Author Archives: Frankie Leone

About Frankie Leone

Tries to write a version of his truth. Also a nightlife worker. Born at Beth Israel Hospital on 1st Ave between 16th and 17th St on December 15, 1984. Lives in Brooklyn. Bears a few scars, tattoos, and regrets.

you were the understanding branch manager who let me make a cash withdrawal without my bank card or id (at 386 knickerbocker avenue and himrod street) – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

-education-
*by someone who believes
ignorance can be bliss*
(frankie leone, just a man)
*

*he always sits by himself on a bench in the corner of the yard. i watch him with a musing curiosity.

about twenty pounds overweight. white, probably italian. full head of thick gray hair slicked back with water. his uniform always fresh and clean. rarely mixes with the rest of us. usually doesn’t speak much. always eats and smokes like a king. his commissary fund must have thousands in it.

we speak occasionally. eaten together a few times. there’s a superficial friendly rapport between us. he even laughed and smiled once, saying i reminded him of him when he was young. we usually chat about writing and movies.

he avoids every personal question i ask him so i know he’s got a story.

i want it.*

*

*i approach him and watch him draw the last cigarette out of a soft pack of marlboro reds. my brand too.

sitting down next to him i ask, “is that your last one?”

“yeah, didn’t get my commissary request in on time,” he answers, voice deep and scratchy.

“i could spot you until you get in your next one. i know you’re good for it.”

“what the fuck do you want kid?”

i smile. he’s smart and hard.

“your story.”

“yeah,” he replies drawing in a lungful of marlboro.

“yeah,” i reply.

“you’re not going to get it. tell you what though. you spot me until next week i’ll teach you something worth thousands of what you’re giving me.”

“deal,” i respond without thinking.

something tells me i might not get ripped off. i settle in to listen, resolving not to interrupt.

he starts speaking in a low relaxed voice.*

*

*”never run into a check-cashing place. those guys are armed to the teeth and can physically lock down a place in a second. they can trap you in a box of bulletproof glass and shoot your crew and you like fish in a barrel. hit corporate bank branches. worst you’ll have to deal with is ink bags, homing devices, and alarms.

“the key to it is not hitting the place hard, it’s to guide the flow of the cops elsewhere.

“do your research beforehand. count the squad cars of the town precinct. see how many can respond. if another town’s station is near your target scope that out too.

“don’t bother with a city bank. look for small towns. response times are slower. multiple precincts won’t respond to an alarm trip.

“get professional disguises. no rubber masks. fake beards, mustaches, wigs, costume scars, sunglasses, and hats are smart. anything that can conceal your face and confuse your identity.

“don’t leave any souvenirs for the cops. take a good hot shower before hand to get out loose skin and hair. wear a hairnet under your hat or wig. wear surgical latex gloves. unpowdered ones.

“when the time comes to approach the target, put in a 911 call about the town school. say there’s an armed intruder in there. all units will respond, and at most one car will respond to an alarm tripped at the bank. that makes it easier to blast on your way out.

“in that case if only one car comes with a single officer he won’t get out of the car until back up comes. don’t aim for the driver’s side windshield. light up the front tires of his squad car so he can’t follow your exit. most cop cars are front wheel drive. no one has to die.

“come prepared. it’s not about how big your gun is, or how flashy your mask is. that’s for amateurs. a clean fast exit is most important. get two stolen cars, make sure the plates are stolen and changed too. park one a mile from the bank. roll up with your crew in the other one. make sure to burn the second you switched into later. don’t leave any prints or hair in the first. those kind of forensics can put you away for life.

“get a small police scanner that receives all channels. one you can clip to your belt. crank it loud so you’re sure to hear if you’re getting company.

“get in there on the first of the month. the place will be fully stocked with cash money for all the people coming in with social security or social services checks.

“don’t get there at opening. armored car deliveries could be there or coming soon. the men with those are strapped and will blast like soldiers of fortune. right before the bank staff is supposed to go on lunch break is the best time.

“no one inside the bank but the manager has the key to open the teller’s cage. don’t rush in guns out. keep your pieces concealed and ask for the bank manager. once he comes out of the teller’s cage to greet you pull the pin and pull out metal. have him open the teller’s cage and go in yourself.

“never let bank staff handle money or count on them to fill bags from outside the cage. that’s a sure way to get an ink bomb or homing beacon in your cash. an ink bomb will at the very least ruin a heist. the money will be useless and the ink won’t come off your skin for months.

“don’t worry about the teller’s drawers. that’s small potatoes for amateurs. hit the central cash drawer where the tellers fill their drawers from. there’s three large drawers and no time to empty them all. hit the drawer second from the top. that usually has the largest denominations and most money.

“the vault is a different kind of operation. you need a crew of three guys inside for that, plus the given one waiting in the car. only one guy in the vault at a time. if all three of you go inside they can hit a switch that will swing the door closed and you’ll all be locked inside until s.w.a.t. comes to pick you up. make sure only the second barred gate is closed before you try for it. it’s on a timer so if the main door is closed it’s just a no-go.

“only hitting the tellers cage is usually around an 80K score. the vault is usually 300K plus.

“when having the manager open anything don’t yell at him. speak normally and assertively. if you shout his hand can shake while he’s fiddling with keys or locks. and that can cost a lot of valuable seconds. time is more precious than platinum.

“when it comes to guns, you don’t have to look like rambo, but you should make an impression. if you go with handguns make sure you bring a larger sporting model, not a compact one. like, a glock 17 instead of a glock 16, or a 1911 colt .45 automatic instead of a colt commander. if you go with shotguns or assault rifles make sure to saw off the barrels and stocks. easier to conceal and ditch.

“for ammunition go with hallow points. if you fire a warning shot, hit a body, or throw one onto a vest the cops can do ballistics much easier on a slug. you don’t want to make it easy for them to put you in a cage.

“don’t get fancy when it comes to your words. communicate what you have to when you have to. when you set things off a simple ‘get away from your desks and don’t even think of touching a smart phone. no alarms, no ink bags, no heroes. we’ll be out of here in a minute. no one hast to get hurt.’

“if you’re unlucky enough to get in a gun fight make sure to dispose of weapons properly afterward. disassemble them as much as possible. run steel wool through the barrels to change ballistics markings. dump each piece of each gun in a different place. sewer drains and off bridges are best.

“get out in under four minutes after you’ve set things off inside. three is ideal. don’t waste time. response times to robbery calls are usually under five minutes.

“the bills could be marked or the serial numbers recorded. at least some of them. you need to clean all of them. go to ac or vegas. buy eight grand in chips at a time and cash them in after the casino’s shift change. that amount won’t attract attention. don’t gamble while you’re there. that’s a way to have to hit another bank as soon as you get back.

“that’s about a packs-worth of knowledge. hope you enjoyed bank robbery one-oh-one kid.”*

*

*i don’t say anything for a few seconds as a digest everything he’s told me. he smiles and lights another one.

finally i ask, “what are you in for?”

“tax evasion.”

i laugh and whisper, “strange world.”

“you’re damn right,” he answers.

“i think i’m going to stick to writing.”

“probably a good idea. i get out next year. i’ll give you the address of where i’ll be. just in case you change your mind. i could use a smart kid.”

“i’m good,” i respond.

“i understand.”

“yeah, it’s nothing personal. just don’t want to spend the rest of my life here.”

“you’re smarter than i thought.”

“have my moments,” i reply and put my hand out to shake.

he grins and grips it. his pointer and middle finger are extended, touching my wrist. a roman legionaries’ handshake.

“you take care of yourself,” he finishes.

“i’ll do what i can,” i conclude.*

*


i sold out to amazon.com. – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

question: why is every short story password protected all of a sudden?

answer: because i’m broke. published them into ten separate collections on amazon.com. they emailed giving five days to take the short stories off boroughoflostboys.com or else.

*

question: so i can’t read them free anymore?

answer: no you can’t. *wink wink.* if someone was to send me a facebook message or email asking for the password, giving it to them would be a personal favor to a friend (and not a violation of my contract with amazon).

*

question: what’s your facebook url and email address?

answer: http://www.facebook.com/frank.leone78 and frankie@bottleservice.biz.

*

question: where and how can i find your ebooks and paperbacks?

answer: amazon.com (their main site and kindle store). search “frankie leone” or “borough of lost boys.” they’ll come up. ten different titles in paperback or ebook. the first in the series of collections is “-self hating egoist-.” find it in ebook here or in paperback when that goes live in a few days.

*

question: so you’re selling out with no shame and abandoning guerrilla publishing?

answer: yes. yes i am.

*

dance with your devils,

(frankie leone, just a man)

*


you expressed i was crazy via phone call from your shithole in the lower east side (on 13th street and 2nd avenue). – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-unstable-

*by someone who’s accepted it*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*no one see the world

with the same conviction 

as the mad man

-

figments of his imagination

hurricaning his view of the world

-

emotions rocketing through him

with the intensity of a dangerous narcotic

-

envisioning

a revolution of thought

epic love

and a different future

that may or may not be coming

-

but belief is reality

-

and men like him

have unwavering faith*

*

*the madman walks

the streets of our city

-

a city with shiny skin

bittersweet fruit

and the potential 

to put someone to sleep forever

-

he feels

thinks

sees

smokes

fucks

screams

laughs

cries

loves

hates

and believes

-

like no other*

*

*his hope is only 

to see something different

-

a choice that isn’t his

-

because as he sees our city

through a gritty kaleidoscope 

-

images of saints

sinners

good

bad

and ugly

-

ghost dance through his psyche

to a torturous melody

-

but it’s fucking beautiful

-

and even though

he may yearn to give it away

-

it’s his

and no one can take it from him*

*

*when he speaks

his words may make a good listen

-

in madness

there is chaos

-

and all things worth witnessing

emerge from this condition

-

so it may not be unwise

to pay heed to the madman

-

just in case he’s right

because

after all

-

what do you believe in?*

*

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our fight sent me to a county jail in new jersey (at 15 elizabeth plaza). – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-closure-
(part iii of a series)
(part ii: -brawl-)
(part i: -dice-)
*by someone who’s chosen to walk in the light*
(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*janis joplin was a liar. i’ve lost it all, but don’t feel free.

acidic rage creeps through my veins. images of those i’ve deemed responsible light up my thoughts like muzzle flashes. i feel more a prisoner than i did on the inside. unanswered questions about events passed bloat and blacken my heart like a tropical disease. there’s no escape from my thoughts.

creating a hit list and turning myself into the count of monte cristo isn’t appealing.

he has answers. i don’t have anything left to gamble or trade with, but something in my gut suspects he might work something out with me. fear isn’t in his vocabulary but i have a feeling respect is.

i text his number with the gimmicky triple-six area code.

“i need them, but don’t have enough to shoot dice.”

to my surprise his response comes right away. the text reads, “will you fight me for them instead?”

i don’t formulate anything witty. i type back, “i can’t fight anymore.”

minutes pass. more characters jolt onto the screen of my obsolete blackberry.

“so you’re signing it over?”

“it isn’t with me,” i admit.

no answer comes until a few hours later. just as pink and orange starts coloring the sky for dusk.

“had a chat with the boss. they’re bought and paid for. see you soon.”

i despise taking charity but don’t have a choice. an odd mixture of anxiety and relief fills me.

the gates to east river state park are closed and locked after sundown. time to hop the fence for another late night meeting. *

*

*the skyline doesn’t make anymore dangerous promises to brooklyn’s shore where i stand. it’s lights don’t tell any more sexy lies. wouldn’t matter if it did. it can’t play on my emotions. i don’t feel much these days.

the cool night air caresses my skin and the illuminated concrete and glass juggernauts of the city stand solemn and silent. it’s a weeknight and williamsburg is mute behind me. it seems like i’m experiencing a new york city night objectively.

i scan the park for him. he’s not here yet. i light a marlboro and relax. his gangly form arrives when it does. i run my eyes over my clothing to see what colors i should search the night’s silhouettes for. black may be chic but it was a poor choice.

some time passes and someone walks towards the river bank. before the details of the tall slim figure are discernible i notice it’s gait- graceful and steady, moving with purpose. it isn’t him, a cop, or park ranger.

her form comes all the way out of the darkness and i see her face. tears well up in my eyes and i begin to tremor with violent intensity.

she still has the beauty of a siren.*

*

*she comes to an easy stop a few steps in front of me. i’m too consumed with emotion to speak.

i seize her in an embrace. she doesn’t recoil, but drapes her arms around the bare shoulders jutting from my dark wifebeater, and rests her chin on one. i squeeze her so hard i have to check myself. she’s delicate. a few minutes pass like this.

eventually i stop sobbing and shaking. pride is among my greatest weaknesses. i don’t want her to see my face marred with tears, so keep her squeezed tight against me. despite the yearning to look at the contours of her cream-colored skin and chocolate eyes.

tears keep flowing but i unearth the strength to speak into her ear.

“i didn’t think you really loved me. didn’t think you really cared. i thought i outlived my purpose. that i’d lost you forever.”

she doesn’t respond. i continue, “is this real? are you really here? are you going to stay? will you let me hold you and take care of you again?”

silence.

i offer more words, “i’ve missed you so much.”

i wait. no answer. panic overwhelms me. i keep speaking, “without you i’ve given away everything. please love me. even though i have nothing.”

another quiet pause. despair starts diluting anxiety. my speech turns desperate, “i promise i’ll get it all back. my money, our cat, my friends, even my loft at 151 kent. i’ll go back to the clubs. i’ll build you a beautiful life again, just like i did before. i can save both of us. i promise. i promise baby.”

her reply doesn’t come. his does. in his voice. or mine. i’ve never been able to differentiate the two. the sound of it crashes my heart lower than the end of a five day amphetamine binge. the sound of him pours from her mouth into my ear. slow. i resign to listening.

“she’s gone and she’s not. what you’ve resisted understanding is that it’s never been about keeping who you have. it’s about experiencing who you have while you have them.

you still have her. just in a different way.

“i’m sure you’ve heard the jesus freaks say ‘he giveth and he taketh away.’ well, he’s giveth’d you this so you’ll let him fucking giveth again.

“it’s not over. it’s not the end. it’s another beginning. take care of yourself. you and her weren’t meant to swim together. drowning people can’t save each other. find your shore and search again.

“you may not discover who and what you want, but who and what you need will discover you.”

i relax my grip on her and start to draw away, but her arms hold me fast with a strength matching my own. more words come.

“her, you, him, me, and all of them on the streets around us are cards in the same deck. we’ll always shuffle so you can be given another hand. he’s waiting for you to realize it’s not about what you’re holding. it’s about how you play it and how thoughtfully you bet. the pot is forever growing. you can’t fold whenever you don’t see the cards you had yesterday. wipe your fucking eyes and pick up the cards in front of you today.”

the tears stop and i start to process his words. before my thoughts reach a conclusion a final string of speech comes.

“they all end, but he plays innumerable songs in his set. everyone can dance again. choose to move on the streets of brooklyn, not to wait for the avenues of the afterlife. put the needle back on the record and move those damn hips.”*

*

*can’t remember how we let go of each other. didn’t notice the apparition leaving. there was no watching it walk away.*

still in the park, i find myself sitting on a piece of driftwood waiting. not for him. not for her.

for the sun.*

*

*it actually comes. for the first time i can remember i witness the night turn all the way to morning. the sun falls on my face and i can feel it. something inside me feels excited.

as the horn of the ferry blasts an epiphany hits me- it’s going to be different.

i realize i’ve always known this day would come. i learned long ago the only constant in our concrete jungle is change. in these moments this brings me comfort. a new sensation.

a smile spreads across my face when it dawns on me. the devil, after everything, turned out to be a stand-up guy.*

*

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we opted against san loco (on 160 n 4th street) to get something more authentic at the taco truck on the side of n6th. – 28 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-the crystal death-

*by someone whose time to die hasn’t come*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i walk the streets after 12am on a muggy august night without tangible purpose. the exact hour’s obscured by apathy.

my thoughtless hope’s to find her even though she’s long gone. lost to me and our city.

she haunts me still and i search the streets of downtown manhattan for her specter.

i remember her beauty. i remember her warmth. i remember her coldness. i remember her horror. i remember her in every light. flickering dim ones and blinding bright ones.

and i know i’d do it all again if another six shooter of love, with only one round in its cylinders, found its way into these long scarred tattooed fingers.*

*

*my mobile phone’s fished from the pocket of skin tight levi’s and i search for a replica.

something i can grasp and gasp onto through this night. it’s dark enough in my mind and on these avenues to get black lung from a breath of after-dusk air.

even though the street lights shine onto my five o clock shadow i can’t feel them anymore, but i will feel something with someone.

desperation can be a wild sexy beast. especially in a city that can’t lower its lids.*

*

*he’s a pretty man, looking much younger than his years. i assume the soul that might reside inside him matches his youthful looks.

jonathan young.

a makeup artist i met by chance in the waiting room of her rehab clinic midtown, on the east side.

i went there to support her. him and i exchanged cards after a pleasant chat. gorgeous blonde hair, feminine mannerisms, and pretty features caught my eye.*

*i text him at this inappropriate hour to see if he’d like a cup of coffee. i love gay guys.  they are always ready to get a cup of coffee.

…as the kids call it these days.*

*

*”hey you. >=)”

“hey handsome devil. :-) what’s up?”

“nothing just wandering around downtown. wanted to know if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee. ;-)”

“i’d love to but i’m in for the night and live in harlem. you could come up here. i don’t have any coffee but i have something 5000 times better.”

“sounds interesting. :-) i’m close to the train at union square.”

“oh great. i’m on 127th between park and lex. take the 5 train uptown a few stops to 125th. the night can go wherever you want. ;-)”

“i’ll text when i get off the train.”*

*

*the neighborhood’s desolate except for blatant crack spots every two blocks. one is right on his corner. it’s staffed by a fat look-out in his 40s, three teenagers from the neighborhood, and a silent og sitting high up on the building’s steps.

the people on the streets greet me with unusually friendly salutations for our city. even men who seem like they don’t often talk to strangers. a lot of what’s goods, what’s poppins, and ‘sups are thrown my way. even by those who aren’t peddling controlled substances.

i’m used to this when passing through the hood. 

a man who used to be famous once referred to my look as “80′s junky rock star.” it’s out of the norm here and people are welcoming the rough-around-the-edges novelty that happens to be me. despite the combination of the depth of the night and my white skin*

*

*jonathan young lives in a rooming flop house on 127th street. i text i’ve arrived from the front door.

a disheveled looking woman runs down the hallway steps as he lets me in. a large man wearing a gold rope necklace walks coolly down the steps behind her from the common restroom on the second floor.

i mind my own business and walk through the door with three locks into his room. 

the bed’s on fire and the room’s filled with smoke.

it takes a few minutes to put it out  and open all the appropriate doors and windows.

luckily there are no smoke detectors.*

*

*he apologizes profusely in the most charming manner i’ve seen in a while, and invites me to sit on the damaged bed with him. 

jonathan offers me a 4 loko- 22 ounces of candy flavored malt liquor. i decline.

a flash of her lightnings through my psyche and i agree after his second offer. it’s funny how little i’d missed the taste of alcohol in the five years i’d been free of drugs and alcohol previous to this first sip.*

*we speak candidly and flirt without restraint on his singed sheets. a connection is there.

he tells me he’s of lithuanian descent. i notice his arms have almost no hair.*

*

*time passes towards dawn and many verses of conversation are exchanged.

in our words jonathan shares the secret to his success as a seven-day-a-week hustler in nyc’s fashion industry- meth amphetamine

i’ve never seen it before. it’s more of a west coast and midwestern thing. except in small pocket’s of our city’s gay community. 

he offers me some. it looks like splintered quartz. i love pretty things, but hesitate anyway.

the ghost of her floats through my mind. as it does most moments of most days. i accept on his second offer. 

“it’s better when you smoke it,” he explains, and takes out a water pipe he uses to smoke the drug.

instead of water i see he’s it filled with pink fruit drink from the corner bodega.*

*and so it began.

mind-blowing sex. stealing. exposure to dark pornography. a return to hustling various things. the most intense one month relationship of my life. lying. brutal physical fights. the rise and fall of a small club kingdom. deals gone terribly wrong. my forgetting of her. loss of my friends, sanity, money, job, home, and even bicycle. the end of my will to write until now. 

it’s nearly been a year.*

*looking back from the end of the line with sobered eyes i blame no one.

not her. not jonathan. not even myself.

it’s simply the way the cards had to fall.

but unanswered questions haunt me.

why am i still here? why have i survived when so many i’ve known, who were better people than i, have fallen after less insanity? why have so many of the fires smoldered out, but my passion for her memory still burns like an inferno through my core?

i call upon him to answer to these questions. i challenge him to show up, if only to finally kill me after all his reaper’s attempts at seduction. i want to know why. in my heart i know he’s not coming.

i know the hard truth. the replies to my questions will come as my personal answer is lived. or they won’t at all. either way, i’ve got to keep putting one of these battered wing tips in front of the other. 

the angel of death is looking for action somewhere else, for now.*

 *

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you were the radical feminist who gave me the first blow job that ever made me come (on 247 starr street and wyckoff). – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-chloe-

*by someone finding freedom

one humbling experience at a time*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

 

*a dollar store fan

missing a blade

-

blows onto my skin

coated in a thin layer of sweat

-

clothed only in powder blue boxer shorts

covered with a print of cowboys and indians

-

and an unfiltered camel burns in these long digits

decorated with cut scars and tattoos

-

before being put out into an old coffee mug

resting on a small table

adorned with black and bronze mosaic tiles

-

while i remember*

 

*

 

*she lives uptown

and loved her bicycle

-

saying it gave her freedom from our city’s

subterranean network of grinding metal

and tired faces

-

freedom from its control of her time

and stolen moments from the streets*

 

*

 

*someone likely pursuing

powder and liquid relief from reality

-

relieved her of it

with a pair of bolt cutters

and a relaxed conscience

-

she’s petit

so her bicycle was pint-sized

-

pink

-

and like a child’s

had streamers coming from the handlebars*

 

*

 

*she’s taken the subway to see me in brooklyn

and we walk along an empty north 8th street

as the sun drops

-

towards my idea of a romantic evening

on the water at east river state park

-

the sky breathes an easy summer breeze on us

-

and she tells me more about grieving chloe,

the name she’d given the pink bicycle

-

moments before we see it

chained to the gate of a building

near the corner of berry street*

 

*

 

*”whoever lives here stole my bike”

-

she says in wide-eyed shock

in a normal speaking tone

-

“lucky you”

-

i respond

drawing a trouble-filled smile

-

her expression shuffles into irritation

-

“how do you figure that”

-

“i know a decent booster

let me call him

-

if he’s free

chloe will be yours again

in a half hour

-

if he isn’t

you’ll have your freedom from the m.t.a.

back by midnight

-

because i have a decent hack saw

four blocks away

in my roomie’s toolbox”

-

her irritation morphs to surprise

-

“that’s illegal

you could get in trouble”

-

i don’t respond

and watch her face go contemplative

-

she continues

“i guess this is this person’s karma though”

-

“probably not”

-

i answer

-

“what do you mean”

-

“it’s the booster’s and the fence’s karma

this person was just dumb enough to buy a stolen bike

-

rich girls in williamsburg

with apartments on the north side

-

aren’t cutting bicycle locks uptown

to pay rent”

-

surprise shifts to sadness

-

“don’t call your friend

don’t come back here later

and don’t ever mention this again”

-

“what”

-

i respond

-

“i’m not going to inflict

the pain i felt losing chloe

on someone else”

-

“bullshit

you’re getting your bike back”

-

now she’s angry

-

“no i’m not

you’re not doing shit

and i don’t want to hear about this again”

-

my ego absorbs the blows

and i keep my mouth shut

-

before we walk

the last two blocks to the park

in awkward silence.*

 

*

 

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*


you didn’t get upset when i fought with the waiter for not letting me smoke my electronic cigarette at beco (on 45 richardson st. between union and lorimer). – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-a love letter-

*by someone who’s heard,

“even if doesn’t work out, it’s just another way of it working out.”*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*my dearest love *****…*

*

*i told you once that i spent three years of my adolescence in confinement. a few days before my birthday i was sent away. my birthday is in december so it was right before christmas.

the beginning of those three years i spent in a boot camp for juvenile delinquents. it was in the desert in idaho. we didn’t have tents or real food, and had to hike with very heavy backpacks miles and miles a day.

i tried to escape.

while i was lost in the frozen desert (it was winter) with no cold weather gear to speak of, no compass, and no way to find help i wandered. i wandered all day and night. soon, i realized help would not find me. thick fog was everywhere, which is why helicopters couldn’t be used to find me. i gave up on being rescued.

i realized i was going to die. i started to take off my clothes so i wouldn’t freeze to death slowly.

once i’d removed most of my coats and sweaters i laid down on the desert floor. it was in that moment i saw headlights through the fog. it was a rescue jeep.

the people in the jeep were surprised i was alive and took me to a medical compound. they were kind to me, and gave me chocolates and dorritos.

then they sent me back. two more years or reformatories came after that, but i lived. i survived.*

*

 

******, you are the jeep that came through the fog in the frozen desert that was my life.*

*

*years did pass. hard years.

i was the youngest in the homes for bad children. making friends was difficult. no one loved me or took care of me besides myself, and i could only do the latter because i hated myself. my family could only see me a handful of times a year.

i had to fight all the time and endure abuses. i never understood why i deserved what was happening to me. every morning i would wake up in my bed at the reformatory and realize i wasn’t home. every night i would pray i would die in my sleep.

eventually, i was selected to go on a trip with the other bad children. it was going to be the first real trip i’d taken in years. it was to bryce canyon. it is the most sublime place on earth.

when the setting sun hit the natural red rock of the canyon it changed my life. i watched it and was able to forget the years of pain and loneliness. i knew i wanted to enjoy it in a way that would make it even more memorable.

at the time i was dating my first girlfriend. her name was ******* *******. she was four years older than me, had just turned eighteen, and was the daughter of an internationally renowned chicago brain surgeon. she wasn’t very smart, but she was pretty and loved me. she said i was sweet and beautiful, and that i made her feel special and loved. she said this was more than enough to forget my age.

i knew how to make the sunset even more moving. i wanted to smoke a marlboro red (my brand too when i smoked) with her, watch the sun set, and kiss.

we did. it was almost the most beautiful moment of my life.*

*

******, you are my marlboro red and sunset, and you turned my poorly insulated loft filled with fellow weirdos into bryce canyon.*

*

*someone snitched on us for smoking. we were caught. we were punished. i lost everything, including my upcoming release date.

as one of my consequences they put me in a huge field in the back of the housing units. (the reformatory was in utah.) it was filled with acres of tall tough desert grass.

they stationed a guard and gave me a hand scythe. then they told me to start cutting, and not to stop until sunset. it was noon at the time.

i cut the grass with the scythe for hours. i was refused water. it was a hot summer day. i dehydrated badly and started to hallucinate. still, i kept cutting.

then i had the most beautiful moment of my life. an almost-fifteen-year-old me realized, looking up at the desert sun, that it was all worth it.*

*

******, this morning i realized it was worth it. no matter what happened or is going to happen. you gave me something no one has ever given me before, even if you didn’t know how to do it in a way i could consistently feel it.

you loved me, and i loved you, and i’ve never had that before. for that i will always be grateful.

i love you *****. thank you. i wish you all the best. no matter what i say or how angry and bitter i get i will always love you.*

*

*…your man,

frankie.*

*

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at avenue nightclub (on 116 10th ave and 17th st) the cherry of your cigarette showed me some light. – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-mummy-

*by someone looking to join the living*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i’ve always felt like a mummy wandering in the mist. other people are droplets of moisture hanging in the air. i grasp and grasp trying to dampen skin parched dry by a lifetime of isolation in my thoughts. sometimes i feel the coolness of other people’s compassion and kindness. 

most of the time i’m not aware enough to see my own skin absorbing enough to look human.*

*

*in my efforts to hydrate my form i’ve journeyed into a world where fog is the deepest but hardest to grasp. the nightclub. i use free alcohol as dry ice, creating a fog around me so deep my vision is obstructed but these lanky dry limbs feel more among red-blooded beings than ever before. i pour drinks for ever-shifting smokey forms around me, wrap my arms and lips around phantoms, and watch them disappear in instants.

i know what i’m doing. self-awareness avails me nothing. i’ve ventured so deep into the fog i can’t see a way out but long for one with desperation. looking for sunrises and roses in a place the sun never shines and the flowers are all plastic has taken my hope.

in this place without love or light i look deep into the darkness to see a firefly. it’s the cherry of a burning cigarette. her. the reason i’ve stuck around so long. in a city that’s given me no answers to questions like, “why,” i’ve given her the responsibility of my solution. a solution to the problem of myself.

on the balcony of avenue nightclub on 10th avenue and 17th street i watch her kissing another man on the club floor. the fog clears. i feel dry but free. i start thinking about an exit.*

*

*it’s passed three am. most of my beautiful people, and her- my answer, have gotten in cabs tipsy off the complimentary champagne, vodka, and tequila my employer’s provided. a girl i was infatuated with a while ago is the only person remaining on the balcony with me. i recline on leather-upholstered booth smoking an electronic cigarette and grasping the last bottle of free booze the club provided me.

she’s not my solution but looks like a bandaid. i stumble my tattooed fingers across her smooth face and down her long neck. i grip her slim waist and draw her close. i press my lips on hers and tell her she’s gorgeous. an image of her is one of my fondest memories in this nightclub.

i tell her about it, “once, on the club floor, i watched you dance. you had a red mohawk and a cut up t shirt. you swayed and closed your eyes dancing. i’ll always remember it. thank you.”

“what song,” she asks.

“something with kanye west and jay-z.”

she laughs, “niggas in paris?”

“no, something about driving through brooklyn and the south side of chicago. it had a bumping beat. watching you made me feel alive.”

we continue to kiss. i grip her with all my strength by her hip and neck. i know she’ll be gone soon.

she draws away.

“i feel guilty kissing you,” she admits.

i look into her living blue eyes and ask in a low tone, “why?”

“i know this means more to you than it does to me.”

i think for a moment. “it is what is is,” i respond, pausing before questioning, “why don’t you want me?”

she laughs. “because you’re a promoter. it’s your job to make me feel wanted. why would i want an animal like that?”

“i understand. you know i don’t want to be a promoter right? i think you know why i’m here. i don’t want to be what i am just like you don’t want to be what you are.”

“i’m young and dumb,” she smiles in response.

“so we are what we are,” i answer refrain for a few seconds of a thousand years then say, “i’m going home.”

she looks shocked and offended, “fine, go. who’s going to pour the drinks though? who’s going to host your people. won’t you get in trouble?”

“they’ll be fine. liquor will find them. as for getting in trouble- i do what i do. always have. for better or worse. i’ve chosen to represent chaos.”

i hand her my bottle and she dumps it into her rocks glass.

“you’re so weird, but you’re the most interesting person i’ve ever known.”

i head towards the door.*

*

*and so my career as a promoter ends.

i get in a cab back to brooklyn. when i get home i start drafting resignation letters from a new macbook-pro. my “vintage” (ancient) macbook was stolen by a party guest i let crash on my torn-up couch a month ago. 

i send them a week later.*

*

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on the bedford l stop subway stairs (on the corner of north 7th st and bedford ave) you asked me a question i couldn’t answer at the time. – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-sadness-

*by someone resolved

to climb out of this pothole*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*a pretty girl

with short hair

petit stature

and bright blue eyes

-

asked me once on the stairwell

of the subway ramp

on north 7th street and bedford avenue

-

why i was always sad

-

she didn’t know me from a hole in the wall

but had read my work

-

with a compassionate brushstroke

in her manner

she looked at me smiling

-

as someone would gaze

at a sick child

-

i didn’t have an answer

asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime

and heard her reply

-

“i’m sure we’ll see each other around”*

*

*i think about this

-

my sadness

-

and realize

the reason for it

-

fear

-

when one has known nothing else

even if it is a terrible state of being

-

this unknown is terrifying

-

terrifying enough to endure misery

-

and i see i have a choice

and have made it for myself

for a period of time disgusting to me*

*

*i think of this girl

-

bravely smiling at a man twice her size

bearing the marks of someone who’s been places he shouldn’t have

-

and consider myself a coward

-

if she can do this

why can’t i

-

i ask myself

-

and then i see fear

my devil

-

and decide to pull my pistol

for my last duel with a power 

not greater than myself.*

*

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you turned my poorly insulated loft (on 151 kent avenue between north 4th st and north 5th st) into a penthouse in chelsea. – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-savage-

*by someone who did the best he could*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*she’s my first assistant in a place of bright lights, devious dancing, and ill intentions. a night club. i need her to help me pack a table of drunk beautiful people to create a spectacle for not-so-beautiful people spending exorbitant amounts of money to drink around us. i’m a night club promoter and she’s my sub-host.

i chose her because her beauty is beyond describable. tall, thin, and powdered white angled features overtoned with an exotic ethnic twist. there’s this, and my biggest rival at the club has blacklisted her from his parties too. she’s a beautiful switchblade in my hand jabbing into his side.

i never asked her her age and won’t find out for some time to come. the driver’s license in her wallet says she’s twenty-one and from pennsylvania. i don’t care if it’s the truth or not. she’s enough.

her eyes are post-mortem. i can tell she’s had a hard life. this makes me feel deep affection for her immediately. she doesn’t speak much but when she does it’s loud, fast, and portraying a nervous persona i easily recognize. this endears her to me and makes me thirst for who she really is.

as we drink, dance, kiss, and serve our purpose at our employer’s club i don’t suspect my twenty-seven-year-old-new-york-born hustler self will fall in love with this beautiful nineteen-year-old from kentucky.*

*

*our first night hosting together goes well. we pack the table. we get our models, pretty girls, and gay men obliterated drunk and dancing on top of the tables. our employers are pleased. my rival, a tall thin gay man with a firm stranglehold on the promoting angle of the club is displeased. i see him whispering in the managers’ ears. i overhear bits of conversation passing the whispering duos to get more alcohol or request drink straws from the bus boys.

“he’s unstable…

“he’s an ex-convict…

“he has not morals and will sleep with anyone…

“he draws other promoter’s people to his parties and has no ethics…

“he’s ruthless…

“you should fire him.”

the manager’s look bored. they occasionally look into his contorting features hearing a voice sped to light speed by a mixture of cocaine and vodka waiting until he finishes. then they return to business they consider important.

i’m unbothered.

then he approaches her. i’m bothered. he puts his arm around her and gives her a kiss on the cheek. over the blaring hip hop and house music the club’s dj have chosen i hear him charming her.

“i have no problem with you…

“why would you join forces with this thuggish scum…

“let’s hang out soon…”

she looks happy and thrilled. i’m jealous. i’m going to lose her. i decide to handle this business after the party.*

*

*as we walk out of the night club at the night’s end i sweep an evil eye over my rival. he’s smiling from one side of his face to the other. he knows he’ll play the gossip and political angle of nightlife until i’m out of a job.

i tolerate gossip. i tolerate thievery. i tolerate most aspects of shit behavior some human beings put into action. however, i’m italian. please don’t touch my money or my woman.

his boyfriend walks sheepishly to the side of him. i tell him, “you better get your man in a cab and out of my sight. he’s not safe right now.”

my rival laughs and giggles with a maniacal fearlessness provided by narcotics and alcohol.

“don’t worry sweetie, he isn’t going to do shit. even this baboon knows i run shit around here.”

he continues to walk with a group of people down 10th avenue towards a club down the street to an after party. he thinks he’s safe in his group. he’s wrong. i chase him. none of his friends follow us to help.

he flails his arms running down a deserted 10th avenue. he screams, “he’s crazy! call the police. he’s trying to assault me.”

he’s right. with his face pressed against the hood of a car outside a gas station and convenience store i give him a harsh lesson on messing with a man’s income and woman.*

*

*she misses the action. just hears all the screaming. i’m walking briskly away from the scene of the unpleasantry.

“what happened,” she asks in a frightened tone.

“i handled business,” i reply in a soft voice, “let’s hail a cab. the cops are on their way.”

she looks terrified but follows me to the corner of 9th ave and 13th st to get in a cab. we hail one and i slump low in the seat before giving my brooklyn address.

“baby,” i say calmly, “i chased him to talk to him and he fell down drunk and high. that’s the story. understand?”

she nods.

a line of police cars with sirens seizuring head towards the scene of the unfortunate incident. we pull away to brooklyn.*

*

*we have sex. she doesn’t seem fully present as we fuck. this disturbs me. still, i’m fascinated with her. i want to know her story. i want to take care of her. i don’t know it yet, but i want to love her. i sense my pain behind her vacant eyes. her pupils are often pinpricks. i know what this means- heroin. i try to turn off my emotions when i see it. someone so sublime deserves better.

she lives in greenpoint with two gay men. her mattress is on the floor without a frame. the two men are cruel to her. they’re active drug addicts and leave notes knived to her door expressing displeasure with roommate behavior they dislike. they keep the dishes hidden in their rooms so she can’t use them. whenever i leave her place all i can think about is how i can save her from herself.*

*

*i don’t have much money but the clubs pay me ok. one of my greatest pleasures is taking her out to eat. my favorite place to take her is the cubana social club on n6th street and berry street. sometimes during our meals she’ll answer her carefully passworded cell phone. an older man’s voice is audible through the turned up speaker. she keeps her responses brief and cold while making plans to meet him.

i know it’s her sugar daddy. she’ll lie about it for quite some time. it crushes my insides into broken glass. i want something better for her. after the third or fourth time i witness these calls i decide it’s time she moves in with me. she has to survive in this city but i can’t leave her with certain animals of our concrete jungle. i decide i’m the better of two evils*

*

*she moves in and we start something wonderful. i hold her and kiss her. we begin telling each other our love for one another. she starts smiling. she starts being there during sex. she finds a job. our lives intertwine and she becomes more beautiful every day. i force her to leave heroin and her sugar daddy through tears and fight and strife.

one night she tells me, “i’ve never felt loved before. ever since i was a little girl. you’re the first person to make me feel loved. i used to hug a pillow when i was young hoping some day a man would hold me and love me. you’re that man. thank you so much.”

i shed tears of joy silently as she drifts to sleep next to me. i’ve never been happy before.*

*

*i’m never able to trust her. the history of our early relationship made it impossible for me. i never know whether she wants me or just needs me. i’m jealous when she talks to other men. i’m constantly paranoid her sugar daddy or someone similar will come back into the picture. i work six nights a week and get little sleep. the only moments i savor are the ones with her. holding her. watching movies with her. 

i start losing my mind. 

italo svevo said in zeno’s conscience the two biggest indicators of love are jealousy and obsession. our relationship proves this correct. i watch her read culture blogs and correspond with friends on facebook. paranoia overwhelms me each time i see this her text on her phone. love, lack of sleep, and an uncontrollable killer instinct to protect her from the world she’s left drive me insane.*

*

*she leaves me. i have a nervous breakdown. the sky burns. my insides rot.*

*

*(ALREADY CONTINUED, prequel: “-musician-”

http://boroughoflostboys.com/2012/04/01/musician/)

*

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you were kind enough to give me water and let me use the bathroom when i was freaking out on acid at berry park (on 4 berry st and nassau ave) 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-identity crisis-

*by someone who walks by himself for a reason*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*like a maladjusted teenager

orbiting reality, exploded on angel dust

i’ve tried to pulverize the image

of who i might be

-

or like a thorough crook

strung out on the acquisition of wealth

-

hide the origins of who i am

-

laundering my identity

through a series of intermediaries

-

but after a lifetime of fighting and hiding

i’ve grown weary

-

and can no longer afford the luxury of fear

-

i’ve come to face the mirror of who i’ve been

in hopes of finding brutal clarity

on who i am

-

there will be no flinching

as i stare at the past

to find my present

-

i stand here

by myself

armed with exhaustion and desperation

-

to catalogue some of the stops

on my subway ride

through this human’s experience*

*

*the kid on the street

-

with nothing to lose

convinced there’s nothing to gain

-

you don’t know what’s hidden in my pockets

that may or may not motivate you

to stop running your mouth

-

or why i’m so dedicated

to stop you from vocalizing your opinions

-

but you do know i’ll try to use it

because that’s what i do*

*

*the punk rocker

-

swearing allegiance to an army

that guarantees i won’t be negotiated for

after legions of bottles, glue tubes, and syringes

-

overtake

-

aligning with this religion

that will never identify itself as one

-

in beds, bathrooms, and train cars

making despondent love

-

to its hazy mistresses wearing corresponding uniforms

of torn fish-nets and black eyeliner

-

and walking to the beat of sloppy drums

and inconsistent power chords

under a black flag

-

reeking of body odor*

*

*the tough guy

-

banging to the sound of years combusting

respecting alleyways and avenues

that aren’t familiar with this concept

-

loyal to a crew of ever shifting faces

raising arms ending with clenched fists

covering in r.i.p. tattoos

-

you know

when things go too far south between us

for either of us to fly home for the spring

-

i’ll be there on time

with minions wearing skin functioning as masks

-

and it won’t be to talk*

*

*the fuck star

-

twisting my face

into disingenuous expressions of ecstasy

-

giving the camera my most personal moments

like a lukewarm handshake

because i’ve been blessed

-

with these flexible morals

and big cock

-

numbing reservations with complimentary

powders and liquids

-

to soldier through the next filming

-

under the impression

i’m providing a valuable service

and the one really in control*

*

*the junky mercenary

-

following whoever’s money

to the next fix

-

as my liver dies

and the crooks of my arms

bruise and abscess

-

rallying behind the next opportunity

to fight, fuck, or steal

-

not because there’s pleasure in it anymore

but because there hasn’t been another option

for quite some time

-

i can’t remember

what i’m trying to forget at this point but

-

hitting the snooze button on my emotions

has taken priority over the possibility

for real friends

a loving family

and the hope to live to my next birthday*

*

*the imprisoned criminal in the free world

-

who won’t give up bondage

watching people who have a liberty

i believe i’ve taken from myself permanently

-

unaware the keys to my cuffs

lay in my lap*

*

*a man who’s seen more than i should’ve

-

because i’ve seen too little

of things in front of my eyes all along

-

a lost boy who sees into a tarry darkness

filled with funhouse mirrors*

*

*the poet

-

walking the street in my own shadows

unable to move passed things that need to be

but recording them so others will

-

in hopes of proving i’m not a monster

to the city around me

-

but more importantly, myself*

*

*the enlightened madman

-

who stands behind convictions

i won’t surrender

-

even after laying my own world to waste*

*

*the life force of the rager

-

making the superficially beautiful smile

professionally

-

pouring drink after drink after drink

to people who surrender some autonomy

-

to me, a man they don’t know

but don’t feel threatened by

-

because others don’t

i have a decent dance move or two

and am not a bad kisser*

*

*i have been these things

among many others

-

maybe still am

-

but after poring over these reflections

they haven’t ceased to exist

just ceased to frighten

-

because while i don’t desire to turn my back

to the days ahead

to watch yesterday try to run up on me

-

i no longer feel compelled to lock my head forward

to avoid the vision

-

giving up this tug-of-war

makes things easier on my neck in the moment

-

and makes walking into tomorrow less difficult.*

*

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when i get to pick the restaurant you’re frustrated i always choose the cubana social on 70 north 6th st (between wythe and kent). – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-musician-

*by someone who’s heard

the music plays on*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*most in new york city have an opinion about williamsburg, brooklyn.

there are those who hate the locale, some who love it, and others who don’t care enough to voice thoughts about it.

i’ve found those harboring resentment do so because they don’t live here. this section of the wildest sexiest beast of a city on the globe (populated almost exclusively by the young, attractive, artistic, intelligent, and wealthy) is a gigantic bullsesye for negative attention. these individuals are interesting to me.

people who feel the need to lie to themselves about the roots of their disdains remind me of me. they make me uncomfortable. more often than not i engage them with a ruthless drive to instill clarity.

experience has revealed those who love it generally feel this way because the smoke and mirrors of “hip” and “cool” have seduced them to a point where snarky remarks and jealous avoidance is easily resisted. these individuals aren’t interesting to me.

their delusion is beautiful, in its own way, and i don’t feel compelled to dispel it.

those that are indifferent have dull opinions. they don’t interest me either.

they are comfortable enough inside their own flesh that they don’t feel the need to conjure disingenuous beliefs to compensate for insecurity. there’s no reason to engage them in debate.

i put myself, after desperately trying to do the opposite, outside these three groups. i do my best to just exist here and study what i’ve been struggling to understand my whole life- other human beings.*

*

*there’s a sadness saturating the five foot five bodega man who runs the store on the corner of north 6th street and kent avenue one block from my williamsburg loft. his rotund frame moves through the few narrow aisles, and behind his counter with a slow despair i detected early in our acquaintanceship.

his soft-spoken voice carries the marks of his homeland of yemen. it floats passed his lips to express only what he needs to when he needs to because he needs to. he reminds me of me.

he makes me uncomfortable.*

*

*she’s gorgeous and she’s mine.

her skin’s snow white, and her body is tall and thin. it moves with a grace only the unconsciously extraordinary can. when looking at her statuesque features i feel like i might’ve cheated lady luck for us to come to possess each other. she articulates her inner beauty and i remember i did.

when i go to his bodega every day to buy her her favorite bagel sandwich (without being asked) i know i’m not doing it because i should or can. i’m doing it because i want and need to.

when buying things for herself sometimes she’s with me and sometimes she’s alone. it’s become clear whether she’s with me or alone he expresses that he sees the same things in her i do. he throws words like “sexy,” “wonderful,” and “lovely” across the counter whether i’m there or not.

i don’t like this.

a man can’t keep someone like her as a pet or prisoner. the beautiful go where they want when they want if they want, because they can. i know this, and i’m sure if i force her to figure it out she will too. with expedience.

i decide to mind my own business and let her deal with it in her own way, if she wants to deal with it.

every time he asks me where she is (with a wall of cigarettes and $10+ items as his backdrop) i feel my fists beginning to clench. it’s a good thing i’m not young in my mind anymore- the son-of-a-bitch would take a nap on his bodega floor after each reference.*

*

*my ben and jerry’s purchases at his bodega are at an all time high.

she’s decided to walk out of my life and has bought a one-way amtrak ticket out of town. i’ve spent the entire day staring at the empty space in our clothes rack where her tailored jackets and body-gripping button-ups used to be.

she’s coming back tomorrow to get her boxed up things out of the common space.

my eyes spike continuous tears down the unshaven skin of my face. she hasn’t always been kind to me, but the void she’ll leave (represented by the missing clothes) is more than i can bear.

it’s time for a number nineteen from his bodega. a “how do you do.” chicken cutlet, beef bacon (islamic storeowners), lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion, and honey mustard. a space heater for a chilly soul.*

*

*his unshaven face (whose growth is more substantial than mine) smiles and asks how i am in a routine tone.

“i’m getting by,” i reply.

he laughs lightly and changes the subject, “where is your friend? you know who i’m speaking of. the sexy one.”

today i’m not going to gloss passed this.

“it makes her and i uncomfortable when you flirt with her. it’s probably part of the reason she doesn’t come by here a lot anymore,” i respond, “it’s fucking inappropriate.”

he falters in himself, surprised. i’m one of his store’s best customers. i’m there multiple times a day getting things for myself and six roommates. he knows this and grants special prices on some items, a line of credit, and access to less-than-legal services the bodega can provide. i’m also six foot four, covered in tattoos, have significant muscle mass, and mentioned in passing i grew up hard.

he’s watching his step as we both suffer in uncomfortable silence.

“i’m sorry. i didn’t know you didn’t like when i play with her.”

i answer, “when you flirt with her. especially in front of me. you know she’s my girlfriend.”

i don’t feel compelled to tell him we’re now severed from each other, but he understands the history leading to this exchange. his expression is defeated and he isn’t maintaining eye contact anymore.

“i’m sorry,” he concludes quieter than usual.

i have no desire to beat this man down, emotionally or physically. i try to resolve this awkwardness i’ve created.

“it’s ok. it’s really not a big deal. i’m a lot more upset about things outside this store. there’s a lot going in my mind. don’t worry about it.”

he nods in unsure understanding. i pay for my sandwich, some electronic cigarette refills, and a bagel sandwich to give her for her trip tomorrow. as i turn towards the door he breathes, “i like your writing.”

i stop still and turn around. this is unexpected- he’s pretty far outside my usual demographic. i answer, “thank you for reading it. sincerely,” and wait for him to talk.

“you know i used to be artist too. long time ago. played music.”

“what instrument,” i answer.

“sitar,” and our silence resumes.

a few moments pass in his empty place of business before i ask, “why don’t you play anymore?”

“war. the south of my country, where i’m from, got fucked up ten years ago. i came here and started running stores. now i am old. i don’t have it anymore.”

“do you know the expression ‘cop out?’”

he nods with an expression of shame.

“you just told me a tragic story. it’s the kind of bullshit i write about. but the real tragedy isn’t the one you think. it’s that you’ve given up. i think you should start practicing.”

i can tell he’s really listening, but he doesn’t feel compelled to respond.

“have a good day sammie,” i say and offer my hand.

he grips it and responds, “you too frankie.”*

*

*heading back to what used to be “our room” in my raw loft on kent avenue and north 5th street i think about sammie. then i think about myself. an epiphany burns bright in my mind as my feet tread the sidewalk- we’re going to be ok.

if we want to be.*

*

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we never paid our open container tickets from drinking in tompkins square park when we were seventeen, and were arrested eight years later on old warrants. – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-brawl-

(2nd part to “-dice-”)

*by someone who doesn’t know

if he’s won more fights than he’s lost*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the street fight has stopped being romantic for me.

there was a time i’d drain a pint bottle to its last cheap drop. it’d dull my mind to sharpen principles of streets that don’t have any. then i’d prepare.

everyone has a different ritual getting ready for work. two bic lighters would find their way into my pockets. (one gripped in each fist lands blows with twice the consequence.) a heavy buck knife would tuck itself into the back pocket of my levi’s. (plan b.) laces would pull steel toe doc martens tight around my feet and ankles. (they’re appropriate for certain kinds of dancing.)

the driver seat of an old cadillac el dorado would fill with my body, and it’d drive me towards another haunting memory. a cool feeling of calm would sweep through me during the ride.

looking back from the last stop i know why. i found relief in the possibility i’d found an adversary who could finish a job i didn’t have the courage to complete.

during my time behind balled fists i got in a few scraps. sometimes over women. sometimes about money. sometimes strangers. sometimes friends. there was only one common denominator through it all- me.

during my existence i’ve looked down on bleeding boys and men, and i’ve felt my own crimson soak into concrete. each time the feeling was the same. it never satisfied. i never came across an opponent who could give me the brawl i wanted.

now, after unclenching my fists and putting down my weapons, i’ve found him.*

*

*i can’t remember if he called me out, or me him. doesn’t matter. i’ve come to face him.

our meeting place is east river state park in brooklyn, two blocks from the converted factory i’ve lived in for some time. him and i used to play dice here.

it’s been dark for a while. in fact, i can’t remember feeling daylight.

whether it be for friend, foe, or lover i pride myself on showing up, and on time. sometimes i fall short, like tonight.

i’m late.*

*

*sitting on a large piece of driftwood he waits by the water.

he’s staring over the east river towards the island of broken promises. i soak in his features- unusually tall, lanky, and covered in a patchwork of tattoos. his attire is appropriate- guinee-tee, levi’s, and a black bandanna wrapped around his brow in a headband. couldn’t have done better myself.

a familiar pain creeps through me looking at him. he stands and his voice floats through the air. it has a feathery softness.

“you’re late,” he says looking me into my eyes with a calm intensity. his eyes (and what should be the whites around them) are still black. i falter into seconds of silence.

“yes,” i respond.

the left corner of his mouth draws back into a half smile.

“afraid?”

there’s no point lying. not to him.

i whisper, “when am i not?”

his smirk fades, bringing his face back to its default expressionless state. he nods.

“at least you’re honest.”

after a pause i say, “i’m tired of talking.”

“you do so much of it already. a little more may not kill you.”

“what’s there to talk about,” i ask.

he answers, “the rules.”

“we don’t have those.”

he shakes his head slowly.

“we make our own.”

“i won’t be bound by our rules anymore,” i reply.

his crooked grin returns.

“you have since you could swing those hands at another person. you always will”

i stay quiet and eye him up and down. i know how he fights. we learned together.

he won’t talk anymore, use surprise, and come in faking a left jab following with a strong right straight. he’ll aim for my nose or throat. if he breaks my nose i’ll be blinded by tears and blood. if he connects with my throat i won’t be able to breathe. either way i’ll be done for the night. (or probably a lot longer.)

he doesn’t move and cuts into our silence after a long moment.

“ok. we’ll get to business. take out what you’re holding.”

he’s upping the ante already. fuck it. i’ve come this far.

i take my buck knife out of my jeans and open it. it’s gripped blade up in my fist. (i was taught amateurs hold it steel down.) the smirk chiseled onto his face disappears as he reaches into the back of his levis. he’s reaching high on his waist. i lose hope.

our pistol still has an evidence tag on it. i recognize it. a colt commander, .45 caliber. i’d only take it out of my top drawer on special occasions. it taught me there’s no bad situation a gun can’t make worse.

i whisper, “cool with the boys at the precinct now?”

“think i only played dice with you? there’s lots of other losers out there,” he responds.

he can hit a street sign twenty feet away holding it with one hand. we were never coordinated enough to be decent at sports, but are sure-shots with a pistol. we’re only standing, slightly slouched, seven or eight feet apart. i stare into his black eyes.

i wait for him to raise the piece of metal. this is it.

he presses the release on the magazine, it falls to his feet, and he snaps back the slide. a hallow point flies out of the chamber hitting the sandy ground without noise.

his smile returns and his arm goes to work. the colt’s rocketed into the east river. the throw is impressive. it flies too far to see a splash in the darkness.

he turns back to face me.

“come at me,” he says in a full speaking voice.

knife at my side, i gaze in disbelief. he knows he can’t win now. but he has.

he’s here for the same reason as me.

i think for a few moments of infinity as i look at him.

then, against everything i’ve learned about facing an enemy, i turn my back on the devil to walk the streets (home).*

*

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when it was warm out we had ice cream on the bench in front of tasti d-lite (on 193 bedford avenue and north 6th street) – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-a kent avenue super gets around to it-

*by someone getting more assertive

with his building’s management company*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*things are changing, but everything is the same.

she still smiles with goofy sexiness. her eyes are still so breath-taking i can’t maintain eye-contact when we speak. her body, even when clothed in a dirty hoodie and loose sweat-pants, still helps me feel ashamed of my thoughts (when i lose consciousness of my staring).

i sit with her in her bedroom.

there’s three or four feet between us. she speaks for over an hour. i genuinely listen, not saying much- something unusual for a man like me. intermittently i interject relevant anecdotes from my life. she doesn’t seem concerned, shifting the conversation back to her friends, ideas, assessments, life.

i’m not offended. i listen and am present (kindof, sort of, maybe, i hope).

i know my favorite lie. it’s a pair of blinders blocking most things from sight. not now though. right now a crystalline probably-never looks like a sink with a blocked drain inside my ribs. it’s overflowing into my mind.

her appearance is at the front of my consciousness (sometimes it overpowers my ability to focus on her words) along with paranoia my eyes will leak the beautiful hopelessness i’m feeling into her bedroom. it already comes down the walls of apartments of everyone close to me in torrents.

i know if i flood this room she might pity me, and tell me she feels strongly about me too, as a friend. there’s little doubt this pulses quietly through her mind every once and a while, but if it comes off the tongue inside her face, a face that flashes lingering lightning through my thoughts, it’ll sound like rusty razors tornado-ing through my ears.

the streets near the north brooklyn waterfront aren’t accepting apologies from anyone this frozen january night. all the pretty ones, along with those turning shadowy eyes to sunless heavens for answers, are hidden indoors.

like four angels with touches of dirt on their faces, my neighbors move around a muraled loft needing more insulation. they speak, smile, and laugh without deliberateness, as the truly beautiful do.

i don’t have a view of a moonless ceiling of our cityscape at the moment. i move to the common space, listen, watch, and dance to songs of crossed over men with vibrant souls.

i leave the room for a moment and hear them from the bathroom.

“she treats men that fall in love with her terribly. he sleeps on the couch here waiting for her to fall in love with him. she tells him ‘i have a boyfriend’ and he keeps dying inside, pathetically hopeful.”

laughter echoes. i zip my pants, mouth ajar, skin colorless.

i take a long moment, put pieces of myself back in place, and reclaim a seat on the dingy greenish-gold velour cushions of an old couch i’ve come to love too. i start listening to her again. intermittently i interject relevant anecdotes from my life. she doesn’t seem concerned, shifting the conversation back to her friends, ideas, assessments, life. i’m not offended.

i sit listening and wrestle with my eyes. it’s an easier fight. they’ve become weaker than an old man’s.

the stopped-up sink in my ribs, slowly, begins to drain.*

*

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you took me as your plus one to an upscale event at the guggenheim museum (at 1071 5th avenue and 88th street) – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-the world is yours-

*by someone who doesn’t need to take

what’s already his*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the radio’s off

and old tires spin

-

with worn ease and comfort

as her and i glide east

on the brooklyn queens expressway

-

in a weathered mini-van

she’s shuttled me around in

since my childhood

-

a clear night sharpens my affection for her

and the city glistening across the east river

i’m watching through the passenger window

-

i look at her

-

while she massages the road with

her careful green eyes

-

and turn my own back to the skyline

i breathe slow and deep

before whispering

-

“it’s mine”

she doesn’t respond right away

or turn her gaze

from the lanes of the bqe

-

the wrinkled skin

on her still pretty face

shifts to grace me with a smile

-

before answering

-

“i know

that’s how everyone

who loves it should feel”

 -

i think about this for a moment

and maintain our silence

 -

moving my left hand

over her right

 -

gripping the scratched steering wheel.*

*

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you kissed a guy for the first time at hotel chantelle (at 92-94 ludlow street and delancey) – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-predator-

*by a savage*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*she almost makes being a junky look good.

the skin on her face is ghostly and marble-esque. i love touching it. a girlish smile is usually set into it. looking into her sapphire eyes i see my own pain and know the expression is disingenuous.

this helps me like her more.

hair falling out of a loose beanie is greasy but compliments the drug addict chic permeating her aesthetic. looking at her i think calvin klein himself couldn’t create a better image.

i’m disgusted with myself for being so attracted to it.*

*

*we’ve made out a few times in crowded night clubs but that doesn’t mean much- she’s a lesbian, or tells me she is.

when someone claims they’re straight or gay i usually disregard it. after last call i’ve seen homecoming kings go home with class queens too many times. i’ve seen dread-locked liberal arts commandos get in cabs with pretty men wearing bridge and tunnel uniforms more than once too.

someone’s sexuality always stays a question mark to me, but something i know for sure is i want her- wrong or right.*

*

*she’s kicking and knows i know what it’s like.

i’m just a man, but am aware if i stay with my norm of giving into animalistic urges she’ll never forgive me a few stops down the line. that’s just the surface of the glacier- i’ll never forgive myself either, and there’s no ignoring my psyche’s text messages.

i’ve been invited to watch “law and order” at her place this cold saturday night. my thought process is far from pure while i get dressed. i try to bleach my intentions for the occasion.*

*

*the wind sinks its teeth into me as i ride my bike to her place in bushwick.*

*

*255 mckibbin street, my destination.

the mckibbin lofts- hipster mecca, bed bug haven, and a good place for a sleepless night listening to college students vomit in the hallway. i’ve always thrived off chaos.

i feel right at home.*

*

*her hug makes me feel like a soldier coming home from war- disarmed. i don’t miss the arsenal of defense mechanisms i brandish in the street. the default smile shines from pretty features. she’s tall too. i don’t have to bend to get my arms around her.

she’s in her third day of withdrawal from a not-so-heavy heroin habit. she’s wrapped in a few blankets inside the already warm loft, but seems fine otherwise.

we watch “law and order svu” for an hour. detective stabler twists himself into knots serving justice to our city’s sexual predators. oh the irony.

the sheen white curtains covering the wall of windows behind the tv remind me of wedding veils.*

*

*we’re bored and i feel tension. i storm my brain for a solution.

i throw out, “want to go to a strip club?”

“i’m not going to manhattan to spend twenty bucks on a cover and another on a two drink minimum. especially while i’m dope sick.”

“there’s one a few blocks from here.”

she laughs.

“you want to take me to a ghetto strip club in bushwick?”

“yes,” i answer.

still grinning she picks up her iphone.

“i’m not walking in this shit. we’re splitting a car.”*

*

*the bouncer at pumps on the corner of metropolitan and grand frisks me for weapons and searches her bag. we sit at the bar. i buy us redbulls and take out my electronic cigarette.

“you can’t smoke in here,” a cocktail waitress tells me in an aggressive tone.

i show her the e smoke and reply, “it’s just water vapor and nicotine.”

“bet you think you’re pretty fucking cool,” she answers.

i don’t respond and put fifteen singles on the bar. it seems like an appropriate budget.*

*

*we watch the girls move up and down the poles.

turns out we have similar taste in women. riley is our favorite- a tattooed girl with small breasts. doesn’t have the best game dancing but is endearing with words.

the working girl asks, “either of you sexy kids want a dance?”

i can’t afford to be here but that didn’t stop me from coming. explaining this isn’t appealing.

“baby, i’m sorry. i’m gay,” i explain into hustling eyes.

“awww sugar, it’s ok. so am i,” riley smiles turning to her, “how about you pretty lady? you gay too?”

i watch a hand creep onto a thigh.

she diverts from riley’s question to ask me, “should i tell her?”

“sure,” i reply, “considering our environment i’m sure it won’t shock.”

“i’m kicking dope. that kind of fun is the last thing on my mind.”

riley understands, offers kind words, and moves on to a desperate looking guy a few bar stools down.*

*

*after we leave no cab will stop for us. we walk the fifteen blocks back to her place.*

*

*i ask if i should crash on the couch or in her room.

“you can come up with me if you want.”

i’m losing control. i try to steady my hand to ease the throttle of my hedonism back.*

*

*the bedroom of her ceiling isn’t high enough for either of us to stand straight up. clothes hang on a pipe running through the center of the room. there’s not much here besides them, a bed, nightstand, and some guitars.

she strips down to her underwear and gets under the covers. i stay fully dressed and join her. we stare at the ceiling talking about our trials and tribulations. something else is on my mind.

fuck it.

i get on top of her and kiss her neck. then her lips. she’s into it. having a conscience is inconvenient in moments like this. i say aloud, “i’m taking advantage of you.”

her smile hasn’t faded a shade. she whispers, “yeah. you couldn’t find someone in a weaker place.”

i climb off and apologize. we resume our conversation.

minutes pass and i ask what’s the most uncomfortable part of her withdrawal.

“the muscles in my back.”

“want a massage?”

“please,” she replies.

after twenty minutes she thanks me.

“i think i’ll sleep tonight now. you’re damn good with your hands.”

i’m grateful i wasn’t weak enough to show her how good.

we hold hands and drift towards unconsciousness.*

*

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you could move at the house of yes (on 342 maujer street between morgan and watersby) – 27 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-technical-

*by someone terrible at calculations*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i like people with technical jobs.

engineers, architects, programmers, designers. they know how to get out of their heads, or were never there to begin with. they can focus on things other than themselves.

they have different eyes than me and those like me.

intensity is an addiction of mine. gripping someone fiercely. forgetting myself and those around me. losing sight of a world that watches me a lot less than i think. they know it isn’t. if it does they usually aren’t too concerned.

artists are high maintenance and mirror my laundry list of character defects. even a narcissist can tire of looking at himself.*

*

*having been ground into hamburger enough by the young and beautiful i’ve vowed to avoid those under twenty-one.

i found her on facebook in a creepy search for another way to create trouble for myself. she’s twenty-two and looks like a high school student. being a pervert, i like this. after she tells me she’s an architecture student i express interest in hanging out.

she’s down.*

*

*we sit on her bed in a park avenue apartment.

the plasma screen tv on her dresser intimidates me. cypress hill flows with clear precision from speakers of a thousand dollar stereo. the place smells like someone else’s money. i don’t judge- this place is a break from my heatless loft in brooklyn.

i touch the perfect skin on her face and tell her it’s beautiful. she laughs disingenuously.

“thank you,” she responds.

“i like your awkward laugh,” i continue.

“shut up,” she says with a nervous smile.*

*

*i also promised myself i’d never smoke cigarettes again.

when i commit to a negative behavior it’s never half-assed. i’d have to smoke at least a pack a day. it’s hard to find cigarettes in new york city for less than ten bucks a pack. that’s not my scene.

since i can’t go all the way i decided on foreplay. i started smoking electronic cigarettes.

they’re like mini hookahs. for twenty dollars you get an e cigarette, charger, and two flavored nicotine cartridges. refill packages of five are ten dollars a piece. each refill is the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes. this works with my financial restraints.

i ask if she minds if i charge my cigarette.

this strikes her as strange. an addiction is an addiction. i ignore her reaction and start charging my cigarette in the usb port of an open macbook pro on her down comforter.

she asks if i smoke weed.

“no, i fly into a paranoid psychosis. there’s too much chaos in my mind for me to handle it. don’t mind if you do though.”

“weird. want some vodka?”

“no, it turns me into a scum bag.”

she laughs.

“yeah? what would make you say that?”

“i’d drink the vodka, get a bottle, drink it, and start looking for cocaine. that’d only be the start.”

“oh, you’re a drug addict,” she sighs rolling her eyes.

“yes.”

she starts grinding weed in a heavy silver grinder. there’s a high-tech marijuana vaporizer on her bedstand. she punches buttons under its digital display. after setting up her apparatus she presses a “start button.” a large plastic bag fills with thc vapor. when it’s done she inhales it into her lungs through a mouthpiece.

watching her eyes i see a lot of her leave the bedroom. she gets up and starts dancing. i’m in the mood. i get up to move my hips.

“i’ve always wanted to dance with a devilish man from brooklyn,” she says.

“be careful what you wish for,” i respond.*

*

*she wants me to finish on her face. i oblige.*

*

*she texts on her phone across the bed not long after. she doesn’t seem like the cuddling type.

“my friend eddiy wants to hang out. i need to start getting ready.”

this is one of my least favorite situations- i’m being told to leave. i may be a slut but i’m not a prostitute.

“sure baby,” i say smirking. my expression’s insincere.

i put on my clothes and kiss her. she seems elsewhere.*

*

*as i head to the elevator she bursts from the door of her apartment and runs towards me. i’m excited.

“you took my phone!”

we have the same model blackberry.

“oh,” i begin quietly, “i’m sorry.”

she hands me mine. i dig into my jacket pocket and hand her’s back.*

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in the summer you can’t stand the smell of the streets around dark room (on 165 ludlow street and stanton) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-scents-

*by someone who stopped smoking

and doesn’t always enjoy a sense of smell*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*love doesn’t smell like

lubricated condoms opened by a stranger

-

or more credit card debt in soho

-

or a long run from yourself at the y

-

or well whiskey on a black, black(ed out) night

-

or awkwardness getting caught staring on the train

-

or the bodega guy knowing your favorite ben and jerry’s flavor

-

or forgetting there’s something else working dawn ’til dusk

-

or desperation to see someone else in that reflection*

*

*love smells like breathing deeply

alone, noiseless, ok

-

love smells like spooning with that reflection

eyes closed.*

*

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*


our shitty fakes got us into our first club when we were both fifteen at cbgb’s (on 315 bowery between east 1st and 2nd streets) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-job-

*by someone who pays his own rent*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*music soaks the walls of this professionally decorated room. it might convince your hips to grind against someone else’s. booths lining this strobe painted space are populated by gorgeous people. (including, but not limited to, legions of unusually tall women and androgynous gay men.) the drinks in their hands, and yours, are free. they’re poured by slender men and women smiling from one side of their faces to the other.

consciousness this is happening for a higher figure in an old man’s bank book might dampen the evening. it won’t improve your night to know everyone’s been coaxed here by a career scenester either. if you’re like most you want to believe this is spontaneous, it’s magic.

i sell that lie. i’m a night club promoter.

if you’re a beautiful stranger i’m kind to you. if you’re a well dressed stranger i’m kind to you. if you’re a beautiful well dressed stranger you might demand the brooklyn and manhattan bridges in snakeskin gift wrap. i’ll ask for a few hours.

have some complimentary drinks and dances in this leather-upholstered booth while the bottle waitresses uproot them. after some shots and drunken feels on my chest or ass maybe you’ll forget that request.*

*

*you ask how i do it, or why i do it. my answers vary depending on snap judgments.

if you exude vibrations of having had a good life you’ll hear i fell into it because i can talk to people- i know what they want to hear, have enticed a few with words, and like inspiring moments of joy.

then i illustrate my workplace in a deprecating but flattering light and offer a phone number exchange (if i suspect my bosses will like your aesthetic).

if there’s baggage in your eyes i tell some of my truth.

i’m a hustler. an acidic cocktail of circumstance and choice hasn’t allowed me to develop skills for sustaining functional relationships long term. to cope i’ve become an expert at puddle deep acquaintanceships en masse. they drive me deeper into quagmires of decadence and loneliness.

then i illustrate my workplace in a deprecating but flattering light and offer a phone number exchange (if i suspect my bosses will like your aesthetic).

if you smell like hopelessness i give the rest of my truth.

i need to know love but have given up. i’ve settled for illusion and delusion. you express adoration, insert a tongue passed my teeth in intoxicated frenzy, or insist on leaving with me. i believe it’s me you want- not my plastic image. ignoring plain truth allows me to believe a lie that’ll carry me to tomorrow.

then i illustrate my workplace in a deprecating but flattering light and offer a phone number exchange (if i suspect my bosses will like your aesthetic).*

*

*sometimes you show up to party. sometimes you have a good time. sometimes i forget why i do this.*

*

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you laughed and said, “you may be a wolf but at least you’re up front about it,” at the electric room (on 355 west 16th street and 9th ave). – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-restless night-

*by someone crying out to the same moon as you*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*momma and i are morning people

-

but the malady of night

permeates my bones

and seduces my spirit

-

heaven probably isn’t in the cards

for a man like me

-

so after midnight you’ll see me

dancing with my devils*

*

*a full moon floods gasoline

through my veins

-

while your hungry eyes

fill a syringe with fire

-

those words floating

passed that confident smile

sound put off by my intentions

-

but i suspect otherwise

-

feeling your stare

press fantasy tipped rounds

into the magazine of my mind*

*

*the streets of our city

are owned by sheep

-

but run by wolves

-

so when their flocks slumber

under synthetic blankets of security

-

let’s take our turn

with these avenues and alleyways

-

and howl towards a nightmare

or dream.*

*

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you got the check at 67 burger (on 67 lafayette and fulton st) and screwed my brains out. – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-parakeets-

*by someone who takes his coffee with milk and sugar*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*she’s tough.

after working shifts at two different jobs she has energy to fuck through our voids and the night. despite being a hundred pounds and barely five feet tall she pleads for bedroom brutality. when i get coffee in the morning she reminds me no milk or sugar.

she doesn’t speak much but doesn’t need to- her actions always flex who she is. thinking of her it’s easy to forget she’s from upstate. i believe she’s all new york city.*

*

*she makes money.

and spends it.

her boots are always more than a couple hundred. the jackets covering her slim frame are tailored. her make-up and banged black hair reflect fashion mag ads. the tattoos of mermaids and women accentuating her thighs (revealed by short skirts) aren’t bargain pieces.

all this money isn’t wasted- natural beauty aside, when she walks into a room her miniature stature doesn’t stop everyone from suffering whip lash.

when we eat out she picks up the check. as i reach for my wallet her dismissals are brief, polite, and hard as granite. she’s one of the few people, besides myself, who’s ever taken care of me.*

*

*winter weather on brooklyn’s waterfront doesn’t forgive kent ave’s residents. the wind bites through skin into the spirit. my loft building doesn’t have heat (in a real way) either. this doesn’t stop her from coming to see me after work for conversation and relief from deviant itches on her soul.

she sits, legs crossed, on the faded plush of my rust colored couch. “get by” by talib kweli spills from a blown out speaker. we talk about her job, my financial despair, and our mutual dysfunctions. two mice fight in my kitchen. it’s too loud to ignore. i must look embarassed.

with graceful nonchalance she remarks, “i’m just going to pretend you have parakeets.”

i smile, kiss her, and we walk up shoddy stairs to my bedroom.*

*

*she has work in the morning and doesn’t want to spend the night.

i watch her dress. i love looking at her naked. her ribs are decorated with colorful classical tattoo art and her stomach’s defined- she calls this “ninja abs.”

she puts herself all the way back together, even her hair. i haven’t put any clothes back on. she stares at me without speaking. i don’t realize she’s waiting. it takes me a few moments to get it.

“baby, is it ok if i don’t walk you to the door tonight?”

“that’s a deal breaker for me. i like to fuck, but i’m still a lady,” she answers. steely strength’s detectable in her quiet voice. i get dressed.

when i open the door for her the dead bolt behaves, for once.*

*

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you confessed a teenage me was your hero at manitobas (on 99 avenue b between east 6th and 7th st) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-idol worship-

*by someone who won’t follow

ever again*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*my middle school teacher asks us

to write about our heroes

-

so i put down my pen

and put my mind on the rack*

*

*bumpy johnson

-

ebony thug in an ivory city

turning an insolent eye

into those who tell him his limits

-

understanding if you want something

in this bitter sweet apple

you have to take it

-

no one calls him a nigger to his face

because of this

-

plus they’d like to keep their block

everything they have

and everything they ever will*

*

*doc holliday

-

friendless and softspoken gentleman

-

with a well-tailored coat

and mind full of ideas not fitting

as well in his time and place

-

an expert at games of chance

-

whether they involve

hands full of cards

-

or fists full of pistols

-

walking alone

only because he doesn’t know another way*

*

*sid vicious

-

pretty boy punk rocker

reserved sober

wild animal with intoxicants in him

-

extinguishing

only after achieving immortality

behind his sneer and syringe*

*

*i jot “bill clinton” and turn in the paper

-

it returns marked with a “d+”

under it she’s written

“lacks effort and creative thought.”*

*

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you ran away to find your drunken friend while i hit on you outside the kenmare (on 98 kenmare and centre st) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-le bain-

*by someone who doesn’t want to be here

when he’s thirty*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the door’s locked and my hands nestle around her throat.

i’m not strangling her in a bathroom stall on the standard hotel’s 18th floor- just feeling vibrant life run through her. she kisses me with fervor. her hands course from my neck down and across my chest, eventually trickling down to grasp my belt buckle.

“you’re so hot,” she exclaims with frustrated intonation, “but no matter what you say i won’t go home with you.”

she might be drunk, but i can’t tell. not enough guilt’s involved to not proceed. i raise an eyebrow and half smile.

“no matter what i say?”

i grip her hips and pull them close to mine

“uhhhgh,” she says before closing her lids. biting her bottom lip she raises them and blasts a stare straight into mine with volcanic blue eyes. “everyone’s just a booty call to you.”

“why would you say something mean like that? i’m being nice to you,” i say moving her hands behind me onto my back pockets.

i tug the back of her dyed red mohawk towards her ass. her head levers back so i can kiss just below her jaw. she moves her hands to grip the outside of my fly and offers, “i could blow you in here.”

“don’t you deserve a little better than this,” i ask and point to the room length window next to us, “we may have a night view of the skyline through this glass but a toilet’s still a foot away.”

“i’ve hooked up in here a lot and probably will lots more,” she says in justification.

this makes my decision.

“i don’t hook up with people i like in bathrooms,” i state and take her hand off my dick.

she pushes away from me entirely and laughs, “what a gentlemen.”

sliding hands down her face she groans, “i’m such a mess.”

“i know,” i answer her unasked question.

she’s stern.

“aren’t you?”

“yes. that’s why i’m in here. but i think it might be better if we both leave now.”

“i’m tired of being a mess,” she confesses.

“so am i,” i agree.

we don’t kiss good bye. she unlocks the door and we head back to throbbing bass and artificial lights together.

but separately.*

*

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you said i’d “make a piss poor fag” after we left the dream hotel (on west 16th street between 8th and 9th ave) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-fag-

*by someone who needs to get up on current events*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*we walk out from the same party at the dream hotel to turn up our jacket collars to a cool night.

the air’s dark. it smells like it’s time to go home. he asks, “i’m in brooklyn too, greenpoint. aren’t you in williamsburg? how about we split a cab sweetie?”

it’s my experience there’s two types of gay guys- sweet and caring or mean and bitchy. he’s a fun hybrid of both. i’ll probably laugh on the way back to my borough, and lonely cab rides aren’t a financial option.

i agree.

“mind if i smoke before we hail one?”

“no, go ahead. might be a little hard to get a match lit out here though,” i warn as he fishes out a pack of matches. a drizzle has ebbed to mist on west 16th street.

the damp wind takes three matches. he gives up and walks towards two chubby thirty-something men and a six foot woman with eerily emaciated legs- probably a model they recruited. even with her they can’t get in. she looks bored and angry standing outside the club’s ropes with them.

“‘scuse me boys. could i use your lighter?”

they smirk to each other, pull on their cigarettes, and don’t acknowledge his request.

“okay,” he answers their non-response. he stretches the “ay” sound.

he walks back and i ask, “know those guys?”

his voice sounds wounded.

“don’t think so. do i look like the kind of guy that would steal someone’s lighter? why do people act like that?”

i know why. when i look at him i brawl my envy. his skin’s bleached paper, his bone structure shouts feminine beauty, and his eyes are so dark you can’t tell if he’s making eye contact. these men don’t walk passed thirty person lines outside clubs without a word. he does.

they know it and feel safe punishing him for it- he’s a queer.

it’s fortunate his naïveté shields his eyes from their ugliness. my vision rarely spares me clarity during these sights. this one feels like a floating eyelash soaked in bacardi 151.

their feeling of security is incorrect. i approach the taller of the two men and position my body inappropriately close to his. he’s wearing too much cologne.

i ask, “you’re really not going to give my friend a light?”

“what are you? some kind of gangster?”

as he slurs his words together there’s no eye contact happening. his friend laughs with him. i’ve given him a fair enough chance to correct his behavior. while i seize the hand of the wrist holding his cigarette he looks me in the eyes. there’s a sludgy stupidity behind his gaze.

tearing the cigarette out of his hand isn’t difficult. i tap the tag heur watch he’s wearing before letting go.

“nice watch you fat fuck,” i comment. 

the woman turns away in aggravation. with her back to us she chimes in with an eastern european accent, “if you fight this man i leave now.”

nobody else speaks. my friend uses the cigarette as a lighter.

“fucking thuggish babboon. who do you think you are,” he stammers while we walk away. i look back.

he reverts to not meeting my stare. enough of a point’s being made by that. more lessons in manners are unnecessary. i stare from fifteen feet away until the cigarette’s finished.

it’s a decent kick off for a ride back to brooklyn.*

*

*in the cab i receive lectures on the recent death of amy winehouse, the current tragedy of kate moss, and the pros of fixed lighting over track. i don’t have much to contribute. his world is dynamited by my ignorance.

“what country do you live in?”

“i don’t own a tv,” i respond.

“whatever thoreau. you’d make a piss poor fag,” he remarks with disdain and pauses.

changing his tone he finishes, “thanks for the display of testosterone. didn’t know you were such a tough guy.”

i respond, “don’t mention it, and i’m not. i just never underestimate the cowardice of others. thanks for helping me improve my credentials as a u.s. citizen and i’m sorry for your losses of kate and amy. “

“kate’s still alive, amy’s dead, and you’re hopeless.”

i smile while the cab stops and step out onto the corner of n5th street and kent avenue. i see his eyes roll through the window as the yellow car pulls towards greenpoint.*

*

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you took a drag and refused to give back my cigarette at abc no rio (on 156 rivington st and avenue b) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-marlboro grey-

*by someone who hopes the smoke never clears*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*her eyes are filled with glittery smoke

-

when her stare meets mine

she’s the first cigarette of the day

-

a dizzy vertigo overcoming me

-

her pair of mesmerizing smoke screens

defies the laws of physics

-

despite the thick grey shimmering in her irises

the light in her shines unobstructed

-

far brighter than the street lights

drowning rivington street

-

the warm summer evening

she first draws herself into my teenage lungs*

*

*she’s

short

delicate

and wears the face of a contemporary angel

-

ironically, they usually do

-

but she frightens me beyond comprehension

her spirit rippling with lean muscle

-

towering over mine

and eventually beating me into submission

-

but this night

youth and passion

-

strap me into the most thrilling

ride in our abandoned amusement park

-

and the ride begins*

*

*we can’t see the other side

of this haze-filled room

-

her and i

-

blind to each other

blind to ourselves

-

but even after years pass

as they always will

-

even after the pack comes out of my sleeve

and the zippo leaves my pocket

-

i’ll always jones for one last drag

of the glittery smoke in her eyes.*

*

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you shouted my friend and i were cute as we left avenue (on 116 10th ave and 17th st) at 3am – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-”broken hands”-

*by someone trying to piece it all together*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*sometimes i drag myself through days, my fingernails sunken into a chalkboard. others i march mechanically, eyes locked forward until i close them in sleep. now i’m not doing either.

the sun has resigned and i float through my mind listening to the buildings of manhattan whisper to me- their nothings are especially sweet on the roof of the standard hotel. i sweep my gaze over crowds of people watching everyone watch everyone. a fall breeze massages my skin.

light brown hair falls around his long face. he pushes it back. looking at me with a smirk he remarks, “we’re just kings being king dude.”

“my thoughts exactly,” i laugh and we breathe in the city silently.

his eyes are red. whiskey hasn’t been easy on him the passed few days. still, a raw energy breaks from his eyes through his pain. a bandaged hand brings a rocks glass to his lips. the dressing on it’s fresh but blood still seeps through. the opposite hand has a ceramic cast over it.

he tells me, “a song found me the other day dude. it was magic.”

i reply, “oh yeah?”

“yeah man, it was so sick. after all the shit that’s gone down the universe finally sent me something.”

i don’t understand but sometimes this guy’s tough to understand. while i wait for an explanation i take in his features. he’s one of the tallest (and thinnest) people i know. his hair flows passed his shoulders and his arms are blanketed in black tattoos representing occult culture.

he’s weird so (of course) i feel deep affection for him.

the explanation isn’t coming. i shift our topic, “you never told me what happened to your hands.”

“dude, no way. don’t want to talk about it.”

“you can’t show up with two busted hands and not tell your boy what’s up.”

lifting the bandaged hand he says, “bartending dude. sliced the shit open on a broken glass. piece of shit manager wouldn’t even pay for the e.r. guess my bad luck hasn’t run out yet.”

“what about the other one? the one in the cast.”

angles of his face pronounce themselves more as its muscles constrict in anger. after prying apart clenched teeth he whispers, “her. she took my hand along with everything else. i can’t even play guitar anymore.”

“what? that’s fucking heinous. she broke your hand? how’d she do that?”

he answers gripping the center of his chest, “she stabbed a rusty ice pick right here dude.”

his eyes have gone over the edge of the roof deck. he’s looking west over the hudson river. at new jersey.

“oh,” i reply keeping my voice calm, “that fist found the other guys’ face a few dozen times?”

“no dude. she was the only face in that equation for me. this fist found a cinder block wall a few dozen times instead of hers.”

the gaze he’s shooting across state lines should burn newark to the ground. his apocalyptic stare rampages east towards the loisada projects.

he continues, “when i think of her i can feel all the pain and hate in this city. every white collar dip shit who just lost his job. every hood mom who can’t make rent. every junky in every shooting gallery. i feel it all at once and want to scream it.

“but she took my hand so i can’t even blast it through my guitar.”

i don’t know what to say so i say nothing.

eventually i decide to snap our conversation back to his magical song. “what song found you playboy?”

he smiles and thinks for a second, then sings softly, “it only fell apart ’cause you let it, all the blood you had to lose, pick up the pieces with your broken hands, it only fell apart ’cause you let it, all the blood you had to lose, pick up the pieces with your broken hands.”

the left side of my lips glide back as i half smile.

“who’s that? sounds pretty fucking metal.”

“damn fuckin’ right dude. lamb of god. gets me fuckin’ rad every time. metal is salvation dude. it’s magic.”

he’s beaming.

happiness breaks through me. i smile with both sides of my mouth. i don’t know what to say.

i answer, “we’re just kings being kings dude.”*

*

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you enjoyed when i picked up my last paycheck from friday’s (at 2 penn plaza) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-assistant manager-

*by someone who feels disdain for chain restaurants*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*her spirit’s mangled from lashes received

during a life-time of running up gambling debts

playing a losing hand life’s dealt her

-

unforgiving creditors that are

the world and daily life

-

rarely spare her the whip*

*

*her contempt for me is clear

-

as she pitches barbed comments

wrapped in veils of faux appropriateness

in my direction

-

i don’t return the malice

despite the sting

-

and look into the windows to her soul

eyes i won’t remember the color of

-

one looking into mine

the other over my shoulder

her mouth barking more abrupt sentences

-

and i remain calm

-

watching a meager pile of chips

shrink a little more

in those crossed eyes

-

smiling to ask questions

about statuses of numerous crises

she’s overly vocal about*

*

*warmth seldom escapes

this squat tank of misery

-

but on occasion

she thaws and moments of sweetness

-

half raw sugar cane

half splenda

transpire between us*

*

*for reasons i don’t understand

-

it’s at these junctures

i feel twinges of hope for myself

and those i love seeming without it

-

and because of this

she’ll always remain

a cherub in her mid-twenties

-

fond of bragging about her absent gag-reflex

-

in my mind.* 

*

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*


you threw a drink on me at dominie’s hoek (on 48-17 vernon boulevard between 48th and 49th avenue) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-boxing-

*by a southpaw who still has a good right*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*happy childhood in a long island suburb.

blonde.

only wears abercrombie.

no piercing or tattoos.

teaches me how to punch her face without leaving a mark.*

*

*my bedroom has no windows.

red numerals of a clock radio glow onto us with sinister appropriateness. it provides enough light for me to line up my knuckles flat against her cheek bone and jaw.

she whispers, “draw them back a few inches and bring them down. your fist should land so the hit distributes across the centers of all four knuckles. hit me as hard as you like.”

we’re naked in a spooning position. she’s skinnier than i am. i like that. my left arm is wrapped around her body. it hugs her close.

i hit her.

“harder. i won’t break,” she says elevating her tone.

nervousness begins to tremor through me. i hit her again.

“harder. be a man.”

she means it. it feels more wrong because she’s so damn pretty.

my knuckles land against her face one last time. this one feels the way she wants. aqua eyes radiate ecstasy before they shut. she bites her bottom lip.

can’t say i get it. that doesn’t matter though- she does. we kiss slowly.*

*

*sometimes i eat non-breakfast burritos in the morning.

everyone has their thing.*

*

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you grabbed my hand and led me out of cielo (on 18 little west 12th st and 9th ave) whispering, “our reality will feel better than this fantasy.” – 26 (williamsburg borough of lost boys)

*

-night club-

*by someone who took a while

to get it*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the gate keeper’s an old man

meticulously groomed

-

who’s seen too much

and knows he’ll see more

-

while pulling on a dunhill cigarette

he governs sentinels

who’ve surrendered autonomy

for the dollar sign

-

waving in the lost souls valuable

to a kingdom without values

-

as they anxiously wait in long lines

-

hoping to drink and dance away troubles

that’ll be there when the record stops

-

or they sober up*

*

*behind angular features

of a breath-taking face

-

an underestimated mind

knows why she’s employed

-

making more than a waiter earns in an entire shift

to walk one bottle of liquid currency on long legs

-

to someone with too much money

the right delusions

and just enough desperation*

*

*he herds the beautiful into plush booths

-

collecting taxes from

the blessing and curse

of their aesthetic

-

smiling into eyes with faux rolex teeth

kissing hands with imitation leather lips

and embracing shoulders with 10 karat warmth

-

this mad king of the blind governs

-

subjects who speak to him

as though he were a servant

-

pouring them drink after drink

-

and surveying his domain

through an ornate mask*

*

*hidden in a tiny world

inside a tiny world

he rotates grooved wax on spinning tables

-

controlling

the temperature of sound waves

coursing through the air

-

coming in and out of consciousness

that if it’s his will

varvatos-clothed lemmings will halt

-

or move faster towards the edge*

*

*their hips sway across the dance floor and

the beat overwhelms awkward conversations

-

these wealthy and hood rich

famous and notorious

hard and fast

soft and slow

-

chase the same illegible promise

on a hollow pursuit

-

to a light switch

or fractured end.*

*

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i remembered my love for brooklyn walking through prospect park with you. – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-knife fight-

*by someone who gets creative*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i always feel like a dirt bag drifting towards unconsciousness post sex. they’re awake and very aware i’m falling asleep moments after.

i know what they’re thinking:

“he’s such a man.”*

*

*daylight and nudity betray my body’s been a few places. exhaustion pulls back curtains around my belief i’m the center of the universe.

i’ve dealt with a myriad of dysfunctional personalities working since sunrise in three different boroughs (biking nearly twenty miles) and still made half the money i think i deserve. tonight’s self pity feels justified.

it’s nearing eight in the evening and i’ve been at her place on caton ave and east 18th st about forty minutes. our plans for an informal hang out were made days ago.

the bitter-sweet apple’s been rough on her recently. i heard it in her voice on the phone. her room reflects the same. clothes litter the floor. sheets are balled up at the foot of her bed. there’s a broken open capsule of m.d.m.a. on the bedstand.

it hurts seeing her eyes look so beaten.*

*

*our skinny bodies screw.

i start to fall asleep. a wounded voice says, “baby, it’s only eight thirty.”

i’m consciously fucking up. i feel her disgusted green eyes while i fade out of reality.*

*

*i wake up at six and remember what went down. she’s still checked out. watching her sleep usually makes me happier about where i am. this morning guilt vibrates appropriately through my brain.

seems like a good time to clean up.

she doesn’t own a laundry bag so i fold clothes cluttering the floor and pile them. i move onto collecting delivery food bags and cans next. she wakes up to the percussion of cans and bottles being thrown into a plastic bag.

“what’re you doing? don’t worry about that, i’ll take care of it later.”

i ignore her and collect some scattered papers into a stack. she repeats herself.

“seriously, stop. i can clean my own room.”

i gesture to the drug paraphernalia on her bedstand, “need this empty capsule of molly?”

“what’s your problem?”

i don’t respond, just stare blankly.

she answers, “ugh, you’re so stubborn. no.”

i throw it in the trash bag. a blanket stretched across the floor begins to fold in my arms. she gives up and returns to her dreams.*

*

*breakfast is two egg sandwiches i buy from the bodega by the q stop. the panamanian woman who made them doesn’t speak english so both our orders are wrong. we’re used to this. after unwrapping them on her bedroom floor we’re pleased they’re right enough to be palatable.

she asks, “working this morning?”

“of course.”

i see disappointment in her expression. her face is beautiful. it has a unique round shape. her skin’s pale and clear. i don’t like to smudge it with unhappiness.

“what’re you doing?”

she responds, “probably hanging out here. i don’t work until twelve.”

“you mean you’re going to sleep the morning away in this windowless room? no way. walk with me through prospect park. i’ll walk to the g instead of taking the q.”

“you’re not my father. plus, it’ll take you twice the time.”

“i’m ok with that.”*

*

*the air in the park smells slow and safe. the emotion saturating the ground feels breathable. her shoulders look less weighted outside her bedroom.

she speaks to me.

“you used to fight a lot when you were younger right?”

“i’ve been in one or two,” i say smirking.

she laughs.

“right. well, right now i’m outmatched. i feel like i’m a little girl who’s never been in a fight and a much bigger older guy’s kicking my ass.”

“who’s the guy?”

she pauses to think.

“life i guess.”

it’s my turn to think.

eventually i say, “sounds like you need to change up your fighting style.”

her face smudges in a frown.

“everything seems insurmountable. i feel like i couldn’t ever hit hard or fast enough.”

“find a way to pull a knife.”

this sharpens her frown into a smile.

“what if i don’t have one?”

“then don’t wait for one to drop out of the sky. get creative. pick up a chair or bottle.”

it feels good to hear her laugh again. we’re reaching the edge of the park. the g train’s not far.

“thanks for cleaning my room,” she tells me after some silence.

“‘course baby. once a bartender told me a clean room makes for a cleaner mind.”

she doesn’t say anything back for a little while.

“thanks for forcing me out of my apartment.”

“didn’t mean to be forceful. just felt like i had to make an executive decision.”

we’re at the edge of the park and almost at goodbye.

“could you do me a favor?”

“sure thing. what do you want,” she asks.

“look around the park for a blade a little before going home?”*

*

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you warned me, “remember all this doesn’t suspend our humanity, ok?,” on the roof deck at le bain (at 848 washington st and west 14th) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-one eye open-

*by someone followed only by the blind*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i’m desperate to believe i’m the hustler

so end up being the last one to see 

-

i’m the hustled*

*

*the booty call’s an odd thing

-

arrogance blinds me

into thinking i’m taking a piece of them

-

with each toe-curling orgasm

-

so it’s a harsh surprise

searching the top of my dresser

-

months later

-

to find money they’ve planted

and my dignity missing*

*

*i’ve chased the myth of normalcy

through mundane beginnings

to cringe-worthy ends

-

but the most liberating thing i’ve seen

is the only people i know who aren’t fucked up

-

are ones i don’t know well*

*

*i’m not complicated as i’d like to believe

-

neither are you

or people you love and hate

-

our experience all vines

from the same simple template

-

the only variation is in details

-

i, and you, will only become fascinating

-

after realizing how similar we are

-

to each other

and everyone we know.*

*

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you had a bite of my chicken cutlet sandwich from north 5th deli (on 20 n5th street and kent avenue) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-delivery boy-

*by someone with a “colorful” work history*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*no new york neighborhood boasts pure hopelessness. even the worst ones are cut with chances for gentrification. five to ten minutes by subway or bus and someone can find an organic salad.

there are cities where both sides of the tracks are the wrong ones. l.l. bean doesn’t send catalogues to any of the buildings unsolicited.

one of these is through the holland tunnel or over the george washington bridge. it’s a city that hasn’t recovered from riots decades and decades ago. its political system’s so broken a trillion dollars would pass through it like water in a sieve.

i’m talking about newark, new jersey.*

*

*the caddy i drive from age seventeen to nineteen idles in the daylight. i’ll total it in about a year. my eyes absorb the harshness of downtown newark while her and i wait in bucket seats for him.*

*

*he knows what i pass him through the rolled down window of my early nineties el dorado isn’t mine. there’s a chance he’s aware whose it is. doesn’t matter though. even if he is he doesn’t care.

this is clinton avenue, cocaine capital of jersey, and i’m just an errand-running white boy working for another white boy. this is his neighborhood. i’m just passing through.

he’s wearing workout gloves. it’s fall but i’ve seen him wearing them in the summer time too. it’s not hard to guess why.

nodding, his gloved hand turns the package. he seems unconcerned with the neighborhood’s police. his corn rows are freshly twisted. like an investment banker in a cornflower button-up with a white collar, he looks the part.

“we straight,” he says and begins to turn away.

this is bad.

i insist, “where’re the bills?”

he smiles, “don’t trip mah dude. takin’ this one on credit. i got you later.”

she’s riding shotgun. we don’t talk much about my after school job. she’s gathered enough to know what’s happening isn’t good.

i find the handle and begin opening the heavy door.

“hold up,” his jagged voice warns.

his left hand lifts his t shirt exposing a pistol tucked between ck boxer-briefs and sagged jeans. his right brandishes a pointer finger at her.

“i ain’t playin’,” he informs without emotion.

there’s something wrong with me. being shown a gun doesn’t bring out much of an emotional response. it probably should.

this situation’s the exception. she gets him. her face shows the beginnings of hysteria. my hand sprint away from the door’s handle. both hands grip the wheel where he can see them.

“smart mo’fucka,” he says and jogs towards a building door fifteen feet away.

he must be pretty unintimidated to turn his back on someone he’s robbed for almost a thousand dollars. my ego bleeds. *

*

*the scary part’s here. letting the property’s owner know.

through a prepaid phone my voice tip toes, “he took it without paying.”

he never sounds angry. that’s what’s most frightening about him.

“i’m coming to pick you up now. don’t make me wait outside. we’re day-tripping to jersey.”

“ok,” i say because it’s the only thing i can.

“what do they call this clown again?”

“big rell.”

“sounds like a tough guy,” his vocal chords smirk into my ear before he hangs up.*

*

*1988 monte carlo super sport. fresh electric blue paint. clean factory rims. it’s fucking beautiful. i make sure i don’t slam the door getting in.

looking at him always jars me a little. his head’s shaved to the scalp. “queens, new york” is tattooed in gothic lettering across its left side. eight of the fingers gripping the wheel have a letter of “skin head” tattooed on each knuckle. his long sleeve ben sherman button-up’s orange. no one looks good in orange.

he skips pleasantries.

“did the joker have a gun?”

“yeah.”

“what kind?”

“probably a glock. there was an extended magazine sticking out of the handle too.”

he doesn’t react. just opens the glove box and removes his hardware. he makes sure every chamber’s full and spins the cylinder of the large revolver. after clicking it back into place he tucks it between his legs almost out of sight.

“you should be able to do everything with eight shots you’d want to with sixteen.”

“i’d rather not use any shots,” i say softly.

“that’s why you got bitch made by a faggot amateur.”

i don’t respond. we start driving towards the tunnel in silence.*

*

*the glass panes of the bar’s front haven’t been washed in a while. a neon colt 45 sign hangs behind them.

i had a twenty-two ounce draft here the one time i met the poor bastard who robbed me. it was a dollar. the whites of the bartenders eyes were more of a yellow.

“this shit-hole’s where he hangs out?”

“think so.”

“makes sense. that rimmed out rice rocket an inch from the ground’s his?”

he gestures towards a modified foreign car parked near the bar’s open door.

“think so.”

“you think so? you’re not brave or bright i guess. he usually alone?”

“i don’t know.”

“what fucking use are you,” he asks bringing another instrument out from under his seat. a section of the barrels have been sawed off. i’m pretty sure that’s illegal. doubt that’s on his list of concerns.

this has gotten way too real.

pushing the shotgun into my grip he says, “make sure we have privacy when i get him out on the street.”

“i don’t shoot people,” i whisper.

“‘fuck was that?”

“i don’t shoot people.”

his right knuckles, bearing the “head” part of “skin head,” hook into my sol plexus. i lose my wind.

“you’ll be able to breathe again in a second. listen good- you could trade places with him if you’d like.”

when i’m able to get air back in my lungs i re-grip the shotgun thinking about my options. the decisions i’ve made up to now haven’t left any good ones. he sees i understand this and starts rolling up his sleeves. i notice a “u.s.m.c. death before dishonour” tattoo on the back of his forearm.

after tucking the pistol into the back of his pants he walks into the bar. his gait’s casual.*

*

*the door’s open but the thief exits the bar through the window panes.

my employer walks out the door with the same nonchalance he walked in with. the gun gripped in his hand isn’t the revolver he’d brought with him. it’s the automatic i’d seen in the offending party’s waist earlier.

no one runs out of the bar to help the man lying on the ground surrounded by broken glass. i’m afraid to close my eyes. the shotgun rests in my lap while i stare.

it’s a hell of a thing watching a man get beaten half to death with his own gun.*

*

*he shuts the car door as carefully as i did when he gets back in. he starts rolling down his sleeves and buttoning the cuffs. there’s blood on the ugly shirt.

“want to get a sandwich? i ain’t buying though,” is the first thing he says.

i don’t answer.

“suit yourself. i’m getting chicken cutlet on white. cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil, vinegar, mayo, salt, and pepper. if you’re hungry you better get your own when we stop. i’m not sharing.”

i don’t answer. he shifts the gears, starts driving, and sighs.

“maybe you should start thinking about delivering pizzas instead.”*

*


you gave my scrupals a light at le souk harem (on 510 la guardia place between houston and broadway) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-arson-

*by someone who’s restrung his fiddle*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*her legs are long enough

to scorch pure intentions

-

in my favorite ways

-

they’re covered in nylon cobwebs

ripped in the right places

-

screaming sirens

through my thoughts

-

while i stare

at the slim tinder of her body

-

and pull up the fire escape*

*

*bleach blonde ringlets

caution from her head

-

while the beauty of an angular face

fuels charcoal-lined eyes

-

that offer my brand of crazy

and spark it for me*

*

*i grab her

-

but even if we wanted to run

down this block of condemned buildings

from collapsing reflections

-

i wouldn’t take either of us to safety

-

so i simply help

toss flaming moments

into stacks of newspapers

-

surrounding tonight’s events

-

my fingers curling around her throat

to preface a police bulletin

written in sex

-

while we kiss with desperation

branded through sizzling bodies

with excited breath*

*

*she doesn’t care what we engulf

because she’s tired of living in ashes

-

of extinguished yesterdays

-

participating in our inferno with gusto

grasping and gasping with enthusiasm

-

as we dance to melodies of dying smoke alarms*

*

*we incinerate each other

rapidly

brutally

ruthlessly

-

cooking away

prisons of thought

in mere minutes

-

our entire city burning violently*

*

*it’s in these writhing coals

of this bitter-sweet apple

curtained in flame

-

that we give each other peace.*

*

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we had a moment where i was born [at beth israel medical center on 286 1st ave (between 15th and 16th)] – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-syphilis-

*by someone who learns the hard way*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*be gentle with razors.

use enough shaving cream and moisturizer too.*

*

*it isn’t working out. she knows it. i know it. we’ve talked and set boundaries.

tires of surrender which could carry us to romantic progress are nestled in a rut conversation can’t level. whenever we move forward they blow out in post midnight pot holes of loneliness, fear, or drunkenness.

a.m. text messages help us find comfort in each others’ bodies. the day after’s never easy. new york isn’t a city where people line up to help strangers with car trouble.

like every night our minds drive on this street tonight feels different. 

 she’s calling. it’d be soothing to hear her voice. i think. pressing the phone to my ear i resolve to not spend a week stranded along a west side highway of regret.

“you filthy son of a bitch. if i have herpes i’ll fucking end you.”

her tone sounds unhappy.*

*

*i’m sitting on my building’s roof feeling sorry for myself when she calls. now i’m doing it even more effectively. panic gives self pity an accelerated edge. i unbutton my levis to examine the accused.

after minutes of scrutiny something presents itself.

enlisting internet help seems logical. i walk downstairs to my crime scene and stare at photos of lesions, warts, and chancres on my laptop’s screen. there are resemblances in every photo illustrating every ailment acquired through fun mistakes.

terror.

a viral game over blankets my consciousness.  flowery notes followed by dives from roofs flicker in my brain. rational thought calls me a drama queen.

i opt for a trip to the emergency room.*

*

*i was born in the east village’s beth israel hospital. in the waiting room i feel odd this is the first return i remember.

two well-dressed gay men and a morbidly obese jamaican woman keep me company. we don’t speak but the woman breaks our silence with intermittent screaming. this doesn’t bother me.

will smith’s “hancock” plays on a television. it’s fastened in a cage high on the wall. the entire film, with commercials, finishes before i’m called back to be seen.*

*

*the nurse’s arms are thick. they look strong. i unbutton my jeans again. her eyes scan with simultaneous disinterest and thoroughness.

she gives a diagnosis in a firm voice.

“isn’t genital warts. there’d be more of ‘em. isn’t herpes either. you’d have screamed in pain when i touched it. if anything it’s a syphilis chancre.”

“thank the fucking lord,” i exclaim.

i try to hug her but she slaps away my arms with two efficient strikes. they sting.

“hands off,” she warns and continues, “lab’s backed up. we won’t have blood results to know for sure ’til next week. want the penicillin shot now anyway?”

“god yes.”

“it’s a huge syringe filled with a glue-like substance. another nurse’ll inject it into your glutes. it’ll hurt. we’re short-staffed tonight so you’ll be waiting a few more minutes,” she states with the detachment of a butcher repeating an order.

“thank you so much,” i say.

she turns toward the door.

“use protection kid. there’re sicker people in this hospital than you.”

with a soft click it closes behind her.*

*

*a half hour later a male nurse gives the shot. he wants to get better acquainted while administering it.

“do you work out at a ymca or an equinox sort of place?”

“neither,” i answer.

our conversation doesn’t go further.

after finishing he asks, “want a second opinion on your chancre?”

“ok.”

i unbutton one last time. he looks and laughs. i don’t appreciate this.

“what’s funny,” i demand.

“that’s a razor bump dude.”*

*

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you got uncomfortable when i carved my name on the wall at john’s pizzeria (at 278 bleecker street between 6th and 7th ave) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-it ends in a vowel-

*by someone whose name’s on his birth certificate,

not created for the stage, pen, or reinvention of self*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*”you know, you’re not really white”

 -

“what’s up you fucking tomato”

-

“what’s with your middle name, you must be a half-breed”

-

“hey it’s frankie “the don” leone”

-

“i’m taiwanese, i can’t cook pasta like that you guinea”

 -

“i can’t do that, i’m not a greasy gangster like you “

-

“she’s got hair on her face, like every italian woman”

 -

“here he comes, repping the mafia punk rockers”

-

“you’ve got a rugged, handsome, southern-italian, and peasant-like face”

 -

“get out of here you dego-wop bastard”

-

“leone, like the godfather”

 -

“do you know what bah fongul means”

 -

“teach me how to say forget-about-it like they do in donnie brasco “

 -

“nice name, you seen casino”

 -

“is your dad in the mafia”

-

“do you have hair on your back”*

*

*hair shaving

pasta eating

throat slicing

neanderthal speaking

money stealing

and with racially impure features

 -

but still (arguably) white christians

-

so it’s ok to make comments

if you think we’re tight

 -

no worries

i’ll embrace the stereotype

it’s a good gimmick

-

but I’ll get irritated

when it backfires

 -

so let’s sit down

and pour canned classico

over cheap c-town brand pasta

 -

then you can say

a real hairy chested italian

 -

from a neighborhood

where wife-beaters and jogging suits

are hipper than skinny jeans and fedoras

 -

made you dinner

and the pasta was al-dente.*

*

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we shot dice at east river state park (on kent avenue between n 7th st and n 10th st) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-dice-

*by someone losing the strength

to lift them*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*he walks out of the water.

his clothes drip. close-fitting jeans, wife-beater, hole-filled shoes, and a bandanna folded thick over his brow. i recognize them- they’re all mine.

after he sits down on the bench next to me i look into his blind eyes. the irises and pupils are missing. they make him impossible to trust. 

i breathe,  “you’re late.”

“that’s your opinion,” he replies in a familiar voice. it’s almost a whisper but impossible to not recognize. i’ve felt its vibrations my whole life.

“where were you,” i ask.

“with another gambling man in manhattan,” he shuffles the topic, “your threads are pretty casual for the occasion aren’t they?”

his face has no expression. it looks a lot like mine. i’ve never liked it.

“how was the last guy dressed?”

“a lot like himself,” he answers.

i press forward.

“are we going to talk fashion until sunrise?”

“no pleasantries? not one drink or dance first?”

“this a business relationship. we can’t dance anymore.”

a smirk breaks through his unpretty features.

“sure about that?”

“there’s never music in east river park this time of night regardless.”

“the music plays when i tell it too,” he shoots back.

“that’s your opinion,” i respond.

tense quiet soaks into us before he picks up again.

“isn’t the first time you’ve skipped foreplay. it’s your prerogative if you want to try barreling right in.”

opening his bag he gestures towards the skyline and continues, “sublime isn’t it? always makes a special kind of promise from brooklyn. a dangerous one.”

“or tells a special kind of lie. a sexy one,” i contradict.

“i’ve heard them say that too,” he says drawing out a faded canvas pouch.

three dice spill from it and thud onto the ground. they’re too big and heavy to be casino dice. a gambler would need two hands to roll all three. the corroded metal they’re cast out of probably isn’t regulation either.

leaning forward i notice where dots should be are tips of .45 caliber bullets and caps of 25g syringes. i read the letters etched on the die’s upward faces- “colt automatic model” and “microlance hypodermic needles.”

an impressive attempt to ruffle me off my game.

“now i get why you didn’t take the l train.”

he winks a sightless eye and grins.

“needed a dip to clear my head anyways. found the materials next to crab traps. shame you didn’t keep them. you don’t mask your fear as honestly these days.”

i breathe deep and reply, “couldn’t afford them anymore. you’d know. you were my running partner while i spent everything in me.”

“what makes you think you can afford the veils you have now?”

i don’t answer.

“can you afford tonight’s stakes?”

he isn’t asking out of consideration.

ignoring the question i proceed, “find a craps table at the bottom of the river too?”

“you know cee-lo’s my game. this might be the burg, but it’s technically brooklyn.”

we start pitching.*

*

*it’s a long night. they always are. whether i’m waiting for him or we actually play. i can’t recall the last time i wasn’t doing one or the other.

tonight’s game’s finished. i only rolled four-five-sixes and there’s no double or nothing in games like ours. for the first time he has nothing to say. it’s been quiet over a minute.

this shouts he’s enraged.

i’m enjoying the silence but ruin it to whisper, “bring my winnings?”

his teeth are clamped in fury. i see his jaw muscles bulging.

they pry apart long enough to say, “how’d you win? even you know the dice are always loaded. you practically shave them for me.”

“did you bring my winnings,” i repeat.

“how’d you win?”

i doubt he’ll pay out until i answer.

“i stopped caring if you beat me,” i tell him.

despair dominates his movements. he raises his tattooed arms and the moonlight shows we have the same taste in artists and designs. his hands cup my ear.

the pot’s delivered at a softer volume than his normal bantering.

“you don’t have to play anymore. you never did.”

after he draws away i see tears coursing down his face. i lean back to watch him.

i don’t want to forget the night i made the devil cry.*

*

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at the sugar shack on far rockaway beach (at 2 roxbury ave) i saw your stare through those shades – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-impure thought-

*by someone who’s a sucker

for good poison*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*they’re candy flavored,

my cyanide fantasies

-

without cellulite

giving off aromas of wet latex

feeling tighter than virgins

-

they cut me like hand cuffs

and years circling a public bathroom bowl

-

they’ll walk with jaded grace

but kiss with naive energy

-

their body odor exciting me

while my feigned disinterest

-

sizzles my soul

-

so when our world blinks

long enough

-

we might do what we have to

-

to dance with these devils

off the private beach

of my consciousness.*

*

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on the corner of n6th and bedford you told a kid, “get outta here before i take your dad’s credit card.” – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-hypocrite-

*by someone who isn’t well read*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the corner of n6th and bedford’s his. the neighborhood street vendors know it. his voice, tempered with a bronx accent, will fill them in if they don’t.

if someone pushes the issue he’ll inform them with a fist.*

*

*he’s almost fifty and a former teacher. once i asked why he’s not teaching anymore.

“a guy like me doesn’t last in academia. i’m from the streets. not westchester or connecticut. someone’s not telling me what i can and can’t say because they paid eight years worth of tuition. fuck ‘em. i’ve lived in the real world for free my whole life. on my corner no one tells me what to do. “

when he finished his explanation i decided to like him.*

*

*there’re moments he comes off heavy handed but he’s not a thug. the product he pushes isn’t sensational.

books. he knows what the neighborhood wants- bukowski, kerouac, sedaris, marukami, blah blah blah. if you ask about the titles on his tables he’ll express contempt.

“these people don’t read. they follow trends. if i didn’t have rent to pay i’d dump most of this garbage in the east river.”

he won’t be talked down on his prices. not ever. burning blue eyes set in a sun-soaked face will blast young hagglers before responding, “price is on the cover money bags. better call home.”*

*

*it’s wednesday morning. his table’s out early and the streets aren’t fully awake. only a few people are heading into (or away from) their days on bedford avenue. the sky’s cloudless. its blue’s forgiving.

last night i punched a guy in front of a bar. the place is a block from his corner. most have heard the streets talk but there’re many who think they don’t say anything worth hearing. he’s the kind of man who knows they do. he knows how and when to listen.

i walk towards him to banter before heading into my grind.

after our ‘hey how you doin’s’ he says, “heard you smacked somebody in front of the charleston yestaday.”

“you heard right,” i answer.

his face is stern.

“gonna tell me why you’re hittin’ people on a crowded block? why you’d risk getting locked up?”

i like him enough to answer.

“guy was my friend and did me dirty. i felt those punches way before he did.”

he grins.

“a woman?”

“yeah.”

he shakes his head while saying, “bad fuckin’ form. i’d be proud of you if it’d gone down over money.”

“sorry to disappoint you.”

his hands raise in an offended gesture. his face scrunches.

“don’t get fresh. did you love her?”

“no.”

he looks confused.

“why was she worth hitting a friend then?”

“didn’t have anything to do with her. had to do with him. loved him like a brother.”

his face relaxes. he nods.

“betrayal. got it. sorry you did it?”

i knew he’d get it. my tone’s remained soft.

“i regret it. not sorry though.”

“sounds about right. i might’ve done the same. think he knows he deserved it?”

“no. says i’m unstable,” i respond.

“old money rich boy?”

“yeah.”

he laughs.

“makes sense. they usually don’t get others’ pain. they’ve never felt it. listen to me- known you for a while now. this world’s knocked you around enough to put some hardness into ya.

“i’ve seen a little bit on these streets. i know hard men are also gentle men. i’m not talking about tough guys. they’re fulla shit. i’m talking about hard men. we understand what it’s like.

“you’re not any crazier than any of these slippery bastards out here thinking they’re civilized. don’t let anyone tell you that.

“you’ve just got too much passion for your own good,” he finishes.

i let a few seconds of silence help me understand. then i speak.

“thanks. i mean it. you’re a good man.”

he looks embarrassed for the first time.

“i don’t know about all that.”

“i do. you just don’t like yourself. i don’t dig myself either. get over it for a sec and accept the compliment,” i say barbing my voice.

his smile pulls stronger.

“thanks kid. hope you know you’re a stand up guy too.”

“i have a moment here and there.”

“don’t be a fuckin’ hypocrite,” he growls.*

*

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rolling your eyes you remarked, “the love you’re professing has way more to do with you than me,” at cafA moto (on 394 broadway between hooper and keap) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-romantic-

*by someone who has issues

setting realistic goals*

(frankie leone)

 *

*she’ll never want me

 -

never has

never will

 -

which is why i want her

 -

but never have

and never will.*

*

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you asked if my mother had facial hair at the 2nd ave deli’s new spot (on 162 east 33rd street and lex) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-jew-

*by a dego*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*her grandparents are ukrainian jews but that hasn’t stopped her from not knowing shit about the ukraine or judaism.

she grew up in windsor terrace, brooklyn. most of her childhood friends are offspring of anglo park slope yuppies. rent’s cheaper in prospect park south- the hood. it’s where she lives these days. we watch rented movies and sin together there.

she defines the idea of a nice american girl. every time we’re together her normalcy dynamites my mind. my friends are shocked she’s into me.

most mornings i tell her, “you look gorgeous,” “you’re so pretty,” or, “god damn you’re beautiful.” usually her response is nervous laughter, “stop trying to flatter me,” or silence wearing an uncomfortable expression.

i think i understand.*

*

*she lies in bed half asleep. her nightie’s light pink. brown lined plaid’s mixed into the fabric. its hem’s pulled up her slender waist. a lot’s showing. like leagues of pale legs that are always shaved. she’s not wearing underwear either.

her landing strip looks like my kind of trouble.

the long brown hair falling around her shoulders was cut yesterday. i didn’t notice at first. she mentioned it and pointed out i hadn’t. this let grains of guilt into my shell. there’s a chance my insides are irritated because i know i act like an asshole.

there’s a better chance they are because she knows i act like an asshole.

her bedroom’s quiet. i can’t stop looking at her and want to rip myself from guilty thoughts. it feels seedy watching her. i decide to wake her by getting into trouble.

two pigeons with one bb.*

*

*afterwards she lights a parliament light and glides towards the bedroom window.

she smokes in a plush-upholstered chair. a trash day find. the deep red fabric cushioning her body vibrates into my eyes. she opens a lap top resting on the side-table. i concoct a compliment and resume my gaze.

“your new hair helps keep your spot as the prettiest jewish girl i know,” i say smiling.

she fires a quick glare before shifting her eyes to the screen. there’s no response and it’s plain she’s avoiding eye contact.

“what’s wrong?”

her wounded voice responds, “why would you think that’s a compliment?”

“what?”

“i don’t want to talk anymore. be quiet.”

humid tension hangs in the air while confusion soaks my consciousness.

“why? you’re insulted?”

tears vine down her cheeks. overwhelmed, i press her.

“what’s wrong? is it because i said something about being jewish?”

she doesn’t respond. panicking, i insist, “baby?”

“yes.”

her voice is soggy with tears.

“i’m so sorry. i don’t understand though. why does that hurt your feelings? didn’t you grow up around jews? aren’t you proud of your roots? we live in brooklyn after all.”

“i’m sorry too. i’m overreacting,” her words sigh, “i didn’t grow up jewish. my family didn’t go to temple and i hung around christian kids.”

“and they gave you shit for being jewish?”

“no. no one knew unless they heard my last name or asked. my whole childhood i still heard, ‘he jewed me down,’ or ‘that dude’s got a jew nose,’ though. it made me think jews are cheap and ugly. it made me feel like i was. being a jew didn’t do me a lot of favors outside a jewish community. even in brooklyn. people just don’t like us.”

“damn. wish we’d had this conversation before. i really am sorry,” i repeat softly as possible.

“it’s ok. no way you could’ve known about my complex. sorry to get all neurotic on you.”

she wipes her face and continues, “you dumb wop.”

a grin overpowers tear stained skin. i shine one back at her.

“it’s all good baby. you wouldn’t be an authentic jew if you weren’t neurotic. just like i wouldn’t be a real italian if my family didn’t get me used to dramatic behavior.”

i see her shoulders relax before she says, “glad we’re on the same page.”

“damn right we are. and next time we eat on 7th ave i’m staring extra disdainfully at blue-eyed yuppies discussing furniture.”*

*

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at the bronx zoo (on 2300 southern boulevard) you commented, “i’d maul the first mother fucker i could if someone put me in a cage.” – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-lion-

*by someone hoping to escape the new cage he’s built*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*a man with a few scars

and a few regrets

-

remembers

-

visiting the zoo as a child

 -

seeing crowds of people

staring at exotic animals

through fences and glass

 -

being overjoyed at the spectacle

 -

fleetingly fascinated

but soon saddened

 -

seeing the lion alone

in his cage*

*

*he recalls a time

years after he visited the zoo

-

when he was in such a cage

eventually finding himself alone

-

the cage had walls of hopelessness

and a shatter-proof glass partition

tempered strong with resignation

 -

separating him

 -

from disgusted viewers

briskly stepping past

 -

stale smoke hung

in the air

 -

his water bowl and food dish

filled with ninety-two proof sailor jerry rum

and white  or brown powder*

*

*during recollections

 -

he remembers

not-so-much the agony

and not-so-much the loneliness

 -

but a small oasis of brotherly love

 -

found in an enormous desert

of grotesque suffering* 

*

*for a time he shared his cage

with a young man his age

 -

who stumbled on it the way he did

 -

accidentally

 -

searching for a solution to life

finding only confinement

in every respect

 -

he remembers their wanderings

side-by-side and blind-folded

 -

in the small cage

-

having only each other

and temporary interests

of puzzled viewers*

*he remembers

nights listening to songs

 -

written by deceased

residents of other cages

 -

speaking of women they’d had

when they’d walked free

 -

and great works they’d begun to read

but never finished

 -

they’d look at each other

 -

through

tired

red

eyes

 -

knowing they were prisoners

but never speaking of it

 -

feeling desperate fraternal love

 -

only two men

near the bottom of an abyss

together and alone

 -

understand*

*the man with a few scars

and a few regrets

 -

carries dark memories

of his time in the zoo

 -

and despite the days

he feels sun on his face

 -

moments still come where he longs

for the love felt between those

with nothing to lose

 -

who feel little concern

for the spectators

who’re the rest of the world.*

*

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you made fun of the napkins at 151 kent avenue (between north 4th and north 5th street) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-napkins-

*by a proud cliché*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*brushing blonde hair out of her face she asks, “what are these?”

“sometimes i walk the streets at night…”

“like a prostitute,” a giggle-soaked question interrupts.

“…and i stop in bars to watch people drink and dance. i take breaks to write on napkins. that’s what they are,” i finish.

sliding a sacagawea coin in my fingers her image comforts my green eyes. my irises are close to hazel (in some light). her eyes are green. closer to blue.

biting her lip she grins the grin of a sweet girl. not a devious adult. a sweet girl’s voice dissolves a brief quiet.

“ohhh, like a tortured poet.”

another pause.

winking, she proceeds, “going to get breakfast with me baby?”

“hell no,” my vocal chords vibrate through a smile, “you’re talking smack about my cliché.”

the cursive covered napkins are tacked to the low cross-beams of my bedroom ceiling. i often bump my head into this obnoxious lumber.

brushing her fingers over the flimsy papers she whispers, “yeah, but it’s a wonderful cliché.”

“stay put for a second,” i say picking up keys and starting towards the door, “i’ll be back in a few.”

there’s an over hyped brunch spot on the corner of north 5th street and bedford avenue. two orders of eggs, bacon, and hash brown are almost twenty dollars. the to-go containers are nice. maybe that’s what i’m paying for.*

*

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the bar stool wobbled and you said, “i need to move to brooklyn,” at sophies (on 507 e 5th street and avenue a) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-odds and ends-

*by someone considering a moving sale*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*a bottle of disappearing ink

stands in a well-lit garage

-

camel cigarette dangling from her lips

studded belt low on her hips

-

a malfunctioning compass

stands next to her

gripping her slim waist

-

the clock starts to grand mall seizure

and she begins to fade*

*

*a worn shirt with lace trim

sprayed with a bit of perfume

bears a stain almost undetectable

-

smiling through pain

also unseen by untrained eyes

-

but a dried tear on a ripped sleeve knows

studying her as they sit stoically in a dive

-

watching her leave

as they go nowhere together

on worn bar stools*

*

*a pair of ray-ban wayfarers

looks comfortable on an expensive couch

-

surrounded by the rich, famous, and hopeful

seeming to belong

-

sprawled opposite’s

a life-preserver

who knows he doesn’t

-

she breathes sex out her nostrils

sniffling disinterest out her irises

-

when this lover obstructs her view

-

right before he realizes

no one fell overboard*

*

*a cookie jar walks with raw-sugar bounce

sheen hair falling around her face

-

her eyes promising absolutely nothing

but simultaneously everything

-

in the mind of an unmade bed

in a poorly heated loft

needing a cat

-

who feels confused regret

remembering

the softness of her cheap cotton hoodie

-

during embraces she’ll forget

when her subway car bumps and grinds

-

out of his borough of lost boys

back to her island of broken promises*

*

*a tarnished tiara’s unconcerned

with perceptions of others

-

with a few coins in her stretch jean pockets

and red blood coursing through a petite body

-

a name on the guest list

looks at her awe-struck

but remains mute and paralyzed

-

postured against a graffiti covered wall

-

watching her walk away

in the afternoon sun

through mirrored shades*

*

*a garter belt gun

above legs firing heart palpitations

-

acts impure in an unimpressive vehicle

-

with an old issue of playboy

from a drawer long unopened

-

feeling a different kind of ecstasy than him

-

secure with private knowledge

she’s a sunset almost over

-

exuding silky moans

during pulls of her hair

and kisses on her neck.*

*

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i dug your new threads (on 132 2nd ave and st. marks place) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-”the rain man”-

second part to “-promoter-”

*by someone planning to get a netflix account*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i purchased less-than-legal goods more than once in yesteryears. sometimes i patronized a vendor introduced to me as ‘the rain man.’

he stood on his block year round making a living. a boxy rain coat always hung over his torso. he wasn’t burdened by mental illness or deficiency. when he claimed the street with a shout no one dismissed him as crazy.

everyone in his neighborhood knew why he wore the rain coat- under it was a sawed off shotgun. double barreled. twelve gauge.

he wasn’t modest about this artillery. flamboyant would be more accurate. part of his business was everyone knowing that part of his business.

once i asked ‘the rain man,’ “wouldn’t something smaller make more sense?”

“ain’t ’bout the kind of sense you thinkin’ on. think i tote this heavy-ass bitch for fun? wear a damn rain coat year round cause it look fresh? hell no. she good for bidness. helps chumps pay attention.”

i didn’t understand. he sensed this and tried again.

“know ’bout vanna white? wheel of fortune bitch? why you think that snow bunny’s turnin’ letters?”

i understood.*

*

*stepping onto 10th ave between 17th and 18th i notice a strange feeling in my mouth and lips. throat too. the taste isn’t unusual.  just a vaguely familiar sensation. numbness.

i’m disgusted, mostly with myself, as i realize the cause.

cocaine or heroin’s been part of her night’s substance regiment. she’s a good kisser. still, i make a mental note to avoid a phone number exchange. breathing deep i feel bass pulse through the club’s doors.

a lanky frame sachets out of the crowd of smoking people. the promoter. his voice sounds like soiled silk glittered with gay mannerisms. i’ve always enjoyed it.

he asks, “how’re we doing beb?”

“i’m getting by.”

“aw. frankie, such a dark sensitive soul. brighten up,” he says.

his words hit the wrong spots. i get plastic. a smile airbrushes itself across my face.

“i’ll do what i can for you. thanks for another invite sugar.”

“of course. how could i not have the hard core bukowski boy of brooklyn at my table?”

this characterization embarrasses me. it also massages my ego. at least he’s not introducing me like that. not now. i leave it alone.

“how’s everything with you?”

“you know how it goes gorgeous. these idiots take forever to get new bottles to the table. the coke-dealer’s always late. my friends leave. everyone in this town’s unreliable. i’m going to skull-fuck some bitches. you’ll see. get some drinks?”

“haven’t had a drink in years.”

“i forgot you don’t drink. i love that about you. i have to ask- why do you come to my parties?”

he giggles.

“i’m hooked on beautiful people, the appearance of glamour…”

he cuts me off.

“who isn’t?”

he lights a cigarette. marlboro light 100.

“and i hate myself,” i finish.

with gusto he pulls on the marlboro while nodding his head. through a cloudy exhale the corners of his mouth slide almost to his ears.

“you’re right where you should be beb. papa’ll love you if you can’t love yourself.”

i force a laugh before changing the subject.

“i made out with another one of your kids. she numbed out my mouth.”

his smile fades. frustration dominates his tone.

“which one?”

“the pretty skinny young-looking one.”

“are you autistic? that’s all of them. listen to me- slow down your perversion with my friends.”

i raise my eyebrow but don’t respond.

he continues, “try to wrap your little mind around this- i get them young to earn loyalty. nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. they grow with me. it’s my career. there’s lots of divas in there. you start drama with your smooching they might not show up. that’s wasted time and effort for me.”

this registers.

i respond, “sounds familiar. like you’re leading a gang.”

“of course i am. how do you think this spectacle you enjoy so much happens? this is ‘gangs of new york’ in the clubs of chelsea and i’m bill the fucking butcher. do what you like tonight but if it happens again i’m trimming the fat you bitch.”

any trace of our previous moments’ theatrical affection is boroughs away.

my face betrays rage. his eyes are wide in anger. i look into them. his irises, already near-black, are covered by saucer-like pupils.

cocaine’s taken potential for fear from them.

noticing balled fists at my side his grin returns. he nods towards three enormous bouncers less than ten feet away. their bald heads shimmer in the street light.

he laughs. his voice shakes the shells from both barrels of my hands.

“all your tattoos and bad boy history mean nothing here.”

he breaks through another giggle before talking again.

“awww. the big man stands all by himself.”

it’s two-thirty a.m. and time to get some sleep. the bouncers lift the rope and i walk passed a row of waiting cabs towards the 8th ave l stop.*

*

*lady luck forced me into lifestyle changes long ago. business trips to ‘the rain man’ don’t coincide with them. i never returned to his block.

we saw each other years after my last visit though. at dallas bbq on 2nd ave. wearing a leather pelle pelle jacket he sat across from a woman eating a fried fish sandwich. didn’t see a point in being rude.

i walked over to say hello.

after skin deep ‘how you beens’ i asked, “no more rain coat?”

“nah, had to change up my style.”

“vanna white wasn’t worth the trouble?”

it took a second but he got the reference. his laughter was warm.

“nah player,” he answered.

we did ‘take-care good-to-see-yas’ before i walked back to my table.*

*

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the camera-phone-picture-bouquet i sent you was an arrangement out front greenpoint florist (on 703 manhattan ave between norman and meserole) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-sixth grade-

*by someone who’s never let youth get in the way

of forming bad habits*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*she’s white

-

like snow, ivory

or cocaïne

-

a pretty enigma in my mind

-

i watch her and she knows it

-

amused*

*

*her hair’s black

like licorice, an autumn night

or smokers lungs

-

it’s unlikely she knows

how afraid i am

-

she’s short and fragile-looking

like crystal vases, old lace

or capsules of nitro-glycerin*

*

*i hoard enough courage

to give a birthday gift

i’d heard she’d like

-

a single white rose

-

terrified

-

i can’t look her in the eyes

or hear her voice

-

paralyzed

-

i pass it off to a friend

to give in my place

-

i watch

similar to the way i’ve watched

many times before

-

from across our middle school’s parking lot

-

my friend speaks to her

hands over the flower

and points to me

-

she smiles

-

bringing the rose under a delicate nose

waving to me, yelling “thank you”*

*

*we never speak

-

but under the afternoon sun

i have hope

-

and could easily

be blown away by the light breeze

-

blowing through

our middle school’s parking lot

this summer day.* 

*

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*


we learned what a rough day was speaking to a waiter at villa berulia (on east 34th street between park ave and lex) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-tired-

*by someone who could use rest*

(frankie leone, just a man)

 *

*his bar’s beautiful.

the bar itself is oak and the lamps have been chosen carefully. still, it’s plain he doesn’t enjoy being here. work’s work.

i look at his nose. slightly hooked, croatian, not pretty. it’s a man’s nose. i sweep my eyes over the rest of him. an untrimmed beard covering his features betrays scars. despite his ratty skull cap and musky smell he doesn’t give the impression of a messy man.

he pours me a glass of water. we meet each others’ gazes without restraint or aggression. his irises are amber. the eyes they color don’t look tired.

they are tired.

“how you been,” i ask.

“ok.”

“yeah? doesn’t sound convincing.”

almost curt but not quite he responds, “i plan to drink today. not talk about feelings.”

“fair enough,” i answer his answer.

“nothing personal of course.”

“of course.”

he reciprocates the formality.

“how’ve you been?”

“getting by.”

“doesn’t sound too bad.”

i respond, “what’s the alternative?”

he gives soft notes of laughter.

“best point i ever heard.”

i shift the topic.

“how’s milos?”

milos is the bouncer and close friend. an intriguing sentinel three nights a week.

“trying to look out for him more lately.”

“he having a hard time?”

“no more than usual,” he says.

i think he wants to laugh again but can’t.

“why’re you worried?”

“he’s been a professional boxer, junky, and every other shade of good and bad. comes from a communist country on top of it. he’s seen and done too much. now he’s working the door of my bar.”

his tone of voice says patience for questions and small talk’s disintegrating. i don’t know what to say. experience has shown me the best thing to do when you don’t know what to say is say nothing.

he shakes his head.

“sorry. you’re young. you shouldn’t get it. let’s say this- when men get to milos and my age, when they’ve had lives like ours, they can give up. that’s a dark fuckin’ thing. we need to stick together.”

“he working tonight?”

“yeah.”

“i’m going to stop by and say hello,” i decide aloud.

“milos’d like that.”

his attention’s diverting to a gray-haired man at the bar. looks like he’s assessing whether the guy should be cut off. he drinks hard himself but has special disdain for those starting in the morning.

“take care of yourself man.”

“yeah,” he says distracted.*

*

*by night i forget milos is sitting outside the bar on the corner of north 6th street and bedford ave. my self-obsession’s intensified by a purgatorial new york day.

lucky thing i walk past his corner on my way home from the subway. my commitment’s honored accidentally.

he sees me first from his perch on a stool and calls out. his voice shocks me back into the world. i walk towards him.

his skin has a just-showered look. a dress shirt’s rolled up thick forearms revealing his tattoos. some look like they weren’t done in the free world. his nose has been broken a few times.

he looks good. 

the first time i met him he had my respect without saying anything. i definitely wouldn’t talk shit if he told me i couldn’t come into the bar. he’s tough enough to not care if you believe he is.

or if you believe you are.

“how you,” his accented voice says.

we shake hands. it feels like it means something- a refreshing change.

“one of those days,” i say looking around the street bustling with people in fashionable clothing.

i keep complaining, “on days like this all this doesn’t seem real. none of these pretty people. this nice bar. sometimes not even these streets.”

he holds a cigarette. smiling he takes an easy drag.

“i know what you mean. i feel this all time. come have drink?”

“i quit drinking years ago. you know that.”

“i forget. we stay and drink these streets in then.”

he takes another focused pull on his cigarette. i draw in a deep breath.

“today the asphalt’s going down like a broken promise,” i say.

his laugh somehow sounds somber. “poet too eh? what you mean broken promise? you americans. such children. a man’s promised nothing.”

i want to argue nothing but realize i’ve gone to the dark side. my speech will only jack-hammer our evening’s mood more.

“you know i love seeing ya milos but i got to get some rest.”

“yes. i see it on your face. good seeing you too. see you again soon, no?”

“course. unless you do something dumb like give up,” i say without thought.

he smirks.

“not me. even if blinded by own blood and fighting in dark it changes nothing. i fight to end.”

“do me a favor milos?”

“sure. what this favor?”

“stay out of the dark.”

his smirk transitions back to a smile.

“i try. have good night. you stay out of dark too.”

“i’ll do what i can.”

“make sure you do no less and no more.”

“good night.”

i return his smile knowing we’ll both be ok. we’re just tired.*

*

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you laughed when i said, “let’s wait two hours to eat the hippest frittata in willyburg,” at egg (on 135 n 5th street between bedford and berry) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

new short story coming soon

*

-i remember-

*by someone who remembers the past

to repeat it in a grander fashion*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*i remember buying v*** dinner

 -

she didn’t shave her legs

and told the mean truth*

*

*i remember j***

 -

who cut his own throat

with a knife inside a marine’s

sterling silver money clip

 -

but lived to tell me about it

sitting with the other white boys

-

smoking together in the yard*

*

*i remember m*******

 -

introducing me to her friends

as the first guy to fuck her in the ass*

*

*i remember s****

 -

giving me ten bucks

on a decent twenty-bag

-

finally paying for his own shit*

*

 *i remember momma

 -

telling me she misses

having someone to hug at night*

*

*i remember smacking g***

 -

across the face

for being ungrateful

i pulled a blade on f*****

 -

to defend him*

*

*i remember a**** didn’t care

 -

when i gave her gifts

and how it hurt most

 -

because i knew she wouldn’t

before i gave them*

 *

*i remember skinheads

 -

telling me to put out my marlboro

in the back of cbgb’s

 -

and how gas face

made sure i didn’t have to*

*

*i remember tattooing t****

on the kitchen counter

 -

how he tried to make me

feel awkward by coming onto me

 -

which didn’t work

the way he wanted.*

 *

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you won our brawl in rivington 151 (on 151 rivington between clinton and suffolk) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-jig-saw puzzle hatred-

*by someone who should’ve burned the pieces long ago*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*her smiles are skinny jeans fresh out the dryer

 -

but those clear eyes tired walks in the rain

 -

because they’re not visible

when she looks away

 -

with disinterest i suspect’s planned

 -

making only one change

in the content of her words

 -

the replacement of “you” with “him”*

*

*she tells the truth

like an old jig-saw puzzle

 -

pieces lost, bent, misplaced

thrown away, or hidden

 -

and i resent her ability to

show a marble face

 -

feeling anguish touching the skin

covering my own

 -

textured like inexpensive sand-paper *

*

*darwin would get an erection

and/or die in terror

 -

at her presentation of emotional evolution

 -

thoughtful phrasing ensures

the hammer of social damnation

falls on an empty chamber at the end of her turn

 -

after she convinces me

to play rigged russian roulette

 -

looking straight into my green eyes as

i pull the trigger of her saturday night special*

*

*the blast of her voice usually sounds mature*

*

*an individual with the ability to

pull up the rope ladder of emotion

 -

is more jarring to this man

than any haymaker

 -

she smiles from her tree-house

and i look up for hope from a grassless ground

 -

my body feeling the blow of indifference

like a mack truck

 -

i’ve looked down on the beaten

and laid bleeding on similar concrete

 -

my knuckles bloodied or body broken

after brawling a truth

 -

but she’s the first to level me with a smile

and calmly spoken sentence*

*

 *exposed skin on her face, neck, and shoulders

makes an offer to minds of many men

in this crowded room filled with mistake-inspiring music

 -

her dancing alone

unconcerned with all these guests

 -

my half-smile spreads

seeing a different proposition

 -

before stepping outside to inhale dark air

and exhale grayness

 -

for the first time

staring at moonless skies

i see an answer in this one’s blank features

 -

don’t look here.*

*

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at mars bar (on 25 east 1st street between 2nd ave and bowery) you said, “no respectable outlaw comes here anymore.” – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-tough guy-

*by someone who’s never seen a guinea cowboy*

(frankie leone)

*

*hollywood fabricates glimpses of tough guys.

even the conjured pain of convincing actors can’t be expressed well with words. the thudding fist, song of a barrel, or introduction of a knife articulates it best. the loathing of their existence is clearest while their agony’s shared with others- as they kill more of themselves.

directors show sublime journeys of these men. the romance of their phantoms has marked me forever. still, i hate them for their lies of omission. not one master of the screen lets on where the pursuit of tough ends for those who survive it. they never show how a man knows he’s reached this imaginary place.

bleeding memories of avenues and alleyways aren’t welcome mats outside its door. scars or passed friends don’t equate to cards validating membership.  one gets there when the camera crew of other’s eyes are closed.

it’s not cinematic.*

*

*the fight’s over and it wasn’t much of one. more accurately- it wasn’t one. even a fifteen-year-old who’s spent the past three years in schools for delinquent youth’s no match for five kids three years his senior.

they shuffle towards the car double-parked where they spotted me. i’m not getting up anytime soon. the police aren’t coming. they take their time getting in.

as the car drives off i watch the rear window. all of them except the driver look at me. their mouths aren’t moving in speech. i expect their faces to smile or laugh. they don’t.

returning their stares hatred burns and throbs inside. the infection rots my guts, brain, and heart. i taste the most rancid flavor i’ve ever known. injuries from the beating aren’t comfortable either.

no posse materializes around me. i don’t call on any saint or devil for vengeance. just make myself a silent promise-

those faces watching me will look more concerned next time they see mine.*

*

“what you need guns n’ roses,” he asks nodding his chin upwards.

i assume the “guns n’ roses” bit is a joke about how i’m dressed. the guy he stands with by the public rest room in tompkins park doesn’t speak. they’re both wearing fitted mets caps with intact stickers.

they don’t look like baseball fans.

i scrutinize the right hand dangling at his side. he notices. from his wrist to the nail of his pointer is a column of uppercase letters spelling, “power of god.” this is the guy. he probably doesn’t want to be friends so i get to the point.

i make a fast gesture with my fingers. “caliche said you’d hook it up. my name’s frankie.”

“frankie huh? didn’t know my cousin be down wit’ rock and roll white boys. i’ma holla at him to make sure you legit. like a background check. if he say you cool i’ll be here tuesdee this time. caliche’s mans or not, you bring five-oh up in here somebody migh’ leave in cuffs but you ain’t leavin’ at all.”

i nod. “see you tuesday.”*

*

*from the park we don’t start a thrilling journey to a bat man cave. we walk on the street in silence. hazel searchlights in his eye sockets sweep the streets.

the trip ends at the bottom of a stairwell on avenue c. no heavy machine guns or gold-plated forty-fives hang on the walls. the dark basement reeks of reality. i don’t like the smell.

a mop-bucket filled with rags is in the corner. he kneels beside it and starts removing rag-wrapped bundles. his eyes don’t leave me. “you’s never had a strap before has you?”

“i have.”

“yeah ok,” he dismisses. “what you tryin’ to get into? sumthin’ small to bust shots at cans wit’ your boys an’ impress shorties righ’?”

i resent his words. “you’re the professional. show me something.”

“what kind of paper you workin’ wit’?”

“fifty bucks.”

his face clenches. torrents of angry spanish spew from his mouth. it’s not my language but i understand the expletives. “caliche gone get his ass whooped for this. trust and believe maricone. i’m a bidness man. how dare you clowns waste mah time coming at me wit’ chump change? i look like k mart to you nigga?”

i don’t say anything. he sighs and digs to the bottom of the bucket for a bundle. “fifty,” he say and passes it into my hands. “bitch is a three-eighty. bullets run a dolla a-piece.”

i unwrap it. there’s discoloration all over the cylinder and short barrel. someone’s filed down the back of the hammer. old tape’s wrapped around the handle and trigger. i don’t see a safety.

it looks like murder.*

*

*”i saw your cousin.”

“i heard,” he says pointing to his busted lip.

“sorry. you know i’m just as broke as you.”

“it’s all good. i’m not trippin’. let’s see it.”

i reach into my jacket pocket and hand it to him. his laughter speed bags my ego.

“you got played. my cuz musta boosted this from some wild west museum. shit’s probly got more bodies on it then a funeral parlor. kk and his team’s gone laugh their asses off if you go see ‘em wit’ this.”

he hands it back and i point my six shooter at his face. i think i’m joking.

“how funny is it?”

his tone changes. “i’m just playin’. be easy killer.”*

*

*olde english 800 isn’t meant to be sipped. when its warm gagging becomes part of the experience. unless of course someone’s very dedicated to malt liquor. i’m not there yet.

the forty’s gone in under ten minutes. cool night air helps it go down. the city warps into somewhere more comfortable while i stare at the east river from my spot at the end of houston.

i turn the cheap pistol in my hands. it’s so ugly and little. doesn’t seem like something that should exercise the “power of god.”

i remember something momma said- “only men with small dicks feel like they need to keep a gun in their pants.”

i laugh to myself and remember a kid from my neighborhood doing time.

he’s not much older than me. shot some kid in some place for some reason. something about a girl. i see his mom at the grocery. she smiles at me. it’s not the same smile i remember before he got put away. might just be in my mind though.

i look at brooklyn. then the water. my pitching arm goes to work. the throw’s kind of weak. i watch its arc into the water. should’ve been a little higher.

looks like tough’s still a few years away.*

*

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we agreed the turkey’s nest tavern (on 94 bedford ave and north 12th street) is a great spot for hopelessness – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-pour a little out for-

*by someone looking at the same night sky as you

for different answers*

(frankie leone, just a man)

 *

*she seems like she’s somewhere else

 -

sitting quietly

but not nervously

a few feet from where i’m sprawled

 -

bleach-blonde hair falls around her face

dark roots smirk from her scalp

 -

worn clothes with many tears

repaired by punk rock patches

hug her close

 -

allowing black tattoos

to peek out frayed sleeves

when they recess

 -

not a girl or an adult

but definitely a woman

 -

she holds a plastic water-bottle

filled with a mixture of

 -

cranberry juice and malt liquor

 -

staring with polite disinterest

around the small bedroom

 -

my friends

acquaintances

and i lounge in

 -

overpriced new york bought cigarettes

burning away in our hands*

*

*when lady luck pours out half the spirits

in the windows to a soul she often does

 -

with chilled malice

 -

and i know that in between tragedies

the night sky is the only place to look

 -

for forgiveness

for mercy

for pity

for answers

 -

and a moon staring back at draining eyes

never has any of these things to offer*

*

*i see her eyes

they’re blue-green and half-empty

 -

but it’s possible i’m wrong

 -

the case more often than not

-

they could be half-full

-

for a few moments i want

to ask what they’ve seen

 -

before deciding against it

 -

because i’m confident i already know*

*

*looking at her

i wonder how bright

the moon is this chilly night

 -

trying to stifle self-consciousness

then nervousness overwhelms me

 -

re-remembering any grown-up

can tell when a rowdy kid

fills half-empty bottles of booze

 -

with water.*

*

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*


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