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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Without Me

As soon as I touched the oranges she reached her hand out and grabbed my wrist.
"Watcha doin', little robber girl?"
--The Beat on Ruby's Street

Greenwich Village, 1958.

Hey, I know I'm a monster in Ruby's book. But without me, there would BE no book. Right? I set it all in motion by calling the cops on her.

How I see it: kids come to the fruit stand every day. A lot of them are either stealing or trying to steal. We have to change their minds about that, and sometimes, okay, we have to be a little scary. By "we" I mean all the shopkeepers and store owners around here.

You think it's easy owning a fruit stand? Think again.

Most people see me glowering at them, they see the tattoos, they call me Tattoo Tina like Ruby does. They don't see I ran away at 14, I got all kinds of guys trying to take things that don't belong to them, if you know what I mean, and I had to get tough or get beaten. I chose tough. Wouldn't you?

Why'd I run? Ma was gone, father was a #!#@W#&* and brother was after me, too. I was on my own two years, two LONG years, stealing chickens, getting in fights, trading favors I don't want to remember. Got thrown into juvie and vowed when I got out my life would change.

But if you don't change your own life, no one else is going to change it.

I joined a carnival for a while, traveling around the country, and that's where I got the tattoos. But then I got sick of traveling, working like a dog and having to move around every other day, striking the set and putting it up again.

We were near New York and I've always wanted to see the city. When I saw Greenwich Village, I knew it was where I wanted to be.

I found a job at a laundry and slept in the back of the store for six months, and then a really nice lady, really kind and generous, hired me to take care of this place. She gives me a place to sleep and pays me enough so I can eat.

I may not be the prettiest girl in the world, and maybe these tattoos and muscles aren't making any gentlemen pant for me. That's okay, though, in fact, it's more than okay. I don't need gentlemen.

I'm not crazy about Beats, and yeah, I'm not crazy about Ruby and her friends, either. But that doesn't mean I'm not right about what I did. Besides, she got plenty of material from that one little encounter.

I'd say she did all right. Wouldn't you?

Book cover: Scott Rolfs