Written by Freddy S. Zalta
Illustrations by Sylia Aboudi
It was in Kindergarten when he first felt that overwhelming paralyzing feeling; that poweful kick in the stomach, that heavenly cloudlike atmosphere where its just you and an ethereal presence. A knowledge that there must be a God and a devil. How else can one explain the two competing spirits inside of you. The prayer to be able to express ones feelings and the dreaded sulfuric scented inability to utter an intellible sound.
He was in recess on his first day of school. He was walking alone by the circle of jumping Seahorses, the floor was tar black and the temperture on this September day seemed to be 250 degrees. He was sweating, he sat down on the yellow seahorse and watched as the other chiildren played on swings, slides or just ran around laughing or crying.
Freddy was 5 years old and he was homesick. He missed being home with his mother and siblings. He wanted to be laying on the livingroom floor watching “Lost in Space” or “The Andy Griffith Show.” He wanted to be in his room and just lay on his bed and listen to his brothers talking about stuff he didn’t really understand.
He was feeling that feeling of missing something, a feeling of sadness that overcame him at times causing him to become reclusive. Later on in life that feeling would be fought off by an overpowering overly gregarious upswing.
As he sat on the seahorse he began to be sucked into that blackhole when all of a sudden he saw a bright light in the person of female classmate. He was unsure what had happened but it was a life changing event which would always propel him through the darkest moment in his life.
There was this girl standing with some other girls across from the circle of seahorses and she was laughing. He walked closer with trepidation unsure what this alien feeling inside of him was.
He felt scared, yet he also felt that excitement inside of him similar to opening the box of a new toy.
He was paralyzed, yet he felt like he could have begun to jump around uncontrollably.
He wanted to get closer to hear what they were laughing about.
He wanted to get closer to try and understand what it was that had awakened something inside of him. He walked towards her slowly sort of in a trance.
Up close she was the most perfect person he had ever seen. She had short blonde hair and there was a headband which created a divide between the straight front and the cruly back. Her skin was freckled softly with a hint of the summer that had just passed. Her smile seemed to be electric. He didn’t understand what he was feeling, there was a tugging feeling, he was mesmerized.
He walked over to the group of girls and looked closer at the girl standing in the middle, her smile disappearing. He had no idea what he was going to say or do; so he rushed in, as he would do many times in his life, where smart people knew not to enter unless a plan was set in place.
“Hi, my name is Freddy.” He spoke directly to her. “What is your name?”
The girls all looked at him and covered their mouths as they laughed.
“My name is Danielle.”
“Freddy? are you ok?” He opened his eyes to find himself on the floor being prodded awake by his teacher.
“Its so hot out here, we shouldn’t have these kids outside. Get me water please.”
Someone put something wet on the back of his neck, another person was fanning him and then someone put a plastic cup of water to his lips.
“Sip it. When you feel you can walk inside, tell me and I will help you.”
“I am ok.” He went to stand up and they went inside to the nurses office where a fan was blowing and a cold plastic cup of orange juice with some stella doro cookies awaited. He drank and ate a pink coated flower cookie.
“Lay down Freddy, rest.”
He lay on a cot in the corner of the room and fell asleep. He heard his mother saying his name and he woke up and began to cry.
“I want to go home.”
They went to the Doctor that afternoon to rule out anything such as a concussion or whatever. The Doctor said he must have overheated and prescribed him to drink water and eat better before going outside again. The sound of his mother saying, “You need to eat if you want to feel better.” Would have an everlasting effect on his psyche and his weight.
It took Freddy several years to work up the courage to speak to Danielle once again. He had approached his brother for advice, the advice was, “Offer the girl a piece of gum and then start speaking to her.”
After getting this piece of advice, he went to “Jerry’s Auction Outlet” and pick up a pack of Juicy Fruit.
“That’s 25 cents, kid.” He pulled together the change he had in his pocket, 10 pennies, 1 dime and 1 nickle. He looked around the store and saw the packs of baseball cards with the gum inside, Sen-sens, countless candy and chocolates. Behind Jerry there was a picture of President Kennedy, Gil Hodges and an American flag.
“Ok kid what are you waiting for? You got the gum, I got the money – now is when you say ‘thank you’ and walk out.”
“OK thank you.”
He walked up Kings Highway from the Mcdonald Avenue train platform to the Kings Highway movie theater, which at the time was showing, “The Bad News Bears.” He was meeting some friends there for the 1pm showing and there was always the chance that Danielle would be there too.
There was a red carpet on the first floor of this theater. On the walls were movie posters from years back such as Casablanca, Limelight, and From here to Eternity. There were also advertisements for some upcoming movies – The Omen, Rocky and Silent Movie. There was this counter that ran from one side of the theater to the other; thats where they sold popcorn, candy and soda. It was there that he saw Danielle.
That gregarious energy that was mentioned earlier? Here it came. He began to tell jokes out loud, perhaps too loud. He made his way from one group of friends to the other. He was trying to get her attention but each time he snuck a quick peek she seemed oblivious.
So he ambled over to the group of girls she was standing with and said with a big smile, “How are you guys?” They looked at him and laughed.
“How are you Freddy?” Karen, the girl next to Danielle answered.
“I am alright, doing fine. Hey you guys want some juicy fruit?” It didnt quite come out like he wanted but he had no choice. He would try and talk to her later. As he was walking away Danielle called out to him, “Freddy.” He turned around quickly, perhaps too quickly.
He woke up on the floor of the Kingsway movie theater. Most of the kids had already gone to watch the movie but his best friends Jack and Joey were there.
“Are you ok?” Joey asked me.
“Yes I am ok, what happened?” Freddy asked.
“One second you are spinning like a dreidel and the next second you are sprawled out of the floor.”
“Oh no, Danielle?”
“They all went inside to watch the movie. Is it ok if we go in?”
“Yes its ok. How much did we miss?”
“Less than 3 minutes.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
“No he wont,” The manager of the theater corrected. “Your mother should be here any minute to pick you up. I cant have you getting all the customers sick.”
Same routine – went to the Doctor who said that when he twisted around he must have caused his blood pressure to drop which caused him to faint.
Deep inside Freddy knew it had nothing to do with the twist or the sun. But he shrugged it off and watched “Happy Days” with his family that night – it was forgotten until the next day in school when Danielle approached him.
“Hey Freddy?” Her soft voice caused his heart to beat hard and his mouth to be sealed tight.
He smiled, waved and then leaned against his locker.
“You aren’t going to faint again, are you?” She asked him more out of concern than derision.
“I don’t think so…”
“Well, there is this girl asks boy party next week and I wanted to ask you if you think that Joey would say yes if I asked him?”
“I would say ‘yes.'”
“That’s sweet…but do you think Joey would?”
Freddy knew that Joey would jump at it but he also thought that if he told her that he would say no, maybe she would ask him.
What he said next would become a pattern in his life in every area, every age and would piss him off each time. But that didn’t matter – Freddy knew what to say.
“I think he would definetly say yes.” She broke out in a big smile.
“Thank you Freddy! You are really a nice guy.” She turned and ran away.
“Nice guy? More like an idiot.” He said to himself. That title, “Nice Guy” would be thrust at him again and again. He didn’t know it yet, of course, but it was coming. Again and again.