Authors: Luke Loaghan
Tags: #Fiction & Literature
We arrived at the pool hall on Christopher Street, and took our usual table in the back. Sam, Carlos, and I had played pool at Tekk Billiards for the past three years. Carlos and I were playing eight ball, when Delancey entered with ten of her friends. She snapped a picture of me taking a shot. She said that it was for posterity.
“Posterity?” I asked.
“Yeah…the yearbook, silly.”
I banked shot after shot. Carlos was standing right next to me, with a smirk on his face. Sam spent the entire time trying to talk to Delancey. She did not take a photo of him, and he did not get anywhere with her.
That weekend at the Café, Mike the manager arrived late, and was soon asleep in the back. Christine and the crew arrived late. The work day was slow, and we talked a lot. The topic of the Deceptors caused Christine to giggle. “The Chinatown gangs would destroy them,” Christine said.
Later that day, Christine asked if I had ever dated a Chinese girl.
I had not. I explained it would not be a problem if it was the right girl. I asked her if her friends would give her a hard time about dating a non-Chinese boy. Christine explained it wasn’t a big deal because she wasn’t one hundred percent Chinese. Her mother was Chinese, but her father, who she had never known, was Japanese. Her mother worked in Japan before coming to New York. Christine revealed her real name was Izanami.
After work, we went to a Japanese restaurant in the World Trade Center. Christine ordered sushi for both of us. I had never had sushi before. She couldn’t stop smiling as I tried to get used to the chopsticks. Christine said that in California everyone was eating sushi. I reminded her that we were in New York, where everyone eats bagels and pizza.
We walked onto the plaza of the Twin Towers, and sat under the two-story monumental bronze sculpture of a sphere. Below the sculpture was a fountain.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” she asked.
“Are you a virgin?” I did not know how to answer the question, but before I could, she said, “Never mind, I already know the answer.”
“How could you possibly know the answer?” I asked.
“Boys who are not virgins don’t hesitate to answer that question.”
“Do you know what the word tact means?” I asked, feeling embarrassed. “I’ll be honest with you. I really don’t know if I’m ready for a girlfriend or sex. I’m probably going to go away to college and I really don’t know if I want to start something that leads to a long term relationship,” I said.
“Don’t assume I want to be your girlfriend, and don’t assume I want to have sex with you either.” She punched my arm, laughing out loud.
“Don’t assume I was talking about you,” I said. She punched me on the arm much harder this time.
“I’m always direct. I hope you don’t mind, but I don’t understand the need for small talk or for talking around a subject. If I want to know something I’ll just ask,” she said.
“Do you ever think that being too direct could be a problem?” I asked with sarcasm.
“Yes, I do. But I don’t understand why Americans consider it polite not to ask what they want to know, but rather tiptoe around the topic.”
“Small talk is an art form,” I said.
“Small talk is a waste of time. What about your family?” she asked.
“It’s just me, my father, and my brother,” I said.
“What about your mother?” she asked.
“My mother died when I was eleven. She was very sick from cancer,” I said.
Christine grew quiet. “I am sorry,” she said.
“Don’t be, it wasn’t your fault.”
I had a good time with Christine. It was nice to have a female friend.
The long, empty subway ride home allowed opportunity for me to think about Christine. She was so different from Delancey, so much easier to be around. Delancey was one of a kind, but was in a different realm.
On Monday it was nearly six o’clock when I finished writing articles for the school paper. As I exited the lobby of Stanton, Delancey was leaving school.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” she said.
“Why should I answer first?”
“Because I asked you first,” I said.
“So what, I asked you second.”
“I plead the fifth,” I said.
“Well then so do I. If you won’t answer, neither will I,” she grinned.
“In that case, we should change the subject. Are you heading home?” I asked.
“I’m going to the city to meet my father for dinner at a steakhouse near Wall Street.”
“What a strange coincidence, I’m also heading to that very same steakhouse.”
“You LIE!” she shouted. We both guffawed.
She punched my arm, and I said, “Is that the best you got?”
She then punched me even harder, and I felt a stinging pain all the way through to my chest.
“Ouch!” I yelled.
“Oh, David, I’m so sorry.” She rubbed my shoulder.
“You are much stronger than you look,” I said.
“I’m more than I look in many ways,” she replied.
“Keep rubbing, it feels good,” I said sheepishly.
“I BET IT DOES!” she said as she punched my arm again.
“So are you going to ride the train with me to downtown?” she asked.
“I’ll do one better. I will even escort you to the restaurant, Madame.”
Delancey held out her bent arm. I wrapped mine around hers, and we started marching in sequence like communist solders. It was great to hold her arm, even if we were just having fun. She was so warm, so full of life and energy. And as usual, she smelled great.
I noticed her jacket’s fine brown leather. It was a fighter pilot’s jacket, very expensive. We were far from a safe neighborhood.
“You look great in that jacket,” I said.
“Thanks. My father just bought it for me.”
I could feel the icy stares of eyes following us. I glanced back. Three thugs, undoubtedly Deceptors, followed about twenty yards behind us. They were walking much faster than we were, and I didn’t want any trouble, not with Delancey at risk of getting hurt. She seemed oblivious to their presence, and I didn’t want to alarm her. I knew that her expensive new leather jacket had caught their eyes.
“Delancey, do you think you’re faster than me?” I said.
“I know so. I could beat you in a race anytime,” she gloated.
“I will race you to the subway on the count of three, and I won’t look back,” I said. I started counting, “One…” and Delancey took off, running as fast as she could for the subway. When I saw that she was well ahead, I turned around and faced the hoodlums. One wore a belt buckle with a capital D on it. Deceptors.
“Empty your pockets!” one yelled.
I tried to run, but was quickly trampled to the ground. I tried to get up, but caught a few kicks in the chest. I pushed one of the guys down, and ran for the train. They chased after me. I pulled a ten dollar bill from my pocket and dropped it. They stopped chasing and took the money as I entered the subway station seconds later. The Deceptors fought each other over the ten dollar bill, like a pack of wolves fighting over a carcass.
Delancey had already crossed the turnstiles and was entering the platform.
“I won!” she boasted, panting heavily. “Wow, what happened to you?” she asked noticing my disheveled appearance.
“Delancey, I slipped on a banana peel and fell, otherwise, I would’ve won.”
I brushed myself off as we both walked up the platform. I glanced behind me, but we were no longer being followed.
Delancey and I waited for the train, which was delayed. Fifteen minutes passed before a train arrived. I was glad I had thrown the Deceptors the ten dollars. The fifteen minutes that we waited for the train would have been enough time for them to have taken her jacket, and worse.
“David, what are your plans for college?” she asked.
“I would like to go away, although my father objects. I’m going to apply to some state schools. What about you, Delancey?”
“I think you must really like my name,” she said.
“Is it that noticeable?”
“Well, you go out of your way to say it, and every time you say it, you smile, like a kid getting candy.”
“Well, Delancey, I guess I do like saying your name, Delancey. Such a great name…Delancey how did you get your name?” I tried to change the subject.
“My father picked it. It was his grandmother’s maiden name on his mother’s side. His family has been in New York, in some way, since colonial times. Even Delancey Street was named after them. But it was not the name my mother wanted for me.”
“Oh? What did she want to name you?”
“She wanted to name me Suryanna, after the Hindu God of the Sun. My mother always says that when I was born, it was like the sun came up for the first time. But my father was, and still is, so controlling, that he wouldn’t have it. So Suryanna became my middle name.”
“They’re both beautiful names, and so different from anything I’ve ever heard. I guess either way, your name was meant to stand out. I was named after my grandfather; he and my mother were really close.” We exited the train in lower Manhattan, and we walked four blocks to the restaurant. I wished the restaurant was two miles away. I loved spending time with Delancey.
The icy winds of lower Manhattan picked up, and I shivered.
“You know, we should get something to eat sometime?” I asked, knowing it was a shaky subject.
“David, you should ask out some of the other girls. I’m not what you are looking for.” She shot me down again, this time while wearing an aviation jacket.
“I don’t understand. You and I get along so well…that –“
“That’s just it, David. I really like you. We are starting to become better friends. Why change things? Besides, I’m not girlfriend material anyway. I’m not going to play dumb, and twirl my hair, like other girls. I have no intentions of getting into a serious relationship right out of high school. I have bold ambitions – like college, and law school, and other things. I’m not a follower, like girls who follow their boyfriends to college. Let’s be realistic, David, after graduation we may never see each other again. I’m going to some small liberal arts private school in the middle of the Northeast, and that’ll be that.” She stood in front of the restaurant, hands on hips, eyes emboldened with emotion.
“David, I have a bright future and I’m sure you do too. I’m not looking to settle down and be someone’s high school sweetheart. That’s the opposite of who I am. I’m not now, nor will I ever be, someone’s little girlfriend. I’m a free spirit, like my mother.”
Rejected again, albeit with an explanation this time.
“Listen…I’m just saying, let just grab a bite to eat after school sometime.” I was trying my best to walk away with a morsel, having lost much of the entrée.
“Fine, but I’m paying, just so you know it’s not a date.” She then walked into the Sam Hain Steakhouse on lower Broadway. Nearby, the Ferry departed full of passengers.
I went home and studied until late.
Rumors escalated of gangs attacking Stanton on Halloween. It sounded like the Tet offensive was expected. John and I planned to run to the subway together on Halloween, which was the next day. John was at least thirty-five pounds of muscle bigger than I. The subway was four blocks away. As we were walking, the psychic stood outside her storefront. She asked if we would like to know our future. I said no, thank you. She said her answers could help us decide about college, girls, our majors, etc. She had a very flirtatious smile. We kept walking. I looked back and noticed two girls from school take her up on the offer. John said to me, “Those girls are walking in there to find out if they have a chance with a smart, good looking guy like me.”
This was a typical John comment. Sometimes he would say things like, “John is too smart for high school” when he’d get a good grade on a test. We got on the F-Train, and discussed college. John had not applied yet, and wasn’t sure he would. He was the oldest son, and his family depended on him to run their grocery store. He was not sure if his parents would allow him to go away to college, or even start college the next fall. He was quiet as the train creaked slowly over the Manhattan Bridge. John finally blurted that he’d like to apply to Annapolis.
“The Naval Academy is really hard to get into. Do you have the grades?” I asked.
“I’m the smartest guy in my neighborhood, who happens to be the best looking guy in Queens,” said John. That was a good answer, because he definitely wasn’t the smartest guy in our high school.
“Are you a US citizen?” I asked.
“Do I need to be?” John answered.
“I think West Point and the Naval Academy only take US citizens.”
The color of hope fell from his face and I instantly knew John wasn’t a US citizen. John Moon was born in Seoul, South Korea. His shoulders sank with defeat.
“I guess I won’t apply there.”
I was sorry to burst his bubble. Of all the kids I knew in high school, he was the most genuine and the hardest working. John started to explain the pressures and expectations that came with his status as an oldest son in a Korean family.