With his stomach pressed into mine I could feel him become heavier as he took in a deep breath. Except for the tears that slid down into my hairline, probably getting my edges all nappy again, I didn’t move.
“Why you go and say something like that? I thought we was having a good time. What else you want me to do? I done told you what the deal is. You wait on me, I wait on you.”
“Then why you asking me to do this? You always leave it to me to make the sacrifices, ‘Stand on the corner till I come get you.’ ‘Tell your Mama you with Reese.’ ‘Call me over when your parents go out.’ What the fuck do you do?”
I had his lines down pat by now. I had heard all of his shit before. So I was just giving him the review before he took me through the same-‘ole-same-‘ole ‘I-love-only-you’ shit. The telephone rang in the other room. Neither one of us made a move. I looked into his face and watched his bronze glow fade to black. I’d never seen this side of Tommy before, not this look; not on his face.
“What the fuck you mean ‘What I do?’ Shit, I’m with you more than my ‘Ole Lady. When people see me, I’m always with you, not Kim.” He lifted his chest away from mine. With his knees against the sides of my hips, and him grabbing a hold of my arms tightly, I felt even smaller, and weaker.
“Yeah, while I’m ducking under the damn seat.”
Right then he struck me across my face with the black side of his coarse hand.
The door swung open before I could even think to react.
“Tommy! Kim just called, Man, she having the baby. You better get on up there.”
I’m sure Jackson made assumptions about what was going on in that room before he burst in like he did, but he had no idea. Jackson was no longer wearing his Morton’s uniform either. In fact, he was practically naked standing in the doorway with just his tidy whitey’s on. While I was playing like a catcher’s mitt with my face, it was evident that Reese had made it to more bases than I did. Tommy jumped up and grabbed both of his shirts off of the floor.
“Thanks, Man.” He said walking past Jackson in the doorway.
“Where you going, Tommy?” I yelled.
“You heard Jackson, Kim’s at the hospital.” He didn’t even look at me, he fumbled to get his shirt buttoned and headed towards the door.
“Oh Yeah! Your wife is having your baby. Sounds like you must be spending some kind of time at home with your ‘Ole Lady.” I was scared so I kept my distance, yelling at him from down the hallway in the bedroom doorway. Reese came to my side. We all knew this day would come. Yet I hoped that I wouldn’t be around on the day that Kim would have Tommy’s baby. Tommy would just see me the day after, and say ‘Oh yeah, Kim had the baby last night’ and that’d be that. But we never talked about it. It was almost as if she were never pregnant at all. He buttoned his sleeves while searching for his car keys, shuffling through the mess on the bar counter. I prayed they were lost. With Jackson helping him shuffle through the couch, they found them.
“Wait, Tommy. I know you’re taking us home.” I marched down the hall. I saw him open the front door, Reese following close behind.
“Kim’s at the hospital. I gotta go. Y’all can take the fuckin’ bus,” and that was all he offered without even a glare.
“See, I knew we shouldn’t have come over here.” Reese complained. Selfishly, Jackson suggested we should spend the night.
“Spend the night?” We cried out together.
“Oh hell naw! Cess, grab your shit from the back,” Reese demanded, “We’re leaving now!”
“Awe, Baby, why you gonna let they thang mess us up?” Jackson was moving in close but Reese warded him off.
“What the hell you talkin bout?” Reese was sincerely confused. “I told you I didn’t want to come over here in the first place. Now look, Tommy done left us and we gotta walk home.”
“Walk?” Now Jackson and I were hollering together, sounding like the church’s choir.
“Yeah, walk! How am I supposed to know if Gale and my Mama ain’t do no overtime tonight? They could be standing down there at the bus stop right now. I’m not trying get my ass beat tonight. Cess, get your shit!”
“I said y’all could spend the night.”
“THANKS! You’re a big fucking help, or so you think. Not tonight, Jackson. You don’t care about me.”
“How you gonna say that, Kitten?” He walked closer to her attempting to grab her, but she smacked his hands away. She dodged his advances like a bullet. Reese was strong like that.
“Look at me! I’m scared shitless, and all you want is…” She squinted her eyes to hold back tears. “I told you what happened. I told you how they beat on me. How they bruised me up, whipped on my body with a fuckin phone-cord. But I guess you was too busy looking at the tits and ass the whelps were left on instead of caring about me. So fuck you, Jackson!”
“Alright, fuck me? You gonna regret that shit. Go ahead get your shit. Get the fuck out. I was gonna try to help you, but fuck that. That’s why I don’t like messing with you young, silly broads. That shit’s for Tommy.”
Reese and I were both shocked. Jackson had said it as if he had just gotten into this relationship with Reese. They’d been together just as long as me and Tommy. I could damn near hear Reese’s heart drop, hit the floor, and break into a million pieces.
“Forget you, Jackson.” I said, pushing him the best I could as I brushed past him and stood in the hallway outside of his apartment. Reese had walked over and stood in the doorway. I grabbed her hand and gave it a little tug towards the hallway.
“Don’t be no fool, Jackson. Don’t think for a minute that I was too young, and hot in the ass that I couldn’t see what you really wanted. You was just being too obtuse to know you wasn’t never gonna get it. Now go look that shit up, you Cotton Pickin’ Motherfucker.” Reese got her last word in, but I was scared as shit. Tommy had told me once before that Jackson couldn’t read on account of him growing up on a cotton field in Georgia. He had to be out in the fields with his folks before he could finish the third grade. My heart was at your mark, get ready, get set, go. I knew if Jackson’s six foot, 235 pounds of black, muscular frame had come down on either one of us, we’d be sleeping over alright; somewhere up in a hospital.
His ash brown skin turned red, and his muscles bulged. He knew that out of all of the names that he could call her, ‘Stupid’ could never apply. Not only did she have a gold star in the looks department, her book smarts outnumbered many, primarily him.
“Reese, we already got a long walk, let’s split.” I begged and she gave in.
“Yeah! Leave, Dykes.” We stopped on the stairs, and looked at him from between the spaces in the wooden banister. He looked like a caged gorilla. He clowned from his living room, jumping, shouting, and kicking shit over in his own damn house. His skin glowed from the light off the television-set. He looked like pure evil.
“Clever one, Jackson. Clever one.” Reese was used to that put down considering w
hat her parents were.