Monday, November 8, 2010

40th Street (Cont. #15)

Shattering the peace in Borough Park, circa 1958

XVIII: Dope Time

Dope came to 40th Street in the late-1950s.

I was sitting on my stoop, doing nothing in particular, when I heard a car screech. I turned towards 15th Avenue, and saw a black sedan speeding, swerving from left to right, slamming into one car after another that lined the curbs. But I didn’t jump up or anything. I just sat there and watched, as if the entire scene were happening in a slow motion movie. The car kept swerving—it must have banged into at least eight or nine autos before it smashed so fiercely into one car that it came to a halt.

I remember staring, dumbly. And just as dumbly watching as the driver, an Italian kid I recognized but did not really know--about seventeen or so, a bit older than me--stumbled out of the car and began to run, crazily it seemed, down the street towards 16th Avenue. When he was nearly there, I finally jumped up, but the reason I “awakened” at that point now escapes me. I ran down the stoop stairs, and sped towards him. He had turned the corner. When I got there, I saw him still running, or speed-wobbling, now headed towards 41st Street.

Then, out of nowhere, three young men who were working at a gas station a block or so away, gave chase. They caught him, flung him to the ground, and kept him there. Somebody must have called the police, because cop sirens soon filled the air.

I never found out what happened to him. The only thing that stays with me is the image, several hours later, of his mother, a tiny woman all in black, walking frantically up and down the street, stopping every teenager she could find and pleading with them to “Tell the cops he was wit’ you, in your house. Tell ’em it wasn’t him.” She stared up into their faces, pleading for them to lie. The kids she approached just shook their heads.

I remember actually feeling sorry, almost pained, for her, as she made her desperate way back towards her home on 15th Avenue.

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