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What Would Julian Rafael Hassan Roden Do?

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Reggie or, Glass Dick (His Vice) [@uggmane]

   I lay in bed next to Him, naked and withered from the night before. My eyes sunk into their sockets gleam crimson as I roll over and study Him comfortably nestled atop the soft pillow by my side. The light shown through the window blinds to His left and reflects a glorious kaleidoscope of pale grey, beige and coal black off of his shaft, residue from the night before. Just looking at Him makes my mouth water, salivate and crave more of what He has to offer.

A cheap date He is not. Every night I see Him my bank account is dry as sun bleached bones the morning after. I can’t give Him up. I won’t give Him up. I’ll rob the liquor store down the street before I do that. Its not like I haven’t before. I was broke as a joke one summer morning and wanted more of Him. I was on my knees, begging.

"If you don’t have cash, don’t even think about it."

I was on the verge of tears when He suggested it.

"You could rob Kenwood. Yeah, hit up Kenwood and get back to me."

I went out and found a gun that day.

“You got it on you?”

I asked Clyde as he lazed in a lawn chair in the sand at Rainbow Beach. I called him up and told him I needed his service pistol. He told me to meet him there around 2:30. I hopped on the #15 and got off at Jackson Park. When I showed up he was sitting, eating chicken from Harold’s in a way only those who have known poverty can- sucking meat from every nook and cranny of bone, the dull crunch of cartilage being chewed- as beach goers played merrily amongst the waves of Lake Michigan. He was dressed in a suit and tie with a brief case at his side, which was odd not only because it was a sweltering summer day but also because I had never seen Clyde in such nice clothes. I didn’t even know that he owned a suit, let alone a tie. I sat in the chair next to him.

“Slow ya roll, my man. Not tryna look suspicious, ya know? This some serious shit we talkin’ bout here.” He placed his scab-covered hand atop the briefcase, his other hand mulling over the freshly cleaned bone on the bag in his lap, mild sauce smeared over the image of a man dressed in red chasing a chicken with a hatchet. 

“You bring a bag like I told you? Not tryna have you sack this motherfucker and shoot ya dick off tryna get on the bus or somethin’.”

“Yeah, yeah I got it right here.” I pulled the small backpack off my shoulder and placed it in my lap. Clyde started laughing.

“Man, the fuck you doin' with that little ass bag Reggie? That one of your kids or somethin’?”

He smiled, showing brown teeth and receding gums. The bag was small and on the front of it was a blonde haired, blue-eyed man in a sword fight with a blue skeleton. I believe it was Eric’s. It was one of the many things left behind when Sheryl found out I started seeing Him.

“Don’t worry bout it nigga, just gimmie the piece.” I strained my voice, trying not to draw attention to us while still letting Clyde know that I was serious. He laughed again, baring those decaying teeth. He grab a napkin from his breast pocket, wiped his mouth and threw the bag, bones and all, onto the sand at his side. He reached for his briefcase; placing it on his lap he unlatched it then opened it. Sitting atop opened envelopes and outdated newspapers was the pistol, a Beretta M9.

“You just gonna stare at it nigga? Or you gon take it?” He asked as he scanned the area, making sure no one was watching. Some yards away a family was barbequing, dancing to the radio and drinking from red plastic cups. I grabbed the gun and placed it in my bag, zipping it up and completing the transaction.

“Aight, we done here?” I asked, ready to do what I had to do to get more of Him, more of what He had to offer.

“Yeah,” Clyde replied, sucking his teeth. “Yeah I guess we are.”

I stood up and pulled the bag, now carrying a significant amount of weight, over my shoulder.

“You not curious?” I asked.

“Bout what?”

“Why I called you here. Why I need this.” I motioned to the bag. Clyde paused.

“Am I curious? Sure. But curiosity only goes so far, my friend. And my curiosity doesn’t go as far as to supersede my safety, if you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down.” Clyde reached into his breast pocket for a cigarette. I knew what he meant. He’d rather be left in the dark about whatever it was I needed his gun for, because if anything went south he’d feign blissful ignorance in an attempt to dodge liability. He offered me a cigarette. I shook my head in declination.

“Where you headed then, man?” I asked.

“I think Imma just sit my beautiful ass right here for awhile, Reggie. Might take a nap, might roll my pants legs up and wade in the water, who knows? All I know is that its too nice out to be cooped up at home on a day like this.”

“Well, aight then, I’ll catch you later tonight. ‘Preciate your help.”

“Anytime, my friend. Anytime.”

I turned to leave sure of two things: Clyde had been with Him, which made me feel sour inside for I could do nothing about it and that if things did go south, if the CPD showed up on his doorstep with his service pistol in hand and a mouthful of questions, he would probably tell them some crack head broke into his house and stole it.

"So you gonna rob the liquor store, huh?" He asked me in a coy tone, laid in bed naked except for the bed sheet draped over his abdomen. I was searching the house for something; anything to cover my face with as sweat dripped from my pores and rolled down hills and wedges into the crevices and creases of my flesh. I couldn’t afford the A/C anymore because of Him. The house sat in a perpetual state of still, hot air.

"What you say?" I yelled from the living room as I searched through couch cushions.

"I said, you gon rob Kenwood Liquor Store then, huh?" He repeated in the same sultry voice as before. I returned to the bedroom.

"Yeah, yeah I guess I am. I mean, you know, I wouldn’t have to, you know, if you just-"

"You know what you sound like when you beg like that Reggie?"

"What’s that?"

"A bitch. You sound like a whiny little ol’ bitch, beggin’ for scraps off the dinner table."

I couldn’t argue with Him. I knew what I sounded like. I knew I was weak.

"Hey, look, I’m sorry. I-"

"Just shut the fuck up Reggie! Damn, your bitch ass never know when to quit, do you?"

He rolled over, facing the wall and retiring from the conversation. I searched threw the dresser drawers to my left and found a pair of brown pantyhose. Sheryl must’ve left them behind. They’ll have to do. I check the clock on the nightstand to my right. 8:45. The sun hung low in the west, throwing soft blades of pink past the blinds and into the room, its last breath before being extinguished by the hot white of the moon. Kenwood closed in an hour or so.

"Aight, well, I’ll be back in a bit baby."

There was no response. I spoke again.

"I love you."

"Don’t come back empty handed."

 I ran in Kenwood Liquors screaming at the top of my lungs, waving the pistol around scaring the little old cashier on the night shift half to death. I didn’t harm a soul and she opened the till without a fuss. I got $335 that night. He was mine for weeks after that. Yeah, I could rob the liquor store again, anything to make Him mine. Hell, I could steal from my mother again if it came down to it. After the liquor store money was all gone I was back to begging and pleading, my body sore and aching. I hadn’t been with Him for five days and I was falling apart, inside and out.

"I’ll rot without you."

"Get me some more money and then we’ll talk."

"But, I don’t know where else to go."

"Didn’t I tell you the liquor store? Kenwood?"

"It’s too hot there right now. Since last time they hired some security guards. Real do dirt niggas that would snap my neck in half without hesitation, and I ain’t tryna lose my life."

"What about your mother?"

"Oh, no. No, not her. I can’t steal from her."

"Well, I guess you’ll just ache. You’ll just wither and die then. You need me baby boy. You fu cking need me."

He was right. I needed Him. Only He could subside this pain.

"Okay."

I caught the #28 to my mother’s house, a one-floor bungalow off Blackstone that made no attempt to draw attention to itself. A modest home. She had her apron on when she answered the door and when she let me in I could tell she was cooking dinner. The house smelled of collard greens, red beans and cornbread. 

“Come on in, Reggie. I was just finishin’ up some food here.” She said sweetly as she ushered me into the living room with frail hands. Fragility. I didn’t want to be fragile. No, I can’t grow fragile like her. I needed to be strong. He made me strong. We moved to the kitchen and talked while she continued cooking.

“How’s your wife Sheryl?”

“She seem good, ma. Ain’t seen her in a while but I spoke to her on the phone a couple weeks ago. Still angry as hell.”

“Well, Reggie, you can’t really blame her, now can you?”

“No, I guess not, ma.”

“Any word from my grandsons?”

“They good too, ma. As far as I know. Growing into fine young men from what I hear. Ain’t seen em in some months, though. Sheryl won’t let me round them no more, you know. Eric gon be 6 in September.”

“That’s good, that’s good, he’s a Virgo just like me.” With her left hand she fingered a gold pendant depicting a Zodiac chart hanging from her necklace, a dial welded in place on the symbol of a young woman while stirring the pot of beans on the stove with her right. 

“I worry bout you, Reggie. You all need to come by more often and show this little old lady some love.” She said as steam rose from the pot of rice on the back burner encasing her face with dewy beads of perspiration, she did not flinch.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You still lookin’ for a job, Reggie?”

“Sho am. Can’t find nothing for the life of me though, ma. Since I got dishonorably discharged it seem like no body want to employ the likes of me.”

“It’ll turn round Reggie. God always got a plan.”

She fixed me a plate and I ate while she watched television. She always ate after her guests, claiming that she wanted to see what reactions her food elicited before she indulged herself, as if her recipes ever changed and even if they did someone raised on her cooking would find fault in it, let alone tell her that fault, verbally or otherwise. After the meal I told her I had to use the restroom.

“If ya takin a shit use the box of matches I got by the sink. Don’t want you smelling up the place now.”

I snuck into her room instead while she fixed herself a plate to eat. I knew where she kept her money. Used to steal dollar bills back when I was a boy to buy candy cigarettes from the corner store. Old habits are hard to break, I guess. I came out with $173, kissed her goodbye and went back home. 

“Don’t get into no more trouble now, Reggie,” She said on my way out the front door, a look of comprehension and weariness on her wrinkled face.

“Me? In trouble? Never gon happen, ma.” I smiled as she waved goodbye through the screen door.

I’ll rob my mother again before I give up that sweet Glass Dick. The joy He gives me is too great to leave Him by the wayside. No, I can’t leave Him, no. My money I can do without. As long as that means I’m still with Him.

"I’ll need your teeth."

He whispered to me a couple weeks ago. I was hesitant but eventually gave them up happily. I mean, who needs the rotten motherfuckers anyway? My grandfather would eat these big, ripe granny smith apples without his dentures. Chomping into bare red skin with calloused pink gums and if my genes speak for anything I think I’ll be good without them. Push comes to shove I’ll just drink soup for the rest of my life, I always did like lobster bisque. Yeah, my teeth I can do without. Whatever it takes to keep Him by my side.

"I want you to leave your family." He said to me last night. 

"What you mean exactly?"

"I hear you callin’ them, all hours of the night. Cryin’ and pleadin’ with that bitch that left you. ‘I wanna see my sons! Let me see them Sheryl, I love them!” He cackled after his rendition. I sat silent next to Him in bed.

“Its clear they don’t give a damn about you, Reggie, and I’m not tryna hear your whinin’ ass no more. Give em up. Stop callin." 

"But, I love them."

"I don’t care. It’s them or me. He stared at me with malicious empty eyes."

"Okay."

I pursed my lips against His tip and sucked, seeking and almost obtaining joy. How could I say no? That Glass Dick is too great to give up. He truly brings out what best in me, what’s in my heart and soul, and if Sheryl, Eric or my momma don’t understand that then to hell with them. No, to be with Him you don’t need any of them. All you need is your lips. And in the end it’s just Him and me. He rolled over and asked if I had any cash.

"Will $20 do?"

He snatched it from me and I put my lips to Him like the night before and the night before that and so many more I can’t even keep track at this point. I grabbed the lighter sitting on the nightstand to my right and lit it, placing the flame underneath Him. He doesn’t react. It causes Him no pain. He’s used to this. His insides crack and bubble while a thin film of smoky black forms around his base. I suck in the fumes out of His tip. We are one, souls intertwined in an infinite dance. Once I’m finished He rolls over and goes silent. I lie there and think about how much I love Him. I love Him. I love Him. I love Him. 

***

    I stayed home with dad today. When I woke up my head was hot and my throat hurt. Mom came in my room and asked why I wasn’t getting dressed for school like Caleb and Randall. I told her my head was hot. She came to me and put her hand on my forehead. You’re sick Eric she said. You can’t go to school today. I don’t like school. I wanted to stay home everyday and not just the ones when my head was too hot.    

Mom told me to stay in bed and left my room. I could hear my brothers brushing their teeth in the bathroom across the hallway. I heard the faucet turn off. When she came back Dad, Caleb and Randall were behind her.

"I want you to stay in bed today Eric, okay? Don’t get up unless you have to use the restroom. You need rest sweetie. Mommy has to go to work now and your brothers have school to attend. Daddy is going to stay home and look after you, okay? Feel better sweetie."

Mom kissed me on my hot forehead and left. Dad, Randall and Caleb followed her. I heard the front door open then close. I thought they all left. Then I heard mumbling in the hallway. I got up and put my ear to the door. 

"Don’t fuck around with me Reggie. I don’t want you doing that shit with our son in the house."

"Aight Sheryl, aight. I promise."

"If I find out you been smoking that shit around Eric, Reggie I swear to God, that’s it. That’ll be the last straw. I’m packing up the kids and leaving."

"Don’t threaten that Sheryl. Where you gonna go, huh? To your mother’s?"

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, nothing. Forget it. Have a good day."

"Don’t even think about it Reggie."

I heard the front door open and close again. Then footsteps coming towards my room. I jumped back in bed. My door opened and Dad was in my doorway.

"How you holdin’ up buddy?" Dad asked me.

"I’m okay." I said back.

"Well, I know Mom said you need to stay in bed but if you want I have a surprise for you."

I got really excited and nodded my head.

"All right, go on and get ready now."

I love surprises. For my birthday last year Mom and Dad threw me a surprise party. There were big red balloons and a chocolate cake with five big red candles in it. I got out of bed and got ready for Dad’s surprise. When I finished getting ready I went into the living room. Dad was in there watching TV scratching his neck. Dad was always scratching lately, always scratching his neck and chin. He saw me in the hallway.

"Ya ready to go son?"

I nodded my head. We walked out of the house and got into Dad’s green car. Dad had a green car and Mom had a red one. I liked Mom’s car more than Dad’s. We were driving for a while when Dad pulled up to a house. It was an ugly house. The roof looked like it was going to fall off. It didn’t look anything like our house. Our house was nice.

"Why are we here Dad? Is this the surprise?"

"No son, we have to go in here for a minute then we’ll go and get your surprise, how’s that sound?"

I nodded and we got out of Dad’s car. The other houses around the ugly house were ugly too. Most of them had boards instead of windows. The grass in the front was ugly and brown. Our grass was pretty and green, like Dad’s car.

Me and Dad walked to the front door and Dad knocked. Our house had a doorbell but this house only had wires sticking out of a hole. After Dad knocked on the door a voice came from the other side. The voice was really angry.

"Who the hell is it?"

"It's Reggie baby, now open up I gotta guest with me."

Dad looked down at me and smiled. I smiled back. The door opened and an ugly man was on the other side. He had boo-boos on his face that looked old.

"What’s happenin’, Reggie? Who’s the little one you got with ya?"

"Aw, don’t worry bout him Clyde, this just my son Eric. Say hi to the daddy’s friend Clyde, Eric."

"Hi Clyde."

Clyde was Daddy’s co-pilot back in the Air Force.

"How’s it hangin young brother?"

Dad’s friend Clyde shoved his hand into mine. I didn’t like shaking hands with Clyde. His hands were dry and bumpy. We went into Clyde’s house. There was a living room with a TV just like our house, except there were more people inside Clyde’s house than ours. There were two women in Clyde’s living room watching the TV. One was sitting on the couch. The other lady was sitting in a chair. They both had glasses in their hands. It was really dark in Clyde’s house. The blinds were shut tight. Clyde’s house was dirty too. There were open cans of soda everywhere. I think I saw a cockroach crawl under the couch.

"Ay, Reggie’s here!" The lady on the couch said. 

"And who’s this little tyke you brought along with you?" The other lady said.

"Oh, this here’s my youngest son Eric. Say hi to the nice ladies Eric." 

"Hi."

"Aight Eric, now go on and have a seat on the couch. Daddy will be back in a couple minutes. Go on, they don’t bite."

I sat on the couch next the lady. Daddy went into the kitchen with his friend Clyde. I sat on Daddy’s friend Clyde’s couch for a long time. I don’t know what Daddy and Clyde were doing but it was taking a long time. I heard Daddy and Clyde laughing in the kitchen.

"What you wanna watch little man?" The lady in the chair asked me.

"He-Man!" I said back to her. The lady in the chair picked up the remote and changed the channel to He-Man. We watched He-Man for a long time.

"What’s ya name, little man?" The lady on the couch asked me.

"I’m Eric."

"Eric, huh? That’s a nice name, 'Eric'."

"Yeah, I’m named after my grandpa, or at least that’s what my mom told me. I’ve never met him. He died before I was born."

"Is that so, little man? I’m sorry to hear that. How old are you Eric?"

"I’m 4 years old."

"4 years old, huh?" The lady in the chair said. "You a grown man, ain’t you Eric?" The two ladies laughed.

"So, you Reggie’s son, huh?"

"Yes, do you know my Dad?"

The ladies in the living room started laughing.

"Oh, do we know Reggie." The lady in the chair said.

"Hey little man, you want some of my drink?" She pushed her cup towards me.

"I don’t know. Mom says I’m not supposed to drink any soda. Too much sugar."

The ladies in the living room laughed again.

"Trust me honey, this soda is 'sugar-free'." The lady on the couch said and put the cup in my hand.

"Go on now, drink up!"

She moved my hand to my lips and tipped the cup. Her soda tasted bad and it smelled nasty, like the stuff Mom buts on my knees when I scrape them. It made my throat and stomach burn. I didn’t like her soda. It made me feel funny. 

"This soda is nasty. I don’t like it."

The two ladies laughed.

"That’s cause it’s grown-up soda, sugar. You a grown man, right?" The lady in the chair said.

"I don’t feel good." I said to the ladies, but they didn’t listen to me. They kept laughing and watching He-Man. Their grown-up soda made me throw up on Clyde’s couch.

"Aw shit, Donna. The little motherfucker done got sick. Why you have to give him some of that whiskey?" The lady in the chair said.

"Well shit, Monique. I thought he could handle it." Donna said. "He is Reggie’s son after all."

I felt like throwing up again when Dad and Clyde came back into the living room. They were both smiling acting funny. Like they both just ate a bunch of candy. Dad looked at me, and then the throw-up and he stopped smiling.

"Aw, shit Eric what happened? What’s wrong?" Dad came over to the couch and kneeled in front of me. I started crying.

"Donna gave me some of her soda and it made me feel sick Daddy. I don’t like this place Daddy I want to go home."

"Aight son, aight we leavin' right now."

"Hey wait now. I know you ain’t leavin' here without cleanin’ up this mess yo son done made." Clyde said. Clyde stopped smiling too. Dad didn’t say anything to Clyde. He picked me up and we left Clyde’s ugly house and the laughing ladies in his living room. 

When we were in the car Dad was very quiet. He said a few bad words under his breath but I didn’t know who he was talking to. "It’ll be all right, Eric. It’ll be all right." My head felt funny and the car ride made me dizzy. I felt like being sick again but I held it in until we got back home. A few hours later Caleb, Randall and Mom got back home. I was back in bed. I didn’t get out of bed for the rest of the day.

Later that night when we were all in bed getting ready to go to sleep I heard the phone ring in the living room. It rang a few times until mom picked up.

"Hello...Who is this...Oh, Clyde. What do you want...You what? How is Eric? What do you mean...He what...Goodbye Clyde."

Mom and Dad yelled at each other for a long time after the phone call. It went on for hours. They were so loud I couldn’t sleep. After a while Mom came in our room. She was crying. 

"Pack up your suitcases boys, right now. Get a couple changes of clothes. Hurry up. And when you’re finished wait in the living room."

"Why?" Randall said. He just woke up so his voice sounded funny.

"Don’t ask questions just pack your bags and lets go."

We packed our bags. I packed my school clothes, underwear, toothbrush and my Spiderman toy. We waited in the living room for Mom. Mom and Dad were still yelling. He was crying too.

"I’m sorry Sheryl! I don’t know what else to say!"

"I don’t give a damn about what you have to say, Reggie! I told you! I gave you one last chance! Now get the hell out of my way and don’t you dare follow us!" 

Mom came into the living room. She was still crying.

"Let’s go boys."

"Is Dad coming with us?" I asked.

"No, he’s not. Now lets go. No more questions."

We got into Mom’s car. Dad stood in the doorway while we drove off. He didn’t wave. 

"Where are we going mom?" Caleb said from the front seat. I couldn’t see his face but he sounded like he was crying now too.

"I don’t know baby. I don’t know."

 

 

 

Julian Roden