Thursday, June 09, 2011

The King of the Woods-A Novel By Der Kosmonaut Part 4

To say that 1989 got off to an inauspicious start would be an understatement. I was on my father’s S-list. Not a day passed without him giving me dirty looks and making nasty put downs. I was grounded and had lost all phone privileges. Emily and I were practically separated. Once a week she would phone only to be verbally abused by my mother. I was forced to do all the household chores except cooking. Everyday my mother made of list of chores that I had to complete from shopping to tidying up the apartment. I was not even allowed to watch TV except during dinner time with my parents.
  My grades were slipping. I wasn’t doing very well in English Honors. The reason was that we spent too much time reading Shakespeare. Most of the curriculum was based around literary criticism which I found to be a waste of time. I enjoyed reading but I didn’t enjoy having to look for symbolism in the text and to infer what the author meant or didn’t. I was bored in English Honors. I never scored higher than 75 on any of my exams.
  I did very well in American History AP but the course load was too much. By neglecting to use my study period and not studying and doing homework on weekends until Sunday night, I fell far behind in my subjects. Each night I had no less than 6 hours of homework to do. I was clearly not cut out for such an intensive workload. That was not all that I was having difficulty with.
  I was barely passing Chemistry. I was a first class disaster in the Chemistry Lab. I was too exhausted from my English and American History studies to remember the Periodic Table of Elements and to remember equations for chemical formulas. I had failed half of my Chemistry tests. I spent most of my time in Chemistry class daydreaming about music.
  I had returned to mathematical imbecility. While I found Algebra and Geometry relatively easy, I was lost in Trigonometry. Without Emily in the same class, I simply didn’t understand it. I was failing Math 5. I was scoring in the high 40’s on my best days. My average was about 35%. 

  I received the results of my S.A.T scores. I had scored 500 in Verbal, 70 in the Test of Standard Written English and a paltry 380 in Math. My total S.A.T score was 880. I was not going to get into Harvard with that score! Sure, I could easily go to Hunter or City College. I could easily get into the State University system or S.U.N.Y but any chance of wanting to go to school outside of New York State were waning.
  For the first time, I was afraid for my future. I knew that Junior year of High School was the most important year academically. I was constantly reminded by my parents and teachers that it was the grades of Junior year which College Admissions offices looked at most. I was not prepared for the finals that were coming up at the end of the month. I would pass American History, German and English but Math and Chemistry were dubious. I was afraid of my report card for the first semester. I knew that I would be in very serious trouble with my parents. I was afraid that I was going to lose Emily once and for all.
  I had stopped going to church. My mother had stringent rules about me attending Church. She would check with the clergy to make sure that I attended and I was to return home as soon as the service was over. That was intolerable and I simply stayed home on Sundays. Communication broke down between my parents and me. I had nothing to say to them. I came home and went directly to my room. I only came out for dinner and then afterwards to wash the dishes and take the garbage out to the compactor chute.
  I was given a respite for my birthday. My parents gave me $25 and let me see Emily. I was really happy about that. My birthday came on Saturday. I was still under a curfew to be home by 9 o’clock. I spent the entire day at Emily’s house.
“I hate my parents! They are the vilest scum! I can’t wait to go away to college!”
“Oh, Kevin!” Emily said with deep care and concern. “You are so down. It’s your birthday! You should be happy!”
“Happy about what?” I scolded. “Happy to be alive with fucking asshole parents? Happy to be alive in this lousy fucking racist country?”
“Kevin! You are 17. In one more year, you will be free of your parents. In one more year, they won’t be able to tell you what to do. Anyway, your father is just sore because you fucked up the Mustang.”
“It’s not only that, Emily. I’m fucking up in school. I’m failing Math. I might have to go to summer school.”
“You’re failing math?” Emily asked with shock and concern. “How can you be failing math, Kevin? You were promoted to Honors!”
“I just don’t get Trig. It’s too complicated for me!”
“Why didn’t you ask me to help you?”
“Because we never saw each other. It was so much easier last year because we were both in the same class.”
“Listen Kevin, I know you are smart enough to get at least 65 on the final.”
“I don’t know about that. I might just barely pass Chemistry as well.”
“What’s going on with you, Kevin? You’re really good at Math and Science.”
“Biology’s easier than Chemistry. I’m just glad that I don’t have to take the Regents this semester and if I can pass Math and Chemistry, I will have enough credits not to take any more Math classes next year. I will also decline to take Physics.”
“But Kevin, if you don’t take the Math 3 or Chemistry Regents then you won’t get a Regents Diploma!”
“I don’t need a Regents Diploma! I can just get a regular diploma. It makes no difference.”
“It does make a difference Kevin! How can we move to England if you don’t have a Regents Diploma? How can you go to University of London without taking these exams?” Emily was becoming hysterical.
“Chill the fuck out!” I raised my voice. “You are starting to sound like my parents! It doesn’t affect you anyway!”
“Yes it does affect me very much, Kevin!” Emily shouted. “If you don’t make it to college in England, what are we going to do then?”
“What does that have to do with you whether I go to college in England or not? You mother said that you wouldn’t be able to afford to go anyway!”
“That’s my point, Kevin! I am relying on you to get a full scholarship. You can get one. I read up about it but you need to have good grades, Kevin!” Emily started to grab my arms and push me.
“What the fuck’s the matter with you?” I yelled and pushed Emily away from me. “What the fuck does it matter to you if I get a scholarship? Even if I got one, it would be only good for me. What are you going to do?”
“Kevin, if you get a full scholarship we can get married. I read up about it. If we are married, then you get extra money and they would even pay for our apartment. That’s the way we can move to England together!”
  I looked at Emily as if she was crazy. It was the craziest thing she had ever said to me. I was alarmed as equally as I was confused.
“Are you fucking crazy, Emily? What are you going to do?”
“I just told you, I will move with you to England!”
“What are you going to do personally? Are you going to study? Will you be going to school as well?”
“Not at first…”
“Not at first. I went to the library, Kevin. After you graduate from college you can apply to live in England. As your wife, I am also covered. Once we have our residence permit, I will be able to go to school for free! Britain is Socialist. They have free college for citizens and residents. Once you finish your degree, then I will start and get my own!”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!!!! I don’t like this idea at all!”
“Why not?” Emily shouted. “It’s the only way that we can go to England together. We’ve been talking about it for a year Kevin. Don’t you want to move to London?”
“Yes, I want to move to London but I don’t want to get married!”
“Why not? Don’t you love me?”
“I don’t love you enough to get married!”
Emily shrank back from me. She rolled backwards off her bed and stood up. She looked absolutely upset.
“You don’t love me, Kevin?” Emily wailed as tears swelled in her eyes.
“Emily, I didn’t mean it like that….”
“Then what did you mean?”
“What did you mean, Kevin?” Emily sobbed. “Don’t you want to marry me?”
“Well do you or don’t you.”
“Emily! I do want to marry you but not yet. I was thinking we would get marry by the time we were thirty-five or something.”
“Thirty-five! Do you know how long that is, Kevin? That’s 18 years from now!”
“Yes, I know. I’ve always thought that was a good time to get married. Thirty-five seems like the perfect age to get married!”
“Kevin! You’re a fucking asshole!”
“Why? What did I say?”
“Do you think that I want to wait until I’m thirty-fucking-five to get married? I will be an old woman by then! I want to get married at 18. I want us to get married next year after graduation so that we can move to London! I want you to get a full scholarship.”
“Why don’t you try to get a full scholarship yourself, Emily?”
“I can’t!”
“Why not?”
“Because my grades are not good enough.”
“That’s bullshit Emily! You are one of the best students in school!”
“That was only until last year after I came back from Texas. My grades sucked down in Texas!”
“But Emily, your grades from last year and this year are good enough to get a scholarship!”
“You think so?”
“Of course!”
“I’m not as smart as you are, Kevin!”
“What? What the fuck are you talking about? You’re the smart one Emily! I’m the one that’s a dum-dum!”
“You’re such an asshole, Kevin!”
“Because you are!”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
Emily sucked her teeth and seethed. “You know that the best chance I have to get out of America is with you. I think that you want to dump me and leave me behind just like in that Smiths song!”
“Which Smiths song?”
“Do you mean ‘Panic’?”
“No not that one. I’m talking about the song where Morrissey leaves his girlfriend on the train platform as he leaves for London.”
“Oh that song!” I recognized what she was talking about.
“I often feel that is about us, Kevin. I feel that you are going to leave me behind in New York and go to London. ‘But she knows that when he goes he’s really gone.’”
“I think the line goes ‘But she knows that when he goes he really goes.’” I corrected.
“Stop being an asshole, Kevin! You know what I mean. I know that you are just dying to leave. It’s also like the same song when he leaves his family on the platform. You want to leave your parents. You probably want to leave me too!”
“Oh for crying out loud, Emily! What’s your problem?”
“You are fucking up! You cannot afford to fail, Kevin! You cannot fail me! You can’t leave me! If you leave me behind, I will kill myself!”
“You’re crazy!”
“That’s what you think but I’m telling the truth, Kevin. If you leave me behind, I have nothing! Do you understand Kevin that you are the only thing that I have?”

  Somehow I managed to pass all the subjects for the first semester albeit barely. I studied eight hours every day. I came directly home and stayed up until two o’clock in the morning. I scored 70 in Chemistry, 66 in Math 5. I scored 75 in English. My German was a solid 85. American History was my best score at 90. I managed to avoid summer school. My GPA slipped down to 77.2 percent.
  My parents were predictably furious. My GPA dropped 12 points from the previous year. For the semester I slipped into the top 52% of my class. My parents were equally as puzzled as they were furious.
“What the fuck happened in Math?” My father asked not comprehending my sudden free fall. “You were doing so well before!”
“Emily is not in my Math classes anymore. She helped me out before. But the real reason is that Trig is extremely hard for me.”
“Do you think that I should get Jen to tutor you again?”
“No Dad, I think Emily would be a better tutor.”
“What happened with Chemistry?”
“I am not really good with the formulas. I just can’t get into Chemistry to be honest. It bores me.”
“Well you are going to have to do much better in Chemistry, Kevin.”
“Dad, I will tell you this now. I will not be able to score higher than 75 in Chemistry.”
“You can do so, Kevin!”
“No I can’t, Dad!”
My father stared at me blankly. He was at a lost for words. He then looked back at my report card. “I don’t understand 75 for English. Can you try to explain this to me, please?”
“To be honest Dad, it’s boredom once again. This is the most boring year of high school. I just don’t like what we’re reading. We spent two weeks on the sonnets by Shakespeare. Two weeks! I just find it boring. Then we spent two weeks on diagramming sentences grammatically. I tell you that I am just bored. The only subjects that I find interesting this year is American History and German. Other than that, I am bored to tears.”
“I can see that you are doing very well in your AP course. I am very proud of you for that, son. Do you think that perhaps your course load is too heavy? Between AP and Honors you must have lots of work.”
“It’s true. I’m exhausted.”
“This is what you are going to have to deal with when you go to college, especially at Columbia. It’s good that you are getting used to it. Most students have a bad first semester in college. You are taking college level courses now which you are not used to. I will make allowances for that. But listen carefully, Kevin. You must, you must, you must improve your grades in English. I know you can get an 85 in English. I want you to get at least 80 in Math. You can do that as well. As for Chemistry, well I want you to get at least 75.
“I don’t know what to do with you Kevin. You have turned out to be very, very complicated. You were much easier to handle when you were younger. Before your problem was fighting and disobeying your teachers. That was easy to deal with. But now you have become very difficult in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. Your relationship with Emily is something that I never thought would’ve happened. You were so irresponsible with the car! Your S.A.T score was disappointing. I don’t know what to do with you.
“You are off from punishment. I think that made things worst. With all the time you spent at home, one would’ve thought that your grades would’ve been good but they fell. I see that keeping you away from Emily is counter-productive. It’s obvious that since you met her, she has been your only source of stability. With her you have good grades and you seem to be happy.
“I have some advice for you son. You need to think seriously about your life. You need to figure out what you want to do. You need to think seriously about your relationship with Emily. She’s good for you now but I think in the long run it will lead to serious mistakes that you will come to regret. You are 17 years old. You are still a kid but you are no longer a child. At this point there is only but so much your mother and I can do. We can only guide and advise you. We can hector and lecture but we cannot run your life. We will be there to help you whenever you need us. The only thing that I insist upon Kevin is that you finish college. Other than that, you are on your own.”
  It was the saddest thing my father ever said to me. I was a terrible disappointment to him. He had practically given up on me. For years I had wanted him to give me the very freedom he now offered but when he finally gave it to me, I felt that our relationship changed irrevocably. I never wanted to hurt his feelings nor did I want to make him lose confidence in me. What was even worse was that my father didn’t understand me.
  ‘”Kevin.” My mother spoke at last. She had been silently observing the conversation with a concerned sadness. “Have you thought about what you want to do for college and with your life?”
“I still want to go to London for college but I’m not sure about that now. Emily has this crazy plan for us to move to London but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Oh?” My mother raised her eyebrows. “What’s her plan?”
“It’s too crazy to even consider. The thing is that I do want to move to London but I think that I will have to go to college here in America first.”
“Do you know which college?” My mother questioned. “You had your heart set upon Harvard for years!”
“I don’t know if I can get into Harvard anymore. I’m not sure if I want to live in Boston. I sure don’t want to stay in New York!”
“Do you have any idea for a career?”
“I think that I will study History.” I looked at my father. “Or maybe I will study German since those are my two best subjects. I think that I want to be a musician. I want to start a New Wave band in England. That’s really what I want to do with my life.”
“That’s good that you have decided upon something but music is not a steady living son. You will need to make a steady income. What about business? Why don’t you study business administration? That way you can go to England and make your music but if that doesn’t work out; you can work in an office as a manager. That way you will have something to fall back on.”
I looked at my mother as if she was crazy. “Business? Are you serious? Business Administration? You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“But what else Kevin are you going to do for work? Do you want to teach like your father? Since you are not planning to stay in the country the Civil Service is out of the question. From what you have told us Kevin it seems that your only two options are to teach or to work in business.”
“And if you are teacher,” my father added. “What are you going to teach? Where are you going to teach? Are you going to teach History or German? If you move to England will you teach in high school or lower school? You have to decide what you want to major in. You can major in Education and minor in History or German or the other way around: You can major in History and German and minor in Education.”
“And you must remember Kevin,” my mother rejoined. “You should try to get a Master’s. A Bachelor’s is not enough anymore. If you want to earn good money, you have to get at least a Master’s. When you have a Master’s you’re picked first for the best jobs and you have a higher starting salary. Your annual pay raises increase more than if you just have a Bachelor’s. The most important thing is that you get your Bachelor’s in something that you can use practically.”
  This conversation was too much for my 17 year old mind. Looking back 20 years later, I understand my parent’s intentions but it was a flawed strategy. Western society puts too much pressure on young people to decide and plan out the rest of their life. What a 17 or 18 year old might want to do at the time is not what they might want to do 10 or 20 years ahead. It’s impossible for most teenagers to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. How can they? They have too little self understanding and hardly any self awareness. They have little life experience and know little about the world. True there are those who know that they want to be lawyers, doctors and scientists. It’s also true that some want to become rich and famous. This begs the question. How many teenagers actually know what they want in life? When I look back 20 years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be where I am today. How many people my age are actually doing what they had planned to do when they were 17 and 18 years old?
  I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was only certain that I wanted to leave the United States and live in the United Kingdom. The notion of starting a New Wave band was simply a flight of fancy that I had entertained at the time. The pressure of deciding the course of my entire life was daunting and out of proportion. I was under pressure to make life plans. Emily wanted to marry after graduation and to move to London. That was too insane to even ponder. My parents told me that I had only two choices: teach or business management. People were making plans for me. Others were telling me what I had to do. My opinion didn’t count. I was asked what I wanted. Since I didn’t know my parents laid out my life options before me. Since I knew that I wanted to move to London, Emily laid out our life plans together. I felt that personal control of my life was snatched out from my grasp. I started to despair.

  After a two year hiatus, Edward and I commuted home together regularly after school on the subway. I quit the debate club to focus more time on my studies. The subway cars had changed on the BMT. The N train ran as a local with the R train. The N train had the same refurbished cars as the A train. The R train operated refurbished R-72 St. Louis Car Company cars. I was struck by how clean the BMT trains looked. I had never seen the BMT look so clean!
  With the annulment of Broadway Express service the trip between Union Square and Times Square took 5 minutes longer. Edward looked exhausted after school. One day I asked him how life was going.
“I’m bored with my life.” Edward answered.
“My life is boring. The other day I was thinking about it. Five days a week I get up and take the train to school. At school all that I do is pass from class to class. I walk up and down the same flights of stairs. Then after school, I take the train back home. I don’t do anything on weekends except watch TV and listen to music. I do homework 5 nights out of the week. It’s very boring.”
“Don’t you ever go out?”
“Oh yes sometimes I go to the movies.”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Why don’t you get a girlfriend?”
“I don’t want a girlfriend. I don’t know any girls that I like.”
“How is your family doing?”
“My brother is living back at home. He flunked out of college.”
“When did he fail out of college?”
“Oh after sophomore year.”
“You didn’t tell me.”
“Well I hardly saw you last year and it’s not something to tell people.”
“Do you know what college you want to go to?”
“I thought about SUNY Buffalo but after my brother’s experience I don’t think I want to go Upstate.”
“Afraid that you are going to fail out as well?”
“No, I just don’t want to deal with racism. My brother says that Buffalo is very racist.”
“Yes. He said that the other students in his dorm used to write ‘Nigger’ on his door and would slip racist notes underneath. He found it very bad.”
“Now do you understand why I was upset when Al Pataglia called me that back in Freshman year?”
“I do. I didn’t know how hateful the word is when used by white people. When Al called you ‘Nigger’, I thought he had said it the way Black people call each other that. If I knew back then how derogatory the word used by white people was, I would have been more sympathetic.”
“Thank you, Edward.”
  We got off at Times Square and walked up the ramp to the IRT trains. We descended down to the platform. Across the uptown track on the other side of the iron pillars which supported the surface of 7th Avenue aboveground, the Number 3 Express stood on the Downtown track.
“It’s amazing how much the subways have been cleaned up!” I observed.
“Yes but I don’t like the new trains on the 3 or 1. I prefer the old trains that they still use on the 2.”
“I like the new trains! I think that they’re really slick.”
“They’re slick but the seats are also too small. That’s what I don’t like about them.”
The Uptown 2 pulled into the station. We boarded.
“So,” Edward changed the subject. “How are things with Emily? You don’t seem to be together in school anymore.”
“We have different schedules now. We see each other on the weekends.”
“At first I thought that it was a bad idea that you went out with her but you two are really alike.”
“Not alike as you might think.”
“She has lots of problems. She wants us to get married so we can move to London.”
“Why do you have to get married to move to London?”
“Good question. She says that if we get married that she will be able to go to college after I graduate. She has a really complicated plan.”
“Do you want to marry her?”
“Hell no!”
“Does she know that?”
“You haven’t told her that you don’t want to marry her?”
“I told her that I thought we would get married when we are 35.”
“What did she say?”
“She wasn’t too brown on that.”
“When does she want to get married?”
“She wants to marry me next year after graduation. But I’m not going to do it. I can’t tell her now. I’m putting it off until next year.”
“Do you want to go to college in London?”
“Yes but I don’t know if I will be able to do it. Emily insists that I go to college in London. I have to see. I really have no idea what I’m doing to do. I just know that I don’t want to stay in New York.”
“Hmm. It appears to me that you have to make up your mind soon. I don’t blame you for procrastinating on this one.”
  That week in American History class, we discussed the First World War and the Russian Revolution. The Cold War was still raging at the beginning of 1989. The American schools taught anti-Communist and anti-Russian propaganda. We were taught that Communism was a totalitarian system where all democratic and political freedoms were taken away. The worst thing about Communism, we were taught, was that it took away individuality. Communism made everyone poor as evident by the bread lines which were broadcast on American television. There was no fashion. Everyone under Communism wore the same clothes. Communism made every one equal at the cost of political and individual freedom.
  My father taught me quite a bit about Communism. He told me that it wasn’t as bad as what I was to believe. He told me that the United States was more or less the same as the Soviet Union. The only differences were that the United States had elections, freedom of speech and capitalism. While those were significant differences, the repression, oppression and social control was the same. My father believed that police brutality was probably much worse in America than in Russia. My father said that there was really no difference between the KGB and the FBI. The latter was simply a more open secret police. My father explained in detail how the FBI collaborated with the police forces in the Alabama to arrest and torture Martin Luther King. My father said the assassination of King was carried out by the government. As my father enumerated all of the intrigues and suppression of human rights and democracy in America, he concluded that there was very little difference between the US and the Soviet Union. The Soviets even said so to the American government. When various Presidents criticized the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union, the Premiers would usually point to the treatment of Blacks in America. When the US treated Blacks as equal citizens, then could it point to the oppression of Jews in the USSR.
  Despite my father’s sympathies to the USSR, I didn’t like Communism. As I said in my American History class, “Communism is a good idea. It works on paper but not in practice.”
I had been raised on Cold War propaganda films such as “Red Dawn”, which was about a Soviet invasion of the US defeated by teenagers in Michigan. In 1987, the ABC network broadcast a mini-series called “Amerika”, which was about the US taken over by the USSR and broken up. The scene which touched me most was the ultimatum given to the US Congress to dissolve. When the Representatives and Senators refuse to leave, they are gunned down by Soviet commandos. The news media under “Communist” control report that terrorists carried out the attack. My father and I watched “White Knights” on HBO. The film was about a Black American entertainer who had defected to the USSR. He realizes that he’s made a dreadful mistake and tries to escape back to the West. My father blasted the film as pure trash and sheer propaganda.
  Despite my ideological clashes with Danny Schutzer, we were both anti-Communist. Though I was a “Super Liberal” as Danny liked to slander, I was hardly a Marxist. We both agreed that the Soviet Union was a threat to the US.
“What do you think would happen if war broke out between America and Russia?” I asked Danny.
“America can’t beat Russia in a conventional war. Russia has the most powerful army in the world. Their military equipment is more advanced than ours. That’s why Reagan built up our nuclear missiles.”
“Do you think there will ever be a nuclear war?”
“I hope not. That would be our ass if it happens.”
“In my church a couple of years ago we discussed what would trigger the next world war. Somebody said that it would most likely be triggered by a Russian attack on Israel.”
“That’s very possible. Russia and Syria could gang up on Israel. The West would have no choice but to defend Israel.”
“If you say that Russia can beat us in a conventional war then it’s possible that there will be nuclear war if we are unable to defend Israel.”
“You’re right about that. The Russians would have a foothold on the Mediterranean. From there they would be able to take North Africa. From Libya they could attack Western Europe through Italy and France. Right now the Russians are bottled up in the Black Sea. Turkey prevents them from sailing into the Mediterranean. NATO has Western Europe fortified against a direct invasion from Eastern Europe. So if Russia attacked and invaded Israel they will have bypassed Turkey. If we were unable to repel them in Israel, they would sweep into North Africa. We would have no choice except to use nukes in order to prevent them from attacking Western Europe.”
“Then that would be the end of the world. They have nukes too. Once the nukes start flying the world has only 20 minutes left to live.”
“True but it’s better to die than to have to live under Communism.”
“I wonder.”
  During the 2nd Semester I had 5th period lunch with Shannon. Since it was the middle of winter, no one went outside to Stuyvesant Park. Shannon always wore her leather jacket on inside along with her combat boots. She rarely wore pants. She wore skirts most of the time.
“Don’t you ever get cold without pants?” I asked her.
“Sometimes but I’m hardly ever outside long enough to get cold.”
“Yes but you do have to walk outside. You have to walk to the subway between your house and between school.”
“It’s not that long. I live right next to the train. It’s only 3 minutes between my house and the train and the same between school and the train.”
“I don’t know how you girls do it. Every winter I see so many girls wearing skirts. I would freeze my balls off if I didn’t wear pants. Shit I even have to wear long johns!”
“Lots of them are actually wearing pantyhose so it’s not that bad.”
“Oh come on! I don’t think those thin pantyhose can protect against the cold and the wind!”
“You’d be surprised. The material is thicker than it looks. I don’t like pantyhose anyway. I never bother to wear them.” Shannon said dismissively.
“It’s similar with some guys that I see in the middle of the winter wearing jogging shorts. I need to keep my ass bundled up.”
“Some people can take the cold.” Shannon shifted gears. “How are things going with Emily? I haven’t seen you together around school.”
“Everyone seems to have noticed that. In a school with more than four thousand students, I’m surprised people even notice.”
“You are the most famous couple in school!” Shannon said with a wink.
“I guess so. Anyway, we have separate schedules. She got promoted to Math Honors so she is not in any of my classes. We haven’t had lunch the same lunch period since first semester of last year.”
“You used to leave school together. What happened?”
“I have a heavy course load this year. I have to go home and study. Fuck! I’m tired of school!”
“I hear you.”
“It seems as if school is never going to end. I have five more years of school left. I really wonder if it’s worth all the hassle.”
“I want to tell you something, Kevin.” Shannon’s eyes narrowed as she put on her no-bullshit expression. “I’ve been watching Emily. She looks like she is about to freak about big time.”
“What do you mean?”
“I see her in the hall between Homeroom and Spanish class. She looks like she’s under a lot of pain. She looks as if she can’t decide whether to cry or to scream. Haven’t you noticed it?”
“I haven’t seen those expressions.” I reflected. “But she has been more agitated than usual. She does freak out a lot. She wants to marry me after graduation.”
“Are you for real?” Shannon put down her sandwich and looked at me with her mouth half open.
“Yes. I told her that she’s crazy.”
“I hope you are not planning to marry her! What the fuck! Only hicks get married at 18 after high school!”
“Of course I’m not going to marry her after graduation!”
“Why the fuck does she want to get married?”
“We’ve made plans to move to London after graduation. I want to go to college there. Her mother can’t afford it. She says that if we get married, then she can stay with me in England. Then she wants to go to college after I’m done.”
“That’s the dumbest reason I’ve ever heard for getting married! I hope you’ve told her no!”
“Not quite.”
“What the fuck! You didn’t agree to marry her did you?”
“No, no. I just told her that I would think about it. I have to be careful with her. If I say no, she is going to freak out. She’s even threatened to kill herself if I don’t take her with me to England.”
“What the fuck! Kevin, she’s manipulating you! You can’t let her do that!”
“This is the thing, Shannon. I think she actually might do it. I think she would’ve killed herself long ago if it weren’t for me.”
“I know!”
“What are you going to do about her, Kevin?”
“Fuck if I know. I feel that things are out of hand. Do you know what I mean?”
“I think things are already out of hand. Please be careful Kevin!” Shannon put her hand over mine.

  On Valentine’s Day Emily and I decided to go out to Far Rockaway. Far Rockaway was located on the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens on the city line with Nassau County, Long Island. Far Rockaway was the furthest distance from Manhattan in the city. To get out there we took the A train. The A train was the longest line in the subway system. It was also the fastest line. When it ran express it would reach a maximum speed of 60 MPH. The fastest trains on the rest of the subway system had a maximum speed of 45-50MPH.
The A line ran from 207th in Inwood at the northern tip of Manhattan. It traveled down practically the entire length of the island before crossing beneath the East River to Brooklyn. In Brooklyn it ran from Brooklyn Heights through Downtown Brooklyn cutting a corner of Ft. Greene. It ran underneath the entire length of Fulton Street through Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Flatbush and East New York.  After East New York the A train zigzagged through New Lots before it followed Liberty Avenue. From there it crossed into Queens as it cut across Jamaica Bay to the Rockaways.
  During the week the A train made express stops from Manhattan through Brooklyn before running as a local in Queens. During the weekend however, it ran express only in Manhattan and made local stops all through Brooklyn out to Queens. A weekday journey from 125th Street to Far Rockaway normally took about 90 minutes. A weekend journey took 120 minutes. Over night when the A ran local making each stop between 207th Street to Far Rockaway took 3 hours. We made the journey on a Sunday. We took the M101 bus down 3rd Avenue to 14th Street. From there we took the recently re-christened L (formerly the LL) to 8th Avenue where we transferred to the A train. We left Emily’s house at 10 o’clock in the morning. We didn’t get on the A train until 11 o’clock.
  The A train was my favorite line not only because of its speed but it also had the R-74 cars. The rolling stock had a diagonal angle at the front and rear of the train. The front and rear doors had long slanted windows which stood nearly 6 week high. They were the best windows for small children to look out from. I was hoping we would get those cars rather than the renovated cars. It turned out that we got the very last original R-74 before they were eventually renovated.
  Emily and I stood at the front window looking out. I pointed out the signalization and track systems. Emily was rather impressed by the train for its great viewing platform, the smoothness of the ride as well as the straightness of the route.
“This is the new system.” I started to explain.
“The trains look new.” Emily replied “When was it built?”
“In 1934.”
“1934? I thought that you said it was new?”
“I mean compared to the IRT and BMT lines the IND is new.”
“What do you mean by IRT and BMT and IND?”
“See the subway was built in three separate phases by different companies. The IRT stands for Interborough Rapid Transit. It used to be a private company. The BMT stands from Brooklyn Manhattan Transit. The IND stands for Independent.”
“That’s weird. Which lines are which?”
“The IRT are all the numbered trains. The BMT are all the lettered trains higher than GG or now G. The IND are all the lettered trains from A to G or GG.”
“I’ve noticed that many of the old double lettered trains are gone. Remember the AA train?”
“Yes, that just changed two years ago actually.”
“I used to think it was weird that there was an A and AA train. Why did they have the double letters?”
“The single letter connoted Express. The A, B, D, E and F trains were express. The AA, CC and GG were local trains.”
“That’s so weird.”
“But now they have gotten rid of all the double letters. For a while the AA was replaced by the K train.”
“The K train!” Emily trembled. “You mean like KKK!”
“Well not quite, it was just one K.”
“That’s creepy!”
“I thought it was a bit fucked up myself too.”
“Why was the IND called Independent?”
“Because it was built and owned by the city. It was not a private company like the IRT and BMT.”
“That’s strange. I would think that the private companies would be independent rather than the government system.”
“You’re right now that I think about it.”
“But doesn’t the Transit Authority run the subway?”
“Yes. In 1949 the city took over the IRT and BMT. The private companies went out of business. They went bankrupt so the city set up the TA and consolidated the system.”
“I hear and read about the TA and the MTA. Are they the same or different?”
“The TA was set up by the city to run the subways. The MTA was set up by the State to run all public transit in and out of the city.”
“Sounds complicated. Are they the same?”
“Sort of. The TA only controls the subways. The TA is the subway department of the MTA. The MTA runs the subways, the Metro-North, Long Island Railroad and all the buses though I think that the express bus lines that run to The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens are still privately owned and operated. But somehow the MTA still regulates them.”
“I’m getting tired Kevin. How much further do we have to go?”
“Well we’re only at Nostrand. We have a long way to go.”
“How many stops?”
“I think we have about 20 more stops.”
“20 more stops!”
  By the time we got to Rockaway Avenue 15 minutes later, Emily got bored of looking out the front window in the tunnel. I sat down next to her. A few of the all Black passengers stared at us. We were definitely not regulars. It was not even so much that we were a mixed couple but rather we were obviously a Manhattan couple. To be more precise, I was clearly neither from Brooklyn nor Harlem. I certainly wasn’t from The Bronx. I was clearly from the privileged zone between 14th and 96th Streets.
  15 minutes later we pulled into Euclid Avenue. Emily was losing her patience.
“You said that this was going to be a cool and interesting ride! We’ve been on the train for 45 minutes now! You said that the train would go outside!”
“Yes it will.”
“We’re at Euclid. It’s only two more stops.”
“I’m hungry!”
“You ate breakfast!”
“I didn’t know we were going halfway to Europe! I would have packed a lunch and brought some snacks if I knew it was going to take this long!”
  The train finally emerged from the tunnel to the steel grey mid February sky. Emily and I turned around and stared out the window. Three storey two family houses lined the horizon.
“Where are we now?” Emily asked.
“We’re in Ozone Park.”
“Ozone Park!” Emily giggled. “Is it really called Ozone Park?”
Emily giggled. “That’s one park I would not want to play in! Why is it called Ozone Park?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“I don’t know! What do you want?”
“You know everything Kevin! Especially about weird things and places. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to know where Ozone Park comes from but from you, I would.”
“I’m not Mr. Know-It-All Emily!”
“Well you sure act like you are!”
“Look it up!”
  We pulled into 80th Street-Hudson Avenue where the A line split into two branches. The A line had two destinations. The main branch went to Far Rockaway. The other branch went to Lefferts Boulevard. The Lefferts branch remained on the Liberty Avenue Elevated trestle. The Far Rockaway branch went onto the old Long Island Railroad line.
“Let’s go back to the front window! This is the best part of the ride!” I exhorted to Emily.
We went up to the front window.
“This part was added in the 60’s. It used to be part of the Long Island Railroad.”
“Wow! It doesn’t even feel as if we’re in New York anymore!”
“Wait until we get across the Bay!”
  The train sped along towards Aqueduct Racetrack. The scenery became more rural. Aqueduct Racetrack was the only horse racing track in New York City. There were four horse racing tacks throughout the New York Metropolitan Area. Aqueduct was in Queens. Belmont Park was in Nassau County, Long Island. Yonkers Raceway was in Westchester County. The Meadowlands Racetrack was in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Aqueduct and Belmont featured horseback racing while Yonkers Raceway and The Meadowlands featured harness racing.
“Have you ever been to see horseracing?” Emily asked.
“No, not really. I’m not into the horses.”
“I would like to see a horserace once.”
“I think most of the people that go to the races are gamblers. Gamblers are the saddest people I’ve ever seen. Ever notice the guys that hang out in OTB? Every time I pass by OTB, I see nothing but desperate old men.”
“I’ve never paid attention. I like horses. I would like to go to the racetrack to pet the horses.”
“Did you ever go horse back riding in Texas?”
“No, I didn’t. Texas is fairly modern despite being backwards. There were some horse ranches around Vider but I was never really interested in meeting the ranchers. I’ve always wanted to ride horse back. Do they still have the horse stable on the Upper West Side?”
“Maybe in the summer we can take lessons. I’ve always wanted to ride a horse in Central Park.”
  The train made its way towards Jamaica Bay. The next stop was Howard Beach-JFK Airport. That station represented two conflicting feelings with us. On one hand, Howard Beach was the scene of the recent racial murder. On the other hand, JFK was the international airport. It was where we would embark from when we moved to London. Howard Beach was a maritime community. As the train went through Howard Beach, there were water tributaries with small speedboats docked. Many of the small boats were on the land for winter. There were many small one storey houses. Howard Beach was picturesque. It was hard to fathom on two levels. On the first level, it was hard to imagine a rural maritime district in a metropolis such as New York. On the second level, it was simply unfathomable that deep hatred and violence was part of the mentality in such a beautiful part of the city.
  After Howard Beach-JFK, the train crossed over the water of Jamaica Bay. The track bed was built on a narrow strip of land with the water on both sides. The train ascended along an iron and wooden bridge. The train slowed down as it crossed over the main crossing of the bridge. Below the choppy waters of Jamaica Bay churned. The train descended back on the wooden and iron trestle and back onto land before speeding up again. The train made a direct line on an island in the middle of the bay.
  Suddenly a supersonic boom pierced the sky. Emily and I both looked up. An Air France Concord took off from Kennedy Airport. We got very excited.
“Oh shit! That’s the concord!” I exclaimed.
“That’s so cool! It really looks like a bird! Look at its beak!”
“I’ve never seen the concord for real except on TV!”
“I want to fly on the concord!”
“British Airways has the concord as well. It takes only 3 hours from New York to London!”
“Really! Kevin, let’s take the Concord when we move to London!”
“It’s very expensive. It costs one thousand dollars per seat one way.”
“One thousand dollars! Why is it so expensive?”
“It’s supersonic. It travels faster than the speed of sound.”
“That’s no reason for it to be a thousand dollars!”
“I think it cuts the time travel by half.”
“I guess we are just going to take the regular plane then.”
  The train sped along on Broad Channel. To the south on Jamaica Bay lay the Cross Bay Bridge and Parkway. To the north lay the taxiways and runways of Kennedy Airport. A line of jumbo jets waited to take off. On the island of Broad Channel the train passed through acres of high weeds. There were very few houses. The February wind raged. The high speed train cut through the high winds creating strong whistling sounds. We were in the middle of Jamaica Bay. The train pulled into the Broad Channel station.
“Does anybody actually live out here?” Emily asked.
“I guess so. I don’t really know. There are not that many houses. I guess the few people that live here do so only in the summer.”
“Are we in Brooklyn?”
“No we are in Queens.”
“We’re in Queens! I never knew that Queens looked like this! I can’t believe that we are still in New York City!”
“I told you this was an interesting ride!”
  The train pulled out of Broad Channel and once again ascended the iron and wooden causeway before coming to the main bridge made of iron. The train slowed down again. The train descended slowly as we approached land once again. We came upon the other side of Jamaica Bay.
“Look to the right Emily! See the houseboats!”
“Oh my God! I’ve never seen those before except in the movies!”
The train passed green houseboats and red houses built upon thick round wooden stilts piled into the bay. The train came upon a track switch and turned left.
“Where do those tracks lead to?” Emily asked.
“That’s the CC branch. That goes down to Rockaway Park. Rockaway Playland used to be down there.”
“The CC comes all the way out here?”
“Well it used to. That was actually the longest line. The CC only runs or used to run on Rush Hours. It went all the way from Bedford Park Boulevard in The Bronx out to Rockaway Park. That’s a long way and the CC made all local stops from The Bronx out here. Can you imagine how long that would take? I think it would take at least 3 hours if not more!”
  The train ascended higher and ran on an elevated trestle made of concrete. At last the Atlantic Ocean came into view.
“How many more stops?”
“I think there are 5 or 6 stops before the end.”
“This is too long! I’m tired of riding the train!”
To the right of the train, dozens of housing projects stood between the subway line and the beach. I found it odd and unfortunate for the people to live out here. I thought about the isolation and the distance from the rest of the city. It must’ve been really cold during the winter to live right on the ocean. It then occurred to me how odd it was that we were taking this trip in the middle of winter. It would’ve been much better and nicer to do it during the summer.
  The train finally pulled into the Far Rockaway terminus. As was customary at the last stop of each subway line, the train made a loud sigh as the motorman removed the brake handle and locked the throttle causing the motor to shut down and the air brakes to release. The sound seemed to reflect a loud “WHEW!” The sound anyone would make after finishing a long hike. The train was tired. We were tired. It was a long and exhausting ride.
“OK! I’m hungry! I want to eat!” Emily said with a growl.
“There’s a McDonald’s right here next to the subway.”
“Let’s go!”
   I looked at my watch. The time was 1:20. It had taken us three hours and twenty minutes to get to Far Rockaway from 26th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. We spent 2 hours and 50 minutes on the subway with 2 hours and 20 minutes on the A train alone. I was just as hungry as Emily. I was tired from standing up most of the journey. We spent one hour in McDonald’s.
  We then walked towards the beach. Far Rockaway was the most populated part of the Rockaway Peninsula making it feel like the most urban. There was no doubt that we were in New York City but at the same time it felt as if we had traveled to the other side of the Milky Way.
“I knew New York was huge,” Emily started, “but I didn’t realize it was this large.”
“It’s true. Most people in the city have never been out here. Most people have heard of the Rockaways but very few have actually been out here.”
“I have never even heard of Rockaway until I started listening to DRE and heard the songs ‘Rockaway Beach’ and ‘Rockaway High’ by The Ramones. At first I thought they were talking about rocking on the beach. It sounds like the Beach Boys. I thought they were talking about going to a rock concert on the beach. I thought the two songs were fantasies about going to a beach and high school where there was always rock music.”
“You are so funny, Emily!” I laughed hard.
“It’s true. That’s what I thought. It wasn’t until we went to Coney Island last summer and you pointed out Rockaway before I realized that it was a real place!”
  It was a rather long walk from the subway station to the beach. It took nearly 20 minutes which seemed longer in the windy wintry weather. At last we came upon the boardwalk and stepped onto the beach. The beach was deserted of people. There were flocks of seagulls. We were the only humans on the beach. The lifeguard high chairs were turned down on their sides. The surf was rough and rowdy as high waves assaulted the coast with aggressive anger. The Atlantic Ocean combined with the distance of Far Rockaway reinforced the feeling that we were at the edge of the world. We were at the outer limits of New York and the United States. We stopped and put our arms around each other taking in the scene.
“Here we are at last!” I said.
“Yes. Europe and England is on the other side of the ocean.” Emily replied.
“That’s right. Freedom is on the other side. I can’t wait to get to Europe.”
“Me too. I want to get away from this land. It will be so nice to be over in England where there is freedom and no racial prejudice.”
“I really can’t wait.”
“Did you start to apply for scholarships yet?”
“Why not?”
“I’ve been really busy with school. I haven’t had time to look into it.”
Emily broke our embrace and scolded me. “Kevin! I told you that you have to apply for scholarships to England! What are you waiting for?”
“I’m sorry Emily! I told you that I haven’t had any time. I am really busy.”
“You’re just being lazy, Kevin! You must get cracking on that. Our future depends on it!”
“I know, I know!”
“Well if you know you don’t seem to take it very seriously!”
“I do take it seriously, Emily! I’m just under a lot of pressure. I am trying to figure everything out.”
“If we don’t get to England by next year we are finished!”
“Have you started to apply or look for scholarships, Emily?”
“Why not?”
“Because I expect you to get it.”
“Emily, we talked about this the other week. You need to also look for scholarships. You have to help out as well. I can’t do it alone.”
“You’re the guy, Kevin. It’s the guy’s responsibility to take care of everything!”
“Oh for crying out loud! How can you really be that old fashioned, Emily?”
“How dare you call me ‘old fashioned’?”
“Well you are being old fashioned saying that it’s only the guy’s responsibility. What about women’s lib?”
“You’re being an asshole again, Kevin! You don’t want to be responsible. You’re really irresponsible. Your father’s right about that!”
“Why are you attacking me?”
“Because it’s true. You don’t want to be responsible for anything, Kevin. You don’t want to take responsibility for us. You don’t think about our future. You don’t think about your own future, Kevin! Don’t give me the bullshit about ‘women’s lib’ as a way to avoid your responsibilities to me! I’m relying on you, Kevin and you’re letting me down!”
“OK. Fine, I will look into the scholarships tomorrow. I will go to Mrs. Adler, my Guidance Counselor and ask her about scholarships for England and then I will go to the main library after school to do some research there.”
“Now you’re talking sweetie!” Emily embraced and we kissed.
“It’s cold! Let’s keep walking.” I said pointing to the west.
  As we walked along the beach, many jets made their final landing approaches to JFK. There were about 7 consecutive TWA 747’s landing.
“Damn! TWA has a lot of flights coming in today.” I observed.
“I like TWA. I took TWA from Texas back to New York.”
“I wonder if all those flights are coming from Europe. TWA has lots of flights between Europe and New York.”
“When we move to England, I want to fly British Airways. I don’t want to fly an American airline to England. I want to get away from America. I don’t want to be on TWA or Pan Am when I leave the country.”
“You’re right. I want to take British Airways. I really like their commercials on TV!”
“So do I! British ads are so cool. They are done really well. I only watch channel 13 because they have lots of British TV shows.”
“Really? I haven’t watched Channel 13 in years. My father likes that station. He likes their documentaries. I watched it mostly as a little kid. I used to watch Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact and The Electric Company.”
“Oh my God! I loved The Electric Company!”
“Me too! I thought it was so much cooler than Sesame Street.”
“Me too! I like the beginning!”
In unison Emily and I screamed “HEY YOU GUYYYYYYYSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!” We then laughed and cracked up with each other.
“Do you remember the theme song?” Emily asked.
Together we started to sing the Electric Company theme song.
“We’re going turn it onnnn/We’re going give you the pow-errr/We’re going light the darkest night as the brightest day in a whole new way/
“We’re going turn it onnnnnnnn/We’re going give you the pow-errr/We’re going to tell the truest words that you ever heard anybody sayyyy”
 I then hummed the tune as Emily sang the high notes “Stepping out in a new wayyyyy! / Stepping it out in a new wayyyy!”
Then together we sang the last stanza: “We’re going to turn it onnnn/We’re going to give you the pow-errrr/Coming down the line as strong as it can be through the currencyyyy/On the Electric Companyyyyy!”
“What I used to like best about The Electric Company were the silhouettes when two people would form the words and the letters would appear.” I recounted.
“Oh my God, yes! That’s so cool! I remember those.”
“I liked the music to it as well.”
“Do you remember the C words?”
“Let’s sing it!” Emily’s eyes lit up with enthusiasm and excitement.
“Do you want to do the ‘ca” sound or do you want to do the rest?”
“You do the ‘ca’ and I do the rest!”
I began to hum the tune and pronounced the C. Emily pronounced the other letters. Then in unison we said the complete word.
“C” I started.
“at” Emily complemented.
“Cat!” We said in unison.
I hummed the end of the tune and in unison we finished.
We laughed and giggled as we continued to walk along the beach. The word play made us recount our time in Flushing Meadows Park.
“ater” I started
“eater” Emily continued.
“heater” I replied.
“Theater!” We finished in unison. We laughed more.
  We walked down the beach for one hour. It was getting dark. I looked at my watch.
“Shit! It’s 3:30! We have to head back. I’ve got a ton of homework to do!”
“It’s that late already?”
”Kevin this was such a cool Valentine’s Day! I love you so much!” Emily put her arms around me and kissed. We stood on the beach kissing for few minutes before I ended it and insisted that we head to the subway.
   The subway train we took back to Manhattan had the renovated cars. We sat in the corner seats and put our arms around each other and rested our heads together. It was the closest in public I ever felt with Emily. Every few minutes she would plant a light kiss on my lips. By the time the train went underground, she had fallen asleep in my arms. She woke up briefly at East New York asking me where we were before dozing off again. She woke up again at Jay Street before returning to her nap. She woke up again at Chambers Street. Once she realized we were back in Manhattan she stayed awake.
“Can you take me home please?”
“I can’t. I really have to get home.”
“Oh please, Kevin. I don’t want to leave you!”
“I can’t Emily. I’ve run out of money. I don’t have any more tokens. I would need at least two more tokens to take you home and then to go to my house.”
“Oh please Kevin! I’m sure that my mom or grandma would have some tokens to give you”
“I can’t Emily.” I looked at my watch. “It’s already quarter past five. By the time we get to your house it will be six. I won’t get home until seven. I’m tired. I have at least 4 hours of homework to do which I probably won’t even start until after eight. Then I have to get up tomorrow morning.”
“You’re such an asshole Kevin!” Emily seethed. “You don’t give a damn about me! It’s all about you!”
“Oh for crying out loud! Don’t start this now, Emily. Really! We’ve spent the entire weekend together since Friday afternoon. I really need to go home.”
“Oh so you are saying that you’ve had enough of me? You’re saying that you’re tired of seeing me?”
“Ah fuck, Emily! I’m tired because we went out to Far Rock. If I didn’t have so much homework, I would take you home. I would probably even sleep over tonight but I can’t. It has nothing to do with you.”
“You’re such an asshole!”
“Fine, I’m an asshole. Get used to it!”
  The train pulled into 14th Street. Emily got off. She gave me the saddest expression of rejection I had ever seen. She looked as if she were about to cry. I got a wave of anguish, guilt and pity. Something told me that I should’ve gotten off with her and escorted her home. I was simply too exhausted. Moreover, I missed my house. I missed sleeping in my bed. I got off at 59th Street and walked upstairs to the Number 1 train.
  When I got home, I ate dinner that my mother had kept warm for me. I didn’t realize how cold I had been. The journey to and from Far Rockaway wiped me out. I decided that I would take a short nap before doing my homework. I went to sleep at seven o’clock. I woke up at two-thirty in the morning. I swore aloud to myself. I stayed up doing my homework until six o’clock. I didn’t bother to do the homework assignment for Trig.


  The following weekend King of the Woods had his 18th birthday party which he had invited me. He actually turned 18 on Thursday of the week but had his party the Saturday after. I hadn’t seen much of King since our excursion to Connecticut when we were nearly arrested. Emily wanted to come with me to the party. I didn’t think it was a good idea but she was insistent.
“No, you’re not going to leave me alone tonight!”
“But I really want to go to King’s birthday party!”
“Then bring me along!”
“I don’t know about that, Emily. I’ve told you all about King. He’s really weird.”
“That’s why I want to go. You’ve talked so much about him. I want to meet him in person and see if he’s really as intense as you say he is.”
“I also think that idiot Mick will be there. I don’t think you want to meet him. He will evangelize to you and try to convince you to believe in God and whatnot.”
“I actually want to meet that asshole too. I’d like to give him a piece of my mind!”
“There will be lots of people from FOCUS. It’s going to be a religious party. It might be awkward for us there together.”
“I think that you are embarrassed to introduce me to your friends, Kevin.”
“Not at all.”
“How come you’ve never introduced me to any of your friends outside of school?”
“I’ve told you all about them. From what you’ve said, I didn’t think you would like them.”
“I probably won’t like them but I want to see what they’re really like. I’m coming with you to the party!”
  That settled the point. Emily and I took the M101 bus downtown. We walked past The Ritz. There was a long queue of people waiting to go inside. I had never been to a night club and was curious about it. I was still too young to go or at least I thought I wouldn’t be allowed in. We turned the corner of 4th Avenue and entered the vestibule of King’s apartment building. He lived on the 4th floor in a 6 storey art-deco building from the 1920s. The door was opened by King’s older sister Tia.
“Why hello Kevin! How are you doing? I haven’t seen you at St. George’s in ages. Come in!” She waved us through.
“Who are you?” Tia asked Emily.
“I’m Emily! What’s your name?”
“I’m Tia. I’m King’s older sister.”
“Hello Tia.”
  We walked into the living room. Mick and Bobby were the only guests who had arrived before us. I hesitated. I had hoped other people would be there besides them. Then King of the Woods came out from the kitchen.
“Yes. This is my girlfriend Emily. Emily is this King of the Woods.”
“Hey King! I’ve heard so much about you!” Emily was genuinely excited to meet King of the Woods.
“Happy Birthday, King! I’ve got a present for you.” I said as I handed King a gift wrapped cassette.
Mick quickly came upon us. I was cold and distant to him.
“Hey Kevin! Nice to see you again!” Mick said.
“What’s up Mick? Are you in the city for the weekend?”
“Yes I came up for King’s birthday. It’s a long weekend as well so I thought I’d come back to the city.”
“Is this your girlfriend?”
“Yes.” I said as I stood between Emily and Mick. I felt territorial, possessive and protective of Emily.
“Hi there!” Mick said stepping around me as he offered his hand to Emily. “My name is Mick! You must be Emily!”
Emily sneered at Mick and refused to take his hand.
“I’ve heard so much about you from Kevin!” Mick said taken slightly aback by Emily’s snub.
“I’ve heard a lot about you too.” Emily replied. “You’re the Jesus freak who wants to take away my right to choose.”
Mick was stunned by Emily’s sharp rebuke and quickly retreated away. Bobby stared at the scene with murky yet narrow eyes. I greeted him.
“Hey Bobby! How’re you doing?”
“Fine, I guess.”
“How’s City College?”
“Fine, I guess.”
“You don’t go to St. George’s much anymore do you?”
“Sometimes I go. You have stopped going too haven’t you?”
“Yes. I have a really hard course load this year and I’m busy.”
Emily stood by my side. “Hi, I’m Emily. Who are you?”
“Bobby?” Emily reflected and turned to me. “You’ve never mentioned Bobby to me.”
“Really, I haven’t?”
“No you haven’t. You’ve mentioned King and that asshole Mick but never Bobby.”
  King’s mother stepped out from the bathroom. She had the same exact hairstyle/wig and sunglasses that she wore at the Mets game.
“Hello Kevin. Thank you for coming to King’s birthday party.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
“Who’s the young lady?”
“I’m Emily!”
“Hello Emily. I’m King’s mother. How do you know my son?”
“I just met him. He’s a friend of my boyfriend and I just came along for the party.”
“How nice of you! So far not too many people have shown up to the party. Would you two like something to drink or eat?”
  Emily and I both answered in the affirmative. King’s mother poured us Hawaiian Punch and served us each a bowl of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream. The atmosphere was a bit awkward. There was no music. There were only 5 guests. I looked at my watch. It was only a quarter past eight. I mentally decided that Emily and I would take our leave at 9:30. As I expected Mick started the conversation about religion.
“I’ve joined Campus Crusade for Christ at Princeton! There’s not much Christian fellowship at Princeton.”
“I see Dave Pettis a lot but FOCUS only meets once a month. Campus Crusade for Christ has weekly meetings and prayer groups. Most students at Princeton are very secular. There’s a lot of fornication at Princeton! It’s really shocking!” Mick looked at me and Emily. “My roommate always has a new girl every weekend. I’ve tried to talk to him about it but he doesn’t listen. I’ve tried to arrange a room transfer but I haven’t been able to.”
“There're so many orgies at Princeton. Satan has a strong hold at Princeton. That’s why I wanted to go to UVA. Every weekend I have to sleep in the lounge because my roommate fornicates all the time.”
“It’s really hard to be a Christian at Princeton. I’m tempted by Satan everyday.”
“Then why didn’t you go to a Bible college like Jerry Falwell’s College?” Emily suddenly asked aggressively.
“Because I want to study Mathematics. I don’t want a degree in Religious Studies.”
“Really?” I joined in. “The way you talk, I thought you would only want to study the Bible. It would be easy for you to get a degree in Religion.”
“Last semester and this one I’ve taken classes on the history of Christianity and the Bible. I don’t like the courses. They are very anti-Christian and they really degrade the Bible.”
“Of course they do!” Emily seethed. “Any serious intellectual would attack religion and the Bible!”
“That’s the problem with human secularism. Modern intellectualism is against religion. I took these courses expecting to reveal deep spirituality but there’s no spirituality. I don’t even think my professors are believers. I complained to the chair of the Religious Studies department. He told me that he didn’t believe in God. Can you believe that none of the professors that teach Religion at Princeton are even believers?”
“That’s a waste of the intellect.” Emily chimed in. “I would never study religion. What a waste of time!”
“Can I ask you something, Emily?” Mick directed his attention to her. “I know you don’t believe in God but what are you interested in studying when you go to college?”
“Really! That’s what I study too!”
“I have trouble believing someone as irrational as you would be into mathematics.” Emily slammed in reply.
“Not at all. In fact, Mathematics proves the existence of God!”
Emily burst out in the nastiest laugh I ever heard from her. “Mathematics is about logic. Logic has nothing to do with religion and God. They are the antithesis of each other.”
“I disagree. God is completely logical and rational. Mathematics is a tool given by God to prove his existence.”
“You can’t be serious. Mathematics actually disproves the belief of God and religion. Mathematics is all about patterns of perception and logic. Religion is about patterns of deception and irrationality.”
“No!” Mick whined.
“Of course it is. If you use your brain what I say is obvious.” Emily said with sharp aggression in her voice.
“Emily’s right. Anyone with a logical and rational mind knows that all religion is nonsense.” I added.
“I must disagree.” Tia interjected. “I study Divinity and the roots of Christianity are based simply on compassion and forgiveness. It’s quite logical.”
“Compassion and forgiveness has nothing to do with logic.” Emily rebutted. “You are talking about emotions and inter-personal relations. Anyone with a heart should be compassionate. The heart is different from the mind. Religion is about the heart, which is important, but when you use your brain logic and reason that is the intellect. Religion is emotional. Religion is for those who are too emotional and don’t think.”
“I think that’s impossible to do.” Emily replied not budging from her conviction. “If I believed in God then I would be unable to think rationally. I would be unable to see the patterns of reality. I might as well take LSD! To believe in God is to hallucinate.”
“You can’t say that!” Mick screamed. “You can’t compare faith to being on drugs!”
“Sure I can!” Emily said as she nodded her head. “I have seen the preachers on the religious shows on TV. Every time, I watch those guys the first thing that I think is that they are on drugs. The same with the people that attend. The preachers jump up and down. They sweat and utter incoherently. The people in the audience close their eyes, cry, shout and scream. I would understand it if they are at a rock concert or something.”
“That’s the point!” Mick screamed. “They are getting high off the Holy Spirit! That’s why they act the way they do.”
“That proves my point even more. People get high from religion the same way they get high from drugs. I think that religion is a legal drug but the effects are the same. I would never do drugs for the same reason why I would never be religious. I don’t want to lose my mind.” Emily replied.
“I think it’s better to get high from God than from drugs.” Mick rebutted.
“I think that if you weren’t addicted to Jesus you would be addicted to crack.” Emily cut Mick with her tongue.
“You can’t say that!” Mick screamed as if he was in trauma.
“I just did. Let me ask you a question. What would happen to you if you weren’t allowed to go to Church, pray or read The Bible?”
“That would be awful! I would feel as if I were in Hell. I would be very upset and very unhappy.” Mick said desperately.
“That’s what I thought.” Emily said as her grey eyes turned into steel. “You’re a religious crack addict. If most crack addicts and junkies don’t get high, they feel the same way. They would be unhappy as if their life was coming to an end.”
“You can’t compare faith and devotion to drugs!” Mick said hysterically.
“Sure I can. There’s been much psychological and neurological research that reaches the same conclusion. What would you be without God or religion?”
“I would be lost. I would be a sinner. I would be in hell!” Mick said as his eyes bulged out of his sockets.
“Exactly. You would lose yourself. The problem with you is the same with most drug addicts. You have an addictive personality. Why? Because you have no self. If you had a sense of self you wouldn’t need religion to sustain you. Many Crack and drug addicts get hooked because of low self esteem. They lack self awareness. It’s the same with religious fanatics like you. Instead of developing your own personality, you use God and religion as a crutch. Your personality and identity is not based on your own but rather on something artificial.”
  Mick’s jaw dropped. He had never had a conversation like this before. He looked horrified. He had been used to others making fun of his religious convictions. He had been used to having philosophical arguments about the existence of God. Never had anyone psycho-analyzed his religious beliefs as Emily did. I sat with a huge grin on my face.
“You know what The Bible says?” Mick started.
“I don’t care what The Bible says.” Emily dismissed Mick’s attempted comeback. “That’s the problem with all of you religious fanatics. You can never argue or justify your position without referring to The Bible. It’s simply impossible to defend your beliefs without The Bible. That’s why you are not a real Mathematician. If you had a logical and rational mind you would be able to defend your beliefs. But you can’t because religion is irrational.”
  A chilly silence pervaded the apartment. I grinned from ear to ear. I loved every minute of it. Emily rattled everyone present. She had managed to shut Mick up once and for all.
“But Emily,” Bobby spoke at last. “That’s the essence of faith. You are right. Faith is irrational. But Faith is the belief of the irrational. Faith is the belief that there is a God. Faith that miracles do and can happen. Faith is incompatible with rationality and logic. But sometimes a person has to put rationality and logic aside to believe the unbelievable.”
“I can’t do that.” Emily shook her head. “The moment I put aside logic then I am lost. If I relied on faith then I would be useless. I would be unable to make decisions. I would be unable to be a person in control of my own life destiny.”
“Don’t you have a sense or belief of spirituality?” Tia asked.
“Not really.”
“But science and math cannot answer all the questions of life. There are many mysteries that only faith can solve and explain.” Tia replied.
“That’s only because our understanding of reality is not yet complete. It will take thousands of years and probably more before we can understand only a few mysterious of the universe. We are only limited animals anyway. We are the only species that think about these things. I doubt if other animals spend most of their living existence believing or debating the existence of God. There are many things that I don’t know. There are things that we will never understand or figure out. We should just leave it alone. I think people that believe in God simply come to the conclusion that they don’t know what’s really going on. Instead of saying ‘I don’t know’, they instead say it’s God. I am honest and would rather say that I don’t know.”
“You’re a very smart girl!” The mother of King broke her silence. “What school do you go to?”
“I go to Stuy with Kevin.” Emily beamed proudly as she put her arm around me.
“I disagree with your views but you are very smart. If I were like you I probably wouldn’t believe in God either.”
“Mrs. Of the Woods!” Mick gasped.
“REALLY MOM!” King of the Woods seemed just as shocked as Mick. “DO YOU MEAN THAT?”
“Certainly I do! I think the girl makes a lot of sense.”
“But! But! But!” Mick stuttered. “You gotta have faith in God!”
“No!” I answered sharply.
“You have to have faith in God, Kevin.”
“I don’t have to do anything except stay Black and die!” I rebutted.
Emily, Tia and King’s mother burst into laughter.
“Do you believe in God, Kevin?” Mick looked directly into my eyes as he asked the question.
“Not really.”
“Why do you go to Church?”
“Because my mother got me into it. I thought that it would be worth checking out but I just don’t believe in God. I just can’t.”
“I think you’re making a big mistake. I think that Satan has deceived you.”
“I don’t believe in Satan either.”
“You’re going to Hell!”
“Why don’t you go to Hell?” Emily scowled at Mick.
The buzzer for the intercom sounded as soon as Emily finished her sentence.
“I’LL GET IT!” King shouted as he dashed to the intercom console.
I checked my watch. It was ten minutes past nine o’clock. I turned to Emily.
“Shall we leave in about 20 minutes?”
“I think so. This party is very lame.” Emily nodded.
“COOL! JACK BLACK IS HERE!” King of the Woods was excited.
“Hey King, why don’t you open the present I got for you?”
Emily giggled out loud. She was tickled by King of the Woods. He unwrapped the paper.
The apartment doorbell rang. King got up and opened the door. King’s voice boomed as he greeted Jack Black. Emily giggled and turned to me.
“King is so funny! He’s the funniest kid I’ve ever met. I don’t think he’s retarded at all. I think he’s really cool!”
“Yes. He’s just really extroverted. I think if he were the shy type then he would be worse!”
“That’s deep, Emily!”
  Jack Black came in and made his greetings. He knew everyone except for King’s mother and sister, as well as Emily. As Jack and Emily greeted each other, I explained to Emily who Jack was. When Jack went to the kitchen to put soda in the refrigerator, Emily whispered to me:
“He’s such a white guy! Yuck!”
  I took this as a cue to leave. It was obvious that the party was a dud and Jack was the last guest to arrive for the evening. We stood up as I announced that we were leaving as we had made additional plans for the evening. Mick sulked on the sofa with downcast eyes. He didn’t say goodbye or even look at us. Bobby waved goodbye. Emily was kissed on the cheeks affectionately by King, Tia and their mother. We got back to Emily’s house just in time to listen to the WDRE Saturday night dance party.

  The month of March delivered the worst crisis of my life. The divorce proceedings between Emily’s parents took a nasty turn. Her father pursued a custody battle over Emily. He argued that Emily was illegally kidnapped by her mother. He wanted to gain custody of Emily and bring her back to Texas. He found out that Emily was not only dating me but having sex with me. His lawyer argued that her mother was unfit to keep Emily by allowing her to date me. Needless to say Emily freaked out. She dropped the bad news to me after school.
“Kevin!” Emily shouted in tear filled hysterics. “I have some awful news to tell you! Can we go to Joe Jr.?”
At Joe Junior Emily spoke all the painful details.
“How the fuck did your father find out about us?” I asked.
“My mom told him.”
“Why the fuck did she do that?”
“It just came up.”
“What do you mean it just came up?”
“Well there was a meeting between them with their lawyers. He asked about me. My mother told him that I was fine and I had a boyfriend. She mentioned in passing that you were Black and he hit the ceiling.”
“So he wants to take you away?”
“Yeah. I have to go to court next week in the custody hearing. I’m so afraid Kevin. I don’t want to live with him. I don’t want to go back to Texas!”
“But wait a minute! You’re 16 years old. You will be 17 next month. You’re old enough to make your own decision whether you want to live with him or not!”
“I know but his lawyer is arguing that my mother is unfit to keep me because she lets me go out with you.”
“Oh for crying out loud! How could you mother be so stupid to tell him that we were fucking each other?”
“She didn’t think it would make a difference. In fact, she said it just to piss him off. She knew that as a Klansman he would be pissed off. She told him just to get his goat!”
“But he can’t force you to go back to Texas if you don’t want to!”
“Yes but the judge can force me to live with him.”
“Fuck the judge. You can always run away.”
“Yes but if I do run away, I can be arrested and sent back to him. If I run away again, they can put me in reform school until I’m 18”
“This is crazy! This is the most fucked up thing I have ever heard. You turn 18 next year. What difference does it make?”
“I can’t go back to my father! I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! Oh Kevin you don’t know how terrible he is!”
“Are you afraid that he’s going to hurt you?”
“This is bullshit! We can’t let you go back! What does your mom’s lawyer say?”
“He says that I have no choice but to testify. We have no choice except to fight in court and convince the judge that my life would be endangered if I went back to Texas with my father.”
“That should be easy enough. Just tell them about the KKK and Vider.”
“I’m so scared Kevin! I can’t sleep. I need you. Can you stay with me until the custody hearing is over? I need you to be in court next week when I testify. Can you help me Kevin?”
“I will do anything for you Emily.”
  I told my parents what was going down. My parents were shocked but very sympathetic. Even my mother was worried.
  The first day of the hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning. The hearing was held at New York State Family Court on Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. The judge presiding was a white woman by the name of Geraldine Mink. I saw Emily’s father for the first time. He had the same grey eyes as Emily but his were hallow and vacant. His grey eyes were glassy and seemed to be glazed over. He was of average height of 5 feet 9 inches. He had a slight pot belly. He was in his late 40s and his light brown hair was graying and receding. His lawyer was a ratty looking man with a mustache which twitched nervously and narrow devious beady eyes. He was mostly bald with the outline of his stringy white hair forming a crooked U around his egg shaped head.
  The Honorable Judge Mink entered the court room. She was a woman in her late 50s. She looked bored yet serious. She spoke to the room.
“This is a custody hearing to determine whether Emily Davis shall stay with her father or mother.” Judge Mink said as he read the briefs. “Is Emily Davis really 16 years old?”
“That’s correct Your Honor.” The lawyer for Mr. Davis stood up as he spoke.
“Why are we having a custody hearing in a divorce case over a 16 year old girl?” Judge Mink asked with aggressive skepticism.
“This was a case of illegal kidnap and a runaway your honor. The defendant is clearly incapable of raising the child in a healthy or acceptable way.”
“Your Honor,” Emily’s lawyer stood up. “I request a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s case immediately.”
“On what grounds counselor?”
“On the grounds that the Plaintiff’s case is a distraction from the Divorce trial taking place currently at the Family Court of the State of New York your honor. The defendant’s daughter does not wish to live with her father. The Plaintive is using the court to go against the wishes 16 year old. I would like to remind the Court that under New York State Civil Legal Law all minors at the age of 16 can voluntarily remove themselves from their parents.”
“Your Honor,” the weasel lawyer responded. “This is exactly why we have petitioned the court. It is in the interest of the Plaintiff’s daughter that she be placed into the custody of her father.”
“Your Honor, the life and safety of the defendant’s daughter is at stake!” Emily’s lawyer argued.
“Why?” Judge Mink asked.
“Your Honor, the Plaintive is a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas. That is the reason why she and the defendant fled Texas. This is the grounds of the divorce.”
“Is that true counselor?” Judge Fink looked at Weasel.
“Not at all, Your Honor. It is a lie being told by the defendant as the grounds of divorce. The defendant has no other grounds for divorce besides the absurd characterization of the Plaintive as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”
“I dismiss the defense counsel’s motional of dismissal. I want to hear the arguments.” Judge Mink said as she read through the legal briefs. “This is the most unusual case I have ever heard. Counsel you may proceed with your arguments.”
“Thank you Your Honor.” Weasel’s mustache twitched as he rubbed his greasy palms together. “The Defendant left my client without warning. The Defendant took their daughter and fled without informing or the consent of my client. The Defendant never discussed her concerns with my client. The Defendant never sought out mediation or family counseling. No, not at all!
“Rather she hatched up a secretive plot and schemed to kidnap her daughter using her mother and a private detective as accomplices. The Defendant kidnapped her daughter and took flight here to New York. The defendant didn’t leave any word or notice as to why she left nor of their whereabouts. My client was understandably concerned. His wife and daughter went missing. He filed missing person reports with the local and state police. More than 2 months passed before my client received a legal letter from the Defense counsel notifying the start of divorce proceedings in New York. My client was understandably confused and shocked to receive such a letter.
“The Defendant kidnapped my client’s daughter……”
“Excuse me counselor but how do you know that she was kidnapped? Perhaps the daughter also wanted to leave as well.” Judge Mink interrupted.
“Your Honor, I was going to get to that point.”
“Well get to it. We are not talking about a 6 year old child counselor. We are talking about a 16 year old!”
“Well actually Your Honor, Ms. Davis was 15 years old at the time of the abduction.”
“Get to the point counselor!” Judge Mink thundered.
“The Defendant aided and abetted in the runaway of a teenage girl. That is a crime. I do not have to remind the Court that taking a minor away is kidnapping. Taking a minor across state lines is a federal offense. Even if the minor was running away, it is still a criminal offense to take a minor across state lines without the consent and knowledge of the parent.”
“Counselor,” Judge Mink’s spectacles stood on the tip of her nose as her eyes looked over the frames. “According to the Defense briefs, they felt there was a threat to their lives. Do I need to remind you that under New York State Family Law, a spouse and minor have the right to flee under imminent threat of violence, abuse and physical harm?”
“Your Honor does not need to remind of the law but the Defense is lying when they say that they were under threat of harm.” The Weasel replied.
“Well Counselor you have a lot of convincing to do to prove to this court otherwise. Is this your only argument for custody?” Judge Fink snapped.
“No Your Honor. The Defense will prove that the Defendant is not morally responsible to retain custody of the daughter.”
“Oh. How so counselor?”
“The Defendant lets her daughter date a Black man!”
“Objection!” Emily’s lawyer stood up fervently. “This has nothing to do with the custody question. Under New York State law, there is nothing that forbids two consenting people from dating regardless of race. I make another motion to dismiss the Plaintiff’s case Your Honor!”
“I will sustain the objection for the first part counselor but I will not dismiss the case just yet. I haven’t heard from you yet, have I?” Judge Mink then turned to the Weasel. “May I remind you counselor of the Supreme Court ruling of Loving versus Virginia? You cannot be serious to suggest that the Defendant is morally incapable due to the dating choices of her daughter do you?”
“Your Honor, it is not healthy that the Defendant permits her daughter to engage in sexual activities in her home! The age of consent is 18 years old! The Defendant lets her daughter have illegal underage sex in her home!”
“Come, come, come, come counselor. We are no longer living in the 1950s are we? Do you realize how many teenagers would have to be taken away from their homes because they have sex at home? Is the girl’s lover over the age of 21?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“No Your Honor.”
“So you cannot even attempt to prove that the Defendant is knowingly allowing statutory rape of her daughter in her own home?”
“Defense would like to make a clarifying point.” Emily’s lawyer stood up.
“The young man is actually in this court. He is 17 years old. He is not even two months older than Ms. Davis. They both go to the same school. They are both in the same age.”
“Oh, he is a handsome young man!” Judge Mink remarked. Then she turned her attention back to Weasel. “Counselor, I see very clearly what you are trying to argue. There is one question that this case hangs upon. Was the Defendant and her daughter truly in life’s danger?”
“No they were not Your Honor!” The Weasel answered.
“Do you have any witnesses counselor?”
“Yes. I call on George Davis to the stand.”
Emily’s father stood up and walked to the witness stand. He was sworn in before the Weasel began to probe him.
“What is your profession Mr. Davis?”
“I’m a Dentist.”
“Very respectable profession isn’t it?”
“It’s not bad.”
“How long have you been practicing Dentistry?”
“For 18 years.”
“18 years!” The Weasel said with exaggerated surprise as if he didn’t know this before. “You must be very good at what you do! 18 years! Where did you study Dentistry?”
“At N.Y.U.”
“At the School of Dentistry?”
“How long did you practice in New York?”
“For about 10 years.”
“After that you went to Texas?”
“How long have you been practicing Dentistry in Texas?”
“About 8 years now.”
“Is the practice good?”
“Yes. Quite good.”
“How much money do you earn each year before taxes?”
“Before taxes about one hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year.”
“On that you are able to support a wife and child comfortably right?”
“Quite comfortably.”
“Is it true that you have to study medicine to be a Dentist?”
“Yes. Of course. I am a dental surgeon. Dentistry is a specialized field of medicine.”
“As a practitioner of medicine, you have to take the Hippocratic Oath, correct?”
“As a Doctor it is your first responsibility to save lives is it not?”
“Would you do anything to harm people or to put people in harm’s way or danger?”
“Of course I wouldn’t!”
“Have you ever used violence against anyone, Doctor Davis?”
“Of course not!”
“Not even against your wife or daughter?”
“No never!”
“Tell me about the day when your wife and daughter disappeared.”
“It was a routine day. I got up and had breakfast with Erin and Emily. I went to my office as I always do around 8 in the morning. I always go home for lunch for two hours each day. When I returned home, the house looked normal but I knew something wasn’t right. Erin always had lunch prepared for me. There was nobody home. I searched the house. Everything looked the same but I smelled something fishy.
“I thought that they had gone shopping. I waited two hours for them but they never returned. I had to go back to the office because I had some appointments that afternoon. I had my secretary call home but she reported that no one picked up. When I came home, they were still gone. I was afraid. At first, I thought Emily had gotten hurt and had to be taken to the hospital. It was strange because Erin would’ve called me if that was the case. There was no food or dinner ready. I called the County hospital to see if Erin or Emily had gone there. I know many of the doctors and staff in ER. All inquiries turned up negative.
“I asked the neighbors if they saw anything. The ten year old son said that he saw Erin and Emily leave with a man and drive away. I immediately called the police. The entire town was alerted that they disappeared. We thought they had been kidnapped. I thought the worst. First, I thought the man the ten year old saw had raped and kidnapped my girls. The Sheriff suggested that Erin had an affair with the man and had left off with him with Emily. Sure enough, when I checked the drawers and closets in my room, all of Erin’s clothes had been gone. I checked Emily’s room and discovered the same thing. I was upset! I couldn’t understand why they had left me.”
“How was your relationship with your wife going at the time?”
“It was going fine. We had our fights and arguments like all married people but I thought everything was ok.”
“What did you do when you realized they had left?”
“I filed a report with the Sheriff. I still assumed that they had been kidnapped. It was the worst case scenario because I simply couldn’t believe that Erin would run off with another man. Even if she did, I wouldn’t believe she would take Emily with her. So I remained convinced they had been kidnapped and forced to pack all of their clothes.”
“Did you ever think they were in New York?”
“I did. I tried to call my mother-in-law but the number had been changed. When I dialed directory assistance they told me that there was no listing for her. I thought that was strange.”
“What was going on the two months during their absence?”
“I was distraught. I cancelled most of my appointments. I even came to New York looking for them. I phoned up all of our old friends and acquaintances. None of them heard from Erin. They were concerned.”
“Did you try to get in touch with your wife’s family?”
“I did but I couldn’t find any listings for any of them. I knew that my mother-in-law lived on the East Side but I had forgotten exactly where. It had been more than 10 years since I had been to her residence.”
“What was your biggest worry?”
“My daughter Emily of course. I was worried that she was being molested, raped or forced into prostitution. I didn’t know if she were alive or dead.”
“Describe the day when you received the divorce papers from your wife.”
“I felt so confused. I didn’t understand why Erin suddenly got up and left me. Why did she run away with Emily without telling me? I was deeply hurt.”
“Why do you want Emily to live with you?”
“She’s my daughter. She’s safer with me in Texas than here in New York. When her mother told me she was dating the nigger, I decided that I wanted her back in Texas. I realized that her mother was going to ruin her life. I didn’t raise my daughter to be a nigger lover! It was worse that her mother lets the nigger sleep over in the same bed. They are making plans to marry and run off to England. That will happen over my dead body! No daughter of mine is going to elope with a nigger! Whoever my daughter chooses to date or marry must be done with my permission! My wife shows bad judgment. She is an unfit mother. She doesn’t even earn enough to get her own apartment! She wants a huge settlement to help pay for my daughter’s college education so she can marry the nigger in England. I refuse to support my daughter that way. Emily’s best future is with me back in Texas. I can provide her with money, education and proper white boys to date.”
“What do you think will happen if Emily remains in New York with her mother?”
“She will be married to a nigger. She will have a nigger’s baby! Eventually he will take her with him back to Africa and I will never see her again!”
“No further questions Your Honor!” The Weasel grinned.
Emily’s lawyer stood up and began his cross examination.
“Doctor Davis!” He started. “You have very impressive credentials indeed! You graduated near the top of your class at N.Y.U dental school. Then you had success afterwards in New York. You started your own private practice in Midtown. You even rented a 3 bedroom apartment on Riverside Drive! How much did you make your first ten years in practice in New York?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember?”
“No I don’t?”
“Well according to a copy of your 1980 tax return you made an impressive two hundred thousand dollars before taxes!” Emily’s lawyer went up to the witness stand and showed a copy of the tax return.”
“Well yes I guess that I made that much money back then.” Doctor Davis conceded.
“That makes it all the more curious as to why you left for Texas. After all you had a booming practice. You had a luxury apartment on Riverside Drive. Why did you go to Texas?”
“Well I always read the Journal of Dentistry which comes out quarterly. There are always postings of dental vacancies all across the country. I read that the only dentist in a county in Texas had passed on and there was a need for a replacement.”
“But why Vider, Texas Doctor Davis? Why would you leave your successful practice as a young man in New York to go to a small town in Texas?”
“I had long wanted to get out of New York. The city has been going down since ’68. There’s too much crime in the city. The city is filthy. The schools are bad. I thought it would be best for my family to be away from New York. I wanted to raise my daughter in a safe and clean environment.”
“Why not Houston or Dallas or another big city?”
“As I said, I wanted to raise my daughter in the country. I didn’t want her to be raised in the city.”
“Did you consult your family about leaving?”
“I told my wife about the vacancy in Texas.”
“Did she agree to go to Texas?”
“No she wanted to stay in New York.”
“So in other words, you took the sole decision to move the family to Texas despite your wife’s opposition?”
“Because as the husband, I make all the decisions for family. I decided that we were to go to Texas. That was the end of the story.”
“I don’t believe that is the whole story Dr. Davis. You said that you now make $120,000 before taxes. We know in New York you made $200,000. Why did you decide to leave behind a handsome salary and luxury apartment? Why did you decide to take a significant decrease in salary?”
“I told you because I wanted my family to be in a safe environment. I was willing to make financial sacrifices for the safety of my family!”
“Your earlier testimony was just as colorful as it was insightful. You are a bigot Mr. Davis, are you not?”
“I hate niggers. If hating niggers means that I am a bigot so be it. There’s no law against hating niggers.”
“Yes you are right. There’s nothing illegal about hating niggers but it is against the law to join a criminal terrorist organization such as the Ku Klux Klan.”
“That’s a goddamn lie! I have never been a member of the Klan!”
“Dr. Davis,” Judge Mink intervened. “I am losing patience with your language in my court. I am warning you to refrain from any more profanity or derogatory statements in my court. If you do so again, you will be held in contempt!”
“Tell me Dr. Davis” Emily’s lawyer continued. “How active is the Klan in Vider?”
“I have no idea.”
“You have no idea?”
“Have you ever seen Klan rallies or crosses burnt in Vider?”
“Not that I can recall.”
“Do you know anyone who’s a member of the Klan?”
“I don’t know.”
“Any of your patients perhaps?”
“Listen! I don’t discuss the personal politics of opinions of my patients. Most of them can’t even speak while I’m working on them.”
“Are you aware that the Mayor and Sheriff of the town are members of the Klan?”
“No I am not aware of it.”
“For an educated man Doctor, you seem to have little awareness of your surroundings. Have you ever been invited to attend a Klan meeting?”
“Have you ever been invited to join the Klan?”
“Would you ever join the Klan?”
“I refuse to answer that question.”
“Are you a member of the Klan?”
“I refuse to answer that question!”
“Dr. Davis,” Judge Mink intervened again. “It is in the interest of the court to answer the questions posed by counsel.”
“No I would not join the Klan. I am not a member of the Klan.”
Emily’s lawyer went to the table and produced two photocopied documents. “Here is a report by the Southern Law Poverty Center. It lists the county where Vider is located to have most members of the Klan per capita than any other county in the United States. Here is a photo copy of your signature to an oath to the Ku Klux Klan!”
“That’s not my signature!”
“That’s not your signature Dr. Davis?”
“No. It’s a forgery!”
“Is it now, Dr. Davis?”
“Where did you get that?”
“It doesn’t matter Dr. Davis. This is not your signature?”
“Do you want Emily to live in a community filled with criminal, murderous terrorists?”
“Then why do you want your daughter to live in a county which has the highest number of criminal and murderous terrorists?”
“Well as long as she is white, she doesn’t have to worry about the Klan. At least she won’t be able to marry any niggers down there!”
“No further questions.”
“You’re dismissed from the stand Dr. Davis.” Judge Mink said. She turned to Weasel. “Counselor, I hope that you have more witnesses or arguments. I don’t like Dr. Davis. There’s more here than meets the old eye. I am ready to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claim.”
“Your Honor, Dr, Davis is a respectable man!” Weasel went to his table and produced letters for the Court. “These are all signed and notarized letters from all the prominent members of Vider attesting and swearing to the decent moral character of Dr. Davis. These letters come from the Mayor, Sheriff and other pillars of the community.”
“Why is the municipality so interested in the private divorce of a dentist? It doesn’t add up!” Judge Mink said with suspicious skepticism.
“Vider is a small knot community. The community is very involved in the lives and affairs of its citizens. It’s a very family values oriented community. Divorces are not very common. Dr. Davis has risen to be a very important person in that community. Virtually all the elected officials and businessmen are the patients of Dr. Davis.
“I am reading the Southern Law Poverty Center’s review on Vider. It states here in black and white that members of the Ku Klux Klan are also elected officials. If this is true, it adds much doubt concerning Plaintiff’s plea of ignorance regarding the personal politics of his patients.” Judge Mink said with an expression of serious dubiousness.
“With that said,” Judge Mink continued. “I remain obliged to hear from the Defendant.”
  Emily’s lawyer stood up. “I would like to call Emily Davis to testify.”
Emily walked to the stand and was sworn in. Her lawyer began his examination.
“Please tell the court what life was like before you went to Texas.”
“It was really cool! I lived on Riverside Drive. I was really happy. I had many friends from school and my building!”
“Please tell the court how you felt when you learned that you were moving to Texas.”
“I was confused at first. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t know anything about Texas. When Dad said that we were moving I asked him why. He said that that he wanted to get out of New York and he thought that Texas would be better for us.”
“Tell the court what happened in Vider.”
Emily’s eyes grew wide with terror. She began to tremble uncontrollably. “I remember the first day we moved to Vider. We were on the highway when we saw all these racist road signs!”
“How were they racist? What did the signs say?”
“The signs read: ‘Niggers you better turn around now! All niggers must die! No niggers allowed in Vider!’”
“How did you feel when you saw those signs? What did you think?”
“I was very afraid! I’d never seen anything like that before. I asked my parents why there were those signs. I thought it was scary!”
“Describe your first experiences in Vider.”
“Well, when I started school class would start with the Pledge of Allegiance and Prayer. When my teacher and classmates knew that I was from New York, they called me names and made fun of me!”
“What names did they call you?”
“They called me ‘Yankee’ and ‘Liberal’. They even called me a ‘kike’ when I told them that I wasn’t Christian!”
“When did you discover that the town was mostly inhabited by members of the Ku Klux Klan?”
“Not too long after we moved there. In school, there were rehearsals for the cross burning. The music teacher taught us racist songs to sing. When I asked what they were doing, they said that they getting ready to burn crosses.”
“Have you ever seen or attended Klan rallies or crosses burnt?”
“Yes. Once. It was the first and only time. I had never been so scared!”
“How often did the Klan have rallies and cross burnings?”
“Once a month during the new moon.”
“During the new moon?”
“Do you know why they picked the new moon?”
“They said because it was the darkest and spookiest night of the month and they wanted to set the spooks on fire with white supremacy.”
“Besides participating, were you ever asked to join the Ku Klux Klan?”
“Yes but I refused.”
“What happened when you refused?”
“I was threatened and insulted!”
“How were you threatened and how were you insulted?”
“They threatened that they would burn a cross in front of my house. They called me a Nigger Lover and accused me of being a witch!”
“Why did they accuse you of being a witch?”
“Because I told them that I didn’t believe in God. They said that I could only believe in God or the Devil. Since I didn’t believe in God, I had to be a Devil worshiper. They threatened to tie me to the cross and burn me to death!” Emily shrieked with tears streaming from her eyes.
“What about your father? Tell the court how your father joined the Klan.”
“He didn’t join at first. My parents refused. We had bricks thrown through our windows. My father joined the Klan after they turned a cross in front of our house.”
“When was cross burnt in front of your house?”
“It happened Halloween 1986.”
“When did your father join the Klan?”
“He joined a few days after.”
“Do you know why he joined?”
“I think because my father is racist. I also think because all his patients threatened to boycott him unless he joined.”
“Have you ever seen any one lynched?
“I haven’t seen any but I do remember the day that a Black family was killed in Vider!”
“Tell the court what you know about that attack.”
“There is strip mall in Vider where many restaurants and stores are. There’s a McDonald’s. A Black family was driving through town and went to eat at McDonald’s. They were all shot and killed!” Emily wailed and chortled as she gave her testimony.
“Do you know who killed them?”
“The rumors say that it was two boys from my high school.”
“Was anyone arrested?”
“Of course not!”
“Why not?”
“Because the police are Klansmen!”
“Do you want to live with your father?”
“Why not?”
“Because he’s a racist Klansman?”
“Are you happy in New York with your mother?”
“Yes! I want to stay with my mom and grand mom!”
“What do you fear will happen if you were to go to stay with your father?”
“I fear that he will force me in the KKK and that the others in Vider will hurt me!”
“No further questions for the witness Your Honor.” The lawyer finished his examination.
Egghead stood up and twitched his mustache. His beady eyes narrowed deviously.
“Emily! You’ve got quite the imagination! You should be a fiction writer when you grow up! Do you actually expect the court to believe such a fantasy? Do you really expect us to believe that in the year 1989 the Ku Klux Klan controls an entire town in Texas?”
Only her mother and I saw Emily’s outburst coming. The court was staggered. Egghead was jolted. Judge Fink flinched. The jaw of Emily’s father dropped. Her lawyer’s face expressed panic.
“According to your earlier testimony, you said that you never saw anyone lynched and that the alleged killers were nothing but rumors.”
“Of course I didn’t see the murder!” Emily screamed.
“Then how do you know it occurred?”
“I think you’re making it up when you said that the police in Vider are members of the Ku Klux Klan. Don’t you think that it’s salacious to slander the entire law enforcement personnel of Vider?”
Egghead was dumbstruck. Judge Fink looked at Emily with grave concern. Emily’s lawyer twitched nervously.
“Be honest Emily, you only want to say in New York so you can be with your Black boyfriend, yes?”
“Of course I want to stay in New York because of Kevin! He’s my only friend in the world. If I go back to Texas I will be alone and isolated.”
“Do you have sex with your boyfriend?”
“That’s none of your goddamn business!”
“May Your Honor compel the witness to answer my question?”
“I don’t see the relevance of such personal questions counselor.”
“I want to show that by having sex, she is living immorally and illegally. My point is that she should be the custody of her father to prevent her from immoral and illegal acts!”
“I don’t like the line of questioning counselor and will not compel the witness to answer!” Judge Mink said with thinning patience.
“Were you sexually active in Texas Emily?” Egghead egged Emily.
Emily started to sob uncontrollably. Her body heaved and convulsed as she was racked with emotional grief.
“Were you sexually active in Texas before you returned to New York?”
Emily continued to break down.
“I ask Your Honor to compel the witness to answer that question!”
“No!” Judge Mink thundered back. “Can’t you see that the girl is traumatized?”
“YES!” Emily suddenly shrieked. “YES! DO YOU KNOW WHO TOOK MY VIRGINITY?”
Egghead grinned and approached Emily in a manner that a thief approaches a safe. “Who took your virginity Emily?”
  I was floored. I was left absolutely dumbfounded my Emily’s revelation. The face of her mother froze into shock. Egghead shrank back from Emily as if the safe that the thief had tried to crack triggered a loud alarm. Emily’s father was red in the face. He stood up and stormed to Emily.
“You lying fucking bitch!” He then grabbed Emily by the neck with both hands and throttled her.
The Officer of the Court was stunned for a few minutes before he ran over to restrain Emily’s father. I sprang up ready to attack her father. Her lawyer held me back.
“Kevin! No! No! Keep cool!”
  Judge Fink banged the gavel. The Court Officer wrestled with Emily’s father who kept shouting “Lying Fucking Bitch!” Emily ran out of the courtroom.
  Emily went missing for days afterwards. Judge Fink ruled against granting custody to Emily’s father. We were all anxious and worried. Emily did not show up for school. When Emily didn’t return the night of her court testimony, her mother called the police to report Emily as missing.
  Six days later her mother was called by the police and asked to go one block east to the Office of the Medical Examiner. Emily’s body was found washed ashore in Astoria, Queens in an isolated artificial alcove. Emily had jumped from the Triborough Bridge. She had left a suicide note tapped to the railing facing Hell Gate. I read it.
I cannot go back to my father. I have lost everything. I’m so sorry Kevin. I didn’t mean to lie to you. I love you more than anything else. I know that you hate me now! How can you love me knowing the truth? I know that you will leave me and stop loving me. I will love you for ever Kevin.
Love, Emily Davis.
  The funeral was held a week after her body was discovered. Her family did not have enough money to pay for a cemetery plot. Her father said that he would only pay for Emily to be buried in Texas. It almost turned into another court case until my father agreed to pay for Emily to be buried.
  The funeral itself was held at a funeral home on Second Avenue. Emily’s mother and grandmother were driven by my family to the cemetery. We drove Emily to a Unitarian Cemetery in Westchester County. Emily’s parents, grandmother, my parents and I were the only people to attend the funeral. Emily’s father drove in a rented car behind us as we drove past the hearse.
  We watched Emily’s coffin as it was lowered into the grave. I vacillated between anguish and rage. I stared remorselessly and bitterly at Emily’s father. I didn’t see a man. I didn’t see a person. I didn’t see a human being. Rather I only saw a dick. After Emily’s coffin was lowered, I walked over to her father and punched him in his right eye. I knocked down him six feet down into the open grave. He landed on Emily’s coffin with a thud. I spit repeatedly at him. I grabbed the dirt piled up in a mound which was used to bury Emily. I threw the dirt down at him. My father restrained me. That was when I broke down into tears. I hurled the most vulgar, profane, insults and curses at Emily’s father. My father hugged me tightly and cried on my shoulder.

  I never got over Emily’s death. I still mourn for her twenty years later. I fell into a heavy depression. I stopped going to Church all together. My daily routine went as this. On school days I got up and went to school. Rather than do directly home afterwards, I went to daily to the Triborough Bridge where I would stand at the spot where Emily jumped. I would cry and mourn for a few hours each day before I returned home. I did my homework, listened to the radio and went to sleep. Communication broke down between my parents and me. They were seriously concerned and felt much pity for me.
  Emily’s suicide shocked Stuyvesant High School. Many students passed on their condolences to me. Even Alexandra and Meghan, the girls who had sexually assaulted me the previous year expressed their condolences and belated apology for their transgressions. It was recommended that I see the school psychologist to help me cope. The psychologist was a stupid woman who was out of touch with reality. I went to see her for about a month. She didn’t help one bit but I got to skip 2 or 3 classes to talk to her so that wasn’t too bad.
  I didn’t crack a smile or utter a chuckle for two months. One Saturday afternoon, I was listening to WDRE. John Lydon came into the on air studio. He was a crack-up. I laughed and laughed for the one hour that he was on the air. Though I knew a couple of songs by Public Image Limited played on the radio, I had no idea about the band or the singer. John Lydon was promoting his new album entitled “9”. The song “Happy” was played. Even though I knew Lydon was being sarcastic when he asked “Is everybody happy?” the song made me happy. John Lydon was also promoting his upcoming American tour that summer with New Order, and the Sugarcubes. Lydon was devastating with his scathing humor. When asked how he felt to be the middle act between New Order and the Sugarcubes he replied:
“Well actually I don’t mind playing in the middle. When you’re the first act it usually means that you are boring and no one really cares about you. You’re just simply in people’s way. Being the last act is not fun. You’ve got to wait around backstage. Then when you finally get on it’s late and then you don’t finish until 4:30 in the morning. You’re knackered. The audience is tired. Everyone just wants to go home. So I actually don’t mind being the middle act. Besides everyone is going to leave as soon as New Order takes the stage!”
Since the American Tour ended at the Meadowlands Arena, Malibu Sue asked what John Lydon planned to do after the tour was over.
“Get the hell out of New Jersey as fast as I can!” John Lydon replied.
  With my loud roaring laughter my father came to my room. It was the first time he heard me laugh in a long time.
“Kevin, what’s so funny? Are you listening to Richard Pryor?”
“No Dad! I’m listening to this funny British man on the radio.”
My father smiled at me. “What’s his name?”
“John Lydon. He’s a singer! He’s going to do a concert in July with another British band and a group from Iceland! I want to go!”
“I think you should go Kevin.
  The school year was winding down. After Emily’s death, I went on automatic pilot regarding school. I wasn’t failing any courses. I was going to skate by Chemistry in the high 60s. I was going through Math 6 with a score of 75. I went through the motions in English scoring in the high 70s and low 80s. It was only American History which I was consistently scoring well over 90. I had Regents Exams in all those courses. I didn’t even bother to study for the US History and Government regents. That was going to be a piece of cake. For the English Regents, we were sufficiently prepped in class for it. I knew that I would be able to pass the Chemistry Regents. I focused much of my study time for the Math 3 Regents.
   Then another incident in the city raised racial tensions to a new high. A white woman was raped in Central Park as she jogged. Of course the story was that she was raped by a gang of young Black males. The Daily News had turned into the Daily Racist Rant. The alleged perpetuators were nothing but a “pack of animals”. Bob Grant, the racist radio talk show host began to denigrate all young Black men as “savages”. All young Black men were now designated as savage animal rapists. On the streets on the Upper West Side and in Riverside Park, white women looked at me with fear and terror every time I passed by them. In school, all the white students expressed their fear of Black males. White boys would ask me what I thought of the “Central Park Jogger Case” as it came to be known. One white student asked me if I had ever raped Emily. I violently cursed him out and threatened to kill him if he didn’t get away from me.
  The increased racial tensions in the city added to my overall depression. There was no sign of any abatement of racial hostilities. First it was Blacks who felt threatened by whites in the city. Now it was whites who were afraid of Blacks. The residents of the city lived in mutual fear, suspicion and terror of one another.
  Meanwhile, there was a massive uprising of civil disobedience in China. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered and protested in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. They were mostly young university students demanding democracy and the end to Communist rule. They erected an imitation Statue of Liberty in the square. Foreign journalists were dispatched to cover the events. The Chinese government sent in the military and brutally crushed the protests. Communism seemed stronger than ever. Over in the Soviet Union, Gobrachev had instituted reforms to Communism under the names of Perestroika and Glasnost. Perhaps, things were starting to improve behind the Iron Curtain?
  I followed all these developments closely through the fog of depression. Another school year came to a close. The next semester I would be a Senior. My grades had improved over the previous semester. My average was flat at 80.1. My parents breathed a sigh of relief that my grades didn’t deteriorate. It has been a brutal school term. Emily was gone and that was the worst.

  It was summer time once again in New York. I was to return to Rook and Laval to work in the mailroom. There was the big concert in July to look forward to. At work, the men remembered me as I had become infamous. Gene was very skeptical when he saw me again. However, I was too depressed to challenge any authority. I was quiet at work and kept to myself. Whatever, Gene asked I did without hesitation or attitude. My attitude had improved but no one knew that it was due to grief.
  The worst adjustment for me after Emily’s death occurred on weekends. I had spent nearly every weekend at her house and with her. My weekends weren’t the same. I was bored to tears at best. At worst, I would break down and cry because the weekends reminded me that Emily was gone. I couldn’t take being in New York on weekends. So every Saturday morning, I went to Penn Station and took day trips alone along the Northeast. I would go to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. These were exclusively train excursions.
  I always took the 8 o’clock Amtrak from Penn Station. I would arrive in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station at 9:30 From there I would ride the subway. One of my favorite subway lines outside of New York was the Market Street-Frankford El. I rode from one end of the line to the other. First I took it Westbound. It ran underground along Market Street before it turned into an El after 40th Street.
  Philadelphia is a strange city. It used to be the 4th largest city in the United States. Philly always struck as New York in a parallel dimension. Often times, when my dreams took place in New York, there were characteristics of the city that I was familiar with but in my dream mind, things were altered from waking reality. When ever I have gone to Philadelphia, I feel that I am in a dream version of the New York. Philadelphia is one of the satellite cities of New York along the Mid-Atlantic States. Philadelphia is only 74 miles from New York. Philadelphia always lived in New York’s shadow. However, Philly left me with the impression that it was New York’s shadow.
  For example, the Market Street-Frankford rolling stock had a striking resemblance to the old IRT trains from the 1950s. Sure enough, The St. Louis Car Company built the rolling stock for both the Market Street line as well as half of the old rolling stock on the New York subway. But there were exceptional differences. The Market Street trains had a different designed roof. The ventilation system had a different design. The fans in the cars were inserted in cavities. The cavities jutted out on top of the trains. There were 3 fans in each car. From the outside, the trains looked as if they wore a series of steel helmets. The interior was also different. The color of the inside panels were grey. The seats were upholstered with grey plastic covering. I looked out of the front window of the train. The front windows consisted of two square frames within one main frame. One could pull down the top frame for ventilation. It was the same as on the old IRT trains which I didn’t like.
  The track and signalization was different from New York’s. There were signals but I watched with amazement how the drivers disregarded the red lights. The trains wouldn’t slow down for red lights! In New York that wouldn’t have been possible because of the T-bars. When a train skips a red light, the brakes are automatically applied and the train comes to a grinding halt.
  The trestle of the Market Street-Frankford El was also different. The roadbed of the tracks was set on cement as it was supported by iron pillars. In New York the roadbed was laid on wooden panes. The rails were laid crossing the wooden panes following an iron frame underneath. On the New York El’s one could see the streets below the tracks. From the street, one could look up and directly see the undercarriage of the trains. In Philadelphia the street below was wasn’t visible.
  The biggest difference was the rhythm of the train. The Market Street-Frankford line seemed to run on rubber wheels though they were actually steel. The train bounced and bopped on the rails. With the high speed velocity of the trains, one would bounce and sway precariously.
  When the train was elevated the landscape was interesting. In West Philadelphia I could never tell whether I was in New York or not. Sometimes the housing reminded me of The Bronx. Other times it reminded me of Brooklyn but it was never quite one or the other. On the other end when it ran through Northeast Philly, the landscape looked downright foreign. The stations were built identically to the BMT J and M lines. Tioga reminded me a bit of Bushwick Brooklyn circa 1954.When the train ran through the vast industrial wasteland of Kensington, I didn’t know where I was. The closest equivalent was the number 7 Flushing Line as it ran through Long Island City and Sunnyside in Queens. The difference between Sunnyside and Long Island City from Kensington was that the industry was still active in Queens while dead in Philadelphia. Moreover, Kensington was a residential neighborhood as the former was strictly industrial. What a strange city Philadelphia was! It was a surrealist macabre nightmare version of New York.
  In addition to the Market Street Frankford line was the Subway-Surface Line. That was essentially a trolley which ran underground in Center City before running on the streets of West Philadelphia. Between City Hall and 33rd Street, the Subway-Surface ran as a local to the Market Street Express. The Subway-Surface made local stops at 19th and 22nd Streets as the Market Street line bypassed those stations. It was only at 30th Street that both lines made the same stop. Again this was New York in a parallel dimension. The Market Street route of both lines reminded me of the 7th Avenue Express in New York. In New York the local and express stop was 14th Street. In Philly, it was 15th street. In New York the local stopped at 18th, 23rd and 28th Streets which the Express bypassed. In Philly, the trolley made local stops at 19th and 22nd Streets. In New York the local and expressed both stopped at 34th Street Penn Station. In Philly the local and expressed both stopped at 30th Street Penn Station. The only congruence between the IRT and the Philly system was that they both made stops at 33rd Street.
  The last segment of the Philadelphia subway consisted of the Broad Street subway which ran North-South. It was a boring route as it was predominately and underground line except when it came out at the last stop in North Philadelphia. The rolling stock of the Broad Street line was newer than the Market Street subway. It didn’t inspire me in the least.
  The final similarity in transport between New York and Philadelphia was the subway service to New Jersey. The subway system between New York and New Jersey was called PATH. The subway system between Philadelphia and New Jersey was called PATCO. Both lines were operated by their respective Port Authorities. PATH stood for Port Authority Trans Hudson. PATCO stood for Port Authority Transit Corporation. The PATH ran between Manhattan to Hoboken, Jersey City and Newark in New Jersey. PATCO ran between Center City to Camden and Cherry Hill in New Jersey. While the PATH took a tedious circuitous route under the Hudson River, PATCO sped over the Delaware River across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The PATH trains were painted in a light blue green color while the PATCO was painted in yellow.
  After spending the day riding the entire Philadelphia transit system, I would take the 9 o’clock train back to New York. My parents were never aware of my one day wandering excursions up and down the Northeast Coast. Another Saturday, I went down to Baltimore to see Jay Paly and attend a FOCUS meeting. The following Saturday, I would took Amtrak down to Washington to explore the DC Metro. This was how I spent my weekends with Emily absent from my life.

  I was keen to attend my second concert. It was a bit depressing with Emily gone. I knew she would’ve loved to see the concert with me. Unlike Depeche Mode who played an outdoor concert at Giant’s Stadium, the Sugarcubes, Public Image Limited and New Order played at the Meadowlands Arena. It was officially called the Brendan Byrne Arena named after the former Governor of New Jersey. The Arena was the home of the New Jersey Devils National Hockey League club as well as the New Jersey Nets National Basketball Association club. Since I was only a baseball fan, I never attended any hockey or basketball games. Moreover, even if I did like hockey and basketball, I would’ve been a Rangers and Knicks fan. As all in New Yorkers hated New Jersey I would not have rooted for any team with New Jersey in its name.
  The Brendan Byrne Arena was rather small and dull. The entire Meadowlands Sports Complex was built on marshland in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In addition to the Arena, it housed Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack. Northern New Jersey was for all intent and purposes a toxic wasteland. There were a series of industrial towns named East Rutherford, Secaucus and Teterboro. As far as I knew, no one actually lived in these municipalities. These were the toxic marshlands which one drove through when coming to and from New York via the Lincoln Tunnel. New Jersey Transit operated Special shuttle buses between the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the Meadowlands Arena.
The audience was similar to that of Depeche Mode the year before. I was most curious to see The Sugarcubes. I was familiar with two singles they realized the previous autumn. I really liked the song “Birthday”.
The Sugarcubes came on but they were awful! Björk couldn’t sing a lick. She was way off key. She butchered “Birthday”. The audience was tortured. Each song they was greeted with scattered applause. I actually booed. I was tormented for 45 minutes. When they finally finished their set I shouted: “Go back to Iceland and never come back!”
  Public Image Limited exceeded my expectations. I had somewhat poor seats so I couldn’t see the stage very well. John Lydon was a riot. He had bright orange dyed hair wearing a green sliver suit. Without the band or any music, he would’ve been worth the price of admission himself. He continued to crack jokes and insults. He continued with the anti-New Jersey jokes.
“Who was the fucking wanker that ended this tour in New Jersey? Who was the cheap son of a bitch that couldn’t organize a proper show in New York City? Fuck New Jersey! Fuck Brendan Byrne the fucking fascist! Next time, I will read the tour details more carefully before I sign on to do another show in New Jersey!”
I loved it. John Lydon was the only person that cheered me up and made me laugh.
  New Order was boring in the extreme. They were exactly the same as I saw in the video up at FOCUS. They seemed to hold the audience in contempt. The bassist Peter Hooked scowled at the audience with pure hatred. The singer Bernard Sumner went through the motions of singing and playing as if it was a waste of his time and an undue burden. He stepped on to the stage:
“We’re New Order and we’re going to play now.”
In New Order’s defense the music and sound quality was very good but it would not have been any different if someone played a tape of their songs over the PA system.
  The concert was much weaker than OMD and Depeche Mode the year before. If Public Image Limited weren’t on the bill, I would’ve been angry that I blew $30 for crap. I became a PIL (Public Image Limited is also known by) fan after the show. John Lydon was a man after my own heart. We were, I believed, cut from the same cloth.
  Music continued to be my refuge. I finally got around to buying The Cure’s new album “Disintegration”. It was the most beautiful album I ever heard but it added to my anguish. The song “Pictures of You” reminded me of Emily. I would break down and cry looking at her pictures. Nevertheless, the album made me into a fan of The Cure. I quickly bought their previously released albums. I preferred 1985’s “Head On the Door” to “Disintegration”. My biggest criticism of the latter album was its second side. The songs were too depressing as well as being a bit too long. I discovered a limited tolerance for Robert Smith’s voice. Still “Disintegration” accurately fit my depression. “The Head On the Door” was lighter, tighter and faster. I liked the opening track “In-between Days”. “Push” was always my favorite song by them. The track “Close To Me” kept me entranced. The problem with The Cure was that the songs reminded me too much of Emily. At the same time, that was what I liked about them.
  Another group that I had become interested in was the Pixies. That summer they had released “Monkey Gone to Heaven”. It was how I discovered the hole in the Ozone layer. I bought the album “Doolittle” and was hooked. The Pixies were the first standard punk band that I got into. Tracks “Dead” and “Crackity Jones” compelled me to thrash about. It was the first album since Prince’s “Sign O the Times” I had in my possession which contained profanity. The Pixies got lots of airplay on WDRE. Before I brought their album, I was often confused between The Pixies and Lou Reed. Black Francis imitated Lou Reed. Oftentimes, the DJs would play a track from Doolittle before or after a Lou Reed song. Eventually, I bought “Surfer Rosa” by the Pixies. I was familiar with one song but once again confused. The bassist Kim Deal sang lead on the song “Gigantic”. In 1988, Cowboy Junkies did a cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.” The singer from the Cowboy Junkies had a voice similar to Kim Deal’s. The radio DJ’s would often play “Gigantic” and “Sweet Jane” back to back.
  The next big concert of the summer was a triple line up of Pixies, Love and Rockets and The Cure at Giants Stadium. I bought tickets. I was a fan of Love and Rockets. I liked the songs “Ball of Confusion”, “No New Tale to Tell”. They released a new single in the summer of 1989 called “So Alive.”
  For the second time within a month, I rode a Special shuttle bus from New York to the Meadowlands. This was my first ever stadium concert and my second outdoor concert. It was also my first time at Giants Stadium or any football stadium for that matter. I had managed to get decent seats on the field in the 17th row.
  The audience was a shock for me. Everyone was dressed in black with make-up and hair styles extravagant in the extreme. At first I thought I had arrived at a Halloween party rather than a rock concert. A few times I thought that I spotted Wendy Mimes but I quickly realized that there were hundreds of girls that looked and dressed like her. Many people wore t-shirts by The Cure. Half of them wore t-shirts bearing the name Bauhaus. I didn’t understand why so many people wore Bauhaus t-shirts when the band wasn’t playing. There were very few people dressed in New Wave fashion as at the Depeche Mode and New Order concerts.  Many of the people sitting around me thought it was strange that The Pixies were on the bill.
“Why not?” I intervened. “They’re all played on DRE.”
“Yeah,” a girl dressed in a long black evening gown replied. “But the Pixies are not Goth.”
“What?” It was the first time that I ever had the term Goth.
“Love and Rockets are Goth or at least they were when they were Bauhaus. The Cure are Goth but the Pixies aren’t.”
I stared blankly at the girl. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then I finally answered.
“Well all three bands are New Wave!”
“That’s a broad term. The Pixies are New Wave though more punk. Love and Rockets are sort of Goth. They’re more Goth-New Wave. I just mean that it’s strange to have the Pixies open up for Love and Rockets and The Cure. The Pixies just aren’t Goth at all!”
  The Pixies came on and played a brilliant set. They opened with “Debaser”. All of the males in the audience swooned for Kim Deal. I had to admit that she had quite a fuckable voice even though she was not physically my type. I thought Emily was much more attractive. I was taken aback by Black Francis. He was overweight and balding. I imagined Black Francis to be a punk rocker with a Mohawk hair style. I didn’t expect to see some fat bald guy on the stage. Joey Santiago blew the audience away with his guitar solos. I really wished Emily had been with me. Joey Santiago had replaced Dave Stewart in my book as the best guitarist. But what was most striking about the Pixies was how sloppy and unkempt they appeared. They did not have the sophisticated flashy attire I had expected from the bands that I liked. In addition to his fat and bald face, Black Francis wore a sweaty under shirt with loose fitting blue jeans. Joey Santiago looked more like a working class tough from Yonkers trying to dress up on Becker Street in black jeans. The drummer David Lovering was topless wearing blue jeans ripped at the kneecaps. Only Kim Deal dressed up with a plaid mini-skirt with Dr. Marten’s boots. Still, the band could play live! I was the loudest and most enthusiastic cheerer in my section. The surrounding Goths were stiff and reserved. They looked both bored and miserable at once.
  After waiting 45 minutes, Love and Rockets came on. The Goths woke up from the dead. I was left dumbfounded by Love and Rockets. While the Pixies played a high octane set, Love and Rockets were supersonic. Daniel Ash the guitarist and sometimes lead singer was a sight to behold. He was skinny as rake. He looked a figure made of toothpicks with a large head attached at the top. He could play guitar! His guitar solos left Joey Santiago in the dust! But it was the bassist and other lead singer David J who fascinated me. I had never given much consideration to bass before. Kim Deal of the Pixies was superb on bass. David J was a wizard. He wore his characteristic black sunglasses. The sounds David J plucked out of the bass were remarkable! New Order’s Peter Hook at the time was considered to be the King of Bass but after seeing both up front live, I concluded that David J was the Emperor of Bass. I became a David J fan on the spot. It was remarkable that only 3 men with Kevin Haskins on drums could produce such complex, layered and sophisticated music live. Many of the audience members screamed out requests to hear Bauhaus songs.
  In what was a remarkably quick changeover, The Cure came on 30 minutes after Love and Rockets. They played the entire Disintegration album in sequence. Then they played a long sequence of songs which I hadn’t heard before. Then they played half of “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.” Then they played a quarter from “The Head On The Door.” It was a taxing and intense concert.
  Simon Gallup was the Chancellor of Bass to David J’s Emperor of Bass. I didn’t realize how central his bass lines were to all The Cure songs. Without Simon Gallup’s bass, Cure songs went nowhere. His bass lines were not as complex or sophisticated as David J’s but they produced the darkness and tempo of the songs. “Fascination Street” is nothing without the bass. The same for “Close To Me.” However, Simon Gallup’s masterpiece on bass is undoubtedly “A Forest”.
  However, the atmosphere of the concert was Roger O’Donnell’s synthesizer arrangements. The sonic sweeps embodied in “Plainsong” which was the opening piece was breathtaking. The synthesizers sprang out of the womb which they had been trapped in on the studio sound recording. His rendition of the keyboard lines for “In-between Days” caused my skin to vibrate and tingle. For the second time that evening, Dave Stewart was knocked out of the top notch. He was my favorite synthesizer player until I saw Roger O’Donnell live.
  As for Robert Smith, he was dressed and dolled up in makeup. He had his lips painted fire red. His hair was a balloon of pompom. He had black mascara on his eyes. His make up was put on perfectly. The girls in the audience swooned over Robert Smith. I really thought he was gay. In fact, I was convinced he was. I thought that the reason why the girls were all over him had more to do out of jealousy than attraction. He had his makeup and lipstick applied better than most women. Robert Smith was not a bad guitarist but Dave Stewart was better. Robert Smith could sing live. He was by far a better singer than Björk but he simply didn’t have the personality or charisma of John Lydon or David Gahan.
  The Cure played a remarkable 3 hour set. I had a theory as to why all three bands were put on the same bill. What they all had in common were outstanding bassists. It was really a tour of bassists. Love and Rockets and the Pixies had better guitarists than the Cure. Robert Smith indeed needed the assistance of Porl Thompson on occasional lead and rhythm guitar. All in all it was a brilliant concert. If only Emily had been with me, it would’ve been the best concert I had ever seen.
  The summer was coming to a close. Out of boredom I went back to St. George’s church. During my absence a civil war had started within the Parish. The conservative members of the church had made their moves against the progressive members. The Vestry Board, which consisted of elected members of the Parish, had been taken over by the right wing. In protest to the low format and the unorthodox set of the service, they began to roll heads. Johnny Mime was fired as Music Director. Through my mother heard accounts Tee Alexander’s sexuality. It was rumored that he was gay. There was mounting pressure to have him fired as Vicar of St. George’s. Under intense pressure, Tee Alexander resigned.
  When I returned to church, I could see the turmoil. Half of the parishioners and goers quit St. George’s in protest. When Tee Alexander resigned under pressure, another quarter of the members left with him. The Rector Tony Turnpike was now conducting the 11 o’clock service. He retained most of the reforms to the service made by Mime and Alexander. Turnpike did not return the alter rail. He retained the practice of communal Holy Communion around the alter. The children from Sunday School continued to sit in front of the alter during Holy Communion.
  The music had been watered down. Turnpike was phony baloney. His sermons were boring and uninspiring. He didn’t have a sense of humor. Tee Alexander really felt the spirit of Christ within him. Turnpike went through the motions of putting his hands up in the air but it was clear that he was even further away from the spirit of Christ than I was. The atmosphere had been poisoned and everything about the church that I liked had been vanquished.
  I saw King of the Woods for the first time since his party. Mick was also there. Bobby was absent. The three of us went down to the basement.
“How did you know about Emily?” I asked thoroughly surprised.
“Really!” I was really astonished.
“She was right about that.”
“How are you doing Kevin?” Mick asked with sincere concern.
“Well, I’m not feeling too happy. I still can’t believe Emily’s gone.”
“Do you cry about her?”
“Yes. I cry less than before but I cry about once a week.”
“Her father tried to get her to go back to Texas because he found out about me.” I started to explain. “In court Emily said that her father had raped her and let all the men in Texas rape her too.”
“Oh dip, Kevin!” Mick quietly echoed King’s sentiments.
“Yeah I was like what the fuck! She then disappeared for a few days. She jumped off the Triborough Bridge.”
“But why did she still do it?” Mick asked not satisfied.
“Because she was afraid that the court would make her go back to Texas. She was also ashamed that I found out that what happened to her. She thought that I hated her. That’s why.” I explained.
“Shall we pray?” Mick asked.
“No please.”
“It might help you, Kevin.”
“No Mick. Prayer isn’t going to make me feel any better nor will it bring Emily back.”
“I think,” Mick added, “this is the reason why you came back to church.”
“Oh OK!” I surrendered. “If you want to pray then let’s do. It won’t mean a damn anyway!”
  Mick and King of the Woods surrounded and put their arms around me. Both made dramatic pleadings asking Jesus to comfort me. I closed my eyes in order to prevent myself from laughing. After they stopped praying, we talked about the affairs of the church.
“What happened to Tee? Why did he resign?”
“Yes! Why was he fired?”
“What’s this about Tee being gay?”
“Where’s Jay by the way?” I asked looking around noticing that he was missing.
I shook my head in the negative.
“What?! When did this happen?”
“What the fuck is going on in St. George’s?”
“Do you know why Jay had a nervous breakdown?” Mick asked excitedly. “We caused him to have a nervous breakdown! We were too much for him and he cracked!”
“How do you know that?” I asked doubtfully.
“What else could it be? With all the fights that we had and all the problems you’ve had, it was too much for Jay to take!” Mick said with an inappropriate amount of enthusiasm.
“I find that hard to believe.”
“It’s true! What I say is true!”
I wanted to call Mick a moron but didn’t think it was worth the energy to say so. Instead I asked about Princeton.
“So how was your first year at Princeton? Are you going back?”
“Of course I’m going back but this year is going to be better!” Mick’s enthusiasm was sickening.
“I’m going to be living in a house of fellowship. I discovered the best Christian group in Princeton. I’m going to live in their house off-campus!”
“Good for you Mick!”
“Yes. No more fornication in my dorms. Only guys are allowed to live in the house. There are no girls! I’m so excited!”
“I noticed.”
“Oh I forgot about FOCUS. Actually, I think I will go now that you mention it. I haven’t been out of the city for any extended period of time. Do you have an application?”
King reached into his back pocket and handed me an application.
“Thanks King!”
“Kevin, do you have time this afternoon? I’d like to have a talk with you about your girlfriend.”
“No Mick, I don’t think we should talk about Emily for a couple of reasons. First, you’re not the person to talk to because you just don’t get it. The second is that you will say things that will upset me and I will kick your ass from here to Princeton.”
“If that’s the way you feel about it….”
“Yes that’s the way I feel!”
  I went home and asked my father if I could go to the Vineyard. My mother for the first time was absolutely keen that I go.
“Oh yes! You should go, Kevin. It’s good that you get away and rest your nerves, poor thing. I will even pay for it!”
“Your mother’s right Kevin.” My father added. “You have been around the house too much. You’ve been quiet and withdrawn. I think it’s important that you start to socialize again with other kids.”
  It was settled. I filled out the application. My mother wrote the check and put both in an envelope. My father said that he would mail it off the next day.
  The next day was my final week of work for the summer. The next morning came a news report that sent New York City into its greatest convulsion sent the Draft Riots of 1864. A 16 year old Black kid by the name of Yusef Hawkins was shot and killed by a gang of Italians in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. It was the worst racially motivated killing ever to be reported. The city braced itself for the worst.
  I took the subway down to work. The racial tension on the train was thick. The Black passengers from Harlem and The Bronx on the Number 2 train all read the New York Post and Daily News. The expression on their faces was bitterness and festering anger. The white passengers looked absolutely terrified. The Black passengers gave steely looks to the whites on the train.
  I arrived at work. None of the white office workers wanted to ride in the same elevator with me. I went up to the mailroom. Bensonhurst was the talk of the day. I had to wait for the others to finish reading the newspaper before I could read the details for myself.
  Yusef Hawkins along with two friends had gone to Bensonhurst on Saturday evening. Hawkins and his two friends replied to an ad in a newspaper they saw for a used car for sale. That day one of the members of the gang that attacked the Blacks had been dumped by his girlfriend. To make him angry, she said that she dumped him for a Black man. The word quickly spread throughout the neighborhood. There was anger and frustration. When the 3 young Blacks entered Bensonhurst, they had no idea that they had entered a hornet’s nest. As soon as they were spotted, the word went out that the Blacks were in the neighborhood. It must’ve been the lovers of the Italian girl. An emergency posse was rounded up. Baseball bats were distributed. They went to confront the Blacks. An 18 year old by the name of Joey Famma took a gun with him. He ran up to Yusef Hawkins and shot him dead at point blank range in the chest.
  The details were well written by the reporter Bob McAuly. The magnitude of his sense of appall was captured in snippets. He described interviewing the brother of Joey Famma. McAuly concluded that after speaking with him for a few minutes that Famma deserved to be slapped a few times. During the interview on of his friends ran up to say: “I can’t believe they arrested your brother for killing a nigger!”
  I trembled as I read the report and additional articles. New York was in a serious race war. It had now descended into the use of firearms. I was more horrified than angered. I thought about Al Pataglia and Chris Napolitano from Freshman year of high school. I could imagine both of them as the killers of Yusef Hawkins. The memories of Pataglia’s racial insults and violence returned to me in a hot flash. Napolitano’s defense of the attackers of Howard Beach and his statements that Blacks wouldn’t be welcomed in Bay Ridge rose up from the pit of my stomach making me nauseous. I had personal encounters of racial violence from Italians.
  I concluded that all Italians were not only racist bigots but worst; they were prone to racial homicide. I had never known any Italians growing up in Manhattan. I had a superficial awareness of Italian history and culture. Italy was never a country which attracted me in any sense. I was fascinated by England and Germany. Prior to the autumn of 1986, I had no personal contact with Italians. Then I thought about the Italian off duty police officer at Coney Island who racially insulted Emily and me. Bensonhurst sewed it up for me concerning Italians. I had never before had any racial or ethnic prejudices against anyone. However, I came to a personal detestation of Italians. From that day on, I would never be able to trust Italians. I would never befriend any. I realized that most Italians in New York were “Guidos”. Guido was a derogatory expression for working class Italian males from Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Guidos were mocked for their ignorance as well as bigotry. They would always be seen in packs. I came to a full understanding of films such as “Do The Right Thing” by Spike Lee which had been released on a few weeks before. I also understood the central theme of “Saturday Night Fever”. “Saturday Night Fever” was set in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. Chris Napolitano hailed from Bay Ridge. The plot of that film was about John Travolta’s character trying to get out of the dead end existence of Guido life in Bensonhurst. Within 3 years, my attitude regarding Italians had gone from benign indifference to outright disgust. A disgust and distrust that remains with me 20 years later.

    I was anxious to get out of the city. The anger and outrage of the city’s Black population had reached a boiling point. I seriously feared that race riots would erupt any moment in New York. The Upper West Side was probably the calmest part of the city but nonetheless, the city felt like a ticking time bomb with only seconds left before detonating.
  What a relief it was to be back on Martha’s Vineyard! Lambert Cove for me was an oasis of placidity. I was even relieved to be with King of the Woods. All of the kids from last year had returned. I saw Wilson Lenox for the first time and he warmly greeted each other. Toga from Hartford had returned to FOCUS for the first time since 1986. His appearance had changed that I didn’t recognize him. He remembered me. We had both calmed down and matured. In fact, we got on much better with each other than we had 3 years prior. Another kid remembered me. His name was Robert Crewe from Philadelphia. The last time that I saw him was at my first FOCUS trip at Silver Bay back in 1986. Mindy Mime had also returned to FOCUS after a 3 year hiatus as well. She was no longer Goth. She seemed much cheerful and happier than before. She was much more outgoing and not at all anti-social. In fact, she and I had reversed roles. I was utterly without cheer and thoroughly unhappy. Simon Simonivic had returned as well. The Baltimore trio of Jay Paly, Kelly Brian and Jake had returned.
  Everyone quickly saw that I was depressed with low energy. I had acquired a reputation for being an extravagant bigmouth, know-it-all, extrovert. My downcast and subdued demeanor took everyone by surprise. Moreover, I had erected a wall around me which shut people out. I encased my emotions and personality in cement. I was still in the throes of mourning over Emily. Moreover, the Bensonhurst racial murder was psychological trauma. The change of my disposition was so radical that everyone who knew me took notice of it. I was asked what was the matter.
  As I didn’t want to break down and cry in front of people, I explained that I was upset over the Bensonhurst murder. The white kids outside of New York were clueless. Though the murder had national headlines, the kids who lived in the insular all white suburbs of Philadelphia and Baltimore just couldn’t nor didn’t understand the magnitude of the social disaster that struck New York.
  I only told Wilson Lenox about Emily. He was extremely sympathetic. I cried in front of him. He hugged me and held me in his arms. I recounted every minute detail of my life with Emily, from the moment that I saw her on the food line at school to the moment that I knocked her father into the grave. I explained the unanimous opposition to my relationship with Emily. I recounted the fight that I had with my parents over Emily. I described the catastrophe of Thanksgiving, 1987. I explained how even King of the Woods was opposed because Emily didn’t believe in God. Wilson was the only person that I could talk to about all the stresses that accompanied my relationship with Emily. I spent lots of time with him. To his credit, he took it all in. I’m not sure that I would’ve been able to take someone telling me their love story for hours day and night for a week. But Wilson did.
  The others found out about Emily through King of the Woods. Mindy Mime came up to me one night after dinner.
“Hey Kevin. King told me about your girlfriend. I’m really sorry to hear about. I feel really sorry for you.”
“Thanks Mindy.”
“If you ever want to talk to me about it, I’m all ears. Do you have time now?”
“I guess so.”
We walked down to the cove and watched the sunset.
“Did King tell you that I tried to commit suicide two years ago?”
“Yes he did.”
“It was a hard time for me. One of the reasons why I freaked out was because of people being racist with me for dating King.”
“Yes. Was that the reason why your girlfriend killed herself?”
“Partly. Her father’s a Klansman. When he found out about me, he tried to take her away from New York back to Texas. Then she…” I halted and started to chortle. “Then she had to go to court. At court she….she….” The floodgates of my tear glands burst.
“Kevin!” Mindy came closer and put her arms around me.
“At court she said that she had been raped by her father and other Klansmen.” I broke down.
“Oh my god! That’s awful! Oh Kevin, I’m so sorry!”
I wept in Mindy’s arms. She lifted up her t-shirt and removed her bra exposing her left breast. She put her hand on my head and guided my face to her nipple.
“Take it. I think you need it!”
I looked up at Mindy surprised. “What are you doing?”
“I know you’re upset. It’s ok. We’re not going to fuck. I just think you should suckle from me for a few minutes to calm down.”
I froze. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
“But what about King?”
“What about King?” Mindy asked annoyed.
“He’s your boyfriend!”
“He was my boyfriend. We broke up two years ago. Take it or I will cover myself again.”
  At that moment we heard voices in the trees. Mindy quickly put on her bra and put her t-shirt down. A group of girls and a boy from New York came upon the cove. I quickly stood up and walked back up the hill to the main camp.
  As the story of Emily’s death made its way around the camp, many girls suddenly took interest in me. I didn’t understand at first the reason why many girls were overly friendly with me. I wasn’t interested in any girls. I was still deeply in love with Emily and under no circumstances would I have been able to get involved with in a new relationship nor could I even fool around with another girl, let alone have sex.
  There was a game that was organized as an activity. It was a clean version of Spin the Bottle. A girl would spin the bottle and whichever boy it pointed to, the girl was to try to seduce us only with words. When it was Mindy’s turn the bottled pointed to me. She crawled over to me:
“Kevin, you have the most beautiful darkest eyes I’ve ever seen. You are the most handsome boy! I think you are so sexy! Will you kiss me?”
“Mindy, you are the most ridiculous girl I’ve ever seen. I would rather kiss the third rail of the subway than kiss you.”
The other kids were stunned by my reply. Mindy turned around annoyed.
“Fuck you! I don’t care anyway!”
  Simon Simonivic also offered his condolences. He said that if I ever needed to talk to anyone back in New York, that I shouldn’t hesitate to phone him. The outpouring of pity and sympathy was starting to annoy me actually. I went to King of the Woods.
“Why the fuck can’t you mind your own business?”
“Why the fuck have you told everyone that Emily killed herself?”
“First of all, it’s really no one else’s business. I don’t feel like talking about it to anyone really. Second of all, I’m trying not to think about it. I’m trying to move ahead. Being constantly reminded about it doesn’t make me feel better!”
  I walked away from King. I simply didn’t have the energy. I was angry but not enough to really express it. The week was passing quickly and it made me anxious. I dreaded the prospect of returning to New York. I didn’t know what was going on. For all I knew, there could’ve been riots and violence on the streets. I really desperately wished that I could stay on the Vineyard but knew that I had to face the inevitable return to New York.
  In defiance of the rules, I had brought along many cassettes and a small boom box with me up to the Vineyard. I needed to hear my music. I had low energy but enough to fight any counselor who would tell me that I couldn’t have it. Dave Pettis didn’t say anything and I was happy.
  I spent time with Linda Fertig from Philadelphia. She was the only female that I liked. I saw her as a mother figure. If there was any woman that I wanted to suckle from it would’ve been her. Why hadn’t Linda offered me her teat instead of Mindy? I enthusiastically sat in the front seat of her car when we drove to Gay Head. We played a group game of volleyball. I never got the chance to talk to Linda. She was a very perceptive woman and was probably on to my desire for her. Being a responsible adult counselor she kept her distance. It was only Wilson and Linda that I felt close to during the week.
  When the last full day of the week arrived, I had a panic attack. I simply couldn’t face the prospect of returning to New York. New York was certain death for me. I would be alone in that racial Golgotha. I wouldn’t have Emily with me to ride out the tempest. No one could help me. Not my parents, not Grandmother Harriet, not King of the Woods, no one. I was certain that the city would bring about my ruin. I told Wilson of my anxiety. He tried to reassure and calm me down.
“Oh come on, Kevin! It’s not going to be that bad.”
“You don’t understand, Wilson. You don’t know what New York’s like right now!”
“I believe you that things are bad but Kevin if New York has went up in flames we would’ve heard about it by now.”
“Maybe it hasn’t yet but you don’t know what’s going on. I’m really afraid to go back to school. After Howard Beach, there was a big race brawl at my school.”
“After Howard Beach? What’s that?”
“Back in ’86 there was another racial murder in Howard Beach. That’s a neighborhood in New York. There were all sorts of racial fights and violence in schools all over the city!”
“Are you serious?”
“I believe you, Kevin, really I do but are you sure that you’re not exaggerating? I mean I’ve never heard about any of this.”
“Kevin!” Wilson was taken aback from my outburst. “Take it easy! I believe you!”
“No you don’t. How could you? You’re just a stupid faggot from Philly!”
“Kevin!” Wilson’s face sank. He was deeply wounded by my homophobic attack.
  After that, I just lost the plot. I ran from one end of Lambert Cove to the other like a raving lunatic. I ranted on about the coming apocalypse in New York. I went stark raving mad. I passed by Peter Crewe.
“Hey Peter, do you think that I can live with you in Philly for a few months?”
Peter was stunned by my question. “Ah, Kevin why do you want to live with me?”
“Because I don’t want to return to New York!”
“Why not? You’re lucky! I wish that I lived in New York. I’m going back to Philly which is boring. You get to go back to New York.”
  During dinner, I had made a public announcement that I was going to commit suicide later that night. I said that I was going to collect heavy stones in my pocket and would walk into lake to drown myself. I was serious. I would have rather died than have to return to New York. Wilson was on the verge of tears. King of the Woods was speechless. After dinner, Dave Pettis and the other counselors chased me around Lambert Cove. They followed me down to the lake. I started to gather heavy stones. Toga was aggressive and snatched and kicked the stones out of my hands. I got into a battle royal wrestling match with five other males. It wasn’t until late in the night before I grew exhausted and was coaxed into going to bed.


  The next day I was in a heavy depression. Simon Simonovic was assigned to sit next to me on the bus back to New York. He also escorted me directly to my apartment. He was very kind as he was worried about me. He told me that everything was going to be fine and that Jesus was with me. All that I needed to do was pray and to have faith.
  I still had a week before school was to start. I stayed in bed and slept most of the time. I only came out of my room for dinner and when my parents made me go grocery shopping. The city was in a tumult. Al Sharpton led protests in Bensonhurst. The TV news reports were agonizing. The residents of Bensonhurst reacted viciously to the Black protesters. They held and threw watermelons at Sharpton and the other protestors.
“Go home Niggers!”
“All Niggers must die!”
“Get the fuck out of Bensonhurst Niggers!”
  The Primary Day elections were one week away. David Dinkins the Black Manhattan Borough President was running against Koch for the mayoral nomination. Koch was in serious trouble. The Blacks hated him and unfairly blamed him for the racial violence in the city. The whites had become fed up with Koch. In all the white ethnica districts of the city, he was booed and pelted with eggs. Koch found himself under siege. Though he condemned the racial murder in Bensonhurst, the eruption of anger was too much for him. Dinkins positioned himself as a healer and who help bridge the racial gulf in the city.
  On the Republican side, a trench war was being raged between US Attorney Rudy Giuliani and cosmetic millionaire heir Ralph Lauder. Usually the Republican Primary battles were ignored because New York was an overwhelmingly Democrat city. Personally, I didn’t think that Dinkins would beat Koch in the Primary. At the time, I had a favorable impression of Giuliani. I liked the way he had harassed Koch. I was impressed with his rhetoric and his prosecutions against Junk Bond traders on Wall Street. I assumed that Giuliani would win the election.
  The first day of school was tense. The police had been assigned to stand watch over all the public high schools in the city. Though the Howard Beach racial attacks had occurred three years before, the city and the Board of Education remembered the street fights and decided to prevent a repeat occurrence.
  Returning to school was a bitter sweet moment for me. I was a Senior at last. This was my last year of grade school. It was going to be a breeze as I had completed most of my required courses. I opted out of Calculus which would have been a nightmare for me. I was done with German. I had passed the German regents exam. I had only one required course for that year: Physics. That was going to be difficult but as long as I got 65 at the end of the semester and the same score on the Regents exam in June, I would obtain a Regents High School diploma.
  When I arrived on 16th Street, there were police barricades up. The police and Board of Education security guards checked everyone’s ID to make sure we were Stuyvesant students. Students were told that they could not congregate in front of the building as was the custom. The scene in the lobby was a madhouse. Each student was physically searched for knives and weapons.
  During the day we were locked inside the school and weren’t allowed to leave until the end of the day. The new school building was still under construction. We were advised that we would move in the next semester. Being locked inside, the school was overcrowded. Everyone was late for their classes as it took 10 minutes to navigate the stairwells. Upper class students were angry and disgruntled as we weren’t allowed to leave the school as we were accustomed.  The cafeteria was a scene from the subway at rush hour. There was no place to sit. Students who usually ate out for lunch stood in long queues for the food line.
  Surprisingly no one talked about Bensonhurst. Though everyone knew about it, we were so far removed from it. In the corridor after lunch, I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around and saw Shannon. I was overjoyed that I lifted her up and hugged her tightly in the crowded corridor. She was my only friend in the world. I hadn’t seen her all summer.
“Can you believe this shit?” Shannon asked looking around at the chaos.
“No I can’t.” I replied. “This is ridiculous! It’s like we’re in fucking jail!”
“I know. It’s because of some stupid fucking Guidos from Brooklyn! What are you doing after school?”
“Let’s meet at Joe Junior. I don’t think they’re going to let us hang outside the building.”
“See you then!”
  I went to Economics class and saw Danny Schutzer. He sat in the last row by the time I entered the class. There was only one seat directly in front of the teacher’s desk. Each class was overcrowded with 40 students. The entire school day was hectic. I didn’t feel like talking to Danny. He and I weren’t friends. Moreover, I knew he was racist and didn’t feel like being around him. I wondered what happened to Edward. I hadn’t seen him all day. I finally saw him on the stairwell just before 8th period. He was coming up as I was going down. We just looked at each other and shook our heads.
“Are you taking the train after school?” Edward asked as he passed.
“Not today. I’m meeting with Shannon.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
  As expected, Mr. Silverstein made an announcement over the PA that we were to leave the area and that the police would prevent us from going into Stuyvesant Square Park after school. I made to walk up to 18th Street in order to get over the 3rd Avenue. Shannon and I arrived at the same time.
“How are you doing, Kevin?” Shannon asked with concern. She had her no-bullshit eyes but they were soft and full of love. “How was your summer?”
“It sucked!”
“How are you coping about Emily?”
“I’m barely coping. You know, I miss her so much. I would have probably been almost over her until the shit in Bensonhurst. I can’t take it anymore Shannon! I can’t take this city! I can’t take this country! I can’t take school anymore! I can’t take my parents! I have no friends. I want to kill myself.”
“Holy shit, Kevin!” Shannon exclaimed. “I knew it. I was worried about you all summer. I knew you would be suicidal.”
“I don’t know. I just want to die.”
“Why didn’t we ever exchange phone numbers? It’s partly my fault. I should’ve given you mine. I’m sorry about that.”
“Sorry about what?”
“I mean that I’m sorry that I wasn’t a better friend.”
“Come on! You are my best friend.”
“Then I’m a shitty friend. I always wanted to ask you for your number but I was afraid to.”
“First you were with Emily. I remember how those two bitches were in Sophomore year. I didn’t want you to think that I was like them. I also wanted to respect Emily. I didn’t want her to think that I was trying to steal you or anything.” Shannon paused to give her order to the waiter.
“Then,” she continued, “After she died I didn’t want to seem like the bitch who was trying to move in on you after your girlfriend dies. I was worried about you. That’s why I’m sorry for not doing enough.”
  I was touched by what Shannon said. I realized just how valuable a friend she really was. She loved me deeply but too much that she didn’t want to destroy the platonic purity our friendship. I then realized how stupid I had been in not paying more attention to her. I realized that I didn’t have any real friends besides Emily. King and Mick were not the right friends for me. Edward and I were simply acquaintances which would be a polite way to put it. I still had Goulash but we had drifted apart. I hadn’t seen or heard from him in a year.
“It’s alright Shannon.” I replied at last. “You did the right thing by respecting my space. Anyway, don’t you have a boyfriend? I never got the impression that you wanted my dick or anything like that.”
“Oh I have a new boyfriend. The old one was an asshole who dumped me last spring. My new boyfriend is alright. We just hooked up over the summer. What did you do over the summer?”
“Not much. I mostly worked. I took many one day trips down to Philly riding trains and subways all day. I went to a few concerts. I saw P.I.L.”
“Me too! I saw them at the Ritz!”
“I wanted to go to that show! I saw them with New Order and the Sugercubes who fucking sucked! But I heard the concert on DRE.”
“Yeah the show was good. Johnny Rotten was fucking cool. He kept cursing out all the yuppies in the balcony who just sat still looking boring. We all yelled at them and gave them the finger.”
“I then saw The Cure at Giants stadium. That was fucking excellent! The Pixies and Love and Rockets opened up.”
“I like the Pixies. How were they?”
“They rocked! I hear they are coming back to the Ritz next month.”
“I heard the same thing too on DRE.”
“What did you do over the summer Shannon?”
“Nothing much. I worked all summer. I went to see P.I.L and some other punk rock shows. Last weekend I went to the Beer Olympics.”
“The Beer Olympics! What’s that?”
“It’s the largest punk rock festival on the East Coast. It takes place over in Brooklyn every Labor Day weekend.”
“Why is it called Beer Olympics?”
“Because there are lots of kegs of beer. Everyone gets fucking wasted!”
“You drink beer Shannon!” I looked at her with surprise and shock.
“Of course I drink beer. I’ve been drinking beer since I was 15!”
“Isn’t that bad for you? Does your mother know that you drink?”
“Kevin, you are the strangest dullest person I know!” Shannon laughed. “You are so straight edge! You don’t drink. You don’t smoke. I’m quite surprised that you’re not a virgin!”
“My mother is very strict. If she caught me smoking or drinking, she would tear my ass apart. She did everything to break apart my relationship with Emily. Having sex was too much for her to deal with. If I started drinking and smoking she would have a major shit fit.”
“Well I think you should start drinking at least.” Shannon said with dead pan seriousness.
“What? Are you crazy?”
“Not at all. Kevin, you need to start living. You’re a Senior now. I don’t mean to sound cold but I think the biggest problem with you and Emily was that she was your entire social life. The two of you didn’t have any other friends. You never hung out with other kids. Please don’t be pissed off by me saying this but I think you would feel less bad if you had made more friends while you were with Emily. You told me about those losers from Church. We should start hanging out more. You can meet my boyfriend and my other friends.”
  I stared blankly at Shannon. I knew she was correct. For nearly two years my personal and social life was centered on Emily to the exclusion of everyone else. Emily and I were very straight. Though he had lots of sex and spent late nights out and about, we never did anything really adventurous. We didn’t drink and smoke. With the exception of King’s birthday party we never socialized with anyone else. We didn’t have any mutual friends. In fact, we alienated everyone around us. On the other hand it was the only thing we could do in the face of the hostility. Because everyone opposed our relationship, we were forced to close ranks and developed a mindset of “us against the world.” As I thought more about it, I became saddened. I looked at Shannon and for the first time, I found her attractive. She was obviously not as pretty as Emily but she was more attractive in other ways. Shannon was street-wise as Emily was naïve. Shannon was hip about life and the world that Emily could never have been. Indeed, it was Emily’s very naiveness which doomed her. I looked at Shannon for the first time sexually. I felt instant guilt and remorse. Shannon caught the sexual glance in my eyes. I averted my head back down to the food. For a few moments Shannon looked at me intensely.
“You know you’re quite cute.”
“That’s bullshit, Shannon!”
“Oh relax. I’m not trying to do anything. But you are cute.”
  At that very instant, I began to cry. I dropped my burger and the floodgates opened.
“Oh shit, Kevin! I’m so sorry!” Shannon looked worried.
I continued to sob uncontrollably. “I miss Emily! Why did she have to leave me? Why?”
  After 20 minutes I stopped sobbing. Shannon and I walked to Union Square. She had to take the IRT Express up to Grand Central to transfer to the Flushing line to Woodside. Despite the inconvenience, I took the IRT up to Grand Central. We hugged each other on the platform before she descended down to the lower level. I then ascended to the upper level to take the 42nd Street Shuttle to the West Side.

  The next was Primary Day so I had the day off from school. To our astonishment and delight, David Dinkins defeated Ed Koch. Koch was gone! Could it really be true? Yes it was! After 12 years of Koch, there was going to be a new mayor. I was born when John Lindsay was mayor. He was followed by Abraham Beame. However, I was too young to remember either mayor. Since I was 5 years old, Koch had been the mayor. I knew of no other mayor. I was tired of Koch. Day in and day out, month after month, year followed by year there was always that goofy bald headed mayor with his never ending question: “How I’m Doing?”
  What was more exciting was the New York was on the verge of electing a Black mayor. This was the best political turn of events of my lifetime. After watching the Republicans win three straight Presidential elections and seeing Koch win three consecutive elections, this was the first time that a candidate that I wanted had a good chance to win.
  On the Republican side Rudy Giuliani beat his millionaire opponent Ralph Lauder. The general election match-up was Dinkins versus Giuliani. Though I wanted Dinkins to win, I could have lived with Giuliani. Either one of them would have been better than Koch. There was finally change coming to my world.
  Koch was simply the victim of the nature of New York City and State politics. There was a phenomenon known as permanent government. Unless a politician was a total screw-up, once elected they usually stayed three terms. However by the final year of their third term, New Yorkers got tired of the act. After 12 years for mayors and governors and 18 years for US Senators, the people of New York were hungry for a new show. A third term was usually the death sentence for New York politicians. Third terms tended to spell disaster. Outside forces out of their control usually generated a crisis which they were ill-prepared for. Third terms usually produced deadly hubris. Having been in power for so long, the politicians took it for granted and grew remote from the citizens. Moreover, politicians remain fixed in the time they were first elected. Koch still spoke and governed as if it were 1977. The 1990s were only a couple of months away. Times changed. Politicians didn’t. Koch’s attempt at a 4th term proved to be futile.
  In Manhattan, there was generally enthusiastic support for Dinkins among Blacks and whites. Manhattanites had grown weary of the racists in the remote parts of the city ruining the social atmosphere of Manhattan. Working class Italian and white ethnic bigots in the small town areas such as Howard Beach and Bensonhurst were destroying the social peace. White residents of the Upper East and West Sides were the victims of reprisals from Blacks from The Bronx who were too stupid to know the difference between an upper middle class Jew from Manhattan from the working class Irish and Italian bigots that inhabited the outer boroughs. It was only in Gramercy Park, the old bourgeois district near St. George’s church which was cold to a Black mayor.
  Meanwhile, there was a sense of doom in the white ethnic parts of the city. From Canarsie and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn to Corona and Whitestone in Queens, expanding to Staten Island and Throgs Neck in The Bronx, the working class whites panicked. Dinkins had to be stopped! If a nigger took over City Hall soon, they would move in and take over Canarsie, Bensonhurst and Howard Beach. After all there was a reason why Blacks were beat and killed when they entered those areas at night. If a nigger became mayor than Blacks would have to right to go any where they pleased. They would move into the neighborhood. Then they would take away their white girls. As soon as the niggers came, the property values would decline. Within 4 years their respectable neighborhoods would turn into ghettos. In these quarters of the city there were solemn swears that if Dinkins got elected they would move out of the city. One Giuliani supporter in Gramercy Park was overhead by a journalist saying that he was going to move to South Africa if Dinkins got elected.
  The momentum for justice and against racism increased after Dinkins secured the nomination. Blacks were emboldened. Al Sharpton led a political funeral protest march across the Brooklyn Bridge. They took over one of the roadways and blocked traffic. Sharpton refused to get a permit for the protest. Sharpton led the protest funeral march from Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn with the goal of a massive protest rally in front of City Hall. The police were mobilized from Manhattan to stop the protestors. Given the inflamed passions in the city along with the fact that Dinkins was now the Democratic Party boss of the city, the police were instructed just to stop the protestors and try to disperse them calmly. At the mid-span summit of the Brooklyn Bridge, the police stopped the marchers. There was a two hour standoff. There were ten thousand marchers on the bridge. Many of them were still on the Brooklyn side. The police hemmed them in from behind. Rumors went word of mouth that the police had stopped the march. In anger, the protestors shoved and surged ahead pushing the front of the march into the police. Slowly, the police were forced to retreat 50 feet. As the minutes passed the tempers flared. At the rear, many protestors began to taunt and jeer at the police. Scuffles broke out at the rear. Within a few moments there was a battle between those at the rear with the police.
  At the front when the crowd surged ahead, one nervous and exasperated policeman smashed the coffin being carried with his nightstick. For about two minutes there was absolute silence. The officer was dismayed by his own action. His fellow officers knew that the tension passed beyond the threshold of pain. A riot broke out. The marchers split in two. Those in the rear streamed down back into Brooklyn over running the police. In the front, the police retreated in fear for their lives. This became known as the Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge.
  In the backdrop of this, the election was fought. Giuliani was not prepared. His election campaign had focused on Koch. His strategy was to expose and attack Koch’s alleged corruption. Giuliani didn’t expect Dinkins to win. Nor did he expect that the city would erupt in the worst racial conflagration since the Draft Riots during the Civil War. He did not expect to face against a Black opponent during the climax of a race war. Giuliani simply wasn’t prepared. The situation was impossible for him to race-bait his opponent. There was a riot on the Brooklyn Bridge. Moreover, the main question of the election was how to heal racial divisions and bring social peace back to the city. This wasn’t on Giuliani’s agenda so he had to ad-lib his way through. His main weapon was to expose Koch and the Democrats as corrupt. However, Dinkins was a relative newcomer to municipal politics. During the election, Dinkins was finishing his first term as Manhattan Borough President. All of the corrupt Democrat officials were in The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Manhattan was clean. Dinkins was clean. The corruption line of attack was useless.
  Giuliani then switched tactics to promote himself as the man who would “clean up New York.” Well, every politician since Fiorello LaGuardia had promised to “clean up New York.” Every candidate for mayor had repeated that mantra. In 1989, that was simply empty rhetoric. Unfortunately for Giuliani, that was his only card. The racial problem was not his interest and he could not even fake his way through it. Giuliani expected to fight Koch and got Dinkins. He expected the issue to be about government corruption not race relations.
  In addition to the municipal offices, there was a referendum on the new city charter. In the 1980’s, liberal good government advocates successfully took New York City to the US Supreme Court and over-turned the structure of city government. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the New York City Board of Estimate to be unconstitutional. The city was ordered by the court to re-write the City Charter and put it up to the voters to accept or reject. As part of their reward, these “good government” activists were sanctioned by the Court to write the new City Charter and put it on the ballot.
  The Board of Estimate was created in 1938 by Robert Moses and LaGuardia to by-pass the City Council which at the time was dominated and controlled by a coalition of Socialists and Communists. To de-claw the City Council and to neutralize the power of the far left, the Board of Estimate was given supreme control over all laws, budgets and policy. The Board of Estimate consisted of the mayor, city comptroller, City Council President, as well as the five Borough Presidents. It was successfully argued that the Board of Estimate was a concentration of power in the big politicians i.e.; the city wide office holders and the Borough Presidents but not in the local representatives; the City Council.
  In my Government class, we examined the proposed City Charter. The position of City Council President, which was first in line of succession after the Mayor, was replaced by the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate was to serve as the Ombudsman of the city. The role of the Public Advocate was to ensure that the citizens were getting all the rights and services as residents of the city. I thought this was a strange position since the Public Advocate had no political power; it had no say in the making of laws or of implementing policy. The Public Advocate served no check or balance to the Mayor or City Council.
  The concentration of power was given to the Mayor. The City Council was restored as a legislative body that could initiate laws on its own or to approve or disapprove of what laws the mayor wanted. In other words, the city government was based on the Federal model of the Executive and the Legislative branches. The Borough Presidents were stripped of any political power regarding laws and policy. They were reduced to being advisors and consultants. Their power mostly stemmed from approving various construction projects and zoning regulations but generally nothing else. Only the Comptroller found its office and powers intact.
  I wondered why this was necessary. I didn’t see anything wrong with the Board of Estimate. I didn’t think it was unconstitutional. After all, each member was elected by the people. Three were elected by all the voters. The other 5 were elected by the residents of the Boroughs.
  However, it was still exciting. Political change was coming to New York. Being 17 years old, I was happy with anything new and fresh. I was expecting major changes in my life as well. In a few months, I would turn 18. The political changes in the city seemed to reflect the coming changes in my personal life. I was all for change.
  Meanwhile, the subway system had brought about very new changes. Two new subway lines had opened up in Queens. At last, the 63rd Street tunnel was completed and Roosevelt Island was getting subway service for the first time, though the residents were not pleased as they enjoyed their isolation from the rest of the city. They feared that the subway would bring in too many people that didn’t live there and crime would increase. The NYPD didn’t operate a precient on Roosevelt Island. The island had its own private unarmed security. The NYPD were allowed only after being called in. The residents feared that the new subway line would bring crime and that without the police, they would be less safe.
  The E and J trains were re-routed. Three new stations were built. The terminus was called Jamaica Center which promised to relieve congestion in the infamously public transit deficient Queens. A new line was added to the J. It was called the Z. A new subway line was added to the IRT West Side lines called the 9. The 9 and Z were the so-called skip-stop lines. The 9 was the same line as the number 1 just as the Z was the same as the J. However, the skip-stop ran only during Rush Hours. Above 145th Street, the number 1 and 9 would alternate stops where before the 1 made all the stops. In Brooklyn, after Myrtle Avenue the J and Z would also alternate between stops.
  I knew where this came from. David Gunn, the Chairman of the MTA, had previously worked for Philadelphia’s transit system known as SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority). One day, over the summer I didn’t return to work after lunch. Instead I went to Philadelphia to ride the subway. On the Frankford El, the trains operated as skip-stop. That was initiated by David Gunn and copied the system.
  The CC was the last double lettered train to be eliminated. It just became the C. The old cars from the 1930s were taken out of service replaced by subway cars from the 1960s. Those were actually worse than 1930s cars. They had been repainted red. However, they were not as classy as the previous rolling stock. For the first time in my life I was mugged. I had my walkman robbed with a B-52s tape in it. I decided to leave home 15 minutes earlier so that I could take the B train to 59th Street and connect with the A train rather than risk getting mugged on the C train again.
  The B train had new cars as well. The R-85 rolling stock was put in service. The BMT trains were also renovated. The R-67s had been refurbished. The R train had renovated R-72s as did the E train which half of the rolling stock with the same renovations as the A train. The number 2, 5 and 6 lines on the IRT had also had a facelift to them.
  The New York subway had been utterly transformed from a broken down and decrepit system to a brand new shining world class system. David Gunn knew what he was doing! There were no more delays on the subway. The trains ran on time. More than that, the new trains operated at very high speeds. Graffiti was history. While the tracks and stations remained relatively dingy given to age, the trains themselves were the cleanest I had ever seen. 94% of the subway cars now had air conditioning.
  All of this pointed to a bright future. New York was a city in progress. It was on the verge of having a Black mayor. The subway with the C train was back on track. The small town hicks of the outer boroughs were about to pay a political price of their backwardness. I was a Senior in high school. The Eurhythmics were scheduled to have a new album out soon. I should have been happy but I wasn’t. Emily was gone. She was gone just as the graffiti had gone away.

   One afternoon about one hour after I had come home from school, the intercom buzzed. I was curious to who it was. Usually when my father had expected parcels he had them delivered to his office. I had already checked the mailbox so it wasn’t the mailman. Perhaps it was Goulash.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Is Barbara home?” I heard a scratchy voice reply.
“Who is it?”
“This is her father.”
I balked and grew suspicious. New York still had a high crime rate and like a typical New Yorker I was properly trained to be aware of robbers and con-artists. I doubted the man who spoke was really my mother’s father. I became paranoid.
“You’ve got the wrong apartment.” I replied and then went back to watching TV.
The intercom buzzed again. I became alarmed.
“What do you want?!” I answered rudely with an aggressive and threatening tone to frighten him off.
“I’ve been told that this is the address and apartment for my daughter. Her name’s Barbara Blake now. That’s the name on this button. This is her father Charles Lewis.”
  This was too weird only because it was too accurate. I never knew the first name of Grandfather Lewis. However, my intuition told me this man was telling the truth. Still, it could have been a very clever con-man or someone worse who might have been stalking my mother. I wasn’t prepared to take the responsibility. I also knew that this man was going to keep buzzing. I also realized that one my neighbors might let him in if he announced himself as my mother’s father. Then he would be in the building and outside my door. I had to think and act quickly.
“Well she’s not home now.”
“Is this her son or her husband?”
“I said she’s not home now. You have to try again later!”
“Is she at work?”
“I told you that she’s not home!” I said raising my voice.
“What time will she be home?”
“I don’t know!”
“Well tell her that her father’s back in town and that I’m staying up at the Harlem Y on 1-3-5. She can call me there and leave me a message.”
“OK. Will do.”
“Thank you!”
  I was excited and nervous at once. Could it really be my Grandfather Lewis? I had heard so much about the man though none of it was any good. I no longer doubted he was who he said he was. I also felt relieved because I had followed the protocol concerning strangers ringing my intercom. As soon as my mother arrived home, I ran up to her.
“Mom! Guess what?” I said with the utmost glee.
“What child?”
“You will never guess who rang the intercom this afternoon!”
“I think it was Grandfather Lewis!”
My mother was stunned at first before she got angry. “Now listen Kevin, I just got home from work! I’m in no mood for foolish nonsense. You’re almost 18. You’re too old to play stupid pranks on your mother!”
“No mom! I’m not lying. Around 4:30 the intercom buzzed. I asked who it was. At first he asked for you and then said his name was Charles Lewis.”
“Oh my Lord!” My mother exclaimed. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t let him in of course. He kept asking when you were coming home. I told him that I didn’t know. He wants you to call him. He’s staying up at the Y by Grandmother Harriet’s. He wants you to call and leave a message for him!”
  My mother looked stunned. She didn’t even take off her jacket. She didn’t switch to Channel 2 as she always did to watch the news. She sat down and stared blankly.
“Are you ok mom?”
“I don’t believe it! My father’s back after all these years!” Then I saw a look of anger and hatred never before seen. “He has a lot of nerve coming to my house after leaving us.”
She stood up and dialed the phone.
“Ma! You know what Kevin just told……?” My mother didn’t finish the sentence. I could hear Grandmother’s Harriet’s voice yelling on the phone.
“Is he really back, Ma?..........Why does he want to see me?...........What did you say?”
After a half hour of animated discussion and swearing and anger my mother put down the phone. She turned to look at me.
“It is my father. He just came back from Seattle yesterday. He wants to see me.”
“That’s cool mom!” I was overjoyed. “When did you see him last?”
“I saw that cheating prick last when I was 5 years old.”
“5 years old! Do you remember what he looks like?”
“No. How could I. The bastard left when I was too small to remember him.”
“Aren’t you going to call him?”
“Hell no!” My mother roared. “He can kiss my ass!”
“Why not Mom? Don’t you want to see your father?”
“Hell no! After what he did to my mother, he can take a long walk off a short cliff!”
“Well I want to meet him. I want to meet my real grandfather for a change. Mr. Blake is not my real grandfather. Dad’s father will probably never turn up. I want to meet him!”
“Why do you want to meet him?” My mother roared at me accusingly. “What has he done for you?”
“He hasn’t done anything for me. That’s why I want to meet him! I want to meet my real grandfather!”
“Well you can do what you want. You know where he’s at. I want nothing to do with him!”
   One hour later my father returned from home. Both my mother and I were anxious to tell him the news first. We competed to be the first.
“Harold!” “Dad!” We said in unison.
“You won’t believe who had the nerve to show up here?” “You will never guess who came by today!”
  My father was confused and surprised. He had yet to even shut the door behind him.
“Let me close the goddamn door and come into my house please!”
“Shut up, Kevin. I’m going to tell first!”
“What’s going on with you two?!” My father asked.
“Harold, my father showed up out of the blue today here after 40 years away!”
“Say what?” My father’s head jolted with stunned shocked.
“That’s right Dad!” I interjected. “He came by around 4:30 today. He buzzed the intercom looking for mom but I didn’t let him in.”
“Why not?” My father asked with anger. “Why didn’t you let your grandfather in?”
“I didn’t know if I could believe him, Dad. You know what you taught me about buzzing in strangers!”
“But it was your own grandfather, son!”
“I didn’t know that. He could’ve been some slickster trying to get into the building. Besides, I never met him.”
“That’s not the point!” My mother rejoined. “That man has lots of nerve coming to look for me after leaving me and my mother 40 years ago! I would’ve knocked Kevin upside his head if I came home and saw my father sitting on my couch!”
“Why Barbara?” My father questioned. “If my father whom I had never met arrived today, I would want to meet him. In fact, I would’ve kicked Kevin’s ass for not letting him in!”
“I don’t want to see the bastard!”
“Why not?”
“I told you why not! He left me and Ma for some white bitch. Now I see where Kevin got his taste for white girls!” My mother gave me a nasty side glance.
“Oh Barbara. Why can’t you let bygones be bygones? I bet you he came because he misses you. He probably regrets what he did and is trying to make it up to you.”
“What do you know about it Harold?” My mother lashed at my father.
“What do I know? You’re kidding me, right? At least you got to know your father for your first five years. I don’t even know my father’s name or what he looks like. I think my father was more irresponsible than yours!”
“Well, the nigger can drop dead twice as far as I’m concerned!”
“But mom! I want to meet Grandfather Lewis!”
“So do I actually!” My father agreed
“Well then the two of you niggers can go up to the Y on 135th street and see him. I want nothing to do with him!”
  I couldn’t sleep that night thinking about Grandfather Lewis. I tried to imagine what he looked like. I had never seen any photographs of him nor had Grandmother Harriet ever described him physically. Ever since I discovered that Mr. Blake was not my biological grandfather, I wished that I had a real grandfather. Grandfathers Lewis’ return to New York made me more excited than the revelation that my grandmother was French-Canadian.
  I thought about all of my real grandparents. I thought from time to time about my grandfather from Canada. Was he still alive? Was he still in Canada? I didn’t even know his name. Shortly after I discovered my grandmother was from Montreal, I dialed Montreal Directory Assistance. There were hundreds of listings with the last name Gagnon which made me quickly abandon that enterprise. My paternal grandparents I probably would never meet especially my grandfather. I thought of Grandfather Lewis as a jazz musician. I thought that he had to be a really cool person in spite of all the bad things I had heard.
  I thought about Grandmother Harriet. Though I was still fond of her, her rejection of Emily hurt me deeply. I couldn’t figure out why she so vehemently opposed to her. Then suddenly it dawned upon me in an instant. Grandmother Harriet was scarred from her husband leaving her for a white woman. When I dated Emily, I had inadvertently opened old scars. I also understood my mother’s disapproval.
  What confused me most was why society made such a big fuss over interracial relations which obviously had been going on since the beginning of time. My father was the product of such a relationship in Canada in the 1940s. Grandfather Lewis had an interracial relationship also in the 1940’s in the United States. It was hardly a new phenomenon so what was the big deal.
  What really foxed me was why my mother had so much resentment against her father. I could understand if he abused or mistreated her. Was she really so damaged by an absent father? Did she feel that he personally rejected her as he rejected her mother? My mother’s sentiment was a mystery.
  The next day I again returned from school. I was surprised because only one lock had been applied. Whenever the house was empty, both locks had been applied. When someone was home and awake only the bottom lock was applied. When we were all home and in bed, we had the bottom and top lock applied as well as the chain latched on. I heard voices inside. When I opened the door I was surprised to see both of my parents home.
“What are you two doing home at 4 o’clock?” I asked both of them.
“Come into the living room, Kevin.” My mother said serenely.
  Sitting on the sofa was an extremely handsome and well dressed man. He wore a navy blue suit with pinstripes. He had a bushy white afro with a matching white bushy beard. His eyes twinkled through crimson red bloodshot eyes. I saw my reflection in his face. I hadn’t a doubt that he was.
“Kevin,” My mother began. “I would like to introduce you to your grandfather” Then turning to him she said “Papa I want to introduce you to your grandson.”
Grandfather Lewis stood up very slowly and with elegance I had never seen in a man before. His twinkling eyes never took their gaze off mine. I really thought I was meeting a British aristocrat. He grabbed my hand and gave it a firm handshake while looking deep in my eyes.
“Well, I see you ain’t got no faggot for a son, Barbara! I see you got yourself a real man who knows how to produce a real boy!” With that, Grandfather Lewis let out a roaring scratchy laugh.
“It’s very nice to meet you at last Grandfather Lewis!”
“See my eyes might look like Satan’s but I ain’t the Old Devil you and your mother said I was!” This was followed by another howling scratching laugh. “Turn around and let me see how you look.” Grandfather Lewis directed.
“Damn as if you were my only son! Let me in on a little secret Kevin.” Grandfather Lewis spoke with a conspiratorial hush. “I gave your father a secret wedding gift. I gave him some of my wiggly piggies in case his balls ever went flat. I guess they did and he used my gift anyway!” He roared with laughter.
The joke was so vulgar and outrageous that if I hadn’t laughed, I would’ve screamed in pain.
“Nah, I’m just messin’ with you some boy.” He sat back down again.
I grabbed a chair from the dining table and brought it to the living room. I liked Grandfather Lewis from the start.
“You have to forgive your old granddaddy Kevin. There’s a saying among old Jazz musicians. ‘When you ain’t talking about jizzim you don’t know nothing about Jazz!” He roared again in laughter.
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!” My father was just tickled by Grandfather Lewis.
“Now your mammy says that you want to go to England and start a band. Is that right?”
“Yes it is Grandfather Lewis.”
“Now when I axed if you wanted to make Jazz they told me no. I thought ‘What? My grandson ain’t playing no Jazz! He ain’t no grandson of mine!’ Too bad I really didn’t give your daddy my wiggly piggies!” He laughed again.
“Excuse me Kevin.” Grandfather Lewis said as he told a small bottle of brandy and poured it into his glass. “I hope you ain’t no Baptist or nuddin’. I just need a bit of nipple just to keep myself honest. Hegh, hegh, heghhhhhhhhhhhh!” Grandfather Lewis chuckled.
“Back in the day,” Grandfather Lewis continued. “I and the others on the circuit used to do a little reefer. You know the funny green tobacco. Just a little bit. Can’t be a dope when you got to make the dough if you know what I mean. A little reefer here, a little nipple there, a little girl in the corner and lots of jizzim for the jazz if you know what I mean.”
“CHSS CHSS CHSS CHSS!!!!!!!” I haven’t heard my father laugh so much in a couple of years.
“So tell me Kevin, what do you play?”
I turned red in the face because I couldn’t play an instrument. I was too embarrassed to tell him that I couldn’t play an instrument. He was too cool and I didn’t want to look wack in his eyes. I avoided the question.
“Were you in Seattle Grandfather Lewis?”
“Yes I was indeed in Seattle. It used to be a great town! Used to I must say. They un done wrecked that city I tell you. But Seattle used to be the best damn city in this country. That was the only city where a nigger didn’t have to watch his back, though a nigger had to watch his dick if you know what I mean.”
  I guffawed until I realized that my mother was around. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone use such language around her. I glanced at her to see if she was steaming inside but she wasn’t. In fact, she seemed to enjoy her father’s sense of humor. She didn’t laugh but she smiled.
  By evening we drove up to V&T restaurant as we always did for special occasions. Grandfather Lewis was a crack-up. Practically every other sentence was a joke. I had never met anyone so lighthearted and funny! He monopolized the conversation over dinner. He was chock full of stories about all the cities he visited and all the women he bedded. He was a playboy but oftentimes it got him into trouble.
  “Now one time I was over in Omaha playing a one month gig. Whatever you do Kevin, keep your black ass out of Nebraska! Anyway, I was the only colored person ever allowed into this nightclub. I was warned that I couldn’t ever look at any white women in the nightclub. The owner told me that 2 niggers had been lynched because they looked at some of the white women the wrong way but really in the right way if you know what I mean.
“So there was this foxy baby! I mean she was a real fox. A fox with black fur. She had long silky black hair and these green eyes just like a cat’s. Now she started coming into the club every week. I seen her looking at me but knowing the score, I just pretended that I was a blind darkie. Heh, heh… Now I know how Ray Charles managed not to get killed back in the 50s. So this cat woman started ordering drinks from me. The waiter at first refused to give do her requests before he didn’t want me killed. I brought in good business and if I got lynched, his tips would go down. But this cat woman kept insisting. First he told me that it was from an anonymous admirer in the audience. After two weeks the waiter warned me about this woman. She wanted my dick and was determined to get it. I knew my way around this country better than anyone else. I know white folks better than any other man alive. I knew how to have my things without getting caught with my pants down if you know what I mean.
“So one night I after a gig I went out the back door. I wasn’t allowed to use the front door. I could only come and go out the back door. I had to park my car in the alley because I wasn’t allowed to park on the main roads. Then suddenly, the cat woman pounces on me. She was a real jaguar. Now I know that I should’ve left her alone but then again the wiggly piggies started oinking downstairs if you know what I mean. As I with the woman a po-lice cruiser comes by. To make a long story short, this was the underage daughter of the Omaha Chief of Po-lice. I threw her ass away and jumped in my car. I always kept a full tank of gas exactly for moments like this. I got the hell out of Omaha with the entire po-lice force chasing me. I also kept a spare license plat just of emergencies like that. I got the hell out of Nebraska and haven’t been back since!”
 After dinner, we drove Grandfather Lewis to the Harlem Y. He and I set plans to meet the following Saturday. I really liked him. He was the most dynamic person I had ever met. I thought he was the funniest, wittiest person I had ever seen. I eagerly looked forward to seeing him the next weekend. My father was really keen on him as well. I never saw my father get a kick out of anyone as much as he did with Grandfather Lewis. My mother didn’t make any comments concerning him which I found very curious. At school I told Shannon and Edward about Grandfather Lewis. As usual Edward was dry and wry.
“You have a strange family, Kevin. First you discover that your grandparents aren’t your real grandparents. You find out that you have a white French grandmother and John Doe as your grandfather. Now all of a sudden your other grandfather appears from Seattle. It’s no wonder that you’re screwed up.”
“What does that mean?” I replied offended.
“How can you not be a screwball with all your screwy family history? The next thing you’ll tell me next is that you were adopted or that you have white brother and sister who you met by accident.”
  The following Saturday I met Grandfather Lewis at the Columbus Circle gate to Central Park. He was promptly on time and dressed in a grey suit with a bow-tie. Ever since Pee-Wee Herman arrived in popular culture in 1985, bow-ties were viewed a comic nerd attire or terribly old fashioned. However, Grandfather Lewis sported it exquisitely.
“I haven’t been in Central Park since the 40s. It’s hardly changed. It’s good to be back in the Big Apple. The city’s changed a lot. There were always skyscrapers but these new ones must’ve been built in the 50s. I can see the World Trade Center from Harlem but they ain’t got the class and style like the Empire State or Chrysler building.”
We passed by a hot dog vendor.
“I miss these. I haven’t had a New York hotdog since the 40s! You want one Kevin?”
“Sure Grandfather Lewis!”
“We’ll blow me down!” Grandfather Lewis exclaimed as he looked at the menu on the cart. “Knishes! I forgot all about knishes. Damn! Fuck the hotdog! Gimme a motherfucking knish! Do you still want a hotdog Kevin?”
I nodded in the affirmative.
“Gimme a knish and a hotdog. What do you like with your hotdog Kevin?”
“I’ll take mine with mustard and onions please.”
“And I’ll take my knish with mustard!”
We took our food and walked a few yards away.
“Let’s sit on the bench. It’s not good to eat and walk at the same time. It ain’t that I’m no bimbo who can’t walk and chew her gum it just doesn’t look good. Besides I don’t wanna ruin my clothes. I stain my clothes then I’ll be taken to the cleaners!” He roared jovially.
“You didn’t answer my question the other day, Kevin.” He resumed.
“What question?”
“I axed you what musical instrument you play.”
I blushed with embarrassment again.
“Well I don’t play any, yet.”
“You don’t play no motherfucking instrument? How do you expect to be a musician? Is you a singer?”
“Well sort of. I want to learn how to play the synthesizer and do lead vocals.”
“The synthesizer? You want to be like John Cage do you?”
“Who’s that?”
“You don’t know who John Cage is? Damn boy, your parents ain’t teach you shit! John Cage was the avant-garde jazz musician back in the 60s. Shit even I know who he is!”
I felt embarrassment and shame.
“I’m surprised about you. You being a bookworm and all that you haven’t heard of John Cage. You must be sticking your nose in all the wrong books.” Grandfather Lewis paused and grimaced.
“What’s the matter?” I asked
“This knish is shit! That’s what happens when you get those East Indians pushing around those hotdog carts. Back in the 40s the only people pushing those carts around were Jews. Now that the Jews got rich they left their businesses to those East Indians!” Grandfather Lewis stood up and threw the knish in the rubbish bin. I had finished my hotdog. I stood up and we walked towards the Carousel.
“That’s the problem with the motherfucking country, Kevin! The foreigners have un done taken over everything. Americans don’t make shit anymore. Excuse me, all Americans can do is shit but they don’t make any. The Japanese have bought everything up. The other day I was reading that the Japanese were about to buy Rockefeller Center! I saw the same thing in Seattle. All those chinks and Japs were buying up everything! Seattle used to be a cheap city to live in until the chinks and Japs bought all the property. This country is in decline, Kevin! You would’ve never had guessed that we won the war with all the Japs taking over everything. I may not live to see it but you will, Kevin. Soon the chinks and Japs will own us. That means that niggers like us will be pushed even further down.
“I was lucky when I got drafted at by the end of the war. I got sent over the England and didn’t see any fighting. But my brother and all my friends got sent off to fight the Japs. The Japs are the biggest motherfucking racists! They make the crackers down in Mississippi look nice. Even the Nazi Germans treated our people better than the Japs. In Seattle, I learned never to trust chinks. They will cheat you in a minute and when they deal with our people, they try to cheat us any more than white folks. I want nothing to do with the chinks and the Japs. But mark my words, the chinks and the Japs are going to take over the country and that means niggers are through!”
  I was stunned from what Grandfather Lewis spoke. He was so full of hatred and resentment against Asian people. I had never heard such vitriol from anyone that I had spoken with. It was a common lament in the 1980s that the Japanese were taking over the country economically. I had heard right wing talk radio bigots speak such hatred but never had I heard anyone talk as Grandfather Lewis did in private conversation. Black Americans and Asians did not get along in the U.S. I heard Grandmother Harriet and other Harlemites complain about all the Korean grocery store owners. In Black New York, Koreans were viewed as the number enemy and competitors with Black people.
  I had nothing against Asian people. I had a couple of close Korean friends at P.S. 87. I was friends with Bobby Chan at church. For me Asians were just like anyone else except for their physical features. At worst, I thought they were a bit arrogant and standoffish. I also thought they took school too seriously. My worst impression of Asians was that they were boring nerds. Since Bobby Chan was the only Asian I knew personally, most of my impressions of Chinese people were through that prism. I found that many male Asians seemed rather taciturn and remote. The girls were more outgoing but not all of them. However, I took it to be a simple matter of cultural and social upbringing and nothing so sweeping and generalizing. I certainly didn’t harbor any resentments or hatred as I had against Italians. I thought Italians were the worst enemy of Black people. Chris Napolitano, Al Pataglia and Bensonhurst proved beyond reasonable doubt that Italians were the mortal enemies of Blacks in New York. It was certainly not Asians!
  I wanted to change the subject. I was not comfortable with Grandfather Lewis’ anti-Asian racism. I asked him about his marriage to Grandmother Harriet.
“How did you meet Grandmother Harriet?”
“I met your grandmother after I get home from the war. There was a party for all the Harlem Vets at The Apollo. That’s how I met her. She was the prettiest girl in all of Harlem. What I liked most about your grandmother was that she was a real Yankee. She wasn’t one of those southern nigger bitches. I had had enough of southern nigger bitches! Whatever you do Kevin, never go out with a Southern nigger. The worst ones are from Georgia! I’m from Kansas City so I know how southern niggers are. That’s one of the reasons why I came to New York in the first place. Harriet was a fine woman! I was happy with her.”
“Why did you break up with her?”
“Well she broke up with me. I was too much of a ladies man for her. I guess you know all about that Kevin.”
“Is it true that you had a child with a white woman in Seattle?”
“Yes. I actually married her. We got married in California. Her name was Kathy. We have a daughter by the name of Jane. Kathy died in a car accident. It’s my own goddamn fault. I was drunk and got into an accident. She was with me and she died. I went to jail for that.”
“You went to jail!”
“Of course I did. I was with a white woman. I was driving drunk. She died. I lost my daughter Jane. The State took her away from me. I lost all rights to ever see her again.”
“How long were you in jail for?”
“For four years.”
“I lost everything Kevin. I lost two wives and all my daughters. There is nothing worse than being an old Black man. I have many regrets in life. The biggest was to lose Kathy. Goddamn liquor is what the white man uses to keep us and the Indians down, Kevin. Whatever you do, don’t become an alcoholic like me. However, what I don’t regret is marrying a white woman. Stay away from Black women, Kevin. Find yourself a nice white girl. They will love you and do anything for you. The will give you money and they will feed you. Black women are bitches. Your grandmother was the best Black woman I could find but even she could be evil and mean. Black women are just gold diggers. All they want is your money but they don’t give anything in return. You’re a handsome rich young man, Kevin. You will have no problem finding a young white woman to marry. But lemme give you a word of advice about white girls. Don’t go for the poor ones like the Irish and Italians. They’re no good. You’re going to college soon so you won’t have to worry about those. But find yourself a rich white girl and you will be alright.”
“Have you heard about Emily?”
“No. Who’s that?”
“She was my girlfriend for nearly 2 years. She was a white girl. My parents were against us being together, especially my mom. Everyone was against us being together.”
“Is that why you broke up?”
“No we didn’t break up. She committed suicide in the spring.”
“I still can’t get over it. She was the best girl!”
“Well Kevin, there are plenty of girls. You will find another one.”
“That’s the thing Grandfather, I don’t want another girlfriend. I want Emily back!” Tears started to fall from my face.
“I understand Kevin. You will get over her in due time just as I got over Kathy. Jail was good for me in many ways. I had to take a look at my life. I had lots of time to reflect on how I fucked up.”
“Did you have lots of problems being married to a white woman?”
“Sure I did but Seattle is the best city in the country for people like us. Outside of Seattle, we had lots of problems but generally, we didn’t face too many hassles. My wife faced more than I did. White men in Seattle are soft. Any Black man can win a fight against a white man in Seattle. So the white guys never said anything to me but they did insult Kathy a lot. Of course the folks that bitched the most were you-know-who.”
“You know who.”
“Other Blacks?”
“Black women. It was the other Black women that were the nastiest to me. Whenever a Black man goes with a white woman, they always complain and ask why they are not good enough. They aren’t good enough. If they were any good, I would’ve stayed with them!”
“What happened to your daughter?”
“She was put in foster care with another Black family. She’s grown up now. I saw her 20 years ago when she was 21. She’s a very nice girl. However, she hated me. She believes that I killed her mother. I tried to tell her the truth but the brainwashing from her foster parents and social workers prevented her from listening to me.”
“That sucks!”
“Ain’t it the truth!”
  We stood up and walked uptown through the park. We walked up to Castle Belvedere and looked at the Great Lawn.
“How long are you staying in New York” I asked.
“Don’t know. I’m looking for apartments but they’re all expensive. There’s not an apartment in Harlem that I can afford. The only cheap ones are dumps. I aint living in no Brooklyn or The Bronx. Shit, even the Y is expensive. What the hell is happening in New York? Everything is ten times more expensive than it used to be! I don’t want to go back West. I don’t know what I will do.” Grandfather Lewis paused as he took a sip of liquor. He continued. “What are you going to do, Kevin? What college do you plan to attend?”
“I don’t know. I want to move to England. I thought about going to Harvard but I’m not sure about that. I’m now thinking of going to college in Chicago.”
“Chicago! Why on earth would you go to Chicago?”
“I like Chicago! Anyway, I just want to get away from New York. I want to be on my own. I have too many bad memories of New York. But I will move to England eventually.”
“Chicago is a racist motherfucking city, Kevin! You don’t want to go there!”
“Really? I didn’t know Chicago was racist.”
“Oh yes it is Kevin. That city is one of the worst cities for Black people. Black folks in Chicago are no good. All of them are Southern. You don’t want to be around Southern niggers! If I were you, I would go to England. I have always wanted to go to England. I had an affair with an English girl years ago. She told me how there was no prejudice in England. You should go there.”
  It began to rain. We got soaked as we walked west and left the park. I walked Grandfather Lewis to the IRT subway station at 79th Street. We spoke at the turnstile while we waited for the train. I said goodbye to Grandfather Lewis. A couple of weeks went by and I didn’t hear from him. I called the Y to leave him a message. I was told he checked out. I never saw or heard from Grandfather Lewis again.

  In October, the Berlin Wall came down. All across Eastern Europe, the Communist regimes fell. Romania had a bloody uprising. The fall of Communism came as a surprise to everyone in the West. My father was stunned by the news. He wasn’t happy about it. I was excited about it. The world was changing. It seemed to be changing for the better, I thought. My father was of the opposite opinion.
“This is not good, Kevin.”
“Yes it is, Dad! It’s the end of dictatorship. The world is now free! We don’t have to worry about nuclear war anymore! We don’t have to worry about the Russians invading us.”
“Kevin, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes I do! The Berlin Wall was bad! It’s good that the Wall fell.”
“Kevin, Germany is going to be re-united. A re-united Germany will spell trouble for us in the future.”
“How is that possible?”
“Germany was broken up to prevent another war from occurring in Europe. You will see the return of the Nazis. Germany will attempt to take over Europe and the world again. With a weak Russia, Germany will not have any opposition.”
“I don’t think that will happen.”
“This is not the only problem. The other problem is that capitalism is no longer opposed. There is no more opposition to capitalism. This is not good.”
“What’s wrong with capitalism?”
“Son, capitalism produced slavery, inequality, colonialism, imperialism and war. Now that the only ideology opposed to capitalism has fallen, we will see more inequality in the coming decades.”
“Dad, I don’t understand what you mean. Communism wasn’t good. It kept people down and no had any freedom. Look how happy people are in Berlin!”
“They are happy now because they have democracy. Just wait until they realize what the capitalists have in store for them.”
“Dad, why are so unhappy? Everyone seems to be happy?”
“Kevin, Socialism was the only chance for the Black man. The fall of Socialism will set back Black liberation for decades if not centuries. We already see the end of Civil Rights here in America. In the next 10 years the Europeans will be back in Africa. I predict that within 30 years slavery will return.”
“Dad! What are you talking about? Slavery will not come back!”
“Yes it will. At first it will be clandestine but eventually it will be more and more accepted.”
“Already since 1973, there has been a stagnation of wages. What Reagan and your heroine Margaret Thatcher have started is to attack the wages of organized labor. In the coming decades, people will make less and less money but will have to work harder and harder. There is already slave labor in the Third World in the form of sweatshops. Eventually, we will see a return of sweatshops here in America. Of course, people will rise up, our people especially but by the time that occurs slavery will have returned. It won’t be the same type of slavery we had in the 19th century. We won’t be on plantations picking cotton. Most likely, we will be slaves producing machines. Instead of human overseers, there will be computers and robots that will ensure that we produce enough.”
“That’s terrible Dad!” I was traumatized.
“It is, Kevin. In 25 years, Communism will look like a nice system compared to what the future brings. I might not be alive to see it but you will.”
  My father was not the only one to divine the end of the world with the fall of Communism. King of the Woods decided to quit going to St. George’s Church in protest of the firing of Johnny Mime and the resignation of Tee Alexander. King of the Woods joined All Angel’s Episcopal Church on 81st between Broadway and West End. He picked All Angel’s because it was part of the “Low” church. I agreed to leave St. George’s as well.
  The first Sunday that I went to All Angel’s, I found it strange. The church was housed in an old prep school. The service itself was held in the gymnasium. The music was not as good as Johnny Mime’s. The Vicar was nice enough but he simply didn’t have the human touch which I had grown accustomed to with Tee Alexander. However, the sermon he gave about the fall of the Berlin Wall was provocative.
  The fall of the wall was a dangerous harbinger for a global dictatorship. Christians had to be more vigilant than ever. George HW Bush was pushing an agenda for a New World Order which was prophesized in the Book of Revelations. While many American Christians had believed that the USSR was the country of the Anti-Christ, the reality was that the US was the country of the coming Anti-Christ. The fall of communism was a sign from the Holy Spirit that the end times were near.
 It was a compelling sermon yet at the same time it scared me witless. After the service, many of the congregants went to a diner on Broadway for lunch. I sat with King of the Woods along with two adult members of the church. One of the men started the conversation by showing the other an advertisement he had cut out of the New York Times.
“Look what I found this morning.” He showed the man the advertisement. It was an ad promoting a new credit card.
One world, One card
The AT&T MasterCard Universal Card
A revolution in financial technology
With the AT&T Master Card Universal Card you can use public phones from any telephone in the world.
With our partnership with MasterCard you can use your phone card as a credit card.
One world is coming.
The second man looked at the ad and started to laugh. When it was given to King he imitated the laugh.
“Why are you laughing?” The first man asked King.
“Well it’s not funny. It’s serious actually. He’s laughing because he knows what I’m talking about. This ad confirms what I have been saying for years. We are heading towards a global technological dictatorship. This ad is a sign of the future. Eventually, there will be one universal card which will have multi-purposes. It will be first and foremost an identification card. Then it will be a financial and transaction card. It will be universal. Everyone will have to have a Universal Card. This is coming of the Beast and Anti-Christ.”
  I listened to the conversation. It crossed my mind to ask Emily her opinion about it until I realized that Emily was gone. Before I could restrain myself, I started crying and broke down in the restaurant. King and the two men asked if I were alright. I walked out of the restaurant.

  My isolation and depression returned in the latter half of October. Though I had King of the Woods and Shannon as friends, I felt profoundly lonely. Morrissey released the single “Ouija Board, Ouija Board”. The song touched me more than any other song hitherto. It was the most beautiful yet saddest song I ever heard. The song tells how a man loses his lover who dies. He attempts to communicate with her through the Ouija Board. One particular line seemed to refer directly to Emily.
“She has now gone from this planet/With all the carnivores and destructors on it.”
  I had no one to talk to. Though Shannon tried to cheer me up, I simply couldn’t talk to her. Edward Stephens and I had less and less to talk about. One Sunday after service at All Angel’s I talked to King in desperation.
“King, I have no reason to live. Ever since Emily died, I have come to realize that I have nothing to live for.”
“No King! I don’t have any friends!”
“You don’t get it, King. No one understands me. I cannot have a real intelligent conversation with anyone. Emily was the only person I could talk to.”
“Yes I know. That’s the thing, King. After Emily, no one seems to be smart. I used to think that my father was the smartest person until I hooked up with Emily. I go to Stuy which is supposed to be the smartest school in the city but there’s no one there that’s really intellectual. People laugh at me because I use big words. I simply don’t belong. I feel so lonely! I feel that no one really likes me!” I started to cry.
“I hate my life!”
  The mention of Jesus and religion turned me off. I ran away from King. I began to have conservations with Emily. I spent entire nights of insomnia having imaginary conversations with Emily. I would talk aloud. I would imagine some of the funny jokes Emily would say and burst out in laughter. One night my mother entered the room without knocking.
“Who are you talking you, Kevin?”
“I’m talking with Emily.”
My mother’s face froze when she realized that I was serious. In my creative writing class, I wrote a short story about my daily conversations with Emily who had returned from the dead to comfort me. My Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Appletree was deeply troubled from reading my essays but was fascinated by my writing style. I told Edward, Shannon and many others how I saw Emily every night and how we chatted. In one short story, I recounted how Emily and I would have sex with each other. I complained that the sex with her spirit was not as good as with the flesh for obvious reasons. In my short story, I explained how I would masturbate as Emily’s spirit would perform fellatio. I also complained in my stories how I missed ejaculating inside Emily’s mouth and vagina and how messier masturbation was compared to sex.
  It was clear that I was troubled. My parents and teachers began to worry about me. More than 6 months had elapsed since Emily’s death. Rather than heal and resume my life, I seemed to get worse. Ironically, I was breezing through my classes. Schoolwork had gotten so easy for me. This puzzled my parents and teachers. I was clearly mentally disturbed yet I was sailing through my courses. I took the S.A.T. for a second time and scored 1100. What should’ve have taken me 3 hours of homework to complete was completed within 30 minutes. I arrived directly home from school and had finished my homework by 5 o’clock. At first my mother became suspicious when she saw me watching TV. My father at first was aggressive about my homework. I would show him what I was assigned and how I had completed it all. My father was astonished. He even tested me. When he saw how I effortlessly answered the questions assigned for homework he was at a lost.
  My parents tried to talk to me about my feelings but I simply refused to communicate with them. I became an enigma to everyone. One night I wailed uncontrollably and my mother rushed to my room.
“Kevin baby! Baby what’s the matter? Please tell me! Please!”
After taking a few moments to collect myself I explained my grief and loneliness. I told my mother that I didn’t have any friends.
“What about King? He’s still your friend!”
“Oh for crying out loud! King? You’ve got to be kidding me! He’s the most worthless friend I have!”
“So what? He’s still a friend isn’t he?”
“No he’s not a friend because I have nothing in common with him. He doesn’t understand. He can’t understand. He is worse off than I am. He friendship is not worth having.”
“What about Mick?”
“Mick’s an idiot mom! He makes me so angry! He wrote me a stupid letter a couple of months ago from Princeton. He compared me to an airplane that couldn’t take off the ground. He told me the only way I could fly is to take the great leap of faith. I told him to take a long walk off a short cliff!”
“Boy,” My mother exclaimed. “You talk about your friends like dogs!”
“Mom, I miss Emily.” I started to cry once again. “I miss her so much.”
My mother sat next to me and put me into her arms and laid my head on her shoulder.
“I know you do, Kevin. I know that girl meant more to you than anything else.”
“It’s so screwed up, mom. Everything is just messed up!”
“I know it feels that way, baby. I know it feels that way but it won’t last forever.”
“Yes it will, mom! You don’t know what it’s like! This never happened to you. You didn’t lose dad. None of your boyfriends ever died. You don’t know anything how I feel. You never did! You never cared for my feelings for Emily. You went against my feelings. Why did you hurt my feelings, mom?”
My felt my mother’s body heave as she didn’t speak for a few moments.
“You were one of the reasons why Emily is dead, mom.” I continued. “Why were you so against Emily, mom?”
I felt the tears of my mother on my neck. She sniffed as she cleared her nostrils and her throat.
“I’m sorry baby! I really am sorry about that. I knew it would end in tragedy and that’s I tried to stop it. I failed in this too. God knows how much I failed! Oh believe me Kevin, if I could do this all over again, I would.”
“Why did you hurt our feelings?”
“Kevin, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just saw this happen and I didn’t think straight about it. You don’t know how upset it made me when I first knew about you two. I just saw the trouble and reacted. You are my child! I want to protect you! I wasn’t even thinking about any other feelings but fear. I’m sorry for hurting your feelings. If I knew then what I know now I would’ve done it different.”
“It wasn’t just you mom. It was almost everybody hurt our feelings. I am all alone now. Is that what everyone wanted? Did you all want me to be alone? Did you want me to be anti-social? Did you think that I would conform and go back to playing by the rules? What do I get for it? “I have no friends. I have no one to talk to. I have nothing to do. I’m unhappy. The only thing that I look forward to is college. The farther away I get from New York the happier I will be.”
“Oh you’ve thought about where you want to study?”
“Yes. I want to study either at University of Chicago or Northwestern. I want to go to Chicago.”
“What about Harvard?”
“I’m not interested.”
“Safety school.”
“Excuse me?”
“I’m applying to Columbia. I know through dad that I can get in. Besides, I’m a senior and High School is a breeze now. I’m sure to average 85 this year. Piece of cake. I don’t want to go to Columbia but I want to make sure that I can get into a college. If I don’t get accepted to the Chicago schools then I will go to Columbia.”
My mother was overjoyed! She hugged me and let out a wail of happiness.
“See things aren’t so bad aren’t they?”
“Yes they are. That’s why I want to go to Chicago.”
“What about your plans for England?”
“I’m still going to England but I will go once I’m in college.”
“I’m so relieved, Kevin! I was scared of what was happening to you. I wondered if you were going to make it through High School.”
I couldn’t share my mother’s enthusiasm. My moods were not uplifted in the least. I had made the decision out of desperation. Since I wasn’t ready for London, I had to set my sights closer. After my experience on the T in Boston, I didn’t get the good sense about Harvard. Besides, Boston was too close to New York. I had been to Chicago in 1982 and it left a favorable impression on me. If I had to leave New York, I had to relocate to a city of similar style or size. That was why London was my first choice. I thought about Boston because of metropolitan similarities such as rapid transit and high rise apartment buildings. I wanted to get out of Manhattan while having all the trappings of it. I refused to live in a small country town even when such towns tried to pretend to be big metropolis such as Atlanta or Cincinnati. Chicago fit the bill best. If I had to commute to school in the morning I would’ve rather done it on the Chicago El than on the IRT. I wanted different scenery with new faces and peoples but in a similar urban metropolitan situation. In other words, I wanted to relocate Manhattan to a different city. In London, I had fancied Emily and me commuting together on the red double Decker busses. If I had to take a bus to school, I would rather take the Route 11 in London rather than the M11 on Amsterdam Avenue. I wanted to have an independent life outside of New York but insisted that it had to be as much like Manhattan as possible.
  The real New York City itself had broken my heart and took Emily away from me. Hence I had to get away from New York City. I wanted to get away from my parents. I wanted to get away from high school. I was running a sprint to get away from adolescence. I wanted to start all over. I wanted to re-invent myself in a different city and a new country. The only way that I could achieve my goal was through college. I was prepared to start a new life completely alone and apart from everyone I had known. My mother had no idea that I intended never to see them again once I left for college.
“Kevin, what ever happened to David Goulash?” My mother suddenly asked.
“I don’t know.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“It’s been a long time.” I paused to reflect. “It’s been about a year.”
“You and he were the best of friends for a long time! Why don’t you call him up and go visit him? He’s someone that will cheer you up! I still think he’s foul mouthed and uncouth but he’s been your best friend for the longest time. You should go and see him!”

  “His mother isn’t home.” The doorman of 287 West End Avenue said rudely to me. He was an Italian man from Throgs Neck in The Bronx.
“I don’t care whether his mother is home or not, I care whether or not Dave is home.”
“Well his mother cares whether or not she’s home or not! She doesn’t like it when friends come by when she isn’t home!”
“Oh for crying out loud! He knows I’m coming! He’s expecting me! I called before and set it up!” I was beginning to lose my patience. This Guido asshole from The Bronx assumed that I was a messenger or delivery boy. Having experienced first hand the humiliation as a messenger I refused to submit to it on my time, in my neighborhood, at my best friend’s place! No sir, not at all!
“I’m just telling what his mother said!” The doorman put his hands and raised his shoulders as to suggest he had nothing to do with it and he was simply following orders. I wasn’t having it.
“Ah, excuse me. I’ve known David Goulash for close to ten years! We went to school together. I have come into this building hundreds of times. I know his mom. She knows me very well. I went to Dave’s Bar Mitzvah Party. Who are you? I’ve never seen you before! You’re new! Buzz David Goulash and tell him that Kevin Blake is here!”
  The doorman rolled his eyes at me and hesitantly connected with Goulash. Of course he had to let me in. I stepped inside the elevator. The building was built during the 1920s. After the shaky elevator at Waterside Plaza, 287 West End Avenue had the fastest residential elevator. It stood officially at 20 floors plus 2 Penthouse Floors which in turn had an additional two floors above them. Goulash lived in the 12th Floor. Most high rise buildings in New York did not have a declared 13th floor because of Puritan superstition. Most buildings higher than 12 floors skipped 13 to 14. 287 West End Avenue did not have a 13th Floor either. Instead, it had 12M or 12th Floor Mezzanine. The elevator accelerated quickly that one could feel the g forces. The brakes were applied a bit too harshly in my opinion but there was never any doubt of its security. Unlike 7 Waterside Plaza with its frayed elevator cables. I stepped out of the elevator to be greeted by someone I didn’t recognize standing in the doorway. At first, I thought it might have been Goulash’s half-brother. He had dark brown hair and eyes. He was rather muscular and bulky.
“Hey Kevin! What’s up man?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. “Is that you David?”
“Yes who the fuck else could it be!”
“You look different!”
“You don’t. Come in! Come in!”
  We entered into the apartment. It had the same odors that I had remembered. There was always the distinct odor of Boric Acid and Chlorine in the apartment. There was also the familiar scent of the house cat Fittings. The white and grey cat, according to Goulash received the name Fittings because he was first noticed to have lots of fits and continued to do so. Fittings was a dangerous cat. He would purr on your lap before suddenly having a fit tearing your clothes to shreds. The house felt much emptier. We went into Goulash’s room. It had changed. His bedroom was 200 square feet wide with 20 feet high ceiling. Half of the room was filled with exercise equipment. I could see that he got into body building. He had weights of all sizes and shapes. That part of the room used to be the video game center.
“What happened to all your video games?” I asked.
“That old wack shit! I threw that shit out 2 years ago. What the fuck am I going to do with an Atari 2600? They don’t even sell the cartridges any more. What suckers we were! First my mother got me Intel-I-Vision. That was the wackest of the wack!” Goulash sucked his teeth. “Fast Eddie! That was what so called “intelligent television” was all about! Fast Eddie! Then I told my mom that we had to get something else because that shit was wack! You always knew how to get your parents to give you the things you’ve wanted. My mother doesn’t listen to me and always buys whatever the salesmen tell her buy and she always has to haggle and try to get a discount and what not. But she always fucks up. Anyway, who plays video games anyway? I still play them at the arcades. I don’t like this Nintendo Game Boy shit. Video games are for kids!”
Goulash had many pornographic centerfolds pictures hanging upon his walls.
“Your mother lets you hang playboy pictures in your room!”
“Yes she does!” Goulash nodded his head in affirmative matter which he used to convey and indubitable truth.
“Damn! My mother would never allow that! A few months ago I started calling party lines just to see. I called one and had phone sex with a girl from LA. Anyway, when it came on the phone bill as an adult line, my mother got like my mother and you know how she is. Anyway, your mom is much more liberal than mine. Your mom lets you curse in front of her. She lets you have playboy pictures in your room. She’s cool!”
“You don’t know what my mom is really like, Kevin. Sure I can swear in front of her and hang up sex pictures. What’s wrong with those things? Swearing and sex isn’t shit, Kevin! But when it comes to the things that I really want, she always refuses. Your parents are morons for telling you that you can’t say shit and have pictures of sex. However, they give you more than my mom does.”
“How so?”
“My mom is very nervous. She’s always worried about money. She always uses the money excuse as the reason I cannot have what I want. I have to rely on my father for everything that I want. The pain in the ass about that is that I have to spend a few weeks with him up in Rockland County with his wife who stinks of super funk just so he can give me what I need and want. You have much more freedom than I do.”
Goulash offered me a drink and he returned with 7Up.
“So do you still have the Mustang, Kevin?” Goulash asked expectantly.
“No, I don’t.” I put my head down in embarrassment.
“What happened? That was a nice car!”
“Remember how the back was all fucked up when I took you for a drive?”
“Well it was still nice! It was luxurious inside! It seemed to run fine when we were in it!”
“Well anyway, the car’s generator died. It stalled on me. It got towed away and ended up in the scrap yard.”
“That’s too bad! That was a nice car!”
“The house seems empty. Is Debbie away at college?”
“Yes she is. She’s a junior up at SUNY Albany.”
“Cool! Do you know what school you want to go to?”
“I’m going to SUNY Buffalo. What about you?”
“I want to go to Northwestern or University of Chicago.”
“Wow! You want to go far!”
“As far as possible.”
“How far?”
“Very far.”
“How possible?”
“Not impossible.”
“Go for it!”
“So did you end up at Humanities?” I asked.
“Yes! It’s a cool school! If I had known about it before I would’ve applied directly from 8th grade. Are you still at Stuy?”
“Yes. I’m still there.”
“We’re fucking Seniors, man! We’re fucking Seniors! We’re about to be free of this shit!”
“Damn straight! Finally finished with all the lousy asshole teachers…”
“And teachers that are bitches.” Goulash interrupted. “You know who I saw last month?”
“Mrs. Weinbaum.”
“That old bitch is still alive!?”
Goulash nodded his head once again with unquestionable certainty. “Yes she is!”
“She was the worst fucking bitch! I hated her so fucking much!” I said with malice foaming from my mouth.
“Remember when she put me in the back row with all the bad boys?” Goulash recalled his bitterness.
“Remember how she came into the boy’s bathroom and we told her that she had no right to be there?”
“Remember how she would slam the door of the class very loud?”
“Do you remember how when she would start to space out her head would start to bobble?”
I started to imitate the head bobble our very old 3rd Grade teacher had. Goulash started imitating Mrs. Wenham’s head bobble.
“I went through some serious shit, Dave.” I changed the topic.
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Did I ever tell you about my girlfriend Emily?”
“No.” Goulash shook his head. “What about her?”
“Do you remember a girl back in Mrs. Weinbaum’s class named Emily Davis?”
“Oh shit! The name does sound familiar.”
“She was the girl that used to live on Riverside between 77th and 78th.”
“I don’t remember all that. Was she in our same 4th grade class?”
“No. She was only in our 3rd grade class. Then in mid-term she abruptly left school.”
“I don’t remember anything that you said.”
“Well anyway, in Sophomore year, she went to Stuy and was in my Math classes. We hooked up. But no one wanted us to be together?”
“Why not?”
“Because Emily was white.”
“So what?”
  I started to chortle for 5 seconds before I quickly regained my composure. “No one wanted us to be together. My parents did not want me to go out with her because she was white. All at Stuy people were against us.”
“But why? What business is it of theirs who you choose to go out with?”
“You know Goulash!” I spoke as tears welled up in my eyes. “You are the only friend I have that has said that to me. I was told that I shouldn’t date her for racial and religious reasons.”
“That’s fucking crazy!” Goulash exclaimed. He was in shock. Goulash often imitated his facial expressions of surprise and wonder as the characters from The Little Rascals.
 “Where the fuck do people think they are? We’re not in Alabama and we’re not in the 50s! Who told you this bullshit, Kevin?”
“My parents, my grandmother, my friends, kids at school. Everyone!”
“So what happened?”
I recounted the story of Emily. Goulash had never heard any story like it before.
“Was her father really in the KKK?”
“I don’t believe you!”
I punched Goulash in the chest. Whenever one of us accused the other of lying or making up a story which was serious, we would punch each other in the chest to settle the point.
“I’m not lying! You can ask my family if you don’t believe me.”
“Oh shit!”
I had extinguished remaining doubt with him when I recounted Emily’s testimony of being raped by her father and other men. Goulash put his arm around me shoulders to comfort me.
“How come you never told me any of this?” Goulash asked with concern tinged with resentment.
“I don’t know. I was afraid to tell you about her.”
“Why were you afraid?”
“I thought you might be like everyone else and say that she and I didn’t belong together.”
“What? You are such a stupid moron, Kevin! Did you think that I would ever say that you couldn’t go out with white girl? You don’t trust me?”
“Well, I was afraid that you would make fun of her.”
“What a fucking retard you are! If you had told me her story about Texas and asked me to keep cool, I would’ve done it! Do you think that I would want to fuck up your system? Fuck man! You are fucking set! I wish I were in your place! But I’m not jealous of you. Was she ugly?”
“Hell no! She was pretty!”
“Well then I wouldn’t have said anything. Now if you went out with an ugly bitch like Stephanie, I wouldn’t say anything in front of her but I would probably tell you confidentially that your girlfriend wasn’t kosher.”
“You are my best friend David!”
“Man, we have been best friends since elementary!”
“You know who I saw on M11 bus the other week?”
“Ashanti Ruckman!”
“That bitch!”
“Yes. She recognized me on the bus!”
“I remember that bitch! Remember the fight she and I had in 7th grade?”
“Dude that was the fight of the year!”
“She was the first and only girl that I ever got into a fistfight with!”
“I got into a few fistfights with her in 4th Grade.”
“That bitch liked to fight.” Goulash paused. “Super Dyke!”
“What the fuck happened to your looks?”
“Oh, the hair and eyes?”
“About a year ago my hair went from blonde to dark brown. My eyed turned dark too!”
“Yes you used to have light eyes.”
“Not anymore!”
“What happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“I went from looking like my mom to my father. I’m a Jew. I can’t pass anymore as a Gentile.”
“That’s weird how your hair and eyes can change color just like that.”
“It’s very common with Jewish people.”
“Yes. It doesn’t happen to all of us but it’s likely when a Jewish kid has blonde hair and blue eyes he will grow up to have dark hair and eyes.”
“Why is that?”
“So what was it like fucking Emily?”
“Out of this world! She gave the best blowjobs!”
“Did she swallow?”
“Of course she swallowed! What the fuck else is she supposed to so?”
“Well not all girls swallow you know.”
“Then they don’t suck cock.”
“Lots of girls that suck cock don’t swallow.”
“Then what the fuck do they do?”
“They spit it out.”
“Spit it out! Where?”
“Out of their mouth.”
“Where do they spit the sperm?”
“Some spit it back on.”
“Back on where?”
“Back on the dick.”
“No they don’t! That’s stupid!”
“Or they will spit on your stomach.”
“That’s wack! Emily never did that to me.”
“You’re lucky!”
“Do you have or did you have any girlfriends?”
“I had a couple but I’m not into having girlfriends. I just like to fuck. How many girls have you fucked, Kevin?”
“Take a guess how many girls I have fucked.”
“I would say four.”
Goulash shook his head smirking.
Goulash shook his head. “Higher!”
Goulash continued shaking his head “Higher.”
Goulash nodded his head.
“Ten.” I thought I would over-estimate.
“No!” Goulash shook his head.
“Are you saying you have fucked more than ten girls Dave?”
Goulash nodded his head as if he had won a bet.
“How many girls have you fucked?” I asked afraid of the answer.
“Twelve! You’ve fucked twelve girls already?”
Goulash nodded his head. He had hit the jackpot. Moreover, he left me in the dust. I had only two girls to my credit. He had ten more than I.
“Plus,” Goulash subsequently revealed that he matched the supplementary numbers of the lottery drawing as well. “Three more girls that only sucked my dick. So in total I have been with fifteen girls!”
My jaw dropped. “Fifteen girls! Where the Hell did you meet fifteen girls?”
“You remember how I started fucking in 7th Grade!”
“No, I don’t! I had no idea you were having sex since 7th Grade!”
“Yes you do. Remember how I used to be late for Science? When Mr. Fields asked me why I was always late, I said that I was fucking some girl.”
“Yes but I didn’t take it seriously! I thought you were just being funny! You say the craziest most fucked up things all the time. I thought you were joking!”
“No I wasn’t. You even asked why you never saw me at recess. After lunch when they let us out into the yard, I used to go with girls into the auditorium. I used to fuck them back stage in the dark.”
“You really did that?”
“Yes I did!” Goulash nodded his head affirmatively.
“You know I used the use the same excuse when I was late for class. Ms. Smalls our Social Studies teacher even yelled at me for copying your excuse. No one believed you! We all thought you were just being funny.”
“I know nobody believed. I tried to tell you but you never believed me.”
“Did you really fuck Georgia Emery?”
“Did you really fuck Sarah Patterson?”
“How many girls did you fuck at I.S. 44?”
“I fucked 5 girls at I.S. 44.”
“Georgia, Sarah and who else?”
“I fucked Natasha!”
“You fucked Natasha!”
“How could you fuck her, Dave? We used to snap about her all the time!”
“She could suck dick!”
“Get the fuck out of here!”
Goulash continued to nod his head. “Natasha sucks dick better than any other girl!”
My jaw dropped again. “Did she only suck you or did you fuck her too.”
“I fucked her the last time she sucked me. Her pussy was too hairy. I think she got pussy hair way before the other girls got theirs.”
“Who else did you fuck?”
“Oh I also fucked Kasey.”
“I’m not surprised. She wanted to fuck ever since 3rd Grade. We used to grab each others crotches.”
“Then I fucked Kim Booker.”
“You fucked Kim Booker! You mean that you’ve actually fucked a Black girl?”
“Yes of course I did!”
“She was Ashanti’s cousin. She was a real bitch!”
“Yeah but she’s not a dyke like her cousin. Kim even told me that Ashanti was a dyke.”
“Oh shit!”
Goulash continued to nod his head. “Kim was the best girl I fucked. She used to beg me to dick her ass.”
Goulash nodded his head. “Yes she did! She was the only girl I ever fucked in the ass. Her ass felt good too!”
  Over the years Goulash blew my mind about many things but at this moment Goulash revealed to me his greatest wisdom. I always admired Goulash because he was a wise guy. He always knew more about the hidden mature realities of life than any of person my age that I knew. Goulash always liked to talk about sex just like the rest of the boys but he was more than talk. He was actually doing it.
  I went over to his record and tape collection. He listened exclusively to Heavy Metal. He had lots of tapes from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer, Guns N Roses, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper. He didn’t have a single record or tape in the New Wave genre. Our musical tastes were the opposite.
“I see you are really into Metal.”
“Yeah, I like Metal.”
“Why do you like Metal?”
“I like hard rock. I like to head bang. I like the message.”
“I can’t get into Heavy Metal myself.”
“What do you listen to?”
“I listen to New Wave music.”
“That’s cool! Who are your favorite bands?”
“I like Depeche Mode, Morrissey, The Smiths, The Cure and Pet Shop Boys.”
“Oh so you like the British fag music.”
“No I don’t!” I replied shocked and indignant.
“Yes you do.”
“Bullshit, I don’t listen to fag music.”
“Kevin, all those bands that you mentioned are faggots.”
“What? That’s bullshit Dave!”
“No it’s not. Depeche Mode are faggots. Everyone knows that Depeche Mode is a fag band. The same with the Pet Shop Boys.”
“The Pet Shop Boys aren’t faggots.”
“Yes they are!” Goulash nodded his head. “I read it about not too long ago.”
“Are you sure, Dave?”
“Yes I am. All of those British New Wave acts are faggots. There was an article about it in Rolling Stone. All those bands come from the gay underground in Britain. Soft Cell, Boy George, and especially Frankie Goes To Hollywood. You didn’t know that?”
I shook my head in shock and embarrassment. Was it really true that most of the music that I liked and listen to came from homosexuals? I couldn’t imagine it. More shocking was that Depeche Mode and The Cure were the two bands which I had my first sexual encounters with Jen Lowe and then with Emily. I had associated those two bands with sexually with the first two girls of my life.
“Well, I’m not a faggot!” I said defensively.
“Obviously not but the music you like comes from faggots. There are lots of faggots every where.”
“Of course there are. Lots of them are in music. I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of Metal singers were faggots either.”
“That’s fucked up!”
“It’s true. I hope I didn’t offend you by telling you that Depeche Mode are faggots.”
“You didn’t offend me, I am just shocked.”
“You shouldn’t be. They’re every where. Look at Koch, he’s a faggot!”
“Oh do you think Dinkins will get elected?”
“I hope so. It’s cool if we got a Black mayor. My mother works for his campaign.”
“She does. In fact, she is helping to run the campaign for this district. I’m really excited about Dinkins! There’s too much prejudice in the city and I think that a Black Mayor will make it go away.”
“I think so too. What do you think about Bush?”
“George Bush bites the dust!” Goulash said with disgusted bitterness. “You know he’s responsible for Crack!”
“What do you mean?”
“Bush was the head of the CIA. Those motherfuckers make all the drugs. Now he is using Crack to entrap people.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you hear about the Crack arrests in the park across the street from the White House?”
“I heard something vaguely about it.”
“The DEA set up an entrapment scam. The DEA put Crack vials on the park benches then arrested a bunch of people who picked it up.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The set these people up. Of course if you leave a Crack vial on a park bench somebody’s going to pick it up! Even I did it once. A few years ago I picked up a crack vial I found on a bench in Riverside Park and pick. I didn’t smoke it or anything. I picked it up because I wanted to see what someone left. This is what happened in Washington. The DEA intentionally left Crack on the benches just to bust people that touched it. That’s entrapment!”
“That’s fucked up!”
“Then Bush has the nerve to go on TV and say how mad he is about people being able to find Crack across the street from the White House when the motherfucker put it there himself!”
“I hate Bush!”
“Bush can Suck My DICK!” Goulash said with maximum emphasis.
“I don’t know who’s worse, Reagan or Bush!”
“Reagan is the top asshole!”
“Do you remember the 80 election and the Oscar Myer song we had for Reagan?”
Goulash and I sang in unison: “The baloney has a first name/It’s R-o-n-a ld/The baloney has a second/It’s R-e-a-g a n/Ronald-Reagan-has-a-way-of- fuck-ing-up-the-U-S-A!”
“You know Dave,” I began with emotion swelling from within. “You are the best friend I ever had. You have always been there for me ever since 3rd grade. Whenever, I had a problem with my parents, you were there. Whenever, I felt sad or lonely, you always cheered me up and hung out with me. Ever since we separated after 8th Grade, I haven’t found any friends as good as you. Emily was cool but we fucked each other and whatnot. But you are the only friend that I have on the same wave length. It’s really cool to see you again.”
“Thanks, Kevin! I’m sorry to hear about Emily. It really sucks what happened with her. But Kevin, I need to thank you too!”
“Thank me for what?”
“Kevin, you were the coolest kid in elementary and middle school. You were the only one who wasn’t afraid of me. You were the only one that had the guts to disobey. You always fought the teachers. You were never afraid of them. Even after your parents grounded you, you always kept fighting the teachers. I used to admire your guts. You have it made, Kevin!”
“Why do you think so?”
“You still live with your parents. Your mom and dad are still together. My parents are divorced. You don’t have any brothers or sisters so you get everything you want! You got into Stuy! You’re going to Chicago! You always get what you want. I admire you! With you, I realize that anything is possible. My mom tells me how the world is limited. I always talk about you when I fight with her. My mom always says that we can’t do things because of what she calls the world’s limits. I always tell her about what you do to prove that she is wrong.”
“I think you are much better off than I am, Dave!”
“Bullshit! Your father gave you his Mustang! You were 16 with a Mustang, Kevin! My father still drives his 1981 Datsun. After your father gave you the Mustang, I asked my dad if he would give me his Datsun. He laughed at me. He told me that only way, I would ever get a car would be if I bought my own! You get everything you want. I don’t know how you do it, but as I always tell my mom; ‘Kevin Blake takes the world’s limits and breaks them all the time!’”
  The two of us looked at each other. How much had changed since 1986! We were both young adults who grew up and played together in the neighborhood. Goulash and I took different paths and directions. It was unlikely that we would ever return to the closeness we shared until June 1986, but we were both the products of the same time and space. I looked at Goulash and saw the embodiment of every value I shared. We were brothers. We weren’t related by blood but rather through the cement, pavement, and glass of the West 70s of Manhattan. We were brothers through the insults and punches we exchanged with one another. We grew up in the rough and tumble public schools on 77th and 78th Streets. Both of our families instilled in us the same liberal political ideas and values. The Black kid and the Jewish kid though each from a different from race and religion were the same in almost every other respect.
  I took my leave from Goulash. I felt better than I had at any time in years. We hugged each other only for the second time in our decade long friendship. I took the elevator down feeling myself once again. Ever since Emily, I had been starved for substantial conversation. I had been starved of laughter. I realized that though I had still resided on the Upper West Side, how far I had been away from any Upper West Siders in my social life. Emily, though a native of Riverside Drive, had been burnt and branded by Texas. It was only Goulash who was the original Upper West Side native in my life. I stepped out of the elevator and rolled my eyes at the doorman Guido from Throgs Neck. He returned my glare with hostility. I gave him the finger as I kept walking along at a leisurely pace without giving him a second glance.

  The Monday before Election Day I sat in Mr. Appletree’s class. Just as he did when I had him Sophomore year for American Lit, he continued to digress about current events during the Creative Writing class I took with him. We had a discussion about racism and the coming mayoral election.
“In all the years living in New York,” Mr. Appletree began. “Not the 25 years in which I have taught in the schools of this city, have I witnessed the levels of racial tension and violence as in the past 3 years. How much times have changed from the 60s when I first began to teach! In the 60s when I asked my students what they wanted to do with their lives, most of them said that they wanted to sing, play music and hang out in the park. Around 1985, when I asked my students the same question, most have stated they wanted to make lots of money to become rich. Now you may ask what wanting to get rich and racism have to do with one another.” Mr. Appletree paused and adjusted his reading glasses over the bridge of his nose.
“I will tell you what I think. The cash rush of this decade has created too much competition which leads to rivalry which in turn produces hatred. When you are told that your schoolmates, co-workers and neighbors are competitors in the rush for money and that you must gain and retain as much as you own, you then produce a society which has lost its civilization.
“The paradox is the substance of reality of course. There are many successful and high achieving Blacks. Koch is often blamed for contributing to racism but he appointed Benjamin Ward as the first Black Police Commissioner of New York! Koch took a very white organization, the NYPD, and put a Black man at the top. Many whites felt insulted when Koch appointed Ben Ward as Police Commissioner. The main problem with the police is that New York City doesn’t require its employees to live within the five boroughs of the city. For many whites in the areas of the city where the police actually do live, they felt their livelihood to be jeopardized. Yes Danny?” Mr. Appletree yielded to Danny Schutzer.
“The problem was that there were lots of qualified people that should’ve gotten the job. Ben Ward didn’t deserve the job. He got it only because he was Black.” Danny stated.
“You are very ignorant Danny.” Mr. Appletree countered with a resigned arrogance. “I have never said that to any of my students before. I’ve had a fair share of ignorant students but I’m really sorry Danny. It’s unfortunate that you are the first student that I’ve openly declared to be ignorant. Ben Ward was most certainly qualified to Police Commissioner. If he weren’t qualified he would have not been appointed. The truth of the matter is that whites had enjoyed an exclusive monopoly within a public department in a city which is more than half non-white. This is no longer acceptable.
“This is my point. The pursuit of wealth and status has created the mentality which the students of my classes have.” Mr. Appletree’s face looked gravely at Danny Schutzer. “As the masses race to the top, certain people will reach the peaks only to fight to remain on top. The culture has decided that accumulation of personal wealth and obtaining the status of millionaire is the social and political priority. I have many critiques which I shall not elaborate upon. It is only right to expect Blacks, Hispanics and Asians to compete as well.
White people have enjoyed their privileges for so long that they resort to prejudice to preserve them.”
“Well this is a racist country.” Byron Jones from Washington Heights said. He was the other Black student in Creative Writing. “America and South Africa are the same. Other countries do not have the racial problems we have. I don’t think Canada, for example, has any racial problems.”
Mr. Appletree took off his glasses and stated: “Canada is a racist county which hides behind immigration.”
The pronouncement shocked the room. The notion that Canada could be racist was beyond comprehension to most New Yorkers.
“How is Canada racist?” Byron Jones asked.
“I will tell you a story.” Mr. Appletree got into a lecture posture. “Starting in the 50’s many West Indians emigrated to Canada. Most of them migrated to Toronto but all over the country. By the 70’s there was a government investigation and report into the increased crime rate. The report concluded that Jamaicans mostly and by extension all West Indians were exclusively responsible for the crime rate. The report suggested the only way to reduce crime was to stop the immigration of West Indians. Canada singled out Black people to be the cause of crime and then prevented many more from settling there.”
The students were shocked into silence until I raised my hand to speak.
“I know that Canada is racist. My grandmother is white from Montreal. She had my father with a Black man. That was illegal back in the 40s in Canada.”
The entire class had its attention fixed on me. Danny Schutzer looked out of his mind. His mind strained as his body squirmed.
“And there you have it!” Mr. Appletree said as he gestured to me with his hands. “I didn’t know there were miscegenation laws in Canada. That’s very interesting! Canada is a racist country that also hides its history as well I see.
“Tomorrow is Election Day. We have two choices. We have David Dinkins, the Manhattan Borough President. He seems to be an honest and competent politician. Then we have Rudy Giuliani. He has a track record as U.S. Attorney prosecuting corruption in government and business. Dinkins has run on the campaign of racial healing, Giuliani on a campaign on good governance. I think both are equally strong candidates. My only concern about Giuliani is that he doesn’t seem to consider the racial tension and violence in the city. I cannot discern whether he’s a racist or not. I think that racial healing should be the priority of the next mayor of the city. Frankly, I am not sure if a white politician is capable of bringing about racial healing. I believe that this can only be done with a Black man. So I believe that I will vote for Dinkins.” Mr. Appletree stared out the window facing south towards the Lower East Side. His gaze drifted as he reflected philosophically for a few moments as he twirled his spectacles within his fingers.
  The following day all public school students had the day off. The atmosphere in the city was one of excited anticipation. The polls showed Dinkins and Giuliani neck and neck with Dinkins always leading. I wished that I was one year older so that I could have cast my vote. My father voted during the afternoon. My mother came home forty-five minutes later than usual as she went to vote directly after she left work. During dinner, we discussed our expectations for the election.
“Dinkins is not going to win the election.” My mother stated pessimistically.
“Yes he will, mom! Why don’t you think Dinkins will win?”
“A Black man will never be voted mayor in New York!”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because New York is racist! White people in this city will never vote for a Black man!”
“That’s not true, mom! Goulash’s mother is voting for Dinkins. My Creative Writing teacher also says he will vote for Dinkins and he’s white!”
“I don’t know about all that but I know that most white people in New York will not for Dinkins.”
“You might be right about that Barbara.” My father joined the conversation. “But Blacks and Puerto Ricans will vote for Dinkins. We are the majority of the city. We are not minorities in New York. The whites are the minority. Between Blacks and Puerto Ricans, we have enough votes to put Dinkins over the top.”
“But you know that niggers don’t vote, Harold! That’s the problem with our people. Our people got beat up and killed for the right to vote but most Black folks don’t vote! I’m from Harlem. I bet you most of the niggers up there don’t even know there’s an election today. Niggers are lazy. Most of the men in Harlem are standing on the corner getting drunk or high not even thinking about Dinkins! Niggers don’t even have enough sense to go out and vote!”
“I tell you Mom, Dinkins is going to win the election. Besides New York is a Democrat town. A Republican can’t win in New York City. There has never been a real Republican candidate. Remember Frank Barbaro? I don’t even think he got 10% of the vote in ’81. Who was the Republican candidate in the last election?” I asked looking at both of my parents.
“Kevin’s right, Barbara!” My father answered. “I don’t even think the Republicans ran a candidate in the last election. That race was between Koch and Bellamy. Remember? We voted Bellamy and she was a Democrat even though she lost the Primary to Koch. Who was the last Republican mayor?”
“I think that was Lindsey.” My mother replied.
“You’re right! He wasn’t even really a Republican. He was a liberal wasn’t he?”
“But Harold, you don’t know white people in New York! White people will vote Republican before they let a nigger become mayor!” My mother’s skepticism remained.
  We watched the election results on WCBS 2. The 1989 municipal election was unlike any previous election. The New York City government had been re-organized. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that New York City had an unconstitutional government. The Board of Estimate had been eliminated. The office of City Council President had been abolished and was to be replaced by the office of the Public Advocate. The New York City Council was to have its power as an equal legislative body returned as a check to the executive power of the Mayor. The office of the Mayor was to have more power than it had previous under the old city charter. In this election, the new City Charter was to be approved by voters as well.
  The results came in. Ruth Messenger was easily elected Manhattan Borough President succeeding David Dinkins. Mark Green easily won the office of Public Advocate. The new City Charter was approved. The Democrats won all but 3 seats in the City Council. The Democrats took four out of five Borough Presidencies. Staten Island was the only Borough to give the Republican Party an overwhelming majority. The Mayor had yet to be decided. It was too close to call. Dinkins has a 1% lead which seemed to shrink with each priecent reporting. It was an exciting race to watch. After midnight, Dinkins was declared the winner by 0.5%. It was the narrowest margin of victory in any Mayoral race in the history of New York City. Dinkins won! New York had a Black mayor! We cheered and celebrated. It was the first election of my life with ended with positive results. After the debilitating and demoralizing victories of Reagan and Bush, there was finally an election worth celebrating. I almost called Emily until I remembered that I couldn’t. That was the only downside to an otherwise perfect evening. Emily would’ve been so happy to see Dinkins elected.
Oh Emily! Emily! Why could you not have had more patience? If you had only hung on for another 8 months! You would’ve have lived to see a Black mayor! Oh Emily! Why did you give up so soon? We won Emily! We won Emily! We won!

  Needless to say, I savored the Dinkins victory no less than every other Black person in New York. I really rubbed it in the face of Danny Schutzer. One year after Bush’s Presidential election, it was now my turn to gloat and have bragging rights. Moreover, it was a very painful humiliation for Danny. His racist President might have reined supreme down in Washington but Danny lived in New York. He was now under the authority of a Black man! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Liberalism wasn’t dead. At least it wasn’t dead in New York. I teased Danny for weeks about it.
“So what are you doing to do now Danny boy? I guess you are going to have to move to Jersey with all the other racist whites!” I punctuated each statement with nasty chuckles.
“So Danny boy! I guess the white race is no longer superior in New York! I guess you will have to go to college in Texas. Why don’t you apply to Texas A&M? Do you know what Texas A&M stands for? No it doesn’t stand for Agriculture and Medicine. No, it stands for Texas Assholes and Morons! That’s where you belong Danny. In Texas Asshole and Moron College so can be with the other superior white Bush voting Republicans!” I roared with laughter.
  Danny of course never replied. He just gave me sour expressions. I thought about Chris Napolitano, Dennis O’Connor and Al Pataglia. I knew that Dinkins was their worst nightmare come true. If only they were still at Stuy! Oh boy! Oh boy! I would’ve had a field day with them! In fact, if Al Pataglia were still at Stuy, I would’ve walked up to him the next day after the election and slapped the shit out of him. Then after school, I would’ve kicked his ass. I would’ve kicked his ass from Stuy all the way back to Corona.
  I was happy. In my eyes, the only thing which kept the world from perfection was of course Emily’s absence. Other than that, I could not have asked for anything else. I was a senior. I was applying to college. New York had a Black mayor. All the racist whites in New York had to eat humble pie. I really felt that Dinkins’ election victory was the vindication of Emily and me. After all the taunts and opposition we had endured with which she ultimately paid for with her own life, we were vindicated. All the racists in the city had been defeated politically. Moreover, for the first time since the beginning of the 80s, I felt really proud to be Black. The collective feeling of pride and assertiveness was shared by all Blacks in the city. The Puerto Ricans shared our enthusiasm too. For the Puerto Ricans, Dinkins was their mayor as well. The non-white majority in New York felt a political, social and cultural empowerment that hitherto was unknown. New York was our city.
  My focus turned on to university applications. I had decided to apply to the following universities: Columbia, Northwestern, University of Chicago and Friends World College. Friends World College was my safety school. My mother discovered it. It was located out on Long Island. I would live on the dormitory but I would still be close enough to the city to stay with my parents on weekends. Moreover, Friends World College curriculum included two mandatory years of studying abroad. Indeed, Friends World College had an exchange program with the University of London. However, I didn’t want to spend only one year in London. I wanted to spend the rest of my life there. Moreover, I wanted to get as far away from New York as possible. Still, I knew that I could easily get into the college.
  My father insisted that I apply to Columbia of course. My heart was set on Chicago and hence the reason why I applied to two universities there. I almost applied to Loyola until I discovered it was Catholic. That was out of the question. I discovered that Depew was also Catholic. Northwestern and University of Chicago were the only two universities in Chicago I could apply to.
  Most of my classmates found the application process trying because of the essays one was required to write. Essay writing was always a piece of cake for me. It took me about no more than two hours to write each essay. The application fees varied from school to school. Friends World College had a $25 application fee. The $50 application fee for Columbia was waived for me. Northwestern and University of Chicago were $50 each. My mother swore and grunted about having to pay $125 for application fees. This led to the first serious discussion about finances I had with my family.
“Son,” my father began. “We need to talk about money and college. The main reason why we wanted you to go to Columbia was to save money. As I told you many times before, your tuition would be only half. You would qualify for financial aid and loans. We figured that you would stay at home and would continue to eat with us. We had calculated that we would have to pay about one quarter of the tuition. We assumed that without the additional costs of room and board, we would be able to cover your four years. We even calculated that we could save on carfare. I would drive you to school and back. During the warm months, we figured that you would walk to and from school.
“Your mother and I had laid out your life up until graduation. We made an error in that regard. We assumed that you would listen and obey us. But life turns out differently. When you started talking about going to Harvard in 6th grade, we assumed that you would change your mind after we convinced you of the advantages of going to Columbia. We assumed that you would want to stay home and live with us. But you are an individual. You have your own mind. You have your own wishes and desires. That is your right.”
“Kevin baby,” my mother joined. “We tried our best to make you happy. We want to tell you that we tried our very best. As soon as I was pregnant with you, we decided that we were going to give you the very best. Your father and I decided that we would have only one child because two or more kids are too expensive. I also know that parents tend to favor one child over the other which is not right. We also knew that we could not afford to put two kids through college.
“We gave you everything, Kevin. Isn’t true that you got what ever you wanted for Christmas and your birthday?”
“Yes.” I nodded my head.
“What ever you asked for we gave it to you, Kevin.”
“I know mom.”
“We always just wanted the very best for you Kevin. We wanted you to have the best education because it’s the only way a Black man can survive in the world. We wanted to make sure that you went to school and lived among whites so that you would get used to them and know how to deal with them. Lots of boys in Harlem don’t know how to act with white people because they don’t have any exposure to them. That’s why we moved to the Upper West Side.
“I’m so sorry that you are unhappy with us, Kevin. We love you a lot. I don’t know what happened after you started high school. You seemed so much happier before you started high school. You were a hard headed hellion but you were always laughing and playing around. We were afraid that you weren’t serious about anything. We were worried if you were serious about life or about your future. Then you went to Stuyvesant and you changed. You changed in 9th grade. I noticed the change even before you met Emily. You seemed unhappy. You stopped laughing. You became more withdrawn. You became so serious. With Emily you became a different person. For me at least, it seemed as if resented us. I know we were against Emily but your reaction towards us was of hatred! We felt that you hated us! We couldn’t figure out why. Just because we didn’t approve of you being with a white girl didn’t seem to be enough to hate us.
“I thought that you were on the right track. You were going to Stuyvesant. You started going to church. One would think that everything was going right. Wrong! It was since you started going to church and going to Stuyvesant that things seemed to be going wrong. Grandmother Harriet was right. She told us not to worry about you when you were at IS 44. We were really worried about you. We thought you were going to turn into a hoodlum and drop out of school. We didn’t think you would make it to college. We were so relived when you started Stuyvesant. I was so overjoyed that you went to church.
“Though I thought FOCUS was too much money, you seemed to enjoy those trips but every time you came home, you had such a nasty attitude! You seemed to resent us! What did we do to you?”
  I just stared at my mother. What could I say? How could I tell her that I was had been a happy person until I started high school? How could I explain to her how the reality of society made me terribly depressed and miserable? How many times would I have to explain how she and my father did everything to wreck the last happiness I had with Emily in my life? How could they understand that I needed to get away from them, the city and the country in order to find my peace and happiness? It was useless to explain for it would be incomprehensible for them.
“Once you turned 18 and graduated from high school,” my father rejoined. “We would give you all the freedom you would want. There would be no more curfews. You could stay out as long as you wanted. You could come and go as you please. We would only ask you to do some chores. Even at college, we would not be on your case and checking your homework.”
“Would I be able to bring girls home?” I asked looking at my mother.
“Well that is something I would have to think about.” My mother replied rolling her eyes.
“Anyway son,” my father continued. “You have decided that you want to be on your own. As a male, I can understand. A boy needs to go out on his own early to know how to survive in the world. It would be much easier for us for you to stay home but that’s something you don’t want. Before you were born your mother and I saved up for your college fund. We wanted to set aside $500 a year for you. In 1971, the cost of college was much cheaper than it is now. We figured that by the time you went to college the most tuition would cost be $5000 a year. Today, Columbia costs $20,000. Even at half price that was twice what we had expected to pay. We saved $10,000 for your college expenses. If you go to Columbia, that would only cover 2 years of your education. You want to live and study in Chicago. The money that we saved would not cover one year of your study.
“We need to talk about how we can pay for this. Now your mother and I only have a combined salary of $55,000 a year.”
“That’s a lot of money!”
“It’s not as much as you think it is. You don’t know how much it costs to live. We are not poor but we are not rich. We are lower middle class. Your mother only makes $25,000 a year and I only make $30,000. I am only an associate professor. I do not have tenure and I am on contract. At the same time, we have to see how much money you get through financial aid. We are in an uptight position. Because of Reagan and the Republicans we find ourselves too rich for poor and too poor for rich.”
“You will get financial aid but you may not get as much as you need because of our salary. By the same token, we cannot afford to pay all the costs of college. That is why it would be better if you went to Columbia or even to Friends World College. In my opinion, that would be the best school for you. You will have your space during the week. It would cost you only $5 to take the train home. Even better, you would spend 2 years abroad. Moreover, it’s really cheap. It’s even cheaper than Columbia. Can I ask you why you want to live in Chicago?”
“Because I like Chicago! You remember I much I fell in love with that city when we went to visit in 1982. I like Chicago because it’s a lot like New York. I want to live in a different city.”
“You know that Chicago is a very racist city son.”
“You said the same about Boston.”
“Yes Boston is also very racist as well.”
“But New York is racist too, Dad. In fact, the entire country is racist.”
“You’re right about that son but here you know the city. You know which areas not to go into. You have family and friends here. I worry that you will face racism at college and you will feel very isolated. I have talked to all of my Black students. Some of them transferred from other colleges because of racism. I know that SUNY upstate is racist. I don’t want you to find your self living with a bunch of racist white people and feeling desperate.”
“Well Stuy is pretty racist from what I know. If I can handle racism in New York, I don’t think it will be that much different any place else.”
“Yes Kevin but you will find out that many white kids from the Midwest will not be comfortable around you.”
“I know this Dad. This is why that I want to move to England.”
“You still want to go to England?” My mother asked.
“Yes, of course!”
“I thought that you only wanted to go to England with Emily. I didn’t think you were still interested in going.” My mother replied.
“Emily’s death simply made my resolve to move to England greater.”
“Why son? Why do you want to move away from us?”
“Because I want to go out in the world and do something by myself. I want to do things on my own. I want to travel and see the world. I’m not an idiot. I cannot join the military. I want to be free of control away from New York and eventually from the US. I want to get as far away as possible. I want to forget about New York. I’m done with America. I know that things are different in other countries. I want to go to England because I want to break into the music scene. I don’t want to go to London. I mean that I want to see London but I want to live in Manchester. The best music in the world comes from Manchester. I want to be a musician. I want to sing and play synthesizers. I could never do that here in America. It’s only possible in Britain.
“I don’t like New York anymore. New York sucks! Everything is so old and dirty here! I’m bored here. Every time I come back to the city when I’m away, I like it less and less. It’s the attitude. Everyone has an attitude problem. Everyone wants to stick their nose in your business. I always feel attacked and put down in New York. Every one has a stupid opinion about things which don’t concern this personally. I remember when I first saw it. It was back at the end of 2nd Grade back in 80. The M11 and M7 buses had bulletins from Channel 2 News. The signs said: ‘If it concerns you it concerns us.’ It made me mad! My concerns are not theirs! It’s my business! That’s how it is in New York. I got that ever since high school.”
I then shifted into a mocking whine of my personal experiences.
‘Kevin, why do you go out with a white girl?’ ‘Why don’t you comb your hair?’ ‘You are not a good Christian, Kevin!’ ‘You are going to Hell, Kevin!” “You are a white boy, Kevin!’
“I’m tired of it. It makes me sick! It makes me feel depressed. It makes me think that I do not belong. I don’t belong in this country. I can be myself and live in peace here. I want to go to Chicago because it’s far away enough from New York. It’s enough and similar to the city that I can deal. Moreover, it’s less than a 2 hour flight from New York. Flights leave twice an hour. I’m only 3 hours away. Who knows? Maybe I will like Chicago better and decide not to leave America. Right now, I just want to get away from New York. I’m depressed and unhappy here. I need a break. I need to get away for a couple of years. The best way to do that is to go to college in Chicago.”
  I concluded my monolog. My parents had the most astonished expressions upon their faces. It was the first time I had spoken to them as equals. I was also able to articulate my feelings and thoughts to them in a mature and sound manner. It was the first adult conversation that I had with my parents. They realized it at once. They went into the shock that all parents inevitably go through, the moment that their child turns into a young mature adult. My father finally replied.
“Then we will support you all the way. I want you to know that you will always be able to transfer to Columbia if you need to. We will support your decision to go to Chicago if you make it. If you make it but decide you don’t like the college or city, then you can always come home and finish your degree here. I’m proud of you, son!”

  Just before the Christmas Hanukkah break Shannon asked me what my plans were New Year’s was. I told her that I didn’t have any plans at all. She promised that she would call me on New Year’s Eve to find a good place to party. Shannon had become my only friend not only in school but in my life as well. Though I had quite a few acquaintances, I didn’t feel that I had any friends. Goulash and I still had a friendship but we had grown apart. Shannon, on the other hand, was someone who grew close to me.
  Every day after school, we would go to the Pizzeria on Ave. A and 7th street.  For a dollar a slice it was the best deal in Manhattan. Shannon had always insisted to pay for my slice. We sat there having conversations about school and our personal impressions. After pizza we would always take the F train from the 1st Avenue entrance of the Second Avenue Station of the F line. Shannon worked after school in the East 50ies and always took the F line to Lexington Avenue. I would take the F train to 14th Street, where I would walk the underground corridor between the 6th and 7th Avenue lines. By 1989, it had mostly gotten under control and during the day it was still relatively safe to walk through. Shannon had replaced Edward as Stephens as my commuting partner.
  On New Years Eve at 6 o’clock Shannon called me.
“Hey Kevin! Did you make any plans for tonight?”
“No Shannon. What are you doing?”
“I was planning on going to Downtown Beirut tonight.”
I didn’t answer for a few minutes because I was shocked. I finally answered.
“Why do you want to go to Beirut?
“Because it’s the best free punk bar in Manhattan to party in.”
“Yes but didn’t you say that you wanted to go to Beirut?”
“Yes, I did. I’ve already told you so!” Shannon spoke getting annoyed.
“But then you said that you wanted to party in Manhattan!” I replied very confused.
“Yes! What’s the matter with you? Do you have a hearing problem or what?”
“I’m just confused!”
“About what?”
“You said that you wanted to go to Beirut and then you say that you want to go to Manhattan. How do you plan to manage that?”
“What the fuck don’t you understand?!” Shannon raised her voice.
“How can you go to Lebanon and then go to Manhattan within the same night?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Shannon sounded deeply upset.
“I mean you said that you wanted to go to the capital of Lebanon.”
“What the fuck are you on?”
“What do you mean?”
“What the fuck have you been smoking or taking? You sound fucked up!”
“I’m not fucked up! You said you wanted to go to Beirut and then said that it’s the best party in Manhattan. Beirut is in Lebanon. It’s not in New York!”
“You are as high as a kite, Kevin!” Shannon burst out in hysterical laughter. “Downtown Beirut is the name of a bar in the East Village. It has nothing to do with Lebanon. It’s just the name of the bar.”
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I said with a sudden clarity. “I didn’t understand you at first.”
“I thin you’re high and not telling me.”
“I don’t do drugs! I’ve never done drugs. I would never do drugs!” I shouted with indignation.
“It’s ok, Kevin. I’m not going to rat you out or anything. I just hope you bring some with you.”
“I have told you that I don’t do drugs!” I was getting angry. “I’m not going to do anything!”
“You are so weird, Kevin” Shannon chuckled. “Any way, I was thinking of going there around eleven. Before then I thought I would go to Marz Bar. It has nothing to do with the planet Mars. It’s just the name of the bar.”
“We can’t go to a bar!” I shouted with surprise.
“Why not?”
“Because we are not 21! They are not going to let us in!”
“Bullshit! They will let us in. I’ve been there many times. They serve me and they never ask for my ID.”
“Yes man! This is New York. They never check ID in New York. The law is bullshit. No one obeys it.”
“Oh ok.”
“So do you want to meet me at Marz Bar around 8 o’clock?”
“Do you know where it is?”
“It’s on the corner of 1st and 2nd.”
“First and second?” I asked getting more confused.
“Do you mean First Avenue and 2nd or do you mean Second Avenue and 1st?”
“I mean First Street and Second Avenue. It’s at the 2nd Avenue stop on the F train, what we take everyday from school. Instead of getting out on First Avenue where we always get on, get off at the back of the train on the opposite end of the platform. That’s 2nd Avenue. The bar is on the same block on 2nd Avenue from the train. It on the next corner one block up.”
“Ok. I understand. I will meet you there at Eight o’clock.” I replied and hung up the phone.
  When my parents asked me what my plans were, I only told them that I was meeting Shannon. When they asked me where, I told them that she was taking me a party in the East Village. My parents said that would leave the chain off the door in case I got back late. They didn’t ask nor seem to be concerned about when I would return. I went out into the night.
  New Year’s Eve is always bitterly cold in New York. I can never recall there ever being a mild or pleasant weather during New Year’s Eve. I bundled up in my overcoat with scarf and a black aviator’s hat with synthetic flaps of fur to protect my ears. I had no problem finding the bar from the subway.

  There were about seven people standing outside the bar on 1st Street. I had never encountered people such as them before. Many of them were ten years older than I in their late 20s. They neither dressed punk nor New Wave. They certainly weren’t Goths. They were dressed in rugged style but clean and alternative. It was the first time that I had ever seen so many people wearing black denim. The men and women has hard and serious yet quite focused eyes. They seemed to enjoy themselves but yet I could perceive that they were just as alienated as I was.
  When I stepped inside the Marz Bar, I balked. The bar was not very big. There was perhaps 3 feet between the entrance and the barstools. The ceiling was oppressively low. The bar was longer than it was wider. It was packed and jammed with people. Tobacco and marijuana smoke created thick smog. The volume of the bar excelled in human loudness than the acoustics of the space would allow. In addition, there was a juke box playing music which could barely be heard.
  The humanity stunned me. I had never seen so many people who were completely excluded from society. The people that whom I would encounter on the street or subway and describe them as winos and weirdos. There was an extremely short black man with an afro. He appeared to be mute or deaf but made sounds of happiness and forthcoming personality all the time. He drank a glass of ice water. He sat on the stool at the first seat on the counter row. Then I saw a woman speaking with a German accent to another woman with a Lower East Side accent. They were the same age and despite coming from two different countries seemed to mirror each other. As I scanned further towards the rear, was simply a messy mob of people. I couldn’t fathom how I would be able to cope or fit into the bar.
  It was rowdy and boisterous. It was the first time I ever experienced lots of drunken people. Prior, I had seen some drunken fans at Shea and Yankee stadiums but they were sober compared to the patrons of Marz Bar. I had seen the occasional alcoholic here and there. But never had I seen such large volume of hard liquor consumed at once.
  I was forced to move in a particular direction as patrons wanted to enter or I leave. Standing still would impede their progress. I immediately scanned the interior of the bar looking for Shannon. I was tapped on my shoulder. I turned around. A white woman wished me happy new year. I was astonished. I had never seen a woman as drunk as she. I was terribly embarrassed. She sat on a stool next to the door in front of the 1st Street window of the bar. I scanned around to the 2nd Avenue windows and saw all the faces of people standing and sitting. I scanned the rear of the bar but couldn’t make out Shannon. I felt my nerves give in. The scene was too hectic and tense for me. I didn’t believe I could negotiate that. I couldn’t see Shannon. I made up my mind to go home right away. I quickly made my exit from the bar and made a mad dash to the subway. Just then I heard a shout.
“Hey Kevin! Where the fuck are you going?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. I turned around. Shannon had just crossed 2nd Avenue from the east side. I looked helplessly at her.
“What the fuck? Are you still high? Why are you running away like a cat out of the bar?” Shannon approached me.
“I didn’t see you. So I thought you weren’t coming.” I said feeling utterly foolish.
“You were trying to stand me up. I busted you.”
  I felt increasing embarrassment. Shannon came up to me with an amused smile. She wore combat boots with black denim trousers. She wore a leather jacket on top. She came up to me and stopped. You looked at me clock eyed and said: “You are so weird, Kevin. I believe you when you say that you don’t take drugs but you sure act like you do.”
  I rolled my eyes at Shannon. “Why do you say like I act as if I’m on drugs?”
“You are flighty and absent minded. You have surges of moods and they change all the time. You’re cute!”
“Have you been to that bar before?”
“Yes many times!”
“Is it safe? It seems a bit crazy in there.”
“Because that’s exactly the point! All the crazies go there! It’s one of the best bars in the city! What’s the matter? You can’t take it?” Shannon cracked a smile.
“I don’t know. If you can deal with it, I will try it.”
“You were just trying to stand me up. You can be an asshole. I caught you on it.”
  We entered the Marz Bar. I followed Shannon toward the rear. It was an obstacle course of bodies, chairs, legs, knees, shoulders until there was a spot which one could crate a minimum border of personal space. Getting past the juke box was most difficult. There were about a half dozen people attempting to put their money in and make their selections. The deeper in we went, the less I could breath clearly. It was about 40 degrees hotter and more humid inside than outside.
“What do you want to drink?” Shannon asked loudly in my ear.
“A coke.” I replied.
“Bullshit. Why aren’t you drinking? Are you driving?”
“So then why the fuck are you getting coke?”
“Well, I don’t know what else to get.”
“I’m going to get you a Corona. It’s the cheapest beer and it’s good.”
“I’ve never had beer before.”
“You’ve never had beer?”
Shannon ordered two beers for us. When she handed me back the bottle, I was a bit unsettled by it. The yellow color of the fluid made me think of urine. The bottle reminded of me the tubes that I had to urinate in when I went to the doctor. Moreover, when I saw the slice of lime which had been stuffed in the bottle’s neck, I was further confused and disoriented. I had never conceived of limes with beer. When I thought of limes, I thought of juice. Juice, as far as I knew, was non-alcoholic because children were allowed to drink it. I was under the impression that there was a clear line of demarcation between alcoholic from non-alcoholic beverages. I never thought they could mix.
Shannon held up her glass to toast. “It’s the end of the 80s, Kevin! Cheers to that!”
I clanked my bottle with hers. Shannon took a large sip. I hesitated before I took a much smaller sip. I liked the combination with the lime and beer. It tasted sweet. I examined the bottle and read that it came from Mexico.
“What do you think?” Shannon looked at me.
“Not bad.”
“You really are straight. You’re the only friend of mine who doesn’t drink or smoke. I’m been drinking since I was 16. I started drinking one year ago.”
“Do you get drunk a lot?”
“Sometimes. I’m going to get drunk tonight. Then I drink moderately just to get a buzz.”
“I was drunk only once.”
“I was 15. It happened the same time I had sex for the first time.”
“You are such a bullshiter, Kevin!”
“You got drunk earlier than I did. So this is not the first time you’re drinking. Why are you trying to pretend that you don’t know what’s going on?”
“That was the last time I got drunk. I’m telling you the truth!”
“What did you drink?”
“Bartles and James wine cooler.”
“That’s so wack!” Shannon guffawed. “You got drunk off that shit?”
“Well it was my first time. The girl that I had sex with offered it to me first. I didn’t know that I was going to drink.”
“So you really haven’t drunk since then?”
“Emily didn’t drink?”
“Hell no! We never drank.”
“Did she ever do drugs?”
  I was deeply offended by the question. It stirred a low rage within me. My mood quickly changed to confrontation.
“How dare you say that Emily was on drugs!” I raised my voice. “Fuck you!”
“Man, what the fuck!” Shannon was taken aback by my reaction.
“What do you know about Emily? Every one always made things up about her? My family said she was crazy. Now you say that she was on drugs. What the fuck do you know about it?”
“Man, what the fuck! Chill the fuck out, man! I never said she was on drugs!”
“Yes you did?”
“No I didn’t. I just asked if she did. I never said she was. I don’t know. That is why I asked. I heard many things about Emily at school. There were many different accounts of how she died. I never asked you because I didn’t want to upset you. I’m sorry that I asked. I am really sorry. You’re right. I don’t know shit about Emily or you either. I was just asking. I won’t mention Emily or drugs again!”
I felt a flash of anger. I swore under my breath but then I felt somewhat more relieved. I realized that many people were having the same type of conversation that I was having with Shannon. Many people were yelling and shouting at each other. I started to feel very at ease though I was not particularly comfortable. I took two gulps of Corona. I slammed the bottle on the counter.
“Where is your boyfriend?” I asked.
“He’s going to some club on Steinway Street. I don’t want to be in Queens on New Years. I want to be in Manhattan where the actions act!”
“Strange that you and your boyfriend are spending New Year’s apart.”
“Not really. We are close but we do live separate lives.”
“How long have you been going out?”
“Since two years.”
“Is he from Woodside?”
“No he’s from Lefrak City.”
“Where’s that?”
“It on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park. It’s an apartment complex.”
“I’ve never been there.”
“It’s not very nice. It used to be nice but then it turned into a slum. There’s a joke in Queens about it. Instead of Lefrak, it’s Left Back City.”
I guffawed as my body convulsed from laughter.
“It’s the first time, I have ever heard you laugh. It’s also the first time that I have ever seen you smile. I told you it would be good to drink beer!” Shannon said with a smile and a soft brightness in her eyes.
“Do you live one or both of your parents?” I asked
“I live with my mother and my step-father.”
“How is that?”
“It’s cool?”
“Do you get along with your step-father?”
“He’s all right. I’m not really too close to him. I see him only as my mother’s husband rather than a step father. You know what I mean?”
“I do. Step relatives have negative connotations.”
“What do you mean?” Shannon took her few gulps keeping her eyes fixed with mine.
“When I think of step when it comes to relatives, I think step aside.”
“You are so crazy!” Shannon squealed with shock and laughter.
“You know what I mean?” I then went into an act. “Ah, step aside please.” I shook my negative in the negative. “Please, step aside. Sir, you need to step aside. That’s all good but you must still….step aside.”
Shannon keeled over and hooted with delight. I continued.
“That’s what I mean. So when it comes to having a step parent, it doesn’t count. It’s just a step aside. ‘Well you are not really my mother. You are my step-mother. I just think that I’ll step aside from you. Please step aside away from me’.”
“You are crazy!” Shannon shrieked at me. “You come up with the most fucked up things.”
“If I do because it’s because things are generally fucked up.”
I finished my beer. Shannon ordered another beer for me. I wanted to pay.
“No, Kevin. This is your first night of drinking. It’s on me!”
“It’s better than I can pay.” I insisted.
“No, it’s only one dollar. I got twenty dollars. We can drink 10 beers each. Relax. We will have a couple of more beers here than we will head over to Downtown Beirut.”

 Around ten o’clock we went to Downtown Beirut located on First Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets. There were an iron graffiti canopy above the entrance showing an oversized propeller plan circling the world. The bouncer inside the door didn’t check our ids. He was just there to make sure the place didn’t get overcrowded or too out of hand. Loud contemporary punk blasted over the speakers. The bar was crowded but much less subdued than Marz Bar. Though the music was loud and the bar crowded, I felt more at ease. At this point I had drunk 3 bottles of beer. I was feeling the alcohol but I was still in control of my senses and motions.
  Shannon went to the bar. Suddenly, I heard a crashing and imposing electric guitar over the speaker. About a quarter of late teen age males shouted with rage and happiness at once. The bass line which felt like a heavy cable conspired with the electrified drums to produce a rhythm of force. During the first pause of the song is a voice which denounces pigs in a racist society. Then came a roar from the singer and the young males in the bar. A supersonic high speed aggressive charging beat roared out of the speakers. The young males in the bar when into a frenzy and began slamming into one another. The music took over my mind and body. My body turned into a mass of convulsing and twitching movement. My body and head twisted and expanded to limit of my capabilities. The entire sound wave sped up and went into sharp zig zags saying “Inside, out side which side you don’t know. / My side, their side, your side no one knows.”
The music built to crescendo before breaking with a voice stating: “We’re going to rip this motherfuker off. We’re going to tear this motherfucker down.” The initial stanza starts again before another pause which issues the following warning: “I hope you realize this is your last goddamn chance. Kill him! Kill! Kill!” A supersonic drum roll, a shout and the raging sound raced out of the speakers. My body shook out of control. I was swept up into the frenzy that many people stared at me. When the song ended. I was exhausted, overheated and dizzy. Shannon appeared with two large glasses of red colored beer. She looked at me with an open mouth.
“Holy fuck, Kevin! How did you do that to your body? You are crazy!” She handed me a glass. “This is different from the other beer. It’s a red and tan. You’ll like it. It will be enough for you to drink until midnight.
  I watched the people dance. There were many people hanging around the pool table. The crowd here had an edge but not the strange down and outcasts just off the Bowery. I liked the music played. It was harder than anything I had heard before yet it was neither punk nor heavy metal as it had a prominent electronic song. “Biting My Nails” by Renegade Soundwave played. That song had gotten heavy rotation of WDRE radio.
  Ten minutes before midnight, every one was given a small glass of Champaign. It was my first alcohol New Year’s. Shannon then order shots of Tequila. She handed me the shot glass and spoke.
“It’s over Kevin! The 80s are over! It’s now the 90s! Forget about all the bad shit that happened in the past!
As Shannon I spoke, I thought about Emily. Emily’s death was the focal point of 1989. Everything that 1989 was centered with Emily. I grieved for her. I chortled but held back the tears. I couldn’t forget Emily. I could not push her out of my life. I could not make her go away from my heart and mind.  The 80s was a horrendous decade. It began with the election of Ronald Reagan and ended with death of Emily. I remember 1981, 82, 83 and 86 fondly. However, the years between erased all surpluses positives. The 1980s were wretched. It was a cruel hoax. It was golden and popular but died in tragedy. I turned towards Shannon.
“Can you give me a hug?” I asked.
Shannon and I put are arms around each other and caressed. He embraced for 10 minutes. I drank the shot of tequila. It was 1990.

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