The day after I turned 14, I asked Julie Wong to go to the Pepsi Cola show with me on Saturday. The price of admission was three Pepsi Cola bottle tops. We project kids loved to show up and show off as we watched cartoons, serials, and short movies. This was going to be my first real date.
At the time, we were walking home from school in a herd of other kids heading back to the projects. Julie stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and turned to face me. Other kids stopped to see what was happening.
Julie had a reputation for speaking her mind and for having a short fuse. Everybody in the projects knew that Julie had chased her brother, Ken, around their project building with a baseball bat. She caught up with Ken, who was two years older than Julie, and beat him like a rug. She broke his right arm and collar bone and knocked out a few teeth. Julie was a project legend. The kids formed a circle around us. I think many of them were hoping to see Julie in action.
Somebody said, “Where’s her bat?”
Someone else said, “I think Eddie called her a chink or something like that.”
Another voice added, “Too bad. I always liked Eddie, you know?”
Julie said, “Eddie Jordan, it’s Friday. What kind of last-minute shit is this? Am I your last chance? Has everybody else turned your lame-ass down?”
Kids were laughing at us, signifying and hopping around like they were at a Floyd Patterson championship boxing match or something.
I was thoroughly embarrassed and mentally kicking myself for ever even thinking about asking Julie out. And she was right. My other two first-date choices had turned me down pretty damn emphatically. The only reason I asked Julie was that last year; we had made out under the bleachers at school.
I said, “Julie, just say no, if you don’t want to go.”
Julie’s face was turning dark, and she was clenching and unclenching her fists.
“Eddie, are you trying to back out? You chicken shit.”
“No. I should have asked you earlier. I’m sorry.”
“You know my dad will beat me if I go out with a Black guy. And my brothers will kick your skinny ass so bad.
Do you still want to ask me to go to the Pepsi-Cola show with you?”
This was a trick question. I hate fuckin’ trick questions. I thought carefully before I replied.
“I asked you because I like you, Julie. But I don’t want to get you into trouble. I’m not worried about your brothers. I have brothers too.”
The crowd was growing louder and noisier, and kids from across the street were joining the group. I wanted this over right then. Julie didn’t seem to care about the kids hearing and mocking everything we said.
Julie glared at me, and I stared right back.
“Okay, but no more last-minute stuff, okay?”
I was stunned. I thought Julie had said yes. However, I didn’t want to try and confirm it and find out I was wrong. Not in front of that crowd.
Julie’s friends grabbed her and surrounded her. They asked her how she got me to ask her out and a dozen other questions about our date.
My friend, Joe Nance, walked home with me, “Eddie, what was on your mind, man? Julie is one little psycho babe. You better not screw up this date. I would hate to be visiting you in the hospital.”
I thought about what Joe said. And now I was getting a little worried. I didn’t need friends like Joe. I told him that rather emphatically.
On Saturday, this girl that vaguely resembled Julie Wong walked up to me outside of my project unit, smiled, and took my arm. This Julie had on red lipstick, her eyes looked different, and her hair was not in a ponytail. She wore a frilly white blouse and a short red skirt that matched her lipstick. She had on red patent leather shoes and carried a red purse.
I was used to Summer Julie in cut-offs, t-shirt and flip-flops or Winter Julie in jeans, tennis shoes and boy’s long sleeve shirts.
I was speechless. One of my older brothers, Jack, had given me my pre-date briefing. One thing I remembered that he said, ‘If you can’t think of anything to say, give her a hug instead.'”
I hugged Julie tight even though I understood I would probably get a hard knee to the balls.
Julie surprised the hell out of me when she hugged me back.
She smelled funny. I tried to hold back my sneeze in vain.
“Allergies,” I said. And before she could respond, I kissed the Julie Wong look-alike on her red lips in front of about a dozen other kids. I felt Julie stiffen. I moved my legs closer together to protect my balls. Julie Wong kissed me back. All the kids were cheering and jumping around like they were at the circus or something.
I felt like jumping around and cheering too. My heart was racing. I couldn’t believe Julie had kissed me back in public. I took Julie’s hand, and we started walking the eight blocks to the movie theater.
I tried really hard not to look down Julie’s blouse as we walked. This was the first glimpse I had ever had of her boobs. They looked delectable. I was wondering if she would let me touch them.
“Not a chance, Eddie. This is our first date. I don’t let boys touch my boobs on the first date. That’s an ironclad rule.”
“Julie, how did you know what I was thinking?”
“Eddie, you can peek at my boobs as much as you want. I like that you like to look at them, but no touching.”
“Sure. I mean, I like them. I like them a lot. I never saw them before.”
Julie giggled, “Eddie Jordan, you are so silly. You are.”
Two black boys in San Juan High School football jackets walked by us. One boy stared at us for a second and said, “Hey, ain’t you Morgan and Jack Jordan’s brother? What are you doing with that slant-eyed whore? Do they know you are out with a chink?”
Julie snaps back, “Nigger, you can kiss my yellow ass, motherfucker.”
The boy that was doing all the talking started for Julie, and Julie moved toward him.
I jumped between them. “Take it back motherfucker! You better take it back.”
The boy tossed me aside like I was a bag of potato chips.
“What did you call me China bitch?”
Julie replied with a kick to the boy’s balls.
I recovered and added my own kick to his ribs.
The other boy hit me in the back of the head, and I fell to the ground. I blanked out for a few seconds.
I looked up to see Julie protecting us with a kitchen knife.
The boys didn’t seem that impressed, but they were cautious.
I struggled to my feet. “Leave my girlfriend and me alone. Or you will regret it.”
Julie said, “Come on motherfuckers. We will fuck you up!”
There was a crowd of theater-going kids around us, and one of them yelled, “Cops.” Everyone started to disperse and the boys moved away with the crowd. Julie hid the knife under a car.
The two white cops in the patrol car slipped right on by, not at all interested in whatever was happening with the crowd of project kids on the sidewalk.
I threw up. I had blurred vision, and I staggered when I walked.
Joe Nance and Julie helped me back to the projects.
Dr. Lee said I had a concussion and I needed to rest for a few days.
Julie came to visit me. My moms told her I was not seeing visitors, especially her. Julie sat outside my door for four hours straight. My father came home and finally let her in to see me.
“Eddie, not the best first date, huh?”
I reached out and grabbed her hand, and pulled her down on the bed beside me.
“I didn’t have a great date, but I had a date with the prettiest and toughest girl in San Juan County.”
Julie giggled and whispered, “Eddie Jordan, you are so full of shit.” She paused for a second and added, “I was going to let you hold my boobs if you acted right.”
“Really? I don’t—”
Julie grabbed my hand and stuck it under her t-shirt.
At that moment, I knew I was in love with Julie and that we would be together forever.
I overheard my moms and pops arguing about Julie and me.
“Nicodemus, I don’t know why you let that girl in here. She’s not welcome in this house ever. She almost got our son killed.”
“Mary, the way I see it, Julie was protecting Edward. Those boys would have done some real damage if she hadn’t stood her ground.”
“And what kind of girl carries a knife in her purse? You want our son around someone like that?”
“I think Julie has had a hard life. There was a time I carried a knife for protection.”
“Shit! Nicodemus, this is different. That girl is crazy. Look what she did to her own brother. What about that?”
“Mary, I’m not supporting violence, but Lance Chinn told me that Ken was trying to put the make on Julie, and her parents didn’t believe her when she told them.”
Moms was startled, silent for a moment, but she recovered.
“Nicodemus, you don’t know that for sure. And she called them boys niggers. How did she fix her mouth to say something like that? If I had heard her, I would have slapped the shit out of her.”
Pops shook his head in frustration.
“Mary, I’m not going to do Tit for Tat with you. What I do know is I would rather have Edward with somebody that will stand up for and protect both of them. I know that.”
“She is, is a crazy gangster girl. She’s trash and trouble.”
Pops picked up his hat and jacket. At the door, he turned back to his wife, “I know that Julie is a strong young woman. She reminds me of you when I first met you.” Pops left for a cooling-off period.
A few minutes later, moms was in my room.
“Eddie, don’t let that little hooligan call you a nigger. Do you understand me?”
“No! Do you understand me?”
I nodded my head yes.
“Edward Marshall Jordan, say that you understand me.”
“I understand you.”
“And why don’t I believe you?”
Moms left, slamming the door to my bedroom.
Pops might have had the last word that night. However, Moms had another move up her sleeve. Two days later, when Dr. Lee said I was okay, my mom and I were on a train back to her sister, Flora, in Washington, DC. And that’s where I stayed from the Eisenhower to the JFK years.
I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to Julie.
A month after the fight, the boys who started it were found in an alley, badly beaten with severe concussions. A month after that, Jack joined the Air Force. There was a rumor that Jack had to wait a month for his hands to heal. I tried not to listen to gossip.
When I was eighteen, I followed Morgan and Jack’s example and joined the Air Force too. Eventually, I was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base near DC.
Moms did break up Julie and me. Her plan worked up to a point. Four years after I left, Julie married Jack. Morgan flew in from Iraq for their wedding. I was in basic training and could not attend.
Moms didn’t go either. And now, three grandkids later, she truly regrets that and has seriously tried to make amends.
The first time I met Mrs. Julie Jordan, she threw her arms around my neck and whispered in my ear, “Eddie, if you play your cards right, you still might get to fondle my breasts.”
We both laughed like it was a joke. However, I was not so sure. I didn’t want to be on the wrong side of my sister-in-law or Jack. I decided to cut my visit short.
I loved Julie and Jack. I think they made the right choices. And I was crazy about my new niece and nephews, their children. But Jack and Julie together were a pretty potent brew. I remembered something Jack once told me, “Better to be safe than sorry, Eddie. And if you see danger down the road, avoid it if you can.” I’m going to follow my brother’s advice.
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