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Matt Brock walks us into some good historical fiction here in Part 10. Nice work Matt!Enjoy.
I spent the cross-country trip making plans. Inter-racial marriage had just become constitutionally upheld earlier in the year and I knew that in New York city we would have less trouble getting it done quickly. In Montana I heard over the radio that Otis Reading died in a plane crash and that Chicago had severe damage from tornadoes. I remember thinking the country was so much larger than I imagined. We blew through Rapid City, SD and bi-passed Chicago to the south. We would get married, find a little apartment, one close to a music hall maybe. Cleveland seemed to take forever to reach and Pittsburg smelled like burning tires. I could get a job stocking groceries or selling newspapers or possibly cooking at a restaurant. We would find a church that encouraged our devotion, that shook our hands and carried our burdens, where Janell would sing words of praise and all the people would smile with their eyes closed. They would open them, see us, and approve.
New York city was the only place that fit my preconceptions. Graffiti everywhere, homeless people sleeping as the businessmen in full suits walked over unflinchingly. Buildings loomed like overly cautious parents, like Mamma but with more mercy. Protestors stood at corners with signs about the war. I would have to register the next year after I turned 18. The bus radio spouted tunes from the Beatles latest album, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. And I was lonely, a scared 17 year old boy – determined to have his own life. I could still hear Mamma’s words insisting, “Little Olives needs his Mamma!”
Grand Central Station was magnificent and with my two suitcases in hand, I wandered for 45 minutes around the perimeter. When I found her, she was standing at the corner of 42nd and Park avenue wearing a light green skirt and white blouse she had just bought at Macy’s. I stopped and sat on one of the suitcases until she found me staring at her. Janell screamed and opened her arms. All my fears crawled back into their holes. She came. As I went to her she sung The Stones’ Let’s Spend The Night Together.
Don’t worry ’bout what’s on your mind, oh my…
I’m in no hurry, I can take my time…
We found a hotel and spent the afternoon re-establishing our affections. We had almost no money, no possessions, and no idea where we were, but we had time and that meant everything. Over hours, the light slowly moved across the room from the window over to our bed and found her smooth dark skin, her stomach, her thighs. We never stopped smiling that day. Her laugh–infectious and sassy and she shook her hips and bent her head as she sang.
You know I’m smilin’ baby
You need some guiding baby
I’m just deciding baby, now.
We showered and wandered the unknown streets of our new home. We took in a film that night, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. We paid $1.25 each. Janell heard about it on her train ride and said, “Baby, this one’s for us. It was written just for us.” She was only partially right. After getting some ice-cream we scouted subway entrances to determine the best area to search for an apartment. We followed one of the stairways down to get a look and Janell spotted an old-timey black and white photobooth. I fished my pocket for the 25 cents needed to get one 3-pose strip. Janell insisted that she sit on my lap even though there was plenty of room on the bench for us both. It took 3 minutes to run the cycle of chemicals and drop out. We were closer than an oreo cookie in those shots, and her skin was somehow brighter than mine. After another week in the hotel, we found a little place in Queens through a man we met at a church we visited. Janell liked it right away and I liked that she liked it. I got work down by the docks and always smelled of fish when I got home. Not long after we got settled was when Mary went missing.
Frank stopped typing. He was crying and his tears were now dripping onto the keyboard. He got up and gathered the necessary things into a backpack and headed out of his tiny apartment in Queens. Frank hopped the subway to Grand Central and then walked from there. At 8:20 PM he had arrived at the stairs. There were only 127. Frank had counted them many times over many years. He began the descent and his stomach tightened harder with each one. At the bottom he could see it across the walkway. Frank continued on up to the booth, which now cost $3.50. He pulled out a plastic sheet with magnets on the back and let it connect with the metal frame over the Photos Here slot. OUT OF ORDER. Frank took the switch from the wall and the lights went out. He retrieved a blanket from the bag and shut the curtain behind him. Wrapping himself and leaning into the corner, still sitting up, he opened a heavily worn envelope and out dropped a faded strip. Janell held his face in the 3 poses as she kissed him, and Frank the boy held her close. “Janell.” Frank sniffled. “It was an accident.” Frank closed his eyes as he softly sang their chorus just as she liked it.
Let’s spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever
Let’s spend the night together, now