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Steve Bergsman's 'Growing Up Levittown': 'The Kiss,' An Excerpt

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LEVITTOWN
Steve Bergsman

The following is an excerpt from Steve Bergsman's memoir Growing Up Levittown:

In my first two years at the University of Florida, I never fell in love with anyone I became entangled with and when I revisited my old haunting grounds, I dated other girls from Island Trees, avoiding T***, although I kept up with tales of what she was doing and how she easily moved on to new boyfriends each year of her high school career.

Then in the summer of 1969, between my sophomore and junior years at college, I got a real break. My Aunt Vicci knew someone who worked at a small Wall Street brokerage firm called Ernst & Co., which hired retirees, and during the summer, college students, as runners.

In the days before all things became virtual via computerization, stocks and bonds were actual documents and when trades were made these papers had to be delivered to the brokerage that handled the buy end of the trades. As late as the 1960s, almost all brokerage firms were actually located in the Wall Street area, so it was relatively easy to carry the hard-copy of stocks and bonds to the next brokerage. This was to be my summer job for two years, starting in May 2009.

I would sleep on the couch at my Aunt Elsie’s apartment in the Bronx and then in the morning climb down into the subway every weekday morning taking the long train ride to Wall Street. My Cousin Elliott, who still lived in the apartment, had a friend who had a friend who worked at Addy Vallins, a deli/ice cream store near Yankee Stadium. The store needed an extra hand on the weekends, especially when the Yankees were in town, and I was recommended. So, in addition to my Wall Street runner job five days a week, I would also work Sundays at Addie Vallins. To have some sort of personal life, I would leave the city for Long Islands on Friday night and some times not return until early Sunday mornings. Mostly, I hung out with my old friend Tom T, but one Friday when I knew he was going to be busy and I had nothing else going on, I decided to call my old high school girlfriend.

When I went to Long Island on Friday nights I would stay at my Aunt Tootsie’s house, next door to where I once lived and my home away from home my senior year in high school. Early one Friday evening I took that old familiar, 15-minute walk from Carpenter Lane to my old girlfriend’s house as I had done so many times back in high school.

When her mother came to the door, she and I were both happy to see each other. I’m not sure why, but I was always reticent around the parents of my high school friends, but not with T***’s mom who seemed to trust me and enjoyed my presence when I came around to visit her daughter. After our friendly greeting, I entered the house and was prepared to sit and talk at the kitchen table with T*** – this being a Levitt house, the first room entered was always the kitchen, and in all my visits during high school I had never ventured further into the house than the kitchen. I had not even made it as far as the living room.

After a few minutes of small talk with T***’s mom, T*** came bounding down the stairs, across that foreign territory of the living room and burst in the kitchen beaming joy and the grandest smile on a face that in my memory always had glowed with shiny brites. Bear hugs all around.

Then she literally dragged me upstairs to her room. Before departing my familiar space in the kitchen I looked back at T***’s mom wondering if this departure of norm was OK, but she had already moved on to other things. She didn’t even think twice about it. Across the living room, a place I had never visited before, I went. Nothing registered because I was already being pulled up the stairs eventually emerging into T***’s room. It was like entering the inner sanctum, the cave where the Wizard of OZ lived, the holiest of holies.

What did we do? Did we talk of old times and our new lives. Yes, of course, but before we even got that far, T*** whipped out a huge joint and lit it up. Even in my fraternity house at college, where most of us toked up regularly, we would open windows and blockade the space under the door, to keep the sweet marijuana smell from being too obvious. Now, all of a sudden I’m sitting in a cloud of smoke, which only slowly seemed to drift toward the open window. We laughed, we joked, we told stories of ambiguity and exaggeration and before long we were rolling around on her mattress in ways I only dreamed about in high school.

In my on-again, off-again year with T***, it was all love and lust on my part, but truth be told, I never touched her, even when we finally generated all the heat of boyfriend/girlfriend those last two months of my high school years. We made-out with decorum, not because I wasn’t desirous, after all I was always horny, but she would have none of it.

T*** had never been too far from my thoughts and desires for three years, but after high school I stayed away. Before I came to her door, I had no idea what kind of reception was in store for me. This rumble on the mattress was not even a remote consideration.

She was stoned, she was desirous of me and in all that rolling and sloppy kissing, I managed to take off both her blouse and bra, revealing her beautiful, full breasts that tormented my dreams for years.

Filed by Saki Knafo