“Yo, America, when I blow up, I’m takin’ you with me,” Tony added.
“Well, excuse me if I don’t hold my breath.” I had to laugh.
“Yo, what you doin’ walkin’, where’s your ride?” Keith asked.
“My husband got it today,” I happily informed.
“Husband?” all four of them exclaimed in unison.
I nodded. “Um mm, I just got married.”
The look on all their faces made me wish I had my camera. I knew they really liked me, especially Michael, he did whatever I asked him to do—run to the store for me, watched my car at nights when it was late, or talked to me if I needed company.
“America, how you gonna do me like that?” Tony asked. “I told you I was gonna take care of you when I get my record deal. We were supposed to be Bonnie and Clyde on the tracks.”
“You is married for real?” Keith asked.
“Yes.” I showed them my ring and they were all taken aback.
“Man, I’m ‘bout to cry, now I’m not gonna get my chance to discover America,” Tony teased.
“You know y’all boys need to quit. I’m too old for y’all anyway,” I said.
“I’m nineteen, ain’t nothing boy about me, trust that,” Michael said.
“Word,” Joe-Joe said.
“Kendal is inside, right?” I laughed asking.
“Yeah, he in there mixing some shit up,” Keith said.
“I’ll talk to y’all later.” I said heading up the stairs.
They all were cool, and respectable with me. I could have all their little hearts in knots if I wanted. Walking into the brownstone I headed to the basement. Kendal was in his studio. He practically lived down there.
I made my way down the steps, and heard the beat ringing out from downstairs. I liked it. Kendal was definitely doing his thang.
“I’m on that track, right?” I asked, nodding my head to it.
“You like it?” Kendal asked, bobbing his head up and down.
“It’s tight, Kendal.”
“I knew you would love it.”
I got comfortable in his makeshift studio and was already thinking about a song to sing with the beat. Kendal smiled at me and started messing with the mixers.
Kendal was tall, cutie and stayed clad in throwbacks with a fitted. He’s been producing for years, and once ran with Juvenile Delinquents, a rap group. They did their thang back in the early nineties. The group fell off due to bad management and money problems. Despite that, music was his heart, every track he produced, every rap lyrics he wrote, was pure platinum.
“You look nice, you just got off of work?” he asked.
“Yeah, but I can’t stay too long.”
“Why not?” he asked.
I took a deep breath, looked at him as he was busy on the keyboard and announced, “I got married last week.”
“What?” Kendal shouted and the music suddenly stopped.
“I’m a married woman now,” I repeated.
“To homey that just got out?” he asked and his expression wasn’t one that was too pleased.
“Damn… Shit, I mean congratulations, I guess,” he said hesitantly.
“I’m just sayin’, he just got out and y’all jumping the broom already. Are you sure about this? I mean, you about to blow up. I just don’t want things getting in the way of your music career,” he said.
“Kendal, me being married does not have anything to do with my music career. I love Omar, and we both felt it was the right time. Don’t tell me you of all people are jealous?”
“It ain’t even like that,” he said, looking unsure.
I thought about what Omar had said about Kendal wanting something in return for hooking me up. My marriage would jeopardize us working together, making great tracks.
“You don’t have a problem with me being a married woman? Because I respect our friendship, I don’t want to start any problems between us. I’ve been coming here for over a year now, and we never allowed anything to get in the way of doing us. We both love what we do,” I strongly stated.
“Yeah, I’m good, America. I was just caught off guard with it for a moment. You know we still cool peoples,” he said halfheartedly.
Kendal turned the track back on and continued with his work. I stood there for a moment and observed him, and not once did he look up from the keyboard. I had this feeling inside me. He was jealous, and didn’t want to show it. God, I hope my marriage to Omar didn’t become a problem with Kendal, I thought. I love coming to work with him and chilling in the studio.
“You ready to get in the booth and lay something down?” Kendal asked. He glanced up at me and then continued messing with the mixing board.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” I said.
I went into the padded booth, covered with foam stapled to the walls. I slipped on the headphones and pulled the studio microphone that hung from the ceiling closer to me and took a deep breath.
“Ahight, America, let’s knock this track out,” Kendal said and brought in the beat.
It was smooth with a piano sound to it, and more of a down tempo something channeling a Mary J. Blige song.
I snapped my fingers and thought about the perfect song for this track. My husband came to mind and I wanted to let the vocals lose with him in my heart and mind.
Why all you have to do is pick up the phone
Dial my number (baby)
And I’ll come running like a child
to his mother’s cry. (I’m your lady)
And when I leave your side
my common sense start to counter
my foolish pride.
I don’t know why do I.
Why do I always come back to you?
No matter what I do
No matter what I say
Why do I always come back to you?
No matter what I do
No matter what I say
Every time I see you my eyes would smile
and then the tears start
because I know that you will
never be worth my while
but tell it to my heart
because it won’t let you go that I
I don’t know why do I….
I’d rather be hated for who I am.
Than loved for who I’m not…
Life may not be the party we hope for but while we’re here we might as well dance, my Uncle Ray used to tell me. He used to take me in when I would come running to him and cry about my mama. I was ten years old, and my mother’s crack addiction was going strong at the time.
I remembered living in that house and sitting there watching my moms get high with her boyfriends. They didn’t give a fuck that I saw everything. All she cared about was her high. No food or running water for weeks and sometimes days would go by without me seeing my moms.
Staying with Uncle Ray help me to survive most days. He would leave me in his crib alone while he ran the streets. I didn’t mind, I loved staying at my uncle’s crib. He had cable TV, food in his fridge, and even Nintendo. Sometimes I slept on the sofa but it didn’t matter.
Ray was my uncle from my father’s side. He was a down-to-earth, laid back hustler, who tried to avoid violence. He had a lot of talk to him, and was always around bitches.
I used to love it when my uncle brought these fine ass ladies home. Uncle Ray was so used to living alone; he never locked his bedroom door while he was having sex. Being ten years old, curiosity got the best of me. I used to hear the moaning. I’d tiptoe to his door and peek into his bedroom. Then I’d be rooted there watching the whole sex thing go down. My dick used to get so hard watching them butt naked ho’s go down on my uncle and watching them being contorted in sexual positions. Studying him, I knew how to please a woman. And I learned how to be a playa.
My uncle used to talk to me about everything, from pussy to drugs; he taught me how to become a hustler and how to be a lady’s man. My uncle was like my father. My biological father died before I was born. He was sick with cancer and passed away when my mother was seven months pregnant. My mother never used to talk about him, but Uncle Ray did. He always told me Melvin Stanfield, my father, was a good man. He worked hard everyday of his life as a welder working in the city. In his spare time, he played the saxophone and loved Jazz.
“Don’t expect life to be fair, Omar. You start thinking that, and it’ll
bite you in the ass quick. Certain things happen, they just do. Your father was a good man. He loved your moms and couldn’t wait till you were born. He would have been good a father to you, but that cancer ate at him like crazy. When he died, I felt guilty. I always thought that it should be me… I sold drugs, slept around with multiple women, even hurt people if it came to that, and your father was against my way of life. He should’ve been here for you, not me,” my uncle once confessed.
I always thought about my father, and I always wondered how my life would’ve turned out if he were alive. I never cried when I thought about him—you can’t cry for someone you never knew.
Uncle Ray helped to raise me. He was a career criminal, but the knowledge and wisdom he had was unbelievable. He could’ve been so much more if he didn’t get caught up in drugs and women. Here I was, following in his footsteps. I even lost my virginity in his place when I was twelve.
I really missed Uncle Ray. The monster finally caught up with him and he died of AIDS five years ago. I cried and I rarely do that.
Driving north on Guy R. Brewer Blvd in America’s Acura legend, I realized that I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car in a long time. The radio was blaring, and the windows down. I had about hundred dollars in my pocket. It was one in the afternoon and quiet around the way.
Rolling through my old haunts, 164th street, at South Road and 107th Avenue, I saw a block that was notorious for drugs and violence. It was my home for twenty-one years. I was just curious to see if the block had changed.
Slowly, I rolled through the block then parked. I stared at the crib where I grew up. My moms stayed here, probably still getting high and turning tricks for drugs. I didn’t care too much for her. I’ve been angry with my moms since I was young.
I sat thinking and staring at the dilapidated row of houses that lined the block. So much shit happened on this block, I hustled every day on the block, and got into so much trouble that cops knew me by my first name.
“Fuck that bitch,” I hissed to myself.
I drove off with nowhere to go, checking out the young cuties on the street. By four that afternoon I was back at the building. Already the boredom
was killing me. My wife was at work and I needed to do something, either get a job or hustle again. I thought about what Rahmel said to me. I needed to set some goals for myself.
I was making my way into the lobby and heard someone shout, “Yo, Soul let me holla at you for a second.”
I turned around and saw Omega parked in front of my building.
“Damn, you stalking a nigga now?” I joked, making my way over to his ride.
He chuckled. “Just get in nigga.”
I got in his plush Beemer and gave him dap.
“What you been up to, my nigga?” he asked.
“Gettin’ used to things,” I said.
“I see you pushing wifey’s Acura around… Nice, America’s doin’ her thing.”
“You know she holds it down. Where’s my cousin?”
“Probably shacked up wit’ some bitch, but I see you’re lookin’ fresh to death.”
“She holding me down until I get back on my feet.”
“That’s what’s up, but when you’re tryin’ to get back on your feet?” he asked.
“Soon as possible, why, what you got in mind, Mega?” I asked knowing Omega and wanted something.
“I wanna pull your coat.”
“You seem to be doin’ pretty good for yourself right now,” I said.
He chuckled then asked, “You tryin’ to get back in the game right now?”
The question finally came. I looked at him, thinking about what I’d promise to America. The temptation was burning inside of me. It was easy money and the streets were calling. But I couldn’t break America’s heart again. It wasn’t right.
“Honestly, I don’t know. Shit’s fucked up. I wanna leave that life alone, I owe it to America.”
“You’re serious, Soul? I’m asking you this, because I’m thinkin’ about investing into a new product and the money is right. I’ll be the first out
here to push it.”
“What’s the product?”
“You heard of crystal meth, right?”
“Your cousin hooked up a connect for me, some Mexicans out in Long Island. I did my homework—it’s big out in the mid-west, cheaper to produce and it’s more potent than crack. We move that shit into the cities and the fiends won’t let go. I got a plan, Soul, and it’s right. You and me, we could be the first muthafuckas up on this shit in Queens. I got the muscle, but I need niggas that I can trust to run this empire with me. The money we can bring in selling this shit is phenomenal. You wanna get back on your feet, we start pushing this meth, and you’ll be flying. Soul, this is real money right here.”
“How much we talkin’?”
“Forty, fifty thousand a day,” he said.
“Damn!” I uttered.
“Yeah nigga, that kind of bread, we talking serious shit. Damn-near three hundred thousand a week in our pockets with this meth.”
“You sure you ain’t in over your head on this one, Mega, this ain’t crack.”
“Nigga, it’s a new game. You gotta know how to play ball if you want in. Sooner or later this shit is goin’ to pop off strong in the city. Let’s be the first to get our hands on it.”
“I need time to think. I just did four years in, and America…”
“Nigga, she wipe your ass too!” he barked.
“Fuck you! That’s my wife you’re talkin’ bout,” I snapped.
“Yeah, we got married a few days ago.”
“My bad. Congratulations. You could a told a nigga sooner.”