With the insincerity of that peaceful time lasting all throughout seventh and
eighth grade, I would go on to break the main rule that would always guide me to the same results in life, that rule being: Expect the worse. The worse of course wouldn't occur until I got to high school when I would attend Aviation in Queens, and find myself a mere guppy swimming upstream to the safety of
calmer waters while being in a shark tank for four years. But with things starting to feel like it was taking its natural course, I let my guard down in what I would later conceive to be the proverbial calm before the storm, and that calm was wonderful.
Thirteen years of growing up in a collective psychosis and you learn to appreciate even the slightest bit of normalcy, like stepping out of a raging storm and into steady drizzle, while it hasn't quite stopped, you're grateful for some of it letting up. Somehow I felt as if I had arrived in the promised land when I got to St. Ann's. Struggles became struggles, hardships that I could crawl out from under.
Of course with my
life being what it was; a curse handed down from one generation to the next, and that curse being forged in three things: misery, irony, and tragedy, the powers that be(circumstance and fate)were cooking up other things on
the home front with my third oldest sister's growing addiction, and my father's
never ending club foot affect on our family getting worse by the second.
No matter. I learned early on in life that you had to take what you can get and
run with it, which is exactly what I did. To a starving man like myself who had gotten very little of the small comforts in life, a couple of crumbs tasted like a loaf of bread to me. I was relishing every one of those scraps that fate and circumstance had allowed to fall from life's table.
Seventh and eighth
grade became my summer of 69, my time in Eden, that special moment in life when things worked in your favor, doors closing so that others might open, a time never to be forgotten. If there is a heaven-and I really hope there isn't because it still wouldn't be enough to appease me for all the shit that I've been through-but if there is it better equal that time in my life. God had finally taken notice of my suffering and smiled on my wretched existence(Thanks Big Guy). But even during an upswing, I kept my eye on Lisa, chronicling her comings and goings in quick glances, snatches of time sent in shivers to a captive heart that were all stolen and hoarded.
All those glances allowed me to make quick and hurried assessments of her, crosschecking and referencing each sighting and passing with past ones to define any patterns in her behavior. Every glance was like me scribbling down notes on Lisa, and tucking them away deep in the recesses of my mind where I analyzed things about her: how she acted around her friends and when she was alone.
Among friends she was still secure about herself, that confidence that drew me to her on the first day of school beaming in everything she did, from walking in a slow steady stride, to making conversation with the always growing number of girls in her class that were drawn to her. There was nothing vain or demeaning about her. When one of her friends spoke, Lisa was more than happy to hang back and blend in with the crowd while the girl spoke, graciously allowing the other girl to have the spotlight that would always return to Lisa when her friend was done.
All the other girls in her class seemed to hold her in high regard, waiting for her to arrive in the morning to get their day started, and coming together for one last frolic at the end of the school day when they would gather around a few feet away from St Ann's for a gab fest before they all went their separate ways and headed home. Like me, Lisa had also been entrusted with the care of a younger sister named Erica who,unlike my kid sister seemed to gladly follow Lisa's lead, drinking in her every word as a lesson in life. To say that she was well liked would be an inaccuracy. Lisa was appreciated by everyone of the girls in her sixth grade class and beginning to be sought out by the boys in her class whose raging hormones sent them racing to her with whatever it was they thought was a cool line.
More then once,when one of those pimpled Romeos tried to get in good with her, Lisa would feign a small smile, hanging it on those puckered lips, before placing a hand on their shoulder for comfort,
helping to brace them as she let them down easy.
Sonia on the other hand,had a social situation that went in the opposite direction of Lisa's. With her being in the upper echelon of the social circle, I managed to get a first hand look at how women had just about as much loyalty to each other as men had for one another or for women. Sonia and her small group of friends(three total)existed as a small subset of eighth grade girls who were thought of as a threat by the larger and more popular group of girls that were led by a perpetual bitch named Daisy, a beautiful, and natural (as far as I could tell without going South of the border) blonde who demanded that her subjects be loyal, and her competition be banished at least to another lunch table with St. Ann's being a small school.
Despite not ever knowing her full name (not even to this day) the words bitch and slut were always enough to let anyone know who was the topic of conversation when it came to Daisy, the attention hoarding beauty who lorded over almost everyone in the eighth grade with a well manicured iron fist.
To Sonia and her friends Tara-who came to blows with a friend of Daisy's from public school during the second week of school-and Wendy-a chubby girl with a beautiful face that made you forget about her body, along with all the girls in the seventh grade, Daisy was always thought of and mentioned as that bitch. First name-that-last name- bitch. Sightings of her by those who hated her were always spat out in angry words.
“Here comes that bitch! Fucking slut!”
Whether or not she was a slut, Daisy was a mean spiteful cunt whose beauty was more like the thorns on a rose. Calling her a bitch would only be offensive to female dogs everywhere. Even I quickly grew to hate her after she sent two of her former suitors to hassle me because I was dating Sonia her biggest rival. The two erections she siced on me, Elliot and Bernardo, were both idiots taking orders under the assumption that they might get another crack at whatever tasty morsel of flesh Daisy dangled in front of them with the chance of letting them touch it.
Even though Elliot and Bernardo were two of the more popular boys in eighth grade,vsex with Daisy or anyone at that point was still a long ways off, but groping and fingering was more than enough of a promise to get them to hassle me for dating Sonia. Their efforts were the usual trash talking technique that I had encountered at St. Lucy's from better bullies who didn't need anything dangled in front of them to do you harm.
After a couple of attempts those two morons found out that I lived on East 100th street, one of the many blights marring East Harlem along with 110th street,and 125th street,the common belief among most of the residents in East Harlem being that everything bad about the neighborhood: drugs, violence, and more drugs-got its start in one of those areas, a belief that was entirely true. Those three areas were and always will be deep pockets of criminal activity, the worst of East Harlem rooted deeply in those places. Living in a bad area automatically gave me bad ass status with Elliot and Bernardo who lived in nearby Franklin Plaza on 106th street, a sort of reservation for working class minorities who had enough money to get by and not have to struggle like everyone else in East Harlem,but who didn't have enough money to make the down payment on a house.
Franklin Plaza was just a step up from the housing projects and that's because it was cleaner with an entrance that was locked. Coming from a bad area and having no one at St Ann's who was capable of figuring me out yet gave me the upper hand with Elliot and Bernardo. With the element of misconception being stronger than the element of surprise, I met their taunts with angry glares that froze them in their tracks.
After a while,those two jerk offs went back to maintaining their erections for Daisy and the large number of girls who flocked around her, each one basking in her glow and hoping to snag one of the many guys she turned down.