By Vincent Michael Festa

6/20/1998

I remember it like it was yesterday. True story.

Back in my Suffolk Community College days I was a staff writer who wrote music reviews for the campus newspaper, The Compass. I had a small stake in writing for local acts. A few friends of mine on the same paper were into the local scene, as well. Before I knew it, I was in the circle. It meant going with them to see their shows as well as having diner nights and record-shopping trips. Sooner or later, I was invited to their parties as well, such as this one.

A former musician friend and fellow staffer, whose name I refuse to mention, threw a huge double birthday party one humid night at his house in Port Jefferson. It was a joint birthday between him and another musician friend and writer of ours, E.J. “The Greek Tragedy”.

There was a big turnout with some boom box music and an outdoor light bulb or two. Everything was going well. People all around were unwinding, drinking, and relaxing, talking about nothing and nothing in particular. Hardly anyone really saw one another in the dark and the final count consisted of college preps, b-boys, ravers, coffee house patrons and bar-types.

I roamed around, finding friends and people to talk to, when someone sitting on the backyard patio caught my attention. His name was Dirty Frank and he asked me if he knew me from somewhere. Then for a split second, I noticed the two girls he was in between, especially the one sitting to the left of him.

She personified cute. Long, dark, curly brunette hair with a blonde streak or two and big, brown eyes. She was skinny wearing a black spaghetti strap tank-top with a red butterfly design on it (as was the style ten years ago) and tight black pants with high heels. She was pretty young and also pretty hazed, too.

I remember bluffing just so I could weasel into the conversation with him because I wanted to get to know her. Then the four of us introduced each other. Donna was her name and we both started talking. I blocked out everyone at the party because all my focus was on trying to get to know her.

The more time elapsed, the louder and more belligerent she got. But that was OK. She was cute and that gave her carte blanche. For a good forty-five minutes we were talking and joking around. Eventually it went so well that I got her number and address. Home free…or so I thought.

As we were still getting to know each other and progressing well past giving and receiving numbers, I looked up and noticed a scene getting more and more aggressive right behind her. What was all the commotion about?

There was a group of guys huddled together and a confrontation was underway. 
 The intensity was getting higher. I was puzzled, stunned that something was bound to happen.

About three seconds later, the huddle was coming right towards her. Donna was still running her mouth as I was watching the scene unfold and she had no idea what was about to occur behind her. I saw it get closer to us. She still had no idea what was going on.

That’s when I took her arm and pulled her toward me. Her bottle of beer dropped to the ground and so did the guy that the mob was chasing after. They mashed him down to the ground real hard, maybe eight or ten on one. He was in pain for a while, but recovered. He got back on his feet, but the mob had left and ran out the backyard door by then.

Donna was a different story.
 She was in my arms and holding on to me. She saw what just happened after the fact. The drinking got her real emotional. She was crying, sobbing, petrified. Just a horrified mess. I did everything I could to calm her down and kept her from falling or breaking down. For a good half hour, I had her very close to me. Donna continued the trend of girls being in my arms within hours of just meeting them and this time I didn’t even try.

The apex was the nadir: the party just died. Everyone decided to go home with some nancy high-schoolers scared that the police would come, but they never showed up Eventually, me and Donna split. She had to ride all the way out to Nassau where she lived and said to give her a call.
And that was that… until the following Tuesday.

I called her up and she was happy to hear from me. She didn’t realize what had happened that night until I told her, because she didn’t remember. We went back and forth a couple of times and eventually we made plans to meet up at the Broadway for an hour or two. When I saw her this time she was actually sober.

Nothing went on. No panic, no tears, no alcohol, nothing. She was constantly going on and on about this guy that she wanted to get with. There was nothing I could do, I had to give up. We walked around a couple of times, traded a hug or two, and said our goodbyes as we left the mall that evening.

The train ride back from Hicksville made me feel extremely weird: I suddenly realized on the Hicksville platform that I made it out to a totally different town all by myself and was going back the same way alone. It made me have this very euphoric feeling of freedom, a feeling of which I couldn’t believe. I was capable of being somewhere new and meeting someone equally new all by myself. It was so removed from what usually goes on around me back in Brentwood, Plainview, and Selden at the time.

It was time to board the train back east. Final stop: Brentwood.

I remember what went through my head around the time I met her. She was so different from what I ever experienced and one of the more interesting girls I’ve ever met. I considered her to be wild. Her drinking, stories of confrontations, and how she wanted to give herself up to another guy had me very curious of what else she could be or how Hicksville girls act.  But I never found out. I never went back to Hicksville and I never saw her again.

I look back as this being one of the five most memorable events in my life based solely on what happened and how I felt.