Tuesday, May 3, 2011

small talk

every once in a while i'll get on the bus, the Western Ave, and see this same nigga checking me out. he'll glance at me real bashful, and i imagine his pupils widen with recognition each time. then he shifts his eyes around the cabin like he only saw me by accident.

tonight he had on a purple Dodger fitted, a purple plaid short-sleeved, and some purple Chucks. low tops. shit was cute. i noticed he had a pair of big ass red lips tatted on his neck like Kenyon Martin. i fucks with K-Mart. in fact, this dude was all inked up. without the long sleeves, i could see he had radiuses and ulnas on his forearms, carpals on top of his wrists, and phalanges and shit on the back of his fingers. homie is very thin, so it was really like his bones were stereoscopic. nigga was eye-popping.

on previous encounters i never said nothing to cuz, but tonight i felt compelled to sit across from him. he gave the briefest tick of a nod when i sat down: an ambiguous gesture that could have been easily dismissed, but i knew it was for me. i reached out and gave a pound to his tiny plastic knuckles asking, "you Damon*, right?"

i don't just recognize this nigga. i know this nigga. back in high school, we used to run in the same crew: T.P.O.—which i'm embarrassed to explain stood for "Totally Pimped Out." most of the niggas in our lame named prep-gang lived near 103rd and Ruthelen. even though i was from across Century, over in the 90s, they kinda took me in. i was the peripheral homie, at least. Damon lived on the 'Elen. my peripheral status is probably why cuz has been struggling to place me all this time. i also used to rock palm tree dreads that would cast shade on my face. that could be it too.

like i said, though—i know this nigga Damon. i had been stalling him out because i've always found him to be somewhat of a buster. back in 10th grade we had a mutual homie, pretty boy Jay*. Jay was one of the niggas i was closest to out the whole clique because, like me, he was also somewhat of a peripheral homie. plus, it seemed like he was the only nigga on the whole damn coast i could chop it up with about Black Moon back then. but niggas hated Jay, because cuz had all the 304s—pager slang, nigga—always had the brand new jays, the links, the timepieces, and he was like the first young nigga we knew with a cellphone. Jay was an easy target. he got jacked by 9-0wes three, four times one semester. after a while he got figured to be the mark, and all sorts of niggas would test him, including—one day out the blue—Damon.

one minute we're all walking home, right? a dozen deep and clowning, as usual. the next minute Jay is rolling out into after school traffic with his top lip wide open like Lakers that ain't Kobe. Damon mumble-yelled something at Jay before dopefiending him. then Damon sprinted his ass up the block before the crew could react. me and my nigga Cotton (RIP) scrambled to get Jay on his feet, then we rushed him to the free clinic. homie wound up needing plastic surgery. to this day, i feel like that one sucker ass punch busted up the whole crew. none of us was cool after that. we used to mob together every afternoon, making one long ass circuit that stopped at each homie's house—except mine, because i was the peripheral homie from across Century—but after that niggas just split off in their own directions.

so yeah, i know this nigga Damon and i think he a little bit of a buster, but if i continue to not say nothing to this nigga over some shit that happened over a decade ago then i'm a little bit of a buster.

so we like, "what you been up to, nigga?" and, "shit...ain't nothing. maintaining." small talk. he tell me he does tattoos on the east side now, so i grant him the "oh, you did them joints yourself? that's wild, cubs! how you get that angle for the neck lips?" you know? the east side makes sense when he says it, though. i imagine he affiliated with Grape Street Watts now. i mean, i hope that's the reason why this nigga is dressed like a California Raisin and shit. maybe he actually did say he was from Watts Baby Loc, i don't know. the nigga spoke so soft, and the bus rumbles so loud, nigga could have been asking me if i watched HBO.

somehow, we got around to the brother confessing that he had been robbed a couple times by this one nigga from Eight Treys. one nigga. cuz still lives in the neighborhood, but he walks around dressed like an east side nigga, so he sort of an easy target. Damon promised that Tramp nigga won't gaffle him a third time though, and he starts raising his plaid shirt to show me what he means. he don't just flash the handle, however. nigga had to pull the whole 9 out with his clumsy ass action figure hands. dude did everything but unbuckle his belt first. wildly conspicuous. other passengers were on both sides of us, and i don't know how many of them saw the tool, but at least one young sista's eyes grew large when she saw his piece. i don't apologize for none of these double entendres, nigga.

i already had few words for, cuz. now i really didn't know what to say. i gave the briefest tick of a nod so homie would put the strap back. i had been leaning forward so i could hear this whispery nigga the whole time, but i had to fall back now. at this point, we was still 40 blocks away from the hood, just north of Slauson. my eyes shifted around the cabin and i would only see him by accident. out of my periphery, i would spy this nigga checking his Sidekick—i know, right?—before sliding the phone back into its holster and shifting the waist of his pants until comfortable. my neurotic ass envisioned this fidgety nigga Bin Ladening me on accident every other block. when we finally reached my stop, i reached out and gave a pound to his tiny plastic knuckles and told him, "be safe, my nigga."

*names changed cause it's a small, small world.