Monday, November 20, 2006

Blow Out The Candles. Part 2

At first I didn’t recognize the man standing in the doorway of my parent’s new apartment. A little girl clung to his side and a young woman who I assumed was his wife stood silently by. Then it hit me; the balding guy with glasses was my old buddy Mike who I grew up with during the early 60’s. Where was his curly black hair? Gone. Mike as a young boy of 14 was incredibly good looking, even with his bad acne the girls still were gaga over him. Tall, slim and dark with a wonderful smile and beautiful brown eyes he was a stunner. I was of course head over heels in love with him as were a few other boys I knew. But Mike was straight as a line, and even if he wasn’t how could anything ever happen between two 14-year-old boys in 1961. We had gone to the same junior high school and had known each other slightly. Then at the end of our sophomore year Mike was accepted to one of the brainy high schools in the city and we lost touch altogether. The next time I saw him was in 1961 on a cold fall Friday night when some old friends of mine from junior high dropped by my house unannounced for a visit, and Mike was with them. I had just started high school and had not seen these guys since graduating junior high. Mike was still handsome but by now his skin had erupted into a landscape of pimples and acne ruining his smooth dark complexion but even with the awful skin he was still gorgeous, and now he stood in front of me some 23 years later his looks just about gone. “Look at you” he said. I smiled and was not feeling all that comfortable seeing him again and under such strange circumstances. My parents were busy unpacking and I was still trying to take all of this in. Do you ever see Sy” Mike asked? “God no I haven’t seen him in years, not since after I moved to Manhattan and he visited me a few times. I heard he was a junkie,” Mike said. “I’m not really surprised Mike” I replied as the smell of greasy cooking odors filtered down from the upstairs apartment. Sy was our other close friend, and my main competition for Mike’s attention and friendship. Sy lived only two blocks away, so it was easy for him to spend time with Mike. I lived more than 14 blocks away and would have to make the long uphill walk in order to see Mike or Sy and I can’t tell you how many times I made that schlep in freezing cold and boiling heat.

Sy was half-Jewish and Italian; his father had met Sy’s mother in Italy during the war and had married her there. After the war they returned to America and set up shop so to speak in Brooklyn. Merilla Sy’s mom was very attractive with big eyes and a deep sexy Italian accent. I was very taken with her and one of the reasons I would like to visit Sy was to see his mother. Sy however did not inherit her good looks, but looked more like his father who resembled a bullfrog. Sy was somewhat effeminate but no one in our circle ever said anything or made fun of him probably because we had no idea what a homosexual looked like. They certainly didn’t look like Sy. Sy dressed very nicely in all the latest fashions and he loved to dance all the new dances that were popular in the early 60’s and was the life of any social gathering as he danced up a storm. He was tall and lanky and at times he seem elastic the way he would twist and turn all over the place. When sitting he would place one long leg over the other, a Newport held daintily between his fingers and with his free hand play with his hair. The girls loved to dance with Sy and the boys would stare in wonderment as he took over any dance floor he was on. That was his talent. I was the artist of our group, and he was the dancer and Mike well Mike was the looker. The three of us became very close. We were innocents in Brooklyn. Anything dark was unseen and unspoken so Sy and me held and hid our sexual tendencies. Every so often the three of us would spend the night at Sy’s house where we would stay up most of the night gossiping like teenage girls and smoking one cigarette after another. I mean didn’t Mike think it odd that we would have sleepovers. Didn’t Sy’s parents think it strange that 3 teenage boys would spend the night together talking and laughing for hours. I guess not. I look back on these nights as sweet and safe. Once during the night I felt Sy’s hand on my leg, but I made believe I was tossing and turning and pushed it away. I didn’t want Sy’s hand on me, I wanted Mike’s. Now here I stood in my parent’s new kitchen that was Mike’s old kitchen. An odd patch of silence fell over the two of us, and finally Mike said he had better get back up to his aunt’s apartment.


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