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A SONG APART revolves around Shannon Kistler, a teenaged pop singer, and Kevin Derow, her 19-year-old biggest fan. They met and fall in love unexpectedly while wishing society would accept them as they are. Then they realize they don’t need anyone else’s approval after all.
The Public Be Damned
Someone tapped my shoulder as I waited for the light to change on the corner of 23rd and Park. “Excuse me,” said a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman from today’s Political Science class at Manhattan University. “Your name is Kevin, right?”
“Why are you wearing that shirt?”
I glanced down at the image of Shannon Kistler on the front. “Oh–I like her.”
“Why?” She winced.
“Adam liked Eve, Romeo liked Juliet, Anthony liked Cleopatra…it’s a tradition, I guess.”
“But her music is juvenile.”
“So I’ve heard.”
The streetlight changed, but my classmate stared at me as we crossed Park Avenue. I walked up 23rd Street to the bus stop at the Flatiron Building, my backpack full of newly purchased textbooks. Halfway up the block, a guy in a three-piece suit who talked on a cell phone glanced at my shirt as he walked toward me. “Wait a second,” he muttered. “Man,” he snarled at me, “I can’t believe someone like you put on that shirt.”
“And I can’t believe someone like you got off your phone to tell me so.”
He frowned and walked away as I continued toward Broadway. At the Flatiron Building I stood in my usual nook, watching for my express bus home. The sidewalk was practically empty, but I caught the attention of a curly-haired guy, maybe a year or two older than me, strolling toward Union Square with a friend. The guy tapped his friend’s shoulder and pointed at me, but I waved him off before he yelled at me.
The traffic on Broadway was as thin as the pedestrians on the sidewalk. The other Staten Island-bound express buses stopped by the building regularly, but my wait for the X12 was always longer for one stupid reason or another. I already spent a whole year waiting for many things, including the bus, and I knew that wouldn’t change any time soon, especially with everything I still had to learn about accounting before I got my BBA.
An early September breeze blew through my hair as a black limo stopped at the light on 22nd Street. I couldn’t guess who was inside–a bridal party, a foreign dignitary, or a corporate big shot. But I was hypnotized by the long car, watching it roll down Broadway and onto 21st Street after the light changed.
“Excuse me,” a black man in a parka and a wool hat said, “you got any change to spare?”
“No, I don’t. I’m sorry.”
“Hey, you don’t gotta be sorry, okay? You don’t got it, you don’t got it. That’s all. You don’t gotta be sorry for nothin’. People always gettin’ into trouble ‘cause they sorry for stuff they can’t control, and we got all these world problems because people do a lotta shit they sorry about later. And that uses up a lotta energy, you know? They can use that energy to do other stuff.”
He clamped a hand on my shoulder, to my horror. “Look, man,” he continued, pointing, “you a young guy. You don’t need none of that shit, okay? You don’t gotta worry about nothin’ but the rest of your life. You got lotsa time to do whatever you please, and bein’ sorry ain’t gonna help you. So you don’t got the change, you don’t got the change, and that’s the way it goes. You don’t gotta be sorry about it, okay? Don’t be sorry. You got it, don’t you?”
Yeah. I’m sorry I apologized. I nodded slightly, trying not to roll my eyes.
“Yeah, you get it.” He smiled, showing off his yellow teeth. “You get it. You a good guy. Go get yourself some nice pussy.” He slapped my shoulder and marched off.
Oh, no, you did NOT use the P-word on me…
“Hey, mister,” a girl’s voice yelled, “you got a nice shirt on!”
“Thank–YOU!! HOLY SHIT!!” It was Shannon Kistler herself, calling to me from the limousine sitting at the light a few moments ago. She laughed, ducked inside and rolled up the window. I snatched my backpack and chased after her, but the heavy textbooks slowed me down, and she made a swift getaway.
Two minutes later an X12 finally pulled up. “How you doin’?” asked the driver after he opened the doors.
“Hanging in there, thanks,” I fumbled, paying the fare.
“School started again?” he asked, pulling away from the curb.
“Yeah,” I muttered.
“You don’t seem happy about it.”
“I had a long day.” I would’ve said why I really didn’t seem happy, but he’d never buy it.
“Well, pick a seat and take a snooze,” he said. “You look like you could use it.”
“I’m way ahead of you.”
He chuckled as I grabbed a window seat and followed his advice.
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I was born on January 21, 1969 to Robert and Susan Baer in Brooklyn, NY. My dad served in Vietnam and was stationed in Fort Huachuca, AZ upon his return stateside. So I was an army brat without realizing it.