-bitches over money-
*by someone who appreciates friendly customer service*
(frankie leone, just a man)
*i always want to lie about that afternoon. say i heard shots cry out from his pistol. describe to my friends how stuyvesant park’s pigeons scattered like winged buck shot. how they fell. or how he fell. the final scene of my imaginary western set off the myrtle ave j in bedford stuyvesant, brooklyn.
or some bull shit.
mean truths aren’t as pretty as mean girls. they aren’t made for the silver screen either. i won’t see flaco again but whether he’s dead or alive the last time i saw him on his stoop he was breathing.*
*six of them stand like the concrete columns holding up the myrtle avenue subway trestle they’re under just outside the park. most are around my age- sixteen. except one. he’s in his thirties. none of them are dressed for a game.
pants sag down their hips. light glints off gold or silver when they smile. red’s their clothing’s predominate color. even a white boy knows what’s going on with that, they aren’t keeping it a secret- they’re “gangster killer” bloods.
chains around their necks tell the neighborhood they don’t experience the daily grind. they’ve chained themselves to the game. they’re on the grind.
someone wiser than i taught me something that’s made life safer: not making eye contact with those who intimidate you is folly. someone keeping his eyes stuck to brooklyn concrete stinks of fear. troublesome cologne sprays on him or her without hesitation.
soft tourists give contradictory advice to other soft tourists. i raise my eyes and nod in acknowledgement before accelerating my walk.
i don’t know them except the oldest. actually, i only know of him. i don’t want more knowledge. the feeling isn’t reciprocated. he speaks.
“what’s poppin’ young buck? knows you ain’t tryin’ to diss a nigga frontin’ like you doesn’t know why we out here. let me talk to you. we holdin’ triple stack mitsibuishi e pills. nicks of coke too. it’s that fire! i knows you coppin’ ’round here. i got you.”
i stop walking. bad move.
“no disrespect man. flaco’s got me. he said to drop his name on anyone that talks to me on my way to his spot,” i answer without thought.
the kids look at each other and smile. this is a problem i don’t need.
the man responds, “that so white boy? that’s what he said? where that spic be at now? he still posted up on pulaski street? i want to holla at him.”
i stay quiet.
“‘ight. i respect that. listen, these little niggas ain’t gone run your pockets. they ain’t gone whoop your ass neither. they even gone let you walk back to the train with that enchilada eatin’ mo’ fuckas shit. you gettin’ paid with all that. paid to tell him somethin’ for me. feel me?”
it’s too late to start walking again. i’m committed to the conversation. i stay quiet. he moves his body within a few feet of me. a large finger rests on my chest. a bracelet with heavy gold links and a plate engraved with the letters “gkb” slides around his wrist.
he gives me his message.
“he ain’t workin’ ’round here no more. if he does he works for me. you heard? tell him i know where he’s at.”
my eyes had broken from his. i engage his glare again. he finishes.
“aight then. have a nice day bitch.”
a cold smile splits his features while the j train’s din consumes myrtle avenue.*
*fall’s wilting towards winter. still, flaco sprawls on the stoop in an over-sized white tee and baggy shorts ending below his knees. i’ve never seen him anywhere else. seems like he never leaves. he usually has a black and mild, tall boy of bud, and bag of utz potato chips. there’s a bodega down the block. i wonder if they deliver.
this dilapidated building’s stoop always struck me as a strange place for a twenty-four pharmacy. he sees me and sits up straight.
“que pasa little homie? what you need? holdin’ double stacks today. teddy bear pills. i know you feelin’ my x. for you i can do two for twenty. ain’t got yayo for you. gone have to come back mignona for that.”
i don’t know what to say. my mediocre poker face speaks before i do. he responds to it.
“what you trialin’ and tribulatin’ ’bout pobre sito? nice day. you gone get high. you ain’t got kids. you ain’t got bills. yo’ rock star lookin’ ass probably got a fly shorty. you kissin’ lady luck nigga.”
he laughs. i give him the message i carry. he leaves a laughing mood.
flaco’s silent, contemplative. his eyes stab across pulaski street. they seem to pierce the blocks of section eight housing, ninety-nine cent shops, bodegas, and liquor stores obstructing his stare.
the absence of words roars my heart to a drum roll. he lights a black and mild with a white bic. i notice an old cigarette burn on his right palm.
not knowing what to say i ask, “how’d you get that scar?”
i point to it.
“fucked around and slapped hands wit’ el diablo a while back. you ain’t got to worry ’bout that though. sit yo’ ass down.”
there’s a bulge under his shirt at the waist. i have a good idea what it is. looking this problem in the eye seems better than it putting holes in my back. i sit down.
i’m hesitant to blunder into the quiet. he doesn’t say anything for a few moments of forever.
“tell me what you know ’bout hookers chico.”
“sorry flaco. just did what you told me to. can’t blame me. i promise not to come around here anymore.”
he spits back, “you listenin’? i ain’t talkin’ ’bout them niggas runnin’ they mouths in the park. i asked what you know ’bout hos.”
i’m not in a position to argue about our discussion’s topic.
“i don’t know. used to be a lot on kent ave before hipsters started coming to williamsburg. they’ve got diseases. shoot smack. get slapped around by pimps. that kind of stuff.”
his eyebrows wrench down in anger.
“you dead wrong ’bout all that son. that’s some ignorant shit. mi madre was a ho. she weren’t sick or a fiend. more’n anything though: momma weren’t givin’ her loot to no nigga with a feather stickin’ out his dome. you hear me maricone?”
it isn’t my day. this is twilight zone material. i wonder if he’s high. this could be my last conversation on earth.
“yeah man. definitely.”
he takes a long drag off his black and mild.
“my momma used protection. you know ’bout that right?”
he shakes his head.
“ain’t that simple. she handled business like a professional. weren’t no one’s poota. some mug didn’t want to wear a rubber she’d bounce on his ass for sure. with or without her paper. my ma dukes got wit’ a union though. you know what that is?”
i proceed with caution.
“they protect workers. didn’t know there were unions for hookers though. it’s not legal.”
one side of his mouth lifts in a smirk.
“your mind es paquito. you needs to think like peecasso. abstractly. my moms had dignity. that was the union she got down with. that was her protection.”
i don’t understand why he’s telling me these things. i’m just grateful i might leave bedstuy.
“that was smart. she made her own union.”
his expression’s pacified.
“damn right. i’m gone keep it real with you though. some faggot ass nigga thinkin’ he was some kind pimp tried to fuck with her shit. i was mad young. almost lost my momma to that maricone. she told me all ’bout it. know who save’t my moms chico?”
“her union’s rep. nigga brought her in.”
“i don’t understand.”
his tone sharpens.
“quit interruptin’ then. her union rep was a cheap ass bottle of rose sittin’ on a motel table. cut that bendajo’s throat wit’ it. ear to ear. mad surgical. stained them sheets up so bad even one of them hood ass motels couldn’t keep them shits.”
if there’s an appropriate reply i can’t think of it. i’m beginning to understand what he’s saying though. i let the sounds of his block have a turn in the conversation. across the street a fat landlady reminds a tenant it’s the sixth of the month at the top her lungs.
eventually i take a chance.
“you don’t have to kill anyone flaco. if anything you should just set up shop a little ways out of the neighborhood. it’s a big city.”
“you know what my momma’s pain show’t me playboy?”
“bitches over money. lots of hustlin’ niggas, like these ones talkin’ tough by the park, got shit backwards. think they pimps. they gone get they minds right.”
“what’re you going to do?”
“not a damn thing. the union rep’s gone holla at them niggas.”
he pats his waist. the butt of his union rep’s outlined through his tee shirt. it’s plain he’s made up his mind.
i ask, “in broad day light?”
his smile seems appropriate.
“momma always said when you fuckin’ leave them lights on.”
he laughs. we listen to the land lady and sirens of a passing ambulance for more moments of eternity.
“november’s gone turn to july ’round here. best get to the train. le’me bless you wit’ a couple hits. they free.”
“good looking out man,” i reply.
i palm two plastic-wrapped pills and start walking. half-way to the j train i regret my mediocre thank you.*
(details modified out of respect and fear. also for the page.)
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