The other day I was reminded of a story I haven’t told to very many people.
I was 18 or 19 years old, living with my sisters and parents in the Bronx. It was an age of innocence, the late 1980s, and I was just discovering the world on those few occasions I was allowed out of the house.
Most of my days were spoken for. When I wasn’t in school, I was gladly flailing my arms at church functions, 20 to 25 hours each week. Sometimes I would be asked to stop flailing my arms, but the rest of the time, the pastor and elders seemed to be just fine with the phenomenon.
So, as I say, my time was heavily prescribed: when I wasn’t in church, going to school, or doing chores or part-time jobs, you can bet I was somewhere in my house masturbating.
One summer afternoon, I was supposed to drive down from Castle Hill Avenue to midtown to pick up my father after work. Driving made me feel independent, though I had a difficult time managing my flailing arms.
I made my way to Bruckner Boulevard via Zerega Avenue, an industrial side road.
I noticed a woman standing on the corner. I thought I recognized her as a member of my church. And it seemed like she recognized me, in return, because when our eyes met, she kind of nodded hello. So I pulled over and asked if she needed a ride somewhere.
We got to talking. And it quickly dawned on me that my passenger wasn’t a woman from my church, but a prostitute looking for a john. I told her the mistake, and we laughed and laughed, and I pulled over to let her out again.
“So what was it about me that made you think I was this woman from your church,” the prostitute said.
“Oh, I thought that was her usual corner,” I said.