From ‘Young, Rich and Black’:
“Human relationships are complicated,” Rashad said. “You can’t rig that shit. It just happens the way it happens.”
Zora said nothing, keeping her hands folded on her lap, listening to him talk.
Usually, she loved listening to Shad talk. He had such agency of expression, such complete command of his words. They were currency for him—buying him entrée into circles where most young, Black men would never go. After Penn State, he was going to law school at Stanford, and after that, who knew? The sky was certainly the limit for someone like Shad but he wanted to be out West. He liked that he was going to be close to Oakland, because like lots of East Coast Black activists, he was in love with the city as the birthplace of the Black Panther Movement and imagined that there, some of the magic from that time would rub off.
“And I definitely understand why you were curious about him. I mean, hell, how many like him we got out there, apart from the ballers?”
He was talking about Deuce. Because after an hour of barely-disguised curiosity about how inaccessible she had been to him over most of the Break, he guessed that she had what he called “a fling” with someone. So, not wanting to act like Deuce was a dirty secret, and most of all wanting to put an end to the probing, Zora had just come out with it.
I drove home with Deuce Scaife, she said. And we wound up spending some time together over Break.
Yes, they spent time together. Lots of time. And then there was New Year’s Eve which was amazing. Scarily so. So scary that when Deuce had taken her home the next morning, Zora ignored all his calls and texts, instead immersing herself in her parents and brother for the next day and a half, then packing all her stuff to return to school.
She called Shad late on the night of the third of January, and suggested that they get going sooner rather than later. He was there before nine a.m. on the fourth and they had hit the road in his reliable but beat-up Toyota 4Runner.
Today, she knew for sure, Deuce would give up calling and stop by her parents’ house. He would have exhausted his limited patience by now; and knowing her planned departure date would simply show up. He was spoiled in that way. Spoiled in every way, really. He just wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. He never waited for anything. Not even for her. When he wanted her, he just … took her.
Sighing, Zora shook her head. It wasn’t working. She wasn’t going to be able to work up anything resembling anger at him. Because he had never treated her with anything but respect, and care and consideration. If his greatest sin was that he wanted her all the time, and didn’t like waiting to have her, then she was in for a hard road to get him and their “fling” out of her system.
“I don’t mean to get all in your business or anything,” Rashad continued. “But as far as you and him …”
“Nothing changes,” Zora said. “We were just … kickin’ it over Break.”
She couldn’t even look at him when she said those words, because they felt so blatantly false. But it was basically what she and Deuce had agreed to—the temporary shedding of expectations. And that was all.
“What does that mean?” Zora snapped.
Rashad shrugged, looking away from the road for a moment. “Nothing. I just don’t see bruh at a BLM march, do you?”
“It’s not like he’s oblivious to what’s going on out there. He’s been stopped before.”
Rashad laughed. “Impressive. Him, and every other Black man in America. That’s hardly the equivalent of street cred.”
Zora rolled her eyes. “He’s more than you think, Rashad,” she murmured. “And besides, that wasn’t what it … what we were about.”
“Okay, so tell me,” Rashad’s voice rose a little, and Zora heard the annoyance, and the jealousy he had concealed before. “What were you about?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Because …”
“Did you fuck him?”
“You did, right? Because that’s all I can think of that would make someone like that interesting to someone like you. Curiosity about the magic dick that sends all these dumb-ass girls scurrying his way to get used.”
Zora’s stomach clenched at the phrase, ‘sends all the girls scurrying his way.’
But that was Deuce’s rep. And though Rashad hadn’t said it, implicit in his comment was some judgment about the type of girls Deuce was notorious for bedding. He generally checked for Latinas and White chicks, and the precious few who weren’t, may as well have been since they looked it. His type was so firmly established that even people on campus who had never exchanged three words with him could probably pick his likely sex partners out of a line-up.
Zora knew what it was like to be fetishized. Since puberty there had been guys, some of them White, some of them Black, for whom her darkness, her unmistakable Blackness, seemed to be her single most irresistible feature. They stared at her in a manner that was vaguely disturbing, sometimes putting their arm against hers, rhapsodizing about the contrast in their skin tones. Or they played a little too often with her wiry, kinky hair, testing its texture, stretching and releasing it; examining each component of her as though she was a rare museum piece.
Deuce wasn’t like that.
He never remarked on their differences, but instead, often told her she was beautiful, or pretty. Even Rashad had never done that—leaned in, though they were in a crowded room, in a Target checkout line, or waiting for movie tickets—and with mouth against her ear, whispered, you’re so beautiful or damn, you look amazing today.
Where’d you learn that? Zora had asked him once. Where did you learn to make a girl feel so good?
But that time, she meant something else entirely. Deuce had been at the foot of the bed, between her legs. When he lifted his head, he looked dizzy, and drunk with her. Sliding up along her body, he was rock-hard.
Making you feel good, makes me feel good, he said almost matter-of-factly. And you don’t know, Zee … you taste better than anything in this world.
Then he kissed her, long and deep so she could taste herself as well. But Zora still didn’t know what he was talking about. To her, what made the kiss good, was just … him.
“You know what?” Rashad said now. “It don’t matter. You fucked him, but it’s over. That’s the important thing. It’s over. And I’m confident in my shit … Fuck that nigga.”
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