During my manual labor days, I worked with a fellow in his late ‘forties who’d managed to marry and divorce three times in maybe 15 years.
“You gonna get married again?” I asked him as we moved crates around on a loading dock.
“No,” he said. “After you get divorced three times, you start to think maybe it wasn’t always the woman’s fault.”
That guy would spend the rest of his work life taking cardboard boxes off a truck, but he’d learned a hard truth about himself.
Here in Fall River, the repository of doubt, certainty, rage, misplaced loyalty, and poverty, we haven’t learned the hard truth.
According to voters, four of the last four mayors have been dogs, bad marriages so bad we had to leave them, at night, with all our clothes stuffed in a purple trash bag.
Maybe it’s us.
Fall River voters don’t pick a candidate. We fall in love.
And we don’t fall in regular old, boring I-dated-her-for-two-years-before-I-knew love.
We fall in love like we’re in the club, and we’ve already had three lemon drop martinis, and the candidate for mayor oozes up to us in good shoes and buys us the fourth one of the night.
Blearily listening to his line of talk, we realize he is an original thinker, a muscled titan among men, sexier than a highly polished black Harley Davidson, and we do the only thing we can do.
“He treats me sooo good,” we gush to the other voters. “He treats me like a queen.”
Several months later, pregnant and puke-y with doubt, we realize the new love just spent the rent money on purple bags, or gave it to strippers, and when he comes sniffing around for another $10 a month, or when the cops come looking for him, we start stuffing our few, once-hopeful belongings into the trash bags we use as luggage.
There’s even a shelter for battered Fall River suburbs. It’s called “Somerset.” You go there when you can’t take any more bad political relationships, when you admit that you have ruined your political life by letting some power-hungry unknown get you alone on a voting booth and have his way with you. Westport’s a shelter for the battered Fall River voter, too. Out there, politics is selectmen arguing about whether the town can afford a $200 stop sign. Generally, the selectmen decide $200 is way too much. In Fall River, the debate over a new stop sign invariably turns into a new “downtown revitalization” plan, a $50,000 feasibility study, and a $10 million streetscape scheme.
If every mayor is our new, untested boyfriend, getting rid of him is our divorce, full of accusations, tears, recriminations, recalls, and bitter arguments about who gets custody of our young, impressionable tourism industry. I believe that poor little tourism has had its growth stunted and its will broken by witnessing years of arguments at home. See it walking around downtown, past the empty storefronts, moping around like any unloved child.
Yeah. Love hurts, and so do stupid decisions.
We’re probably going to have to elect a new mayor/boyfriend soon, and, if we do, maybe we should consider someone with a little less dance club flash, someone whose qualifications are more impressive than his wardrobe.
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, now under federal indictment for a variety of crimes related to financial shenanigans, was a bad romantic choice, although, if he gets sentenced, no doubt there will be a few supporters in court, sobbing and screaming, “I’ll wait for you,baby!” Maybe later, they can skimp on formula for the baby, and send him some canteen money.
It’s going to be a cold winter, as it always is in this knot of tenements down by the scenically significant Taunton River. We’re going to get lonely on those nights when a mill town wind whistles between the houses. We’re going to need some company; a lover, a soulmate, a baby daddy.
Fall River always says that we are treated poorly by the people we elect, that they never really love us back.
Maybe it’s us.