by Ricardo Cortez Cruz
Teena Marie sings "Out On A Limb" in Central Park as we, three black men and two very black women, sit, drinking Swiss hot chocolate and coffee with silver spoons, on a sorry-ass bench in the middle of riot season. My old lady is trying to wash everybody's hands with anti-bacterial detergent/deterrent. But we are feeling the blues, imagining what it would be like to go home or immerse ourselves into Monday's soaps. We are, after all, the young and the restless. And we are many.
"God will wipe every existing thing that He has made off the ground!" My old lady screams some madness about earthquakes, finishing that dark stuff in a Styrofoam cup, her big head stuck up, the clean gel in her long wine matted hair running down her greasy neck and the liquid sculpting gel no longer working with her coarse wig and kitchens and tangled crawlers. Wildly staggering, she mumbles this idea of dissolving all of America's gold in the mean depth of the ocean, transforming rope/chains into flecks which would then be used as table salt for a black last supper.
"You are really tripping," I tell this woman. Literally dancing in the gale storm, her distorted figure sticks out like she is flying on the hood of a caddy and the wind is beneath her wings. Momentarily, while all emancipated, she doesn't even look like the mother who traded a life for a high.
"People are never clean," my old lady says, lifting up her silk blouse from its uneven bottom and pulling it over her face to take it off, throwing off a worm that was in it.
We shower ourselves in an unrestrained downpour where the water drops dead, slowly beginning to overwhelm us like corpses gathering falling into the same, goddamn depressed hole. Bodies lie all around us.
As we try to collect ourselves, propping our own stanky bodies and anti-bodies up on bended knee, one of my crimeys, whom I am not very close to, is runnin' down some lines on the sidewalk talk while hyping the "quick fix"-abilities of liquid crack. "Rainfall is not teardrops but rather nature's bloopers," he says from the part of himself that is a machine, the part of himself that controls his motor skills, allows him to destroy. He is today's terminator; he exists to ensure that there is no future for bastard childen like himself. Sadly, my old lady is the one who got him started.
(We catch him eyeing her titty.) "Men are from Mars," he says, rotating his metal bracelet by Swank. "Women are from Venus." How interesting, I think, how interesting for this mad man to believe that women come from the deadliest of all planets. After all, the atmosphere of Venus would crush a nigga's beer can; the heat would melt it, and the acid of its clouds would liquefy the shit into Mercury and create new, even more outrageous drugs that would affect our mental health. "Man, do I need to drop some science on you?" I ask this alien. The real suggestion of his monstrous assertion is that women only enjoy fixed air.
"I'm always so dirty, so fat and dirty, so fat and so dirty, nasty and so fat, so fat and full of ripples," my old lady interrupts. "Breasts are like two moving plates, and when stress builds up within the plates, they suddenly slip, causing a woman to shake violently," my old lady continues, trying to rive, rip, and/or rinse herself again.
I make an effort to resist being washed, pulling up my baggies out of the water, re-wrapping myself to package my negritude. I roll up my white shirt sleeves and prepare to jump ship. But I hear my old lady giggling and calling me Shine in the motherfuckin' water So I move on. Then, after stopping to feel the deep, stinging, circling cut that has not yet healed around my throat, I look up to Allah and declare, "Behold, I am the nigga in the mud," my hoarse, froggy voice shouting out like a nation under a groove (Parliament) while I am X-ing the rivers around me, pretending that they once were the Congo, the Nile, and the Mississippi mud. My crew is knee-deep in the water, doing aqua-boogie and getting down just for the funk of it, taking in the salt and the oxygen, all four of them singing "something about it."
I do "Prayer for the Dying," then hum looney tunes. My running buddy is layin' in the cut, kicking around an almost empty pack of cigarettes and talkin' smack about his crimey, some whupped shermhead who, after having hallucinations, had dragged himself into the alley of a general hospital and spooked a group of doctors. According to my friend, these were scholars who apparently were not used to studying resurrection or reincarnation or carnage or Maya Angelou's poem "And Still I Rise," which the shermhead had hollered out with an overdose of speed in his mouth and after reinjecting his own cooked blood in an emergency room and while a large Band-Aid tried masking his face.
Now, as the world turns, skirting away from the turbulent sixties and the civil rights which we were born into and supposedly blessed with, all of us feel very heavy. My old lady's slip is wet, and she's searching in the clouds of the storm for a guiding light. My old lady knows that for a death rain to form there must be particular matter in the air; the ghetto told her that long ago, though she recently mentioned it to everyone. Unfortunately, whenever I usta' look at my old lady, I always did say to my homeys that she looked like one big, particle of dust. Now on this seeming day of judgement, I wish I could take the statement back . . .
"I only got one life to live!" My old lady screams, throwing up her hands, her Pretty Nails hot with fire and polish remover -- compelling her to scratch her own skin as if her chest is severely burning or dying of radiation. And as the scarred area of her stomach (where she had just one C-section) appears to us as being bloated by cups of caffeine, the terminator says "hasta la vista, baby -- go home, you oil slick fish." But perhaps because he is part man as well as part machine, he makes it subtle, voicing his fear under his breath, which is full of the alcohol that he is always trying to use as his internal wound cleanser, to sterilize himself.
My old lady disses/dismisses/devalues him. She clutches an unopened condom with intended use for increased sensitivity, then starts a call and response, reciting all of her four born children by name, throwing a fit, chewing Juicy Fruit, working her own nerves, having a baby, cussing and cursing herself. "I demand Teena Marie to croon 'Sunny Days' or 'I Need Your Lovin','" she screams, and I feel sorry for her.
"What's her problem?" Raheim, who's got the ghetto blaster, asks me, utilizing his hand to conceal his words, but she overhears him.
"When man walks, the earth hurts, and now the earth is screaming," she answers.
Radio Raheim, that's my running buddy, he throws his Kool away. As we sit away feeling more and more lonely, the three of us homeys/niggas/brothers/youngbloods/partners/warrior black men stare at one another, quietly acknowledging that this scene of blood and thunder ain't exactly square biz, but instead a rather serious situation. Raheim starts softly singing "Check The Vibe" by A Tribe Called Quest. Nervous, we start beating the bench with our spoons as if we are a pick-up band. We sense our own alienation. "We're never gonna survive unless . . . we get a little crazy," we rant, that is, those of us who are male.
"Your little nappy-head bitch can never bring back your baby, but I can give you what you want," whispers my old lady's running partner, another big-ass but really tore-up trick(ster), feeling her wetness before shutting her big lips.
"The next time you two get down, you can come and stay wit me," the woman says, softly blowing in my ear, and my shoulder raises up to catch her. "Just keep it on the down-low," she whispers.
In the mean time, God spits on us like it is nothing, and my old lady just stares into the death rain, her eyes flooded watching lower life forms as they struggle to survive. After a few minutes, she finally talks again. (My old lady will pay a hoochie momma no attention; she pays this trick no attention.) "I have dreamed a dream for which there is no interpreter," she says. "In my dream here I was standing on the bank of the river Nile. And here ascending out of the river were seven cows fat-fleshed and beautiful in form, and they began to feed upon the grass. And here there were seven other cows ascending after them, poor like us, and very bad in form and thin-fleshed. And the skinny and bad cows began to eat up the first seven fat cows."
"Give her to me," the terminator says in my ear. "After all, our days are up, so you might as well let me go on and hit it, force her to get on her knees so maybe somebody can get some more children out of her."
I rear back to fuck him up, kill him if it's possible, but my old lady steps in and stops the madness. "It's all right," she says, and initially I have no trouble believing that cause my old lady is dangerous, domineering, daring, darksome, The Dark Continent that we all must find ourselves secretly trying to get away from. She shows us her one breast, the size of her fist, a pink ribbon pinned on her blouse which she had worn for a Lifetime like a chicken. With her black, rottening, fading skin clinging on to the white shimmying silk of the blouse, she hands me a huge rock and begs for the chance to finally rest in peace, pointing to a spot on her head where her hair has been falling out and there is nothing but roots on her.
Now, for me, the earth proves to be waste, where there is darkness upon the surface of the watery, the deep. "The violence done me be upon you now," my old lady retorts. "I am dying, but God will certainly continue with you. Accordingly you must take my bones up out of here. You dig? My body must be torn to pieces, then put by a massive tree so everybody will know that I was woman treated with gross injustice -- just because."
"I cannot tolerate you for too long," I tell her. I had even told her this in the beginning. However, she thought that things would work out. When relations starting getting worse, she walked out of the hospital and threw our child away, under a bush, the very day after it was born.
"I believe God has prepared laughter for me," she said. However, I asked her once again in the park why she did it. So she sat down at a distance and began to raise her voice and weep.
So I grab the rock -- it consists of black holes, brown flatlands, mossy hills, and ravenous mountains, with water in many of these places, and I squeeze this thing tightly, with two hands, to try to put an end to her feeling.
(This story contains an interpolation of Brian McKnight's "The Day The Earth Stood Still")