Pick up the Pen is a new short story series where black authors, bloggers, and writers come together to create one short story. Each writer gets the same prompt (the prompt for this story is the picture).
The first writer starts the story and names the characters. Once the first writer is done the second writer comes in and picks up the pen right where the last writer left off (this continues until the final writer picks up the pen).
The last writer titles the story and brings it to an end. This is a great way to bring more of our creators together in the Black literary community. This is creating for the sake of creating. If you are interested in participating in the next Pick up the pen installment, please fill out this FORM
The History Of The Human Heart
I remember when I first met Supreme, it was at my first Black Student Union meeting, I was a freshman in college. That was when his pants sagged and he wanted to be a rapper. Not like Common or even Kanye before Kim–he wanted to be the rapper that said bitch and hoe while spilling champagne on women’s asses in music videos.
I sat in the back of the meeting that day and he sat in the front, it wasn’t because he was “woke” either–there weren’t any chairs left–he was late. Matter of fact if I remember correctly he only came for the free food.
Supreme didn’t care back then like he does now, his voice trembled when he spoke, I’m not even sure if he believed himself back then. He bumped into me racing to get a slice of free pizza, I dropped my books and he offered to pick them up.
“The Souls of Black Folk…sounds like some slavery shit to me.” Supreme boldly stated as he dangled my book in the air with two fingers like it was a foreign object. It was his arrogance paired with his ignorance that was downright appalling.
Maybe it was the way I rolled my eyes and snatched my book without saying thank you or the way I turned my nose up in disgust that made him follow me. I suppose that was it, even now when I’m mad he still follows me.
Then again it could have been his ego, Supreme was dressed in designer clothing from head to toe, he thought he was the shit because he was from New York City. I was the girl from the suburbs who wasn’t supposed to know any better.
As I turned on my heels to leave he grabbed my arm and flashed his million-dollar smile, “Why you acting like that? Tell me why you mad shorty?”
I rolled my eyes at his audacity, “Do girls around here really fall for that shit?”
Supreme dropped his smile and sucked his teeth, “You a freshman remember that I can make things around here real hard for you.”
“Was that a threat? Did you really just threaten me because I didn’t give you the reply you wanted?” I was now beyond annoyed. I was pissed.
He squinted his eyes like he was searching for something on my face, “Ohh, you one of them black feminist chicks, right?”
My face dropped in disappointment, “You’ve got to be kidding me, so now I have to be a feminist because I’m speaking up for myself?” Without waiting for him to answer I dashed out of the meeting room and headed straight for the Student Union.
I was supposed to meet Brianna so we could grab something to eat and joke about how we should have moved to Atlanta to become strippers because college wasn’t it. I had successfully made it through the Fall semester as a freshman but my Spring semester classes were kicking my ass.
I’m not sure if it was the classes or the fact that my parents were no longer my personal alarm clocks but the struggle just to get out of bed was real. Both of my parents were professors so by default I was surrounded by educators who made me question everything and take nothing at face value.
Going to college wasn’t a personal goal it was just something I had to complete like high school. I guess my little act of rebellion was purposely not attending a historically black college or university. I selected a PWI, and for kicks I let my parents know all of the black colleges I got accepted to.
So here I was, all the way Upstate New York, attending a university where I could count all the black people on one hand.
I took a seat at one of the tables in the student union, I purposely sat in the back to avoid anyone handing me flyers inviting me to their parties or student org meetings. College was typical: parties, boys, and booze.
Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I was supposed to get an education that said I was trainable to make a less than decent salary when I graduated. And then use that small ass salary to pay back all my student loans.
I laughed to myself when I placed all my books on the table, How do you not know The Souls of Black Folk?
“Hey freshman, I didn’t get your name. You dashed out before we could connect.” Supreme said as he plopped down in the chair that was reserved for Brianna.
I looked up noticeably confused, “Why would I give you my name after you threatened me?”
“Come on, that was just jokes, nothing serious.” He replied nonchalantly.
I sat up in my seat and looked him dead in the eyes, “Last semester a freshman, Brittany, said a few boys made a similar threat and she thought nothing of it. A couple of days later at a frat party, she was raped by those same boys. So for you, it’s just jokes but not for me.”
I gathered my stuff quickly and jumped out of my seat to make my second exit from Supreme’s presence.
As I stormed off he got up and grabbed my arm, I jerked it from him harshly, “Don’t put your hands on me.” I said sternly but not loud enough to bring attention to us.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly and released my arm. He held both his hands up in surrender mode.
“Brittany is my homeboy’s cousin, I heard what happened to her–that shit was fucked up. I didn’t mean to violate you by grabbing your arm or make you feel threatened.”
I nodded like I understood and slowly began walking away.
“On my mom’s grave, I ain’t mean it that way. I have never violated a woman or raised my hands to a woman in my life.”
The sincerity in his eyes made me relax, I backed up and sat back down, he breathed a sigh of relief and took a seat. We sat in silence for a minute. I didn’t make eye contact with him, while he didn’t make me nervous something in me was rattled by his presence.
I asked the worst ice breaker question probably known to man to break the silence, “How did your mother die?” I guess I should have been more in tune with his emotions but I was curious.
“She went crazy and got herself killed.” His response was cold, he didn’t want to talk about her, I understood because while I had both parents in my life I was adopted.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to…”
“Nah you good,” he interrupted, “Everybody has something that gives them the blues, it’s just life shit.”
I nodded in agreement, he had a point there.
He grinned and rubbed his hands together, “Can we start over?”
I nodded again in agreement, Supreme extended his hand and said, “My name is Supreme but everyone calls me Preme. I’m a sophomore and I like short walks in the park.”
I laughed at his corny joke, I sat up and hesitated before taking his hand and shaking it–it was soft. “I’m Storm, I’m a freshman, and I happen to like long walks in the park.”
He chuckled, “Your real name is Storm?”
I tensed up, “Yeah, why?”
“Nah, not even on some crazy shit but the name fits. You see all the storms I’ve been going through just to get you to talk to me.”
I blushed, “What do you want from me Preme? We don’t have anything in common.”
He dramatically placed his hand over his heart like I’d hurt his feelings, “Hold up, now I’m offended. Why would you say we don’t have anything in common?”
I shrugged, “I just know.”
He pointed to the table, “Is it because I didn’t know about the book.”
I allowed my silence to answer his question. “Damn it’s like that?”
I laughed, “It’s not just that, you rap…”
He puffed out his chest with pride and smiled wide, “Ohhhh so you be listening to my shit?”
I held out my hand to pause his celebration, “You didn’t let me finish, you rap about things that I’m against. I don’t care if it’s just for entertainment I’m not with calling women hoes and talking about fucking them in front of a group of men for kicks.” I snapped back more harshly than I anticipated.
Supreme’s wide smile was replaced by furrowed brows and a turned up lip, “Oh you talking bout my song Sex In the Locker Room?”
“Yeah, it’s hella misogynistic and promotes rape culture. I mean it’s your art and I can’t say it’s wrong but…”
“Girls on campus sing it though,” he stated as a matter of factly.
“And…ya point?” I spat back.
“My point is, I’m not trying to promote rape culture, it’s a fantasy–it’s fun–it’s college.”
“And again, if that’s what you want to rap about super cool but I’m not with it.”
He took in what I was saying and looked surprised, “So you’re telling me you couldn’t possibly have anything in common with me because of what I rap about?”
I allowed my silence for a second time to answer his question. “Woooooow! That’s crazy! It’s honest as hell but that’s fucked up.”
Supreme got quiet and he appeared to be thinking, I guess no one had ever denied him access to their time because of his music. I got a ping on my phone, it was Brianna telling me she couldn’t meet because her photography group was going overtime.”
“That’s ya boyfriend or something?”
“Yeah, my hot union date got canceled,” I said dryly. I began gathering my stuff, “Look I have to go, it was nice getting to know you better and…”
“What if I read the book?”
“The slave book you have…”
“First of all, it’s not a slave book and second if you read it kudos to you.”
A creepy yet very cute grin spread across Supreme’s face, “If I read the book you have to listen to some of my other songs.”
I rolled my eyes, “And why would I agree to that?”
“Because the roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius once said, ‘If they’ve made a mistake, correct them gently and show them where they went wrong. If you can’t do that, then the blame lies with you.”
“I see someone paid attention in Philosophy.” I mockingly replied.
I thought about it for a few seconds, I extended my hand, “Okay.”
We shook on it, I slid my book across the table and left it in front of him. I gathered my things and began walking away, I stopped at his shoulder, “We can meet up every week after the B.S.U meetings right here to talk and nothing more.”
Supreme smiled wide showcasing his nearly perfect teeth, I realized after my second glance that his fourth tooth on the left was chipped, oddly enough it added to his fucking swag. I shook my head and rolled my eyes causing him to laugh.
“Aight Sister Souljah,” he said while chuckling, “I’m just trying to learn, ya feel me.” He was being an asshole but he was funny.
Supreme and I met up weekly in the union as promised to discuss books I gave him to read. In return, I’d listen to his music and beats he made himself. I thought it would take him a long time to read one book but after reading The Souls of Black Folk he began gobbling books up.
By the time the semester was over he grew his hair out, pulled his pants up some, and began speaking up in B.S.U meetings. His lyrics slowly began to reflect what he was learning but he still called women bitches and hoes when he rapped and I accepted his word choice because it was his art.
People on campus thought we were dating even Brianna’s ass questioned me daily about Preme’s dick size knowing I had no clue–but I did wonder. While we never took it there Preme didn’t like for anyone, not even Brianna, to join us for our discussions.
He’d get quiet or leave early, and then later he would text or call asking if I could meet him again because he just wanted to talk to me. I never said no and I understood, even though I loved Brianna like a sister there were things I only wanted to share with him.
Brianna never saw me cry when I found out my real mother wasn’t some spy for the country like I’d imagined as a child. She was a crack head who I found by knocking on doors once I discovered her full name in my adopted mother’s private file cabinet during the summer. I drove an hour outside of my comfy suburban community and there she was.
I wasn’t sure why I asked Preme to come with me to find her and I wasn’t sure why he agreed. Brianna never saw Preme cry at night for his mother who was never going to appear outside of his dreams. His mother wasn’t crazy–she was really sad and wanted no parts of the world, including the part where she was a mother.
Our childhoods were different, but our pain was the same. By the time senior year rolled around Preme was the president of the Black Student Union.
I looked at the picture that is now framed on our nightstand, Brianna took it. Preme had scheduled a protest with B.S.U because a black boy had been jumped by some white boys on campus on his way home from the library. They spray-painted nigger on his face but the campus police refused to call it a hate crime.
The protest was supposed to be peaceful but there were campus police and regular police surrounding the Student Union. When the protest was over we gathered outside and walked the streets and some random white man yelled, “I hope the nigger dies.”
Out of anger I slapped him in the face causing him to lunge toward me, I braced myself for his hit but he never got the chance. Preme was there, he was always there.
The students made a shield around us so that the cops didn’t know who to arrest, one cop announced on a megaphone that if we didn’t disperse we would all go to jail. Preme grabbed my hand and said, “I got you, I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
I shook my head and I didn’t fear what was coming next. Brianna snapped the picture because according to her we needed it for the archives. We refused to move and walked towards the cops.
That was ten years ago, and as I look at Preme sleeping so peacefully beside me holding our daughter I can’t help but wonder how we got here?
I gently kissed Amira’s head and began tickling her feet, for a five-year-old she was long. She smiled with her eyes closed, she mirrored Preme even while sleeping.
They both moved, Preme cracked his eyes open first, he was still wearing his suit from last night.
“Hey,” he said so softly that it reminded me of the Preme I used to know. I closed my eyes and held on to that second, it was so fast but it caused my heart to smile.
He moved his body around so he wouldn’t wake Amira who had fallen back to sleep.”When did you get in?”
“Not too long ago,” I answered, making sure not to look him in the eyes.
I had watched them while they slept for over an hour trying to piece every event that led to this one together.
I looked at Amira and felt the tears begin to form in my eyes, “Hey, hey, hey, she will be okay.” Preme said softly. Again his voice reminded me of the past.
“Promise me you’ll keep putting her first. She’s the innocent one in all of this.” He nodded as if he understood but his past transgressions had proven otherwise. “She thinks the world of you Preme, don’t change that. Black girls need superheroes too.”
He grabbed my hand before I got up off the bed and firmly said, “I got y’all, I won’t let anyone hurt or come between us.”
Preme had a way of making me feel safe even when he was bullshitting me. My phone rang, snapping me out of my own thoughts. I answered and listened while Brianna ran down how the day would go.
When I hung up I sighed, “It was Brianna,” I said out loud, Preme lowered his head and moved Amira closer into his chest and kissed her on the forehead.”
He laid back and let out a deep sigh, “What did she say?”
I took a deep breath in and let out the words that were recited to me over the phone, “She said divorce is always hard but she’d be there every step of the way to make it easier for both of us.”
Preme stared at the ceiling shaking his head in disbelief, I mirrored his movements because this was just the beginning–the beginning of the end, of us.
Author Bailey West picks up the pen next, read the second installment HERE
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