E. has her own place now, a little deeper into Bed Stuy. A third floor walk-up near the J train at Halsey. The living room is as big as my first (and second) apartment, with a ceiling as high as yall’s parents at a Parliament concert in ‘76. The place was still bare when I went up — a few boxes languishing in the corner, Butler and Baldwin and Morrison stacked in the sills of uncovered windows, the paintings her old roommate used to give her instead of rent money leaning against the wall. Canvases the colors of every fruit God created.
The bareness was beautiful. Evocative. The kind of place you had to dance in. One of those private, liturgical dances that pays homage to your own thighs and breasts and the ancestors who made them. The kind of space to make a reporter write poems and an architect sketch murals. The kind to make me play Channel Orange on a Friday night and want to run my hands across his fade. Me and E. were about to go out but I was playing “Sierra Leone” like I was staying in. Like me and him had been texting lip biting memes and water emojis during my whole bus ride to NY. Like we were sophomores off in the corner at one of Roc’s house parties. Like it was raining out and he was about to come thru.
E. was sitting cross-legged on the sink counter in her bathroom, dusting rouge on her cheeks. She turned 29 that morning. I threw some streamers around the apartment before she woke up — looped some around her TV and the handle of her stove, laid it across one of the boxes filled with old HU yearbooks, even put some around a pitcher of iced-tea. She almost fell out laughing when she opened the fridge. I like doing shit like that. It takes my mind off him. We would order an Uber later and take shots we didn’t pay for, rap Biggie lyrics back and forth during the 90s set, then pile into the bathroom to fluff out our curls and be way too hype about the fine ass bartender. But my mind would always be back on him. Mind been on him since that morning he and I spent laid out on my roof back in DC, blunted, laughing, hugged up, watching the kids play ball in the park down below. I smiled like “yayyy this is so fun” and danced a little when someone would look over at me, trying not to lunge whenever a white iPhone vibrated on the table.
I was in his city and still hadn’t heard back. But I wanted to see him. Or have him see me, rather. In E.’s big empty living room, with the lights all dim and the hardwood creaking as I arched my back against the wall. I sipped prosecco while getting ready, leaning, half-dressed, against one of the uncovered windows, with my skirt and bra and earrings laid out on the air mattress. I pulled off the cropped Berkeley sweater that made me feel like one of those girls in a Dom Kennedy video — one of those girls who ain’t phased by much, especially not by this shit. Like I might have piercings you don’t know about. Like I don’t care about who could be watching from the sidewalk.
Ughhh I wanted him to watch me. To see me like this. A piece of art he could touch. Curls falling to my neck as I slipped the pins from my hair, knees bouncing to the second half of Franklin’s “Pyramids.” Uninhibited and unruly, like a splash of paint dripping on the canvas of E.’s living room. To throw some of those streamers on him; to wrap them around the thighs and waist and hips that the ancestors thought to give me. I needed him to watch, like he used to on my weekends in the AUC, or the winter breaks when we would drive slow through Chevy Chase looking at rich people’s Christmas lights, or the month before when we were waiting on the steps outside the connect’s house.
Where the fuck was he. He should be on this couch, with a glass of something brown at his feet, pointing one of those instant Polaroid cameras at me and Butler and Baldwin and Morrison. Throw the sweater on the air mattress. Dance some more while running red nails through my curls.
If my phone buzzed then — right then — I would stay. Or go. Fuck rapping Biggie lyrics and that raggedy ass bartender. E. would understand. Down three flights and two blocks to the subway, getting off at Atlantic station and pausing to catch my breath before knocking on his door. He could show me around later. I had to show him what I was doing in the window first. Then trade my Berkeley sweater for his maroon & white one. If my phone rang.