After a brawl in a stinking, Brooklyn dump of a pub which attracts these new immigrant arrivals, with no job and no manners, I ended up behind bars on Rekers Island. It was early spring and the weather in New York was exceptionally pleasant and bearable, and I was looking at three months behind those thick walls just because I knocked out this jerk's two front teeth which were, by the way, already rotten to the core and ready to be pulled out, anyway. Besides this, and not quite intentionally, I broke a large mirror and the head of the cook who accidentally stood in the way of a chair that I far from gently lowered on the head of the unlucky jerk-off who was left without the teeth, so that he ended up in hospital and I ended up in jail, all drunk and bloody.
Well, why am I telling you all this? Who could care less that a drunk painter deservedly went to jail after a brawl. Simply, it's my desire all the time, although on this occasion I don't seem to be succeeding, to tune into my subject. Namely, there, in jail, I had in my cell Martin Rosario, a fellow from the Dominical Republic, a small time forger and crook who used to falsify green cards and social security numbers for his fellow countrymen who did not have papers, and this brought him to room no. 128, on the first floor, from where a small window gave looked onto the bridge and the water.
Forgers are craftsmen criminals, a professionally oriented lot. It was dull sharing a cell with such a fellow and I started telling him fibs that in Paris I knew Batista, the son of the Dominican dictator Trujillo who was killed by the revolutionaries or by the CIA in the sixties, and that we used to see each other all the time in the classy Parisian restaurant Maxime, where the beautiful and attractive Mireille Mathieu used to sing, and both of us were in love with her. One night a fight broke out and the Dominican millionaire and playboy was getting the hard end of the stick from the no-good from the Morava Valley who, by the way, used to box for "Kablovi" from Jagodina. For nearly two hours I described to him how the fight developed and he squinted and made faces as I battered the dictator's son on the head and other pars of his tender body.
You could tell him almost anything (forgers are not as shrewd as other thieves or crooks) and I saw that he was enjoying the story so that I myself started enjoying my own fibs. In return, Martin Rosario spoke to me about his country, the Dominican Republic, in a way that I listened, sober and normal as I was, and I cried at the fact that someone can pine so much for his motherland. He was a great lover of sunsets above the Bay of Porto Belo, he adored the song of courting parrots, he love the girl Maria who is still waiting for him in his village, Palma Del Sol. He spoke for hours and I listened and enjoyed his very word. I got carried away so much that behind those thick prison walls I could feel the warm Dominican sun and the sound of waves on the beautiful beaches. He did not speak much about sun lotion and parasols, or food. Although he did mention some foods that only his mother, Rosita, used to make like no one else. If you like, I could retell all of his stories, I remember them well. But I'm not sure whether the effect will be the same, coming second hand.
There was one thing that I learned in that prison cell with Martin, and that is that my fibs from Paris are pathetic forgeries compared to his descriptions of his homeland DOMINICANA. When I left prison I shouted to him, as I prepared to enter bus no. 158 which heads to New York – "VIVA DOMINICANA!!!"