The Southside Stories – Chapter 1

As promised, I have provided the first chapter of my attempt at writing about my native Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood. Feedback is encouraged and appreciated.

I can’t believe I’m back here. Los Sures in Brooklyn. I swore I’d never come back here unless I needed to. Well, here I am. Attending Mom’s funeral. I can’t believe she’s gone. I don’t even remember the last time I saw her.

I’m looking at my makeup in my tiny black compact mirror and add some extra blush to my caramel skinned cheeks. The pink blush makes them look rosy; sexy with a conservative touch, which is just right for this funeral. As I’m about to put away my mirror, my cousin, Jesse, approaches me.

“Prima,” he says, as he hugs me, tears in his eyes. He’s sadder than I am. I’m sad she’s gone but it ain’t that deep.

He looks me in the eyes, expecting to see some moisture. He sees none but hugs me again.

“Como ‘ta?”

“Bien,” I say. “I haven’t been here in years; it’s weird.”

“Bueno, mucho no ha cambiado. Solamente el vecindario.”

“Yo, se,” I say. “Tu vi’to a papi?”

“No lo vi’to,” he says.

There is silence as we look around at all the mourning faces inside Baez Funeral. He pats my back and kisses me on the cheek; he nods a “See ya later,” and walks toward his mother. She nods to me, tight-lipped as she stands 50 feet away from me, talking to some other relatives I’m not interested in interacting with at the moment. I want to see my dad. He told me he’d get here at 4:30 pm and it was already 5. I couldn’t stand being around these people any longer.

I sat down on one of the folder chairs, two rows from my mom’s open casket. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her corpse. She did this to herself; she could’ve gotten help. She could’ve saved herself but she drowned her sorrows in the drink.

As I was staring at her corpse from a distance, I felt myself trembling from anger and resentment. She was so absent from my life, I never knew who she was. She was sick; and it made me sick. The tears slowly slid down my cheeks, as I sat there breathing slowly.

I reached into my pocket book and dabbed at the sides of my eyes. I reached inside my purse again and checked my makeup. Not too much smearing. Good.

I put my mirror away again and I felt the familiar warm hand of my father on my back.

“Hi baby,” he said as I took him in a tight embrace. Sobs uncontrollably racked my body in his arms. He held me for as long as I needed him there.

I finally pulled away, sniffling, and wiping my nose like a little kid. What is it about being around your parents that makes you regress?

We sat down in the same spot I was sitting in.

“Hey, Pa,” I said, still wiping the moisture from my face with my hands. I took tissue out of my purse and gently wiped my nose.

“You’re late. Where were you?”

“Anna was running late the whole day which made me late,” he said. “But I’m here.”

He kissed me on the cheek. Then he looked around.

“I should make my rounds here,” he said, standing up. “Tu no va habla’ con nadie aqui?”

I shook my head no.  “I think I’m going to my hotel.”

“Where you staying? I thought you were going to be staying with Jesse?”

I made a “You’re crazy” face, with squinty eyes and a scrunched up mouth and said, “No.”

“I gotta get outta here, Dad. I can’t stand this.”

His body stiffened but his eyes softened. He knew I was funny at family functions because I didn’t really ever fit in.

“I’ll call you later,” he said, as he hugged me and walked toward Jesse’s mom.

My eyes swept around the room and I briskly walked out of the parlor. I sucked in the cool fall air like I was smoking a cigarette.

The funeral parlor was right by the Williamsburg Bridge, which was perfect for hailing a yellow taxicab. I couldn’t wait to get to my hotel room, take a warm bath, and order a romantic comedy to wash away the day.

With my fitting black suit, I was the best looking woman on Havenmeyer Street so the familiar catcalls and “Hola mami” greetings ensued as I stood on the corner, trying to hail a taxi.

As one taxi cab finally rolled up, Carlos Perez, waved to me with an inviting smile, less than five feet away from me. My feet started to tingle; my stomach did somersaults and I thought I’d flub a simple hello to him. I cursed myself for not looking at myself in the mirror before I left the parlor.

I shooed the taxi cab away and plastered on a smile, hoping my anxiety and nervousness didn’t show on my face.

He walked toward me and kissed me on the cheek. I inhaled his musk infused with Calvin Klein cologne (I recognized the fragrance because I bought the same one for an ex; I loved the smell on him!) as we engaged in a brief hug. I never thought I’d see Carlos Perez again in my life; my one and only school girl crush to the maximum.

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