Wednesday, June 6, 2007
A month in my 'hood.
I get nods now from the neighbors who sit on the steps in front of the banks of brick buildings like mine. I'm the lady with the red sunglasses and the little white dog who leaves at the same time, who picks up her dogs mess, as if it would be noticed in the wealth of garbage strewn on the sidewalks. The grandmothers who are younger than I am, the mothers younger than HRH.
The word Mamii is called to me everywhere, except by the guy at the pizza place, he calls me 'Baby', which is great for my ego...usually, I stop by on my way home for their homemade lemonade...I'm hot and tired and feeling anything but great, so, the "What can I get you, Baby?" is enough to make me smile.
I hear mothers screaming at their children, cursing them... I have to wonder how they will turn out, if the generational behaviour will carry on, if any of them will escape this place. I walk by, overhearing one young woman, no more than 20 or so, one child on her hip, pregnant with another, pointing to a third who toddles about as she talks to her friends;
"Yeah, that one...he's by a DR boy, this one, he's the white boy's baby. This one (here, she pats her belly), he's a black boy's kid. You know he's gonna be dark. Look how pretty this white boy's baby is, though!"
No names for the different fathers... just races. A mean thought crosses my mind...does she remember the names?
On the first of the month, the empty house across the street is busy... crack dealers move between cars, money is exchanged, packets passed. I walk, eyes straight ahead. The police step up the street patrols, two follow me home tonight, when I am coming home late. Even my pizza beau calls out, "Baby, hurry home!"
On Saturday, the doorbell rang... I called out, "Who is it?"
"Yo! You need any....medication?"
"Mamii...medication. I ain't going to say it...you know. Medication."
"No, wrong place."
"You sure? It's good."
"Ohhh, right, you're the white lady. You have a good day, Mamii."
Have a good day? Does he pass out dope in packets with yellow smilie faces on them?
Friday, I stopped to talk to the couple who helped me get my stuff upstairs a week ago... the husband, a soft spoken man, told me to let him bring my heavy cases that had been delivered from N's house at long last. I was dragging them up, one slow step at a time, worried about them in the courtyard, even with the amazing gypsy driver who told me he'd rather sit and wait and make sure they were safe then pick up another fare.
He easily lifted a huge case on his shoulder, and picked the other up, walking the stairs without breaking a sweat.
His wife told me how they were looking to find a better place to raise their son... her father, who spoke almost no English, stood up, took off his hat, and gave me a slight bow. He gestured for me to take his chair.
She and I talked for awhile, the breeze was cooling, and it was much nicer than it would be in my baked in the sun all day under the roof flat.
Children ran about, and the ice cream truck, playing that damn tune from The Sting over and over and over... I used to like it. I used to like the product it sells. After 45 minutes of tinny Scott Joplin, I want to scream.
Before I can, the Father turns from his friend, and whispers, "Mamii..you want some.." and he mimes drinking from a bottle.
"No, no.. thank you."
"Is good. Not cheap. I have in car." He goes over to an '80's model Buick, and brings over a paper bag, the ubiquitous paper bag found all over the Bronx, all of them holding a drink of one kind or another....
"You try." He shoves it my way.
"Umm... I have cancer." Before I can use an excuse and say my medications will not allow me to drink... he says,
"Is okay, I wipe bottle before I drink." and he smiled to show his good will.
What a kind offer.
It's a toss-up here. For the many bits of negative, you find some good... what costs $50 in Manhattan, I can buy for $10 here...so, my wardrobe is building. Since I've lost a huge amount of weight, and dropped five sizes, I'm also in the area that finally gives me a nice selection...especially here. I type this, feeling somewhat guilty for the semi-gloating feeling I have. It almost makes up for the fact all my toes are the same size.
Yeah, I have garbage on the street, drug deals going down, children having children, guys wearing those hats that they've stuffed so they sit high on their heads, LOUD music at all hours... but, I also have nice little boys who look for me to come home at night so they can open the gate and pet the terrier, a young woman who waves at me when she sees me, her father who tips his hat, a handsome pizza guy who smiles and calls me Baby... and... a neighbor who has a burst of wild roses here in the Bronx. I'll survive until I find something else.
Posted by quin browne at 9:54 PM