Stories Dique Allegedly about Josefina Baez by John Paul “JP” Infante

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John Paul “JP” Infante is a writer and teacher in New York City. He teaches writing workshops, has taught at Lehman College of CUNY, hosts the C@P Book Club and art and culture events. He’s a contributing editor for Dominican Writers. He holds an MFA from the New School. His writing can be found in The Poetry Project, Uptown Collective, Bronx Free Press, Manhattan Times, and elsewhere. His personal essay “All About Your Mother” is forthcoming in Post [Blank] Magazine. His short story "Without a Big One,” published in Kweli, won the 2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story award and will appear in PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019. Infante cannot separate the relationship between improv and the performance of a text. When reading from a written piece, Infante regularly changes or rearranges as he reads depending on the type of event and/or audience’s immediate feedback. For Infante performance is tied to the present conversation with the listener/ audience.  



Panel Moderator: The 2019 Dominican Writers Conference honoring a neighbor of mine from 2B or not 2B, but that ain’t no question because the point is that the honoree reminded me of my neighbor — she looked familiar— familiar as in related to family, meaning we’re all related and it’s all relative and we consider everyone around us in proportion to how much they weigh within the space-time continuum. This is what Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is all about. It says that if and when you go to a bodega, the bodeguero named Papo, 46% of the time his name is Papo or Domingo or Rafa, but we always call him Primo because the Theory of Relative says everyone is your primo unless they’re your cousin and—


Volunteer at Word Up Bookstore: Mentira, cotorra to’. Esa tigra —la que le dieron el premio dique de dominicano escritores— vivía en el 3D. 3D como lo lente que uno se pone en el cine que enseña la vaina en la pantalla como si se pudiera tocar. Y esa tigra— la del 3D no se podía tocar.

Ella escribió una vaina sobre la esposa mia, Jenny Corporan Jimenez Santiago. Le puso el nombre — La Flaca. Pero to’ el mundo sabe que ella le taba tirando a Jenny por envidia. Dique poesía — esa tigra lo que era una chismosa. Jenny tenía su etapa pero to el mundo tiene su etapa de cuero. Desde el momento que esa tigra escribió ese libro tirandole a mi Jenny, lo tigre cantaban, “Y que no me digan en la esquina el venao, el venao,” cuando yo pasaba por el bloque.

Entonces pa joderla, yo y Jenny compramo un tro de copia de Levente no. Yolayorkdominicanyork. de Word Up Bookstore. Nosotros quemamo to eso libros en el Parque Chloe Esther adonde tan la flores y el castillo feo. Pero pal de días después habían más copia en el Word Up. Y después compramo y quemamo ma libros pero pa na. Yo y mi Jenny no dimo cuenta que uno etába ayunando a la tigra de 3D. Esa tigra ganó el premio de escritores Dominicanos fue por mi y mi Jenny. Ella vendió to eso libro por nosotros.

El otro día en el parque pase post donde you y mi Jenny quemamo to eso libro. En el lugar donde quedaron la cenizas estaba un árbol flamboyan. Y le voy a decir algo que no le ha dicho a nadie: el árbol me hablo. No le voy a decir que me dijo. Imagínate un árbol del trópico en Nueva Yol. Después que vi ese árbol me fui pa Word Up y me compre una copia Levente no. Yolayorkdominicanyork.

Lo estoy leyendo ahora pero a las escondía de mi Jenny. La vaina con Jenny ahora es que despue que esa tigra del 3D escribió eso de “la flaca,” se volvió evangélica y lo que quiere es hacerle coro al pastor de Dyckman. Ese pastor es un hombre de Dios, siempre preocupao por mi Jenny.


La Menor: Mi familia es de Yasica, Puerto Plata pero yo ah trabajo en C_____ desde lo 13 años. No como cuero pero mesera. Me llamaban La Menor porque yo era una menor. El nombre se me pego, pero ya yo toy muy vieja pa que me llamen eso.

Estudie inglés y hospitalidad en la uni. Aprendí tres cosas de mi experiences en la uni.

              1.   Si tienes el inglés no te falta nada.

              2.   Si eres mujer bella el sufrimiento es seguro, si ere mujer bella e inteligente, sufres más.

              3.   No necesitaba la uní pa entender la 1. o la 2.

Una de mis amigas tenía un profesor de filosofía política que estaba enamorado de mi. El tigre se enfocó en conseguirme una beca. Esa beca no fue gratis.

Otra estudiante en la uni, hija de mami y papi, le dijo al el profe que yo le hacía coro a los viajeros de Manhattan. La envidiosa le dijo que yo me asfixiaba de lo tigre viajero. El profe se puso celoso y paro con los regalitos. La beca se termino.

Ese verano yo me la gose. Al principio me enamoraba de muchos de los turistas, hasta que después del cuarto tipo me canse. Ya tenía suficiente dinero para viajar y trabaja pal de meses en Queens, donde mi tios.

A el último tigre con quien estaba por dinero era un escritor de Manhattan. Yo le saque la tripa a ese tigre. Yo le hablaba de libros, dique yo leía y él se enamoraba mas y mas. El obsesionado con una escritora Fefita Baez o una vaina rara haci. Y yo le decia, si, si, me encanta esa escritora. Mira, yo ni se quien diablo es esa mujer. Tu sabes quien es Fefita Baez?


Writer from the Heights:

I’ve daydreamed hundreds of hours, imagining the day I would tell Josefina Baez the story about talking about one of her books with a sex-worker abroad. I didn’t even consider writing about it, I had to tell it.

In high school, I stole a signed, first edition copy of Dominicanish from the Brotherhood Sister Sol’s library in Harlem. It took years before I really appreciated Baez’s work, which is another way of saying it took some time before I understood what she was doing. Not until talking with a sex-worker, while on vacation back home, did I finally understand. The sex-worker owned a copy of Levente no. Yolayorkdominicanyork.

I’ll give the sex-worker a fake name.  Let’s call her Jenny. We follow each other on social media. She’s co-owner of the Beauty Salon in Kingsbridge by my daughter’s daycare. That first time with Jenny, I was tired and drunk and nauseous. Jenny fake laughed at everything I said. Before struggling to take off her leather skirt-- a mission in itself which felt longer than the point of it all-- we talked about the exchange rate. Turns out it’s expensive, being a Dominican in the Dominican Republic. Jenny complained about the costs of textbooks, setting me up lovely. So when she overcharged me, I ain’t remind her that we agreed on a lower price before I booked the hotel.

The first time was the least pleasurable for the both of us. At least I think it was as bad for Jenny as it was for me. You never really know as a John if it’s ever pleasurable for the worker.

Jenny and I were Facetiming when I noticed a copy of Josefina Baez’s Levente no. Yolayorkdominicanyork on her nightstand. I was suspicious on whether she actually read it, but after talking about it, I was convinced she had. You never know with people, whether they’ve read any of the books lying around their house. 

The night we spoke about Levente no. Yolayorkdominicanyork was the one time we both enjoyed the sex. At least I think it was as good for her as it was for me. You really don’t know these things as a John. All I know is that the sex ain’t feel like I was a spectator experiencing a performance. Jenny still charged-- just not as much as that first time.

The night before the Dominican Writers Conference honoring Josefine Baez, I attended a taping of La Sala Talks show where she was guest. Afterward the two of us walked down St. Nicholas Avenue around midnight. We both had to be up early at the conference in a few hours, but I made sure not to bring up the time so Baez wouldn’t cut the conversation short.

We were in front of where Radioshack use to be on one-fifty-something and St. Nicholas when we bumped into Le One.  He wore headphones and rode a skateboard. After introducing the creatives to each other, we went our way. I tried describing what Le One’s art, but resorted to showing her his website. Baez’s eyes widened. She smiled, showing her approval and a surge of envy rushed through my body. There’s an immediacy when experiencing a visual artist’s

work that reading text rarely provides. Josefina Baez connected with Le One’s work in an instant. I fantasized about drawing some shit that captured Jenny and I talking about Baez’s work. Instead I was left with having to find the perfect time to tell her about my Jenny story and prove I was a real storyteller.

We were by a gas station across the street from the church next to the cemetery when I began telling Baez the Jenny story. But just then the skies parted and it rained hard.  We crossed the street and I prayed she didn’t mention taking a cab until I told her my Jenny story.

We were in front of the Hispanic Society of New York. I told her Tom Stolker photographed me for a piece on immigrant populations and their relationship with buildings. Halfway through my bragging she reached out to the sky and hailed a cab.

It’s been a while since the Dominican Writers Conference and I still haven’t told Josefina Baez my Jenny story. I started writing this performance-text about Jenny in a style Baez created. Baez would appreciate it, I think, but I don’t know. I rather tell Baez the story face to face because when you give people your writing you never really know if they enjoyed it-- let alone read it. But when the story is told. That’s different.



The Acentos Review 2019