Albert stayed after class saying,
“Mr. Bernstein, please help me.”
“I need a woman.”
“Don’t we all, ” I said smiling.
He continued, “I love Marva
but I freeze
set up a date for me, if you do
I’ll be the happiest man in the world.”
Next day I said, “Marva, stay after class.”
Alone now. “I want you to say hello to Albert.”
“He’s a punk.”
“Just for me.”
“OK, but it’s for you, not him.”
Next day when they remained after class
Marva said, “Hello, Albert.”
At last I said, “Well, Albert, speak up.”
He blurted out, “Nice weather.”
“And, ” said Marva.
When Albert raced from the room
I said, “Try to feel his loneliness
Albert loves you...”
“But he’s paralyzed.”
“I’m not his mother.”
“We’re all human.”
Next day same scene
finally Marva saying, “I’m trying,
but he’s a punk.”
“I ain’t no punk, ” he asserted,
then silence once more.
I said, “A man must roar like a lion, then an enormous surprise takes place.”
“What? ” he asked.
“He becomes Emperor of the Universe.”
Suddenly Marva laughed a grand laugh, the laugh of youth and power
and at that moment I understood
why Albert had fallen for her.
Next day both were absent.
“I guess they eloped, ” I said merrily.
“Albert got shot, ” said Clifford, “in Kings County now,
“musta got his nerve up
cause he was walking Marva home
when somebody tried to take her coat.
He fought with the guy and got shot.”
“He did that, ” I said in amazement.
“Marva ain’t in Brooklyn, ” continued Clifford,
“I know cause I live in her building and
her mother told my step mother
she sent her to South Carolina
didn’t want her daughter here no more.”
After school I bought a large bag of M&Ms and went to visit Albert.
The lead lodged in the spine
paralyzing him from the waist down.
“Is Marva coming to see me? ” he immediately asked,
then roared like a lion
sending in a bunch of nurses.
I stared at the lad, his hot hungry eyes trapped in a stillborn lust.
“What’s going on? ” asked one of them.
“My girl’s coming to visit, ” said Albert beaming.
Of course, courage now all that mattered
so felt entirely unclean, my words already
chopping up my bloody heart
when I whispered,
“Said what a great guy you are
just before she died,
two shots in the brain
after you passed out
from the bullet in your back.”
“No, ” he whispered
a nurse gently caressing his forehead
not touching his tears.
“The funeral, ” he muttered,
“I gotta go.”
My mouth stuffed with horrid putrid dust
I rushed from the room
tried to weep, could not,
“Not dead, Albert.
her mother sent her to South Carolina.”
Again the roar
like not from a human throat
potent and utterly joyous
finally serene Albert said,
“I’m the happiest man in the world.”