need to update your Facebook picture. A new you will look great."
Maria examined the message. Was she kidding?
"They also have tanning beds, sunless tanning rooms, massages and a spa."
Her thin body with perfectly slender hips sashayed through the door with grace. Her silky dark hair bounced with beautifying waves. "Remember I work at the cleaner's tonight and tutoring Anthony, that football player from Main Line at the store. He is seeking some kind of eligibility for that Rockie title Dad talks about.
"And, I got an A on the paper about implementing a networking computer system for Bosco's. Dad fell asleep on the sofa while reading page one. Guess he's not interested."
"And Olivia is here with our dry cleaning," she added.
Daniella's best friend, Olivia, worked at the dry cleaners before and sometimes after school. Daniella was her protégé. All of the Bosco children had worked part time at the cleaners while in high school.
"And to answer your questions: yes, you do," Daniella returned. "And yes, it really is."
Ugh. Maria glanced in the mirror. Daniella was right. Gaining thirteen pounds in six weeks was bad. Her memory flashed to that Columbia scholarship. It may have been a full scholarship had there not been a problem with one of her final examinations. Her C- became a D+.
* * *
"What kind of routine are you seeking?" A chirpy voice at the Sweats Fitness Center asked.
"I need to shed fifteen pounds," Maria replied. "Make it thirty. Five by this weekend."
"We have a workout environment for everyone," the voice assured. "It's not about being a model. It's not about being thin. It's about feeling good about you."
Rats. Maria preferred looking good over feeling good about sporting the same size shadow as last year's model.
After giving a marketing spiel, the woman asked a series of questions. "Do you want an aerobics class or a yoga atmosphere?"
"I don't know," Maria answered.
"Do you prefer matt exercises or a treadmill?"
"I want whatever it takes to lose five pounds by the weekend and thirty pounds in two months."
"Bring a squirt bottle and notebook for keeping a journal of your progress," the woman recommended. She rattled another spiel, welcomed Maria to Sweats and gave another squirt bottle reminder before hanging up.
Maria found an empty, spray bottle on the ironing board in the basement. One of Dom's old, baggy T-shirts that lived in an attic box marked, DOM, provided comfort for movement. She always wore one of Dom's T's to wash the floor and figured that was a good alternative shirt to perspire in at Sweats. There was a truckload of items stuffed in that box and one day she planned to either go through it or toss it without further examination. A used notebook with a loopy spiral and ripped out pages was the perfect size for a journal.
She rid the refrigerator and pantry of all questionably, unhealthy foods including the Sonny's steak sandwich. Then, Maria grocery shopped for a healthy dinner. Tuna fish, whole wheat bread and an apple for dessert topped her menu. Next, she texted Dom about a fitness regime she figured both would enjoy.
"You don't look that fat!" Maria repeated Dom's earlier statement. He's right, she thought. Overweight. Plump. And not that fat. Dom was just trying to be supportive in an honest kind of way.
On one hand it was a good thing Dom agreed to an exercise program. On the other hand, it was a shame everything had to be of a competitive nature with him. Somehow, his desire to compete had rubbed off on Maria. Come March, they will be the envy of their high school graduating class.