At the end of the school year Sonia along with the entire eighth grade class of 1981 would graduate and go off to high school. For Sonia high school would be Cathedral Prep in the Bronx. But even before that, we would break up, our relationship spanning no more than a couple of months, the break up itself taking place sometime around March or April. Our time together was nothing more than a flare up, a gnawing curiosity like a sickness among teenagers
that fills them with intrigue and sets them off in search of someone they can team up with to test the waters of adulthood.
Sonia and I had done that: holing up in the stairwell of the building where she lived (which as irony would have it was located at Franklin Plaza,putting me in enemy territory whenever I went over) and making out. Sometimes her parents, who didn't like me because I was Puerto Rican, were both at work-Sonia's mother at a hospital somewhere in Queens where she was a nurse, and her father being the fucking ogre he was with me, probably worked beneath a bridge somewhere for all I cared.
During those times Greg and I would go over for a dual make out session with her and Tara. The four of us would break off in to pairs and make out in every room of that apartment, except the living room. Wendy would always be there watching television, and maintaining an unwavering faithfulness for some guy she was dating at St.Cecilia, one of our rival schools and the school most of the kids from Franklin Plaza went to. I would always admire that about her.
Things went on that way for the next couple of months. And on occasion, when I had to walk Sonia home, I would drag my kid sister along. Then, as our interest in each other faded, and increased in other people, (mine with Lisa, and Sonia's with a classmate of mine named Joey) we drifted apart. It was Sonia who actually put an end to things, suggesting that we both see other people, doing just that with Joey the second it was over. None of it really bothered me though. Between being preoccupied with Lisa, and harboring my own doubts about love, from puppy love to the mythological one and only true love, I wasn't really in a hurry to start dating anyone else, although there were a few girls in my class who liked me, one of them being Marie Torres, a tall, lanky girl with long brown hair who blossomed in to a long legged beauty in high school, the kind that was always taking some guys breath away whenever he looked at her.
But there was always Lisa,and the possibility of us getting together luring me in. However things between us moved slowly, our introduction to one another becoming a sort of awkward dance with neither one of us knowing the next move.
While I was busy trying to figure out where that dance was leading to, there were other things brewing inside of me, deep unresolved issues that would stay that way, aspects of my personality that would be held back by fear and distrust, forever to be kept from reaching a resolution. Already at fourteen I was weary of everything. I had seen too much at an early age and dreaded seeing anymore, but the veil between the ignorance of youth and the onslaught of reality was being lifted.
Throughout the whole time, from thirteen to twenty, I felt like I was waking from a deep sleep, the curtains that had been drawn to hold back the reality of my situation and help secure my ignorance were now parting, the thin partition opening up and revealing the world for what it really was a little at a time, all of it cast in dark skies. Becoming an adult after witnessing them in action made me reluctant about becoming one myself and joining in on the illusion of independence, the one that has us thinking that in order to make strides in life we need to take hold of life's reigns, those reigns turning out to be nothing more than just enough rope to hang yourself.
Even in the midst of a bad childhood-courtesy of my father-there were still moments when I could feel hope, the shallowness of life's water where we enter as children to steady ourselves never threatening to overtake me. Once I turned ten and went through the rest of my life in double digits, I developed a sinking feeling those same shallow waters were becoming quick sand as I reached adulthood. I didn't want to grow up, not because it meant growing old and eventually dying, but because it meant growing further and further from the beginning, the awe and wonderment that once allowed life to shine even during the worst of times, with the end being a point in life where everything is not final, but routine.
Then there was the matter of who I was going be as I got older. Two people had created me and both of them were nestled deep inside of me, the combination of all their characteristics starting to develop in to a cumulative effect. Because I hated my father, I hated myself for having his blood inside me, his influence running through me like a slow acting poison.
Because I loved my mother, I loved myself enough to give myself the benefit of the doubt, but that wasn't enough to erase the fact that there were two warring factions existing inside me, and both were amassing troops along the border of my soul.
After seeing how my four oldest sisters turned out, I was worried about my own blossoming in to adulthood. Would it be actual growth, my body and mind filling out, or would it be a hardening of my father's resolve, a refusal to break away from the influence he had sprinkled on all of us like arsenic. My oldest sister had proven it to be the latter by becoming a weird combination of my mother's kind heart and my father's addiction resting alongside of each other like as if both those qualities had reached a truce with a provision that had them agreeing to never bring up what was going on. My second oldest sister took my father's emotional detachment and put actual miles to it, moving to another state with her marine core husband who she later divorced once she was able to get around on her own. That miserable bitch turned any contact with our family in to a memory.
My third oldest sister, who has since passed away-a death that wouldn't come when we needed it: at birth-took my father's addiction and turned it into our worst nightmare, coming at us(my mother and I, along with the kids she abandoned)with a ferocity that my father himself would fear.
Our time with her felt more like surviving a tremendous storm(my father)and facing the apocalypse. My forth oldest sister Lorraine, who would spend her whole life rallying against our father's influence would also fall, investing her time in a series of losers like my father, giving him a sufficient number of heirs apparent. My kid sister simply grew up to be a bitch who I pray will one day find herself in a relationship with a man like my father. So what would I become? Would I become an awful mixture of both my parents like my oldest sister, the forces of good and evil nesting comfortably beside each other under the provision that they both look the other way. Or would I be a complete abomination like my second and third oldest sisters whose twisted evolution would keep the memory of our father alive long after he was dead,an occurrence that should have taken place the same time we needed my third oldest sister to die:at birth.
Or maybe I would simply fall victim to his influence like my fourth oldest sister, forever trying to close the lid on Pandora's box once it was open. At 43 I now know what I became, existing within the kindhearted nature of my mother where disappointment always seemed to set up. Of course a small part of me will always belong to my father, his influence like some ugly bruise for me to bear. When my kindhearted nature fails to set up the proper defenses against all those who took advantage of it, my father's influence rises like a cobra coiled and ready to strike. It takes all my strength and patience to subdue it, to cast it back into the lull where it lies. Luckily for me-with luck in the wretched life of a lonely heart being nothing happening rather than something happening-I never got married and had kids.
If that had happened I probably would have existed in the type of marriage my parents had:a Mexican standoff complete with guns drawn, my wife and I ready to square off at any given moment the way my mother and father did for thirty five years. And in a Mexican standoff you learn to do everything with your guns drawn. You cook, clean, and raise kids with your finger on the trigger of a leveled weapon, ready to take aim at each other's faults.
Thankfully,being disillusioned at an early age let all the air out of that possibility and anything else that implied happily ever after. But back then, in 1981, I was a fourteen year old boy with all these thoughts swirling around inside of me. I spent the tail end of that school year dizzy, with my mind trapped on a carousel that only allowed my to go around in doubt. It was a miracle I even managed to keep tabs on Lisa the way that I did, and by April, two or three weeks after I broke up with Sonia all the stolen glances I was hoarding became full blown stares,with my eyes no longer skimming the sight of her, but trolling it, a net I would cast every time I saw her. And while I would like to say that she was hooked the moment our eyes connected, the truth is I was both stunned the first time I saw her staring back at me, and surprised that we were actually exchanging looks during lunch and whenever we lined up in the morning for class. During those moments whenever our eyes met,it seemed as if we had reached an unspoken agreement to reconvene at a later date. As it turns out that later date would be the following semester in September when I entered eighth grade and Lisa entered seventh. I simply had to survive the summer.