Tag Archives: Wynwood

Day of Death Walk

Walking to school was the funniest thing.

Ashley and I often laughed our way to school. The walk alone was never boring; we generally made fun of the characters on the street. Something funny awaited our way to meet our school bus to Miramar Elementary School. We were the most popular girls in 5th grade.

We looked forward to our walks. There was a certain independence reserved only for these times. Any other time, we were confined to the sidewalk directly in front of my house. And once the streetlights came on, my front door was the proverbial limit.

There was much to be seen on any given morning. We looked forward to the funny men and women who graced the front of Jibarito Supermarket.  Ashley and I would ‘round the corner to our right, and head south.

7:30am.

Down 2nd Avenue, we expected to see various happenings: Dogs chasing men riding bikes; Hector’s daily prostitute dramas!

Maria always went back, even though each morning, she would be thrown out while she yelled and screamed in protest.

Hector’s wife was due home from working all night. And although we understood every Spanish word he yelled, it came in rambling, quick-tongue form.

Hector always promised to see her later, once Maria conceded the fight. She would gently gather her things, thrown out by Hector, from the sidewalk, and carefully fold each item. She’d hand brush her hair. Look around. Pout her lips. And proudly walk away.

Then there were the early-morning meetings with drug dealers, and their diligent day-workers. Their meetings were held from their low-rider Cadillacs, gleaming in the sun. Workers hunched in the passenger windows for their debriefing sessions and assignments.

The Jibarito Supermarket, being on our right-hand side, was where we expected the most action. There, an ever-changing, animated group of homeless people who looked like they represented the dingy version of United Colors of Benetton, congregated at its doors, to supplicate potential patrons to make their daily donations to their cause. In turn, they’d dance and entertain. They’d even open the door to help generous ones enter the store.

We’ve witnessed them push the store door close to non-generous ones.

That was funny to us.

Jose, the manager of this motley crew, was Cuban. Jose didn’t appear homeless, though. He was always clean, smelled of cologne and rum, and wore all white. White panama hat. White, crisp shirt. White trousers. White shoes. Jose was heavy set with a huge, square face and a bushy unkempt beard. His wild, salt-and-pepper hair tamed only by his hat. In fact, the only colors which adorned Jose were his generous set of reds, yellow-and-greens, blue-and whites, and other color beads which hung low to his belly.

As we approached, he balanced on each foot like a jester holding invisible juggling balls. He motioned towards the supermarket doors to usher givers in. He bowed as people entered, as if it was an invitation to a show. His show. He held the door with his right hand, the same hand which held his dented flask. It spilled his deliverance with each boisterous arm exertion. His theatrical left hand remained palm up, showing thick golden rings on his pointer and middle fingers. The jester’s smile, gleamed a couple golden teeth and golden crowns, as it tightly clutched a thick Cuban cigar. 

We were finally directly in his path.

“¿Oye, muchachas?! ¿Donde vayas?” He sang through gritted teeth; he twirled and swooped his waist to the right. He hopped to the left.

We veered to the opening right.

He immediately hopped to the right-leaving his scent where he had just stood. His golden teeth blinded us, but gleaming blood-shot eyes connected with us. His movements made him appear almost as a phantom, leaving a trail of white. I wondered if I had imagined it. He was both scary and amusing.

We stopped quickly-and dodged left-and ran. We ran away from the store, leaving his companions in the same uproar. They were laughing.

We were laughing. Holding hands and screaming, we ran down two blocks. Then, we stopped. We hunched over, gasping for breath, laughing uncontrollably.

We blindly walked and laughed as we continued south, down 2ndAvenue.

We passed 32nd Street.

Two days later, we heard that he had raped Carmen, a Puerto Rican girl in our grade.   

 We didn’t know if it was true or not, and our parents always said not to comment on things we didn’t see with our own eyes. And even then, if it wasn’t our business, to keep our mouths shut. You see. You don’t see. Well, we didn’t see-for real. So, we didn’t know.   

That was the last time we saw him.

7:40am.

Oblivious to any real danger, we walked one more block and enjoyed more minor thrills along the way. We saw Madame Union’s pit bulls mating. They seem to be having a group sex party.

I was just astonished to see Madam Union’s all white pack in full swing-humping.

“Ouuu!” Ashley beamed. “Let’s tie them.”

“How do you tie them?”

“Girl, don’t you know anything?!” Ashley asked. “It’s a Haitian thing. Anytime you see dogs fucking,” she grabbed my pinky finger with her pinky finger, “You tie ‘em up by doin’ this. You say my name,” She said as she pushed our joined pinkies towards me, “I say your name,” she said, as she pulled our joined pinkies back towards her. “Ready?”

“Okay,” I said. “Ashley,” I said cautiously, as I yanked her pinky towards me.

“Adrienne,” She pulled back.

“Ashley!” I got excited.

“Adrienne!” She matched my excitement.

We continued this way for a few minutes.

We were so engulfed in our spell, that we didn’t notice the moans of three coupled pits.

We finally looked to our right, where the orgy was, in Madam Union’s dirt yard. We witnessed the coupled dogs attempting to pull away from one another. They fought for freedom and all three pairs were stuck!

We erupted in laughter.

But the dogs were in visible pain. All three dogs pulled and pulled. But they were stuck.

“Ki es sa k’ap fout anmerde chyienm yo la?!” (Who’s bothering my dogs?) Came Madam Union’s boisterously shrieky voice, as she swung her door open hard with annoyance. 

Madam Union was the vodou queen. You didn’t mess with her!

We startled and broke out in lightning speed. We ran away laughing, to the sound of her precious dogs moaning in pain. We prayed she didn’t see our faces.

 7:50am.

Javier and Hector. They dropped out of Robert E. Lee to sell drugs for Papo. Their shift began early morning, I guess. Because they were soon approaching.  

 Instinctively nervous, I walked closer to Ashley as the gap between Javier and Hector and us closed.

“Y’all want some weed?” Hector, the one with slicked back, shiny-with-gel-black hair asked. His wife beater t-shirt was tucked firmly into his tight, light-stone-washed jeans. His belt seemed too big for the ‘fit. But he seemed to appreciate his own style. He switched from leg-to-leg, confidently, and leaned back, peering at us from his angled head.

“What’s weed?” Confused, I looked to Ashley. She knew everything.

“Some bullshit these assholes smoke,” Ashley replied right in front of him with disdain, “It’s like grass and they get all high-acting stupid,” she said as she twisted her neck. She then turned back at him slowly, fearlessly.  She glared at Hector. Then at Javier.

I was still thinking about how much emphasis she put on the word stupid. The word dropped slow and heavy, and the last syllable lingered on her tongue. That sound only comes through clenched teeth, with the tongue pushing up against the ceiling of the mouth. I thought it was kind of harsh. I wondered if she could have simply said, no thank you. But I assumed the stance. Whether she was mean or not, I’m sure she had a good reason for it. They didn’t deserve our kindness, anyways-being high all the time. They were stupid; dropping out of school and stuff. I had to be ready to fight if Hector got offended.  I looked at her distorted face, head cocked-to-the-left, and matched the look. I shared her glare to the boys.

Everyone knew who Ashley’s brother was. He was the king of that block. And you don’t wanna mess with Big E’s sister.

“Dayum, dawg, my bad. We didn’t see you,” Hector laughed, “Javi, let’s go, man.”  They backed up, and walked around us without saying another word.

The feeling of power crawled up my back. I felt protected and proud.  

Astride slammed her fist into her palm.

I thought that was a bit extra at this point.

7:53am.

“Maa-riiii-cooooone!” Wailed a drunkard walking towards us from a distance.

We looked at each other with mouths agape.

I blinked to see if I was hallucinating.

“Maa-riiii-cooooone!” Floated from his wet, dribbling lips again. Our crooner was lazily gliding towards us. His guayabera shirt was dingy and un-buttoned. It was a couple sizes too big, so it only framed his boney, peach-colored chest which looked like a canvas for sparing hairs budding.  His oversized trousers were equally dirty, and his bare feet were so darkened with dirt, it didn’t match his body’s complexion. “Maa-riiii-cooooone!” He yelled again.   

And that’s when I saw it.

A long oblong shaped penis protruded from his unzipped trousers, and dangled left to right with each arduous step the man took.  He was getting closer to us.

Too shocked to laugh. Too shocked to scream. Ashley and I looked at each other with inquisition marking our faces.

“Maa-riiii-”

Thwack! Came a loud blow to his head by a nearby savior. He had hit the Maricone guy on the head with a green Heineken bottle.

Maricone laid motionless on the floor, with blood pumping out of his head.

Ashley and I grabbed each other at the impact of the blow. Too shaken to speak, we hugged each other tightly.

The savior seemed to have come out of nowhere.

Everything went silent. And we froze. Heart stopped beating. Tears spilled from our eyes. We couldn’t move.

It was not funny.

7:56 AM.

We have to go. The bus is set to arrive at 8:00am.

I don’t remember catching the bus.

I don’t even remember the ride to school.

I heard or learned nothing that day. We floated through the day.

Every time we attempted to begin the conversation, we found no words.

We shook our heads on it. I shook my head to shake the images out of my head. I didn’t want to think about it.

5th grade felt like a container to suppress our womanhood.

Later, we learned that Maricone died.

That same day, Hector and Javier died. Got shot for stealing Papo’s weed.

Fat Cuban jester died. Carmen’s dad had a gun.

Our walks to school were no longer funny.  

A day in life in Wynwood

It was a hot summer morning in June, and the sun had just made its break into the dark of dawn.  The roosters crowed in syncopation, and the sound of the sprinklers sang in the distance. The roar of the garbage truck collecting trash up and down the street, whistling at each stop alerted the day of the week: it was Monday.

I had graduated from Pre-school on Friday, and mom said that I was a big girl now. After Saturday and Sunday, I would go to a new school for the summer.  I didn’t realize that I was the only one going to school. My siblings were still yet in bed. By Sunday night, excitement and fear kept me up most of the night; so I was well awake by the time the garbage truck rolled around to my block. 

My brothers were in their rooms-still in bed sleeping.  The room I shared with my sister was closest to my parents’ room, separating my brothers’ room from my parents’. The tenor-pitched rumble of my sister’s snoring rang through our wood paneled room and reverberated off the walls to coda with a sharp triplet staccato.

The expected humidity of the tropical heat smothered me, and I felt tired. The sweat drenched my nightdress, leaving my back wet and my neck tickled and sticky. The dust laden oscillating fan did little to invite the breeze we enjoyed the night before. Resolving to my fate, I finally sat upright. I surveyed the square-shaped, dimly lit room. The doo-doo brown walls were ugly to me. Why would anyone want wood panels inside of the house? Wood should be on the outside of the house. The wooden floors didn’t help brighten the place either. My mom’s decorating did little to help.  The crisp, white cotton curtain panels, lined with lace and doilies hung lazily against each side of the open window.  The once, wind-enhanced, scary-in-the-night, flying curtains found no wind to give it life in the heat of the morning gleam. Beams from the sun made dust and particles visible to my naked eye.  The white highboy chest of drawers stood beneath the window. Porcelain figurines of white girls and boys playing graced the top of the white, lace doilies that covered the rectangular top of the drawer.  My sister’s and my comb, and our white, gold-trimmed, hand-painted-pearl brush of little red roses held curlies of our hair; and our hair ribbons and barrettes were all neatly scattered on our chest.   

Directly across the window and chest was the East wall, where the scary closet with no doors was positioned. I can’t remember ever seeing one there, but based on its exposed tracks along its perimeter, it needed one of those accordion doors, or the two-door kind which overlapped, and slid to close on either side. Either way, I just wished there was one there and I wouldn’t have to look the other way at night when the shadows from the moonlight casted upon the clothes looked like a mob of people from the 17th century, holding oil lanterns coming to take me away from my family.  The room had an old Early Americana feel to it: From the foot stools, the white porcelain basin of water my mom kept next to my bed so that I wouldn’t have to go all the way, down the hall to use the toilet in the middle of night, to the Monet paintings, the curtains, the smell-it felt old.   And I was convinced that ghosts lived with us.

 I decided that it was morning and I didn’t need to be afraid anymore.  I took a deep breath and stretched my arms up to God as if to say, Thank You for not letting them take me. I looked up and caught sight of a palmetto bug making its way up the wall. I blinked twice, to be sure because it was the exact same color as the walls. These monster roaches have tiny wings on their back and they fly. I plunged back under the covers and ignored the discomfort of my wet pillow as I tightly held on to the blankets. I couldn’t breathe.

You have to get up.

But the roach!…there’s a roach in my room!

 I realized that my sister had left the window open. She might as well have put up a sign saying: Come on in, Roaches! Mi casa es su casa! She knows I hate bugs!   Her tumultuous roaring continued and the smell of my breath was suffocating me under the covers.

 I pulled the sheets off my head and sat up again. Mr. Bug was gone. Or so I thought. I swung my feet to the floor and allowed my toes to feel for my feather soft house slippers.  If I could just get these on, I can make a dash for the bathroom. My little toes crept into the indulgent slippers, and I felt something move. Then I felt tentacles tickling my toes! I gasped in disbelief and horror-unable to move or utter a breath or sound,  before gasping a short breath again to force a heart-curdling screech which awoke the entire house.

My sister’s symphony of tenor to bass snoring stopped abruptly with a climactic snort; and she jolted out of bed.

My mom came rushing into our room with her hands holding her sponge rollers, screaming: “Sak pase?! Sak pase?!” What happened?! Her Mumu was buttoned wrong, unaligned and haphazardly, revealing her caramel breast which hung like Haitian mangos when its pulp is sucked out through a small piercing at the top, leaving its shape oblong but flat.

My brothers came rushing in, already laughing…

I heard the shower stream stop and heard my father yelling, “Sak gen la?!” What happened here? (What’s going on in there?)

My younger brother, the youngest of us five, all of three years, and 11 months, and 28 days old at the time ran to the bathroom door to fill my dad in on the hysterics of his morning-“Addi crying because she has a roach in her sandal!”

“Ah!” my dad grunted before he turned the faucet back on, and continued his shower.

My mom asked, “Do you have to be so ridiculous? Inférieure! Meaning: acting of lower class.

My sister muttered, “She’s such a drama queen,” and turned around to return to her slumber.

My brothers laughed and walked back to their room.

Seeing that my wailing had not subsided, my ma said, “Get up. Levez! Levez! Mettez’w  debout! Li l’heur pou’n allez.” It’s time to go.  My mom would go in and out from Haitian Creole to French and sometimes, she’d throw in some English words.

My mom rushed to help me get dressed after a much hurried, cold shower.

Why do I have to go?” I whined. It didn’t seem fair. I’m the fourth child of five children-and of all of us, I had to go? Not fair. I knew my siblings would have a gay old time without me there. Mom and dad wouldn’t be home so they’d get to play with the neighbors.  They’d have a party and have fun playing pillow fights, kickball, Hide-and go-seek, Mother-may-I, Green-light-Red-Light, playing School, Shopping and Mommy and Daddy. But I would be stuck at school. It just didn’t seem fair. I’d just graduated Pre-School.

Without answering the question, she stated in our native Creole, “Et puis, fait vit!” For me to hurry up.

              Soon, we were out the door, and making our one-mile walk down Northwest 2nd Avenue, from 34th to 26th Street- down the boardwalk of Wynwood’s busiest district. No, it wasn’t Midtown, then. They’ve changed the name to Midtown now that it’s gained recognition for its art galleries, alternative music clubs and can boast a fine dining experience from top chefs from around the world; it is adjacent to Miami’s Design district. Now that most of the younger generation has moved away in search of a better life, the older people have either died, or sold their homes; now that a huge mall has been erected in the middle of the town where an old truck lot and cement company used to be; now that High Rises costing more than anyone from the old neighborhood, except for Hector and his crew who controlled the drug cartels, could afford grace the outskirts of our little town with panoramic balconies overlooking good ole Biscayne Bay and beyond;  and the old concrete homes are bought out by the booming artist community who has done a great job in giving the neighborhood a much needed facelift of beautifully painted, graffiti murals, renovated old-style, Miami homes with gorgeous curb appeals of well-manicured lawns; now that the bums and crack addicts are gone, it’s Midtown. But on this day, when the population of multi-ethnic families was poor to middle class, and everyone belonged, and all the children played in the street, and everyone knew everyone, and the stores were reasonably priced, it was Wynwood.

The smell of fresh Cuban breads and pastries tickled my nose and made my stomach growl. I could tell my mom was ignoring it, as we both inhaled the smell of rich, aromatic coffee beans being roasted at the coffee factory on 5th Avenue.   

A dog barked at a cat that jumped away with a loud meow, just in time for redemption; the buzzing sound of the street lights faded away as the lights automatically turned off. A rooster shrieked the final alarm to wake up; and then the rumbling train made its travel down North Miami Avenue. Ah, the quietest moment of the day.

                She tugged at my hand as we made it down the street-I guess it was important to get me there as fast as she could.

I allowed my eyes to follow Celia, the neighborhood drunk; I waved to her despite my mom’s eye-rolling and neck twisting to the opposite direction.

Hola, mamita linda! Como estas?”  Celia danced around me.  Her heels seem to hurt, with deep cuts that didn’t bleed, five shades darker than her caramel skin tone. Celia smelled like she had just bathed in rum. Her eyes were bloodshot red and bulging; her speech slurred with smiling, crimson lips.

                My mom stepped to the left to avoid a collision, never letting go of me as she yanked my hands. My mom didn’t grant the woman her customary smile or acknowledgement; instead, she kept her head straight, and face stoic with a slight frown on her face as if she smelled something foul.

I thought of Celia the whole way to my new school, Centro Catholico de San Juan de Puerto Rico- where I would learn Spanish in no time because no one spoke English; and I would be the only Black, Haitian girl.