I often shudder with terrified relief as I think back upon my younger years. Back then, I was a daring, thrill-seeking, oblivious and invincible (at least in my mind) young roustabout working life’s merry-go-round. On and off, round and round I went never thinking of the consequences or the ‘What If’s”. So it is with this little tale I am about to impart to you all. A tale of the boys of summer, the dancing Jets, drug deals gone awry and near fatal peeing incident.
It begins on a gorgeous sunny day in… uh… hm, don’t remember where? Or when exactly. It was either during my college years, or post-college years. As I try to recall, I can’t even speak to what happened before these events or right after them, or how we traveled into the city from Stockton.. or wherever? Or where we stayed and crashed when the night was over? I can recall nothing. Oh well, saves a rambling preamble, lets just get into then shall we?
We decided to go to a Yankees game on a gorgeous summer day. (Could have been early spring, not sure. OK, I’ll just make up the little things that don’t matter instead of reminding you all that I am getting old and forgetful. There, I said it!!)
We were Dave, Keith and I. Actually, no, there was a small group of us for I recall as this small gang walked the streets of Bronx towards the stadium, we all hunkered down a bit and began shuffling down the sidewalks, snapping our fingers and singing, “da na na na naa” like a true Jet. Or was it the Sharks that danced? Either way, a fun bit of silliness. As we approached the stadium Dave stopped, looks up in awe and says, “Wow, I can’t believe Babe built this all by himself.”
So, at some point, for whatever reason, it was just Keith, Dave and I about to head in when we realized 1) we were under age for buying beer, or 2) if above legal age we did not have any money, and 3) they would not let us walk in with two cases of Old Milwaukee cans in a cooler. So, we have a problem to resolve. Which Keith did, as always. I assume it was Keith, he was always a clever man. This cleverness and his nimble mind made him a delight to play chess with. Not only for the game itself, but watching him map out his next moves in his mind, building his moves higher and higher, tilting his head and body this way and that way to avoid spilling his balanced thoughts like a large mental Jenga game… it was wonderful.
So, I believe it was Keith who solved our alcohol delimae. We scrounged together our cash and purchased three 1 liter plastic bottles of Coke and a gallon jug of Jack Daniels. We each poured half of our Coke out onto the city streets and filled the empty halves with the Jack. Jack jug emptied, plastic caps back on the bottles of Coke, we are good to go.
Fast forward two hours.. three very drunk guys (remember our weight and tolerance much lower back then!) stumbled out of Yankee stadium.(Yankees lost a stunner to the Royals in a last inning drama when Dave Windfield hit a hard line drive to right field on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and… uh.. you think I remember anything about the game if I can’t remember what year this was??)
Game over, we’re drunk and we spill out into the street of the Bronx.. what is the first thing we do? Look to score some drugs!! Dave makes it his quest to find us some pot. He finds a dealer on the nearest corner, tells us to stay put, that he’ll be right back. He then hands an hard working and entrepreneurial young black man his money. The young man says, “Follow me.” Dave does as the man leads him through the crowd, across the traffic filled street, along a sidewalk, up the front steps of a tenement building, up the inside stairs of said building and into a small room full of this young man’s black coworkers. The young man Dave was following turned to Dave and says, “Wait here.” and then walks through the room and into another room then shuts the door. Dave stood in the very silent room, all eyes staring at him for longer that he should have let them. The Jack causing him to more slowly realize he had just been hoodwinked. Without a word Dave turned and left the building and to us with his head hung low.
Meanwhile, Keith and I perhaps bought some beers in brown paper bags and had been drinking and waiting for Dave. Upon his return we decided to go somewhere.. for some reason… which brought us to the subway station.
As the three of us wobbly stood on the subway platform waiting for the train, my bladder was filling up…. more and more. Sweat gushed from my pours due to the fear I had of peeing my pants, but no one noticed for the heat of the subway had everyone sweating. I wobbled… staggered, tried not to think of my need to urinate but I could not wait any longer. I looked around and walked to the end of the subway platform and looked down into the tunnel. There was a small ledge along the wall that extended into the darkness. I had no choice. I precariously walked along this ledge, trying to maintain balance against the grimy convex, smooth-tiled wall. Once far enough away from all prying eyes, I leaned back and relieved myself in the darkness of the subway tunnel. And quietness of the tunnel. No signs of a train as I continued to pee. No signs of a train at all.. until there was. A train was a’comin’. I was still a’peein’. I could not stop, could not move. The train came closer, I saw its lights. I pressed myself against the wall and looked around me. “Should be enough clearance.” I casually thought. Closer the train came, closer I was to an empty bladder. Then I was done and back in my pants as the bright light blinded me and the sound of clacking and metal upon metal grating ripped through my soul and echoed loudly in my empty bladder. Wind rushed by, threatening to tear my clothes off me, or worse yet whisk me off the ledge but I did not move. I did not breathe. I did not.
The train was an express and did not stop at the station. When it was past, my spirit and soul still spinning inside my skin, I walked back along the ledge to the subway platform. Nearly there I saw both the craning necks and heads of Dave and Keith peering into the darkness of the tunnel. The look on their faces, the pale white sheen, their too large and bulging eyes told me I was dead. I continued walking towards them expecting to walk right through them like a ghost and find that firey stairway down to the real merry-go-round platform, but instead, I walked right into them. Hard. Dave grabbed me in both his hands and shook me, violently. Apparently he had been asking me “Are you OK?” repeatedly and loudly and I just stared. I snapped out of it, and said, “Yeah, much better. Man did I have to pee!”.
The last image I have of that day was standing in Washington Square Park against the fence of the dog run jumping up and down like a little boy, laughing and pointing with glee at the frolicking canines.
It was three days later when I shuddered with terror with the memory of the subway train racing towards me. I was home alone, on the couch, watching Dave Winfield strike out, when I finally and fully experienced the sound and fury of that moment. I shuddered again.
Then peed my pants.