Chapter 21

When I got to high school I somehow managed to find sanctuary with the smart kids. They accepted me and we began to hangout. I went to see Titanic with them  and partied at their houses. These were my first ever parties where no one drank or smoke. While atttending one of those parties, some older ‘cool’ kids drove over and parked down the street. They were smoking and drinking. All of the girls dropped what they were doing to run over to talk to them. That’s when the devil first seduced me.

Envious, I stood alone looking up at that dark road already plotting how eventually that would be me; with the girls, with the attention. I realized right away what girls liked; danger. I wasn’t good at sports and I wasn’t good at school, but danger I could do. Nothing about my life had been safe up to that point. I had no reason to start now.

The friendship I developed with the smart preppy kids was due in large part to my alliance with them last year in the prep vs. punk war. I had study hall with a lot of them and they thought I was funny. Making people laugh was my first talent. Someone else took a liking to my too, Seven Sonna, the Pablo Escobar of St. Clairsville. At 17 he had already spent a year in juvenile detention for pistol whipping some kid. I remember leaving school one day, seeing the ambulances and hearing some kid got hit with a gun. I wouldn’t connect that my new friend was culprit until much later.

Seven Sonna to me, was the epitome of cool. He wore gold necklaces and gold rings and blue Nike hoodies. He was white but hung around the black kids. After to his incarceration in Cleveland, he literally thought he was black. Crazy in retrospect but in 1997, it somehow made sense. Everyone feared and respected him. It was no secret he sold drugs. I didn’t even know what drugs were, yet.

That study hall was one of those defining moments. It was a crossroad where I would pick my future. Whose blueprint would I follow? My new smart friends who would go on to college and have respectable jobs? Or 7 Sonna who’s currently in prison for the next 10 years? It wasn’t as easy a decision as that. I didn’t have a crystal ball to know all that then. The idea of me going college thn, might as well have been Atlantis. All I wanted was girls. The smart kids had girls but they weren’t necessarily known for dating black guys. I also didn’t love the idea of hanging around nerdy white kids all the time. The black kids were cooler and obviously had girls that liked black guys. Even though he was white, 7 Sonna was the leader of that crew. He had the money and the power. He started bringing me around with him. He cultivated a vibe I knew I could emulate, danger. He didn’t give a fuck about tomorrow. I felt that.

My dad was entirely moved out at this point. He lived in a nearby town called Martins Ferry. It was cool. I made friends in his neighborhood with a kid who was a just like me, a nerdy black kid my age – Preston. Preston introduced me to a girl so pretty I still get chills when I think about her. Matter fact, I’m a go on Instagram right now and like one of her pics, just to shout her out. But Anyway. I met her and was completely blown away. When I got back home something hit me, homecoming! Why don’t I ask her to go? I wasn’t having much luck with the girls in my school. Plus I worried what their parents would think of them taking my black ass to their first homecoming. I might have a shot with Theresa. Her last boyfriend was black and she was a year or two older than me. Historically older women have liked me more. I told Preston my plan.

Few days later I get a call.

Preston: Hey AJ what’s up ummm I talked to Theresa and she said she would go to your dance with you. She said you seemed really nice.

Holy shit I thought. I step into the other room so my mom can’t overhear.

Me: Preston are you fucking serious right now?

Preston: (speaking ridiculously casual as if this isn’t the best news anyone has ever given me.) Yea man – she’s here with me now – hold on.

Oh shit. I wasn’t mentally prepared to talk to her. I can do anything, given enough time to mentally prepare. I can spend eternity in hell, if you let me know a week in advance. But I’m no good off the cuff.

Theresa: Hi! AJ?

Me:

Theresa: Hello?

Me: Uhhhh hi.

Theresa: Preston told me about your dance and I’d be happy to go with you.

Me: Are you serious!? – I mean.. that’s cool.

Theresa: Sure. Here’s my number. Just call me when you have more details and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye!

Cloud 9 evaporated quickly. Then it hit me. How on earth am I going to pay for this? It’s super expensive and I want to make a good impression. This could be my first girlfriend if I play my cards right. She’s prettier than all of the girls at my school! I worried I bit off more than I could chew.

In study hall later that week I told Seven about my predicament. “Man don’t even sweat that, my nigga. I got you. I was gonna ask if you wanted put on anyway.”

“What you mean?”, I asked.

“This dope game” he said. “I can front you some work and you can flip that. You’ll have more than enough money for your little dance, and whatever else you want!”

That would check off two boxes. Danger? Check. Money? Check. Get the girl? Check. Damn that’s three boxes, shit. I told him to give me the weekend to think about it.

I mulled it over all Saturday and Sunday. I had seen the cautionary after school shows about just saying no and how older kids would try to lure you into the lifestyle. I never thought it would actually happen to me. I was wrong. It was just like the warnings.

Monday at school, first period and I still hadn’t made up my mind. Before I get to study hall where I would see Seven, he found me. He’s motioning for my attention in the hallway while I’m in class. He has his arms up like, what’s it gonna be?

I think about all the failed attempts at girls and what it would be like taking such a pretty girl to my first homecoming. It would change my entire perception drastically. If I could align myself with him, all of my enemies would be forced to retreat. I imagine how my smart white friends wouldn’t like my anymore, if they knew who I’d be rolling with. I thought about the study groups I wouldn’t get to be apart of anymore and how my grades would suffer. After weighing the pros and cons, the decision was easy.

I looked at back at Seven Sonna from my desk. The teacher was lecturing something I wasn’t paying attention to. I silently mouthed two words. No one in the class noticed but Seven read what I was saying clearly.

Hell yea.