The year is 1968 and we’d just moved to a little suburb outside of Buffalo, New York. I am 12 but look 15..and enrolled in a high school that is 75% black. My new peers slang seem seem to indicate not to like that my boots are “Bad,” (slang for cool) and my round wired rose colored sunglasses have interchangeable lenses. I am being followed home from school on this my second day..by what seems like ten or eleven black kids. I hurry along the dirty snow covered Tonawanda, New York streets trying to remember the way back home. I do not like it here..I miss Montreal..I miss my friends..I miss the comforting familiarity of people places and things I know..like I know the back of my hand. My only thoughts since arriving are of leaving as quickly as I arrived..of saving my piddly allowance, finding paid chores to do after school. Anything that will help me break free and make fare back to my beautiful city just over the falls. My mind keeps running away and back to that which will console this sudden onset of teenage angst. As a family we have changed addresses and countries like some people change clothes. Dad’s job takes him and we..collateral damage..to the many different cities and small towns that make us these North Americas. Oftentimes more than twice a year. They do not understand this sudden transformation from the child who loved the changes to the now prepubescent need she has to be around that which is easily recognized..identifiable. safe..that which requires as little assimilation as possible. In their hectic, demanding adulthood my parents have long forgotten the ‘teenage’ years. I am fending for myself now. There is five dollars and change in my fringed suede purse..it is my ‘get away’ money..my runaway money for the trip to Montreal..the trip back home. I smile as I rush..these strangers don’t know that soon I will be gone..back to safe ground and friends..back to happiness. I look up from the ground to get my bearings..ah I think I see the new street I live on..good. Whack..I am laying flat on my back on dirty slushy snow..there are what seem like ten’s and twenties of black faces peering down at me in anger..mouths all moving..words I don’t completely understand or have ever heard before..I look frantically around..what is going on? “Give us your boots honky bitch..take them off her..you..you there, get her coat.” I am standing outside of myself watching as one hard earned twenty-five dollar tan boot is being tugged and yanked off my cold unobliging foot..an arm is half way out of the beloved black wool Maxi coat I am wearing..some buttons are laying in the snow..I must pick them up. I am confused..frightened..who are these people..why are they doing this? I see another black pair of hands reach down and pull at my fringed bag..I am back in the struggle now..this..this they cannot have..this is my reprieve..my second chance..my choice and my plan. I fight back mightily..kicking and screaming at them to leave me alone..they will not take my purse, they will not! Countless pairs of hands are reaching down to hold me in place. I manage to curl one booted foot under myself dodging many of the blows..it seems now as if the hits are landing more on them then on me. I go limp..for there..there in this dirty Buffalo snow is my treasured wallet. My purse is still wrapped tightly around the one wrist and hand..somehow though the wallet that holds the getaway cash..my treasure..is up for grabs. I hear shouts and whistles of success..”Money, look, check it out man she has coin.” I lunge forward on the snow..after-all I am on the ground and closer to it..hands yank and drag me back. They have my money. I am crying now..only now..now that my hope is out of sight and in someone else’s hands do I allow defeat to show. The stinging salty tears are in anger, as I taste them on my lips I go limp again, I don’t care anymore..why should I fight back..I am stuck here now. I feel myself being pulled to my feet and the black kids are running away all helter-skelter like..laughing as they go..pointing back at me..slapping each other on the back and high fiving, not unlike a Basketball team after a well earned game point. I catch the face of the kid who I saw kick my money away from my hand as I reached to grab it back. I file that face away..I resolve to get my salvation back. Red & blue lights are coloring the yucky slush surreal shades of pinks and soft blues. ”Are you alright..what’s your name. where did they hurt you?” “Miss..hey kid,” comes the voice of the man who’d shouted at them to break it up. Through wet eyes I finally see whose hands pulled me up and out the middle of what I will come to remember as “My own eye in a human hurricane.” He reminds me of my father this savior of mine, this modern day Sir Galahad..his eyes show concern and kindness. Somehow they get me home..I am not hurt..not physically..as I hobble up the slippery stairs..I remember I have only one tanned ‘bad’ boot on. I begin to understand for the first time the meaning of this word I’ve heard, ‘Pride.’ My lessons learned, I understood it well..because that day..my battle scars were not visible..no, not in that naked city and certainly not to the naked eye. That day marked the starting point in my life where I could be hurt by other human beings..I was outside of family now..they could no longer protect me..not anymore. It also marked my real first taste of the merciless, callous actions people could be capable of..and the good ones. And some of that realization can..hurt all over.
These Boots Were Made For Stealing..I guess II