Some time ago
“How you feeling Miles? You good? You need some water? Beer? A shot maybe?”
I looked Chase Santiago in the eyes, feeling fear crippling up my throat, stifling my airways as I attempted to give him a nervous nod. Looking down at the red velvet box crushed in my hand, inhaled deeply.
“You already know how I feel about this,” Desmond Clarke said with a shake of his head. He gripped his gun belt as he leaned against the fridge door with a dark frown plastered against his face.
These two have been with me since daycare, and they were always at odds with one another when it came to decisions I made with my own life. Chase Pretty Boy Santiago with the curly brown hair was the black Puerto Rican women chased after for babies while Desmond was the non nonsense, I don’t joke with nobody because you’ll get fucked up playing with me type of nigga. Somewhere in the middle, I was a blend of both. But on this good day? I need the two to come together if I was getting ready to make a life changing decision.
“It’s go time,” Chase continued. “You and Porscha were meant to be together. Yall been together since we were kids, man. I’ve been playing the third wheel for way too long not to see you two go down in history as husband, and wife. She’s waiting on it. Trust me,” he winked. “Just calm down, and breathe.”
“I’m good. I’m good. Just… I never thought I would be doing this in front of everybody.”
“You shouldn’t be doing it at all until you cleared the fucking air,” Desmond snapped as Chase winced in irration at him.
“What’s the problem Desmond? We’ve talked about this over, and over. Either have his back---.”
“I’m having his back, and I’m telling him? As much as I love Porsche, that’s not the same woman that we grew up with, and you know this.”
“You tryna tell me something?” I questioned, facing Desmond completely as we both squared up. Shoulder to shoulder, height for height. Desmond’s nose flared as he cocked his head back with a half smirk.
“I’m the only one with common sense to see she ain’t been the same. You need to sit her down and talk with her before you marry her Miles. Make sure that’s where her head is at. I’m ya boy. Always and forever will have your back---.”
“Okay then, so stand behind me when I ask the love of my life to marry----.”
“What’s going on? Why are you three huddled up in the kitchen? The Graduation Party is outside and everyone is looking for us to take pictures.” A familiar uppity voice came as we both looked up to see Greg Simmons come around the corner with a sliced vanilla cake on his plate in uniform. Yellow complexion burnt by the Bama sun, he pushed his glasses up as he took another bite of his cake.
Gregory Simmons was the outsider that caught on quickly when he came out here to play football on a scholarship. A few years older than us, we ended up sharing some of the same classes, and same interest. Constantly getting caught up in the same circle of people until the four of us became inseparable.
“You haven’t told him yet have you?” Chase asked with excitement as Greg pushed up his black rimmed glasses with his pinky finger.
“Told me what?”
“BOYS?!” I heard someone shout out. “BOYS?! We’re taking pictures! C’MON ON OUT CHEA!”
Chase gripped my shoulder excitedly with a shake as Desmond walked off with a shake of his head.
“This is it man. Big day. We just graduated from the academy. This is it. Set your life up how you want it to be. We got the car, the girls---.”
“And now it's time to get the wife, and the kids with a house and a home,” I finished with a determined nod. “It’s time. No more playing games.”
“What’s happening?” Greg asked, confused as Chase leaned in with arched brows.
“He’s getting ready to propose to Porscha,” he whispered as Greg’s mouth dropped, face turning red before he let out a gummy smile.
“You’re serious?!” He choked with excitement as I nodded.
“See?!” Chase laughed. “See what I mean, that’s Desmond hating because he can’t keep a girl in his face without cussing her out---.”
“I can keep a woman!” Desmond yelled from outside. “Check my track record! I pulled more than any of yall on my worst day!”
“This is incredible!” Greg laughed as I showed him the ring. “You don’t think she’ll say yes?”
“I just don’t want her to say no. She can say anything but no,” I laughed.
This was going to be a day I would never forget. Stepping out into my mother’s backyard where tables were set up with family from everywhere coming down to celebrate graduating the academy. We stood in our uniforms proudly with the cameras flashing as I watched my baby work the yard. Checking on tables, making sure everyone was comfortable, and settled with a drink and plate before them. Porscha James was the girl who everyone loved in the neighborhood, and the woman people wanted to be around. When you see her? Beautiful brown skin and a teasing smile that always left more to the imagination. Dark brown hair she kept pulled back in a ponytail that swung against her back shoulders and jeans that never failed to show off her blessed body. Every man wanted her, but everyone knew she was mine, and when she caught me staring at her, she winked before helping fix the plate of her rowdy nephew at the kids table.
“You want me to get everyone’s attention?” Chase whispered from behind me. “You ready to do this?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, taking a deep breath as I looked down at my uniform. Inspecting it for invisible dust and lint as I nervously stood in front of everyone.
“EVERYBODY!? EVERYBODY! LISTEN UP!” Chase yelled as Desmond shook his head into the red cup. “Just wanna say? Thank yall for coming out? We really appreciate it. The neighbors, a few shop owners came out. Shutting down their stores just to celebrate with us. None of us would be here if it wasn’t for yall, this town, and those looking out for us every step of the way when we were growing up. Especially family, and good friends that you can trust, and depend on. I’ve been rocking with these boys since the diaper days man… My brothers for life, and I’m happy and proud to call yall family. Love yall man, you too Greg! You came in late as hell, but you’re with us till the end!” He pointed as everyone laughed. Greg raised his cup with a nod.
“I’m here! Not going anywhere!”
“With that being said?! I think my boy has a few words he wants to say.”
Chase stepped aside, letting me step up as I faced the backyard from the elders to the kids. The two grills going and the dried up yellow grass that seemed to burn by the second with the sun blazing over us. I quietly motioned for Porscha to come up, hands trembling, and my heart thumping as she pointed to herself.
“Yeah girl, come here,” I said as she laughed, walking over with a flip of her hair. Forever dramatic. I took her hand in mind, pulling her in front of me as Chase handed over the mic. Adjusting the cord with a whip as he untangled it from the speakers.
“What are you doing Miles?” She whispered underneath her breath, eyes growing wide with nerves that matched mine.
“Something crazy,” I told her before putting the mic up to my lips. “Porscha Briana James… When we first met---.”
“Miles,” she started, eyes the size of saucers with her brown face growing pale. “Babe are you---.”
“You came bussing out that house, jumping from the porch steps demanding we let you join us to play outside, and we said? We didn’t wanna play with no girl… But you got yo Mama,” looking off to the side as her mother stood up, clamping her mouth with tears already coming down. She knew what was about to happen. “You got yo Mama, and Daddy, may he rest in peace… To demand we let you come with us, and from that day on? We would drop by your house every day, every to get you and find something to get into. You, me, Desmond, and Chase until our circle grew… People came and went but you and I remained the same… Got a little older, feelings started to grow with us and although I ain’t like yo first boyfriend? I was patient because I knew you were going to be the woman I was going to eventually marry----.”
“Alright now!” Someone yelled as I looked down at the grass. Finding the point in the dirt where I needed to bend down until I released another breath I didn’t realize I was holding. Suddenly, I found myself looking up at a crying Porscha.
“Porscha Briana James… My best friend. My soft spot. My headache, and my cure. My reason for getting up in the morning just so I can turn and see you by my side. The reason I am the man I am today. I know we separated when we went off to college. We lived life the way we were supposed to but I said if it's meant to be, you would come back here and we would pick up where we left off because God has a plan for us.”
“You betta tell it boi!” Another yelled. “Go head, and ask that girl to marry you! Been running after her behind since yall was lil! Go head!”
“Don’t rush him!” A woman shushed. “Take ya time. Love waits for any and everyone when it's meant to be baby.”
I looked into her tearful eyes as I squeezed her hand, refusing to let go while clutching onto the mic with the other. Just say it. Just say it Miles.
“Will you be my wife?” I asked halfway into the mic. Some of the words were cut off for only her to hear but the moment she opened her mouth, Chase let out a scream, jumping into the air prompting everyone jump up from their chairs. Families were hugging, and joining one another in celebration as Chase and Greg came crowding me with a shake. I stood up, struggling to get the ring out of the box. Could hardly hear what was being said when Porscha’s hand held my arm, stopping me from moving as she shook her head.
“No…” She let out, barely above a whisper. “I don’t want to marry you Miles…”
It seemed nobody else heard her but Chase as he stood completely still while the ring fell from my hand to the ground.
“Wh-wha…. What?” I let out, backing away, confused as she looked around.
“Can we talk in private? I want---.”
“Why?” I questioned.
“AYE?! YALL SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Desmond yelled. “SHE SAID NO!”
The sudden music came to a scratching stop, cutting off instantly as the entire neighborhood, friends, family, and police force stopped to wait for her final word.
“Can we talk in private?” She asked again.
“We can talk right here. Why? Why won’t you marry me?” I asked again. “I… I don’t understand?”
She looked around, scratching nervously at her arm as her mother who looked stunned, gripped the back of a chair to keep balance.
“I’m not ready to get married yet Miles… I don’t even know how much longer I’ll be living here---.”
“So we can move,” I said. “Wherever you’re tryna go, I’ll follow.”
“It’s not that simple. I want… I want you to be happy, and you’re at your happiest when you’re surrounded by family, and friends, and… here. I want more in life… I want to see how far I can go before I settle down and have kids. We’re so young---.”
“So we can do that? We can do that with each other. Together---.”
“No…” She admitted softly. “I don’t want to hold you back, and I don’t want to feel like… I’m forcing myself to stay with you just so you can be happy. I want us to remain close friends because you are still and will always be my best friend. I just… I haven’t been all the way honest, and the best to you. You deserve someone who will be honest. Someone who is loyal, and who… Miles please... ” she cried. “I want the best for you and I don’t think I’m the best you’ll get.”
I gripped my head, covering my face to keep from crying in front of these people.
“Aye, aye, nigga not here, not now,” Desmond muttered, gripping my arm to jerk me forward towards the house. “YALL PACK UP AND GO HOME! WE’RE DONE HERE!”
“What the fuck do you mean you’re not ready to get married Porsch?!” Chase snapped angrily. “You’ve been with him all this time, and you KNEW his plans! YOU KNEW---!”
“I didn’t know he was going to propose! You could have warned me!” She cried. “Don’t yell at me like I’m not hurting! I’m hurting just as much as he is! If not more! I never wanted to hurt Miles!”
“Hey!? HEY!? Both of yall cut it out!” Greg yelled. “Everyone let’s go! Pack up and go! It’s over!”
“Not ready to get married! You serious?!”
“Miles? Miles? You hear me?” Desmond’s voice came through but my body, my mind, my face was numb to everything right now. Never felt anything like this before and the pain felt permeanant. Like a stain on my heart I wasn’t able to wash out. A stain that blackened, and hardened my emotions and defense until I heard her speak, opening and weakening my senses.
I felt a small tap on the side of my face as I blinked several times, hearing the giggles, and cackles of grown men around me in uniform.
“You getting a lil misty-eyed over there Spencer,” Booker yelled out from the bar. “You still miss that?” Pale face, and rosey cheeks cracked from the sun as he, and his white partners laughed together while shoving, and nudging one another.
“Why don’t yall mind ya business and shut the fuck up?” Desmond snapped, picking up his burger as I shook my head.
“Take it easy Clarke,” Booker laughed. “We’re messing with him. We know that’s a soft spot. Besides, do they even look happy together?”
“Whitest people in this town and you talking like you belong!” Chase followed up with his own retort.
“Hey?” Booker laughed with his hand out. “Doesn’t matter because the moment we step out in those streets, all they see is blue, and you know that. Fuck all of that shit anyway. I say you got lucky not to end up with her Spencer,” he pointed as I looked up at the TV plastered in the corners of the rundown bar. The celebration of the newly elected mayor was taking place tonight as he stood up at the podium making his speech. His pregnant wife standing by his side with a proud smile, the camera panned over to his those standing behind him as I watched Greg Simmons standing off to the side in uniform as a lieutenant in District 1. The heart of the city. Petty crime, and corruption amongst the wealthy and rich. The camera continued to pan over the newly elected Mayor Hughes and his wife once more until I saw her. Standing off to the side with a smile.
Porscha James-Simmons. Wife to Gregory Simmons. Former best friend who watched me propose to her. Married with a son, and another on the way. Porscha looked happy, and in love for the most part. She knew to never show her face around here, and Simmons and I, had to be separated. So it only made sense they began to promote him and leave me behind in District 2. Presley Park. Most dangerous of the three main districts of the city as a regular run down cop.
“We’re live downtown tonight where Mayor Lewis Hughes just made a touching speech about his wife,” the reporter let out as every cop focused on the new head of the city. “We have the Chief of Police here and the youngest to ever be promoted to Lieutenant Gregory Simmons ready to lay out the new plans for how to tackle crime alongside the Mayor. It was an impressive campaign that got a little nasty towards the end but I believe we’re all just glad it's over, and ready to move forward with new beginnings.”
“Ha! New beginnings, as they show the biggest bitch!” Desmond yelled at the TV with the camera with Chief now at the podium talking to reporters about the results of the election and working with Mayor Hughes. Greg stood by his side with his arms folded in front of him, and Porscha kept to the background with her new friends that were all women married to police at that precinct.
“To new beginnings! Never looking back!” Booker yelled, raising his pitcher of beer in the air as he looked at me. “Ain’t that right Spencer?! To new beginnings!”
The main door to the bar suddenly jerked repeatedly with the chain looped around the handle clinging against the glass. We all sat up at attention, on alert as the door repeatedly shook.
“Hellooooo?!” A voice yelled, banging on the glass door as I leaned to the side, trying to look out the window. A woman stood by the front, holding herself in a painful dance as she banged on the door. “I know yall fucking open! I see the lights and can smell the food! I can see yall looking at me! Open the door! It ain’t even nine o’ clock!”
“What the hell?” Cory let out from behind the bar, slamming the rag down as the few cops that sat inside were on alert with curiosity.
“It’s gotta be drugs man,” Chase laughed with a shake of his head as he picked at his fries.
“Look at this crazy woman,” I laughed as we watched her slowly walk up and down the windows of the bar, peeking through the tinted glass. The most I could see were the long braids that fell to her waist. She looked to be dark in complexion but it was hard to tell until she came up in front of our table. Leaning against the window with her hands cupping her eyes to peek inside.
I grinned, watching her chew her gum with an attitude while her thigh shook
“I can see yall in there eating! Open the door! I just need to pee, and these places don’t have a bathroom!” She yelled before knocking on the door.