"Salt & Pepper" (excerpt - II)
Updated: Jul 27
After an emergency boxing gym session, Christopher "Boom" King, is looking to head home and do absolutely nothing. That is until the local celebrity in his new adopted city decides to alter those plans.
(continued from "a little seasoning...")
When I got to my car, I pulled my phone out of my bag, turned my notifications on and a dizzying array of messages flooded my dash. There were so many missed calls and texts from my ex that I touched her name on my phone screen and blocked her access. We are not doing this shit. And how the fuck did you get my number.
On the way home from the gym, I hit my man Jon Jon back who was one of the missed calls I had. He was the closest thing to an actual friend that I had these days. While there were people I was cool with, trusting someone enough to actually call them a friend, nah we were off that.
Though Jon didn't know every sordid detail about what happened back home in D.C., he knew enough. He never tried to pry or overstep any bounds, he just accepted this current iteration of me and I appreciated him for that.
"Boom! Where you at my boy?"
Jon's voice was heavy and he spoke with a naturally laid back delivery like his vocal chords were coated in molasses.
"What up Jon? Leaving the gym, headed home to chill for the night."
"You went back to Gold's in Sugarland? You telling me you drove all the way back down by the job on a Saturday night to work out?"
"Nah, I just left Beat Club off Reed."
"Reed like, Reed Road? Like in South Park, Reed Road?" He asked in a suddenly surprised tone.
"Yeah, I needed to clear my head."
Jonathan Archibald Ingram III was a Houston native that I met at a happy hour my first month living in the city. He was tall, like six foot five, a heavier set guy that was a proud member of the big belly boys, his words not mine. His grandfather was a gangster with an entrepreneurial mind back in the day, who like you tend to see in the movies, wanted better for his kids and the generations that followed. His pops, Little Jon, legitimized a couple of those interests and made a small fortune in construction.
Jon Jon was a civil engineer by day, but by night was a staple in Black Houston. He was a connector of people and money that believed in creating spaces and opportunities for those that looked like him. Since I had known him, I don’t think I had ever seen him upset or bothered by anything. But having seen pictures and heard a couple of stories about his family lineage, that might be for the best. The Ingram's were absolutely a family you wanted zero issues with.
"You good bro? Need me to slide down that way?"
His tone, which was affable initially had changed to something far more serious. The lessening background noise let me know he was clearly changing locations.
South Park was a neighborhood in Houston, Texas you didn't just venture into unless you grew up there or had somebody with you that did. But I grew up in areas just like that back home in D.C. Once I moved down this way and met Jon, I made sure he hipped me to all the places deemed good, safe, and the opposite. Then I made sure he let me know the truth about the latter. It’s not that I was reckless, on the contrary. I’m just not one for being scared of my people and a lot of times, the peace or piece of what’s needed, can only be found in the hood.
Making it a point to fraternize a number of the businesses in the Park was a necessity for me. Partially to break bread with my people who needed it. Partially to familiarize my face with the people who lived there.
“Nah, I’m cool. Like I said, I’m on the way home. What’s good witchu though?” I said, trying to change the topic and alleviate his concern. “What you getting into tonight?”
“Bro, I grew up in South Park and I swear you over there more than I am,” he said with a guarded laugh. “Me and some of the crew are over here at 5015. We’re waiting on a few more people, you should slide. Sounds like you could use a drink.”
He was right, I could definitely use a drink or four, but I wasn’t trying to get roped into a social situation. Jon rolled in a mixed friend circle, made of six or seven people he went to high school with. From what I’ve heard, they were all cool, educated, and gainfully employed. They hung out regularly, had in-depth conversations about any and everything, supported one another and the whole nine.
Which is exactly what I wasn’t on right now. It was absolutely no new friends season still, possibly for eternity. I wasn’t up for the whole getting to know you Q&A from a group of strangers.
“I’m cool bro. Y’all enjoy that.”
“Ah, okay. You about to go check in with one of your rollers, huh man?”
That pulled a laugh out of me.
I don’t know what it was, but every time Jon tried to talk like we did back home, that shit would have me doubled over. It was like hearing an actor fight for their life, to work around his or her natural accent on screen.
Vernacular exchanges aside, I made no qualms about regularly letting him know how much I loved everything about Houston. From the pace of the city to the gorgeous women that came in all shapes, sizes, and delicously decadent hues. They had an energy and vibe that was different from what I was used to in the nation's capital. And for my first year down this way, I overindulged like a motherfucker. That was more than likely what prompted his assumption, although I had drastically slowed down on that front of late.
But it was more than that. The culture and camaraderie among the natives, and even the unapologetically regional sound & pride of its hip-hop, hooked me something serious. Maybe the latter was because it reminded me of how D.C. was about Go-Go.
“You gotta relax slim. I’m off that rollers vibe. I'm headed home to shower and chill, that’s it. By myself.”
“Cool. Then you ain’t got no schedule. Swing by 5015 right quick and let me see for myself that you’re good. You ain’t even gotta come inside. I’m just trying to holla at my guy.”
Seeing as I really didn’t plan on doing shit else the rest of the evening, I didn’t even try to go back and forth with the big man. He clearly wasn't going to take no for an answer anyway. It had been a couple weeks since we hung out and I wasn’t really dressed to go inside, so I had a ready made excuse to keep it at a quick stop.
Bar 5015 sat in the heart of the Third Ward, in Houston’s Museum District. As soon as I pulled up into an illegal spot right across from the entrance, Jon lazily glided in my direction. He possessed the gait of a man that lived on his time 24/7. We dapped each other through the window, I got out and we chatted for a few.
Every Black face that pulled up while we were out front spoke to Jon and indirectly to me because I was with him. It was like I was standing next to Black royalty and they were coming to kiss the ring.
Each time, however, he dismissed them politely yet quickly, continuing to give me his undivided attention, which I appreciated and clearly needed more than I thought.
In a shade over twenty minutes time I had given my partner more than a cursory level rundown on what had me so vexed and why. My ex-wife, Kimiko, had somehow found my new number and reached out to me today. I hadn't spoken to her without attornies present, since I found out she slept with my homeboy of over thirty years.
"Fuck, bro! I don't even...fuck!" Was all he could say as he stood to my left, staring in the direction of the bar.
Apparently, their indiscretions took place more than a few times too.
Thoughts of homicide was my immediate response when I first found out. But then I realized, my doing a bid over killing one of these fucks would be wild as hell, considering. So I opted for the next best thing. I ghosted both they asses. I cut off him, her, and anyone that knew about their bullshit and relocated to Houston.
Since then, they both tried to reach out to me and make amends, explain themselves, beg for forgiveness, or in Kim's case, argue that my reaction wasn't justified.
You're supposed to fight for true love, she said across the table one time at one of our totally useless mediation attempts.
Fuck outta here with that dumb shit. This ain't no romance novel.
While Jon and I were posted outside, a silver Camaro roared up in front of us and rolled the passenger window down. I heard the woman in the driver seat's voice before I could see her. Her tone was evenly paced and the faintest twinge of an accent that sounded like she was from New Orleans played with my ears. The guy in the passenger seat dapped up Jon but didn't speak, I figured he must not be part of the regular crew.
"Hey Jon, we the first ones hear or something?"
"Blake now you know your ass is always the last one to show up," Jon said. "Where's Nia, I thought she was sliding with you?"
When the woman named Blake leaned over to talk to Jon, I could see her eyes looking in my direction, but from her vantage point, she couldn't really see my face. Good, nosey ass. With that said, I'd be lying if she didn't have me just as curious for different reasons. The red hair that I could see, was like none other I had ever seen on a woman I assumed was Black from her skin tone and vocal inflection. It wasn't dye job or weave red. It was red red, like it was her natural hair color.
"Something came up at the daycare today with one of the parents. Sis had one of, them, days," she said. "She decided to just stay in tonight."
There was something about the way she said 'them' and how Jon shook his head, which let me know this must be a somewhat normal occurrence for their homegirl.
"Let me guess, they had to call the police again?" He asked in an exasperated tone.
"Yup. She's good though. We facetimed a little while ago."
"Bet, I'll call her in the morning. Blake, Prentice, this my potnah, Boom...uh, my bad, Chris. Chris, this is my homegirl Blake and the dude in the passenger seat is the guy she won't let wife her, Prentice."
"Nigga! Really?" Blake whined.
I hit Prentice with the universal head nod then bent over to make eye contact with the woman behind the wheel, something I wish I hadn't done. Between her freckles, amazingly kissable lips that were so glossed, they looked wet, smiling light brown eyes, and a full head of red hair that descended in wave-like patterns past her shoulder, she was hypnotically fine.
There was something about the way she said my name that made me uneasy, so I just stood up to keep from staring at her ass. Though I had come across women more attractive than Ms. Blake, which was one helluva statement, she possessed a certain magnetic appeal that made it hard to look away.
Nah, I ain't fucking with you slim.
"You married, Chris?"
"Damn, Blake," Jon and Prentice said in unison.
"And that right there, that's my cue," I turned and dapped up Jon as he grinned and moved away from my door. "Aye, y'all be good bruh. Pleasure meeting y'all."
I climbed in and headed home. Alone.