“Boy, you better have your black ass down here tonight, or your ass is grass, nigger. You hear me, Ellis?”
That’s my main man, Mac Brown, the Big Sound from Downtown. He got a right to be pissed. A month ago, I missed our best bud, Willa Wright’s art show. My demons kicked in the day of the show. I don’t know why. I woke up 600 miles from home, in a hooker’s trailer, with no wallet, no money, no phone.
Willa got me home and into a “clinic.”
Mac Brown shut down my credit cards and saved me from a nasty mess.
I’m not going to let my best buds down this time – demons or no demons.
I arrive at the gallery at 7:05 pm for a 9:00 pm artist reception and a 10:00 pm opening. I enter through the loading dock, take off my blazer, and pitch in with the show preparation work.
Jolly Finn, the gallery owner, greets me warmly and introduces me to the two workers/artists I don’t know, Remy Ascot and Mala Wenders.
At 8:45 pm, Willa pulls me off the work crew to help her prepare her press release and to warn me to not “mess up her show.”
I hug Willa so hard she squeaks. “I love you, girl. Thank you for everything.”
Jolly hijacks me for co-greeter with her. Why she has always treated me exceptionally well, I don’t know. I know we have a ball laughing and jiving around with her guest, the VIPs, and the boys and girls from the block.
About 9:30 pm, Mac Brown makes his entrance with a superstar, brown skin, jet black hair, bod by God, six-foot-tall honey he introduced as Bo.
Bo is a showstopper, a heart breaker, a mind-bender. She would make a sinner out of a saint.
Jolly shakes her head in wonder, “How does Mac do it? Last show, a different goddess. Where does he find them?”
“Jolly, if I knew I would not be here. I would be there.”
It’s almost 11:00 pm before I get a chance to see the show.
Four artists are exhibiting. Three have six works, each on display. One artist has a single piece here. All six of Willa’s pictures have sold. I give her another hug, and she gives it right back even harder.
Mac and Bo join us. We celebrate with Champagne. I learn that Bo speaks five languages, has a BS in anthropology from Stanford, owns a mean hook shot, and shoots forty-five percent from behind the three-point line.
I leave that conversation before she reveals she’s the Pope, an astronaut, and a Nobel Prize winner. Mac is in way over his head.
All the art moves me, shakes me and stirs my soul – not one clunker in the bunch.
I move to the Round Room, home to three-dimensional works.
Under a spotlight in the center of the room is a bronze bust of an African American brother. Fuck me! It’s me! There’s almost no facial resemblance, but it’s me. My bust is barely suppressing a scream of existential rage. His teeth are bared, his jaw is clenched. He has a tic in his left eye. His nostrils are flared. His blood pressure is through the roof. He is on the fuckin’ edge. He’s on the ledge. It’s too late to go back, to back down, to back up, to turn around. He’s going to rip everyone in this gallery apart with his naked hands and keen teeth if he doesn’t jump – now!
“Jump, motherfucker! Save us all.”
I don’t realize I said it aloud until the guests around me react with glares, surprise, and fear.
Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all.
“Who did this. Who in God’s name did this?” I’m shouting.
I see Jolly and Mac hurrying toward me.
“Who the fuck did this?” I’m screaming.
Someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn to face Mala Wenders, the worker bee. A slender woman in overalls and a tee shirt. She’s an all nations woman that you could mistake for black, mixed, Asian, Hawaiian, Filipino, Middle Eastern, anything but white. Her brown eyes are too fucking big for her face. There is nothing about her that shouts out that she is magic or God or The Goddess, but she must be. How else could you explain her work?
“You did this? This is you?”
In response, Mala holds her palms up.
We match hands.
Her hands are as big as mine, callused, rough, radiating. I connect with the anger, frustration, pain, flowing like a flood.
I take her hand in mine. I kiss her quickly on the lips.
“Thank you, Mala Wenders. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Jesus.”
My tears and snot are flowing.
I stand there, holding her rough hand.
We look at the bust for a long time.
“Are you going to sell Him?”
“I have offers.”
“Don’t sell Him. He’s every nigger been born in this country.”
“Do you want it?”
“I’m broke. Like Him.” I nod to the bust.
“A gift. If you want.”
“Too powerful for me. I’ll jump off a ledge holding Him. I w ouldn’t last a week.”
The gallery closes.
Mala and I stay.
We sit on chairs, observing the sculpture, holding hands.
“What are we going to do with it, Ellis?”
“We are going to have kids strong enough to handle Him.”