A Friend In New York: Part I
“I will try and do my best father,” I replied. Both Pa and I knew that finding a job was going to be difficult. Plus, the signs of job offers read “Need to speak good English” on them, even as I struggled with my English.
Then again, I didn’t want to get a job. I wanted to go to school like I had for a couple of years in Athens. But Pa says that education is the least of our problems. He says that too many immigrants have come to New York City and that jobs are hard to find, so it is harder to survive.
Back home in Athens, the air did not smell of factories and the land wasn’t crowded. My family, like most others, owned a farm and sold currants to the French because nothing much else would grow in the rocky soil. Then the French stopped buying our crops and we had to fight to stay alive. Pa and Ma decided that we needed to go to America.
We had enough money for two passages, so Pa and I were to go. We packed our few belongings and went to the docks. My best pal, Nathan, and his father were also leaving with us to America. But to my disappointment, they got on a different boat to New York and I have not seen them since.
When Pa and I came here to New York, we rented a small apartment - a “tenement” Americans call it. But the problem is, I don’t have a friend in New York and don’t know a single Greek. That seems impossible, because New York is such a vast city. Perhaps I could find Nathan in New York someday.
I miss Ma dearly, but my little sister, I do not miss. Before we left, Ma told us not to worry about them. “Once you get a good job, you and your father will bring your sister and me there and we will all be together and happy. You will be good young man, and you will obey your father and not give him any trouble until we reunite, understand?” I had to smile.
Over here, I tried making friends with some American boys, but their English was too fast and complicated for me. All I caught was: “… We don’t talk or play with you filthy, dirty immigrants.... Don’t let us see you again... you will be sorry you ever came to America.” I noticed that the boy who said this was rather skinny and he himself had an accent of some kind.
I finished my breakfast and put the dishes in the sink. There was running water in our tenement. That was like heaven to me. I wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the well like I had to back in Greece. Oh well, I was always trying hard to find nice things to think about in America. Today however I have to think about finding a job.
I had spent the entire morning asking people if they could employ me. No luck so far. I’ve never had a job so far. I hope Pa won’t be too disappointed if I don’t find a job. I covered just about all the streets I was familiar with. The streets were filled with lots and lots of people; Italians murmuring to Italians, noisy Germans talking to other Germans, and Poles having conversation between them. I was feeling lost; I could not understand much of the talk around.
I spotted a shop and walked by the window to see if I could see the owner. I couldn’t see him through the window so I entered the shop and began strolling the aisles until I found him. He was shelving some fruits. “Hello sir, name is Alexander. Do you have umm, some job I can do?”
[Continued in Part 2]