PROSE: John Paul Infante


1. Bring a Latino or Black friend with you.

Don’t confuse your Latino friends with your Spanish friends. Your dealer has never been to Spain and will pretend he doesn’t know English if two white guys approach him. Your dealer thinks white is white the same way you think black is black. Your dealer won’t overcharge you if you’re with a non-white person.

2. I’m lying. This isn’t about you.

Your dealer will overcharge you not because you’re white, but because you can afford it. This neighborhood is no different than that resort you went to in the Caribbean. Your dealer is more American than you think. He’s an aspiring capitalist just like those third-world resort workers.

Platanos with Salami.
Brugal with Coca-Cola.
That light purple juicy warm hole inside that dark pitch-black woman.
You were overcharged there.
You will be overcharged here.

3. Focus on the Coke.

When you get off the George Washington Bridge you’ll be on 178th Street and Fort Washington by the bus terminal. It will look like the U.N. You’ll see brown, white and black junkies from all over the world. This ain’t Bright Lights, Big City. This is real cosmopolitanism. The neighborhood is made up of Americans, including law abiding undocumented citizens. Forget them.

4. Drive down 178th street and make a left on Wadsworth Avenue. Ignore the merengue spilling out of windows and reggaeton left over from cars flying by. Ignore the people on plastic chairs in front of tenement buildings, drinking and celebrating God knows what on St. Nicholas Avenue.

Throw your 50 Cent CD out the car window. Ironically playing a 50 Cent CD you actually paid for proves your whiteness, and does not camouflage you celebrating God knows what on St. Nicholas Avenue. Throw your 50 Cent CD out the car window. Ironically playing a 50 Cent CD you actually paid for proves your whiteness, and does not camouflage you.

5. Be yourself. Be white. Don’t be like those dealers on the corner. It won’t help in any way. The truth is that these dealers love whiteness more than you or they could ever understand. Read Black Skin, White Mask by Frantz Fanon or Wilhelm Von Schadow’s chapter summaries at Liberator Magazine.

6. Avoid walking by the church. If you pass by on foot the church-goers will notice when you forget to cross
yourself. Plus, they’ll know you weren’t there last Sunday. For them it’s about community and charity and you are an outsider that hasn’t donated.

7. While looking for parking you’ll discover a university for a specific group of people is a block away from your dealer. Park your car in front of George Washington high school. The dropout rate is as high as the property tax money going into the school is low.

8. Don’t be surprised if you see people you identify with. Rent is more expensive than ever so a lot of us are moving out. Rent is cheap. Consider moving to the area.

9. Mayor Giuliani cleaned the city but his hands ain’t clean. His soldiers used a plunger on a Haitian immigrant while they protected and served. Fortunately, you’re far from a dark skin Haitian so you’re safe.

10. Don’t badmouth the last dealer who sold you the flour that ain’t numb your tongue. Most of these dealers have dealt with each other and if they haven’t they will. A few of them are more industrious than you, investing in laundromats until the dryer stops spinning, the money’s clean, and the laundromat becomes a local business like an actual laundromat. Most of the corner dealers are already in jail. Some of these blocks are traps, smaller than small towns. Read Sherwood Anderson’s Winesberg, Ohio and James Joyce, The Dubliners.

11. When you get to your dealer’s block avoid Terrence. He’s around your age. He can tell you’re white and not eastern European and he holds this against you. He read A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid and is still angry. He’s in that prestigious school that didn’t accept you even though both of you had identical grades. You’ll roll your eyes and blame Affirmative Action. Terrence will suck his teeth and counter with Legacy Preferences.

12. Don’t smile at Josefina. She’ll be waiting in front of your dealer’s building for her father to pick her up. Josephina’s father, the taxi driver, does nothing except work, read the newspaper and drive his daughter around. He only knows baseball. He’s never played golf and thinks Tiger Woods is a place in upstate New York, and yet owns a four iron. Stay away from his daughter. He’s old school and was oppressed in the days when blatant oppression was in style. He’ll hack you with his golf club as if St. Nicholas Avenue was that puddle of a river dividing Hispaniola and you’ve mispronounced a Spanish word. Read Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones.

13. You’ll find the dealer waiting for you on the third floor. When you tell him I sent you, he’ll take out the coke. Do not tell him how you know me or ask him how he knows me. He counts the money over and over again and you grow anxious. You fear he’ll rob you like the last dealer from the hood you last scored at. He won’t small talk. He won’t tell you he’s dealt to my mother behind my back, but this story isn’t about that.

When he finally gives you the stuff you’ll feel relieved and jokingly ask how much cut is in it? The dealer will remind you that nothing is pure.

John Paul Infante

infanteJP currently teaches high school in Manhattan. He has taught creative writing at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He’s earned an MFA in fiction from the New School for General Studies. He’s worked as tutor and director at an after-school program, lotions and perfume factory, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, pharmacy- delivery-boy, selling door to door Kirby home cleaning systems AKA overpriced vacuum cleaners, and sold academic essays to undergrads.