One Thursday morning in March I decided to cut classes. I was thirteen and junior high was terribly dull, especially because I knew what treasures awaited me across the bay. So, after Mom dropped me off at school in the gremlin, I turned around and walked to the bus stop, pretended I had a bus pass and paid my nickel, and rode to the ferry.
The plan was to go to all these places I read about in New York Rocker: Ians, Manic Panic, Bleecker Bob. The problem was that all these places were in the East Village and the only train line I knew was the IRT from the ferry, the 1 train, and the only stop I knew to get off at was Christopher Street/Sheridan Square. Even I knew that was the West Village. When I was little, mom took me and my brother to the Greenwich Village. I was 6, it was the 1968, my mother was 25 years old and men kept coming up to her telling her that they loved her. They all wanted to read her poetry. I remember being fascinating but thinking also that my mother was very very scared and I didn't know why. I remember it was spring, it was grey, and I felt like I was in a Simon and Garfunkle song.
The day I cut class was grey too, and cold. It took two hours to get from the middle of Staten Island to Christopher Street and I was hungry. I sat down on a bench in the park right outside the subway station and took out one of my cream cheese and jelly sandwiches. An old man sat down next to me and lustfully eyed my sandwiches. I took the other one out of my backpack and gave it to him. We sat and ate our cream cheese and jelly sandwiches in happy silence. As I got up to leave, a strange man came up to me. "You look like an angel. May I kiss you?" I must have looked scared because he added, "I won1t hurt you." I don1t know why, but I offered him my cheek and he kissed it so lightly it was like when my grandmother used to put pressed powder on my face with her soft brush.
I felt so good as I walked east--adult, untethered. I was wearing my new spring jacket which was very funky and stylish, I had on a little makeup--I felt positively 16. When I got to 6th avenue I looked up the wide street and decided to go north for a few blocks. I stopped at the Bigelow Pharmacy to look at makeup, typical american teenager that I was.
While browsing through the Maybelline a very cute guy approached me. He had to be at least twenty-five.
You like that makeup? I buy it for you. He had some sort of accent that sounded French.
Naw, I said, looking demurely down at the floor, it's ok.
No! I would like to buy it for you? Or something else maybe? The girls in my country, they like eyeliner. You dress like the girls in my country.
Where is that? (I felt bold.)
France. I am Michel. He held out his hand and I shook it. Like a grownup! And your name is...?
Oh, you have a French name! Are you French?
No, no, I'm from New York. I looked at the floor for a while and I suddenly realized that I might get myself into some situation that might end with my photo on the side of a milk carton.
Uh, I have to go. I have a class...
Oh, are you in college? He asked as I left the pharmacy.
I made it home by 3:30, my usual time. Unharmed but not unscathed.