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around my way



The sun was shinning brightly the next morning as Joey laid beside me, lost in his slumber.  I could smell the breath of morning exuding from his mouth, but I wasn’t about to break away from our embrace any time soon; no matter how much my nose was telling me to.  Not even the fact that I felt like I would burst a urine dam any minute would make me move.  I looked over at my alarm clock to see that it was only a little after six a.m.  I usually make it a habit never to wake up before ten on a weekend so I closed my eyes to settle back into sleep when I realized that I had left the bottles and half filled cups of alcohol just laying around the living room.  I jumped up and rushed to throw on my Pajama bottoms. Joey looked too cute sleeping, especially with the little trail of drool spilling from his pink mouth and onto his milky white chin, so I let him sleep.  I closed the door quietly behind me and was startled to see Amanda’s face as I turned around.  Her hair was thrown up in a messy bun of curls and she had slept in her clothes, but her shirt was different .  I knew it didn’t belong to me or her because she doesn’t dress  up in baggy clothes and the style wasn‘t something I would wear.   She always said that as a “thick girl”, she shouldn’t wear clothes more than one size bigger than what she normally wore, because then, as she put it, she would be a “Fat Ass“.  She was smirking and before I could ask her where she got the shirt from, she laughed and winked at me.

“So, how did you sleep?” She asked through her chuckling and my guard automatically went up.  She had that same look on her face again; the one from the previous night. 

“Fine, and you ?” I asked trying to keep myself from panicking.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell her because I wanted nothing more than to share my happiness with her, but I knew  Joey didn‘t want anyone to know about us.  I couldn‘t blame him, we both had a lot to lose and would be taking an unnecessary risk if people found out.  Newark was the ghetto, straight up and down hood and coming out as being Gay would not be wise……not at all. Everybody knows there is no such thing as gay in the hood.

“ I slept good.  REAL GOOD!” She winked at me and that was when I saw a shirtless Peanut walk out of the bathroom and I was impressed with what I saw.  Peanut was ripped and I mean rippled with muscles.  He was only sixteen, but his abs were already forming in a six pack.  He was only a little taller than me and from all appearances we looked to be the same size.  That is until I noticed the mass of muscles formed on his body.  He almost put Andy to shame with his definition, almost.   He was startled to see me and waved a sleepy hello before kissing Amanda’s cheek and going back downstairs.  I waited until I heard the rustling of blankets on the floor below, before I pulled a grinning Amanda into my Aunt Mickey bedroom.  I gently shut the door behind me, leaving it cracked open before I made my attack.

“NO! You two didn’t?” I hissed at her with a grin the size of Texas on my face.  She smiled up at me and tried to keep her composure, but then she lost it and smiled brightly.  She took my hands into hers and began to jump around.
“OH-MY-GOD! I , WE, DID!!  And Chris he was so gentle and wonderful.  I think I am in love.” She cooed.

“Wait? How did it happed?” I anxiously asked.  I thought that they fit together, but the last thing I was expecting was for them to actually get together; at least not that soon.  I was dying to know the steps that lead to the two of them getting it on.

“I don’t know how to explain it.  One minute we were just laying there in the dark talking about the wonders of mint foot lotion and the next thing you know he’s kissing me.  Then he starts to tell me that he’s in love with me and has been every since he met me. Love, Chris, not “like”, he said LOVE!   He said that he hates Nate for what he does to me and wants me to leave him and he will deal with him. Peanut wants me to be his girlfriend!  HIS GIRLFRIEND! Damn Chrissie!  I thought that he might have liked me, but I didn’t think that he was in love with me.  IN LOVE---WITH ME!”  She cooed as she fell back on the bed as smiled dreamily while staring at the ceiling.  Her excitement was contagious and I began to giggle with her.  We both were in love, how wonderful  was that!  It just sucked that I couldn’t tell her about me.

“That is so good girl!  And I can’t tell you how happy I am that you are dumping Nate.  I hate him!” I said and a look of fear washed over her face.

“Yeah……I don’t know how I’m going to do that.  I’m scared of what he might do to me, and to Peanut.” She said fearfully as she stood up and began to pace around the room.  She took down her bun, just to throw it back up and take it back down.  Whenever she was stressed she always played with her hair.

“Looking at Peanuts body, I doubt that Nate can do much to him.  Girl his body is TOO much!” I replied, trying to lighten the mood.

“Yes it is…..and….he….PUT-IT-ON-ME-SO-DAMN-GOOD!”  She said and began to blush and roughly thrust her hips in the air, simulating sex.  Then her look became serious again. “So, its your turn.  Who is this guy that has you cheese grinning every second, sixty of the day.”

“I can’t tell you right now, but I will soon.”  I said and she pouted.

“How about if I guess, then you can just nod .  That way, you won’t be “telling” me, I’ll be guessing.”  She said smiling.  One thing that I  love, and hate about her is her persistence.

“No!”  I stated firmly.  She ignored me and began to start naming names of various boys we both know.

“Rasheed? Tyrone? Kenny?”

“No, and I wouldn’t mess around with Tyrone even if he was gay.  The brother has no teeth!  Hey, do you want to play cards?”

“How, about Quinn, Danny, Renaldo, Da’shier?  I bet it’s Da’shier, that nigga walks a little soft if you ask me.  Yeah, that nigga is definitely gayer than you.” She continued, ignoring my attempt at changing the subject.

“No, none of them and I don’t even know Da’shier that good and I‘m not THAT gay!  Shit, he switches.  Look you can try, but I’m not telling you.  He’s not out to anybody, not even a friend, and I can’t just do that without talking to him first.”  I said and she continued to pout.  As I was getting up to leave out of the bedroom, the door creaked open and in popped Joey’s head.  His face read nothing less than mischief, a look that I was enjoying seeing for the first time.  Amanda looked nervous and apologetically glanced my way before talking to Joey.

“Hey Joey.  Did you hear what we were talking about?”  She asked with her voice wavering.

“Oh yeah, I heard all of it.”  He responded and glanced my way.  I knew what he was up to and I took amusement in Amanda’s discomfort.

“You did?” She gulped and looked at me.  I had false fear etched on my face.

“Yup,  I know that Chris is a faggot!” He yelled with his dark eyebrows furrowed.  Amanda got up off the bed and stormed over to get up in his face.  She glared up at him and pointed her finger in his face.  She could be real protective over me sometimes.

“Watch your fucking mouth Joseph! So what, he’s still Chris and you better not tell anybody or everyone is going to know about the “fifth grade incident!”  She threatened.

“So tell.  I wouldn’t have peed myself if you wouldn’t have made me drink all that lemonade.  I am going to tell everyone, and I mean everyone about Chris.”  Then he walked over to me menacingly and I stood up to face him. “ Are you a fucking faggot?” he asked and  I pretending to shake.

“Yes.” I whispered.

“Good, because so am I.” And with that, he embraced me and we passionately kissed.  I heard a gasp and as we broke apart, Amanda closed the bedroom door fully, and locked it.

“OH SHIT! You two or…….together….OH SHIT!”  She said and we both laughed.  She was at a loss for words, a first for her.

“Yeah, we are…..together….and gay.” Joey said and broke our embrace to hug her, which she impassively returned.

“Joey….gay….Gay Joey.”  She muttering incoherently and for a second I was afraid of what she thought.

“Are you okay with us being together?” I asked her.  She turned to me and gave me her biggest smile.

“Okay with it? Hell yeah! This is so fucking cool!  Now,  I can be an official fag hag! WE SO HAVE TO GO TO THE VILLAGE!!  I can get a tattoo while the two of ya‘ll can like, go and find a rainbow or something to climb.” She yelled, making Joey and I crack up.  I was surprised by both of their reactions.  Joey was the biggest closet case; even more than me.  I assumed that it would be years before he would come out and tell anyone yet he had so freely told Amanda.  I guess he just felt as comfortable around her as I did, I mean they had known each other since they were babies.  We sat down for an hour to tell Amanda how we got together; leaving out most of the bad stuff. I left them alone to catch up and I went downstairs to start cleaning up.  The first thing that I saw was that the cleaning had already been done to the living room and the next thing was Peanut sleeping soundly under a stack of fleece blankets.  I went around the house to clean up a little more and saw a message from Aunt Mickey written on the fridge.  It said that she had came home late last night and saw that I wasn’t alone so she went to sleep at Roger’s.  She made no mention of the alcohol so I prayed that she didn’t notice it when she had come home.  Knowing her, she probably didn’t or just didn’t care enough to say anything.  I walked back into Aunt Mickey’s bedroom to see Amanda and Joey hugging.

“Don’t be trying to steal my man.” I joked.  

“Never that!  I just never would have guessed that Joey was…you know, but now it makes sense.  He never wanted to play doctor with me.”  She joked.

“Aye, we did once!” He stated and Amanda rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, and you couldn’t even get it up.” She joked.

“I was six and you were scary as hell!  Shit! Breasts  on a six-year-old are just wrong, so wrong.” He teased back and she punched his shoulder. 

Joey went to cook us breakfast since the three of us couldn‘t fall back asleep and we woke Peanut up with our laughing.  Joey amazed me with his culinary talents.  He had come a long way from the Tamale dessert disaster of ‘94.   

“So Peanut, I’m glad you and Amanda getting it in!  You betta treat her good!.” Joey threatened with a smirk on his face and Peanut smiled.

“I will!  We just gotta deal wit my brotha and shit now.” Peanut stated and Amanda gripped his hand.

“We will baby, we will.” She reassured him. After we all ate a hearty meal of grits, sausages and eggs, Amanda and Peanut left.   It was a little after eight and I was still tired and so was Joey.  We both went up to my bedroom to take a quick nap.  The next thing I know, I see Roger’s disapproving face. Startled I just looked at him, not saying anything.  Joey was next to me and nothing looked intimate about how we were laying.  I was on one side and he was on the other, but I still felt guilty.

“Uh, hey Christopher.  Mickey wanted me to come and pick you up for lunch.  She has to work today and wanted us to talk……”  Roger said nervously.   No one ever calls me Christopher, so I knew to expect the worst.  I followed his eyes to where Joey’s sleeping frame laid.  At that exact moment he decided to reach out for me.  He felt around and we he didn’t feel me he mumbled my name.

“Chris…..were are you?” He asked and then his eyes shot open as he saw Roger standing there. “ OH SHIT! I mean hi!  I’m Joey.” He said and stuck his hand out to shake Rogers, who hesitantly took it.

“Roger, I’m going to be Joey’s Step Uncle.  I think you should go home now.”  Roger said and I nodded glumly.  Joey hurriedly grabbed his stuff and asked me to walk him to the door.  When we got downstairs he hugged me and quickly kissed me goodbye before making me promise to call him with in the hour.  As soon as the door was shut I heard Roger clearing his voice and directing me to set in the living room.   I know he must have saw our kiss.  OH GOD!  Roger’s presence was one that easily intimidated me.  He was tall, proud and had this heir of “righteousness” about him.  His voice was as deep and harsh as his complexion.  His voice just demanded respect when he spoke.

“Christopher, I just have to say a few things and then we can go to lunch.  One, I like you.  I think you are an intelligent young man.  In fact I wish there were more young brothers out there who were like you, but as a black man there are three things that you can not be.  First, you cannot date any women that is outside of your race, especially a white woman.  As you can see, I already broke that rule, but that’s the only exception allowed.  Second,  you cannot be a punk.  You gotta stand up for yourself and not take any shit, especially living around here.  I’ve been around for almost fifty years and I have seen a lot of things so trust me when I tell you this last thing.  As a black man in America, the number one thing that you cannot be is Gay. We will love and embrace our brothers even if they have committed a crime, but the minute a brother is even suspected of being gay, he is demoted to being less than a man.  Now, I am not making any assumptions or accusations, but I just want to warn you….or anyone that you may know that think they might be……like that.  It’s going to be very difficult for you- I mean whoever might be going through that- so just be careful.  I know I don’t know you all too well, but I do care for you and just want you to be careful.  Now were do you want to eat?” And just like that nothing else was said on the subject.  
The lunch for me was stressful despite Roger’s many attempts to put me at ease.  I didn’t know what to think of what he had said to me.  I wasn’t sure if he was telling me that he accepted me the way that I was or if he was trying to make me change.  He didn’t treat me any differently so I took that as a good thing.  As soon as he dropped me off, I rushed up to my room to call Joey who picked up right after the first ring.
“Chris what happened?” He asked. Anxiously.  I could hear his breaths coming out in short, hard puffs.
“Nothing really.  It was the weirdest thing, but I‘ll tell  you later.  You wanna chill?” I asked.
“Yeah come over, but I don’t really feel like going to the movies anymore.”

“Neither do I.  I’m leaving out now.” I responded and walked out to the bus stop.  As the winter months were approaching, the weather was getting increasingly colder so I threw on a yellow hooded sweat shirt underneath my black jacket.  I knew from the smell in the air that I would be snowing soon.  It was early afternoon and all the kids were running around the streets enjoying their Saturday.  Little girls were jumping double dutch, enjoying the sounds of their clacking feet trying to avoid colliding with the cable cords they were using as a rope while singing made up songs of who they would marry with each jump, twist and turn of their legs.  

I made my way down to the corner where the bus stop was.  There was an elderly over weight black woman in a nurses uniform standing there in her white stockings and sneakers glaring past me.  I followed her gaze as I heard a ruckus behind me. I turned to see about seven or eight members of the Westies all decked out in green, strolling down the street as if they owned it.  They looked like they were looking for trouble with the menacing looks etched onto their young faces.  They were all around my age, maybe a few younger, but their faces bore the lines and sags of hard-life that made them all appear older. They were laughing and talking amongst themselves when  one guy caught me looking  and motioned for the others to look at me.  Instantly my body became tense as I knew that trouble was headed my way.  They all looked so intimidating in the way that they dressed and spoke. Closer and closer they came until they had surrounded me.  The elderly woman mumbled something the sounded religious under her breath, but she just walked away.    The guy who pointed me out to the rest was the one who came up in my face and his boys cheered him on.

“What up Nigga? What set you from?” He asked me and I had no clue what he was talking about.  He took my silence for insolence and he shoved me backwards.  He was not much bigger than me and only a few pounds heavier.  His dark olive skin and jet black hair made him appear to be Mexican and I was sure that his heavy green jacket hid tattoos.  I fell back and braced myself so I wouldn’t hit the ground as the other guys just laughed.  They threw unintelligibleinsults at me left and right, but one word that I heard loud and clear was ‘Faggot‘.  Now was not the time for me to be brave.  I was outnumbered and all I wanted to do was get out of there, but I knew I couldn’t run away.  One thing that Roger said to me stuck-out. ‘As a black man, you can’t be a punk….’

“I’m not from any set.” I stated as I got up and tried not to show how much fear I was feeling exude from my eyes.  I didn’t know what a ‘set’ was so I figured it was best just to say that I wasn’t from one; big mistake.  Two more of the guys got in my face and began to stare me down as they pushed there shoulders into me, bouncing me between the two of them like they were playing ‘keep away‘ and I was the ‘keep‘.  They weren’t doing damage to me physically, but the humiliation is what bothered me the most.

“You got a smart mouth faggot! We asked you what set you from! What flag you flying Nigga?”  Another guy asked me.  He was a tall and lanky light skin black guy who was in one of my classes.  I couldn’t remember his name and judging from how rudely he was treating me, I didn’t think that he remembered me either.  Classes have a tendency to be crowded so it would be easy not to notice a few people.  A light bulb went off and then I realized that they must have been referring to what gang I was from.  I wanted to laugh at that thought, but I knew it wasn’t the time for humor.

“I’m not in a gang.” I said with a shaky voice.  They all crowded around making me feel like a guppy in a pool of sharks. Ten menacing faces of varying skin shades and  body builds all glaring at me.  I felt so small and then I felt the first fist land in my stomach and I doubled over in pain.  First it was one kick, then it was two. After the fifth I lost count.  All blows were directed to either my chest or stomach , but the heel of one sneaker collided briefly with my cheek and all I could do was curl up in a ball, hoping that I wouldn‘t get too hurt.  The whole ordeal lasted less than a minute before I heard a booming voice order the guys to stop their beating.  I was both overjoyed because my beat down had ended and fearful because it was Nate who had stopped it.

“WHAT THE FUCK YOU NIGGAS DOING?” Nate yelled out.  My main tormentor, the Mexican looking guy spoke up, but I could hear fear in his voice too.

“We was just letting this Fag know the deal.  He walking round her and shit flying dat yellow flag like he don‘t know was sup!” He stated as he looked over at me.  It dawned on me that he was referring to my sweat shirt.  I didn’t realize that this gang shit was so serious.  I didn’t think that wearing a certain color could cause me so many problems.  Nate looked over at that guy who had just spoken and punched him dead in his face.  Out of no where, BAM and the blood immediately began to spill from his nose.   Two of his friends had to catch him so he wouldn’t fall to the ground.  He looked up at Nate with hate in his eyes, but didn’t say anything.

“JORGE DON’T GIVE ME THAT SHIT! YOU ARE SUPPOSE TO BE ON THE BLOCK RIGHT NOW GETTING ME MY DOE! I DON’T HAVE TIME TO DEAL WIT YOU YOUNG ACTING NIGGAS! LEAVE THE KID ALONE, HE COOL.  HE BE ROLliNG WIT MANDY.  DON’T WORRY BOUT HIM, JUST GET YOUR ASSES ON THE BLOCK AND SELL MY SHIT.  DEM CRACK HEADS JUST ITCHING FOR A HIT.”  Nate yelled and all the guy dissipated down the street, not before throwing ominous looks my way.  Nate turned to help me up and I took his hand so I wouldn’t insult him, but I hated touching his dry, clammy hands.  As I was getting up,  I could fell sharp, throbbing pains in my side.  I could taste the metallic taste of blood in my mouth, but thankfully it wasn’t a lot.  My cheek was sore, but luckily it didn’t feel like it was swelling, but I knew that it would be a different story underneath my shirt.

“Thanks.” I said before I turned my attention back down up the street to look for the bus.  I didn’t want to make small talk with him, but he was making no move to leave.  He just stood there for a moment gazing at me and I became uncomfortable.  I tried to pretend he wasn’t there, but he stepped in front of me, blocking my view of the street.  I looked around and was thankful for all the people that were around, even it they were all just kids.  He may have had an attractive face with his naturally smooth light brown skin , but there was something just plan evil about him that good looks couldn‘t hide. He smirked at me and licked his lips as he came so close to me that I could feel his breath brush against my face.

“How bout you show a nigga how thankful you really are.”  He said flirtatiously and I grew nauseous.  The nerve  that he had sickened me and it was mixing with my fear.  I rolled my eyes at him and didn’t say anything; I didn’t know what I could say.  I felt sort of helpless in a way and that’s what I hated the most.  I didn’t like the feeling that someone had power over me, but as weird and twisted as it may seem, in some strange way he did.  He possessed this quality to bring this feeling of fear inside of me that I only had felt once before and I hadn’t seen Hector since I was seven.  Nate’ s face darkened with anger and he looked around us to make sure the coast was clear before he threatened me once again.  “You know you got a little habit of running away from me.  You starting to piss me off wit dat shit and you don’t want to do dat!  I think you know what the deal is……Now what card you gonna play?”  He continued to hiss and with that said, he walked off.  

I watched him confidently swagger down the street as if he were a king.  His cocky arrogance was revolting, but I would be a liar if I didn’t say that he put a fear inside of me.  There was a  chill that I thought I would never feel again returning ever so quickly.  It slowly started dancing its way down my back and down to my toes.   A sigh of relief escaped my throat as I saw the bus approaching.  I was so shaken up  by my encounter with Nate that my trembling fingers had trouble stuffing my dollar in the cash slot. I sat down and gazed out the window, lost in my thoughts.  We road pass Nate and he looked up at me and winked as he shuffled his hands as if he was cutting a deck of cards.  I placed my forehead against the window and trepidation and dread filled my heart.   Remember that fear that I said he no longer held over me, at that moment it returned and I didn‘t know what that meant.  When ever I think things are going to one way, they always go another.  I just wondered what road I was headed for………..

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