Thursday, June 23, 2005

family drama...

it's 9 p.m. eastern standard time and i'm thoroughly engrossed in one of the books i had just picked up from the used book store earlier in the day. $1.35 had brought me a one way ticket to 19th century texas where i was now sitting quietly in the corner of a smoky saloon, watching a dashing dark-haired saloon owner nurse a glass of whiskey as he tried to convince himself he wasn't in love with the pretty and prim hat-maker next door. right when he was about to experience the epiphanic moment all heroes experience in romance novels, his thoughts and my observation are interrupted by a 21st century phone ring.

i glance up from the book, reluctant to answer it. damnit. it always happens right before the good parts. i'm either interrupted right as the heroine is about to become ravaged by her arduous lover, or when the hero realizes with a start that he's in love with the heroine. sighing, i glance to see what page i'm on before dropping the book to the floor.

the phone rings one more time before i get to it. caller id tells me it's my brother aswad. i glance at the clock again to make sure it's actually a decent time of the evening for him to be calling me, as the three hour time difference means i'm usually getting a phone call from him a little after midnight. him calling me this early means a new mobile phone billing cycle or something's up and he's willing to pay .50 cents a minute.

i pick up the phone and answer it.

"hello?" i rarely acknowledge i know the person who's calling me in the initial greeting, as i've never been comfortable with the idea of letting someone know i know who's calling me. whenever i've done it in the past, i always end up feeling like i've just revealed the identity of batman to all of gotham city.

"wassup big sis," he says. now that he's in san diego, his voice always sounds like there's a sigh waiting to burst at the end of his sentences, like an exploding period. it's so obvious he doesn't want to be there and a part of me wishes i could be there with him.

"yo, wassup 'swad," i say, gladness in my voice at the sound of his in my ear. "what's goin' on witchu?"

"nothin'. what's goin' on witchu?"


the conversation always starts out with the same inquiry said in the same way. it's like a ritual. if it doesn't go down just like that, that's the cue that something's not right. knowing that the ritual is complete leaves me feeling relieved and i make a quick silent prayer thanking god my brother isn't calling me with bad news.

with the receiver up to my ear, i walk over to the couch and plop down on it. i can hear the wood beneath the fabric and cushion creak a little. almost time for some new furniture. "so you must have new minutes or else you wouldn't be calling me during prime time on your coast," i said.

"and you know this, man." he's still using this line despite the fact that even chris tucker abandoned it years ago.

"so how's san diego?" i ask as if i don't already know what he's gonna tell me.

"san diego has beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, and no black folk."

i roll my eyes.

"dude, did you really think you'd see black folk out in san diego?" atlanta and new york are rarities in that you can find not just one black community, but many. living in both cities had spoiled both of us as kids. we didn't think we could ever go to a place and not see a bunch of folks who looked just like us. then aswad moved to san diego and experienced a culture shock that still left him dazed and confused.

"it's not like i expected san diego to be a black mecca or anything, but i thought it at least had a 'black folk section' of town." even after being there for months, aswad was still frustrated by this bit of reality.

"go to oakland. i'm sure you'll find plenty of black folk there."

"i'm not traveling all the way to oakland just to find a black person," he replied sardonically.

"well then, either get over it or move back new york," i replied just as sardonically.

"damn, nik! cut a brotha some slack, will you?" he usually caught me in a more sympathetic mood, but i was still a little perturbed at being pulled away from my reading. i stretched out further on the sofa, my feet on top of some cushions i had pushed down with my left heel. now that i knew aswad didn't call for anything specific, i figured we were in for at least an hour of conversation about everything and nothing.

"so, how's dex?"

"dex is fine. working as usual. his quills see him more than i do. if he could fuck his quills, he'd probably never have married me."


aswad is a confirmed bachelor, so he gets a special kick out of hearing my complaints regarding my marriage. i think he's trying to justify his reasoning for remaining a bachelor.

"so what else is going on?"

"um..." he hesitated. he NEVER hesitates. what da hell is going on here?

"what's up, 'swad? you need some money or something?" i was hoping it was as simple as that. aswad never asks for money cuz i usually just send him any extra i've got.

"um..." he started again. "i'm gonna be a father."



i waited for him to continue cuz i could tell he had something else to say. aswad sighed deeply before continuing.

"and she's white."

to be continued...