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Monday, February 16, 2009

Ill-gotten Gains

Back in fifth grade Vincent Hernandez and I were playing at a warehouse near our school. We climbed to the top of the building where we noticed a large skylight. It looked like it would be fun to jump on it. I went first and rebounded off the flexible material that comprised the skylight. Vince went next and he was not so lucky. I remember the scene as if it happened in slow motion. Vince jumped onto the skylight and I saw the terror on his face before I noticed the skylight shattering beneath his feet. I heard someone screaming "V i- i- i -i- n-nce!!!" and then realized that the voice was my own. An iron railing surrounded the skylight on three sides and Vince made a desperate attempt to grab onto it as he began plummeting downward through the broken shards. Miraculously he was able to wrap both his hands around one of the bars. He hung there for about two seconds. His knuckles were still white with tension as he lost his grip and fell through the decimated skylight and into the depths of the warehouse. I ran to the perimeter of the skylight and looked downward. Vince was lying on his stomach about a floor beneath where I stood. He was not moving. "V-i-i-i-i-nce!!" I screamed again. At that point Vince rolled over and then disappeared completely from my view. My heart pounded in my chest and I thought that I was going to urinate in my underpants. Terror filled my soul. I ran to the ladder of the fire escape on one side of the building and maneuvered down it as fast as I could. As soon as I was back on street level I raced around trying to enter the warehouse from any door possible. All of them were locked. For some reason all I could think to do was run to the house of Eli Watson, a neighborhood kid who had a set of picklocks. Somehow I arrived at his doorstep although I was so agitated that even now I can't actually recall any moment of my frantic journey over there. He answered the door and agreed to come with me immediately when I explained the situation. Eli did not seem to grasp the gravity of the circumstances, but I felt profoundly grateful that he would accompany me on this mission to break into the warehouse. Upon our arrival back at the building we encountered an open doorway. I froze for an instant and then ran inside. Vince was nowhere to be found. Forgetting about Eli I took off towards Vince's apartment. I remember taking a few deep breaths and attempting to look calm once I got there. It took all my courage to ring Vince's doorbell. One of his relatives answered. Trying to play it cool I said:

"Is Vince home?"

The kindly woman informed me that Vince was injured and had been taken to the hospital. What expression was on my face at that moment? Did this nice lady suspect that I had been involved in Vince's accident? Could she see the horror in my eyes even though I was doing my best to be nonchalant? Would Vince die? Would I rot in prison for my complicity in the events leading up to his death? The woman smiled softly at me as I stared at her. I fled.

Within a few minutes I encountered Vince's sister. I told her the complete, unadulterated truth. I could see the wheels turning in her eighth grade mind. She wasted no time in grabbing her friends, repeating my story, and then heading to the warehouse. The aftermath of the situation went like this:

- A gang of 8th grade girls entered the warehouse and stole much of the inventory contained within its walls. Most of the booty was children's toys like skates, board games, and jump ropes.
- The hospital released Vince several days later after treating him for a broken pelvis, dislocated shoulder, and numerous other injuries.
- About a week after that members of the local police department visited Vince's and my elementary school campus to investigate the robbery of the warehouse.
- Vince's sister gave me a jump rope to ensure that I would keep my silence regarding my knowledge of the whole incident.

I never talked, but I did not want that jump rope. It languished in my closet for years. Even back then I had a profound aversion to possessing stolen merchandise. It felt wrong. It felt like all the planets were aligning against me because I had violated the natural order of things. I lost sleep over the jump rope in my closet but I was afraid to throw it out in case someone would connect it to the robbery and then connect it to me. I was in fifth grade and I was scared. Years passed and I never really recovered from the incident. I don't want to. To this day I still believe that receivers of stolen goods will eventually pay dearly for accepting the ill-gotten gains and trying to overlook the nature of their origin. Beyond that, jump ropes always reawaken the feelings of terror that I experienced during the Vincent Hernandez episode of my childhood.

As luck would have it Jewell Marceau handed me a jump rope during one of our recent workout sessions at her house. I tried to be calm, but I could not maintain my dignity. Jewell did not understand why I was not keeping up with the workout and she became very angry. A nasty, nasty catfight erupted between us...

Ahh.. what else is new? I can't seem to stay out of trouble. Join to see the hundreds of catfights inside my members' area!

XO Tanya


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