Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dream Deferred


Each raindrop fell harder than the one before. The light was making way for darkness. My plan to go onto the balcony and count the stars had been cancelled.
Counting stars could seem strange to some; not normal. But what exactly was normal anyway?
I promised myself a long time ago that I wouldn't be like everyone else. I wouldn't be put into a box, labeled. I didn't care about the in crowd on being the most popular kid on campus.
I was more of an artist. Photography and poetry was more of my thing. But everyone wasn't into counting stars. Or lying on a bed of grass and finding objects in the clouds. Or DREAMING.
Sometimes I hated being different from others. I just want to be normal. Whatever that is.

I stood at the doorway of my balcony watching the rain as I smoked a wine black and mild. The rain falling was NORMAL. Duke Ellington playing in the background was normal. I was normal. In just that one moment. Whatever normal is.

Chapter 1

"Dream! Dream!" He was being shaken and stirred like an alcoholic beverage by his best friend, Epiphany. She owned a spare key to his apartment, for emergencies, but she used it at her leisure. Dream had fallen asleep on the couch after giving in to the rain's hypnosis.
"I thought I told you to use that key for emergencies," said Dream as he sat up on the couch.
"It is an emergency. I need you to getu p and go somewhere with me," said Epiphany.
"Where?" Dream asked as he put on his shoes.
"School. They are having a Pre Dawn Throwdown tonight."
"Oh, hell no! You know I don't do gatherings like that anymore. Too many freshmen."
"Come on Dream. I'm sure someone that pisques your curiousity will be there. Swag might be there."
"Fuck Swag," Dream said as he lit the remains of his black and mild.
Dream was never the one for secrets and Swag was just that. A secret. He was a star on the school's track team and a true womanizer. Or so he thought. And Dream fucked around with him on the low a few times but it never got any further than that. Just fooling around.
"SWAG, SWAG SWAG! He's all you ever talk about and now it's fuck him?"
"Yes, ma'am. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to sleep," said Dream as he stretched back out on the couch. Epiphany fanned the smoke that swirled around her face away.
"You loser. Get ya ass up you bohemian, dread loc wearing sorry excuse for a best friend!"
"What did I tell you about calling them dreads? They are just locs!"
"Whatever. Ever since you realized you had to stay at NCU another semester you have been acting very grumpy and bitter. Now get up before I snatch you up and let's gooo."
Dream sighed and stood up. He blew the last bit of thick smoke in Epiphany's face and laughed.

The gymnasium was dark, the music was loud and Dream didn’t want to be there. He was more out of place than a nun in a whorehouse. But being the friend he was, he came for Epiphany.
She was the one who knew everyone. Dream and Epiphany could never walk around campus without her stopping to talk to someone. Epiphany had been like that since junior high school, so Dream was used to it.
Dream stood over to the side watching everyone shake and gyrate. Work up and sweat until their shirts were soaked and hair dishelved.
"Act like you want to be here, Dream, " said Epiphany, walking back over to her friend.
"I don't wanna be here, that's the thing. So you decided to rejoin me. But I know you're fans awaited you," said Dream sarcastically.
"Fuck, youuuu," said Epiphany playfully. "You see SWAG over there? he's been trying hard not to grill you. Shit ain't working."
"You know I peeped him and his entourage of FAKENESS when we walked in. They're trying so hard to put on this front that they are all straight......"
"When they are all probably getting head from each other. A Favor for a favor!" Epiphany finished.
Rodney "SWAG" Atkins was one of the best track and field stars that Langston Central State University has to offer. HE held the best time in the 400 meter and hurdles. The boy was fast as lightning for 6'1". Track and Field wasn't the most popular sport at an HBCU (football took the precedence over any other) but was supposed like any other sport.
Especially by Dream. Ever since he started dealing with Swag, he made it a priority to show up to as many track meets as he could, home and away.
Swag stood up against the wall with his hands in his pockets, occasionally looking at Dream. He jerked his head in the direction of the exit doors a couple of times.
"I think he wants you to meet him outside, Dream. Now why can't he be like everyone else and come speak to you?"
"You already know the deal," said Dream. He watched as Swag headed for the double doors of the gym. He waited a minute, then followed.
Swag leaned  against a wall with one leg holding him up and the other against the wall as well. Dream realized as he approached him why they called him Swag.
"What's good, dude?" he asked so smoothly. It was like those words were made for his mouth.
"Not much. What's up with you?"
"Not shit. So you can't call a nigga no more?" Swag asked
"You know how I am about calling people."
"Yeah, yeah. You don't call people. Well, I'm special.
"And what makes you so special?" Dream asked. Swag laughed. His smile was beautiful. But Dream never told him that. He'd think you were getting soft on him.
"You should already know by now what makes me special."
"So is there a reason why you called me out here other than to see if Verizon had cut me off or not?"
"Pretty much. You got the number. Use it." said Swag.
Dream chuckled and turned to walk away, but Swag reached for his hand.
"Dude, don't play me," said Swag.
"I'm not. You have my number as well. Text me. I have unlimited."
Dream was cutthroat and dry. He had been through enough with boys in his 22 years of living. From the playground in the fourth grade to bullies and crushes in high school. People either hated him or loved him. Mistreated him or worshipped him like a king. Epiphany admitted at times how green she could get when Dream got more attention than she. Even thought she could pass for a model. She carried a nice bone structure with a short hair cut like Pop star Rihanna. She was sometimes mistakened for the singer Keri Hilson., with an added lip piercing.
Epiphany always rocked the lastest fashions, so Dream considered her a fashionista in her own right.
"So what did he say?" Epiphany asked.
"I'm surprised you're still in the same spot I left, E."
"What did he say?" she asked again, completely ignoring his comment.
"He just asked why I hadn't called him and what not. Like I'm supposed to look like a desperate groupie that blows up his phone. I've learned that lesson in the past."
"The boy has a point though. You don't call anyone! Not even me and I'm your best friend!"
"I call my mom every day."
"Of course. She's your mother. That's what you should do, Dream. Duh! Anyway, I'm over this party. It's late and so am I, for my beauty rest."
"Yea, you need all the beauty rest you can get," said Dream.
"Fuck you, boy!" said Epiphany. "You got one more time..."
"I love you too, E!" They headed for the door without looking back at the party that was still in full effect.

He woke up unable to breathe. His body felt different. Like his soul was being taken from him. God, not again, Dream thought.
He always called either his mom or Epiphany when he was having a panic attack. His mother told him to call her at anytime. So he picked up his cell phone and hit one. She was number one on his speed dial.
"Hey baby. Are you okay?" Cynthia Rushmore asked in a groggy voice. It was around 3 a.m.
"No, I'm having another episode," said Dream
"Just relax and breath, baby." Dream sat on the edge of his bed and did what he was told. The panic attacks always woke him up out of his sleep, which was the most disturbing part about it. He felt alone and child-like during this time.
"What are you stressing about, Dream?" his mom asked.
"I don't know. School, maybe. But I'll be fine. I didn't mean to call so late, but you were the only person on my mind."
"I already told you you can call anytime."
"I know, Ma. I love you."
"I love you too. Call me if you need to." They hung up and Dream got up to get a glass of water.

LOVE. It was the most misunderstood emotion in the world but Dream knew his love for his mother was nothing to be confused about.
She has been t here for him since day one and always reminded him of that. Dream was independent for the most part, but his mom always seemed to help him out in some way with his bills. His job at the coffee shop got him by, along with occasional refund checks from grants and scholarships from school.
Dream was the only child, so it was only natural that he be spoiled. Cynthia was told that she could never have kids. She always DREAMED of having a son. A prince to complete her small kingdom. So when it happened at age 30, she took it as a blessing from God.
Cynthia divorced her husband, Marco, when Dream was only ten. As soon as the divorce was final, Marco disappeared. They hadn't heard from him since. Only once did Marco send Dream a birthday card on his 13th year of living. He wrote a personalized message in the card:

"You are now a man in my eyes. It is time for you become the king of the throne. because I was took weak and foolish to continue on."

Dream cried so hard that day. Not because he no longer had a father figure but because his m other was abandoned by her high school sweetheart. Her first love.
Dream tried to shake the memories of a bitter past from his mind as he laid back down to continue to his rest. He promised himself that he would never to cry again.

Sundays at the coffee shop were slow. Most people came in to use the free Wi-fi internet but none really ordered coffee or anything until after church services. Java one was a laid back cafe with an artists' atmosphere and Dream seemed to fit right in. Amy Fusari, his supervisor and owner of the shop was the coolest white girl Dream knew. She often times hung out with Dream and his small circle of friends. When they clubbed, she bought everyone a round of drinks. When she got really drunk, the drinks kept on coming, until everyone was wasted.
Epiphany said that Amy tried too hard, buying their friendship and all, but Dream didn't think she was per se, just being a very generous soul. Whenever he needed a day off, Amy gave it to him. Whenever Epiphany wasn't around, he could talk to Amy about anything.
"So I take it since things are slow around here you can spare me a cup of joe," said a quiet but loud voice.
Dream looked up from his E. Lynn Harris novel he was reading. It was Tyree with Epiphany right behind him. They were dressed up, fresh from church. Epiphany wore a gray pant suit with stiletto heels and flower in her hair. Her diamond earrings sparkled like her personality. Tyree was his other close friend, who had on a white button up, a big pink bowtie and gray pin stripped slacks with snakeskin shoes. Dream had known Tyree Williams for about four years now. He was a little more feminine than the guys Dream hung with. But Dream didn't mind. Dream was friendly and didn't worry about a person's demeanor, but more so he based his friendships on character, loyalty and trust.
"I think I can manage a cup for both of you," said Dream.
"You know I don't drink coffee boy. But I will take a scone," said Tyree. Dream reached for a scone. "And a bear claw!"
"Okay, now you're pushing it," Said Dream with a smile.
"Tyree is always reaching. But I will just take a coffee, honey," said Epiphany. "So, where's Amy?"
"Home, I guess. She knew today would be slow so she didn't come in," said Dream as he prepared the coffee.
"You know, it's something about that girl that ain't right," Said E.
"Here we go again," said Tyree with a mouth full of scone.
"What?! I just get weird vibes from her," said Epiphany.
"You get vibes from everyone. Did you check your tea leaves for that one?" asked Tyree.
"YOu've got jokes. Anyway, when are you going to go to church with us, Dream?" Epiphany asked.
"I don't know. You know I work most Sundays and..."
"You're just plain evil," finished Tyree.
"Don't start that either!" said Dream. "I've just come to realize that religion is one of those things that we don't know much about. Most people follow the Bible, stories written by man and interpret it the way THEY want to. And don't get me started about crooked pastors and church members!"
"And those queen choir directors," added Tyree.
"You know all churches aren't like that. You would love my church, hun." E reassured.
"The boys are cute there, too," said Tyree.
"Stop that! YOu are in church for all the wrong reasons. Damn shame." said Epiphany.
"NO, what's a damn shame is that I spend my Sundays in church when I should be here. Who is that over there?" Tyree nodded in the direction of a guy who was seated in a corner on his laptop. He had fair skin, which was damn near flawless. His hair was curly and unkempt and he emitted that bohemian vibe.
"I don't know his name but he is in here almost every time I work," said Dream.
"Maybe I should go say something to him. Ask him his name and if he is single," said Tyree.
"ONLY TYREE," said Epiphany as she sipped on her coffee.
"What? I'm intrigued. And I know Dream isn't going to do it."
"He has to come to me, which I doubt will happen." said Dream. The guy looked up from his computer and directly at them. They all turned their heads away. He smiled and looked back down at his work.
"Dream! You have more boys flocking to you than the kids running down to a gay pride fest. Don't play that woe-is-me act with me," said Epiphany.
"E is right, Dream. I taught you better. Anyway, lemme turn on my boy and show you two how I do this."
Tyree stood up and grabbed his crotch, like it was a switch to turn on his masculinity and walked over to the stranger.

Tyree stood up and grabbed his crotch, like it was a switch to turn on his masculinity and walked over to the stranger.
"Your friend has problems," said Epiphany.
"NO, that's your friend," said Dream.

"Mind if I sit down?" Tyree asked the stranger.
"It's a free country. Help yourself." he replied, not even looking up from his laptop.
"Actually, if you think about it, we're not that free. With all of these laws and restrictions, I'm starting to think we're in Cuba. We had our own Fidel Castro for about eight years."
The stranger cracked a smile.
"I'm Ishmael," he replied
"I'm Tyree." They extended hands to shake.
"So, do you always walk over to people you don't know and spark conversations of law and ethics?" Ishmael asked. Tyree laugh.
"Law and Ethics. Only if the person seems interesting. I'm a friendly guy and I like meeting interesting people."
"Interesting," said Ishmael. They both laughed.
"SO are you are writer?"
"I am. I'm working on a young adult novel right now" said Ishmael.
"Are you published?" Tyree asked.
"Not yet. My agent is shopping around for me a book deal."
"You need to put my boy on. He's been trying to get published for a while now."
"Who's your boy?" Tyree nodded in the direction of Dream and Epiphany. "Ohhh, Coffee Dude." Tyree laughed.
"Yeah, Dream's his name. Come on, let me introduce you to my people."
They both got up and went over to the table where Dream and Epiphany were seated.
"Guys, I'd like you to meet Ishmael. Ishmael, this is Dream and Epiphany."
Ishmael shook both of their hands.
"You two have some very cosmic names," he said.
"Thank you," said Epiphany with a smile. Dream remained silent.
"So I hear you're a writer, Dream," said Ishmael.
"And he's a photographer too. You should see some of his stuff," said Tyree. His femininity had switched back over. Dream gave Tyree a look of death.
"I am. I didn't think my friend here would give my entire life story."
"He didn't I like leaving it up to the individual himself to tell me whatever they'd like to."
"If it were left up to Tyree, he'd tell everything," added Epiphany.
"YOu love making me look bad, E," said Tyree.
"YOu do that to yourself," said Epiphany with a chuckle.
"SO what time do you get off?" Ishmael asked Dream.
"Maybe I could come back and we could talk. I wanna see what you got.your writings and all," said Ishmael.
"Cool. That'll work," said Dream.
"See you guys later," Ishmael said and went back to his table.
"IS that a date?!" Epiphany said in an excited but low tone.
"Noo," said Dream with a smile. "WHy can't two people with the same interests talk and get to know each other?"
"Because he looked at you like you were a Tootsie Roll pop," said Tyree. "Lickin his lips and shit."
Dream continued to smile from ear to ear. Shit like that didn't happen to him every day. Really, it never happened. HE always met someone in the club or on the internet. bbut never on the streets or at work. People were crazy these days, no matter how accepting people seemed to be about alternative lifestyles.
"I think you imagined that, Tyree," said Epiphany. "And if he was licking his lips, I'm sure it was because they were dry."
"HELLO?! It's called Carmex. The shit is under a dollar at Wal-mart. If he becomes your boy toy, make sure you give him a supply of it." said Tyree.
"Tyree, shut up," said Epiphany.
"Yeah, I doubt it'll be anything more than a friendship. I'm not interest in anything serious anyway. "
"You just wanna bang it up. He doesn't look like much of a bottom to me, so someone might be giving up the caaaakes!" Dream laughed and got up to help a customer that had come in.
For the rest of the day, Dream did think about Ishmael, the guy who he had been checking out for a while now. Especially considering the fact that when eight o'clock rolled around, he was a no show.

Dream's Interlude

I always felt left out. That one feeling no one wanted. Tyree was a member of the best modeling troupe on campus, Extravagance, not to mention that he danced in one of our hip hop groups as well. Epiphany was starting her own line of bags, that she was convinced would put Louis V and Dooney and Burke out of business.
"Louis, who? You must be talking about that swap meat stuff with the bad stitch line," Epiphany once said.
Everyone had dreams that were obtainable except me. I loved photography and poetry, but it seemed to be getting me nowhere. Something was missing from my life.
I wanted to belong to something, but that would mean putting me in a box and I was claustrophobic.
It had crossed my mind a few times to pledge in a fraternity. But all that brotherhood shit wasn't my thing either. Besides, frats and sorors seemed like names and names only. You have more pull and clout when you have that frat name attached to your own name. I wanted to make my own name.
But I was once again curious and wanted to see what would happen if I went to an interest meeting for one for one of the most popular fraternities on campus: Alpha Sigma Kappa Omega. or AKSO for short.
This was the first fraternity I had ever heard of with four names, SO i assumed that's what made it so special. I guess I would find out

Chapter 2: Who Want to Be An AKSO Man?

"I would like to welcome you to the interest meeting for Alpha Kappa Sigma Omega Inc. I am Calvin Wynn, chapter president of AKSO . I am going to give you a little background info about us. We were founded in 1921 by Dr. Newman Campbell, our very own founder of the illustrious Newman Campbell University. We pride ourselves on community service, brotherhood, of course, and throwing the best parties on this side of the Mississippi river. Can I get a..."
"AyyyyAyyAyyyyeeeee!" screamed the brothers that sat in the front row of the conference room.
Dream tried his best not to laugh at the insanity that was taking place. This seemed like a joke, What would Dr. Langston think if he knew his predecessors were straight clowns? He'd probably turn in his grave a few times at this one. Dream wish he had invited Epiphany or even Tyree along for this , but he didn’t want them to know he was even thinking about pledging.
Tyree would probably act up anyway.
Dream stood up from the back row he was sitting in and was heading out of the door when Calvin called him out.
"My brother?! Leaving so soon. We haven't even gotten to personal testimonies yet," said Calvin.
"I was actually just going to the bathroom," said Dream. A few people laughed.
Dream hurried to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face. This was not the time for another panic attack...Damn, Why did I come here? he thought. He could easily dip out at this point but his face had been shown at the interest meeting. Who knew what would be said on campus about him after this. And Calvin was a big asshole according to Epiphany.
"Who gives a fuck what anybody thinks? I'm leaving this muthafucka," said Dream in the mirror.
He would face the consequences later.
“So you really went to their interest meeting last night?” Epiphany asked in disgust.
“Yeah, I did. And I don’t know why. I started to bring you along but I figured that would be a big mistake.”
“You know me too well. I probably would have started a riot up in there,” Epiphany said. “They talk allt his stuff about what they stand for and it’s all a fa├žade in my eyes. Anything to make themselves look good in the eyes of the Dean and Chancellor. The community as well.”
Dream and Epiphany sat outside of Java One, having coffee and biscotti. One of the m any things they did that a lot of students at an HBCU would consider “white”.
What was normal going Greek, modeling, dancing, and student government. But Dream was determined to break that stereotype somehow.
“But ol’ dude, Calvin, talked about all the community projects they were involved with and charities they’ve given to,” Dream said.
“Did he mention that they throw the best parties too?” Dream nodded. Epiphany blew raspberry. “I told you if you wanted to make your mark on the world, join my team. You got that eye for beautiful things.”
“I’ve been considering it for some time now---“
“Oh, shit! Speak of the devil.” Dream looked behind him to see Calvin was headed in the direction of Java One with two of his frat brothers. “Isn’t that something. I wouldn’t be surprised if ol boy Ishmael shows up here.” Calvin nodded his head at Epiphany and she waved and smiled back, with no emotion behind it.
“Why do you even speak to him?” Dream asked.
“I gotta have frenemies, sweetie. You never know who might need to get where you wanna be in life. I call them stepping stones.”
“So maybe I should have tried to see if I would have crossed AKSO.”
“Maybe. I just don’t want you joining for the wrong reasons. When you graduate college, you’ll AKSO is still relevant to you. You know how I feel about the college experience. It’s like high school on steroids, with glorified plastic people,” Epiphany explained.
Calvin came outside and over to the tables where Dream and Epiphany were seated.
“What’s up, Miss Wingate,”he said.
“Hello, Mr. Wynn. How are things?” Epiphany asked with no enthusiasm. “Great as usual.” Calvin looked at Dream and squinted his eyes. “Weren’t you the one who came to the interest meeting last night, only to walk out?”
“That would be me,” Dream said. He felt a lump forming in his throat.
“Was there a problem or anything?  Because if you’re still interested, we could talk a little more one on one.” Calvin reached into his pocket and handed Dream a business card with his contact info on it.
“Thanks,” said Dream, “but I don’t think a fraternity is what I need after all.”
“Just give it some thought, playa. I hope you two have a wonderful afternoon.” Calvin winked at Epiphany and walked away.
“You see what I mean?” He was going to force that shit on you. I hate that you went to that meeting,” Epiphany said.
“Trust me, I got this. Don’t worry you’re pretty little head about it.”
“I’m just saying every time your name gets into some shit, I have to do damage control.”
“I never ask you to. People are going to talk regardless of what I do.”
“I know, because a lot of hating chicks don’t like me either. I just know how much it hurts to hear someone talk about you. And besides, they would definitely talk about you if you became an AKSO man. Not a good look, boo,” Epiphany said as she stood up and kissed Dream on his forehead.  “I gotta go though. And you need to get back to work.”
Dream thought about what Epiphany had said, btu the decision was ultimately up to him if he would pledge or not.

Chapter 3: Her Extracurricular Activities

“Come on, walk bitches! We are going to be here all night if you don’t learn how to walk in these fuckin’ heels!” Tyree basked at his models as they practiced for a show they had coming up in two weeks. “There is no way we are going to be the best with you bitches slacking the way you are!”
Tyree started Extravagance after he was ousted from the best modeling troupe on campus, Face, when he  was just a timid freshmen.  They said he was too gay to represent what they stoof for.
“It’s funny you say I don’t represent your troupe they way you guys want it when half of the members in your group are banjee ass fags who don’t know how to rock real couture anyway!” Tyree said in between tears. He thought he would give the executive board a piece of his mind before leaving the meeting scorned.
That was freshmen year, when he left them speechless and now he was in his junior year and neck and neck with Faces in modeling competitions.
But the sloppiness of the girls at 11:38 p.m. was not pleasing to Tyree Williams.
Just as he was about to get up and show them how to walk, Epiphany walked in. She had plenty of experience on the runway and what better person to teach them but her?
“I got your text and came right over,” Epiphany said.
“Good, I was about to get up and show these hoes how we do,” Tyree said. He stood up from the chair he was sitting in and gathered everyon4e around to introduce them to Epiphany. “She has been ripping the runway since she was fifteen so she knows what she’s doing and I suggest you watch closely and take notes.” Epiphany smiled and shrugged it off.
“Tyree is exaggerating just a little bit. I’ve been modeling since I was sixteen and I am starting my own line of women’s purses and shoes in the spring as well,” said Epiphany with a confident smile. Some of the girls seemed uninterested.
Most people were humble and didn’t like to brag about accomplishments. Then you had those who tooted their own horns even when they had no reason to. Epiphany was neither though. She balanced a nice medium.
As Tyree went to turn on some music, Epiphany pulled her favorite pair of six inch stiletto from her bag, which she had made herself.  Britney Spears’ “Circus” came blasting through the Bose ipod speak as the people made a runaway for Epiphany to rip up. And she did just that. She executed her spins and kept a straight face the entire time. She showed the members of Extravagance what they and other modeling troupes had been doing wrong.
Some faces showed the same jealously from when she walked in the door and some showed excitement. Epiphany didn’t care either way.
“Any questions.” Epiphany asked when she was done. No one said anything.
“Now I know somebody had a question,” said Tyree with attitude.
“Could you do that one more time?” asked one of the amazed girls.
“No problem,” Epiphany said with a smile.

Lame. Wack. Pointless. Shit with no rhyme or reason. These were al words that Dream used to describe college. He realized that after being in school all this time and changing his major three time, that he hated school. He had learned more from life’s lessons than any class could ever teach him. He say in his class struggling with the answer to a test. He knew this stuff though! He had been studying for it for over a week now, but all he seemed to draw were blanks.
Back to the multiple choice then, he thought. So he finished those up and just when he was about to go back to the essay questions, the professor said that time was up. SHIT! This muthafucka always does this to me.
Dream dropped the paper on the desk without even looking at Professor Tate and walked out into the sunshine. He pulled his phone from his pocket and texted Epiphany. She replied back, saying she was busy with her extracurricular activities.
“So how is the wife doing?” Epiphany asked as she sat down in the plush chair that faced Lorenzo Lattimore, her on and off again lover of six months.
“I haven’t seen you in three days and the first thing you ask about is my wife?” asked Lorenzo.