Back in the ‘hood, things changed drastically when a lovely Puerto Rican divorcee named Nilda and her daughter Evelyn moved into a house two doors down from the Sosas, namely James and Belen, and their sons Johnny and Jimmy. It turned out that Nilda was James’ sister. Shortly after, their divorced sister and her three sons moved in with Nilda, and it resulted in a friendship that would make an enormous impact on my life.
The Reyes Brothers were the sons of Lydia and Vincent, a striking couple like my parents who weren’t quite as compatible. Lydia was a sensuous Puerto Rican peasant who fell in love with Casanova, who Dad contemptuously referred to as a ‘pussy man’. The couple was separated when I first met the family, and the boys were thrilled when their Dad came back home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before they had another fight and Vincent hit the bricks once again. Lydia ruled the boys with an iron hand, but they were tough kids, and when they hit puberty she lost control altogether.
In Vincent’s defense, I think it was another case of Manny’s low-browed intolerance rearing its head. Though he was a very intelligent man, Dad never spent much time in introspection, which was a shame because spirituality would have changed his life profoundly. He tended to stereotype people, which may sound hilarious to many coming from me, but the difference between us was my common denominator towards the child of God. Anyway, Manny never considered how many times Vincent was forced to sleep on the couch, which had to be an indignity to any ladies’ man. Granted, running out for female consolation was no answer, but I doubt Manny even broached the subject.
Kenny, Georgie and Mickey became central figures in my life as we developed a powerful relationship. Kenny and Georgie were much stronger than I, so I resorted to my intellect and cunning to remain the dominant figure in our friendship. They were in constant awe of my imagination, and in turn, they backed me with the physical force I never had. When I barked, they bit, and as puppies, we chewed up a lot more than we got caught at. I talked my way out of most snafus with my Mom, but Kenny and Georgie took quite a few ass-whuppings as a result of our mischief. For those of you who do not believe in corporal punishment, I can guarantee that the brothers’ lives would have gone in an entirely different direction had Vincent and his discipline remained an influence.
Mickey was a peripheral figure who tagged along at times, though Lydia was very protective of her youngest son and called him in far earlier than his older brothers. Still, he joined the Butler Street Wrestling Club and became the No. 1 contender for Judo Jesus Figueroa’s junior championship. When Vincent bailed out, Lydia shipped Mickey back to Puerto Rico to live with relatives rather than follow in his brothers’ footsteps. Mickey grew up to be a preacher, and I cannot help but hope that our discussions about Jesus and the Good Life were an influencing factor.
(To be continued...)