Here’s a little taste of a few. They more or less go for 8 years all over LES.
They look better in the manuscript I have,
this is just reading version. Over 50 parts all over the place. 1st Ave, 2nd
Ave, Ave A, B etc. Tell me what you think.
Adventures in Ukrainian School
Things that were or weren’t …
My earliest memories were of things Ukrainian — the language we spoke, the
people we mingled with, the school I went to, the dreams and hopes that we had…I
thronged myself with the possibilities and adventures of the neighborhood. The
little enclave became a world to me, which maybe lasted 9, 10 years before I
turned around and found myself in other neighborhoods with vastly different
dreams and quests.
Still in memory I go back to them…How true are they? Are my recollections all
fabricated? Can it be possible they don’t even exist for real? Where are those
that can confirm these memories, these recollections? And are there any who can
say “Yes, he had those dreams! But that was oh so long ago….Too bad he woke
I stand now and look about me….More bars, more girls, more drunks carousing
through the streets…I stand, I smile, a new school day is repeating itself….
2. Running from school
On my very first day in school when I was young and little and scared too, I saw
a boy run away from school. He was an older boy in a much higher class but it
seemed a quest I had to try too. I never knew his name or if his flight was
successful. I just watched him climb over a fence and disappear down the street…
And no one said a thing….
I had to try that too…and in dreams I did…
3. Bouffant dress
It was 1960 when a few girls still wore bouffant dresses and little jacklets
shielding their breasts from my eyes that were peering out just to catch a
glimpse of flesh, which I barely ever saw…
I was in the 7th grade and 14 years old. I was a man…well, a half-man without a
woman, and hungry for them at every turn I made as I walked down the street. And
on the Lower East Side there were many beauties to be had, or so I thought,
ready to give it away…. Just that week JFK made his speech about asking for it,
and that’s all I ever thought of….I assumed it was permissible.
And then I saw her, a crinoline sex-pot but actually nothing but a dog in her
looks, like putting on a dress by a garbage man and looking the part. I had seen
her before in church on Sundays, my dick alert. And from a distance she was
divine, a dream come true, but up close and you’d squirm with gagging as you ran
from her. How many times did I see guys rub themselves as she neared then squirm
out of her nearness as she came closer? Put a bag over her head, I heard older
guys say, then she’ll be alright. But I never saw her with a man at her side;
she always alone, though prettily made up, with white gloves on her hands and a
thin purse hovering at her waist.
I had decided I didn’t care how ugly she was, I was going to get me some…
I followed her after mass to 5th street and Avenue A, right by the Con Ed
station, where they made the electricity and she was certainly given me a spark.
Each time as we walked — I some distance behind her — she would turn as if
looking for someone — I was sure she had me in her sights.
It’s amazing how women dressed back then –yards of crinoline and nylons that
seemed ripe for taking off, and slowly…because that’s what I intended to do…
I saw she was walking much slower now, then the hurried pace she kept up after
church, so she must have come to her street and was now talking it easy.
I increased my pace and was at the bottom step looking up at her as she was
going upstairs. Man was I hard! What a sight! I could see her garters holding up
her hose under the wide waisted crinoline dress she had on. It was all I could
do to expose myself right there before her….Then I looked up at her face and saw
her looking down at me….
Oh God, was she ugly! Thin but emaciated like she had been on a diet much too
long; her bones very clear and evident, as if ready to snap and break. But even
at the short distance she looked more like a man dressed up as a woman. The
thought of putting a bag over her face was valid but how could I get near her to
do that? I steeled myself and took a step up. I sensed she hadn’t moved a
step…was she awaiting me?
Near the top I took a chance and looked at her again. Oh, God, did I want to
puke! Holy shit, she was disgusting! I suddenly grew very afraid. I turned
around and bounded down the stairs I had just climbed up, took a few steps and
looked back to see what I have saved myself from…
She looked very downcast and sad; from the corner of her eye it looked like she
was wiping something. Hell, I thought, what the fuck? Why not?
I wanted to run back to her…but her front door slammed….
Taras was certain everyone made fun of him, after all he was named after
Ukraine’s national poet, Taras Shevchenko, and he felt he had to protect himself
from the laughter and scorn coming his way, if there was any….
But it didn’t help that the poet’s Shevchenko’s picture was in every class with
a great big one in the auditorium where his Ukrainian anthem, composed by him,
was sung at every occasion. It didn’t matter that non-Ukrainian’s never heard of
it; it had become a personal affront to him, an affront that made his blood
Taras began to hate everything about Shevchenko, the long mustache of the hero
drooping down his chin, and the Cossack hat roosting atilt on his head like he
was going to battle the infidels who were trying to take Ukraine from him.
Zhche ne umerla Ukrainya “Ukraine is still not dead,” sang his anthem. Well,
fuck Ukraine, thought Taras, this is America!
Taras had a plan: it started with him pissing in the bottom of walls where the
poet hung and seemed to scowl at little Tarasik’s action, to actually taking and
leaving his shit a few times on the floor. But that was no good; it only got the
school talking and gossiping about what vile student could’ve done such a thing.
Taras knew he had to leave one final big marking and evidence of his importance
over the dumb poet and cease in his hellish antics, no matter how childish they
One day after drum and bugle corps tryouts — which he failed, “I don’t blow,”
he simply said, not being able to gush forth a blast of air into the regimental
instrument — he found himself over looked in the auditorium by the other
students and tryout coaches. This was his chance….
He took a chair and set it before Shevchenko’s portrait high up on the wall —
standing, it reached high enough for him to get it. Taking out a red crayon and
scrawled the letter S….when the auditorium door opened and Father Gregory
entered. He was outraged, putting two and two together he instantly made
connection between the piss and shit that had defiled the sacred hero….
Well, Taras was booted from school, no need to tell you of his mother’s shame,
and in later years he became a petty thief and purse snatcher. I ran into him on
the Lower East Side. He laughed when the marking came up.
“I didn’t mean S for Shevchenko,” he said, looking at me. “The S was for Stalin.
That would wake them up for sure.” Stalin, I thought, the vile despot who had
killed millions of Ukrainians. But in Ukrainian Stalin was a C and Shevchenko a
Ch but I kept my mouth shut…
I never saw Taras again after that; heard he was busted and went to jail or else
had killed himself with too many drugs….Who the hell knew?
Zhche ne umerla Ukrainya! I suppose….
Lambda Literary Awards Winner 2010/Bisexual Fiction for Holy Communion