by DM O’Connor
I want to focus. I want to tell this one story here. The one about Zed Mazzini in Fort Greene Park that summer in 2002. I was teaching at Pratt. All I cared about was The World Cup and summer. So much damned New York sweaty summer. Lamb-burgers and tango in the rain. Dancers stealing rides in fire-trucks. Pre-selfies and uploads and I’d never used the words “social” and “network” together. And yesterday when I read of Zed’s suicide before Christmas last year, I knew I had to get the story out somewhere.
Zed’s book Let The World Stop Revolving Fast was listed in The International Literary Review as one of the top ten best Youth Novels of the year and the guy offed himself. Left a son and a beautiful wife. Jumped off his parent’s building in Coney Island. I read Zed’s book. I remember this part clearly:
“I shot my mother in Walmart when I was two. It’s all been pretty downhill since then. I left Idaho as soon as I could, to avoid negative fame. I travelled around a great deal. I worked a lot of jobs. I learned languages and used drugs and booze and people to forget. But all that changed when I met Gisela.”
I like to read. I developed that habit working on ships. I brought my class to the park, which was a big liability for the Program Director, a close friend at the time. He didn’t like unplanned trips with under-16-year-olds in tow. I just wanted to be closer to the pub to watch Brazil clobber England. We sat in a circle and played theatre games and blind-folded each other and talked and learned lines. A lovely acting class on a summer afternoon in a city park. Then Zed came over to hawk his book. I think it was his first. He was young, 20 at most, jacked up and bouncy. He went off like a sideshow barker. I told him to check himself and respect the class structure and we weren’t buying anything because our bags were back at the school but he could go ahead and tell his story if the class voted and agreed that they actually wanted to hear his story and they did and the story he told almost made me miss the game. Zed could tell a story. That one started with “I‘m just telling this story to make friends, all I want to do is make new friends, make them like me, make them laugh, maybe make them think, or not think, but maybe listen…”
I don’t remember much more of Zed’s story. Except it was brilliant. Pure unchecked passion. Chins were on fists and those fists wiped tears from adolescent eyes. A woe-begotten tale, with a swan-song finale that made the squirrels applaud. I brought Zed to my friend and employer, the Program Director, who had him onstage that night in front of 400 of the coolest teens on the planet. Zed sold books. The Program Director invited us for celebratory drinks with the dance teachers on the corner. I think my friend might have bought some film rights off Zed that night. Zed seemed normal then. He seemed like he had it all.
Ronaldinho beat England in the 50th minute.