click here for pt 1
It became an issue the night of the party.
“In Brooklyn!” I’d snapped, caught off guard when Maggie had finally told me, the night of, where the party was. “Where in Brooklyn?”
“On Lafayette Avenue, I think…I got a map,” she said, looking very excited about her first expedition to the outer boroughs. “She said it’s not far from the A-train.”
“The A-train???” I was still reeling from the ‘In Brooklyn’ sucker punch.
“Yeah…why? Is it dangerous?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that so I didn’t.
“You said she. She who?”
“Kim…you know Kim, that pretty black girl in Flori Roberts. She didn’t tell you about the party?”
“Must have slipped her mind,” I replied, a very bad feeling creeping up my gullet. “Did you tell Kim about us?”
I must have let slip some panic in my voice because she answered, “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. What difference does it make? You didn’t want her to know?”
“Makes me no never mind…” I said, with a wave off, figuring she must have. Girls tell their girls everything. Fuck it. “Let me see that.”
She handed me the map. The party was in Fort Green, a couple of blocks from my school, LIU, actually.
I took a deep breath and told myself that there was nothing to be so anxious about. So what, the party was in a black neighborhood (at least Fort Green was until gentrification got its hands on it). So what you gotta take the A-Train to get there, one of the blackest train lines in the city. So what there was bound to be a shitload of sisters there. This is America, goddammit, I shouted within. And you knew it was going to happen sooner or later. You knew you could only hide your race betrayal from your people but for so long in a city like NY, and that at some point you were going to have to face up to your decision. So just brace yourself and take it like a man!
Looking back, I wonder, if I had known that the events of that evening were going to effectively begin the end of Maggie and I would I have still gone to that party. Or, was I just deluding myself and we were actually doomed from that first kiss in the stockroom?
The thought of being on the A-train with Maggie was not a pleasant one.
Three yellow taxis- without passengers and with the off-duty lights off- passed me by, one even stopped for a white couple a couple of feet away. I was about to tell Maggie to flag one down for us, but that would have just exacerbated the humiliation, so I said, “Fuck a cab…they too expensive anyway. Let’s take the train.”
The A-train runs through three boroughs, from upper Manhattan to lower Manhattan, crosses into and through Brooklyn, and out to Queens. In those days, while in Manhattan, the passengers tended to be a mix of black, white and Latino. But, the closer you got to Brooklyn, the blacker the passengers got, and by the time you reached Jay Street-Borough Hall, the last transfer point for trains heading to the white neighborhoods of Brooklyn, it became 99% black. There might be some brave white souls headed out to Howard Beach, one of the few remaining white neighborhoods along the A-train (notoriously Italian and violently territorial ), but that was rare.
On this night, Maggie represented the 1% not-black. Sitting beside me, clutching my hand, feeling the tension of the attention we drew. A lot of head shaking and tooth-sucking was aimed at us. But, if that was the worst of it, I was cool with that.
The doors to the next car slid open and a crew of boisterous teens entered the car. I could see from the opposite end of the car that two of them were wearing Universal flags.
They were Gods!
If I had been alone I wouldn’t have felt any anxiety. Even if I had been with a sister I would have been cool. But, sitting there holding hands with a blue-eyed, blond haired devil? In the preppy get-up I’d taken to wearing since starting University and acquiring a 20% employee discount at Lord & Taylor? I felt tense as hell.
As they came closer I could see one of them had noticed us and alerted the others. Their banter ceased, laughter filled eyes turned curious, in an unfriendly way. When they were damn near on top of us I gave one of them some eye contact. And I recognized him! He was from around the way. He recognized me, too. I nodded and he nodded back.
He knew I was a Five Percenter! Or, rather, had been one.
Maggie was crushing my hand.
I heard him tell the others in a semi-hushed tone, “Yo, that’s the God, Loco Allah!”
Another said, “Fuck outta here!”
“Word is bond! He live around the corner from me!”
“Damn…” another sighed, almost disgusted. “He fell hard!”
“Yeah, but that Devil is banging! Man, I’d fall victim for that, too…”
“God, we should give yo’ ass a Universal Beat-down (ass-kicking) just for saying some shit like that!”
They all laughed, looking back, but continued walking, their playful banter restored.
The train pulled into Lafayette station.
“You knew them?” Maggie asked in disbelief as we got off the train.
“One of them,” I said, trying to seem at ease but adrenalin was racing through my system like mercury. That incident could have gone a bad way easily.
The party was in a Brownstone just off of Fulton Street, minutes from the subway, on a tree-lined shadowy street. The music poured out of the open parlor windows and front door, decorated with balloons…just in case you were deaf I guess.
As we approached the door, Kim came rushing out of it into the yard.
“Maggie! You came! Thank you so much,” she hollered, slurring a bit, hostess Barbie-style. Then she air kissed and hugged Maggie. “And, who’s your…”
Her eyes bulged…genuinely surprised.
“Loco!” Then, she looked down at Maggie’s hand still clutching mine, then up at Maggie’s face. Glossy eyes, plastic smile. Then, back to mine. And, her eyes changed. Just that quick. The smile remained, but her eyes became arch and deadly. And, then, quick-fast, they changed, again. Back to her Flori Roberts products peddling eyes.
I almost felt sorry for her. I’d rarely seen one face make so many emotional jumps to light speed in such a short span of time.
“Loco, Loco, LOCO! What a surprise…” She gave me a hug….but no air kisses. “Well, don’t just stand there. Come on in!”
Yeah, I knew for sure I’d fucked up her high.
…to be continued