BUILDING 55, SUCCESS PARK
Two weeks after the meeting with Adam’s lawyer, Mem got a big fat check and the keys to his car.
Soon after, Mem put a down payment on a two-bedroom unit in Success Park, which is in Bridgeport but closer to the Stratford side, which Mem says is the safer section of town.
It’s no surprise that Mom disagrees with Mem and says there is nothing safe about Bridgeport, mainly because she despises everything about it. And she’s still blaming me for ruining her chances of getting out of Bridgeport for good.
According to Mom, Success Park is a housing complex that the U.S. Government built to accommodate the massive number of workers coming to Bridgeport in hopes of getting good-paying jobs during the war effort.
Success Park sounds to me like it’s mostly for low-income working-class people like Mem and Mom, and lucky for us, it’s far from any bullet-flying, street-knifing areas like Father Panik and a huge step up from White Street.
Mem agrees that the people who live in Success Park are a lot like her — hard-working, honest, decent people who struggle to make ends meet and, most importantly, are devout church-going people.
Success Park sounds like everything Mem has ever wished for, but the best part for me is that Mere Germaine is moving back in with us.
Adam left us his furniture, dishes, and Frigidaire, so Mem says he not only saved us financially but also set us up with everything we needed to live our best lives.
I’m happy Adam saved us, but Mem treats him like a saint, so now I know she’ll never get back with Steve. It seems to me that Mem is in love with a dead man, and nobody can ever live up to that — not even Steve.
Mom is relieved that we are getting out of our rat trap White Street apartment and moving to Success Park, but she still thinks we deserve better and need to get out of Bridgeport to make a name for ourselves. I hate that she always says “we” because I don’t know who “we” is, and I don’t want to be part of her dream. I have dreams of my own.
Mom always says she wants money, a rich husband, famous friends, a beautiful house, and everything else wealth brings. No one can disagree that Success Park is way better than White Street, but it’s not even close to the rich and famous stuff Mom keeps wishing for.
Mom’s definition of making a name for herself is marrying someone rich, but that’s not how I plan to make a name for myself. I have no plans to marry someone rich because Mem always tells me I can only depend on one person and one person only for what I need — that person being me, myself, and I. But now, I’m not sure she’s right because Adam turned out to be a very dependable person to Mem.
Now that I’m the proud owner of a beautiful piano, I would love to be a famous pianist and travel the world playing my music, but Mem says I need to learn how to play the piano first.
Roberto is still not talking to Mom, and she told Mem she’s worried that he won’t be able to find her once we move and change our phone number. Mem answered that if Roberto wanted to find her, he’d figure out a way. Otherwise, it’s his loss and too bad for him. I keep my Roberto thoughts to myself, but I pray to God every night that he never finds her.
Our moving day was exciting but also really sad. I took my chances and ran through the Panik to say goodbye to Yolanda. We both cried our eyes out because we knew we would never see each other again. Yolanda convinced me to stop by Steve’s Market to say goodbye. I didn’t want to go alone, so Yolanda went with me.
As soon as Steve saw me, I could tell he was happy but also unhappy. I hugged him and told him we were moving, but he already knew. I told him I would never forget him and thanked him for teaching me all about meat, which made him smile.
Then Steve said that he expects to read about me in the papers because he’s sure I will do great things and to always believe in myself. I could see Steve getting misty-eyed, especially when Yolanda told us we were the only white people she ever loved.
I hugged Steve again, and he whispered in my ear to run off and have a beautiful life. I squeezed them both one last time and then ran back to White Street, bawling but excited.
Mem drove Mom to Success Park in Adam’s car, and Mere Germaine, Rib, and I went with the moving guy in his truck. Poor Rib threw up brown bits all over my shirt and pants.
When we pulled up to the parking lot in front of Building 55, a bunch of kids were playing in a cement lot next to it. They all stopped what they were doing to watch us get out of the truck. I felt like a movie star with all their staring, although I hoped they couldn’t see the chunks of Rib’s vomit dripping down the front of me.
Building 55 was a brick two-story townhouse with ten units attached in one long row. As we walked up to the front door, there was a tiny fenced-in patch of yard that I let Rib run around in.
When we opened the front door, the apartment was sunny and smelled of fresh paint. The kitchen and living room were one giant room with a patterned wood floor, which Mom said was parquet.
Adam’s piano will surely take up half the living room, but Mem said it would serve as a constant reminder that Adam saved us.
We now have a front and back yard with our very own clothesline. The yards are postage stamp size, but they belong to us. And both the front and rear doors open properly, so we finally have two ways to escape in an emergency.
Mem is thrilled that we don’t have to share a clothesline with our neighbors any longer, but she is worried about who will mow the front and back lawns since we never had grass before.
There are two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and the whole place is spick and span. The best part about our new home is no bugs, rodents, peeling paint, or moldy walls. And each bedroom has a door, which we didn’t have on White Street, although Mem says there’s no good reason to close them. Since I never had a bedroom door before, I disagree with Mem and can’t wait to close it for privacy, although I have to sleep in a bed with her. Mom and Mere Germaine will share the other bedroom and are lucky to have twin beds.
Mom might have dreams of leaving Bridgeport, but I would consider myself the luckiest girl in the world if I could spend the rest of my life in Building 55, Success Park.