Part I: Brooklyn

Sisters. They’re bratty, clingy, nosey, and sometimes just plain old evil. They look up to you, imitate you, tease you, support you, help you, and console you when your first love dumps you. They’re catty, selfish, and spiteful but for all the things they are the most important of them is that no matter how bad things seem they will always love you. The bond between sisters is one of those rare anomalies that you can never understand unless you have a sister of your own.

The relationship that I have with my sister is one that I treasure. I always say that having a sister was God’s way of giving me a best friend for life. When you’re kids trying to find your way in the world, you don’t realize that the little brat you tried so hard to avoid somehow became the love of your life. They say you are only blessed with one true love in life, if you’re lucky, maybe two.  For me, my first true love was Danielle.

                                                                                         ***

                            Chapter 1:

It was a hot summer day in August. The sweltering sun, so unbearable, felt like it could bake the skin off of a pig. I felt like a lechon[1] that was being roasted for Christmas dinner. Little droplets of sweat where beginning to form on my forehead not so much from the temperature but from my nerves and feelings of fear as I searched the playground for my 10 yr old sister.

I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an inner city borough, of New York City where sex, drugs, and crime were a part of everyday life and not just a scene out of Scarface. It wasn’t unusual for me to see used hypodermic needles on the ground or to be approached by a dealer trying to build his business. The local dealers needed new clientele and their business didn’t have an age restriction. Williamsburg was the ghetto; aside from run down playgrounds that were shared by the neighborhood fiends, it didn’t provide many options for extra curricular activities.

There weren’t country clubs or summer trips to the shore and instead of freshly manicured lawns and picket fences there were abandoned buildings surrounded by bob wire. To keep ourselves entertained we spent much of our summer in Bedford Park. On this particular day however, I wished that I had never went outside.

                                                                                     ***

 “Danielle, Danielle”, I yelled, as I searched the playground. Danielle was nowhere in sight.

Before going outside, mom told me to keep a strict eye on my sister. But in my haste to go cavort with my friends, I nodded yes, half-listening and silently thinking “I’m so sick of her always tagging along. I wish she would just go away”.

I was forced to take Danielle everywhere. My parents saw it as a way to strengthen my relationship with Danielle but I saw it as an unnecessary consequence of being the older child.

 “Why do I always have to baby sit her? She’s always tagging along,” I thought. 

Surreptitiously, I was thinking of a way to leave Danielle behind and wished that Danielle would make her own friends and leave me alone. My mom, always consumed by what she was going to wear to her next party dumped Danielle on me any chance she got and I hated it. I hated both of them, my mom for giving me her responsibility and Danielle simply for existing. If she’d never been born I wouldn’t be in this predicament. As I continued looking for Danielle in the playground I began regretting those thoughts.

I saw her as being a permanent distraction in my life and a pest but Danielle viewed it as an opportunity to hang out with her big sis. I knew that Danielle loved me and while she did often blackmail me, I know she only did so as a last resort. All Danielle really wanted was to be a part of my inner circle. I was starting to feel like the worst big sister on earth.

As I continued my search crazy thoughts began to cross my mind.

“What if someone had kidnapped Danielle?” “What if she was approached by a drug dealer or by a pedophile”?

I was in a state of worry, fear, and shock. My feelings of anger towards Danielle disappeared after my first search of the playground proved unsuccessful. I couldn’t believe that this was happening and it was then that I realized there was a possibility that I wouldn’t see Danielle again. That thought sent chills up and down my body as if I had seen a ghost and I was terrified.  

I did the only thing I knew how. I began talking to God.

“Dear God, I’m so sorry for every bad word or thought that I have had against my sister. Please bring her back”.

I believed in miracles and what I needed now was a miracle. And while I hated that Danielle was like a prison guard watching and documenting my every move into her blackmail database, I would gladly give up my freedom if it meant seeing Danielle again.

“How did I allow myself to get so caught up in clowning around with Jennifer and Ebony in the playground?” I thought.

I knew that I was in really big trouble. My mom told me time and time again “stop putting your friends before your sister.” She would always say, “No matter how close you are, in the end, friends will always disappoint you. But your family, that’s who you can trust”.

My mother’s words kept replaying over and over in my head like a broken record. Those words just like most of the things mom said went in one ear and out the other. I was 13 years old and like most teenagers I felt that I knew it all. In my eyes mom was a vieja[3], an old lady, what did she know?

“My friends would never betray me, I was sure of it. My sister, on the other hand, was just a nosy tattle-telling brat that would tell on me every time her schemes of blackmail failed” I thought. 

As I thought back on my mother’s words, I wondered if what my mom said had any merit. But the lesson of friends and family was one of the many lessons I would learn later on in life.

As I circled around the playground one more time I thought about my circle of friends. I had two close friends, Jennifer and Ebony, primarily because they lived in the same building. Jennifer was my best friend. She was always the cutest girl in the class and also the shortest. Physically, she was the complete opposite of me.

Jennifer had chestnut brown curly hair with blond highlights which she kept in a bob cut. She had a distinctive mole, more like a beauty mark, right above the left side of her lip. She had pearly white teeth and with her fair skin and rosy cheeks she looked like a little china doll. Candy, her mom, always dressed Jennifer in the cutest and trendiest clothes. Candy was a single mom and although she didn’t splurge on other luxuries, Jennifer and her sister were always dressed nicely.

Jennifer was popular and confident and all of the boys liked her. She was the kind of girl every girl wanted to be like. I then thought about myself. Unlike Jennifer, I was freakishly thin, tall, and had such curly unruly hair that not even my own mother could tame it. Trying to comb my hair was like going to battle. You had to be armed with tons of conditioner if you had any hope of winning.

I remembered how Danielle liked to say “Natalie don’t you wish you had hair like mine?”, while swaying her blond tresses from side to side so that her long wavy hair flowed with every movement of her head. How she ended up with blond hair is beyond me because  our parents both had dark hair.

Danielle loved to remind me how she had the “good hair” and I was cursed with “bad hair”.  I learned at a very early age that my hair would cause many days and nights of frustration.  Along with my bad, unruly hair, I had a crooked smile and teeth to match, nothing that braces couldn’t correct. But that would happen in my adult years.

I had no problem poking fun at myself and I would often say that I could be Buckwheat’s little sister. Where Danielle was fair skinned with blond hair I was dark skinned with dark hair, a little morenita.

The boys would often tease me and call me daddy long legs because of my really long and skinny limbs. As a result, all I wore were long pants and skirts. This carried on way into my late teenage years. My own father constantly reminded me of how much I reminded him of Olive Oyle. Despite my physical flaws I was still a cute girl, well, that was what I kept telling myself. The power of positive thinking is truly amazing.

Albeit I may have fallen short in the traditional form of physical beauty, I was always very sure of my intellectual capabilities. I was always in the smartest class in school and I was one of the smartest girls in my class. I was  a member of the yearbook, young astronauts, and stamp clubs. Talk about nerd. All that I was missing were bifocals and a pocket protector.

In fact, in 5th grade I won the National Geography bee in my school district and qualified to compete at the state level to represent NY State in the National competition in Washington, DC. I was very confident when it came to school. Jennifer too was smart. She and I had been in the same class since the 1st grade and it’s probably the reason why we were so close. 

We were like Laurel & Hardy or Batman & Robin. Except that in our movie I was the main character and Jennifer was my trusty sidekick. It was like that with all my friends. I always ended up being the leader.

Jennifer like me had a younger sister. Wherever Jennifer was, Kimberly was sure to follow. Jennifer and Kimberly lived on the 5th floor. Every time they got into trouble, which was often, you could hear Candy yelling at the top of her lungs through the window.

In those days, the ceilings, walls, and structure of the building made it possible to hear everything the neighbors were doing. And when living in an apartment with no air conditioning, rice and beans constantly cooking and mamí frying her famous porkchops, leaving the windows open with multiple fans blowing throughout the apartment was the only way to remain cool on a scorching summer day.

“When I got to the park that day all I wanted was to hang out with my friends, alone”, I thought.

“I did not want to have to baby sit my little sister again. But now that I couldn’t find her I wished I had never left her side”.  

My thoughts and nerves where getting the best of me. As I continued my search, I started to get a churning feeling in my stomach.  It’s that feeling you get when nervous and suddenly feel like going to the bathroom. I realized that I was starting to get “bubble guts” and it was because I was scared.

“Please God don’t let me lose control of my bodily functions. This is no time for me to have to go to the bathroom. I can’t go upstairs without my sister and pooping on myself in the park is not an option”, I thought.

My heart was racing and in addition to the drops of sweat on my forehead the rest of my body was now beginning to sweat. I was beginning to feel as if my body had suddenly developed a mind of its own. It was doing one thing while my brain was telling it to do something else.

“Calm down,” I said to myself. “Just relax, and take a deep breath.”

I felt like I was in a dream, a dream where you’re falling but suddenly wake up before you hit the ground. I felt like I was in my own version of “Nightmare on Elm Street”. “Nightmare on Elm Street?” I thought.  It was more like “Nightmare on Bedford Avenue”.  And no matter how far I ran or how fast, I couldn’t escape the killer, not Freddy Kruger but my mom.

“She would surely kill me once she found out that Danielle was missing”, I figured.

Suddenly and without warning I felt my eyes begin to swell and tears started falling from my eyes at the thought that I would never see Danielle again.

“Damn Danielle, where are you? I distinctly remember leaving you by the swing”, I said to myself.

As I circled around the playground one last time, I walked over to the swing that Danielle loved to swing from. It wasn’t a traditional swing but a contraption made from a tire held together with thick straw-like rope that hung from the branch of a tree. The swing could hold up to 3 kids at a time depending on how one sat. Danielle loved playing on the swing.

“What would I do if my sister was gone? How was I going to tell my parents?”

All these questions were running through my mind while tears came down like a waterfall. I thought about the neighborhood and realized that it wasn’t the safest neighborhood in NYC.

It wasn’t a far fetched idea that something terrible could have happened to Danielle. I searched the entire park 4 times before finally giving up. I decided that I would have to somehow summon up enough strength and courage to tell my mom that I lost my sister.

                                                                               ***

                                               “The Block”

When you grow up in the hood you immediately become identified by the block that you live on. When someone asks “Do you know Maria?” it is often followed by “You know, Maria from South 2nd street.”  It’s just something that happens. You become a living breathing representation of the street that you live on. I just so happened to represent South 10th street and Bedford Avenue.

Williamsburg was a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood, an impact of an influx of thousands of Puerto Ricans that moved into the area to work in the factories in the 1950’s. In the Southside of Williamsburg, you also had an increasing Hasidic Jewish population. But despite this, in my eyes I didn’t see the Jews all I saw was the chaos of gangs, drugs and crime that surrounded me.

The neighborhood was the devil’s playground and it was very easy to fall in with the wrong crowd if you didn’t have a strong foundation at home. There weren’t any after school sports programs or dance classes.  

In Williamsburg, the only things for kids to do consisted of  going to the playground or hanging out on the street corner. Both of which made it easy to get caught up in things that you probably shouldn’t be doing.

For most of the 1980s, Williamsburg could be described as a drug-ridden ghetto. It was a time when drugs, sex, and poverty infested the city, similar to how gangrene invades a body part and takes over the body completely.

There was an anarchist atmosphere that permeated the city similar to that of the Wild, Wild West. The NYPD could not be trusted for protection because some cops were as crooked and corrupt as the criminals they arrested. Some would knock down doors, steal money and drugs from drug dealers and then re-sell them, all in the name of “protecting” the city. They were New York City’s finest, the NYPD.

It was a time where cops and gangs engaged in long-lasting standoffs amidst an apathetic population of junkies, families on welfare, and crack cocaine addicts.

It was 1985 and you couldn’t walk down a New York City street without seeing a homeless person, an abandoned building, or drug dealers pushing the newest drug to hit the streets. As you walked down the street you’d often hear screams of “Tato[2], tato”. It was the drug dealers’ way of letting each other know that everything was all good and that there were no cops in sight.

 During the summer, the boys played touch football and the girls played hopscotch. On the few occasions that the temperature hit the 100 degree mark someone would bring out the wrench and open the pump. It was heaven. It was also our alternative to not having a swimming pool.

Danielle and I were only allowed to play in the park. Mostly because it was directly across the street from the building we lived in and mom could keep an eye on us from our second floor window.

The park was like any other inner city neighborhood park in the ‘80s. You had the bums, drug addicts, drug dealers and other degenerates on one side and then you had the moms and kids on another.

Bedford Park was located on Bedford Avenue between South 9th and South 10th street. Adjacent to the park on South 10th street was an abandoned lot which was always crawling with huge rats.

It was normal to see these rodents running around and playing amongst the children that frequented the park. The rats owned the park and they had no problem claiming their territory. They didn’t run or move for anybody. In size, they were similar to 3 month old kittens just not as friendly. It was part of the reality of growing up in the hood during a time when not much attention was being given to low-income minority communities.

My family lived in 128 Bedford Ave, apartment #15. It was a modest sized 7 story apartment building and had no elevator. It was the only building we ever lived in or at least the only building I remember living in.

When entering the building one would have to walk through two huge steel doors. The doors were rusty, old, and heavy and the locks were always broken. This minimal security gave access to any and everybody that wanted to enter the building. Eventually the doors were replaced and visitors had to buzz a bell to gain entry. The buzzers however didn’t work most of the time.

The building was painted a dull lifeless gray and made one feel like once inside, the chances of seeing the outside world again were minimal. The building seemed to have a life of its own and looked as if it swallowed you whole once you stepped foot in its doors. The hallways were always dark and gloomy except for the one light that flickered on and off at the end of the hallway.  The walls of the hallway, like the exterior of the building, were dark and dull.

At the end of the hallway to the left was the staircase. On the right of the stairs were the mailboxes and a door that led into the backyard of the building. This backyard wasn’t a traditional backyard it was more of a junkyard. Tenants would throw dirty diapers back there, half-eaten food, old clothes, shoes, and anything else they were too lazy to dispose of properly.

Bags of garbage would be kept there awaiting pick up from the sanitation trucks. It was normal for me to look out my bedroom window, which overlooked the backyard, and see huge rats digging through the garbage for food.

This was probably the biggest reason the children in the building were not allowed to go back there to play. The rats caused many nights of trauma for Danielle and me. We wouldn’t even go to the bathroom at night alone for fear that the rodent pets might attack us.

The building was situated in between the local bodega owned by Fidel and a tire shop owned by a neighbor, Joey. Joey lived on the main floor of the building and always looked dingy and dirty.

He had a beard that he never shaved and always wore the same navy blue shirt and navy pants. His hands looked rough and cracked and his fingernails were encrusted with dirt, all a result of his occupation. He and my dad got into many disputes throughout the years.

It was normal to see the older neighborhood men congregating on the block in front of the store as if they were getting ready to listen to Sunday mass, or sitting on milk crates playing dominoes yelling capicu[4]. It didn’t matter the time of day or night people were always outside, old people, young people, children, infants, everyone.

The younger adults would often hang out in front of the building and sit on the stoop. You’d see mothers who should have been home with their children hanging out in the park with their baby strollers while their babies slept. For some reason people felt like they were missing something if they weren’t outside.

The older women would parade up and down the block with their tight jeans, tight blouses, and 4-inch high heels. Their faces fully made up like they were getting ready to go out dancing but in reality they had no where to go. You could hear El Gran Combo singing “Un Verano en Nueva York” blasting from Blanco’s night club. It was like a block party that never ended.

On the corner was an abandoned lot. It served as both, a garage for cars that appeared to be abandoned, and also as a home for the neighborhood homeless dog, Blackie.

Blackie was a black and brown mutt most likely Doberman pinscher mix. He was big and healthy and was the scariest looking dog in the neighborhood. Blackie was always growling and barking and had teeth that looked like they would have broken my scrawny little leg in half had he ever laid his teeth into me.

As I continued my search for Danielle I couldn’t help but wonder if Danielle had been attacked by Blackie or worse, attacked by those killer rats. Despite the unfavorable conditions, I loved living in Williamsburg. With its graffiti painted buildings and rat infested streets I couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else.

Amidst these dilapidated surroundings there was a sense of family. “Family” to Latinos means everything. We value family above all else and this was the sort of neighborhood where everyone knew you.

It was the kind of neighborhood where everyone was an uncle, an aunt, or a cousin. It was the kind of neighborhood where if they saw you doing something you wasn’t supposed to be doing your parents would know about it immediately. In this neighborhood it did take a village to raise a child and the children in the neighborhood were everybody’s children.

In the summer it was normal to see the piragua[5] man making his way down the street singing “Coco, Cherry, Piña” while the kids ran towards him with their fifteen cents in hand ready to buy a cup of the flavored ice.

On this specific summer day it was going to take more than the piragua man to cool me off. I had just lost my sister and I knew that the trouble I was in would be unlike any trouble I had ever been in before.

There was no punishment cruel enough or no spanking bad enough to equate to the severity of what just happened. If my parents could lock me up and throw away the key they would have.

 “Only God and some serious praying would get me out of this mess”, I thought.

                                                                                 ***

                                           “Lost and Found”

I walked through the park on my way to my building in tears, balling and gasping for air. I was trying to figure out a way to break the news to my mom. I crossed the narrow street that led to my building. When I got to the building I buzzed the bell for apartment 15.

 “Who is it?” asked my mom. “Mamí it’s me, Natalie, buzz me in”, I said, while trying to disguise the pain and sadness in my voice that only comes when you’ve been crying relentlessly.  My eyes were blood shot red and I had no strength left in me. All the searching and the crying had worn me out.

As I pushed in the door to get into the building I felt my body suddenly become numb. I was about to step into the death chamber. I was a dead man walking. Every step I took felt heavier and heavier. As I made my way up the 4 flights of stairs to our apartment my mom was waiting at the door.

When she saw my teary-eyed face she asked, “Natalie what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

“Ma” I replied between sobs. “I ha ha have something to tell you”, I said, barely getting the words out.

“I don’t know how she got lost but I can’t find Danielle in the park”.

 No sooner had I completed that sentence my sister appears at the door with a wide-toothed grin and that mischievous look she gets when she knows that she has gotten the best of me.

“What are you doing here? Why did you leave the park? I thought I lost you”, I said, feeling completely overjoyed at the sight of my sister.

My joy, however, quickly turned into anger once I realized that she put me through unnecessary worry.

“I couldn’t find you in the park. I saw grandma walking down the street so I had her walk me home”, Danielle replied.

I couldn’t believe my ears. All the time I spent looking and crying and worrying over what happened to my sister, she was upstairs safe and sound all the time.

“You have no idea how scared and worried I was that something bad happened to you”, I replied.

“Well next time, don’t dis me to play with your friends and you won’t have to worry about this happening” Danielle said in that sassy disrespectful tone that made her believe that she was the older one.

I wanted to kill her but instead I just thanked God that she was ok and went to my room.

This is just one example of Danielle doing what she wants when she wants to. She was independent even at that age.

             Chapter 2: My Familia

I went into the room that I shared with Danielle. I did not want to be bothered. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. I turned on the television and climbed onto the top bunk. Since I was older and bigger, my parents thought it was best that I sleep on the top bed of the bunk beds they recently purchased for us.

As I lay in bed I began thinking about the ordeal I had just suffered through and thanked God that Danielle was ok. It was then that I also realized how good my life was.

My parents provided not only the necessities but often succumbed to our requests for luxuries, that is, as long as we did well in school. I looked around the room and took a quick inventory. We had brand new beds, a color TV set, VCR, a stereo system and a closet full of clothes. We had more than any of our friends.

Sometimes I would think that mamí and daddy spoiled us with material things to make up for not being there. Mamí loved hanging out and was hardly ever home and daddy worked 14 hour days, often not getting home until after Danielle and I were asleep.

They showered us with gifts there was no denying that but if we failed in school or misbehaved, daddy had no problem taking the luxuries away. I guess most people would consider us lucky. Sometimes I didn’t feel so lucky.

Our parents were a few of the only couples still together. At that time, most of our friends were growing up in single family homes where the moms barely made ends meet. They didn’t work but instead were supported by the government and tax payers through New York State’s welfare system. The dads were every other weekend dads or didn’t exist at all.

Danielle and I never wanted for anything. We had everything we needed plus more. New clothes every beginning of the school year, the newest video games, and we were treated to 2 and 3 vacations a year.

As I lay in bed looking at all of our possessions I realized how I would trade it all just to have my parents around all the time. I wasn’t being ungrateful, I know Danielle and I were blessed but I hated that Daddy had to work so much and that mamí preferred dancing all night at the Copacabana than being home with us.

Danielle is 2 ½ years younger than me and depended on me to feed her when she was hungry, help her with her homework, and basically just take care of her. As her older sister, I also felt like it was my job to.

I loved my sister she was beautiful. With her long beautiful hair, her petite frame, innocent girl smile and independent attitude, I envied her. She was everything that I wasn’t.

Danielle took after mamí, she was small and cute. She had a gap in between her two front teeth that she hated but I always thought that made her unique and made her even more striking. 

Danielle was small for her age. But what she lacked in size she made up for in attitude. She always made her own decisions and did what she wanted. If she didn’t want to do something she didn’t do it. This trait followed her all throughout her life and was the cause for many arguments and disagreements between her and our parents later on in life.

She was the prettier one in the family. I remember when people would describe us they’d say “Danielle’s the pretty one” and “Natalie is the smart one”. It wasn’t that I was ugly but I just wasn’t as pretty as Danielle was. I didn’t realize what it was doing to me but subconsciously I know that as a result of trying to live up to the persona of being “the smart one” I always put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in school and not disappoint my parents.

Danielle marched to the beat of her own drummer. She was tough, opinionated, and stubborn but she was also very warm, caring and loving. Most people consider her to be stand-offish and conceited but that could be farther from the truth. She’s loyal and always has been. 

All she ever wanted was to be around her older sister. I took her for granted because that’s what older sisters do. The thought of almost losing her was too much for me to bear. It’s not until I was older that I began to value and appreciate that bond that sisters have.

Her constant tagging along and wanting to be around me only strengthened the relationship we have. I guess my parents did know what they were doing after all. If I could go back in time I would appreciate Danielle more. Almost losing her had me re-evaluating how I treat her. She was the first true love of my life. In that regard, my parents did something right.

My dad, Carlos, was a store manager for one of the major men’s shoe stores in New York City at the time. He has always been a leader, the type of guy you would go to for his opinion or advice. This is a trait that I have inherited from him. He’s great at managing and getting the best out of people.  He demands respect but he also respects everyone he interacts with. One of the many lessons he taught me was to treat others how you would want to be treated.

He is a very wise man despite the fact that he only has a high school education. It’s ironic that he never pursued further education because for as long as I can remember obtaining a college education is something that he envisioned for my sister and me. It was never a topic open for discussion. Danielle and I were going to college no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I think this a staple of most Latino families.

“You girls are going to college so that you never have to depend on any man”, he would say.

My dad was a handsome man. He always wore a shirt and tie to work. He stood 5’9” tall, wore glasses and was very fair skinned. He had a mustache and occasionally grew a goatee. I hated the goatee because it would scratch my face whenever he gave me a kiss. His eyebrows connected in the middle to form a “uni-brow”. This was the one thing I hated inheriting from him.

Since he worked in retail my dad usually worked long hours and his job didn’t allow for much time to spend with Danielle and me. By the time he got home, ate dinner, and relaxed it would already be time for Danielle and I to go to bed.

We had a 10 o’clock bed time on school nights but he tried his best to make it home in time to tuck us in for bed and kiss us goodnight. Those few minutes he would spend with us before going to sleep weren’t much but they meant a lot. As kids we don’t realize the significane of these small things.

My mom, Nina or Teeny as she is called is exactly how her name implies, small. She has the softest, smoothest cinnamon brown skin I have ever seen. To the touch her skin feels like rose petals in between your finger tips. It is that soft. She is 4’ 11” tall and weighs about 100 lbs.

She has honey blond colored feathered hair. She almost looks like a caramel colored version of Farah Fawcett. She’s that beautiful. To me she is the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

She’s very glamorous and fashionable. 5” heels for her are like sneakers. She wore them all the time. In fact, she even wore heels to an amusement park once. Her nails were always polished and her makeup was flawless.

My father spoiled her just as he spoiled Danielle and me. He bought her any and everything she wanted. She had enough jewelry and diamonds to open up her own jewelry store. To describe her as fabulous would be an understatement. He pampered her and took good care of not only her but her family also.

My grandmother, uncles, aunts, and even cousins benefited from my dad’s big heart. His big heart however, would often fall victim to his temper. As kind and giving as he was he could be just as mean and hurtful when he was angry. Sometimes it was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Despite this flaw I worshipped him. I made myself believe that his double personality was just an adverse affect of the constant pressures of being the man of the house. 

In my eyes my parents were the ideal couple and represented what true love was. Or at least that was what I believed back then, even when they argued and his fist accidentally made contact with my mother’s face.

*Stay tuned for more from the lives of Natalie & Danielle*

[1] lechon-Spanish word for pig; traditionally cooked for the Christmas holiday in Puerto Rican families

[2] Tato: Spanish slang word for esta todo bien; meaning everything is good

[3] Vieja- Spanish word meaning older lady

[4] Capicu- Spanish slang usually used when playing dominoes.

[5] Piragua- Spanish form of flavored ice made from a big block of ice and flavored syrup

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14 thoughts on “Part I: Brooklyn

  1. Great to connect with you and gracias mil for leaving your comment on my post (btw, love the fact you are using the WP Coraline theme, me too). I read this piece and wanted to commend you for the description of the neighborhood. It took me back to my time in the Bronx in the 70s. I also like your synopsis of the story at the beginning. Maybe when you revisit the piece (as we writers always do), you might consider cutting back a bit of the intro and just getting to the action. Also, this reads like a memoir and has a nice voice to it. I can picture the narrator a lot. It has a good appeal to it. Always here to read anything (just DM on Twitter) and give any feedback.

    Would love to see what you think of my story on my page: http://juliorvarela.com/table-of-contents/ whenever you have time.

    Saludos,
    Julio

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    1. Julio, thank you for taking the time to not only read the piece but also provide feedback. I really appreciate it. What you are doing to support and promote Latino writers is great. I am going to post your link on my blog as one of my favorite sites. I will look at your work as soon as I can. Again muchisimas gracias 🙂

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  2. I agree with Zaida, I was already in tears! lol Your depictions of Bedford and South 9, are so honest and gritty! I was reliving my time in the old neighborhood. Wow!!
    I also felt in sync with Danielle lol. I was so my sisters shadow. Great writing..it really hit home!

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    1. Thanks Vanessa. The years that I lived on South 9 where some of the best years of my life. Even till this day when I go back and visit, it still feels like home. I wouldn’t trade the time spent there for anything in the world. Those experiences, the friends I had, everything about the nieghborhood had such a huge impact on the person that I am today. And I had my own version of Danielle as well.lol…u pesky little sisters gotta love ya’ll 😉

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  3. I think it’s awesome “Natalie” lol. That little
    Danielle is a brat if you ask me 🙂 Keep up
    the good work, I can’t wait to read more.

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  4. Great… I want to read more. Really descriptive, takes me back , can totally relate. However ? is Avery, Danielle? This is one book I will totally purchase.

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    1. It’s Danielle…originally the character was named Avery but my brother-in-law said that there weren’t any girls named Avery in Williamsburg in the ’80’s lol so I changed it to make the character more believable. Thanks for that observation. I made the corrections 🙂

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  5. I love it! It already had me teary-eyeed and its just the beginning. can’t wait for the rest. I have a few comments that I will send to you via email.

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