It was like a scene in House Party 2. The basement was semi dark and packed with dancing teenagers. All you felt was sweat- on your body and on whomever you were bumping and grinding on. I was in a corner in a crop top and baggy jeans jamming with my girls. My braids were swinging from side to side in beat with Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe. I was wearing the biggest hoops I owned. Of course I always hid them from my mom. Any hoop bigger than a quarter was banned in my house.
I kept making eye contact with this dude. He had a gold chain on, baggy jeans and Filas on his feet. His shirt was dope too. Girls flocked to him. Not because he was fine-which he was, and it wasn’t because he was standing in the middle of his homeboys. The girls couldn’t get enough of him because he could dance his ass off and knew all the songs. If you didn’t know how to get down on the dance floor in Brooklyn in this time period, there was nobody checking for you. This dude was crazy nice on the dance floor.
A few songs went by and Mr. Dance Floor walked up to me and my girls with a few of his boys. I knew the routine. His friends were only there to entertain my girls so he could have one on one time with me without my girls grilling him.
“Wassup” I said back. We talked for a couple of minutes. It was hard to hear each other over the music. The only thing I heard was his name- Jay. Come and Talk to Me started playing and I started dancing.
“Your jam huh?”
I nodded my head. He grabbed my hand and we started dancing. We danced to three songs back to back. I had moves of my own. I could feel the glares from the other girls at the party. I didn’t care though. That night I went home with Jay’s cell and pager number.
We talked a few times on the phone before he asked me out on a date. I called up my girls and told them. They came over a couple of hours before the date and helped me picked out an outfit. I put on my “Getting Ready With My Girls” playlist which consisted of Brandy, Toni Braxton, Xscape, Monica, TLC, Aaliyah, Erykah Badu, Mary J Blige, Destinys Child, and others. I had taken out my braids and decided to rock my natural hair. I never wear makeup but Tanya, my best friend, put a nude lipstick and eyeliner on me so I could look mature. Jay finally rang the doorbell and introduced himself to my mom. Then we hit the road in his red Thunderbird. Hip Hop blasted through his speakers as he drove.
I didn’t really go out much but I was really digging him. That made me nervous. Jay took me to the movies. He put his arms around my shoulders and I got butterflies. Every time our hands touched in the popcorn bag, I smiled. Corny, I know, but I couldn’t help it. After the movies we went to a diner. We talked, we ate, we had vanilla milkshakes, and we chose songs on the jukebox and danced. All the nervousness I felt was replaced by laughter.
After that date we talked almost every day for hours- after 7 on my cell phone. We had to stop texting or I would’ve gone over my texting limit for the month. When we weren’t talking on the phone, we were on AIM- until my mom needed to use the land line. If we weren’t IMing each other, talking on the phone, or texting, we were writing notes to each other. We took the time to get to know each other.
Jay wasn’t close to his family. His father was murdered when he was ten. After his father’s death his mom found out he had two kids by two other women. She was so distraught and angry she started to neglect Jay. It didn’t help that Jay was a spitting image of his father. Jay was the only child his mother had. By the time he was 13, it seemed like she had no child. She didn’t care for him. And her new boyfriends didn’t encourage her to.
As for me I had an older sister. We were complete opposites. I was the good girl who liked to play it safe. She was everything opposite of safe. She never wanted to be seen with me and I thanked God for that. I didn’t want people to know we were related. Our father use to beat us mercilessly, just because he was drunk. He’s locked up now. My momma though? She’s A1. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother.
I was more Brown Sugar and Poetic Justice. Jay was more Menace II Society and Boyz in the Hood. Despite our differences we made it work. When we went on dates he played Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Big Pun, DMX, and other ill rappers. When he got out the car I would change it to Usher, OutKast, Mos Def, Common, Missy Elliot, or Lil Kim. When I went over his spot he played his Nintendo 64 and listened to more Hip Hop while I watched Sister Sister, The Jamie Foxx Show, Moesha, Martin, or Fresh Prince of Bel Air. At times I just did my homework. We went to two different schools but for some reason he never had homework. I wasn’t a fool. I knew he cut school often.
“Babe why you cut school so much,” I asked while doing his hair one day.
“You sweating me now?”
I combed his nappy hair real hard.
“ Damn girl!”
“Why you cut school so much?” I asked again.
“School ain’t for everybody.”
“But working is. What you gonna do without your education?”
“What I’m doing now.”
I knew what he meant. Jay stayed with the flyest clothes and kicks. He always took me out. He always had bands of 100s on him.
“Babe you gotta quit. You’re too smart for this. You can do more.”
“Not until you listen.”
I put the comb down and turned his face to me. “You can do better than this. I want more for you. Your friends are dying. If that’s not a clue to get out I don’t know what is.”
Jay was losing a lot of friends to either the prison system or the graveyard. I prayed every night and every morning that I wouldn’t lose him. It was too late for me to walk away from him. I was head over heels in love and didn’t want to leave him. So every chance I got, I talked his ear off about not selling drugs, going to school, taking the SATs and college options. I already knew I was going to Howard University. I wanted him to come with me.
But Jay refused to leave the streets. It made him feel powerful. He made REAL money. The streets respected him and had his back. As much of a bad boy he was though, he never stopped being sweet to me. The streets knew I was his. They knew never to fuck with me. One guy made a mistake of being rude to me and Jay made sure he wouldn’t be able to use his jaw for a week. He never wanted me around when a deal was about to go down. He didn’t even want to hear I stepped a foot on a block that had sellers. But that was hard to do in my neighborhood. He put me on a pedestal. I was his sweet thing, his sweet lady. He used to tell me Tyrese made the song Sweet Lady specifically for me.
He loved me like each day on earth was our last. One time he called 105.1 late night radio station, Quiet Storm, to shout me out. He even made me a mixtape of slow Jams. Even though it’s impossible I’m sure if he could, he would’ve placed half my heart in his and vice versa so we could breathe in the same breath. If he could’ve created a 366th day just to love me another day, I knew he would. He would’ve called up to the Gods and have them create another star and name it after me. He told me once that he wanted to rename eternity after me because my love was just that promising.
Eventually I let Jay bone. One day after school I went to his place and we were lying in his bed. I was staring at the posters of rappers and singers on his wall. He walked to his CD player and took out a sex playlist he made for us and played it on his stereo. I climaxed to My Body by Keith Sweat and LSG. I’ve had sex before but not like the way Jay and I had sex. It felt like fireworks and birthday cake and balloons and flowers. It felt like he birthed a home in my soul… and they said men couldn’t give birth.
Everything sure wasn’t flowers and roses though. The day I got the 911 page that Jay was in the hospital, I finally understood what heartache meant. It felt like someone was squeezing the life out of my heart. It felt like my heart literally stopped. Everything was silent around me. My mind went blank. I grabbed my bag and headed to the hospital with Tanya. His boys were already in the waiting room. They all looked banged up. They explained to me that there was a shootout on their block. Jay’s best friend died instantly and Jay was shot close to his chest.
“Why y’all look so rough?” Tanya asked.
“After the shoot out, we went to their spot and whooped them motherfuckers,” Tyrone said.
My heart hurt too much for this.
Hours later I was finally able to see Jay. He only wanted to see me- his queen, his sanity, his home.
“You’re stupid,” was the first thing I said to him.
He smiled, “I love you too.”
Yeah, he’s definitely high on Morphine.
“You almost died today”, I teared.
“But I didn’t.”
“If you did, I would’ve brought you back to life and kill you myself.”
After the drugs worn off I decided it was time to tell him the bad news. His best friend was dead. I wanted to tell him myself. Maybe this will convince him to get out now. Besides I didn’t want him to flip out on one of his boys like it was their fault. I sat on the side of the bed.
I cradled his face in my hands.
“Baby, AJ was killed on the spot. I’m so sorry.” We cried together. I’ve never seen him cry. I didn’t think it was possible. I cried harder and held him tighter. He fell asleep crying.
At AJ’s funeral, Jay spoke. They had been best friends since second grade. Did everything together. When Jay’s mom stopped looking after him, AJ’s family took care of him. They were brothers. AJ was there at the house party when we first met. He would’ve been Jay’s best man. After the funeral Jay told me he was done. He was out the drug life. Who knew the saddest day could bring so much joy? I kissed him as if all my happiness rested on his lips. I made love to him that night as if a palace of peace placed itself on his body. I let him hold me and told him I loved him about a hundred times.
The next week I brought my SAT books and flash cards to his apartment and we got to studying. We were bringing his old dreams to be an entrepreneur, legitimately, to reality…together. He had to repeat 12th grade because of his number of absences. He got accepted to Howard University a year after me.
Two years later Jay and I had a beautiful baby girl, Mia, and got married. Fast forward to 16 years, Mia started letting me in on her relationship issues. Dating has definitely changed in comparison to the 90s.
I was driving to the grocery store and Mia’s phone kept going off.
“Who are you ignoring?”
“Sean”, she answered.
“I said something on Twitter and I guess he didn’t like it. He says I’m crazy,” she snickered.
“Is it about y’all relationship?” She nodded her head. We pulled up to the grocery store and I parked the car.
“Stop putting your relationship on the timeline baby. Don’t put it on any social media. Don’t nobody need to know. There’s no sympathy for your problems there. The only people who knew me and your daddy were having issues were me and your daddy and God. Occasionally your grandmother, if I didn’t know what to do.”
She nodded her head in acknowledgment of what I said.
“And stop acting crazy all the time. Crazy can get tiring, exhausting, and too much. And it’ll get you left, eventually. Act logical and sane. Craziness comes off as emotionally unstable and insecure. It’s not cute.”
One Friday she told me she was going on a date. Her car was in the shop so he was coming to pick her up. We talked for a little bit before her date came.
“So I’m finally going to meet Sean?”
“I’m not going out with Sean. I’m going out with Jeremy.”
“I thought Sean was your boyfriend”
“No. We just talk. And I talk to Jeremy”
“Sean must not be the one then. Because if he was, you wouldn’t even think about going on a date with Jeremy.”
She got silent. I peeked over at her. She was scrolling on Jeremy’s Facebook.
“What are you doing?”
“Just finding out some stuff on him before he gets here.”
“Isn’t that the point of the date?”
She got silent again and then went on his Instagram. I took her phone from her.
“The key is to not obsess over these men. To not stalk them before you even know them. You’re going to know everything about him before he even thinks to tell you and that’s a boring date.”
We heard a beep outside. Mia took her phone from me and quickly walked to the door.
“He’s not going to ring the door bell? Or come introduce himself?”
“No. He has to ring the door bell.” I took her phone and gave her mine.”
“What are you doing?”
“You don’t need to text anyone while you’re on a date. Enjoy it. If there’s an emergency, use my phone to call.”
Jeremy finally got the message and rung the doorbell then introduced himself to me. Something that seemed logical when I was younger.
I went to my bedroom and waited for Jay to get home from work. I couldn’t wait to tell him how different dating was now. Boy am I glad I dated in the 90s and found my king. I couldn’t wait for him to get home so I could show him my appreciation- my sweaty, intense and passionate appreciation.