Let that be your last

Kid in a Candy Store

In Ms Roony’s candy shop looking for something that I hadn’t had before – like many of the six year-olds from the neighborhood in north Philly.  That’s when I met her.  She so much taller than me (almost six feet) and very pretty.

lady: Hello (returning my smile)

me: Hi

lady: You’re Rocky’s kid?

me: yea

lady: I’m Candy, I live in the hotel next to you.  Find anything good?

me: no, I’m mostly just exploring

lady: do you do that often

me: yea – I’m curious and really interested in science

lady: I’m headed toward the Glenmore do you wanna walk with me?

me: sure!

 

Boldly Going

We walked back up sixteenth street.  Each step was joyful work for me as looked at the jumbled concrete slabs whose edges didn’t align. Each slab had different brown, green and white broken glass strewn everywhere.  Occasionally there was a flattened can that been stepped on hundreds of times.  Water bugs the size of a medium sized tootsie roll were to be avoided because they’d leave a mess on your shoes that would be hard to clean off.  Without looking down, she walked confidently in her wooden pumps (called Candies back in the day) up 16th street without stepping on a single water bug.  The light brown skin of her feet clapped against the wood, followed by the sound of the shoe hitting the cement.  Even though the street  inclined as we made it to Girard avenue, the clap clop rhythm did change.  The brick wall to our left was heavily tagged by the Morrocos with their name in a dulling monochromatic silver paint.  Along the way we talked about why I loved science.  What I wanted to use it for and what I wanted to do when I grew up.  On the corner of 16th and Girard, I felt like I was back at the center of the universe and vaguely safer than at the bottom of the hill.

Candy: So what are you up to for the rest of the day?

me: Star Trek is supposed to be on soon – so I’m going home to watch it

Candy: I love star trek!

We saw more and more of each other in the neighborhood.  Eventually we started watching Star Trek together.  “Let that be your last battlefield” was one of our favorite episodes.  We talked about how the two main characters saw each other as different – but the people of the enterprise didn’t see the difference.  First time through the episode, we didn’t either and that really surprised both of us.  It really made me admire humanity in the distant future.  That technology made it possible for us to get past the day to day so that we could work on ourselves.  Being a light skinned kid of African American descent made me visible in north philly, down town, east philly and west philly.  There were times where people assumed I was spanish or white or claimed me as black.  But there were many days where I longed for it not to matter.  A city where so many people were struggling to make it day to day in filth and violence, science seemed to offer a solution that could elevate us all to the point where none of it mattered.

In our time together, I learned that Candy was a prostitute that worked for Big John who also lived in the hotel.  There were times where I asked about her job and the things she did.  There were times where she asked me about being mixed and what that was like.  But in our time together, I didn’t think of (or treat) her like a hooker and she didn’t treat me like I was different because I was mixed.  We were Star Trek buddies and that was all that really mattered.

It was another time that I remember felling the love I held for science and technology

 

 

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