Paul was nervous, but confident. He had never lived in an urban area before. He was from the Eastern Shore, and now found himself constantly feeling out-of-place here in Charm City — Baltimore. Of course he had hardly felt at home back in Caroline County either, where he was one of only a handful of black people, and the only one in the whole county who was openly gay. There were only two other openly gay guys that he knew of in all of Caroline County, and they were a pair of old fat white queers who had been together for decades.
So he figured that anything was better than that peculiarly rural, gay form of loneliness. His uncle had set him up with a place to live in Baltimore, and he even found himself hanging out with some of the neighbors. They didn’t know he was gay, however, and Paul had scrupulously managed to avoid any obvious knowledge of their gangbanging. He didn’t want to be a thug, after all, that wasn’t why he had come to Baltimore.
The first friend he made in the area was his across-the-hall neighbor, a young fashionable man named Raheim. They didn’t have a lot in common, but Raheim was outgoing and friendly, and Paul didn’t think he was in a position to complain about their lack of shared interests. Raheim talked incessantly about clothes and hashtags and other subjects about which Paul had no interest. He feigned it the best he could. Paul was desperate enough to make friends in the city that he could pretend to be interested in that stuff.
While Raheim seemed friendly and safe enough, some of his friends were openly thuggish, and Raheim seemed more discrete, but not more law-abiding. Paul found their presence distinctly awkward. He was not raised to be a gangsta.
This party tonight’s gonna be bangin’. Gonna have like thirty girls there — just as soon as they done counting those dolla bills, yo.
They gonna put out?
What the fuck kinda nigga you think I am? What’s the point of bitches if they ain’t gonna put out?
Paul was not comfortable with that kind of talk. His momma had raised him to respect women, and he could never call any female a bitch. Not even the bitchy ones. It just felt too wrong.
But he was desperate for acceptance, so he agreed to come to the party. Raheim promised that it would be fun, and that he’d get laid. Paul respected women, but he was as sex-loving as any red-blooded American male. If he could get some female companionship tonight, it would be his first time since moving to Baltimore. He’d really feel like one of Raheim’s niggas, not just a neighbor who happened to be friendly.
When Paul arrived at the party that night, he was confident, but nervous. He was also apparently early, he thought when he walked in Raheim was there, with his friends Jordan and Malik, but there were no girls.
“Hey,” Raheim said. He was dour, disappointed, and Paul instantly knew there were no girls coming.
Raheim explained slowly. The girls had been counting money when the police busted in and arrested them. It shouldn’t end up being a big deal because the women were all officially employed by some hair salon, which was a front for money laundering (or so Paul surmised). The money was going to be attributed to the salon, rather than… Raheim didn’t specify what the money actually came from, but Paul assumed it was drugs.
“So we ain’t got no females till tomorrow, or maybe even not until Monday,” Raheim said. He nodded to his friends, Jordan and Malik, who were on their phones. It sounded like they were trying to get some girls to show up, and judging from the mounting frustration in their voices, they weren’t succeeding.
Nah, we can’t do nothin’ like that. The cops took all the money. We gonna get it back, but not for a couple months. We can’t do no drugs cuz there’s prolly cops watching, and maybe listenin’… No, we don’t got no drugs anyway, obviously. My uncle’s hair salon needs-
Come on, baby, you know I’ll treat you right. I’ll tell everyone here, no one calls you a bitch. I’ll beat they ass if they call you a bitch.
Raheim sighed. He was rolling up a blunt — despite Malik’s words about not having any drugs — that was obviously said for the benefit of whatever cops might have been listening in — and watching his friends beg girls to come over. Eventually he lit the blunt, and Malik and Jordan sat there on the couch.
“Damn, if I could just get some coke tonight, I can get that stripper to come over. Emerald, man. That chick is slammin’. But if I call Reggie to get coke-“