Achilles is supposed to be some hero from a myth somewhere. According to myths, his mother, who was immortal, was concerned about her baby son’s mortality. She did everything she could to make him immortal. She dunked him into the River Styx, whose waters could make him immortal like her. However, she gripped him tightly by the foot as she dipped him into the river–so tightly that the water never touched his heel. As a result, Achilles was invulnerable everywhere but there.
Guess how he died?
Yeah—-you got it right. A motherfucker came around and fucked him up right in the heel. Now that was beef. Pops told me that story growing up. He said everyone had a weak spot. You just had to exploit it.
My story starts like this…
I’m in Paris. There are a hundreds of people in the crowd. It’s a sold out show. The spotlight shines on me. I’m dressed in all black tights. The crowd applauds when they see my face but then they get silent when I raise my chest. All of them are holding their breath to see what I’m about to do.
Kanye West’s Wolves begin to play in the background.
Cry, I’m not sorry
Cry, who needs sorry when there’s Hennessy?
Don’t fool yourself
Your eyes don’t lie, you’re much too good to be true
I start with my feet parallel facing front with my arms to my side and my gaze down at the ground. I curl my spine over slowly, careful not to collapse my waist. When I am halfway down to the ground I continue to curl…one vertebrae at a time, and suddenly grow back upward. I die and I am reborn to the sound of Vic Mensa on the heavily Auto-tuned bridge.
Don’t fire fight
Yeah I feel you burning, everything’s burning
Don’t fly too high
Your wings might melt, you’re much too good to be true
I’m just bad for you
I’m just bad, bad, bad for you
Don’t fly to high, he sings. It sticks with me. Your wings might melt. It’s a warning. When you are flying on Icarus wings you need to make sure not to fly too close to the sun. I do a chase step at that moment. I climb up to the nearest bench, kick off and do a big leap in which my front leg is shooting straight out to the front and my back leg is straight out in the back. I’m soaring high into the air. My feet are fully pointed and my legs are fully extended when I’m in that position.
I was lost and beat up
Turned out, burned up
You found me, through a heartache
Didn’t know me, you were drawn in
I was lost and beat up
I was warm flesh, unseasoned
You found me, in your gaze
I found you, oh Jesus
I was too wild, I was too wild
I was too wild, I was too wild
I was too wild, I was too wild
I slide my leg forward with a pointed toe, then brush through the first position and follow through backwards, slightly bending the knee. Then I begin to spin…spin…spin.. and spin. I spin until I’m dizzy and I feel so wild.
So wild that I collapse.
And when I look up there is this man standing there looking down at me.
“I didn’t know they taught you guys how to do modern dance in the hood…” he states.
I stop dancing. I’m not in Paris. I’m not on a stage. There are broken shards of glass in the basketball court that I had to be careful not to step up when I’m dancing. Right behind the man is a pair of tennis shoes thrown over the electrical lines. In the same court, I’m dancing in there is a mural of Bennie Washington who was a 17-year-old gunned down on the way to school. His crime was being black and walking. He has a halo over his head. The sounds of my boombox are interrupted by the sounds of some pit bulls down the street going at it.
This wasn’t Paris. This wasn’t anything close to it.
“Fuck you talking bout nigga?” I ask him.
“No need to get defensive, man. I liked your routine. Your Grand Jete was nice lookin’…”
“My what is nice lookin?” I ask.
I get in his face. What was he? Some type of pervert? I’m ready to hit him right then and there. He was older, maybe 18 years older than I was. He had on a long trench coat even though it was a hot ass night in Miami. He seems just out of place. I know a lot of perverts come to this park but usually, I get left alone in peace out here on the basketball courts since no one used them because all the lines on the court faded over the years.
“I was talking about your jump. It’s called a grand jete.”
“You didn’t know that?”
“How’d you learn how to do that then?”
I think about answering him but I don’t. I don’t answer because in the next few minutes a car pulls up. It’s going really slow. That always meant one thing in my hood. Niggas were looking for someone. Luckily I recognized the car.
I run off looking at the weird ass ‘Grand Jete’ guy. He tries calling out to me but I ignore him. When I get to the car the door opens and I see my dad there. My dad is looking over at the Grand Jete guy. He has this look of recognition in his eyes. I’d never seen the guy before but my dad had been around the block a lot more than me and the way he looks at that guy I knew there was an issue. There was definitely an issue.
I turn back to the Grand Jete guy. He didn’t seem like someone an O.G. like Pops would beef with but there was something there. Something uncomfortable.
“What you doing out here?”
”You better not be doing that ballerina fag shit again. Get in the car lil’ nigga,” Pops tells me, “And stay away from that nigga.”
My dad didn’t need to know that I was doing modern dance leaps in the park in the middle of the night. Hell I was going to make sure he never saw that side of me. He’d caught me enough times doing spins.
As soon as I get in the car he hands me the burner. I look at my gun. This had to be about some money.
It’s a hot summer night. One of the hottest summers in the Bottom. We call it the Bottom but it’s really North Miami. That’s the name of our neighborhood.
We are at the bodega before I know it. It’s at the corner of where Suwoo gang territory met the territory for M83. Metro PCS store, check cashing store, mini mart with no gas station that’s completely empty, Cedar Market which was a check cashing mini mart! Double whammy! Kennedy Fried Chicken, restaurants or stores with bars over the windows, houses have chain link fences around it with either ‘Beware of Dog’ or ‘No Trespassing’ signs, old houses and tenement apartments begin to appear when you go deeper in the city, and finally: the local Dominican Bodega.
“You hear me EMPENADA. Run your shit!”
It’s my dad, my cousins Prince and Tone are there. Prince has watch out. He’s standing by the door. My aunt adopted him from one of her many husbands when his dad got shot selling drugs but he’s always been down with us. We’re standing at the front of the store with masks on. It’s just a regular day in the Bottom. It was Pops idea to do this. He said he needed the money. Never said what he needed the money for. Knowing Pops, it was something stupid. It was always something goddam stupid with him.
The shop owner is going off in Spanish. I don’t know what he’s saying. He sounds half scared and half pissed the fuck off. I am holding on my glock hard, as all fuck. I’m trying not to make a big deal here but it’s kind of hard.
“Ayo—fuck that GWALA-GWALA shit you talkin!” Tone is going off, “Gimme the Dinero. The Pesos. Capesh—O? Open El Draw-o, before I put a Capo in your assho’!”
My cousin Tone is what we call in the hood, a fuckin’ pop off. He’s the type of nigga to shoot first, ask questions last. He’s waving his gun in the Spanish guy’s face and he has this tick. The Tone Tick was fuckin’ legendary around these parts. His eye would get to twitching and shit and then all you know is people are gathered around on a street corner pouring out cheap ass vodka on the sidewalks for their dearly departed homies. That was Tone for you.
“Ayo—” I warn the shop dealer, “I would suggest you do what he says. I’m the nice one. Feel me? My cousin don’t ask twice.”
All he was going to get was one warning. The guy keeps going. He keeps fucking going.
“Yo—-he don’t speak English!”
There’s someone else in the store. We don’t notice until we turn around and see the guy. I have my mask on and I don’t recognize the face. He is young…as though he would go to my school but I haven’t seen him before. He has to be about 17 or so. He’s Spanish. He has this sandy brown skin and long culy hair that is what Prince calls a “Spanish Fro”. It’s shaped like a fro but without really being nappy. Some of the Spanish guys around here liked to rock that style. His sideburns are sharp as fuck making me think this guy is a barber or some shit. I mean his lineup is sharp fuck. He has a little bit of a goatee that curl around his pink lips. Truthfully, I usually don’t look at other guys’ lips but his lips were…wow. That’s all I can really say. They had this pink shade to them.
The guy wasn’t only sexy but he had a point. The only thing in English in this store was the ‘WE TAKE EBT’ signs in handwritten letters.
“Who the fuck was talking to you?” Tone barks.
“Cuz!” I distract him almost immediately, “Relax. Lemme deal with this. OK?”
If Tone could have it his way he would have hit someone by now and the way he’s looking at handsome with the Spanish Fro, I can tell he wouldn’t mind messing up that face of his. It would be quite a shame though. I look at the Papi and he seems surprisingly calm while in the midst of a stick-up.
I look over at my dad. He’s over the counter stealing cigarettes and petty shit that no one really has time for. Tone is staring at the cash register with bloodlust in his eyes. Then there’s Prince who is keeping a steady lookout making sure no one else comes in the Bodega.
“We need your help. Tell him to give us the loot,” I say to handsome with the fro. I have a hint of friendly and a hint of thug in my voice. I had to let him know I was tough but I’d also pop a cap in his ass if he didn’t give me what I needed.
“Fuck outta here,” he grunts.
He has a rich ethnic accent. Never thought being cursed out was sexy. His face looks like it should be in a magazine somewhere. There was no other word to describe him but absolutely gorgeous, with warm golden skin, dark bedroom eyes and full lips. I’m trying to sound confident but find myself having to look away to do so. I’m scaling his body when I notice the way his tight white tee clings to his muscles. His pants are hug low beneath his ass showing off his boxer briefs underneath. He has on some Nike sandals and some black socks. His hand keeps grabbing at the crotch area in his pants as though trying to show off the fact that he has big balls…
Maybe something else down there was pretty big as well.
“My Spanish accent too strong for you? How you say ‘fuck outta here’ in Ebonics?”
“Oh you funny. You got jokes?” I ask, “Everybody’s a motherfuckin comedian huh. It’s that Kevin Hart shit man. People found out how much money you can make off a joke now everybody’s dying to be funny. Literally…DYING…”
I tap my gun a few times. He gets the point. Or at least I think he gets the point but he just grunts a little bit shakes his face and stands still. Still as a fuckin statue.
“What’s takin so fuckin long?” Pops asks.
I turn. This wasn’t good.
“Listen, bro…you shouldn’t fuck with us. It’s not good for your health.”
“That a threat?”
“Don’t make a scene. Just translate some shit to this guy. Please…”
I watch my father walk over at that moment. There were no words when it came to Pops. He stopped with the talking a long time ago. He walks over to the Spanish Fro and decks him straight in his jaw. Spanish Fro budges jerks up and looks like he’s about to retaliate until he sees my dads baretta in his face. He just is kneeling on the ground bleeding from his mouth.
Then my father looks over to Tone.
“Tone. Deal with this shit.”
“Already done,” Tone says, “Already done.”
Two hours later we are back at the house. It’s my Aunt Tonetta’s house. The family is having a barbeque. It’s a neighborhood barbeque. Only in the hood on a 2am, the day before school starts, would there be a fucking barbeque in the neighborhood. We walk through the kitchen and I can see the majority of the people outside. A lot of niggas from the neighborhood have made their way to this area too by this time.
“You got my cash?” Aunty Tonetta asks.
No, hi. No how’s your day going? No nothing. Tonetta was an O.G. She was Tone’s mother but she barely even looks over at Tone when he walks up in there with a pistol hanging from his waistband. She taught Tone how to shoot. Hell, Aunty Tonetta taught me how to shoot too. She was a gangster. If her attitude didn’t let you know she was one then it was the way she dressed. She had on a sports bra and boxers over her jeans.
“I got it for you Tonetta,” Pops states.
It makes sense why Pops needed to rob the store again. He hands my Aunty the cash and she hands him a paper rose. They looked all cute but don’t be fooled. Like my Aunt Priscilla said a million times, Aunt Tonetta was no “sentimental-type bitch”. These paper roses get pulled out and you’ve got yourself a handy-dandy crack pipe. Me, not knowing any better, bought one for my 2nd grade girlfriend.
“You want something to eat baby?” Mama asks.
She’s in the kitchen with my other aunts and grandma. The women in my family were what made the world go around. Aunty Claudia, Aunty Tonetta, Aunt Priscilla and my mother made sure things were cool.
“I’ll take a plate,” Pops tells her.
“I ain’t talkin to you, you cheatin’ ass nigga,” Ma says, “I’m talkin to my baby.”
She looks over at me. My mother and father were never married. He didn’t even sign the birth certificate. I had my moms last name. Marriage wasn’t a big deal though here. That rarely happened in the hood, except with Aunt Priscilla. She had been married 5 times but somehow her marriage never lasted more than 2 years. Ma is standing there looking at me with this concerned look. I’m standing next to Prince.
Luckily Prince has my back as usual.
“He ain’t feelin’ good,” Prince says.
God bless Prince. He was the only one in the family who always had my back no matter what. He knew what I was thinking because knowing Prince, he was probably thinking the same goddam thing.
“What’s the problem?” Ma asks.
I stay quiet.
It isn’t until Pops looks over at me and repeats himself in a stern tone, “Yeah, Desta. What’s the problem?”
“We didn’t have to shoot him. We didn’t have to shoot the store clerk.”
It’s the first day of school. To say this shit was hood was an understatement. Immediately I notice the kids who already have kids going to the on site daycare trailer outside of the school. Outside the doors of the school everyone was gathering in their little social cliques. I walk past a group of black girls and swear I hear at least 10 girls with names that end in ‘esha’, start with ‘La’ or have a ‘qu’ in it. There is a tiny group of white kids who hang around each other and look extremely uncomfortable. There’s also this strong scent of weed in the air that I just can’t put my finger on. I walk past a few teachers wondering if they smell it too but they seem too busy trying to be cool and use words like ‘swag’ and ‘shawdy’ while they are talking in normal conversation outside.
I know I looked good. Maybe it’s the way I wear my natural curls on the longer side with a blowout haircut with faded temples and a lineup at the hairline to create a distinct frame around my face. I make my way past most of the black students to the other side where I see more Spanish folks standing. It was more my speed. I’m sagging a little bit showing off my Versace belt. It’s fake but it might as well be real when I see how bitches eyes literally stop doing what they doing and staring up at me.
They are wondering the same thing everyone’s wondering.
Whose that boy?
I’m fly as fuck and I know it. People were staring. Boldly staring. Their gazes had halted when they got to my roman nose and my “new-baby-smile” had faltered for a fraction of a second. As a boy I didn’t attract the girls. I was skinny and my cheek bones just gave me a skeletal look. But by fourteen I was filling out, I had muscles from football training and running track in the summer. By 17, it wasn’t just the girl’s after me. I had grown into those features, my bone structure was fine and perfectly symmetrical. It was manly. And as I aged I became all the more striking, as I realized my Instragram page started to get bunch of gay followers as well.
“Qué lo qué!”
I almost jump when some random guy puts his hand on my shoulder. He’s a Spanish dude. He’s handsome, clean cut and short Caesar haircut. At first, I think he’s one of those gay guys who used to approach me all the time. I think differently when he speaks. He definitely has a thug thing going for him. I don’t mean to be jumpy but I’m definitely on edge.
“Whoa son, don’t run up on me like that,” I warn him, “You were about to get punched in your throat.”
He laughs as though I was joking. I was dead ass.
“You that new dude huh? Santana, was it?” he asks.
“Yeah. Just moved here from the Bronx.”
“You left the Bronx to come here. Why?”
He laughs as though it was strange.
I shake the thought away, “No reason.”
“You look like you hiding something man. Or running from something.”
I shake it off, “Nah.”
“Don’t worry. I ain’t the one chasing you. I don’t know why you running or who you running from. None of my business. The name is Chico,” he volunteers, “Heard about you.”
“You was there when Juan over at the Bodega got shot yesterday, weren’t you?” he asks.
I shudder at the thought. I turn to the ground. The Bronx was a tough spot but this place was something different. I hadn’t slept all night. I didn’t know the guy at the Bodega. All I knew was that he was like me. He could have been my Uncle. He could have been my cousin. He was a Dominican and the motherfuckers robbing him SHOT him over some petty little bit of money. The guy got shot in the leg but he could have bled to death if I wasn’t there. I’m still shaken up by it. I can’t show that though, so when Chico is examining my face I keep it stone cold as though I’m unfazed.
“Yeah, tough,” is what I end up saying.
I let my mouth linger open as though wanting to say something else but nothing really seems appropriate so I just close it again.
Chico grunts, “People sayin’ you stayed with him till the ambulance came. Stood your grond. That’s whassup.”
“I ain’t no pussy man.”
“Good shit. So who did it?”
“Who shot Juan?”
I shrug at that moment. So much was going on and the folks had on masks. Only one of the guys talked to me and he seemed more nervous than anything. At first, he was probably one of the more confident ones but as soon as he starts talking to me it’s as though his balls shriveled up or something. It was kind of weird to tell you the truth.
“I don’t know…”
“Well, when you find out lemme know man. Motherfuckers need to answer for that shit. They shot one of ours…”
Chico gives me a nod. I watch as he turns and walks away with a bunch of his homeboys. These boys all had on jersey’s. They were all kinds of fresh. They were the kind of guys that I would have hung out with back home. They were fly boys. I watch as they walk away and just realize that I’ve gotten my first bit of respect.
It’s a nice feeling. Respect, that is. Something about it gives you a high. When you don’t really have shit, respect is the one thing you can’t get for free. It holds me over the rest of the day putting me on a high.
Later, I’m at my locker. I’m struggling with it.
“Here, I got you. My locker is right next to yours. I think all these fuckin lockers are shit in this area.”
I smell him before I see him. He has on some sunglasses. He’s this handsome guy. He bangs on my locker real hard and it pops open as though by magic. I turn and look over at him as he takes off his sunglasses. I flash the guy a smile. I had to admit he was attractive.
He’s a black boy. He’s probably the first black person that I looked at in that way. I try to take a look at his face but he keeps turning away, so I end up staring more towards his ass. Yeah. I mean his ass. So I was DL. I wasn’t straight gay. I messed with way more girls than guys but I had fooled around twice in my past. Each time it was pretty good and each time I was wondering when I’d ever meet someone who would make me want to take that risk again. I had to admit this black boy had a nice ass. Plus he was sagging a lil bit and…
He turns halfway. I think he catches me! I turn harshly away from him.
“You good?” he asks.
I’m staring at empty locker hard as though it’s the most interesting thing in the world. I had forgotten where I was when I was staring at his butt. What the fuck was I thinking?
“Yeah. Thanks for helping me out though. I’m Santana—”
I turn at that moment but realize he’s gone. There are group of kids that he’s walking with. By the look of them they seemed like the ‘popular’ folks in school, if the ghetto schools could really have popular kids. Let’s just say they were more the gangsters in the school. And the boy with the nice ass was definitely one of them.
I lick my lips one more time as I watch him walk away and I have to admit my dick literally hardens in my jeans and starts pointing directly towards him.
The first day is pretty straight forward. I try to get the guy with the nice ass out of my thoughts. The school was remarkably big but just because it was big didn’t mean it necessarily wasn’t falling apart. As I walk the halls between my 8 classes, I notice the condition of the building. It wasn’t great. It was unreasonably cold too. For some reason it was 98 degrees outside and 40 degrees in the building. Girls already have their blankets in class. I was given literally a set of text books to share with 8 classes.
I’m in my last period class before I know it. Algebra. Teacher’s name is Mr. Rodriguez. He has a real heavy Spanish accent to the point halfway through he gives up trying and starts talking in Spanish. It’s not like it matters. Most of the black kids weren’t paying attention anyway and the one white boy in the class probably already knew all of this shit.
There are a bunch of Spanish dudes that I saw earlier with Chico. Chico himself walks into the class about 20 minutes late and he smells like weed. He gives me a nod. I feel little bit at ease that there is someone in the school at least willing to acknowledge me so far. He doesn’t sit with me though. He sits with the other Dominicans. They keep kicking the one white boy’s chair asking him for lunch money and literally referring to him as “white boy” even though I was pretty sure the boy wasn’t new and they probably knew his name. They are gathered around on one side of the class. Mr. Rodriguez is going over the syllabus but no one is paying attention.
In the back of the classroom there are the black students.
I turn just in time to see one of them start making beats with pens and pencils. My eyes jerk to see a boy looking at me. It’s HIM! It’s the guy who helped me out with my locker. The one with the nice ass. He’s amongst the other black students. He gives me a look. Our eyes connect.
“Wassup—” he mouths without actually saying the words.
I guess he has to speak. It would be awkward if he didn’t because our stare was just way too intense. He had the kind of stare that stopped you in your tracks. It was a bit intimidating. Almost like a predator sizing you up. I guess he must get used to that, the sudden pause in a person’s natural expression when they looked his way followed by overcompensating with a nonchalant gaze and a weak smile. Of course, the blush that accompanied it was a dead give-away.
He was handsome alright, but I wondered if the stare we shared meant something even more.
“Yo Prince—” he states, finally looking away from me towards someone else.
And for a minute I thought he was talking to me but instead right next to him I see a light skin guy who could almost pass for Spanish stand up.
“What’s up cous?”
“Why don’t you do that old school shit…”
I don’t know what the black kids in the back are talking about until I see the guy referred to as Prince start breaking dancing in the back of the class. I watch as people in the class literally forget where we are and form a circle around Prince. He’s dope. He’s doing freezes, headspins, and windmills so powerful that the rest of the class was left in complete shock.
I stand trying to get a closer look.
“Fuckin show-off’s right?” I hear a voice state.
I turn at that moment and notice it was Chico. Chico stands over my right shoulder and I look back over at him. I can tell he’s bothered by the amount of attention the black kids were getting in the back of the class.
“Not a fan of break dancing?”
“Not a fan of the folks doin it,” he explains, “You know what happened to Juan. Out here you need protection. This school is split, feel me. Either you down with us…or you are bait for them…”
The way he’s talking definitely seems like there is some beef going on. I had noticed the separation throughout the day but I just assumed it was because Dominicans sometimes liked to speak in Spanish. Looking now I can tell that isn’t exactly the case. It’s more than that. The Dominicans with Chico are definitely seeming to be annoyed by the black kids in the back of the class.
I have to ask the question.
“Who is us?”
“M83. We are the Dominican subset of Mara Salvatrucha,” he explains, “And those guys over there. Those guys are Suwoo. A subset of the Blood gang. See the one dancing?”
He’s a pretty boy for sure and he seems to love attention. He has his hair in dreads that flow all the way down to his back. He is so damn pretty that at first I think he’s a dyke. Maybe it’s the fact that he is so damn bright and he doesn’t have any facial hair. Maybe it’s his long dark eyelashes. Regardless of how pretty he is, I see a lot of the black girls swooning as they watch him dance. I guess they find him attractive.
“That’s Prince. He was adopted. He thinks he’s god’s gift to women. The pretty girl with the fat ass there cheering him on is his twin sister Prissy. The black girls follow her around like she is Nicki Minaj or something. They have a cousin named Tone who isn’t in this class. He skips a lot. He’s a goddam menace to society. Shocked they haven’t expelled him yet.”
Prissy did have quite the fat butt as Chico made it seem but she did favor a young, more ratchet Nicki Minaj. I’m not sure yet if that was a good thing, though. She was pretty enough and didn’t need the heavy make-up or dolled up accessories. She seemed to have a lot of sass about her as she’s sitting there with her bamboo earrings and an fake Gucci purse as she snaps shouting “YAAAAAAAAAS” to her brother’s performance.
Then there was the boy.
“Who’s he?” I ask.
I know I take a risk asking about him. I can’t help it. It could sound suspect, but I needed to know. The boy was sitting watching Prince perform but I had a feeling he knew I was watching him. Maybe it’s the way he sits. Maybe it’s the fact that he was staring at me earlier.
He looks…familiar. It’s in the eyes.
“That’s Prince’s first cousin, Desta. Folks call him Des. Rumor has it he’s next in line to run the Suwoo gang, but he already thinks he runs it. He already thinks he runs this school too.”
“Ya’ll just let them get all the attention?” I ask Chico.
The Dominicans were just standing there like they weren’t gangsters too. In the Bronx, the Dominican gangs ran shit. I was confused why Chico was over here gossiping in my ear like a little bitch who was scored of her lover or something.
“They got a way of getting attention,” Chico responds looking over at Prince.
I wonder if Desta did it on purpose. I wonder if he told his cousin Prince to dance specifically to prove a point. Who was he trying to prove a point to though? Was it me?
It’s specifically strange that his cousin started break dancing. Break dancing wasn’t just dancing. Break dancing was competitive. It was an artform of showing off. In the Bronx, break dancing was a way to show another dude you had a bigger dick without ever having to take off your pants.
“That needs to change.”
I notice Chico’s tone. It was irritated. I’m not sure if it’s with me or if it’s with the Suwoo gang. I don’t know what makes me feel like I want to prove something to Chico at that momeent. Maybe it’s the fact that I was new and I needed to make friends. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t like how this Prince guy is clearly showing off. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m annoyed that Desta’s attention is over there with Prince.
So I take off my shirt.
It just happens. All of a sudden it just fuckin’ happens.
People are surprised when they see me break through the circle. I’m shirtless, abs rippling down my stomach like a fucking pack of hot dog buns. I don’t know what they expect, but what they didn’t know is that I used to battle all the time in school.
I slide into the area on my head. My hands are flexed out. My muscles popping. I stop inches away from Prince and look up at him.
“OH SHIT!” I hear someone in the crowd say.
I’m not sure where it comes from. I think it’s Chico but it could be one of the random kids just watching us. I do realize the Dominicans running to join the circle though. I turn to Desta. I want to see his expression. I can’t read it. He seems interested, but I don’t know if it’s in a good way or not. He squints his eyes in this cynical way.
“Yo what you know about break dancing?” Prince asks me, “This ain’t salsa. You trying battle, nigga?”
“I’m always ready for a battle.”
Prince looks pissed that I’m interrupting his moment. He turns to his cousin Desta at that moment and aggressively says, “Des—you got me on the beat?”
“We don’t got time for this Prince,” Desta argues.
“Scared?” I ask Desta.
I’m teasing of course. I give Desta a smile. I have to admit I mean it in a flirty way. Hell, all of this was about getting some type of attention from Desta to be honest. I watch him smirk…slightly. He has a cute fucking smirk. It distracts the fuck out of me. I almost forget how pissed Prince looks at that moment.
“Kick that fuckin’ beat,” Prince rages.
Desta makes a beat out of his mouth while pounding his fist on the table. Others join in. It’s kind of dope actually. I didn’t hear anything like this from the Bronx. Who knew they could beat box out here like this.
Prince looks serious. That’s his first mistake. Battling is a game. If you know how to play it, it can be quite interesting. People who take it too seriously are forgetting that it’s still a performance art—that the point is to share our craft with an audience, so that they can enjoy it.
Prince and I both start threading footwork. We move into our moves relatively quickly. He’s doing the normal backspins, windmills, and freezes.
I take a different approach. I go abstract.
The beat begins to slow.
The thing about breakdancing is you have to get into your freeze. Your freeze is your pose. Prince’s freeze is called a one leg chair. He finishes his footwork and freezes with one leg in the air, one on the arm to support his body while the other hand is pressed against his chin in this really conceited way.
I slide through.
I’m sweating at this point. My body is glistening and I’m turned on by Desta being the one beatboxing for me.
“OH FUCK!” voices break out.
They do this because my freeze is me in an elbow tip freeze. Literally my entire body is in the air and I’m resting on a bent elbow. The elbow holds my body in the air for a few seconds. People watch in awe until I spin like a whirlwind out of my pose and look down at Prince.
He gets up at this point. Prince is breathing hard. People are going in for me. They are still clapping. A couple of people had snap chatted me giving Prince this breakdance beat down in the middle of the class.
I needed a way to show the people of the Bottom that a new boss was in town and I think they became very well aware of it.
“Good try,” I state.
I reach out to shake Prince’s hand.
“Prince don’t…” Desta states.
I’m not sure what Desta is telling him not to do until I see Prince swing on me! He literally SWINGS on me! I duck just in time and try to tackle him to the ground. That is until I feel a random foot to my face. I turn and see that it’s his fuckin sister literally kicking me while I was on the ground. That’s when all hell breaks loose.
Thank god for Chico and the others. They jump in it on my end.
There is all a daze.
All I remember is getting punches in my face a couple of times and trying to defend myself. Then I open my eyes and realize the person who is doing the punching isn’t Prince. Prince is fighting someone else.
The person punching me is Desta!
“Yo cool out, I don’t want to fight you,” I say as soon as I realize it’s him.
If it was Prince I would have beat his ass but not Desta. I don’t hit Desta back though. Hell, Desta was definitely the last one I wanted to fight. All of a sudden I’m regretting all of this shit. I’m fucking regretting battling Prince. I thought it was just gonna be like the NYC battles. People just walked away. I didn’t even know Prince well enough to care whether or not he beat me in a breakdance battle or not. Who the fuck cared?
Clearly, I was wrong and now I was in a fight with the guy I was trying to impress.
I’m praying he’ll stop, but he just looks at me and he has this familiar look on his face of a guy who desperately had something to prove.
“I told you didn’t I? I told you that you shouldn’t fuck with us. It’s not good for your health.”
Just then he takes a chair and slams it over my head.
I’m pissed. I’m pissed I almost getting expelled on my first day. The cops are called and we are broken up. I’m in a waiting room with Chico with a swollen eye and a busted lip. I couldn’t fucking believe this shit! I couldn’t believe any of it.
But there was one thing, I knew.
“You had my back,” I realize.
Chico nods, “Of course. If you were down with M83, you would never have to question that.”
“Maybe I should consider that, especially after today,” I tell him, “Besides, I think I have some valuable information. Some information you want.”
It’s anger at that moment. Anger and pride. I can’t believe I got attacked because people couldn’t take the fact that I out-danced them. I couldn’t believe it still.
I recognized the voice when Desta told me not to “fuck” with them. I recognized the saying. If the Suwoo gang wanted problems I’d bring it to their doorsteps.
If they thought they could just attack whoever they wanted whenever they wanted they had another thing coming. They were not invulnerable. They wouldn’t be taking a swim anytime soon.
“I know who shot the Bodega owner.”