Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Akhim Yuseff Cabey is originally from the Bronx but now lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he is working on a childhood memoir called Little Red Love Machine.
My sister Asia loved to kick my ass. The violence began when she was ten and I was eight, after our mother started dating Freddy, a tall, bulky, dark-skinned man who chewed his tongue between sentences and had a booming laugh that sounded like it could topple buildings and crush small boys.
Virginia and I were in an English-literature class together during my senior year at the State University of New York at Albany. She wore black-rimmed “cafe girl” glasses and had one of those bright, pale faces that slips back and forth from plain to attractive. Altogether her style was a mixture of grunge and hippie, and I found Virginia sexy as hell. During the week that we covered James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, she and I united against the close-minded faction in class who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, comprehend how one man could love another. We chastised them on breaks and shouted them down during discussions. At the end of class one evening, Virginia discovered that I, too, liked getting high, and she smiled — her face alive with mischief — and counted off three words on her fingers: Suburban. Bitch. Cruise.
My mind had a mind of its own, and over the top of the real world, my mind’s mind projected a world that to me was even more real. Creston Avenue — the street I lived on with my mother and my older sister, Asia — was two streets: one the way it actually was, and one the way it ought to be.
In 1984, the year vigilante Bernhard Goetz shot four black boys on a New York City subway car, I was nine, and I loved to ride the subway by myself. The dingy trains were spectacular space rockets to me. When I rode them, I wasn’t just going to Queens to visit my grandmother; I was saving the galaxy.
My attraction to thick girls began when I was eleven and growing up in the South Bronx. For the most part I hung out with my Uncle Kove, who was ten years older than me and a master of kung fu, gymnastics, and graffiti art. He had the initial attraction to larger girls.