What’s Real

Janelle Martin

“So that’s it? I can’t say anything to you? You’re going to go be a groupie for the weekend.” Sean said.

“I’m not a groupie!” I yelled.

“Any girls who follow rappers and athletes out of town are groupies!” Sean yelled back at me over the telephone.

“First of all I’m not following anyone. Second, I don’t have to explain shit to you.

“You know what it is. Why don’t you just say you don’t want me to go?”

“Okay, I don’t want you to go,” he said remorsefully.

“I can’t do that Sean. I already paid for everything and took off from work.

I’ll see you when I get back. And as far as I remember we are not together like that.”

“Whatever Nellie. If I really was a hater I wouldn’t have gave you money to go,” he said.

“You didn’t contribute that much. Bye Sean,” I said and hung up the phone at work. Men always want to be all up on you when they know somebody else wants you or you’re going out with your friends. If I was staying in the house doing nothing and asking him to go to go somewhere, Sean would give me fifty reasons why he couldn’t go. But since I’m going away he wants to act like he can’t live without me. I don’t owe Sean shit. He is not even my boyfriend. He has a lot of nerve asking me not to go on my trip. Sean is just my dog. We go together to clubs and the movies. He breaks me off when I need some. And he is there when I need somebody to talk to about my problems with a guy I’m dating. I’ve known Sean since high school. He was a senior and I was a junior. He used to like me, but at that time I didn’t date high school boys, so he wasn’t my type. We ran in to each other at Pegasus a couple of years ago. We were out of school and Sean looked good and had matured. We got together that night and it has been on every since. I like Sean but we could never be a couple because he is somebody that is in transition. Transition, meaning he has great potential, but has not tapped it yet. He’s twenty-five, hasn’t finished college, never had a job more than three months, but he says he’s going to be a millionaire by thirty. I wonder how? He’s cute, funny and has goals, but no money. If he had the world, he would give it to me. But that’s the problem, he ain’t got no fucking money. He has visions for the future and a lot of good ideas, but no way to see them through. Our relationship is open, he can see who he wants and vice versa. We both try not to catch feelings when we talk to other people. We have talked about being exclusive but we decided against it. Sometimes it’s hard, because like I said, he is my dog as well as my lover. I wish I would not go on vacation for his ass. I didn’t get mad at him when he went to All-Star Weekend in Atlanta . I didn’t call him a groupie or get mad.

Tanya Lewis

Last night I had a dream that Barry was still alive. He looked exactly the same- chocolate skin, tall, and a brown bald head. He was on the run and we were hiding out at a motel. We were laying in the bed talking when we heard banging on the door. Then I heard “Open up! Police!” and then more banging on the door. We put on our clothes and escaped through the bathroom window. Barry kept saying we got to keep a low profile. Don’t call anybody. We went to another motel. We stayed inside about 22 hours of the day. We didn’t want anybody to know what we looked like in case the cops came around asking questions. “Don’t let anybody know where we at,” he said. He would always say we could only go to dark places where nobody could recognize us. We went to the movies and I remember I couldn’t concentrate. I thought the police were going to find us. Seeing and touching Barry felt so real. Then I remember touching his face and saying Barry, you are dead. How did you come back to life? He looked at me. Then that very moment I awoke. They say that when you dream about a person that’s their way of making contact with you. If that’s true, Barry must know how much I miss him and how I think about him every day. I wish I could have told him goodbye. Barry’s little brother Moe shot him in the head. They were both high, counting their money. Moe was playing with a silver revolver. He was always pulling out his old ass gun on someone and pointing it. He picked up the gun and acted like he was going to shoot Barry and the gun accidentally went off. At least that’s Moe version of what went down. The police said Moe killed Barry over three thousand dollars and some crack. That was four years ago, but it still feels like yesterday. Barry was my baby, the love of my life. We had been together since the eighth grade. His grandmom went to my grandmom’s church. We were inseparable. Barry grandmom would always drag him to church with her so he would stay out of trouble and I would see him. We started talking at church functions and picnics. One day we both played sick from church and went to the neighborhood carnival.

Me and Barry were sixteen when our son, Davon, was born. When I got pregnant, I had to drop out of school. After I had Davon I didn’t bother to go back. At the time, Barry was in juvie for dealing. His whole time in we remained close and in love. We wrote each other every day and I would bring the baby up for visits every week. He promised he wouldn’t fuck up while he was in there and got to come home early to me and Davon. When he got home, he made up for being away from me and Davon by moving us out of my grandmom’s house and buying me a car. I didn’t even know how to drive. He would hustle, steal or do whatever it took to hold me down.

Natalie Martin-Grant

I wanted to get my hair braided for my mini vacation. I didn’t wanted to be looking a mess with big, puffy, hair. I want to be able to get in the pool, jet skis, and still look cute. I do not have time, to even think about, doing my thick hair, in hot humid weather. A girl at my son’s daycare told me about a girl that did braids in her apartment building. She said that the girl Heather was fast, good, and cheap. Three things I needed. I called Heather and she said that she couldn’t squeeze me in until Thursday, which was the day of my trip. My flight left at 5:00 p.m. and I wanted to be at the airport by 3:00 p.m. I had to get there two hours in advance because of the security check. I asked could I come real early. She said I could come anytime while her kids was at school. So, we agreed on nine. I arrived at her apartment, and I swear, the roaches answered the door. As soon as I knocked on the door, one crawled down the door. I could smell a nasty mix of funk and roach spray. She opened the door wearing a dingy white bra and bright purple tights with white bleach stains on them. Her bones were sticking out of her ribs. She looked like a walking skeleton and had a cigarette dangling from her mouth.

“How you doing? You Natalie?” she asked as she opened the door. “I thought you was my old man. I forgot I told you to come this morning,” she said as I walked inside her apartment. She asked me what kind of hair did I buy as she threw dirty clothes off her sofa onto the floor.

“I just bought the 1B Beverly Johnson.” I answered. She told me that was cool and asked me did I have a comb. I pulled one out of my pocketbook and then she asked me how did I want my hair braided. I told her straight back with two layers and a design. Then she told me to have a seat on the floor. She took a pillow off her sofa and put it on the floor for me to sit on. It was so uncomfortable and her floor was very dirty. There were dirty shoe tracks and juice spills. While she was braiding my hair, I was swatting flies that flew by me. Her house would be the perfect setting for a Raid commercial. I wanted to kick myself for being cheap and not just going to a braiding shop to get my hair done professionally. Then I saw a mouse run across the kitchen floor and jump into the trash bag. She must have been use to seeing mice because she didn’t budge. I screamed, “ It’s a mouse,” I said and jumped off the pillow. She said, “Oh don’t worry about that mouse. he ain’t coming over here.” To reassure me she went and let her cat out of the bathroom. I sat back down. I wanted to get up and leave but I needed my hair done. She was pulling my edges so tight. I felt like she was doing it on purpose. Then she asked me if was I tender-headed and told me to sit still and lean my head towards her. Then someone knocked on her door. It was her old man. He was a real old man too. He was about fifty and smelled like liquor. He sat down on the sofa next to her.

“Butch, where my cigarette money?” she asked. He dug in his pockets and gave her a few dollars. She put the money in her dirty bra. He was sipping on something in a brown bag. She took a swig and I was totally disgusted. Then they offered me some. I declined and tried to just watch television, but I didn’t feel right. Finally after an hour and a half she was done. I needed some aspirins because my head was hurting. I paid her, said thank you, and walked to my car. Before I got back in my car I shook my clothes off to make sure I didn’t take any of her friends with me. I had saved about fifty dollars by going to her. However, the next time I’m not going to be cheap and will go to the African braiding shop. It might cost more but at least there are no rats and roaches running around. And you get in and out without the extra drama. I checked myself out in my rear view mirror. I smoothed down the hair that outlined my face. I had to admit, she could braid some hair. Even if her house was a hot mess.

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