After the last time Shawn stopped talking to me, I told myself I never wanted to see her again. I put all 78 of her pictures in a plastic grocery bag and threw the memories in Thursday’s trash. I avoided hanging out by the Moonwalk. And it was ok, until me and my brother was at a Hornets game. Kenneth, who had forgotten more girls than I will ever know, laughed, punched me on my tattooed bicep, “ah, man look at Shawn. She looking some good!”
When I reluctantly peeped up at the monitor, I spied Shawn’s smile, the same smile that first attracted me to her. Shawn’s eyes—the size, shape and color of unshelled pecans—were sparkling. She sported her favorite shade of shiny, watermelon-red lipstick that made her luscious lips seem even more luscious. Her teeth were never perfect but I used to like sticking the tip of my tongue into her small gap. That was her sister, Monique, sitting on one side and Derrick, who I believe was her cousin, jumping up and down next to her as people cheered #24-Mashburn’s dunk. I didn’t have to guess why they zoomed in for a full-frame close up of Shawn’s coffee-without-cream complexioned face—she’s beautiful.
And then the camera focused on the new coach shouting at the team to hustle back on defense. With a mouth full of half-chewed hot dog, Kenneth hunched me and impishly prodded, “Man, why you don’t holla back at Shawn? From what I hear she ain’t even much still talking to old dude from St. Aug.”
“Man, shit, they got too many fish in the sea, besides I wasn’t really liking her all that much no ways. You know what I’m saying? She ain’t the only chick that got lips like that.”
“Boy, you a fool. Fine as Shawn is, who wouldn’t miss that?”
At first I didn’t say anything, but then the truth popped out. “She quit me, I didn’t quit her.”
“Man, if you a man, you don’t let no girl quit you.”
I didn’t now what to say, so I didn’t say nothing. I don’t make 21 until next month and since I couldn’t hold on to Shawn, was I really a man?
Later that night, after I had dropped Kenneth off and was headed back home, it took me four stoplights and two stop signs to screw up my courage and call Shawn.
“You need to stop calling me. I told you, I don’t even like you no more.”
“Dang, why you call me then?”
She was right, but how do you tell a girl: I called you because I saw you at the game and you was looking good and I started thinking about when we was together, and I was missing you, and… and well, you know, I think I kind of… Plus, I don’t know what to do with my hands, I mean, with my fingers, specifically my pointing finger, the one she sucked one time when we were just sitting around kissing and I was touching her face and she drew my finger into her mouth and made like it was hard candy. That sounds nasty but it felt so nice.
Sometimes, especially when I’m eating crayfish and lick my fingers, I find myself missing Shawn, or is it my fingers missing Shawn, specifically the finger she had so tenderly sucked into her mouth?
Shawn hung up before I could finish thinking of what I wanted to tell her; but I wasn’t going to punk out this time. So I speed-dialed her back.
“Look boy, don’t call me no more if you ain’t got nothing to say. What’s wrong with you? I’m not even much going to answer your calls no more. I used to really care about you.”
I almost lied to her and said something crazy like, I love you, or some b.s. like that. But I didn’t let the truth make me tell a lie.
“What? Just say it. What?”
“I want you back. Can we get back together?”
“Why you want me back?”
I was home now, sitting in the driveway with the phone to my ear and my tongue tied in knots like that time at a party six years ago when I was just starting high school. I’ll never forget the embarrassment. I was bent over trying to peep through a keyhole at the girls in the bathroom and Shawn’s uncle, who was supposed to sort of be watching over us caught me and asked me, “boy, what the fuck you doing? You ain’t never seen no pussy before?” And everybody laughed at me and I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say nothing. I was only doing it cause a couple of the other dudes had done it before me and I was just the one who got caught.
I hated what Shawn was doing to me, the way she’s so patient like when we studied Trig together or when she would ask me what I wanted to be after telling me she was going to be a registered nurse like her aunt. She would always just quietly wait, and wait, and wait for me to say something even though she knew I didn’t know what to say. Damn, this shit was harder than Algebra 2, which I never would have passed without Shawn’s help.
I guess I was supposed to say: because I need you in my life, or because of how much I lo… but I couldn’t make my mouth move. I couldn’t lie. Besides, it wouldn’t sound cool to say: because you’re a burning in my chest that I can’t stop.
“Since you ain’t going to say nothing, I’m going to say something. Good night. Good bye. Don’t call me no more.”
And that was the night I stopped believing in science because my tears couldn’t put the fire out.
—kalamu ya salaam