Archive for January, 2009

29
Jan
09

Chapter 4: The Haitian Sensation

“Yo’ mother is real nice.”

Kim was leaning on my shoulder with her hand crawling inside of my jacket, rubbing my chest- a cold fingertip made its way up under my sweater to my nipples. I had told the cab driver to take us to Kim’s place, but she’d said, “No, I’m coming home wit’ you.” I had neither the energy to argue with her nor to resist her advances. I was spent.

Her hand began steadily working its way south.

The driver had the radio tuned to a talk show on a Creole station. He must’ve been Haitian. I’d picked up some Creole over the years. Then there was my high school French. I used to love French when I was a kid. I thought that the French were the coolest white people on the planet. I’d planned to take a trip to France when I grew up. I had to see Paris for myself. You know, the Eiffel Tower and all that jazz. That is, until I learned what they’d done to my people throughout history. After that, all bets were off. Fuck France!

Ma had taught me about the French, in her own special way, and more importantly what the Haitians had done to them. Now, of all the Caribbean nations, I admired the Haitians the most. I’m serious. The Haitians didn’t wait for Napoleon to emancipate them. Hell no! They kicked Napoleon’s ass, taking their freedom by force, and for that historical gem they will always receive the utmost respect from me. Though I’m not Haitian, I felt a powerful kinship with them and enormous pride. Like having a second cousin you’ve only met once win the Nobel Prize for Literature, I was just proud to have come out of the same African gene pool. I was even proud that I managed to learn this fact despite America’s efforts to keep that kind of empowering knowledge from me. I mean, I sure as hell didn’t learn it in history class in school when I was learning about the Louisiana Purchase and the Monroe Doctrine and all that manifest destiny bullshit.

Crown Heights, the neighborhood of my youth, raced by outside the window. The neighborhood was a melting pot, an American dream concoction. Only, in Crown Heights, all the ingredients were of African descent, except for the Hasidim who occupied a fort smack dab in the middle of the community surrounded by a conspicuous police presence.

As a youth, I had friends from just about every island in the Caribbean. My block was like the United Nations of the third world- my friends acting as ambassadors. We weren’t really united, though. Only thing we seemed to have in common was pride for our respective homelands and the color of our skin- and even that varied at times. I had to develop a perverse pride of being African-American in order to fend off the exaggerated dignity of West Indians.

Inhabiting the street I grew up on were immigrants from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, St. Lucia, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti. A lot of other nations, too. I would confuse them, at times, which would lead to fights. Confuse a Dominican with a Puerto Rican, a Jamaican with a Trini, a Cuban with a Panamanian, a Lucian with a Martiniqian (or whatever you call them), and at best an education in differentiating between the two would ensue. God Forbid, you confuse any of them with a Haitian. Those were fighting words. Calling someone a Haitian was equivalent of speaking ill of someone’s mother. The degree of ignorance in Crown Heights was off the charts. And, that ignorance bred an open hostility and periodic violence. If I didn’t have Ma to keep me grounded I don’t know where’d I’d be right now.

My heart fluttered when the cab passed by the tenement where Michelle had lived. She was Jamaican- a Yardee, as they were known. Her mother had hated the idea of her daughter talking to a Yankee (as black Americans were known) like me. A lot of the Caribbean parents were like that. They held up to the stigma that Yankees were lazy, shiftless and bad influences on their children. The audacity!

The Jamaicans were the worst (or was it the Trinis?) They thought they were oh so superior to everybody else. I called it the Bob Marley syndrome. They thought their culture was so undiluted, their music, history, and ideology was so pure, so…special. One would think that the brand of slavery they persevered was some type of sordid indentured servitude, or something. We agree to toil in your cane fields for you if you agree to only torture us whenever it suits you. Colonialism really did a bang-up job on them. A lot of the other islands, too. Every immigrant felt they had to be better than the rest. So much animosity within the ranks of people essentially in the same boat, and from the same damn slave ships.

Michelle was darling, though. Jamaica never produced a sweeter export. But, I was so young, then. So stupid…

A shouting match flared up on the radio program the driver was listening to. In the mirror, I watched as the driver’s eyes glowed red with rage. All I could make out of the argument was the topic. It was political, something about the elections in Haiti.

There was a large Haitian population in Crown Heights. Though my friends considered them the nastiest of the Caribbean islands, I still held them in high regard; despite all that was said and rumored about them: the Aids theory, the Voodoo stigma, the bad hygiene and general hostility. The Haitians took it all in stride. They seemed impervious to ostracism. As far as I was concerned they had more reason to be loud, proud and admired- more cause for celebration of their culture and history then any other Caribbean Island.

My admiration of Haitian people is due to Ma’s influence. She’d taught me a lesson about the world that I’ll never forget.

There was a Haitian kid named Toussaint Charles who had lived down the block. Everyday he and his Creole clique were teased and taunted as they made their way to and from school. Though I had teased him right along with the rest, (I was the one to come up with the clever nickname, “Two-Cent Charlie,” mocking Toussaint’s name and poverty) I’d never had occasion to actually meet him. Until, one evening, I came in from playing in the streets, and there were Mr. Charles and Two-cent sitting in the living room with Ma.

Apparently, Ma had seen and heard from her perch in the window the disparaging things I’d said about Haitians, in particular about the Charles’, and that the invitation to dinner was her way of addressing it. Over dinner, Mr. Charles gave a history lesson. He spoke of his beloved Haiti with such passion that I swore at times that he had to be talking about Mrs. Charles, who’d died during their escape from the tyranny of Jean-Claude Duvalier. He’d given an overview of the island nation’s entire history, including the prowess of his son’s namesake: Toussaint L’Overture- his leadership on the road from slavery to liberation. “Freedom or death” was the slogan that borne the former slaves as they hacked and slaughtered every white person that breathed Haitian air. I never called him Two-Cent again, and spoke up whenever anyone else did, too.

The Haitian Sensation…

Stephanie was of Haitian descent and she didn’t like it one bit. Stephanie Boujeux. Man, she used to get so angry when I called her the Haitian Sensation, or a Haitian Creation, or the Haitian Temptation. It wasn’t the assonance that riled her. It was her ancestry.

Her mother was African American, tall, light skinned and beautiful by superficial standards. Her father was the source of that vile surname and cursed blood that coursed through her veins, according to her. She spoke horribly of her father, and his people. How could her mother, a woman of sound background, classy and educated, fall for and bear children with that refugee? She would say. Stephanie had pissed and moaned way too often, seldom taking into consideration that she wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for that union.

When she’d told me the story of her first and only visit to her father’s homeland- a village outside of Port au Prince- she might have been relating the sordid details of her abuse as a child. She was nearly in tears as she recounted the harrowing experience. The squalor, the abject poverty, even at the tender age of nine, was so disturbing to her. And, her mother had married into that. That these people were her kin was the greatest insult to her pre-adolescent sensibilities. I used to find it funny until the humor of it had run its course.

The Haitian Sensation…

Then I felt Kim’s mouth on my dick. I looked down and there she was, bobbing away. I was about to stop her but it felt so damn good. Fuck it. I leaned back, closed my eyes, and tried to enjoy myself. Kim didn’t seem to care about anything other than bringing me to a climax. When I opened my eyes I met the driver’s lascivious pair in the mirror. They were red and veiny- sleep deprived. Also, they seemed to be conveying some sort of phallic fraternal understanding. A sordid gentleman’s agreement: Since I (really Kim, in this instance) had arbitrarily decided to engage in lewd acts in his back seat, then he had the right to brazenly watch.

Those eyes reminded me of Stephanie’s father’s eyes- the unabashed bloodshot fury in them- and such undaunted honesty and unflinching courage. It was like looking directly at an eclipse. So much power and pride…I’d like to think that the minimal dilution of African blood allowed Haitians to retain a greater concentration of purely African attributes. That would explain why us Americans seemed to have so much disdain for them. We were indoctrinated into believing that African was synonymous with savagery, barbarism, cannibalism, and bizarre pagan religious rituals. So, of course, we went out of our way to distinguish ourselves from anything African. And, the Haitians always seemed to know this. Seemed to understand that I, an African American, knew nothing of the feeling of fighting the Devil hand-to-hand and winning.

Mr. Boujeux had said as much over dinner the first time I met the man. He’d spoken in Creole the entire night. I picked out enough words, though, especially the invectives I’d learned from Toussaint, to get the gist of Mr. Boujeux’s sentiments. And, of course, Stephanie had understood and could speak his language perfectly, though she seldom did. From her English responses to her father’s rants I had figured out the rest. Her mother had looked on dumbly. She never bothered to learn her husband’s native language. She would have no parts of it. What a twisted family they were.

That was the night I discovered Stephanie had been using me to get back at her father for being Haitian and passing that stigmata on to her. She’d gone out and found the most American-African person she’d ever belittle herself to be with, knowing how strongly her father would resent it. And, it worked. He resented the hell out of me; me, and everything I represented.

Her mother didn’t seem to have a major problem with me, though. If I had to guess, I’d say Mrs. Boujeux was a gold-digger. I knew very little about her mother, though, except that she and Stephanie were close and very much alike, and that she cheated on her husband and told her daughter. Stephanie used to brag about her mother’s many extra-marital love affairs, proud of her infidelity. Just to let me know that her mother was no fool in love with a refugee. I should’ve gotten out of the relationship then and there. There are few truths more universal than like mother-like daughter.

The Haitian Sensation…

“What’s wrong?” Kim cried from below.

I looked down in my lap at my flaccid member. She had it in her hand, giving it CPR. This was the first time I’d ever lost an erection during oral sex. I looked into Kim’s wounded, worried eyes. She prided herself on her ability to fellate. I thought about the hundreds of erectile dysfunctional men I’ve surveyed over the past few months preparing some press materials for the Vigoral account at work and contemplated the horror of needing the drug myself someday. I was jarred from my consternation by the cab driver’s raucous laughter.

While I sat in the living room, Kim strolled into the bedroom and started taking off her clothes, unfastening her blouse one tender button at a time. Then she slowly unzipped her skirt letting it slide down her long legs. I wanted to tell her not to undress but I couldn’t find the resolve. Besides, I loved to watch her. She does it slowly, like a professional stripper. Not because she knew she was being watched, though. She just did. Handling her new clothes gingerly, slipping into a sensual zone, smiling, humming aloud the sweet song in her heart. She was wearing lingerie. A purple lacy bra and panty set I’d purchased on-line from Frederick’s of Hollywood. I didn’t need any Vigoral. I didn’t need anything right now except to be inside of her.

As I made my way to join her in the bedroom I noticed the answering machine was blinking- One message. I pressed the play button instinctively before the thought to ignore it could reach my brain.

“Kevin, it’s Cheryl. Where are you? Call me when you get in.” Click!

“Who’s dat?” Kim sang, coming into the living room wearing the oversized Boo-Berry cereal T-shirt I bought her and my slippers, dragging her feet like a patient in a mental ward. She had a look of strained patience on her face.

“It’s Cheryl.”

“Cheryl who?”

“She’s a friend of mine.”

“A friend!” she hollered. And, like that, the tender moment was gone, tangibly. “Friend, my ass! Who is dat bitch?”

“Do I ask you about your friends?”

“If you gave uh shit about me you would.”

“Just leave it alone, Kim. Damn! What difference does it make?”

Kim looked like she didn’t quite know how to put what she had to say, express what she was feeling. The anguish contorted her face into something approaching pitiful.

“I told you how I feel, Kevin. I love you. I love you so much I don’t even know what to do wit’ myself.”

I had a few suggestions but reserved them.

“Listen, Kim. I ain’t…I’m not in love with you…all right? And I ain’t trying to fall in love. I’m very fond of you. I think you’re a sweet girl. But, I’m not ready to get serious with anyone.”

“You mean wit’ me. You ain’t ready tuh get serious wit’ me, right?”

“No,” I said. “I mean anyone.”

“Kevin, please, talk tuh me,” she pleaded. “I ain’t stupid as you think.”

“It doesn’t take a genius to see that we’re not made for each other,” I said evenly. “Different sensibilities, different interests, different goals…different everything. We don’t have anything in common. Except, maybe sex. But it takes more than good sex to make a relationship work.”

“Dat’s dat bullshit and you know it,” she said calmly. “You trying tuh say dat as long as we’s been togethuh you ain’t like nothin’about me? ‘Cept some pussy? You expects me tuh believe dat?”

“Well…”

“You ain’t duh first man I done had, you know. I know mens. If all dey want is pussy, dey don’t be like you be. Dey don’t be doing duh things dat you be doing for me. It’s all about the booty wit them. Dey might trick uh little cheddar but dat only make you feel like a prostitute when all is said and done. What really matters tuh me is how I gets treated, and you always treat me good, even when you uh asshole. It ain’t never just about duh booty wit’ you. Sometimes you just hol’ me. And, I know you know what I’m talkin’ about.”

“Kim…I appreciate how you feel. Really, I do,” I cried. “But, I want to feel the same way you feel about the person I’m with. It’s not fair for me to stay with you if our feelings aren’t mutual- don’t you know that? You’d be taking a short and you don’t deserve no shorts. You deserve the best man for you. Someone who…” I couldn’t finish the sentence. It would have lead into a discussion of the deterrent keeping my feelings decidedly at bay.

Kim became very still- A frosty stillness. I’ve never seen her face so emotionless. She had gone dumb. It made me uncomfortable, almost fearful that she was about to flip- what with that homicidal gene she probably had inherited from her mother, or her father for all I knew.

But, I had to hold my ground.

“I’m sorry, Kim, but I don’t have any more to offer than what I’ve already given you.”

“Tell me why!”

“I don’t want to get into…”

“Fuck dat, Kevin,” she snapped; the emotion returning to her face in a furious display. “I wanna know. Yo’ mama wouldn’t say it, and she was right. It ain’t her place tuh say…but it is yo’ place. Be uh man, motherfucker, and tell me. Tell me tuh my goddamn face. Tell me why I ain’t good enough for you.”

Be a man!

Okay. She wanted to hear it. Okay. Okay. Okay…Hear it, then…but the words wouldn’t come out.

Be a man!

I am a man, I said to myself. My own definition of a man, not hers. She was just trying to goad me into saying what she wanted to hear. If I responded then I’d be responding because she’d coerced me into believing that being a man meant explaining your motives to women. But, that’s bullshit. Maybe the man she sought was that kind of man, but I surely wasn’t seeing myself that way.

“Kim, you’re just going to have to accept the fact that it’s over. We gave it a shot but it’s not going to happen.”

She looked shocked. Like she hadn’t realized that this was the talk, the end. Like she’d believed that we’d just been airing some issues.

“You cutting me off? You…you dumping me?”

When she put it that way I thought of her mother and brother. Oh shit. Stupid. This was supposed to be handled with care. But, there’s no really nice way to break off a…whatever we had. A liaison. Or, like Bill Cosby had said of his extramarital affair, a rendezvous. If Coz could use it, why couldn’t I?

“Oh, you think dis shit is funny. I’m just uh big fuckin’ joke to you, huh?”

I didn’t realize that I’d laughed aloud. Kim stormed into the bedroom and started putting on her clothes. I stood there like a statue watching her. She was mumbling something beneath her breath. All I could make out were the words, “laugh now, muthafucker.”

I looked around for objects she could grab to add violence to her exit. All the knives were in the knife rack out of reach. I positioned myself between the kitchen and where she would have to pass on her way out. There were vases on the coffee table and on the mantle, but I could dodge those, and they were cheap, anyway. There were empty wine bottles on the kitchen counter. She could crack one over the corner of the counter and come at me with the jagged edge. She looked like she could be a pro at breaking a bottle just so. It was a skill that girls from the projects probably perfected by the age of ten. I wondered if she owned a firearm. She was sitting on my bed putting on her pumps.

And, she wasn’t crying?

“Kim, I…”

Kim raised her palm, shutting me up. She stood up, very dignified, brushing the wrinkles out of her skirt. This is your last chance written all over her face. She tried unsuccessfully to hide it beneath her scorn. Diplomacy is the key here, Kevin. I didn’t want her to go away mad. Just to go away. Sad, if need be. But, definitely not raving mad, running back to her nutty family, crying that I’d broken her heart and laughed at her.

“Kim, listen….”

“Save it for David, baby. You gonna regret dis shit, I promise you dat!”

“Now, wait a minute!”

“What! You gonna tell me you sorry. I already knows dat. Dass why I gave you duh pussy in duh first place. Felt sorry fuh yo’ sorry ass. But, you gonna be mo’ sorry den you is now!”

Now I was getting angry. Righteous anger! Angry that I’d allowed Kim’s mother to intimidate me. Angry that I hadn’t respected my foresight that Christmas day and bailed out. Angry that Ma had led this girl to believe she had a chance despite me. Angry that Kim had taken me for the type of man who’d take this shit from her! Who did this bitch think she was, threatening me like I was some punk that can’t handle his business?

I was standing in the bedroom doorway fuming as she stormed my way like she was going to knock me out of her way. I had to see this. When she reached me I stared her down, Yeah, you bad written all over my face. I could feel it- feel myself tensing up. Kim tried to push me but I wouldn’t budge.

“Get outta my way, Kevin!”

“You can’t make me so you might as well sit your ass down and listen to what I got to say!”

Then she slapped me across the face- but hard. I managed not to move, but my left cheek was stinging and my ear was ringing. She must’ve thought that was sufficient cause she proceeded to try and go through me. With a thrust of my hand to her chest I sent her stumbling backwards.

“Try that shit, again, and see what happens!” I said, manly. I was thinking about Stephanie, all of sudden. How I had let her provoke me.

Kim looked surprised once she’d gathered her balance. She sneered at me like I was crazy, tilting her head to the side. She turned around and headed for the phone. Started dialing a number. I wondered who the fuck she could be calling. The cops? Doubtful. Probably some other nigga she was fucking to tell him where I lived. All women have someone on the side. All of them…hoes! I dived over the bed and snatched the phone from her just as she was saying “Ma?” I hung it up. She slapped me, again. Before I could stop myself, I grabbed the hand she’d slapped me with and began squeezing it. She wanted to be violent. I’ll show her some goddamn violence. Let her know the magnitude of the might she was up against, the awesome power of the man in control here. This force to be reckoned with; she was nothing up against it. I didn’t have to pummel her to humble her. I could just squeeze her fucking hand. Looking her in the eye as she tried to resist, watching her succumb to me as she realized the futility of struggle. I kept squeezing it, though. I didn’t want to stop, ever. It felt so good, trouncing her this way. Until she screamed…

Oh shit, oh shit. Breathe, relax, breathe, relax, breathe, relax, breathe, and relax.

I stood up, a little wobbly, hyperventilated. I felt weak; like a weak man. I’d just confirmed my worst fear. I was nowhere near well. I felt like crying. I felt like dying. Like putting my emotionally disturbed life out of its misery. I was no good.

Kim was lying on the bed holding her hand, examining it. She tried to move it. Thank God, the hand cooperated. She started wiggling the fingers. Then, she glanced up at me- with warmth in her glossy eyes?

“You hurt my hand,” she sang.

I didn’t know what to make of her. Had she snapped? She had a look on her face like we’d just been making love and her pussy was sore from my being particularly rough. The way she liked it. I didn’t know what to say. Kim started to get up from the bed, careful not to put pressure on the hand. I knew what was coming. Well, go ahead. Bring it on. I could take it. I deserved it and worse. She could knee me, kick me, whatever she wanted. I braced myself for…Kim wrapping her arms around me? She started kissing me on my neck.

Then, she whispered in my ear “Oh baby, if you didn’t want me tuh go all you had tuh do wuz say so.”

“I’m sorry, Peanut,” I said, unwrapping Kim from my body and taking the hand I’d just tried to mangle in my rage, planting little kisses on it, thinking did I dodge a bullet or what?

The candles were Kim’s idea. There was no romance without candlelight for her. She’d arranged the candles around the room months ago and I never tampered with them. All I had to do was light them. As I did I tried not to think about what had happened a little while ago. I focused on the task at hand. The Jasmine incense was my contribution, a monthly purchase from the Muslim cat by the subway.

Kim emerged from the bathroom in the lingerie I’d caught a gander of earlier. She stood before me, a precious jewel. I lied on my back upon the bed watching her as she traced a finger up and down the inside of her thighs while she sucked on the middle finger of her other hand. Then, she threw her head back and let her hands roam freely about her various erogenous zones. She had so many. I was aching to feel the satin of her bra and panties.

“I want you to touch me on duh inside part,” she drawled, imitating that ghost in the movie “Beloved.” I almost choked I laughed so hard.

Once it was over, I laid there with Kim lying partially atop me with that hand planted on my heart. I stared at the ceiling in the dark listening to Kim snore. I envied her. She slept like she hadn’t a problem in the world. How did she do it? How did she manage to find peace? I had trouble sleeping almost every night. The average time I’d fall asleep, weekday or weekend, was about Two A.M. It was 12:03am now. I was tired but I knew sleep was a long way off.

I stared at the hand on my chest. The hand I nearly crushed. I tried to block out of my mind the way I’d felt at that moment when I had it in my grasp, had been trying to block it out for sometime, now. But, I learned tonight the futility of my efforts. That this rage had been lying dormant somewhere in my subconscious, like a virus, attaching itself to other emotions and thoughts, waiting for my defenses to lower. And, once they had, once the virus had seized the opportunity to rise from its latency, I was, once again, a monstrosity.

Like I’d been with Stephanie in the waning months of that relationship.

I had to get up. Dr. Rosenberg had said if I had trouble sleeping in the bed to move to another location and return only once I was ready to sleep. ‘Don’t allow the bed to become a place of restlessness’, she’d said. That made perfect sense, as did the advice about the Pepsi’s at night. That the soda had both sugar and caffeine, which I strangely never considered. But, still my sleeping problems persisted. I didn’t want to take drugs cause I had an abusive nature, and I could easily see myself becoming dependent. Like Trevor. Like Ma, too, with her ‘social’ drinking. Even my father abused alcohol, according to Ma. No, legal or illegal, I wasn’t going to go that route.

“Where you going, baby?”

Kim slept so lightly. All I’d done was remove her hand from my chest. She looked so serene, like an ebony angel. How could I have treated her so badly?

“Go back to sleep, Boo.”

She opened her eyes and looked at me like she’d been looking at me all of her life. How did she do that? I could see the love in her eyes. Like she was exactly where she wanted to be in her life. Total satisfaction- here, beside me. Everything would be all right as long as we’re together her eyes seemed to sing. It was like looking at a welder’s torch soldering something without a visor to protect my eyes. I looked away. I didn’t want to feel these tender feelings. Not with Kim. Not for Kim. I didn’t want her welding her love to me. She wasn’t the one. Perhaps there wasn’t any one for me. I wasn’t well.

I felt her hand holding on to my arm as I rolled out of the bed. But, it was a sleepy grasp. She wasn’t quite conscious. Even in her slumber she was holding on. Her hand dropped to the space I’d occupied on the bed. That hand.

I walked away lightly listening to her breathing heavily. She’d fallen back asleep just that quickly.

I went into the living room and sat on the couch, in the dark. I’d do this all the time. I wanted a smoke, but Doc had said smoking wasn’t conducive to sleep either.

Then, the phone rang. I grabbed it on the first ring, not to wake up Kim.

“Hello.”

“Kevin?”

My heart recognized the voice before my mind did and began the race with a head start. My thoughts caught up pretty quickly, though. It was Stephanie. This was no delusion. Somehow, I was able to recognize the difference once confronted with the real thing. If I had been dying of thirst in the Sahara, I’d have known this was a true oasis and not a mirage. Her voice was as it would always be. Like a sirens call. And, no binds would keep me from diving into the ocean to swim towards it. Hearing her voice again after all this time was like praying to God all one’s life and to finally hear God say, ‘all right, what is it?’

“Hey you.”

“Oh, Kevin….”

“Stephanie…What’s wrong?”

She was sniffling like she’d been crying or had a cold.

“Are you alright? What do you need, baby? What can I do?”

More sniffling.

“Where are you? Are you okay?” What the hell was going on?

“Kevin…”

“It’s me, baby. Just tell me where you’re at.” I was concerned, but I was losing patience with her drama. All those old annoying traits of hers were coming back to me. Her sniffling was a mnemonic device that triggered the rehashing of some rather unpleasant memories.

“Kevin. I…I need to talk to you.”

Was that all?

“Are you okay?” I said. The shock of hearing her voice had worn off. It had been about a year since the last time. At least it seemed like it. I thought I would never hear it again and now that I was hearing it I felt that I never wanted to hear it again.

“I miss you, Kevin.”

“You’ll get over it,” I said, coldly. “When you wake up in the morning, you’ll remember all the bullshit and come to your senses.”

That shut her up. Even the sniffling stopped. I was proud of myself. It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time these conversations would lead to a rendezvous from hell- a date where flashbacks took precedence over the present. I’d sit there and watch her mentally kicking herself in the ass. My presence would become an assault on her self-esteem, confirmation that she didn’t deserve better in life. And, it wasn’t much better for me. I’d see the women I treated so monstrously denying her own reason and better judgment, just because I fucked her up so badly she didn’t feel fit for any other man. And, I’d be so contrite that I’d become an apparition of myself and cease to exist.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” she said, sounding defensive. “I know we had our problems. And, I know it got pretty bad, but I…I still…love you.”

Easy for you to say. She still loved me? I couldn’t see it but it was a sweet sound nonetheless. I hadn’t heard her say ‘I love you’ in a very long time. She seldom said it when we were a couple. I was always the one crying those three words. Straining to believe in them. But, I’ve never had faith in love. I’d always known we would come to an end. And, so did she. There was no love. She’d used me and I’d given her carte blanche to go ahead and use away.

“Listen, Kim, go to sleep. If you feel the same way tomorrow, then we’ll talk about it then.”

“Who the hell is Kim?”

Oh shit! I didn’t know what to say. How the hell did Kim’s name come out of my mouth?

“Kevin!”

“What?”

“Who’s Kim?” she said, sucking her teeth.

I couldn’t believe she was acting like a jealous girlfriend after all this time. Those days been over, baby.

“Kim is the girl I’m seeing now,” I said, just to put her in her place. Like she wasn’t seeing anybody. The Haitian Sensation, she always had somebody, and a somebody on the side, too.

“Is it serious?”

“What difference does it make? We’re over and ain’t nothing gonna change that fact.”

“Kevin…listen to me… I’m not…”

“Bitch, you need tuh be doing duh lissenin’! He done told yo’ ass it’s over, so get yo’ own fuckin’ man. I told you before.”

What the hell? It was Kim on the phone in the bedroom. But, I couldn’t even get riled up. For once, I was glad that Kim had invaded my privacy.

“I beg your pardon,” Stephanie said

“Stop begging, bitch!” Kim sassed. “I got yo’ number and yo’ address. Don’t make me haf tuh pay yo’ ass a visit.”

I leaned my head back on the couch, feeling relaxed. Stephanie’s stunned silence was like a drug I could get addicted to. Why hadn’t I thought of this myself months ago? I could have saved a bundle on therapy.

“Kevin?” Stephanie called.

“What?”

“You gonna tell that pit bull of yours to mind her damn business?”

It was funny, listening to her trying to talk tough with her bougie self. She still sounded like the tortured prodigal daughter. This was great!

“We really need to talk. It’s important.” Stephanie said.

Then, I thought about something Kim had said: I told you before… Was Stephanie the woman who had called and hung up? How the hell would Kim know?

“Yo’ mama’s a pit bull,” Kim said.

Now, it was getting petty.

“Kim?” I yelled into the bedroom rather than over the phone. Kim came bouncing out of the bedroom, succulently topless, with those pretty purple panties on, the cordless phone to her ear. She came over and straddled my lap, her face inches from my own. Damn, she was lovely. She was holding the phone to her ear just like I was. I smiled and she reciprocated it. She really had a lovely smile. She was grinding against my crotch. I wanted, hell, I needed to be inside of her again more than I needed to breathe.

“Stephanie, I gotta go,” I said. “I’ll holla at you next time.”

“Wait, Kev…”

Kim and I hit the ‘End’ buttons on our phones at the same time.

Coming Soon Chapter 5: The Scab

Let me know what you think, why don’t you? Take the poll below…thanks in advance

Advertisements
22
Jan
09

Chapter 3: IS THEY?

Be cool. Be cool. Don’t lose it!

I turned around slowly and…no Stephanie. I only half-expected to see her anyway.

My next door neighbor was standing in front of her house calling to her son. He was at the top of the stairs tying his shoes in his Sunday best. I waved hello. She waved back.

“Come on, boy!”

It was similar but not quite Stephanie’s voice.

“I’m coming, Mama,” little man said.

She stormed away like she was going to leave him behind. I saw a single mother trying to be tough enough to raise a man. Little man ran down the stairs the way little kids do when they’ve faltered a few times but were determined to get this staircase thing right; holding on to the railing, his awkward growing legs galloping. Watching him, I was transported back to my childhood when tying my shoes and navigating staircases were considerable accomplishment. I felt those triumphs all over again, vicariously, through this boy. For a fraction of a second I imagined what it would be like to be his father, responsible for how he fared in this cruel world. A chill shot through me at the notion.

I looked around one last time, as if Stephanie might have been throwing her voice from behind a car, or a tree, or maybe hiding inside that blue recycling can like Oscar the Grouch. It took a few seconds to accept the fact that she wasn’t there.

It used to take minutes.

Coming in the front door of my apartment, I placed the groceries on the counter and pressed the play button on the voice mail machine:

…Kevin, pick it up! It’s me. Kevin…KEVIN…WHERE THE HELL YOU AT? I know you ain’t go out nowhere…and I know you ain’t sleep…Kevin? KEVIN! Fine…Call me when you get this, awight? Kevin? Kevin? Come on, Kevin, pick up. I know you dere…Is you mad at me? What I dun now?

Kim had exceeded the 1-minute time limit of an incoming message and the machine cut her off. I never heard her voice on the machine before. She knew my every move, not that there were many moves to know. My having been out was an aberration and I’d have to face that music later.

My apartment was a disaster area. The living room was filthy. The old beige Jennifer Convertible was dingy beyond restoration. Take-out I’d left on the coffee table was beginning to stink. Beer and wine bottles lined the mantelpiece. A thick coat of dust was on the TV screen. CDs and DVDs were scattered everywhere. The garbage was overflowing. The sink was full of dirty dishes. It looked like I’d had a party. I’ve been living here about 3 years and I could count the number of people who’d even seen the place on my hands; on one hand.

I put the groceries away and headed for the bedroom, which was a wreck as well. The bed was unmade and busy with clothes. I picked them all up in a bundle, dumped them on the clothes chair and dived into my queen-sized cherry sleigh bed, my pride and joy, my throne. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

I woke up when the phone rang. The clock read 1:39pm. I grabbed the phone on the third ring. I could have crushed it.

“Yeah.”

“Kevin?” chimed Kim’s unmistakable voice.

“Who is this!” I snapped impatiently, just to let Kim know how I felt about being awakened. Perhaps pre-empt the interrogation that was due.

“It’s me! You still sleep? Don’t you know what time it is?”

I laid there with the phone leaning against my mouth.

“Where the hell wuz you at last night?”

“Out,” I grumbled.

“With some bitch, probably…”

“Probably,” I mumbled.

“Yeah…lemme catch you, nigga. Dat bitch gonna wish she was never borned!”

“She already does,” I sighed, regretting answering the phone.

“Is you planning on getting up any time soon?”

I looked at the clock, again. 1:40.

1:40! Oh shit!

“Damn…the Giants!” I grabbed the remote off of the nightstand and turned on the TV. Channel 2. A commercial. Okay. Get rid of Kim before the commercials are over.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“Why, want me to come over?”

Let’s try that again. “What are you doing later?”

“Why, want me to come over?”

I walked right into that one. A funny Budweiser commercial came on.

“You laughing at me?”

“Nah, it’s this commercial.”

“Fine, watch your fucking game!”

“Hey…Hey!” I was talking to Mr. Click, the mute. I hung up the phone, turning off the ringer with one hand, and raised the TV’s volume on the remote control with the other.

All right, The Giants!

I fell back asleep a few moments later.

I woke up shivering to a blaring television. I glanced at the clock: 5:09pm. Damn, I’d slept through the Giant’s game. I peeked out the window. It was dark already. I felt around the bed for the remote control and turned the TV off. Then, I just lied there a long time it seemed, entertaining my usual array of morbid thoughts. I’m too full of shit to act on any of them, too afraid to die; too afraid to even contemplate death longer than a few moments. I pushed myself up and out of the bed. I was hard as a rock, frozen stiff. Kim immediately came to mind. I wondered had she tried to call.

As I turned on the ringer on the phone, the phone started ranging…

“Hello.”

“Well, hello to you.”

“Hey, Ma.” I said cheerfully, glad to hear her voice.

“Don’t feel obligated to call me,” she said.

“I was gonna call you when I finished cleaning up.”

“Sure you were.”

“I was, I swear…” I lied.

“Well, I’ve spared you the effort,” she said. “And, I cooked.”

Now, I was extremely glad to hear from her. “What did you make?”

“Some chicken and dumplings.”

First the guilt trip and then my favorite dish. Telltale signs: She wanted something. But for some chicken and dumplings she could have whatever she wanted.

“I’ll be over in a little while.”

“Really,” she said, probably surprised that she didn’t have to pull teeth. “And, are you bringing Kim?”

Oh, oh!

“Why,” I asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. Ma had never met Kim nor demonstrated any particular interest in meeting her. I’ve told her next to nothing about Kim. From time to time, I’d make little remarks like ‘Kim’s over’, or ‘Kim’s coming by’ mainly as evasive maneuvers, excuses for refusing her invitations. I should have never given her a name to work with, though. Giving Ma her name meant that Kim was acknowledgeable, gave her viability as a candidate for further consideration. This was not my intent. Nor did I intend to get the two of them in the same room. I may not have been up on the major holiday thing. But, I was definitely up on the Mama thing. You might as well be announcing your engagement if you bring a girl home to Mama.

“Well, you spent Christmas with the girl’s family, I figured…”

“Ma, no.”

“…Maybe you’d want to let your Mother meet her.”

“No, Ma.”

“You haven’t brought a single girl by here since Stephanie.”

“Ma, NO!”

“Aren’t you ever gonna give me some grandkids?”

“No, Ma.” What? Did she say grandkids? I couldn’t think straight when I spoke to Ma sometimes. I acted on instinct. Instinct ruled by my desire to avoid coming under her scrutiny. Instinct dominated by a posture of resist and retreat.

Never?”

“Not anytime soon,” I revised. I didn’t want to curse myself. Maybe one day I would want to have some little tax deductions. Someone to carry on the Jackson name.

The Jackson name…

“You got Trevor’s kids,” I said. “Aren’t they enough?”

Trevor and I have different fathers and different last names. His was Palache. The only proof that we were brothers was our uncanny resemblance and Ma.

“I want some from you.”

“Yeah, and folks in Hades want ice water.”

The mention of Kim and grandkids in the same conversation made me take pause. My mind and body were suddenly under arrest. Perish the thought…

“Are you ashamed of me?” she asked.

“No, Ma, It’s not you I’m ashamed of,” I replied, before I could stop myself. I didn’t want to say that but I couldn’t let Ma dwell on my being ashamed of her for one second longer. It was the opposite of true. But, she knew that. She was just exercising her power over me.

“What? What’s wrong with her?”

“Nothing’s wrong with her,” I lied. I could never lie to my mother effectively. She knew me too well.

“What? Is she ugly?”

“No, Ma. Nothing is…”

“Fat?”

“…wrong with her.”

“Stupid?”

Now, Ma…”

“Of course, that’s it. You think the girl’s stupid. Your pompous self.”

“You’re wrong, Ma,” I said, but couldn’t give the words the resolution they would’ve needed to sway Ma once she knew she was right.

Then, the phone beeped. Call waiting.

“Hold a sec, Ma”, I said and mashed the flash button.

“Hello.”

“It’s me.” Kim. Ma had conjured her up like a witch. Then again, it didn’t take much to conjure up Kim. That would be like paying homage to a shaman for bringing rain in the Amazon Rainforest.

“What’s up, Boo?”

“Oh, you up now!” Attitude.

“And you like hanging up on people.”

“Well, don’t be trying to treat me like no stepchild!”

“Where are you?”

“Why?”

“Cuz, I’m on the other line.”

“Oh, you got some other bitch on the phone?”

“You calling my mother a bitch,” I said, pretending to be upset. Anything to shut her up.

“Yo’ Mama? You lying!”

“Hold on!” I hollered and clicked back over.

“Ma?”

“I’m still here!” More attitude.

“I’ll be over in a little while. Alone. Okay?”

“That was Kim, right?”

Ma was clairvoyant. Had this maternal extra sensory perception thing that I had long since ceased being amazed by. “I’m coming alone, Ma.”

“Kevin…Let me meet the girl.

She’d used that tone. That I’m your Mama tone where ‘no’ would not be an acknowledged response. Say no, Kevin. Just say no.

“I gotta see if she wants to come,” I said instead.

“Of course she does. See y’all soon. Bye, now.”

I took a deep breath before I clicked back over.

“Kim?”

“I was about to hang up!”

Don’t do it. Don’t even think about inviting her, I said to myself. It will be a catastrophe. You know it will. But, Ma was expecting the two of us and, short of a tragedy, that was that.

“What are you doing, tonight?”

“Why?”

“Can’t you just answer a fucking question for once?”

“Uh-uh, nigga, don’t get besides yo’ self! Make me hafta get medieval on yo’ ass.”

She was joking. I loved her sense of humor. What made it funnier is that I knew that she didn’t have a clue what medieval meant. Lately, though, she’d been getting a little testier and belligerent and I couldn’t understand why. Snapping at me for no apparent reason and hanging up on me at every opportunity. She used to be so sweet- my little Peanut Chew. What ever happened to that lovable hood-rat I’d met last year with the 18-carat heart and caps on her teeth to match?

“My mother invited us over for dinner.”

“I’m on my way.” Click!

She didn’t even ask what was for dinner, as if it mattered.

Kim arrived an hour later wearing bells, so to speak. I realized then that I’d only partially cleaned the living room. That rotted food aroma still lingered. I hated for her to see my place filthy. I’d spent most of that hour walking around the house in my boxers, procrastinating, foolishly hoping for some miracle to occur, like a freak Nor’easter or an ice storm.

Kim was all dressed up. Had on this form-fitting black wool skirt I’d never seen before, and a rich, purple wool cardigan sweater. (My favorite color, as she knew all to well.) Showing quite a bit of cleavage, of course. She’d been hiding that in mothballs somewhere, too. Or, maybe it was new. She had on some black stockings, thick as tights, and black pumps. She took off her black wool coat and placed it on the couch. Then she turned to look at me, a pirouette, her shoulder-length, natural, freshly permed hair swinging behind her, and smiled. The gold cap on her front tooth refracted the overhead light. It was the finest, or rather, the refinest, she’d ever looked. I knew better then to keep a compliment to myself with her.

“Looking sensational there.”

“Ya think?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“I didn’t have time to get my nails did.”

“They look fine,” I said, without looking at them.

“And, you likes my skirt?”

“Yeah, I likes it,” I said, mocking her. A waste of breath, though. She never noticed. “Very sexy.”

“And I know you like my sweater… I buyed it the other day at Macy’s.”

You look fine, dammit. “It’s gorgeous.”

Her smile vanished. What was the problem now? She cleared her throat, purposefully, so I quickly scanned her person for something different. Anything to get this over with. Ah, new earrings. I guessed they were new. Or borrowed. She borrowed her sister’s stuff and vice versa.

“The earrings?” I didn’t want to form the sentence interrogatively but if they weren’t new then she’d start bitching about how I never paid her any mind.

She shook her head to make them wiggle. They were made of gold, of course, but very thin and long like golden shards hanging from her ears. They caught the light, as well.

“Very nice,” I said.

“Is they? I bought dem on sale at dat new mall downtown.”

Is they?

Kimberly Payne. 26 years old, 5’9 (those pumps making her practically as tall as me), 135 well-proportioned pounds, with mouth-watering breasts that hollered hello, curvaceous hips she swayed like a pro, an ass that had it’s own agenda, and strong shapely legs that seemed to go on forever. She had the body of a Jet Magazine beauty of the week. She was that girl at the club that all the guys bought drinks for and tried to get with. Had one of those gullible looking faces that made a man liable to explode in his pants. Her facial expression was her only physical drawback, though. She generally kept her face contorted in a peculiar way. Almost like she was unsure what it ought to be doing, so it seemed to be doing several things at once: Smiling, frowning, straining, like if she was moving her bowels. However, once it settled into a static form she was a breathtaking sight. When I walked down the street with her, I was the envy of every man we passed. It wasn’t a bad feeling, at that. One look and they could see I had my way with her. And, what a way! She just exuded sexual enthusiasm. Like a moveable orgasm. Lust incarnate. A Dorothy Dandridge for the new millennium.

But, Kim didn’t want to be seen as a sex symbol. Sure, she wanted to turn me on. She was turning me on now, wearing the fuck out of that outfit. But, I’d gotten to know her well over the past year. Sure, she looked stunning. Her family and friends told her that she should go into modeling. And, she’d tried it a few times but the camera didn’t show her any love. And, that’s all Kim really wanted I’d learned. She just wanted to be loved. She wasn’t some attention junkie trying to break necks and cause car crashes. A matter of fact she was embarrassed to wear outfits that made her stand out. What she wanted was my adoration and respect, my attention, not everyone else’s. She wanted me to see her as more than a pretty piece of ass. There were no mixed messages from her. I think that’s what I dug about her from jump. She wore her intentions, her emotions, on her sleeve.

She’d been studying me as well. Learning my ways and moods, my interests and irks. She’s done things that frankly shocked me. For instance, this one time about a month ago we’d been pillow-talking. She loved that stuff. I could do without it but from time to time I’d indulge her. I’d told her about this song that I loved back when I was kid. It was slow jam. Mr. Magic used to play it all the time on his show on WHBI. I couldn’t remember the name of it so I’d sang/hummed a few bars from it. I told her that they never played it on the radio anymore, and that I’d been looking for it for years. She’d said she ain’t never heard it. Anyway, a month later, I get a package in the mail. When I saw Kim’s crazy chicken scratch penmanship on the package I thought that she’d gone Kaczynski on me. I opened it, cautiously, not sure what to expect. Wrapped in some fancy tissue paper, I found a Mahogany card (she’d taken the time to find a black greeting card) that said something sweetly afrocentric to the effect of you’re always in my thoughts. Beneath the card was a CD by a group I vaguely remembered whose one-hit wonder was the song I’d been trying to find. Talk about a man thrown for a loop. I played the song all day long thinking how wonderful Kim was for doing this for me, how people can be so thoughtful and generous, and how scary it was to be in her heart and mind all the time.

But, her acts of kindness and thoughtfulness weren’t enough to cancel out her conspicuous drawback.

Her attitude I could live with, her temper tantrums, her hood-rat mentality, her gold tooth and Timberland boots, her twisted family and raunchy friends, her jealousy and possessiveness. All of that I could withstand- hell, even appreciate at times.

But, the one thing that made her totally ineligible for any serious long-term consideration, the one thing that my mind could not endure about her, was her abuse of the English language. She took the language to a new low. Put a hurting on my ears every time she butchered it. It would be okay if she was bilingual. That is, could turn her jabberwocky on and off, like I could. It would even be okay if she was just using slang. Shit, slang is colorful. Black slang is a beautiful thing. Took this dead ass European language and injected it with an elixir of energy. It would even be okay, still, if her Ebonics (I hate that word) consisted merely of a lazy pronunciation of words, or even some grammatical shortcomings, like my own, admittedly.

But, Kim’s usage of the language demonstrated something far more alarming, far more intolerable. She was illiterate; sometimes throwing sentences together that broke every basic rule of the language. She was the female equivalent of one of those basketball players who never really paid attention in school but was prodigious on the court and thus was allowed to progress academically. And are always dying to have a sound clip end up on the news, embarrassing the hell out of the race. And, reporters love sticking microphones in the faces of the most illiterate ones. Like if there was some conspiracy to show the world that black folks achieve through talent, not intelligence.

It wasn’t that she was dumb. In fact, once translated into proper English, what she said was usually well thought out and replete with common sense. Which piqued my curiosity about Kim’s friends and family. Who are these so-called loved ones that allow her to move through the world this way? Did she run with an illiterate ilk? Was her family the root of her dysfunction? That’s why I’d spent Christmas in Fort Green projects where Kim lived.

Her mother seemed decent enough. Young, mid 40’s at best. She’d been drinking malt liquor that whole night but cooked a hell of a Christmas dinner. She spoke English as well as most uneducated black folks. Her two sisters were little fast-assed Hoochies. Both of them younger, both of them mothers themselves! They were too young to really judge. Her older brother wasn’t available for scrutiny. He was in prison for 2nd degree manslaughter! Beat to death an old boyfriend that had been abusing Kim, I had learned that Christmas day. Her little sisters bragging about their homicidal big brother over dinner. The mother glowing proudly at their depiction of how her son had avenged his sister. Kim looking on indifferently.

I have to say I was glad his ass was locked up.

At one point, her mother had pulled me aside, out of earshot, and said, “You don’t have to be afraid of my son…he won’t be home til next year.”

That was presumptuous of her, but maybe the fear I was feeling was written all over my face. I felt mildly relieved then that she was trying to make me feel more comfortable.

“But, you need to be afraid of me,” she’d added, “cuz if you hurt my baby…I’ll kill ya!”

She’d had the wrong idea.

I told her that Kim and I were just friends, but she just looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, tilting her head sideways like some kind of maniac.

“Friends don’t fuck, smart-ass, and my baby ain’t no floozy. She don’t just fuck anybody so you best be getting that friendship bullshit outta your head.”

“Miss Payne…”

“No, you shut up and listen to me…My daughter ain’t brung a man home since that fool Jerome, rest in peace, and that was a lonnnng time ago.”

I Wonder why. She actually said a prayer for the victim of her son’s malice, just another justifiable homicide in da hood.

“Coming here was my idea, Mrs. Payne. I wanted to meet Kim’s family. Meet the woman who raised such a beautiful creature.”

Mrs. Payne had smiled at that, and I thought we’d made some leeway towards civility. Then her smile started fading fast.

“Don’t try to gas me! Kim told me all about you. Said you had a way with words.” Then, fury overtook her disposition for a moment and I knew without a degree in genealogy that homicidal tendencies were genetic. “Well, you mind my words, boy! That creature in there better stay beautiful or yo’ ass is mine!”

Although she was a little more direct than I was accustomed to, I was moved by her fierce protectiveness of Kim. But, the educational gap was still mysterious.

Kim has held the same job for years. She worked at a day-care center in Fort Green. She was great with the kids I noticed the few times I’d gone by there. They loved her to death. If I had kids I would want someone like Kim, not necessarily teaching them English, but looking after them. One time when we’d first started seeing each other, I picked her up early to take her out to dinner. To my amazement, the children had all ganged up to hug her before she left, two and three at a time, several weeping at her departure. I was so moved I’d almost gotten weepy myself.

I’d never asked Kim directly about her impediment. I couldn’t find the wording. Um, Kim Honey, how did you become an imbecile? Kim, do you have any idea how fucked up your English is? Do you even aspire to speak the language properly? But, she had to be aware of the disparity between her speech and the speech of others. Maybe she simply didn’t care, so why should I? Through Kim I have learned something interesting about the world. It’s not always what’s in your head or how well you can verbally express what’s in your head, but what’s in your heart. And Kim has a heart as big as Brooklyn. The world definitely needed people like Kim. I was just pretty certain I needed more.

So, I let the issue lie. There was nothing I could do about it. Maybe her mother had drunk too much alcohol while Kim was in her womb. Maybe Kim had eaten those lead-based project paint chips as a child and it damaged her brain or maybe she fell out of the crib one too many times. Ma told me I used to fall out of the crib all the damn time, that’s why my heads so big. It’s kind of sad, though because otherwise she’s definitely marriage material. She’s going to make someone a really decent wife someday; maybe some hearing-impaired person, but definitely not me.

While I dressed in the bedroom, I watched Kim sitting in the living room looking around at the accumulated mess in disgust. Then, she stood up and started pacing about anxiously, fiddling with things she’d seen many times before as if she were seeing them for the first time. She was nervous, I realized. I’d never seen her nervous about anything. She opened an enclosure on my wall unit and started sifting through some of the bills and junk mail I kept in there.

I trusted Kim, to an extent. She had a different ethical code, though- one that included values that I found disturbing at times. She had a penchant for going through my stuff. When I called her on it, one day catching her in the act of going through my dresser drawers, she’d said, “I was looking for something.” She hadn’t even been aware that she was committing a condemnable act. “But, that’s my personal, private shit, Honey. Nothing in there belongs to you,” I’d said, miffed by her insensibility. But, this behavior wasn’t an aberration I’d come to learn. This was her ethical code. I fuck you therefore your business is my business, or something to that effect.

When she bent over to look through my DVDs I instantly got hard. Kim could excite me effortlessly. Just thinking about her body does it for me.

“Come here Peanut Chew.”

“No. Get dressed,” Kim commanded. “We can get to that later.”

The phone rang, then, startling me. Before I could answer it I heard Kim saying, “Hello.” She’d answered the phone in the living room.

Oh, Hellll no!

“Hello…hello! Who the fuck is this?”

I reached over and grabbed the phone by my bed ready to cuss Kim out for once again infringing upon my privacy. I listened to the silence coming from the caller’s end, the faint, shallow breathing. Someone was there…

“Better get yo own nigga, bitch,” Kim yelled. “This one is mine!” And she slammed down the phone in both the caller’s and my ear.

I glanced in the living room at Kim. She’d returned to perusing through my shit. If the caller had troubled her you wouldn’t know it to look at her.

During the cab ride over to Ma’s house, I sat there thinking about what I would and wouldn’t say and do that night. It was a waste of time. My mother would see right through everything, and Kim would surely provoke me to say more than I intended to. She excelled at that. Then, it occurred to me that maybe…just maybe…this was an opportunity. Yeah…I’d let Ma chase Kim away. Surely, if she didn’t like Kim, she’d make it plain. She couldn’t help it. And, if I knew my mother, she wouldn’t like her. She’d want her son to be with a woman who was at least his intellectual equal. Someone who would compliment and challenge her son. Someone who’d teach her grandchildren socially acceptable values and how to properly conjugate the verb ‘to be’.

Before I could ring the bell, Ma opened the door. One look at Kim and her face turned to stone.

“Something wrong, Ma?” I asked, sort of hopefully.

A moment passed before she snapped out of it and the emotion I was accustomed to returned with an explosion of joy. I wondered what had happened. It was probably something spiritual if I knew Ma.

“No, everything’s fine, come on in.”

Ma was dressed in her house clothes. She always did unless she was going out in the street or out on the town. Her house clothes would appear very extravagant to people unaccustomed to my mother’s style. It was always something of African origin or design. That night, it was a wrap around skirt with a matching blouse and a geles binding her dreads together; probably made from some material she bought at the African Street Festival. Ma was very handy with a sewing machine, an accomplished seamstress. Sometimes she’d sell her creations but mostly it was a labor of love. She made most of her wardrobe. Never have to worry about finding what you want in your size…she’d say.

She gave me a big hug and a kiss on the lips. Then, held me away from her, clasped in her powerful grasp. I’d always go limp as a rag doll when she did this and she knew it. Like a cat when lifted up it by its mane. She looked deep in my eyes, reading me no doubt. Then, she produced a divine smile and took a deep breath, inhaling me. A whiff of my soul, perhaps. She’s so dramatic…

Then, she turned to Kim.

“So, you’re the young lady I hear so little about,” Ma said, appraising her artfully from head to toe.

“Kimberly Payne, I’d like you to meet…” I gestured towards Ma, not knowing what to call her. She had several names…

“Evangeline Jackson,” Ma said. “And, I’m so pleased to finally meet you.”

So, it’s Evangeline, this time. When she’d met Stephanie, it was Khadijah, her African moniker…

“…But, call me Khadijah, dear. That’s what my friends call me.”

Cute.

“It’s a pleazure to meetcha, too,” Kim said with an ostentatious politeness. “That’s a real pretty dress, Miss Khadijah. Did you make it?”

“This old thing?” Ma said, humbly checking herself out like if she’d been unaware of her attire.

Let the games begin…

“It’s really nice. I bought my mama one just like that. I wish I knowed you before.”

Then they both turned my way.

“What?” I yelped.

“I feel the same way,” Ma said. “My son’s been keeping you all to himself but we’re gonna fix that tonight! Come on in and have a seat.”

Ma was the master of pleasantries. There was some subtle politics involved in introductions that were lost on me. Ma used them to gather information. Later on she’ll say something like ‘You see how she asked me did I make my own clothes. That means…’ whatever it’s gonna mean. She knew people. Ma knew a great deal.

The house was spotless, of course. Ma was always ready for company. Never knew when she would have some. Her friends came to her house like she was the center of the universe. The couch, I noticed, she’d reupholstered with a new print. She’d taught that old dog a lot of new tricks over the years. She wasn’t into throwing things away. She was the opposite. She collected, preserved, renovated, and refurbished things that other people threw away. The house was decorated entirely by items she either made or bought at a flea market, antique store, thrift shop or the Salvation Army. She’d even pick up things people left on the sidewalk, and if it were too heavy for her to tote she’d go as far as to wake me from my precious slumber to go wrestle with someone’s refuge. Hurry up before someone takes it was her battle cry. In fact, that very same couch was on the street some ten years ago. She’d recruited Trevor and me to save it. We practically had to snatch it from the mouth of a garbage truck.

None of this trash collecting was out of necessity, though. The woman had money. No, this was her style. Kind of a compulsion, I guess. And, she never ceased to amaze anyone that had had the pleasure of coming into her home. Of course growing up in it was like growing up in a museum, and my friends called her an African bag lady. I’ve had many a fight over some particularly cruel Mama jokes. Kids on the block used to tease me about her dreadlocks, too. Say she was too lazy to comb her hair so it knotted up. ‘Those some long ass naps!’ one guy used to say. Another used to say she’d wake up in the morning, look in the mirror with a comb in hand, then say, ‘Ah, fuck it!’ and toss the comb away. Twenty-five years later and everybody and their mothers have dreadlocks. Go figure…

On the coffee table was a picture of me at, what, 7 years old. I haven’t changed a lick. Kim grabbed the picture and looked at it, then looked at me, then back at it, then back at me, then back at…

“Ma?” I called into the kitchen. I had to look away. Kim was doing that cutesy retarded thing she does. It worked well in the bedroom but in the outside world, and with that shit-taking grin, she looked Mongoloid.

Ma was in the kitchen, clearly visible from the living room the way her house was situated. She was warming up the food.

“Yeah, Honey?”

She had a way with certain words. ‘Honey’ was one of them. The word generated from her heart.

I didn’t know what to ask her, so I said, “I like what you’ve done with the couch.”

She turned around at that. Oh, oh.

“Really,” she said, directing her stare towards Kim. Kim was looking at the pictures on the end table. There was a picture of Trevor and his sweet and fortunately estranged wife, and their two brats. All huddled together looking angry. It was the only picture she had of all of them together. I took the photograph a couple of years ago. I thought it captured the essence of their union. I like Trevor’s wife, a delightful, warm-hearted woman. Too bad she married an incorrigible asshole like my brother.

“It’s been that way for about six months,” Ma said.

“No way,” I said.

She looked deeply injured before she turned back to the stove. The fabric looked new. But, I would never make comments like that. I wasn’t one for paying attention to details when it came to Ma. You could get lost in all her detailing. It was Kim who drove me to distraction, caused me to make, offhand, a comment like that.

“This your brother, Trevor?”

“Yeah, that’s him,” I said. I didn’t have anything nice to add, so I said nothing. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t even have a picture of my own brother on display in my house. I wondered if Ma caught the implication.

“That’s just how I picture him.”

Ma glanced over at me with a raised eyebrow.

Yeah, she caught it.

“What did Kevin tell you about Trevor?”

Kim looked at me awkwardly, obviously unsure of what to say. I tried to recall what I’d told her about Trevor but I couldn’t think of anything.

“Nothin’ really. Just dat dey doesn’t get along dat much.”

“The two of them are about as different as two people can be,” Ma said intently. Her intent was beyond me, though. “Kevin likes to pretend he hates him. But, deep down, he really wishes he could be more like him. Don’t you, Honey?”

“What?” I yelped.

Kim laughed.

I didn’t like Ma’s tone. Didn’t like the tone or the direction of the conversation. Way too amiable, and out of line with my objective.

“Have you heard from him?” I asked, realizing, too late, that Trevor called even less frequently than I did, if at all, and that that might be a source of unhappiness for Ma.

“You know your brother.” I could hear the plea in her voice. Please, Kevin, be nice.

“Dinner smells good, Miss Khadijah.”

Way to go, Kim. Did she perceive the tension that was building? Probably not.

“I hope you like it,” Ma said. “And, call me Khadijah. Drop all this Miss stuff.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t do that!” Kim said, aghast. “My Mama didn’t raise us dat way. She say always treat your elders wit’ respect.”

Did she raise y’all to go through people’s private shit or to kill your sister’s boyfriends? I wanted to ask. But, I didn’t. And, what was up with this baby doll persona? It was starting to get on my nerves. It was like she knew she had to win my mother over, and felt that by acting like some kind of angel she would. Man, was she barking up the wrong tree. Ma will see through it with a swiftness…

“Sounds like she did a good job with you,” Ma said.

Yeah, say that shit now.

Now, the tablecloth was definitely new. But, I didn’t say so. Ma sat across from Kim, and I was in the middle. Kim closed her eyes, clasped her hands and bent her head. Ma spotted it and joined in. Oh, God. Kim was pouring it on, now. She went to church, but she never pulled this prayer crap before, unless she’d done it in her mind. And, Ma…with her pagan, idol worshipping, livestock sacrificing, polytheistic self- she had to be kidding! I watched them until they were done, resisting the urge to start eating while they were praying. Kim said, “Amen,” and Ma echoed it. She glanced over at me and smirked. Ma wasn’t one for frontin’ for folk. What was up with her?

“So, Ma, are you holyrollin’ again?” I asked sarcastically. Ma used to be a devout Christian when I was kid but had gone through several cults and religions, including Buddhism and Catholicism, before finding a spiritual home in Yoruba.

“Nothing’s wrong with giving thanks to the creator for our blessings, Kevin. You should try it. Or, do you still think you’re God?”

Now why did she go there? Because you took her there, asshole. Shut up and eat.

I needed to get on Ma’s good side, needed her as an ally. Kim was into her plate, champing away, with this thoughtful grin on her face.

“Dis is deeelicious, Miss Khadijah.”

“Thanks,” Ma said. “It is Kevin’s favorite.”

“Fo’ real?” Kim said, looking at me. Then she turned all serious and looked at Ma. “Miss Khadijah, can I ax you somethin’?”

Oh, hell. Here we go.

“Sure, Honey. What’s on your mind?”

All eager to please. Calling her ‘Honey’, already.

“Well, it’s Kevin. I knowed him fo’ a year, and I can’t figger him out.”

Ma leaned in at that, giving Kim her undivided. I have to admit I was curious too, but endeavored to conceal it. Kim was gonna dig herself a hole, I was certain of it. I sucked the chicken off of a bone, audibly. Licking my fingers. She’d outdone herself, again. The dinner was delicious. She’d used Pillsbury biscuit dough for the dumplings, which tasted better than plain flour dough dumplings. She’d steamed some broccoli and carrots, and made some cornbread, too, with the creamed corn in the batter- the way I loved it. God, she spoiled me sometimes. She’d even made a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade. I poured myself another glass. I hadn’t had a home cooked meal in some time.

“Like last week, I axes him about you. Tol’ him I wants to meet you and he say ‘my Mama ain’t trying to meet nobody.‘ Say you had  enough friends…”

I stopped chewing at that. If I’d been sitting closer to her I would have pinched her, but hard. I could kick her from where I sat… Breathe, relax, breathe, relax. What the hell was she up to?

“…then, tonight, he say you invitin’ us for dinner. So I knowed he musta been lying about what he said you said. And, he always doing stuff like dat. Be saying one thing then he be sayin’ another thing, and I can’t never figure him out. Like how his house be. One night I come dere and duh place be spic and span. Look like it ain’t never been dirty. Then, anothuh time I come dere, like tonight, matter a fact, and duh place look like a tornado done blowed thru it. Like it ain’t nevuer been cleant befo’. I say tuh myself, I say ‘what the fu.., hell?’ Ya know? So, I wanted to ax you if he always was like dat or is dis cuz a me?”

I looked at Ma, trying not to smirk. I had to see her reaction. If that monologue didn’t illustrate my qualm with Kim, nothing would. Ma just nodded her head.

Evangeline Jackson, the former editor of Imani News, retired teacher of language arts, fluent in Kiswahili and French, and, of course English, and presently volunteering at an adult literacy program…

“I’d have to say it’s because of you, darling.”

Kim’s face dropped. She wasn’t expecting Ma to say that. Want to speak frankly? Well, you came to the right place. I continued eating my food before it got cold, satisfied that the evening would end as I’d anticipated it would.

“My son has a great heart, Kim. A great heart. He’s a loyal, sensitive, loving man. And bright as they come. I know. I raised him that way.”

You tell her Ma.

“But, he has a lot of his father in him. Some stuff I’m not particularly proud of, I have to say.”

I froze. Where was she going with this? I started to protest but I had a bone sticking out of my mouth. I took it out and used it to point at Kim, the outsider.

“Uh, Ma? I think you’re giving a little more information than she asked for. I think the stuff about my father is on a need to know basis.”

Ma sucked her teeth.

“Yuh see! He nevuh wants me to know nothin’ about him. Wants to keep me in the dark about everything going on wit’ him, all duh time.” She turned her attention to me and said, “What is you afraida?”

“I don’t want to talk to you about that,” I said, finally putting the bone down. “What…you think you can offer me something useful?”

Kim nodded her head, solemnly. I shook mine, then looked at Ma. She was pretending to mind her own business.

“We all got fathers, Baby,” Kim cried. “And, if your father anything like my father, you wuz better off wit’out him.”

Now, she was using the voice. Baby! Sugarcoating her words, something she never did. Evidently, Ma was infecting Kim with her viral sentimentality.

Amen to that,” Ma concurred.

“I seriously doubt that your father is anything like my father,” I said. I didn’t know anything about Kim’s father except that he wasn’t in the picture anymore. She never mentioned him. There was no mention by her family at Christmas, no photo of him in an ornate frame on a mantelpiece. Nothing to indicate that her family had ever been anything but matriarchal. And, what a matriarch! But, on second thought, I didn’t know shit about my father, either.

“What you trying tuh say? You trying tuh diss my father?”

“I don’t think he meant any disrespect to your father, Kim.”

Kim turned to Ma. “Den, what his problem is?”

Ma gave Kim that Ruby Dee look of hers, real hard and thoughtful, like she was about to tell her the meaning of life itself. So dramatic. Then her face softened. She looked at me and said, “It’s really not my place to say.”

Thanks a lot. Shit, she’d piqued my curiosity, too. I didn’t presume to know exactly what she would say. I never knew what oracle she was going to come up with next. Whenever Ma made that face it usually preceded some profound insight, or at the very least something useful- not that I’ve put all of it to use over my lifetime. After a while it pretty much went in one ear and out the other. The worst thing about having a medium for a mother was the bombardment of wisdom, like working in a candy store taking the fringe of free sweets for granted.

Kim said, “Miss Khadijah. I wanted to meet you becuz I…I love Kevin, and I wanted to meet the woman dat made duh man I love.”

I gazed at Kim, speechless. She gazed right back, unflinchingly. This was a new development. Actually, that’s not true. For some time I could tell she was feeling something strong, but I thought it was more an emotional disturbance than love. Some need my presence met. I doubted that she loved me or even understood what love was. Not that I was an authority. Tameeka had asked me earlier about love. Now, I wondered why she had. What was it about me that inspired love?

“I thought dat maybe if I talked to you, you could help me unnerstan’ why…why he don’t love me back.”

Kim’s eyes filled with tears. That made two women in not even 24 hours brought to tears. What the hell was wrong with these women? Or, was it me? I never asked for Kim’s love. Never told her I loved her. Never even discussed it with her, at length. How could anyone give their heart over so easily?

“I feel I’m uh a fool for fallin’ for him. I mean, he nice to me, most the time. But, he never treat me like I’m the only one. Not dat I think he be doggin’ me. He problee ain’t, but I don’t put dat by no man. Not after what I done been through.

“When I first met him he wuz sad all the time. And I usetuh make him feel better. I knowed it was some other woman done dogged him out. He still sad, but not like before. Now, he just mean. I know it still cuz uh that girl, so I never say nuthin. Everybody gotta go through dat sometime. I figger she fuck up, I luck up, excuze my French.

“I mean, he good to me, and he good lookin’, and he got a good job and dress so fine. And he duh smartest man I ever knowed. Got this way with words that be havin’ my head spinnin’. But, I like it, cuz he make me think about things I never thought about befo’. Like um… like when dey first started fixin’ up Fort Green where I lives, in the projects, dey started puttin’ in grass and plantin’ trees and new swings and slides for the kids and dey be all dese cops everywhere now, and stuff. He says it because they…um…they trying to make it better for the white folks and I said he crazy, ain’t no white folks moving in Fort Green. He said ‘look over there’ and pointed to these big ole’ office buildings they built up ‘cross the street. And, I said, ‘Yeah, and…’ and he said…um, he said, ‘you think they gonna be comin’ all the way from Long Island when they can live right here? You just watch!’ And, I thought he was trippin’ but don’t you know a white woman just moved in my building? I swear tuh God! This Chinese man and woman, too. So, now, all day, I be looking around for changin’ things, and stuff, cuz that’s where I work with my kids in the day-care center. I take them to the park when it’s nice, and I see all these new stores and coffee shops and these nice bars, and stuff. Things I problee never woulda notice before. That’s what your son do to me. He…um…he make me open my eyes, ya know? That’s why I love him. He make me feel better about myself.

“Like when we go out, he hold my hand, and tell me I’m the finest thing he ever saw. He take me everywhere, to the movies and to nice restaurants, and be holding doors for me and helping me with my coat, like uh real gentleman. I can tell he raised good. If that bit…girl can’t see him for the special man he is, then somethin’ must be wrong wiff her.

“So, my stupid self, I get all open for him. Get used to him treating me good, thinking he ‘preciate me the same way I ‘preciates him. But he don’t. I call him dis morning to tell him about dis dream I had about us, cuz he always be having bad dreams and wake up all flustered and pissed off, screaming and all. And I figger that whatever he be dreaming about must be pretty bad, but he never tell me about the bad ones. Say he forgot it already. And I don’t know if it true or uh lie, cuz I forget a lot uh my dreams, too. But I remember this one and it was a good one and I wanted to tell him all about it so he can know dat dreams can be good things, ya know? But he get all crabby and dissed me for a damn football game. So, I figger he don’t know how I feel, or don’t care how I feel.”

I started feeling guilty halfway through her speech. I snatched my attention from Kim and looked at my mother. I understood what Kim had said. That is, I understood her particular linguistics, having listened to her ramblings for months, but I wondered what my mother gathered from her speech. Ma looked like she’d understood every word, inflection, feeling, and even what wasn’t said, what lurked between the lines of her murky plea. Ma had a way of conveying comprehension that was uncanny. I wish I had that expression in my repertoire. That would alleviate a lot of the redundancies of my life. People thinking they’ve gone over my head because my facial expression for lack of interest must be terribly similar to what people denote as a lack of understanding.

Ma’s eyes exuded disappointment. Probably wondering why I hadn’t talked to her about the dreams. She saw herself as a dream specialist, a holdover from her tarot card/crystal ball period, I figured. Thought most of life’s problems could be resolved through careful examination of the dreamscape. I didn’t buy it, though. My dreams were my penance, and that’s all. A subconscious manifestation of my guilt and anger and the longing in my heart for Stephanie is all. At least that’s what my therapist had suggested reinforcing my own conclusions. And, that was all I needed: Professional concurrence. I didn’t need Ma to tell me that the motorcycles and the tractor trailers in my dreams represented a self-destructive desire to escape the symmetry of the web of self-denial and deceit I’d forged, or some creepy shit like that. I’d be afraid to go to sleep. Afraid I might lose the desire to ever wake up again.

Say something, Ma. But, she wouldn’t say anything.

Her silence was worse than anything she could’ve possibly said. I could feel myself tensing up, struggling to keep them chicken & dumplings down. I thought about all the years she was there for me. Doting, nurturing, defending me against all comers. She was my champion. Time after time, she proved herself to be my emissary of conscientiousness and truth. She brought the world to me through her selflessness and generosity. Her sole purpose in life was to see me to fruition, and to set me loose on the world as her gift to God for His gift to her. I felt myself getting weaker, teary. Don’t cry, Man.

These same feelings of guilt and unworthiness are why I’d gotten involved with Kim in the first place, wasn’t it? I was on the rebound in the worst way. In order to counteract this poison called Stephanie I’d prescribed myself an antidote called Kim. Kim was the antithesis of Stephanie, I thought. My theory was that if I found a woman with qualities opposite those of Stephanie then I could crowd thoughts of her from the forefront to the recesses of my mind. And, as ill conceived as this theory was, it had actually worked like a charm, for a while. Kim was the perfect distraction. Her whole style confronted me with new challenges. Challenges that left me euphoric with my capacity to enlighten and bring pleasure to another. I started to believe that the healing had begun- that there was hope for me, yet. But, as time marched on, I came to understand that I was only deluding myself with Kim. That my prescription wasn’t an antidote, but that I’d merely weaned myself off of one poison onto another.

But, how was I supposed to get through this thing? Time wasn’t helping. Therapy had offered some interesting insights but nothing practical except how to breathe to relieve anxiety and anger. I’d paid $100 a week, and all I could do was keep from kicking someone’s ass who probably needed it. And, that’s only if I remember to use it. I’d nearly gotten my ass whipped the night before. What if Curtis hadn’t recognized me? Or, was a stranger? I’d probably be dead in the basement of The Scene.

Ma wanted to know where she’d gone wrong, if her face was any indication. But she hadn’t. There’s no way she could have foreseen or anticipated all that I would have to go through. No way. I had to learn it on my own. On the streets where the teachers don’t carry rulers, they have guns. And, where your Mama can’t save your ass, you gotta save it yourself. And, where being a man isn’t defined by how sensitive you are to a woman’s needs and feelings, but by how desensitized you can become to life’s emotional intricacies. Because, it’s the involvement in such where you need that indifferent objectivity to navigate. Otherwise, you get bogged down and distracted, and that’s when you’re vulnerable. And, a man can’t afford to be vulnerable. But, Ma wouldn’t know that, faced with the task of raising two boys into something I suspect she’d come to despise: namely, men.

“Don’t blame yourself, Ma,” I said. “You did the best you could. And, like Kim said, you raised me good. And, I think you’re right. If anybody’s to blame, here…It is my father.”

I watched TV while Ma and Kim were chatting it up over the dishes. Look at them. All chummy. Ma was really pouring it all. I surfed around trying to find something on TV to distract myself from the spectacle- their giggling, and what not. A game was on ESPN. A good match up. Pittsburgh and somebody. I couldn’t concentrate. Kim let out a whoop. Ma cackled. Heh heh Heh heh heh. The way she laughed when she was tickled to the bone. Shrill enough to shatter a glass. Joy was in the house. Great.

“That was some good cookin’, Miss Khadijah.”

I voiced my approval as well. Nobody does dumplings like Ma. The three of us had moved into the living room and Ma had cracked open a bottle of wine.

“Thank you, Honey. And thanks for helping me with the dishes,” she said, cutting her eyes at me. “Do you cook?”

“Sometimes. Kevin likes it.”

“Kevin loves to eat. When he was a kid he used to sit in the kitchen with me while I cooked. Couldn’t wait til I called him. He had to watch. Then, when I’d ask him to help me…Chop some onions maybe. Here he goes: ‘I can’t do it. I’m allergic to onions, Ma. They make my eyes burn.'”

Kim was cracking up, genuinely.

“Boy loved to eat, never wanted to help with preparations.”

But, that’s how I learned to cook. She was candy coating the story, though. She used to make me help her, forced me to learn how to cook. Especially after I told her that cooking was woman’s work. Hell, whenever I turned on the TV all the women were in aprons in the kitchen. Ma made me wear an apron after that and I hated her for it, but after a while she didn’t even have to remind me to put it on.

But, what was up with the you’re one of the family now stories. Making Kim feel welcomed and whatnot when she was on her way out. I was getting the impression that Ma actually liked her. As a person, that was feasible. She did have a certain earthy charm and vulnerability. But, as a mate for her son? As a parent for her grandchildren? That, I couldn’t see. It was time to put Ma on the spot since she wasn’t going there voluntarily.

“So, Ma, what do you think of my Peanut Chew?” I asked, slipping my arm around Kim, the biggest faux-smile I could muster. Kim tried to smile herself. Nervous about Ma’s response, no doubt.

“Oh, I like her. I like her a lot.”

Oh, HELL no! “MA!” I yelled before I could stop myself…

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Kim looked as if this was the best news she’d ever heard. Like all she’d been lacking was Ma’s endorsement, and now that she had it everything would be just perfect. She sprung up from the couch, practically diving on Ma, catching her off guard, and hugged her hard. Over Kim’s shoulder I could see my mother’s face, shocked by this sudden embrace. Her eyes wide, looking at me. Then they warmed over and closed, and her embrace grew stronger. The daughter she never had.

Well, that’s just great. They can be the best of friends for all I cared. They can go shopping together and dress up fucking Barbie dolls if they wanted. Ma could go hang in Fort Green Projects with Kim’s family and learn how to play spin the forty-ounce with her mother. And, give her little sisters prenatal advice. And attend the welcome home party of my would-be murderer…cuz I was so out of there! Out of that doomed relationship and out of Ma’s house, too.

I stood up, guzzled down the remainder of the wine in my glass and chimed it on the glass surface of the coffee table. That got their attention. They loosed each other slowly, like lovers.

“Ma, I gotta get an early start tomorrow.”

“Me too,” Kim said, brushing the wrinkles out of her new clothes. Damn, she looked lovely, almost luminous. Maybe I was being a little hasty. No. Maybe. Her breast bounced around in her sweater as she buttoned it up. I felt the creature stir in my pants.

“Well, it’s been a pleasure having you both.”

Savor it, baby. I grabbed Kim’s coat off the coat rack, and held it for her to walk in to, all gentlemanly, opened the door, holding it for her, all gentlemanly, like I was raised. Turned to my mother and said, “I love you, Ma. Never change.”

“I hadn’t planned on it,” she replied, a sparkle in her eyes.

Coming soon: Chapter 4: The Haitian Sensation

22
Jan
09

Conversation 1/21/09

gss-090120-inauguration-07_grid-6x3Me: I’m still in shock.

Friend back in NY: It’s crazy, right?

Me: Is this the feeling white people walk around with their whole lives? Like throughout history?

F: I know what you mean. I stood up for the National Anthem the other day.

Me: Word? Hand over the heart, and all that? Damn, everything has changed…hasn’t it?

F: Yeah.

Me: We’re gonna need a whole new vocabulary to talk about America…

F: For real. I feel so damn motivated. I feel like I’m incapable of procrastination right now.

Me: Yeah. I feel so…man. This is ridiculous! Every time I see him I feel so damn proud I start crying.

Friend: Yeah, it’s crazy!

 Loco

22
Jan
09

1000 Words…

090121-obamawh-hnmed-930a_rp420x400

I’m STILL in shock!!!

GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!!

Loco

20
Jan
09

All hail the Mutt!!!

I just want to take a second…just a brief moment out of my everything…to say, with a heart overflowing with thankfulness that I am American…that my birthright is a country that really is the greatest country in the world, bar none! (my opinion of course) (-:

Congratulations President Obama! Michelle and Family.

alg_obama-family

And good luck. You have my, and the majority of Americans, undying support!

Loco

17
Jan
09

In a word…

Japan is a great place for one word answers. Japanese are known for their brevity (-: I’m not, but I received the following questionnaire from my web buddy Reason2write and contrary to my nature and strict policy of delete first ask questions later (when it comes to tags and fwds of any kind) I will honor her request and pass it on (-: The only catch, you have to answer each with one word. Hmmmm…let’s see:

1. Where is your cell phone? shop
2. Where is your significant other? my dreams
3. Your hair color? skin
4. Your family? hither thither
5. Who you miss the most? big bro
6. Your favorite thing? new camera
7. Your dream last night? forgotten
8. Your dream/goal? published / rich
9. The room you’re in? office
10. Your hobby? writing
11. Your fear? mediocrity
12. Where do you want to be in six years? St. Lucia
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you’re not? skinny
15. One of your wish list items? private Prince concert where he does request
16. Where you grew up? Brooklyn
17. The last thing you did? type Brooklyn
18. What are you wearing? suit & tie
19. Your TV? nada
20. Your pet? zero
21. Your computer? Vaio
22. Your mood? moody
23. Missing someone? yes
24. Your car? nashi
25. Something you’re not wearing? shoes
26. Favorite store? Abercrombie Fitch
27. Your Summer? Beach
28. Love someone? Mom
29. Your favorite color? Black
30. When is the last time you laughed? today
31. Last time you cried? about 4 days ago

Well anyone else wanna give it a try you’re welcome to.Feel free to post it (with your own answers of course) or forward as see fit. As you can see I couldn’t stick to the one word answer rule. Maybe next time (-:

Loco

PS: Sorry for the delay in posts (those of you who are waiting patiently) I’ve been a little hectic, but I’m almost finished the next post. (-:

09
Jan
09

And yet MORE things I LOVE about Japan: Service & Safety

5  & 6 – Service with a gleam and a song / Otherworldly Safe

When I first moved to Japan I lived in Musashi Urawa out in Saitama. It’s about 20 minutes from Tokyo on the notorious Saikyo Line.  The Ekimae (the area around the station) has a handful of of shops and restaurants…and as is the norm at virtually every station I’ve been to in and around Tokyo, there’s a Macdonald’s and a Starbuck’s. Can’t say I was the biggest fan of either back in NY, but I love both here. The Japanese Macdonald’s is different than the Macdonald’s back home. And, the familiarity of Starbuck’s is like finding water on Mars.

Until you go inside, that is.

First, you’re struck by the cleanliness. There’s a gleam to everything. And there’s at least 1 or 2 staff people cleaning at all times, tweaking the clean, like they do in Macdonald’s commercials but you never see it in real life.

There are two registers open with two pretty college girls, looking handpicked for counter appeal, taking orders, and three others in the prep area waiting diligently like very disciplined, well postured and well-paid maids in a castle somewhere. Very “Remains of the day” looking…only extremely cheery and Japanese.

You check out the menu…most of the usual suspects are there: all kinds of Lattes and Chais and whatnot. You peruse it trying not to be distracted by the patient, smiling, gorgeous co-ed standing before you. Then, you place your order: “Yeah, let me get uh grande Iced Caramel Macchiato please.” Then you remember you’re speaking English…Being in Starbuck’s just doesn’t feel like Japan. You get ready to repeat your order in your broken Japanese when the staff smiles and repeats your order. Then she sings it to the preparers, who are suddenly called into action, as they sing the order in response, and in unison…with prepubescent mickey mouse voices.  It’s the cutest thing you’ve ever heard…and kind of sexy, in my opinion. They are the happiest staff people you’ve ever seen.  You actually believe they are happy to serve you. You’ve never felt that about the staff anywhere that didn’t stand to make a sweet commission off of your purchase. You don’t know it yet but it’s a routine you’re going to be enjoying on a daily basis, with the same consistent cheer, at Starbuck’s and the vast majority of the businesses you patronize, for the next five years.

Welcome to Japan…

Then you take your order to a seat. Most of them are full. You see an empty seat near the door. Bollocks, there’s a computer and a cell phone on the table, and a purse on the chair. You immediately look for the owner…they must be close. That’s a lot of value sitting there by its lonesome. But, there is no one not seated anywhere near it besides you. You look around for another unoccupied table. You spot one in the back. It’s free. It’s next to the bathroom. You plant yourself and sip your delicious drink. A couple of  minutes later a girl emerges from the restroom and strolls to the table where you’d seen the PC, phone and purse, sits, and resumes doing her homework or whatever.

You think to yourself, Man, if she had done that in NY there’s a very good chance she would have come back to an empty table. A very, VERY good chance. Then you wonder how true that is. You’ve actually never seen anyone so stupid before and of course you’ve never left your belongings behind while you so much as looked out the window, let alone went to the bathroom. It’s simply unthinkable, anti-common sense. It almost warrants being robbed. You imagine that if you went to the police station in NY after being robbed and explained that “…when I came back from the bathroom a few minutes later, all of my stuff was gone,” they would laugh and say, “if it wasn’t for dickheads like you, there wouldn’t be any thievery in this world, would there?”

You don’t it know then, but three years later you’ll be the one going to the bathroom leaving your belongings behind because you would have been living in a country where what you grew up to believe is common sense isn’t common sense, it’s nonsense, it’s virtually unthinkable, and this kind of thinking eventually rubs off on you. So much that you’re almost afraid to go home for if you do then you will need to re-install that old paranoid software, also known as survival instincts, that it took all of three years to un-install.

And you realize that you actually hated having to drag your computer to the toilet with you…not because it’s a pain in the ass, but because it indicated that no one in your vicinity could be trusted…that you lived in a trust-free environment your entire life and accepted it as the way of the world.

Well, not in this world.

Welcome to japan…

Loco




Copyright © 2010 Loco in Yokohama / All Rights Reserved

Please know that this blog is my original writing and may not be reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of the author (that's me!) Thanks!

Words I love…

Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me
I love you for who you are
Not the one you feel you need to be
Ever catch a falling star
Ain't no stopping 'til it's in the ground
Everybody is a star
One big circle going round and round

Words by: Sly Stone

You're at LOCO IN YOKOHAMA! Are you signed up? If not, better hurry! Subscribe now while supplies last (-: enter your email here!

Join 1 other follower

Blog Stats

  • 251,694 are wondering when Loco will finish this book!

Join Loco’s Network here!

Stumble Upon

Gaijin Beat

Feedjit

Tweetin’

January 2009
M T W T F S S
« Dec   Feb »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Top Clicks

  • None