By Sam Muñoz
My parents came from Italy to New York when I was just an infant.
I grew up on the lower East Side of Manhattan.
What a beautiful city mine was.
The hustle and bustle never got to me.
My friends would always come by the house: “Come, let’s play ball!”, they would tell me.
I remember the worry-free days when all I did was walk to Canal Street and buy an ice cream cone from Ms. Wong.
The best ice cream in the city, I tell ya.
There in New York everything went well.
My girlfriend, Rosaria, what a beautiful young girl she was.
I had big dreams: marry Rosaria, open up my own auto parts shop, and maybe even move to Detroit; I hear the car scene there is very good.
But then this war came outta nowhere and stopped everything.
I remember the last words I said to Rosaria before I left: “Don’t forget me.”
I was sent off to France and stationed there for two years.
What devastating things I saw.
A buddy of mine and I were stationed there.
We had to keep a lookout on the camp.
Then we notice the bone-thrilling vibration of the German aeroplanes.
“Take Cover!” was the last thing I said before we were barraged by the German bombs.
So many casualties really do leave a man scarred for life.
Bodies lying left and right.
Blood smeared all over my face.
A man running around searching for his arm.
What terrible things I saw.
But then the war was over.
Oh, how happy I was to go back to my homeland.
I could not wait to see the look on Rosaria’s face when I got to see her for the first time in what felt like a lifetime.
I went back to her house, knocked on the door, and was greeted with the most excruciating news ever.
Lost her to the Spanish flu.
I cried like a baby.
After all, what purpose was there to my life now?
I did not know what to do.
I had an aunt who lived in a small town called Spoon River.
She told me I should go live with her, and help her with her business.
“Molte belle donne qui,” she would say to me – not knowing that the hole in my heart could never patched.
I would never be able to look at someone else the way I did Rosaria.
I moved in with my aunt, only to die of this godforbidden flu too.
Oh, how I wish I could go buy a cone from Ms. Wong again!