Chapter 5 Party and Bullshit
Manny walked into the event as if he had grown up in Westerlynne; cool, calm and collected, contrary to how he was feeling on the inside. Under the amber glow of the party lights, his blue dress shirt, freshly cleaned and pressed, complemented the golden tones of his skin perfectly. His dreadlocks were pulled back, away from his face, and hung in a half ponytail leaving some dreads out to fall onto his collar. Although, he had arrived a few minutes before six and he was supposedly man of the hour, the party had started without him. People were cliqued up and already mingling. The Weekends “I Can’t Feel My Face” had people young and old up on the dance floor. Manny was unsure of what to do. Dancing was out of the question. Not because he couldn’t either. Rhythm was in his soul and dancing came natural to him, but one wrong move and he’d ruin his chance to make a good first impression. He still needed to feel these folks out. Find out what they were looking for, what they needed so that he could fill his role.
Across the room a familiar face caught Manny’s eye. Mrs. Lemon waddled over wearing a mint colored silk blouse with white slacks. Shimmery gold heels peeked out from under her pants.
“Hello Emanuel, I hope you found your room suitable for your needs?”
“Yes, everything is fine,” said Manny.
“Alright,” Her response was short as if to say, Duh, it’s fine to your broke ass. “Well, now it’s time to introduce you to the community. Walk over there with me to the stage.” Mrs. Lemon’s golden fingernails ordered Manny where she wanted him to stand.
Manny followed Mrs. Lemon as they walked up the stairs onto the stage and faced the party of people.
With a point and a nod from Mrs. Lemon the DJ quieted the music. With ease, she spoke into the microphone, “Good evening everyone.” People from the crowd looked up, still chewing on hor d’oeuvre’s, still laughing and finishing their sentences. Soon enough, it was silent and Mrs. Lemon continued, “I am honored tonight to introduce to you all, our annual winner of the It Takes a Village internship, Emanuel Wright.” There was an applause. Mrs. Lemon pointed her hand at Manny and smiled. She went on, “This young man has not only maintained a 4.0 grade point average for all of his years of middle school and high school, but he has also kept a perfect attendance record for all eight years.” The Westerlynne residents looked up at Manny from the dance floor as if he were some test subject. Their Guinea pig. Just as curious and intrigued of him as Manny was of them.
“And if that wasn’t enough to impress my socks off,” Mrs. Lemon went on dramatically, her hands on her wide hips, “his essay was surely the icing on the cake. Taken from the last paragraph of Emanuel’s essay, and I quote, ‘I’ve always known there was more inside of me than what I was capable of achieving on my own, and I believe the Westerlynne community can show me how to find it.’ ”
Mrs. Lemon turned from the audience and faced Manny.
“Emanuel Wright, you are absolutely correct,” she said. The crowd clapped again.
“Family and friends of Westerlynne please help me tonight in welcoming Emanuel to this place we call home. Now let’s party!”
The DJ in the corner moved up the sliders on his box and the sounds of Drake complaining about his girl not calling him on his cell phone bumped through the speakers.
“Ayyyeee, that’s my song,” yelled out a gorgeous mahogany hued girl. She pushed herself pass the crowd of people and closer to the where the DJ was. She moved her arms up over her head and then back down and did her body side to side. She was stepping! Manny was mesmerized. He couldn’t quite make out what she looked like because her eyes were closed and her mouth was tooted to one side. Her long ponytail swayed back and forth as the funky calypso beat took her over. There were others dancing to the song but Ponytail was killing it. Manny would have loved to go out and grind up on all that body she was working, share a moment in a song with her but after the wholesome ass speech Mrs. Lemon had just given he thought he’d better just enjoy the view. To keep from seeming too captivated Manny grabbed a cup of whatever they were serving from the refreshments table then he stood back and positioned himself, not too far back but still inconspicuous enough, in a dark corner. His eyes still glued to Ponytail. The DJ did something with the song and slowed it down and it was just the music. Just that hypnotic beat. She got low and moved her hips and ass like someone was going to throw her money. Then she opened her eyes and as if there were no one else in the building, she stared right at Manny. She gave him a bashful smile, that made him wonder was the dance for him. Now, with her eyes on him Manny recognized her. It was the fine ass girl from Instagram earlier, 24K.
Manny’s breath left his body swift and indefinite. His mind was running, but not as fast as his heart was beating.
“OK Khia! I seen you getting it out there,” a girl shouted as Ponytail walked towards Manny with tunnel vision.
She was breathing a little heavy, due to the workout she had just finished. Her soft blue skinny jeans stuck to her like bubblegum unlike the pink loose fitting cropped tank top that showed off her belly button. Her black Pumas accentuated her small ankles and small feet. Silver bracelets moved up and down her skinny wrists when she used her hand to wipe the sweat and loose hairs from off her forehead.
“Hi Emanuel. Welcome to Westerlynne. I’m Khia Jameson.” She said, popping her head to the side and stretching out her hand. Manny shook her small chocolate offering, while struggling to think of the perfect thing to say. This wasn’t just some rat from the club, or ghetto ass cheerleader from his high school. This was a girl who went to the prom in a fucking Rolls Royce. A real catch and he was only new at fishing.
“Um, hello, nice to meet you, Khia.”
Khia giggled, and started to walk away.
Shit, shit, shit, Manny thought, I have to do better than that. She was obviously wanting Manny’s attention but she was way too fine to beg for it and she knew it.
Manny softly grabbed her hand, and smiled, presenting those irresistible set of dimples. His never-failing bait. “Where you going? I wasn’t done introducing myself.”
Khia laughed aloud at his meager attempt at game spitting. She bit.
“Okay, well, introduce yourself,” Khia said, flirtatiously swinging her pretty ponytail behind her.
“Um, okay well, first off, you can call me Manny.”
“So, Manny, what part of the Bus you from?”
“I’m from the west side. I graduated from Central High,” Manny said apprehensively. He feared mentioning that ghetto ass hood would be a conversation ender. If he could’ve gotten away with lying he would’ve but the info was too easily attainable. Mrs. Lemon might have even mentioned it in her speech.
Khia’s dark eyes focused towards her Pumas. Manny turned his embarrassed eyes to the dance floor. The more mature crowd were stepping to the upbeat tempo of the Anthony Hamilton and Jill Scott duet.
“You gon have to take me there sometime,” Manny heard a sweet voice say.
He had to assess Khia carefully, to make sure she wasn’t joking, poking fun at their obvious differences. She was serious.
“What you wanna see over there,” he asked her. Confusion was written all over his face.
Khia shrugged her narrow shoulders.“I’ve just always wanted to go to the west side. Those are my people too.” Khia said defensively.
“Um hm,” Manny answered, not quite convinced.
“I’m not bougie,” Khia said with her arms flapped across her puffed out chest.
“I didn’t say you were bougie,” Manny said laughing. He found her little attitude adorable. However, her ninety-nine problems weren’t adding up. “Well, unlike here, you don’t need an invite to get into the hood. Why have you never been,” Manny asked?
“Well, truthfully” Khia said and then paused and pursed her lips. She looked at Manny like she was deciding if she wanted to continue on with this conversation or go find someone more interesting to talk to. Good thing he was man of the hour and the amber party lights were shining just so to make his dark features look rich against his yellow skin. Perfect how his dreads were pulled back from his face, so that Khia could see the structure in his jawline, and the bulge of his Adam’s apple. It was nothing short of a blessing that even with his clothes washed and pressed, the signs that he’d worn the outfit more times then he could count, were still there, to intrigue her about his upbringing. She sighed and went on, “My daddy would never let me or my brother go anywhere. He thinks anywhere outside of Westerlynne is Straight Out of Compton.” Manny smiled and shook his head. Not because he thought her father was wrong but because he wanted to show Khia he was on her side. Although her little fits turned him on, and he understood that the sport of fishing consisted of a lot of give and take, he wasn’t sure he had provided her with enough give on the line to be pulling it back so soon. Manny listened to Khia’s bratty complaints with undivided attentiveness.
She finished her spouting with, “I’m a grown ass woman, now, so that’s a moot point.”
Manny allowed his eyes to travel from Khia’s ankles, where he wrestled his imagination from grabbing them and placing them above her bouncing ponytail, to her silky baby hair framing her heart shaped face.
Raele who? He thought.
He nodded to let her know he agreed with her last statement. She was definitely grown and clearly woman. The mood lightened . Whatever it was she had seen in Manny from that stage with Mrs. Lemon and then from the dance floor with Drake, she was seeing now and it caused her to blush. Quickly, she regained her ladylike composure and started moving the conversation back in the way she had initially planned it to go.
“Still, Manny, you know I can’t just walk up in the hood when I don’t know nobody there,” Khia said. She twiddled with the ends of her shirt. Pulling on them and letting them go which made the mid-drift shoot up higher each time. Manny searched the delicate cocoa face for a clue. He tried to figure out was she accidentally or intentionally teasing him. It didn’t matter. The damage was done and although he had planned to completely do away with the west side of town, unfortunately, right now, it was the only card he had, so he played it. He pulled out his cell phone, double tapped the screen, and navigated to his contacts. “Well, I mean if you put your number in my phone I could hit you up the next time I go home to visit.”
Manny handed his phone to Khia. She hesitated. A moment passed. It was only seconds, but in it, the two had both come to the conclusion that they needed to see more of one another. There, in that moment, hungry eyes and greedy smiles silently exchanged vows to meet again.
“And when is that going to be?” Khia asked while typing her digits into Manny’s cell.
Manny started moving his head back and forth like he was in the Drake video and jokingly sang, “You’ll know when that hotline bling.” Slow and steady he reeled in the line.
Khia busted out laughing. “Okay, okay, I got you.” Her smile lingered until it hurt her face. She handed him back the phone.
“No, I’m kidding, I just haven’t gotten my schedule yet but, I mean as soon as I’m free we can hook up.” He gave the line some slack.
“Okay, Manny, don’t forget about me.”
“How could I?” Manny asked softly grabbing at her hand again. He dropped the whole damn pole.
Khia blushed, rolled her eyes and swung her ponytail out of her way again. She walked back towards the dance floor, switching. She had caught her fish.
Manny was feeling super high. This night couldn’t possibly get any better. The DJ played Missy Elliot’s, “Where You From” and it had compelled people of all ages to act out. Manny headed to find the bathroom, stopping to shake hands and greet people on the way. He finally came to a hallway with two closed doors on opposite sides. The men and women restrooms, he figured, but with no signs to show which was which. Manny tried the door on his left slowly twisting the knob and peeking just in case it was the women’s.
“Mmmm. Harder. Harder,” a woman way too pretty to be real was facing Manny but her eyes were too busy trying to roll into the back of her skull to notice him standing there. Her dewy chestnut colored skin looked like it could melt under too much heat. Her blonde hair swayed back and forth, hitting her bare breast with each stroke. The young man behind her, moaned, trying to follow direct orders. His eyes closed. The young man, with skin black as a silhouette, wore a tribal necklace with a cross hanging from it. He wore nothing else, anywhere else.
“Yasmine. Shit,” He repeated over and over, between the breaths he sucked in through his teeth.
Manny closed the door just as slowly as he had opened it. There had to be at least 250 people in this joint right now. Manny wondered who in the hell would go into a room, not lock the door, get completely naked and get busy at a party?
I guess that’s what older married couples do to keep their marriage exciting, Manny rationalized, trying to keep in his mind the perfect image of Westerlynne he’d always had. Manny was scared to try the other door but shit, he still had to pee. This time he knocked, the door swung open with such a fierceness Manny’s hand was still in knocking position as the tall brown skinned, clean cut man stared down at him.
“You lose something?” the tall man asked.
“Nah, I’m just looking for the bathroom,” Manny responded still a little shaken from what was behind door number one.
“You see one in here,” the tall man asked.
“Maurice, stop talking to that boy like that,” a gentle faced pregnant woman, looked to be in her late twenties or so, sat on a love seat in the dimly lit room. Her face was still wet from the tears Manny had obviously interrupted from falling. The air was thick.
“My bad, Man,” Manny said turning and walking back up the hallway he’d come down. The door slammed hard behind him.
Walking back into the party room everyone was now just kind of mingling about. Khia was looking salty, standing next to a silky head bright skinned brother. Khia was wearing the man’s khaki colored trench coat. Manny knew better than to say anything to her or the man. Both of their faces were screwed in a knot. Mrs. Lemon walked up from out of nowhere and spoke to the man.
“Good evening, Dr. Jameson. I didn’t think you’d be able to make it tonight. Yasmine told me you were called in to do a last minute surgery.”
“I finished up earlier than I thought and decided to swing by. I’m glad I did, too! Khia dressed like she doesn’t own an article of clothing large enough to cover herself with.” The doctor proclaimed.
Mrs. Lemon completely skipped past the ladder of Jameson’s conversation.
“Well, I’m so happy you could join us. Let me introduce you to Emanuel.”
This time it was Manny pretending to not be eavesdropping. He was turned facing the refreshments table acting like he couldn’t decide what to choose. He could hear footsteps nearing him.
“Emanuel, meet Dr. Terrance Jameson. Dr. Jameson, Emanuel Wright.” Manny turned around to face the man.
“Hello, son. Congratulations on your internship here at Westerlynne.” Dr. Jameson turned to his daughter and waved her to come over. “This here is my daughter, Khia, and somewhere around here is my son Terrance Jr. and my lovely wife, Yasmine.”
The DJ announced he was going to play a blast from the past, an old Biggie joint.
Copyright © 2017 by Aja Brown Crowder