Our long weeks have found us convened in Mari’s living room, random limbs strewn among open Chinese food containters and bottles of wine. Mari, Ella, Butter and I fill each other in on our lives bullet point style, hitting the highlights between small sips of wine. We talk over each other, almost every sentence punctuated with curse words, laughter or a round of sistafriend mmhmm’s. I pull the legs of my Howard sweats up above the knees, sprawl out on my back on the couch, my phone on my stomach in case it vibrates, letting loose the ponytail on top of my head. We gesture at each other with chopsticks and forks, our loud laughter bouncing off the walls of the aparment.
After the food is forgotten and the cork has been popped on our third bottle, we proceed seemlessly into the Real Talk portion of the evening, sharing war stories amidst a chorus of “girl you GOT to be fucking kidding me”s.
“Oh my god!” says Butter, throwing her hand to her head in mock mortification. “Mari do you remember The Clapper?” Apparently she does because she bursts into laughter so great it takes her body to the floor.
“Yes! He was roomates with Soon to be Gay, right?” she replies, her face still slightly contorted from her laughter.
“I’m sorry,” I butt in, “but… The Clapper? I’m gonna need more information.”
“It was this dude that Butter was DYING to get on-“
“You say that like I couldn’t get that shit.”
“- and dude was having none of it. So Butter is forever hanging around dude-“
“I SERIOUSLY don’t appreciate how you making me sound in this story-“
“And finally him and his girl fall out. Butter finds out from one of his boys- wait didn’t you fuck him too a couple months later?”
“Oh YES ma’am. At the movies I think.”
“Damn!” We all fall over laughing. “Anyway, B finds out he’s gonna be at this birthday party somewhere down in the Village at some club. So THIS bitch,” she says jabbing her short fingers in Butter’s direction, “gets, well, I would say all dressed up but truth is she’s damn near naked in one of those tight ass Robin Givens in Boomerang dresses, right? She finds this dude, does her thing, they go home and get it poppin’ real lovely as it sounded through our shared wall. They start kicking it. Like, the second time they were together-“
“Aiight lemme take over before you fuck up the punchline. So first time we fucked, it was just crazy cuz we were both so fuckin’ toasted, like no bullshit. So the 2nd time we go at it at his place, completely sober. Now lemme go ‘head and admit,” she pauses for dramatic effect, “my dude’s dick game was ON POINT.” More laughter from the peanut gallery at how fucking OUTLANDISH this bitch is. “We go at it for like 2 hours or something, yo. So after I cum for like, I dunno, the goddamn 5th time or some shit, before I can even stop twitching good, this nigga jumps up out fuckin’ bed and starts clapping. Like, I shit you not. Clapping. I’m talkin’ straight up Will Smith in the last scene of Pursuit of Happyness type shit.” By now, we are all doubled over in laughter, tears streaming down our faces. We laugh until there is no more laughter, just dry heaves and short breaths as we try to compose ourselves.
“But NO one,” offers Mari, “tops the guy who LITERALLY burst into tears after we had sex.”
“Whaaaaaaaaaat?!?!” I screech at the top of my lungs barely finished before I dissolve into fresh giggles. “WHERE in the FUCK do y’all MEET these niggas?”
Mari says, “It was this guy I was sooo in love with right after junior year in college.”
“Which one was the Cryer?” Butter asks.
“The guy from Philly with the locs and that one dimple in his cheek.”
“Ohhh I remember that. Giiiiiiiirl…”
“I know, right? Anyway, we had this CRAZY connection, like we’d just sit up and talk for hours. Just debate and talk and kiss and it was just so goddamn perfect.”
“I loooove that feeling,” I coo from the couch.
Mari continues, “This went on for months. I was so incredibly crazy about him. We still hadn’t slept together. It was like the longest 3 month foreplay EVER. It was just crazy intense. One night we were at his place, and he kissed me and the clothes just started falling off. We make love, and it’s sooo good and sooo intense, so beautiful…” she trails off, staring off into space the way you do when memories are whispering in your ear.
“So?” I prompt her, by now so fully involved in this story that I’m sitting up.
“Well, after what seemed like forever, he finally came. I remember distinctly holding on to his back and feeling his muscles contracting under my finger nails. Afterwards I put my hands on his face and then suddenly I feel something wet on the back on my hand. I’m like, did he drool on me? Which, because I was totally infatuated with him beyond reason, I can play off like kinda cute at this juncture, like aww I made him drool. It takes me a second but I realize… nigga is CRYING. Like, HUGE fuckin’ tears. Before I can ask what’s wrong, he is full on sobbing with his head between my breasts like he just watched his puppy get shot in the face. I am laying there underneath his massive body, naked and completely trapped and this guy is howling on top of me. I’m like what the fuck?!?” We are all dying with laughter.
“No wonder you started fucking chicks!” says Butter in between gasps for air, and we all break down into another fit of loud laughter. Then Ella gets in on it.
“That’s better than the chick I dated before Mari.”
“What was wrong with her?”
“Lets just say that between her tongue ring and my dislike of Brazil, thing got a little… painful.” More howling from the audience. Jesus Christ.
After we settle, the attention turns to me.
“Aiight La so tell us one of your bad sex stories,” Ella says, running her fingers through Mari’s hair in her lap. I stutter start through a couple mumbles.
“Oh NO MA’AM bitch. Don’t be keeping shit!” Butter yells at me while throwing her balled up socks at my head.
“It’s just that,” I begin, *undiscernable mumble*.
“What’s that now?” Butter says. I sigh.
“I’ve never had bad sex.” The universe’s DJ snatches the record off the turntable.
“You BITCH!!!” Mari screams at me, her mouth agape. “How in the FUCK is that possible? Everyone has had bad sex.” I shrug.
“I’ve had alot of sex, but not alot of partners. There has been sex that wasn’t exactly what I needed or wanted at the time, but never just outright bad.” I shrug again. “Y’all oughta stop being hoes.” I duck and cover under the immediate assault of incoming pillows and other flying objects.
I say, “Real talk though, I always kinda wished I was the type of chick that could sleep around.”
“Why?” Ella prompts.
“Seems like those chicks have all the fun. I mean take for instance Butter-“
“WHAAAAAAT?!?!” she yells at me, looking around for something else to throw.
“Come on Butter lets get serious. You gets it in bitch.”
“I mean yeah, but you ain’t have to say it all like that.” Everyone in the room gives her the Bitch Please look.
“Anyway,” I continue, “I mean, on the surface, it seems like the life. Beautiful men, still got your own space, your own life that revolves entirely around whatever makes you happy. I mean, have you ever even had your heart broken?” She shakes her head at me. “See? I’d trade a couple instances of bad sex for that feeling.” The room is silent for a second, each one of us reliving past heartache, excavating old gravesites of loves long since buried.
“Shit,” says B, “y’all be on that love bullshit.” We fall over laughing again.
“Well what’s up with you and The Ex?” Ella asks me, her voice soft in the middle, ever the romantic of the group. “You guys still speak?”
“Yeah. Some,” I reply, my stomach clenching in knots. “You know how they get after the breakup.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know the drill; the apologies, the promises to change, the begging for another chance. The talking about future plans…” I trail off, distracting myself in the smile that the text I just received gives me.
“Future plans? What’s he saying?” Ella pushes were most other mere mortals would just back down. The question solicits a hard sigh from me.
“He wants to move. Here. Or at least closer. Move in together. Get a couple more dogs. Destination wedding in Puerto Rico. He’s been,” I clear my throat, “looking at rings,” my cynicism not even slightly masked.
“And…?” Mari asks.
“And when he told me I had a goddamn panic attack.” Everyone laughs at me.
“WHAAAT girl?!?!” Butter screams at me from the corner.
“A panic. Attack. Like, for real. I broke out in hives, I started to sweat, couldn’t breathe, felt like this huge pressure on my chest. Started to hyperventilate.” Silence covers the room.
“Well,” Ella begins, “THAT’S not what you want.” More laughter.
“So what’s the problem mami?” from Mari as she gets up to refil her glass and mine.
I try as best I can, “You know how when you salsa with somebody-“
“Wait, what?” Butter cuts in. “Yall two wetback bitches stay referring to some shit we don’t know nothing about.” Pillows at her head.
“Anyway,” I continue, “its like when you salsa with someone you’ve never partnered with. In order for the dance to work, to make sense, someone has to give up control. Traditionally, the man leads because it just makes the dance work. But you’ve gotta trust him to lead. You have to be able to trust that when he lifts you up over his head, he’s gonna return you back safely to the ground. That when he dips you, he’s not gonna let you fall. That no matter how many times he turns you, he’s gonna be there to hold you up when you get dizzy.”
“What’s the point La?”
“I don’t trust him to lead.”
Ella, like a romantic comedy on repeat says softly, “But he’s at least talking about it.”
“And what? Its just talk. That and a quarter won’t even buy me a piece of gum. Words in and of themselves are not powerful. It is the intent behind them that holds the power.”
She asks, “If he asked you, maybe not right now, you wouldn’t do it? I mean you guys were together so long and you went through so much together. How could you not say yes?”
“The same way he could walk away from it all.” I pause and try to explain my heart. “I don’t want to just pretend nothing happened because now he says he wants the things I wanted 6 months ago. That’s not what I want anymore. I’m just not there anymore. I had a GODDAMN PANIC ATTACK Y’ALL. Does it sound like you should start looking for dresses?”
“Do you feel bad about it?”
“Girl please.” We all dissolve into laughter again, high fives and hand claps given.
“The real question is,” I say, my eyes fixed firmly on Butter, “who the FUCK are you over there boo loving with so hard that’s got you all smiling and giggling to yourself?” Instantly her eyes widen and she realizes she’s caught. She starts stuttering.
“I mean it it it’s nobody.”
“Riiiiight. Nobody got you real fucked up over there.”
“Oh don’t think we ain’t noticed you sending furious boo lovin’ texts over there.” I laugh a guilty laugh.
“But at least I’ll admit it.”
“Whatever bitch,” Butter murmurs at me and heads towards the bathroom, her phone not so discreetly tucked into her palm. We go back to talking and drinking before we realize B has been gone for awhile, and soft giggles are floating from underneath the door. We exchange looks and I push myself off the couch. I pad across the room slowly and stand outside the bathroom door. I pop the bones in my neck, my back and then my knuckles and allow for a moment of silence.
“Bitch if you don’t get your Betty Crocker, Pillsberry Doughboy baking, caking, and cupcake making Keebler elf ass out this muthafucka bathroom you better!!!!”
Butter emerges after a hurried goodbye, redfaced and head hung low.
“You,” she says pointing at me, “are a fuckin’ HATER La. And y’all,” she says, her eyes cutting to Ella and Mari curled up on the couch, “as much as we watch y’all cuddle and kiss and shit, yall could at least be nice about it.” She looks at us silently.
“Bitch PLEASE!!!” Mari screams from the couch and we burst out laughing. We reassume our positions, listening to Butter tell us about dude she’s feeling, her soft voice barely audible above our breathing. This girl looks positively shook. She finishes her monologue about him and looks up at us expectantly.
Ella says, “Damn girl you sound like you like dude, no bullshit.”
“I do,” she replies. “It’s like, usually, the dude is waaay more into me than I am him, and it feels like there’s a certain level of, I dunno, control I guess I can maintain. But now…” she trails off, all of us silently nodding in agreement, recalling what it’s like to be feeling someone beyond all rational control on so many metaphysical levels its like losing your mind.
“But you don’t always have to be in control, B,” I offer gently, knowing she won’t take too kindly to full out encouragement of being vulnerable.
“Oh you’re one to talk.”
“What’s that mean?”
“What?!? Have you done or said anything to break KB’s heart recently? What’s up with him?”
“Oooh yeah, I haven’t heard about him in forever, what’s goin’ on with you two?” Mari asks me all nosy, leaning forward like she’s really anticipating the answer.
“Well,” I start.