What’s good in the higher hood, Monica? It’s me, Cabbage Patch, your supervisor from summer of ‘94. I’m reaching across the divide through Facebook, a wormhole you might’ve dug. It linked me to the Moving Walls photo series by Régina Monfort, which transported me to the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY of the late 1990s. Our Southside, Los Sures, where I bump into you, anthropologized in stark black & white. There you are, roundaway girl, luminously alive at Lindsay Park, on Union, at Lindsay Houses, on Broadway. Each time I walk by the El Puente garden on South 2nd and Roebling, I always wonder, ‘Whatever happened to Monica?’ And now I kneel before the unrecognizable, irreconcilable photo #16 of the not-Monica. Of all the bullets crisscrossing the world this week, the stray one that caught you in 2000 is just catching up to me fifteen light-years later. A number shy of your age when I met you, one more than my daughter’s age today. Tonight, I turn away from the Chicago protests over yet another cop shooting—16 fucking bullets—of a kid who was about your age when you fell. But if there’s one thing I learned in my eight weeks of knowing you is that to celebrate this life, now, right here, ahora, is also to resist. And yeah, I do wonder if you lived fast because you knew the precise number of your days or if your days were so precisely numbered because you lived fast. When my feet turned back home after college graduation, your dreams were just starting to put their shoes on. In my memory, you’re still 14 and on your first job. At 24, a first-time supervisor, I was book-smart and street-dumb as they come. I was full of commas and ready to give back to community and all that plépla. We had divine work to do in the Southside: transforming an abandoned lot into Eden. Potential. I saw it in the street-smart, book-lived girl whose life story was a run-on sentence. Sometimes I’d dock your Summer Youth minimum wages for insubordination, for playing at Adam and Eve with a co-worker while the rest of the crew shoveled mulch. But you were right, we shouldn’t have to clean up other people’s shit diapers and crack vials, and dag, why it gotta be so hot out here, why don’t it rain or something, why we gotta sit inside reading National Geographic, writing on Amazon tribes and locust plagues, like, what the fuck can a Venus fly trap teach us that we don’t know already, Cabbage Patch? Point taken. Summer youth should be about enjoying a cup of East River on the rocks with a side of horizon, about hanging out at the Grand Street waterfront in full view of Manhattan skyline, which would one day lose its eye teeth. It’s your smile that matters now and that the dandelions we called stubborn you stuck behind your ear. You ignored the handicap sign behind your passions. You were tough, confident, tall and graceful, unfit for bullshit and early caskets. So I’m giving you permission to dock me, Monica, whenever I forget what’s good.
November 25, 2015
Visit photographer Régina Monfort’s website at:
Visit original “Beyond Grand Street, Brooklyn, New York” 2001 Moving Walls exhibit at the Open Society Foundation: