After a nasty breakup of any couple, the war begins. I knew bitches who keyed their ex’s ride, or punctured his tires, or banged in his rims with a hammer. I knew bitches who beat the new bitch’s ass, who her man had replaced her with. Or even stalked her, then choked her, stabbed her, shot her, or mercked her. I knew even live-er bitches who, instead of killing his new bitch, killed him. I knew bitches who ran up his credit cards, crashed his car, cut up his clothes, pawned his jewels, and even burned down his house. But when a man or woman who used to be lovers, living together, working together, eating together, showering and fucking together, and one betrays the other, betrayal makes the matter more meaner than murder. ’Cause you can just kill someone if you want to, no matter who you are. No matter who they are or where they hide. They bound to resurface eventually. Let down their guard eventually, and that’s precisely when they can get got. But ex-lovers, who more than just creeping and fucking other niggas or bitches, where one betrayed the other, told a life-changing secret tat he or she had confided with, sold him or her out to his or her sworn enemy, called the cops on him or her for any damn reason, flipped on ’em in a court of law or was way-worser, like working as an undercover police, a bitch-ass informant, spying and telling on his or her lover, murder ain’t enough get-back. A betrayed nigga or bitch wants to be the one who delivers the hurt over an extended period of time. Not a quick stabbing or gunning down. A betrayed lover wants to witness his or her traitor in severe loss of either: wealth, status, or something or someone he cherished. A betrayed lover wants to see the traitor in actual excruciating pain. He or she wants to taunt and torture first and then deliver the last blow that leads to the traitor’s complete and final downfall.
I know. Bullet was the main one who betrayed me. He’s at the top of my payback list. He was my nigga for many months before I got arrested. Yeah, he was a hustler. I fucking loved that. His fuck game was strong. I loved that too. Once he and I first hooked up, I never fucked around with no other nigga but him. I’m a loyal bitch. Loyalty runs through the Santiaga blood. But he never fully acknowledged my loyalty to him. He never gave his loyalty to me. It wasn’t about me thinking, expecting, or believing that he was out fucking some random bitches while we was together. He didn’t cause me to feel or think that he was. It was that he . . . I don’t know. He loved me with his mind and body but never gave me his heart. He treated me like a suspect, who was bound to turn on him or turn him in. I wasn’t. I’m the one bitch that wouldn’t . . . ever, Santiagas are born snitch-free.
Bullet put our Manhattan condo in my name, and every purchase he made for both of us in my name. Back then, at the time, I thought that meant he loved me. Of course I did, he provided. In turn, I covered for him here and there. Held his coke, concealed his weapons, and carried his cash here and there quietly whenever he told me to. I was trying to earn my way up and also in, to his heart. I thought we should be on some Bonnie-and-Clyde shit. But fuck Bonnie and Clyde. We should be on some Winter-and-Bullet shit, stacking our chips and styling and fucking and eating and chilling and staying together.
Turned out, he put everything in my name not for love or for providing for a top bitch and daughter of legendary hustler and entrepreneur Ricky Santiaga. Instead Bullet was on some Brooklyn scheming. He made it so that if everything or anything went wrong, he could drop all the legalities and blame onto me without losing any street credibility because it wasn’t like he snitched on me. He simply left a paper trail and documentation all in my name that told the fictitious story of me being the hustler and him being blameless, unarrestable, and scot-free. On the day of my arrest that led to my conviction as a drug dealer sentenced to serve fifteen years on a mandatory minimum, which at the time I had never even heard of, my nigga Bullet had a car rented with a credit card in my name. In the rental car was me and the product, I was ’bout to ride round trip to Virginia on a run with him, a big and necessary business move.
Simone, who for some reason can’t get the fuck out of my mind or life or death story, saw me sitting there on our Brooklyn block in the rental waiting on Bullet. I didn’t see her, though. Simone had bullshit beef with me that she swore was real. So, soon as she saw me that day, it was on. Bitch threw a brick through the rental window. Bitch dragged me out the car swinging. We thumped. My nigga Bullet saw the rah-rah from the distance. He started rushing over. He fired one shot in the air to cause the commotion to break. Seeing him boosted my confidence, but the gunshot distracted me from keeping my eyes on her. Simone took advantage and sliced my face. Bullet held my bleeding face in his hands. He sat me back in the rental car. He tossed the gun beneath the seat. He walked around to the driver’s side. I was relieved that he had rescued me. But the furious fight and the gunshot drew out the cops.
The cops swooped in and Bullet, instead of jumping into the rental car and speeding away, walked off calmly as if he never was with me. Never even knew me and never intended to get in the car with me at all. I was arrested in the rental car that was in my name, with the weight stuffed inside teddy bears, and the weapon tossed beneath the seat. They cuffed, fingerprinted, mug-shotted, jailed, grilled, and investigated me. They asked me for names or just one big name. I gave them nothing. I rejected their bullshit tricks and game. The name is Santiaga, royalty not rats. I wasn’t mad at Bullet for being a hustler, obviously. I wasn’t mad at him for renting me the condo or even for taking me on his big business run to Virginia. I was down for him. I wanted to go. I didn’t like being left out of the business or the action. It’s that that nigga Bullet didn’t come for me. He didn’t add a dime to my legal defense. He didn’t send one of his men to make sure I had all that I needed. He didn’t put one cent on my commissary. He didn’t write me one letter, slip me one kite from his peoples on lock. He didn’t check for me and to me that meant he never loved me. That’s why he’s on my payback list. He betrayed me. I never betrayed him, not even once.
Now Momma was dead center in my mental line of vision. In that freeze-frame she was Brooklyn Momma, before the move to our luxurious Long Island mansion. Before some nigga who was jelly shot her in her face and permanently altered her perfect look. But most importantly, the picture of Momma in my mind was before she ever toked a hit of that crack pipe. I knew, after having fifteen years on lock to just sit and think about it, that for me to accept my mother, aka Momma, aka Lana Santiaga, aka the Baddest Bitch on the Planet, after her crack breakdown would be the same as rejecting myself. No! It would be the same as destroying myself. Brooklyn Momma was the voice in my head. She was the image in my eyes, my pattern, my fabric, my fashion. She was all of the ingredients mixed together that made me, me.
Momma was the most. She was the beautifulest, the livest, the baddest, the funniest, the finest, everything. I didn’t need no books. Momma was all show-and-tell. She told me and showed me while she was telling me all that a bitch needs to know. “Ooh now, that’s not cool,” she would say when I shitted in my diaper at age two. That’s how way back my earliest memory of Momma goes. It is my first and earliest memory of anyone or anything, including myself. After Momma said that, she taught me how to pee and poop, where to pee and poop, and how to clean myself thoroughly and smell like a lady always should smell. “Come in the bathroom,” she would wave me in. “Always close the door while you do your private business. And remember your private business and your business-business both ain’t nobody else’s business!” She would talk to me like I was an adult, and then laugh at herself. But I knew she meant it and I understood her perfectly. “No potty,” she would say, kicking the baby toilet into a corner. “Sit on the real seat like I do,” she would say, pointing. I would be trying my best to balance my little body on the adult toilet with the humongous hole. “Now tinkle!” she would say, like it was a magical thing, not just pissing in the bowl. While I tinkled, Momma would turn away and look at herself in the bathroom mirror while singing a song, which relaxed me. Momma had the dopest music collection of original singles and albums. She knew every song ever made from the oldest to the newest. In my first memory, she was singing “All I Need,” an old joint that she loved. She was doing Marvin Gaye’s part and Tammi Terrell’s twisting and turning her body while fixed on her own reflection. She was singing so passionately I wondered. Is she singing to Poppa? Or, is she singing to me? Or is she singing to herself? After that first memory, I remember Momma singing “Everybody Is a Star” to me in the scented bubble bath as we bathed at the same time in the same tub. Momma was musical and Poppa had the whole house wired with speakers in every room, including the kitchen and the bathroom, so that Momma could be happy at home.
All fresh and clean, Momma is carrying me wrapped in the thickest, softest white terry-cloth towel to her bedroom. Both of us sitting on her king-sized bed, Momma would oil and powder and dress me. She’d comb through my silky hair like each strand was a thread of pure gold. “All good!” She would leap up and rush into her clothing closet, to the top shelf where she kept her collection of eye-catchers, show-stoppers, high-fashion hats. She would carefully select one and put it on my little head, drowning me in it. “Tilt it like this! Lay it to the side!” she would cheer, as my little fingers attempted to adjust the hat to the style that was the only way a fashionable supastar like Momma would approve. Soon as I caught the right angle, Momma would be clicking her Kodak, or pressing out Polaroids of me that would end up on her wall of photos of everything Momma loved the most. That was us, family.
By the time I was six, Momma would play-dress me in her real clothes, with real bitch accessories, so that I could walk down the runway that Momma made in the apartment corridor which she lit up with colorful lamps and lights. I’d be killing the red car- pet while the overhead speakers would be pouring out the sounds of Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.” I worked the runway to all Momma’s music picks, which could be anything ’cause she knew everything musical. Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff,” Grace Jones’s “La Vie en Rose” or “Slave to the Rhythm.” Momma loved Grace Jones. Momma loved anyone and everything that she loved to the fullest. She was the loyalest woman on Earth to anything or anyone who she chose. Momma marked time and her favorite memories through music. She loved to tell me her coming-up stories. When she would be narrating them to me it seemed she was more excited hearing the stories she was telling, even though she knew them all already, and had told them to me or Poppa more than once before. She never sat still when she was saying her stories. She was all movement, demonstrating, gesturing, and reenacting. She told me I was born a product of two songs, Betty Wright’s “Tonight Is the Night.” She wouldn’t sing the whole song, just certain lines to highlight and prove that this song was her story. Momma said Betty Wright’s song was the soundtrack to her fourteen-years-young first love, first intimacy, first sexual experience with the one and only Poppa. She’d be acting like she could feel herself giving up her virginity right while she was telling the story. She squeezed her eyes tight in anticipation, clamped her legs together like she was really nervous, and even had sound effects like ooooh and wooo and oh yeah! The other record that made me happen, according to Momma, was Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night,” ’cause he was cool, sexy, and smooth, and only Santiaga was sexier, smoother, and cooler than Rod without having to sing one note.
Momma had more style, got more looks, and had more wigs than the Supremes. She could rock it long and silky to the back of her thighs, or wear blunt cuts, short beautiful bobs, or her own hair in swirls of finger waves. She threw me big birthday parties, which could not be called just “parties” cause they were major events that niggas from Bk to Bx fought to get invited to. Many of the people who showed up I did not even know, even though the celebration was for me! After the huge crowd went home, when only family remained gathered in the ballroom, Momma would emerge dressed up on some karaoke-type vibe. She’d be Tina Turner and somehow lured Poppa into dressing like he was Ike. He didn’t sing though, he just laid back and let Momma mesmerize him with her high energy and vibrant personality. No matter how she freaked it, Momma was larger than life and glowed more than any worldwide superstar.
That’s right. Momma taught me how to talk, by always talking to me and singing to me. Come to think of it, hip-hop was Momma remixed, sampled, looped, slowed down and sped up with a dope-ass beat beneath it. Momma is the reason why I love hiphop, memorized it like I memorized Momma, and moved my hips to it, up until this day.
Momma taught me how to walk, whether it was on her homemade runway, up and down the project steps, or on the stoops, cement streets, or curbs. Momma taught me how to stand, style, and strike a pose. Momma taught me body and style language. How to talk without ever saying a word. How to capture and wear the prettiest, most stylish meanest fashions, so I would never have to tell a next bitch anything. She would just stay the fuck back or back the fuck off because she knew beside me is not where she belonged. Momma taught me how to choose friends, and be so badass that they would choose to bow down to my look without me asking or having to be snobby or shitty about it. What to share and not share. What to give away and never accept back. What to keep and never allow anyone to touch, beg for, or borrow.