NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 11

Moose, obsidian black, heavyweight, master street fighter, who had been looking at the floor all the time, but was really watching the hip movements of everybody in the joint, raised his head in genuine amazement. In seconds, the rage that clouded his face scared me. He wanted to do Larry right there. He looked at Larry a long time, then looked at me, his jaws tightening. He cradled his left fist with his huge right hand in front of his genitals. That was the signal. It was time to get this over with. I was still shaking. I was still scared. But I had to do something to save face, to let my group and Larry know I was going all the way. BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 9 “Why’d you beat him up Larry? He’s just a kid. He didn’t do anything to you. He doesn’t even know you,” I said calmly. Larry’s face exploded in anger and he started to point his finger in my face as he screamed, “Fuck you, nigga. I fucked him up because I fucked him up. That’s all there is to it. He shouldn’t have been there. I don’t have to tell you shit.” Larry was in a bind. The beating was senseless. I had been told that by Shorty who was with my brother when he was beaten (and didn’t raise a hand to protect him). After I smacked Shorty and bounced him off the wall a few times, he blurted out that Larry and some of his boys had wandered downstairs from the house party the night before and decided to bully three Puerto Rican men coming home late from work. The teens were drunk. The older men were sober and they fought well, fending off the gang attack and beating the kids with their fists, fair and square. Shorty told me the ‘Ricans simply walked away, no cops were called, no weapons drawn. But the humiliation lingered and the young toughs burst into the house party looking for Puerto Ricans, knowing that the only one there was, was my fourteen-year-old brother Pablo, who then paid the price for their loss of pride. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE “Why’d you…uhmm…why’d you beat up my brother?” I said squeakily. His crowd in the poolroom laughed at my cracking voice. My guys glowered at me, their eyes burning into mine. But they didn’t intervene. I had to do this on my own — that was the code. They’d back me up, but I had to challenge and follow through. Quickly stepping forward, I pushed my hand down hard into the middle of the pool cue and said softly, “There’s gonna be no game today, Larry. We gonna talk.” Larry, angry, confused, spat the word “Motherfucka” out and tried to pull the pool cue up. It didn’t move. Somehow, my right forearm, sinewy but strong, didn’t give out. Letting go of the cue, he backed up a bit and started to come toward me. I expected him to swing and I just waited deadlocked in time and space, looking straight at him. Out of nowhere it seemed the manager of the joint — a short, semi-balding, middle-aged brown-skinned man with moles all over his face — jumped in between us, grabbed the cue I had my hand on and yelled, “Y’all take this shit downstairs. I don’t want no shit up in heah. Y’all deal with it downstairs, ya hear?” Larry and I stared at each other for a few seconds. He was trying to figure out where the fuck I got the sudden burst of courage. I was simply holding on to my mission of asking him why he beat my brother, possibly fighting him, hopefully eking out a draw and never having him mess with me or my family again. 9 Slowly, I walked over to Larry’s pool table. He didn’t move, didn’t speak, and continued to cue up his next shot. I made the mistake of approaching him from his right side where he could’ve easily swung the thin part of the pool cue into my face; eyes, ears, nose, or throat, all potential targets. I sensed I had blown the approach so I closed the gap between us. On the streets, this kind of proximity meant war. For real. Then, it seemed that the entire pool hall clambered down the stairs, by the sound of the rumbling feet on that sunny spring day, sober and serious. The crowd surrounded us on the corner — my guys in the inner circle, his people on the outer. It wasn’t lost on me that none of his folks tried to muscle in for a better look or listen. There was a gut-churning silence. And then I spoke, a little firmer, a little louder, but still trembling. I was really scared of this guy and hoping, beyond hope, that a miracle would occur to end this confrontation; maybe he could say he was sorry or something to that effect. I could call him a bunch of motherfuckas, threaten him with murder if he touched my family again, and leave. He would save his life, I would save face, and our mediocre lives would continue unabated. It wasn’t to be. 3/29/15 11:41 AM