The base of the bus stop sign was broken off and jagged. The police had put some orange cones around it and strung yellow “Police Line, Do Not Cross” streamers between the cones, but otherwise it hardly looked like anything happened. People were walking up and down the street, cars were moving in their early to mid-day routine, and they even saw a bus pull to the stop and wait a minute before starting up again.
“This is it?” Mya complained. “We died here, just yesterday afternoon, and this is all there is to show for it?” She certainly sounded very teenage.
“What did you expect?” Nathan asked the rhetorical question. “Unless there is a personal connection, the world of the living does not want to think about the dead and dying. Death is a subject best left buried in normal conversations, if you know what I mean.”
“Fuck you.” Both Mya and Nathan heard the words and were startled by them. They looked and saw a young man just inside the gate, staring at them. He came out to confront them. “What did you expect, a monument? In a week, no one will even remember that we ever existed.”
“My mother won’t forget,” Mya insisted.
“And my daughter won’t let anyone else forget,” Nathan added.
“Fuck you.” The young man said it again. It seemed to be his favorite phrase. “I don’t care what people think. I’m still here. God can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“Why would God want to get rid of you?” Mya asked and showed her innocence once more.
“Because God owes me, stupid. I got nothing but bad all my life, so God owes me tons and tons of good, and I will accuse him to stinkin’ high heaven and bring down the whole racist lot of them if I have to.”
“But why do you think God owes you? Who told you that?” Mya really did not understand, but Nathan drew her a little closer for her own protection. He had an idea of where this man was coming from and he knew it was a hair trigger from violence.
The young man looked at Mya like she was as thick as the fence post and almost as smart. He pointed sharply at Nathan in his suit. “I don’t expect some motherfucking rich man and his daughter to understand, but I learned from a very early age that I did not have a chance in this world. I was born poor trash and I would never be anything other than poor trash. You see?”
“What’s being poor got to do with it?” Mya searched for understanding and looked up at Nathan thinking that maybe he could explain it to her.
“Man, are you stupid!” The young man backed up a little, threw his hands to the sky and turned in a circle before settling down to explain. “My mama and grandma told me all my life that a poor man in this Goddamn America would never get a break, and they were right.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have listened to them,” Mya suggested.
“What? Not listen to my mama and grandma?” The young man looked at Nathan for support in his argument, but Nathan could only shrug.
“Don’t look at me. My mother was a penniless immigrant and my grandmother died at Auschwitz.” That made both Mya and the man pause and stare for a minute. Mya had heard the word and knew it was something terrible, and a lot of people were killed. The young man knew exactly what Auschwitz was.
“You a fuckin’ Jew?”
“In part,” Nathan said. He looked at Mya in a kind of reflex action to see if it made any difference to her. It did not, and Nathan wondered if she ever met a real Jew before. Probably, he decided. “I’m actually sort of a Baptist-Jew.”
“Awesome.” The young man settled down a little in his attitude and vocabulary. “So tell me, Jew-boy, how did you manage such a hot lookin’ daughter.” He leered at Mya and Nathan almost said something, but Mya nudged him.
“Do you really like what you see?” Mya asked. She set her hands on her hips and swayed just a little as if to show herself off.
“Mama, you and I could make love all night. Sweet sixteen I bet, and I could kiss you all over.” The young man responded. Then Mya pushed it too far. She leaned forward to show her young breasts just a little and she lowered her voice in imitation of a movie she once saw.
“Do you like what you see?” She asked again. She was maybe fifteen or so by then and quite capable of enticing any young man with such a move, but of course she was just play-acting, imitating a movie. She had no idea of the reaction she would provoke. The man leapt for her, no doubt with the intention of raping her on the spot, and Mya screamed. A woman waiting at the bus stop also screamed and backed up a couple of steps. Nathan reached for Mya to pull her to safety, but he was a bit slow. The young man went right through Mya as if she was just a ghost, which she was. The man fell on his knees on the pavement and let out a frustration scream of his own.
“It’s not fair! God, you owe me big time! Goddamn you God. It’s not fair!”
Nathan hustled Mya through the iron gate and up toward the park bench before he scolded her. “Ok? Are you happy? Do you see what a good looking young woman can do to a man? Part of growing up has to be learning to keep your sexy self to yourself. There are certain things you just don’t go around flaunting all over the place unless you want reactions like you just got.”
“Am I really good looking?” Mya heard him, or at least the part of what he said that her teenage mind could process. “Am I really sexy?”
Nathan stopped. He remembered scolding his own daughter more than once, and he thought that this time he could afford to be a little softer. “Yes,” he said. “You are very beautiful and enormously attractive, and I think you are doing a remarkable job of growing up under the circumstances, but you have to promise to be more careful about just what you do.” He spoke out of genuine concern, and she knew it.
“I promise.” Mya said. She raised her hand to signify a pledge not to be broken, though to be sure, she was not exactly certain what she was promising. Her mind was stuck on the words very beautiful and enormously attractive. She needed to hear that. She needed her best friend in the whole world to say that.