holdin heat v. 1. To be armed with a gun. Watch yoself, man. That nigga’s holdin heat.
2. To date a very desirable woman. The reason why he lost that fox is cuz he don’t know bout holdin heat.
It’s Saturday. Good writing, sun shining, Miles playing, and I’m just chilling. Not even answering the phone cuz I’m deep in my own groove and ain’t nobody gonna knock me out. But then the phone just purrrs so sweetly. What
could be the harm? Could be my heart . . . After seven months of deep talking and slow dancing and deep kissing and slow loving we in love, sweeter and warmer than I could’ve imagined. Any time, every time, I pick up the phone I hope it’s her. I say hello.
“Hello, Touré?” an unfamiliar man’s voice comes back. “This is C., you know, D.’s boyfriend.” My heart nosedives to my toes, then comes bounding back up. Knew this shit would happen. Knew, after the first date, she had a man. Knew the pertinents of her situation (four years, live together, on the rocks). But, circa that first date, I didn’t care.
Back then my niggas and I spurred each other on to chase girls with boyfriends, fiancés, husbands, whatever. Seducifying an occupied woman, we postulated, was the ultimate proof of your power, proof that you were in the big leagues, proof that, unlike her man, you knew how to hold heat. When I met her I saw a black Audrey Hepburn, a world-class dancer, a honey-sweet thang. Stealing her from another man was a little tasty icing.
She went on tour. I mailed letters off to Paris and Stuttgart and Cairo and got letters back from Cannes and Berlin and Tel Aviv. At the beginning she wrote . . . how you would look walking out of the water, all wet, wearing something loose that would cling to
your . . . Months later . . . You are a part of my life and I have to take care of you. She got me open. She got me to feeling as though the doors of my chest were literally unbolted and her white, hot love, thick like gooey molasses, was being poured directly in. I was feeling her. I began to wait for her to choose between him and me. And on my plate he was that tasty icing quickly decomposing into something rancid and crusty as, again and again, I woke up alone, knowing my sweet was not alone, was in another’s arms, in his arms, one of which is now holdin the phone.
“I have to jet in a minute,” he says sounding shaky, almost geeky, “but I just wanted to introduce myself.”
My heart bungee-jumps up and down my frame. In the commotion I catch bits of our conversation. He sounds nervous, I think. He gropes for words, stumbles a bit, finds a few, lumbers on. He shrinks. I had expected tough, confrontational, a puffed-out chest. I had prepared an if-ever script, sprinkled with What you want man?s and Why don’t you ask yo woman, if she is yo woman?s. But here is no roaring Harley-Davidson, no itching Smith & Wesson. He is a cracked plate, some tamped snow, a light, melancholy rain. In his humanness I lose my script.
“Cool,” I say.
“I just felt that . . . uh. . . you had been . . . in the shadows too long . . . you know. Uh, so, um . . . Now the door’s open.”
I say, “Alright.” I think, This is so fucking absurd! What can we say to each other? Nothing you could say would hurt me and there are a million truths I could tell you that would shatter your cuckcolded heart. But those million truths would end up right back in her face and in mine. So, we’re just going to talk without saying anything.
“Is there anything you want to ask me?” he says, a bit of a cringe in his voice.
What do I say? Yeah, why don’t you step aside and let D. and me get to our life together? No good. Why the fuck are you bothering me, yo? I can’t, he’s too nice. Okay, Touré, something simple and negative. How about Naw, nigga? It’s natural, simple, and far too complicated. Nigga would hint at brotherhood, shared space, the potential of respect. But also, since we ain’t friends, he might take nigga for nigger. Then, war.
“Well . . . um . . . the door’s open so . . . uh . . . uh . . . if you want to call me or I want to call you.”
We say goodbye. I begin to laugh. Don’t quite know why. Some at him, some at me, some at our static chess game two twenty-something black men talking to each other like white boys. I laugh uncontrollably, still not certain why, soon not certain who it is laughing. My stomach starts aching and I crawl into myself. Maybe he’s not the thorn in our rose. Maybe I’m the thorn in theirs. He’s gotten me open and, through the laughter, coming louder and harder now, I wonder if it’s time to look at my sweetheart, my heat, my dream girl, his woman, and, maybe, somehow, maybe, let go.