Somehow the smell of cheap cologne saturating the white velvet seats of his Dodge Colt, paired with his company, made me feel like royalty. The pungent smell of cigarettes weaving through the air with sounds of the Andrew’s sisters and Tommy Dorsey, sealed his memory in my senses forever. He’d hold my hand, and I looked up to him with eyes like Shirley Temple, his shiny shoes fit for a musical tap dance scene. It never even mattered where we were going, everyone we bumped into was a friend, they knew him, and if they didn’t, they wanted to.
As good dancers do, he had a bounce in his step, both in and out of the ring, ready to squeeze the sporting fun out of this life, “this is it, this is no drill” he would say. His idols were fighters whose lives he mimicked in subtle ways. He was Italian to the core. He was accustomed to late nights and a tough rounds of poker. His bluff was dead-on and cards kept his recall razor sharp. He spent countless hours reviewing the great fights of his “brothers” Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson. Boxing for me, still joyously fills the insides like a walk through a fine museum capturing the spirit of endurance in a perfect square. He balanced his fights with his dancing, he always wore a suit jacket, the brighter the better; that framed his Maffioso demeanor so playfully.
On the dance floor he was as intricate and as well oiled as an antique clock. Quick on his toes, refreshed by cranberry juice, never booze. He was a natural lead that made the novice envious. Lucky for me, he lived next door-my entire life. My regular afterschool routine was to sit with him and watch the fights while he drifted off…… he would extinguish his cigarette that sat burning in the silver metal ashtray. I would push and swirl and push and swirl and marvel at its tidy ingenuity the way it’d hide the charred tobacco away so secretly. Shortly after he smoked, he would pull his black satiny eye mask in place. I took the opportunity to rifle through his drawer as he slept and steal the chocolates he hid under his Marlboros. He made aging look pleasant, and I was unafraid of life after knowing him. I endeavor to live my life smiling; living it in a way to diffuse all stereo types of aging, the way he did for me.