I am taken back to my uncle Corny’s house. This is supposed to be some temporary home that isn’t supposed to matter but when we pull up I realize just how nice they actually have it. The house is nice as hell. When I walk in I just think it’s dope as hell. It’s a three-story house that looks like some sort of mini-mansion when you walk in and see a nice foyer out front. I notice that the house has already been customized with an electronic ramp for Corny’s chair.
“You guys OK?” a voice asks when we walk up.
I notice it’s Corny’s husband. Must be nice to come home to this good-looking guy who was making all this money. It made me realize again how much my father lied to make it seem like Corny was doing so bad. I didn’t get why he was so intent on making Corny’s life seem so horrible to me. It seemed like Corny was doing really well.
“Ask your husband,” Ana states.
The way she says it and walks off at that moment makes it really bad. I look how Kendrick looks. I could tell that he wasn’t feeling it, especially when Ana just walks off to her own part of the home without saying another word.
“Is there something I need to know?” Kendrick asks, “Why is your nephew here?”
“Same reason your little sister is. A family is important,” Corny states.
“That’s it?” Kendrick asks.
I didn’t get it. Why the hell was Corny not telling Kendrick about what was happening with my father coming back to the Bottom? Why the hell was Corny protecting my father? My father deserved to answer for what he had done. He deserved to answer for what he was doing. I don’t say anything though as I watch Kendrick stare down Cornelius.
“I’ll go check on Ana,” Kendrick states.
With that, he leaves. I watch as he walks up the stairs and I don’t fucking get it. I look over at my Uncle and I almost feel a little betrayed when he keeps giving the pass like that.
“What’s up with that?” I ask.
“What’s up with what?” he returns.
“What’s up with everyone in this family continuously protecting my father no matter the shit that he does?” I ask.
“You think I’m protecting him?”
“I think you need to tell your husband what the fuck he did,” I explain.
“Tray may be a cruel man. He may not be exactly the person that I’d hoped he would have been to my sister or to you. But he is still my nephew’s father.”
I look over at my Uncle. Truth is I didn’t even want to stay in this house. I didn’t want to stay with anyone in my family. I’d seen how my Aunts were laughing it up with my father as though they hadn’t spent all this time beefing with him. They allowed my cousin Prissy to straddle his leg. The king of the Bottom had returned after stealing my future away and it seemed like they were welcoming him with nothing but open arms.
“You’re all weak,” I respond.
I want my Uncle to argue with me. Hell if he was strong enough I would want him to throw me around or at least call his strong boyfriend down here to beat my ass for disrespecting him. That’s what I was used to. That’s not what Uncle Cornelius does though. He just shakes his head. He takes a deep breath as though he understood something that I just didn’t. Then he gave me a half smile.
“I’ll show you to the room. You need to rest for the upcoming performance.”
I wake up the next day. I get a text from my father.
YOU NEED TO BRING YOUR ASS BACK TO SEE ME. YOUR OLD MAN IS BACK IN TOWN.
I roll over out of bed. I couldn’t believe it.
THE MONEY MUST HAVE RUN OUT – I text back.
YOU DIDN’T NEED IT ANYWAY. PROBABLY WOULD HAVE SPENT IT TO BE A FAGGOT ASS PRINCESS BALLERINA.
I can’t believe I read the text. Not only is my father not denying that he stole the money but he’s not even the slightest bit angry about it. I walk out into the hallway and almost immediately I see Kendrick standing there. He has his shirt off. He just came out of the bathroom. He is muscular. Way more muscular than my father. He had tats too. That whole good guy image was new. He had changed for my uncle. The tats I saw on his body proved it. I knew the Dominican gang tattoos when I saw them. I grew up with these people.
He was definitely M-83.
“How are you?” he asks, “Your uncle’s downstairs Desta. Think Ana is making breakfast. You want to go ahead and join us. It’s your big day.”
I look over at him.
“You know my father did what he did to Uncle Cornelius?” I ask.
All of a sudden I think Kendrick feels a little conflicted.
“Listen I’m not going to speak foul of your father. I respect you too much so I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.”
“How mad are you? How mad are you about what he did to the man you love?”
“If I ever see him again…let’s just say I’d make sure he never hurt someone else in your family ever again. I’m sorry man. I know that’s your father but that motherfucker makes me want to go back to my old ways, just for one day…”
Perfect. Just what I needed. Someone who felt the pain that my father brought with him. All the money was gone. Every last bit of it. My cousin was pregnant. He disrespected my mother’s memory constantly by sleeping with other women in my family.
And then he shit on my dreams.
No. Fuck Tray-Dog.
“He’s back in the Bottom,” I state.
That’s when I see Kendrick walk to the end off the hallway. He opens up a secret compartment that is filed away. I notice when he comes back with a gun that he must have locked up in that compartment.
He looks over at me and he has red in his eyes. The only thing he asks is, “Where?”
I wander the halls of Barber High school sleepless. It was the day of the big performance and I should have been happy but the truth was my personal life was a fucking mess. My father was back in the Bottom and my family had chosen to kiss his ass. Then there was everything going on with my ‘so-called’ boyfriend who seemed to be ridiculously upset with me for no clear reason.
I’m in my last period class hoping that he’d walk in. The performance was right after school so this would be my only time to see Santana before then. I wanted to at least have him wish me good luck. I needed this scholarship money that I could win at this performance. I needed money to get out of the Bottom. He knew that more than anyone.
Santana isn’t who I get through. Instead, I get Prince sitting next to me.
“You’re mad at me,” he states.
It’s clearly bothering Prince when he sits next to me. I knew that he’d come in with this kind of energy. That’s the kind of person Prince was. He liked to act tough around other people but when it came to me he softened up to who he really was. Right now, him sitting next to me staring at me like a loyal puppy needing validation was his most natural state.
“You aren’t helping my relationship by sleeping with my boyfriend’s ex,” I admit to him, “What the hell were you doing?”
By now more people were coming into class but still no sign of Santana.
“I have no issues with your boyfriend.”
“Matias came at me on some straight up funny nigga shit,” he explains to me, “I had no idea about his past. He approached me. C`mon now. It meant nothing. I was so pressed to get my mind off of you that I would have put my dick in about anything at that point.”
Knowing Prince I could tell he wasn’t lying. For other people, it wouldn’t make sense but Prince hid behind his sexuality. He always had. He always hid his real feelings about everything behind the fact that people found him attractive. He weaponized this attraction. He had these group of girls always fighting and making a scene about him probably to hide the fact that he was more attracted to me than he ever was with any one of those girls. It made him feel better about himself.
Now it was as though all those weapons that he used were weakened. They were exposed and he was standing here feeling as though he had nothing to protect him.
And I know that I can’t be too hard on him, “I’m sorry.”
He isn’t expecting that.
“I’m not your boyfriend. I can’t tell you who to sleep with and who not to sleep with,” I admit, “You are allowed to do that with anyone you choose to.”
“You know who I’d prefer to be doing it with,” he shoots right back.
He sighs, “I know, I know. Santana is the one. Listen. Does it not bother you even a little bit that he is supposed to be so into you but he’s so upset about what happened with his ex?”
“I would never do you like that…”
“You would never do me like anything. You know that you can’t give me what Santana is willing to give me…”
“Give me a chance. Maybe I can…”
I realize Prince doing something he normally doesn’t do. He reaches over and grabs my hand right there in class. He’s looking at me deep in my eyes. Just as he does that I realize someone walking into class. It’s Santana. He sees Prince and I doing what we are doing and he immediately storms out of class. He makes a scene when he does it pushing past Rosa on his way out. He storms out into the hallway.
I get up. Fuck. What was he thinking when he just saw Prince and I?
I run out into the hallway at that moment. I’m panicking. My heart is racing and I’m beyond heated.
Santana ignores me. There is no getting through to him in this state that he is in. He’s seeing red and for some reason, it’s like hitting a blank wall. I know this couldn’t be all about me. There was some serious damage there. There was some serious damage that Matias had left there. I knew only parts of it but not the whole story. I just knew Matias had left me someone scarred and damaged.
“Why is he so upset with you?” Rosa asks.
I hadn’t realized she followed me into the hallway.
“Maybe he thinks I’m going to do to him what his ex did to him. He doesn’t trust me with Prince.”
Rosa continues to look at me with this clueless look on her face.
“Why would he give a fuck about what you do? He’s in love with Matias.”
“I’d hope my boyfriend isn’t in love with Matias.”
Rosa’s mouth drops.
“Wait…wait you’re his boyfriend.”
I raise my eyebrow at that moment confused that Rosa doesn’t know this, “Yeah. We date. You didn’t realize that?”
Rosa’s eyes get wide, “I think there’s been a horrible miscommunication…”
I’m with the M83 gang.
“I’m glad you decided to finally be down with us,” Chico states.
“It’s just for today,” I respond making sure he understands this isn’t a long-term thing, “Just me and Prince. I don’t need anybody jumping in.
“That’s where we come in,” Matias responds, “We make sure that Prince’s little minions don’t jump into the fight.”
“No guns,” I state.
“Of course not,” Matias states, “But if they start shooting we need to be prepared.”
“No fucking guns,” I respond, “Just me and Prince. Just make sure nobody jumps in. Period. Y’all fucking hear me?”
I say it aggressively. The members of the other gang look upon me. I’m not scared of anyone in this room and they fucking knew it. I watch as Chico takes a step into my face.
“You got a lot of nerve don’t you?” Chico asks, “You come in here asking for our protection to settle a beef you have, but you ordering us around?”
“And I fuckin’ meant it.”
Chico and I square off. I would have fought him right here and now if he needed me to. I was seeing red. I was beyond angry with Prince. I had to make sure that this was all going to get settled tonight. I had to make sure that I dealt with the Prince thing tonight.
Chico smiles, “True, true. I respect that. We’ll be outside waiting for you.”
Chico and the other gang members head outside. It would have been hard to get at Prince anywhere without having m83 with me. If both gangs were here and I asked for a fair fight I would have gotten it. Last time I fought Prince I got jumped. That had included fighting Desta at the time. What was crazy was that I still didn’t know whose side Desta would be on if we got into a fight now.
“They respect you,” Matias states, “You could easily be a leader in this gang if you wanted. You know that. That’s hard to get that kind of fear.”
I don’t even return the look to Matias, “I don’t give a fuck about that.”
“I know you only care about one thing. One person. It’s written all over you. All this just for Desta. What does he have that I don’t have?”
“Is that a serious question?”
“It is. Sure I cheated on you. Sure I fucked up a few times, but clearly so has he,” Matias states, “We used to be good together. We could be good again. C`mon. Tell me you don’t miss me. Even a little? I can see that shit in your eyes. I can feel it on your lips.”
Matias leans forward. He kisses me on my lips. He smacks up against my lips without me realizing it and then he tries to do it again but this time with tongue. I take a step back making sure that he doesn’t get close to me. I make sure that I don’t ever let him near my mouth.
“Don’t ever fucking do that again,” I warn him.
“So you trade one cheater for another?” Matias asks, “Congratulations.”
“It was more than just cheating on me,” I state at that moment, “You single-handedly ruined my life. Do you get that? Does that make sense to you? You framed me for that crime. My life isn’t the same now. My future isn’t the same. I’m literally in hiding.”
“Give me the chance to make things right,” Matias states.
“How could you possibly make things right?” I ask.
Matias grunts, “I don’t know. I’ll think of it. I’ll do anything for another shot with you. Anything.”
I look at him, “I’m with someone else right now. And honestly, if anyone comes in the way of that…be it Prince…or you. I’ll make you pay. In the same way that I’m going to make Prince regret the day he ever stuck his dick up in my boyfriend.”
“What does he have that I don’t?”
“The way he moves. The way he feels. The way he makes me feel. When I first met him it was conflicting. It was the kind of feeling where you know someone is going to be in your life and make an impact but you’re so scared because you don’t know what that impact is going to be. For a while, I thought he was going to be my enemy. Then when I started to have feelings for him I was sure he was going to be my enemy. How could I put down my guard to love again after what Matias has done to me? How could I let another man in after one ruined my life? He had to be my enemy. Only my enemy would want me to put my guard down so he can come at me with his army tanks and raid my camp. He would slaughter my soldiers when I’m half asleep. I’d realized the moment that I looked Desta in the eyes that I was losing this battle before it even began. Then I saw him dance. And that was all it took. His dance was his final attack. It was like Hiroshima. He had dropped a bomb on me…”
I see Desta’s in my mind’s eye. I see him moving. I remember how it felt when I saw him on that stage while I was sitting with Cornelius in that auditorium. That was the first time that I knew I was in love with him. That was the first time I knew that he had an atomic weapon and that he used it on me. I didn’t even stand a chance.
He had dropped a bomb on me.
No white flag. No chance for surrender.
In world war 2, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by a US bomb named “Little Boy”.
The battle was lost.
“You’re in love with him?” Matias states.
Then I admit it to myself. I admit to myself before I can admit it to Matias.
I was in love with him. This love was dangerous. It was explosive. There was nothing but ash left.
“Like Hiroshima,” I state.
Matias is breathing heavy, “Maybe you shouldn’t go fight Prince. Maybe you should leave it alone. If you love him like that…maybe…”
I remember how it felt like to see Desta with Prince. I could imagine what it was like when Prince was in Desta. I couldn’t just leave it alone. I had respect. I would fight for Desta in a way that I had never fought for Matias.
“I’m fighting him.”
People are gathering outside the line to get inside the competition. The competition is taking place in a popular center in a nearby neighborhood. This neighborhood was nice. It definitely wasn’t the Bottom. From what I was told Desta was the only one from the Bottom who was even going to compete. I watch as people are getting in line. My stomach is in knots. I’m not nervous about the fight. For some reason, I’m nervous about Desta’s performance. I’m thinking maybe I should wait until it’s over so I don’t fuck up the performance.
I don’t get that chance.
“He’s over there…” Chico states, “We need to get down there now.”
Chico is pointing. Sure enough, I see Prince and a bunch of his Suwoo gang members. They are all dressed up in red. They are coming out in droves to support Desta. I had no doubt. A lot of that fear of how gay the whole dancing thing was had gone away in the school. Rumor had it people were actually excited to see him perform. There were other people from our school there as well.
“Wait…wait maybe this is some miscommunication,” Matias tries to state.
I don’t know what Matias is trying is saying to me at this point but it’s way too late. I just am praying that Desta starts competing soon so that this doesn’t affect his performance. Before I know it I’m headed down the block to meet Prince.
I take off my shirt. I throw it to the ground. My muscles are flexing and my heart is beating fast you can almost see it through my chest.
When I look at Prince’s face all I could think about was him touching the person who was mine. All I could think about was him being with Desta. All I could see is red.
“This some sort of joke?”
“You fucked my boyfriend,” I yell, “You think I’m joking?”
“WHOA!!!!!” a couple of boys echo.
I think it throws both sides off when I say what I say. Some people are confused on what’s going on but I think everything is happening so fast that maybe they thought I misspoke. I don’t care what they thought though. I don’t care if people knew I was in love with Desta and I was going to beat this motherfuckers ass for touching him.
Prince looks over at me, “Bro I’m not gonna fight you…fall back…”
“Lil bitch ass medicine,” Chico taunts him.
“Who the fuck are you talking to?” Prince states taking a step towards Chico aggressively.
I step between Prince and Chico.
“This don’t got to do with him. This got to do with you and me. You know what this is about. You know exactly who we are fighting over. You know you want this fight just as bad as I do.”
Prince gives me a look.
“You lucky Desta would be mad if I beat your ass right now,” Prince explains walking away.
I watch as he starts walking away.
“I’m taking him away from here. Me and him,” I let Prince know, “He’s mine.”
Prince stops. Maybe the other members of his gang don’t know exactly what I’m talking about but he knows. He hears my threat loud and clear. He hears me claiming Desta loud and clear. And that makes him stop. He turns around and I see Prince finally manning up and taking off his shirt.
“Over my dead body,” Prince says.
People are making all this noise and chaos realizing a fight was about to happen. I notice the M83 gang with me making sure that the Suwoo gang doesn’t jump in. I’ve been wanting this so bad and by the look in Prince’s eyes, I can tell he’s been wanting this so bad. Since the first time we met this motherfucker had been the only thing standing between me and Desta being completely happy. I was going to make sure that wasn’t a fucking problem anymore.
In the frozen second between the standoff and fighting, I see the eyes of people flick from me to him. Our faces are unreadable. Neither of us were afraid. There was no invitational smirk you would have thought you would have gotten from Prince.
I swing first missing slightly as he swerves towards the sidewalk. Cars blaring their horns and people gathering around. He comes at me soon after managing to get a jab through but I swing right back my hand like a fucking club knocking him back as he stumbles back towards the sidewalk again. Just as I am about to run up on him I see someone breakthrough from the crowd. I notice who it is. It’s Desta’s other cousin Tone. His car has just pulled up down the street and he ran over this way.
He tries to jump in.
I expect it to be 10 on 1. I expect it to be over in a bloody flash but surprisingly I see Prince push Tone away, “It’s between me and him. Mind your fucking business.”
“Are you serious!” Tone roars.
I can see Tone twitching. His eye looking like he’s about to completely snap or something. I’ve never seen anything like it. He was having some sort of mental breakdown and I had no idea why.
“This got nothing to do with you,” he states, ‘This is man on man. Mind your fucking business. You hear me? “
“You better not lose,” Tone states, “You BETTER not fucking embarrass us and lose.”
Tone backs off. He walks back towards his car. I look back over at Prince. I have to give him credit. I thought he would have loved nothing more than to be saved at this point by his crazy cousin. I’m surprised he was willing to take this as a man. I guess he wanted to prove a point to Desta.
The problem was so did I.
I swing at him. I make contact and he hits me right back. A sudden gush of pain jols throughout my body. My stomach ached. Before I know it he tries to tackle me on the ground. I get halfway down. My arms lose tension and my legs begin to weaken.
“He’s mine,” Prince growls.
That’s when Prince gets this strength. He picks me up and he slams me hard as fuck into the concrete sidewalk. I think he mutters something like “stay down”. Truthfully I don’t even hear it. I’m out of it for a minute. My tongue was soaked in the taste of blood. I’m bruised and winded with a leg in agony. My heart was pounding. All I could think about at that moment was Desta. I didn’t care about the crowd. I didn’t care about the chanting. I didn’t care about the other gang members struggling to keep back. I think Matias is one of them who is screaming at me to get up.
I do it. I get up.
I get up and I turn towards him. I spit the blood away.
“Not done yet,” I state.
That’s when I go on the attack. I don’t know where the energy comes from but I feel my fists flighting into the side of his head. He tries to block them but it’s faster than I’ve ever fought before. For a minute it wasn’t even like I was fighting. I was dancing around him. I was whizzing through his punches. He didn’t land a single one. I was dancing. My body guided as though I hear some beat in my head. Bump. Bump. Bump. I two-step through all of it swinging my fists into his stomach so hard that he stumbles back, wheezes a little bit and then falls right on his ass.
“Get up!” one of his homeboys was saying.
They didn’t see what I see though. Prince looks up at me and he knows what I know. He can’t beat me. He could never have. He squirms in pain on the floor and just shakes his head.
I look around the ground for my shirt.
“It’s over,” I state.
Prince nods. There is this silent agreement. That was it. It was over.
As I bend down to pick up my shirt off the ground I see headlights. I turn at that moment and see Tone. He’s driving a fucking car onto the sidewalk! I watch as people run out of the way but he isn’t trying to get them!
He’s driving towards me!
He’s trying to run me over.
The loud sound of a car hitting a body pierces the air.
I don’t know what happens but I feel myself hitting the floor. I bust my lip on the ground but that is the worst of it. I wasn’t hit by the car. I look up and realize that someone else was.
Someone had pushed me out of the way. I look and realize who it was. Prince had pushed me out of the way and Tone had accidentally run over his own cousin. I see Prince’s body laying on the ground as people run over.
Why’d he push me out of the way?
“Is he ok!” I’m running over to Tone.
My heart is racing. My mind is doing a fucking freefall. I’m panicking noticing that Prince was definitely there. I look over at Tone who comes out of the car freaking out from what he had just done. He had tried to fucking kill me! He tried to run me over with a fucking car!
“I—I didn’t mean it for him—-I—I just didn’t want to be a loser anymore,” Tone is screeching at the top of his lungs.
He says a bunch of other things that don’t make sense but none of it matters at that point. I’m over Prince. My mind is going crazy.
He wasn’t moving.