Almost Gone and Forgotten

Posted: April 20, 2015 in Guest Writers

sal2Sal Pavone, “Almost Gone and Forgotten.”

Mimmo Petro slowly walked out of that green, rusty door for the last time he hoped. He collected his eighty-five dollars and went on his way. Eighty-five dollars for forty years he thought to himself. Big Mo, as he was referred to on the streets was now seventy years old and was no longer big. He felt his body was old and tired. For the last forty years he was referred to as inmate #274509.

He was once a man of great respect. He was loved in his neighborhood. He grew up in the Chambersburg section of Trenton. At one time he rubbed elbows with the Cosa Nostra elite. Sure he was loved and respected in his neighborhood but it was also common knowledge that if you crossed Big Mo he would cut your balls off and make you eat them, and for that he was feared.

He was known as a stand up guy. The most respectful thing you could say about a man who lived ”the life”. He made his bones and got his button with respect and loyalty toward his family. He was a good earner and would do whatever “work” was asked of him without batting an eye.

As he walked out the final gate of the New Jersey State Prison he put his head down and felt tears welding up in his eyes. He thought of the one thing that could bring him to tears. That one thing was his wife of fifty years Maria. Mimmo and Maria both came from the same small town in Sicily. He felt horrible that he put her through the things that he did and would give anything to say sorry to her face. Mimmo zipped up his state issued jacket and prepared himself for a long walk to the cemetery.

As he walked up Cass Street he could hardly believe what he saw. The neighborhood had gone to shit. Sure he would hear stories of what had become of the city he loved so much, but like everything else in prison he thought it was just exaggerated. Now that he saw it with his own eyes he believed it and it broke his heart.

As he turned right on South Broad Street, he thought it might be a good idea to call a taxi to the cemetery but could find no payphone. He saw everyone talking on little personal phones. Oh those must be the cell phones he heard about and saw on TV. while he was in the can. He wouldn’t dare ask someone to use theirs. Screw it! He loved breathing in the air. The fresh cold air. He was sick of breathing in that stale air he was breathing in for the last forty years. It was a three mile walk but he didn’t mind. Although he knew he was old and worn down he was still in great shape for his age.

Mimmo found the first store he could and bought himself a pack of Lucky Strikes, opened the pack and lit a cigarette. He took a long slow pull and with an exhale felt his head swirling around. He hadn’t smoked a cigarette since they banned them in the penal system twenty years ago. He decided not to take such big pulls. He couldn’t believe how

As Mimmo was putting his butt out on the sidewalk he looked up and saw the liquor store on the corner or Division and South Broad. He carefully crossed the street, almost getting hit by a car twice and opened the door to Luckys Liquors and grabbed him a pint of Gin and a small bottle of Port wine. As he exited the store he counted his money. He only had sixty dollars left. He still had to make it to the cemetery and make check in at the half way house the prison social service worker had set up for him to live in until he ‘got on his feet’. ‘How does a man of my age start all over again”, he thought. He opened up the pint of gin and took a good pull. Sure beat the Pruno he used to drink in the can.

It took him almost two hours but he finally made it to his Marias tomb stone. The pint was gone and he began to work on the wine. He knelt down on one knee and cleaned the weeds away from his darling’s head stone. While he did this he began to sob uncontrollably. He was sorry for the things he put his wife through. She was loyal to a fault and never strayed from her husband. She just passed away three months ago, and although the prison gave him permission to the funeral go he refused. He couldn’t bear to go. They had no children so Marias sisters and brothers paid for the burial. The thought of facing her family was too much for him to take.

While he was drinking the wine and smoking the cigs, he got to say everything he had wanted to say to Maria but was too scared to say when she was alive. He felt low and couldn’t imagine how he was going to survive on the outside alone. They were married ten years when he got sent away. She visited him regularly, almost religiously every other Monday until she got cancer and wasn’t physically able to walk the ten blocks to the prison and the ten blocks back. In one way he felt solace in the fact that she had a loving family to watch over and take care of her while he was locked up but felt guilty that he wasn’t there to help out. Sure he had hustles going on inside the walls to make a couple bucks, which he would send to Maria every chance he could, but it wasn’t the way he thought it should have been.

He should’ve been more careful. He shouldn’t have been such a cowboy. He shouldn’t have taken such chances. Look were it got him. Got them. Nowhere.

There is nothing he could do about it now. He looked at his watch. He still had time to get to the half way house. The man who worked at the graveyard called a taxi for him and when it arrived Mimmo got in. Thankful he didn’t have to walk. The booze was really doing a job on him.

“Where you goin Buddy?” asked the cabby.
“Twelve –forty Adelline St.” said Mimmo, looking at the cabbies through the rear view mirror. He could see from the look in the cabbies eyes that he knew exactly what that address meant and exactly who lived there. The cabbie was both smart enough and kind enough not ask any more questions and for that Mimmo was grateful.

He walked in the two story house and met the house manager. A colored man about twenty-five years old he guessed. “You must me Mimmo.” “ Nice to meet you, my name is Abe, but the guys in the house call me slim. Let me show you to your room and you are just in time for dinner. We ordered pizza.”
Mimmo smiled and brought his bag up to his room. He didn’t pay attention to the rules Slim was telling him but he acted like he was. He was thinking about the pizza.

“Well Mimmo, why don’t you get yourself situated and come down when you are ready. The food should be here in about ten minutes.’
“Thank you Slim. I will be down in a minute,” said Mimmo.

He put his bag on the bed and started taking the contents out. Five pairs of boxers, ten pairs of socks, ten Guinea tees, three pairs of jeans, and five button up shirts. All state issued. He folded them neatly and put them away. He made up his bed and sat on it just collecting his thoughts. He wondered if any of the old crew was still around. He doubted it though because if there was: the neighborhood wouldn’t look like it does now.
He sighed and looked up at the ceiling then he stood up. While he was walking out of the room he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and stopped. He stared at that old wrinkled face. All of the scars. A tear came rolling down the right side of his old face. He decided to pass on the pizza. He took his clothes off, folded them neatly and lay on the bed.

He heard a knock on his bedroom door. It was Slim. “Mimmo, hey man you coming down for some grub? Hey man!”
Mimmo ignored him. He just turned over with his face facing the wall and cried himself to sleep.

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