Innocents Abroad


On a Saturday morning of an August day, I awoke early to a hot, muggy, steamy day. The room in our four room flat that served as my bedroom was a small windowless square. The lack of air made it as hot as a steam bath. I lethargically pulled myself out of the bed that I shared with my younger brother, walked in a daze down the narrow corridor to the cubicle that served as our toilet room. After taking care of nature's call, I proceeded to perform my morning ablutions, with a perfunctory tooth brushing and by splashing cold water on my face and head from the single faucet that supplied only cold water. Before I could be stopped by mother, I bolted out the door and flew down the fifty-four steps at the rear of building to the back yard, giving a deaf ear to my mother's entreaties to wait for breakfast. As I hoped, I ran into Danny Monteleone, one of my close friends, who was kicking a tin can around. I joined him, competing with him, trying to kick the can before he could, every now and then kicking one another in the shins until we tired of this spontaneous bit of fun.

On the spur of the moment, we decided to explore the hillside behind the frame houses that perched on the edge of the property, to see if we might be lucky enough to find some pieces of iron or other salvage items of value, to sell to old Harris, the neighborhood junk dealer, who was located at the end of our street.




At this point in time, these houses had been abandoned by some of the Italian families who had decided to move to Little Italy, the Italian settlement up on Murray Hill, way out on the East side of Cleveland. These houses were now inhabited by colored folk. The houses were separated from the very edge of the bluff by a narrow pathway, no more than six feet in width. In order to reach the rough hewn log steps that led to the bottom of the hill, Danny and I had to walk the pathway quite close to the low back windows of the third house, we heard peculiar sounds and moans. Danny and I filled with the normal curiosity of youth, could not resist the temptation to look in to see what was going on. The scene that greeted our eyes was a new and horrifying sight, one that I have not forgotten. It was our introduction as innocent youngsters to the sex act. For the first time in our lives, we saw a naked man and woman engaged in a physical embrace that actually shook the bed. Wide-eyed, in disbelief, we recognized Tom, a light skinned colored man, sprawled over a white woman. Terror stricken, we fled the scene, feeling sick and a great sense of shame.