The Fafank by Dillon Eliassen
The Fafank by Dillon Eliassen
The other eulogists had stood at the lectern away from bisnonna Marie’s casket, but I took my turn standing near her; I wished to speak to bisnonna Marie as much as to the assembled mourners.
“And now for the show and tell portion of tonight’s program,” I broke the ice, and paused long enough to allow for a smattering of laughter. “When we were asked to bring mementos and heirlooms of bisnonna Marie, I knew to bring my Fafank.”
I held my baby blanket aloft to nods of recognition and smiles from immediate family members.
“It might be difficult to see since the colors have faded, but my Fafank is blue and pink because bisnonna Marie began knitting as soon as she heard my mother was pregnant. She didn’t want to wait to know if I’d be a boy or a girl, she wanted my Fafank to be ready on my birthday.
“I’m not an expert on stitching but I know my Fafank is very well made. Bisnonna Marie was no corner-cutter. She worked full time at Woolworth’s for over 50 years, as well as care for bisnonno Caesar, who yo-yoed in and out of Bellevue, leaving her alone to raise nonna Elena. I can only hope to have half the resilience bisnonna Marie had.
“My Fafank literally made a great first impression on me. While I slept in my crib I’d squeeze it so tightly it would mark my cheeks and neck and chest. When I began talking, I couldn’t pronounce ‘blanket.’ I’d cry, ‘Fafank…Fafank!’ The name stuck. I carried it everywhere, and outgrew it at an age any psychologist would have deemed inappropriate and unhealthy. I wasn’t a thumb-sucker or bed-wetter but if you were to Google ‘separation anxiety’ the top result would be a picture of me holding my Fafank. When I held my Fafank, I was swaddled in bisnonna Marie’s benevolence.”
My bottom lip quivered and my voice cracked; I paused and cleared my throat.
“There was something magical about my Fafank. Maybe there still is.”
Kathy, my fiancée, and I were lying on our sides in bed, the comforter over us. We kissed intermittently as we spoke.
“Long, hard day,” Kathy said.
“Long, hard week,” I said and yawned. “From the vigil in the hospice, then all the running around between Macaluso’s and Holy Name…I could sleep for a year…”
“Yeah, I bet. You did a lot. You were a big help to your mom.”
“You were a big help too,” I said. “I’m sorry I didn’t thank you before.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“You helped,” I insisted and gave her a little peck.
Kathy rolled her eyes and asked, “What did I do that was so important?”
“Um…you made lunch for me Wednesday, remember? That thing with the roasted peppers.”
“Oh, that was nothing.”
“It wasn’t nothing,” I said and gave her a nice wet one. “It was definitely something.”
“I guess you’re right then,” Kathy said and grinned. “You couldn’t have done it without me.”
We kissed a little while longer, more deeply than we had been.
“What’s that?” Kathy asked. “What do you have down there?”
“Oh, that? That’s nothing.”
“No, it’s not nothing,” Kathy said. “It’s definitely something.”
“You can hold it if you want.”
Kathy pressed her hips against me and tried to capture it between her thighs.
“What are you doing? With your hands, dummy!”
Kathy giggled and slid her hand down between us.
“Huh,” Kathy said. “It’s bigger than I thought.”
“It’s deceiving,” I said. “Go ahead, play with it all you want. I couldn’t leave it alone when I was a kid. My parents used to reprimand me. It feels good, right?”
“Yeah, actually. It does feel good! It’s warm, and…comforting…”
“Put it on your face.”
Kathy held my Fafank to her cheek.
“It’s so soft,” Kathy said.
“Yeah,” I said. “But it’s mine.”
I took my Fafank from her, held it against my chest, and closed my eyes.
“James,” Kathy cooed in my ear. “It’s time to wake up…” Her hair wetted my cheek. I turned over and opened my eyes. Kathy stood beside me, a towel wrapped loosely around her body. “Come on, you have to get in the shower, we have to be at the restaurant in an hour.”
“But I’m still sleepy,” I whined.
“How could you still be tired? I hope you’re not coming down with something. I’ve never seen you this exhausted. You slept, like, 14 hours, and then you fell asleep again after watching TV for an hour.”
“Yeah, I think I’m sick. I bet I have a fever. You better call Theresa and tell her we can’t make it.”
Kathy pressed a damp palm to my forehead and said, “You’re not warm.”
“But I’m still so sleepy!” I protested. “It’s not normal to be this sleepy. It’s probably something really serious. It would be irresponsible if we went to the restaurant, I could be contagious!”
“We can’t no-show the engagement dinner party our sisters are paying for, James,” Kathy said, then yanked the comforter off me and laughed when she saw me holding my Fafank to my chest. “Oh, James, if you could only see how ridiculous you look.”
“I don’t look ridiculous, you look ridiculous!”
Kathy walked out of reach before I could extract revenge by yanking off her towel.
The restaurant was really loud. It was a huge open-concept hall with a long bar with high-back swivel stools and multiple TVs showing college football games on the left side wall; plush leather booths stretched along the right wall; a sea of square and rectangular tables littered the floor between; floor to ceiling windows along the back wall exposed the kitchen. We pushed our way through the crowd milling about the lobby.
The hostess looked up from her iPad and hollered, “Hi, right now you’re looking at a 90-minute wait. How many and your name?”
“Hi, we’re meeting some friends who already have a table,” Kathy said, and looked around the dining room. “Oh, here they come.”
My sister Sofia and her husband Carlo approached.
“Here you go, you can just follow them back to their table,” the hostess said and pushed two menus into our hands and shifted her attention elsewhere.
Sofia stood on her toes to kiss me; I wiped my cheek.
“Jackie!” she admonished. “I can’t even kiss my little brother hello now?”
I shrugged and grinned.
“Hi, Kathy,” Sofia greeted Kathy and they kissed, and then Carlo and Kathy went through the same motions.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you at the wake that I loved what you said about bisnonna Marie,” Sofia said. “I had no idea my little brother could be so articulate and eloquent. And now he’s getting married? Oh my God…”
Sofia sniffed and carefully wiped her eye so as not to smear her makeup.
“Alright, Sof, you don’t have to make a scene in front of all these innocent bystanders,” I said.
“Jackie’s all grown up now!” Carlo said and aggressively tousled my hair. I slapped his hand away.
“Gee, thanks, Carlo,” I said. “The recognition of my maturity from a grown man who plays Xbox all day really means a lot to me.”
Carlo shoved my shoulder and I was going to return fire but Sofia grabbed my wrist. She’d a strength that belied her short stature.
“Oh, I’m the one making a scene?” Sofia said. “Just once, can you two not scrap at each other?”
“He started it,” I said.
Sofia looked sternly at Carlo and I, then said, “Come on.”
The three of us dutifully followed her to the table to greet the rest of our bridal party: Kathy’s older sister and matron of honor Theresa and her husband Pete; and my best man Phil and his extremely pregnant wife Morgan. We squeezed around each other, waiters, and other customers to engage in an infinite loop of handshaking, hugging and cheek-kissing, and Kathy showing off her engagement ring, even though everyone had already seen it. It was so loud and dizzying, and I felt lightheaded, so I sat down in the nearest chair, which was opposite Morgan’s.
“Hi, James,” Morgan said. “I’m sorry I didn’t attend your grandmother’s funeral.”
“Great grandmother,” I corrected. “Thank you, but don’t worry about it. You’ve got a whole thing going on there.”
Morgan smirked and said, “Yeah, it’s ‘a whole thing’ alright. My OBGYN said 22 more days, but I can just feel it will…”
I tried to pay attention to her as she went on and on but I still felt lightheaded.
“You want a picture to take home with you, James?” Morgan asked.
“You’re staring at my boobs.”
“No, I’m not!”
“Sure you were.”
“I wasn’t staring! I was just zoning out.”
“Uh huh, riiight…it’s OK, James. They’re massive, I get it.”
“Hey, what are we talking about?” Phil asked. “Morg’s giant jugs?”
“Yeah,” Morgan said. “James was zoning in on them.”
“Zoning out! I was zoning out!”
“You’re staring at my wife’s big ol’ hooters, huh, Jimbo?!” Phil said and wrapped his hands around my throat and play-choked me. I hung my head to the side and let my tongue dangle.
“It’s impossible not to stare,” Phil said and let go. “It’d be weird if you didn’t.”
“They do take up the field of vision,” I said.
“Phil, I gotta pee again,” Morgan said.
Phil scooted around the table to pull Morgan’s chair out.
“We’ll go with you,” Theresa said.
“Wow, what a treat,” Morgan said.
“It’s this way,” Theresa said.
“I know where the goddamn bathroom is,” Morgan grumbled and began to waddle away from the table, Theresa hot on her heels. Kathy and Sofia made to tag along.
“Kathy, wait!” I blurted out and they all stopped in their tracks.
“What?” Kathy said.
“Don’t go,” I said. “Stay here with me.”
“Aww, Kathy, look how in love with you Jackie is,” Sofia said. “He can’t stand to be away from you!”
Kathy slid into my lap and kissed me. The guys hooted and whistled.
“I’ll be right back,” she whispered.
“Very, very soon,” Kathy said.
“Yes! Jeez…” she said and took her place in the parade to the restroom.
Phil sat down in Morgan’s seat and Carlo and Pete flanked me.
“Dude, Morgan is constantly peeing,” Phil said. “All I hear is, ‘I have to pee,’ ‘I gotta pee,’ ‘Time for more peepee.’”
“Haha, ‘peepee!’” I repeated. “What about ‘poopoo?’”
We all broke up again.
“She does that a lot too, but she doesn’t announce it like when she has to pee.”
Phil, Carlo and Pete composed themselves, but I couldn’t contain my hysteria.
“Peepee…poopoo!” I sputtered in between fits of laughter.
“OK, come on, Jimbo, it’s not that funny,” Phil said.
“People are looking at you, dude,” Pete said.
“Jackie, what’s the matter with you?” Carlo asked and squeezed my shoulder.
“Haha…ha…ah,” I stifled my guffaws, wiped away tears and shrugged him off. “Shut up, Carlo.”
“That’s a hell of a rock, Jimbo,” Phil changed the subject. “How much did it set you back?”
“Like, a million dollars,” I sighed.
“I heard that, Jimbo,” Phil said and nodded sympathetically. “I heard that.”
After the WAGs returned the waitress appeared to take drink orders. When she came to me, I asked, “Do you have Sprite?”
“We do,” she said. “But aren’t you guys celebrating?”
“Yep. Can I please have a Sprite?”
“Sure,” the waitress said and rolled her eyes.
“What’s wrong with her?” I asked after she had walked away.
“What’s wrong with you, Jackie?” Carlo asked. “A Sprite? You seven?”
“Oh, I like 7Up too,” I said. Carlo stared at me. “What?” I asked.
“She makes more in tips if you order an eight-dollar alcoholic drink than a one dollar soda,” Sofia patiently explained.
The waitress returned to distribute our drinks.
“…Aaaand one Sprite,” she said.
“Can I have a straw?”
“Of course you can!” she said and then rattled off tonight’s specials, and finished with, “And from the kid’s menu: chicken tenders.” She pointedly looked at me, and everyone at the table laughed.
“Thanks, but I’m gonna have grown up food tonight.”
After the waitress took our orders, Theresa and Phil took turns giving boring toasts. Small talk resumed but I couldn’t concentrate on anything anyone was saying. It was taking forever for our dinners to be served. I unwrapped my straw and dropped it into my Sprite. I leaned forward, caught the straw between my lips and blew bubbles in my drink.
My cheeks got hot when I realized everyone was staring at me.
My key would not fit our lock. I jimmied and shimmied it to no avail.
“Come on!” I yelled and punished the door with several open-handed slaps. “What’s wrong with you?!”
“Hey, take it easy, you goofball,” Kathy said.
“I’m not a goofball, you’re a goofball.”
“What is the problem?”
“The lock is broken.”
“How could the lock be broken?”
Kathy reached for my keys, but I jerked my hand away before she could grab them and held them up over our heads like they were mistletoe.
“What are you doing?” Kathy asked.
“Keep away,” I answered.
“Oh, yeah!?” Kathy hollered delightedly and jumped at me. She pressed her body against mine so I could feel her boobies and stretched her arms as far as they would go but she couldn’t reach. She folded her arms across her chest and pouted.
“Aaw,” I said. I dangled the keys, enticingly, within her reach, then pulled them away again when she grabbed at them.
“James!” Kathy whined. “Cut it out, will you?”
“OK, I’m sorry, I’ll stop. Here, you can have them,” I said and offered her the keys, open-handed, palm up. Kathy looked at me, cocked her head, and went for them slowly but just before she touched them, I made a fist around them.
“Oh, I’ll fix you!” Kathy grabbed my torso with both hands and tickled my ribs. I laughed and tried to squirm away from her fingers. I doubled over and tried to block her, but she kept her hands under my arms and I was laughing myself out of breath. The keys slipped from my hand onto the floor and Kathy grabbed them.
Kathy unlocked the door right away and said, “Tada!”
I grunted, then trotted into our bedroom. I yanked back the comforter and snatched my Fafank up and hugged it tightly to my chest with both arms. Kathy came into our bedroom and laughed.
“Feel better now?” she asked.
I nodded and smiled.
Kathy laughed again. She was really pretty. She walked slowly towards me; I was standing with the backs of my legs against our bed. She shoved my chest with her hands and I fell onto my back. Kathy straddled me and leaned down and kissed me passionately. She pulled my arm to loosen my grip on my Fafank.
“Hey!” I protested.
“Come on, you’re being silly.”
“I’m not silly, you’re silly!”
Kathy tossed my Fafank off the bed. Kathy pulled her blouse off, then put her hands on her hips and smiled. I leaned up. We kissed and I undid her bra, then we rolled around so she was on her back. I pulled off her pants, then her underwear. I leaned back over her and kissed her lips, then her neck.
I licked and kissed her breasts, then sucked on her nipples, alternating between them. I sucked aggressively and hungrily, then softly, contentedly.
“Oh, James,” Kathy moaned and exhaled heavily for a good long while. I kept my suckling apace even after she stopped responding.
“Come on, James,” she whispered. “Oh, James, come on, please…”
Kathy firmly pressed on my shoulders and pushed me away from her breasts down her torso.
I sniffed her and said, “Eew.”
“What?!” Kathy demanded.
I looked up at her, giggled, scrunched up my face and said, “It smells funny.”
“EXCUSE ME?!” Kathy gasped.
There were a thousand catalogs and binders spread on our dinner table, and more spilled onto the floor. Kathy jotted down notes on a legal pad and stuck strips of multi-colored Post-Its to mark possible options.
“Can we take a break?” I asked.
“Take a break?” Kathy said. “We just started.”
“We’ve been doing this for hours.”
Kathy looked at her phone, then at me and said, “It’s been 45 minutes.”
“Ugh…this is so boring…!”
I rested my head on the back of my chair and stared at the ceiling.
“No, it’s not,” Kathy said and scooched her chair closer to mine and opened a catalog of floral arrangements between us. “It’s fun!”
“Can’t someone else do this?”
“I don’t want to use a wedding planner.”
“Because they’re needlessly expensive.”
“Because there are countless people willing to pay them.”
“Because they are lazy and unimaginative.”
“Because they had lousy parents.”
“Because their parents had lousy parents.”
Kathy studied me a while, then said, “Please stop being childish.”
“I’m not childish, you’re childish!”
“Isn’t it important to you that we plan our wedding so that it’s personal and an expression of our love?”
“Well, it’s important to me, and I have a vision for how I want it to look.”
“But if you know how you want it to look why do you need all these catalogs?”
Kathy studied me again, then smirked and said, “OK, I guess you got me there. Now, what do you like for flowers for the tables?”
I jabbed my finger at the first picture I saw.
“Sunflowers? Really?” Kathy asked and I nodded. “OK, I guess.”
She stuck a Post-It on the edge of the page. Kathy examined each and every picture of bouquets on every page for hours; she even turned the pages slowly and rubbed the edge of the page each time to make sure she wasn’t accidentally turning two pages. Every so often, she’d gesture to a picture and say something like, “Oh, these are beautiful,” or “What do you think about these?” and I would nod or shake my head.
When that catalog was done Kathy set it aside on a pile of others decorated with a rainbow of Post-Its.
“Another one?” I sighed when Kathy opened a fresh catalog of flowers.
“Yep,” Kathy smiled. “And a few more after that.”
From deep in my throat, I emitted a low and desperate groan. I shifted in my seat and looked around. My Fafank lying in a heap on our bed caught my eye, and I stared at it.
“James!” Kathy snapped.
“I am! Jeez…”
A few minutes later I got to my feet and walked towards our bedroom.
“Where are you going?” Kathy asked.
“I’m sleepy,” I said. “I need a break.”
I threw myself onto our bed and held my Fafank to my chest.
I wanted to be outside doing something fun with my friends, and not stuck inside going over stupid, boring wedding stuff. I remembered the time me and Sofia and Phil hiked up along a waterfall upstate; halfway up the path we found a coarse, gnarled and knotted rope hanging from a bough, and I swung out over the water; Phil said, that’s a hell of a rock, how much did it set you back; the water flew up and hit me; Sofia lifted me from under the surface and said, time to get up.
“What?” I mumbled.
“Time to get up,” Kathy whispered. I opened my eyes and she kissed my cheek. “You’ve been napping for over an hour,” Kathy said.
“Nuh, uh,” I said.
“Look at the clock. Come on, we have to go to the caterers.”
“Hi, sorry, we would’ve been here sooner but James didn’t want to put his shoes on,” Kathy told Theresa, Sofia, and Mom as we entered the caterers’ lobby.
“Why didn’t you want to put your shoes on, Giacomo?” Mom asked and kissed me.
I shrugged and wiped my cheek.
“He just refused to put them on,” Kathy said. “I finally convinced him to, but then I had to tie his laces for him! Then he didn’t want to put his jacket on. I finally get his jacket on him, then he wanted to bring his Fafank. We were already late so I said he could bring his Fafank if he would just get in the car.”
“You brought your Fafank with you?” Mom asked and pressed her palm against my forehead.
“I don’t know how I managed to convince him to leave it in the car,” Kathy sighed.
Sofia giggled, then stopped when Kathy glared at her.
“I’m sorry, what is a ‘Fafank?’” Theresa asked.
“It’s his stupid baby blanket,” Kathy said.
“My Fafank’s not stupid, YOU’RE STUPID!” I said.
Their jaws dropped at the same time, like it had been rehearsed. I dug my hands into my pockets.
I opened my eyes. Something was not right. I felt for my Fafank but it wasn’t there. I threw off the comforter, flipped over the pillows, and then got on my hands and knees and looked under the bed. My Fafank was gone!
I exited our bedroom.
Kathy had my Fafank next to her on our loveseat.
“There you are,” I said to my Fafank. As I moved towards the loveseat, I noticed Sofia and Mom sitting on our adjacent couch.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
Mom intercepted me, captured me in a hug, kissed my cheek and said, “You know I love you, right, Giacomo?”
“Yeah,” I said and wiped my cheek. “I know.”
Mom loosened her embrace but still held me and led me to the sofa. “Sit here, between us,” she said.
Sofia stood and gave me a hug, then quickly sat back down. She dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
“Why are you crying, Sof?”
Rather than make eye contact with me, Sofia wiped her eyes again, then blew her nose into the same tissue, and kept it clenched in her fist. “I don’t know,” she whimpered.
Mom smiled and said, “Sit down with us, Giacomo.”
“OK, just let me get my Fafank,” I said but Mom held my elbow firmly, and sat on the sofa, pulling me down with her.
“Why can’t I have my Fafank? Why does Kathy have my Fafank? It’s my Fafank!”
Kathy looked like she had been crying but she also looked really angry.
Mom began, “We know it’s your Fafank, but we think it would be best if we kept it at my house-”
“Nuh uh,” I said and shook my head.
“…where it will be safe and you’ll see it when you visit. It’s not appropriate for a boy your age to want to hold his Fafank all the time, is it, Giacomo?”
“But I love it!”
“I know you do and it’s lovely you treasure something bisnonna Marie made for you, but you want to hold it all the time, just like when you were little, and that’s not very healthy. You understand that, don’t you?”
“I don’t hold it all the time. I don’t bring it to work. I only hold it when I’m at home at night.”
“Kathy says the very first thing you do when you get home from work is hold your Fafank,” Mom said. “Is that right?”
“When you can’t hold your Fafank, do you think about holding it more than you think about other things?”
“OK. Will you let me keep it at my house?”
“Nuh uh,” I said and shook my head.
“OK, Giacomo. Why don’t you to listen to what Kathy has to say now.”
“Fine,” I sighed.
Kathy looked at the piece of paper in her hands and said, “James, I love you very much-”
“I love you too,” I said.
“Giacomo, try not to interrupt,” Mom said.
Kathy paused. She looked away from her paper to me. Our eyes met for a second then she looked back down.
“I am so happy that we are building a future together. The decision to get married is the ultimate commitment two people can make to each other, and they each have the obligation to intervene when one is being irrational and/or irresponsible. I am truly sorry for the recent passing of your great grandmother. I know what it is like to lose a loved one, and I know mourning is a different process for different people. But your mourning has taken on a form that is concerning to not only me but to your sister and mother. I am asking you to seek treatment to help you cope with your loss in a healthy way that does not involve using your Fafank to escape from reality. Your attachment to your Fafank has affected our relationship in a very negative way. You’ve stopped being the mature and unselfish man I fell in love with. It hurts me that you have forced me to ask you to decide between myself and your Fafank, and I will no longer compete with it for your affection and attention. If you do not make the right decision, I will leave here today. Please choose to let go of your Fafank. Please choose us.”
I looked at Kathy, then at my Fafank, then back to Kathy. I stood and took the few steps to the loveseat. Kathy smiled and held her arms up to meet me.
I grabbed my Fafank. Kathy’s sunny smile fell and storm clouds gathered. She grabbed my Fafank with both hands before I could pull it off the loveseat.
“James, don’t,” Kathy said. “This isn’t right!”
“Let. Go!” I yelled and pulled my Fafank, but Kathy wouldn’t let go.
“James!” Kathy shrieked and pulled my Fafank back.
“Jackie, cut it out!” Sofia hollered.
“Give it to me!” I yelled.
Our tug-of-war pulled Kathy to her feet. We looked in each other’s eyes before we both gave one last big yank.
My Fafank tore in two and Kathy fell back onto the loveseat. I stared at the piece of my Fafank clenched in Kathy’s hands.
“Look what you’ve done you big, stupid jerk!” I cried. “Give it to me!”
Kathy handed me her portion.
I stared at my Fafank, one half in each hand, and began to cry.
“Let me have it, Giacomo” Mom said. I handed the two parts to her and she tied them together.
“It’s OK, Jackie,” Sofia said. “See? Look!”
“Give it to me,” I whimpered.
I inspected Mom’s knot, then wiped my eyes and cheeks with the ends of my Fafank then cradled it in my arms.
“You’re enabling him, goddamnit!” Kathy screamed.
Mom and Sofia gasped.
Kathy stomped into our bedroom and returned a minute later with a canvas bag. Some of her clothes spilled out when she dropped the bag to the floor.
“I’ll be at my sister’s,” Kathy muttered as she walked by me to get her purse, keys and phone.
“OK,” I said.
“‘OK? OK?!’ You realize I’m leaving you, right? That if you are really choosing your Fafank over me, the wedding is off and I’m moving out?”
“Ugh!” Kathy yelled and began to sob and grabbed her stuff and sobbed louder and slammed the door behind her and sobbed quieter.
“Look what she did,” I said.
“I know, Giacomo, I know,” Mom said.
“Why did she have to go and do that?”
“It was an accident,” she answered, and hugged me while Sofia looked on with wet eyes.
“OK, we’ll let you sleep,” Mom said.
I find every blanket, quilt and comforter in the apartment and spread them on the bed. I crawl underneath and pull all of them over my head. I press my Fafank against my chest with my forearms, lie on my side and pull my legs up.
I am warm, and then hot and damp.
I am safe and cared for.
It is quiet and dark.
I am an egg.
Copyright Dillon Eliassen 2021