Friday, August 05, 2016
Dave was so tall at such a young age, he made his own father look small.
In the school yard at number 11, he stood out like a giant, though it didn’t help that he had been left back so many times he should have been graduating junior high by the time he finally managed to get out of sixth grade.
He wasn’t stupid. He just didn’t do well with books or the kind of regiment public school required.
I’m not sure of what he might have been good at, only that he was rarely happy until the bell rang and he made the long climb up the Lakeview Avenue hill to his house near Crooks and Vernon avenues a half mile away.
The walk was always wrought with trauma and humiliation since he bore a crush on my next door neighbor, Susan Brett.
She hated him, and came to hate me when I befriended him.
This grew in intensity over the years so that by the time we were all in junior high school together, she felt we stalked her, although in truth, we merely taunted her.
In fact, we rarely saw her inside or outside school in Junior high, but made a ritual of passing her locker every day and dropping a penny through one of the slots.
This so infuriated her that she actually reported us to the principal, claiming we had broken into her locker and stolen her books, which we had not.
By that time, Dave and I were doing our Blues Brother bit before there was actually a Blues Brothers. We wore suits and ties, and paraded through the school pretending we were among the intellectual elite, when in truth, we were the biggest pranksters in the school.
We perpetually taunted the cool people, and the thugs, which of course, made us targets of abuse. Dave for all his size was a wimp, and so when it came to a fight I was generally on my own, having to defend the crap that came out of my mouth.
I don’t think Dave ever got over Sue, although he paid me dearly when he found out my bedroom window was directly across from hers, and sometimes, she did not always close her shade when she got undressed. This hardly improved my relationship with Sue when she found out that I invited Dave and others to what amounted to a peep show – a profitable enough venture that I did not have to steal pocket change to pay for my cigarette habit. This source of revenue, however, dried up once she found out, and made curtain the shade stayed closed.
She certainly didn’t understand Dave’s affection, seeing him as a buffoon, which perhaps he was. But even when she was her meanest, he retained his affection for her, always wishing for more than he got, willing to accept even her abuse when he could not get affection.
He eventually moved out of the neighborhood and out of her life, taking up a life of his own with eventual wife and kids, and a job as a mechanic. Sue moved to California for a time – although her family remained in the house next of mine until after I went off onto my life of crime. I don’t know when they sold, but I never heard from them or her again – although rumor said she returned to New Jersey to take up a married life.
Dave, too, vanished into the foothills of the Pocono Mountains, the last refuge of blue collar people driven out of places like Paterson by crime and out of the suburbs by a high cost of living.
To this day, I’m sure, he still thinks of Sue and wonders if life might have been different if she had loved him as much as he loved her.