El Barrio, an Excerpt
By Yaralee De La Cruz
During the hottest summer of their lives, two best friends—Manuel Polanco and Xiomara Vargas—slowly drift apart as they deal with gangs, drugs and growing up in… El Barrio.
Int. Mama’s Living Room – Day
It’s late June, a week after school ended. XIOMARA, 17, a brown-eyed, brown-haired Dominican American sits on the plastic-wrapped floral couch watching televolas and eating los tres golpes with mashed potatoes. She wears a tourist T-shirt from the Dominican Republic. Beneath her bed head, her eyes are locked on the television where reruns of “Teresa” play.
We hear food frying faintly as the doorbell rings.
(with her mouth full)
Mamá! ¡La puerta! ¡Es Manuel!
¡Ya, yo sé niña! ¡No soy sorda!
Xiomara’s great-grandmother MAMA, in her old lady slippers and nightgown, shuffles out of the kitchen to unlock the front door. She opens the door to MANUEL, 18, a clean-cut, light-skinned Puerto Rican with an athletic build, brown hair and eyes, and a pierced ear.
Hola, Manuel! Tu comida está en la mesa, mijo.
Gracias, Mama. Siempre es un placer.
He embraces Mama and limps over to Xiomara.
Que tal, Virgin Maria. Ew! Why you look like that!
Manuel points like he’s teasing someone for pissing their pants. Xiomara swats at him like he’s a fly in front of the TV.
Move, conyo! I’m watching Teresa!
Manuel laughs and plops himself on the couch, making it fart. Xiomara hits him on his chest.
Cuidado! You’re gonna break the couch. Vete a comer, cono. Your food is gonna get cold.
Yes, King Simba.
Xiomara smacks him on the side of his head as he gets up and goes to the dinner table where he now eats.
I don’t know how you Dominicano pero no comer mangu. It’s like a lion being vegan. No es natural. No es!
Xiomara rolls her eyes.
Manuel, ¡no me jodas! Ok! You do this every time you come over. Plus you shouldn’t be talking because you’re fucking Boricua y no comes monfongo. So why don’t you stop being so hypocritical and eat your fucking food!
They go back to eating their breakfast to the sounds of the TV and Mama running a shower. Their harmonized laughter cuts in as this is a regular routine for them.
Ext. Southern Boulevard – Day
A cherry red Tesla Model 3 cruises Southern Boulevard, music booming and the window open.
CLOSE UP on a hand with cigarette smoking out the driver’s window. The hand moves to the driver’s mouth. Smoke brushes against the driver’s mustache and sunglasses.
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Ext. Xiomara and Manuel’s apartment building – Day
The Tesla stops in front.
Int. Xiomara and Manuel’s building lobby – Day
Xiomara and Manuel exit the elevator, chatting towards the door.
Ext. Xiomara and Manuel’s apartment building – Day
PEPE, 20, a tanned Dominican with a chubby build, curly brown hair and brown eyes, and earrings, throws his cigarette out the Tesla window. He wears basketball shorts, a wife beater, a gold cross on a chain, and Jordans.
He honks at Xiomara and Manuel, excited with music blasting.
Que lo que, manin! Check out your boy’s new ride!
What you said?
What he said?
Pepe! Turn down the music!
She said –
Hold on! Let me turn off the music!
Xiomara and Manuel roll their eyes at Pepe’s lack of common sense.
You guys like my new ride?
Where’d you get it?
Don’t worry about it.
Xiomara crosses her arms. Manuel tries to break the tension.
Well, I think it’s nice, Pepe.
Well I’m not saying it’s not nice. It’s a great car. I just wanna know how your broke ass got it.
(lots of hand gestures)
Yeah and I got that. And I said don’t worry about it. Okay?
Xiomara leaves it alone.
So y’all heard about the party Lenny’s hosting Saturday?
First party of the summer, bitches!
They all laugh.
You know this gonna be our last first party of the summer now that smartass is going to college.
So we better make it count. Right!
Manuel and Pepe dab each other up, laughing as Xiomara’s smile fades away.
Actually… I can’t go.
MANUEL & PEPE
Pepe stomps out of his car and slams the door.
What you mean you not coming!
I mean I can’t come. I gotta start packing for college.
Pack for college! Manin! That shit ain’t until August.
No buts. Live a little.
Xiomara rolls her eyes. Pepe moves closer to the group.
Yeah! Let’s have fun!
Come on, what you say?
I don’t know, guys. Parties aren’t really my thing.
Especially Lenny’s. You know those shits get out of hand.
True. But who’s gonna be our sober designated driver?
Exactly! Our group doesn’t work without you.
MANUEL & PEPE
Xiomara, impressed by their dedication, smiles and nods. Pepe gleefully initiates a group hug as they jump, repeatedly chanting—
We’re going to the party!
Their chant fades as the scene…
FADES TO BLACK.
When I started writing this, it was just a storyline idea, something I would further pick up in college with more screenwriting experience. However, one day I said, “screw it,” and started writing the script. I wanted it to be a script because when I plan out ideas in my head, I see them as movies. When I was a kid, I had an obsession with movies and Hollywood and one day I want to see one of my movies on the big screen.
In Hollywood, people like me are always depicted by our stereotypes and I wanted to shine a new and realistic light on us people of color and people of New York. I want to help our voices to be heard. I basically live by the “write what you know” philosophy so I inserted myself and some of my life’s aspect in the main characters to give it a sense of realism. However, some parts are inspired by stories that made me want to become a writer like Autobiography of My Dead Brother by Walter Dean Myers and the movie Raising Victor Vargas.
Yaralee De La Cruz is a Dominican American Bronx New York bisexual female writer. Her favorite female authors and artists are Naoko Takeuhi, Elizabeth Acevedo and Meryl Streep. Her favorite genres are romance, fantasy and horror. Her favorite mediums of expression are film, art and fashion. She loves watching movies, anime, cartoons, art, graphic novels, guitar and music. She’s been published in two literary magazines, one for her high school magazine and twice for Pen America’s Summer Program. Her goals are to become a screenwriter, director, producer and actress (like Spike Lee) and have an EGOT in the near future.