I was still in shock after the incident with my mother that nearly took my life that evening, and hadn’t really had time to converse with Mrs. Ethel Levy, Pug’s grandmother when, just about then, this tall, well dressed dark-complexioned guy showed up to join us on the stair way in which we were having a conference regarding the events that had linked us all together.
The three of us, Mrs. Levy, Pug and I, all agreed, after suffering the same things together at the hands of my mother, Rosa Green, that there was something radically wrong with her; she was indeed mentally ill. These were all Colon folks who knew my Colon family very well and knew me long before I reached Colon to enroll at Abel Bravo College. So, they had time to observe her.
I had previously met Mr. and Mrs. Levy as China’s grandparents, but I hadn’t had time to socialize with them until my mother’s mental breakdown leading to her violent attack. This united me to them again and allowed me to get a little closer.
That evening, however, I would come to be acquainted with Albert “Nick” Brown,” through the words of his mother. “Albert, I want you to help this boy find a place to stay because he is having some trouble,” she said. “Sure Ma’ no problem,” he said quickly without a moment’s hesitation. Albert then turned to me and said, “Come, so that I can show you the ropes!”
It was our first meeting and I had no idea of how or when I would have to leave Colon and crawl back to the home of my Aunts and Grandmother in Panama. This invitation was something I welcomed. After we had walked about five blocks we hit some stairway into one of the classic “Board Buildings” on Central Avenue on the left hand side of the park, an area I had known very well because Simeon had rented a room on the bottom floor of one of those buildings.
As we entered the room “Nick” handed me the keys to the door and said to me, “You can come and go as you please just bring your stuff and set them over there, no one will bother you.” I waited another few days before I went to see my mother to start packing the little clothing I owned along with some of my school books. I left without saying a word to my mother Rosa Green.
The next day after choir practice I made my way over to The Operating Room, for that is what “Nick” called his pad. Since no one was around, I left and ended up by that building on 10th Street where China was waiting for me. But, it evening and she wasn’t home, so I left her place as well to go find something to eat, as usual, from one of the ladies nearby who fried fish. I bought a small roll we all called “Micha” bread and had dinner overlooking the balcony, until my girl friend Pug found me. I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself so, I left for another hideout.
I had not as yet visited the tailor shop where Nick was employed which was run by Mr. Mackenzie, who also was a neighbor in the same building. They were really well-known locally and to the many American G.I.’s who were stationed in the nearby bases. Nick was better known as a maker of trousers, something we called a pants man.
The tailor shop eventually turned into one of my regular hangouts on the street we knew as the street behind Front Street. Later I would find out that Albert had been working there since finishing his elementary education and had become a fixture there. All the people he grew up with called him “Nick” after the movie character “Nick Romano” whom he fashioned his personality after. Nick Romano was a character from the 1949 movie, Knock on Any Door, starring Humphrey Bogart (as Nick’s lawyer) and John Derek as Nick Romano who was on trial for viciously killing a policeman and was facing possible execution.
This story continues.