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Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Studies have shown that during the adolescence period the primary goal is to develop our personality, although there are several key layers in doing so it is said that forming one’s identity during this phase is crucial to maturity. So, what happens when that process is disrupted?

I am fourteen years of age now we had to lay our father to rest. This drove my mother off the edge and lead to her absences. First, my eldest brother had to find a way for us to survive in a violent, alcohol and drug induced neighborhood while he struggled with his own hellhound thoughts. Second, the oldest son is now thousands of miles away and the only link I had to grasp the many components with becoming a woman moved in with her boyfriend. I had already settled in with an insecure behavior, and that began to shape my life early on. At this point, I had the anxiety level of a thirty-year-old woman with a husband, two children and a dog. A quarter of my immediate family members were gone, which contributed to my longing for consistency. I could not see the value in appreciating and enjoying what I did have. Why?

I was concentrating on what was missing in my life. The world did not devour everything from me just yet. My love still remained for education and sports. My mom and dad enjoyed listening to me read and they would hand me whatever they could get their hands on; including the mail while sitting back and hanging on to each word. I was not older than seven years old and I excelled in school rather early.

By the time I got to the second grade the faculty recognized how bright I was and would place me in the advanced classes. I remember school being a fun place and so I took pleasure in being there. In the old neighborhood, we had the coolest sports available to us and I explored many of them. Nevertheless, my love for dancing and gymnastic superseded all the rest. I would arrive extremely early for gymnastic training before our regular school day would begin.

The routine was the same, I would wake up at five thirty each morning, freshen up get dressed and sit with my mother while she sipped on a dark roast cup of coffee. On my way to school, I would stop at the penny candy store to buy as much candy, cookies a single dollar could buy. Gymnastic practice began around 6:45 in the morning. The first half usually focused on warm ups and stretching, followed by tumbling on the mat. This would lead to mounting and dismounting on the pommel horse then my absolute favorite was balancing on the beam Bar.

Man, oh man I could walk and cartwheel on that balance beam all day.

For me, gymnastic was my freedom, my space where I remained consistent and striving to grow in my craft. Over time after enduring the physical pain from the falls, bumps and bruises I appreciated the skilled that I had developed. After school, I would attend dance class at the community center a couple of days during the week. Our dance coach was not only the coach; she was like a big sister to us. There were times when parents were running late, and she would volunteer to sit and wait with us.

We would do our homework play board games and just sit in a group and talk. It was great being around coach because somehow, I sensed her passion for dancing and teaching. She choreographed every hip-hop dance that we performed all on her own. If anyone fell behind with the steps, she would volunteer to come in on Saturdays to give them an additional lesson. This helped them to memorize the routine.

It may sound like a cliché, but my life was all so simple then. I enjoyed school, and being involved in activities my teachers and coaches recognize my potential. They encouraged me to keep going, and I was filled with joy while doing it at that point. My life was NOT complicated and in my eyes, it was normal. Therefore, you could imagine my sorrow when I had to give all of that up when my dad died, forcing me to leave the life I had loved behind.

It has been a little over a year now since we relocated; I was now attending Cavallaro Junior High School. Just like most of the kids from Marlboro houses, that was the neighboring school. The transition was difficult in every aspect. The school structure were poles apart from where I came from. Every classroom was filled to whatever the state maximum capacity allowed. There were fewer activities and more hallway and stairway activities. Far too much horsing around oh and you can’t forget about lunchtime the only thing missing was a DJ. To top off this wonderful atmosphere, I would frequently encounter family members or friends of the folks my brothers set fire to previously.

In other words, I had to stay ready because at any given time someone could choose that time in school for retaliation against me. Lucky for me, I was able to cultivate relationships that would carry me through this tsunami of a life I had to prepare for.

Through the tidal waves I experienced, I managed to meet good people during my Cavallaro Junior High School days. For several months, I would see Vanessa walking about in school and sometimes in the neighborhood. One day I notice her sitting by herself near the basketball court, so I approached her and sparked a conversation.

In the mist of our parley, she mentioned that on that particular day it was her birthday, so I immediately thought it would be a good idea to offer her a beverage. You know the kind that you had to keep wrapped in a brown paper bag because drinking alcohol outside was and still is illegal. More importantly, we were underage. That day we shared a few forty-ounce bottles of country club and a new thing was born. Little did I know she would be the link to the person who will become the father of my child. From that day forward we were inseparable, and for many birthdays after we enjoyed her birthday with cocktails and laughter. We cut class together, ran down on a few boys together, and traveled together.

Our circle got bigger over the next few months. The regulars included myself, Vanessa, Tasha, Nyla, Sade and Desire. Each of which were associates of Vanessa. A usual Saturday night for us was a fifteen-minute walk to Coney Island. Coney Island in the early nineties was the place to be. One ride in particular, the Himalaya we did not need a club. Groups from every section of Brooklyn would find themselves there. Some came to enjoy the ride; others came solely to see who would dance directly in front of the Himalaya, to perform. You heard me right dancing. Back then, it was still an absolute art. One night in particular the usual suspects were on the scene, and we showed out this night.

Everyone went extra hard on their outfits and I certainly did. I had to borrow mine though. I kind of helped myself to Laruen’s olive green Calvin Klein jean suit, navy blue and white Tommy Hilfiger shirt with an all-white pair of high top Reeboks. I had to finish crushing it with the gold bangle earrings with my initial centered in the middle. I was clean. This night must have been the place to be because everybody showed up. People from Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, Coney Island…I can keep going, but I am sure you can understand the scenery. As we walked through, we could see the different clicks standing around.

The number of people surrounding this one ride was crazy, there were people packing the walkway from the boardwalk to the city street. What better night to show your dancing skills than this one. The DJ was going hard. He played hit after hit after hit and the crowd lost it when he played Biggie…

“As I sit back relax, steam a blunt, sip a Becks Think about the sexy singers that I wanna sex I’d probably go to jail for fucking Patti LaBelle Ooh Regina Belle, she’d probably do me swell Jasmin Guy was fly, Mariah Carey’s kinda scary wait a minute, what about my honey Mary? them jeans they fitting like a glove I had a crush on you since Real Love

A crowd began to form ahead, so we had to get a closer look. Through the crowd, I could see this tall slinky guy with beads, and I knew right away, who it was. Ron-G, he was known in every borough for his dancing skills. This guy could have made a living from dancing; he would take any dance, perfect it then switched it up to match his style. That is when a new thing was born. What a night! I looked over at Vanessa, asked her to walk with me to get another beer. While walking away from the crowd, it was almost as if no one else was moving aside from these two guys walking toward us.

As we got closer, I heard Vanessa say “what up troublemaker” I look to the right and said to myself “well damn” this guy was hella cute. Average height, athletically built, navy blue Yankee fitted, light brown complexion, and the fullest lips I had ever seen. I remained stuck on his lips for a while lol and Vanessa began talking to him and his friend. While I continued to stare. She introduced me to them, but I could only nod my head. She ended the chat and as soon as we walked off, I slapped her on the arm “where is he from”? “How do you know him”? The questions just kept coming.

Vanessa replied, “Calm down girl, he will be over there when we get back, and you can ask him all this shit you are grilling me about”.

We grabbed our drinks headed back to the ride and stood directly next to the cute guy and his friend, and miraculously I became lost for words. In between sips I would glance over to see if I was overreacting the first time, I laid eyes on him took another glance and said to myself again “he is fine as hell”

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