Coming from a ruff section of Brooklyn, New York, a young man climbs the ladder to success and falls in love. His happiness, however, can’t last forever, and an important friendship puts his future in jeopardy.
Josh Robinson was drifting through life. When he thinks about the man he wants to be in the future, the only thing he is certain of is that he wants to wear a suit. To Josh, a suit means respect. When people saw his father in a suit, they would go out of their way to call him Mister.
His future looks even brighter when he meets the lovely Lisa. She is gorgeous and intelligent, but their relationship leads to a complicated and messy love triangle that will have severe repercussions for all of them.
In this novel of sweet romance and high finance, Josh is forced to make a difficult decision about his priorities and his future. Can he really have the dream job and the dream girl?
Brooklyn Streets Meet Wall Street
It had been two years since fulfilling my military obligation. I was working as a security guard at a college and happened to befriend a finance professor there. Professor Dean was around twenty years my senior, but we related to one another as if we were the same age. One morning after my night shift ended, I stopped by his office to chat. To my surprise he asked where I saw myself in five years. I sat there in shock for what seemed like an eternity. We’d never spoken on such a deep level before. He cut off my thoughts and said “if it takes you this long to answer, you have a problem.” He was right. Although I wanted to be a “somebody” in life, I had no direction. No idea of what I wanted to be and no idea of how to obtain that life.
So I told Professor Dean that I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to wear suits. My father was a singer in a gospel group, and when he would return home from a singing engagement, everyone would greet him as Mr. Perry. When he wasn’t performing, he worked as a custodian at a hospital. In his work clothes they would simply say hey or hi Perry. At a young age I realized that it was the suits he wore for his performances that made people address him differently. He was treated with respect, and I liked that.
The professor said well that’s a start and joked that I would probably have gone through multiple security uniforms by the time I wore a suit there at work.
We sat and chatted for a little while longer before I left so he could prepare for his first class of the day. On the train ride home I thought about my conversation with the professor as well as what the future held for me. I knew that I didn’t want to work security for the rest of my life. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but I had way bigger financial dreams than what they would pay me at that school or any other security guard company. The pay for guarding the country’s president and guarding the student body president of some school were of two different pay scales.
The professor’s question nagged me all the way home, making me look at my life in that moment. Although I’d had a number of close calls, I was just outside of my teenage years and had managed to avoid being arrested for anything. Half of the friends that I’d grown up with were either dead or in jail. Of the remaining ones, half were into some kind of drugs, either using or selling. Three-quarters of my friends were gone or on a destructive path. Once inside my apartment I looked at the buildings around mine, filled with people. Some with the biggest hearts, and they would probably be here amongst the roaches, rats, and urine smelled elevators for the rest of their lives, all because of a lack of opportunity. I didn’t want to be a part of the sad statistics that came along with the hood, but what was I to do? I couldn’t afford to leave. Thinking about my future gave me a headache, so I went to sleep.
The rumbling of the #3 train pulling into the Junius Street Station directly across the street woke me for the weekend. I removed the black sheet that I used to cover my bedroom window and gazed down on the courtyard. Working the 11pm to 7am shift had its advantages, like being able to go out in the middle of the day and avoid the evening crowds. I liked to be in and out of stores without a long wait. But quality sleep was hard to get when you have the sun shining in your eyes.
I took a shower, brushed my teeth and hair, and then hit the streets to run some errands and check on my mother and some friends. While running errands I passed a men’s clothing store. Inside the display window there was a blue pinstripe suit. I could see my reflection in the window, and every time I looked back at the suit, I envisioned myself in it. I heard voices in my head saying, “Hey Mr. Josh, great suit,” or “You look good, bro.” I smiled, and then snapped out of my trance. I hadn’t worn a suit since my high school graduation. I don’t even know why my mother bought a suit. I was wearing my robe the entire time. I could have had a t-shirt and shorts on, and nobody would have noticed.
Since I’d never bought a suit before, I decided to go inside to see how much it cost. The salesperson greeted me with half a smile. I guess he thought that I was coming inside to steal something, assuming I was casing the place from the window. All eyes were on me from the staff. It was a bit uncomfortable, but knowing plenty of people who stole from stores (called boosters in the hood), I was used to it. This merchant was taking losses from theft at least twice a week. Even friends of mine had stolen from them before.
They would steal stuff, and then sell it on the street for a fraction of the cost. At the time I thought it was a victimless crime. It wasn’t until I learned how the economic system works that I realized there are victims to these acts.
I asked the salesperson “how much is the suit in the window?” When the salesperson informed me of the price, he immediately knew he wasn’t collecting a commission. I said “thank you” and left the store partially embarrassed and partially upset with myself for asking a question that I wasn’t ready to hear the answer to. It just reconfirmed my financial status, which was living paycheck to paycheck at best.
How much is the suit? What an idiot, I thought. Like the old saying goes. “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Oh well. I thought a visit to my mom would cheer me up.
By this time, my father and I hadn’t seen or spoken to one another in years. He seemed to think that meeting my two sisters and me around the corner for five or ten minutes and giving us a child support check for my mother was being a father. He and I hadn’t really had a conversation since I was fourteen. I guess that I should feel lucky, I said to myself. Most of my friends had never met their fathers before. That is, if they even knew who their fathers were.
I guess that I owed him for my work ethic though. When I think back, he’d only taught me two things in life. When I was thirteen, just before my parents split up all of the kids from the block were out front playing, but he wouldn’t allow me to participate until my chores were done. Some friends knocked on my door because they needed one more person for a game of football. I ran to grab my coat when my father stopped me and said that I couldn’t go until I cleaned my room and took out the trash. I told him that I would do it after the game, but he insisted that I complete them beforehand. “Work before play, and then you play harder than you’ve worked,” he said. At the time I hated him for not allowing me to go out and play. And of course by the time I finished my chores the football game was over and everyone had gone home. I didn’t see what the big deal was if I completed the chores before or after playing. As an adult I figured out why he did it.
The other thing that he taught me was how important money and your word were in society. He was also a handyman, so outside of working at the hospital and the gospel group he did all kinds of odd jobs. One day he invited me to help him paint the interior of someone’s home. Normally he didn’t invite me to jobs, but I guess that he’d bitten off more than he could chew this time. The place was enormous, and he promised me $250 for helping him, and I would only have to commit two Saturdays. With $250 I could buy pretty much anything that I wanted. There wasn’t much that a thirteen going on fourteen-year-old needed. The work was harder than I’d thought, and after the first day I told him that I didn’t want to return the following weekend. He said that since I’d given him a verbal commitment I couldn’t back out. “Your word is your word, son, just make sure that you are paid appropriately for it” he said.
Outside of that, there wasn’t anything he said or taught me that I deemed valuable in life. During his last days I visited him in the hospital just once out of respect, but I didn’t feel anything when I saw him there. My sisters tried to get me to visit him more, but there wasn’t anything I needed to say to him that I hadn’t said already. When he died, I attended the funeral, and I still didn’t feel sorrow. It was so long since we’d talked that I felt nothing. My heart wouldn’t let me feel for a stranger.
I arrived at my mother’s house around 5:30. When she opened the door, the aroma of her fabulous cooking billowed out into the hallway.
“Hey baby,” she said gleefully. “Come on in. Are you hungry?”
“I wasn’t before I got here, but now that I smell all of that food, and you have my stomach doing a happy dance I will eat something.” We both laughed as I headed towards the couch. “So how have you been, Mommy?”
“I’m okay,” she replied. “I’m trying to control my high blood pressure and diabetes.”
“Well, Mommy, you have to eat better than you do to help lower them. You are no spring chicken, you know.”
“I know,” she said with a smirk.
“I’m not playing, Mommy. Don’t make me come here and clean out your cabinets.”
“You do that, and I will be going from having three children to just two.” We both had a big laugh and sat to eat dinner.
By eight I was ready to leave and meet up with friends. As I walked down the steps of the train station I noticed a guy from the neighborhood running by. His name was Charles, but people in the neighborhood called him Snatch. He was nicknamed that for good reason. He clutched a lady’s handbag tightly in his hand. I could hear the lady screaming at the top of her lungs for someone to stop him, but her cries unsurprisingly went unanswered. He turned the corner and was gone from sight.
At the bottom of the stairs, I ran into my friend Sam. He began shaking his head as he approached me.
“What’s up, Sam?”
“Nothing good,” he said in a low muffled voice. “Jerry from the building was shot on Belmont Ave around an hour ago.”
“Is he going to make it?”
His reply caught me by surprise for about a second. “From five shots to the head? I don’t think so.”
The crazy thing was instead of me saying something like that’s terrible the first thing to come out of my mouth was, “What did he do to get five shots to the head?” Over the years I had become numb to this kind of news. (I guess that’s why the news channels stopped reporting about shootings in the neighborhood. It just wasn’t shocking anymore. It was more or less an everyday assurance).
“Do you know why he was shot?”
“I don’t know why he was shot. Either way that’s messed up,” .
” It sure is.”
“So where are you headed Sam?”
Sam said that he was headed to the corner store. After seeing Snatch run by and now hearing about Jerry I told Sam that I would walk with him because I wanted to go to the liquor store. I needed a drink bad after that.
By eleven the neighborhood was buzzing about the shooting. Everyone was speculating on who did it and why. Within walking four blocks I stopped to chat with ten people and got fourteen different versions of what happened. Some were over-the-top but all were sad in their own right. I recalled way back when they had what was called tenant patrol where people from each building would sit in the lobby and walk the neighborhood in an attempt to keep people safe. That all changed once a few were shot and others quit to work second jobs to put food on their tables. Since then things had gotten progressively worse.
I ran into a few friends who were ordering food from the Chinese restaurant, and of course the shooting was the topic of discussion. I heard everything from he was caught messing with the wrong person’s girlfriend to the wrong person’s grandmother, to retaliation for a shooting that he took part in. They began bickering about which was the most plausible scenario.
I sat there watching them go back and forth until I grew short on patience and said, “Who cares! Jerry is gone, and you guys are sitting here playing like detectives who are looking for a motive. Even if you guys knew why he was killed would that change the fact that he’s dead? With him getting shot five times in the head his mother won’t even have the satisfaction of seeing his face one last time before they put him in the ground unless the funeral home has the greatest plastic surgeon on hand to sculpt his top. And they still would have to put a hat on his head.”
I was tired of hearing about it at this point, so I quickly changed to subject. “So what are you guys getting into tonight?”
“I heard about a party in Flatbush that is supposed to be really good,” one of them said.
We all were interested in going except for Sam. He was short yet stocky. To be honest I was happy that he would not be attending. He seemed to have a Napoleon complex. Whenever we went out with him he would pick a fight with the biggest dude there, and we would have to come and back him up. It was rare to see a guy at a party alone, so usually it would turn into a group against group fight. We fought each other so often within our Brownsville crew that whenever we had an altercation with someone from outside of our circle chances was it didn’t end well for the outside group.
” Sam, you are not going? Finally, we won’t be fighting by the end of the night.” I said then reached out to the person next to me to slap him high five. “Maybe this time I can get a chick’s number since you usually would start something just before I would give her my closing line for the seven digits.”
We all laughed, then I said, ” Sam, you are good for killing the moment at a party.”
Another friend Pete said, “Do you all remember the party we were at when I had that girl ready to take me home? We were headed towards the exit when the girl said, ” isn’t that your homeboy getting jumped?” I called for you guys, and we went over there and saved his ass. Then after the fight I look around, and the girl was gone. I didn’t even get her number. Sam, you are like the worst nightmare within a wet dream.”
I said, “No you are like the Freddy Krueger of wet dreams.”
We all fell over laughing.
That would be the last time that we saw Sam until the day of his funeral a few weeks later.
After the funeral I sat at home thinking about where I came from, where I was going, and how I was going to get there. I found myself thinking more and more about the five-year question that the professor had posed. I had a regular nine to five, or in my case eleven to seven, but I also packaged marijuana. Not all of the time. Just when an unexpected expense came up (like the huge bouquet of flowers I’d purchased for Sam’s funeral service) I would bag up weed for a good friend of mine named Paco.
Paco and I went to the same school from the First to Eighth grade. After his mother passed away from a brain aneurysm, he went off the deep end and changed from this cute fun loving Eighth grader to an outright heartless killer. Within months of her death, he went to jail for beating his cousin half to death with a metal pipe over some jokes about his mother’s crack addiction. I remember it like it was yesterday. The cousin pleading and screaming, “I’m sorry.” The crazed look in Paco’s eyes as he pounded this poor kid’s body until you could hear his ribs break. It was at that moment I saw Paco leave his body and his alter ego Pac take over.
He would always be Paco to me though. I’d known him too long and too well to call him by his street name. Although I tried not to call him Paco outside of one-on-one conversation, it just didn’t feel right to me, so sometimes he would get mad. He knew that I wasn’t doing it on purpose though, so he would quickly calm down.
As he finished beating his cousin, Paco glared at me with a thick vein shooting up the center of his forehead and said with a sinister grin, “His ribs sounded like a dog biting down on a doggie biscuit right?”
I told Paco to hand me the pipe so that I could get rid of it. When he told me that he wanted to keep it as a trophy, I knew that he was nuts. I knew that if he got caught with that pipe, they would charge him with attempted murder. But I also knew that he wouldn’t listen to reason since adrenaline was clearly pumping through his body.
“Watch out,” I yelled.
When he turned to see why I said that, I grabbed the pipe and took off running. I was way faster than him, and with a head start, he didn’t even bother giving pursuit.
Instead of immediately chasing after me he paused and looked down to admire his handiwork. By the time he looked up I was too far away for him to even think about an attempt at chasing me. As he turned to walk away, three squad cars pulled up onto the scene. The police jumped out with guns drawn.
“Put your hands in the air,” they yelled, and surprisingly, Paco complied. Probably the smartest thing he did in weeks.
I knew that I couldn’t drop the pipe just anywhere to be used as evidence, so before going home I ran to the old freight train tracks not far from the Brownsville – East New York boarder. I wanted to bury the pipe somewhere in the area but knew any disturbed dirt would cause suspicion. I made my way through a hole in the fence and down to the tracks.
There was nothing but abandoned warehouses next to the tracks, so the chances of someone spotting me were minor, and unless something happened to a freight train in that area nobody would bother disturbing the ground. To me this was the perfect spot because there were small chunks of rock that sat between each wooden board of the tracks. There were so many that you could not tell where the ground began. I cleared away the rocks and, using the pipe, dug a nice one to two foot hole. I covered the pipe with the dirt, and then covered the dirt with the rocks. To help remember where it was buried, I counted the number of wooden boards on the tracks from the edge of one the warehouse buildings closest to the burial site. From there I ran home, took a quick shower, and then went to Betsy Head Pool. I didn’t know if Paco’s cousin was alive or dead, but I knew that I would need an alibi.
I knew Paco wouldn’t tell on me, and he knew that I wouldn’t do that to him, although the way that I took off with that pipe may have raised doubts for a second or two. I jumped in the pool, frolicking around with the other kids. Little did they know I was doing it to get rid of any random traces of blood the shower might have missed. It was customary to take a shower before leaving the pool, so I did. At this juncture, I was confident that not an ounce of blood was on me. On the way home, I disposed of the clothes that I was wearing when Paco beat his cousin in a random dumpster. I picked one that I knew the sanitation department would be picking up that evening.
When I returned home, the cops were waiting in front of my building. Paco’s cousin was alive but suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding. He was able to tell the police that Paco did it to him with a metal pipe, and that I was there and took the pipe from him. I told the police that I was at the pool at the time of the so-called assault. I gave them the names of kids they could talk to in order to back up my claim. Since Paco was caught at the scene, he could not deny he was there. He told them that he and the cousin got into a fight. Since the pipe could not be found, his lawyer argued the charge down to simple battery instead of attempted murder.
He served six months in a juvenile detention center and was released. He knocked on my door as soon as he got home. We greeted one another with a hug and big smile.
“I knew that I could count on you,” he said.
I laughed. “Yeah, right. You were probably waiting for me to walk through those courtroom doors with that pipe every time you were there.” I told him to come by early the following day because I had something to show him.
When Paco came by, I took him to the tracks and dug up the pipe. His eyes popped open. He grabbed the pipe and bounced it up and down in his right hand as if he was getting used to the feeling of gravity after being in weightless space.
“This is why you are my man,” he said while pulling me in close for a hug. Little did I know he would use that pipe as a source of power, just like Thor with his hammer.
Nine years after completing the Eighth grade, I was working as a security guard/weed bagger, and Paco was a certified drug dealer. I wonder if the professor had known us back then and asked us that five-year question, would our paths have taken the same course. Back then we were both into the street life and both were looking for a way out, but we were two different people. Paco loved the drama that came with being in the street. I, on the other hand, only involved myself in drama when the time called for it. I never looked for trouble, but if you crossed my family, my friends, or me I would definitely help you find the trouble that you were seeking.
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