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Authors: K'wan

Gutter

BOOK: Gutter
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This is dedicated to all
the gangsters I've met
in my life and travels.
There're two sides to every
coin, which one
will you choose?
My Father's Eyes
2021
“THIS IS
so unfair!” I fumed, storming into my bedroom. I slammed the door so hard that the picture of me and Louis on prom night fell off the wall and cracked. I hadn't meant to slam it so hard, but I was tight.
“Watch that temper, Ken,” I said to myself, scooping the picture off the floor. There was a hairline crack down the center, separating me from Louis. “How freaking ironic.” I tossed the picture on my bed, reminding myself to get another frame from the ninety-nine-cent store.
I plopped down on the little stool in front of my vanity mirror and examined the face staring back at me. Ever since I was a kid people always told me how pretty I am, but I really didn't start to notice until junior year in high school. I'm five feet five, five feet six when I stand up straight, with thick black hair and lips that always make me look like I'm pouting, but what stands out about me most are my eyes … my father's eyes. My eyes are a pale green. Not like
a contact lens green, but the color of new money. Mom says that's why she and my aunt nicknamed me Dollar.
Normally my eyes are clear and crisp, but not today. Today they were red and swollen because I had been crying for the last two hours. I had a golden opportunity waiting for me and my mother was throwing some serious blocks. The way she was acting you'd think I had just told my family's darkest secret, which in a sense I had.
I couldn't wait for the summer to end so I could start my first year of college. Mom wanted me to go away, but I opted to stay home and attend the University of Miami, on a partial scholarship. I could've gone to UNC or Howard for free, but Miami had a better journalism program, and I didn't have to wait until sophomore year to participate in the work study program. Besides that, it allowed me to be close to my mom and my best friend, Baby. Mom tries to front like it wouldn't bother her if I went away, but I know it would. For the first twelve years of my life, we were all each other had, then Arthor came along, but that's another story.
See, Mommy and me got the bomb relationship. Not only is she my mother, but she's like my best friend, next to Baby. I have the utmost respect for my mother and know that she's the law around here, but at the same time I know I could tell her anything and she's not gonna judge me. Lord, I thought she was going to trip when I told her about losing my virginity to Cedric last year. She went off about me not consulting with her before I did it to make sure I was safe, but she didn't condemn me as the whore of Babylon. When she finally calmed down, she took me to the clinic for a full physical and blood work and she buys me a box of condoms once a month. It's not like I need them. Cedric split my little ass open so bad that my first time was my last time. That might explain why we broke up a few weeks later.
I wanted to kill that fool for trying to play me out of pocket, but my mom helped me get through it. She knew all about heartache and how to get past it. Baby didn't take it so well though. They say that if Gunn hadn't been there he'd have shot that boy in front of all those people. Baby is a nut, but I know he'd do anything for me. That's my dawg for life!
With all the time we spend together, it's no wonder that people always thought that we were fooling around. Our mothers had even joked about us hooking up, but I think we all knew that wasn't nothing popping. Baby was a dime, and we had had some close calls, but we never crossed the finish line. Baby and I have a brother and sister relationship. Our mothers are best friends and we've lived next door to each other all our lives. We get along famously, but we're nothing alike. Me, I'm hood, but Baby is ghetto. We're both from a nice gated community in Florida and have both gone to private schools for most our lives, but for as much money as that boy's mother spent to give him a better opportunity, the heart of a gangster does and always will beat in his chest. I used to think he was a knucklehead, but after my little vacation during spring break I understand him a little better. Before he had even taken his first breaths his destiny was already written.
Mommy was from Harlem, and you could tell by her walk and her talk. She carried herself like a queen at all times and commanded the same respect she gave when dealing with people, anything less wasn't even an option. My mother was my ace, my superwoman. Whether it was me skinning my knee when I fell off my bike, or when those girls from the projects tried to jump me, mama love is always in my corner. My pillar of strength, giving of herself even when there's nothing left.
I used to look at my mother and wonder how she did it? How she mustered up the strength to smile at her enemies, and keep her
faith in God when society was giving us a hard time. I wondered for a long time where that strength came from and about three months ago I found out.
“Break yo self, bitch!”
I spun around so quick that I knocked over my half empty bottle of Glo, spraying my freshly polished, hardwood floor with glass and perfume. I was about to scream for my mama when I looked up and recognized the peanut head that was poking in my bedroom window.
“You dick!” I yelled, throwing a box of sanitary napkins at him.
“Watch yo mouth, fool.” Baby swung his long legs in the window. His Chuck Taylors left a dirty print on my windowsill, which I would surely make him clean before he left. As usual, Baby was decked out in a pair of tan Dickey pants and a white T-shirt. His long hair was braided in quarters, tied off by black rubber bands, meaning his mother had done it. When the hood rats did his hair they banded it in blue and white, but his mother wouldn't allow it. She didn't even allow him to dress in too much blue. Baby thought she was a nut about it, but I understood her phobia.
Damn, I hadn't even told him. Since we were old enough to talk we had told each other everything and here I was holding out on something that he had every right to know. Baby trusted me more than anybody and I repaid him by living the lie with our parents. I had to tell him, but how?
“Sup wit you, Dollar Bill?” Baby plopped on my bed, tossing the stuffed animals aside so he could get comfortable.
“You gonna stop climbing in my window like you pay rent here, Louis.” I turned around on the stool so he could see the seriousness in my eyes.
“What'd I tell you about shouting my government like that,
woman? Call me Baby Loc or call me daddy.” Baby smiled at me, flexing that dimple in his left cheek.
“Daddy? Nigga, please, you must think I'm one of them Carol City broads you be chasing.” I gave him my no-nonsense stare. Baby knew my moods better than most, so he backed off a bit.
“Damn, everybody ass is snippy today. I spoke to ya mama when she came by the crib awhile ago and she looked at me like I kicked her dog,” he told me.
“Yeah, she's going through a thing right now,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Sounded like more than a thing to me, Kenyatta. She looked really upset. I knew it was serious when Mom threw me the car keys and told me to get lost for an hour or two. What did your ass do now?” he asked me, as if he already knew the story.
“What makes you think I did something?” I folded my arms over my breasts so he wouldn't see that my nipples had started to stir beneath my T-shirt. It wasn't that I was cold, but I could feel Baby's eyes on my breasts and I wasn't sure how I felt about it just yet.
“Because I heard your name more than once and school. I thought you was doing ya thing in the white man's world?” Baby asked me. He always poked fun at me for going to college, saying college trained us properly in the etiquette of white folks. He didn't actually believe it, but it made his dumb-ass friends laugh when he said it. His mother had wanted him to go to college, but Baby's head wasn't really in it. He was always thinking about his next dollar, so it didn't really surprise me when he had caked off from a dot-com company he started. His mother let him take a year off to see how the business would pan out for him, but she made it clear that he would either be in somebody's classroom or on the streets for the new school year.
“Hell, I am. I'm in the top twenty percent at the university,” I said, snaking my neck. I had a lot of bullshit with me, but I took school very serious. “I didn't mess up in school, I actually got an A plus on my thesis.” I reached into my shoulder bag and took out the ring-bounded copy I had. Mom still had the original. I ran my thumb across the title line, as if blessing it, before tossing it over to Baby.
“It's the piece I wrote for my journalism class. Right before we broke for the spring, Professor Faulk gave us an assignment that we could take on for extra credit, so when I was on vacation in Cali, I started writing that.” I pointed at the folder.
I watched him as he mouthed the title. “Gutter?” He looked up at me with questioning eyes. He knew what the word meant, as did I. Our mothers had never hid the fact that our fathers were gang bangers, but I don't think either of us understood the power they held, or the lives they'd altered.
“My thesis is about our fathers … my father really. They've even talked about publishing it,” I confessed.
“Damn, congratulations, Dollar.” He slid off the bed and leaned down to hug me. I could smell the chronic in his clothes, and for a minute I felt like getting high, until I remembered that I gave it up when school started. “So if the joint was this good, what they tripping off?”
“The truth,” I said. “All my life I've thought of my father as just another thug from my mother's past, but I know better now, Baby,” I leaned in to whisper. My heart was fluttering uncontrollably as I searched for the words. “For a long time I've wondered who my father really was and what he was about, so when me and Gunn flew out to L.A., I started asking questions. Most of the stuff I knew from the war stories in New York, but on the West Coast they filled in the blanks.” I had to pause as the stories came rushing back
to me. “Some of the stuff I learned I wouldn't dare tell my mother, but since she's read the story all cards are on the table now.”
“Talk to me, Kenyatta.” He touched my forearm. I could see the anticipation in his inviting brown eyes.
“Baby, if I tell you what I found out you've got to promise not to tell your mother, because it really ain't my place to be sharing this with you. They didn't want us to know the truth, so they kept it from us all these years. My mom found out about my little investigation and the paper, which is why she's pissed.”
“Kenyatta, I know my father was killed, but I don't know the circumstances. I've asked Mom about it, but she gets all tight-lipped and shit. I want … no, I
need
to know, please?”
How could I say no to those eyes? “A'ight,” I took a breath. “It all kicked off in Harlem … .”
BOOK: Gutter
12.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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