The city was in a state of mild ache the night they took Commodore Bill. Or the night they killed Commodore Bill. Or did Commodore Bill kill Commodore Bill? Either way, the sky cried and then his eyes closed and I walked away because the sirens wailed louder and louder.
Commodore Bill: six feet and one inch of swagger, swagger, swagger. Whether it was the chicas at Bodega Guzmán or the sisters along the edges of Rucker Park, or even the white girls in their private school skirts, Commodore Bill had himself a following. Didn’t matter whether the jaws was black, brown, white, yellow, or some funky mix, they hit the floor when Bill came around.
I found the ache on a park bench. It burned holes in my jeans, straight scorched my thigh the whole way to Bill’s spot, like I’d shrunk the sun and put it in my pocket.
“Hell naw,” says Commodore Bill when I offer him some ache.
“Just a little,” I say.
“Just a little,” he repeats.
The ache pops and bangs and sizzles us. A warm something crawls out into my arms and legs and when I ask Bill if it’s crawling in him too, he just rubs his arms and moans, “Mmmmmhmmm.”
“Just a little more ache,” he says.
“Hell naw,” I say.
What we didn’t know is that the ache treats you like bubblegum. It unwraps you, rips you out of your home and away from your friends. Then it chews you up real nice. Blows bubbles out of you. When you ain’t sweet no more it spits you on the sidewalk. And that’s when the cats stomp all over you and meanwhile your Ma looks down, and, aching like the city, cries, Why, why, why.
Front page image by Rory MacLeod