"There! There's your Rolex."
A VOICE FROM THE BACKSEAT:
(A polite, exuberant, 42-year old resident of the Haight-Ashbury. A native of Texas, later a resident of New York City for 16 years, five years ago he moved to San Francisco.)
“IN 1947 MY MOTHER desperately wanted to leave her hometown -- Pogue, Texas, eleven hundred people -- to go to secretarial school in Dallas. But her mother would not let her. She made her go to the University of Texas -- You-Tee -- in Austin, with ten thousand horny GIs just back from the war. She wound up marrying one of them. My father.
“When I was about ten, we moved to Longview, Texas. Then in 1985, when I was 21, I moved to New York City. I took the last Branniff flight out of Texas -- really, the last flight -- the airline announced its closing immediately after we took off and was out of business by the time we landed.
"On the way to New York the plane gets struck by lightning -- like ‘Get out of here and don’t look back, pal.’ You would think that I’d have gotten the message. But after I’d been in New York about five months my mother came to visit. I was homesick and I told her I was thinking of coming back to Texas. My mother remembered her own experience of wanting to have her own independent life, and she asked me what she could do to get me to not come home. What could she give me to get me to stay in New York?
"I was as shallow as any 21-year-old might be, and I finally said she could buy me a fancy watch. She wound up buying me a vintage Rolex from [a famous store (?) that was not so long ago converted into Niketown?] for $985. She told me, ‘Don’t ever tell your brother or your sister about this.’
"I wound up staying for 16 years -- I became the head of wardrobe [head of something else, too?] for MTV. But I go back to Texas every year to visit, and I’m always invited to talk to the students at my former high school. I tell them that in fact you CAN survive high school in Texas and you CAN in fact have goals and dreams and you CAN in fact meet them… ‘Hey, I’m living proof, there’s my locker -- number 1322!’"
We’ve pulled up in front of his destination. I’m in no hurry to have him leave, but he pays me -- he tips me big -- and while he's still sitting in the back of the cab, fingers gripping the rear door handle, rain drumming on the rooftop, he hurries to the end of his story:
“Now one year when I went back, a reporter from the local newspaper came and wrote a feature story about me. And in the paper, he told the story of the watch. And the next day my mother gets a call from my sister. My mother told her, ‘That was a long time ago, and that’s just the way life goes.’ Anyway, it didn’t set so well with my sister. But not so long after that my aunt died and left me her house. And I sold it to my sister for one dollar, and I told her, 'There. There’s your Rolex.'”
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