Story: Bangs on a Patio

It starts off with a scene. A wide road of risen asphalt curving down a hill toward a highway. There are large cement houses, with wooden window frames, taking up big portions of land next to the road. There is absolutely no glass. There is barely a car on the road or at the highway – with only a motorbike or two buzzing through at high speeds. I sit at the wall lining up my new property, staring around the street, basking in the white heat of the sun.

Sitting with me was a family. A little girl with blond hair. I ask her if it is always this quiet, she answers a simple no. I try to ask her about the neighborhood, but I can’t make out a single answer she gives me. A sheet of sun falls right into my eyes, but I turn my head to the house right in front of me. It is a two story house, with many windows on all sides, very open. Right across the street from where I was sitting, there was the garage, lined with tar metal gates. It leads right to the kitchen, where I see a slender Korean woman fixing up the house, while her kids pass by her hip, further into the house. There are so many windows a ledges to the house that one could climb up it, to the roof, rather easily. One of the children attempts to do this, but is told to come down by the mother.

Before I could ask the little blond girl who they were, a small group of children come into the scene from the highway. They immediately begin to climb the house, looking for a kid, calling out his name over and over again – Solo. The guy, no older than twelve, appears with his mother attempting to hold him back. The group seems to have some sort of issue with the kids. It appeared as if there was a previous fight between them and someone from the group. I keep staring intently, but soon two kids from the group appear in front of me. They aren’t any older then thirteen, wearing wife-beater, showing off their non-existent muscles under their tanned flesh. They looked Puerto Rican, taking a striking resemblance to my cousin when he was little. He started showing me his boxing moves and stances, making my mother, who would appear suddenly behind me, laugh in all ways.

It was at that moment that I noticed two more kids appeared. They were definitely related to those in the group, but they were dressed differently. One specifically wore a hoodie, which was over his head, with a ball cap underneath. It was absurd looking on the kid, who had to be thirteen himself. He grips the kid away from his mother, who is trying to understand what is going on, but now the kids have gathered around the son. Then the first bang.

Five terrifying bangs, along with the screams of everyone around me, ripped through this dream. The child was being shot, in front of his mother, and I was just sitting there watching what was happening. I wasn’t worried about anything. I wasn’t shocked by it. I don’t see the body drop, nor the blood, but I see a smile come across all the children’s faces. Soon the kid with the gun turns to me, shaking his aim right at my face. So it’s come to this, I say. With that, the child slowly pulls the trigger, but with another bang everyone is gone. I’m there, alone again, looking over the road from the wall lining my property. The white heat blinding my eyes, freezing my arms.

I wake up in a cold sweat.

Envision of an Angel

The bottle couldn’t be put down soon enough, but the effects were already ringing through me with every heartbeat. It had been drinking the whole night, drinking in memory, until I couldn’t feel the cold of this alley anymore. When the effects started in, I leaned myself against a wall between a large green bin and weathered grey trash cans. I didn’t want to hold myself up, not even in my suit, but I instinctively struggled for it. I just wanted to be knocked out. Wanted to be completely away from all this. A person should only handle one death at a time. I miss her scent. I miss the playful things she wore, the jewelry she even made herself, and the room just clouded in perfume. My arms imitate all the times I wrapped them around her, but there is nothing there anymore. I drop my head back and look up. I don’t even want to think about the kid.

It was then that a wincing light fell right to my eyes. I tried to block it, but it shined all over. A cop, likely, but I grumbled for them to go away. Then I saw where the light was emulating from. A woman, in shining white rags, skin of night, and eyes of diamond slowly came upon me. Kneeling down, a rush of sadness flowed through me. Tears drench my cheeks, droplets to my blazer. I can’t contain myself. She smiles at me. Putting her hand on my cheek, she whispers something delicately. Her words fall onto my ear like bits of snow. She says: “This too shall pass.” When she is done, she slowly stands up – simply towering over me – turns and walks through the rest of the alley. What did I just see? ¿Quien?

Short Story: “… It’s Over!”

1.

“… It’s over!” Yelled a thin man as he bursts through the broken red door leading to the roof of his housing project. “Fuck you… it’s over!”
“Calm down, sir – man. What the hell are you doing? Stop running, I’m not going to hurt –” A police officer had rushed through the door trying to reach the thin man. He was a more muscular figure in his tight fitting outfit. “What the hell are you doing, Jason? Que? Everything will be alright, just calm down.”
“No! It’s over. You’re finally here to bring me in. I knew they’d send you.”
“Look. I’m just trying to do my job. You need to be brought in.”
“A bitch… That’s exactly what you are. Like always.”
“You’re suspected of killing someone! Killing someone – do you think that’s something you could get away with.”
“I told you! It wasn’t like that! I told you to tell them!”
“It doesn’t work that way. Tu sabes eso. I told them you were willing to be brought in, and I’m now chasing you up this building. I don’t know what the hell is happening now. You said –”
“I said it was an accident! I said I wasn’t even involved! I know who was involved, but I can’t have you talking to her.”
“Do be so dramatic! You’re treating this like one of the movies we used to watch.”
“When we were kids? Ha… yeah. I’ll tell you what. Since you didn’t really live a day of this sort of life, I’ll tell you; no, it isn’t anything like the movies. It’s worse. She’s involved with the wrong people and if anything comes out about her… She would be in danger of any of this shit came out!”
“Calm down. Just…”
“She’s my sister, man! I ain’t going to ‘confess’ some shit, so that you can twist it, get her name out there to satisfy your boss’s ego, and probably get her killed. Fuck you, you’re just a bitch in a blue outfit. Someone that piece of shit metal at your chest means you’re something. You’re nothing!” Jason slowly back to the edge wall of the roof, hip high, and then seated himself on top of it. “You’ve always been nothing, Junior. That’s why you became what you did. Big tough pig with a thick head. All you wanted was some praise, because your friends cheering you on… nah, that shit wasn’t enough. You needed to feel respected to everyone on the street. What’s the difference between you and that motherfucker Charley? You remember him right? Used to come around here just to harass the shit out of us living here, wave his little dick gun around, trying to force up the teenage girls; that fucked up guy. Look at you. Mister cop, everything by force, and you’re acting just the same way. Except you think you got the law on your side. You ain’t got your people though.”
“Are you done, sir?”
“You don’t know shit about what’s happening, bitch.”
“Sir, are you doing? I’m not going to ask again.”
“Yeah, I’m done officer. Completely.” Jason suddenly stood up on the ledge of the room, still face Junior. Looking over his should, he sees the nearly thirteen story drop. “There ain’t anything left.”
“Sir, step down from there!” Junior draws his gun, aiming it downward. “Step away from the edge! Don’t be so dramatic. We can talk about all this calmly at the police station.”
Calmly? What calmly? Soon as they see me in handcuff, my sister could be dead! I ain’t having it.” Jason’s began to hyperventilating quite a bit, but forced himself to breath slower. “All this shit… It ain’t worth it. To grow up like this. Shit, we’re not even mid-twenty and life is already hard. Everything has just been… fucked up. The first time he came through the house door all bobo, falling over herself, that’s when I knew we were fucked. And I go to you, just to get the same bullshit routine I get from them, by all “for the law” or some bullshit. There ain’t anything here for us. For no one. We people don’t know shit about taking care of ourselves or each other.”
“It’s over, Jason. Just get down from there. We can talk. We can make this situation right.”
“No, we can’t.”

 

2.

It was two in the morning when Officer James Ramirez, Junior approached a former childhood friend about a murder that recently happened in the area. He had finally decided that enough was enough. James knew too much of the situation of the murder, but had kept it the entire time to himself. It was during a conversation with his partner that he finally decided to take the initiative to get his friend in, have him explain the story, and put an end to the case. Junior and his partner Officer Julian Castaneda reaching an old housing project in the south Bronx – Junior’s old home. They soon saw the suspect, Jason Suarez, walking down the block next to the building that he lived in. As the police officers left the vehicle, Jason noticed, and then began run into the building.

Once inside the building, Jason intended to use the elevator to go all the way up. Know that it would just lead to his apartment, he decided to sprint up the staircase inside. Junior began to give chase thereafter, racing behind Jason, nearly able to reach him several times. Junior hesitated though. Attempted to reason with the suspect.

Here is where the story gets sketchy. They managed to reach the roof. Between them they had a loud conversation. Occupants on the top floor of the building could hear all the action going on above them. They were arguing back and forth. Sometimes it would be very loud. Other times it would be soft. Unfortunately, the details of the conversation had between the suspect and the officer were muffled by the sudden gusts of high wind. One witness said they may have been arguing over another woman.

Soon the situation escalated, as Jason began to stand at the ledge of the rooftop, swaying dangerous close to the edge. At several points here was nearly about to fall. Officer Junior called for backup, plenty of it, and the ambulance were even called. As the noise from all the emergency vehicles were coming in, an agitated Jason began to further tip himself over the ledge. He seemed determined to get his point across to the Officer. It was then that Officer Junior bum rushed Jason, pulling him off the ledge, and forcing him into the ground with all the force that he could. Unfortunately, Jason would fall right on his head cracking his skull. The paramedics soon arrived to treat the victim, who would definitely recover, but was unconscious at the time. Officer Junior was drenched in the victim’s blood.

Being question, thereafter, the details slowly began to come out. Jason was a prime suspect for the murder of prominent bodega owner, Jose “Yo-yo” Dominic, suspected to be running a drug front from one of his many stores. The case was originally being investigated as a domestic dispute turned homicide, involving Dominic’s former lover, a Mr. Flores Donoso; the drug connection was later found during the early investigation, revealed accidentally by a young woman looking to buy some painkillers from the bodega Dominic was murder in. Unfortunately, the young woman wasn’t arrested and soon disappeared before officers could question her. Through Officer Junior, it was revealed that the woman was Isabel Saurez – Jason’s sister.

Three days after the roof incident, Isabel would be found dead in her apartment – an apparent botched robbery. Though it was suspected that it was more than just a botched robbery, there was no evidence linking this “accidental” death to the murder of Jose Dominic. At the time, Jason was still at the hospital when he heard the news of his sister. Instead of showing the usual grief at losing another family member, Jason went completely silent, and refused to talk to anyone. A few hours later, the breaking of glass was heard. Jason was found dead on the sidewalk, having fallen thirteen stories, in a pool of his blood.

Officer James Ramirez, Junior offered to pay for the entire funeral.

Review: Puerto Rican Tales, Legends of Spanish Colonial Times

Cayetano Coll y Toste is a name further disappearing within the Boricua community – at least here in the U.S. He was an important historian and storyteller. He gathered up all the legends and myths of the island back in the early 20th century. For decades these stories strengthened and inspired many Boricuas sense of identity – like many legends and stories can. This books attempts to keep that idea alive by translating many of Cayetano’s stories into English, for the diaspora living away from the island.

In comparison to another book that attempts to do the same thing, Stories of Puerto Rico by Muckley and Santiago, Puerto Rican Tales doesn’t attempt to dumb things down. This translation of the stories have appeared in many anthologies dealing with Puerto Rican literature. They tell the story without making too many alterations from the original text by Cayetano. The only alteration, one that is mentioned upfront in the preface, was the cutting out of repetition. No doubt these stories were meant to be memorized, told over, read over, and spread over a long period of time. No doubt that helped add on to its legacy of being one of the most important Spanish texts on myths within Hispanoamerican literature.

Many of the stories are ones that I’ve heard of before. Each captures a glimpse of what was going on during the time of Spanish rule of Borinquen. None of them were in an obvious order, being split up into sections by the type of story they were; Romance, Adventure, Historical, Religious/Superstitious. Each attempted to grab a piece of life during a certain time. I could only have wished that things were in a more chronological order, since it was very confusing to read the very first story – “The Gold Nugget” – about early Spanish exploration and exploitation of the island, to then suddenly jump to another story – “Shark Killer” – which had to have taken place a long time after, when the Spanish assumed full government control and Christianity had become dominant among the island’s inhabitants. This jumping back and forth may have made sense splitting it into sections, but confuses anyone unfamiliar with the history of the island – likely the person who plans to pick up this book.

The stories are incredibly beautiful though. Each one should be cherished for one reason or another. Each one provides a sort of magical or mystical presence… It may be better to say a constant divine intervention that leads the events of every story. From the first story’s poetic justice against a cheater to the last story’s solemn warning through the ringing of a broken bell, there is always a sense of something beyond human explanation. Almost a magical realism or even a surrealism that seems to dominate over the stories.

I think this point is further by the fact that dreams and dream like images seem to be a constant topic covered within the stories. Take for example the beautiful story of “The Diamond Ring.” In a dream, an artillery man marries the woman he had fallen in love with – giving her a diamond ring and opening a store together. Being an artillery man, he could never afford such a thing. Then, one day, the English unsuccessfully attacked the island. The artillery man saw the light of the boat, unsure of what ship it was, but know it wasn’t one of their own. With a single cannon shot, he ripped through the mess hall of the ship, injuring the important Sir John Hawkings. (Though the story wrongly says this shot killed him… in reality he died of dysentery.) The governor, Don Pedro Suarez, was so happy about this win over the enemy that he gave the artillery man a diamond ring. Soon he gave the diamond ring to his wife to be, they married, and indeed opened a store to live out the rest of their lives in ease and happiness.

If you want a slight glimpse into the foundation of the Borinquen culture, don’t hesitate in getting this book. The stories still feel fresh, even familiar at times, but never stale. Each story is a short read, each being only a few pages long, but full for information, full of connections to the actual history of the island. Any Boricua that has never heard of Cayetano Coll y Toste should pick this book up immediately. This is your history. It is worth knowing about.

Take care,
Isa.

 

PS: Before I forget. The work was translated and adapeted by Jose Ramirez Rivera. Credit where credit is due — thank you Jose for bringing these stories into English.

Short Story: Another Job Lost

Sitting across from this old mental table, covered in folders and papers, a single computer screen glowed in between the mess. I was waiting to have my ass chewed out. It was like waiting for some injection or at a doctor’s office when you already knew the results – you just wanted it to be over and done with. Either leave in silence or having yelled a piece of your mind. It didn’t matter much at this point. I knew it was over. I knew this job was done. Being a lowly adjunct could only give you so much protection – none.

So soon the Head stomped into the room, her flat shoes making this awful tapping noise. She was wearing her usual ridiculous outfit. This time it was a mix between a western and a nun; a long black skirt, with matching black blazer, a shirt with ruffles underneath, a loosely tied thin scarf, and a black cowboy hat. Her frail figure further gave the appearance as if the clothes were being hung only by hangers. The only thing not frail about this picture was the look on her eyes, the near scowl on her face.

“What are you doing?” She started low. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“I was trying to teach –”
“Really? Don’t bullshit me. What did you do over the weekend?”
“What I usually do… work.”
“After a few drinks or some grass? Hm?”

It was at this point her voice began to rise. A drone tine of a pitch. Something just so unbearable; the beginning of the record scratching. She was angry, but not a reasoned anger.

“I was just trying to have a class, Karen. The student said something I couldn’t let go.”
“Oh? Well, a professional would have. A professional –“
“Like Prof. Paul and his little rant last month?” I slipped in.
“You think this is funny?”
“I already know the outcome. Excuse one, but that’s it.”
“‘You’re worthless…’ That’s what you said to the student?”
“Context.”
“So you’re not denying it?”

There was nothing to deny. The student said something ignorant. It HAD been a tough weekend. During the weekend I went to visit family. Over and over, the same question was asked: What are you doing? Then a surprise, or a blank look to space, or a furthering explanation by my mother. I’m a writer who just happens to be a teacher. Yet the teaching position seems to earn a little more esteem than the prior. Forget the fact I’m earning debt with this job. Each month has become another loan from friends or family. I’m almost there – I can feel it – with the editing finally complete on my novel. Yet at the same time, I don’t feel very hopeful that it will lead me anywhere. And here, in this college, was where I was stuck. The student said that writing is useless, that artists are idiots, and that school should be run her way. The only thing I did was challenge her. And when that challenge was rejected by her with silence, I had to speak my head.

“I said to her: ‘So people are wasting their time? Wasting their time caring and worrying about art? The only thing that they could care about in the world is useless? Why? It doesn’t have a monetary value attached to it? You’re worthless when you have to attach your life to an amount. Even more worthless when you judge others for not following the rules you apparently follow. You said it yourself: fuck the rules, poetry shouldn’t have rules. What you’re really saying is that you want people to follow by your rules, your expectation. You want to be praised for this great discovery of personal freedom, when at the same time you prevent yourself from learning about what the hell you’re talking about. The entire universe comes under rules, rules that gives you enough freedom to do what you like, but not enough freedom to do whatever you want. You can’t stop aging, disease, illness, cancer, or even random accidents. Yet you somehow think that art is shit because you don’t get it? That’s where you fucking criticize. That’s the point of real constructive criticism.’”
“You said all of that?”
“Yeah… I did.”
“Do you realize what the fuck you’re doing? That was professional to you?”
“Not professional… No, probably not. Needed.”
“Needed? Right. Well, I don’t need that and I don’t need you!”

Finally, the sudden screech rang through my ear from that chapped lip. I was gone.

“Now get the fuck out of here! Leave! Pack your stuff and leave! You’re nothing, you won’t be anything with that attitude, and don’t expect any recommendations! I hope to starve on the street!”
“Yeah, I bet you do.”

Guesting in a Class

It was a memorable experience. Yesterday my work was being taught in a classroom, and I was a guest to read and discuss the work along with the class. I’ve never took to analyzing my own work in a literary critical way. So I’ve been excited about it for the last few weeks, since I was asked by a professor. At the same time, I was anxious at the results. It was at my old college, LaGuardia Community College, and I don’t exactly feel welcomed there. Likely that’s my own perception. I do feel, though, that there are many problems with that college.

The class, though, was much to be expected. It was just a shy class. The students felt very young, even though many of us are probably the same age, and you could definitely see it right away. Most of the students tried to participate here and there, but it was a specific few who stood out. The thing that definitely impressed me were the results. They managed, many times, to get the point of the pieces. They also picked out things I would have never thought of, though probably do in a subconscious way. I mean, most writers are just telling a story. Sometimes they are very clear and direct with them structure, sometimes a structure comes out on its own. For these pieces, many of them had a structure/aesthetic which I don’t pay much attention to – it is just how I write. Intertwining certain elements of the city and the country was definitely a major point which I didn’t think of. It just comes to me. I never purposely think of making it that way. It also seem that the things I did intend were very clear as well. Not everything, but most things definitely. One poem in particular ends rather peculiarly, which is to symbolize the confusion felt by the character. They also felt confused, which they latched on to the narrator right away. Definitely like that.

Overall, it was a great experience for me. I thank the professor for giving me the opportunity to share my work and for the class on doing so well with it.

 

 

 

I’ll admit that it wasn’t all good feels though. This doesn’t reflect on the class, but it definitely reflects on the college.

LaGuardia doesn’t seem to change. The culture in that college is much the same when I entered there five years ago. Walking through the halls brought back memories that wasn’t even that long ago. Everything felt grey. The paint on the walls were faded. The halls looked much the same. The only change I could manage to find was in the restroom, where they finally took the opportunity to fix a section of it… yet at the same time one of the buildings (the C building) needs the entire outside fixed because it is too old, and it doesn’t seem to have even gotten started.

Focusing on the culture. Much of the same divisions were occurring in the atrium, as always, with people dividing themselves by background. This is supposed to be the most diverse college in the entire city, yet in that diversity everyone remains separate from one another. Am I surprised? Absolutely not. There is nothing to really bring anyone together. No event to rally around. No subject to discuss campus wide. No heart is what I’m essentially saying. It felt like the buildings have gone back to their very roots, plain ol’ factors, but processing the same tired attitudes.

If something gets too old, it just seems to get rebooted, but the same story happens time and time again. One example, the college’s literary magazine is back up again. They are presenting themselves as new! Having better there a couple of years, more than I needed to be, I know of at least two or three reincarnation of that very magazine. Hell, even the flyer reminded me of the when I was published in it. If you’re going to try and set up a magazine, I would at least hope that maybe you would attempt something that is new and will last more than a fucking year. These students are impressionable, many want to become writers. Yet I know for a goddamn fact that the college has not, and will not, help you achieve your goals. I’m putting it direct. I’m published because I had specific people push for me, give me advice, and tell me about the industry in-depth. At the end, I pushed myself the most. Being published in the college magazine, or even by one of the professors, never amounted much to me. I appreciate it, but it only amounted to a quick boost in self-confidence that quickly faded once I attempted to get that same work into the public….

Anyhow, that was a good enough rant about the magazine. I have more to say, but I’ll keep it to myself for now.

Overall, I just don’t feel that the college has changed. I have no doubt that it means that much of the product hasn’t changed either. Looking over two sites, one states the graduation rate is around 30% and the other around 14%? Yet the retention rate is over 50%. And no one sees a problem in this? Several years ago it was revealed to me that English classes were the most failed classes in the entire college. Has that changed? If it hasn’t, why then add another major that relates directly with English – creative writing? Fucking honestly. Being back there, even to guest for a class, really let’s all that frustration out again. There is something deeply wrong, but just keep the status quo for the sake of it. The students are being given a disservice.

Take

Sketch: Burro Char

Inspired by “Name in Latin” by Jesus Colon

It was a bunch of rants, through a long empty college hall, with windows looking over the bricked courtyard (for lack of a better term), that lead to the idea of starting our own magazine. A bunch of friends and myself, though mostly myself, were dissatisfied by the sort of appreciation it had toward literature. We were all writers, or at least wanted to be, and it just seem like the right way to go about things. Better than relying on already stale system connected to the school. We wanted the work to spread out, beyond the walls, into the streets. A revitalizing of the experimentation of the WW2 area – Dada, Surrealism, Cut outs, and such.  It was an experience I find hard calling an experience.

The very best idea that would come out of the idea would be a few group meetings we had. We would invite others, then all come together for some group experimentation, and then talk about trying to publish this said experimentation in a monthly format – or something of the sort. We were all diving into this experience. Only one of us, a cat named Jose, had any experience working with a publication – he had worked in the college’s literary magazine. It all seemed straight forward though. I sort of came up with the philosophy the work would be following… or it would be better to say the aesthetic – a mixture of Surrealist and Oulipo experimentation. It had been stuck in my head for a long while, slaving night after night trying to get down the idea in practice, so I wasn’t going to just let the idea slip away or keep it to myself – though too often a professor would chime in attempting to either take credit or claim someone else did it. Even though, years later, I’m still unsure of how true that is. It was an attempt to let our minds go, then suddenly get that mess and organize it. An organized chaos. A way of attempting to capture how society felt to me. At times it mostly winded up absurd, but that was really the main point of it.

In any case, we would come together and do some work. Jose and I were probably the most dedicated of the bunch. It was something different and we seem to agree on many of the ideas being passed around. He had even gone so far as to create these interesting collages that would be used as art – nothing incredibly special but could at least get across an idea. We realized very soon that we had to come up with a name of some sort. We decided the best way to do it was to do an experiment. We took names of some of our favorite authors at the time, names such as Bukowski and Burroughs, and began cutting them up randomly – into phrases that may have made sense. We would picture some from the bunch, rearrange them, and figure out a name. The name that won out was Burro Char, which I interpreted to mean a huge feast – a feast of donkeys. It would feel like we were providing something to a huge group of people, and everyone would be join in. It was meant to be tedious, but rewarding. In retrospect, it was a ridiculous name!

It was likely an attempt, by myself, to connect to something Latino. Yet all the names we used and all the ideas we were attempt to further were American or European. We were thinking of a different mindset, and our pieces came out as such, and further the project deteriorated. There was something exciting in the idea, in the idealism, but the product would never suffice or surface.

There was about four or five meetings. Each time we would meet at the college atrium, pick a huge empty table, and just do something. Bullshit around of course. Wait for others to show up. Getting calls that some wouldn’t be able to make it. Flirting. Gossiping. Then somehow get to work somewhere in between all of them. The table would be littered with pages of text, cut up into different sizes, put together to behind the work of copying the results. We would get excited when the lines were fluid, even told an interesting story. We would laugh at the sex jokes that popped in every once and a while – or even the implication of one. Then we would get discouraged when we found nothing within the words. Just a wall of words that lead nowhere. Emptiness into sex. Emptiness into beauty. Beauty into nothing. Sex into shit. This is how I saw it. It was a continual conflict between exhilaration and depression. Most of the time we believe it was the pieces to claim. Other times, it was obvious that this is how the work would be.

The numbers dwindled, the times spread further out. Five meetings, planned for a weekly basis, though initially thought to be done within a single week, spread out to at least two months. We could never get the same people to come. We were all dealing with personal things. Sometimes as simple as taking someone to the hospital, to a fight with a girlfriend, to just plain laziness. Everything about the energy and hope of the project came to nothing. All that is left is a single file, minimally organized, of the very first issue. It’s nothing special. Just a plain word document.

It was something to learn from though. It was sitting there, seeing the creativity and work habit of people, which inspired me to push my own work. Even if the idea seemed ridiculous, which it damn was, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something can’t develop from it. I came to realize how separate I was with the work I was doing, or even how much of myself I didn’t really figure out yet. It was a mistake to go through. An “experience” everyone should have.

Sketch: Legs Crossing

Five stations had already passed by, but I was still a bit away until I get into Manhattan, and then all the way to Brooklyn. The R train was running on the E line, due to the tedious amount of construction the system was in during night. Not to mention the cleaning of some of the stations, the MTA worker pumping water all over the floors and onto the tracks. It was all a long blur to me. I was recovering from a night of drinking. The time it took from one station to another left me feeling as if I was going through hell. Every inch of the tunnel could be seen passing by the window. Every pipe, wire, handrail, every secret doorway to some other part of the sudden, and every blub hung with light.

The first stop in Manhattan brought in some unusual character, mostly the homeless finding a place to rest for the night, or trying to travel into another bigger station to get some piece. If you travel through the tunnels at night, you could easily pick them out. The fat man sitting at the wooden bench, grasping his four plastic bags full of rolled up paper towels. Or the woman, bundled in three times the amount of clothes needed, looking around the car as an alert cat, looking for a few minutes to rest and then panic again. Or even the young group of people, clothes torn, and their arms scattered with marks, and the drop of oil on their cheek. There was also an older man.

He was dressed much like you would imagine a construction worker. Fitted jeans, heavy boots, three layers under a simple hoodie, and a solid beanie. The only thing that looked out of place was the person under those clothes. His skin was greyed of its human color. Not as if he rolled in dust, but had aged beyond life – slowly turning into statue. His hands were thick, yet delicate – looking as if cobwebs were painfully sown underneath his skin. He had a beard that would make Whitman jealous, but it was surprisingly kept well. His blue eyes darted right to me. He was judging whether or not I was a cop. My stocky build sort of called that into question. I decided to keep looking toward the window, just to ease his tension.

After another stop or two, he slowly began to relax in his seat. He sat back. He swiftly crossed his legs, going in slow motions, until his knees were perfectly crossed with one another. It was subtle. I only managed to notice it because it brought to memory the jokes a good friend would make as he crossed his own legs like that. Crossing his legs like a woman, he’d belt out.  Yet the act with this old man seem very natural. Yet it was more calculated. He was seeing if I would look at him. I did. Yet it wasn’t a malicious look, of course, but something between surprise and a smile. So he finally calmed down and leaned back. He picked up his crossed legs and put them on the seat next to him. He was getting ready to sleep.

Uncrossing his legs, he uncomfortable took off his jacket, then lightly draped it over his head. He was making a small tent for himself, negative the harsh fluorescent lamps of the subway car. Then he was finally off to sleep, and I to my stop.

Story: Subway Breakfast

A typical morning for me consisted of tumbling my way to the corner food vendor, there since last night, ordering a quick platter with a side of eggs, and collapsing my way toward the nearest subway station. With my heavy backpack, my tool belt with a visible hammer, and my plastic bag I’d take the train to Eighth Avenue. Finding a bench, I would relax in it and eat leisurely. I’d eat, then stare, another bite, then more staring, until I was finished with both. Work wasn’t for another hour or two. I’m never in a rush.

Everyone else is.

People speed through the tunnels, their steps resounding with harsh stomp or delicate cracks, but everyone was packed in herds. From one train to another, these people walked together as if they were all part of the same group or even the same family. Yet you could tell they were strangers by the awkwardness of a bump or mistake touch. One woman gave a surprise look at a guy who accidentally rub his shoulder against her breast. The station was so packed that those sorts of incidents happen all the time. The guy barely noticed and seem to whisper for a second, as his mouth gently opens, but then it snaps shut.

It was nothing unusual. It would happen several times. Sometimes I’d laugh at it. Sometimes inside, sometimes out loud. I’d risk out loud only if I thought the girl was cute. She would find me first, forgiving the initial touch from the stranger, to throw me a dirty look. I’d smile in a vain attempt to relieve the tension. Usually I got a huff.

This day I was about done with the breakfast – the slimy just slipping into my mouth – when I saw another group of people transferring from train to train. From the L train to the A/C/E platform to be more specific. Brooklyn people going further into Manhattan. Many of them were office workers. Bland suits at their money’s worth. Probably more than I’d make this week. Nothing particular sticking out though. Then this one woman slips away from the group – nearly parting it with just her presence – and she finds an empty space somewhere near the bench I was sitting at. She was looking around.

She was one of those… Absolutely stunning. Dressed up like Audrey Hepburn from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A tight black dress embracing every curve and hill of her body. Low-cut enough to show the full extent of soft neck, adorned with a pearl necklace. Down to her shoulder, the thin strap of her bra peaked at the very edge – alluring – until they reached the soft length of her upper arm; so soft that any touch could river down… water against porcelain. It was there that I notice the gloves. She went completely out of her way to wear these silk covers, even though the weather seemed the opposite for it. She looked so enduring that I half expected her to take her sunglasses off and put a temple to her lips, as she seem to study every inch of the pathway, probably trying to figure out where to go. Then she did it! I had to smile. I just had to laugh and smile. She completely made my morning. Filled me with this sort of energy. The joy of seeing someone smile even in an empty place like this tunnel.

She immediately noticed me. Christ, it would break my heart to see a dirty look now. It would just hurt. Instead she gave me a bashful one, looking down a bit. She would walk over and just stand over me for a second. Then she finally let out a hello and asked me for directions. She was heading to Brooklyn… She got turned around in the train. I had to tell her that she WAS in Brooklyn, and that she needed to head back. Blushing at her mistake, I told her it was alright, made a small joke about getting lost all the time.

For a second she stood there. I was searching for the right words. Couldn’t find them in time. She had to get going. Then something slipped from my mouth: “Tu eres bellosa!” She turned around quickly, smiled, and then rushed away. She understood! Oh god, that was stupid of me. And there she went. After sitting there, sulking, for ten more minutes… I was off to work.

Short Story: Charlie, A Father

I wish I could tell a good story.

My father, Charlie, would always tell a story. My talents came from him, as we both exaggerate to the extreme. It’s our way of making some sense of it. To exaggerate it until it turns to a fairytale. A myth with some general explanation – or some stereotype. That’s how he would support any of his arguments. He would use an example of something that happen in his life. At time, I would do the same thing back. If he experienced something, and I didn’t, it usually led to an argument. One subject in general would be women.

A father and son talking about women – typical exchange. Our background so sort demand it of us. Our machismo, as some would like to call it, a simple role we had to take on, demanded that we had stories of women. Women that came into our lives, change them, and left. Somehow the conclusion of one failed relationship could be spread out against all women. Most of the time, it was just a sign that we didn’t know many people. In our isolation, we attract a certain type of person. We’d never admit that, of course, because that would show weakness in our roles. That’s the straight forward version of it. In an actual exchange, he would say something simple: “Watch out for women, did you know they will change their minds on you in a second?”

I knew, but I was trying to rebuff him before he continued. I mean, it’s hard to think on some of that past stuff. I was engaged, or at least I thought so, at one point. People can change their minds, but when he implies that it is only women… Well, it pulls a string of truth in my chest. I know it isn’t true, but it feels it. Much like when you get a mosquito bite. Even well after the bug is a smear in your palm, you feel the ghost pick at your ear or your ankles. That was the exact feeling that goes through my chest when he speaks in those generalizations. It can’t be helped.

Then he tells a story.

It was his first wife – The Cubana, as she’s constantly referred as – who was the woman that won my father’s teenage heart. They were kids, but they had kids of their own, and my father struggled to support them the best he could. He was only about nineteen when they married, and this was back in the 60s, and she was already pregnant with his kid. All he could focus on was going to work. Helping out his flourishing family. He even packed up and moved back to Puerto Rico looking for work. It was there that many of the problems began to happen.

He spent all his time at work. At night, he would climb off this soft hill to the house on top of it. The first child, Jessica, was already born. She was probably around 1 or 2, but even my father doesn’t quite remember. It wasn’t too long before The Cubana gave birth again, this time to a son, Ivan. So the happy couple would live up there in that small house on the soft hill. During rainstorms my father would have to drudge through the mud, pulling the horse he rode, right after doing a day’s work. It was a hard living, but he had to live it. To top it off, he was more of a city person. The island wasn’t for him, even though he was born there, but he had to do it for the sake of his family. He would bring home money. It wasn’t too long before they all decided to move back to New York.

Back in the city, he’d take several jobs at a time. Again, he had to. It was backbreaking labor, in between bouts of heavy drinking. The kids continued to grow. Jessica was approaching her teens, Ivan was still a kid. It was around this time that The Cubana had had enough of their lives. Even though it was very typical for a guy to be the only one working, she resented that it would be nearly the only thing he ever did. He would try to reason with her, saying if he didn’t they couldn’t live. This was true. For a poor illiterate Puerto Rican there was nothing else he could do. He would tell her that she could go out. She was looking to go to bars and clubs more often, said that she would be going with her friends. He gave her the money and told her to go. Unfortunately, it grew out of control.

She would cheat on my father plenty of times. The times he knew, he would beg her to stop. There was no sense in splitting up the family. A family needed a father and needed a mother. Even if it caused fight after fight, even if it became physical one time or another, there needed to be a family. This was how they decide to live. Yet it would only escalate. The final decisions occurred when The Cubana had an abortion, to a man she was having an affair with, and the police were called in. Why? For what reason? Not even my father remembers. Yet he does remember when the cuffs were put on him, and when he was thrown in jail for a day. The Cubana told the police that she was forced to do the abortion. That it was his child and he forced her to abort it. At time point, they practically had nothing to do with one another. When he pleaded his case, they let him go. And when they let him go, they went their separate ways. The courts would handle custody. Custody when to the father.

So my father continued to do what he usually did. He would work himself to the bone, get drunk afterward, and still manage to run a household. Then he would court another woman, Maria, and she would be the mother to his children – at time point a teenager and a ten year old. This situation had to be a big shock to them. Jessica began to act out, with Ivan adjusting a little more firmly. Before too long, Jessica fought time and time again. She wanted to be with her mother, who had visitation rights, because her mother would give her more freedom. So my father relented and told her to go. He wasn’t going to stop his daughter from living with her mother, even if the two didn’t like one another. They made it official with the courts, and began to move on, with my father visiting Jessica on weekends. It was one particular weekend where there was no answer at the door. Again he relented, try to call, again with no answer. It would be like that for three weeks of constant calling or some form of contact before he finally thought of something.

He went to the building, but instead of going inside he waited across the street. He saw The Cubana in a car, hanging out with a friend, strolled right over, and asked about Jessica. At first she wouldn’t say a thing, but then admitted in plain words that he put her up for adoption. Adoption! Yes, she completely abandoned her to the state – stating that my father was unable to take care of her. No one told him. He put too much trust in his ex-wife, and now he had to go running to the courts to find out what was going on. She stayed at an orphanage for a week. Quickly, within the week, they apparently found a home for her – in Long Island. Taking a cab, my father rushed over to see his daughter. He wouldn’t accept that someone else would take care of his child. Even if it was a beautiful house, a kind couple, and an amazingly lush environment. It was just not done. Jessica was also missing home, missing family, though felt incredibly betrayed by her mother. My father asked if she would come home. She said yes. He pleaded to the courts, they drilled him until they were completely sure. Then Jessica was off back home, and my father continued his life the way he did.

So there was no arguing for him. Women weren’t to be trusted. They will cheat and leave you in a heartbeat if you don’t give them enough attention, even if you’re attempting your best to support them and the household.

I couldn’t agree with him. I just couldn’t, no matter what I felt. So I took my own story and minimalized it to the plain truth. I was engaged to a woman. I trusted her. She trusted me. It didn’t work out. She felt the only way she could release the burden was by moving away and cutting off all connections. I am angry, but we both let the relationship go to hell. We needed to be apart. So we went our separate ways.

Even with the truth, I still wish I could tell a good story.