This was the type of Friday that felt like a Monday, like you had some shit to do the next day. Dad sits in the love seat by himself in the living room. The Law and Order chimes every hour from when I get home from UPS. Mom watches her HGTV “buy a home, sell a home, watch us buy a home sell a home, because you can’t afford one, bitch” shows in the bedroom. During the commercial breaks, mom checks on the arroz con pollo, because she thinks she’s gonna fuck it up like last time. “I forget how to cook,” she said last week as we crunched on hard-ass rice.
Just when Mom’s almost done with cooking, she breaks into her robot monologue while stirring the rice. “Every fucking day I gotta be in this kitchen and cook,” she says. “Fucking pollo guisado on Monday and steaks on Tuesday. Ribs and platanos on Wednesday. Chicken and arroz con gandules on Thursday and arroz con pollo today! Shitting rice for weeks! Like a fucking robot, just beep boop cooking, beep boop cleaning, beep boop shitting.” Dad leans out of the couch.
“I cooked the steaks and ribs! What are you bitching about?”
“I’m just tired of working so fucking hard.”
It’s like we don’t even have walls in these brick buildings built in the thirties. Like they’re arguing with my room.
“Honey, what the fuck are you even talking about? I did the laundry when I got back from work.”
“I just feel unappreciated.”
“You feel unappreciated?”
Mom slams the dish on the table, and that’s my cue to walk out to the dinner table.
“Rich, you and your fucking father don’t know the sacrifices I make for you all.”
“Yeah, mom, you’re a regular Christ,” I say. She chucks the serving spoon at my head, and I duck it. I go to the kitchen and grab another spoon.
“You’re barely in this house anymore. Like this is a fucking hotel room for you. Chasing whatever the fuck you can get, I bet. Just eat, shit and sleep is all I see you do. You do anything else?”
At the table, mom and dad sit across from each other with mom scooting her chair to see HGTV passed dad’s head. He eats with one hand on the fork and the other sandwiched between the sports section of the paper. I find it funny how instruction manual white his skin is as he grabs the fork, compared to my Kennedy tan or my older sister’s extra, extra virgin olive oil pigment or my mom’s UPS colored skin.
“So Rich, what you got planned tonight with your boys?” he says, pretending that “boys” don’t sound weird in his mouth.
“Same old shit like last week and before that,” I say.
“You got enough money?”
“Yeah, man. Thanks.”
“Nigga, you wanna give me money that badly?” I ask. We both laugh. Mom’s still looking at the TV with big ass marble eyes.
“I’m just not used to this shit yet,” he says. “Soon, your punk ass will be giving me money.”
“Some fucking day.” We both laugh.
“Nigga, you better give me some of that bread,” he says. Shit like that sounds weird even though he’s said it ever since I’ve said it, and we laugh even louder.
“Mira, but why!?” Mom spits out with her arm and spoon extended over the table. When she asks a “why” question, her voice winds in a loop. “But why she gotta buy that three bedroom, though? I couldn’t fit my ass through that door!”
Dad turns back to me. “So, you gonna try and bag some snow bunnies, as I hear you and your boys say?”
“What the fuck else can I do?” I say.
We was fine with fucking the girls down the block, but once we got of high school, got jobs and got busy trying to get our shit together, things changed. Puerto Ricans decay faster than any other fossil or element on the table. If they have their first kid in their first twenty years, teeth turn yellow, then black, then fall out. Diabetes gets the best of them. They get hooked on the wrong drug, or the wrong man, and they gain fifty pounds and some wrinkles. Every girl I fucked with has a kid from some other nigga now, and that’s her life. She has to devote the second half of her life to prevent her kid from fucking up like mommy. My boys and I scraped the bottom of that arroz con pollo and ate that salty, sweet, moist pegao for years. Then it dried up and stuck to the bowl. So now we after snow bunnies.
Snow bunnies don’t get attached to their men like the women on the block. Girl from the block finds out you fucked around with your downstairs neighbor, knives and chancletas are hitting you right on the head. Then they gonna go fuck with your boys. One of the snow bunnies talked about how she believes in polyamory or whatever the hell. If I can fuck as many bitches without her getting pissed, that sounds like a sweet deal to me.
Snow bunnies take care of themselves. They’ve been fed on that Whole Foods shit, so every ounce of them is USDA organic. Not an ounce of Goya entered their bodies. By the time they hit like thirty, they wither fast. The ones on the block that make it to thirty without fucking up with a kid or anything become immortal beauties.
Everything with snow bunnies is ephemeral. They know that, and they cool with it. They see you just want fun, and they’re with it. You see it in the streets the next morning. Bars get filled with them tearing shit up, throwing bottles on the streets in our neighborhood, then the next morning it’s just us minorities cleaning it up. They move on to the next thing after they used up all the resources. It’s in their blood.
Except we haven’t bagged any yet. Messed around, sure, felt up , in and around bras and panties, hell yeah. But we haven’t gotten a steady fuck from them yet. But it’s due. If not, I don’t know what the fuck we doing next other than moving somewhere. But, fuck, where we gonna go?
At Luis’, we smoke for a bit while Adventure Time fucks with our minds. He smokes so much, the fake marble tile and the plastic over the couch is covered in a fine layer of smoke. He walks around and it’s like Pigpen from Peanuts came to life.
“They should definitely make an Aventura Time,” Luis says before he coughs out some more smoke.
“What, you want bachata on the screen for eleven minutes a clip?”
“But wouldn’t that shit be hilarious, though?” he asks. “How many white kids at home be bugging out?”
Five episodes later, Joe comes through with a fedora hat and a burgundy and white Polo draped from his coconut shell skin. The sleeves roll past his fingers.
“This nigga looking like Freddy Kruger over here,” Luis says.
“What?” Joseph asks. “These snow bunnies be fucking niggas with this shit, so why not?”
“Yeah, but they got that shit fitted, and not from Goodwill, man,” I say.
“Man, fuck you.” He rolls up his sleeve.
“That’s better,” Luis says. “Now you just look like a hipster pedophile.”
“Fuck this. Let me smoke.”
Joe pulls up a chair from the dining table and slides it at the corner of the TV.
Joe is the type of nigga to get high and tell you shit from the first grade, like “You know those stars up there? Them shits is just like the sun.” Sometimes he’ll throw in some really fascinating shit like how there are only us niggas in these buildings and the white people got the nice buildings. The past few weeks we’ve tried bagging snow bunnies, his good looks, athlete muscles, bright wide brown eyes and sincere stupid wide toothed smile get him the attention, and this nigga fucks it up. He be having two snow bunnies around his arms and then throw in some shit talking about how gay some people look. He just don’t get how snow bunnies operate. You can’t just be dissing gay niggas left and right. After that, the women just slink away from his arm and go back to the guys with the fitted Polos who can buy them free drinks and take them to their well-furnished apartments.
He was the closest to bagging a snow bunny than the rest of us. We all had someone to dance with, but this nigga was going in! Grinding against the wall with a crowd cheering him on, then this nigga whispers in her ear, “Yo, ma, let’s get out of here. Let’s not wake up my moms, though.” She patted him on the head and said, “Another time. Lo-see-en-toe.” I know better than to invite some snow bunny back to my apartment. The chicas down the block? No problem, their apartments look just as bad or worse than mine.
Another bowl in, and CJ walks through the door in a black tank top and a bottle of Ron Diaz in his hand.
“Ron Diaz? I see you went all out tonight,” I say.
“Nigga, Ron Diaz? I ain’t trying to remove paint in this house,” Luis says
“Yeah, man, shelling out that crazy money for shitty rum,” Joe adds. “I thought you was Bacardi rich at least?”
“Nah, man!” CJ says while closing the door. “These niggas at Citigroup wanna cut my pay by an hour because I showed up twenty minutes late for my security post, but they ain’t pay my time and a half from last week! So, y’all getting Ron Diaz tonight. Unless you wanna pay twelve bucks for some watered down shit.”
“Fair enough, man,” Luis says. “Cheap ass nigga,” he adds.
“Here’s to a night of bagging snow bunnies!” Luis says.
Each of us stands with a double shot of Ron Diaz in a solo cup. As we take our shot, Joe shouts out, “Here’s to me being sexy!” Luis and CJ spit out what they drank in and laugh. I finish my shot and my esophagus boils.
“Gimme a chaser,” I say.
“This nena over here,” Joe says. “You want it in a sippy cup?” He walks to Luis’ fridge and hands me a bottle of Coke.
“Aight, so what’s the plan?” CJ asks. “We trying to crash the galleries?”
Across the street from CJ’s building on Rivington Street in-between the unisex salon and the pawn shop, a couple of young artists turned the empty building into some white walled, black furniture, glossy floored art gallery. Every Friday, a gaggle of these black shirted scruffy motherfuckers smoke outside of the joint, walk in and stare at photos, paintings or whatever displays they put in. My sister’s friend who goes to the art school said that they give away free wine for the openings. When I told my boys this, we had to go give it a shot.
“Nigga, I’m not going in there first,” Joe says as he blocks the entrance to the gallery. “Rich, you go in first. You the ambassador. Half white.”
CJ, Luis and Joe make a circle around me and start clapping. “Woaahhhhhhhh,” the three of them yell and then push me through the glass door into the gallery. The room smells like Pine-sol and Hollister. My eyes water from the fumes.
I expected like a lynch mob or some weird remarks or looks, but I got worse than that. No one even recognized anything different walked in, like everything I built in my head that had me different from them didn’t exist. Like we live in some post-racial utopia bullshit.
CJ, Joe and Luis rap on the glass and nudge their heads for me to move to the back of the room. Sure enough, there’s a petite intern in a ponytail, tight black dress and laced leggings grabbing bottles of wine from the counter and pouring the wine into the glasses of the tall men around her.
I stand on the outside until these asshats open up for me to enter their rapey semi circle. They give me less space than they do to each other.
“Is this your first time here?” the woman holding the wine asks.
“I was gonna say, I’ve never see you here,” the taller guy on my left said.
“White or red?” the woman asks.
“I’m feeling white tonight.” I grab my glass and walk towards the front of the gallery. My boys see the glass in my hand and fall on top of each other to get in.
“The wine’s back there?” Luis asks.
“Yeah. A snow bunny in a black dress got it.”
“Oh, she got it. But she got the wine, too?” CJ says and laughs.
“How much is it?” he asks.
“Nigga, what I tell you? You don’t pay.”
“Get the fuck outta here.”
“Go get your wine while I look around.”
In the middle of the gallery floor, some artist scattered rocks wrapped in newspaper. The room of twenty is too timid to walk across, accept for one in the crowd that wants too much attention. On the table near the wine, he stacks empty glasses of wine and tries to look fucking cute with his smug smile. He’s the type of nigga to touch the photos while his friends witness.
I stare at this photo of a dozen white women staring back into the camera with mirrors in their hands. Each woman at different disorganized heights has the same white kitchen apron and black bob to the ends of their neck. Behind me, I hear two dudes speaking French.
“What do you think?” a snow bunny asks as she brushes along my shoulder with hers.
“I have no idea. They’re just looking back at the camera like ‘the fuck you want from us?’”
“Exactly!” she says as she pushes her hair behind her ear and reveals a purple streak. “They’re reversing the male gaze back at the camera.”
“What, the camera a male?”
“That sounds like some bullshit.” She leans back and gives me a quizzical look with her lips turning flat across her face. No one’s ever called her out before.
“I don’t think you know how much of a privilege you have,” she says as she checks then ignores her iPhone.
“It must suck to sit pretty at a bar until someone buys you a drink or asks you to dance.”
“I just met you, and you sound like an asshole.”
She starts to walk to another painting. “Wait,” I say. “Let me try this again.”
“Buy me a drink,” I say. Her eyes open wide.
Luis, CJ and Joe stand around the photo on the left with the dogs pissing on old newspapers. When she’s not looking, they turn their heads in our direction.
“I’m playing. Let me get you a drink.” She turns back to me.
“Men still do that shit? I have a boyfriend.”
“Oh, word? I got a goldfish.”
“Oh, my fault. I thought we were talking about shit that don’t matter.” She walked back to grab more wine.
CJ, Luis and Joe walk up to me.
“Yo, what happened?” Luis says after finishing his glass of white wine.
“It didn’t happen. Fucking stuck up.”
“Hate that shit,” Joe says while looking around.
“This place is kinda aight!” CJ says. “I don’t know what the fuck’s up with the pictures but they give you free wine to look at this shit?”
“We spent enough time here, nigga,” Luis says. “We got our wine. It’s like eleven. Let’s go somewhere.”
When we walk out the gallery, more and more stumbling couples cross our paths towards the bars. One bar doesn’t even look at us. The bouncer just pushes his hand out in our faces. The second bar, the bouncer says, “Nah, man, we full.” The third bar has a fifteen dollar cover charge.
“How the fuck we get in?” Joe asks.
“We probably need a snow bunny to get in to meet more snow bunnies,” Luis says.
“Where the fuck are we gonna find snow bunnies that aren’t in the bar?”
At the cupcake spot a few blocks down, we spot one smoking a cigarette and checking her phone. Her people flaked out on her. Again, as the ambassador, I walk up to her and ask if she’s going to the bars. She flicks the cigarette away, clicks her phone shut and says, “I know one we can go to. Just tell me your name. I’m Lila.”
My boys walk in the jungle bar with the snow bunny. The bouncer outside of the lets her in without a problem and puts his hand on my chest. The bar’s filled up. Lila’s hand reaches back and pulls me past the bouncer. “My bad,” the bouncer says as he moves out of the way.
The bar has plastic leaves and branches that slap everyone over five foot five in the face. Every five seconds, a mist sprays from the ceiling to nourish the plastic. The closer we walk to the back, the bass starts from the floor then jolts my knees, legs, nuts, stomach then chest.
I’ve seen white. I’ve been to the Upper East Side, Central Park, SoHo, NoHo, Chelsea, Battery Park, Williamsburg, the gentrified parts of Harlem, Bed-Stuy and Park Slope, Upstate New York, but that dance floor was the whitest thing I’ve ever seen. Dozens of couples chock their hips and accompanying dick behind them back and forth with no sway or tie but like a clock on its own time, like in the old silent movies when Chaplin pretends to be a part of a clock and moves with the artificial ticks. White men with nice never owned shirts don’t know what to do with their hands, so they wave them like the inflatable tube men outside of used car lots. Only with hard dicks. White men in baseball caps turned back. White men with Polo shirts collared up. White men with rolled up jeans and khakis with socks and boat shoes exposed. White men on the periphery of the dance floor jockey for pussy position around snow bunnies. Snow bunnies with fake blond hair. Snow bunnies with real blond hair. Snow bunnies with red hair. Snow bunnies with shaved hair. Snow bunnies in two inch, three inch, four inch heels. Snow bunnies bent and propped. Snow bunnies with hair tossed to one side. Snow bunnies with no smooth motion. Snow bunnies that grind against the beat.
Lila grabs me and we dance a fake salsa with our hands clasped and rocking a count off. I pull her in and my hips move to the beat and hers grate against it all. I turn her around and her ass does the same, like a poorly timed windshield wiper. My blood stops pumping at an elevated rate and I look around the floor. Why do I go after them? I wanna stop. But if I do, I can’t fuck Lila.
“Let’s stop and get a drink,” I shout.
“Wait! I love this song,” she shouts back.
Lila stays getting grinded by an invisible person while I cut through the flow of the bar. Every time I get shoved, I shove back. When I get to the bar, CJ has his arm around a girl and nods as if he don’t see anyone else but her. My man Luis is on the corner of the dance floor waiting for an entry or an invitation to dance.
I put my finger in the air and the bartender just walks by me to the glitter dressed snow bunny with her boyfriend clasped to her.
“Bitch, please!” CJ yells over the music. He drops his arms off of the girl and walks towards me. “This bitch wanted me to buy her a drink.”
“Where’s Joe?” I ask. He gives me a Kanye shrug.
We walk back to the dance floor next to Luis. He turns to us and shakes his head.
“Fuck this, man,” he says.
The music changes to “Mercy” by Kanye West and the fifty other rappers on that track. Just when we get hype, the dance floor clears. Every single person stopped what was arguably dancing and walked back to the bar and to the seats.
I walk up to one of the women and ask why they stopped dancing. “I don’t dance to this asshole,” she says.
“Oh, but you can dance to Macklemore?”
I walk back and Luis stares out at this one girl drinking her drink and swinging her hips in rhythm to the song. A fucking miracle. He looks back at us and nods. He walks with his dick leading the way towards the two. He grabs the woman’s hands and drags her into the empty middle and they both smile.
Then this fucking broad chested cat with legs that can’t handle the top of his body hobble their way over to Luis and shove him off his girl. The broad chested man shakes his hand back and forth.
“Who the fuck are you?” Luis shouts.
“You’re dancing with my girl,” the guy shouts back.
“She didn’t say shit to me!” Luis says as she walks back to the bar.
The guy shoves him back and dances a crabwalk around Luis to box him out of his area of the dance floor. Luis shoves him down on the floor.
“Fucking faggot, man. Fuck this. I’m done for the night.”
“No fucking way!” I shout. “This was the plan! We was bagging snow bunnies. We all wanted that.”
“Yeah, and we ain’t doing shit. I’m not saying I’m done forever, but fuck this night.”
“Buy her a fucking drink. Fuck outta here,” CJ mumbled.
“The night’s still young!” I say.
“Nigga,” CJ says. “You ain’t got shit tonight. I got nothing. Luis got cockblocked by that gay ass dancing whatever the fuck that was. We out. We’re done. Call it a night. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
“Nah, let’s just go to a different borough or something. I don’t know what the fuck they did to our neighborhood,” Luis says.
“Forget it. I’m hungry,” CJ says. “Anyone got food at they place?”
“Yeah,” I say. “We got mad arroz con pollo. Just don’t wake up my mom.”
“I call the pegao,” Luis says.
“Man, fuck you,” CJ says.
“Aight, we out. But where Joe at?”
A snow bunny walks out of the men’s bathroom hunched over and gagging. Five seconds later, Joe walks out with his back arched and the kool-aid smile.
“Holy shit,” Joe says as he zips up his pants. “Best I ever had.”