The Swallow Sorrow Doll

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Chapter 2: Trepidation



"How do you know him?" she asks me.

She doesn't all. She just keeps her face completely still. I could tell she really didn't want me in her house. She didn't know me. I was a stranger in trouble with the law. She had no idea why. She probably didn't care. Her child was in the house. Why she had agreed to this, I didn't understand.

"We are close friends."

I am helping her out in the kitchen. Caprio's out in the living room, playing with her son. Her son takes to Caprio. I get it. I mean, who wouldn't take to Caprio. Even children seem to find that connection with him. For the first time, in forever Caprio smiles and I feel like at that one moment, the world is right again...even if it won't last.

"Close friends?"

"Yeah," I reply, "How do you know him?"

"He used to date my sister," she replies and smiles in the oddest of ways, "My sister's dead now. You know since then Caprio and I were close. He became like a brother to me. That's the only reason I'm letting you stay here for a while. You understand that?"


She had been chopping up vegetables. Almost as though like a movie, she points the tip of the knife to me, "Are you sure you get it? When Caprio leaves, you leave. Got that?"
I nod, "Yeah. I get it."
She moves her eyes away from me and shakes her head, "I don't like this. I don't like any of this."

"I know what it seems like, but I'm innocent. I am..."

"What happened?"

I looked over at Caprio tossing the little boy in the air. He had told me never to talk about it to anyone. He was a joker when it came to everyone else but Caprio was real serious when it came to me.

"I'm tired," I tell her, "Maybe we can talk about it some other time..."
Maya's eyes burn into me as though threatening me, "You will tell me."

"Of course."

"Well me bring out the food."

She hands a big bowl of potato salad and another one of chicken, while she brings out some utensils and some punch. We set up the table and I look over at Caprio. He is so happy with that kid. I don't understand why he would choose this life with me. He'd never be able to have kids. I couldn't give him one and even if I wanted to adopt, I couldn't because I was a damn fugitive.

I was just a damn waste. I was just destroying his life...

"Doki, lunch time," Maya tells her son, with this smile across her face.

"Lunch lunch!" the little boy gets excited.

She pulls up a toddler chair for him and Caprio lifts him into it. I sit across from them, trying to sit away from everyone. I can't help but feel out of place. I don't belong here. I should have just left without telling Caprio. I knew he wouldn't let me leave. I just hadn't expect Maya to hold me back as well.

"How have you been Maya, it's been so long?" Caprio said smiling.

I can't believe he was smiling as much as he smiled. For two years he remained serious and all of a sudden now he seemed...happy. It was such a bittersweet moment. He probably didn't even notice I saw though. Why couldn't I make him that happen?

"We've been struggling. Caprio...this neighborhood is getting worse," she explains and shakes, "I came raise Doki here. More shootings. More gang wars. It's the blacks against the Hispanics. It's the Hispanics against the Filipinos. The barrios are bleeding. Doki, don't play with your food..."

She tries to grab the fork out of his hands, but he flings it across the room.

I walk over and try to give him back the fork but instead he grabs my hand. He starts smiling, "Pretty..."

"Hey...that's not a girl," Caprio said joking, "Ok, Maya, we need to make sure you have this child's eyes glued onto Rambo and all other types of the most masculine movies."

She hit Caprio, playfully, "My son is going to be straight, stupid. He does like you though, Tatum."

I could see that by how the little boy wouldn't let my finger go. I didn't know how exactly to respond to kids. I never was a kid person. I always figured that I'd hurt them. They seemed so fragile to me. They were almost like porcelain.

"Let go of him baby," Maya stated.

The little boy let go, "Aw...what's your name?"

"I'm Tatum," I tell him.

I don't use baby voices and gentle like most people do. I just never saw the point of it. If I spoke in a high pitched voice, would they understand better? Oh god, I was bad with kids. I smiled as hard as I could to look approachable to him.

"He's a model, Doki," Caprio said and smiled, "Like on the runway. Like Tyson Beckford. You know him?"

Doki shook his head, "No. Model like Tyra?"

Caprio found this really amusing, "Yeah...but the male version."

Caprio and Maya started to laugh. I didn't really get it. Were they trying to say the little boy had gay tendencies? I laughed anyway, trying to keep up with both of them. Hell why not.

I started to eat as they continued to talk.

"I need a job, Maya," Caprio stated, "But I want to get paid under the table."

"The clubs are good for that," she explained, "But like I said, be careful Caprio. The streets of LA aren't the same anymore. Will Tatum be working too..."
"No..." Caprio answered almost instantly before I even got the chance to add anything.

Maya looked suspicious as she wiped Doki's mouth off. I just played around with my food. I wasn't comfortable here. I felt like I was bringing drama into her household.

Bad luck followed me wherever I went.

She finally spoke, "You seem uncomfortable, Tatum, what's wrong?"

"We ran into some bad people on the way here," Caprio retorted, "You know. I guess we just got to keep our guard up. Like you said, this neighborhood is rough."

"I was asking Tatum, Cap," She replied and looked over at me, "He hasn't touched his food at all."

"I'm not hungry...just tired."
"Tatum go to sleep, I'll be in the room a little later," Caprio told me, his face back to a serious, almost solemn tone.

"Thanks for the meal, Maya," I thanked her.

She didn't smile or anything. She just nodded. I could see how uncomfortable she was that I was going into her guest room. It was obvious that she was rethinking her entire decision to come let me stay in here.

I walked into the guest room and closed the door, locking myself in. For a moment, I felt like I had escaped that awkward situation. I felt like I'd done something. Fuck just as I turned...I saw it...the mirror.

I ran to cover it up, grabbing a towel and throwing it against the mirror. I didn't want to see my reflection right now...nor ever for that matter.



I tried to go to sleep, but it was hard sleeping alone when you get used to sleeping with someone else and Caprio wasn't near me. I had woken up in the middle of the night and crossed over to the door way.

The apartment wasn't very big but it was very heavily decorated, I noticed that as I walked out into the hallway. There were a lot of photos of Maya and Doki. There was never any photos of Doki's father or anyone else for that matter. It seemed like it had just been Maya and Doki for a long time.

As I crept into the living room, I heard voices. Then I realized that the voices were coming from a vent that was probably coming from Maya's bedroom.

I immediately recognized Caprio's voice.

"We ran into some trouble Maya, like I said, yesterday. The members...they said they were from MS-13.

"Caprio...god, you have the worst luck. You have to keep it on the low. I mean, you have to keep away from MS-13 territory. Did you get any names."

"One of them said his name was Jose..."

"There are tons of Jose's in MS-13."

"Well, he said Vega's son."


"Yeah, Vega's son."



"Emporio Vega does dealings with a ton of clubs around this area. He's heavy into prostitution, illegal embezzlement and he is the crack cocaine for a couple zip codes over. One of his younger sons name is Jose."

"Should I be scared?"

"No but you should be careful. If you came here, you must be desperate. I understand you got to do what you got to do. I'll just need you to be careful...especially if you plan on working the clubs."
"That's why I need your help."

"For what?"

"I need you to keep an eye on Tatum, Maya."
"Caprio...this boy, he's going to get you into trouble," she explained, "I'm sorry to say it. He seems nice. He really does. It's just...there is a dark cloud following him. I could tell from the moment I seen him."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Is he just a friend?"

I could hear a pause in Caprio's voice. He was probably thinking what I was thinking. Had Maya discovered our secret? Had Maya seen that we were in love with each other?

"What do you mean?"

"I mean if he just a friend, then Caprio...then you both need to be out there working to get money to fix this situation."

"He's not built for it."
"He needs to be helping..."

"No Maya...dammit. I won't have that. Ok. I just need your support right now. Please. My life is on the line. I just need you to keep an eye on him and make sure he is ok."




The morning came. Caprio had disappeared saying he was going in search for a job. I didn't even get a chance to see him. Maya just woke me up and asked me if I wanted to walk her and Doki over to Doki's nursery.

I nodded.

Truth was I really rather not have.

"We just beat Camden out for the worst city in America to live," Maya stated as we walked through the street, "Look around. Chances are 1 of these people will be shot and killed within a year."

I looked around. The sad thing was that there wasn't a lot of people on the block. Doki was running ahead playing with some leaves or something. The air was dry out here. I watched how Maya's eyes were glued onto Doki. There was no way that she was going to let him out of her sight.

Doki smiled, "Mama...look basketball..."

"Doki stay close."


The little boy ran towards the basketball that had come rolling in front of him across the street.

"I'll get him."

I ran after Doki as fast as I could. For some reason the anxiety of his mother was spreading to me. I wasn't good with kids, but I adored them. I thought they were the most beautiful things in the world. The innocent beauty was something that I really envied. How could something be so innocent? They were so fragile to glass.

I grabbed Doki and I realized someone had come over to grab the basketball.

I looked up.

The boy was Filipino. His skin was very tan to the point that he almost look like a caramel tone. His eyes were slanted slightly and his lips were fully pink. He had long curly hair that was tied in a ponytail and a very clean shaved goatee. His shirt was off to expose a built chest with a small patch of hair. His face wasn't beautiful like Caprio, but there was some sort of attraction to it that said maybe if he had a different easier life, that he could have been just as handsome.

"My fault little man," he told Doki and played with Doki's hair, "Here, you want to play with it."

"Efren, he don't want to play with your ball," Maya said.

"Damn mama...what's the problem?" the boy said.

"Come on Doki," Maya said ignoring him and attempting to pull Doki away.

That was when the man reached his arm out and grabbed Maya, saying all the while, "Whoa, whoa, whoa..." like he was stopping a horse or something.

I grabbed his hand away from Maya's in an attempt to stop him and almost as though it was instinct, the guy picked me up and slammed me into the fence. He pinned me there with two arms. Damn...he was strong and I just...wasn't.

"What the fuck you doing pretty boy?" he asked me.

"Get off of her."

"Maya you about to get one of these boys beat the hell up."

"Let him go, Efren," Maya demanded, "Come on Tatum."
He did drop me and I started to walk away with Maya but I realized that Efren was following us.

"What this your new man now? That's why you haven't been returning my phone calls."

"No he's not Efren. He's a friend. Now, leave it alone. We are through."

They kept on back and forth. I realized what it was now. It was an ex. This was definitely a situation that I shouldn't have involved myself with. I watched as Maya continued to seem irritated at him and Efren had completely forgotten about the fact that he was playing basketball to walk him to school.

"Wait here," she said and gave him a stern look, "I'm serious."

She walked Doki into the building. I could see Efren still standing there. He smiled at me and reached his hand out.

I hesitated.

"Hey, shake it," he said, "I'm Efren. Sorry for choking you up back there man. Thought you were the new man."

I shook it. I guess first impressions really weren't everything. He seemed kind of cool now if anything.

"What happened between you two?"

"Life happened. Struggles happened. You know?" he continued, "I care about her though. I really do. I care about that little boy too. I mean, he's not my son and I know that. It doesn't matter though. I love him like he is. Why you think I'm always up playing basketball so early. It's just so I can see those two. Every morning...I wake up and do the same thing. Every morning she asks pissed and walks away..."

"That's sweet."
That was all I could think about. I had forgotten I was talking to a grown man and it was obvious that grown men didn't say shit to each other like "that's sweet". He gave me a little suspicious look.

"Yeah, I don't think I should be worried," he said and laughed a little, "You're safe right?"

Safe...funny way of putting it.

I shook my head, "Yes I am safe. She doesn't think ... I'm well, safe uh..."
"Don't worry, you're secret is safe with me."

He laughed a little and slapped me on my back. Yeah, I didn't mind Efren at all. I could see by the look on Maya's face as she walked out of the nursery that she obviously didn't feel the same way.

"Come on Tatum," Maya said.

"You taking my new friend?" Efren asked.

"Shut up Efren."

"Whatever, Tatum, you're obviously a new face. Come on, we'll go for a drive, I'll show you the city."

Maya looked over at me, "Don't even think about it."

I didn't think about it until she made the comment. She sounded just like Caprio. It was almost like she was speaking his exact words. Caprio treated me like a glass and it was annoying, because I was beginning to feel like I was going to break my damn self.

"I'll go," I explained and shrugged, "Maybe we can go downtown. I wanted to see if anyone was hiring."

Maya raised her eyebrows, "Caprio wouldn't agree with this. You heard what Caprio said. You can't work...Caprio..."

"I know what Caprio said," I explained, "But I also know what you said. I am the reason why we are in this predicament. I'm going to find a job."
"Well I'm coming too. You aren't from around here. I'm not leaving you alone."

I could see a smile spread across Efren's face. It seemed like it was his plan all along to get some time to talk with Maya.


The downtown area was bustling with a whole lot of things. It wasn't tall buildings like other places, but it was real noisy. There were a whole bunch of areas that looked like dark slums even though it was the middle of the day. I could see bums, crackheads and people who have just lost their mind strolling the street looking for some sort of way to survive throughout the day.

It was horrible. I couldn't believe I could see kids throughout all this.


"You haven't seen anything like it have you?" Efren explained, "This is the hood, Tatum. It explains itself."
"I've seen something like this...I've seen worse..."
Visions of Africa flashed into my head. Visions of what South Africa once was flashed into my head. The orphanage flashed into my head. The children flashed into my head. Nothing could be worse than that.

Maya turned around in the car, "What do you mean?"

I shook my head, "Nothing..."

I turned and looked out of the window. I could tell she was annoyed with me. I could tell she was beginning to lose tolerance for me. I didn't blame her. I would lose tolerance with myself if I was in her position.

"Tatum, you plan on just being around and us not knowing anything about you?" she asked, "You and Caprio haven't told me much and I'm waiting..."

"Let the boy be," Efren said, immediately, "He'll open up when he's ready."

They started a little argument at that moment, going back and forth. I just ignored

them and stuck my head out the window. I hated being secretive. I really hated it, but I had no choice now. The less they knew about me the better.

I kept peering out the window ignoring the situation.

That was when I saw Caprio.

He wasn't alone though. He was with...someone. They weren't hard to spot. They were both headed towards this spot that seemed unconnected from everything else. I knew it was Caprio, even though they were a little distance away. I knew it. The guy he was with was cute. He was Caprio's height and Caprio's complexion. I could see the guy putting his hand around Caprio's waist slowly and for a minute I began to panic. Why was this guy touching Caprio like that?

Worse part about it was that Caprio laughed.

"Hey can you stop the car?"

Efren stopped the car and I hoped out.

"Where you going?" Maya asked me.

"Oh dropped your child off an hour and a half ago. He is a grown ass man, Maya," Efren contradicted.

"Efren I'm so sick of you. You so...oh shit, Tatum wait!"

She started after me but then I realized she was getting into another argument with Efren. It was a good thing that she was busy with him too. They were getting into a heated argument. It was obvious that she wouldn't be so upset with Efren unless she really loved him in some way.

I made my way across the street heading to the building that Caprio had just walked into. The place looked real rough from the outside. There was a little booth right next to the entrance. It was heavily painted with graffiti.

As I approached, I saw someone. He was a Spanish guy. He had tattoos covering him from head to toe. He looked over at me and looked me up and down.

"Damn papi..." he said.

The way he looked me up and down...the way his eyes slowly eased all over me, I could tell this was a gay joint. His eyes were glued onto me as though I was some kind of cash cow or something.

"Um...what is this?"
"This is a secret society son. But on some real shit...I might be making an exception for you...damn...anyone tell you are fucking head turning. I almost broke my damn neck."

"So I can go in?"

"It's Club Paradox. It's a joint for..." he leaned close to me, "Us dl boys, if you know what I mean."

A down low club.

"Well I'm down can I go in?"

"I mean, it's not open right now..."
"I'm looking for work."

"Damn. You? Work here? Hell yeah. I'll take you down to see Camilla."

He grabbed me by my arm and started to lead me down the stairs. He had tattoos everywhere but they weren't bad. The stairs were dark and for a minute I felt like I was going to fall, but he grabbed onto my hand.

"Careful, baby," he said.


He smirked. I loosened my grip. Wow...he was definitely the straightest guy I'd ever met. He had his name written in cursive on the left side of his neck. His face was the average tough guy, but he was handsome in a real roughneck type of way.

The name read Blood.

"You can call me baby if you like, but the names Blood," he said and smirked widely, grabbing for my hand again.

I shoved my hand in my pocket and he let out a little laugh as though I was trying to tease him. He was sexy as hell. I wasn't going to get myself into that predicament. I wasn't going to let myself slip up on some tough guy.

The place looked a little dark. The walls were painted this red color. There was big posters of naked guys, pose bent over, with there penises swaying on all different sides and their gorgeous faces looking around. Then I realized as I looked around the room at a few guys sitting around talking that a lot of them were in this room.

One guy got up, at first in a defensive manner, but then he saw me and his face immediately softened up. I was used to it honestly from both men and women. It took Caprio to point out to me when people found me attractive or not. I was so disappointed with my looks in the past that I never realized that no one else saw the flaws...but me.

"Whose your friend, Blood?" the one boy asked as he approached me.

"Don't worry about it...that's my friend..." Blood claimed me, "Where's Camilla?"

A little drag queen broke out from behind the guys. She was pretty and actually did kind of look like a girl.

"New talent?"

"He's looking for work, Camilla," Blood told her.

I watched as she walked up to me and lifted my shirt. I had a six pack still even though I hadn't worked on it like I used to. She didn't seem to notice me slacking. No one ever noticed things like that but me for some reason.

"Fucking flawless...geez...kid, you are going to be an opener," she explained, "You make Tyson Ballou and Tyson Beckford look like Swamp things...hunny, you are IT. Two talents in one day."

Just as he said that I noticed what all the guys had been doing gathered around like that. On the stage, there were two people who hadn't noticed me walked in. Everyone else had completely started looking me up and the point I felt like if I didn't leave the room I would have probably got jumped on.

In the distance there was Caprio. He was dancing...not alone. He was dancing on someone...

I could feel the rage grow in me as I saw what he was doing. He was taking off his clothes. He was grinding all over this man. The man that had his hand around Caprio's waist earlier. How could he just do this to me? How could he not tell me he had snuck off to the club to do this? I thought he cared about me.

Caprio's strong arms were around someone else. His legs were bare too. All he had on were white boxer briefs. The white boxer briefs barely did their job. I could see every imprint of Caprio's dick. felt like I was being pinned by a thousand needles.

And above them ... handing from the stage...mirrors...


"Look at yourself," the mirror devil said, "You think you know someone. You don't know anything. And this is all your fault. Oh you think you can show him your anger? You think you'll be pissed and he'll stop. He won't. He'll get naked for this boy. He is probably going to take this boy back stage and fuck this boy. And there's nothing you can do about it. Cause he doesn't love you. You can't even be mad at him. You aren't worth the drama. Your voice won't be heard, so why even speak? You are nothing and no one. You're just a doll..."