Ernesto Quinonez   title  
photo of Ernesto Quinonez


  You know that's not how it happened. Sapo was wild but he never bit that teacher like he did in your book," a guy from Spanish Harlem informed me after reading Bodega Dreams. I reminded him that it was fiction. "Fiction?" he said, "that stuff too real to be fiction. I know who you talking about." I asked him how he'd found out I'd written a book. "A friend of mine saw you walking with a white girl and then another said you were getting your picture taken." Eddie looked beat. He was in his late forties now, and his hair was a wiry white. I'd known him since I was a kid. He knew a lot of us back then because he was into the black market for firecrackers. We could get any type of firecracker, at any time of the year from him. I had seen him on the street a few times, but had lost contact. This time he'd approached me apologizing for being so dirty and smelly, claiming he had just came out of work. Then he hit me up for a dollar.

"And another thing. Sapo's mother loved him. She never hit him, that's why he was so wild, cuz, his mom thought he was God." Yeah, you might be right, I said. I asked him about Popcorn, the Hawaiian shirt-wearing, knife-carrying, openly gay man in the neighborhood. "Oh man, when I read his name that brought back tears. I used to smoke with that guy by the benches by Central Park. I don't know what happened to him, but I know he didn't die like you say." It's a novel, I told him again and he smiled and said, "Yeah, yeah." We talked for a while. "You know how it is, me a man of 48 still living with his mother. But I'm clean now," he assured me. "You going to write another book, right? Well, there better be at least a chapter about me." We'll see, I said and we shook hands and he said he was proud.

I'm bracing for more people like Eddie. They will come out of the woods and tell me how it really happened. They'll set my record straight.

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Copyright © 1999 Ernesto Quiñonez.

Photo credit © Cheung Ching Ming