Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones of altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half Gods are worshiped with wine and flowers. Real Gods require blood.
Zora Neale Hurston, Their eyes were watching God
My mother is holding a baby wrapped in a blue blanket.
“Whose baby is that, Ma?” I ask though I somehow know the answer already. It’s mine. Ma hands the baby to me like a midwife who’d just delivered it.
“It’s a boy!” she says.
He has a single gold capped tooth in his mouth and little tiny unlaced Timberland booties on his feet. I cringe. He stares at me so helplessly. I’m afraid of the responsibility, suddenly. What if I drop him? He’s so tender, so fragile. I’m practically trembling.
“Relax, It’s just a baby,” Ma says.
The wonder in his eyes reminds me of my baby pictures, my own wonder… We have a powerful connection, this little life force in my hands and I. I can feel it! I open the blanket to coochie-coo the little fellow on his belly only to find the remainder of his umbilical cord still dangling from his navel like a botched birth.
What the hell?!
I turn my face and try to no-look pass the bundle back to Ma, but she’s gone. The baby begins to wail, as do I.
“MA! MA! You better come get this thing!”
I don’t see her anywhere but I have the feeling she’s watching me, as always. I peek at the bundle in my arms. The baby is gone, replaced by an over-sized test tube filled with what appears to be lumpy clotted blood.
What the fuck!
I drop it but it falls slowly like there’s no gravity and it lands softly like a bundle of towels in a fabric softener commercial. I walk away from it but it begins to bounce after me, slowly and methodically. I start to run…it speeds up. I hear innocent bubbly baby laughter, like a baby enjoying the hell out of a bath, coming from behind me. It seems to be laughing at all the useless things to which I attach so much value.
I saw the curb too late and trip and fall, like some idiot in a horror movie, right in the path of a speeding car. It brakes to a stop just before running me over.
“Are you coming or what?” Someone asks. I look up and it’s Stephanie! She’s in the car. Like an ass I get in. Deja vu. I’m aware I’m dreaming now.
“You drive,” she commands. Fuck it, I take the wheel.
A bridge looms ahead. It looks like the Verrazano Narrows Bridge but it is much longer. So long that I can’t even see the other side. As I haul ass across it I turn to Stephanie. She’s sitting beside me with her legs curled beneath her, rubbing the nape of my neck, occasionally tracing a finger across my baldhead. It feels so good! She’s watching me with this glazed knowing sparkle in her eyes. “I love you, Stephanie,” I say, but my voice has no volume. It seems to be coming from another me. She nods toward the windshield, whispering, “Kevin, the road…” I face forward in time to see an eighteen-wheeler coming directly at us at full tilt. Before I can even surrender to the inevitability of death, a friendly, booming voice says, “GOODBYE.”
Suddenly I woke up. I was seated at my computer, fingers on the keyboard, nodded over like a dope fiend. I could move my eyes but no other body part was cooperative, as yet. Then a vaguely familiar feeling came over me. It reminded me of the rage I felt as a child when Ma would put me on punishment. I’d sit in the window, powerless, watching the free world out in the streets, thinking hateful shit, humming plantation cotton picking songs just to annoy her.
Abruptly, I could move, like if I had been tugging on some bars or straining against a straitjacket that had suddenly disappeared, and I knew, just as abruptly, that this temporary paralysis was the remnants of the dream, like a rat gnawing at my consciousness. I could still feel-see vague, fading impressions-a baby, a truck, trapped…but nothing I could sink my mnemonic teeth into. But, she was there. She’d been there quite regularly, recently, trespassing in my dreamscape. But, I didn’t want to think about…anything, especially not her. I shook her name around in my head like Scrabble tiles, trying to keep the letters from banding together into words, or names, or ideas that would only get me in trouble.
I shut down the computer and made my way into the bedroom. Climbing into bed, I tried to just be, to get off of the world for a while, to lie there absolutely still and watch it turn. Then, I tried those breathing exercises my therapist had recommended. I closed my eyes, inhaled a lungful of air, held it for several heartbeats, and slowly exhaled. Then I repeated it… Around the 4th breath, I felt myself beginning to drift away…then the phone rang. The clock read 12-something. I must have drifted off. This late, it had to be Kim.
“Hey Mr. Man.”
“Hey Love.” It wasn’t Kim. It was Cheryl. “Do you know what time it is?”
“I’ve been trying to call you all night!” she hollered. “And what’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” I lied. “Must be catching that bug that’s going around.”
“Uh huh,” She grunted. Cheryl knew me too well. Lying to her was like lying to myself, or worse, my mother. “You mean HIV? My God! Not you too! First Rock Hudson, then Magic Johnson and now…”
“Shut up, don’t even joke like that,” I said, actually happy to hear her voice. Cheryl Lovell has been one of my closest friends since high school. One of the few women I could talk to about anything, just about. We were involved for a spell but that was many years ago. Miraculously, we managed to salvage the friendship after that fiasco. Thank God cause friends like her don’t come along often.
.”Okay, so what’s the dilemma?”
“No dilemma. I just called to…”
“Save it! Who do you think you’re talking to?” I knew she was stressing over something. I’d heard that catch in her voice.
“Okay, okay” she said. “I know you gonna say I told you so but here it is: I’ve decided, I’m cutting Michael off!”
I resisted the urge to laugh and said, “Michael? Michael? Which one is he, again?”
“Okay, I deserve that for the AIDS joke…”
Michael was this guy she’d been seeing off and on for the past few months. Cheryl has a tendency to bounce from man to man- one at a time. And, it’s true I can hardly keep track of them sometimes but I never let on that that’s the case, cause actually she’s rather conservative and never cheats. She’s just one of those people who are fortunate enough to know what they want yet always manage to deviate from their wish list- in her case, usually for some thug with a positive cash flow. But, her latest soon to be an ex, Michael, worked in construction. A foreman, at that, and brought home a fat paycheck.
“What happened?” I asked. “No, let me guess: He stopped trickin’ on you…or did his ride break down?”
“You got a really low opinion of me, don’t you?” she cried. “That’s messed up! And, you’re supposed to be best friend.”
“So, how far off am I?”
“Well, actually,” she said nonchalantly. “The problem’s that he doesn’t know how to treat a woman right. Case and point: he calls me tonight talking about did I want to hang out? What kind of manure is that? He’s not supposed to call me on Saturday night, right? He’s supposed to call me on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday the absolute latest, to see if I’m available. But he called me on Saturday, all expectedly and whatnot, like he knows I ain’t got no life. That means I’m a second thought; a plan B, right?”
“I was thinking plan C,” I said, giving her the male perspective she’d come to expect from me. “Plan B got a call on Friday.”
“Perfect,” she cried. “Screw him! He was getting stingy, anyway. And, the stingier he got the hornier he’d get. Who needs that nonsense? Negroes be thinking cause they have a frigging job and a hot car that they’s God’s gift to women.”
“You know what I mean.”
She was more upset than she was letting on. Michael meant more than a ride and some loot. He represented another thwarted attempt to get with a legitimate working class, blue or white-collar black man. The type she hated because they bored her to tears. There was nothing to them, she’d say, but dick, Blockbuster’s on the weekend and an interesting conversation every now and then. She had a penchant for those Thug types. Especially the one’s that drive Navigators and Expeditions, wear Sean Jean and basketball and football team jerseys, have Rolexes, Blackberry’s, platinum jewelry, unlimited disposable income, and juggle a dozen women at a time. Go to the clubs on the regular, pose and signify, and ain’t afraid to set it off. They appeal to the ex-Thug in her. But, the lifestyle she aspired to lead dictated that she find someone somewhat ‘respectable’. Cheryl was a mess of contradictions- just like me. I suppose that’s why we get along so well.
“What about me?” I asked. This was one of those tangents we could spend hours on, so I settled in, fluffed up my pillow and whatnot. I love long talks with Cheryl. They’re like self-therapy. Besides, any distraction from my usual obsession was a relief.
“Pleeezzze, Kevin. You don’t even have a friggin’ car,” she said, dismissively. “Anyway, not to change the subject, but what are you doing tonight? Come hang out with me and Melanie.”
Out. Hanging, drinking, dancing, smoking and joking…and freezing. It was about 12 degrees and dropping. “Um, it’s brick out there, Hun, or hadn’t you noticed?”
“It’s better than sitting in front of that daggone computer all night like a freaking geek!”
“That’s debatable…” I said. “Out where?”
“The Scene? What’s that?”
“This spot ‘cross town. It’s hot!”
“I don’t know…I’m not really feeling like…”
“Get ready, we’re coming to get you in an hour.” Click!
An hour later the two of them pulled up to the curb in front of my house in what was left of Melanie’s Maxima. Apparently she’d gotten into an accident recently and either hadn’t gotten around to or had no intention of getting it fixed.
“Hey Mel, what’s popping?”
“Nada, just doing my thing.”
“What’s happened to your ride? Were there any survivors?”
“I parked on the street at this club in the city, like an ass, and some drunk gave my baby a good thrashing…A damn shame, ain’t it?”
“That it is…” I agreed.
“But I ain’t about to spend another red cent on this hooptie,” she said
“Well, when you gonna put her down? Shouldn’t let her live in all that misery…that’s very inhumanitarian of you.”
“That it is,” she laughed. “So, you gonna get in or keep poking me til you hit a nerve and get your ass whipped tonight?”
I laughed and as I climbed in the backseat. She gave me a soft, moist smack on the lips over the headrest.
“Why are you still single, with your fine ass? You better not be leading a secret life.”
“I guess I had that one coming,” I said.
She laughed as Cheryl offered me a cheek to kiss while she kissed the air. It had been a spell since I’d seen Melanie. She changed her style some- something she was prone to do. Her hair was cut mad short and dyed a reddish brown, showing off her pretty, round face. She’d put on a couple of pounds I could tell from her puffy cheeks and the beginnings of a second chin, but she still looked gorgeous. A silver stud on her tongue accentuated her mouthy smile. A line from one of my favorite films: Good for fellatio, popped in my head like Pop-Up Video. I’d seen Cheryl the week before. She looked lovely, as usual, only tonight she was sparkling from stardust sprinkled sparingly over her face and a new hair weave that went down further than I could see from the back seat. It sprouted from the top of her head like a geyser and, with the stardust in it, cascaded down her back like a sparkling waterfall. The look became her in a drastic sort of way.
“Damn Cheryl, you didn’t tell me about that.”
I grabbed a fistful of it. “About this.”
“What, you don’t like it?”
“Nah, actually it good look on you…”
“Stop lying to the girl,” Melanie laughed. “Looks like a Yak shed on her head.”
“Shut up, biddy. Don’t make me tell him about that wig you were sporting last weekend.”
“Don’t even try it!” Melanie smiled. “You know that shit was fly.”
“I know it drew flies…I know that much!”
Slowly, Brooklyn was becoming a place where people could party without fear of being mortally wounded within or outside the club. At least that was the buzz. I wasn’t much for the club scene, personally, so hearsay was my only 411. Besides, I never had much success, booty-wise, and had the misfortune of hanging out with some very successful cats, which only compounded my disappointment in the Brooklyn club scene. So I restricted my hanging out in the borough to cultural gatherings. The likeliness of someone pulling a gun and of meeting some girl who has the audacity to ask me if I was gay is diminished at a poetry reading or at a Jazz festival in the park.
“Where is this spot, The Scene?” I asked, in a tone that suggested it didn’t matter. Like hell it didn’t.
“It’s on Flatbush Avenue,” Melanie said.
“Flatbush, eh,” I said, trying not to cringe.
Brooklyn neighborhoods have character. At least they used to. In Manhattan (with the exception of Harlem, which is like the outback of Manhattan) the people come from all over the five boroughs to party, and the crowd is decided mostly by the music format, the DJ, or word of mouth. But, clubs in Brooklyn are for the most part neighborhood happenings. So, by knowing something about the neighborhood where the nightclub was located you could actually know what kind of characters to expect when you arrived. It was probably the same in the other 3 boroughs: Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx, but I honestly couldn’t tell you for I wouldn’t even consider venturing to them. They are like urban suburbs with strange, unpredictable character. But, a nightclub in Flatbush would be invariably West Indian. West Indians are cool but I’m not crazy about partying with them. Especially the Jamaicans. The Jamaican “bad boys” have this tradition of “lickin shots” at parties. Not necessarily at people, usually in the air, but once the shots are fired the stampede for the exit causes more injuries than the bullets usually.
“But, it’s not in Flatbush,” Cheryl said, craning her head around, smirking at me. “So don’t worry. It’s not a coconut spot.”
“Easy woman! Sekkle,” I said with my best impostor rasta accent. “At least pretend like you’re not that ignorant.”Cheryl thought she could read my mind and she had on occasion. But, her disdain for West Indians is hers alone. I used to be put off by their pride of their island nations. Maybe it was simply jealousy on my part. I wanted to feel proud of where I came from, too.
“Please, Kevin…relax will you,” Cheryl said, like I was the basket case. “I’m only kidding. But, for real, anywhere is better than Flatbush.”
I disagreed with her on that point, too. If ‘The Scene’ was in Coney Island, or Brownsville, or East New York, I would have told Melanie to pull the fuck over right then. All three of those neighborhoods made Flatbush look like a Caribbean Club-Med vacation.
Melanie and Cheryl were telling their ‘Niggas ain’t shit’ tales. It was impossible to be offended by their stories, though. I knew a guy that fit each horrid scenario they recounted, and then some.
“…And the ring was a goddamn cubic zirconia,” Melanie said. “I know cuz when I took that shit to the scales, you know…for an appraisal, right, the jeweler fucking laughed at me. Now, every time some nigga try to hit me off with some jewels- I don’t care- I tell him I want to see the certificate of authenticity cuz…”
“Appraisal, my butt. You was gonna sell that ring, and you know it,” Cheryl laughed.
“Now you know I don’t get down like that!” Melanie retorted with mock offense. “I just like to know the value these niggas be placing on the booty…”
The Scene was on Flatbush Avenue but, like Cheryl had said, it wasn’t in Flatbush. More like Park Slope or the outskirts of Downtown Brooklyn or Prospect Heights. The neighborhood lines in Brooklyn obscure in certain locations as gentrification insidiously encroaches upon the ‘hood proper. In some places there’s a single avenue separating the upscale from what was formerly considered the Ghetto. Nowadays, what neighborhood you’re in depends on how much you get for your rent money or whom you ask.
Stretching from the door up the block a ways was a queue consisting of nothing but shivering black folks looking a little younger than I expected considering the company I was in. Looked like a few knuckleheads, too. I wanted to ask the two of them what was up with that? But, I held my tongue because I have this tendency to judge people by their appearance, especially black people. I’m not very proud of it. It’s a weapon I disguise as insight. But, I’m a hypocrite, because I hate when other people make assumptions about me based on my appearance on any given day. I wear suits to work, and those same sisters who wouldn’t pay me any mind when I was dressed down automatically gravitate my way, smiling and flirting, once I’m Brooks Brothers-down. And, although I’ve capitalized on these situations in the past I still despise the superficiality of it all. But, that’s life!
That night I was dressed in what I deemed my urban-jiggy. A beige Polo pullover sweater with the little horsey on the chest and some plaid Polo slacks that screamed costly without displaying any insignia. Atop it I wore a tough brown leather jacket with a collar that buttons up to the neck and some rugged brown leather shoes, thick-soled and comfortable. A brown Tam protected my clean-shaven head from the elements. Melanie and Cheryl were both wearing big faux-fur overcoats. The two of them were always glammed-out like celebrities. It was a given that their shit was gonna be tight before they stepped out of the house! Hair, clothes, shoes, make-up, accessories…you better believe it was all coordinated and blinging. Both worked in the fashion industry and were Sample Sale champs, and knew how to pimp the best potential out of an outfit.
Aside from Cheryl and Melanie, there were only guys on the line, all looking thuggy, as Kim would say. I should have known considering Cheryl’s taste in men. A bouncer peeked out the door to check the line and noticed the two of them. He waved for them to come to the front. I followed.
“Y’all together?” he asked Cheryl and Melanie, nodding his head towards me. He ran a wand over them while another bouncer frisked the hell out of me. Even grabbing my nuts, which I thought was a little excessive.
“What the fuck do you think?” I shouted, wondering why the hell I couldn’t get the wand as well. …Fuck I look like? Dillinger? Like I had a gun made out of soap hidden in my boxers. But, when I heard the DJ pumping Biggie Smalls all was instantly forgiven.
Once inside, this chick, looking like a Skeezer, all drawn up and gummy like her teeth had been knocked out, demanded ten bucks. “Goddamn!” I hollered. Ten dollars for a hole in the world like this? Cheryl and Melanie both shot bizarre glances in my direction as they paid for themselves. It was another buck for the coat check but I decided to keep mine. We all did, and I suspect for the same reason: A quick exit, judging from the looks of The Scene at first glance-
All eyes were trained upon the new arrivals: the three of us.
There were assorted tables and chairs by the front windows, all occupied. The frost made crazy patterns on the plate glass, diffusing the light as it entered. Strange shadows were strewn about. Tobacco smoke and perspiration humidified the atmosphere into a clingy stench. A couple got up to leave just as we came over. The two of them rushed the table, giggling.
“Y’all are so ghetto,” I said. “What are we drinking?”
“Henessey,” Melanie blurted.
“Yo, my man, is you wit dem? You wanna siddown?” this guy sitting next to Cheryl lisped as he got up.
“Thanks, Yo,” I said to Homeboy with a nod.
The chair rocked like one of the legs was longer than the others. It was almost less comfortable than standing. The guy Homeboy had been sitting with leaned over and whispered deep and connivingly in my ear, “which one of them is you?” The guys breath was humming and scorched the side of my face like an iron exhaling putrid steam. I leaned away, ignoring him.
A waitress rolled up just then with a pen and a pad, looking pissed off like someone had just squeezed her ass. She didn’t say a word, as if can I get ya’ll something was a rhetorical question. We all just stared back at her.
“Y’all want to order something or not?” she snapped, her patience wearing thin.
If you plan to eat or drink at a place then best not piss off the staff is my standard rule…they always have the upper hand. So I held my tongue.
“I would like a Champagne cocktail, please” Cheryl sang, deciding to ignore the waitress’ insolence.
Apparently, the DJ was doing some sort of Biggie Smalls retrospective. This was the 3rd Biggie record in a row. But, just then the needle jumped on the record and one of Biggie’s many posthumously released jams skipped. And, it was like E.F. Hutton had spoken cause all heads turn hostilely toward the DJ booth- even the waitress’. That was just plain sacrilege. The DJ actually made an on-mike apology. Someone shouted out, “shoot the DJ” just for a laugh, I hoped. No one laughed, though.
A silhouette emerged from the rear on a beeline for Melanie.
“Love, come get yo dance on?” he asked reaching out his hand expectedly.
His hair was long and disheveled like a castaway. He was wearing an Oversized black and gold Pittsburgh Steeler Jersey half-tucked inside of baggy FuBu jeans hanging off his ass, Timberland’s untied, laces drooping. A chunky gold link chain around his neck with an icy medallion. Melanie looked the guy up and down and told him no thank you so syrupy it was impossible for him to take offense. Saying no to niggas is an art form and Melanie was definitely an artist.
He was persistent, though, and said, “Oh, you think you know my M.O. huh?” He reached in his pocket and produced a respectable knot in a cell phone money clip. “See…you don’t know me!” He shoved the wad back in his pocket, smiling confidently, and asked, “You wanna dance now?” which obliged Melanie to justify her denial.
“No disrespect, Money, but my dogs are killing me. Maybe later, ah ‘ight?”
The waitress rudely cleared the phlegm out of her throat.
“Yeah, let me get a shot of Tequila and a Corona, and she wants a Henessey…” I said, while I mentally deducted from her gratuity.
“Make that V.S.O.P. please & coke,” Melanie added. “But, no ice.”
The waitress stormed away, funky.
“Niggas,” Melanie blurted, looking away like ’nuff said. I didn’t know if she was talking about the guy or the waitress but she would have been right on either account. The other guy with the scorching stink breath leaned over and started whispering in my ear vicinity, again. This time I cut him off.
“Do I know you, Bruh?” I snapped.
He yanked his head back like a turtle recoiling into his shell, looking at me hard, trying to measure me up, no doubt. So, I donned my mask of indifference. The one I practiced in the mirror. An expression that soundlessly stated: You don’t bother me, you don’t interest me, you don’t exist! Much of my toughness was signifying, to tell you the truth. Either that or I garnered it osmotically from the company that I used to keep. I accepted that fact long ago. It had only been ten minutes but I was already starting to regret coming out.
“I’m gonna run y’all a tab,” the waitress said, arriving with our drinks. She looked me deep in the eyes as she placed the drinks on the table, like she knew me. I’m used to people doing that, though. I have that kind of face. Her eyes were kind, almost sympathetic. I wish I knew her. Would’ve been nice to get our drinks on the house. She glanced back at me over her shoulder as she stepped away. What’s up with that?
“So, Kevin…” Melanie shouted to get my attention. “Who’s this girl you seeing?”
She was yelling over the music, across Cheryl, which is probably why Cheryl got up announcing that she was gonna peep out the rest of the club.
Cheryl had the biggest ass in the joint, and I didn’t have to survey to compare. She had the kind of ass that was always the biggest wherever she went. She took great pride in it. It was twice as big as it was in high school, and it was the biggest then, too. She walked away from the table, working it mightily, and it was like all the guys became deer and her ass headlights. I don’t pay it much attention anymore. We’re friends now. Friends aren’t supposed to get erections over friends. I’d read that somewhere, in Essence Magazine maybe.
“You gonna tell me who she is?” Melanie pleaded.
I wasn’t dying to talk about Kim. We have the strangest relationship I’d ever been in and I’d been in some strange ones. Ours really defied explanation. I liked to think of her, and thus I often treated her, like a recurring one-night stand. There was more to it than that, though. I was sure of it. And, so was Kim.
“How long y’all been a couple?” Melanie asked, pushy as usual, ignoring my silence which was the cue for her to back off.
“We’re not a couple. Not officially. We’re just seeing each other,” I explained reluctantly.
“Niggas with their terminology,” she sighed. “Fine. How long have you been seeing her, then?”
“About a year, or so,” I said. “She could probably tell you to the minute.”
“A whole fucking year!? And this is the first I’m hearing of her? You are a secretive motherfucker ain’t you?”
“What can I tell you…she’s special.”
Melanie nodded her head and her eyes sparkled. I could tell she wanted to be in love or at least hear something promising about love. I couldn’t help her, though. If love was heroin I would’ve OD’d on methadone by now.
“So, you do spend quality time with her, right?”
“Quality is subjective.”
“You fucking her?”
“You going deep?” she giggled.
“You know it!”
“She hittin’ you off?”
“Need you ask?”
“She hittin’ you off right?”
“All I require is enthusiasm and a selfless desire to please. Technique will improve as long as those prerequisites are met. She meets them.”
Melanie laughed, and her tongue did some flips that paralyzed my eyes for a moment. She probably gave great head, too.
“Now here’s a biggie…Did you spend any major holidays with her? Fourth of July, or, God forbid, Thanksgiving or Christmas?”
“I spent Christmas with her and her family,” I said. “So.”
Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas…all those white holidays, were just days on the calendar. They meant absolutely nothing to me or my family. For as long as I can remember they were just days off from school or work. For over 20 years it had been strictly Kwanzaa celebrations in my household. Every year, on whichever of the seven days of Kwanzaa fell on a Saturday, my mother would throw these all-day, all-night shindigs and invite everyone under the sun into our home. She’d pull all the stops. There’d be tons of food and drink, singing and dancing, praying and storytelling. It was an all-inclusive holy day yet it was always tinged with gloom.
I remembered my last Christmas when Trevor set the Christmas tree on fire. He knew what he was doing, too. We were kids, sure, but this was no childish prank. He hated that artificial pine smell. ‘Wanna see me light the Christmas tree?’ he’d asked and I said no, cause that old plastic tree was already flickering and I knew what his crazy ass had in mind cause he’d threatened it before. So when he struck that match, I ran to wake up my mother. By the time the firemen doused the fire, all of our toys and gifts, Santa Claus, Jesus Christ, all the furniture and much of Ma’s un-replaceable trinkets and artwork were gone, up in smoke. Ma said she was just glad we were alive but she wasn’t quite the same towards Trevor after that- Always a smidgen of pity, a vestige of fear. Something else changed around that time, too. Something might even be too strong a word for it. Ma introduced Kwanzaa to us the following year and I blamed Trevor for sending Christmas and that something away. It felt kind of petty now, and I wish I could get past it. Every Kwanzaa is accompanied by this ghost of Christmas last. No matter how festive Ma’s decorations, no matter how gleeful her disposition, I could still see those charred walls and that melted Tonka truck I always wanted in the corner where the tree used to be.
“You alright?” Melanie asked, her voice laced with concern.
“Oh yeah,” I said, snapping out of it. “I’m perfect.”
“Y’all want some more drinks?” the waitress spat at us, appearing out of nowhere, eying me down again. Melanie ordered another Hennessey. The waitress looked miserable, now- her eyes were like dark slits in her face, dreads squirming out of her head like worms after a summer rain. She looked like I felt.
“Yeah, give me another Corona,” I said to her. She sucked her teeth. Geezus! What ever happened to service with a smile?
Once the waitress left, I said to Melanie, “Is it me or is someone one eye roll from an ass whuppin’? I mean, ain’t too many motherfuckers up in here gonna stand for her attitude…”
“She’s always like that,” Melanie said. “Shit, last week Cheryl almost jabbed her. If I didn’t remind her that that’s the same fucking reason we’re barred from The Vibe, Jay Z’s spot, and Puffy’s spot we wouldn’t be up in here now…my girl loves to fight!”
“I don’t know…If the only thing standing between this waitress and an ass whuppin was me, well…”
“I feel you.”
Cheryl returned with a fresh drink in her hand and sweat on her brow and cleavage. Glistening. I don’t sweat, I glisten, she would say.
“Found yourself a playa, huh?” I teased. She used to brag about how she never paid for drinks when she went out.
“You could say that,” she said, smiling like she’d found love on a two-way street. “Guess who’s here?”
Melanie sucked her teeth and said, “I have a better question: Why didn’t you bring him and his wallet over here?”
Cheryl rolled her eyes then said, “Remember Curtis from Granville T.?”
I couldn’t readily remember anybody un-righteous from high school. Not by name, anyway. It was all a blur. Damn, how many years had it been? I downed the rest of my beer feeling old and alzheimered. If Curtis were significant I’d remember him is how I consoled myself. Yeah, he must’ve been one of them obscure brothers I’d remember more as a type than an individual.
“He was on the football team,” Cheryl said.
A jock. I knew it.
“He must be fine,” Melanie said. “You look like you ran into R. Kelly.”
“Oh, he’s holding it down, no question.”
“That’s why you sweating like that?”
“Glistening, baby. I don’t sweat.”
“Well, back that ass up,” Melanie jabbed. “You’re glistening all over my outfit!”
Cheryl twisted her mouth, vulgarly. These two…they kill me.
“Negroes draw heat.”
“Yeah right,” Melanie said. “You know you was freaking him.”
“Any girls back there?” I asked.
“A few,” Cheryl said. “But, they’re looking tired.”
“And parched, too, I bet,” Melanie said, laughing raunchily.
Cheryl high-fived her, throwing down a long swig of her drink. “Ain’t no Sahara in my throat,” she laughed, then added, “he remembers you.”
That didn’t surprise me. I was well known. Couldn’t go anywhere without someone I barely remember recognizing me. If they didn’t come equipped with details, however, then the trip down memory lane was usually one-way. I guess I smoked too many blunts in high school. After a while I think the weed started corroding my memory cells. Either that or I’ve blocked out a whole lot of shit.
“Yo, Cheryl…bust this:” Melanie blurted, “Kevin spent Christmas with some girl he’s just seeing. Would you tell this nigga something?”
“Oh, you done played yourself, Son,” Cheryl shouted to the amusement of several people sitting nearby. “She calling you her man to anybody who’d listen.”
“Kevin got a girlfriend, nah-na-na-na-nah-nah,” Melanie sang, laughing her ass off. They were both loud and drunk and didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. Even so, I still couldn’t help but picture Kim telling everyone in her housing project about me. I could hear her voice saying, like Squeek in Color Purple, dis be my man!
“You should see your face,” Melanie howled. “What’s her name, anyway?”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said.
“Oh no!” Cheryl hollered. “Don’t tell me you fooling around with Stephanie again…”
My heart fluttered when I heard her name spoken aloud. Stephanie….
“…Stephanie?” Melanie volleyed.
“Uh…let’s change the subject, please,” I managed to suggest though I’m sure it came off like a plea.
“Oh yeah, that Stephanie…” Cheryl said, ignoring me. “She’s a piece of work, girl. A buppie female canine to the nth degree, got a Benz and a co-op in Brooklyn Heights, no less.”
I glowered at Cheryl. Sure, I’d fallen off the wagon a couple of times with Stephanie, but I hadn’t done so in over a year. Not to mention Kim…Well, maybe that was the problem. I purposely hadn’t mentioned Kim to Cheryl in the past year. I’d kept the relationship a secret for several reasons. One, being that I’d had no intention of seeing Kim as long as I had.
“Word? Brooklyn Heights!” Melanie said, impressed by Stephanie’s fancy address. “Well excuse the fuck out of me!”
Brooklyn Heights was like the Beverly Hills of Brooklyn. Even I was awed, at first. But, that didn’t last long, thanks to Stephanie.
My mind let go of everything else and echoed her name like a canyon does a holler, stoking the embers of my old flame.
Just then, the DJ mixed in Mona Lisa by Slick Rick. I leapt to my feet and headed for the dance floor without a word to either of my drunken companions.
‘…Excuse me dear, My God, you look nice
Put away your money, I’ll buy that slice.
She said, ‘Thanks, but I’d rather a slice of you.
I’m just kidding, but that’s awfully nice of you.’
The back of The Scene looked like one of them ‘mills’ that potential gang members had to go through as initiation into the old street gangs of Brooklyn. The members would have chains and bats and brass knuckles and would haze the hell out of the potential member. I half-expected someone would crack me over the head with some nunchucks. The dance floor looked like a windowless, poorly-lit 2-car garage; like a square cave.At the entrance to the cave was a tight passageway created by the alignment of several tables where girls sat nursing cocktails like Screaming Orgasms, Ghetto Passion and Sex-on-the-Beach. Some had guys attached to their earlobes. Some were coupled off. Someone actually thought to bring his girlfriend there. Niggas never ceased to amaze me. I stood there a while in conflict with my second thoughts about proceeding, doing this little two-step I’ve been doing since junior high school.
Finally, I boldly slipped through the passageway into the mouth of the cave where all eyes fell upon me. I felt like a spectacle in my urban-jiggy, contrasting harshly with the indigenous garb. I felt preppy compared to everyone else. Like my sweater was thrown over my back with the sleeves over my shoulders knotted across my chest. I felt like I didn’t belong. I told myself to breathe and relax. I didn’t want to appear unnerved. No better way to attract the cross hairs of the sniper that seemed to have his rifle trained on any black social function: The rifle sight of fate.
The DJ mixed in I know you got soul! Nothing like The God, Rakim, to make a brother feel at home.
It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t of left you,
Without a strong rhyme to step to.
Think of how many weak shows you slept through.
Times up! Sorry I kept you…
I spotted a cutie about to damage her chair with her childbearing hips and offered her the dance floor. She hopped up like she was the next contestant on ‘The Price is Right’. DAMN! Her halter-top bodice hardly haltered her bodacious breasts. Yeah, Baby. She grabbed my hand and dragged me onto the dance floor.
I’m generally self-conscious especially when I dance but to my surprise I was relaxed as hell. Must’ve been the alcohol. And, besides, she was the type of woman that didn’t care how you danced. She worked with you. Just follow the ass her body commanded. And, I eagerly obeyed. Rode that ass like a broncobuster. I even twirled around to let her get a little of my goods. She started slapping me on the ass. She was Hot! But, each time I felt her hand strike my wallet and my wallet strike my butt, I felt an increasing suspicion that she was some gold-digging club freak measuring my wallet size. So, I twirled back around to face her and, with some smooth maneuvering, buttoned my back pocket with the button Ralph Lauren had conveniently provided on these over-priced slacks, just in case she or anyone else had sticky fingers. Then she spun around again, grinding her ass against my crotch until the creature stirred.
To me, dancing is foreplay. So, naturally I got hard. The thing is, though, rubbing my erection on a strange woman in a club is frustrating. I mean, what’s the use in getting yourself all excited if you’re probably not gonna get some? I might as well go home and whack off. So, I backed up off of her. But, she kept backing into me, grinding against my groin. She was a tease, and it was pissing me off. She reminded me of Stephanie. That’s how I’d met her, ass first, in a club on the dance floor. Stephanie was a freak, loved to do this little dance before making love…fucking. She’d put on some kinky lingerie and perform this number that would put any lap-dancing prospective porn star to shame. Sometimes she’d just tease me until I came. Yeah, me and who knows how many other guys she was doing her little dirty dance for…
I knew of one, offhand: Sir Charles.
Suddenly I didn’t feel like dancing anymore. Fucking women…They all use the same asinine tricks and I’m such a sucker I fall for it every goddamn time! I turned to walk away and the girl I’d been dancing with tugged on my arm.
“Where the hell you going?” she hollered over Rakim.
“Get the fuck off of me!” I yelled back, with a yank of my arm that threw her off balance.
“Oh! You think you all dat…” she said with furious eyes. “Fuck you, nigga!”
I followed an arrow that read ‘Restrooms’ down a narrow stairway, seeing red. I bumped into a guy coming out of the bathroom; a big mofo, throwing his weight, nearly knocking me over.
“Watch where the fuck you going!” I shouted. I’m not sure why. That wasn’t like me at all. I’m more likely to accept responsibility for a collision and apologize, or at worst, glare at the person without remark, if you really want to know the truth. I don’t know what came over me.
“What!” he snapped.
I didn’t shirk, though. I stepped up and yelled, “What-What! Nigga, you deaf and blind?”
I felt like my brother. He’s my role model for aggressive behavior. I became him, or at least I’d like to think I did. I screwed my face up into the toughest, merciless, ‘I got nothing to lose’ est expression I could muster. You want some of this? I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me, too, but I can’t say if it was the flight or fight instinct that caused its secretion.
“Shaquan?” the guy said. “Man, you don’t remember me?”
Shaquan? He knew me by Shaquan. I was dumbfounded and disarmed. The drain of adrenaline left a sharp pain in my spine.
“It’s Curtis, man. Damn, how much you had to drink?”
Curtis? The name rang a bell. He was the guy Cheryl was talking about. I looked into his eyes for something unforgettable. Then, before I could stop them, my eyes made their way down to his massive shoulders and chest protruding violently from his short sleeve muscle shirt; veins swollen and throbbing like he’d been lifting free weights in the bathroom. He was diesel! Hard time upstate in Attica, diesel! He would have murderized me. “Oh Shit!” I was thinking, but the words somehow escaped my lips. He smiled, smugly.
There was something about his build, about this whole scenario, that was familiar, though. The way he was positioned in front of the only escape route: The staircase. I had been in this position before, in my freshman year at Granville T. Woods high school. In a darkened stairwell…some guys were harassing me, wearing purple and gold football jerseys. Mean faces. Telling me that I would have to sing the National Anthem backwards, in Mandarin (or was it Cantonese) atop a table in the cafeteria or they would beat the shit out of me. And I’d still have to sing. Their ringleader was a monstrous motherfucker. Always smiling, but never joking: Curtis.
“What’s up, Yo?” I said, meekly, and extended my hand for a shake. Curtis grabbed the hand and yanked me to him so violently I just knew something had to have been dislocated- shoulder, elbow, or wrist, or maybe all three- into a crushing embrace. Like we were old chums. I hate guys like him, I really do. Always wanna act like we were all love-love back in the day when they know good and damn well we weren’t. And it’s always the ones who did the most dirt that pull that crap. All I could remember was being afraid of this guy.
Then it started coming back to me, in a rush. The tables had turned, hadn’t they? Yeah, that’s right! Later on, during my sophomore year, when I was rolling with The Gods. Hell yeah! The tables had most definitely turned. Exposed Curtis’ punk ass, didn’t I? Or, rather, we did, the Gods and I. He’d tried that jock, heavy-handed milk money bullshit one day while I was kicking it with the Gods, in that very same staircase where Curtis and his cronies had cornered me, a matter of fact.
“Yo Kevin,” Curtis had shouted that day, and that was his big mistake! Most of the Gods were there at the time: Tislam, Lord Reveal, Prince Raheem, Shaborn, True God, Cincere, Jamel, damn, even crazy-ass Intellectual was there; they all turned around to confront the source of what was essentially sacrilege: Addressing a God by his slave or government name.
Tislam was my partner in high school. I was leery of him at first but he was the kind of guy it was better to know than not to know. He had a temper that was certifiably psychotic. He used to take tabs of Snoopy before school and spent most of the day sweating, laughing and hallucinating. But, when it came to his lessons he was nothing short of genius. He bellowed at Curtis, “Better show some respect, Eighty-Five percent,” snarling like a pit bull terrier. He called anybody who wasn’t a God an Eighty-five percent. Unless they were white. Then, of course, they were Devils. That included teachers, deans, guidance counselors and even the principal- And, especially pupils with hyperactive thyroids. Tislam was a huge guy, too, only his temperament and acid use swelled him to Sasquatchian proportions. Curtis had been rolling solo at the time, and without his teammates he was like a buffalo that had strayed away from the herd: in deep shit!
Sick ass Intellectual had walked over to Curtis, eyeballing him, sizing him up, as if he was wondering how long it would take to scale him. Intellectual, or Lil’ Int as I called him, carried an ebony cane and his favorite pastime was cracking people over their heads and taking their sheepskin coats, leather Bombers or Gooses, gold nameplates, shell-toe Adidas, British Walkers or Clark Wallabees, or Cazal eyeglass frames- all highly in demand at the time. Even more than smoking blunts he loved robbing people. He was notorious around the school. There was a graffiti ‘Wanted’ poster painted on the wall of one of the school’s handball courts, by Intellectual himself- an accomplished graffiti artist. It was a caricature: An aggrandized Lil’ Int with an enormous ebony staff, a gold nameplate bigger and wider than his chest, a fur collared sheepskin coat and a diamond studded pair of Cazals- no lenses- on his face. The reward was $1,000,000. The zeros were made of Cazal frames. It was his self-portrait, his masterpiece. It had immediately attained ghetto landmark status. No one had ever dared to vandalize it. Most of the student body was too awed by the artwork or scared to death of Intellectual to even play handball against it.
Curtis’ eyes were transfixed on Intellectual’s cane, that day. He knew what Lil’ Int loved to do with that cane. Everyone did. Lil’ Int said, “The God’s name is Shaquan. Say it!” And a 16-year old, 6’0, 200lb hulk of athletic prowess said at the prompting of a 14-year old, 5’6, 108lb megalomaniac, “Sorry, Kevin…I mean Shaquan.” Then, he’d bolted out of there, and had shown me nothing but respect for the remainder of our time at Granville T.
And, still called me Shaquan til this day.
Yeah, I remembered Curtis. I pulled away from his embrace and grinned knowingly in his face.
“Motherfuckin’ Curtis! What’s up, Son?”
“Just doing my thing, God,” he said, with unmistakable reverence in his tone. “In town for a minute to check out my peeps. I live over in Italy, now, and I’m playing football in Spain.”
“No shit!” I was astounded. A black man, living in Italy. Probably got one of them fine ass Sicilian honeys like Appolonia from The Godfather. I used to fancy doing something like that, one day: Going international, scooping up some wannabe immigrant, bringing her home, customizing her, and keeping her away from these corrupted American women.
“Word is bond!” Curtis said, using the God jargon with a mocking tone I didn’t like. “It doesn’t pay like the NFL but the money goes a long way over there, and they treat you like a celebrity.”
“Sounds like the life,” I said, pretending to be impressed. I wasn’t. “How are the women?”
“Man, I got married to this Spanish-Italian honey I met in Rome. I got two kids with her. A boy and a Girl,” he said, reaching in his back pocket and pulling out his wallet. Proud Papa. He flashed a picture of this gorgeous white woman, tall, thin, with long blond hair and a stern smile, holding on to his biceps; And, sure enough, a Roman Coliseum stood unnaturally in the background like a expertly done Time Square street photographer’s backdrop. Curtis’ smile was so wide the photographer must have had him say some crazy Italian word. ‘Cheese’ never generated a smile like that.
“That’s my Sophia,” he said with an accent I couldn’t place- Italian, Spanish, something European. Then, Curtis slid out another picture with two little kids hugging each other looking the way kids do when they know that that particular moment in time was being captured for posterity, yet unaware that it would be presented to the world as proof of their existence and happiness.
“These are my kids. That’s Simba and Magalia,” he said, again with the accent. Did he think that his accent meant anything other than Europeanized to me? Probably.
The boy in the picture looked about four or five. He was red-boned and freckled beneath a bushy reddish-orange afro. He looked like this mulatto I went to grade school with. His name was Guy and he was teased relentlessly. Simba had Curtis’ smile and I felt a tug of envy. His daughter was a little younger. Dark skinned, like him, but with long straight dirty blond hair, a taut nose and thin lips. She looked like a black doll that had accidentally gotten mixed in with the white dolls on the assembly line, a littler Lil Kim.
“Nice looking family.”
“Thanks,” he said a little too proudly, I know written all over his face.
“No, really,” I added, to give my praise a dubious tinge.
Curtis lifted an eyebrow at that, but then let it go.
“So…what’s up with you, mister Original Black man from Asia?” he said, with that mocking tone again. “What’s your story?”
I didn’t know what to say. So much and yet so little had happen since high school, and I had no encapsulated skit prepared for when I ran into people from the past, the way some people do. My usual stump speech was along the lines of I’m chillin’, ya know. Maintaining. Working, trying to keep a roof over my head. Making other people rich. Putting white folk’s kids through college. I seldom got specific unless the other party started prying for more. Then I’d say something like I’m working on this project but I don’t like to talk about it- Bad luck. Black folks always buy that line, superstitious as we are. Then, I’d let whomever I was catching up with expound about their lives, talk themselves up, exaggerating the hell out of whatever they were doing. Office clerks became Office Managers. Messengers became Fed-Ex dispatchers. Waiters became Chefs. Un-drafted athletes became celebrities overseas. Whatever gets you through your life…is alright.
“Right now, I’m dealing drugs,” I exaggerated.
“You’re lying,” Curtis said, stupefied.
I felt a mild sense of satisfaction at Curtis’ reaction. I figured it meant he must have remembered my scholastic achievements. That during high school, despite my involvement in what was deemed a violent and deviant organization, namely the 5% Nation of Islam, that I, that is, Shaquan, my alter ego, had managed to excel academically, receiving a regents diploma and honors in English and Social Studies. I was even the class Salutatorian, runner up to a girl who went on to become a lawyer and work for the Justice Department in DC. Politics.
I would’ve been valedictorian if it weren’t for Tislam punching out the Vice Principle unconscious for disrespecting him- Just I See Equality (justice) for calling Tislam by his slave name: Henry. All the Five Percent had to pay for that transgression; Arrests, expulsions, suspensions, and, in my case, censure. My school records marred…My future marred…
Curtis was still waiting for the punch line but I had lost my sense of humor entirely. Runner up to that bitch. I could still see her pious expression as she’d given her valedictory speech, a shepherd addressing her flock, a hint of a smile as she came over to me and shook my hand. If you were really God you wouldn’t be a loser, was the message her eyes had emitted.
“You sell drugs? Really? Fuck! See…that’s why I won’t bring my family over here. Too much of that shit,” Curtis said, paused for a beat and added, “But you gotta do what you gotta do, I suppose.” I guess he was trying not to sound judgmental but I could see in his face, the way it was screwing up, that he was picturing someone like me selling his kids some Crack. Well…fuck him! Who cares what he thinks?
“Yo, Curtis,” I said. “It’s been real! I’ll check you later.”
“Yeah. Peace to the God,” he said looking highly disappointed.
Walking away, I almost felt bad.
Back upstairs, I scoped out the dance floor and saw Melanie being molested by Money who’d approached her earlier. He was all over her and she was all under him. She seemed to be enjoying it so I headed back to the tables in front where two guys were accosting Cheryl. They scattered once they realized we were together. That is, once I started kissing her on the neck like she’d ask me to do on occasion to chase niggas away. She hadn’t given me the sign, though.
“Wusssamatteryou?” Cheryl slurred. “Gottanorespect.”
“Shut up!” I told her. Where the fuck was the waitress? Talk about a man who needed a drink.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Everything, I thought.
“Nothing,” I said.
“How long have we known each other?”
We’d known each other since freshman year at Granville T. I was 13 then. 32, now. Damn! Nineteen years!
“Longer than I’d like to think about,” I said.
“And you think I can’t tell when something’s bothering you?”
“Something’s always bothering me. You should know that much by now!” I fired from the hip.
“Truuuuueeeeeeee,” Cheryl sang, drifting into the music.
The waitress rushed by just then with a tray of drinks for another table. She looked right through me as she passed.
“YO!” I yelled, and a dozen heads turned my way. The waitress’ wasn’t one of them. Cheryl’s was.
She looked at me the way she and Melanie had at the door when we’d arrived- an indiscernible look. She got up, walked over to the table where the waitress was emptying her tray before a group, and whispered in her ear. The waitress turned and looked at Cheryl, then at me, and smiled.
What kind of Shit…
Then, Cheryl headed for the dance floor, six niggas following her ass like flies into the Venus fly trap.
I sat alone at the table wondering what the hell I was doing there. I wasn’t having fun, which is what I always thought going out was all about. Getting high, meeting women, and getting laid sometimes. But, I had no interest in any of that tonight. So, I started thinking of home. I checked my watch. 2:37, okay. I had a bottle of Chilean wine and some new Japanese porn (without the mosaic) I’d bought the other day. I could watch the porno, jack off, take a shower, have a glass of wine, which would hopefully knock me out, and sleep until the Giants game came on at 1pm. Sounded like a plan.
Just then, a shot glass of something and a Corona landed on the table. The waitress stood over me, grinning. “Your friend said you could use a drink.”
“Is that a fact?” I asked, searching the waitress’ smiling eyes for some hint of pretext. “Is that all she said?”
The waitress placed her tray on the table and sat down across from me.
“No,” she began, blushing. She didn’t turn red. It was more of an expression than a shift in coloration. “She said you wanted my number, but you were afraid to ask.”
“Really,” I said, as I re-appraised her as best I could in the limited lighting. She wasn’t hard on the eyes but nothing to write home about. Cheryl would do shit like that from time to time. I never stopped her because occasionally it’d pay off and I’d get some pussy out of it that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
“I’m outta here in about an hour or so. What you doing after?” she asked, audaciously.
“Going home,” I said. I knew where this was going and I wasn’t with it.
“Where do you live?”
“Over in Bed-Stuy,” I emphasized and waited for the look of disapproval I was accustomed to. Somehow, Bedford-Stuyvesant had managed to retain a negative stigma. Saying, “I live in Bed-Stuy” was still the equivalent of saying, “I live somewhere you wouldn’t want to be caught after dark. I live in the ‘hood.” But, to her credit, the look didn’t come. Instead, she bit her bottom lip. Hottie.
“So do I,” she sang. “Listen, let me finish up here and I’ll be back. All right?”
“Do your thing, Ma,” I said. The waitress’ smile swallowed her face as she hustled away.
Melanie and Cheryl returned after a while, with Curtis in tow. He was walking behind Cheryl trying not to look down at her ass. A purposeful grin played across his face exposing the lewdness of his thoughts. Mister Overseas Celebrity Family Man.
“Kevin…you told Curtis you sell drugs? You cretin!”
I turned to Curtis and he looked embarrassed that he’d told Cheryl my business. He hadn’t expected her to play him like that, but he’d played himself by opening his mouth.
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” I said, because, in a way, it was very true. I was dealing drugs, or at least aiding in their smooth distribution.
Cheryl said, “He works for a PR firm on this drug for impotency. What’s it called again? Vigo-something or other.”
“Vigoral,” I said bitterly, Monday, always right around the corner, ruining my Saturday night temperament.
“Well, that’s great,” Curtis said, sounding relieved that I wasn’t dealing illegal drugs.
“I see you got your drink,” Cheryl said, with a wink.
Curtis was standing behind her trying to make eye contact with me, trying to send some encoded message – as if that was necessary. His intentions were clear from the moment that he bought that cocktail for Cheryl earlier. His attempt to besmirch my good name only added unequivocal evidence he was trying to get some booty. I couldn’t blame him, though. Cheryl was fine.
“Damn,” Melanie hissed at Cheryl. They looked at one another the way girlfriends look at each other when they want to communicate without men knowing what’s going on. I looked away. I didn’t care. I overheard Melanie whispering, “Trevor’s been blowing up my celly all night.”
Curtis came over to me, hugging me around the shoulder, pulling me away from Cheryl and Melanie, whispering, “You let Cheryl call you Kevin?” He was really starting to get on my nerves.
The waitress returned, cheesing, saying “I’m about to clock out so…!” She shot me a stealthy wink.
“We’ll take the check,” Melanie declared. The waitress whipped out a pad, ripped off a page, and held it up, not knowing who to give it to but leaning towards me.
“I got it,” Curtis said, and snatched it before anyone else could, not that anyone was reaching. Cheryl smiled at that. I knew from her smile that Curtis’ ploys had paid off. That booty was his. Melanie was on her celly, smiling lustily. Probably talking to that Mark person. Curtis took a cursory glance at the tab and handed it back to the waitress with his Platinum American Express card. The bill had to be at least a couple of hundred bucks the way Cheryl and Melanie were putting them away. I was impressed despite myself, despite the fact that I didn’t care for Curtis very much.
Something about Curtis was irking me. Was I jealous of him? Was it that simple? He seemed to have it together…Nuclear family overseas, prosperous football career, ideal physical specimen, conquering the world armed with Amex, plus he had Cheryl open to boot. Maybe it was that simple: I was playahatin’.
I looked around at my companions. Fantasy Island all around. Smiles everyone…smiles.
“Shaquan… Paisan. Can I call you Kevin, too, God?” he laughed. “I got this rental outside. Cheryl and I are going to breakfast. Want me to drop you somewhere?”
I looked over at Cheryl. I could tell by her demeanor that she knew what Curtis was up to and was embarrassed. Or, maybe she was worried about my feelings being hurt. She was hard to figure out sometimes. Melanie had put her coat on and was looking at her watch. She was reddytuhgo. Then the whole scenario became clear to me. Cheryl and Melanie had huddled all ready. Melanie wanted to go straight to Mark, to hit him off with that tongue-stud she couldn’t keep still all night. Cheryl probably said, ‘Curtis is taking moi to breakfast, so will you drop Kevin off?’ And, Melanie would have said, ‘You need to work that out with Curtis. My man is waiting.’ So, Cheryl, conspiring to get laid as well, embarrassed to come to me with it, probably told Curtis the deal. And, at-your-service-Curtis said, ‘leave it to me’.
The waitress, apron-less now, and showing off what appeared to be some Wonder-bra enhanced tits, walked right up on me, and said, “Give me a few minutes, handsome.” Like we were old lovers. She didn’t even know my name.
I whispered in her ear, brushing lock after lock aside to find it, “Do you have a ride, by chance?”
With a childlike mischief in her eyes, she said, “No doubt.” She skipped away like a little schoolgirl. Damn, now that’s sexy!
“She wants you, man,” Curtis said.
“No shit,” I said. “Y’all go ahead. I’m straight. Barbara Marley’s gonna give me a ride.”
Melanie and Curtis laughed. Cheryl looked too relieved. Then she had the nerve to put on this smug little smirk. Like everything had gone according to her plan. I couldn’t let her or Curtis off the hook like that. So, as they made their way to the exit, saying their good-byes, I pulled Cheryl to the side and said, “You know he’s married with children, right?”
She looked at me incredulously. “You fucking lying!”
Did she actually think I was petty enough to make up something like that? Nah. She knew me better than that. She just didn’t want to pass up on that muscle-bound boning that was in store for her. But, as I knew all too well, her morals would make it a torturous affair. The fact that she’d cussed, something she rarely did, assured me of that. Good.
She walked out of the Scene looking pensive, Curtis holding the door, waiting, impressed with himself, an anxious grin on his grill piece.
“Peace God!” he said, triumphantly, liked he’d laid the hit that caused the fumble, picked up the pigskin and scored the winning touchdown.
There’ll be no piece for you, Buddy. “Arrivederci.”
I had cock-blocked- A first, to my knowledge.
A few minutes later the waitress reappeared in a blue fox jacket, looking kind of fly, too. I didn’t know if it was the lights or the liquor, but honey suddenly looked pretty damn good. She’d grown a few inches, too. No…she’d put on her pumps. Ready to step out. She came to a halt right in front of me looking mighty constrained.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
I laughed, woozy from that last Tequila, seeing remnants of the expression on Curtis’ face as he left- just knew he was gonna get some ass. The look on the waitress’ face didn’t help any, either. About to take a total stranger for a ride…
“Not really,” I replied as I extended my hand. “And please, excuse my manners. My name is Kevin Jackson.”
Next up- Chap 2: Dejavoodoo
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