I was at Food Bazaar, tossing items
into my shopping cart, when “Cowboys
to Girls” flowed soulful and sexy
from the store’s radio. And I’m taken
back, some twenty years, to a make-out
party at Larry’s, where I’m sitting on
the linoleum floor among a circle
of other 13-year-olds in the one-room
apartment that he shared with his father.
Pole lamp, trundle bed, portable radio
on a card table, and 2 folding chairs.
A gambler, his old man was at the track.
Spin the Bottle? Better. This Coke
bottle spin pointing to a one-on-one
make-out session called Seven Minutes
in Heaven. First time I heard “Cowboys
to Girls” was at that party. Moved, I
realized that a bona fide smash doesn’t
need playing through anything more
than a portable radio. Thinking, how
cool, a spellbinding number by a black
group, The Intruders, about cowboys.
They had as much to do with cowboys
as this Bronx white-boy son of refugees.
As the circle shrank, I grew edgy.
Then Debra Condor grabbed the bottle.
Gave it one helluva spin. Rotating twice
before pointing straight at me. Debra.
Not Deb or Debbie. Condor. Not Katz,
Bonanno, or even O’Hara. Straight, dark
shoulder-length hair parted on the right
side. The way she talked, not at all
like she was from the Bronx. Debra Condor
was my all-American girl. I had no clue
what brought her to that party. I did know
she was from the neighborhood, because
I’d see her on the street and warmly
smile, softly say hi. Our brown eyes
shared more than a passing glance. Now
she was mine. Or more likely, I was hers.
The closets and bathroom, were already
occupied, so taking me by the hand, Debra
led me out the front door into the hallway.
I shut the door behind us. Holding my hands,
she leaned back against the wall, drew me
tight against her. I liked how she took charge.
Resting my palms on the wall by her sides,
she tasted like a cherry Lifesaver—
“What’s going on here?” An aproned old
bat toting a bulging garbage bag destined
for the incinerator chute. I might’ve said,
Sorry to startle you madam, but we’re having
some whispery fun. Enjoy your evening too.
But no, “Shutdafuckup!” I say. “And mind
your own business.” Appalled, Debra,
palms-to-my-chest, shoves me away from her,
and incredulously says, “Who are you?”
Same way my wife says those exact words
when I kick the door, days after I was served
the papers, “Who are you?” Sheepishly, giving
the same answer, “I don’t know.”
Ted Jonathan is a poet and short story writer. Raised in the Bronx, he now lives in New Jersey. His collection of poems and short stories Bones & Jokes was published by NYQ Books (2009). His poetry collection Run was published by NYQ Books (2016). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.