Authors: Kenya Wright,Jackie Sheats
I gazed at the black door. It lay several feet in front of us. The hallway had apparently been decorated for the person’s event. The whole scene was straight from that movie, Eyes Wide Shut. There were polished marble floors and strings of tiny white lights that dangled down cream-colored walls. Every person entering the penthouse suite had on a mask.
We all wore the same disguise, tiny silk marijuana leaves sewn into crushed velvet. The masks only covered the top half of our faces. They’d come with the invitation that had been mailed to my house in a huge, black envelope, with no address or name for the sender. Somehow I’d gotten the perfect number of masks. Three. One for me, and one for each of my two best friends.
Although April 20th represented one of the biggest holidays for weed connoisseurs, the drug wasn’t legal in Miami. So with this crowd, identities remained hidden and high-power jobs protected.
Too bad I couldn’t convince my friend Coco of that very fact. My two girls—Mary and Coco—had come with me, and we’d been standing at the entrance for the past ten minutes, due to a particular person’s illogical anxiety.
“There’s no way I’m smoking here.” Coco tugged at her disguise probably to make sure it was definitely on. “I’m leaving.”
“You can’t leave,” I begged. “We just got here.”
“We could just smoke at my place,” Coco countered.
Her long black bangs hung over the top of the mask. That pale flesh seemed to glow in the dim lighting of the space. Like me, she’d worn an all-black dress that hugged her curvy frame with heels. She radiated pure elegance. The attire was so out of character for her. Coco liked gray slacks and pinstripes, business outfits that hid her breasts from the judges who ogled her as she fought for her clients in the courtroom and dull colors that kept her hidden from the rest of the city.
In the legal world, they called her Colleen Shaw, fighter of justice. To us, she was simply Coco, the grandmother of the group, Miss Boring and Responsible.
“This is dangerous. We don’t even know who invited you here.” Coco inched over to the side as the door opened and a couple walked in. Like us, they wore the masks as they sashayed down the long hallway and dripped expensive jewelry. “And with your hair so freaking red and all this publicity you’ve been getting on your street murals, you’ll be recognized.”
I stared longingly at the black door that sat at the end of the path. Every time someone opened it laughter and jazz music escaped and excitement surged through my veins.
“How did I let you convince me to come to this?” Coco asked.
I tossed her an innocent smile. “My lawyer advised me not to answer any questions that might paint me in a harmful light.”
In all fairness, I’d guilted her into putting the clothes on and even coming to this event. She’d missed my birthday and promised to make it up.
Today I cashed in.
“I shouldn’t even be at this. . .party,” Coco continued. “What if the cops come and arrest everyone? That’s all I need right now—”
“Cops don’t rush up to penthouse suites in Brickell and arrest people. When’s the last time you saw some big news report of rich people going to jail in this area? The cops are too busy harassing poor people.” I tucked my red hair behind my ear.
Although I kept my mask on, there might not have been a need to wear it. Only people in the hood truly knew me. Due to the color of my skin, I told most strangers I was black, although it never explained my green eyes or the blood red waves that fell to my hips.
Everyone called me Red, so I went with it, sometimes brightening the shade of my hair to the crayon’s color.
Now more than ever, it was hard to stay under the radar. New York Times had just done a full layout of my life and presented huge color photos of my top murals. The bottom half of my face remained hidden, but walking out in the streets without my disguise sometimes made me nervous.
I’m glad the host has us wearing masks.
Coco shook her head. “I can’t believe I listened to you.”
I held her hand, scared she’d run off and leave me at this place with Mary, who stood on my other side silent and high as a kite.
Just to make sure she was still mentally with us, I turned her way. “Are you okay, Mary?”
“The whole place is just vibrating with rhythm,” Mary whispered.
I nodded. “O-kay.”
“Like an African drum beating hard like the heart beats of a tribe that has known so much strife. I’m talking death and starvation, maybe even some form of human trafficking and genital mutilation—”
“Hold on, Mary.” I held my hand up to stop her. “Let’s finish this conversation, once we drag Coco inside of here against her will.”
“I’m not going in there.” Coco pointed to the door ahead of us.
I ignored Coco, dug into my pocket book, and gave Mary the small bottle of water I kept for emergencies like this. “Drink, Mary.”
“I’m not thirsty.”
“Come on. Do it for the tribe.”
Sighing, Mary grabbed it with her free hand. The other one was holding her shoes, that she’d apparently thought was okay to take off before walking into a high-end party. They were clear heels with gems that reminded me of Cinderella’s slippers, all sparkling and exuding hope that the owner would go to the ball and catch her prince.
Too bad Cinderella is already higher than a kite and won’t be able to see Prince Charming or anyone else at the ball this evening.
She still looked regal that evening. Mary never dyed her strands like mine, and preferred to keep it in pinned up styles that were very reminiscent of the classic 20’s—flapper girls and Great Gatsby fame.
Mary and I were both unknown mixtures. My mother was white, but I had no idea who my father was. Mary didn’t know her parents at all, and had been lucky to live with a distant cousin. We both had that same light-toned skin, and had grown up together in the Pork and Bean projects, one of the worst ones in our city. The residents had named the area due to the fact that everyone who lived there was on government food assistance, which meant that the kitchen table held a whole lot of meals with pork and beans.
Our mothers did drugs together, so we raised ourselves. I’d painted my way out of the slums. She escaped through spoken words that drew in large numbers of poetry lovers to any venue she attended.
“You need to drink water, Mary.” I pointed to her shoes. “And put those back on.”
“Fine. But why do we even wear shoes?” She dropped them to the floor and then unscrewed the water bottle in her hand.
Coco frowned. “We wear shoes so we don’t get cuts and scrapes on our feet, or even better, scare other people with those horrific toes.”
“My toes are beautiful,” Mary replied between sips.
Another group walked in and passed us—five men in masks and suits. Their cologne lingered behind, as they marched on to euphoria.
“This is crazy.” I waved my hands in the air. “Let’s go inside. If only for a quick smoke and a look around.”
“I don’t know. The invitation looked wonky.” Coco centered her attention on me. “Who invited you?”
“I already told you that I have no idea.” I shrugged. “I’m big news now. I get invited to tons of big events all over Miami, every freaking week. My mailbox is packed with envelopes. Sometimes, I go. Sometimes, I don’t.”
“Yes, but how many of those invitations don’t have a sender’s name or address?” Coco asked.
“Well, how many of those invitations are inviting me to a 420 party where we will be illegally smoking? I think it makes sense that the sender wanted to protect him or herself and remain private.” I crossed my arms. “Wouldn’t you have advised me to do the same thing, if I was having it?”
“I would have told you not to have a party at all,” Coco said.
“But if you approved it?”
“I wouldn’t have.”
“Do you both hear that?” Mary interrupted and leaned her head.
“No,” Coco and I said in unison.
“You really don’t hear the tribal drumming?” Mary whispered.
I almost told Mary to finish the water, when the pounding hit my ears.
“Oh shit.” I smirked. “There really is drumming coming from the penthouse. Tribal drumming.”
Mary glared at me. “Of course there is. What am I, crazy or something? I’ve been saying that the whole time.”
“Come on. I’m not standing out here another second.” I walked off, unable to contain my excitement anymore. Worst case scenario, Coco would leave and Mary and I would use Uber or some taxi service to get back home.
“Are you really going in there?” Coco called after me.
“Hells yes. There’s drumming and ganja.”
“And I feel like the drummer is telling an important story,” Mary added.
“Uh. . .yes.” I glanced over my shoulder at Coco. “Don’t you want to hear the drummer’s story?”
Coco sucked her teeth. “It just sounds like a bunch of thumping over and over.”
“No,” Mary said. “Listen with your third ear.”
“Sorry, sweetie.” Coco followed us. “I only have two ears. I’m not as magical as you apparently.”
“Hey, if we have a third eye, we all must have a third ear,” Mary argued.
Coco got to my side and kept my pace. “I don’t believe we even have a third eye.”
Outrage laced Mary’s voice. “What? We all have third eyes. You’ve never seen people paint an eye on their forehead, sort of like your brain has vision too?”
“So if we put the third eye on our forehead, then where is this third ear supposed to be painted, on my neck?” Coco asked.
I laughed. “I don’t even know why you’re sitting there discussing this seriously with her.”
Mary got on Coco’s side and whispered, “Red is just mad she that her ears are clogged out with spray paint. That’s why she’s always getting her behind in trouble.”
“Which is why I’m coming along.” Coco gripped my hand and then Mary’s. “We don’t know these people in here. Keep your masks on. You never know, but you could be smoking right next to your boss, preacher, or even a family member. Don’t talk to anyone—”
“Well, that’s just extreme.” Mary gasped. “I didn’t wear these fuck-me heels to sit at the table with a joint all night.”
Coco lowered her lips into a frown. “You better be joking. There will be no fuck me of anything happening this evening. It’s a freaking weed party, people. We joke with stoners. We party with stoners. We even get a hook up from stoners, but we don’t date stoners.”
“That’s your rule,” I said. “Not mine.”
Coco snorted. “You haven’t even dated in years, so it doesn’t really matter.”
“I’m remaining career-minded.”
“You’re just so caught up in your art, and high so much that you forget to talk to men,” Coco said.
I stuck my tongue out at her. “Lies. All lies.”
“I’m not even talking to you, Red. One day, I just know you’re going to call me up and declare that you’re a lesbian.” Coco pointed to Mary. “I’m talking to Miss Hot to Trot over here.”
“Eh!” Mary raised her hands. “Hey, I’m just saying. If the moment comes with a sexy guy, I won’t blush like a virgin and run away. It’s been a minute since I’ve had a sexual escapade. Almost a year.”
I chuckled. “It’s barely been a month. You were just with Jeff at Marino’s. I know you both hooked up.”
“Bad sex doesn’t count,” Mary said.
We arrived at the door.
Coco jumped in front and refused to let us walk in. “Remember. We stick together. We don’t separate. Just because these people are smoking weed, doesn’t mean they always keep their drug use natural. There could be meth heads in there waiting to rape a high female.”
Silence passed between all of us.
I released an exasperated breath. “As usual, Coco sucks the enjoyment out of the situation and scares the shit out of us.”
Coco shrugged. “Better to be scared than dead.”
And the hungry beast spotted her and the basket.