(( This story is based on a true legend, one the author has first-person experience of. No names of real people will be released in this story, nor PM. ))
(( "Being from the ghetto is nothing to be proud of, escaping it.. is. Escape, but still embrace." -Christina Hernandez, my late mother. ))
Thank you for your time reading.
There are two rivers, the Hudson and the East. When I was a child, I was raised in East Harlem, NY or Riverside as we called it between our neighbors. The building all date back around the 20's and the ethnicity of the neighborhood is mostly Hispanic, with some African American presence. I am of a Cuban-Puerto Rican household, with some Navajo blood from my mothers side. I remember when I was in High school (Freshman Year), when my brother Enrique started his Junior year in High School. He came home on his first day, very happy but it begun to change over time. The school was like a vacation from the dark neighborhood. We were all rats running from cover to cover to avoid getting eaten. The walk there, the walk home, and the streets were all at war. The number one destination was prison or 6 feet deep. Furthermore, here was my second cousin, Carlos who had begun his junior year. But he wasn't like us though. In the beginnings, we were all ragged kids, crack had hit the streets of cities all over the nation in the past decades. From LA to NY, Miami, to Seattle. My cousin joined the wrong game, and chose the wrong opponents. Another character people loved to gossip about was my favorite neighbor, and the deli owner across the street. He was about 51, and a dreaded war veteran. Over my earlier days, when I needed quick cash, I headed to Pablo for miniature jobs. Pablo lived his days in a dark room above his deli, quietly. He barely talked to anyone but me, my mother, and once Enrique. On Riverside, we were all poor. In a poor Cuban household, all us kids ambitioned of money, luxury, and power. Me and these three have been through a lot. I'm sad to say, me and my cousin are the only survivors. But I was often reminded that was for the folks Downtown, with plush cars and lavish offices. This is uptown, illegal weapons, narcotics, poor minorities, and dead bodies.
II) Chapter 1/Introduction: The People
Armando & Jermaine
"Yo!" The man behind the counter continued working, ignoring the customer. "Yo!" The customer yelled again, this time banging on the countertop. He then slipped his hand in his pocket and found some cash and begun counting.
"This nigga ain't gonna talk!” the customer whispered to his friend.
"Let's bounce, then fool! Ain't nobody got time for this!", he replied. Then a voice came from the other side of the counter, "Patience, amigo. You need to wait." Then he headed in our direction and placed a heavy bag, full of groceries. The smell was enlightening, like fresh beef, cheese, and salsa.
"Pshh, you Cubans and your Salsa... One day, Armando, I'll show you the real sh*t... The real food, not no spic spicy sh*t.", his friend said, which was a bit too loud in a Hispanic-owned business.
"Ey, you watch your mouth, you Negroes and your KFC will never touch this premium food. We put love in this.!" said the worn down shopkeeper, enraged at the Negroes insult towards his culture.
"Jermaine, shut the f*ck up before we smack the black off yo' face!", Armando shouted towards Jermaine, as he picked up the groceries and headed out.
"Y'all niggas need to chill. Yo A, let's head out fool!", exclaimed Jermaine, following Armando out. It was a bright Friday, with the smell of gasoline from the nearby gas station. Traffic sprawled the jungle of concrete on the wide East Harlem boulevards. The subway grunged in the background, rocking the tracks in an extremely noisy pattern, an everyday thing in the average NYC neighborhood. The smoke from the alleys, where the feigns fought for crack lit the Harlem skyline. The two passed through the crowded streets, where you can see how the melting pot failed to melt the rough edges of racism. The Blacks and Hispanics had their feuds, but Armando and Jermaine were examples of the friendship the two ethnicity shared in East Harlem. "Man, this sh*t is like the f*cking jungle, more diversity than a motherf*cker!" Jermaine said, while studying the crowds, as he pushed up towards his block.
"Yeah, I feel you, the niggas is wild, the streets are full, and there's always something breaking the peace." Armando blurted out while concentrating on fighting the large crowd and street traffic to get home. They flew through the blocks as they approached home, after that long day at school, the two were ready to lay back and relax.
Enrique, Johnathan, & Carlos
(( The scene shifts to a classroom, where Enrique is sitting down in his last class. This is the same day of school, just before Armando and Jermaine were picking up groceries.. ))
A teacher walks inside the room, you can tell from her face she snaps easily and has a bad attitude towards the school and the kids. "Okay, settle down class, this is your first day of learning as the first day, we just sat here passing names... Let's star-"
"YO! YO MISS!" interrupts Enrique, in a rude manner. "What's your name again?"
"This is your first and last warning, Mr. Hernandez. Next time, your ass is getting hauled to the office with a referral shoved in it from Mrs. Johnson, that'd be my name."
Enrique chuckled, and whispered to the girl sitting next to him,"Bitch fiesty!" The girl, begun to giggle and Ms.Johnson rolled her eyes and spun around and begun scribbling on the board.
(( After the lesson.. ))
Enrique rushes out as his friend, Johnathan walks up to him with Carlos, his second cousin. Johnathan dressed sharply and was smart, he believed everyone can escape this ugly reality, while Carlos was the opposite. Never was a class which Carlos didn't slack in or a day where his pants didn't sag. To him the world revolved around money, power, and weed. If he wasn't such a poor Hispanic, one may think of him as a kid from Downtown, spoiled and interested in nothing but money. He was so different from Enrique, whose world was about women. There wasn't a girl in the grade who Enrique hadn't dated, and even the sophomores were lining up.
The three headed outside, to the fresh Harlem day, Enrique sees Armando, who signals back that he's walking home alone. Carlos shrugs and walks by, Johnathan follows, as Enrique lags behind shaking his head at his freshman brother.
(( The scene shifts one more time, to a small deli in front of the family house. Armando and Jermaine are seen leaving the deli with fresh groceries, and the man closes the store for a lunch break.. ))
The old shopkeeper sighs, and heads upstairs to his small apartment. He reaches for the doorknob, almost slips to the mopped floor his maid had recently done. He begins to fall as two delicate hands catch him and help him up. He smiles and says "Thank you, Lisa. Without your help, I don't know where I'd be."
"Oh, Mr.Morales, you are too kind. I was just about to leave, then I realized I forgot to hand you this package that came in the mail.." she exclaimed as she dug through here purse and warily pulled out a small package, wrapped in blue and white paper, with a red star. "Please, for the 100th time, call me Pablo!" he jokes and continues, "I assume you took care of this well?".. She gasps and speaks, "Oh of course, Mr.Mora-, I mean Pablo!". Pablo nods and opens the door for her to go home. As she exits and closes the door, Pablo locks it, then heads toward his bedroom. He shuts all the windows and blows down the curtain, he then closes his bedroom door and sits down on his bed with the strange package. In the dark room, he begins to unwrap the package and carefully saved the wrapping paper. He carried to his cabinet, where you can see a huge pile of them, with many ashes beneath them, in the dirty cabinet. He heads towards the bed, fixes the sheets, and lifts the lid off the tight box from the packaging. As he lifts a premium dark brown cigar from the box, he tightly closes it. He places it under his bed, and reaches for his pocket pulling out a lighter. He flicks, and fails to create a flame, tries again and lights the cigar very cautiously. He pulls out his blanket, lays down and begins to smoke his cuban cigar with a sense of pride that he barely expresses publicly after the embargo.
(( The smoke fills the room as the scene darkens, and the chapter ends. ))
[[ The next chapter should be up by next week, taking it slow for quality. ]]