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Well this isn’t a BDSM story, no kinky sex here, this is just a story about a girl from Brooklyn who loved a boy…only that boy grew up to be everything he said he wouldn’t be and it crushed the girl’s soul.
Jackie Ping-Pong stands 5″4 and people still look up to him. His blue-black hair is meticulously groomed, every week he gets a straight-razor shave from his personal barber, & I suspect he also has his eyebrows threaded, although he’d never admit to such a thing. His eyes are dark brown, sometimes they look black. He has a small scar on the bridge of his otherwise perfect nose, and his full lips would be utterly beautiful on any woman. His breath tastes like a hot mix of cigarette, espresso, and calzone. It’s only natural for a girl to be nostalgic about her first.
Jackie may not be tall, but he’s not small either. Broad-shouldered, he stands like a soldier at attention. He walks with a strut some mistake for a military man’s swagger. Jackie’s a certain kind of soldier, just not for his country. As for how he got his name, Jackie Ping-Pong…well, his real name is Giacomo, which is Italian for James, and most Brooklyn-Italian guys named Giacomo go by Jack or Jackie. Ping-Pong is a bastardization of Jackie’s last name, Pignatelli (pronounced peen-ya-tell-eee). Jackie gave himself the nickname Ping-Pong, right around the time we were fourteen and kids at school started seeing the name Pignatelli in the newspapers & hearing about it on the TV news…along with images of Jackie’s father, Giovanni Pignatelli, and the words “indicted” and “racketeering”.
At 14 years old, I didn’t really even know what racketeering was. All I knew is it got Jackie’s father indicted (not that I was 100% sure what indicted was either) and it was right around then Jackie started calling himself Ping-Pong.
Of course, Jackie’s father didn’t just get indicted…he got indicted and fled to Venezuela or Argentina or…well, he went somewhere in South America before they could do more than just indict him. Jackie’s father…did what he did, and my father taught biology at a community college. Me and Jackie lived in different worlds, but happened to co-exist in the same neighborhood. We both went to St. Anselm’s for K-8 and we both went to St. Edmund’s high school.
One Friday during junior year at St. Edmund’s, it started snowing in the middle of the day. The principal, Father O’Brien, came over the loudspeaker and announced that school was closing early…I was in American history when he made that announcement, about to take a quiz for which I hadn’t studied. Naturally I was thrilled at Father’s announcement. Until I realized both my parents were at work & neither of them could pick me up from school, and of course my grandfather was legally blind and not allowed to go near the car (although if you asked him, he’d insist he could drive just fine). So I trudged through the snow to the bus stop. I was waiting for the bus, hoping there would BE a bus in the snow, when the Caddy pulled up. It was an old dark-blue two-door, with what appeared to be a bullet hole in the driver’s side door. The passenger window opened and I saw Jackie Ping-Pong.
“Need a lift?” he asked.
“No,” I shook my head, “Thank you, but no.”
“My brother Rosy,” he nudged the Caddy’s driver, “Rosy, say hello.”
“Hi, I’m Jack’s brother, Rosario Pignatelli,” Rosy announced, “You’ll be here forever waiting on the bus,” he said, “and we give you our word as gentlemen, we’ll drive you straight home and we won’t do anything you don’t want us to do.”
“OK,” I said. Jackie got out of the Caddy and motioned for me to slide in the front, which I did. He slid in next to me, and there I was, sandwiched in the front seat of the Caddy between him and Rosy. “I’m Cara DiMeo,” I said to Rosy, “and I live-“
“In the yellow house on 81st and Colonial,” Jackie said, “we know.”
“I just gotta stop at the Arab and get cigarettes,” Rosy said, “I don’t wanna hafta take the car out again later, it might be worse.” I nodded. There were half a dozen Arab stores (yes, it’s probably not nice to refer to them as Arab stores, but in our neighborhood, the corner stores that sell cigarettes, magazines, ice, lotto tickets, & coffee are pretty much always manned by men of Middle Eastern descent). Rosy casino şirketleri stopped the car in front of one such store. “You want anything, Cara?” he asked me. “Cigarettes, a magazine, anything?”
“Marlboro lights,” I said, “wait, here,” I reached down my blouse, in full view of both of them, and pulled a crumpled up $10 out of my bra.
“Uh-uh” Rosy shook his head at me, “your money’s no good.” He left the car idling and went into the store. He came out momentarily, with what appeared to be two cartons of cigarettes under his arm. He got in the car, handed one carton, Marlboro reds, to Jackie. The other was a carton of Marlboro lights, which he handed to me. I’d been expecting him to just grab me a pack, not the whole carton. “Gift from the Pignatelli brothers,” he said.
“Thanks, you didn’t have to-“
“We like to give gifts,” he said, “isn’t that right, Jack?”
“That’s right,” Jackie chimed in.
When we got to my house, Rosy stayed in the Caddy, while Jackie walked me up the front steps to the door.
“Thank you for everything,” I said, fumbling in my bag for the key.
“So, could I…could I maybe call you sometime?” he asked me, looking down.
“Yeah, yeah sure,” I said, nodding enthusiastically, “I have a phone in my room; my own private line…convinced my parents it’s more efficient for me to have my own line than to tie up theirs every night.” I found a pen. “Hold out your hand,” he held out his right hand, palm up, and I wrote my number.
“I’m not like them,” he said.
“Not like who?” I asked.
“My father and Rosy,” he said, “I don’t…I don’t do the things they do,” he said.
“Oh,” I said, “Well I’m nothing like my mother, so I guess we’re even.”
And Jackie Ping-Pong did call me. School was closed for an entire week because of the snow, but we had long, drawn out phone conversations, about how Sister Elizabeth Hill, the Italian teacher at St. Edmund’s, hated children and probably had no business teaching, about how my mother didn’t like my hair (it’s naturally very dark brown, but I’d attempted to dye it auburn not long before that, & it ended up sort of an eggplant color, which my mother hated), about how Jackie’s mother was dating someone, she was dating someone while her husband was in South America avoiding his indictment, and she made Rosy and Jackie call her boyfriend “Uncle Lou”. Jackie never talked about his father, and I didn’t ask anything about his father…I also didn’t tell him that sometimes I wished my father would fuck off to South America for awhile.
It didn’t snow forever. The weather got better, school unfortunately reopened, and I made plans to see Jackie outside of school. We would double with my 17 year old cousin Lauren & her boyfriend, 24 year old Chad (or Chadwick, as I called him), and go to the movies.
“So who’s the guy?” Lauren asked me. We were getting ready in the upstairs bathroom at her house.
“A guy from school, Jackie.”
“Jackie?” she asked, pulling on a pair of skin-tight jeans.
“Jackie,” I said, pulling the V-neck of my shirt down to show more cleavage. “Listen, we gotta pick him up, his brother’s got their car tonight.”
“OK,” she said, “where’s he live?”
“On Shore Road,” I said, finally satisfied that I was showing enough cleavage.
“What’s the house number?” she asked. “I can’t tell Chad to just drive up and down Shore Road.”
“I don’t need any house number,” I said, “We won’t miss the place. Jackie’s dad had his initials, GP, monogrammed into the sidewalk right in front of their house…heated sidewalks too, so they never have to shovel.”
“You…you’re dating Jackie Pignatelli?” She looked surprised. “Isn’t his father-“
“Vacationing in South America, yes,” I said, having already decided that was the diplomatic way to explain where Jackie’s father was. Lauren didn’t actually say anything, but her mouth sort of hung open for a minute.
Chadwick picked us up at Lauren’s house, and drove to the Pignatelli residence. Chadwick wasn’t from the neighborhood, & he either didn’t know or didn’t care that Jackie’s dad was a big deal.
“Don’t honk,” I told him when we got there, “I’ll go ring the bell like a person.” I got out of Chad’s car, walked up the front steps, and rang Jackie’s bell. casino firmaları
An older Italian lady answered the door and said “Pronto”, which is the exact same thing my old Italian grandfather says when he answers the phone.
“Buona sera, Signora,” I said, in clunky Italian, “Jackie, is Jackie here?” She looked at me like I had four heads. “Giacomo,” I said, “Giacomo is here?”
“You wait here,” she said in English that was just as clunky as my Italian. She went further into the house, shouted something in Italian that I didn’t quite understand, and Jackie came bounding down the stairs. The woman was his grandmother, and he told her, in Italian, that he was going out to a movie with me & some other people from school, and that he wouldn’t be out too late.
“Jackie, this’ my cousin, Lauren, & that’s her boyfriend, Chad…Chad, Lauren, this’ Jackie.” I did the introductions as Jackie & I sat in the back seat of Chad’s car. That night we saw Carlito’s Way, because Chad loved Al Pacino. On the way back from the movie, we pulled off the Belt Parkway at Plumb Beach. In the dark and the quiet of the car, I heard Lauren unzip Chad’s pants. Jackie leaned in and kissed me. I straddled him in the backseat and let him put his hands down my shirt.
I kept seeing Jackie. Sometimes we doubled with Lauren and Chad, although Lauren was no fan of my relationship with Jackie…but I was no fan of her relationship with Chad, so I guess we were even. Other times, Jackie had the Caddy…I don’t know what Rosy had when Jackie had the Caddy, but we went out alone when he did. Jackie was my first real boyfriend, my first lover in the physical sense. My parents met him (they didn’t know I was having sex with him, of course) and they didn’t have a major problem with us being together.
We were still together at the end of senior year. We went to prom together, shared a limo with six other kids. After prom, all talk around school was of our impending graduation. Graduation would take place on June 28th, in the auditorium of St. Edmund’s.
“He’s coming,” Jackie said one day during the first week of June.
“Who’s coming where?” I asked. We were laying in the backseat of the Caddy, both of us smoking. Our clothes were in a tangled heap on the floor.
“My father, he’s coming to graduation,” he said.
“But I thought he was in Venezu-“
“Argentina, and he was. But he’s back now.”
“How?” I asked, surprised.
“Statute of limitations. State failed to make their case in a timely fashion,” Jackie said, sounding more like a lawyer than a kid who didn’t even have his high school diploma yet, “so the judge threw the indictment out. He’s coming to graduation. I need a favor.”
“What’s the favor?” I asked, putting my cigarette out on the door handle.
“He needs to sit with your family,” Jackie said, “my mother doesn’t know he’s coming to graduation. She doesn’t know he’s coming back from Argentina. She’s bringing Uncle Lou to graduation.”
“No problem,” I said, “my grandfather can’t see shit, so my family will be up front. Tell your father to slide in next to them at the last minute, like he got there late & can’t find anywhere else to sit.”
Graduation was on the 28th. Jackie’s father sat with my family. He looked like an older, tanned version of Jackie. If anyone in the auditorium was surprised to see him, they didn’t say boo during the ceremony. Jackie’s father vanished after the ceremony, like right after the ceremony.
“Where’s your dad?” I asked Jackie, about 10 minutes after the ceremony ended. My parents were taking pictures of me in my cap & gown…Jackie’s mother took a picture with him, of course. And then I pulled Jackie aside and said “If you want a picture with your father while your mom’s not looking…hey, where is your father, anyway?”
“He took off,” he said, “he saw my mom with Uncle Lou…I think he thought she was waiting for him the whole time he was gone & when he found out she wasn’t exactly waiting alone…But it’s ok, I got his number, I’ll call him later tonight.”
Rosario married his longtime girlfriend, Nicolette, on July 15th and the wedding was the highlight of my summer…I got to get dressed up and eat good food. Jackie was Rosario’s best man. Their father watched the ceremony, or at least Jackie güvenilir casino told me he did, from the back of the church, so as not to let his estranged wife know he was back from Argentina. Not long after the wedding, Rosario had kind of taken over for his father. He ran the sports betting, the numbers, he sold protection (basically he made local business owners pay him for protection, and in exchange for their payment, Rosario didn’t burn down their shops). Sometimes Jackie rode around in the Caddy with Rosario when Rosario made his collections.
That September I started St. Joseph’s College. I was going to major in English and most likely teach after college. Jackie also started St. Joseph’s College, but he had no clue what he wanted to major in. St. Joseph’s was on the other side of Brooklyn, and me & Jackie were the only two from our neighborhood there, that I knew of. I didn’t say anything when Jackie skipped class the first couple of times…everybody does that in college. But then he made a habit of skipping class, of spending more time making sneaky visits to his father, where ever his father was, and less time going to class, studying, less time with me.
“I’m done,” he announced at the end of freshman year, “this ain’t for me.”
“What, what’s not for you?” I asked.
“This, this college shit…I don’t belong here. Philosophy? Sociology? It’s useless to me.”
“So take something that interests you next term.”
“Won’t be any next term, Cara,” he said, “I’m just gonna go with my father, that’s where I belong.”
“So, what do you mean you’re ‘going with him’? You’re moving in with him?”
“My mother has the house, and now that Rosy’s gone she’s all but moved Uncle Lou in there. I get the idea that if I go too, she will move him in there. Of course, she thinks my father’s still in Argentina, he won’t let me or Rosy tell her he’s back now,” he said, “My father’s got a place upstate, near Wappinger Falls…and yeah, maybe I will move up there. Rosy and Nikki are looking at houses up there. But when I said I’m goin with him, I mean I’m goin to work with him.”
“What?” I was horrified at the idea of my boyfriend running numbers, selling protection, carrying a gun, beating up people who can’t or won’t pay their gambling debts, and all the other things I now knew to be part & parcel of “racketeering”. “Remember the day it snowed, you and Rosy drove me home from St. Edmund’s. Remember what you said…what you fucking said to me that day. You said you’re not like them…what happened to that?”
“Yeah, and you’re more like your mother than you think you are…I am what I am,” he said.
“Oh that’s great, what is that, words of wisdom from Popeye?”I threw my clothes on as best I could, leaned forward, and flung the door of the Caddy open. “Have a nice life in Wappinger Falls, Jackie,” I said, hauling myself out of the Caddy, “But before I go, tell me one thing…do you wanna work with your father because it’s what you want, or do you want it because him and Rosy convinced you it’s what you want?” I slammed the door shut and walked away before he answered.
Not long after that, I heard that Jackie did in fact move up to Wappinger Falls. Wappinger Falls was about two hours away, so I wasn’t surprised when I also heard that Jackie had been spotted around the old neighborhood. I was shocked the first time I heard about him beating anybody up…the rumor was he beat up the Arab from the Arab store on 3rd Avenue & 82nd Street, and while I have no idea if it’s true, I do remember the Arab had a black eye and some bruises when I went in there for cigarettes once. I was less surprised when, in my junior year of college, some people I knew claimed to have bought Ecstasy from Jackie. I finished college, I went on to teach high school for a few years…and then I had a parting of the ways with the Board of Ed & became a paralegal instead. As time went on, I heard less and less about Jackie.
One Sunday morning two years ago, the newspaper had a multi-page article about the fact that the feds had managed to arrest a couple hundred mob guys, most of them from the old neighborhood. I read the article, not really conscious of the fact that I was looking for the name Giacomo Pignatelli until I actually saw it in bold type, next to the words “indicted”, “racketeering”, and “drugs”. I didn’t cry for the grown man who ran drugs & numbers and got himself arrested…I cried for the memory of the 16 year old boy who once stood on my patio and told me he wasn’t like them.
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