Everyone on the block knew that the longer the rat tail, the flyer the guy. Lefty’s rat tail wasn’t as long as his older brother Pedro’s but it was getting there. We all noticed.
It was summer and the action started at the basketball court in front of IS 147. By then everyone had put away their roller skates and stopped playing kick the can. Instead, we leaned against the chain link fence and passed judgment on everyone. This was before things got serious. Not that summer. That summer it was about memorizing the words to Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” and wearing your name belt real low on your waist.
The plan was this: Buy a dime bag. Cop some Heinnies and listen to new music at Lefty’s apartment. That night, our perfume was tight. Our Lee Jeans perfectly creased. We applied lip gloss over and over until our lips were as shiny as disco balls.
The first album Lefty pulled out was by Sugarhill Gang. A classic. Something to warm us up. Then there was some Lady B, The Treacherous Three. He even tossed in some Fania All-Stars, showing the PRs some love.
We didn’t dance right away because we wanted to play DJ too but Lefty said, You’re girls. You don’t own any turntables. You don’t know what to do.
And we had to fall back but we kind of hated him after that.
Then he pulled out a new album like it was some secret weapon. What do you know about this? he said.
The album pictured a shirtless guy. All serious, all sex, staring at us like he knew how to pop our still intact cherries.
Who’s that? we asked.
That’s Prince, Lefty said. I heard he’s Puerto Rican.
We wanted to claim him but all that chest hair. The eyeliner rimming his almond eyes. The long feathered hair. This was something else. Something all together different. We giggled.
Yeah, but he got one silver hoop earring on his right ear, we said. You know what that means, right?
Listen to this, though.
Prince sounded like Michael Jackson but grittier, talking about “I want to be your lover I want to turn you on turn you out.”We wanted to claim him but that meant we had to pick a side.
That guy es un maricon, we said. If you like him, that makes you one too.
Although he tried to hide it we caught that flicker of sadness that spread across Lefty’s baby face. And after a long minute, he did what he was supposed to do. Lefty took that record off and buried it behind a stack of LPS.
When Lefty cut off his rat tail, we all shook our heads. Others asked if he gave it to us to bury it but there was never a ceremony. Only Lefty walking past us with a new stack of albums underneath his arm, wearing black eyeliner and sporting a bandana tied around his neck, like he was some urban cowboy.
Lilliam Rivera is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee and a 2013 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her work has appeared in Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Midnight Breakfast, among others. Lilliam lives in Los Angeles.