Is it better to say don't forget or remember?
I wake up and I feel all this negativity. I make my way to the bathroom. I almost forget I'm not home alone when I crack the door open just a little bit. Lucky enough, the person in the bathroom is talking on the phone. I see Zima. She's standing by the sink. Her long hair is covering up the phone.
I am about to leave. I swear I'm about to. I'm not trying to be nosy but then all a sudden I hear a whisper. It's a low whisper. I had a little sister. Tiny Tina, who was about 20 right now. She's in college now but I damn near raised her. I knew how little girls can be. I knew how they were when they were talking to a guy. I recognize the whisper. And I remember how my little sister got real sneaky when she liked a boy. She always went to the bathroom. She always put on the faucet so no one heard her conversation.
And sometimes, rarely, but sometimes she forgot to lock the fuckin door.
The motto of this story is: I knew a sneaky girl when I saw her.
"I had the best time with you last night," Zima is saying, "You are...you are amazing. I swear you are.."
She's whispering. Real low. She is talking so low that she says some stuff after that I can't make out. I lean closer to the door. Oh hell naw!
OH. HELL. NAW!.
I think I'm imagining it. I stand by the door and listen more.
She continues, "No yeah. Labron has no idea. It's only a matter of time. It's just going to be me and you."
She's not even mentioning her daughter. What kind of trifling bitch did that? I can't take it anymore. I open the door. Real wide.
I'm standing there. I look like a dickhead but that's because I want to. I couldn't stand a liar, especially knowing first hand just how loyal my friend has been to her.
"Busy?" I ask.
"You must not ever heard of knocking..."
"You must not ever heard of reading a fuckin' lease. Because you ain't on it. This is my shit."
I don't feel bad. As much as she went around telling her daughter that I was fairy I was pretty sure she wasn't concerned I'd get to see a nip slip or something.
"Can I help you?"
"You can tell me who you talking to..."
I watch how she cuts off her phone and shoves it down her bra. She's guilty. She has that look sketched all over her grimy ass face. I knew she wasn't shit. She was just one of the girls who you can tell wasn't shit. She cared more about how many likes she got on Instagram then making sure her family was taken care of. I remember night after night Labron calling me and telling me he "needed a break". He'd come over with his daughter when she was younger, acting like everything is cool. He'd never tell me what went on in their household. He had too much respect to go there. But I knew it was her. I could see it all over his face.
"You ain't see shit."
"I saw you trying to play my friend," I state.
"Lower your fuckin' voice."
"Why? You afraid the truth going to come out?" I ask shaking my head, "Are you fuckin crazy. Labron is one of the sexiest men I've ever met and he fuckin adores you. He treats you like a fuckin princess."
"Princesses ain't broke..."
That's what this was about. That was clearly what this was about. Labron was that prince charming to her. Tall, handsome, kind and successful. He lost one of those traits for a short period and she was ready to cut him off. Just like that.
I don't even have to argue with her, "I'm telling him."
"Ain't nothing to tell."
"You didn't hear shit. You overheard a conversation taken out of context. Period. What you gonna tell him? What can you possibly say to make him leave his family?"
"Wanna bet bitch?"
"You tell him and I'll let him know about your little diary..."
"Athena was playing in your closet. Found your diary. What kind of grown man keeps a diary. I read it all. I got all the juice. I always knew you were in love with him but damn...that secret that you have in there..."
"Yes I would. And the difference is I have proof of what you did. You have heresay. He'll hate you. Forever. And he might not trust me for a while. What's worse?"
I can't answer. My tongue is stuck between my lips. She wasn't a smart girl. I was careless. I should have thrown the diary away a long time ago. This was all my fault. I had almost forgotten about the diary, but I remembered what was in there. I remembered what I had done to Labron. It seemed like a lifetime ago but the secrets in that diary was something that would destroy my relationship with Labron forever.
I knew it.
And even worse...she knew it.
The most fucked up part about it is that she's been sitting on this. If she had known about it and if she really cared about Labron she would have told him a long time ago. She didn't. She held onto my little secret and now she was holding it against me.
How long had she known? How long has she been sitting on this secret?
She walks past me smelling like oily weave and low morals. She knows that I'm not going to say anything to Labron and the worst part of it...the worst part of it all was that she was 100% right.
"Is it better to say don't forget or remember?" Labron asks me.
I walk in the kitchen. It's the next day after hearing Zima on the phone call. I'd checked all around the house for the diary. It was nowhere to be found.
Labron hands me a plate of food. I recognize it. I used to have dreams of his chocolate chip waffles made from scratch. I'd never admit it to him, not even now. Not even when I'm sitting at a table with his family. I look over and see his wife Zima sitting at the table. Poor lady looks like she has a hangover. Must have been a late night. And Labron is there looking like the perfect husband. He's wearing a wife beater and his muscles popping. He has old school Tupac going in the background in the most Labron way possible as he rocks his head back and forth getting his gangster on.
Depression either burst pipes or makes diamonds,
No matter how high up the mountain, I stay climbing.
Zima doesn't even look up from the table, "He doesn't know."
"Know what?" I ask.
"We having an argument. I told Athena to remember her lunch. Zima said it's better to say don't forget her lunch. Which is better?"
"He doesn't know," Zima repeats.
"He does. Trust me. It's a game we used to play back in the day. Nile is good with words. He's always been great with words. That's why he got into marketing. So what about it Nile. Prove me right. Do your thing...like you used to. Which is better?"
"Up to the context. "Don't forget" is a negative tone. You should use it when if she/he forgot, something bad will happen. "Remember" is more positive, but be wary that it can be used as ironic/sarcastic as well. Personally, I like to stay positive so I'd use remember."
Zima gets off the table, "Whose surprised he's taking your side?"
"You're leaving?" Labron asks.
Zima doesn't answer him. She just grabs Athena and leaves out the door not saying a word. It's awkward for a moment when she slams the door behind her. I guess she was trying to make an impact. For a moment I think it's working until Labron's serious face breaks and he starts laughing.
"Damn. Guess she's leaving," he answers his own question.
"Maybe she didn't fuck with the Tupac music."
"Hey. I didn't choose the thug life. The thug life chose me," he responds.
I don't mind being left alone with him. We sit at the table and eat breakfast, rapping over 90s beats and for some reason we know every single word. I could do this forever. Every few seconds I look up and see how hard he's rapping. It's the cutest thing. It makes me smile.
And like an idiot I do it one too many times until he finally looks up and he catches me. And all of a sudden we are 12 again having a staring contest in his dad's barn.
He holds his gaze.
I don't submit, even when my eyes start drying up. I fight the blink with everything I have. I'm better than him. I have to. I have to...
"Ah...you blinked," he responds.
I roll my eyes, "Whatever. I have a question for you."
I think about telling him. I loved Labron. It was more than some sexual fantasy or something like that. He was my friend. He was my partner. Business or not. What kind of person would I be to know his wife might be cheating on him and not say a fucking word?
"Is it better to know a hurtful truth or live happily in a lie?"
He shrugs, "I'd rather live in a lie. You know they say ignorance is bliss."
He laughs. Would he find this so funny if he knew this hypothetical wasn't a hypothetical? Would he be so amused if he knew I was talking about him? We need to talk about last night.
Labron shakes his head, "Let's get serious though. I got a text from the boys. They are worried about you. We all are. We need to know what's going on with this business. Everyone is down but you."
I hadn't even spent time thinking about the business.
"Waverly Kingston is trying to finance this," I state.
"That's the lady whose husband you were messing around with?" Labron asks.
"Yeah. It was an accident."
"Nile. You know I love you. Cheating is NOT an accident. Falling is an accident. You don't just trip and fall onto a dick."
"Well I finally got away from the guy. He's been calling my phone all day. I was planning to just chuck it in the fuck it bucket and move on."
"Nah man. Our futures are in the fuck it bucket. We need to reach in that fuck it bucket and get some checks."
"Our future? Wow. So your down...officially?" I ask.
I thought he would be the difficult one. He was the one who wasn't living here. He was the one who had a wife who was a goddam bitch who didn't want him around his friends.
"Hell yeah man. It'll be fun," he tells me, "Working with my boys. Starting a whole new journey. Why not?"
He didn't understand. He wouldn't understand. The woman had a reason to be pissed at me. She had a bone to pick. And not the kind of bone her husband had in his pants for me. This was a bone that I was trying to bury. Even before she found out about the fact I was sleeping with her husband I had a strong disdain for her. Now things were different.
I didn't hate her. Hate was a strong word. Let's just say I wasn't necessarily excited about her existence...
"I can't," I finally break down.
She had it out for me. She had to. I knew it.
"Bron. I love you man, but nothing and no one is going to make me take money from this lady."
"I don't have a choice."
"It's the reason we were in court. You know we were putting all of our money into that rent-to-own house. We were fixing it up. Rebuilding. We were paying in advance. We were doing everything it took to turn it into a home. My landlord just all of a sudden wanted me out. No reason. Nothing. He just all of a sudden wanted us out. Mr. Pavos. This Russian guy who's been a fuckin' nightmare. One day he just comes up to us. Says he wants us out. Just like that."
"That's illegal as fuck, Bron."
"That's what I said. So we go to court. We win. We get to stay. Since then he's been cutting off phone lines, shutting off power, boarding up windows, changing locks, entering the apartment and soaking our bed with ammonia. We keep going back to court but it's his word against our word. I already spent everything I had trying to fix that place up on the verbal promise that it was a rent-to-own."
I give Labron a look. I knew the old Labron. The old Labron would have beat his ass from here all across the apartment several times over. This new Labron was trying to do the right thing but clearly he had been doing business with a guy from hell.
"My family has nowhere to go. We can't afford anything right now. We planned on buying the home. We have no back-up plan..."
So much for no one and nothing being able to convince me to do this. So much for all that other bullshit.
Labron was my weakness. That was clear as day and there was no way in hell.
"You have somewhere to stay," I state, "Here. And you'll have a plan...even if that means going into business with Waverly."
Labron grabs me and pulls me close to him. He hugs me. I want to say it's worth it.
A week has passed. Living with Zima under these conditions is the worst. 5 times I almost tell Bron about what she did. I know I'm so close to telling him. Fuck what happens if she spills about what I did. It was bad. He'd hate me forever. I needed to find out what I was going to do and I needed to find out quickly.
Kingston's personal office space is in Midtown. I've only been here twice and both times it was when her husband needed a private place for her to bone.
She isn't in the boardroom when Bron and I are escorted in by the receptionist. No one is. I look at the table.
"Don't sit there..."
"See that stain. That was our sex chair," I state.
Labron looks at me. He rolls his eyes clearly disapproving. I had to keep it real with my boy though. He sits down in another chair and I sit next to him. It's awkward as fuck.
Two minutes later Romelo walks in with Clapper. It has to be the first time the four of us have been in the same room at the same time.
"YO YO YO!" Romelo states reaching over and grabbing Bron in the biggest hug.
"Ok we are not in the streets," I interrupt almost immediately, "We will have plenty of time to do this catch up shit. We are here for business."
Bron punches me in the arm, "Loosen up grandpa."
I already didn't want to be here. It felt good. I had to admit for all of us to be in the same room at the same time. Even Romelo. It reminds me of all the times Romelo, Clapper and Labron went out looking for girls and I had to always be the designated driver. It reminded me of when I'd have to sit in the car with Clapper cause he always drank a little too much. He could never really control his liquor like the other two but wanted so bad to keep up knowing damn well he was a lightweight and barely even liked alcohol.
I remember being so pissed because Romelo was such a bad influence on him.
"Ya'll. We might need to listen to grandpa," Clapper states, "Waverly Kingston is no joke. Trust me. I've worked with her. I've seen the gates of hell."
Clapper was taking my side. I never knew who I was really closer to. Clapper or Labron. Romelo was never in the running. Not for any of us. Of course I was in love with Labron, but I couldn't really talk to him about EVERYTHING like I could with Clapper. I loved them both. They were both like my brothers that I never had. Labron just happened to be the brother I wanted to fuck.
"I think we'll be fine. You two need to calm down," Romelo asks.
"Calm?" I look over at him,"Calm? Am I the only one who came prepared. I sent you guys our business proposal. I spent all week working on it. Did any of you see it? I got no replies."
"Not true, I gave you a slap on the ass remember?" Bron states.
"You always slapping him on the ass," Romelo points out, "How was he supposed to know that had anything to do with the proposal?"
"You just jealous of our bromance," Bron teases grabbing me up.
"You sound real gay," Clapper responds.
"What's new?" Romelo asks causing Bron to toss a pencil at him.
Here I was yet again being the responsible one. It made sense now why they wanted me to be a part of this. They all had the big ideas and I was always the one to put the shit together. I'm already pissed at Romelo. I'm already scared of Waverly. I don't want to be here. I slam my hand on the table so hard that Clapper jerks up from his seat in the conference room.
"YO!" I shake my head, "I'm serious. This proposal we're asking for 25k start-up costs. This meeting is a 25k meeting. This proposal has all of our lives in it. None of you read shit that I put in there."
"We trust your opinion," Clapper states.
Romelo laughs, "In other words we all knew Nile would be the one to get all the boring shit out of the way."
"You know what..." I start out...
There is silence for a minute. All three boys are on pins and needles wondering what the hell I'm going to say next.
"...whatever. Ya'll couldn't do this shit without me anyway. Just leave it to the one gay in the group," I respond.
This causes them all to break out in laughter. I roll my eyes. Of course they would find it funny. Bron starts poking at me like he usually does. Clapper start with his deep ignorant ass laugh. Romelo starts making smart ass comments as usual.
"She's coming..." I whisper.
The room gets quiet. Thank god they could turn the fucking shit off. They all adjust themselves in their chairs. I had to admit the 4 of us looked the part. Attractive, tall, intelligent, well educated, diverse businessmen. You wouldn't think just a second before Waverly Kingston walked in the room that none of them even knew what the fuck was in our business proposal.
All of us stand.
"Mrs. Kingston, it's nice to meet you," Labron states standing up.
She looks at his hand as though he had something contagious under square framed glasses. You would think Zima's name actually was Zika and Labron had caught the shit. She doesn't even attempt to reach back out.
Her eyes look over to me. It's something cold. Frosty almost. I swear to god I think my balls shrivel up. All of a sudden my bald head needs a hat and I need a scarf. She is pissed. I'm so confused. If I had known anything in this world I knew when someone really hated someone else. She hated me with all her guts.
"Where is it?" she asks.
"The product that I made?" Labron asks.
"The proposal," she responds as though Labron is saying something stupid.
Labron looks over at me. He's confused. I had brought samples of his skin care line just in case but she wasn't interested in it. She wasn't even interested in smelling it.
"Here," I respond.
I slide her over the paper.
"You sent a copy to my lawyers I assume?" she asks, "Like I requested..."
"Yes," I respond.
"I'll have the paperwork signed by tomorrow," she responds, "You'll have your money by the end of the week."
We all look at each other when she gets up off the table, clears her throat and walks out of the door. She takes the proposal and leaves. Just like that. She fucking just leaves.
I look over at Clapper.
"Yo what the fuck?" Clapper asks me.
I shrug. I have no idea what just happened.
"I thought you guys said she was going to be difficult?" Labron asks.
That was far from difficult.
Romelo is the one who gets up first. He has a smile on his face, "I guess we're all done here. Drinks on me boys?"
We walk out into the lobby. Romelo has to use the bathroom. Clapper is looking at me weird. Labron has a big smile on his face.
"Ya'll look mad," Bron states, "We should be celebrating."
Clapper looks weird. I look at Clapper. He is uneasy as fuck.
"It's good. It's real good," Clapper states before getting a call, "I should take this?"
"Nah but it's important," Clapper responds.
He leaves. He leaves me alone with Bron. I am surprised that as soon as he leaves Labron is just looking at me. He's staring. We are having a competition right in the middle of the fucking floor here.
Then all of a sudden out of nowhere he just hugs me. The hug lasts forever. Feeling him pressed up against my body makes my heart just turn.
"What was that for?" I ask.
He still hasn't let me go.
"Just everything. I want to let you know I appreciate you," he tells me, "You drafting the proposal. You agreeing to come here even though you had so many reasons not to. You allowing me to stay with you. I swear to God, man, right after Athena you are the most important person in my life."
"You forgetting someone..." I point out laughing.
Bron doesn't share my laugh. Did he forget he was married to Zima or something?
"Nah I got it right the first time," he states before walking to the door, "I'm going to get us a cab. WE are getting drunk tonight. ALL of us. We celebrating. This is the first day of the rest of our lives!"
He's excited. So excited. I haven't seen Labron like this ever. The fact that he feels so excited means the world to me. I know this is something so amazing. I know that everything was worth it. Everything.
I head to the bathroom the next moment. Romelo is there. He's washing his hands. I stand next to him.
Nothing but silence for a while.
"How'd you do it?" I ask Romelo, finally.
It takes him a second to respond. He finishes washing his hands and grabs a towel. As he wipes off he looks at me in the mirror. That look that I know so fucking well. The look of the bad influencer. The guy who always got us into trouble. I look at his expression in the mirror. He's cool calm and collected. He has a smirk when he sees me standing next to him. He's so fucking proud of himself. So fucking cocky.
"All of it."
There is a pause once again. This pause is a bit longer.
"I gave Ms. Kingston a proposal of my own. One she couldn't refuse."
"And that was?"
"If Waverly Kingston doesn't finance our business I'm going to release the sextape. I know women like Waverly. I've conned them before. They put their images over everything. A gay husband would taint her forever. One threat and she was putty."
I shake my head.
"We're all putty," I realize looking at Romelo.
I roll my eyes at Romelo, "Are we? Because I find it kind of funny Labron just so happened to be down and out when your plan is happening."
I found it funny. Real funny.
I knew Romelo. Things didn't just happen. He made them happen. He always had.
"I'm guessing Labron told you his sob story about the landlord?" he states, "Well I paid the landlord off. Promised him a big portion of the investment. I made him break the rent-to-own deal he had with Labron and his wife."
I shake my head. I could choke him. Fucking with me and manipulating my future to be part of his scheme was one thing. Fucking with Labron was another. Romelo had gone too far now. He had passed Go but he was trying to collect way more than 200.
He'd always been a cheater. Even in Monopoly back in the day.
"You feel proud of yourself? You know he has a daughter."
"I do what I have to do. For his daughter. For Clarence's son. I do what I have to do for you. I get my hands dirty doing the things you are too fuckin chicken shit to do."
"I'd never want to do this to Bron."
"Really? Because you sure did jump at the chance of having him stay with you," Romelo responds, "Let's quit playing games. I know you have been obsessed with Labron our whole lives. You have to be blind not to see it."
"He's my friend."
"BULLSHIT! You're in love with him and you know it."
"Keep your fuckin voice down," I interrupt.
Romelo clears his throat, "I'm sorry. All I'm saying is this: You have another shot at him. I told you I'd help you after what I did back in the day sleeping with that guy. I never should have done that to you. But this is me paying you back. I brought Labron back into your life and you love every moment of it. Deny it. I dare you..."
I pause. I can't deny it.
I did love having Labron back.
Romelo finishes off his own thought with a smile, "You should be thanking me."
"You did this for me?" I ask with a laugh, "I refuse to believe that."
"I did this for all of us."
"I should go out there. I should tell Clapper and Labron the dirty tricks you are up to."
"But you won't."
Romelo dries his hands. He throws the paper towel in the garbage. He puts his hand on my shoulders.
His eyes meet mine when he says, "You are going to go out with us and drink. You're going to smile. We're going to celebrate our new business. I did it because you were scared to. I did it because I had to. And you can sleep good at night knowing your friend Romelo will ALWAYS do the dirty work for you..."
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com