Monday, March 3, 2014

What we do

I had a show late that night and Allie had a show that evening. I was a poet. I am still. She was a dancer. A good dancer whose driver had cancelled earlier that day. The rent though. It had to get paid. I understood that.

What did I know about being somebody's driver? Her show was in Inglewood. Mine was in Hollywood. I drove her south on Crenshaw from an area in Los Angeles called the jungle. I lived on Buckingham Rd. She was on Santa Rosalia. By the time I got to Manchester and made that left headed to West she had changed into her dancing clothes. She was and still is a beautiful woman.

When we got to the house there were about twelve men there in the living room drinking and speaking to each other in Spanish. I knew being there was a huge mistake but Allie was my friend. A beautiful Mexican woman in her early thirties carrying a baby directed us to a back room so Allie could put her make up on.

"Aren't you scared to take you clothes off and dance?" The woman asked Allie.

"Um, sometimes. But not today." Allie answered then looked at me. The woman smiled and closed the door. "I wasn't scared until she said that." Allie took a deep breath and said, "the hustle."

Apparently they were in the middle of a party. I could see from the room we were in the food tables in the backyard. There were women and children playing and singing. Even a small band. I thought it was weird that the women, who were probably the wives and girlfriends of the men in the living room seemed okay with what was about to happen. What women allowed this? They did I guess. I was uncomfortable as hell.

As Allie was putting on the last shimmer of her lipgloss, the beautiful woman who showed us to the room tapped three times on the door. "Come in." Allie said.

"I'm Bonita. What's your name?" She asked us as she sat on the bed next to me.

"Stacy. Bonita? That's beautiful, right? That suits you. You're very pretty." Allie said. Stacy was her dance name. We all have dance names. No matter what we do, I thought.

"Yes. Thank you. Um, are you going to dance too?" She asked me.

"No. No, I'm just here with her."

"Are you Eric's girlfriend?"

"His fiancé." Bonita said to Allie. I sat quietly as they continued their conversation. I could tell that Bonita was checking Allie out trying to see if Allie was more bonita and a possible threat and not just a dancer. I wondered why she couldn't see that Allie was the least of her worries if he was having dancers come to the house while she was there in the middle of a party.

"So is this Eric's birthday gift?"

"In a way. Just a good time at his party for him and his friends."

"I can understand that. Hey girl!" Allie smiled. Bonita didn't.

I stayed in the room as Allie danced. I could look through the crack of the door and watch her fling her hair and shake her hips and entice the men. Bonita and the other women were in the backyard I guess pretending that none of it bothered them.

I closed the door and stood between the bed and chest of drawers and practiced my set of poetry I was going to do that night. I thought about the irony of practicing poetry about women's empowerment while my best friend was dropping it low and fast.

Suddenly the door opened and Allie started throwing her make up and five, ten and twenty dollar bills into her bag. "What's going on?" I asked.

"These muthafuckas is trippin'!" She said as she pulled a lighter out of her bag.

"Whatchu doin' with that?"

"They on some gang rape shit and think I don't understand enough Spanish to know that. I told them I needed a quick bathroom break but we gettin' the fuck outa here if I gotta burn the curtains down gettin' out. Walk out with me like we just takin' a smoke. Be easy though. Then when we get outside we gon jet to the car and get the hell outa this crazy house!"

"Okay." I said. "Stop sweating. Nice and cool."

"Don't take anything though. Just your keys. Let's go. Easy."

We walked out easily and jumped into the car. I started running a bit too early and alerted the men. We heard them calling us black bitches as we ran off.

"You get any money?" I asked as I was driving and shaking. I felt like I had robbed a bank. This wasn't my life. What the fuck did I know about being someone's driver? Fuck!

"A hundred fifty somethin' plus I stole one of the fucker's wallet!"

"That was some crazy shit. Don't ever ask me to drive again."

"Girl, I know. Thanks though. Ain't none of this easy. " Allie said as she was changing clothes to go to the poetry spot in Hollywood. I got to the venue as the ventriloquist was coming off. What the fuck? The host butchered my name but I walked up proudly anyway.

"Hey y'all!" I said to the crowd. I saw Allie in the audience in her long white African dress and red head wrap. I was up there telling stories about my life and it occurred to me that Allie and I both got naked and raw in front of strangers. Both of us did what we had to do and in the end, Allie was right. Ain't none of this easy.

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