WHEN JETT MET TRICKY…
A THERE IS NO EASY STREET SHORT STORY
BY: MICHAELA ARMSTRONG-PAUL
November 10th – New York University – New York City, NY – 1980
Some little girls grow up hearing the great fairy tales; Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, The White Swans and others, but for me, my fairy tale was Tricky and Jett. Two modern day princes looking for their one true love. The year was 1980. The month was November. The top song on the radio was Lady by Kenny Rogers. The top movie of the month was Private Benjamin. Jethro Malachi Stavros was a fresh faced eighteen-year-old fashion design student at Parson’s. Philip Xavier Howard III was the wild disappointment of the Upper East Side, already on academic probation at NYU. Both had no idea what the night had in store for them but they had a feeling it was going to be good.
Harry Samuels, Jethro’s, excuse me, Jett’s (as he was now being called) best friend at school had been invited to a party on the NYU campus and drug Jett along for moral support. The two young men were on the cusp of their childhood, away from their overprotective mothers and finally free to be who they wanted to be. Jett had long almost black hair that he kept tied back with a thin leather cord. His dark skin and Greek accent gave him an air of total mystery to anyone who met him. He was dressed plainly for the time; black linen pants, blue button down shirt, opened at the collar and the gold chain his mother bought him at his sixteenth birthday around his neck. To anyone who didn’t know Jett, one would think he was up to no good. Harry on the other hand looked like a groupie for Queen.
Philip Howard III’s private room was blaring the rock of the day. The soundtrack to his life consisted mostly of Queen, Black Sabbath, Kiss, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Aerosmith. Gone were the preppy clothes of his Upper East Side background. The rocker look had taken over. The beginnings of his tattoo collection was in its infancy. A deck of cards in his pocket and a metal ball rolling across his knuckles gave way to the magician in him. Infamous at his mother’s cocktail parties for his tricks he started going by the name Tricky, a persona he was more than happy to take on.
It was November 10th, a Monday, not the best night in all honesty to have a party but with Veteran’s Day the next day, Tricky saw no reason to not have it. With stolen bottles of booze from his father’s study, the party was starting.
Harry and Jett arrived at the residence hall and slipped in behind several students. They could hear the ruckus of the party from the main floor. The opening riff from the new Ozzy Osborne single Crazy Train was starting and the two boys followed the noise. The hallway was packed with people. The entire floor seemed to be in on the party. Harry welcomed the fray while Jett hung back, taking in the wild rumpus. He didn’t know how long the party had been going on but from the crowd it could have been going on for hours. Crying girls, overly ambitious boys trying to console the crying girls.The beefy guys with their arms crossed just standing there looking terrifying. Jett managed to snag a drink from an open room and continued to push through the throngs of people, hoping to catch up with Harry.
A large circle had formed around Tricky and his magic. He had his cards out and was contorting his hands to cut the cards in intricate patterns. As he was showing off, Jett slipped by the two boys not seeing each other. Jett found Harry pressed against a blonde boy who could have passed as Patrick Swayze. Jett only smiled and moved around the crowd. Like every party that Harry would drag him to, Harry would ultimately meet someone and complete forget about Jett, often leaving Jett to fend for himself in unfamiliar waters.
Tricky and his magic tricks had moved on from card tricks to slight of hand gags not limited to turning a red rubber ball into three red rubber balls and then turning those into lemons. He had been practicing something new that week and wanted to try it out. Despite his mother’s strenuous objections, Tricky was determined to pull off a fire stunt. He’d seen other magicians do it and figured it couldn’t be that hard. He was wrong.
Tricky had learned to juggle when we was eight and had been escalating what he could juggle for some time. That night however was the night he was going to juggle fireballs. He brought out five balls of wadded cotton t-shirts he soaked in lighter fluid. Keeping them in a frying pan he lit them and put on his fingerless biker gloves. He started out with two, move on to three and soon was juggling five fireballs in the hallway of the dorm.
Commotion around Jett turned to talking about this “Crazy ass dude juggling fireballs.” By the time that Jett got to the front of the crowd to see this crazy person juggling fireballs, Tricky’s arm was in flames. Being probably the soberest person in the hallway, Jett went for the extinguisher and fired it at Tricky, effectively ending the trick. Protests were heard but soon people went back to their drinks and conversations.
“Are you okay?” was the first thing that Jett ever said to Tricky.
“Slightly singed but nothing too bad,” Tricky had answered. “Thanks for putting me out.”
“No problem,” Jett said, setting the extinguisher down. He started to walk away, to find Harry to tell him he was going home when Tricky called back to him.
“Pick a card?” Tricky said fanning out his cards to Jett.
“Why not?” Jett said.
Why not became the phrase between Tricky and Jett that night. No matter the question Tricky asked the answer would always be “Why not?” Do you want to dance? Why not? The mutual attraction between the two was undeniable. By the end of the night, Tricky and Jett began. The beginning to my favorite fairy tale ever was started by fire. Literally.
I remember asking Jett what it was about Tricky that made him give him a chance. His answer, “Why wouldn’t I? He was the missing piece of my soul. You’ll understand when your soul finds its missing piece Ithaca. Now go to sleep.”
“Tell it to me again Daddy Jett,” I said, curling into my blankets, clutching my teddy bear.
“The year was 1980. The month was November…” Jett said, starting the story over again. I would never get tired of hearing it.
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