About 20 years ago, the afternoons had also started growing longer as sunlight waited more and more before yielding itself to the evening. It was an exciting time at 312 Record Avenue in East Los Angeles as I and other Belvedere Junior High school boys started talking about new relationships with pretty girls.

Typically, this time of year was reserved for Laker championship basketball on T.V. Cheering on Magic Johnson, James Worthy and the rest of the “Showtime” crew in the afternoons and recreating the best moments of the game the next day in the school yard. But in the previous year the Bulls and Jordan beat us in 5 and soon after my hero left the game to “die” (as my parents described it). For me the ball club wasn’t poised to repeat the glories of year’s past.
Luckily in mid-March a cute girl with long eye lashes and green eyes started hanging around the gym at practices and slowly became part of the unofficial after-school basketball club at the school. It was unofficial since the school had no budget for a real program but the administration didn’t mind if Miss Gaughan kept the court open a few extra hours in the afternoon so that kids whose parents worked later hours had a place to play. 
It was in the first week of April that my best friend Sondra first hinted that “green eyes” might be interested in lanky young me. We were hanging out by the bleachers working on homework and dodging the occasional rogue basketball when she asked me with a light Spanish accent “what would you do if you know someone here liked you.”
“I, I don’t know” I said timidly but intrigued “why? do you know if someone does?” 
“I’ve talked to someone who sorta likes you but she’s not sure. She might just want to know what you’d do if you know someone did.”
“I can’t say,” I replied while trying to study Sondra’s gaze for clues “I guess it depends on who it is”.
“Forget it” she said gruffly and before I could say another word she was picking up her well-faded peach school folder, box of pencils and Hello-Kitty back pack. In a minute she was out the door and it would be a couple of days before we would breach the subject again.
Those two days were paranoic torture as I studied several of my casual friends for signs of interest. Becky Jimenez was a possibility. She was studious, like me, and always seemed to favor passing my the ball on a fast break so I could score the easy lay up. We had held hands week’s ago during a drill at practice and I thought that her index finger may brushed my hand a little longer than normal. In hindsight, this may have been a signal and I so stupidly missed it, I thought. But then one afternoon I heard her talking to Miguel, who had a nicer hair cut than I, in such a way that I knew she liked him and he’d be a fool not to like her.
Monica Sullivan intrigued me. She was one of just three African-American kids at our school who found herself at Belvedere when her father’s job forced them to move to a cute home off Gage Avenue and Floral Drive. Her family had cable television and her mother would let us watch as much MTV as we wanted with the exception of Janet Jackson videos. Monica’s mother simply didn’t care to see Michael’s little sister “gyrating” and “humping” men on TV. That challenge was that Monica and I’s relationship revolved around fighting. She thought I didn’t pass the ball to her enough and this angered me since I thought of myself as the “King of the Assist” like my hero Magic. A practice didn’t end without her yelling at me to pass the ball more and me telling her to relax and “get open”.
Then there was Sondra. She was opinionated, tom-boyish and the best free-thrower on our team. She was also very kind. Some afternoons at the local food stand everyone ordered their respective “hamburger special” and ate. I usually sat, watched and let the waft of oil, salt and fried potatoes fill my nostrils. I didn’t get a weekly allowance like some of the other kids, my parents couldn’t afford it, and often it took me weeks to save the $4.75 needed to buy the meal. It was during those weeks that she pretended to be full from a big lunch and asked me if I wanted her spare fries and half eaten burger. I never turned her down.
During those two days I tried to speak with her but she was always too busy. Instead, I found myself talking to “green-eyes”l more and working with her on passing drills. Whenever Sondra and I did talk, it was brief and cold. I had wanted to ask her if it was her who liked me but my mouth always went dry and grew frighteningly quiet. She grew frustrated with me and our conversations turned from sentences, to words, to simple grunts by the end of the 48 hours. 
On the Thursday when the silence broke, we stood outside the gym and stared at the pools of water left over by the late day’s rain. She was blunt and to the point. 
“Desiree likes you” she fired “and she thinks you guys should go out. Do whatever you like.”
With that, she disappeared back back to the doors that led to the gym and I stood there like a rock. In a few minutes, Desiree appeared in the black reflection pool and said hello. We talked, we flirted and by Friday we were “going out.”
It was late April now and my first first girlfriend and I had been getting to know each other for a few weeks. Classes couldn’t go by fast enough and my impatience had grown so that Miss Gaughan had pulled me to the side and given me the first warning I had ever received in Junior high. I looked forward to the late afternoons when Desiree and I would spend the hours holding hands, lazily working on basketball drills together and talking about missing each other that evening. 
We were also the talk of the unofficial club. It was my last year at Belvedere and Desiree was one year behind in the 8th. Would we wait for one another at Garfield? Would she even go to Garfield High School? She lived off Evergreen Avenue and Folsom St. which was clearly Roosevelt High territory. What would that mean to our club if we were on opposite sides? We were the “Romeo and Juliet” of the week (we had just learned about Shakespeare in February).
But by late April that “uproar” had subsided and a new one had begun. “You haven’t kissed her?” my best guy friend Manuel blurted. “It’s been forever and she’s telling everyone that you haven’t asked her to kiss you. Are you afraid?.”
“No! I’m not. It’s just that I….my mom….I’m just not ready and it has to be right.” I retorted.
“Hugo” in a Spanish accent “everyone is talking about you guys and that you haven’t kissed. You need to” he emphatically continued ” do something because it’s been too long for you guys!”
“Thanks Manny” I said “I’ll try.”
“Whatever” he blurted “but don’t do anything stupid because I’ll fuck you up. She’s like my sister.”
Suddenly I took stock of his frame. Even for our age he stood tall at almost 5’10. He was big and fast and I was glad that he was on my side.
On that very late day in April, Desiree and I decided to walk home. Our parent’s had been late to pick us up (they both worked on the West side of Los Angeles) and Miss Gaughan couldn’t keep the gym open longer. 
The walk was long but fun as we walked up Brooklyn Boulevard and caught up on the day’s gossip. Then as we turned north on Gage and I caught a glimpse of the brand new Payless Shoe Source store and the talk grew serious to the “state of our relationship.”
We spoke for a mile or two about liking one another but that things were unlikely to continue past my graduation day. We went from joking to sad, sad to joking as we hiked up the long street.
She complained about my style. She didn’t like my hair and described it as “too tall” and my everyday pant/shirt combination was “wack.” During her monologue I impatiently stared at her Air Jordan sneakers which cost dozens of “hamburger specials” and felt my backpack grow heavier and heavier.
Then we turned east onto Blanchard Street and I carped about her family choosing to live in Roosevelt territory and hoping that she’d find a way to make it to Garfield High where I was destined to arrive in the Fall. She snorted, I sighed angrily and for the next few hundred steps we walked on quietly.
Then…at the corner of Rowan Avenue I grasped her hand and told her to stop. I had grown tired of the dance and the gossip. My reaction shocked her but she instinctively paused and waited.
At that moment, I took stock of Desiree. Understood the softness of her chipmunk cheeks and gazed knowingly at her green eyes with one thing in mind. I noticed the fine minute blonde hairs at her nose standing and the wetness at her supple thick lips gaping towards me. Took in the smell of her sweat mixed with mine as we approached each other’s lips with awkward instinct.
Finally we touched and electricity flowed through awkward tongues. Time stood still and all the jazz……
Then….my ear caught a familiar wail in the distance that instantly broke the intimacy.  It was the panicky shriek that my mother let out whenever she thought danger lurked and it rattled me. As I opened my eyes and saw Desiree’s pupils a sickness started to build in the pit of my stomach. Turning in the direction of my mother’s voice I caught the first glimpse of our brown Isuzu speeding towards us and my mother’s glare zeroed in on my eyes. 
Desiree sighed and said “You have to go.” I turned to her and nodded. At that point I was unaware that this would be our one and only kiss since we would both decide to stop “going out” a week later after not finding another opportunity to try it again. 
As I said a final good-bye and headed to the already open car door I caught the vista from the East Los Angeles hills for a moment. Downtown was prominent in the the distance as always but it was the half dozen scattered puffs of unfamiliar black smoke that intrigued me. “Were those multiple fires?” I thought.
Once in the car my mother’s rant was worryingly loud. “Don’t you know there’s fighting in the streets?” she scolded as we dashed home on the afternoon of April 29, 1992.