his story has gotten a lot longer than I had anticipated. It was not my intention to get this involved. But it’s odd how certain words or ideas kick off a slew of memories, and my mind can’t stop thinking about it. Indeed, a lot of the details I had forgotten about completely until I started to write this down. FYI: Yesterday’s pic was from September 1974 when I was 18 years old. Today’s pic is from August 1972. It’s my junior year high school student ID photo. Truth be told, a few girls wanted the ID after I got a new one for senior year, but I beat ’em back with a stick. Now where was I…
hile Angel and I had a few things in common, our friendship had not developed to that level yet, so we were not that close. Or so I desperately tried to convince myself. I seemed to be justifying my feelings, my selfishness. An attractive girl interested in me? And I hadn’t done anything to invite this attention? This was a completely new situation for me. I should just back off, I thought, and let the chips fall where they may. If DKLA and Angel got together, great. If she wanted to pursue me, maybe greater. So I acted passively, avoiding Angel’s situation by not driving them on his date, but in a way I was aggressively preventing him from advancing his own agenda.
I won’t make excuses. What I was feeling in my heart was wrong. And I guess I knew it even then, since I didn’t–couldn’t–tell anyone what I was thinking. I couldn’t even tell Cary or Tomahawk (played by detachable), my two best friends, for fear of accusations. Yes, I knew what I was doing. And yet, I couldn’t help myself.
December came and things seem to escalate rapidly in ways that defy explanation. My boss, K, was going to Las Vegas with her husband for a few days, and so she left the car to me so I could drive her mother home after work. I took the car to school, with her permission, and having learned of this, Angel automatically asked me to give him a ride as well. Reluctantly, I said yes.
On a chilly morning, I went to City Terrace to pick him up and then headed toward school. I was planning to get on the San Bernadino Freeway then to the Santa Monica to get to our school located on LA’s Westside. But Angel had another idea.
“Let’s go through Boyle Heights.”
“What? Fuck you. That’ll add twenty minutes to our trip,” I protested.
“No, really. We can go by Roosevelt High. Maybe we’ll see DKLA.”
“Oh, man,” I sighed. “I would really rather go straight to school.”
“C’mon, man. You gotta car! We won’t have these kinds of chances that much.”
“Alright, alright,” I relented. Angel succeeded in getting me to drive him to where he wanted to go. I was irritated at first, but as we drove through the streets of East Los Angeles, I grew strangely comfortable with the idea that Angel was every bit as selfish as I was. The thought of seeing DKLA didn’t hurt either.
Angel directed me down Evergreen, then right on Brooklyn where Evergreen Cemetery was.
“Why don’t we just go straight down to 3rd street?” I asked.
“Turn left on Fickett,” he happily ordered.
“What? Why are we zigzagging to get to Roosevelt?”
“‘Cause this is the way she walks to school,” he answered matter-of-factly. All I could do was roll my eyes. What didn’t he know about this girl?
We went one block down Fickett, made a right on First Street, then another immediate left on Mathews.
“Slow down,” Angel whined as he looked at everyone walking the last block to Roosevelt. “There, there,” he pointed.
And sure enough, there was DKLA walking on the right side of the street, her arms wrapped around the books she held up to her breast. She was wearing a burgundy letterman’s sweater, her brother’s. (Why do I remember this?). I pulled up to the curb and Angel opened the window.
“”Hey, DK!” he yelled, motioning for her to come over.
She walked deliberately towards car. “What are you doing here?”
“Onigiriman’s got the boss’s car and so we thought we’d see if we could catch you,” he explained.
We thought? You mean, YOU thought…
DKLA hunched over to look into the car and saw me in the drivers seat.
“Hi,” I smiled as nonchalantly as I could.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, as if I might have a different reason as Angel’s. I just shrugged my shoulder. “So you going to school now? Cool. What time does school start? What classes do you have today?”
She looked directly at me with her questions and I smiled as I gave her short but accurate responses. Angel didn’t seem much too pleased at not being the target of her attention.
“The bell’s going to ring soon, so I have to go. Bye,” she said to both of us. “Then she looked at me and mouthed, “Call me.”
I pulled the car back onto the road and headed toward school. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw her receding figure standing on the corner. Why isn’t Angel sticking his head out the window waving at her? Why isn’t he even turning around to look at her? Could he have noticed her “secret” message to me?
The tension in the car was thick. As I turned onto the Golden State Freeway south toward the 10, the sharp keyboard intro to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” started to jerk out of the car speakers. But even it couldn’t loosen the mood.
Very superstitious, writing’s on the wall
Very superstitious, ladders bout’ to fall
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past
This was a new song that Angel liked, but he didn’t sing along as he often did. He just sat silently looking out the window at the rundown houses and storage facilities lining the freeway. I veered west onto the Santa Monica Freeway, a virtual bridge over central LA for about five miles, and saw the city stretch before us. Ah, man. Did Angel really see her? What the shit is he thinking? What the shit am I thinking? What the fuck am I gonna do now? I thought as I glanced over at him.
Angel just sat there, staring out the side window distantly at the buildings of downtown LA. I thought about DKLA and what she had mouthed. Did she really say “Call me”? Call her? Now how am I gonna do that? Then a random bit of truth crossed my mind and I relaxed. I didn’t have her phone number, so how could I call her? In a twisted kind of logic, I figured that she couldn’t blame me for not contacting her since I didn’t know her number, and if i didn’t call her, I wasn’t betraying Angel. No harm, no foul, I grinned.
When you believe in things that you don’t understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain’t the way
But DKLA called me that night.