There was a nerdy looking chap sitting to the fore. I was jealous, because he was fiddling around with this little control panel. My mind turned to Velveeta cheese when I looked at one of those things and then attempted to cogitate.
I never looked back at the cooks. One, and then another. That’s how it went. One quit, another one signed on, and they all got manilla time sheets, they all hit on the waitresses, all drove cars yet to be paid for. Drive it fast, that’s the motto, and listen to the radio louder than the other guy does.
You’d never see people, then all the sudden, one would come out of the underbrushes, garnering no envy, no attention, but just beaming with a purple rage from hell, arms flailing this way and that like they know what they’re doing. And off in the other direction, someone takes a puff of a smoke.
A guy in a Michigan shirt and Michigan hat walks straight, emitting a death ray of bilious anger. He has no beard, and you can tell he’s caught between the owing to women for sexual compliance, and to men for the instinctive, never balancing, never integrating the two. Life is a continuance of tasks. Agents, to him, do not continue, no universal vibe of vitality sustains. Food he ingests, the better with which, on Earth, to do damage. Obliterate what’s in front of you, let’s go Wolverines.
Kyiesha is very friendly, patient, slow. Got pregnant three times in high school. Has beautiful breasts, though. Probably nice all around, up and down, 23, going back to Church though, good for her. It emanates off her, too. She’ll cut you slack for anything. And she should. The old black man gives her the eye, she says Have a good night in a condescending, exasperated but patronizing and vital tone. The worst kind, in other words, for him.
We’re all learning about health these days, bodily. And Demetrius knew it all along. He drinks water in the morning with his oatmeal, and just smiles out the window. In school they he acts a clown, yelling funny sh** about the teacher like, You lookin’ pappy, you lookin’ nappy! Goes to detention, but isn’t truant, so there’s no expulsion. After school he gets a ride with his older cousin, who’s off work by this time, and gets blunted in the car. School might as well be NASA, he wouldn’t know.
It comes up a lot, the preacher who got fired for attending a Rick Ross concert. That’s not us, the churches said. Not here, 60 miles from Michael Jackson’s childhood home. No drugs, though.
Clarence would always wonder what went on in the schools. He’d drive by, and just glow with the memory of the spirit teenagers carry about them. They trusted you, they looked at you, like really looked at who you were, and Clarence knew who he was. If only the girls would know, he thought to himself. He’d drive by the railroad tracks, puffing a Pall Mall, and take a little nip of a brandy pint out of the glove box. He’d seen it all, and he thought of Method Man lyrics. Method Man who’d lived a more dangerous life than RZA or GZA, and this showed up in the lyrics, just the inspirational aspects of everything: “You blow trial tryin’ to walk a mile in my Saucony’s”, “I done seen life and figured the amount that it’s worth”, “I been sh** / I’m from the bowels of the city / And just because my outfit match don’t make me pretty”. And more, it gets better. He thought of getting intimidated. Big Cedric, from the basketball league. Skin black as leather, a still stare that was eyes-whites. No bottom to that stare.
He thought about calling his friend Luther, but sometimes it got silent and awkward between them. Nothing much to say, you know. So many teenage girls running around with their butts showing in those jeans, and none of it was theirs, all they had was this brandy and these smokes, the liquor store attendants getting younger every year, hawking more and more energy drinks, energy capsules, American Idol-type radio crap. He passed countless churches — Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, Lutheran. You looked around, and damned if it seemed like a bunch of Jesuses walking around. Ah, he thought to himself, that’s the devil in me. I gotta see the Jesus in each person. Plus, act like you know, like the Wu said. I got mine, he got his, like James Brown said. Or, he hoped. He caught a hip-hop show once in a while. There was this one, Romero Brown. Nice name, he liked that, nothing flashy, just a name, and the kid could rip. No fancy rhyme schemes or anything, just jewel-type stuff “I bring it to the polar rings / And make the holy sing / Of the devil’s tenacity / I bring the master’s degree”, and all in a crisp timbre like Malik B. He looked the kid up on facebook. All legit, no pictures, just some drawings someone had did, Clarence assumed it’d been someone else, you know the fancy graffiti, drawing of a rapper with folded arms in chains. But the kid just seemed so individual. That’s the thing, he CONQUERED the crowd at shows, instead of transcending individuality and making a glowing motif of solidarity, which seemed to be the goal of like a RZA and GZA, with their “What’s the square miles of the planted / Why is the axis slanted / How much is covered with water / How much is granite?” But he never saw him with a white girl, he liked him for that. Didn’t really know why, just did. It wasn’t jealousy, that was a deadly sin, he’d know if it was jealousy. He’d know.
He got to talking to another one of the parishioners about this Romero Brown.
“Haven’t heard of him,” said this guy, the treasurer, Stephan.
“Well you SHOULD, ‘cuz he’s dope. But I dunno, there’s something missing in him. But we always think that, right? Old timers like us?”
“Ain’t that the case.”
They were playing blackjack and they had Miller Lites on the table.
“What’s your old lady up to tonight?”
“Probly with the kids back at the crib. I should PROBLY give her a call.”
Clarence looked down at his cards and beer, sort of meditating. A five and a seven. Possibly the worst blackjack hand you could get.
“Yeah,” he said. “I had me somethin’ of a dime piece last weekend.”
“Oh yeah. You guys still talkin’?”
“Nah. I ain’t called her.”
“Clarence,” replied Stephan. “You know that’s not right. We gotta treat our sisters with the same reverence that we take to each other.”
“Heyy, I’m workin’ on it. I’m gettin’ around to it. I’ll make it up later.”
“Yeah, well in the meantime, that clock is tickin’, and the devil is just LOVIN’ what you’re doing, goin’ for self, sittin’ on your own high horse instead of lettin’ the lord’s light into your life. Just think about the family you could start. You’re at a good age, 41. What’s this girl, in her 30’s?”
“You’re doin’ us all an injustice by tryin’ to play the Don Juan.”
“Goin’ for self. That’s perfect. That’s what this Romero Brown does that pisses me off. It’s all about him, there’s no projection of a unity. I mean sure, it’s talent, it’s fun, hell it the beats the hell out of karaoke, American Idol or white music. But there’s no, I dunno, geometry.”
“Now you’re makin’ me wanna smoke a blunt,” said Stephan, “with all this talk about music. What’d I tell you about that?”
“I told you to start bringing your dutches with you to work.”
The fire in the fireplace burned to a slow din. Outside, a homeless guy pushed a shopping cart around toward the store, where he’d hope to find some old cakes or bread in the dumpster. They always let him take them. The temperature began to drop outside, and the wind was picking up, though the trees never swayed as much as you thought they would. The women scampered from dollar stores into unpaid-for cars, sheltering. It was all accepted. And Romero Brown bounded forth.