That night, Stevie Wonder performed at the opening of the Jazz festival. It was a free concert that lasted nearly 3 hours! There was an homage to Micheal Jackson and I was told Stevie broke down in tears. I wasn't there, because of some family drama. In fact, I believe I'm the only one who took the situation so badly, as to roam the streets at 11pm, crying my eyes out, then jumping in bed with a 'has been'. Ah well, at least, It made me feel better.
It's ironic because, just before I got to his house, I saw an old lady walking, slumped over some heavy bags, her black dog faithfully behind her. I proposed to help her out, she had other bags around the corner so she got them too. It saved her a trip. We ended up talking and I spent some time at her house, she offered me a jacket that is a bit too big for me but I took it, anyways. She wanted to thank me for my 'kindness'.
I didn't think it was a big deal, I mean, you see an elder or anyone else, struggling, you help if you can. The lady is named Lydia. She told me she's been very depressed since her husband and brother's death, she said :' It's scary, how time flies by. One day, you'll go to bed, wondering if you'll wake up in the morning.' On my way to 'his' house, I left my number and asked Lydia to call me if she ever needed anything or wanted to grab a cup of coffee. I told her a bit about my family situation and she told me 'Life has its ups and downs, just hang in there and you'll get through.'
Meeting her, I realized how trivial my problems were, compared to hers. I was young, I had my life ahead of me, whilst she went to bed at night, obsessed with her mortality, knowing that death would soon knock at her door. To make matters worse, she's been grieving a dead lover for 10 years and her brother's death, a year and a half prior, deepened her depression.
A couple hours after our chance meeting, I was lying in Lover's arms, I was comforted by his skin on my skin, his fingers caressing my hair, our hushed conversation at 4am. Even if I knew that love wasn't our companion, that we'd soon walk away from each other.
How odd, only a month prior, I had the power in our relationship; I called the shots, but the tables have turned and I find myself; caring more than he cares, scrapping for his time, grieving his change of heart. In fact, I haven't yet digested how fast his feelings turned cold.
Here is the second part of 'Sweetness'. Enjoy and/or share your thoughts.
(In pt. I, Mickey meets Kool. He's an older boy, after feeling her up in her uncle Tiny's car, he leaves his pager's number and asks her to call him and 'he'll take care of her'. To read pt. I, click here.)
‘'So, you gon' call him?’’ said Bianca.
I was by Lorena’s house, in her room. The walls were a tattered pink with pictures of ‘Aventura’, her favorite band. Her friend Bianca was there; she was a loud mouth Boricua, with long nails and spaghetti eyebrows.
‘'No, why would I call him?’’ I responded.
‘‘Cause he said he gon' take care of you!’’ She rolled her eyes.
‘'So? What does that mean?’’
‘’That means, country dummy, that he gon' buy you things...nice things. I heard about this Kool guy; he hustles, he brings in the paper!'
Bianca made the dollar sign and burst out laughing. Lorena smiled. We were sitting on the bed, listening to Bachata music. Lorena was painting her toenails a soft pink, I lay on my back. I had just finished telling them what had happened with Kool.
'’So, you ain't never did it? For real?'' Lorena asked.
‘‘Nah, I didn't. Did you?'
‘'My first time, I was 10. One of my cousins' friend told me he had something to show me, so you know, me like a dummy, I go. And he brings me behind the old buildings; you know where they had that Vinyl store, before some putos burned it down? Yeah. Well, right there. He tells me 'take off your skirt, take off your panties.' And I say 'No, why would I do that.' You know, I argue, He slaps me a couple times, so I take off my panties. I lay down, you know. He on top of me, it hurts, but then, the puto is a fast one. So when he's done, I'm free to go.’’
I looked at her, my mouth hung open. Lorena rolled her eyes.
‘‘Ok, Bianca, you don’t have to tell my baby cousin all that mess. She’s not from around here.’’
Bianca ignored her.
‘'Now, I jus' tell myself sometimes, if a puto wants it, then he gon' take it. I might as well get some money or a purse or whatever.'’
‘‘Yo, loca. No me entiende?’’ Lorena snapped.
Bianca rolled her eyes, re-adjusted her skimpy top. She had a star tattooed on her wrist. I told myself I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get inked.
‘‘I like your tattoo.’’ I said.
‘‘Thanks, my cousin Francesco did it for me, he works downtown. If you want, I can hook you up…’’
‘‘Yo, Bianca. What the fuck? She’s 13; she can’t get no fuckin’ tat!’
I pursed my lips.
‘‘Just saying…Damn, Lola, don’t get your panties in a bunch…’’
Bianca sighed, gave me a sly smile.
Lorena’s friends called her Lola, or Lolita. She didn’t speak much, her eyes glazed over many times. When I tagged along with Lorena and her friends, she only spoke to reprimand them when they talked about boys and sex too vividly. She didn’t want me to know about the realities of the Bronx, because I was a good girl. I didn’t live in this concrete jungle; she didn’t want me tainted. When I imitated their slang, she snapped at me, ‘Talk proper, Mickey!’
‘‘So. This Kool guy, you like him?’’ My cousin said.
‘‘Nah, not really. He’s cute, I guess…’’
‘‘How old is this guy?’’
‘‘He hangs with Bobby’s crew, I seen him. He’s like 17.’’ Bianca said.
Lorena nodded, bit her lip. She wiggled her toes and closed the nail polish bottle.
‘‘Ok. So, let’s check out this dude.’’
Bianca gasped excitedly.
‘‘For real? I thought you were sayin’ she was too young…’’
‘‘Nah, I said, she’s too young to know the nasty shit you do, to get inked, but boys, the faster she learns, the smarter she gon’ be.’’
She turned to me, leaned in close.
‘‘Mickey, you goin’ on a date.’
I swallowed, excited but a bit apprehensive. I knew that there was no getting out of it; Lorena was intent I get educated.
I was sitting still, while Bianca and Lorena applied my make up. I was nervous, because Bianca was fond of the Chonga look; emaciated eyebrows, contoured lips and a severe face. I liked my cousin’s style better; fresh and effortless.
They started at my hair.
‘‘Damn, and she all black?’’ Bianca marveled, her hands played with my hair.
I didn’t have nappy strands; mine were lustrous curls that hung a bit past my collarbone.
‘‘You can’t tell, uh? She look like she Dominican.’’ Lorena said, proud.
‘‘She has Indian in her?’’ Bianca asked.
‘‘Nah, I don’t.’’ I replied.
‘‘Of course she do, most Island people got coolie in them.’’ Lorena said.
They discussed if they should put mascara on my lashes, or which blush they should apply on my cheeks.
I thought about my mother and father, wondered if they got along better in my absence; if their new found tranquility would vanish, upon my return. What if they decided there was a ‘them’ only if there was no ‘I’, would they let me linger in New York indefinitely? Would I become like Lola and Bianca; fast with my tongue, slow to trust, thirsty for designer jeans?
‘‘I’mma tell Tiny that we goin’ to the movies. He’s not gonna ask no questions, he don’t give a fuck ‘bout what you do. He’d probably fuck you if you weren’t his niece.’’ She said, with venom.
‘‘Eww.’’ I shuddered.
She always made negative comments about my uncle; it was the few times she had a fire in her belly, that her eyes lost their lustrous boredom. What angered her, I could only guess; was it the fact she was his only illegitimate child, that he treated her like a step daughter, and not his blood child. Or perhaps, she was hurt that she never had a real father; who assisted her with homework, tucked her into bed and protected her.
I wondered if she knew Tiny was still having sex with her mother. He’d park his car in front of their apartment, about twice a week. It was the only few times I wasn’t allowed into the house, I’d sit in the back of the Cadillac, reading a magazine. Tiny never took too long, maybe an hour at most. Then, we were off attending to ‘business.’
‘‘Well, Tiny is kinda sexy…’’ Bianca commented.
We both shot her disgusted looks.
‘‘Just saying, He’s still young, I’d totally… Ok, ok, I ain’t say nuttin, ok’’ She lowered her eyes, sighed again.
Tiny was young; He was in his mid 30’s, and he dressed nice. I wasn’t sure what my type was, but I knew that even if he wasn’t my uncle, I still wouldn’t want him as my man. I felt sorry for Bianca, that she was forced to be so nonchalant as to call a rape, her ‘first time.’
I knew it was easier to live with oneself that way. Maybe, if some crazy guy slapped me and forced me to lie down in the back of some buildings, I’d erase ‘rape’ from my vocabulary, act like it was mundane, the way of the world.
‘‘We almost done, Mickey. Call your man.’’ Said Lorena.
‘‘Huh, he’s not my man, I don’t even like him…’’
‘‘Just.do.it.’’ Lorena said. She handed me Bianca’s cell phone.
I sighed, paged Kool and we waited for him to call back.
Kool was going to pass by the Liquor store and pick us up in the late afternoon. Lorena did all the talking, to me, it sounded like orders.
‘‘Yeah, you wanna take out my little cousin, you takin’ out my girl and me, too. Bring your friends. Pick us up at the corner of…’’
Bianca snickered in the background.
‘‘We gon’ have fun.’’
She started humming a song, Lorena hung up, a strange look on her face.
‘‘What’s wrong, Lola?’ I asked.
I was relieved I didn’t have to be alone with Kool, although I did want him to kiss me again. I hoped he didn’t look at Lola, the same way, but I knew he would. Everyone always marveled at Lola.
‘‘Nothing much, Nina. Nothing you can help me with.’’
Bianca eyed Lorena from the mirror. She looked like she knew what was wrong with my cousin.
‘‘I’mma go get some air. Don’t corrupt my lil cuz with your bullshit while I’m out.’’
Bianca rolled her eyes.
‘’What’s wrong with her?’’ I asked.
‘‘People got problems; es la vida.’’
‘‘But she’s so beautiful.’’ I said.
Bianca smacked her lips.
‘‘Yeah, she too beautiful for her damn good. It’s a curse, if you ask me. She’s been fighting off her uncles since she like 9.’’
I nodded, pretended to understand. I still had questions, but I knew I wouldn’t get my answers from Bianca. I wondered at the irony; being so beautiful, it spoiled you. Like a fruit, when it was too sweet; the sap turned bad and rotted.
In St-Marten, the only men in my life were my father, uncles and cousins; only there to love, teach and protect. But there was Lorena, beautiful and young, fighting a pack of wolves who all wanted to spread, taste and conquer.
I wanted to take her back home with me so she can experience my secular life but, somehow, I knew that for girls like Lorena, even my little island could not offer rest.
Uncle Tiny called and let me know he was around the corner, on his way home. I shrugged my shoulders, started gathering my stuff when Lorena got on the phone and told him I was spending the night.
‘‘She’s safer here anyways, wouldn’t you agree?’; she said, her voice was what my mother called ‘saucy’ and I would have gotten slapped for talking like that to any adult, but for some reason, Lorena created her own rules and everyone adjusted to them. She had the fire in her belly, again. I wondered what she meant by me being safer here than by Aunt Teresa’s.
‘‘Whatever, Tiny.’’ She finally said, and hung up.
She didn’t call him daddy or father, just Tiny. She got that faraway look, bit her lips nervously.
‘‘He’s gon’ drop some of your stuff, then we’ll meet up with your man.’
‘‘Look, Kool’s not my man. I don’t even know his real name…’’
‘‘Yeah, Niña, but when do you ever really know anything about a man?’ ‘
‘‘I don’t get it.’’
‘‘I’m glad you don’t and I hope you never will.’’
We heard the door open. Lorena went up front to meet him. Tiny always let himself in, when we visited his girlfriends; he opened the fridge, searched through drawers, and left his cigarettes butts lying around. He acted like king of his castle, in every single house.
Bianca was still looking herself in the mirror.
‘‘What’s taking Lorena so dang long?’’ she asked.
‘‘I don’t know.’’
‘‘Well, go get her, we meeting the boys in 10 minutes and she ain’t even put on her make up.’’
I rolled my eyes but exited the room. I walked towards the front and saw them in the hallway. I paused; I was taken aback by their physical closeness. Lorena always bad mouthed her father, snapped at him whenever she was in his presence, but there she was, her body against the wall, Tiny urgently holding her wrist.
They didn’t see me and my surprise made me a mute.
They were whispering, I couldn’t hear what they were saying but Lola looked subdued and small. She dropped her head, Tiny picked up her chin. The attention he gave her, I would never forget.
He looked at her the same way, Kool looked at me the day prior; his eyes glazed with a silent yearning, a boiling need. Lola, Lolita, Lorena. She looked like a fly embedded in a spider’s web; she lacked the tools, knowledge and resources to get out. She had no way out. How long had this been going on?
I started sweating, a hoarse cry ready to burst out of my throat. It all added up; why Lorena was so aggressive with Tiny, but only when there was distance between them or people around. In the hall, she appeared like a sacrificial lamb.
All the times Tiny came by the apartment, leaving me in the house, he wasn’t seeing her mother. I remembered she worked two jobs; there was no way she was home at that time.
The walls were closing in, my Lola, how can I save you? Bianca was right; Lorena was too beautiful for her own good, it wasn’t just uncles she had to fight off; there was not an ounce of this world, where she could be safe. She was like a fruit, but a worm was intent on filling himself with her sweetness, until she was no good on the inside.
I understood why her eyes glazed over so many times, her silences, why she wanted to protect me but also teach me about men’s deceptions. Tiny came closer to her, his hand was on her nape. Her body caved in, her eyebrows furrowed.
‘‘Hey.’’ I croaked.
Tiny tensed, looked up at me and gave me his crooked smile.
‘‘Hey, Niña. What’s up?’’
He moved away from my cousin, his daughter. He handed her the bag, she took it, stoic.
‘‘Aight, Niñas, be good.’’
He came out the door; Lorena closed her eyes for a brief moment. When she reopened them, our gazes met. For only a split second, I saw a child in my cousin. She wasn’t the strong woman I’ve made her up to be, that was only what she projected. She was 15, only two years older than I, but I knew that if I was going through the same abuse, I would break from the pressure; the pain would consume me. I don’t know if she read the horror in my eyes or if she could feel my world tumble and crash. Her look was hollow like a valley flooded with pain. She took a breath, her face relaxed. She walked past me, nonchalantly handed me my bag.
‘‘Let’s go, Niña, you don’t wanna keep your man waiting too long.
Thank you to everyone who gave me some feedback on the first part, I love sharing my stories and greatly appreciate your comments :-0)