Papi's Secret

#3 Papi’s Secret

It’s February 4th, 2o17. Saturday night. Some coworkers want to go out drinking on Dyckman Avenue. But I’m home thinking about Emma and whether she’s lying. She’s been telling me about her ex and her ex’s father. Some of it sounds made up. With her permission I’ve been posting her stories. All names have been changed.

Last post she told me about how her ex got beat by his father.  Today’s post is about her ex’s father, Big Lenny being locked up. 



1994. Giuliani is New York City’s new mayor. Big Lenny gets locked up and goes upstate. His, girl, Elena, stays behind pregnant with their son in uptown, Manhattan. Everyone warned Elena about doing any work other than house-chores, but while Big Lenny was in jail, she swashed, wrung and ironed his dollars. Just like Gucci Mane’s wifey, Keyshia Ka’oir supposedly flipped two million into five while the rapper was in jail, Elena supposedly took 100,000 in cash and bought a co-op. She bought a three bedroom on Cabrini Boulevard in the Castle Village on Pinehurst Avenue in 1996. This purchase led to the couple owning a chain of supermarkets in Washington Heights and Bronx.


Those numbers sounded crazy to me so I asked Emma if she was exaggerating. Emma swears on her dead-stepfather that they had, “paper.”

Emma tells me, “You had to see their apartment on Pinehurst. I ain’t know apartments in the Heights could look like that.”

As a kid I ain’t live far from Big Lenny’s apartment  where Emma’s ex was born. We lived in a dope ass-apartment on Riverside Drive. We had a decent view of the view of George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River. But I our view ain’t compare to Big Lenny’s view from Castle Village. My stepfather and mother were also in the drug game but not at that level. Shit, the official website, describes the Castle Village buildings as, “towering high above the Hudson River.”


In fifth grade, my friends and I trespassed in Castle Village. We played in their playground and ate from their green apple trees. What’s bugged is that even though we got weird looks and attitude from some of the white mothers, I can’t remember anyone kicking us out on some savage-shit.

I didn’t believe Elena owned an apartment in Castle village until Emma took me to her place.

The three of us began talking in the living room, but ended up in the kitchen. Emma and I sit at a small kitchen table and Elena leans against the dishwasher. Elena looks like that Dominican-doña-type with her body “done.” She had a bubble butt, narrow waist, and perky breasts. Dominican women in their 40s and above ith 18 year old bodies is common. Elena was different because unlike most Dominican women with 18 year old bodies, she didn’t keep the 40 year old face. I asked Emma if she had Botox or a face-lift, but Elena said negative.

Elena says even though she divorced Big Lenny, they talk every day. He lives in Miami now. She says they’d still be married if he ain’t get hooked on the internet. Elena ran the household and the supermarket while Big Lenny was online. Some days he never stepped outside the bedroom. Not even to say a word to her. Whenever Elena hears the static on a dial up connection or the “You Got Mail!” sound clip, she imagines Big Lenny in front of a desktop.

Big Lenny was successful, but miserable. Elena and their son were happy. Unlike Lenny, they knew most of all the other kids and parents in Castle Village. Big Lenny always felt like that the neighbors, building management, and maintenance workers looked at him funny. He felt like a criminal, like if he was trespassing in his own home. Elena said it had nothing to do with racism. She claims they stared at Big Lenny because he was rarely outside, and looked like a visitor of Castle Village. Elena said she was so used to seeing him sitting down in front of a computer that when she saw him outside she wouldn’t recognize him immediately.

One day Elena didn’t recognize Big Lenny walking to their building until she saw a  a 6 year old Charlie waving at a neighbor. Once the neighbor passes by, Big Lenny smacks Charlie in the back of the head.  When Elena asked Big Lenny why he smacked Charlie, he blamed her for watching beauty pageant shows with him.

When Elena said this it got awkward. Elena tried to small talk but the vibe was dead. So we left.

Emma and I climbed the 181 street hill and talk at the Starbucks on Ft. Washington. Elena told Emma, she broke up with Big Lenny because he always accused her of sleeping with a white neighbor. Charlie told Emma his parents broke up it because Elena thought Big Lenny slept with another man in jail. Emma believes both of them.

Flaco Ali3


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