Authors: Meesha Mink
“No,” he said simply, reaching in the pocket of his shirt for a small metal container that he shook over the pot.
The whole scene reminded her of a photo she'd seen on
where some fool had an air conditioner duct-taped inside the back window of an old car with a generator rigged to the trunk giving that bitch power.
Just dumb shit that made no sense.
When she discovered he was still using a bucket for a toilet even though there was a working bathroom in the basement, that had taken a lot of patience and her putting her foot down for him to stop
Fighting not to vomit at the memory, she shook her head and swallowed hard. “Sarge, I let you stay here because I want you here. So please stop trying not to be a burden, because the things you
to do is more of a burden than if you justÂ .Â .Â . like relaxed and enjoyed the little bit of amenities we do have around here like lights and running water. You know?” she asked as she watched him take the pot off the grill and stand up with it in his hand.
“Have some,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes because he knew damn well she would not.
“Nah, I'm good. Thanks.”
Sarge walked back across the small paved yard and into the house as he whistled some tune. Naeema walked over to grab the hose and turn on the outside faucet it was attached to and doused the charcoal. In the end she was laughing when she walked back into the house as her stomach growled from the scent of the beans lingering in the air.
With one last look through the fridge and equally empty cupboards, Naeema walked back into the living room and stooped down to pick up the money from beneath the cold radiator. Her brow furrowed as she rose to her full height. She used her thumb to stroke the rubber band holding the money together in a roll.
Spending it didn't seem right.
Dropping the wad back into her handbag, she headed to the bathroom to shower. As she stood under the steaming hot spray of the separate shower stall, she wished the master bath upstairs worked. But the water didn't work in that bath and so she dealt with the half bath on the ground floor. She was a bath girl and would much prefer sitting her punani in hot water scented with bath oils and overrunning with bubbles.
Drying off with one of the towels folded neatly on the built-in shelves flanking the green commode, she wrapped it around her body before she brushed her teeth and gave herself a facial. Rushing, she fast-walked into the living room. She checked the time on her cell phone. “Shit,” she swore, jumping up and over the bed to grab a bra and thong from her top dresser drawer before turning to reach in a bin for black spandex leggings and a half-shirt.
She barely spared a second to swipe on deodorant and spray on her favorite body mistâa mix of lavender, vanilla, and lemon that she'd blended herself. She was late but she had to take time to get her makeup straight. Most men had more hair on their head than she did and a beat face was a mustâlashes and all.
Dressed and done with strapping on a pair of wedge high-top black and gold sneakers that matched the black half-shirt with BOSS BITCH splayed across her ample bosom in gold letters, she dropped all the shit from her real Louis into a fake Gucci book bag that she pulled on.
Her steps thudded against the floor as she rushed into the kitchen. “Sarge, I'm gone,” she called, standing by the open door leading into the basement.
Naeema left the house and crossed the yard to the weathered and battered one-car garage that had only remnants of its dark green paint left. She unlocked it and lifted the door, smiling as more and more of her motorcycle was revealed. She loved it. It was a third-year anniversary gift from Tank. She stroked her fingers over the words
Tank & Naeema 4Ever
painted on the gas tank.
They both believed that shit back then.
Once she had on her hot-pink helmet and was riding the motorcycle down the drive, she felt like herself for the first time in a minute. No weaves. No extra crazy outfits. No faking the funk like she was a naive hood chick. Just Naeema headed to work like she had done every other day for the last nine years. Before she went undercover with the MMC, she had never missed a day of work unless she was traveling with Tank during one of his security jobs. Even if she got white-girl wasted or faded as hell the night before or headed straight to work from the club, Naeema had always clocked in and made her money.
As she dipped and moved through the heavy Newark traffic the hot summer air brushed against her skin but it felt good to her. A day without looking in them motherfuckers' faces was always an Ice Cube level good day. She pulled to a red light on Springfield Avenue next to a bright rust-colored mini-Hummer. From the corner of her eye she spotted the tinted windows lower. The sounds of Jay-Z's “Open Letter” filled the air. Glancing over at them from behind the pink tint of her helmet's visor, she quickly counted four dudes all looking at her ass spread on the seat of the motorcycle as she leaned forward ready to zoom off.
She was used to that shit and didn't let it gas her head.
Dudes loved a fat ass, and a fat ass on a bike made their eyes big and their dicks
She was just revving her motorcycle when she suddenly felt a slap against her ass. Her head whipped around quick as shit. The dude in the passenger seat was hanging half his body out the open window with a big grin on his face as his boys laughed and cheered them on. The driver in the car behind her blew his horn like he was co-signing the bullshit move.
Naeema flipped up the shield. “You like that?” she called over to him, sitting up straight on the seat of her motorcycle as it continued to vibrate with life between her legs and against the ass he'd assaulted.
“Hell yeah,” he answered, a round-faced cutie with deep dimples.
Naeema reached up quick as shit and grabbed the collar of his plaid shirt in her left fist tight as hell as she pressed the clutch with her right and started to drive ahead, steering with one hand.
“Hey,” he hollered in a high-pitched squeal like a straight bitch as his body jerked out of the window some more.
Naeema kept rolling forward slowly even as he gripped her wrist and tried to free her hold on his disrespectful ass. The driver of the Hummer accelerated to keep up with her and to keep his boy from falling out of the window as he kept hollering like a fucking pig being dragged to slaughter. “You punk bitch,” she hollered to him.
She glanced forward real quick and spotted a police car in the distance headed toward them. Letting his shirt go and
then slapping the shit out of him, she accelerated ahead with a laugh and rested low in her seat as she left them clowns behind easily before turning down Clinton Avenue.
Her heart was pounding and her pulse racing as she jetted the rest of the way to Hawthorne Avenue. Slowing down the motorcycle, she turned off the busy street and pulled to a stop in one of the parking spots lining the front of the minimall. She parked and removed her helmet.
She smiled and waved to whichever of the dudes already lounging in the lot had spoken. It was just a little past eleven but the spot was already crunk with those who didn't have shit to do all day but chill or hustle. She knew as she crossed the lot and walked into the building that every eye of every dude posted up on the cars outside was on her. She didn't even need to look back to confirm that shit. It wasn't ego, just knowledge about horny-ass dudes in a pack acting like they were about to pounce.
The scent of the aftershave hit her as soon as she stepped inside the barber shop. It smelled good as hell to her. Familiar. Just like all the faces of the dudes she worked with. “Whaddup, y'all,” she said with a smile as she looked up and down the two rows of ten chairs each, then she removed her book bag and set it on her station at the front of the shop.
Naeema steeled herself for the bullshit she
was about to go down.
“Look who turned the fuck back up.”
“Well, damn, where the hell you been?”
“I thought you quit, shit.”
“We was 'bout to do a APB on this bitch!”
Naeema sat down in the chair, swiveling back and forth as she removed her clippers from the book bag. “Come on, that's all y'all got? Y'all had a whole week to get y'all shit together. For real,” she teased, crossing her legs as she waved her fingers to beckon more of the teasing.
“Don't let these negroes fool you. They missed you.”
She twirled in the chair and looked up at the owner, Derek Majors, standing on the second level outside his glass office. He motioned with two fingers for Naeema to come upstairs, then turned before he could even see if she agreed and walked back in his office.
The men turned their conversation off Naeema's sudden reappearance while she stood up and made her way to the back of the shop to jog up the stairs.
“Look, I wouldn't give a damn how long it takes or how effed up the website was at first. I wanted in on Obamacare and my black, uninsured, sick of running up high-ass emergency room bills and fucking up my credit 'cause I don't pay those ER bills self, was patient as a motherfucker. Ya heard me?” one of the barbers said from behind her.
Naeema glanced back over her shoulder as the men, barbers and customers alike, all threw their opinions in the mix.
“Obama should have made sure there was a smooth roll-outâhe gave the Republicans all the bullshit they needed to complain,” someone said.
“Oh man, your ass. Y'all know damn well them Republicans paid somebody to mess that website up. Don't be a dumb-ass your whole life.”
The voices rose up again.
Naeema laughed at the ruckus and knocked on the black door, which was already cracked open. She left it that way
when she walked in. Derek was an ex-dope dealer turned legit businessman in his mid-thirties. He was married but he kept enough random women streaming in and out of the barber shop, liquor store, and hair care store he operated in the mini-mall that Naeema didn't trust his ass at
Especially since they'd fucked before.
It was years ago. He wasn't married yet or completely out of the dope game. She was just an eighteen-year-old self-taught barber cutting hair for the fellas in the neighborhood in between living life to the fullest. Her boyfriend at the time, a dude named Romeo, had talked her into getting her barber's license so she could eventually work in a shop and make more money than she got doing bootleg cuts. Derek had come to the school to recruit new barbers and she'd caught his wandering eye. When she peeped his whip and his fly gear, she forgot how ugly he was or that she had a boyfriend when he offered her a job as an apprenticeÂ .Â .Â . if she let him smash.
That was over ten years ago and she hated that she had a memory of how rough he fucked. Dick too big and thrusts too hard for that shit to be any good. Maybe he had finessed his sex game since then? Naeema didn't give a fuck either way.
He gave her a once-over before he dropped the pen he held onto his desk that was straight out of the 1990s. “Welcome back, Na,” he said, leaning back in his chair.
His looks were hard to define. He straddled the line between ugly and cute. It all depended on where you stood when you looked at him and if your eyes were squinted. Like the old folks used to say: he was so ugly he was cute.
What earned him all the pussy was his money, his popularity in the hood, and his style. He stayed dressed nice, hair cut, jewelry in place, swagger in a thousand, and smelling good. The womenâespecially the young onesâloved it.
“ThanksÂ .Â .Â . but you know only my husband calls me Na,” she said.
He smiled. “Word on the street y'all not together,” he said. “My bad.”
She smiled too. “It's still his. Matter of fact he just got it last night,” she said.
Derek's eyes dipped down to her pussy print in the leggings. “Damn,” he swore under his breath in obvious envy.
They had an odd vibe. She knew he wanted to fuck. He knew she wasn't having it. In all the years since she worked at A Cut Above he never brought up that night she let him hit it from behind right in his office on the floor, before he even had a desk. Still, she knew he never forgot and wouldn't turn it down if she offered it to him funky. She also knew he kept her around because she was eye candy for the customers and she had a steady clientele of dudes wanting her to cut their hair.
And probably give 'em some cut.
Again, not ego, just knowledge of the allure of a big ass for a black man.
“If you need
much time off again just let me know something first,” he said, picking up his pen and giving his attention to the papers on his desk.
“You're right, Derek, I shoulda handled that better. I apologize,” she said, then turned and left his office.
She gave him that respect because he gave her the respect of not telling any of the fellas in the shop that she had fucked to get put on. Even if it was so long ago, the
knuckleheads wouldn't let it ride. Once a woman was classified as a ho there wasn't a damn thing she could do to change it.
She made her way back to her station, her eyes instantly glancing out the window to make sure her motorcycle was okay. Not that anybody would dare mess with it. There were too many fellas hanging outside the shop for one, and second, there wasn't too many fools looking to set Tank on their heels. He was well respected and well feared.
She stood behind the leather barber chair and rested her head in her hand as she peered out the window but didn't even notice the heavy traffic flowing back and forth up Hawthorne Avenue. She had no doubt in her mind that Tank could straight find out more info on Brandon's death than she could. But she also knew he didn't respect liars and she couldn't reveal to him that she kept such a huge part of her past a secret. Plus, she wanted to be the one to put in the work. It was her homage to her son.