The guy in the dusty grey hoodie next to me taps me on the shoulder, “Yo bro, you want a pull?” He hands me a neatly rolled joint. His fingers are grimy, particles of the weed he rolled up cling to the raw underside of his bitten nails.
I place the joint to my mouth as he lights the end with a cheap Bic lighter. I pull, long and slow, letting the pungent smoke ease into my lungs before exhaling, the smoke forming perfect Os.
I take another pull and my senses dull. I shoot him a grin and dap him up with my free hand. A party is always enjoyable when you’ve got something in your system. I pull a few more times and the loud music morphs into background noise and the dancing bodies into moving shapes.
Handing the joint to him, my body sinks into the slouchy black couch and I slip my hand into the pocket of my Adidas sweatpants.
Inside my pocket is a four-leaf clover, one that took me weeks to find at the field near my apartment building. It’s in a little plastic bag tucked in my wallet.
A month before my ex’s birthday, we used to search for a clover wherever we could. We hoped for both of us to find one, to hold on to for luck, but the main concern was for her to get one. Naomi was born on St. Patrick’s Day and celebrated the day by wearing shades of green and throwing a party where everyone had to wear green.
I wish I could meet a magical creature; I could do with some luck. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and I always get in my bag, my feelings putting me in a bad mood.
As my eyes droop, I see the flurry of a green dress from the edge of my eyes and for a second, my breathing spikes, and without meaning to, Naomi flashes through my mind.
It’s not her. I release my breath; I didn’t realize I was holding it.
The person in green heads towards me and I’m disappointed, I don’t want to be around her right now. I want to enjoy my high with the random guy next to me who’s already rolling up again.
I’ve been dealing with Luna for almost a month. She comes over when I feel like it and she sneaks me into her bedroom with the princess theme when her parents aren’t around.
She’s not the only one though.
When your dark skin glows the way mine does, there’s never just one. You can have your pick, and I’m picky. I want them all just to see if I can have them and I can. It’s the weirdest thing with girls. You tell them you don’t want anything serious and that you’re chilling, and they throw their panties your way.
I used to wonder how Tafari, my best friend made it look so easy, it is that easy.
It helps to have the features that make people take a second look at you, breaking their necks as you walk past them.
When I get stopped on the street by the girls brave enough to approach me, the interaction starts with comments about how dark I am and how white my teeth are against my black coffee-colored skin. I get compliments about how full my beard is, and it ends with the questions about my hair.
Girls love my hair, shoulder-length dreadlocks that were two-strand twists when I was with Naomi. I keep them in a ponytail tied at my neck with the sides and back shaved low. They’re fascinated by them, especially when I wear them loose. I get asked if I’m a Rastafarian, if I smoke weed, if I wash my hair. I love to see how surprised they are when they smell peppermint oil from their fingers after I let them touch my hair.
I used to think getting girls meant I had to be the best of the best, which is hard when you’re the best of the best in a couple of areas and mediocre in the ones that seem to matter. I wasn’t funny and had been told many times to get my funny up; I wasn’t smooth either and used to get clowned on by my friends about how my looks were wasted cause I didn’t have the words to back it up.
After what happened with Naomi, I realized that none of that mattered. Being attractive barely mattered if you didn’t have the confidence to back it up. I’ve seen it happen, girls tripping over themselves, breaking their ankles to get next to an ugly guy because he caught them off-guard with the confidence he showed.
Tafari was like that, not the best-looking guy, but with enough words to convince even the stingiest girl to get next to him.
Now, I use my face as a weapon, never showing what’s behind it. Girls love it and it’s easy when you’re not getting deep with anyone. They never get to see me on my off game or know what makes me tick because they’re never there long enough.
Luna perches down next to me, the smell of her perfume mixing with the weed in the air. She raises her bare feet and folds them under her body. Her lips are puckered as she leans into me. I dodge the kiss and cut my eyes to her; I hate when she does that. She pouts and goes on about how I don’t care and asks how high I am and if I want to get out of here and if she can come over because she wants to show me the lingerie underneath her green dress. She talks a lot, even when I don’t give a response. I’m used to zoning out, which I do now.
I get up, ignoring her question of where I’m going and maneuver through the bodies to the bathroom. The guy who lives here is an acquaintance but he throws a lot of lit parties and I’m always invited.
The bathroom is fancy, it’s my first time being in here. There are embroidered towels on the rack and a mirror that takes up the wall over double sinks. I peer into the mirror. The dark green Nike hoodie is covered in lint and has a stain on the sleeve where ash fell when I was smoking. I make a note of how red my eyes are, I’ll need to use eye drops before I head home, I don’t want Ma to think I’m out here being a pothead. I plant my weight on the countertop, in the empty space between the sinks, and kick at the cabinet underneath with the heels of my white G-Fazos sneakers.
Luna talked too much for my liking and was always forgetting that I didn’t want to be kissed in public and I didn’t want it to be obvious that we were messing with each other. It was as if she did it on purpose, reaching for my hand or leaving at the exact moment I did even after I told her to wait. We were usually at a party where all her friends were at and could see what was happening. Every girl became the same, wanting to claim me as a prize in front of others.
Besides Luna, there’s Serena and Chanel and Fiona, damn, there’s a lot.
And two years ago, before any of them was Naomi, my baby girl, the one that was my soulmate.
A soulmate wouldn’t have done what she did so let me chill with calling her that.
No matter how long it’s been, my mind drifts to that day and wonders how things would have been if I’d never found out.
I rub my hand over my beard. I pull my phone out and immediately lower the brightness, the blue light hurting my eyes. I stare at the blank lock screen, it’s the factory wallpaper. I used to have a different picture of her every week, selfies of her and shots of us together, smiling.
Damn, now I’m thinking about the stuff I shouldn’t think about and being high and by myself isn’t helping either. It’s easier to fall into my thoughts when there’s nothing or no one to steal my attention.
That day started calm. I’d walked into Tafari’s house, the front door unlocked. As my best friend, I was used to coming in without knocking and the door was usually open. I made my way to his room where I could hear the soft sounds of music. I grinned, Tafari only listened to rap so when the music got slow, it meant he had a girl in there and it didn’t take much to know what they were doing. He was charming with girls and was the only person I knew who could have all the girls he was messing with in the same room and have no drama. He made sure that every girl knew what they were in for and that if they wanted to be around him, they couldn’t be petty since he didn’t like that. He had those girls wrapped around his fingers.
I headed for the living room to flip through the channels on the giant flat screen. I was going to shoot a text to let him know I was waiting for him. We had a party to pop up to, and I didn’t want to be late.
What made me pause was the sound I heard, it sounded familiar. Like a low hum in the throat.
I heard it again and stopped my steps. Nah, my ears had to be playing games with me.
If I didn’t know better, I would have said it sounded like Naomi. When we were together, she had this unique way of moaning. It started as a loud hum inside her throat and ended with her sounding like an injured cat.
I heard the humming again. It was crazy how similar the sounds were. I couldn’t wait to tell Naomi that she had a twin out there, that sounded like her during sex, we’d laugh at it.
I was curious about who the noise was coming from. That was the only reason I opened the door.
I peeked my head in. He had the lights dimmed, so I squinted to make apart who was who.
The girl was on top of him. She had her kinky hair styled in two loose buns at the top of her head, the way Naomi often wore hers. It wasn’t the jangling of the charms on her bracelet that reminded me of her. It should have been, she was the only girl I knew who got a Pandora charm for everything. It was the tattoo on the right side of her back. The large circular shape with marks around them looked like flowers.
I squinted, they looked like sunflowers. Nah, it couldn’t be. The only person I knew that had gotten that specific tattoo in that area was Naomi and why would Naomi be on top of Tafari? My mind was playing with me.
Even though I knew he’s be tight that I ruined what he had going on, my curiosity took over. I tapped the button on the dimmer, hitting it twice until the lights flashed through the room.
Three giant sunflowers, splashed in yellow, red and orange on her back with black shading around them stood against her light skin.
If it wasn’t the tattoo that let me know, I was sure when she turned around, her familiar face surprised when she saw me. She jumped off him and hid her body under the sheets, sheets that had glitter on them. The same glitter she liked to place in the parts of her hair, the same glitter that stuck to me when I was with her, the same glitter covering my room and bed and annoyed me but made me smile when she wasn’t around. That same glitter was on Tafari and his bed.
I locked eyes with Tafari. He gave me this look, the one he had when he was right about something. He’d always told me that Naomi wasn’t the right girl for me, that he could sense something off about her.
The last time he’d said that had been weeks ago. We’d been chopping it up, talking about random things as we played an intense game of a 2K, when he told me that Naomi wasn’t right and that I shouldn’t take her seriously. We’d been dating for half a year. I looked at him like he was crazy, and he’d given me that knowing look, with his bushy eyebrows raised and his head cocked to the side. He told me how when he saw her around other guys, she did a little too much for someone in a relationship. That her body language, the way she touched them and laughed when they were talking was wild. I had assumed he was tweaking and asked him for the names of the guys she was around.
Every name he said was someone that ran the streets, had street smart and wasn’t Naomi’s type. Plus, they weren’t checking for her; she had that weird thing going on that they wouldn’t blink twice at.
I wasn’t worried, I knew Naomi wasn’t anything like what he thought she was. She wasn’t easy or for the streets. I would know, it took months before we did anything besides kissing. I’d brushed him off, he didn’t know what he was talking about.
Tafari stood up from the bed and threw some clothes off the floor at Naomi.
He pulled a pair of briefs on and glitter fell off his body as he stretched his muscles out, “Give me a moment, bro. I’ll be out soon, and we can leave.”
The nonchalance didn’t surprise me, he had experience with this. It wasn’t the first time he’d been around somebody’s girlfriend. I had laughed with him and shaken my head at how much of a savage he could be. I didn’t expect to be the somebody that time.
The fact that Tafari could do something like that to me — mess with my girl, the same girl I’d talked to him about wanting to marry, wanting to be with forever — broke something in me. He broke something in me, and it seemed unfair that I had to be the broken one while he stood there, in peace while I was in pieces.
I stepped up to him and swung at his face. He didn’t move out of the way. I knew he could have. I’d seen Tafari in fights before and his hands were powerful, able to back up his mouth. I threw a punch, knocked him to the floor and kept swinging. My fists never stopped, and I ignored the screams of Naomi, huddled in the corner of the bed. It took everything in me to get off him.
He was ugly, his left eye blackened and the right one swollen and closed. Blood drooled out of his slackened mouth and the shift in his nose alerted me that it was broken. I’d cracked his nose and it still didn’t feel enough, but I couldn’t touch him again, my knuckles were bleeding and bruised.
Disappointment filled me when I looked at Naomi. I clenched my fist, then unclenched it. “This is what you wanted! You wanted to fuck someone else so bad that you went for my bro! My best friend!” My breathing ragged, I took a step towards her and she curled into herself, tears streaming her face, mixing in with the stupid glitter.
“Jahkoy, please!” she screeched, clenching the sheet to her body. The warmth in her face disappeared, she was pale with fear, “I didn’t know you’d be here — ”
“Naomi, shut up! There’s nothing you could say to make this right.” I wanted to grab her by her shoulders, grip my fingers into her skin and shake the stupid out of her. Shake her until everything made sense, until I could see clearly.
Why was my vision blurred? Why was my face wet? I placed a finger on my clammy skin and came away with drops on the tip.
I turned my back on her and left the room. I headed for the bathroom and slammed the door. I sat on the edge of the bathtub and, I turned into a slobbering mess. Tafari did what he was good for, what he always did. He showed me he was right with his actions since I hadn’t believed his words.
He’d been right and had put himself in the crossfire to prove it. It wasn’t that hard for him to make a move on her when he was exactly like the type of guys he’d seen Naomi around.
Why did the girl I wanted so bad, that I treated so good do me like that? I cradled my head in my hands and my lips trembled. I bit my lip to stop myself from screaming and making more of a fool of myself.
I should have listened to him. Tafari was never wrong when it came to girls. But why did he have to do that? Of all things, why the fuck did he have to fuck her? And why was she okay with that? Why was she making those sounds with him? Those sounds were supposed to only be for me!
I felt stupid, crying in the bathroom while they were in there doing whatever they wanted, probably finishing up what I had disturbed.
When the knock came, tear stains streaked my face. I felt how I looked, dried out.
Naomi came in dressed in a baggy lavender sweatshirt and black leggings. On the right side of the sweatshirt were different shaped enamel pins with witty puns and tv show references. The glitter from her hair part had fallen to her face and clothes.Why did she glow when I felt and looked like shit?
Too small for two people, the bathroom felt intimate when she sat across from me on the toilet seat. Her breath smelled of mint and I saw the flecks of glitter in the air when she moved. I scooted away from her until the left side of my body touched the walls.
I struggled to look at her. The quirky things about her, that had made her unique in my eyes seemed weird. The glitter all over her was childish, the pins scattered on her chest were overkill and the glasses… the bright green cat eye-shaped glasses that she claimed made her different were weird.
I clasped my hands together in front of my face, I kept my eyes closed the entire time she talked. She stammered out lengthy sentences, dancing over a bunch of points that barely made sense. When she realized that I wouldn’t make eye contact, the truth spilled out. I wanted to zone out but I needed to know why she did this, what crossed her mind as she took her clothes off for my bro. With every word that slithered out of her mouth, I was punched in the chest continuously.
Damn, I can’t believe that happened to me. Thinking about that day raises the hairs on my skin and makes my body shake. I shiver and rub my arms. I hop off the sink, twist the faucets handles shaped like diamonds and splash my face with lukewarm water.
I dry my hands over my sweatpants and pick my phone off the sink.
I type in ‘*67,’ followed by her number. She has me blocked and this is the only way I can reach her, even if it would show up as “Unknown Caller.” I had her blocked but only out of spite, to prove that I could treat her the same. I’m angry that she even blocked me, I’m the one that got cheated on.
I dial the number.
She picks up and I stay quiet. “Is that you, Jahkoy? Stop calling my phone, please.” I moved the phone away from my ear, her whispers like shouts in my high state, “You know why it happened, I don’t want to keep doing this with you.” She hangs up.
Within seconds, the conversation is over and I’m tight.
In the beginning, when I would call her, she would listen to me rant and call her names, soaking it up until she started crying. I only knew cause I’d hear the sniffling. I always hung when I heard that, sad that I was the one to make her cry but secretly happy that she could feel the pain that I did.
Later, she would listen to me blow up at her, but she didn’t cry anymore. Her silence screamed louder than the sound of her crying.
Then, she started speaking back, telling me to stop calling her phone with the bullshit and to get over it, that it had been months.
I didn’t know which was worse, not knowing or knowing. Her telling me that she felt that she was too young to be in a committed relationship and didn’t want to waste her youth cut me, but when she said that us being together was stopping her from seeing what was out there, I almost lost it. What else did she need? What did she want that I didn’t or couldn’t do for her? It turned out that I couldn’t give her the experience of other people, which it seems is what she wanted.
Sleeping with Tafari helped her start that, and it was the only way to get me to break up with her and be done with her.
She didn’t think I’d let her go easily if she didn’t do something drastic and she was right. She’d tried to break up twice before; one time a few days before we started looking for a four-leaf clover, when we’d been baking cookies in her kitchen and another time when we were cozied up in my room, watching You’ve Got Mail, one of her favorite movies. Both times, I’d listened and then ignored what she’d said, assuming that she didn’t mean it. I’d talked her out of it, kissing her before anything else slipped out of her mouth. Those times ended with our clothes on the floor and me whispering how she was mine and I loved her.
I loved her hard. I hate to admit it, but I would have worked it out after what she did. That scares me, knowing that she had that power over me, had me weak enough to want her back after she’d hurt me.
I’m feeling bad for myself and I don’t feel high anymore. I hope the guy in the hoodie is still on the couch, I’ll ask him to roll me up. I look at myself in the mirror, slather my face with the shea butter I keep in a little jar in my pocket at all times and fix my locks, moving pieces around.
I switch the lights off and rejoin the party. Everyone is bumping and grinding to some song and it requires some shoving to get to the couch. Luckily, my seat is free, and I don’t see Luna anywhere. I flop on the couch and watch everyone moving.
I pull out my phone and freeze when I catch the time, it’s exactly 11:58 PM.
I pull out my wallet. The four-leaf clover is where I left it, next to the two-dollar bill my mother gave me for luck and prosperity.
I play with the clover, rubbing my thumb over the plastic covering. I keep an eye on my phone.
The time changes to midnight and I crush the clover, squeezing it tight in my fist. I feel the crinkling and squeeze harder. When I open my fist, the crumpled bag lies on my palm with the clover with one leaf broken off. I look at it one last time and crush my fist again. What a start to St. Patrick’s Day.