I didn’t want to shoot anyone

In 1966 Larry rented a car and he and Ken and I drove to New York City, where Larry’s mother lived. The car was a new black Shelby Mustang, loaded, with a gold racing stripe down the middle. When we got back to Chicago we didn’t have the 30-cent toll fee to exit the skyway, and the attendant gave us an envelope to send in the money. I was 20.

Larry stayed at his mother’s place in Queens, and Ken and I got a room at the Parsons YMCA. Based on our budget, we decided that one of us would rent a room and the other would sneak in later. Easy. We took turns sleeping in the bed and the chair.

Three young black men cruised Greenwich Village, Harlem, midtown, Central Park and the East Side and whenever a cop looked our way we did this thing that kept him from thinking that we were at all suspicious and from having any reason to search our conspicuous rented car and finding the gun under the seat. No problem.

Larry’s cousin Ingrid lived in an immaculate apartment in Jamaica, where her father, who worked for the health department, allegedly terrorized the family and would make Ingrid scrub the woodwork once a week or something equally heinous, and I decided to shoot him.

Not because of the woodwork. I was gonna shoot him because he might stop her going out the next night with me and Ken and another fine young thing. That’s why I had Ken’s .25 automatic when we went to pick up Ingrid and her friend at Ingrid’s incredibly clean apartment.

Her father greeted us at the door and was as cordial as can be, marveling that we’d come all that way and chatted of this and that while we waited for the girls. He wished us well, be back by 1. Later that night she sang for me in a clear contralto I can still imagine.

I didn’t shoot anybody. I thought I was willing to, but it never came up. Had I been found with a pistol, I’d’ve had a serious problem, but I was a good student with no record and I wouldn’t have done any time, unlike Gregory Wright. Now only fear and revenge matter, and compassion and common sense are illegal.

An early girlfriend’s father once said he would never physically reprimand his daughter if I were around because I would come to her rescue and then he’d have to hurt me. He was a perceptive, kind man, and I’m still grateful to him.