Wynwood, excerpt


If Danny bothered looking at maps, he’d tell you that Wynwood spanned a mere 16 city blocks, hemmed in by North 20th Street to the south, and I-95 to the north. From there on out it was a simple matter of rolling east toward South Beach with its glossy Teslas and Lamborghinis, the topless Brazilian models lolling on beach blankets, the little ass dogs in Gucci purses, and assorted corny whitefolk shit. East of Biscayne Boulevard was money, east was swag, and it’d been that way since Danny’s family had settled in Miami three generations ago.

Danny remembered that sweltering summer two years ago when he and Chucho took the bus to South Beach, cruising past Star Island mansions with wrought-iron gates and waterfront docks, so white, so dazzling they may as well have been carved out of moonbeams. They walked up and down Lincoln Road that afternoon, and at every store it was the same. The salesgirls would take in Chucho’s Three 6 Mafia shirt, eyes sweeping over his picked out ’fro and rolling gait before settling with abject horror on Danny’s dark, bare chest. It was a hot day, and Danny had taken off his shirt, wrapped it around his head like a turban. That expanse of brown skin was what got them kicked out of every joint.

Those salesgirls were slick, called them “gentleman,” and always referenced some store policy about proper attire. Never stopped smiling while they escorted the boys out, some were even apologetic, like they didn’t just up and kick out two Black teenagers. Danny acted like he didn’t care, but that was only partially true. Later, as they crossed the MacArthur Causeway with the setting sun in their eyes, Danny stared out to the window and thought about the store with the macarons, how round and smooth and pink like seashells they were, how he wanted to buy just one to taste its sweet, airy perfection. He might have done it too, but the security guard, a 6-foot-tall motherfucker with arms like battering rams, had trudged over to ask if they were buying anything. Even Chucho shut the fuck up and left without saying something smart.

Every time he told the story, Danny would spit, say that if the security guard wasn’t strapped, he’d have started some shit. Right in the middle of the store. Just pow, clock him upside the head. Chucho never corrected Danny once. He’d known him since they were both 3, when his moms would sneak Danny rice and beans on account of how sickly and flaco he looked. Chucho, always the taller one, the smarter one, charming as he was nimble and sure-footed, a budding papi chulo who’d already mastered the art of making girls twice his age laugh. A giant among elementary school boys, out in front scouting for trouble and danger, Danny trailing behind, a slip of a boy, a small, quiet shadow.

But things change.

Emily Gilbert