This is just another tale that’s been waiting to be told, perhaps, waiting too long.
As a so-called adult, I feel it’s pretty safe to say that a lot of things messed with my head when I was growing up. Here’s just another lesson in life that was learned way too early.
As a kid, I could just about see it from my back yard. When I’d wander the streets of 3rd or 4th Avenue, its looming presence was inescapable. I rode my bike under its shadows and fished near it along the shore. It gained some notoriety on a larger scale in the 1976 movie Saturday Night Fever when one of the characters plunged to his death in the icy waters some two hundred feet below.
Have you ever been to a place where you didn’t want to go? I’m not talking about a physical place like a doctors or dentist office. I’m not talking about the boring confines of high school or any other place a young teenager might be forced to go. I’m talking about a place inside your head, a dark place where fear the resides. It’s a place where, at times, can be ignored but never truly forgotten.
I'm about to go there.
A long time ago I told you about some of the circumstances regarding my brother and his wild ways and his ultimate demise. Now, for some reason that I can’t even figure out, it’s time to tell the back story.
He “died” a long time before that.
At the time I was thirteen or fourteen and like most kids at that time was under a strict curfew to be home before 10:00 PM on school nights. Failure to comply would be dealt with swiftly and surely at the hands of my father and the expense of my body. I learned early to comply.
It was probably around 11:00 and we were watching one of those shitty detective stories that were so popular in the early 70’s. God, anybody out there remember the likes of Barnaby Jones, Mannix, Adam-12, Baretta and Cannon? The good guys always won. So, I’m getting ready to pack it in and call it a night when the doorbell rang. This was pretty much unheard of at the time and my father pried himself off the couch and went to answer it and I figured I’d stick around to see what was going on.
Two men flash their shields and identify themselves as detectives with the NYPD and ask if they can come in. Given my brothers track record I’m sure my folks had gone through the drill before and were either getting tired or numb to it. After a couple of perfunctory questions they got down to the business at hand. To the best of my recollection, this was the gist of the conversation.
Detective 1:”Do you know where (insert brothers name here) is?”
Father: “No, what did he do now?”
Detective 2: “When was the last time you saw him?”
Father:”I don’t know, maybe a few weeks ago.”
Detective 1:”How about the last time you heard from him?”
Father:”What the hell (or fuck, I can’t recall) is going on”
Detective 2:”Do you know how we can get in touch with him?”
Detective 1:”Maybe it’d be better if we can talk in private.”
It was then I was told to go to bed but I couldn’t help myself and made it as far as the kitchen. What the heck was going on? I knew my brother had quite a few scrapes with the law but the cops had never been to the house before. Then the shit hit the fan.
It seems the cops had discovered some of my brothers possessions such as his wallet, ID, pants and jacket atop the Verrazano Bridge. Though no suicide note was found, they thought he might have jumped and they were searching the waters for his body.
As to be expected, my mother starts going ape shit, wailing and screaming and I sit down on the kitchen floor and bury my head. My father tries to calm her down and after awhile manages to get things under some semblance of control. He makes promises to the cops that he’ll try and get in contact with my brother and will keep them updated on his whereabouts if he hears anything and they promise the same in return.
Three or four days pass and no body is recovered nor has anybody heard from (insert name here). Nobody knows what the hell to think.
I think I was hanging out on one of the corners when one of the Angels pulled up on his bike. He says something along the lines of “Hey little man, get your ass over here” and off we go. We ride around for a little bit and park in front of some apartment building I’d never been in. We get buzzed through the door and climb up a few flights of stairs and enter one of the apartments. Guess who the fuck is there?
After my initial shock turns to relief I’m told the real story. Yeah, he wanted to fake his own suicide to beat a bunch of outstanding warrants they had on him. He was planning on making a new life for himself far away from Brooklyn, New York and I wasn’t to tell a soul, not even my parents, about it. After some trepidation on my part, a pact born of brotherhood was put in place.
Things got real quiet in the borgo household for the next couple of weeks. My parents spoke in hushed tones about what they were supposed to do and my gut ached with a knowledge that I couldn’t share.
It didn’t matter, a few weeks later he got busted before he had a chance to leave town. He did some time for his warrants and then got out and was free to go about his business. The real thing wouldn’t happen for another two years or so.
Over the years I’ve questioned my decision to remain silent. On one hand, I think I kept my word but on another hand I think I could have spared my parents a shitload of grief and wonder.
In the end, there probably was no “right” decision to be made but now that I think about it that wasn’t fair of him to put such a burden on one so young. Maybe, he too, thought his was doing the “right thing” by letting me in on his little secret. I don’t know if I was better off or not.
One thing I am sure about though, those were some mighty screwed up times and I never looked at that damn bridge again without it conjuring up some bad memories.
Not to mention some feelings of guilt.