You Were Born Of…
I guess my being the only girl in the family, destined me to be a tomboy, sporting cutoff jeans with patches, slick backed braids and flat, knobby breasts.
I believed back then that I could do anything my brothers could do,
from wildly racing up and down the hard baked streets on roller skates
and tripping onto the cracked sidewalks to playing coco levio, jumping and turning the ropes for double dutch or
picking up Jacks and the ball in the stairway of our building.
I played all day, everyday.
My friends and I played hide and seek in and among the many scattered abandoned buildings that towered and
blankly stared out l like spooks at night.
I knelt and played on the concrete where the chalky skelly boards were drawn and skinned my
knuckles shooting bottle caps onto the drawn floor. /span>
I owned the only monkey wrench on the block to turn the water on from the Johnny pump.
So every afternoon it was my responsiblity to cool the streets down.
Sweat running down my forehead was wiped away with the back of the hand because we didn’t know about hankies.
We mostly used the bottoms of our shirts and tees to wipe with.
The family nicknamed me, Ski after Ski LowLow a well known, midget
wrestler because I was short, but very strong.
I watched him on our black and white tubed shaped T.V. with a clothes hanger antennae every
Then I’d practice on and terrorize my brothers with the moves and flips, I saw Ski making in the rink.
I’d force them down and stand over them, victorious. Mini-Ski.
Year after year I wrestled my brothers and won until they turned about twelve
Then one sunny day my brother refused to yield and so
I hit him in the stomach trying like all the other times to force him
down but this time he hauled off and socked me in the right eye.
I didn’t know that there were so many stars out in broad daylight after his fist
connected with my eye.
That experience changed everything and me.
It wasn’t like it used to be.
I don’t think I ever noticed before the looks that my brothers
had whenever I approached, not that
they actually hated me but I certainly wasn’t their favorite.
The snickers and smirks that their faces had for me was never so obvious to me as it was on the day
my brother almost knocked out my eye.
But that summer, a new boy moved onto our street and joined my brothers’ tribe running our block.
He was a Hersey chocolate boy named Robert Burns who had a beautiful
round face with sparkling even teeth and honey colored lips where his black, mustache tested me.
Robert was the only boy on the block to have a black, mustache that we, girls watched from our stoop perches.
He was built too for hard work as his back rippled and rolled under his tee shirt when he walked passed.
They rented the basement apartment directly in the middle of our block.
He and his mom were always yelling and screaming at each other as the neighbors
and I witnessed in disbelief.
No one, I knew had ever seen a child or even an adult son abuse or disrespect his parent the way Robert Burns did.
In our minds, in those days, using those kinds of words to express such undisclosed anger was a moral sin.
Their weekend battles were better than black and white t.v.
Robert Burns, was a bad boy, doing and speaking things we never even thought of in secret.
Things that only adults knew about.
Watching them fight was better than Lassie or Tonto and the Lone Ranger, even better than Friday night wrestling.
We watched, listened and gossiped in speechless amazement as she tried to beat
him and he took the belt from her and ran off to the club house my brothers built behind
the abandoned building.
It was all too new for me and I fell in love with the wild, bad boy, rebel.
Plus, all my friends were about to pass out over him and I wanted to be the first
girlfriend, not the second or third, on the block, he was going to be my guy.
more by DEBRA BISHOP
photograph by Scott Webb
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