He was the best-looking guy on the block. And the best athlete, at least in stickball and punchball and handball. One day in the summer of 1957, he knocked on my door, which was at the end of a long dark hallway, to tell me he was going to Mexico with his parents, and that he would find a beautiful sixteen-year-old señorita--we were all fifteen or sixteen--and would get laid. Since none of us had actually gotten laid yet, and since we all knew that Arnie was the best-looking guy, with his black hair and naturally physically great body, that we all wished we had, and that all the girls like Claire and Rebecca and Dina and all of them were crazy about, and that we all hated, we believed him.
He would be the first of us to get laid.
So he came back, after the vacation with his parents (who had run a hot dog stand in Coney Island and, later, a dry cleaning service on East 2nd Street), and told us he did it. Jealousy, inferiority, hate, admiration--all that crap, that’s what I felt. Probably all the guys on 40th Street felt that.
Until later, maybe a few months later, when Selvin, who was Arnie’s best friend, told us he knew that Arnie lied. He’d never gotten laid. He was lying.
I can’t tell you how good I felt.
So when Arnie later said he was going on a date with Claire, who lived across the street from me and who was small and had dark hair and a beautiful face and who I was silently crazy about, I didn’t believe him. I didn’t actually call him a liar, but I thought it. And laughed and laughed inside.
Soon after, on a Saturday night, at about eleven o’clock, I left my apartment, walked through the hallway, and opened the door to the outside. I looked across the street. My stomach dropped. There was Arnie, talking to Claire. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I saw them both laughing.
Which meant that this time, he hadn't been lying.
My head felt on fire.
After a few minutes, I saw them reach out their hands to each other. They stayed that way for awhile. Then they parted hands, and Arnie started to leave. After walking a few feet, he turned and waved, and Claire waved back. Both were still smiling. Then Claire went upstairs to her apartment, and Arnie walked down 40th Street and around the corner to his.
And my head stayed on fire. For a very, very long time.
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