Red

I filled her cup to the rim on purpose. I wanted to watch her drink the fluid awkwardly. She was built so perfectly that I needed to watch her struggle just to confirm that she was human. Sensing the challenge I presented to her, she giggled as she tipped the glass to pour some out. She adapted and overcame. I liked her.

We stood street side for almost an hour, discussing my history with E & J Brandy. She seemed fascinated with my stories of the older black soldiers who mentored me while in the Army. Her eyes were as large as saucers as she gazed in wonder now knowing that Columbus’ reality wasn’t reality everywhere. I could almost see the ice melt away from her own experiences, what ever those might be. Our conversation was ended by the young guy who called me white boy when I bought the bottle.

“The fuck you still doin here white boy? This ain’t your part of town! Get the fuck on ‘fore I make you regret you came here!” His words alerted the part of my brain holding survival skills. I sliced the pie. He stood at the bottom of the hill looking up at me. A group of men watched his movement from the entrance to the business twenty meters away. They could be at my location within twenty seconds after crossing the parking lot and climbing the hill. They weren’t moving yet. The racist one stood motionless as well, obviously expecting me to flee.

As automatic as the breath that entered my lungs, I responded while exhaling. Confident that I had the upper hand, I viewed the racist as a peacock showing his feathers. I didn’t expect to be mobbed by a dozen black guys on a busy street in Columbus, Georgia. Police cruisers drove by the gas station every ten minutes looking for anything out of the ordinary. Almost every police officer I saw during my time spent in Georgia was Caucasian.

I decided to show my own feathers, “Climb up this hill, you black fuck, and I will make sure you never climb anything for the rest of your goddamned life!” I placed the bottle of bourbon down on the ground beside me.

When I entered the place of business, passing through the group of men, I walked how I had been trained. Head held upward with my hands freely swinging at my sides. My fingers were held into loosely made fists and I made no eye contact with anyone. I didn’t size up any potential opponents because, quite honestly, I didn’t feel threatened. Once inside, my eyes were solely on her. In reality, by sheer numbers alone, I was no match for them. One on one however, I knew his climb up the hill would give me an advantage. If he climbed up alone I would explode on him then run. If he waited for the group before climbing, challenging me as a unit, I was done. Either way, I was beginning to feel the bourbon. I had no fear. Furthermore, I welcomed whatever was about to happen with an almost sexual anticipation. I wanted him to climb the hill.

The challenge was dissolved by the beauty screaming her own threat, “Nigga you betta get yo dumb ass on ‘fore I tell Auntie Mo what the fuck you been doin all day! Don’t no one want to get yo ass outa jail again! Stupid mothafucka!”

He turned away with a half smile mumbling something about her being a “Hoe with jungle fever”. He never turned back in acknowledgement of me at all. It was over. Once I no longer felt there was a threat, I reached back for my bottle. She was going on and on about how “black people don’t know how to act”, in a rhetorical type of dialog. It wasn’t meant to be a discussion.

I didn’t want to push any more buttons by standing near the gas station so I began to physically move on. I wasn’t going to engage in her frustration towards her race. I wanted to not think at all. Intuitively, I believe she understood that. Her whole persona switched from irate street hustler back to sweet southern belle in the blink of an eye. Once I grabbed the bottle of Erk & Jerk and proceeded to move along, she invited me to her hotel room.

Apparently, she was a stripper who lived in the hotels of Victory Drive. Never staying in the same hotel room for more than a week, she moved around from the east end of the Drive to the west end every week. She explained, in great detail, her “situation” as I escorted her home.

Her name was Lawanda Jackson, however everyone knew her as “Red”. Her husband was a gangster who, at the moment, was incarcerated for manslaughter. Having no local relatives who could support her financially, she lived and worked on the Drive. She would dance naked for men in the clubs, almost nightly, until the establiment closed. After closing, Red would walk up and down the Drive renting her body for money. She showed me the rusty razorblade that she kept in the elastic of her panty line, almost as a warning. As we reached her hotel she held it a little to close to my face.

In disgust I took two steps backwards. I was in no mood to listen to anyone who needed to threaten me. I told her I wasn’t a trick or a John and wasn’t going to pay her for sex. I had alcohol to share if she wanted to invite me inside but could just as easily drink alone as I walked. I did tell her I found her extremely attractive, however. I couldn’t help but to do so. I had no doubt she would cut any human threat that came at her but wondered how she looked naked. I explained all that to her expecting to be dismissed for a paying customer she could easily find. She stared at me as she returned the razor to its holster.

She then informed me that she had an eight ball (1/8 of an ounce) of cocaine in her room and would trade some “product” for some booze. I had no idea what that meant but I nodded in agreement.

Within minutes of entering her room, I had found the thing I had been looking for.

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