Lyric Essay Excerpt

               “And the neighbors whisk the boy back to his building while the man screams                  at the boy, calling him what he does”

                                                                                                                  -Ross Gay, Against Which

There were two white boys on my block growing up; Grant, who lived across the street in one of the houses adorned with flowers and American flags on concrete porches, and Jonathan, who lived in the apartment above ours, whose mom did drugs with mine. All three of us meek, unlike a group of black boys, all brothers who lived nearby. And when Grant and one of the brothers scuffled over kickball in the street because Grant wasn’t following the rules, Grant’s mom ran out and screamed:

“You niggers leave my boy alone!”

And that was the first time I heard it. Loud and proud, with the hard “R.” And we left Grant alone. But after we dispersed, his mom said to me gently:

“I wasn’t talking about you Joey.”

At which point I entered Grant’s house uneasily, but anything other than an ill-behaved nigger.

Clearly We Can Do Better

When I was a teenager, there were very few boys who would call their friends out for cheating on a girl. Those who did, or even dry snitched were excommunicated from the brotherhood. Pushed right out of the door; called faggots, bitch niggas and everything else. I remember teenage Bruce, Clarence and I at Hunting Park right across the street from Brandon’s house while he was still alive talking all manner of shit about his hatin’ because he’d given away too many personal details about us to this girl we worked with, Jennifer, who everyone at one point wanted to fuck. This is while I was engaged in some of the nastiest things I remember doing at that age with Brandon’s sister.

We certainly grew to distrust him because of his potential to disrupt the flow of ass. Whenever someone was close to getting new ass and he walked in the room, people would shut down. The conversation got real tame real fast. He never said anything outrageous though, or lied. In fact he was the most honest one of us all by far, not that we could accept it. It was the way he’d say to some girl behind our backs through an online chat, “hey, you know he’s fucking so and so right?” And the girl would be like, “did you see what your friend messaged me?” And then we’d always respond with some kind of, “man, that nigga lying.”

But no, we were. We weren’t even really honest enough to talk to him about it. We assumed that he was just jealous because he wasn’t getting any pussy. So was every dude who would dare disclose information pertaining to a potential conquest, shit they were mostly lies of omission and we could rationalize our way around those right?

This is what I always think of when, as an adult someone inquires about trusting some boy in a relationship. Normal for me, for all of us was the reckless smashing, fucking, screwing, pounding, banging and poking of most girls we could with very little regard for the consequences. Dicks like mine detectors skimming over the broken concrete and potholes of an ever-expanding bootytopia just praying to hit something.

I considered it pivotal to my coming of age when I actually decided not to have sex when I could. Once, Clarence and I were at Pen’s Chinese store in Logan getting some of his skimpy, but delicious portions of chicken with broccoli when this girl, short, dark skin with a fat ass, or what we might have called brimming with T&A, of the perfect gut to butt ratio, etc, came in and asked if she could come home and fuck both, or one of us. Our choice. She was our age, and while not glamorous, she was above our current standards, but that was the first time I ever felt disgusted at an opportunity for sex. We both said no. We reasoned that waking up early for work was more important, and even stranger turned down another opportunity to hang out with a group of girls later that night.

Today, sex is probably the 6th thing down on my list of daily desires, it’s mostly unavailable to begin with and rarely ever worth the cost or time when compared to other needs. Still though, I have spontaneous instances where I flash back into a crushing thirst for sexual intimacy. Sometimes at work or school, and I can’t think about anything else until it passes. None of the dirty shit that happened along the way, while I was sexing the city typically comes to mind in association with this lust. I remember nothing but the good ol days, like the shite dudes supporting Trump; make my sex life great again.

But it wasn’t really that great.

I was just as lonely, maybe more so than I am now and I’d forced plenty of women into feeling the same way under a cloak of false vulnerability and companionship when most of the time I was leading with the hard D. Even now it brings too little shame because of the mental gymnastics I’ve got auto programmed into my brain that de-value the emotional vulnerability of other people when compared to even a shallow utilitarian gain.

I was once having lunch with a writer I admire and we were talking about the characters in Junot Diaz’s short stories, namely the men in Drown and This is How You Lose Her. She’d asked him once, while she was in graduate school a question about writing sociopathic characters like those men, whose lives consisted of perpetual emotional abuse towards women and he’d gotten defensive. I’d always felt completely at home with those books because I knew those guys personally. I still do and I’ve grown apart from some as I’ve become more human. That was the first time though, that an intelligent person had plainly used the word sociopath to describe nearly every man I’ve ever known, except Brandon of course. Even if his reason for keeping it real was jealousy, he still did it.

Sociopath is fitting though. I think I’m gonna start using it more often. So to all my former sociopaths out there currently struggling with the tedious, bewildering, soul-crushing sometimes fruitless task of building relationships with women or other humans in general, cheers.

To all the other niggas who are gonna read this and suck their teeth, well, you ain’t shit, your daddy wasn’t shit, and you ain’t never gonna be shit. So wrap it up B.

Hair Cuts

I had not forgotten, but maybe neglected to recall my trials and tribulations with hair before reading the Henry Louis Gates essay “In the Kitchen.”

After I stopped crying during the cutting I’d be in the moment enough to notice when the barbour mentioned how wavy my hair was. At the time I hadn’t evolved to caring about that part of my appearance yet, I had bigger things to worry about, my teeth, my scrawniness was the problem at school aside from how shitty the haircuts themselves were back when my grandfather did it himself, oh those bowl cuts. At some point though I discovered that girls liked waves. Not that peezy shit I’d wake up with, all the knots and spaces in between looked rather homely even to me but I hadn’t considered why.

I was quick to get a wave cap and some Murray’s. That real thick shit my grandfather would put on the radiator in order to soften up. He’d taken things to their utmost conclusion from the gate though, always had some manner of perm/box cut combo which, as he called me a faggot every single day, made me question his presumed manliness. If my grandmother or whoever wasn’t blowing him consistently, mostly in a fit of tears at his raw domineering power, maybe I’d have had a case to call him out on, not that I ever would. Anyway, there was no way in hell I would get a fucking perm. If niggas thought I was gay just for being alive I’d have hell to pay if I came in there looking any softer than I already did on any part of my body, so Murray’s it was.

I’d grease up my dome every morning and night. Took longer in the winter though with the aforementioned thickness of the grease. It was hard to sleep with the stocking cap on for some reason though and my head would itch something fierce, but instead of scratching it I would brush it relentlessly. Funny how when I see niggas walking around with brushes in their pockets constantly tending to their hair, looking in every mirror they go by I laugh without considering that I was pretty close to being there myself. While I was using the grease I would get these lumps in my head that I thought were pimples at first but they proved to be too dense and wide and not typically poppable. The skin would be really tight around them and make me uncomfortable so I’d stand in the mirror squeezing the life out of one just to get a little blood and relieve a smidge of the pressure. Most of the time they were in the back of my head, but sometimes on the top where the skin was already super tight.

I couldn’t wash my hair much either while I was keeping them waves up. Since I wash my hair every day now after running or whatever it’s hard to imagine. I would wear my du-rag or stocking cap in the shower too and make sure no water touched it. It would always itch more while I was washing up and couldn’t scratch it of course. I remember some days I would be on the bus to school and forget to take the du-rag or cap off. I mean around that time du-rags became part of the style but I still hadn’t planned on wearing one outside of the house. I’d stroll into class trying to massage the wrinkle out of my forehead like an idiot, which is even funnier now when I see a picture of myself with the line riding across my forehead and the hair doesn’t even look that fucking spectacular. I felt I would look too hood wearing a du-rag outside but I ended up doing it for a while anyway, especially when playing ball.

Still, while I was a kid I never considered why I even cared (aside from the perceived ass I might get from girls in high school who might want to touch my hair).  Why the hell I should want it to be wavy or more straight either way. Though it seems so obvious and really stupid now, I sometimes look at Jojo’s hair when he wakes up and I think damn that’s peezy, with a hint of disgust and want to tell him to go and brush his hair immediately. It’s hard to turn off the switch and just go heat up some water for the oatmeal instead.