Steven Rosenfeld - Fiction

For the Rest of Our Lives

by Steven Rosenfeld

If the IRT subway hadn’t been extended to the Bronx in 1908, I’d never have met your grandfather, and you wouldn’t be you.

On summer Sundays, our only day off from the sweltering dress factory in Brownsville, we girls would go out to Coney Island on the old BRT. We were looking for men, Jewish men of course, and Coney Island was the place to meet them. All we had to do was sit on the beach and chatter loudly in Yiddish, and before long they would find us.

That Sunday, the beach was crowded as usual. Blue sky and wispy clouds. Shirtless men plunging into the waves to impress the shiksas in brightly colored bathing costumes strutting up and down the beach. I was wearing the shapeless yellow and brown striped bathing outfit I’d stitched together at work during lunch. Sadly, its puffy sleeves and bloomers didn’t show off my figure. Still, I was hoping to meet a boy who would buy me a hot dog on the boardwalk. They were Kosher and smelled wonderful, but a nickel was more than I could afford.

Sure enough, we attracted a group of boys. They said they were from the Bronx. The Bronx? That was a foreign country to girls who’d never left Brooklyn. They boasted that they’d taken the subway, then a ferry and then the elevated, and the trip had taken more than two hours. So I reckoned one of them could spring for a nickel hot dog.

After a while, I found myself sitting back to back with one of those Bronx boys. We didn’t have beach chairs, of course, so we often leaned against each other. I didn’t even know what this guy looked like. He was talking to two pretty girls sitting across the way. But I decided this was my chance for a hot dog, so I turned my head and asked over my shoulder if he realized he was supporting me, and how long he could continue doing that.

“How about for the rest of our lives?” your grandfather said. And of course, that’s what happened.