“You sure you want to do this?” He asked while puffing on a cigar. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing.” I was 616 miles away from my home, in New York City’s Le Parker Méridien hotel. I was inebriated off expensive red wine, uncomfortable in an outfit I got from Fredericks of Hollywood during the shopping spree earlier in the day and I was nervous. I was planning to give away my “special gift” to the man I had been in love with for 2 years to the date, almost. So why was I so afraid?
I met him on the campus of Howard University, October 29th, 2004. His peanut butter complexion, slate black eyes and killer smile was the first thing that attracted him to me. His tall, thick build wasn’t a turnoff, either. His broad shoulders were draped in a purple fraternity jacket, and gold boots adorned his feet. “Yo Slick, come meet my baby sis!” my sister hollered across the yard. I began to turn my head to search for this Slick character, thinking ANY man with a nickname like that can’t be any good. Much to my delight, the one they called Slick was the one in my sights.
We exchanged pleasantries. Rick was a business major, graduating in the winter with honors. He played sports, was heavily involved in his frat and was 21. I told him I danced and I was from Detroit. He looked at my Wayne State sweatshirt and asked my year. “Freshman.”, I replied. He didn’t need to know that my school was down the street from Wayne at Cass Technical High School. This was just my sister’s friend, why was my age important?
That entire weekend was an experience like no other. That night after the step show, Rick and his line brothers showed up at my sister’s apartment for a little soirée she was hosting. While she had her pledges clean her house, she took me in her bedroom and applied my makeup. “Makeup for a house party, Shai?” I asked her as she painted my face with her MAC brushes with ease. “I’m gonna melt!” My sister, used to my dramatics just laughed at me. “Did you see the way Slick was all into you on the yard?” she asked while curling my lashes and pinching my eyelids. “We gotta get you dolled up so you can get a boyfriend.” I was a little confused. Shai was the big sister that didn’t let me play with the neighborhood boys because “These kids are filthy and beneath you.” The older guys that would ride up our block in the summer with the Marauders blaring Blade Icewood from their speakers that tried to approach me and my friends were always ran off by Shai and her ever present pistol. So for her to say she was going to set me up with anyone, let alone a grown man, was scary. But this was my big sister, and I trusted her. I let her finish, pick out my outfit and drank my first cocktail of Armadale and cranberry juice.
He walked in a little past midnight. He had replaced his t-shirt and camouflage with a crisp blue button down shirt and dark jeans. His bald head was shining like a crown of jewels laid upon it. “Fuck, this nigga is FINE!” was the only thought my mind could form when I saw him. He walked through the small crowd, speaking to his friends, making promises to hook up later that week with a few people. Then, he finally caught me staring at him. He grinned, and held up a finger to indicate he’d be over in a second. I went into panic mode. “What if he thinks I have on too much makeup? What if he doesn’t like my outfit?” I asked my sister. “Courtney. Get off the stool and go talk to him” was the reply I got.
We found a spot on the couch by the balcony. We begin to just have casual conversation, talking about our families, how we grew up not far from each in Detroit and our plans for the future. He wanted to open his own auto repair business, and because he was a Detroit boy through and through, he was going to specialize in American vehicles from the 1980s. I told him about my plans to open an advertising firm that catered to the Big 3. We talked until the party was empty and decided to clean up together as a gift to my sister. After the last solo cup was tossed, I found myself pinned in the corner. “So, let me ask you a question, and can you please tell me the truth?” he asked. “Sure,” I said eagerly, “Ask me anything.” He stepped back a little, sighed and asked “So how old are you REALLY?”
“Fourteen,” I replied. “I’m fourteen.”
After revealing the secret I’d been holding from him for 8 hours, I felt relieved. I knew this guy was too smart to talk to a girl my age, and although he intrigued me so, I knew this is when he would run for safety. “SHIT!” he shouted. “Four-fucking-teen?? Court, do you know how old I am? How much trouble I can get into?” “Yes,” I added, “And I understand if you don’t want to talk to me anymore.” I watched him grab his keys and bottle of water.
“Be ready for breakfast at 11,” he told me when he reached the door. “I gotta work something out with you, Miss Courtney. You’re too good for me to let go.”