Trip to New York (June 2016, Part 4, HS reunion, Finale)
Peter and I spoke. He had left our school to attend an all boy's school. He was a sensitive soul and became a guidance counselor. He said the all boys school was jockish but from various staff there were some homosexual advances. I had previously shared this with Jimmy and Jodie. Peter said he never mentioned this to his parents. I recalled how one time a group of tough kids attacked me and held a knife to my throat. They didn't do anything and I returned home, didn't say a thing, and did my homework. I found it strange that from supposedly protective backgrounds we were exposed to so much and if nothing happened nothing was mentioned. I suppose getting ahead was the driving force and you ignored the dangerous elements of the city if they didn't stop you. One time I was pushed by another kid while I was climbing over a spiked fence and was spiked and when I returned home my mother said you are always getting into trouble. I think the pressures to succeed and get ahead left little room for empathy in some cases. The surrounding environment could be hostile and you just weaved your way through it. If you stood your ground you could lose a lot of ground so eventually you backed off.
Anyhow, it was raining and Terry's wife said we could have gone into the back yard if it was sunny. This part of Brooklyn had been redone and it was very nice. The streets were wider than the village with a safe feeling although the steel gated doors hinted otherwise. Terry, seemingly still very liberal, and intellectual, asked me some questions about what I have been doing. I said I had been doing some art and had an up and down time of it. He asked what else I did and I said I did what I had to in order to stay in the game. He said its something one can't leave and one returns to it. Later he betrayed this artistic loyalty as he mentioned his grand child and said his best times were spent being a grandfather. He added its more enjoyable than being a parent because you can leave when you have had enough. I said so cliches are right, and he wholeheartedly agreed. Marvin at some point seemed to feel the only place I messed up was by not having kids. He said that was a mistake. I knew he planned on his daughter caring for him when he got old. Marvin was practical. True, if one is aging and single, you wonder about this. Later at night Marvin called me and said he planned to leave the city in a couple of years. Maybe I thought when his full benefits kicked in. He lived way uptown in the 100's and said the city was getting dangerous and he was concerned about getting knifed or cut. It wasn't safe. I did sense some tension on the streets. A lot of the rough edges had returned from the cracks. You could feel it near where my father lived on 23rd street and in certain other neighborhoods. Many people were surprisingly polite, but the loose ends were not suppressing themselves. When Bloomfield was mayor it felt safer. Upward mobility had replaced anger for a time. Now I felt a reversal. I'm sure the Upper East Side did not have this tension, and Gramercy Park was still safe, and Woody Allen's hangouts were still going strong. But among certain people the anger was coming out and the laws weren't on our side if you had to stand up to it. My dad had said there were many poorer people around who didn't care. Back to Marvin. He said he would go to California near his brother or come to Florida. Always having an eye for the women, he asked me to go on a vacation with him. If not that he said he would visit me in Florida. Another classmate, Tom, who came to high school in the 10th grade, somewhat late, slightly an outsider but also an observer, said he bought a place near where I live and when he comes down we can get together.
Upon getting ready to leave Debby said, 'Well, see everybody in five years.” It was sad in a way. We weren't from a small town where lives were intertwined. We were mostly in different orbits going further from the center and the gravitational force to pull us together wasn't strong enough. We experienced the rough world and even though we were in general not a happy cheerful bunch and knew each other too well because the school was small, there was a yearning to be close and close to our beginnings. I felt bad I couldn't deliver on this need. Painful.
So a bunch of us took the subway back to the city and we sat and talked a bit. I think Dave asked how I got to Florida and I answered to him and Marvin what a gallery owner had said to me when I wondered the same thing, which was, 'it's where I landed.' Dave added, maybe somewhat reflective, 'yeah, on all fours.' Marvin was on the other side of me. Both were lean and nice looking but the stress of New York had stamped their faces. Both Dave and Marvin were divorced and life had not been a cakewalk. I definitely was not a retire playing golf who once in a while visited the kids. Earlier in the evening he asked me if I was retired and I hemmed and hawed and said I still have to think about money.
At another stop people flooded in, many young people, girls in skimpy shorts, young faces, preoccupied faces, self important faces. We could not hear each other as we spoke and our link to each other became less solid. The world, the youth, the times kept on flooding in and we had to gracefully keep our balance for the future.