Chariot
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

That spring, I was twenty-four and in recovery. The first Love had fallen away. In times like those, you retreat away yourself. It was that spring when I joined the Cult of Mariam. Mariam had a baby that lived with her grandmother. That had never stopped her from living. Instead, his arrival had brought her a booty and a mouthpiece. All her clout was wrapped up in that baby.

We'd sit around and talk about guys, like, He got kids? Nigga better work. And, Can he fuck well? I deserve this, I thought. And I did. Friday was our club night. Saturdays we'd have drinks at someone's apartment and then go to a lounge. Wherever we went, we dressed. Stella McCartney. Marc Jacobs. Yana Couture. Beyonce vacation weave. All lights go. The tag could say Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and we'd rock it, if it turned heads. It wasn't a lonely time. I fucked three guys in that stretch. All Lames.

The first guy was tall and white. We dated for two months. He asked me lots of questions and used beautiful, strange words like "politic." On our first date, he asked me where I was from. "Heritage" was the word he used. I told him that I was born in Nigeria, left at age two, and couldn't remember a thing about it. He smiled, I mean really smiled, like it was good news, and told me his grandmother was from New Delhi. "A gray-eyed Brahmin," he said and showed me his profile.

Then there was the thirty-something beefer who claimed to be a sports' agent. He was a tall, dark-brown man with waves cut into his fade so that from behind he looked like Michael. I'd been avoiding his frame for most of that night until it seemed like too much of an effort. When I finally let him kick it to me, he pointed at other men at the bar saying, "5'7", 175" and "6'2", 210" which he believed to be the trademark of a legitimate sports' agent. He bought all my drinks and used "quadratics" to describe an extra interior muscle that helps Black people run fast. "You know Maurice Greene?" was how he put it.

The last guy was a grocery-store-pick-up. A ripe mango and some dick firm for suppertime. He was casually Hispanic the way many in Houston are. On his forearm, he had the word "De Jesus" tatted in Old English script. Later, I noticed a flag on his keychain but couldn't place the colors. In the cereal aisle, he asked my name and told me his. "I just got love for sistas," he said. I had become versed in the sort of slick-talk-sensibility that Mariam so generously taught. I thought she was teaching me their language. I smiled when he licked his lips. I was with him long enough to learn that he didn't eat pussy. I was relieved at first, because it meant that our bodies would never touch without latex. But, when I thought about it a week later, I cried. I tried to tell my sister Nnenne about it.

She heard me out and said, "What are you doing to yourself? One break-up and you're a bopper or something?" There was no hostility in her voice, just pity.

I told Mariam about the whole thing later. [End Page 70]

She interrupted. "You mean, not a lick? Not a kiss? Nothing?"

"You're not listening, Mariam," I said. "I'm trying to tell you that Nnenne called me a bopper."

Mariam patted her hair dramatically. "Listen, that's your sister so I won't comment on her." She sighed to make apparent the pain her restraint was causing. "But that nigga not eating pussy is Beta. Trust. Even the ole'heads give breath-overs now-a-days."

It was all a stab at maturity, whatever that is.

The previous fall, I had met Michael on the number seventy-nine heading east on West Alabama. It wasn't a dark or stormy night. There was no...