Following the break up most of my friends and family suggested that I not think about dating right away, that I needed time to focus on myself. In hindsight, they were probably right. I was and still am processing my feelings about my marriage. I was mostly underemployed as I was grabbing whatever freelance work available while trying to find a regular job that paid anything worth walking out the door for, and I still had a son who needed daddy’s attention.
I was roughly two years old when Etan Patz disappeared, making me a member of what I believe was the last generation of truly independent children. Even while growing up in the Bronx during the crack epidemic and the violence that ensued, the children on my block were encouraged (and sometimes forced) to play outside. We played classic street games like freeze tag, Red Rover and taps, and invented some of our own, such as Hot Peas and Butter. In the summers, my friends and I would venture the mile or so walk to the local elementary school for free lunch. No one looked for us as long as we got home before the street lights came on. Etan was still an aberration even as missing children began to appear on milk cartons.
Man’s ultimate goal and desire, understood or not, is a discernible legacy. To be known, to leave an impact on this earth. More than our children reminiscing about our lives, we want the friend and ultimately the stranger to know of and revel in our existence. The potter’s field is our nightmare; Doe the surname of a life not lived.
For a long time, I hated Nina Simone. For me, her voice was a portent of sadness. If upon coming home from school I heard her music as I walked up the stairs to our house I knew what kind of day it had been. My mother would either be locked in her bedroom or defiantly sitting in the living room smoking a cigarette amid the aftermath. My mother almost religiously wore a wig except in those moments. Looking back, I believe that it was a part of her baring her soul. It was a statement to my father. Look at the thing you hurt. See the soul that you bruised. Broken glass, flowerpots, and whatever else was unfortunate enough to have been in the way of another argument strewn about her feet.
The stroller was sizable enough. A red three wheeled faux jogger with a long canopy that obscured the child underneath except for her feet. I grabbed the front wheel as (grand)mom held the handlebar and walked up the stairs with me at the bottom. We trudged up the stairs in syncopated step with her thanking me all along the way. I look at Cole and he has a face that resembles the constipated look that comes with observing the absurd.
Overall, at its core, Soundview had a rhythm, a formula, that was fairly different from what you hear of most inner-city neighborhoods. There were understandings and deals that kept the neighborhood from spinning out of control. It was something unspoken yet understood to those who lived and worked in the neighborhood and it kept the innocents from being touched for the most part. Generally speaking, if you caught a bad one it was because you were involved the life by way of drugs, gangs, or both. But this was only understood if you understood the neighborhood.