Melissa Castillo-Garsow

Feb 2011


    Maria stared nervously at the pack of boys across the street at McDonalds. Dressed in black bubble jackets, she knew they could easily overpower her 110, 5’6’’ frame. As they crossed 125th street and Lexington in her direction, Maria weighed her options. She could try the subway, but she didn’t have a card, nor money for the train. Most of the time there was police down there anyway and they were as likely to harass her as Johnny and his gang. Plus, Maria thought, feeling the vial in her pocket, she couldn’t afford to spend a night in jail. Even in 30-degree weather, and only a tank-top under her leather bomber jacket, Maria felt beads of sweat form on her back.

“Hey, you’re right, it is that maricón from school,” Maria heard one of them say before she stepped quickly into Pathmark. She tried to hide herself in the back aisles but they found her by the detergent. Johnny pushed her slender body against the racks.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” Johnny said, examining her in disgust.

Maria looked around pleadingly for help. Even with her black tights, she could feel his hands sliding aggressively under her pink skirt.

Porfa,” Maria said as tears rolled down her checks, cracking her foundation. “Just leave me alone, please.”

Johnny flipped her around, yanking on her black, shoulder-length hair. Maria could feel the shelf pushing into her cheek, leaving a bright red mark.

“Is this how you like it, maricón? You like the dick all up in your behind?” He said into her ear.

Struggling, Maria raised her eyes to face the other two, Beto and Eli.

“I don’t know, you tell me. I’m not the one getting hard.”

Eli and Beto doubled over in laughter, surprised at Maria’s outburst.

No mames,” Beto said, the only Mexican in P.S. 16’s otherwise all boricua gang.

Este maricón tiene cojones.”

Johnny jumped back, slamming Maria’s head against the shelf. She could feel blood rolling down her face from the open wound just above her eyebrow.

“Shut up. You know I’m just messin’ with the faggot,” Johnny said, shoving Eli forward onto Maria. “Yo, check her out. You know them fags always carrying something.”

Eli swung her around and shoved his hands into her pockets. “Oye, si tiene,” he said grabbing the vial.

“Come ‘on guys, its just some cheap shit. Basura. You don’t want it.”

Johnny laughed. “Check it out. School boy’s become an addict. Come on let’s take this and go hit up Felipe’s.”

Fuck, Maria thought. Felipe’s was a bar on 117th not far from where she grew up in the Taino towers. Felipe had been pretty nice to her since her dad threw her out a month ago. He let her clean up in the bathroom or warm up in the back room-- but with Johnny and his boys there, she’d have to find somewhere else to hide out. Pulling herself together, Maria walked down third avenue, trying to ignore the whistles.

Oye mami, ven aca. Que mona. Oye nena”

Mona, chupame la polla” they hissed, taking her for one of the prostitutes that hung around Pathmark.

Most of the bums in the hood didn’t even recognize her from her school-boy days when she covered her confusion in loose jeans and hoodies.  What they saw was a stunning 16-year-old girl-- a little dirty and bloody, but tight and petite in her micro-mini. Her large black eyes framed by long dark lashes had always been cause for comment. Maria cursed herself under her breath - she wanted to dress like a woman, but she didn’t want the constant attention or fear that came with it. Unfortunately, these were the only clothes she had, the clothes she had been thrown out in, the clothes she had worn when her father walked in on her. Ever since Maria’s mother had died last year, her father had taken to working nights, probably to avoid the stunning resemblance his petite, feminine-looking son had to his wife.  But that one day, almost a month ago, he came home early after his hours had been reduced again. Maria was listening to Lady Gaga and going through the trunk of clothes she kept hidden away under her bed. Any chance she got, she would head to the Salvation Army downtown and sweep up cute skirts, dresses and tank tops. Maria loved 80s Madonna and flapper styles. And they didn’t look at her weirdly down in the West Village. It had always been her escape. Whenever her dad was angry, or when her mother was really sick or she just needed a break from the neighborhood kids, she would ride the train down to West fourth and hide herself in the world of sex shops and novelty stores, where no one took notice of another marica. It was also where she first realized that not everyone fit into the male-female mold of east Harlem. West fourth was where she saw her first transsexual and first considered the idea that maybe, God fucked up somehow and just maybe she wasn’t meant to be a boy. The first ones she saw were coming out of a show, dressed in full designer ball gowns, barely noticing Maria who stood gaping in awe. But a few weeks later, she also saw kids like her – skinny boys with feminine features, some dressed like girls, some dressed like boys and some dressed like neither.

So, when Ernesto Sanchez walked in to see his only son in black leggings, a hot pink micro-mini, black tank top and leather bomber jacket, “Poker Face” playing at full blast, he didn’t even bother to beat her, like the time he found her trying on his mother’s shoes and experimenting with eyeliner.

He just stood there at the door and said, “Tu no eres hijo mio.” Each word was pronounced carefully and distinctly, like the perfect spit ball he landed on the middle of Maria’s nose. “Nunca te quiero ver otra vez. Desgraciado, sucio, maricón. Fuera.” In just a few minutes, Mario Sanchez ceased to exist.

For the first few weeks, Maria slept on the subway and ate from the McDonalds dollar menu and the coffee carts, surviving on rolls with butter and dollar menu hamburgers. But then the money ran out and so did the metro card. Maria thought about making her way down to West fourth, but she still clung to the hope that her father might come and take her back. She was his only son, his mother’s daughter. But most importantly, Maria needed to be nearby her mother’s things, her herencia, was still in that apartment and she wasn’t ready yet to leave it.

Still, things were getting pretty bad about on 125th. The other night she had passed the Pathmark in hopes of a smoke, and saw the policia lining up the corners’ homeless, transsexual or other, a litter of brown bags, Styrofoam containers, and used needles discarded in self-protection. Maria knew it wouldn’t matter-- the po-po would take you in for anything. She just hoped they didn’t notice her, or if they did, she hoped they would think she was just another girl. La policia were often nicer to girls.

  But Pathmark was the only public bathroom around, so Maria wandered aimlessly, begging, hoping her father would see her when he got off the 125th stop and take her back. Maybe in if he saw the state she was in for once the hard-hearted bastard would soften for a minute. Maria knew father was embarrassed of how she turned out, but she didn’t think he really wanted to just leave her out here to die. She couldn’t think that. He had just been mad, surprised. In her despair, Maria took to smoking crack with some of the other trannys that hung around Pathmark. Hitting that pipe, that high made her feel like all her worries were gone. She didn’t even feel the cold sometimes, or the bruises from whoever beat on the trannys last. But even las maricas were sick of her – Maria collected cans and gave them a few dollars here and there but it wasn’t worth sharing the crack. She wasn’t bringing in new customers, in fact she angered them by turning men down.

Oye mami entonces como te atreves vestir asi”

“What, you think you’re better than us?”

Quieres la roca pero no la chupa?”

“Go back to school, little boy.”

Maria meandered her way down third avenue, stopping in front of the towers on 122nd and 3rd. Sniffling, she whipped her nose with the back of her hand, disgusted by the mixture of snot and blood that covered her fingers. She thought about throwing herself at the mercy of her father, promising to butch up, hit the gym, be a man, but deep down she knew he would never take her back and she would never be able to pull it off. Feeling the stares of her former neighbors trying to place her, Maria moved on. She remembered hearing about a place around 110th. She just needed a puff and then she would figure out what to do next.

Maria really didn’t know much about El Rinconcito except that it was one of Manny’s places, so that made it known. Manny was the biggest drug dealer in East Harlem, running at least a half dozen crack houses, all east of third. When the mob moved out, Manny moved in, even taking over their space on Pleasant, and converting it into a crazy three-story apartment. Maria remembered walking by it with her mother on the way to Costco on 116th – the whole first level had floor to ceiling windows and a grand piano for all to see. She remembered her mother muttering something about how no one even played piano, but Maria was in awe of the respect it took to put up floor to ceiling windows and not worry about a break-in. When she was seven, her father installed bars on their windows after the building was robbed twice in one week. Johnny and his boys were always bragging about their connections to Manny – he was Johnny’s uncle, but all it was good for was a couple of rocas here or there. Everyone knew Manny didn’t trust Johnny for shit when it came to business.

When Maria entered the spot, she was surprised to find that El Rinconcito was really a game room. Pushed against opposite walls were arcade games – classics like “Pac Man,” “Street Fighter” and “Donkey Kong.” A group of boys mostly 14 and 15 were packed around “Street Fighter” cheering each other on. At first Maria tensed, fearing someone might recognize her, but they didn’t look like any of the kids from her school. In the center was an old worn-down pool table, its red covering fraying at the edges.

“Where the fuck is the white ball?” one of the boys assembled in the center cried out. No one had even noticed Maria’s entrance. As she held her breath, she watched an older boy, maybe 18 or 19, appear from the back room.

“Calm down, C, you know we been missin’ el blanco for like a week now.”

  C slammed the Q-stick down, cracking the wood at its thinner part. “And now you gotta get yourself a new stick too.”

“Chill, C. Come on,” he said taking a twenty from the roll in his pocket. “Go buy a 12 pack and comeback and just use the black ball as the white ball like we always do.”

“Fine,” C said, starting to relax. “But what about when it’s time to shoot the black?”

Que falta de confianza. By then most of the other balls will be in the pocket anyways -  just pick out another solid.”

Even with everything going on, Maria was impressed with how calm the house manager carried himself. She was used to men like C, going off at every moment, but this brother could really lead the masses. Plus the man was handsome. As Maria examined his dark black locks, toned arms and light brown skin, she thought of her first crush, Ricky Ricardo and licked her lips, wishing she weren’t in such a state. Self consciously, she touched her shoulder length black hair, trying to smooth over the tangles. As Maria whipped her fingers under her eyes, hopping to hide any trace of tears, she felt his eyes wash over her slender frame in the doorway. From the way he looked at her, she knew that he had no idea and let out a slight sigh of relief.

Ricky walked over to her. “Hola nena, can I help you?” Turning to C and the two other pool players he gave a quick nod of his head, motioning them to move on.

He took Maria’s hand and rubbed his thumb along the back, seductively moving down to her bony wrist. “You looking for something, someone?

“I’m new around here, just checking things out.” Maria went over to a free machine and fumbled in her pocket for a quarter, anything. Before Maria could make up an excuse she saw the “Pac-Man” light up and Ricky leaning against the side of the game.

“Well I’d be happy to show you around.” His wide smile and full white teeth made Maria stare. “I’m Emilio Zeta, but everyone calls me Eazy.”


“You go to school around here?”

“Nah, I’m done with school.” Maria shifted uncomfortably. Maria had loved school, at least until she ended up spending more time with her head being flushed in a toilet, than in class.

“Me too. I mean I left for other opportunities,” Eazy said winking.

“I just didn’t like it. Tu sabes, all the stuff they teach, it don’t got nothing to do with our life.”

Eazy paused, giving her another once over. They usually didn’t let people in they didn’t know, but he was pretty sure there was no way this sweet young thing could be a cop.

“I like you, you’re real.” Maria looked away, cringing. There was no reason to get caught up in what she knew was doomed. She knew no fine ass brother was going to accept the package between her legs, especially someone who depended so heavily on reputation.

“Hey, you wanna come back to the oficina with me?” Maria hesitated. “Relax mami, I just wanna talk, but I gotta keep an eye on the merchandise, you know.”

Maria nodded, following her way into the back. Perched outside the door was an even younger boy, probably not older than 12 or 13, keeping watch by the door. La oficina consisted just of an old desk, a refrigerator, and a scale. The drugs were kept in the desk drawers and a second doorway led to a stairway and a second oficina which served as a storehouse of sorts.

“Chucho,” Eazy called out as he led Maria into the back room. “traeme una silla.” Before Eazy and Maria could settle in, however, Chucho let out a low, loud whistle. Maria could feel Eazy’s hand tense in hers. “Go stand in the corner, mami, and don’t say anything” he whispered as he shoved her towards the wall.

Manuel Ramirez, or “Manny” as he had been ever since he became the first Puerto Rican accepted into the 116th St. Crew under the Genovese family, was an imposing figure. Nearing 40 now, he still had the body of a former boxer and family enforcer, covered in tattoos and scars to prove it. But he was also smart, never having spent more than two days in jail, due to lack of evidence, or some other loophole that the DA always fell into. Manny entered behind his two bodyguards and quickly scanned the room.

Quien es ella?”

Nadie. An old family friend, just got back after a few years away.”

“Better be. You still owe me for covering your bail last week after you sold to a plain-clothes.”

“I know.”

“I told you never sell to anyone you don’t know.”

“I’m sorry man, I got this.”

“So what do you propose for your payment plan?”

“Lo que tu quieres, I’m always loyal, you know that. I’ve worked for you six years.”

Manny broke out into a grin. “Of course I know that, just like watching your nuts freeze over.”

Eazy smiled back. “They getta little numb sometimes, but you know I’m too much of a baller to let them freeze over.”

“So check it, I brought you some new product to test out. I want you to keep selling it at $10 like a special, get ‘em hooked and then we’ll bring it up to $15.”

“Sure boss.”

Manny looked over to Maria. “Quieres probar?”

Maria nodded. The bodyguards returned with two seats each. As the five of them sat around the desk, Maria could feel Manny’s eyes on her willowy boyish figure. She was the Latina twiggy with her stick figure, pale brown skin and big bright eyes. She knew she looked different from the other girls around, more like a classical dancer than applebottom hood rat. She tried to make eye contact with Eazy but he was busy dishing out Heinekens from the fridge. Manny took out a small packet of the purest perico Maria had ever laid her eyes on and proceeded to methodically cut it into five lines with his bank card. Taking out a Benjamin he quickly did a line before passing it on with a nod to the others.
“That’s some good shit,” Eazy said. “It’ll definitely sell.”

“What about you, baby,” Manny said motioning to Maria. “You gonna check this out?”

Maria edged closer, reaching for the bill. Manny clamped his large hand around her dainty wrist.

“Not so fast, nena.”

Maria looked at Eazy in surprise. She watched his soft brown eyes harden upon command.

“You see them all. I give them a taste because they work for me. Now I need something from you.”

Manny’s two bodyguards moved to her sides, powering her back against the chair and pinning her wrists down on the armrests. Manny unzipped his pants, exposing an already erect penis. Maria gagged as she felt her mouth forcefully filled with flesh.

“Chupa nena.” Maria’s eyes welled with tears as she choked on hard rubbery mass.

Growing impatient, Manny pulled out a gun. “You better suck bitch.”

Once Manny came, squirting sperm all over her face and hair, Maria pulled herself up, stumbling to leave.

“Give her a hit, but then take her upstairs, I’m not done.”
Dazed, Maria felt her arm sockets stretched out of place as her limp body was dragged up to the second floor. The only noise was the clack of her heels hitting each of the steps. Seated on the bed, Maria began to panic.

“Please, please don’t do this.”

“Come ‘on baby, you know you want it,” Manny said from the doorway. The bodyguards chuckled. “If not, why you showing up in my house dressed so fine.”

“I’m new here, I didn’t know.”

“Sure, baby” Manny said sliding his hand up her thigh. “That’s why you took that hit, that’s why you wearing this tight little skirt, hmmm. It’s ok, sweetie, relax, enjoy. papi’s gonna take care of you.”

Feeling Manny’s hand approach her groin, Maria slid back, pushing Manny away.

“So you’re a cock tease huh? Prance around in your little skirt, making us all excited and then act like you don’t want it.” Manny looked over to Eazy, who had entered the room.

“What do we do with calientapiernas, eh?”

Oye, porque no la dejas, todavia es una nena,” Eazy said, putting his hand on Manny’s shoulder. Manny brushed his hand away, and stared down at Eazy with a cold stare.

“What, you goin’ soft now, or you just don’t want to share anymore.”

“Nah, it’s not like that,” Eazy said.

“Good, then either teach her a lesson or get out and let me enjoy this.”

Not hesitating, Eazy walked over to Maria. “Just don’t struggle, girl. It’ll be over faster that way,” he whispered into her ear.

“No,” Maria said, tears streaming down her checks. “You don’t understand.”

Eazy smacked Maria across the face, propelling her into the mattress. Her head hit the surface, bouncing with the force of a rubber ball against concrete. Next, Eazy ripped her shirt, discarding it to the side.

“It’s a young one, boss. Mira que chiquita las tetitas,” one of the bodyguards laughed.

Manny pushed Eazy aside and pulled off Maria’s skirt, leaving just a pair of leggings. Straddling her, he stroked her face, examining her undeveloped breasts before flipping her around.

“You like it from behind huh, you little bitch.”

Maria tried to push him off, but he forced her face into the mattress. Motioning to the others to remove the leggings, Manny unbuttoned his pants and started working the length of his shaft with his free hand.

No entiendes. You don’t understand.”

“Yo boss.”

“What” Manny said, preparing his hardened penis.

“There’s something wrong with this girl.”

His eyes widening, Manny flipped Maria over, revealing a small, flabby flesh between her legs.

Still erect, Manny backed up, tripping on his pants and falling to the floor.

“What the fuck? Es maricón?”

For a moment, all that could be heard was Maria’s quiet sobbing, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean. I’m sorry.”

And then the rain of fists started, pounding first on her face. Maria felt herself fall to the ground, unable to react. Someone stepped on her face, while another kicked her ribs. Finally she felt a shooting pain up from her middle to the tips of her fingers as Manny stomped on her testicles.

“Fucking faggot.”

Finally, she felt herself pulled upright and her eyes pried open. Manny stood before her, his fists covered in blood, his gun drawn.

Habla maricón. Habla. What you trying to convert me, make me a faggot? I aint no fucking faggot. Habla maricón. Habla.”

Maria closed her eyes and envisioned riding the train downtown to West fourth. She reached her hand out to feel the soft touch of new clothes, dresses, skirts, blouses, and the hardness of new shoes and their intoxicating leather smell. She breathed it all in, running her hand along an imaginary sea of products and purchases. But when she opened her eyes again, there was just Manny, and the smell of blood and semen and the gun, and finally darkness.

Habla Maricón

Melissa Castillo-Garsow is a Mexican-American writer, journalist, and scholar.  She completed her Bachelor of Arts at New York University in Journalism and Latin American Studies in 2007 and is now finishing a Master’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing at Fordham University where she is a graduate assistant for the American Studies Program. Melissa was awarded the Sonoran Prize for Creative Writing at Arizona State University and was a finalist for Crab Orchard Review’s 2009 Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award. She has had short stories and poems published in Shaking Like a Mountain, the anthology A Daughter’s Story, The Minetta Review, The 2River View and has a forthcoming novel with Augustus Publishing. She also has forthcoming articles in The Bilingual Review, Women's Studies, and Words.Beats.Life: The Global Journal of Hip Hop Culture. For more information visit