By: Radomir Luza
In October of 1986, New York City was something completely different.
Crime was rampant. Homelessness was a new problem especially in the subway system in the Winter. Times Square was not a tourist attraction, but a violent underground nightmare. The city was somewhere to stay away from, not flock to. Only romantics, dreamers and artists with high hopes moved to this dark and dastardly kingdom.
At 22, I was one of them.
I wanted to be an actor. Especially on Broadway.
A white boy from the Upper West Side never traveled to all-African American Bedford Stuyvesant alone.
But one night in early autumn, I did, to visit a friend.
Jumping off the metal bird at 2AM, I walked the drab, dingy and deserted streets like an emperor, confident and sure. Light as a twig yet heavy as an offensive lineman, I knew my safety came down to how I carried myself, whether bold, tall and nimble or stifled and afraid.
Walking to my friend’s apartment building, I first met her at a 24-hour bodega nearby.
We bought lottery tickets, a New York Times and candy,
After ringing us up, the black woman behind the counter looked me over and shook her head,
As we left, my friend grabbed my hand and held it with all the ferocity and tenderness of a grieving mother.
Outside, the sun was coming up as we reached her apartment complex.
I was stunned at the graffiti on the walls.
A we got closer to her apartment on the third floor, “Go Home Pinky” was scribbled on the ceiling.
The words did not as much surprise as disturb.
I always thought that ebony and ivory could somehow find a way to live together not apart.
The writing gave me little hope for a multi-racial future though I was still willing to visualize and work for it.
Inside her place, I met my friend’s pretty, African American roommate.
Sitting in her bedroom, she kept staring at me as if I had descended from Valhalla with all the answers.
“You have a pair of beautiful wings,” she said, “I don’t know why you don’t use them.”
I knew what she was trying to say, and after considering her colorful message, I was even more anxious to make the near future mine.
Later that night, I cuddled with my friend in her bedroom.
“Do you want to have sex?” she asked.
“No,” I answered.
We slept through the morning and woke up around 9AM still arm-in-arm and stomach-to-stomach.
She and I crawled out of bed together.
As this was my friend’s day off from selling subway tokens underground for the MTA, she showed me a closet in the corner of the room filled with metal and junk.
“That’s the past,” she said bluntly and calmly.
“My uncle,” she stressed, “raped me.”
“And my grandfather,” my friend pointed out, “says that when bad things happen you have to forget them and move on.”
“I am sorry,” I said. “I feel very badly for you.”
When I opened the bedroom door, I saw her attractive roommate lying on the floor with a heroine needle in her right arm.
Stepping over her, I knew it was time to leave.
I was not judging the situation, merely feeling utterly helpless to do anything about it.
I was angry and confused. The outing had not turned out as I had hoped. I realized for the first time in my life that I did not have all the answers.
That thought alone was paralyzing.
“Goodbye,” I said to both onyx angels as I exited the apartment. “I will always love you.”
I had seen too much. No answer for the broken brush.
I sprinted down the steps and quickly walked out of the building.
Fall on my lips.
Late morning breeze my hips.
Sports section my fingertips.
Twenty minutes later I was on the copper caterpillar headed back home.
I have not returned.