*by someone who’s never seen a guinea cowboy*
*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?”
“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’?”
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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