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Mugging as a Way of Life

Hector, moving down Avenue C away from his current home on Second Street, turns suddenly and heads west, searching vaguely for Louise. Suffering from extreme morning sickness, Louise has awakened early and headed toward First Avenue looking for a free clinic she has heard about. Hector can’t remember for certain whether Louise has left this morning or the morning before. Up till now Hector has been casual about becoming a father, preferring to let Louise worry about it. Sometimes he claims not to know about the pregnancy, other times he seems pleased with it. When Hector gets to Avenue A he begins to get edgy—anything west of A is alien territory and Hector knows it. Alien to Hector, and the home of the Alien Nomads. But this morning none of the Nomads seem to be out. It’s a little past eight a.m. and the street is empty. Hector, following a private signal like a bloodhound, Louise’s scent in his nostrils, turns suddenly and heads toward Tompkins Square. “She gone to the cleen-ik, the cleen-ik,” is all he can say. He keeps repeating it as he scans the streets. Near A and Seventh Hector finds what he’s looking for. At the south end of the park Louise is curled on a stone bench, a few feet from a group of old men playing cards and rasping to each other in Ukrainian. Louise is moaning softly, a dark wet stain is traced on her lap, and her throat is heavily bruised. The skin on her legs is shredded, hanging loosely, and a pool of vomit, flecked with collard greens, is on the ground in front of her. A trickle of blood drips steadily from her nose down onto the bullet pendant. Sensing his presence, Louise looks up at Hector, stares dully at him and says, “Nomads.”

“They beat you up?”

She nods and says, “I don’t think there’s no more baby, honey.”

Hector sits on the bench, in the crook of her knees, touches the wet stain on her pants and then dabs delicately at her nose with his sleeve. “You get to the cleen-ik?”

“A whole bunch of Nomads. Gangbanged me. Over there on Sixth Street.”

“Sixth Street, huh?”

“There’s some good houses in there. I was looking at the buildings. A whole bunch got me.”

“You wanna move there? Sixth Street?”

“No, I wanna go to the clinic. Go home, get the truck so I could go to the clinic.”

“Okay. I get it.” Hector touches his sleeve to her nose again and walks past the card game. At Avenue B he stops for a moment to talk to a man who wants to buy some heroin. Hector tells him he doesn’t have any and then heads east toward Avenue C, trying to remember where he lives.


  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Feb 23, 1970 issue of New York
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