THE MIMOSA TREE
“Happy birthday, Maddi,” said my Daddy as he watched his ten year old test drive her new cassette-radio. It was the perfect gift for the green-eyed kid who knew every instrumental break to every song played on the air for the past eleven months; all without owning a single record.
“Thanks. I love you, Daddy. You coming’’ back soon?”
He answered quickly, because Mr. Clyde, his bid whist buddy was fidgeting in the back seat of their puttering car.
“I’ll be back soon. I promise, Maddi. Here’s ten dollars. Tell your mom to get you the Pro-Keds or Converses or whatever those shoes were that you said you wanted. You wanted new sneakers, right?”
When Daddy closed the door, that was the end of our relationship. What a liar. Instead of coming back to see my sister, Chandra and I, Richmond Charles Lee (the only man in my life at the time besides my gym teacher) ran off to the Blue Ridge Mountains with some nineteenish hot-to-Trotsky; only to discover that he was unable to keep his footloose up with her fancy-free. So, upon issuance of a Divine warrant, Daddy’s cardiac proceeded to arrest, arraign, indict, try, convict and sentence him to death on December Tenth, 1974. Maybe, I thought, if he’d stayed with us when his cardiac arrested him, he’d only be serving probation today. I can’t seem to remember a time when capital punishment was the law in New York State.
After the rigomorolis of seeing her (pompous) in-laws at her husband’s funeral had set in , my Mommy took her new position in society with the same stride she had taken the new society with. Becoming a widow and being forced to take a second job (as a barmaid, of all things) was right in line with Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and the women’s liberation movement; Ralph Nader and the consumer advocacy brigade; Angela Davis; Assata Shakur (Joanne Chesimard) and the Black Panthers; along with the ‘Death to J. Edgar Hoover’ and ‘Aluta Continua’ (The Struggle Continues) buttons everybody was wearing — and the countless offers to become ‘kept’ by the wide selection of married vermin in the area.
Mommy got an evening job tending bar at the watering hole down the street to cover her home owning incidentals like food, water and oil. Every smidgen of the pittance she was thrown by her main employer, the Board of Education, had to go towards the mortgage. Once in a while, she could squeeze enough out of her financial stone to take her babies to an African crafts fair; or to a more spectacular event like Dance Africa — at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. If nothing else, Suzette Hopkinson Lee took pride in the fact that her children had their own bedrooms on a tree-lined street in Queens and were culturally aware.
“Why are you eating your cereal without any milk, Madelyn?”
“Beecuzz, Mommy. You put that powdery stuff in it and you never did that before.”
“Oh, I see. Since you’re so smart, how do you know whether I put powdery stuff in it or not?”
It always took my seven-year-old headache, Chandra, to butt into the conversation and get the ball wrecking.
“Because it tastes nastee!”
“Nasty — “ Mommy began to scream in my direction, no doubt, “ — what about your messy-behind room, Maddi — now, that’s nasty! Clothes and shoes every gotdam where... get upstairs outa my face if you can’t drink the milk I buy!”
By the age of thirteen, while experiencing my last year in private school, I was a board-certified straphanger in the New York City subways. I knew French, Shakespeare, Impressionist art, Baroque music and underground New York like the back of my hand.
“Hey, Mom! Did you realize that there are three different ways to get to Coney Island on the train from here? Either you could take the A to Franklin Avenue, transfer to the shuttle upstairs and change at Prospect Park for the Brighton Line, or you could... “
“Not now, Madelyn: Mr. Whitney is here... “ she said as I burst through her bedroom door, “ ...and he has to go to work in the morning.”
“Sorry Mommy. I didn’t know you had company. Is it okay if I go outside for a while?”
It seemed like every night now, I was going outside. That was, until Dondi from 131st Street gave me something else to do. One night, I was outside on the porch, practicing a tune on my soprano recorder (I got it from school) and Dondi stopped by. It was a documented fact that he was the finest guy in the neighborhood and all the girls were after him, but I just knew that he really wanted to be with me. I knew because he kissed me in the mouth a couple of years before.
“Hi, Maddi. What’s that? I didn’t know you could play the flute.”
Besides — when I was eight years old, I wrote him a letter. He was supposed to check either the YES or the NO box to indicate whether he loved me or not.
“It’s a recorder — and you never asked. What’s up?”
Daddy caught me with the letter and read it. I thought that an advance suggestion of my preferred method of punishment might get me off the hook, but y’know what? Daddy only laughed and returned the letter to me.
“Oh, nothing. Tell me Maddi. Have you ever had sex before?”
Daddy said that he knew Dondi’s father very well and that Dondi was a fine boy. He also said that when we grew up, we had his blessings to get married.
“Yo, Bro, what does having sex have to do with the price of tea in China?”
“Don’t change the subject, Maddi. Have you?”
“Because — I wanna have sex with you. You play that flute — or whatever you call it, and stuff like that. So, what is it? I don’t have all night. Are you down or what?”
It took Dondi three days to return that letter to me, but when he did, the YES box was checked. Little did we know that he was also checking the life of my cherry away.
Brooklyn Technical High School, eighth wonder of the world. Some of the predecessors to the experience were: folk singer Harry Chapin; television stars Kim Coles and Lou Ferrigno; and General Manager of the metropolitan hip-hop music station, 98.7 KISS, Barry Mayo. When I attended Tech, there were some seven thousand students enrolled and I swear to you that well over forty percent of them got in through bribery. The test proctors were salaried wimps and the mandatory entrance exam was simply, too difficult to cheat (comprehensive, Mommy would often suggest). And so entered the likes of Alvarez, Swann and Pou Putt, Luxevan, ‘Pickpocket’ McLaughlin; Brown, Green & the Pinkhouse Brothers; James, Tygers, Robinnette and a host of God-only-knows-how-many others. Some got lost in the military after high school; most of them had a child along the way somewhere (whether they knew it or not); a few of them tried their luck in college and one of them died.
My heart was instantly lost in the walls of my new school. It was a dimly lit, architecturally explicit mammoth of a building, bustling with solid marble halls and sculptures; detailed moldings carved from inlaid rock and a rail-riding subculture of brainiac pubescents. We didn’t know how to stay seated, wear our hair or pay for lunch, but we all knew that Tech was ours — and we loved it (did I mention our innate inability to pass in our homework assignments?).
After becoming acquainted with my new teachers and receiving my personal syllabus, I opted to join the Student Council. I’d always had a thing for Knessets and Parliaments, Congress, the Supreme Soviet and whatever that synoddy (get it?) group is in the Vatican that lights up the different colored smoke based upon its governing decisions. Looking back, I think I got a real kick out of being in the middle of anybody’s (political) business.
“That wraps up our orientation meeting,” said Mr. Raymoney, our Student Advisor. “Does anyone have anything they’d like to add?”
Nobody said diddly for an entire minute; I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Yes. My name is Madelyn Lee — and I’d like to know if we have to wear these stupid, HELLO MY NAME IS tags at our next meeting. I’m sure that if I ask anyone here what their name is, they’ll be more than happy to tell me.”
At the sound of the period bell, a gang of applauding hands shoved me under the skeptical microscope of the Student Leader, Cedric James.
“Hello, my name is... M-A-D-E-L-Y-N L-E-E,” he uttered while the lens on his microscope stripped me naked. “I think I like you. Most of the girls who join the Student Council are dingbats who didn’t pass the cheerleading auditions. You look as if you might have a head on your shoulders.”
“You would look pretty silly talking to me in the hallway if I were headless, huh?”
“Miss Lee — looks can be deceiving.”
from that day on, Cedric James, the fat Student Leader with the scandalous eyes, became the best friend I ever had... except for maybe Daddy, or Mr. Golden in Social Studies, or a new keyboard, or something.
In the beginning of my junior year, I entered Tech’s Electricity/ Electronics curriculum. I had already been exposed to transistors, cathode ray tubes and E=IxR from the television repair shop Daddy used to have in our garage before he left New York. But since I was still more interested in concert recitals than cathode rays, I searched for something to assuage my disappointment over not being allowed to take the entrance exam for the High School of Music and Art.
“Cedric, my Mom can’t afford any more music lessons for me right now and the neighborhood band I was in has decided to split up. It’s that new disco stuff -- y’know? Everybody wants to be a rootiepoot dee-jay. If you ask me, it stands for dumb jerks!”
For some reason, I could always talk to Cedric. No matter what I said, how ridiculous it sounded or how long I took to say it, he was there to listen to every last word.
“Look. Mommy just doesn’t realize — I like, can’t live without my music! I was raised on music and what not; you know what I’m sayin’? My Daddy was in a famous band during World War Two! Why should I break tradition now?”
“ ...Your daddy was in World War Two?”
“Yup. He even got a Purple Heart.”
“Um, Maddi... “
I should have known what was coming.
“ ...Just between you and me — your daddy was old as Methuselah. What band was he in? The 85th Swing Music Regiment?”
“Forgetchu, knee-grow. How am I supposed to know the name? Was I there? I just know it was famous!”
There was a deliberate pause in our banter as Cedric leaned over to stare at a light refraction on a nearby desk.
He is TOO fine, I said to myself as I watched him stare into space.
“What are you doing after school today?”
“Not a whole lot, I guess. What’s up, Cedric?”
“I need to talk to you — it’s critical. Wait for me at the southeast exit after eighth period.”
I didn’t even answer. It was clear that I would be at that southeast exit. I was in love with that beautiful, slightly overweight... okay, so I lied. Let me try this again. I was in love with that beautiful, embarrassingly overweight young man.
After eighth period that day, I ducked and dodged my regular social set and waited by my lonesome, for Cedric at the southeast exit. Pou Putt saw me standing alone on his way out.
“Putt, you’re a knucklehead.”
Once I took a swig of the flat, lukewarm, 40-ounce that he’d miraculously stashed in his leather bomber jacket, the wait for Cedric became much easier.
As soon as ‘Fats’ arrived, he took me across the street (Fort Greene Place) to the steps of an abandoned brownstone. There we sat until Mildred and the last of the secretaries from the general office revved up and drove away into their evenings.
“Come take a walk with me, Maddi,” said Cedric after the final secretary pulled off.
“Nothing. Just come with me.”
He led me down the block and across DeKalb Avenue to the ascension of Fort Greene Park. That park was so beautiful — I was almost scared of it. I’d played hooky there a couple of times, but you don’t exactly stop to observe the beauty of your surroundings when you’re on the ‘lam’.
I don’t know. Somehow, my heart knew exactly why Cedric was taking me there. The top of Fort Greene Park has a granite tower and if you sit on the tower’s base at sunset, you can wave to God, Gabriel and all the rest of the crew from Heaven’s Gate (Plus, I guess, a couple of brothers from the Navy Yard projects playing basketball). You just don’t go there because you have some — albeit righteous — gossip to expose. The air in this particular park was as crisp as a fresh potato chip and would crumble under the weight of that sort of everyday, high school he said, she said.
When we reached the tower, we sat down at the base, right next to each other. Cedric took my hand and my heart started its drum roll on cue:
One of my drumsticks fell to the floor,
I put the drumsticks down.
He was good. His mouth never made a sound, but his heart danced around the tower and fell asleep in the grass beside mine; ‘bout the same time that the sun decided to call it a day.
We never said anything more about it —
I mean — we had our respective roles to play in school, and all. But our hearts had long been denied membership in the Screen Actors’ Guild; as they would never beat normally again.
“Hey, Maddi. I want you to meet my friend, M.O.,” said Cedric as he oozed his rotundity through the center section of the lobby.
“Hi. My name’s Madelyn,” or at least I thought it was. All I actually knew was that it was December Tenth, 1978; four years after Daddy died, halfway through eleventh grade and forty-five minutes into my Christmas vacation. I wanted to go home.
“Is M.O. your real name, M.O.?”
“No, it’s Marcus — without the O.”
Marcus Edward Tygers. I had no intentions of seeing him, whatsoever. He was bravado, truant, unattractive, ethnocentric, egotistical; I even saw him pull his privates out in front of a teacher once or twice. But, he chased me high and low and got in trouble with the police in the midst of all his courtin’. For example: We all were in front of the McDonald’s at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street when the manager of the place wanted Marcus to leave. An argument ensued, then the manager went behind the sales counter to press the button they press when they want the ‘riff-raff’ out of the store. The police materialized from thin air.
“Whatever you do Marcus, my Mommy says don’t run. If a black man runs in America, it’s open sea... “
Fortunately, Marcus ran away with only a summons lodged in his chest pocket; and for the rest of the year, we all unanimously decided to mcboycott that establishment — and waste our parents money in the Kansas Fried Chicken located directly across the street.
I ALMOST DIED FOR YOU, MADELYN. CAN I HAVE YOUR FONE NUMBER? — said a note that flew past me a few days later after the mcincident; in the guise of a paper airplane.
“Fone?” I asked.
“Sorry, Maddi. Tech is a school for brainiacs in math and science. Nobody said that we had to know how to spell.”
“Hiya, Maddi... don’t hang up on me... do I go out with you or what?”
I swear on my father’s grave! I should have known how that pesky moefoe got my number! The same way everybody got the answers to Ms. Fiorenza’s English quizzes. The same way everybody else got the lowdown on who was gettin’ busy with who on which staircase.
“I hope you don’t mind, Maddi,” said Paulette with a tone so sarcastic that I could have smacked her right her in her neck. “I took the liberty of giving your phone number to someone.”
No kidding, I thought to myself.
“That guy, K.O. . You know, the one who hangs with Cedric all the time — much to my dismay.”
“Need some attention, do you? don’t worry, chum. Giving my phone number to anybody you want to without my knowledge or permission is just fine. How can you help it? Bloodlines are hard to break.”
Paulette laughed, then smacked me straight in my neck.
Paulette Vestry. I can’t remember the last time I called her name. Last I heard, she was doing something over at Rolling Stone Magazine. Two years ago, Rolling Stone folded against unrelenting pressure from SPIN Magazine, but Paulette was the go-getter type. I’m sure she survived the changing of the guard.
I suppose this next paragraph should be about graduation. The End of High School. Before it came, the anticipation of The End was so sweet — like a tangerine. But the actual End was sour — like a lemon.
The invoices started coming in my own name.
I could be tried and convicted as an adult.
Cedric would be gone.
Some got lost in the military after high school; most of them had a child along the way somewhere (whether they knew it or not); a few of them tried their luck in college and one of them died.
I was always fond of going to McGuire Air Force Base. Port Authority Bus Terminal was the absolute worst, but the specific gate where I had to stand and wait for the bus wasn’t too bad. It only smelled like one person urinated on the floor instead of six people.
I tried to take a trip out to McGuire every weekend that I didn’t have to work. It was really, quite a nice ride once you passed Exit Ten on the turnpike. South Jersey was generously endowed with flors-n-fauns-n-fleurs; fleas, flies and flutterbys. As I look back now, I seem to remember someone telling me that a weekly, hour and one-half of viewing all-American lawns and falling leaves (or was it budding leaves?) from a moving vehicle was good for the soul.
“Let me see some identification, please.”
Be that as it may, there was always some M.P. down the road at an entrance command post to mess up my wilderness-enriched fantasies.
“She’s with me.”
“Thanks, Smitty,” I said cheerfully, as the bus rolled past the on-base housing. “It works every time. See ya’ next week.”
“That’s okay, Doll,” the bus driver replied. “Say baby — when am I gonna get that phone number?” Smitty was a washed out looking old fool, but he did seem to possess a genuine understanding of the perpetual assemblage of girls on his bus who were stricken with love for their servicemen.
One evening, a day or two after Marcus’s birthday, I’d decided to help him celebrate. My idea was to surprise him by arriving unannounced. I’d done it once before and he was tickled pink. This time, I went for the gusto! I wore his favorite outfit; brought his favorite pastries (Napoleons from a Trinidadian bakery he frequented somewhere along Church Avenue in Brooklyn) and heaved two, large presents into my oversized satchel. I also carried a disposition that was far beyond mere conceit — I was completely convinced! What can I tell you? My black, leather pants did it to me every time!
After another successful ‘bushustle’, I recalled my way into Marcus’s barracks and slowly crept down the halls until I got to room eighteen. Just then, an unattractive unknown approached me and gave me the right to remain silent.
“I bet I know who you are, and who you’re here to see. You’re Madelyn; you’re looking for Tygers and he’s over on Fort Dix at the NCO club.”
“Okay, okay, I’m busted. Who hired you?” I tried to answer him jokingly, but I was really P.O.’d. Who was this guy and who were the two, pre-teenaged wannabees who kept peeping out of his room and giggling?
“My name is Jerry. I’m a friend of Tygers’ and he talks about you a lot,” he explained while he pinched the bootie of the shortest girl. “You can wait for him in the rec room.”
For some reason, time seemed to virtually stand still in that recreation room. Like a quiet before a storm, I guess. Every now and again, a new face would pop in the front door and stare at me; as if they, like that Jerry-person, knew my name, rank and favorite breakfast cereal. Other than the feeling like I was on exhibit though, the wait wasn’t so bad... just long. By the time Marcus walked in, it felt like three or four centuries had passed.
“Happy birthday, big guy,” I said between kisses, “I wanted to surprise you... I’ve missed you so much.”
“You sure have,” he said. Then he hugged me something fierce and outlined one of my nipples with his finger. I gave him the largest present I brought along and persuaded him to open it.
“Maddi — I can’t take this gift.”
I was puzzled by his response, but I was also exhausted from the long bus ride there and the even longer wait in the rec lounge; so I said, “Look, Marcus. Do whatever you want to do with the present. You deserve it, it’s yours. But Hunnie. Can you please take me out of the rec room so that I can get some sleep?”
Marcus slumped in a nearby chair and fell silent.
“What’s wrong, Marcus? Got somebody in your room?” I thought a little humor was in order at the moment.
“No, Maddi,” he paused for a long time , then said, “There are two girls. One was for a friend, but he didn’t show up.”
According to the commercials, my hair would hold up through this even if I couldn’t.
“Fine, Marcus. Now that I’m here, get them out. Okay? No problem.”
“I can’t, Maddi.”
“Jeez, Marcus. What do you mean you can’t?”
“They live ten miles away from the base and I don’t have access to a car until tomorrow morning when my roommate gets off shift.”
I should really thank that Jerry-person for the whole fiasco. Marcus never had to get ‘busted’ by me (as word on the base would eventually have it) , but that Jerry-person never told him that I was around until after he sent the trampy duet I’d seen earlier into Marcus’s room.
Anyhow, after Marcus gave me that flimsy excuse about not having access to any of the 1,639 registered vehicles on the base, he took me to some buddy’s room (who was away on leave) and watched me undress for bed.
“I told you I don’t deserve any gift.” He insisted on talking to me, but I wanted him to get out.
“It’s okay, Marcus. We’re not married. I can’t force your hand. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I slipped into the icy cot in the far corner of the room, then I pretended that I was the Suez Canal being opened. The salty water of the Dead Sea flowed freely and rapidly over my face. All was quiet and I felt warm under the water. Just then, a tongue boat smashed across a reef on my cheek and a finger raft swayed over my mouth.
“Madelyn, I love you. I swear I’m sorry.” Exploring hands went down and scooped my breasts off the ocean floor.
“I want to marry you. Please marry me so I can stop this.”
Brown lips kissed pink lips and I shuddered in disgustacy.
“Don’t fight me, Maddi. Not now.”
An eerie Ghost Ship sailed through the narrow canal and a voice in my head said, MOVE OVER, BACON! SAY HELLO TO SIZZLEBABY!
It was squints-over-easy for breakfast, as I watched the sun shine on what was left of our Mimosa tree in the backyard. I had been standing with my face mashed into the windowpanes on the back door for a while. I was thinking about how I kept telling Mommy to cut that sickly branch from the tree last year. the branch had developed crusty, white blotches and a darkened hull. Well, she didn’t cut it off, so the whole tree ended up dying.
“Madelyn.” Familiar flames were licking my neck, but I did not turn around to put them out.
“Yes, Mommy,” I whispered.
“Are you pregnant?”
“Yes.” The mist from my mouth as I exhaled made a letter O on the windowpane.
“No sweat. Are we on for an abortion next week?”
“No, we aren’t.”
“Are you insane?” The flames were burning me now. “What about... “
I reached for the extinguisher, “I know, I know. What about the people who think I’m going to Spelman to marry a Morehouse man, right? Forget it, Mom. I’m insane. I’m having my child. You take care of your baby — whoever he is this week — and I’ll take care of mine.”
When I turned around to face her, SUZETTE LEE STORM of the FANTASTIC FOUR said FLAME ON... and tried her best to kill me.
“She’s pregnant, Gert,” said Mommy to her boojie-oojie sister.
“Make sure she gives the baby his last name, Sooze. He’s in the service, right?”
I know I had no business eavesdropping on their conversation, but the top of the stairs looked so unoccupied. Gert wasn’t really a bad person, she just found out that every dollar she made over the 25-thousand mark and had the audacity to bring home required an additional lick up society’s behind. And so did you by the time she got through making you pay for those licks. But even in all the bourgeoisie, my Mom and her sister were some kente-cloth wearing hunnies; and you’d best believe I’d stab you over my girls.
“Madelyn,” yelled Mommy from the living room. I knew her next call would be from the foot of the stairs, so I hopped off the top step and ran into my room.
“Maddi, your Untie Gert wants to talk to you.”
Gert was very slow and deliberate, generally; so by the time she made it to my room, I had already filed my nails and put a coat of clear polish on two of them.
“How are you feeling, Madelyn? Your mother tells me you’re in delicate condition... “
“I’m fine, Untie Gert, thank you.”
“You know, Maddi... ” Gert’s lecture began as she stirred the drink she brought upstairs around with her finger (I used to hate when she did that); “ ...My firstborn, your cousin Allen, was so beautiful as an infant. His head was so round and flaky, you know? But later on, I realized that his beautiful, round, flaky head was going to cost me money. So much money in fact, that now every time his birthday comes around, I toast to yet another year of avoiding yet, another pregnancy.”
Allen must feel absolutely jubilant about this, I thought.
“I’m keeping my child, Untie Gert. Even millionaires live beyond their means — so if I end up in bankruptcy court, I believe it will be because of my own general excesses and not a two-year deficit from Pampers.”
We both laughed a little, then Gert rose to adjourn the lecture.
“If you must, I suppose you must. May the Good Lord and a good 9-to-5 be with you, niece.”
When she left the room. I cried. I wasn’t sure if I was crying because it was one of the things I could do openly (besides eat twice as much and let someone else change the cat litter) while I was pregnant and get away with; or if I was crying because I hurt. Marcus hated to break the news to me in my condition, but his romantic interest in me had waned and I could decide the baby’s destiny on my own. That Marcus made me hurt. Mom made me hurt. This baby dogging out my stomach made me hurt!
After I got through using all the bathroom tissue on my nose, I sat down with the baby and we began to paint a second coat of polish on my nails.
Your father is a slouch, Junior, I said to the baby; and then it kicked me.
Now Marcus was seeing some hoochie named Juanita (what a nice name for a baby) who lived just a mile or two from McGuire. Last year (behind my back, no doubt) , it was LaTonya, and a son who was supposed to be his. Before that, it was pick-a-number. I’m not certain if he ever really loved me, but I thought I loved him — that was the important thing. And Junior Embryo wouldn’t let me forget it.
Anissa Avette Tygers. My first and only child. My best friend. My capacity to love in full bloom, so to speak. However, I always compare her delivery to the nightmare that girl had in in the film, THE FLY (the modern version). The man she loved ruined a molecular transportation experiment and fused his own rudimentary structure with that of an inconspicuous fly. Later on in the film, the girl got pregnant; and in one of her pre-natal dreams, she gave birth to a squiggling, monolithic larvae. This to me, is the epitome of the expression, rude awakening; as she realized that the man she loved was no longer that man she loved but an insect — incapable of emotional reciprocation and undeserving of such a gesture of love as the nurturing of his (its) unborn child.
“Okay, give it a big PUSH, Maddi.”
Up to now, this childbirth stuff had been a breeze.
“One, two, three, PUSH! PUSH, Madelyn! For chrissakes, PUSH!”
I shuddered in fright when the doctor lifted my future from my womb. She was so lovely! The Right Triangle. The 360-Degree Circle. The True Black Head of Hair. You know, like the scientists say, Life-As-We-Know-It. HER FATHER DOESN’T LOVE YOU, said a voice. SHE’S A BASTARD, said another one. The doctor let me touch the amniotic sac and detached umbilical cord while the nurses cleaned my girlfriend off. THE WORLD WILL BLOW UP AND SHE WILL DIE, said the voice I heard earlier; HE NEVER LOVED YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Suddenly, the walls of the delivery room seemed to close in on me. I screamed and screamed. The labor pains were tearing my heart to pieces.
How he got my number this time, I will never know. It was December Tenth, 1985 — a personal eternity since our last encounter. Anissa was already three years old and looking like her father... you ain’t just sayin’ it. I mean, I’m tellin’ you what.
Over the phone, we agreed to meet at the Eighty-Two Club; on Second Avenue and East Fourth Street in the Village. I was a sucker for that particular club’s Twilight Zone-type atmosphere; offered by its loading-dock appearance and unorthodox operating hours (5am - 9am). I knew that once we got inside the club, my lamebrain sense of erotica would succumb to the weird ambiance and was hoping for a chance that his would do the same. I mean, speaking on this from a scientific standpoint again, I have always supported the Big Bang theorists over the Black Hole posse.
“Where is the baby?” I figured that was coming.
“Sleeping safely and soundly in my sister’s bed, thank you.”
“Your sister, Chandra? My girl. What high school did she end up in?”
My boy. I took a step back and cased his physique before we actually sat down. He was clad in hi-top Wilson sport sneakers; some kind of strangely formal, yet seductive cologne and a ‘round-the-campfire’ styled weather jacket. Winter’s first shakes of talc were powdering the outside and the colored lights in the club made the snow dust on his hair sparkle for a couple of seconds before melting the dust away, altogether.
For most of the night, we sat cloaked in velvety robes of vulnerability and silence, on a sofa at the rear end of the club. I sat mesmerized — purposely protruding my lips and my right knee a bit (in case the knucklehead finally asked me to marry him, or something). When I got tired of that embarrassing posture, I encircled his breadth as best I could with my twiny arms; all the while brushing my face against his like a kitten, just inside from the cold.
“My Cedric. How come I feel like I know you so well and hardly know you at all — all at the same time?”
“Bugs you out, don’t it,” he answered playfully while giving me one of his more unnecessary grins.
“No, it just bugs me.”
They were my forever, those seconds that he cuddled and ended up snoring through, in my arms. At dawn, we made a promise to get back together in a couple of days. But time had finally returned us home from Fort Greene Park — a day late and a dream short.
He was nice enough to put me in a cab when it was time to leave the club.
“We’ll talk soon, I promise, Maddi. Here’s ten dollars for the cab. that should be enough, right?”
When Cedric closed the car door, that was the end of our relationship. At that instant, every throbbing ache of unified being we had left for each other was erased from our hearts and entered as a random speck in the Scheme of Things.
© 1991; LiNCOLN PARK
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