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around my way


By Maddy A -

March 2005

As I spoke to Joey later that night I knew that he wanted to find out why I freaked out on him while we were fooling around, but thankfully he didn’t.    Truthfully, I didn’t understand why I did.  In the beginning, I was all into it, but as soon as things were getting a little heavy, I panicked.  It was like Hector was in my mind, my body and in my soul.  The only problem was I didn’t know how to get him out.  In had been more than ten years since the last time he molested me, but the memories of what he had done remained fresh.  
The phone conversation with Joey later that night was odd at first, even slightly uncomfortable, but we quickly fell into a routine of lame jokes and shy compliments again.  He told me stories of his childhood including a few hilarious ones involving eight year old Amanda and a jar of hot tamales.  Every Christmas, his mother would make these desserts with the hot peppers.  It was the summer and Amanda wanted one, but his mother wouldn’t make them so she decided to try and make them herself.  Joey and Amanda, or as I thought of them, thief one and thief two, decided to shoplift a jar of tamales from Joey’s fathers store.  Joey cracked up as he told me how the two of them hid the peppers in his basement for a week because they were scared his father would find out that they had stolen something.
By the time they got enough courage to go down and get them, the peppers had spoiled; turning a dark brown color with thick, smelly gray liquid oozing onto their fingers when they touched them.  Joey told Amanda that they were rotten, but even at eight she never could be wrong.  They went into the kitchen and tried to mimic what they had always seen Mrs. Torres do, only they used all the wrong ingredients; along with others that had no business being in there.  In place of sugar, they added salt and Amanda had the bright idea of adding strawberry jam just because she thought it would look pretty. Your suppose to blend the tamales in a blender, but the two of them were afraid of making the noise and alerting everyone as to what they were doing, so they opted for hand mixing everything in a bowl.  Joey said that the smell coming from that bowl was way too foul for him to want to eat it and neither did Amanda.  Rather than let their concoction go to waste, they attempted to feed it to his brother Matt, who was only seven at the time.  He refused and Joey and Amanda got into an argument as to which one of them would eat it.  They both double dared the other and in eight year old ethics; they both ate it.  They counted to three and shoveled a handful in their mouths. I’ll spare you the specifics, but lets say the night ended with the two of them in the hospital, two mild stomach pumpings, child protective services and two very unhappy stomachs.  Apparently somewhere in their warped little third grade minds, they actually liked the foul mixture.  I entertained him with equally charming stories from the famous W.A.C. pack and by the time our five-hour phone conversation had ended, we were both back to some sense of normalcy.
I always loved Fridays.  At the end of a stressful week of classes, homework and man problems, there was and still isn’t, anything that could beat a Friday night.  Even the inevitable task of having to write a four-page paper on Greek Mythology, in two nights still, was a blessing in comparison to a week of school.  Joey and I made plans to go out to lunch and catch a movie on Saturday, so I wanted to get that paper finished as quickly as I could.
Peanut came home with me directly after school.  Amanda had signed up for F.B.L.A (Future Business Leaders of America). She claimed that it would look good on her college transcripts, but Peanut and I knew that it was just so she could go on their annual trips to Six Flags Great Adventure.  She had a meeting there after school, but said she would come over later that night so we all could hang out.  Poor misguided Peanut wasn’t up on his trivia of all things Gooney related so it was Amanda and I’s duty as his friend to educate him.  We decieded to make a night of it and rent various black busters of the eighties, such as Fright Night, Biker Chicks In Zombie Town and for pure authenticity purposes only, the original Dawn Of The Dead.
“Okay so I was thinking we could write about Eros.” I suggested to Peanut.  He looked at me with confusion on his face.
“Ay Yo, I don’t know anything about Greek Mythology, so what ever you want to do it on is fine by me, but what is Eros?” He asked as he made himself comfortable on the floor beside the couch I was sitting on.
“Some Greeks believed that Eros was the first God to be born, but others believe that he was the son of Aphrodite; ho was the goddess of love.  Eros was responsible for uncontrolled sexual desires.  Some people worshipped him as a beautiful being for “liberating” their ambitions while others thought of him as a menace because they believed that the sexual desires he brought out in people, disturbed the order of society.” I replied.  I’ll admit it, once I discovered that basically all of Greek Mythology had some sort of sexual undertone to it, I became hooked.  I was only eleven, what do you expect, but as I grew older I began to appreciate solely for it’s educational reasons…mostly.
“So, you want to do this paper on some guy that made people horny?  I don’t know if I want to get up and read that in front of the class?”  The more time that I spent around him, it was easy for me to tell that he was shy when it came to certain things; sex mostly and anything involving girls.  He was a far cry from the overt nature of his brother, that asshole Nate.
“Okay if your punking out on me….” I teased and he shot me a glare as he rolled his eyes.
“Whateva!  I ain‘t no punk!”  He stated with false bravado.
“We could always do it The Gods of The Under Ground.” I suggested.
“Is that one of those weird bands you listen too?” He joked and I threw a pillow off the couch at his head.
“No loser!  Those are the Gods who the Greeks believed ruled Hades.”
“Hades…How old is you again? I ain’t never heard anyone call Hell, Hades. Not even my Nana and she‘s seventy.”  I loved the way he said ‘nana’ in his ghetto accent.  It came out sounding like ‘nann-nah’.
“Don’t hate me because I’m smart.” I teased and mumbled something smart that I couldn’t hear.  We settled on that and it took longer then I expected to write up a rough first draft.  I didn’t know too much about that particular subject; it was really all too dark for me.  I preferred to stay away from the dark imagery and focus more on the romantic side. After two hours of research of : ghost with brass metal hooks for hands, dog faced demons and bat winged hell angels we were finally finished.
 Aunt Mickey and Roger came home and greeted us.  I made the introductions and we ordered a pizza.  As usual, Aunt Mickey and Roger would be out for the night; most likely dinner and dancing.  It seemed like I spent every other night alone in that house.  Sometimes I would be afraid to be in that big house when it was dark out, but thanks to a lock on my bedroom door and my trustee lamp, I made it through.  She would always be back by the time I was up and awake, to make it seem like she had slept there, but I always knew when she hadn’t.  A small part of me was grateful that Roger would be moving in, so at least then someone would be home.  I was glad that night I would have the house to myself.  I would have them all just crash for the night.
Amanda came over just as Aunt Mickey and Roger were leaving.  Aunt Mickey looked at her with cross-eyes and then looked over at me before yelling out “ You guys be safe”.  Amanda smirked and replied, “We will” and a look of surprise went over Aunt Mickey’s face as Roger laughed and led her out the door.
“What the fuck was that about!” Peanut demanded and Amanda and I were surprised by the amount of anger in his voice.
“HUH? What are you talking about?” I asked him and he just glared at me from his spot on the hard wooded floor of the living room.
“Are you two smashing?”  He shrieked with horror written all over his face.  Since it was only Peanut, Amanda and I both laughed.  Add the fact that he referred to the thought of Amanda and I sleeping together as “smashing”, along with the look of unfound hatred on his face and you would have laughed too.
“HELL NO NIGGA!  I wouldn’t let Chris put his little yellow thingy in me even if God himself said he had the magic stick!” Amanda joked and Peanut eased up.  I had my suspicions as to why he got so jealous, but I didn’t want to embarrass my boy so I opted to talk to Amanda about it later when we were alone.
“Hey my “thingy” ain’t little!”  I replied, but was ignored.
“So Amigos, what are we doing tonight?” Amanda asked with a fake Mexican accent.
“I thought we were watching the movies that you made me rent?” I asked.
“You are not getting me to watch the Gooney ’s!” Peanut stated.
“Well, Peanut, love of my life, you really have no say in the matter.” Amanda said as she threw her arm around Peanut and kissed his cheek.  He was a little too brown for me to be sure, but I thought he blushed. “But, lucky for you that I don’t want to watch it again.”  She continued and I looked at her with mock sadness.
“No Gooneys tonight?  Gooneys never say never.  What happened to that?”  I asked with a pout on my face.
“Baby, you know us Gooney’s are going to be down for life, but tonight lets do something different.  Lets explore this big old ass house of yours.  I‘m feeling a little adventures so grab your pirate patches and lets get it popping.”  With that, she got up and dragged Peanut and me along to the attic.  Despite having lived in that house for almost five months, I never really actually “explored” it.  Yeah, the first few weeks when I was stuck inside and bored as hell in that house, I had looked around, but it’s different when you’re not alone.  When its just you, its called “looking around”, but when its with your friends, its called “exploring“.
We went inside of my creepy ass attic.  It wasn’t like how it was in the movies where everything was covered in cobwebs and dust.  No, it was barely covered in anything.   It was more like a small space and you had to watch your step because some areas weren’t covered with wood planks and you could see the orange insulation of the house.  There was nothing special in there so we basically just fooled around making jokes at all of Aunt Mickey’s old clothes from the eighties.  Apparently she had a fascination with acid wash jeans.  Buried in one the many boxes, Amanda found an old game called Scruples.  It looked pretty boring to me, but Amanda wanted to play so we made our way down to the living room just as the phone was ringing.  Amanda answered it and I heard her surprised voice say, “Joey, what are you calling here for?”  I grabbed the phone from her and turned my back to her to avoid her questioning look. 
“Hey Joey.” I said.
“Hey kid! What’s Amanda doing over there?” He asked curiously.
“Where all just hanging out. Peanut’s here too.” I said and then I looked around to make sure that Peanut and Amanda were out of hearing range before I added something in a whisper. “ I wish you were here.”
“Yeah, me too.  I could probably get Loco to drive me over, but then I would have to crash at your crib because he has a date.”
“Yeah! I mean yeah.  That would be great, but I have to warn you that Amanda and Peanut might crash too.”
“Great, then it won’t look funny when we take your bedroom and leave them the alone in another room.” He said happily and we hung up with him agreeing to come over in a half an hour.  I was a little nervous with the thought of the two of us being alone in my bedroom.  Even though it had been a few days since “the incident”, it was still fresh in my mind. I wanted to do all the things that I know Joey did, but I didn’t understand why I reacted the way that I had.  With Brian at the campground, I had been all for it.  When he made his move, I happily followed so I didn’t understand why I had the opposite reaction with Joey.  I probably would have had the same reaction with Brian if we would have gone further than we did before he pulled that bullshit stunt on me. 
Let me explain to you the retarded game that is known as Scruples.  It is comprised of Q&A cards that give you questions on morality.  Amanda and Peanut were snuggled up on one couch shuffling through the cards.  Someone had thrown in some hand written questions of their own on index cards, I guess in hopes of spicing the game up.  I told them to wait before we started because Joey was on his way and Amanda gave me one of her patented looks.  You all know that look that a girl gives you when they are on the verge of discovering some big truth, but she hadn’t quite put it all together yet.
“Joey? Why is he coming over?” She asked.  I tried to keep my cool.  Thank God for the bowl of popcorn for me to hide my fidgeting fingers in.
“He was bored so I invited him.  Is that a problem?” I asked through a mouthful of popcorn kernels.
“No I love Joey, I just didn’t know you guys were so cool?” She replied as she gave me an unreadable look.
“Yeah, neither did I?  I heard you guys were beefing at Loco’s party.” Peanut interjected.  I had forgot all about our little argument.  It felt like so long ago even thought in reality it had only been a few weeks.  How things change so drastically in such a short period of time I mused to myself.
“There is no beef.  He’s cool as hell, you know we have art class together.”  I responded  hoping that would explain why Joey and I were friends and Amanda nodded her head in understanding. 
About fifteen minutes later the door bell rung and much to my dismay, my naturally green hazel eyes met the artificial blue contacts of “the bitch”, I mean Mercedes as soon as I opened it.  Yeah, she was kind of light skin, but she wasn‘t fooling anyone with those contacts. ‘What the fuck was she doing here?’ I asked myself.  Joey looked at me apologetically as he gave me the bro hug and whispered “My Bad” in my ear.  It wasn’t until I moved out of the way that I saw Loco standing next to Kayla, who was holding a bottle of Hennessey and a bottle of Jamaican Rum. 
“Hey, I didn’t know all of you guys were going to be coming?” I said with a fake smile.  Mercedes, Oh Hell!  I mean “the bitch” came over and kissed my cheek.  She had on yet another pair of tight jeans and a black motorcycle leather jacket.  How she could afford a Versace jacket living in the city we did, is beyond me, but she was always dressed in something designer.  Half of which I am sure of, where knock offs.
“I hope you don’t mind, but Kayla and me saw them drive by and asked to come along.” She said in her whispery, baby soft voice that I am sure made puppies howl all along the eastern seaboard.  Loco said his date had cancelled and just like that, it was a party.  Joey sat on the two-seated couch and I quickly bypassed “the bitch” I mean “THE BITCH” and sat next to him before she could.  I knew that she couldn’t come between us, but I just didn’t like her. Even if she didn’t want to get with Joey, I still wouldn’t have liked her.  Everything about her was just so fake. He gave me a knowing smile and we must have stared at each other for a moment longer than we should have because Amanda’s voice startled us both.
“You guys know that it’s not safe for you two to be around here right now, right?” Amanda said to Joey and Loco.
“Don’t worry bout it.  I got my uncle Pepe’s car and none of dem West Side Niggas knows it. We got some time to chill.  What game we playing?” Loco asked, rifling through the cards.  We explained the nature of the game and I went first. 
“If your very attractive and happily married neighbor wanted to sleep with you, would you do it even though you knew that it would end their marriage, but you would be left unscathed with the knowledge that you just had the best sex of your life.” All of us said no expect of Mercedes, which didn’t surprise me.  Loco who went next.
“Okay, ‘if you find a thousand dollars in the super market and you take it just to find out later on that it belonged to a little old lady would you return it?’  Aye Yo! These questions is whack as hell!  Fuck dat! I’m making up my own questions.  ‘If you found a bag of weed on the block and smoked it and the next day you find out it was one of your boys, would you by them another bag?”  We all laughed as we responded.  One great thing that I can say about Loco is that fool could make you laugh at a funeral.
“Hell no, they may be my peoples, but their loss is my gain.  Shit and I wouldn’t tell them that I found it.” “The bitch” answered.  Kayla, who had pretty much been quiet since arriving there finally, spoke.
“But they’re your friend, that’s fucked up.  Mercedes you need to be ashamed of yourself. Girl!”  She said.
“Yeah, who still smokes weed in the 0-2 anyway?” Amanda interjected.  I think she liked Mercedes about as much as I did.
“I LOVE to smoke weed.  Give me some Piff or some Purple Haze and if I’m feeling real damn fine, pass that Chronic, right Tearz?”  Loco sung out and laughed as Joey nodded his head in agreement.   It had been a while since I heard someone call him by that nickname.  He said that the gang gave him that nickname because when he was getting jumped in, he didn’t cry.  The name used to be “No Tearz”, but over time it had been shortened to just Tearz.  He hated that nickname because he said it was a symbol of the day he made the worst mistake of his life.  He wanted out of East Side, but getting in a gang is a lot easier than getting out.  I wished he were out too.  I hated how he acted around his friends from the gang. I knew that he would get high and drunk with them.  I had only seen him wasted that first night that I crashed at his house after the Puerto Rican Day Parade and I was glad I didn‘t witness a repeat performance.  I don’t like to do drugs or drink and neither did Joey as he claimed, yet he did when he was around the gang.  His personality around his friends was one way and with me another. The more that I thought about it, the more I realized that I still had a lot to learn about the man that I loved.  Somehow, I didn’t think it would all be pretty.
“Okay, since we are making up the questions now, its my turn.” Amanda stated and looked over at me with a grin on her face.  “ If you find out that your best friend is dating someone and didn’t tell you, would you think it was wrong to keep their favorite movie DVD until they told you?”  I smirked at her and everyone else looked at her and “THE BITCH” replied.
“Mandy what kind of whack ass question was that?  Your turn is skipped and now, on to me. ‘If your ex-girlfriend wanted to get back together with you with the promise of the best sex of your life, would you forget about the fact that she broke up with you and get back with her?” She asked and focused her sickly looking fake blue eyes onto the naturally magnificent crystal blue’s of Joey.  He rolled his eyes at her, but didn’t respond.  I wondered why he wouldn’t just tell her ‘hell no’.  He was with me now…unless he had plans to get back with her. He bumped his foot into mine as a casual sign of reassurance and my over active imagination eased up.  It was his turn next.
“I think I’ll just pick a question.”  Joey said and choose one of the handwritten cards.  He quickly read over it and I could see the tension beginning to form on his face.  He shot a weary glance at me and tried to put the card back and pick another.  Peanut told him that once the card is picked you have to ask it, so begrudgingly he did. “If you found out that your worst enemy was gay, would you out them for a million dollars even though you knew it would ruin their life?”  His voice wavered as he asked the question.  Our eyes quickly met and we both looked away.
“Oh fuck that shit! I ain’t answering no fucking questions about no fag shit!” Loco exclaimed.  Joey clenched his jaw shut, but I could see the anger seething through his crystal blue eyes as they coldly glared at Loco.  Amanda could tell that I was bothered by that question and my girl came to the rescue.
“You know what, I am tired of this game.  Lets play Spades.” She said and we all agreed. 
“Yeah, but lets spice shit up.  Every time someone makes a book( a matching pair), the losers have to take a shot.” Peanut said and everyone agreed.  Joey came with me in the kitchen to get the plastic cups.  He looked around and quickly kissed me on the mouth.  He had just pulled away when Amanda came walking in.  I hoped that she hadn’t heard the smack of the kiss, but if she had she didn’t say anything.  She just grabbed some paper towels and headed back to the living room, not even acknowledging us.
After an hour, it was clear that we all were all just a little tipsy.  Mercedes had thankfully fallen asleep and Loco and Kayla were intently playing the spades against Peanut and Amanda who were gracefully winning.
“Ya’ll two are going to lose because you are losers!” Amanda said and Peanut agreed.  Those two seemed to fit together.  He was much better for her than Nate I thought. Joey and I snuck off upstairs, leaving Peanut and Loco playfully yelling at each other.  I locked bedroom door and put The Smiths song, “ How soon is now” on (that song just always puts me in the mood even though it has a sad undertone).   Much to my surprise and slight relief.  All he wanted to do was talk.
“You know we need to talk about what happened the other day.” He said and I looked away as I sat on the bed next to him.  He took my hands in his and my stomach flip-flopped; That was when I knew for certain I was in love.
“I know baby.  I don’t know what happened to make me act like that. It was like I wasn’t with you.  You weren’t there anymore.  You were him.”  I whispered and looked into his eyes as tears began to slip down my face.   God, I hated to cry!  I had never cried so much in my life as I had been doing over the last year.  In one breath all of the pain of my past came out and  I told him all about Hector.  I shared with him all of my past, leaving nothing out.  I told him things that no one and I mean NO ONE except for me knew about.  He just sat there with a compassionate gaze and comforting touches.  He didn’t interrupt me or try to relate to what had happened to me.  He just listened.  I knew I was in love and so was he.  After I had finished telling him the horrors of my childhood he turned my face to look at his.
“Chris, I am so sorry that all that has happened to you.  You are the best person I know. It kills me to know that someone would want to hurt you like that.  I promise you that I will never, ever, hurt you.  Fuck that punk ass Bitch! He can’t hurt you anymore.  We don’t have to do anything that you’re not ready for.  I can wait a while.” He said and then gave me a sly smile before pulling me to my feet.  We had been gone for close to twenty minutes and I didn’t want anyone to start to wonder what we were doing.  He leaned down and kissed me.  I had to stand on my toes to reach up to him.  ‘God, what was he a giant?’ I joked to myself.
We went back down stairs and no one had seemed to notice that we were gone.   Bitch was still laid out in her drunkenness on the couch and Peanut and Amanda were still winning.  I saw that it was a little after midnight and I told everyone they had to leave.  I was still slightly feeling the effects of the rum, but I wasn’t drunk.  Loco was a little more far-gone than me, but he seemed like he would be fine driving his uncle’s car to drop off Kayla and Mercedes.  Hell, I would have drove to get “The Bitch” out of my house and I didn‘t even know how.  Joey had to carry her to the car and I felt a little twinge of jealousy seeing his arms around her.  He caught my “ice grill” (cold stare) and smiled.  I think he got off on my jealousy because he playfully squeezed her and cocked his head back like he was moaning and grinned as he caught my seething glare.  After Loco drove off, I invited Peanut and Amanda to crash.  They thought that I was just trying to be considerate since it was so late, but really I didn’t want it to seem “funny” if anyone found out that Joey slept over.  Amanda started to follow me to my bedroom, but I stopped her.
“Amanda you know my Aunt will not like it if she finds you in my bed.  How about you and Peanut crash down here and Joey and I will go upstairs.” I said to her.  For a second she looked hurt, but then she gave me that unreadable look of hers again and I kissed her good night on one of her cushy cheeks.  She knew where to get the extra blankets and linens so I left with Joey following close behind me.  I figured since it was a Friday night, Aunt Mickey wouldn‘t be home until the next day so I left the alcohol mess alone until the morning
Joey and I stripped for bed.  Well, we weren‘t exactly naked, just in boxers. We stood in front of each other and for the first time I was able to absorb every beautiful inch of his body.  His muscles weren’t bulging, but they were noticeable on his lean frame.  His light brown hair was loose, which is how I preferred it.  Don’t get me wrong, he looked good with braids, but it was just that I loved to run my fingers through his hair when it was out.  Letting them get lost in that wavy silk was quickly becoming a favorite past time of mine.   His milky white skin was clean and small wisps of golden brown hair danced across his chest.  I looked into his eyes to see him studying my body too.  I thought that I was too skinny and didn’t have that much muscle or hair, but the way that he was looking at me you would have thought that I was a God.  He blushed as he saw that I caught him staring.  I walked up to him and buried my head in the crook of his neck.  He smelled like a mixture of sweet cologne and sweat, it was beautiful scent because it was his.  He rubbed the back of my neck and kissed the top of my head.  My dark hair was cropped close to my scalp so his lips brushed against my skin, sending chills running through my body.  We walked over to my bed and he kissed me gently across my lips, letting his tongue flicker softly between them until our tongues met before he pulled away.  I smiled at him and we touched our foreheads as we embraced.  We both laughed quietly, both thinking of that first night at his house when out foreheads collided as we both reached to pick up his dropped keys. We crawled into the cold sheets of the bed and pulled the comforter tightly over our bodies to warm up. 

As we lay there, Damien Rice’s soft voice gently filling the room.  My c.d. player automatically goes on at midnight and plays whatever c.d. is in it.  If no one has ever listened to the beautiful softness that is Damien Rice‘s voice then you are missing out. The whole album is a mixture of classical, soft rock music enhanced by his melodic voice.  The mood between Joey and I was romantic.  Our touches were soft and every now and then we would share a gentle kiss or two.  My bedroom was dimmed with the faint yellowish glow of the lamp smothering us in a blanket of golden comfort.  We kissed tenderly for a while, but we both knew that that would be as far as we took it.  There would plenty of other times for us to make love and there was no need to rush. I don’t have a very good voice, but I found myself beginning to softly sing some of the lyrics to the song, “Delicate”.  I won’t bore you with all the lyrics at the moment because it really doesn’t do the beauty of that song justice without the beautiful background music. But, the part where I sung, “ We might make out, when nobodies there, its not there were scared, it’s just that it’s delicate…” made Joey smile at me and kissed the tip of my nose.  Never have I felt so safe, never.   I felt like I finally found some sense of peace. 

 You have to listen to the song for yourself to fully understand the beautiful atmosphere that was between Joey and I that night.  Joey doesn’t like music that’s not Hip Hop related, but he loved that song as I sung it to him. That night, “Delicate” became “our song”.  I fell asleep with him cuddling me.  My head resting on his chest as he embraced my body closely to his.  His arms were wrapped around me and I nestled my body closer to his.  We were both in  “situations”, but we both ignored them.  He whispered in my ear “ I know it…. I love you.”  and I told him, “I know you do…. and I love you too.”  The song faded out as we surrendered ourselves to the night…………

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