My name is Hakeem Alford, and I made the Dean’s List at San Juan Junior College (SJJC). I wasn’t trying to make the Dean’s list. I was surprised to find out that the dean even had a list. I’m not a straight “A” student. Most of the time, I’m a student, you don’t expect to get an ‘A.’
I also found that the dean hosted a high tea for the students making his list.
My roommate Cedric clarified that high tea was not an opportunity for the Dean to get high with the high academic achievers. High tea was, according to my roomie, a hearty meal served with tea at the end of the workday.
And my know-it-all-roomie also explained that the Dean, H.R. Baylor, was a woman, not a man.
Cedric said, “Hakeem, how the hell did you even get on the Dean’s List anyway, Negro?”
I didn’t tell Cedric that it was probably an error in recording grades that had me, at 5:30 p.m., approaching the school cafeteria for our catered high tea.
I received a name tag before entering the building.
Dean Baylor greeted me with a firm handshake and a bright smile as I stepped into the dining room.
As I turned to find a seat, I saw this hot-as-fire, brown-skinned girl giving me this look that said, “Where the fuck have you been hiding since I passed puberty?”
I gave her a look that said, “Looking for your fine Black ass in Hollywood, on Broadway, and in heaven. Because I knew that’s where you had to be as fine as you be.”
Before I could take another step, this white carrot-top Girl was in my face. Her hair was so bright it was blinding me. I involuntarily stepped back away from her and shielded my eyes.
She spoke to me like a heavenly trumpet.
“Hakeem, you are about to destroy our only child. Turn around. Walk back out the door, turn around three times, and reenter.”
“Who the fuck are you? And what’s with the Hans Christian Andersen shit?”
I tried to step around her to reconnect with my new best friend ever. However, Red stepped in front of me and pushed me back with both hands.
The push felt like Mike Tyson landing perfect punches. I stumbled backward, almost falling.
“Hakeem, I will not let you kill our baby before it is even born. Go back out. Turn around three times and reenter. This is your last chance.”
“I don’t know you. I don’t want to know you. Move the fuck out of my way. I don’t want to hurt you.”
I didn’t want to hurt her. I didn’t want to mess with her at all. Her push had pains shooting through my shoulders and arms. I sure as hell didn’t want to experience her punch.
But she surprised me with a change in tactics.
She said, “Please.” With tears in her eyes, she put her whole body, mind, and soul into that, please.
I reached out and touched a tear on her face.
What the hell? Following her instructions couldn’t do any harm.
I turned back to the entrance.
I heard my almost new friend screaming, “NOOOOO!”
And then I was hit by hundreds of tiny meteorites, pulverizing me back into space dust.
I woke up in my dorm room, in my bed, screaming my head off.
I didn’t wake Cedric. He wasn’t there. But I probably woke up everybody else on the men’s wing.
I felt for holes and wounds. I pulled up my pants legs, and shirt, looking for blood and scars. There was no physical evidence of the meteorite attack. However, my shoulders hurt like hell.
About 5 minutes later, I had stopped shaking and sweating.
It was 3:03 am.
I slipped on my house shoes and hopped out of bed. I crossed the red line to the women’s wing. I went directly to Orange Tree’s room.
Orange Tree is the only student in the dorm that doesn’t have a roommate. Her father is Sri Lankan, and her mother is African American.
Her first and last names are unpronounceable. I named her Orange Tree because I had a vision of a blossoming orange tree when I first saw her.
The name has stuck.
She, Cedric, and I are the only Blacks in the dorm.
Orange is our campus oracle. Students, staff, and faculty are aware of her reputation for being able to predict the future and interpret dreams.
She also has the highest GPA ever recorded at SJJC.
Shit, if I could see the future, I would be a perfect student too.
As I reached to tap on her door, the door swung open, and Orange beckoned me into her room.
Orange is black beyond reason and comprehension, with blue-black hair that reaches below her waist. She smiles with inviting lips and doe eyes. She is unforgettable.
The oracle will not date Cedric or me. However, the three of us are best friends.
If my grades have really improved, and it is not a clerical error, it is because of Orange’s help.
We sit at her small table, and she serves us tea.
The tea has a bitter-sweet, sea salt taste. Two sips of tea, and I can feel the tension draining out of my body. Two more drinks and I’m calm and ready to tell Orange my dream and ask for her help.
She waves me to silence and says, “You casually abused the women in your life, and you do not expect any consequences?”
“I never abused—”
“Shut up, Hakeem, and listen. Some women are weak for you, and you wounded them severely and walked away without a second thought.”
“No! I have never—”
“Hakeem, wake up and see the pain you have inflicted. Wake up!”
I woke up in my dorm bed. It was 3:03 a.m.
What the fuck! Jesus Christ! What was that all about?
My first instinct was to consult with Orange about my dream, but I’ve already done that, apparently.
My second instinct was to rush down to her room and defend myself against her unfair and untruthful charges.
But she is the oracle.
But she is wrong about me.
Shit! This is 1967. Why does anyone believe in oracles at all?
I’m 23 years old. I just finished four years in the Air Force and two semesters at SJJC.
I have never abused anyone.
My high school girlfriend and I broke up just before I entered the service. I mean, that was a mutual agreement. We’re still friends.
And in the Air Force I, I—wait a minute. Shit, there was the thing with Kace Conner. But that was only a hit-and-miss thing.
I met Kace at the PX, the base store, when I arrived at McGuire, AFB. She was flirty and cute, with an Irish accent as thick as Georgia clay.
We laughed at each other’s bad jokes and puns and agreed to meet at the Smooth Cone ice cream stand after work.
I didn’t expect the little redhead to show up, but she did, and we laughed so hard that we cried and attracted much-unwanted attention.
A lot of White GIs resented seeing Black guys with White girls.
We went to her small apartment in Wrightstown and made mad love until the wee hours.
I thought we were a natural connection.
We had a thing going on for a couple of months. It was sweet.
I promised to take her to Atlantic City for a weekend, but I met someone else.
I honestly forgot about our AC date. Kace called our dorm and left messages, but I didn’t return her calls for a week, and when I did, there was no answer. I went by her place, but she was gone.
I fucked that up. I did. How could I have forgotten about loud, laughing, funny-faced Kace?
But the ginger in my dream didn’t look anything like Kace. She was older, taller, and fierce.
And what about the baby business in my dream? What was that all about? Aw shit! No, no. Kace wasn’t pregnant. I don’t think she was. I fucked up. Shit, I fucked up.
“’ Casual abuse.’ Yeah, that was some cold-blooded shit I pulled on Kace. I never meant to hurt her. I did fuck up there, but I’m not a serial abuser or an intentional abuser.
The woman I met who threw me out of sync with Kace was Loree Loggins, a WAC or Woman in the Air Force.
She was one of two Black WACs on the base. The two sisters were stone foxes, but Loree was lust at first sight. She was super fine, and every Black dude on McGuire and Fort Dix was trying to hit on her.
I had zero chance to meet her until I went to have a tooth filled, and we met face to face coming out of the dentist’s office. We had an instant connection.
Our lips were numb, and our speech was slurred, but we started walking, talking, laughing, bumping, and touching each other.
Jesus, I pinched myself to make sure this was no dream. We passed a base bus and heard a bang, but I paid no attention. A few minutes later, I heard someone yelling my name.
Loree and I turned around, and Ryan Verser, a brother from my unit, was running toward me.
“Hey, nigger, didn’t you hear me calling you. I was on the bus, man. I tried to get your attention.”
“What’s up, Ryan? They call us back to work or something?”
“No, Negro. I didn’t know Miss Fine as Wine in the Summertime was your sister. Introduce me, man.”
Before I could say anything, Ryan introduced himself and stuck out his hand.
Loree shook his hand and asked, “I’m glad to meet you, Airman Verser, but what makes you think we are related?”
“Yeah, Ryan, where in the hell did you get that idea?”
Ryan looked from me to Loree and shook his head. He grabbed us by the arms, tugged us to a big, parked truck, and posed us in front of the passenger side truck mirror.
Loree and I looked and laughed at the passing resemblance.
I turned to Ryan. “Negro, you done interrupted us, met Loree, and you got your story to tell. Now, get back on your bus and leave us the hell alone.”
After some protest and teasing, Ryan left to catch the next bus.
Loree and I had seven days together before she left for her next assignment at Traves Air Force Base in California. We made the most of that week.
I did think about Kace, but it was on Monday after I blew the AC trip.
Loree and I tried the long-distance thing, but we did a little family research. We both had relatives in Atlanta. Loree’s mother took one look at a picture of Loree and me and said, “You two need to quit, yesterday. Shut it down. Whatever it is, you got gone on. Quit it!”
Loree said, “Hakeem, I don’t want to stop. When we are together, it is like a perfect puzzle fit. Forget my Mama and everyone else, okay?”
My mother looked at that same picture and said, “That dirty motherfucker! That two-timing son of a bitch.” Mom ripped the photo into confetti. Mom continued, “Go on and be a sister fucker if you want. But don’t bring her here–ever.”
I didn’t know what to do. I felt like Loree. I didn’t want to stop, ever. But, I mean, what if we had kids and, you know? I mean, what if we were half-siblings? I wasn’t ready for that. I just wasn’t.
I kinda dropped the ball. I wasn’t there for Loree. I left her to deal with that mess on her own.
Yeah, I fucked that up too.
Sometimes I can’t get out of my own way.
Shit! If I’m smart enough to make the Dean’s List, I’m smart enough to find Kace and Loree and try to make amends if they even want to talk to me.
I don’t know, man.
I got gifts, rare and precious, and I shit on them.
I’m going to skip the high tea and talk to Orange.
I got to do better.
I will do better.
5 thoughts on “ A Casual Abuser by Frederick K Foote”
Great look at a conscience. The dream sequences are outstanding.
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Interesting mix of fantastical elements with that 60s ‘vibe’! A great start to the week.
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What the two before me said. As someone who has attempted to write, I know how hard it is to do something original. This qualifies. I’m not sure what is real and what is imaginary here, but I like it.
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The layered dream descriptions are great and avoid cliche brilliantly. Very lucid writing which conveys a sense of chaos of the mind excellently.
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To get so much clarity throughout something so complex is amazing!
All the very best my fine friend.