Every Saturday I feature excerpts from my writing. For the month of April, here I give you 27 Yards An’ Runnin’…
She was a barista at the local coffee shop, located a couple of doors down, who’d come by one day way back when at the behest of her manager, on the off chance of borrowing our WiFi when their’s was malfunctioning. She had since turned me on to my, now, signature drink: Aztek ground, half cream half almond milk to stave the bitterness, touch of vanilla and a hint of cane sugar for flavor. I would’ve never thought that such a combination could taste so good, but, no lie, it was the business. She would try and put me on to other blends, but I wouldn’t have any of that…
However today, she wasn’t here to try and introduce me to a new flavor, or to even quench my thirst (or anyone else’s for that matter). I knew what this was. From the moment she’d walked in, my mind started to go into outterspace again. Right now, it was just she and I in this bubble she’d managed to spray-paint around us. As she neared me, the instrumental intro of Run To The Sun by The Neptunes began to play on an indefinite loop. Packed behind that silent Mona Lisa-like smile of her’s was a humble but resounding, “I told you so,” blaring like feedback from a speaker I stupidly stood in front of with a mic. And in my returning gaze, I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah…”
She was Alicia Cook— or Alicia Cees, as Hendrix called her. True to form, he’d offered up a singular concept that could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, as the apt moniker— given almost on-the-spot by my cousin— was found to be rooted in several aspects.
The first meaning was perhaps the easiest reach; the nametag from her job that she prominently sported, held “Alicia C” in her own handwriting, of which was further adorned in flowers and other colorful designs. The second (third and fourth for that matter) was like a cleverly crafted, metaphoric punchline that was delivered by an unassuming emcee; a line that was undeniably original, and given at the height of a cipher. Spring boarding from the first meaning, it was a play on the name of singer Alicia Keys (both of whom not only coincidentally hail from Hell’s Kitchen, but also to whom a birth name of which they share.)
The last, and admittedly probably the crudest, was in reference to her perfect set of C-cup bosoms that defiantly snubbed the laws of gravity; so much so, that she never needed a bra to keep those girls in place. This was perpetuated by my cousin’s insistence of always first acknowledging “Alicia’s C’s” before owing her salutation. I remember she’d come in one day, and Hendrix was walking out the back; and without missing a beat said, “What up Chest In C Major!” I damn near died laughing. In spite of the cracks (and mysoginistic undertones), she proudly liked being recognized by the nickname. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t started noticing since as young as ten that she was being seen differently by nearly ninety percent of men anyway. Usually girls who were early bloomers needed to also mentally develop quickly, less be devoured by the wolves out here. And man… NYC had its share for sure. Vulnerable girls without fathers were usually the first to fall prey. Fortunately for her, despite having an estranged and imprisioned father (who would later die there), a non-molesting uncle had a good seven years to school young Alicia before he died from lung cancer. (Proving once again, at least in my world, that the good were always taken away quickly.)
Anyway, among the many lessons he was able to impart, she was taught to be sure of herself, confident enough to brush off statements like what my cousin dished out, and be able to roll with a clever comeback whenever he or any dude for that matter would approach her like a cottonmouthed desert traveler whose insides were beginning to turn into jerkey. Despite what my cousin may have thought, she didn’t even consider him a suitable sparring partner. Once upon a time, way back when, he tried to push up on her. Thinking that all it would take were a few tried-and-true lines and his pretty-boy charm, Hendrix was made to realize that wasn’t the case. That sobering rejection from someone like her may have been the start of his path to slow down, I’ll never know. What I do know is that he was surprised (and disbelieving) to find out that one of the reasons why she wasn’t interested in him was because she had eyes for me. It almost killed him. Not that I’m a busted-up dude, myself, but I know I’m no Hendrix. I appreciated my lane, and all that came through mine (although I sometimes envied his). But, I guess I didn’t have to wonder, seeing as I got the fruits of his affinity. And Alicia, no doubt, was such a fruit.
She was the typical (but somehow very atypical) ‘round the way girl who everybody would check for when she came into the Attic, however she stopped by daily just to see me. I’d made myself oblivious to the fact that she had a humongous crush on me for a long while, and was simply waiting for me to make the first move (a quality, Hendrix would mention, she lacked of her superstar doppelganger— ergo, “You Don’t Know My Name”). I remember clearly, that in the moment of the seredipitous realization, like a scene like out of Men In Black that quickly followed, I flashed myself with a mental eraser, forever blocking out any sign of reciprocation. It was illogical by all accounts, but it seemed as if I were being compelled to do so by something deeper than even my own understanding, perhaps for her own best interest.
I thought, maybe I was protecting her from my crap, but that was bull. I mean, she’d become tough stuff in her own right, and would’ve easily been able (and willing) to handle whatever I threw at her. She was probably even the one I was unexpectedly waiting for who was there to help me through my mess.
But… for the life of me I just wouldn’t allow it to go there…
If I had to really focus on a justification… Maybe it was because the rotten core of me that didn’t want to corrupt the precious core of hers. It’s a cop-out move, if you ask some (if you asked her, even) but it is what it is. I don’t know why I was under the belief that my stuff was special anyway. It may have been unique, but “—It wasn’t special,” as Paul Jones once stated to me. He was an old man that I sometimes watched play chess in front of the abandoned storefront two doors down from us.
Aside from his name (which he insisted you address him fully by) not much else was known about the man. Some people in the neighborhood have alluded to the fact that he was a member or even the pastor of a small congregation church that once used to be there; that catered to the homeless, ex-drug addicts, and stuff— which was the reason why he hung out there. Although he didn’t seem like the typical homeless or (current or ex) junkie that I ran into every day; conversely, he didn’t give the impression that he had a place to hang his hat either. He’s only ever seen in front of that abandoned place tokking on Marlboros Gold while drinking a plain, black coffee in a small paper cup. And, whenever he decided to mentally break away from a game of which he’s dominating, he never failed to give the most concentrated, powerful stuff to me. Mind you, I’d never given this guy my full backstory, but I imagine he sized me up from a composite of things gathered he either overheard in miscellaneous conversations I’ve had with people while passing him, or what, albeit cryptic, admissions I allowed to slip whenever I was brave enough to sit across from him in a match. However the case, he apparently had my number. And even with that, I was still unable to overcome such a block when it came to Alicia; who so desperately held out for me longer than a girl of her standards should have.
That, coupled with the fact that I had such a pessimistic outlook on life, slowly cooled her fire for me. She finally told me one day that my energy was too blue for her— it was, I guess, her way of perhaps letting go. And so, we settled into the comfortable niche of being friends: the notorious zone no dude in my position would want to visit, into which I unknowingly (well, to be perfectly honest, very much knowingly) put myself. Hendrix still clowns me to this day for not getting with her because she was so fine that any dude, gay or straight, would kill for my spot.