Christopher moved to a place off campus right before we started our junior year at Howard. He said it was because he had “outgrown” student housing, but I was like, “nigga, you just couldn’t get student housing.” He smirked at me like it was cute that I thought I knew his business, but he didn’t try to refute my claim either. Christopher knew better than to debate me on facts.
He didn’t tell me about “the incident” at first because he didn’t want me to know that he was messing with some girl in the Annex, but of course Braden’s messy ass told me everything. How the girl had snuck Christopher in through a broken emergency exit, and how the two of them had fallen asleep afterward, and how they snuck back out at the exact time that Ms. Hadley, the resident director, happened to be lighting up a cigarette in the courtyard. Christopher came up with a semi-believable excuse about the girl having his asthma inhaler and him desperately needing to retrieve it at three in the morning, but when Ms. Hadley asked to see said inhaler, they both stood there patting empty pockets like “uhhhh, ummmm, I think…”
A week later the two of them got a letter saying their housing for the next school year was revoked. A little dramatic if you ask me, even for Ms. Hadley, but the decision was final and no amount of calls from Christopher’s parents could get him into a dorm. Fool spent the whole summer with his mom slapping the back of his neck every time she thought about it, and his dad telling him he was out his mind if he thought he would be spending any of his retirement reefer money to get him a “batchla pad” in D.C. “You out cha mind, boy. You better believe that.”
It was all talk though, because after two and a half months of uncharacteristically humble behavior, coming straight home after his internship and promising to pay them back after graduation, Mr. and Mrs. Beasley cut the check for first month’s rent and a deposit, and early that August Christopher hit me up saying he found a place in Northeast. An old brick row house that wasn’t too far from Gallaudet’s campus. The picture he sent showed a scraggly tree leaning in the front yard and some cracks in the mortar, but he said there was a fireplace and a basement and a backyard that had a “real romantic quality.” The kind of space that was just made for blowing L’s in the grass late at night.
“Cool,” I texted after he sent the pictures. “Congrats.”
“Thanks,” he said back with like 5 ellipses. “So, when you coming thru?”
“Never,” I answered with a single period.
He thought I was playing but the first week of school came and went, then midterms and homecoming and even Christmas break, all without me stepping foot inside “Hotel Montegro.” Christopher and Braden and the rest of the niggas he lived with started calling it “Hotel Montegro” shortly after they moved in, once it became hard to tell who actually lived there and who was just a friend crashing for the week. The name stuck and someone even made a social media account for it. They posted pictures of the towers they made from empty beer cans, wild shots from whatever party they had the night before, and stray earrings they found in between couch cushions the next morning.
I rolled my eyes every time he brought the place up and pretended like I didn’t have time for his lil den of iniquity. Like I was offended by condom wrappers or discarded blunt guts. Like I just didn’t fuck with Chris at all. But that wasn’t the real reason I hadn’t gone over there. None of those were the reasons at all.
Christopher and I went out once sophomore year, after Braden introduced us at the let out of a joint Que-Delta program. I told him that he looked like Marion Barry in his suit, and he laughed for like five minutes straight. Then he asked me to go get gelato with him. I said no but he asked me like four more times over the next month, and, thinking about how significant it was when that sort of thing happened in movies, I finally said “fine I’ll get some freaking gelato with you.” The whole outing ended up being a bust, what with me acting like he’d put a gun to my head, but a couple weeks after, he text me a picture of himself in that same suit I met him in, with a caption that read, “Marion Barry back.” And, somehow, from there, we just became friends.
Truth is, I liked hanging out with Christopher. We would walk from campus to one of the last black-owned bars on U Street for the “standing appointment” he convinced me to reserve for him on Tuesday nights. Jonah and Christopher’s Weekly Check in to Discuss the Latest Delights or Dislikes of Our Lives. His words, not mine. We’d talk about things like politics, professors, Senator Obama, internships that required pee tests, Michelle Obama, Obama Obama, and other kinds of Obama’s like that. It was a ritual that I had become begrudgingly fond of, despite how I liked to appear woefully overbooked and inconvenienced every time he text me about it on Monday.
“5 o’clock, U Street, today’s topic: cuffing season. And Obama”
I would roll my eyes and just plan to be there.
At the end of each “check in” — after we’d shared a plate of sweet potato fries and drank cheap beers that I ordered with my big sister’s ID; after we’d argued about liberal doctrine and whether or not we would let our respective future children use dishwashers or would they have to wash by hand; and after I’d stabbed him in the shoulder with my fingers at least three times — he’d look me up and down and ask: “So what you bout to do after this? You tryna come to the crib?” Every time. I’d hold his gaze for a moment and put a hand on his shoulder, then sweetly and gently tell his ass, “no.”
“Why not?” my suite mate would ask when I told her that I was not about fuck Christopher. “Y’all sure be kiki-in when I see y’all on campus.”
It was true, I admit. But as un-nice as it was to say, Christopher just didn’t get the panties wet. Plus I was too busy studyin’ Justice.
Mmmmp. Mmmp. Mmp. Justice.
He wasn’t fine or anything, but he had a thing about him and oh how I could fixate on a thing. This particular thing was a Lupe Fiasco Push, Kick vibe, which I had gotten a hearty whiff of when I showed up to the interest meeting to join the school newspaper, and he told someone to watch a Zatoichi film and meditate before writing their next piece. From that point on, I definitely didn’t have time for Christopher’s lil sophomoric house parties, because I was slowly and methodically working on getting Justice to love me. Getting myself invited to the mature kickbacks that he and the other editors had on weekends; staying late in the office to help with this thing or that; suddenly knowing a lot about Zatoichi.
One thing I forgot to mention about Justice: he had a girlfriend who also worked at the school paper, who happened to be the top bitch on the copy desk. She was this super boring girl from Michigan who read teen fantasy novels and never did anything fun with her hair; a hard as nails copy chief who liked to take all the wit and sass out of my political takedown columns. We were night and day, the two of us, and I wondered nonstop how Justice could like us both. I wondered if she even talked, honestly, because I never heard a word. I thought about it all the time, but rarely did it ever come up between us. Oh but when it did, he assured me that was a dead ting and shit was just complicated. That he was going to be breaking up with her very, very soon.
And, so, with that assurance, everything was fine and dandy in my world. Christopher, Justice — all my mens right where I wanted them. At least they were, until that one day in spring.
There must have been something in the air on campus that day. Like I said, I knew about ol’ girl. But something about seeing her and Justice posted up on the Yard that day, really pissed me the fuck off. It made the skin beneath my makeup boil. It brought me down off the high I was feeling because, one, I looked really good that day, and two, because I had overheard some girls on the campus shuttle giving poetry snaps for the column I had in the paper. But seeing her and Just made me feel awful.
I took one look at them holding hands on a beautiful day in front of Douglass Hall and fled to the Punchout like I was escaping enemy fire in Fallujah. I filled my tray with every fried, sugary and chickeny thing they had. I stood in the line just staring at nothing and everything, trying to figure out what was wrong with Just and, maybe, what was wrong with me. How I even got into this mess in the first place and how I suddenly, desperately wanted to get out. I was on the brink of a total meltdown when I looked up and saw Chris breeze through the door like the first day of spring.
Out of nowhere a chill hit and spread throughout my entire nervous system. Like when you rub your feet on the carpet then touch a doorknob. I watched stealthily as he made his way throughout the Punchout. He nodded to a girl who sat behind us in philosophy class; dapped up a group of dudes wearing matching t-shirts for a UGA candidate, while carefully avoiding another in gold boots and purple windbreakers. He moved through the social maze that was the Punchout like someone who didn’t really have a place to stop and hang his hat, but that was ok because he liked being on the road better anyway. For some reason I was more happy to see him than I had been to see anyone in a long time. Slowly the rain cloud above my head began to part.
I got little tingles of excitement waiting for him to spot me in the yellow sundress and anklet sandals that tinkled like charm bracelets whenever I walked. I knew that his face would look glad when it saw mine, and I got a kick out of the thought of me exciting him. It was a feeling that sure shocked the hell out of me. All this? For Christopher? I damn near squirmed with anticipation as his eyes scanned the room.
For a split second, he glanced right past me, leaving me — I’m not gonna lie — crestfallen. Preparing for another storm cloud to arise. Maybe I was delusional, I thought, like I had been with Justice. Maybe I was going to be alone forever. But then, as if I willed it, he did a double take, and his whole countenance seemed to go up a few watts. It was the look of someone who was genuinely glad to see me. The kind of look that would make a girl feel like she could conquer the world. I smiled back with no abandon, and looked forward to whatever retorts and banter he had for me that day.
Maybe it would be some barb about my taste in music after that Drake mixtape I sent him? Some breaking news about the Obama campaign? Something about my loud ass, tinkling shoes? Today, and today only, I would allow it. Anticipation filled me as he swerved through various cliques and groups of students to get to me, moving now with increased urgency and desire in his steps. I half expected him to sweep me off my feet right there in front of the Chick-Fil-A franchise.
Instead he came up and took a fry off my tray.
“Boy!” I said, bucking at him like we would fight.
“Girl,” he said back, undaunted by my protestations.
He picked up another fry, opened my Polynesian sauce and helped himself to a dip. We immediately fell into our usual rapport as he posted up beside me in line, sharing fries as if it were one of our Tuesdays. He didn’t say anything about my shoes or the mixtape, but he did tell me about how he thinks his arms are getting longer and asked my thoughts on the difference between an “outing” and a “date,” keeping me company until we got up to the register.
He tried to debate me on some shit he ain’t have no business debating me on, until I got on my tip toes and whispered “I don’t care” in his ear. He laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world, the same way he did on the day we met, and a wave of warm energy coursed through my chest.
“What you got going on right now?” he asked — a variation of the question he always asked. He seemed more confident than he usually was, which made me look at him different than how I usually did. I bit my lip and shrugged my shoulders, annoyed by this feeling I now had about him.
“I don’t know,” I said, offering him the alley.
“Wanna smoke and watch The Office?” he asked, taking the oop.
I nodded. Chris tried to contain his surprise and actually did a good job of doing so. He didn’t say one word — just extended an arm as if to say “lead the way.” I took very deliberate steps that would produce the maximum amount of shake under my dress, because of course his eyes would be all on my booty.
Stepping out of Blackburn felt like stepping into a an HBCU fever dream. It was an amalgam of rap songs and brochure pictures and black ancestral memories all rolled into one. It was one of those days that makes the Howard haze worth it — when you get that same feeling you got on your first, First Friday, or when the whole sophomore class Swag Surfed in the Punchout, or the first time someone yelled “HU” and you got to say “YOU KNOW!” When you finally understood why 60 year old alumni would smile dreamily and call it the Mecca. I didn’t think I’d ever feel such a sense of belonging again; nor more sadness that one nigga standing in front of Douglass didn’t want me.
“Hey,” Christopher said.
“What?” I snapped, annoyed to have my pity party interrupted.
We had just passed a “Yes we can!” sign and he wanted to know my thoughts on the whole Jeremiah Wright situation. What I thought about radical black preaching and the campaign’s way of handling it so far.
“I wrote about that in the paper today,” I said, preparing to reiterate my whole thesis statement. How Rev. Dr. Wright ain’t never lied, and that it is was high time the black church became the revolutionary institutions they ought to be.
“I know,” he said before I could finish — almost as if I had offended him for thinking he hadn’t already read it. “That’s why I asked.”
“Oh,” I said, just then realizing that Christopher never missed an article that I wrote.
For some reason, Chris was on a Rick James kick and played “Street Songs” all the way to his house. It was a twenty minute drive from our quadrant of the city to the one that, in my eyes, belonged solely to him, showing me corners and contours of the District I had never seen before. I looked out the window in complete contentment, watching the city change at each intersection. I let myself think about what this all meant and what I really wanted from Christopher Beasley III. A relationship? A friendship? Something in between?
He parked a little bit down the way from the house — the infamous “Hotel Montegro” that I had heard so much about — and I got to take in little pieces of his life outside the Howard bubble. He said what up to the Habesha homie sweeping the sidewalk in front of the corner store that he bought roll ups from, nodded at the young boys playing ball on the community court, and did the same to a group of dudes smoking Blacks on somebody’s mama’s porch. Not one gentrifier in sight — not yet.
It was odd to see him so at home there; to live amongst the “locals” — a word that most Howard students said in the same hushed, terrified tone that hikers used when they said “mountain lion.” Christopher was looking more and more like my type of nigga. I looked over at him and realized that I was having a really good time. That we should have done this a long time ago.
Hotel Montegro was nicer than it looked in the pictures. He opened the door with a shove and led me through a corridor that branched out to every other space in the house — which was, by the way, bigger and sturdier than I thought as well. It seemed full of little dens and coves and secret stairways.
I had expected to walk in and find all the trappings of college male debauchery — panties dangling from doorknobs; empty bottles of Jack lining the windowsills; Backwoods packets scattered around the floor. But the place was actually very well-kempt.
“This is really nice, Chris,” I said, running my fingers along the heavy cherry oak table that sat in the center of a dim dining room.
“I told you,” he said, with a sly smile.
He led me down to his room in the basement and threw his backpack off to the side of the bed. The room was dim like the rest of the house, and filled with furnishings that screamed taste, pretense and 20-year-old college student. I gave myself a slow tour of his room as he searched under a pile of hoodies and unfolded blankets for his laptop. I picked up things from his desk and took thorough inventory of the multi-tiered rack pushed against a wall. A bong, a set of speakers, a stack of books. It felt intimate, going through his things like that. I skimmed the dog-eared pages of his copy of Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” and sniffed inside a box of fancy looking cigars.
He queued up an episode of The Office on his laptop then shoved the pile of hoodies off the bed, signaling for me to have a seat. We both shared a love for absurdity in the face of deadpan comedy, as we were self-proclaimed TV snobs who talked about our favorite “programs” in great detail. But these conversations usually took place over G-Chat or at a crowded bar or in the Punchout. Never so close, in a bed together. I hesitated a bit before unclasping the chains around my ankles and climbing into the space beside him. Up until the last second, I was deciding.
I had been toying with the idea of messing around with Christopher since the Punchout. Letting his hands feel all over me. The thought of it started to get me excited, but any fire was quickly extinguished by the reality and potential next steps of the situation. If I turned that leaf over, there was no turning it back. There would be no more platonic happy hours, no more long G-Chats about the ways of the world. Christopher would want me — all or nothing. Christopher would want, for both of us, the whole entire world.
I burrowed myself into my side of the bed, making certain that no parts of one touched parts of the other’s parts. I put the rest of my focus on the Dunder Mifflin employees and their ridiculous hijinks. It was my favorite episode — the one where Dwight starts a fire in the trashcan and Angela throws her cat through the roof. I took a hit from the blunt he passed me and laughed like I had never seen it before. A few more hits, a few more laughs, and all my reservations came tumbling down. I let the laughter snatch me around, to and fro on the bed, not caring that my boobs were spilling out from the top of my dress. Us getting together started to feel inevitable.
The show went off and a feeling of anxiety washed over me. Like what are we going to do now? Should I get up to leave? But what if I wanted to stay?
“Have you ever watched right wing cable news high?” he asked, saving the moment before it had the chance to get awkward.
“No,” I scoffed and shifted in my spot on the bed. “Why would I do that?”
“Because it’s trippy as shit,” he said, closing his laptop and tossing it to the side. He fired up the huge TV in the corner. “Them motherfuckers are mad as shit at Obama.”
We tuned in mid-sentence as some angry white man was denouncing Senator Barack Obama’s background and credentials. Saying he’d like to see this Harvard degree or maybe a Law Review article, doubting if he was even born in America at all. Calling my mans a nigger without saying the word. I got riled up. Upset. Tried to refute him on one claim after another until I was straight up roasting the man. Like we were on the playground or the back of the school bus. I was talking and gesticulating with so much fervor and passion, I swear your girl almost went Super Saiyan. Raising up off my butt so that my knees sunk into the comforter, my tits starting to bounce under my dress. Once I realized what I was doing it was too late — Christopher’s eyes were already darting back and forth between my face and my chest.
I stopped bouncing and just raised my voice instead, then said something about how all this vitriol just stemmed from their envy of black dicks and repressed desire for black chicks. That they went on TV talking all that covert racist shit, but probably watched hella ebony penos back at the house. Booty Talk 44 and all that. “Ol’ Strom Thurmond head ass motherfuckers,” I spat at the TV — the final crescendo of an epic dressing down.
“Yeah!” Christopher said, holding me down spiritually and cracking up laughing at the same damn time.
“Just like that shit with Halle Berry!”
I was like “Yeah, Halle Berry!” but with less enthusiasm than my previous diatribe had. I knew what Christopher was talking about — one half of the vast conspiracy that black folks could not get enough of in the early 2000s. How The Man wouldn’t give us no Oscars unless we were crooked cops like Denzel or fucking a white dude, like Halle.
Christopher went on to talk about the Monster’s Ball incident as if he were a black uncle in a black barbershop in 2002, and I just smiled and laughed, feeding from his passion and eagerly nodding my head at every point he made. Even though, I told him, “I’ve never seen Monster’s Ball.”
Christopher cocked his head to the side and looked deep into my face, bewildered, as if I just said that I had never seen a picture of Martin Luther King.
“Surely you’ve seen Monster’s Ball,” he said. ‘
I shook my head no.
“At the very least you’ve seen the infamous scene, though, right? It was a moment in the culture,” he argued, getting pumped up. “Something that brought us together; something that united us!”
“I was in the fifth grade!” I said laughing, defending myself, though I knew it was futile.
“So was I!” He shrieked. “Next thing, you’re going to tell me you’ve never seen the R. Kelly pee video!”
I snapped my mouth shut and raised my eyebrows.
“What?!” he said, amazed, and fell back on the bed in a fit of laughter.
He pulled his laptop back out as I told him that shit wasn’t cute and R. Kelly should be in jail. He made a face like “you might be right” and went to www dot porn hub dot com on his computer, typing a combination of words into the search bar that I could not see, while telling me to “just be patient” when I asked.
“Christopher, I swear to God, do not show me no lil girl getting peed on,” I said.
He just scoffed and shook his head, pulling the screen back to show me a clip with the sex scene from Monster’s Ball.
“We’re about to fix this right now,” he said.
I half laughed, half coughed but was inexplicably game. I had never watched porn or even an intense sex scene with a guy before. Not even with Justice. I didn’t know what to think of it, but here I was on a half-made bed with Christopher, with my dress a bit mussed and my hormones confused, about to watch da baddest bitch pop it on a handstand.
And she did. Halle went in. Halle showed out. Halle pestle and mortar’d all up on Billy Bob. Just a few seconds before, we had been cursing the ghost of Strom Thurmond, and now here we were, watching an interracial Oscar-winning sex tape.
It was thrilling and exciting and randomly sexy. I found myself getting into it, with the weed putting my senses on 10, hyper aware of my body and Christopher’s eyes that were all over it. Halle had me all hot and bothered. Christopher had me questioning everything. And Justice had me so fucked up if he thought I wouldn’t do it.
Halle moaned and Christopher scooted closer to me. Looked at me like a meal fresh out of the oven. I didn’t try to scoot back or look away. His face said, “God, please don’t take this moment away,” then he leaned in to put his lips against mine. Looking to settle, finally, our whole “will they? Won’t they?”
Just before his kiss landed the good Lord changed his mind, and a series of loud, menacing noises banged against our eardrums. BAM! BAM! BAM! The noise went. We pulled apart instantly and our faces turned from steam to hard ice as our loins and desires went cold.
“What was that?” my face asked, right before we heard the big noises again. BAM! BAM! BAM! He shot up from the bed and signaled for me to get low and be quiet, though I could hear his heart beating from halfway across the room.
He picked up a baseball bat that was propped up in the corner, as the footsteps creaking above us came down the stairs, and I held my breath as the seconds ticked by. The door swung open and both of us let out a shriek as if Bloody Mary herself was standing at the door instead of Braden — one of his roommates and the one who originally introduced us — holding a backpack and a Chick Fil A cup.
“Whew!” he said, “I just had to bang the gate against the door to scare off this brolic ass squirrel. Could y’all hear it?”
The two of us just looked at each other, then him.
“But anyway, what y’all in here doing?” Braden asked, plopping down on the bed. “Jonah, I ain’t never seen you over here before girl!”
Christopher and I both let out a breath and relieved laughter, trying to explain. Braden said he was about to roll up and watch one of his Beyonce tour DVDs, and did we want to come up and watch with him? I looked at my phone, which had been in my bag the whole time, and saw a bunch of missed calls and text messages from Justice.
“Another time,” I told Braden, and indirectly, Christopher. We walked in silence back to the car and on the drive back to my dorm on campus.
“So when you coming back?” he asked before I got out.
“Never,” I said smiling, and walked back to my room.
*Creative liberties were taken with this piece.