It was exactly what I had hoped would happen, to be socially stranded at some bar while my friends made off with their friends and be forced into the realms of the awkward. Brooklyn had been stand-off’ish, but nice up to this point. I had come to the Brooklyn Whiskey with Lucia to meet her Teach For America buddies, a circle of broughams from separate corners of the country all brought together for two things: to teach a low-income/neglected student base, and say “yes, I lived in New York for a time or two, let me tell you…” They were a brotherhood of sorts, and as time passed on (20mins) the riotous pack of Teach For America fellows became enthralled with Lucia. It seemed as if they’d been denied something for the past, oh, year or so.
“What time do you guys usually have to be up in the morning?” I insisted to the tallest of the Teach For America fraternity pack. “Usually 5am, but not tonight. Tomorrow’s a government holiday.” He replied from the side of his mouth while scouring the scene of Sunday late-nighters and mid-Autumn skirts. I glance back to my go-to, the New Orleans Saints game on one of the dozen television sets hanging from the ceiling.
“I can’t wait to be the fuck up outta there though” the frat pack For America leader murmured from the side of his mouth again. “Really? How often you think about just up and leaving the Teach For America job?” I asked. “Every God Damn day” he replied still scouring the floor. “So why don’t you ?” I retorted. The Teach For America frat leader turned from his skirt scour and looked me in the eye from the half a foot he stood above me. “Because I made a promise. I gave them my word that I’d complete two years with the program. After that, never again” He grimly replied. The amount of integrity just emitted was beyond my limitations for the night, radioactive perhaps. I had not anticipated words to be delivered with the contrition I had received them from this man.
“Shit, sucks to-“ Shit, Drew Brees just made a play and it’s under review. This could be the God Damn game. I broke from the conversation while pack leader corralled a circle of women. My gaze widening into the television set with hopes the Saints would break their two-game losing slump.
The referee trots to the center of the field, opens his mouth to give the verdict- BOOM! A hand slaps right in between my shoulder blades. My arms flail back for a split-second from the impact of the blow. This can’t be an accident. No one bumps into somebody this hard unintentionally. There was a purpose to this strike- a message I was being sent. Before I could gather my balance, the same hand that struck me pulled me in tightly by the right shoulder. I could feel each callus from the hand forcing me closer to the perpetrator- each callus a pillow, but the hand almost touching from the top of my shoulder to my elbow- is this person wearing a fucking catcher’s mit?!?!
“Are you fuckin’ Dino’s brother!?” a baritone voice bellows to my left. “Ah- wha-what?” I respond in all respects, the bar so loud, this gentlemen speaking in a pitch that matched the DJ’s bass, I couldn’t make out a single syllable he was saying. “Dino’s brother?!?!?” He bellows again. This man is on a mission. I still couldn’t make out what he was saying, but turning into him was like turning towards your father for the first time as a toddler. The man was a giant. Short in stature, but his features absolutely huge in relation to everyone else in the bar. He would have no problem managing an NFL running back to the ground, he would give a pro-wrestler and career ending injury, he could quite break my arm right off with his drunken choosing. This man is a reckoning. Anyone choosing to physically oppose him would put himself in discreet jeopardy of losing his life or having to suffer multiple broken bones in the process of eeking out an unlikely victory.
I've seen how these things work out- I've watched the treachery of drunken bar brawls end in skulls slamming against the sidewalk, internal bleeding, ambulance speed racing through the night to rescue some unnecessary violence spilled onto the streets outside some bar in some town over some bullshit.There would be no fashion or finesse in this situation if I didn't look this man in the eye.
I turn toward face of the inaudible voice. Breath wreaking of dark booze, a bomb-shell cougar to his side, and a few other friends staring me down at the bar, I had to think of something quick. “Ahhh, no” I said. I had no clue what I was speaking to, but I figure to deny whatever this gargantuan gentlemen might be accusing.
“Really, you don’t know Dino!?!?!” he laughed. I could hear him now. “Ha.. no, no clue” I timidly smiled back. “Hey, you Dominican?!?!?!” he asked. “Uhhh, no. I have an uncle in the Bahamas though” I shouted over the bar speakers. “Alright! Alright! I thought you were this motha fucka, Dino’s brother!!! I was gonna punch you right in the fuckin’ mouth y’know!” he confessed with a celebratory smile, almost relieved he wouldn’t have to deal out a mandatory ass whooping to the guy he thought I was. “Oh… Ha… Nope, not me. I’m in town from Minnesota. Couldn’t be me.” Still holding a nervous smile.
Our conversation continued onto complex subjects such as the ominous state of the Vikings and the potential bright future of the New York Giants. After bidding adieu, I returned to the Teach for America crew still corralled around Lucia, and exhaled a sigh of reluctance at the topic of discussion being once again Teach for America. It is memorable to stand toe-to-toe with another human being that admits they were going to punch you in the face at first sight of you, rather than to discuss how much you hate your job. Later that night in a taxi cab en route to the Fat Cat, the driver asks me if I'm related to ex-Major League Baseball player, Moises Alou… again, Dominican. Alas, I am not. We chat in Spanish for the rest of the car ride, the least I can do for the deflated excitement he faced thinking I was related to baseball greatness. Whilst avoiding getting pummeled by the biggest hands I ever did see, the amount of reintroduction required to be racially ambiguous in New York City is enjoyable… when visiting.