I grew up in an Indiana neighborhood where my family was the only black people on the block. As a kid, my parents were strict. I could only play on my block, on our side of the sidewalk and off the streets. My childhood friends were white boys who played with Star Wars toys. No Barbie Dolls allowed. I didn’t find any girls my age to play with until my sister began babysitting these two little girls who lived a few blocks away from us. In order to get there, you had to walk through this narrow, neatly paved winding alley that seemed to go on forever. For a 10-year-old kid, this alley was like Narnia.
When you took this pathway through Narnia, you’d pass a gamut of tall wooden fences that secured the privacy of families’ back yard. On the other side was overgrown bush with a shortcut trail I was forbidden to take without an adult. When you walked through this alley, it sounded as if the entire world was shut out. When you walked far enough into Narnia, it felt like the point of no return. You were too far in to turn around and run, but close enough to the bend of the alley where the exit waited for you. Once you got to that point, you could yell and scream, and no one could hear you…except an occasional disgruntled grown-up behind the tall fence, but that only added to the terror and excitement of Narnia. All you could hear was deep quiet, the birds chirping, and the occasional car that would creep through which wasn’t often. To a 10-year-old who couldn’t ever go anywhere, Narnia was a magical adventure.
The other side of Narnia was an entirely different world. It was beautiful to me! This neighborhood bustled with kids playing outside. There were also more kids who were black like me. There were interracial families – black, white, Samoan… Some of the houses were smaller, but everyone was more neighborly. They smiled and spoke to one another, and even mowed each other’s lawn.
I spent a lot of time with the two little girls my sister babysat. The oldest one, we’ll call her Sam was a year or two older than me. Her little sister, “Amanda” was probably a year or two younger, I think.
One humid day after a spring rain, Sam and Amanda’s mother sent the two girls to fetch a Tupperware bowl that they left over my house. The two girls picked up the bowl and I walked home with them so we could hang out and play. And now it’s time to go through Narnia.
Right when we reach that point of no return, this loud, rusty, burnt-orange, two-door Pontiac blasting some heavy metal music comes creeping through the winding pavement and we gingerly walk off to the side to let the car pass. Sam leans into me she says, “Watch this.”
She waves the yellow plastic bowl in the air and yells: “Bowl for fifteen cents!”
The car instantly brakes.
Now let me stop right here. Sam was a hustler. The reason I’m telling you this is because for 15 cents, you could get 15 pieces of penny candy. No taxes! That means 5 pieces of Nowlaters, Laffy Taffy, Tootsie rolls, Chick o Sticks and that hard candy with oowee-gooey center wrapped in plastic like a strawberry. If Sam could sell that bowl for 15 cents, I’d go with whatever lie she wanted to tell her momma that day.
“Wait here.” She ordered us both and confidently marched up to the Pontiac. She places her hand on the sill of the rolled-down window, then quickly pivots and walks forward leaving me and her little sister Amanda behind. The Pontiac is still loudly idling with the brake lights on.
“Come on, Amanda.” I said grabbing her little hand wondering why Sam didn’t close the deal. I guess I’ll have to handle this. I thought.
The musty smell of stale cigarette smoke, sweat, and exhaust grew stronger as we approach the car. This time, I stop at the driver’s door and got a good look at the driver. A man with long stringy dishwater-blond hair that stuck to his face from the sweat beading from his brow. He was thin. I know this because his button-up grunge shirt was completely open revealing his bird chest and…his penis.
Pontiac’s penis was pointing North and it was shaking from the vibration of the idling car. I gasped.
“Whadyshe sayyy?” Pontiac Penis had asked me, referring to what Sam had originally yelled out.
I grabbed little Amanda’s wrist and power-walked the hell out of Narnia. The Pontiac revved up and drove past us and Sam who was also power walking around the bend of the alley. When we caught up with Sam, I asked her why she left us behind. I don’t remember what she said, but we laughed and joked about it later, like for a few years.
I know! This story could’ve gone an entirely different way. Many kids are fearless and know nothing about the perils of the world, unfortunately there are some who do. Sam, Amanda, and I were lucky that day.
I don’t think either one of us told our parents about the penis in Narnia. The three of us continued taking that magical, adventurous, and now strange route to visit one another and we never saw that loud, rusty, burnt-orange Pontiac again.
Written by Zorina Frey – Miami, Florida USA
Feature Photo by Stephen Leonardi
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