George A. Yesthal
“Go to the city. Follow your dreams.” That’s what all his friends and loved ones told him. They said things like that all the time. He always heard it; “You’ll never make it here in the sticks.” One day right out of the blue he took the advice and ran with it.
Sydney was a guitarist and singer of no mean talent. He had always been the best in his area and he knew they were right. The fact is he had spent some time in the city in 1978-79 doing a scholarship at Juilliard, but he crapped out because of the strain and regimen. Just wasn’t his cup of tea.
He gave it up, moved back home and married. That wasn’t his cup of tea either, but truth be told, he’d have stuck it out if Liz wasn’t such a cheating bitch.
He wrote a little ditty called “Whenever I Am Flying” at the behest of a friend and it was recorded in a small studio in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This was encouraging as it finally got sold for $450.00 and used in some obscure toothpaste commercial. His buddy, Zack pocketed the purse and left town. The fact that he never saw a dime of that money never bothered him. It was all about the recognition anyway. That he was not recognized either didn’t matter after a while and he drifted back into the usual tortoise-pace existence that he could trust. Eventually he decided to give the city another shot. He’d make it or die trying; this he avowed.
He’d saved about $4,600 and moved into Brooklyn where he scored himself an efficiency apartment in Flatbush on Ocean Avenue. Steady work proved impossible to find so he resorted to day jobs from places like Manpower and Midtown Help, which barely kept him in gas money and street vendor knishes, but even that eventually dried up.
Sydney had no place to return to and he vowed not to give up, so when he lost his apartment in November he wound up sleeping in his car; a 1986 Ford Bronco Two, Edie Bauer model. It was a trusty old heap that had served him well and at 286,000 miles was still running on prayers and a steady diet of Lucas oil treatment.
Sydney had been careful to move the Bronco every night so as not to become conspicuous. One night in December he popped open the case of his vintage 1964 birds-eye maple Les Paul Deluxe to discover that the neck was warped and the finish was severely checked from the extreme cold. In the throes of profound depression he decided to spend his last four dollars and change on a pint of Majorska vodka. That was Christmas Eve.
On January 11th, Sydney awoke just before dawn to a feverish knocking on his passenger-side window which was laminated in frost from his own body temperature. He twisted the key in the ignition to lower the window only to be greeted by the grimacing countenance of one of Brooklyn South’s finest. His attitude was as hard and finely polished as his brass and silver badge.
“What the fuck are you doing here? Don’t you know it’s illegal to sleep in your car?” The cop was frowning with authority and smiling at Sydney’s discomfiture at the same time which made him seem all the more monster-like and Sydney almost exploded. He’d just gotten to sleep, which was a miracle in and of itself even given his beloved Bronco’s accomodatingly reclining seats and he’d spent much of his reserve gas trying to provide a modicum of heat, and here was this bastard reveling in his misery.
“So I guess if I was sleeping in a motherfucking Frigidaire box it would be OK by your vaunted standards”, he blurted out before he could stop himself.
“Alright, smartass, out of the car and keep your hands where I can see them.” The cop had backed up and had his right hand on his Smith and Wesson model 27 standard issue revolver and was keying his walkie for back-up.
By 7am Sydney was in the back of the Crown Victoria interceptor, hands cuffed securely behind him on his way to a holding tank in The Tombs. He’d failed to be able to provide proof of residence and the requisite $10.00 that would have saved him from a vagrancy charge. Just before entering the vehicle he read “TO PROTECT AND SERVE” boldly printed on the rear quarter panel. The irony was not lost on him.
By 8:30 Sydney was in a ten by ten cell shared with a large, sinewy and extensively tattooed Hispanic fellow named Julio. Sydney knew this because upon entering the cell Julio extended a greeting saying,“I am Julio Del Avilar Himenez and jou fock wit me, I gonna cot off you balls, esse!” Sydney decided not to FOCK with Julio as he was still quite attached to his balls. He settled down on the steel cot and, completely exhausted, dozed off.
At just about 8:00 that evening he awoke from a fitful dream of being lost in a steaming rain forest, tepid showers soaking him through. Upon coming fully awake he was aware that the shower was coming from Julio now brandishing his sizable member and pissing liberally all over poor Sydney. Never had Sydney experienced such unbridled and feverish rage. He bounded off the cott and grabbed Julio by the throat. His momentum carried the two of them clear across the cell to crash into the unforgiving bars at the cell’s other end. Before he knew it, he had thrown Julio to the floor and straddled him all the while increasing the crushing grip on his neck. He was vaguely aware of Julio scrabbling in his pocket for something but he couldn’t have cared less. He was going to do murder…and love every minute of it.
Suddenly Sydney was aware of an electrically intense feeling in his side…then his back…then again in his side. It came again and agin. Then came the nauseating weakness. Julio had stabbed him repeatedly. He rolled weakly off of his tormentor with the odd and vaguely formulated thought that Julio had a knife. Where had he gotten such a thing? When Sydney was prepped for the cell, they had taken everything from him including his wallet, keys and belt. Where had this thug gotten a knife?
Well, no matter now. Sydney was finally going to get some long deserved rest. As he closed his eyes Julio was ranting,“I told Jou I’d cut jou, motherf…” But that faded. It was all so peaceful now and he could clearly hear his friends and loved ones saying…
“Go to the city. Follow your dreams…”