Category Archives: flashing fiction

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.*

*


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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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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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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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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