When the going gets tough, well, we do stupid shit sometimes.
I had to get over to see Christine, now that I knew she wasn't with the football player any more. I didn't wanna stalk her at school, but I figured I'd make it over to her house, which was across the city.
THing is, in the back of my mind, I thought this was a bad idea. How? Let me count the ways. First off, she lives across town. FAR. I don't have a car or anything, and B can only use his mom's car if she's not using it, which isn't very often. To get over to my house, Chris has to make the long haul on public transport, which is a bitch all in itself. Now, I'd have to do it. Dammit. Well, fuck it; I have to do what I have to do.
Secondly, I had no idea if she was HOME. I didn't know if she was in some afterschool thing. She might haver gotten dragged to something with her grandmother. I had to figure out if she was home, because the last damned thing i wanted to do was make this long-ass trek over there only to find out she wasn't home. But I couldn't call.
You amy wonder why I just didn't call to talk to her, and that is a great question. On the surface, that makes a lot of sense. But a lot of things are in the way. I've never been able to really talk to her, because her grandma runs the house with an iron fist, and doesn't allow Chris to get on the phone and talk. Chris has a cell phone, but she usually calls from over her girlfriend's house and calls me from there. Her grandmom is old school that way, so we worked around it.
So, I had to figure out if she was home, THEN work out how I was going to talk to her. I enlisted B in this scheme, and my man wasn't too happy about it.
"Just call her, man! Gotdamn! Don't put me in this shit!" B had gotten some positive press thrown his way in practice, so his ego was largely unchecked. "This ain't no love triangle I'm trying to get in on!"
I told him to shut the fuck up and help me. The plan was to cal over there and act like a teacher. Ask to see if she's available. Chris was a homebody - she'd run around all day, but once she was home, she stayed there. So he'd call and say that he was calling from the school and he was looking for Christine and would she be available? If Chris picked up the phone, which she did most of the time, I knew she'd stay home. If her grandmom answered, that line of questioning would at least establish that she was home, for Grandma would probably say that she was in dispose or something, that she would pass along the message.
B reluctantly agreed, and told me he'd call me back to tell me what was up. I rechecked the bus route, and packed up the chapters of this book I had written. I wanted to get her opinion, wanted to see where else I could go, and what I could make this into.
I had a black dude trying t do good, in total opposition to the books the kids at school were getting used to. The pouty sista who watches her mom shoot up drugs. The teen mother who watches her babydaddy get shot up. I didn't wanna write that shit; I wanted to write something that was more adult, and I could have a lot of people read without having to ask for fucking slang translation. Was that something these writers couldn't do? I read some interviews, where they say they're writing for their people. What if their people didn't feel like reading that shit?
B called me back almost immediately. "FUCK, man! You bout to get me in trouble! Chris picked up, and wanted to know who this was! We hadn't worked out who I was supposed to be! I hung up real quick, and she called my number back! I ain't gonna have her calling the police on me! Because I'm gonna blame you! I ain't jeopardizing my career for you!"
"Hold the fuck up." This was the first time he'd said anything about "a career". These football dudes must be pinning a lot of their hopes on him, and I made a mental note to address his big head later. "So, she's home. Thanks. I appreciate it." I hung up before he could complain more about his police visit and the black helicopters and the tinfoil hate he'd have to make now that the government wouldn't enter his thought. B sorts of runs thoughts together, which is funny sometimes to watch, like a kitten screwing around with a ball of yarn and getting so caught and tangled that you'd have to rescue it from itself.
I packed up and moved out. The trip over so much eventful as it was long. I had music with me, and a couple of hip=hop magazines and, when i got bored, I'd listen to the music and stare out the window at the people living their lives to my soundtrack.
When I got to Chris' house, I froze. Fuck. I hadn't figured out how I'm actually going to talk to Chris, since her grandmom didn't trust anyone with a dick. I could wing it, but my present efforts at winging ANYTHING was in my bag, unfinished and unpolished.
I rung the doorbell and stepped back. The front door was wrought iron screen, like it you take a sheet of steel and poke small holes in it and put it on a door. The person inside can see outside okay, and the person outside couldn't see shit inside but dark figures. I was going to ring again when I heard the footfalls of something...very...large.
The inner door opened, and I got the feeling that there was a very large presence on the other side of the wrought iron door. I imagined that was Chris' grandma. I had never met her, only knew her through what Chris had told me about her. I had no idea I was gonna come a steel sheet away from Jabba the fucking Hut, though.
The presence paused. I tried to look as enthusiastic and unthreatening as possible. "Hi," I started. "I'm looking for Christine? We have a project to work on together, and I wanted to work on it with her." I listened to myself talking, almost like an out-of-body experience, and thought, fuck, that's the best excise I can come up with? Really? Shut the fuck up, my other self said. I'm doing the best I can here.
The presence paused and didn't move. Fuck. I didn't expect this. Why do folks make it so hard to do? I got honorable intentions, i swear. I'm just trying to do some good shit here, and your grandadughter and I are cool, and I want to talk to her and laugh a bit and clear up whatever in the hell it is is going on between us. Gotdammit, I miss her, and want to know what the fuck is going on!
That was my inner voice. My outer voice stumbled with, "Um, is she home?"
The bulk shifted, as the currents around the door shifted, and I, being very hypersensitive, noticed them enough to be uncomfy with them. I realized it was backing up,a nd I had immediate thoughts of the sound a garbage truck makes when it's back up, and laughed involuntarily. I cleared my throat to disguise the laugh and tried to look hopeful and unthreatening and small. Beep. Beep. Beep. I thought.
"Who is it, Grandma?" Chris' voice came from within the house, distant and muffled. How big WAS this place?
Her footfalls came quicker, softer. The bulk, still saying nothing, moved to meet her halfway. Low voices came from within the house. About twenty seconds later, a smaller mass came to the door. With a rusty protest, the doorknob turned, and Chris stepped out.
She hadn't changed any that I could see, but this was more that I'd seen of her in weeks. I wanted to hug her, but she motioned me sit on the small porch and mouthed that he grandma was watching. On cue, I felt the ground move, and heard the protests of a chair right inside the front hallway. She was going to sit down and WTACH us on the porch. This shit was wild.
We sat on the granite porch, and she took on another personality, one I quickly figured was for the benefit of her grandmom, watching us through hundreds of little holes drilled in a steel door. "Hi. I heard that we have a project to work on." She smiled at me for that.
"Um, yeah." I fumbled, trying to get a handle on what exactly my role was. "I''ve already tried to write some of it, and I'm stuck. I figured that I could come over and we could work on it, and you can see what I have, and we can go from there."
Her eyes had questions in them, and I smiled to relax her. She seemed a bit standoffish, but I didn't know it was because I had shown up out of nowhere or because her guardian was sitting close by. I was acutely aware that these old school folks didn't play, and she had the power to cut things off if I erred. I had to play it cool and platonic. I could do that, i thought.
"Yeah. Since I live right around the corner" -- she had to smile at that - "I figured I could just run over and get your opinion on some things. I produced a pen and notepad, along with the few chapters I'd managed to crank out. "If you have any suggestions, please write them out here so i can make changes." I handed her everything and smiled.
"Why come to me?" she teased. "I do okay in English, but my thing is math and science stuff. " I could imagine the huge grin on Grandma Jabba, as Chris made no secret of the wish that she be an engineer someday. That was half the reason they were so protective of her, I guess.
"But you know more about how to make the stories work, since you read a lot." We were doing a great job of auditioning her for a talent show, and her grandmother was probably eating it all up. This young man, she probably thought, knows that my granddaughter is something special! Chris rolled her eyes at the compliment and mouthed, "You suck." I smiled and shrugged.
"Okay, let's take a look." Christine took up the story and took the pen in hand and readied the paper. "You want me to note grammar errors?" Nodding my assent, she looked at my story for two seconds and, turning the notebook so I could see it, wrote "what are you doing here?"
The next twenty minutes was essentially a note-passing exercise with this writing review to cover it up. The gist of it was that I wondered where she'd been. She said that she'd have to explain it at school. I asked how she was, if she was okay. She says she was. She was very interested to hear how I decided to come over, and I told her that I'd tell her that later, when she explained what the hell was going on.
She read the book, but it was more of a diversion, an excuse for me to be there while we passed notes, holding the notebook so we could see what was being written. All the while, the hair on the back of my neck would remember that we were being watched, and it would perk up. That was creepy.
After she had glanced through it, she asked me what the ending was going to be. "I have no idea," I responded. "Depends on what he ends up getting into in the meantime."
She looked at me funny, and rose to go back inside. "Yeah. You just never know what these hero types get into. I'll see you at school."