A “Shondah”, that’s what she called it when I shared what I had recalled earlier this week. The flashback that was so vivid that I fought to keep my eyes open for fear it was real; what I had remembered about living in that house. It happened when I laid my head on my pillow this past, brisk Tuesday evening and inhaled what I thought would be a soothing breath. It took me straight to 47 Bradhurst Avenue. Me about 12 or 13 years old sitting on the 1st floor in the “main room” with my coat on feeling the chill on my neck again, the stench of the mildew, the odor of the person who occupied the bed next to the chair lying on sheets & blankets that rarely got washed. I was instantly transported to what must have been a Friday night because I was up later than usual. I heard his workers come in out of the cold and converge in the kitchen to get their money organized, re-up, smoke and talk shit before going back on the corner. It was the mid 80’s crack is what they were offering at their station. I waited for the sound of him coming in the door in the boisterous manner he did everything. He would come into the main room, mainly to make eye contact with me, but also to leave some “work” behind for the house to sell for the remainder of the night and the next day. Once most of his crew went back outside I would make my way to the bathroom, and wait for him to be alone. I recalled the anxiety, excitement and confusion I felt as I would meet him right by the front door, and we’d kiss and he’d fondle. There would sometimes be people walking by, coming in and out, but we were usually alone. Anyone who walked by and noticed my small preteen body suspiciously close to his early 20’s large frame (he was known as “Fat G”) would act as if all was normal. I thought it was.
The individuals I lived with would sometimes know I was out in the hallway with him but no one ever interfered. I thought it was love when I would sneak to his house the next day with the cab fare he had slipped me the night before; only after we finished “making out” in the hallway. I would spend between 2 and 3 hours at his house in Washington Heights; the location I interestingly could not remember for years until a couple of years ago when I drove down the block by accident and almost crashed because I was suddenly transported back to 19eighty something; being touched, explored, fucked, exploring things that I now know I really didn’t want to know yet. He would give me money every time I left his house but I thought it was because he loved me and cared for me. He knew they didn’t feed me much and my allowance from my mother and the “tip” money I made from running errands and cleaning up was menial. He “protected” me from the others who used to unpleasantly visit me at night. At least with him I enjoyed the time. I thought I did, I thought he was saving me.
Now, it’s called a “Shondah”…the confusion, helplessness, neglect, abuse that I experienced. The things I did to survive, I now find out other children didn’t have to do…what was allowed to happen a shame, a pity, an outright sin. I may not be Jewish but a Jewish woman gave it this name.