She was either in my philosophy or psychology class in university. Very attractive to say the least. I’d look forward to seeing Tina twice a week when our class met. In time, we’d casually chat after class about some particular point the professor touched on.
Diego was a dashingly handsome hispanic student, always stylishly dressed with an aura the size of the solar system. Yet he seemed to be a loner, not fitting in to the university “look” of the general student body. He was a bit of a mystery. Some said his family was part of the Puerto Rican Mafia.
In time, I’d see Tina walking towards our class. I’d catch up with her and we’d continue to class. Often after class I’d walk her part way to her next class. But she always seemed to be a bit uptight, nervous, afraid, warily looking around our surroundings. Coincidentally, I’d often see Diego nearby but I gave it no thought.
As I was heading alone to one of my other classes. Diego came up to me and his persona transferred from elegance to a more serious but friendly mode. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together. The obvious message was “steer clear of Tina.” He didn’t want anybody coming on to her.
I took the message to heart and backed off from Tina even though I had no idea of their relationship.
Where I once walked with her, I’d see Diego keeping a close eye on her, often walking closely behind her but not beside her.
It became obvious that Diego was insanely jealous of anybody approaching her. He effectively isolated her from any of her classmates. It seemed like she was in Diego’s prison; that’s probably why she was so nervous walking with me. I really felt bad for Tina but her situation was none of my business.
Let’s jump ahead to one and a half years after I graduated: I was walking along West 72nd street when a car pulls up to the curb. It was Diego, friendly and smiling as he rolled down the window. (What a confidence – how in hell did he even recognize me on the street? Was it a really coincidence?) “Hey Larry, how are you. Haven’t seen you since university.” His aura was radiating full tilt and we started chatting. He was genuinely friendly. “Hey, wanna see my business?” Was he still with Tina?…ah, none of my business. All else was history; water under the bridge. Why not I thought. I hopped into his car and we headed uptown. Then I realized we were heading to Spanish Harlem. Too late to bail out I thought.
His business was a series of three or four adjacent shops selling fruits and flowers (very entrepreneurial, I thought). He led me through the shop(s) to a back door. What I saw shocked me…a gambling casino running the full width of the three shops, buzzing with patrons. Diego seemed very proud of this. I started to feel uncomfortable.
Then he said, “let me show you something,” and led me to a room where he opened a closet. I saw a gun. He seemed proud to show it to me.
I tried to keep a ‘friendly cool’ and after a calculated several minutes, which seemed like an eternity, I said I had to get back downtown and asked if he would to drop me back.
He obliged in a friendly manner, dropped me back on 72nd Street and I never heard from or saw him again.
This whole thing remains a mystery to me.
* the photo shown is not the actual Diego featured in this story
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