I move from the Freshman Annex of the Bronx High School of Science to the main building on 183rd street. I ride the bus to school each morning with Fred Greenberg. I stop by the second floor apartment of his walkup apartment house to get him each morning on the way to the bus. I wait in the kitchen, right off the front hallway. He is never ready. His mother, an Old World piano teacher, is always preparing his breakfast of cereal, eggs, milk, juice, and toast. The apartment is always silent and dark. His mother calls to him that breakfast is ready. He clomps into the kitchen wearing very loud loose fitting black engineers’ boots with taps on the heels. His footsteps in the apartment are those of a giant in a dungeon. His boots make an unbelievable loud sound on the wooden floors. He never eats any breakfast. He drinks as much juice or milk as he can swallow in one impatient gulp. He grabs the toast and takes his first bite of it as he pulls on his jacket. His mother asks if he has all his books, what he will be doing after school, and if he needs anything. She speaks quickly. Freddy never answers. His mouth is stuffed with milk and toast. His hands are full of clothes and books. He mumbles a one word unintelligible answer to his mother’s inquiries, something like, “umrrph.” He looks at me and jerks his head toward the front hall. As we walk out he slams the metal door to their apartment closed. It shakes the walls. He clomps down the tiled corridor and the marble stairs of the walk up apartment house with the sound of his footsteps a literal racket, a jackhammer being run on very low speed, but striking hard. It is 1956. Our Lucky Strike cigarettes are hidden in our jackets. We will not light up for the first time that day until right before we get off the bus. We will go into the candy store and deli on the corner of the Grand Concourse and 182ndStreet. A dozen of our classmates will be crowded into booths talking and smoking and eating sugary donuts.
I cut out of school quite often, especially study halls where attendance is not taken. I hide out in pool halls and the apartments of friends where parents are never home playing cards. I master forging the signatures of my parents and of Mr. Rae, the high school guardian of discipline. And although I am not the most adept forger in my H.S. there are so many forgeries of Mr. Rae floating around that no one who matters knows what his real signature looks like. And the one time I get busted I only do five days detention. And therein another tale..