So it Begins….

“No ma’am, go ahead. I’ll wait for the next teller…” I nervously tell the lady behind me in the line.

Then, almost instantly thereafter, the next teller frees up & her customer walks away. “What do I do?”

I hesitated for a minute & the man behind me taps me on the shoulder. “son, the next teller is free! go on…” he urges me to not hold up the line.

“Sir, you can go ahead, I’m waiting for a specific teller.” I reply nervously because I just realized that the other tellers heard as well and now they are coyly teasing her.

It’s been a month of Saturdays doing this, and apparently everybody has noticed – today it became very obvious. I guess I better ask her out today & not let this opportunity go by.

There, her customer finally completes & leaves her counter!

“Hi Ann Marie, great to see you again…” Funny, I practice my line to perfection & now that I am face-to-face with her, this is what comes out!

“I’m great Pablo” she replies “what can I do for you today?”

“I just need to deposit my check…” I reply with a lame, truthful reason. I should have said one of my ‘exciting’ reasons that I have practiced over & over again in my head.

We engage in small talk for a bit & then I get my nerve to get a little more personal.

“How long have you being working here?” I ask nervously

“uh, about six months…” she replied and grins a nice smile.

“You have a pretty smile…” I said so nonchalant, not really paying attention that I said what my heart wanted me to say. She turns red, bows her head smiling even bigger, and then she looked away nervously.

“Ah! there’s my signal!” I shout silently in my head. “…and so it begins.”

She is playing along & didn’t reject me! This is good… She is even flipping her hair! She looks at her co-worker & they both giggle. She looks down again & then looks up at me with her big, beautiful smile.

Her shy smile reminds me of Kristy McNichol in the TV show, Family. Grinning ear-to-ear with a slight tilt down of the head, but with her deep, brown eyes making full contact with mine.

I used to have a crush on Meredith Baxter, from that TV show. She has long, flowing blond hair – that is until I met Ann Marie. Her smile is just so warm and kind. Behind the counter & the safety glass all I can really see is her chestnut brown hair with the flipped ends. It frames her oval face so nicely.

Ann Marie seems very soft, sweet & sexy looking. Her nails are perfectly manicured & have that ‘French’ white line on the tips. The money she hands to me even has the feminine scent of her perfume.

“What else can I do for you?” she says, interrupting my moment of daydreaming.

Oh boy! I’m about to end our transaction, and I don’t know what to say…

“Yeah… I was wondering what you are doing next Saturday evening? I thought we could maybe catch a dinner & a movie?”

“A dinner & a movie? Really, how creative of you!” my small voice chastises me… She is slow in replying, so I start to drift into listening to my little voice. “I bet she is going to shoot you down!” that voice volunteers again.

She looks up from her counter & then hands me a deposit receipt. “here is my number, call me & yes, we can go out next Saturday…”

“Wow! she said yes!!!” I shout it out really loud & jump all over the place – all in my head.

“Can’t wait!” is all she said & again flashed that sexy smile at me as I walked away from her counter. I walk out of the bank with the biggest smile I have ever had.

“I cant wait for next week!”

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E-v-i-l Woman…

The sun shining brightly warms my soul. The cool breeze across my cheeks feels really nice today. I feel this air of confidence & the happy-ness showing in my stroll down Salem Avenue. The trees in the park rustling almost in tune with my stride.

Everything seems so clear & brightly beautiful for some reason.

Nothing is going to bother me today!

I reach my street & turn the corner when Rosie comes running up to me with her group of little seven year old friends. Nope, these pain-in-the-butt teenies are not going to annoy me today!

“Pablo has a
g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!” shouts Rosie in a sing-song tone.

“Buzz off, Rosie” I reply, trying to get rid of her, because she is – annoying! She is a short girl with a fast stride, bouncing long blond hair that is always pulled up into single ponytail. She is usually leading a group of little girls that do whatever she wants them to do. When they are not around, you can see her yanking her little brother – Peter – around by the arm.

She’s OK though, always happy and cheery. Hopping and skipping and just being a little girl.

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!” again she shouts.

This time her friends chime in & they all do their sing-song thing in unison.

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!”

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!”

Intent on having nothing annoy me today, I chase them all away. But Rosie keeps coming back.

As I walk towards the house, Rosie follows me.

“What do you want Rosie?” I ask her, getting annoyed.

“Are you gonna kiss her?” She replies with a dumb giggle & instantly coyly cover her mouth as if she said something she knows she shouldn’t have.

“I don’t know who you are talking about.”
“you really don’t know?” she asks surprised.
“No I don’t, Rosie & stop being such a spaz. Just tell me!”

She laughs & start her sing-song again. “Pablo doesn’t kno-o-o-o-o-w! Pablo doesn’t kno-o-o-o-o-o-w!”
“You are starting to piss me off Rosie, Just tell me already!”

“Well, Kim said that Diana heard Marie say that she overheard Karen & her best friend talking…”
“R-o-o-o-o-o-o-s-i-e! get to the point!”

“She said that she wishes Pablo would ask her out.” Rosie yells!

“What? Karen who? when?” Now she’s got my attention! I’ve never had a girl interested in me – well besides Lourdes on the bus – but she was really aggravating!

“Karen, the Karen? The one that lives on this street? That Karen?”
“Yeah, that Karen! She is so pretty…”

At that point I didn’t hear another word that Rosie was saying. I have never had a girlfriend, let alone kissed a girl! I walk into the house, run right upstairs to my room & slam the door shut in excitement.

“Me and Karen?” wow that would be groovy, man. Karen has got to be the most hip girl I know. She is tall, long slender legs & always wearing those nice-fittin’ flares. She is so fine! with that Brick House figure. Her hair is dark brown worn long and straight. She keeps her bangs clearly off her eyebrows so you can see her blue eyes. She always sits outside, leaning on her dad’s car painting or file-ling her nails.

There are no other girls her age in our group so she usually sits there on her dad’s car or hangs out with the guys. I usually see her waiting in her skin tight softball outfit waiting for her dad to take her to the school grounds. She is younger than me, but she is more developed than any girl in school and she carries herself like a high-school girl! She is so far-out!

All the guys just stops & stare at her. Their eyes are fixated on Karen as she strolls down the street or in the halls at school.

I can just hear it now…

“Hi boys, what’s the matter cat’s got your tongue?” She has that kind of flirtatious way that gets all the boys tongue-tied when she is around.

“Wow, Karen & me – together! I can just see the guys in school high-fiving me.”

The rest of the day goes by with my head in the clouds. I can’t hold it back, who can I share this with?

Danny? no, he will only make fun of me & beat me up for hesitating for so long. So I can’t tell him.

My sisters? Well they are silly girls & will get all gushy & giggly. They will just have a million questions & I just don’t know how to answer.

“Pablo! Girls! Come down & set the table…” Mom’s calling for us breaks my train of thought. My sisters head down immediately, but I come down a few minutes behind.

“Pablo, set the spoons & forks… Nancy has the plates on the table already.”

“Patty get the napkins…”

Mom continues with instructions, but her voice fades away in the background. It starts to sound like “Blah, Blah, Blah!” as my head starts wandering off again and back onto the idea of dating Karen.

Could this be real? Karen is too pretty… This can’t be true! How will I know for sure? I can’t ask her out & take the chance that she may says no! How will I know for sure?

“I know! I’ll tell Leo!” I shouted — out loud apparently.
“Tell Leo what?” Nancy replies.
“Nothing! never mind!”

I put the spoons & forks down quickly & run out the front door. Leo is usually out after all of us go home for dinner, so he has to be here!

I run to the corner and sure enough, Leo is riding his bike in the park across the street.

“Leo! Leo!” I shout out to him “Come here I need to talk with you!”

I share with Leo what Rosie told me & it puts a smile on his face.
“Karen? The Karen? She is so hot!”

I can see him starting to daydream – maybe wishing it was him, so I cut him off. “Leo, you gotta find out for me. You’re friends with her best friend – go ask her.”

He rides off, standing up off the seat & trying to pop wheelies in that crazy way that Leo likes to do. Never really getting the front wheel more than a few inches off the ground, but nonetheless never stopping….

After dinner we all head outside again. Leo is riding his bike in a circle and all the other kids are playing kickball.

“Leo, what did you find out?” I ask him
“It’s true. She is waiting for you to ask her out!”
“What!?!? She’s gotta be wrong! Did she say those words?”
“Well, she was not home but her older sister confirmed it.”
“It’s true! Her older sister is in my class – she wouldn’t lie to me”

So it is true! At that moment the world seemed to come to a stop. The kids playing kickball drop the ball & it just rolls down the street – in what felt like slow motion – towards Karen’s house. My eyes follow the ball and then to my surprise… Karen comes outside.

Her eyes start scanning everyone outside, as if she is looking for someone specifically. My eyes caught hers & she waves to me.

“Go ask her out” Leo elbows me & urges me on.

But a chill runs down my spine. She is so beautiful! This moment can’t be happening. what if…

“This is your only chance! go ask her out!” This time Leo insisted.

I walk across the street with the pretense of getting the ball for the kids, but really with the ulterior motive of getting closer to Karen. I didn’t notice anything or anyone else on the street except Karen. I’m staring at her lean onto her father’s car & she looks at me like asking “what are you doing over there with that ball?”

I toss the ball over my shoulder, hoping it goes in the direction of the kids. I walk up to her & lean on the other car opposite to her.

“Hey Karen. You look nice today.”
“You think so?” she asks – knowing she does, but egging an acknowledgement.
So I take the hint & reply, “Of course you do! You’re the prettiest girl on the block!”

She giggles and smiles coyly. She puts her head down, as she blushes a little and shifts her body along the door of the car.

Again the hint is received & I feel comfortable to continue. We continue talking & I reach out to hold her hands. The moment is magical!

We chatted for what felt like an eternity. Me standing in front of her holding her warm hands. The only interruption came from the kids who kicked the ball in our direction several times. Then they start with a sing-song rhyme:

“Pablo & Karen sitting in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g”

I blush & Karen drops her gaze shyly. “Karen, I like you & I know you want me to ask you out. Would you like to go out with me?”

Holy shit!

I can’t believe I really asked her! “What if she says no – how can I walk away?” My mind just keeps rattling out all these questions of doubt & I put my head down as I already knew what her answer was going to be.

I even let go of her hands & stand up straight. My mind keeps talking “Alright just give it to me! Let me have it in front of all my friends! Come on – you evil woman – just do it!! Turn me down!”

“Sure, I’ll go out with you.” Karen replies softly!
“You will?” I question in shock!
“Sure! I like you too.”

Woo-hoo!! The fireworks are blasting in space! And the marching band is so loud in my head.

“Good, so we’re boyfriend & girlfriend?” I ask – just to confirm it.
“Sure you silly..” she answers as she shyly puts down her head & runs back into her house. “Goodnight! see you tomorrow….”

Boo-yah! I have my first girlfriend! I turn to look at Leo & he signals as if to ask what happened. I run over there and tell him “She said yes!”

Again the marching band is playing loudly in my head! Drums, symbols, trumpets blaring a triumphal march… I catch the fact that I floated away in a daydream & notice Leo riding circles around me in excitement. He is doing his crazy wheel-popping routine. Yanking the handlebars up in excitement & plopping back down. One of these days he will get it – but for now lets just enjoy the moment…

The rest of the night we played while the sky glistened with an amazingly bright moon. Karen sat in her parent’s bedroom window pretending to be reading a book – but looking out at us playing. She would wave & I would wave back to my Rapunzel in her perch.

Our shadow dance only interrupted when I see her put a phone on her ear. “Ahh. she must be sharing this news with her friends” I pretend.

Leo & I continue playing in between my glances up at her window. Finally I glance over & this time she is dancing of joy! The lights go out so I guess its time for bed.

“Goodnight my princess..” I whisper in her direction to where she would wave at me.

That night I slept & dreamt of my princess on the balcony. I, her prince will come and ask her to marry me as I ride in from the mist on a white horse. It was a beautiful & dreamy night.

Next day I woke up filled with joy. Can’t wait to see Karen & hear what she told her friends about us. I go downstairs after doing my chores & after lunch, I head out. Only Leo is out there – riding his bike in continuous long loops as if he is waiting for something. He sees me & goes into his crazy wheel-popping circles.

“Tell me! How do you feel now that you have a girlfriend?”
I thought about it and didn’t really know what to answer. We talk for a long while though.

A guy I’ve never seen steps up towards us.

“Hey, what It Is, man!” He nods his head at Leo in a form of greeting. Leo nods back. This dude does a visual scan of the area as if he’s looking for something.
“What’s up?” Leo asks this guy. Noticing that he is distracted.
Leo asks him “What are you doing in this neighborhood?”
“Nothing. Just came to see my aunt who lives around the corner.”
“4-sho!” Leo replied & thought nothing of it.

This interchange felt weird to me. Something seemed off about this chump. He seems much older than Leo to be in the same grade. I bet you he must have failed the 9th grade several times. He is very tall with a well-built frame. Almost 6 feet tall with a big black bushy, curly hair. He seems to be dressed too nicely. I even smell cologne and he even has a mustache! What’s up with that?

He hangs around for a bit, not saying much just looking here & there.

Leo tries to engage him in a conversation, but the guy seems lost in his scan of the area. At that moment I see Karen come outside.

He notices her too….

“Catch you later, Leo…” The chump says goodbye without answering Leo’s question. Something is weird here.

He then walks away towards the park and sits on a park bench. I walk over to meet up with Karen & try to forget this chump.

Karen & I both lean onto the same cars as last night. She reaches out, holds my hand & gives me a kiss on the cheek. Her hands are soft but cold as if she was holding ice. Her eyes glistening steely blue in the sunlight & looking back at me – but with a glance I’ve never seen on anyone’s eyes before. She smell so nice & her hair looks shinier & brighter than usual – as if she was going out somewhere. We talk for a bit but something feels off in the conversation. She pauses & then she, like in a scene from a B-movie, drops a line from a cheesy script:

“I think we need to see other people…” she said.

Damn! what a downer. This came out of nowhere.

If she said anything else, I couldn’t hear it. I immediately retracted my hands & my eyes glazed over. I didn’t see the same beauty in her eyes anymore. I looked down & walked away. I can hear her call my name, but I do not turn back.

I head over to my safe place. Leo doesn’t say a word. He just sat on his bike with one foot resting on the peddle & the other on the ground – as if he is trying to get a footing. No excitement & no crazy wheel-popping circles. No words. Just sitting there as if he knew something was whacked.

Karen finally gets up off the car & walks towards the park, not looking in our direction at all. She heads right towards the table where Leo’s friend is sitting. Odd she walks right up to him as if she knew him.

All I could do was stare at them. They seem to talk for a bit. Then he reaches for her hand. She reaches out & they hold hands as they continue to speak face-to-face. The soft light from the sun moves & now they are sitting in the shade of the Maple tree. Their bodies, as distant shadow figures, move closer together. She sits next to him on the table. He puts his arm around her & they both tilt their heads in a kiss.

All in plain-sight of what was, just recently my happiest hours.

Leo & I just stand there dumbstruck. Not knowing what to say. Not knowing how to react.

“Leo, what did you say your friend’s name was?” I ask unwittingly but knowing what the answer might be…

Leo thought for a moment & then realized a connection : “Oh shit! His name is Pablo, too.”

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Here I go Again…

Having my driver’s license feels great! Freedom to go where I want, when I want! No longer under mom’s dictate. After all I’m 17 now and deserve the freedom to drive without “an adult over 21” watching my every move. If feels good to be free and not have anyone to depend on…

But with that freedom comes a big responsibility. Mom now has two drivers to make deliveries for her. And today, driving around lower Manhattan, I wish Daniel was here. This traffic is stressful & parking is impossible. I’ve circled around the block three times & just wasted 1/2 hour.

Danny would knows where I can unload. He’s made friends with the guys at the loading zone & they would call for him when the meter maids would come by. Sometimes, they would even make believe they are unloading his van so the meter maid would not give him a ticket.

Lincoln Tunnel
Image : Hannah Mishin –
Today, I am on my own & it’s my turn to be independent.

It’s past 2:30 & I am making my last drop-off. I can finally head out from the city and head back to the white picket fences of Carteret.

Ah, the Lincoln Tunnel is in sight now & its only 3:30! I love those white tile walls because at the half-way point, they will change into a blue-tile line advising me that I am back in New Jersey.

It’s funny how a simple line of demarcation can provide a mental sanctuary. Like the line between night & day, telling me the darkness of night is right over my shoulder, this line divides the safety of my home town from the craziness of this world. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York but its my first time driving there, alone…

Traffic is still heavy, but not as crazy as in the city. Funny, but I never imagined actually missing New Jersey & the New Jersey Turnpike – that familiar strip of highway that highlights my home with its own sign : Exit 12 – Carteret.

It’s now 4:35, I’m done with that traffic and I am getting my toll ticket home. Right under the Exit 16E sign the van skips & stutters. Almost as if was telling me how pooped out she is as well.

“Yes, girl its been a long day, what is wrong?” I question, yet I offer a word of comfort. “Your gonna make it…”

I accelerate & the van chokes. Damn, I’m gonna have to cross several lanes of traffic & pull over to the side. Choking & jumping, the van makes it and I pull onto the shoulder.

“Come on girl! start!” I implore in frustration.

But she won’t crank over. Looking out the window, I see that darkness coming & I start loosing hope that the van will respond with a spark before nightfall.

“Shit, I must be out of gas!” I yell out in disbelieve – that broken needle is finally telling the truth.

Do I walk back to the toll booth & see if anybody there can help me? what do I do? Ah! a blue highway sign ahead that I didn’t even notice : “Alexander Hamilton, Service Area – 1/2 mile”

I lock the doors of the van & start walking. It’s now 5:15 and the sun, disappearing in the horizon, is saying goodnight. The traffic, zooming by me looks like rockets shooting into space. The headlight streaking by like fire trails, swoosh by & I try not to get caught in that stream. Inching my way towards the plaza, the zooming traffic noise is deafening, but I have hope that its only a 1/2 mile ahead & I won’t freeze my butt off tonite.

Sun gone & in full darkness of night, I make it to the service plaza.

“Do you have a gas can I can borrow?” I ask the clerk.

“Five bucks deposit!” He replies. Not even looking up, he points to the cans in the corner. I grab one, pay the man & head to the pumps to fill ‘er up.

Walking back to the van, the air of the night is cold & bitter. The lights of the oncoming traffic highlights one of my great error of the day.

“Ok, come on baby, turn on…” She is stubborn, but eventually gives in & starts. I drive the 1/2 mile back to the gas pumps at the plaza.

The attendant asked “…regular?”

“Yeah, fill ‘er up while I go inside & return the gas can.”

“Ran out of gas on the highway?” he questions

I take this question to be of genuine concern and show my vulnerability. “Yeah, my gas gauge is broken so I didn’t notice I was out…” I didn’t realize then, but at that instant I gave away my stance and made my second mistake.

I come back to the pump & the guy is done pumping. It feels odd that he was done so quick, so I questioned him : “that was fast, bud?”

“yeah, the pumps are really smooth today…” was his reply.

“Wait a second! the pump only reads Five Bucks!?”

“Yeah, another car came up while you were inside. I had to take care of him, so I had to reset the pump.” he justified and I took it as a genuine answer.

But of course, my cynical side steps in… “I hope that’s all it was… If you shorted me, you will see my face again!”

Getting back into the van. I can’t even confirm that he gave me my twenty bucks worth. So feeling stupid, I just drive off. And this is where my third strike hits…

“Finally, on my way home…” My hopeful side steps in…

Or so I thought. within ten miles the van chokes and sputters again.

“Poor girl, here we go again – on our own!”

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