Chapter 1: Pages 1-5
Dad told us the drive was four hours. It’s been eight. He misread an interstate sign and drove the wrong way in Battle Creek heading toward Chicago. The windy city. Where we’re from. Where as a kid I hid in Harold Washington Library sneaking little peeks of naked models in photography books. We couldn’t figure our way out the gray
and green maze. Endless highway. Endless grass. Dad stopped at another gas station I never heard of. The whole time my obnoxious older brother kept screaming, “Move off me” at Ricky. He felt crammed. We’re all crammed thigh to thigh in the moving truck baking under Michigan heat, dad, my brothers, me. Reed Jr. or just Junior, my obnoxious older brother is asleep, thank God, on the passenger side. Reed Jr. hates to be called Junior. Between Junior and me humming to dad’s hand-me-down camera is Ricky. Ricky is 11. Sleep is a memory Ricky lost. Dad’s red eyes squint at something. Something he doesn’t see. His face scrunches up into a look of miserable confusion. We’re lost. I suck my teeth. As soon as I hear myself make the sharp sucking sound I know dad’s going to say something. I cough loudly to cover up the sound. A quick red-eyed glance isn’t burned into my face. Dad didn’t hear me, thank God. So we’re lost. Again. At least we’re lost in. Our new house can’t be too far. Some people might be upset moving from where they’ve lived all their lives. I’m not. I cross my hands over my arms and close my eyes. Dad jerks my arm. “Stop that,” dad snaps. “That’s what girls do. It’s feminine.” Dad’s words are an instant Polaroid of summer. I’ve heard “girls do that,” “that’s feminine,” “that’s girly,” almost everyday. I stare at dad’s words in front of me like pictures from a front-page story too important to put down. Substitute the word feminine for gay. That’s what he’s really saying. It’s gay. I’m not. Gay. I haven’t done anything sexual with a guy. The closest I’ve come is with a friend, we weren’t really friends, he was in all my classes. There were slits in his bathroom door thin enough quarters could slide through to make a wish. He liked throwing knives at the door. It killed time. Sometimes I’d rub my fingers in the grooves. All smooth. Perfect for spying. The first time I watched him undress and shower was an accident. He wouldn’t go out unless he showered. We were talking about my photography assignment at Union Station. The shower came on. I heard the bathroom door close sitting in the living room. Guess I was too slow answering the question he asked. He’ll see you I told myself don’t peak in. I peaked in anyway through six perfect slits stacked on top of each other like syrupy pancakes. His shirt first, his pants, boxers, then he’d step in the shower, closing the shower curtain each time I watched. Each time the same. Shirt first, his pants, boxers, then he’d step in the shower. This time something different happened. He didn’t step in the shower. He bent over grabbing cocoa butter from under the sink. I liked the roundness of his body. All that extra skin. All that possibility. Him, bending over, made his butt stick out and look rounder. He squirted cocoa butter in his hand.
Then it happened. He wrapped his hand around his little Willie. Watching him watching himself play with himself … it’s the closest I’ve come to doing anything sexual with a guy. Mom says the house is big enough to get lost in. I hope so. The truck dips, rumbling, and bounces us around. Junior jumps awake. The front tire plumped down on someone’s lawn. The lawn’s a lot lower than the street. Whosever house it is, their house is a grand stone palace. To avoid looking at dad I look at the house. Stone. Grass. Blues. Junior looks like he’s somewhere else. The other Beverly Hills, probably. Junior had the choice to go to Loyola University back home for free or Chicago State on a partial scholarship. Mom bribed Junior to go to University of Southern California in Los Angeles with her sleek, maroon, 76 Camaro she bought from her older brother I’ve met three times and am convinced is a light skin Black man and not a brown Cuban. Mom lives in Malibu.
“Dad dad wait,” Ricky says in a boyish rush. He holds his camera, the way dad taught us to hold a camera, so it becomes part of our bodies. We all turn to look at the picture Ricky’s taking, the grand stone palace. What does he see? I see Ann Arbor. In a few months I’m packing up and moving there. He sees the house. The house is something out of Italy. All smooth gray stone. Classical cornices. Tall, arched windows. Fine architectural detail. My go-to book to pretend read and lay on top of books I sneaked peeks at every few seconds, looking out for the muscle-bound security guards and nosy patrons, was a photography book on Italian architecture. I learned a few things pretend-reading.
The house is far beyond extravagant. All the houses on Evergreen Road are far beyond extravagant. This neighborhood could be in the other Beverly Hills in California. Manicured movie green lawns. Extravagant homes. An air of bourgeois exclusiveness. This is Beverly Hills, Detroit suburb, where I’ll call home, if anyone asks me in Ann Arbor when I transfer to the University of Michigan. This is the first summer since 93 I’m not there in Ann Arbor. Ricky and me visited mom instead. I found out, through mom, dad wanted to surprise us and setup the new house. Meaning our rooms. Meaning pack up our old rooms in Cheek-Ah-Go. Dad would’ve had a lot of questions finding the Triple X-rated videotape collection under my bed. Questions I didn’t feel like answering. One video in particular would get me put in the hospital, Big Booty Boriqua Boyz. Even buried under Good Girls Gone Black, White Men Can’t Hump, Beckys In The Hood, and Do The Right Putang, with big boob blondes, pale pink breast tips, legs-spread, on the covers, it does seem a little homo-suspicious. On its cover, Big Booty Boriqua Boyz, two gym-pumped butts defying the laws of nature they’re so big bulge out boxer briefs in a pink-tiled gym locker room give away it’s gay – if the title first doesn’t. I couldn’t let dad find Big Booty Boriqua Boyz. I got Ricky to convince mom to buy our plane tickets home earlier.
A silly grin shines on Ricky’s chipmunk face. The moving truck wobbles. Ricky elbows Junior in the side. “Do it again and I’ll beat your …” Junior stops himself. Mom forced Junior to cancel his road trip to Vegas with his new blonde girlfriend. Ricky turns to me heartbroken. I roll my eyes at Junior. Junior stares out his window, blank-faced, thinking which of Ricky’s toys should he destroy. Ricky taps Junior’s shoulder. Junior ignores him. “Reed.” Tapping turns to shaking. “I didn’t mean it,” Ricky whines. “What did I say,” Junior yells. “I didn’t …” Ricky stops. Junior stops. The truck stops. Dad’s about to go off. “There it is,” dad says in his monotone professor voice weighed down by eons of knowledge, pointing to a grand brick house that reminds me of mansions in Hinsdale, the affluent Chicago suburb, big and stately to prove a point. My editor at Chicago Defender newspaper called them penis compensators. As if reading my mind, Junior, huffs, “finally.” He throws open his oven door. “Woo hoo,” Ricky shouts and jumps out. “Where’s your camera,” dad says in his monotone professor voice. I want to say – curse word – you. We don’t curse. I point to my navy backpack on the gray mat. Like wallet, keys, cell phone, an essential, a camera’s in my hand when I walk out the door and stays there. I forgot about my camera. Few things can make me forget about my camera – moving to Michigan is one of them. Wrestling is another.
I step beside my brothers and like them, in silence, imagine behind which new window is my room. The two-storey brick house has five bedrooms. Mom flew to Cheek-Ah-Go and drove to Beverly Hills with dad to choose between this house and two others. The last owner died leaving the house to his son living in China. The son sold it “well below its value to get rid of it” I overheard dad tell grandma on the phone. “Let’s get as much as we can out,” dad says. Ricky puffs out his chipmunk cheeks pouting. Junior starts walking toward the house like he’s decided not to move a thing. I watch dad to see what he’s going to do. Junior stops, turns, points to the back of the moving truck twirling his finger in the air.
- Cassie Spotted Shopping With Diddy’s Mom In Beverly Hills [PHOTOS] (hellobeautiful.com)