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By Dawn Corrigan
Years ago, I was taking my cousin on a day trip to New York City, where both our fathers had grown up. She was my first cousin once removed, her father my father’s uncle, but somewhere along the way the generational lines had crossed, and she was two years younger than me.
We weren’t children—I was 29, she 27—and she’d been to the City before. Nonetheless, the family was abuzz, as though Vicky were a grade-schooler on her way to summer camp, or about to attend her first sleepover. Her mind was a hamper full of anxiety—even more so than the rest of us—and she’d never been anywhere without her father, her husband, or a whole phalanx of sisters and female cousins. I was perceived as a flimsy chaperone.
Nonetheless, she said she wanted to go. An unofficial family historian, I’d planned a trip rife with meaning: Rockefeller Plaza, where her parents went skating on their first date; the park named after our one semi-famous uncle; the Hell’s Kitchen church where both our fathers had gone to elementary school.
Hell’s Kitchen was Clinton now, full of juice bars and fusion restaurants. The subway cars had all been painted or replaced.
Still, Uncle Joey lay in wait. He was her father’s unmarried twin brother.
On the day before the trip, we sat at her mother’s kitchen table, planning our outfits. Uncle Joey came in.
“You girls’d better watch out on those subways.”
“We won’t be taking the subway,” I snapped. “We’ll get cabs.”
He didn’t hesitate. “There was a story in the paper last week about two girls from New Jersey. They came to the City to sightsee and do some shopping. They hailed a cab, and their cabbie drove them over the bridge back into New Jersey. Then he raped and murdered them.”
Vicky looked at me with uncertainty, but my mind was reeling.
Until now I’d never understood how deliberate her oppression had been.
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