Avenue I…

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been, had I grown up in some fancy neighborhood. My college roommate grew up in the Hamptons. She’s now studying to be a lawyer. But me- well I grew up on the corner of Avenue I and Flatbush, and I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my life. (See the correlation?) Don’t get wrong, it’s not the worst neighborhood in the world. It’s actually quite residential, and reasonably safe. Even so, the Hamptons sounds much better…

I used to visit Renaa’s house on weekends, weekdays… you name it. You could always find me there. Renaa – or Nay as I called her, lived down the block from me. I guess you could say she’s my ex best friend. I don’t exactly know what went wrong with her. I mean – she has a mother and a father, and although they’re currently separated, they lived under one rooftop. They always spoiled her (to the best of their abilities). She could always hit up her mom for cash, and then turn to her dad for some more. To me, it seemed like the best of both worlds. I say this because I grew up with my grandmother. My mom passed away when I was twelve from cancer. (Well not really – one night she was complaining of pain, and an at home hospice nurse actually overdosed her with morphine. This explanation is rather graphic and much more difficult to explain, and therefore I usually choose the first one). Since then my grandmother took care of me, and my father chose to live his own life, at his mother’s house… where he currently resides.

When Nay was about sixteen she became addicted to pot. I don’t know if one can actually become addicted to pot, because it’s a common defense for weed smokers to say that “it’s not an addictive drug.” So I guess I’ll rephrase that: Nay became dependent on weed at about the age of sixteen. Luckily, I dogged that bullet until I got older. Then again – I don’t know how lucky that makes me.

Nay was always cooking up some kind of scheme to get money.  When we were in about the twelfth grade, she told me that she was going to deposit a fraudulent check into her account to get the money. I was always the more logical type. Although I absolutely despise philosophy, I can always devise up some long logical reason for or against something. I’ve always been good in manipulating the English language – however I’m slightly better at it on paper than in person. When Nay came to me with her plans, I told her that it was absolutely absurd and that she would surely get caught. Sure enough, she did. She was actually arrested, taken to bookings… you know the whole process. She was eventually charged with some kind of money misdemeanor in exchange for community service.

I never quite understood the weird dynamic of our friendship. Besides participating in increasingly mischievous behavior – she always found a way to betray me. There was this one time when she came to my house with my other best friend Nikeya (whom I call Ki) filled up my purse with shirts, jeans, and jewelry and then left. I was distracted because I had other friends over, so I didn’t notice her until I saw her leaving the house with my belongings. There was also the time that she took my brand new pair of orange-stripped air max 95’s to borrow (still in the box I may add), and then claimed that she lost them.

When I first met her, I admired her because I was so shy and quiet while she was so loud and daring. She knew what to wear to get attention, and she hung out with some of the popular girls. She even had a boyfriend in the sixth grade. She was cool, and even knew how to talk to boys. But somewhere along the way, my definition of cool changed. I don’t think hers ever did.

It must have been two or three years ago, when Nay, Ki and I were driving to McDonalds. I had noticed a riff in our friendship that had slowly begun to get bigger. Ki had recently obtained her mom’s old car, and we decided to spend the weekend together. Ki was blasting the newest Drake song, and as the wind whipped through our hair we began to enjoy a night on the town.

“Omg, we’re finally getting older”

“I know, and you’re driving now. You finally got your own whip”

Of course, Nay already had the privilege of driving her dad’s car. He would have given it to her, but she was always in the middle of something, so he was hesitant.

“Remember, when we were younger how we used to be jealous of Krystal’s hair?”

The statement kind of came from left field. It was like a group of people playing a football game, when suddenly a random ball was tossed into rotation. When we were younger, Ki and I had long hair, and Nay did not.

“Um… no that was just you”

Nay wasn’t the prettiest or brightest of the bunch. She never really cared about school – she was more interested her social life and physical appearance. At a young age, she would often wear makeup such as colorful eye shadows, extravagant costume jewelry and hair extensions. Ki was always more interested in school than Nay, and although she didn’t get high grades like me – she always did well. I was always placed in the advanced class, so for me that meant that I was usually one of the very few Black girls in my class.  This continued from junior high to high school. I always understood this intellectual division between us, but disregarded it. Throughout our friendship, she would often make comments about me being tall and awkward or my feet being too big, because she was shorter than I, with smaller feet. I remember trying to squeeze into shoes a size smaller, because of her. (And yet, as I got older, I realized that my feet were actually small for my height.) She would often make jokes that got on my nerves – but I ignored them. I remember in the sixth grade, when she curled my hair and pressed the curling iron directly on my forehead, leaving a large box mark on my face for months. (Now, I wonder if this was intentional.) When Nay made her jealousy comment to me that night, it kind of marked the start of the decline of our friendship. She simplemindedly laughed it off, and if I was younger I might have done the same. But now that I was older, I thought it explained too much and I couldn’t understand why my friend of so many years still felt this way.

Our friendship finally came to a ‘sad’ conclusion during my third year of college. She had begun to make up stories about me, and tell a mutual acquaintance. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I never explained to her how I felt – I just kept it inside. I never answered her calls or texts again.

Of recent, Renaa has become a stripper. It’s news that affected me at the time she told me – but now I could actually care less. Sometimes I wonder how two people who grew up in the same neighborhood, with the same values could turn out so different. I mean, the first time I went back to church in my teenage years was with her! Her mother was an active member of the Christian church that was about two blocks from her house. It was actually her that encouraged me to go to the prayer group with her. Until today, everything that transpired between us seems to be a mystery that’s not worth solving.

I resent a lot of my childhood days, and she played a huge part in that. When I look back on everything that happened when we were younger, I often find myself angered about how heavy of an influence she was to me, and how my grandmother was not able to be emotionally available for me. I know it’s not healthy for one to blame anything or anyone for their past actions, but damn it… someone’s got to take part of the blame. Sometimes I wish I grew up anywhere else, with different friends, in an entirely different demographic… like in the Hamptons. Yea – sometimes I wish I grew up in the Hamptons instead of Avenue I….

22 thoughts on “Avenue I…

  1. Henry Bucket

    The change from your first paragraph to the second felt a bit abrupt. You made a connection at the very end of the piece but I felt that it missed it felt a bit weak. The whole piece is about how your friend is a not particularly nice person. You mention how she grew up in a good situation where she was spoiled but then you say that you wish you grew up in a better area because the people would be better. It doesn’t seem like a good connection to me, and I think that the piece would be stronger with out that. This was interesting because it seems almost therapeutic. It seems like your relieving pent up stress and anger you had against your friend through this essay. At the same time, it needs something more. If I was to summarize this essay into one sentence, it’s you just listing things that are wrong with your friend. If the reader is supposed to regret that you don’t have this person as a friend, let us know her good points. If the reader is supposed to dislike her try to focus on a few bad things that she has done, but really focus on them, tell us all the details, and the negative consequences. By the end of the piece I still didn’t really care about Nay one way or another.

    1. Suresh Ramdhanie

      I also got confused by the transition from the first paragraph to the second. The main idea of the first paragraph was you wishing that you grew up in the Hamptons like your college roommate; then the second paragraph starts with you visiting Renaa’s house. The change is very sudden and causes the reader to pause and think ‘I get that the author is writing about Reenas, Reena’s parents and her own parents/grandma, but what does this have to do with the classmate we literally just read about in the lines above?’ It takes the reader out of the narrative and makes them reassess what they are reading.

      I did very much enjoy you connecting the end paragraph with the beginning tough. The repetition of you wishing you grew up in the Hamptons. I took it as the author reflecting over how unfair life is and how circumstances beyond our control influence who we become and what we experience. I especially like the line “someones got to take part of the blame.” It shows the hubris of humans being unhappy with the current situation, seeking to move on from it and move on in life, but unable to let go of the hurt of the past until it is meticulously analyzed and someone or something gets the blame. It also shows the narrator’s anger and this is a cool section where we get to hear the author’s voice.

      I disagree with some of our classmates comments about wanting to know more about your father. I interpreted “my father chose to live his own life, at his mother’s house… where he currently resides.” to be enough description of him. You clearly used the word “choose” to signify that he did not have to give up custody of you (for financial, medical or any other legit reason), he “choose” to, it was his decision and of his own will. I also like that you wrote “his own life” which implies that living with you is not him living his own life, which further implies he does not include you in his life. The you included the fact that he still lives with his mother I believe was you stating that he is an immature/irresponsible adult. I obviously think this one sentence pulled a lot of weight, so I don’t feel the need to know more about your father.

      I agree with Vanessa about you showing, not telling about your grandmother not being emotionally available. I too was surprised when it was suddenly revealed that she wasn’t emotionally available all along. Additionally, someone being emotionally unavailable is very vague. How exactly was she emotionally unavailable? What did she do (or not do) to be called such?

      I also did not get the offense of:
      “Remember, when we were younger how we used to be jealous of Krystal’s hair?”
      I just read that as some old friends joking and laughing about the petty little things that upset them as children. I understood that the narrator fells that it was hostile in some way, but I just don’t get how Nay’s moment of reflection is hostile and not just banter friends do when that laugh at themselves.
      If you can elaborate on why Nay’s comment was so troubling, it’ll be great.

      Besides that moment of confusion, I really enjoyed your piece. I liked the idea of being discontent with the circumstances and environment you grew up in and just wondering ‘What if you had grown somewhere else?’ I’m sure we all have had these thoughts before. Another cool idea you can run with is would you still be the same person, Krystal Temple, City College senior and English major, who was one of the smart kids in school, if you grew up in the Hamptons? Who’s to say, maybe you would have put less value on education and instead been the cool girl with a boyfriend in sixth grade if you had grown up there. Interesting. Food for thought.

  2. Vanessa

    Maybe I’m slow, but I didn’t really understand the part about philosophy and manipulation of the English language and how they related to the friend getting caught; perhaps a scene is required here?
    The grandmother not able to be emotionally available in the last paragraph was a piece of information too suddenly introduced at the end; it should be presented to a reader much earlier in the piece, and sprinked throughout.
    Though the subject of the narrator’s old neighborhood remains toward the end, I think the question of focus at the beginning is too quickly dropped: What is the narrator going to do with her life? It seems to be that the narrator is reflecting on her past in order to answer this question, but the reflection is trumped by the negative feelings toward the person who has affected the memories of her past most. Because of this, the presence of the thematic question washes out until it is nowhere to be found at the end. Consequently, this also plays into the part of the narrator being reduced to a person held back by her past, and not looking to the answer the question presented at the beginning.
    I liked the flow of this piece; the pacing was good. The dialogue was well-framed, but it does need proper punctuation and speakers tagged. I would say to remember your focus most of all and to ensure that every bit of information supports the focus.

  3. Orhan Gokkaya

    I wanted to know more about the characters. “Since then my grandmother took care of me, and my father chose to live his own life, at his mother’s house… where he currently resides.” Why does your father stay at his mothers house? I like how the writer connects with her audience when she states, “She was actually arrested, taken to bookings… you know the whole process.” She assumes we know the process already. Why is the writer still Nay’s friend? “she always found a way to betray” the writer. I wonder why Nay would do illegal things if she was “interested her social life and physical appearance” wouldn’t going to jail ruin her social life? I wish you had described Hampton in your piece; there is no guarantee that a person will be successful if he/she lives in a certain neighborhood. I wanted to see comparisons of each place; Avenue I and Hampton.

  4. Kerel Cain

    the beginning and end of the story is told well starting with the longing for a better childhood; and then ending with a reflective regret that you didn’t have the childhood you wanted. the ending paragraph gave solid closure to your piece.

    the scene in the car was lost to me because you set it up as a monumental breaking point in the relationship but now it seems that it was a self realization that your perspective was different than Nays and that her perspective was juvenile.

    i like how you explain that she use to get and trouble and take your things, and then follow the next paragraph explaining how you admired her and why. the order of those two paragraphs is a reflective format that matches the point of view of your piece.

    you do a well job explaining your mental state duting childhood and how you gravitate to Nay but i would also like more about what made KI your other best friend. i assume she’s the “other” because she was some part you and some part Nay, but i would like a few sentences on that relationship to help heighten your identity.

    the part about your mom dying of cancer explains your upbringing , but that part sub-textually says that you don’t want to tell that story because its partially reliving it and partially opening up yourself/questions to the circumstances around her death.

  5. Daniel Song

    Maybe I’m not reading closely enough, but I can’t figure out what this is about. Is it a commentary on how someone who has it all can grow up so messed up and someone who doesn’t have nearly as much can be doing much better?

    I’m sorry about your grandmother.

    The first thing I really couldn’t stop thinking about after reading this piece is how much of a friend Renaa was NOT. I’m wondering if I’m missing something again.

    As a person who doesn’t really smoke weed, but would like to, I can say that it is not an addictive drug. Drugs become addictive because they replace chemicals naturally made in the brain. When the brain realizes the chemicals are coming from elsewhere it stops producing those chemicals, which are necessary by the way. So the person will crave the chemicals and the addiction begins. Each time the person gets the chemicals through drug use, the drugs have less of an effect, creating an even bigger “craving.” Dependency is perhaps a better word.

    I’d personally like to see some metaphors in here; something more than what is just happening, or happened. Tell me how these things felt not through exposition but through experience. I don’t know if I’m being very clear on that. I hope you get what I’m saying.

  6. Gabriela Bayona

    I really enjoyed your piece because you wrote about a pretty relatable topic. I’m sure everyone has had a childhood bestfriend that later on in life drifts away from you. Thats life and the true is that it happens to even the best of friendships. I like the voice of the piece because it’s one that narrates the story in a way that makes me feel like the narrator is reflecting on many of the things in her childhood. I enjoyed the analogies and description that you used because it helped to set the scene of the piece. The only thing i would recommend is to show more. Give us more scenes like the one where you guys are driving up to McDonalds. It’s this type of writing that intrigues the reader because it make them feel part of the scene. I would also work on narrowing down more on what exactly you want to focus on, whether it be the withering relationship between you and your ex best friend or your reflection on how things could be different if you had been raised in a different neighborhood.

  7. David Castro

    well i don’t understand it. It seems like you’re blaming other factors for where you are now. After reading this piece you don’t really explain how “bad” your’e situation is now, it seems like you’re at a better place than your friend so i guess you won in the end. which makes the conclusion seem kind of odd since you don’t give much evidence of your emotion so i’m just assuming (aside from your mothers death)
    which would be enough but its really hard to give any weight to this because you don’t provide any emotion to this, and this could be talked about very descriptively.

  8. Alicia Camano

    I enjoyed reading your piece. The line, “like in the Hamptons. Yea – sometimes I wish I grew up in the Hamptons instead of Avenue I” this part in your paper summed up to me what you wish you had. A life in the Hamptons seems easier and no worries, but is it? I like the change you portray about Nay, first she seemed cool to you, but after noticing how she was your opinion changed. I like how you demonstrate facts of how your opinion towards Nay changed. I like this quote from your piece, “Nay wasn’t the prettiest or brightest of the bunch. She never really cared about school – she was more interested her social life and physical appearance.” This demonstrates the difference you see. I would like to see a dialogue between you and Nay to demonstrates your relationship instead of telling the reader.

  9. Joan Infante

    I felt that the characters in this essay were hard to follow. First you mention your college roommate who lived in the Hamptons and then you talk about your friend from down the block. I know you mentioned at the end that the Hamptons would make your life different but wouldnt it be best to stick to just one setting?

    In regards to the conversation in the car, you couldave brought up your part of the dialogue to show your involvement.

    The side note about your mother felt out of place. If it was a story about a troubled upbringing, then yes, it would work. But not in this piece
    Are you still friends with Ki and is Ki still friends with Nay? Touching on this a bit could maybe show how Nay was as a person, from a different perspective.

  10. Deviniti Donnabella

    I love this piece. For me its like a book titled Avenue I with this piece being one of the chapters. Because the piece focuses on you and Nay exclusively, I felt like there should have been a different title or an addition to the title for this piece.

    When you talk about your college roommate being from the Hamptons in the first paragraph, readers automatically assume that Renaa is that college roommate until you clear it up later. I feel the the clarification should come even sooner so readers don’t confuse the two. You said that although Renaa’s parents are currently separated, they LIVED under the same roof. Are they currently living or are they no longer living under the same roof?

    “She would often make comments about me being tall and awkward or my feet being too big…” Is this Nay or Ki? I’m assuming Nay.

    I would like to see this expand into a book. I want to know more about your parents, more about the things that went on in the neighborhood, the works. Great job.

  11. Sergio Narine

    I always like a piece that incorporates a literary frame because it establishes a theme subtly for the reader, and also organizes the piece. I thought the writer did a great job of developing Nay’s character because at the end of the piece I felt that if Nay hadn’t become a stripper or locked up in prison that you would have robbed the story of the “payoff” that you established throughout the piece. I appreciated how the narrator revealed to the reader that she was imperfect with her oversized feet because it shows that the writer isn’t just venting about her friend Nay.

    The paragraph that began like, “The statement kind of…” was already addressed in class, so I wanted to suggest that in the future if you used a cliché that you know how to properly deliver the phrase because it discredits the writer’s authority. The penultimate paragraph came as surprise to the reader, so I would suggest that the writer create a scene where she hears that “Nay” is a stripper from Nikeya or another friend as a way to “show and not tell” the reader what has happened to Nay. I think that the narrator could express how important the “orange air max” was because I don’t think that the average reader knows the sneaker culture that exists and why it is so important if you owned an “air max.” I am confused about Nikeya’s character and her importance to the story. Can you describe her to the reader a bit since she was also a close friend who was also given a nick name? Also Nikeya seems like a character who is easily influence, so can you show more of her naiveté when she is with Nay or even with the main character.

  12. Diali Montalvo

    I liked your piece because it was similar to an experience that I had personally gone through. From your introduction I wished I knew more about avenue l and your neighborhood because I had nothing to compare it too. I wanted to know more about your college roommate and a bit how she was raised and why you put her upbringing on somewhat of a pedestal. What originally confused me about your piece whether or not your lasting message was suppose to be that your environment doesn’t make the person you are??
    I wanted to know more about how your grandmother and how it was being raised by her and more about things taking place in your neighborhood during your formative years. I was also curious about Ki and Nay’s influence on her life. I really enjoyed your conclusion while your reflect on your growth and I liked how you brought your story fully circle by mentioning the Hamptons in the end. I wished it was a bit longer.

  13. Amilka Lopez

    I really enjoyed reading your piece. Your piece was very relatable, we all want something we don’t have. I really liked how you started off with “the grass. Is always green on the other side” as it was said in class and also that you conclude your paper at the end with the same idea. As I was reading your piece I found myself smiling when you said “But me- well I grew up on the corner of Avenue I and Flatbush, and I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with my life. (See the correlation?)” I thought it was a bit funny how you phrased it but it worked very well because it shows us that you really wished to be from the Hamptons rather than Avenue I in BK.

  14. Li Huang

    Doesn’t matter where in the world you flee to Krystal, problems will either follow you around if they are internal or sprout new wings and hover over you if they are not. Mead pointed out about the “grass greener on the other side.” And he’s right. No matter what lawn or turf you’re on they’re always this fantasy that what other people have and experience are generally more positive than what you have and experience. I read what I believe was a poem over half a decade ago. In that poem (or short story) there was a man who had all the wealth in the world. One midsummer night be put a bullet into his brain. Why? Who knows. What could be safely assumed is that he did not favor his current predicaments. The grass being greener is often an optical illusion. I often dream that I would wake up one day and be in a Final Fantasy VII universe and see all these great things. But the reality of the game plot/script is that the Final Fantasy universe is almost always run by a corrupt ruler or conqueror and takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting.

    The grass may be greener on the other side, but just how welcoming are the lawn gnomes? Just how firm is the soil?

  15. Ruket Negasi

    I enjoyed this piece because I felt like I could relate to some of the relationships the narrator had with their friends. I think this piece could be improved by changing some of the structure. In the introduction the narrator mentioned a college roommate that used to live in the Hamptons and then in the second paragrapgh the narrator jumps to the character Nay. At first I thought Nay was the college room mate that lived in the Hamptons. What proof does the narrator have that the Hamptons is not full of fake people/friends? I would suggest that the author spents a paragrapgh describing their image of the Hamptons.

  16. Nadya Antoine

    Unlike others, I enjoyed the transition between the first two paragraphs. It set my mind up to wonder what was so bad about Ave I, that the Hamptons could probably fix.

    However because you addressed it in the beginning and at the end of your piece, I don’t think you did a very good job of proving this to us. I think you would rather live in the Hamptons to escape the Brooklyn neighborhood or just specifically Nay? In any case maybe your title should change to more fit the piece.

    I really enjoyed the subject matter because, as stated before, it’s quite relatable. There a lot of different instances where one can see exactly how Nay has shaped you as a person through your writing. THis is what made the piece so good. You did have some misspellings here and there but nothing too drastic. Overall great piece.

  17. Julianne Reynoso

    I always thought it was interesting how almost all of us have had a best frenemy at some point, so many people could relate to your situation. At first I confused your college roommate that lived in the Hamptons with your neighborhood friend, Nay, that you always visited and thought that was the reason why you liked the Hamptons so much, which leads me to suggest that you could explain why you liked the hamptons. What was your influence, TV? I was left wondering what made you want to escape since in the beginning you mention that your neighborhood wasn’t so bad. Starting your piece like this was a little misleading since i believed the rest of the story would be about how you longed to change neighborhoods.

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