SBE excerpt 2:2

Love To The Max

I reflected on Bliss’s claim to Barbra that she did not need A Man; he needed her. That bit of knowledge came too late. If I had deduced this as we left the ballroom, Bliss would still be alive. I never realized that her being out of control was not an act.


Girard and I left the Student Union Building and headed left to the larger of the two parking lots. Though a conservative campus, Semline allowing students to have liquor for certain top-shelf, on-campus events turned a pricey, catered ball into a spirited jam like atmosphere. To get the liquor license organizations had to use the catering services of a local brick-and-mortar establishment with a liquor license.
We trailed Attitude and Bliss by two steps. At that time my mind entertained the weirdest thoughts. Those two, Attitude and Girard were the only people I ever got into trouble with, and this had been going on for a decade. I really didn’t know Bliss. She attended Semline so I never saw her on a daily basis or enough to determine her true nature. I followed Devon’s take since he attended Semline and knew her since their freshmen year. At first, he thought the world of Bliss, but lately, slowly I began to see how he looked at her. That night, I began to understand that suspicious gaze, the same one I used in measuring Attitude and Girard. I might have to kill these fools, that thought danced around my head.
Classic example of why - Girard’s antics as we walked to our cars. He used Sound to talk real bad about Bliss. He tested to see whether she would speak up and give way the fact that she knew our code, something as a woman she should not. Don’t get me wrong! Some outsiders knew and used our code. Most times, they did not know we were Max boys.
How had they learn our sound?
Our sound started in the nineteenth century and it evolved over the years. Since we once had a sister organization, living members taught it to their children. Add to that the number of people who spent time studying us, spying us.
I figured Bliss got Sound from Attitude. Since he should not have taught her, she didn’t count on Attitude telling us. I rarely used Sound so I knew I never said anything private around her.
So G sounded and talked of how we should get Bliss real drunk, give her lots of cocaine and after we fuck the shit out of her, drown her in the bathtub. Or we could simply make sure she overdosed and died. Where should we ditch the body? The last time he killed someone it was at Barrington and he knew those woods inside out. That the risk of getting caught with a dead girl in his trunk out here in Semline did not sit well with him.
I waited for Bliss to turn around and say something. I could tell by her stuttered gait some of what G said gave her second thoughts of coming with us.
The parking lot looked to be that of a large stadium. We arrived later than most so we parked further out from the building than Attitude. As he opened the passenger side for Bliss, G grabbed the back of her forearm and said, “Yo, let Bliss ride with us!”
She turned and punched him real hard in the chest. “You’re a real asshole, you know?”
Girard laughed first then grabbed Bliss into his arms. “Why you fronting like you don’t have Sight and Sound?”
“I don’t know. I guess I knew you were just trying to be funny.”
“S&S is some real dangerous shit! Don’t ever use it! If you hear people using either, do not react! Got it?” She nodded as if not taking the warning too seriously and she hadn’t, since a week later, she shouted “I don’t need a man. A man needs me”  in a room full of strangers.
G could tell she had no intention of heeding his warning so he shook her, “GOT IT?”
“Yes.” I barely heard her though we all stood less than one foot of each other. Then G turned to Attitude, “Yo, I hope you haven’t forgotten how dangerous love can be.”
A brief pause while they stared at each other; the first to nod would basically state the other could have top ranking at this point. Again, I thought of my gun, in the rental’s glove compartment. Girard broke the stalemate and nodded first.
Attitude kept rank. He pulled off by the time we got to our car. He hit the horn twice then once, meaning he was in room 21.
After such a festive night, at a little after two in the morning, I heard of not one after-party. Some people made the drive to either of the neighboring schools, my alma mater, Barrington, or to Attitude’s alma mater, TGI. I had become familiar with Semline and its rhythm from various visits. Tonight the empty streets spoke of the town people’s fear of the event Devon organized. Though not outwardly hostile, the town never got comfortable with too many Blacks congregating in one place. Unlike the actual town, with its focus on blending science with the spiritual world, Semline College never bought into the racial disharmony at any point during its existence. The campus hosted spiritual retreats while embracing science and engineering as its key subject areas. It once served as a sanctuary for fugitive slaves and many in the abolition movement.
My mood asked only for Jack neat and substances to heighten the sensation. If the Jack’s burn proved to be too much, I would take my drinks on the rocks. Of course, I would puff some weed and snort a little blow. I wanted to fly, away from my troubles, thoughts of Diane, killing my best friends, and the war I declared.
As I parked the car far away from Room 21, on the other side of the motel, G made to speak but I just shook my head from side to side. I did not want to hear his input. He should know we did not want to be seen in a place Shady Side motel. There could be so many misinterpretations if someone drove by and saw us alone. So many more, if someone saw us with Attitude and Bliss. Nothing that happened at Shady Side motel lent itself to an easy explanation.
Perhaps in its early years, because the town had no trees in its three other sides, the name and location represented solitude, rest, and such imagery. Over the years, development went away from the motel so this side of town now looked like a ghost town; mostly old-timers lived there. Students found on this side were usually up to no good. Whatever the shenanigan, it had to be kept so low, not even death should bring it up. As pledges we came here, for pledging purposes, and other times to hide liaisons with women.

Bliss looked real good but I never really dug her like that, nor was I one of those guys who wanted to immediately befriend her and treat her like a sister. Since most folks gave her a passing grade, I must’ve missed something when it came to what kind of draw she had.
When we entered the room, Bliss had already reverted to her animated self, seemingly dismissing G’s warning about Sight and Sound, and his standoff with Attitude. I pegged her as a hardheaded broad but that did not faze or affect me, as long as she kept me out whatever hair-brained scheme that made her think being here with the three of us was a necessity.
I sat in one of the desk chairs near the small table. A few feet away a lone standing lamp illuminated the room. The local Top 40 stations played “Girls just wanna have fun!” Yeah, how appropriate! Bliss alternated between singing and lip-syncing. In between she took off her clothes, not suggestively, but more like the way one undressed after a hard day of work. She got down to her bra and panties then headed to the bathroom and closed the door. As she ran a shower, we each prepared our drug of choice. A and I compared who had the better grade of cocaine. His caused less drip so we stood on those lines. By now we had taken off our formal shirts and we all sported white t-shirts or tank tops, and our tuxedo slacks. The way the scene played out, with no one sweet-talking her, meant Bliss controlled this scene.
I still was not with it. To me, she was really saying nothing.
She came out of the bathroom, wearing the motel’s cheap bathrobe. I wondered if she still had panties on. She dried her wet hair with a towel. G offered a pull of the blunt, and she turned it down. “Don’t tell me you don’t smoke weed!” Then as if he had come to some sort of recollection, G added, “Word! When we were pledging, all the other girls were boozing and generally going hard on the drugs. You sought protection from Ted.”
Ted was number six in our pledge class. A seventh generation MAX boy and the only other from our pledge class who stayed out of the war I declared, he stayed out, not because he didn’t have my back but because he hated the method.
Bliss balked, “Protection? I didn’t seek protection. We connected.”
G laughed. “Then why you dumped him a few weeks after we went over?”
Her raised voice shrieked as if mortified that people thought that. “We were never dating.”
G messed with her, needling her on two fronts. One, he asked questions to which we had all already jumped to our own conclusions as to what happened. Two, we made sure no one polluted Bliss during the pledge period. Devon went to Ted and told him to make sure Bliss did not get involve and stayed unaware of anything that happened during the pledge process. Devon did this at the very beginning of the underground process and he did it again once we surfaced. G knew this, but he wanted to know if Bliss could handle herself in a dangerous situation.
Up to that night, I voted no.
The room had two full-sized beds. A and G held similar poses on separate beds, back to the headboard, drug of choice in hand and staring at nothing in particular. The room’s quietness felt like a stalemate, and truthfully, we could have left without doing anything and it would have been OK with everyone. Deep down, we loved Bliss like we would our queen! To hear us talk, the game of chess came to mind, with its allusions to warfare and capturing the king.
Bliss also saw it this way. She thought herself as a queen who had to make the power moves.
But MAX life and war differed from chess. We kept our queens protected, in the dark, away from our dark side. Most MAX boys married ultra-good girls because we knew how we could be. That lone point confounded me and many others, on why I dated Diane. Many claimed she would be impossible to reform so I settled on only wanting to hold her hand and steady her gaze, for her to fully realize what she had in me was not worth losing.
I could tell Bliss felt the same about Attitude. She wanted him to veer to a path where money coupled with fame superceded everything he wanted to accomplish in life. A’s withdrawn eyes meant he’d rather be anywhere but here, and I wanted his voice to say it. “Yo, A where you at?”
Attitude answered in code. “Next Saturday is the closing of my show. After that I go to Switzerland and tour Europe for a while.”
His speaking in code made no sense since we all knew Sound. “Yeah, I stopped by there one afternoon. Did the gallery tell you?”
“Good shit!”
“Thanks bro!” He nodded as he spoke, and I nodded back. The MAX nod served as both a salute and communication symbol. The simple sentences spoken in code told why Bliss chose us. Attitude had decided to step out of the MAX life and go neutral. This new mission meant he may never come back, or at least no time soon.
A woman for life. A man you can trust with your wife.
We talked in simple sentences that had two meanings. A woman for life. If your life is in trouble, you don’t call your woman unless it’s for her to call for backup. Life represented what she gave, as in your child, your legacy. A man you can trust with your wife. Sex was nothing to us. If you sexed a brother’s wife, you tell him. But you should never sex a brother’s wife unless he gave you permission.
With Attitude leaving for good and The Outsiders unable to hold top ranking, leadership in our chapter would be up for grabs. That night became more interesting, but I still remained on the sidelines.
G shifted the conversation, “Yo Bliss what you think of us MAX boys? Really think of us!”
“You guys are very dangerous. But most times the danger is to yourselves.”
Only G laughed. Some people lived for danger. Include G in that group. Bliss had chosen tonight as her audition. I knew of no reason why she would want to get in deeper with us. With Attitude leaving, she could simply go back to a normal life the way the other little sisters had. Yes, Sight and Sound made that difficult; the knowing of one and possibly more hidden languages being spoken around you. Positioning herself as an adversary to MAX life showed her involvement to be more than she let on. She appeared to be the force behind Attitude going on a dangerous mission by pretending to be neutral, shortly after his name became billboard and print material. The brother always had name recognition, but to be out there in bright lights in the big city contradicted his style. She probably facilitated or challenged him. And, if I peeped that, so had G.
With G’s ambition, a woman like Bliss who liked danger would serve him well. Kool, he could have her. But he really could not, at least not in the open. He had a main girl. True, she lived in a different state, but everyone knew she would be back. It’s like G’s girl maintained the distance so he could get this whole being a MAX neophyte out of his system.
So that left me. Not to necessarily be Bliss’s man, but to provide the cover for G, the next king. OK, but she had to tell me something. Being near naked with three men in a motel room and playing with G’s toes, slowly working her way to him, the soft kisses on his face, slowly working her way down, as he puffed the smoke into the air, I’d seen similar scenes and she was really saying nothing. I didn’t know she floated on that high a skill level or whether G’s excitement had gotten the better of him but his first nut cracked in damn near record time. He said, “Damn, girl, you go hard! High five baby!”
Chick actually gave Girard a high five! Then she headed to the bathroom and I could hear the water running and the sound of a mouth being rinsed. “Yo G, pass me the blunt! You want some of this?”
“Yeah, OK! Like I’m really gonna put that shit up my nose. But you could pour a brother some Jack!”
“Neat or Rocks?”
Girard took it straight. The music went from bad to worse, but as Bliss made her way back into the room, the DJ threw a little flavor. I feel good… She started talking about how she loved James Brown’s music. G interrupted her, “You should let me hit it to this beat.”
“You’re not hitting anything.” G only laughed, as if knowing he would soon enough. Not letting a silent moment sink in, she pulled Attitude’s left foot. “But you can hit it anytime.”
Attitude laughed and I tried to catch his eyes but Bliss taking off the robe blocked my sight lines. First she faced forward and straddled him. As the pace increased and he gripped her lower back, she slowed him down by doing a slow one-hundred-eighty degree spin. In this new position she faced me. I returned her stare, my eyes saying nothing. You ain’t really saying nothing. Yeah, I meant to be real hard on chick. She put on a real good show. I had seen professionals who couldn’t flow the way Bliss handled herself once we got into the room. Now her up and downs kept perfect measure of his length and girth. The only moans came from him. We were all friends but she communicated something devious; she eliminated all my preconceived notions that sex meant more for a good girl. Even after all this, I still saw Bliss as a good girl. Even after G asked Attitude to move her this way, so she could be on the bed on all fours, while each stood pole position on opposite sides.
Sex was sex, but did she see it as a commodity to buy our loyalty?
Were G and I loyal to her before this? Yes.
Would G be more loyal to her after this? Yes. Sex does transcend. They came in her simultaneously but on opposite ends. Sex transcended because of the mask that had been removed. To be naked and say I will do anything for you. I will even love you.
I admired the way she came to us, with no hurdles for us to jump. She came to us the way we approached women and asked them to join us in our struggle – straight no chaser, whether our struggle be the curves to multiply quickly and then disappear, or the straight shot of one night filled with simple brushstrokes.
But I still remained unfazed. As she returned from the bathroom, no longer pretending to need a robe, she seemed spent. Then I realized the dim bulb under the lamp’s yellowing shade caused me to see Bliss in silhouette, now that she had turned off the background light from the bathroom. Her subtle curves including the arch in her lower back and the graceful manner she moved hinted, not at remorse, but a deep contemplation.
Attitude set himself to leave. After buttoning his shirt and putting on his jacket, he nodded to G and tossed her his car keys. Then he pronounced the words, “G has rank. Here are my car keys! Get home safe.”
Not sure why he bypassed me since I technically should have rank, but I wondered on the transparency of my demeanor and look, whether I gave way to my thinking, that I might have to kill Bliss. But, A had made it known, no matter what this Bliss chick did, she had standing as his wife, drove his vehicle, and he personally guaranteed her safety. Had he left the broad’s transport to our doing, not given Girard top ranking, who knew what could be? The hit I took from Diane earlier that night further confirmed my distrust of ambitious women. That type of episode, in a dump like Shady Sid motel you cannot trust to an ambitious woman, especially one as sharp as Bliss. Her ambition rivaled Girard’s who summoned her, “Yo, come here for a second!” She went to him. “Have a drink!”
She sipped then came to me for a refill. I barely looked at her. She took the drink on the rocks and went back to the bed next to G. Lying on her side, I could not see but her motion clearly indicated the use of her right hand to work him back up. Minutes passed and then he stood up; t-shirt still on, dick unable to point to the ceiling but holding enough energy to be parallel to the ground. He discarded the pants from around his ankles, while reaching in his jacket pocket for a three-pack of condoms. At first, he banged away in the missionary like he was just trying to let one go, then her slow up and downs relaxed him.
These fools started making love. These motherfuckers!
Their sounds went from the slap happy, quick-rhythm bumps of unskilled or rushed lovers to slow circular gyrations mixed with the rise and fall of two people opening up wider in their effort to consume one another. This sequence went for a good twenty minutes. Next they kissed, long, deep passionate tongues, sucking each other, looking into each other’s eyes. Every now and then, I could hear their whispers though the words remained inaudible. She moved her hands slowly from his wrists to his elbows, shoulders then back. Her hold on him grew stronger, and then I could hear her fighting it, as if this whole episode was not for her benefit. That she should not be affected by it, especially not through pleasure. She stifled her own breath, tried to throw his rhythm off, sped up the pace so she could throw his rhythm off, or him out of her. But she couldn’t.
A little more time went by then the second part of the frat call and response, “MAX Beta!” Simultaneous orgasms.
Girard took about a minute before getting off her. Bliss’s expression bawled it to be the longest minute of her life, not because of his physical weight but because she came, perhaps to the realization that sex could not move a MAX boy. As he got up, she rolled her body sideways to avoid his eyes. He turned her chin and looked at her. “I love you, Bliss.”
Bliss had come to the realization that only love, real unflinching love moved a MAX boy.
A slight pause confirmed her confusion. He really didn’t expect her or need her to say it. In the silence, they could hear me snort a line of coke. In the silence, I heard a faint sound: most likely the quick beat of her heart. “I love you too, Girard.”
As he walked to the bathroom, he shouted, “It’s all love, baby. It’s all love.”
The sound of the shower gave her enough of a window to confide in me, to explain this shift in behavior. As far as I knew she was not in trouble, and this was not her type of scene. She knew we would not tell anyone about this – what she did would stay here and die here. But, why did she want to do this, be this? She had to tell me something. My watch showed five in the morning. The sun would soon rise. Though the motel had a noon checkout time, I planned to be long gone. Bliss stayed under the covers. We ignored each other. The bathroom to her back, she stared blankly at the curtains of the window facing the parking lot. When G came out the bathroom, his eyes met mine but he did not look at Bliss. His subtle code of affirming Bliss to be kool with him and that she could sleep here. “Damn, Ern! You still hitting that bottle and standing on lines?”
His voice did not startle her but it sounded an alarm in her. She got out of the bed, showing that nude, nicely shaped body. Girard dressed in T-shirt and boxer briefs and made ready for bed. She rubbed his stomach, “You’re good?”
“I’m well. Thank you for a great evening, sis.”
She smiled and thanked him then walked to the bathroom. Seconds later, she started the shower. G got into the bed.
My words rushed out, “Yo, you’re staying here?”
“Yeah this room is paid for. What’s the point of going to look for a place to sleep? We’ll get a room across town tomorrow.”
We whispered, in case Bliss tried to play slick and listened at the door. “What about her?” I pointed to the bathroom. “Is she staying or leaving?”
“That’s up to you. She’s still here only because of you.” My face must have told him I had no clue on how he figured that. “Talk to her, man! She was really pissed when she heard what Diane did.”
“How does she know?”
“Not only did word get around the grapevine. She also has S&S.” I frowned at the thought the grapevine had gotten word about the man in my bedroom. Diane cheating embarrassed others, especially SUM women, but the man in my bedroom hurt me and MAX only. “Yo, you said put the word out. I didn’t put that part out, but people got their sources. And, that’s the main reason I told you we should have killed…”
“Shut up with that nonsense!”
At that, G just rubbed his face with both palms, used them to brush his hair back and let his back fall to the bed. “Good night, man!”

Bliss came out five minutes later. She sat at the table and greeted me as if seeing me for the first time of a new day. “Hi Ernest.”
OK, I’ll play along, I thought. “Hi Bliss. How’re you doing today?
“I’m sorry about what happened earlier. You know I did it for you.”
“Really?” I bought time as I knew this chick planned on trying to run game on me.
“I heard about what happened and since you MAX boys flow the way you do, I wanted to know why you feel it’s so bad for a woman to flow that same way. I mean if you were in a motel and had sex with three women, what would be wrong with that?”
“I’m not puzzled by the sex. Only why you are acting out of character.”
“Have you forgotten the Free Love Society?”
“No, they’re the girls who you got to help us after all the other females left.”
“And, the things they did with the pledge line and some of the big brothers.”
I tried to keep the conversation on one track. “They’re not the first. Every line it’s the same thing.”
“Probably so! But they helped you guys because I was a member, not because of MAX. Don’t get me wrong, they grew to love you guys and you’ve bonded. But as a society our love has always been free.”
“Yeah, but the word on you was that…”
She broke in, “I know the word on me but love is not sex, nor is sex love. So, don’t hold that against Diane. Something must be happening with her or to her.”
“What? I’m supposed to go home and make everything nice?”
“No, I told her not to expect that…”
My anger rose on its own. “What! You called my girl?”
“Yes. And she’s scared, Ernest, and not necessarily of you. She’s scared, Ernest.”
With three neighboring schools, people who you often thought were strangers did have their linkages. And this Bliss chick knew something. “What did she say?”
“I tried to pry it out of her, but she didn’t say anything. That’s why I know something is wrong. All she kept saying was that when you get back, she will talk to you and you will understand. Do you?” She grabbed my hand. I didn’t say a word or offer a reaction. “I don’t either, but together maybe, perhaps I can help you understand.”
Bliss leaned over and gave me a soft peck on the lips. I backed away, letting go of her hand and avoiding the eye contact. She picked up the folded dollar bill and the straw and did a line of coke. Virgin nose. She shivered and held back the sneeze. “The cut is harsh, not like Attitude’s.”
“He’s never given me cocaine.”
“Then why are you doing it now?”
“There are things I have to become immune to.”
“Not this! This shit will take you.” I grabbed the blow out of her hand.
“Can you roll me a joint?” I shot her a funny look. “I have smoked before.”
Thoughts of Diane tried to come to me, but there sat Bliss trying to plead Diane’s case. The way Diane and I drank the hard stuff, smoked small joints, did a line here and there. Diane grew up a hard chick; I met her that way. She got harder after pledging SUM. Something about beautiful women who stood firm always bewitched me, and Bliss knew it. Danger always lurked around the MAX life and though she flirted with it, she never embraced danger. That night she wanted to sleep with danger. So I grabbed her hand to get her full attention. I communicated with her using only sight: Bliss, to sleep with danger, you have to dance with hate, pelvis to pelvis, a slow grind with your back against a scraggy wall. White panties stained because two fingers poked through the sides. After that point, no more needed be said. Only one who could save you was your God.
Bliss sat on my lap, facing me. I was partially limp so we moved slowly. Her kiss felt soft, yet very wet and hungry. She had no smell, except that of the motel’s industrial soap. I began to feel this chick, the way she wound her hips to an island rhythm, one closer to how couples danced calypso near a party’s end, no longer showing off fast unbridled movements, and more focused on grinding pubic regions so there’d be no need for foreplay once the clothes came off. I achieved the rock hard-on I sought and it took every bit of self-convincing I could muster not to go into her raw dog style. After I slid the condom down to the base, she reassumed the position of rump on lap, the flat of feet against the wall’s dingy white paint, with me holding her elbows for motion. Slip. Slide. She took it all the way in. Through the wetness, I understood the wilderness, the underbelly of a man’s subconscious, the reason governments formed. To have a species running with no order while knowing this side of bliss rested deep within every woman, humans would be extinct through sheer lack of progress due to over-copulation, overpopulation. Our sex metamorphosed from an exploration or even a destination; it inclined into an effort to distance ourselves from the banality of our existence. She now moved up and down, not the high bounce of quick hits and misses and high climaxes, but the passionate stir of a bowl allowing needy, prowling fingers to probe for mouths eagerly waiting to lick its mix. Though I had not looked at the clock when we started, I sensed time moving more rapidly than sixty ticks per minute. I felt like the walls around me had been built of my own designs and were now allowing me to transmute matter. To have my form merge into it, to either stay in or come out the other side. And this woman, this queen needed my loyalty. Not to always be there; perhaps to never again be with her, but to simply understand the danger around me. And, to face it head on.

I did not remember falling asleep and neither did Bliss. We probably would not have awaken save for G’s voice. “Yo, y’all still at it?”
She woke, turned toward G’s voice then back at me. The tranquility in her eyes embraced me and I knew it to be a reflection of mine. She nodded to me and I back at her. Then she got up. Though mostly limp, enough blood flowed so that the condom had enough support to still be on. I had fallen asleep in Bliss, and the nonchalant manner she moved while taking casual clothes from her small travel bag showed the coolness that had embraced me. She folded last night’s clothes into the bag then went to the bathroom with her toothbrush and paste. G and I didn’t speak because mere words could not describe the feeling. Bliss.
She came out of the bathroom and noticed the quiet. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing.” We both said at the same time.
“I’ll see y’all at the family picnic later. Ok?”
We nodded and she left. Strangely enough We did not compare notes nor did we speak of our time in Bliss. Ever. We took turns showering and ironing our clothes, without uttering a word about how we felt. The secret rendezvous so foreboding, we even snuck out the room’s window to get back to the car. We may have felt changed, but Shady Side Motel still implied sleazy escapades.