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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