click here for pt 1
It wasn’t a typical Brooklyn house party. I knew that as soon as I walked in the door and spotted a white couple sitting on the steps chatting and sipping wine…from real glasses! And, when the female of the two said, “Hey Loco!” I realized who she was. It was one of the Estee Lauder counter girls, looking even sexier than she did at work!
“Hey you!” I said, cuz I couldn’t remember her name.
“Erica!” Maggie shrieked as she ran over to her, hugging and kissing her on the cheek.
“I see y’all already know Erica from L&T,” Kim said. “Come on, let me introduce you guys around.”
She was moving quickly introducing Maggie and I, as a couple, to her party attendees. A good number of them were people I recognized from Lord & Taylor’s various departments, and of course they recognized me, as well. I was practically a token black person at Lord & Taylor (one of about 4 or 5 out of a couple hundred.) Damn near celebrity status. There was Susan from Human Resources, and Ted from Men’s wear. Claudette from Chanel and Pauline from Juniors. Barbara was an Assistant Buyer…accessories, I think, and Alex was this flamboyant gay guy who did the fashion coordinating for the mannequins and also helped design the world famous Christmas window display, for which people lined up around the block to see every year.
He was smoking a joint.
“Ah, Loco, you handsome stud you! I had high hopes for you, yes I did, ” he sang, with what smelled like Tai stick smoke streaming out of his nostrils. “But, here you are, a mere hetero, with Maggie on your arm, a dagger in my heart!”
He laughed loudly…and tried to hand his joint to me.
“Partake of some of Thailand’s finest with me darling and I’ll forgive your frailties.”
I almost reached for it, but thought twice. While Alex, or Alexandra, as he liked to be called, was indispensable at Lord & Taylor, responsible for thousands of Christmas dollars pouring into the store every year, I was decidedly not. And with representatives from some vital departments standing around excusing Alexandra’s drug use as some artistic dalliance or gay eccentricity, I was sure they would not extend to me the same lenience.
He had a good laugh. “Suit yourself, my brother.” And passed it to a friend he had come with.
I realized something, as Maggie and I were introduced to person after person: The majority of the people at the party were white. And the few that were black, sprinkled here and there, made me feel downright nigger-ish they were so racially neutral.
One guy, his name was Nathaniel, was Kim’s neighbor. He was an actor, Shakespearean I think, and I could swear he had powdered his face to make it lighter for it had a kind of pasty film on it. He had a deep voice, James Earl Jones deep, and enunciated words with a clarity that gave them enhanced meaning, like a great orator. I could see him playing Frederick Douglass or Othello in a play.
“You have a beautiful voice,” Maggie said, looking enthralled.
“Why, thank you!” he said. “I do radio commercials and some voice over work for films and such…”
I stepped off and left them chatting, exploring the rest of Kim’s digs.
The whiteness of the party didn’t stop at the guest. I mentioned the real wine glasses I’d noticed at the door. All the house parties I knew used paper and plastic cups, as a rule cuz they won’t get broken, or stolen. But, aside from that, there was also a strong white influence on the menu. I mean, the contrast was stunning…instead of trays of fried chicken, potato salad, macaroni salad and assorted other hood staples, she had laid out trays of hors d’œuvres and fancy appetizers I’d never seen before. All kinds of pate, pigs in a blanket, cheese, tiny sandwiches and shit you’d see at a party on “The Jeffersons” when George was trying to impress some “honky” to help him get richer.
I caught Kim checking me out as I checked out her spread.
“Looks good,” I said. “Did you make it, or did you hire a caterer?”
She glanced at Maggie who was chatting it up with Nathaniel the Shakespearean. Then back at me.
“Fuck I look like? Betty Crocker? Of course I hired a caterer!” she snapped. “And it cost a fucking arm and a leg!”
“Well, I’m sure your guest are impressed, so I’d say it was money well spent…”
I must have had some irony in my voice cuz she made a face that would have sent her other guest running scared into the streets. A face I’d seen a million times on a million black women, so it didn’t faze me.
“Niiiiiiigger,” she hissed. “You roll up in here with Miss Mid-Western Barbie on your arm and got the nerve to try and judge me?!”
“Fuck you talking about…” I said a little loudly. “I was just complimenting your vittles. Why you flippin’ out?”
“Keep your voice down, mother fucker…” She whispered through the teeth of her plastic smile as she looked around. The coast was clear. She indicated with her finger, on the down low, to follow her. I glanced over at Maggie. She caught my glance, smiled and winked and continued chatting.
Kim led me through the kitchen into a doorway with a narrow staircase leading down to the basement.
Kim was a beautiful woman. I mean, seriously beautiful, model beautiful. Had long real (I think) hair, permed and straight. Had bedroom eyes and kissable lips. White teeth, high cheek bones…exciting to look at. She was short, though, about 5’4, with tits and hips and ass disproportionate to her size but definitely has caused many a traffic accident. She was wearing the fuck out of a mini-party dress, that night. I mean, she was, without debate, the hottest girl at her own party.
She wheeled on me.
“Let’s get something straight, Mr. Loco!” she said with sass through her pouty lips. “I didn’t invite you here! I invited Maggie, and I told her she could bring a friend, assuming she’d bring her boyfriend or something. And, she walks up in here with you! If I had known you two had dealings I wouldn’t have invited her, either.”
“Why not?” I asked. “I mean, I can see you up to something, but…”
“That ain’t none of your goddamn business!” She said, aiming her finger at my nose. I could see she hadn’t sobered up entirely. She was still slurring a bit, and her eyes were red, like she’d been puffing weed with Alex. “All you need to know is I don’t need no niggers niggering shit up! You follow?”
I had never liked Kim…not until that moment. I didn’t agree with her assertion but the sincerity with which she’d declared her position was…I don’t know…moving. She was ready to fight any comers to achieve her goals. I respected that kind of self-reliance and determination. It was the same quality I saw in most of the women who’d raised and nurtured me into who I was becoming.
“First off, Ms. Kim!” I said, with an edge. “If you want to keep that finger you best get it out my face! Second…the only one up in here niggering shit up, as you put it, is you! I don’t know who you take me for, but I ain’t that nigger, and I ain’t never been that nigger, so niggering shit up ain’t my thing! I wouldn’t even know how.”
She lowered her finger like it was a pistol and I was some criminal she was trying to decide whether she could trust or not.
“So, before we make ourselves into enemies…which you seem hellbent to do,” I added. “Why don’t we try being civilized first. And, if that don’t work out, you can throw me the fuck out. It’s your party, and your house, and I totally respect that. ”
I saw her eyes give first, followed by her dynamic smile .
“Are my eyes red?” she asked, apropos of nothing, like she’d come to the conclusion that our little altercation never occurred. She reached into her pocket and pulled out some Visine and started dropping it into her eyes with practiced skill. Once done she looked at me like she’d just opened her world to me.
“This ain’t my house. Actually it’s my grandmother’s house. She’s on a cruise in the Caribbean somewhere. ”
“Nice house,” I said.
“Ain’t it?” She smiled amorously as she looked around at the unfurnished dank basement. It was plain to see she coveted the house. “Anyway, Loco, you better get back to your Maggie. I’m sure she misses her big black stud.”
“She’s upstairs shooting the breeze with Darth Vader,” I said. “So, you gonna tell me what you’re up to?”
“What do you mean?” she asked innocently.
“You know what I mean,” I said a little sharply. “Why you throwing a Jim Crow jamboree in your grandmother’s crib, of all places?”
“Jamboree…” She laughed. “I always love the way you put shit…”
“I’m serious, Kim. ” I wanted to know if she was on some “black people suck so I wanna be white” shit or was there some strategic thinking involved in her invitational. Cuz her behavior at the job left much to be desired. “What’s your story?”
“My story?” she almost yell. “My story? Loco, you know my story! Ain’t that why you rolling with a white bitch? This is their world, that’s why. They run shit! And if you want a piece you gotta go through them! Niggers can’t help you. They ain’t gonna do nothing but drag your ass back down with them…am I right? if you want help, if you wanna learn something useful, if you wanna grow, if you wanna be somebody in this world, then you gotta accept the fact and deal with it. And the fact is, all the power, all the influence and, yes, all the money is in their hands! All I’m doing is networking. Networking my beautiful ass off, positioning myself for success. ”
She looked at me, both tenderness and weariness in her eyes.
“Tell me you’re not doing the same thing. I know you’re in University now, trying to learn something so you can make a better life for you and yours. I see you studying in the stockroom, reading your textbooks and writing reports. Tell me Maggie ain’t just another textbook in your knapsack. Some research for your own personal report. Tell me she ain’t something you’re studying so you can take that knowledge and use it to your advantage. ”
I was about to object…but I held my tongue. I wanted to hear her out.
“I know it…so don’t ask me what my story is. My story is your story, is any black person’s story. Any black person who wants to not only survive but thrive in a white world, that is. ”
I looked at Kim…for the first time really. I wasn’t sure why but she reminded me of Burns, back in the Army, just then.
“Or am I wrong about you?” she said, looking at me, her eyes filled with an enormous sympathy. “Are you just one of these tired niggers running around thinking with their dicks and trying to get it wet in any piece of pussy they can? And if it’s white pussy it’s all the better? I get these motherfuckers running up on me all day! Trying to shoot some game to me, get my number, thinking they gonna get some…so they can feel more like a man. Tell me that ain’t you, Loco. Tell me you ain’t no pathetic ass brother like that!
“Cuz, if you are, then you are certainly niggering shit up, and you can get the fuck outta my grandmother’s house right now!”
The door to the basement opened just then. We both looked up the staircase and watched Maggie peek her head in.
“Yeah…I’ll be up in a sec, Maggie!”
“Sorry I kept him Maggie…” Kim cried. “He was helping me…”
Kim turned to look at me…”Well?”
“Our stories are the same,” I said, though I wasn’t 100% sure if I were lying to her or lying to myself. All I knew was that I was lying to somebody.
“I thought so,” she said, winked, and gestured towards the stairs. “After you…I don’t want you looking up my dress at all my goodies.”
I laughed, cuz she’d read my mind.
…to be continued