Chapter 7

Is it wrong to use they as a singular pronoun?

He doesn't like him. She doesn't like him.  I remember back in the day being on the bus with Clapper and Romelo.  I'd knew them before I knew Bron.  He was the new kid.  A lot of guys had problems with Bron.  He came on the bus and he was shy to the point he didn't give anyone a second look.  People don't really like you if you don't acknowledge them.   Bron always kept to himself.  He was always in his own world.  He had on his earphones and you would think this was another day, but everyone was wondering who he was.  The more he ignored them.  The madder they got.  You would think the good looks or the sweet disposition would make him popular in school.  That wasn't necessarily the case.  Bron didn't have a lot of friends.

Soon they start poking at him.  They try to find anything about him.  He was handsome so they talked about how he dressed.  They talked about his shoes.  They talked about his book bag.  They talked about the fact that he would go to chemistry class and sit in the very front of the class.   He was a threat to them.

The crazy thing is they included Romelo and Clapper.  Romelo wasn't that bad.  He clowned everyone and I think the only reason he picked on Bron was that people seemed to laugh the hardest when Bron was the butt of the joke.  Romelo just wanted an audience.  That's how he was.  It wasn't personal.  With Clapper though, it was personal.  Clapper made Bron's life hell from the very beginning.  People say girls are catty but Clapper was beyond that.  I knew Clapper enough to know that it was just his defenses.  He was a white boy growing up in a primarily African American school trying to fit in and when he finally felt accepted and finally felt like he was someone this new boy just came in and took the light.

It got so bad that one day Bron got sick of it.  And he swung on Clapper.  And they started fighting.  Romelo and our old friends at the time jumped Bron, but Bron just kept on swinging.  Just kept on going.

And that's when I jump in.  Not on the side of my friends.  But I jump in on the side of Bron.  That's how it started.  Me taking Bron's side in a fight and the others finally coming around to understanding they were being dicks.

That's when it wasn't acceptable anymore to do what they want.

They can be a singular pronoun.  Many modern English usage guides do list "they" as an acceptable singular pronoun and as language evolves "they" is an acceptable singular term to mean he or she.  And with some people who sit outside the gender binary taking "they" is sometimes a preferred personal pronoun.

I'm getting ready for my date.  I can't believe this is happening.  Weird.  After all this time, I never thought this is how my life would turn out.  It was a fairytale, I assume.  Some sort of happily ever after.  After all those years of being shit on by Vicorio and hiding from Waverly, I was finally getting someone who was promising to appreciate me.

I'm dressed in a suit.  It's my nicest suit.  Armani.  I bought it a year ago.   I feel this feeling.  El Corazon was a nice restaurant.  It was upscale.  One of the nicest restaurants in Philadelphia.

I stand in the mirror.

Over 30 and single.  But things were turning around. Finally.

I get a knock on the door.

"Uncle Nile, what's up?" the voice states.

It's Jr.  If Jr. was here then I knew his ain't-shit dad wasn't far. I peek out the door and see his father standing there.

"What are you doing here?"

"I was hoping we can hang out tonight," Jr. states.

Now?  What was the chance?  I knew Jr. too well.  He liked hanging around with me but this was just random at this point.  It's the same night as my date.  I look over at his father.  Clapper really was shameless parading his son in front of me to stop me from going on this date.

"It was his idea," Clapper quickly adds in as though reading my mind.

I roll my eyes but look over at Jr.  "Was it your idea?"

Jr. doesn't seem like he's totally committed to this at all.  He shrugs a quick and easy, "Sure."

"Whatever he paid you to lie, I'll double it if you tell the truth."

"20 bucks," Jr. tells me.

I pull out my wallet and hand the kid a 40.

He shakes his head, "It was all Dad.  He's pissed that you're going out with Uncle Labron."

"How do you feel about that?" I ask Jr.

Jr. knew about my sexuality but it was different. We never really talked about it.  All the kid really cared about was like sports and stuff like that.

He looks over at his dad.  For a moment I think maybe it would be too weird for Jr.  We all helped with raising the kid.  That included Bron at times.  Bron was the guy who taught Jr. how to play ball.  I never really thought how weird this could be for him.

"Its weird Uncle Labron likes dudes, but Nah I don't care honestly," Jr. states.

"Damn," is Clapper's response, "I can't take you to court for shit."

I roll my eyes at Clapper.  This was desperate, to say the least.   Jr.  heads in my apartment without a second care in the world leaving his dad just out there looking dumb.

"You really plotting huh?" I ask Clapper.

"Don't go," Clapper states, "Bron ain't shit."

I'm shocked Clapper is coming at me like this.  I guess the truth comes out how he really feels about Bron this whole time.  I can see his face weighing down.  He's bothered by the idea of me going out with Bron.  He has been since he started with this.

"I don't know what's happening with you and Bron, honestly..."

"How about the fact that we are in love with the same start," Clapper states.

I shake my head at Clapper.

"So this is about her..."

"Exactly.  Him asking you out is him just being pissed about Zima.  Bron is NOT gay.  How many girls have me and Bron picked up over the years?  Not one time did I see him look at no dude."

I didn't like the tone of him.  He has a resistance to Bron. A part of me wonders how long this has been happening.  How long has Clapper been having these feelings towards Bron and never showing them?  I knew Bron had no idea Clapper felt this way about him.

"You still seeing her?" I ask Clapper.

Clapper gets quiet.  Real quiet.  He didn't come here to talk about Zima.  He came here to talk about Bron but honestly, I have a feeling this was him really showing his feelings about Bron.

"Nah," he responds.


"Fine.  Ok.  I am still messing with her but we are both making mistakes.  Both of us.  If Zima ain't shit then Bron ain't shit either.  So how about this.  You don't go on this date with Bron and I'll leave Zima alone.

It was different.  Completely different.  Clapper didn't get it and it was pissing me the fuck off at this point.  I look at him and I can just feel myself getting more and more angry every moment that passes.

Every second I get madder and I just explode.

"Why are you so fuckin' jealous of Bron?"

Clapper raises an eyebrow, "Jealous?"

"Jealous.  Who came up with the cosmetic line?  Without Bron...there would BE no business.  You know that though.  You've always known that.  It's the only reason you want to `do this together'.  It's the fact that you can't stand Bron but you know there is something special about him."

"Bron needs us as much as we need him.  He has no business sense.  And this isn't about business.  I'm looking out for you and your feelings in the same way you look out for me."

"Nah!  It comes off as jealousy," I cut him off before he can even make another stupid point, "Bron has always gotten more attention without even trying.  Bron is the one who developed the cream line.  Bron is the guy who got married to the girl that YOU were obsessed with.  Just fucking admit it, Clapper.  You have always been beyond jealous of Labron.  This has nothing to do with you looking out for me.  This is you realizing that you're not half the man that Labron is."

I know my last sentence cuts deep.  I'm beyond pissed that Clapper being so ridiculous and the words just spew out.

"So that's how you really feel?" Clapper asks.

Damn.  I've gone too far.  I'm loud as well.  I notice Jr. returning.  he must hear the raised voices.  He looked at me knowing that this isn't the way Clapper and I usually talk to one another.

Jr. just seems confused, "Everything OK?"

It wasn't OK.  We were all supposed to be like brothers, but we weren't.  I can't read Clapper's facial expressions but I do see that something is bothering him.  I do see that something has turned when I say those words.

"Everythings fine," Clapper states, "Let's head to the office.  Romelo is waiting to actually get some work done.  Your uncle here is just about to go out with someone who is twice the man that I am.  You might want to wish him good luck.

The sarcasm is like venom in Clapper.  I don't want to end things on this terms but I can tell he's salty.  He probably has a reason to be but I have a reason to be mad as well.  I was tired of just rolling over for Clapper when he got mad.  He knew how to emotionally manipulate someone into thinking they were wrong about an argument.

He storms off not even allowing Jr. the chance to say goodbye to me.  I can tell Clapper is pissed and truth is, for the first time in a long time, I don't care what Clapper thinks.


"Water sir?" the waiter asks.

"Sure, actually bring two.  My date is coming here any minute."

Date.  I can't believe that I'm saying this.  I can't believe the words are actually coming out of my mouth.  Yeah.  Bron was special and I always knew he was.  I always knew he'd be special but I could have never thought that it would come to this.

My stomach is roaring when an hour passes.  An hour and ten.

Maybe he was having second thoughts.

I'm thinking about going to meet up with Clapper and Romelo at this point.  They are at the office working late as usual.  Maybe I should have spent time doing that instead of this.

"You OK?"

He's a little late, but he texts me.  I have butterflies in my stomach.  The fight with Clapper is taking more of a toll on me than I would like.  Truth is that's probably why he did it.  He probably purposely tried to piss me off.

And just when I'm getting nervous I see him.  Bron.  He walks out and my heart skips a beat.  Damn.  He looks sexy.  He's dressed down but I don't care.  There is nothing Bron could wear that would make him look anything but perfect.

"You made it," I state.

He sits.  He is all smiles.  His smiles are spread out across his face.  Damn, he's handsome.  He leans over across the table and I want to just fucking kiss him right then and there.

"Sorry I was late.  I was getting everything ready.  You excited?" he asks.

"More than you know," I state, "Kind of nervous."

"When was the last time you been on a date?" he asks me.

"Not counting Vicorio sneaking me out for late night dinner.  Probably forever."

"Well, you deserve this.  You deserve a man who can take care of you."

Him saying what he's saying at this moment almost brings tears to my eyes.  It's that feeling where you just know everything you've ever felt was worth it.  My heart is literally tripping.  Our eyes connect.  There is this connection there that I've never felt.

It may have come late but after all this time there is a connection.  There is something that is going to make this worth it.

And then I confess everything.

"From the moment I saw you I dreamt of this moment," I state, "From the moment I saw you walk on that bus... I just knew I wanted to be along for the ride.  You know?  No matter where this bus stopped.  No matter how many people got on or got off...I just knew that this bus was where I belonged...because you were on it with me.  I know this may seem like a lot.  I know this is just our first date, but I want to let you know that I'm still riding.  After all these years I haven't gotten off.  And right now I'm more excited than ever.  It's the same bus.  It's the same drivers.  But the destination just changed."

I smile and put my hand in his hand.

I squeeze it.

He looks down at my hands.  I wonder if he's going to tear up because he gets real quiet.  I know it's deep.  I know that it's a lot but at this moment this was everything that I had. This was everything that I was.  I was giving Bron myself.

Bron just takes his hand back though.

What the fuck?

"I think you got the wrong idea..."

"Excuse I at the right place?" a voice state.

I look up at this table.  There is this older guy standing there.  At first, I think it's the manager.  He's just an older white guy who is completely out of place.

"Can we have a second?" I told him.

"Actually...I was thinking maybe it's time I leave.  So you can enjoy your date," Bron states.

Bron has his eyebrows raised up when he looks at me.  I think I'm in the twilight zone when he says that.  But there's no way.  There is no way this is heading where I think it's heading.

"My date?"

"I set you up on a blind date," Bron tells me, "I thought I made myself clear that I was trying to set you up.  I thought..."

I look over at Bron.  I'm so pissed.  I'm beyond pissed at that moment.  He's looking at me and I just do the only thing that I can think of.  I take my entire glass of water and I just splash it right in Bron's face at the table.

I push past this older guy.  Clearly, Bron didn't even know my fucking type.  I'm so embarrassed that my body temperature is rising.  I am breathing heavy.  I had just literally put myself out there in the worst way ever and it was nothing.  It was all nothing.

And it always had been nothing.


I show up at the office and I'm broken.  That's the only way to describe it.  I've cried so much that I get a headache.  It comes like a sharp pain to my temple.  The pressure is right above my nasal passages.  I walk into the office and I see Romelo and Clapper.  They are both in the conference room.  I think they are still working on sourcing some partners.  There is this long silence when I walk in the room.

"He..." I start off.

"He fucking played you," Clapper states shaking his head, "Like I fucking knew he would.  So save the tears.  Save all that shit.  No one wants to fucking hear it."

"Clapper man..." Romelo starts.

It's pointless.  Clapper just storms out of the room making sure to bump into me on the way back.  I just want to cry again but I'm all cried out.  I just sit at the fucking table and hear the voices of Romelo and Clapper arguing out in the hallway.  I can tell things are getting heated when I hear another door slam.

It's Clapper.  He doesn't want to hear my shit.

And honestly...I can't blame him at this point.

It's almost an hour before Romelo walks back into the room.  The embarrassment is written all over my face.

"He'll come back around," Romelo states, "It's Clapper.  You know he's just overprotective of you..."

Romelo sits across the table from me.  He's trying to make me feel better but Romelo has never really been the one you go to when you wanted to have a one on one conversation. I've never really had a deep convo with him.  I came here for Clapper...not Romelo, but it's clear that Clapper was tired of me and my obsession with Bron.

"The date wasn't for me and him.  He was setting me up with someone."

Romelo just stares at the table.

He grunts a low, "Damn.  He was misleading as hell, because I thought the same thing...damn...yo...Nile.  Don't cry, man.  You are about to cry again aren't you?"

I do it.  I can't help it.

The way he looks at me I just feel sick to my stomach.  I've never seen Romelo look at me like that.  I'm not sure how to describe the face.  It's almost like he looks at me and just inhales.  And he sees me for the very first time and it's so weird.  I wonder if I look as pathetic to him as I think I look.

Romelo walks over to me.  He picks me up and he holds me.

"I should leave," I tell him, "I know you don't want to hear this shit."

"Of course I want to hear it," Romelo responds, "You've always been close to Bron.  I get it.  You always think he could do no wrong.  But he's human. You were so into Bron that you barely even noticed anyone else.  We are all here for you.  Not just Bron."

"It's not the same."

"Because you don't want it to be the same," Romelo argues, "I brought us all back together.  I did shady shit.  I pulled all types of strings.  There was nothing I wouldn't do to have us together...grinding together...building together.  You are not the alone Nile. You never were."

Romelo is trying to make me feel better but he doesn't get it.  He doesn't understand this pain.  It goes deep.  This is years worth of pain that I've been holding on.  All of it is coming out right now and I don't know what to think.

"Everythings falling apart."

I was crumbling.

I was breaking.

I was scattering into a million pieces.

Romelo glares at me, "I've made a lot of mistakes in our relationship, but every single one of those mistakes had to happen to make sure I was right here, right now, to be there for you, to put you back together so that I can finally find a reason to forgive myself for all those mistakes."

It has to be the sweetest thing Romelo has ever said to me.  No.  It has to be the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me.  I stop crying.  It's as though he's already started.  He puts his hand on my shoulder.

I look at Romelo.  For so long I've just seen this handsome, rude, crass manipulator who cared about nothing and no one outside of himself.  It was clear now more than ever that I had been wrong about him.  He walks over to me and he's inches away from me.  He grabs me and looks me in my eyes.  And he's strong, and he's handsome and he's misunderstood. And for the first time, I see that there are flaws in Romelo and those flaws make him beautiful.  That snide smile was just a way to hide some tenderness.  Those sneaky eyes were just ways to shadow someone who might have really cared all along.  And he didn't have to walk around with an open shirt to impress me like he did with all those people who just saw someone to lust after.

Romelo leans over and we hug.  It's a slow hug.  His strong arms pressing up against mine.  My strong arms wrapping up around his waist.

It's one of the few embraces we've ever had.

"I needed this."

I try to push away but he doesn't let me.  He pulls me in and rests my head on his shoulder, "I did too."

"What do you mean by that?"

Romelo shakes his head, "Nothing man.  You wouldn't understand."

"Try me?"

He looks like he is about to open his mouth but Romelo stops short for some reason.

"How about we go get a bottle that I hid in the cabinet.  I was going to use it to celebrate."

"What are we celebrating?"

Romelo laughs fully, "I was going to use it to celebrate a milestone in my life.  Thought that was going to be when the business made it's first million.  But nah.  I think this is just as important.  Wanna drink with me?"

I nod.

"Yeah man.  Yeah, I do."

I had one of the best nights of my life.  Drinking.  Forgetting everything.  I didn't need a bar or a club.  I just needed a good friend.  We drink through the night.  We laugh about old times.  We catch up. We bond.  I feel just as close to Romelo as I have ever felt with Bron or Clapper.


I wake up.

My head is aching.  My voice is hoarse.  And that's when I feel an arm around me.  The hand holding me close.

"What the..." I start...

"Oh, you want some more?" Romelo states.

I'm confused as hell. I'm not in my house.  I'm in Romelo's house.  It's the middle of the night.

A dick going inside of me of Raw.

And it's Romelo.

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