Read an Excerpt
No matter how hard I tried to get Ronnie's attention he wouldn't look me. He avoided eye contact by toying with the ring tones on his cellular phone. His unwillingness to look me in the eye and speak directly to me annoyed me. Ronnie was seventeen and stood about five foot nine inches tall. He had brown skin just like mine and wore his hair French braided. That day he was wearing an oversize white T-shirt, baggy Sean John jeans and what appeared to be a new pair of Nike Air Force One gym shoes. We were standing on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building that he lived in with his mother. In the distance I heard the thud of music from a trunk amp bouncing against the air. Ronnie is my boyfriend, or should I say was my boyfriend until I caught him snuggled up with some girl inside of a movie theater. When I saw him and the other girl I decided to play it cool at first, you know, just to make sure that I wasn't overreacting. I discreetly positioned myself in a seat directly behind them so that I could keep a close eye on them. No sooner than the lights went down, Ronnie took off his jacket, hooked it around her shoulders and began kissing her. That's when I lost it. Before I could even think rationally, I began attacking them both. I slapped him on the head and pulled her hair. It wasn't long before two movie theater ushers rushed in to stop my assault as well as ask me to leave. At the time I didn't give Ronnie a chance to explain what was going on and who the girl was. To be honest, I really didn't care who she was. All I knew was that my boyfriend, who had told me at least twenty times he loved me the night before, wasn't acting like it.
The movie theater incident happened weeks ago. I hadn't seen or heard from Ronnie since that time because I had to move away due to a load of family drama that was going on in my life. During the time I was away, I cried a lot partly because of the situation my family was in and partly because I really missed Ronnie. Now that I'd returned to my old neighborhood, I thought for sure Ronnie had missed me at least a little. I also wanted to give him a chance to explain himself as well as see if we could forget about what happened in the past and start over. Besides, I'd heard that he was no longer with the girl he'd been caught cheating with.
I tried once again to get Ronnie to acknowledge me.
When our eyes finally met, I could tell he wanted me to disappear and forget that we ever had anything meaningful.
"Why did you even come around here looking for me?" he snapped at me as if the very sight of me irritated him like a bad skin rash.
"Don't you bark at me like that," I shouted back at him. "I thought you'd missed me and I wanted to give you a chance to explain yourself. So, what happened between us, Ronnie?" I asked straight out.
"I've already told you. It's over between us. You're playing too many games, girl. I'm just not into you anymore."
"But why? What did I do?"
"You're crazy for starters," Ronnie said and then was silent for a long moment as I waited for him to elaborate.
"Look, you just need to forget you even know me. In fact, just erase my name and face out of your memory."
"How can you say that to me? After all we've been though? You told me you loved me and no matter what we'd be together. You promised me, Ronnie, you promised me that you'd never hurt my heart." I raised my voice at him. I couldn't help it because my heart was hurting. It didn't matter that we hadn't seen each other in two months, my heart was still broken and I wanted an explanation.
"Look, girl!" he said, pointing his index finger at me as if it was a weapon. "Oh, now I'm just some girl?" Whenever I got upset about something, no matter how calm I tried to be my voice would always express how I truly felt. "Get your finger out of my face." I quickly grabbed his index finger and tried to twist it off his hand. I wanted to hurt him at that moment. I wanted him to feel the heartache and pain I felt. We tussled for a moment before he broke free of my grip.
"You need to leave, Keysha. I'm not playing with you. Go on back home to your mama."
"So what are you saying, Ronnie?"
"Keysha, I'm through with you. What part of that isn't getting through your thick skull?"
"How can you just turn your feelings for me off like that? I mean, I thought about how I felt about you every day. I even called you after the incident and left messages for you asking you to call me back so we could talk but you didn't. I even called you when I found out that I had to move away for a while. I thought for sure you'd at least want to know where I was being shipped off to but you never contacted me." I was pleading my case. I reminded him of my goodfaith efforts to stick by his side. I was hoping that he'd feel some sense of guilt.
"Keysha, I'm just not feeling you like that anymore. You were cool for a minute but then you started smothering me. You called me too much, you didn't like it when I wanted to hang out with my friends instead of you. On top of that you're too bossy. I just can't get down with a girl that acts crazy and bossy all of the time. You need to roll out and leave me alone."
"Okay, I'll change. Will that help?" I asked, hoping to find the words he wanted to hear.
"No, just leave me alone, all right." Ronnie finally put away his cellular phone. "I've just erased your name, number and special ring tone from my phone. It's been real," he said and then turned his back and walked toward his building.
"I hate you, Ronnie!" I shouted out as loudly as I could. I wanted everyone within the sound of my voice to know how upset I was. I suddenly didn't care about making a public scene.
"Yeah, whatever. Don't come around here looking for me anymore,"he said as he entered his building. At that moment rage pumped through my blood and I rushed into the building behind him. I grabbed a fistful of his pretty braided hair and tried to snatch it out of his head. He reached back and put his hand over my fist and tried to pry it away.
"Let go of my hair, Keysha!" he shouted out as we scuffled. At that moment I heard the door to his apartment open. Ronnie's mother came into the hallway above us on the next landing.
"Let him go before I call the police on you!" she screamed at me. Part of me didn't care if I went to jail but another part of me did. I held on to his hair for a moment longer and then yanked really hard, ripping his hair from his skull.
"Get out!" his mother commanded me. She was much larger than I was and for all my spunk I knew I was no match for her. "And don't let me catch you back around here anymore. Do you understand me?"
I rushed out of the building before Ronnie or his mother could come within arm's length of me. Once I got outside, I ran as fast as I could. I wanted to get away from them. In many ways, I wanted to run away from myself, but I knew that was impossible. When I finally stopped running, I was a good four blocks away. I decided to rest on a bus bench so I could catch my breath. I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my thighs as I waited for my breathing to regulate. For a moment, I thought about crying but I couldn't summon up any tears because I was too angry. My life was so messed up. I swear, sometimes I wondered if some mythical witch or wizard placed a curse on me. I swept my fingers through my hair as I mulled over my situation. My mother, Justine, was crazy as well as pregnant. I had to admit that it tripped me out when she admitted she was going to have a baby. Justine is a real piece of work. In fact, her brain should probably be donated to science because her thought process is completely twisted. My mom became pregnant with me when she was very young. She acts more like my girlfriend than my mom. She cares more about partying than she does about keeping a roof over our heads, a decent job or food on the table. Sometimes, well most times, we fought and argued with one another. I didn't like her because she didn't act her age and in some ways resented the day I was born. At least that's the way I felt.
A bus stopped in front of me, and the driver opened the door thinking that I wanted to get on. I looked at him for a moment and then waved him on. I sat upright on the bench and glanced at the green and white street sign. I was at the corner of Chicago and Laramie Avenues, which meant that I was in the heart of the hood. My mom and I were staying in a basement apartment a few blocks up. I hated the place. It was run down, dirty and infested with roaches and rats. It was nothing like my Aunt Estelle's home. She had a beautiful high-rise apartment overlooking Lake Michigan. I used to live there with her husband, Dr. Richard Vincent, my Grandmother Rubylee and my cousin Nathan. It was nice living in such a grand place, but that all changed because my Grandmother Rubylee, who was crazier than my mom, was stealing money out of Richard's bank account. She got caught by the police and is serving time for her crime. Shortly after my Grandmother Rubylee was arrested, my Aunt Estelle passed away, and that pretty much ended the welcome of Justine and me in Dr. Vincent's home. All of that happened about two months ago, right around the time I caught Ronnie at the movie theater with some girl.