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By STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Stephanie Perry Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGrooving too Much
"You a punk. A little mama's boy. That's why you won't have a drink," Damarius taunted as I helped him carry beer from the car to his house for the New Year's Eve jam he was about to host.
I was tired of it. He could call me whatever he wanted to. Say whatever he wanted to say. I didn't care. He wasn't going to pressure me into doing something I wasn't ready to do.
"Come on, Cole," Damarius said, looking to our friend for back up. "You need to admit it too. That's what you think of his tail. Do you think he all that? He hadn't never even had a piece, drank a little nip or smoked a joint. Dang! Perry ain't no real man yet."
I wanted to take one of those six packs and bust him across the head with it. But because we were late setting things up, I let it go. As we entered the house, Cole spoke up.
"All right you two. Kiss and make up," he said before Damarius and I went our separate ways.
It didn't take the place long to fill up. Not only were there a lot of kids from my school in the house, but folks from all over Augusta were showing up. I felt sort of bad that I didn't call my girl, Savoy, but honestly the whole commitment thing wasscaring me a bit. I didn't want to feel pressured into a relationship with her. I hadn't seen her since Christmas night, but I thought about her all the time.
As I walked around scanning the crowd, I thought about Damarius accusing me of being a punk. So if a brother didn't get high or get wasted, then he wasn't cool? I knew Damarius was just jealous. I didn't need anything to make me feel good about me. I was high off of life. College coaches were always trying to persuade me to change my choice from going to Georgia Tech. Girls always trying to get with me. Brothers always wanting me to attend their functions or just to hang out with them to raise their stock with the ladies. I had it like that.
At that moment, none of that meant a thing to me. I wanted respect from my boy. Was proving to him that I could handle alcohol the only way I could get him off my back? I don't know why I was letting him get to me. Maybe I should just pray about it. After all, I had learned this year that if I just give it to God, He'd make my situation better.
Deep down I had to admit that I felt as if I was at the sidelines looking on. I peered in like I was watching this stuff on the TV or something. Maybe I had issues and I needed to release, let go, and get down.
When I stepped into the hallway, I saw Jaboe, a thug from down the block. Jaboe was a high school dropout who should have graduated with my sister's class two years ago, but he started selling drugs. He told the world that he could make way more money hustling than he ever could the legitimate way.
"Hey man. I'm good for it! You ain't gotta jack me up like that," Damarius told Jaboe as the thug grabbed him by his collar and squeezed it tight.
What did my boy get himself into? It was hard for me to believe that he was doing drugs. The pressure of wanting to get into a major college had given my buddy a new perspective on right and wrong.
"I want some bills, boy. I don't want no change," Jaboe said as he slung the coins in his hand to the floor. "You got all these folks in here for free. You better start charging some money next time you have a party 'cause I want my paper. If I don't get it next week, not only will you be cut off from the stash," he said as he took a knife out of his pocket and put it to Damarius's face, "but you know what else is next."
Damarius tried talking his way of out the problem. "All right, dude. Ease up! I'm gonna get yo' money. Give me a little credit. You know I'm good for it."
I had no idea that my boy was smoking more than cigarettes. No wonder his grades were slipping.
Regardless of how he felt about me, I had to stop him from messing his life up. Like Reverend McClep preached at church last Sunday, I was my brother's keeper. I wasn't going to let Damarius go down like that. I saw Jaboe pull out a dime bag and I quickly intercepted it, as if I was a defensive back on the field or something and tossed it back up in his face. "He doesn't want that," I said to Jaboe.
I looked over his shoulder at the two guys with him. One had cornrows with even parts going down to the back of his head and a grill, and the other dude was thicker than Mr. T himself. They stepped toward me, but I wasn't backing down. I didn't care how long Damarius had been messing around with that stuff. It was going to end today.
"Come on, Perry. What's up? You crazy? This is business," Damarius said to me.
"Is there a problem?" Jaboe asked, his eyes threatening.
"No, man, there ain't no problem," Damarius said, stepping between us.
"Like D said, no problem. He just don't need your stuff. So thanks for coming," I said, pointing to the front door.
"What's up, Damarius? You gonna let him talk for you? Or a betta question, you gonna let him talk to me like that?" Jaboe pulled up his sweater and showed us he was packing.
Throwing my hands up, I said, "I don't mean no disrespect Jaboe. Look, he just don't need it, all right?"
"Yeah, I hear you." He laughed and dropped his top, concealing the weapon again. "Cool, I ain't trying to push my stuff off on anybody, but I do want my money."
"You'll get it. Soon, man," Damarius promised.
Jaboe and his gangster boys left. Damarius tried to go off on me about the whole thing.
Getting in my face, he said, "Man! What's up? Are you crazy? You'll mess up your whole life getting in Jaboe's way."
I couldn't believe he tried to play me instead of thank me. "You need to pay him the little money you owe him and leave him alone before you end up like him, on the corner somewhere. He's reduced to hiding out from the cops and bullying folks into giving him dollars."
"You don't know what you just did, Perry. Stay out of my business," he said, shaking his head as he walked past me to join the crowd in the livingroom. I was just about to leave the party when I heard Damarius announce over the DJ's system, "Hey y'all! Hey y'all! Y'all know my boy Perry here don't drink, right?"
What he was doing? Why was he calling me out like that? "But it's New Year's Eve, and we want him to have a little fun, right y'all?" The crowd started chanting, "Yeaaa, Perry! Drink! Drink! Drink!"
I went over to him and whispered, "What's up with this?"
"You all up in my business! You can't knock what I enjoy until you try it. Was I right earlier, Perry? Are you a punk?"
Without even thinking, I took the beer out of his hand, twisted off the top, and gulped it down. I didn't even have time to decide if I liked the taste or not. A random guy from the crowd ran up to me with another one. I wasn't no punk. Damarius was not about to play me like that. I twisted off the cap and chugged that one down, too.
"Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink!" folks called out.
"Can you handle one more, big boy?" Damarius dared.
Cole came up said, "Man, that's enough. What you trying to do to him, D?"
"I can handle it. I'll show you it ain't all that. Give me another one." All I could hear was more chanting from the crowd when I drank the next brew.
After a few minutes I was feeling a little light-headed. But it was all good. Someone handed me another one with the top already off. I couldn't tell if someone had drunk out of it or not, but it really didn't matter. I drank it down, and when I was done, the crowd yelled and screamed louder than fans did at any football game I'd ever played in. I was feeding off of it. A couple of girls came up to me and got close: one in the front and one in the back. They swayed their hips from left and to right, and my hips started moving too. Oh, the party was on.
Damarius came up to me. "Dang, man. You can hold your stuff. All right. All right. My bad." He laughed and walked away.
After a couple of dances, I went up to the DJ and started trying to spin records, which I have no skills with at all on a regular day. But being a little intoxicated, nobody could tell me that I wasn't the life of the party. The sad thing was that I couldn't go anywhere without the two girls, Q and Jo, following me. It was cute, but I was getting tired of them.
"You know what? Y'all gotta give a brother some space. Dang, I can't even dance with nobody else."
They looked as if I had hurt their feelings.
"I'm sorry. I'm just being honest."
"You all right, boy?" Damarius said as he came over to me and handed me another beer. "I thought you wanted this. I didn't want you to have to look for it."
Cole grabbed it out of my hand. "No, no, D. He done had enough for real."
"Whatcha mean, I done had enough?"
"Tell 'em. Perry, tell 'em. You feeling good right about now, right?" Damarius said.
"Good? I feel the same. Whatcha talking about?"
I was so out of it, I didn't even know what Damarius was talking about.
"Naw, Perry." Cole said, turning away.
"Man, give me that beer!" I grabbed the beer out of my boy's hand, spilling some of it on the floor. Sipping the beer, I stepped around my boys so I could get back to dancing.
I stopped and had to blink my eyes a couple of times when I saw my ex, Tori, standing in the middle of a crowd. She still looked as fine as she always did. Her hair was all done up, her nails were manicured just right, and she was wearing this cute little pink number that hugged her body just right.
"What's up girl? Dang. A brother can't get no love."
She yanked my hand and pulled me down the hall. She pushed me into Damarius's bedroom and shut the door.
"Uhh-ha. What's up? You wanna give yourself to me now? I just asked for a hug. I didn't know you wanted to give it up."
"Perry, I love you too much to see you act like this. What's going on?"
"What you talking about? Dang! You pulled me up in here. I don't need no girl giving me a hard time by telling me what to do. We don't go together no more, and I guess I should be glad of that."
"You making a fool of yourself tonight, okay."
"Man, I'm the life of this joint."
"No, people are staring at you because you are tripping over yourself. Drool is coming out of your mouth. It's clear you can't hold alcohol."
"Girl, shut up. Leave me alone. Bye. Get out. I'm sorry I asked for some love. I got another girl. She's prettier than you."
The moment I said that, I wanted to take my words back, but I knew that wasn't possible because Tori had heard me. She looked devastated. I felt bad. I didn't mean to hurt her, but the alcohol was speaking.
"You got somebody else?"
"Forget it. Forget it. I just need to be alone."
"I mean, you just said it! You said you got somebody else! Talk to me! Tell me! Is it somebody at our school? Is it somebody I know? We haven't been broke up but a couple of months, and you already got another girlfriend?"
"I ain't said I had another girlfriend. Dang. Y'all females be tripping."
"I'm not tripping. I should have expected it. I mean, everywhere I go, girls are telling me I'm stupid for letting you go and not giving it up. If they not telling me that, they telling me they plan to satisfy you. So hey, I'm not surprised. I might as well have a drink with you," she said as she came over, trying to get what was left in my bottle.
"Go on now. You don't need this. Seriously. Look, look!" I said as I shoved her to the side.
I didn't mean to push her, but again, I didn't have complete control of my faculties. What was supposed to be just a little push moved her halfway across the room towards the door.
"Okay. Fine. I get it. You don't have to hurt me worse than you already have, okay." She opened the door and dashed out.
After she left, I stood staring at the open door, upset and confused. I realized what I had done, and I wanted to go after her, but I began to feel a terrible burning sensation in my chest. What was going on?
I couldn't understand why I was having such horrible physical pain. It was like I was having a heart attack or something. I couldn't even make it to Damarius's bed. I fell straight to the floor. I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was going to die.
The only thing I could do was pray: Lord, I'm sorry. You gotta help me, though. I was stupid to drink. Being pressured and all. Yeah, I gotta admit it felt good for a minute, but right now, I feel worse than as if three linebackers tackled me. Please Lord, please.
I couldn't even pray anymore. I looked up at Damarius's light, which was circling around and around in his room, thinking about all the hopes and dreams I had for myself. I wondered if this was going to be the end. Stupidity might have done me in. Maybe Tori was right about me thinking I was cool. I had not only hurt her feelings, but also I'd probably made a complete idiot out of myself. All of a sudden, I heard the door open. I didn't know who it was, but I certainly didn't want anyone to see me unable to keep my composure. But there was nothing I could do about that now.
"Perry, man, what's up? What's up?" Cole yelled as he rushed to my side.
"I don't feel good, man." I was so happy to see him.
"See. I told Damarius you didn't need all that beer."
"Man, what am I suppose to do? My chest is burning for real."
"You gotta take deep breaths."
"You ever felt like this?"
"I gotta get you some water."
"Water? That's gonna help?"
"I'll be right back. Just hold on."
My boy left and it seemed like it was taking him forever to come back. Why did teenagers drink? I started asking myself. At first I could feel it. There was some pleasure in it. It made me feel good, confident, and larger than life. Now here I was, helpless. When I heard the door open again, I yelled, "Call the ambulance."
"See, I told you he was hurting," Cole said to Damarius.
"He'll be all right. Just give him the doggone water. Boy, you can't hold nothing."
I drank the water and took deep breaths as they helped me onto Damarius's bed.
"You just need to rest and relax."
"I still don't feel good y'all, for real."
"Dang! I gotta bring the party in here. Nobody gonna believe this. He can't hold his own."
I didn't even care at that moment. But I heard Cole taking up for me.
I lay in that bed for the next five minutes, vowing to the Lord that I would never ever go over the top with alcohol again if I survived this situation. I thought about my parents, and how this would let them down. They had raised me better than that, even though all my life I had been pushed by my peers to do stuff. I'd always been the leader, applying positive peer pressure. But here I was caught up in the wrong mess. I was trying to keep Damarius from smoking his brains away, and he turns around and pushes me to put something I don't need into my body. I now knew none of this was worth it. Trying to impress people. Trying to be in the in-crowd. All that stuff was silly. I had to stay in my lane and run my race. As I took a deep breath and watched my chest rise higher and higher, I hated that I was grooving too much.
Chapter TwoManaging the Damage
Ohman! The smooth touch going up and down my leg felt so good. The tickling on my chest made me laugh. Kisses and hugs encompassed me as I was immersed in every man's dream. Well, not every man, but at least all my boys would have died to be in my place in this fantasy. Two chicks were kissing me from top to bottom. I couldn't do nothing but enjoy every moment. I realized I was feeling better than I had hours before, when all that beer had gotten to me. I was startled by a voice beside me.
"Don't get up now. We were just beginning to have fun."
It was one of the girls from earlier and she bit my neck real hard.
"Ouch!" I said.
Unable to say more, as my attention was diverted to the female on the other side. Here I was, about to thank God for this extra time on the earth and I looked down at my bare chest, peeked under the covers, and saw that I had nothing on. What in the world had I gotten myself into? What had I done with these doggone girls? I jumped out of the bed fast, pulling the covers around me. That's when I noticed they needed the covers too.
"This is crazy. Did we-did we do something?" I questioned.
I didn't remember going that far in my dream. Quickly, I scanned the room for my clothes, but I couldn't find them anywhere.
"Y'all seen my stuff?"
Excerpted from PRESSING HARD by STEPHANIE PERRY MOORE Copyright © 2007 by Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission.
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