In this entry, names have been changed to protect the innocent…

It was a cool, breezy night in late March, somewhere around eight o’clock. Everyone was here.

“Here,” was Prospect Park. There must have been over twenty-five of us, this was our main spot; we hung out here almost every night. On weekends we would stay until midnight. Seemed like I was always the last one to leave.

My basketball coach at Holy Name always preached, “Be the first to practice and the last to leave.” 

park bench

Tonight my eyes are glued to a pretty girl, her name is Morgan. I was surprised to see her to tell you the truth. She didn’t hang out with us often.

There were certain girls in my grade who I had no shot with. They might as well have carried a sign on their backs saying,  I’M NOT INTERESTED IN YOU SO DON’T EVEN TRY IT!

Let me paint the picture for you; I was this skinny, curly, red-haired kid and I was a wise guy. Not the kind of wise guy from Bensonhurst or even down on Court Street, I had too much to say. I was in love with basketball and thought I had all the answers.  I wasn’t very good at talking with the girls either. It was awkward. Do you blame me, my father, who was long gone treated my mother like shit.

Deep down I’m not so sure how the girls felt about me but you can best believe the parents of those girls were probably worried about their daughters hanging out with me.  We might have been attending Catholic school but we were starting to discover the opposite sex…and the bottle.

Did I tell you we were 14 and in the 8th grade?

There was two months to go then it was time for that next step; high school. There was an engaging discussion on which high school we were attending next Fall.

Earlier in the day I saw Morgan on Prospect Avenue coming up from Tenth Avenue. I knew she lived down there because I would always see her walking up and down Prospect Avenue.  She was all alone on her way towards the Ninth Avenue.

Maybe she was on her way to Joe’s to get a slice?

BargainLand to get some perfume?

Or maybe she was walking by the boys schoolyard to see who was there?

If I had the ball in my hands I’d dribble between my legs or behind my back; I was a show-off hoping to impress her.

The minute I saw her I got nervous. I was dying to talk to her but as soon I left the schoolyard and headed up Prospect Avenue, I was too afraid to say anything. I walked along side her dribbling my basketball.

“You going to Power?” Morgan asked. Picking up my dribble I heard her ask me again, “well?”

I was stunned.

Here was one of the prettiest girls in Holy Name talking to me and how did she know I was going to Power?

We had never said a word to each other in school but now she was talking to me. Don’t get me wrong, I would stare at her every day and chase her when we played tag at recess but that was it.

“I’m going to Power,” I answered.

Again, too shy to even look at her, I kept my head up and continued dribbling my basketball. Our coach at Holy Name always told us when dribbling the ball, “keep your head.” Our coaches gave us a lot of advice; it seemed like they were teaching us life lessons too.

She looked at me and smiled. Her white teeth were beautiful, “Yeah, I know.”

Did she just say she knew I was going to Power?

Holy shit!

I stopped dead in my tracks staring at her. I wanted to kiss her so bad right there on Prospect Avenue.

She looked at me in a weird way. Morgan had a habit of tilting her head to the side when she looked at you. After a few uncomfortable seconds, we continued towards the avenue.

Standing in front of the church I felt like a complete idiot. Why couldn’t I keep a decent conversation with her?

I watch her cross the avenue and go to Henry’s Deli on the corner.  Glancing over my right shoulder at Jesus hanging on the cross in front of the church. I could have sworn he said something like, “stay away from that girl…”

My friends and I spent a lot of time together. I was getting drunk every weekend.  I said I earlier I was shocked to see her in the park with us that night. She had some friends down at the horse stables across the street from the Bowling Alley. As pretty as she was, she probably had a boyfriend from I.H.M.

I was beginning to like the idea of getting drunk. The following weekend I tried some wine. We were hanging out when someone came by and asked us if we wanted a hit. When the bottle was passed to me I hesitated at first. First thing I noticed was that it was in a brown paper bag.

“Damn, what is this?” I asked as I enjoyed the taste of the sweet wine.

“Wild Irish Rose” someone said. “Just pass the bottle and don’t drink it all.”

I had hit the jackpot. It tasted better than beer and best of all it was cheap. By the time the bottle got back to me, it was empty.

“How much is a bottle of that?” I asked

“Ninety-nine cents,” someone shouted.

Like usual I was broke. But I knew tomorrow night I was stealing a dollar from my mother and getting some of that wine.

After drinking wine every weekend, later that summer I discovered Tango. It started to get expensive buying a bottle of vodka and a pint of OJ so instead you could purchase a mixed drink in a bottle from the liquor store, they called it a screwdriver over in Farrell’s.

Pretty soon I was getting drunk four, sometimes five nights out of the week.  I’d come home and my mother was out with her friends, asleep or she’d be on the phone. One night I grabbed a bottle from the liquor cabinet and went up on my roof. I sat there and drank every last drop. With my back against the brick chimney I looked up towards the sky asking God for help. I’m not sure I spoke loud enough.

I was 14 years old and turning into an alcoholic.