Unlike a lot of niggas who are unwillin’ to own the shit they threw out into the universe, I remember the exact moment my ass threw everything away. I own it, not because it’s what all them sad ass, impressionable niggas in The Rooms and rehab preach as one of the first 12 Steps – I own it ‘cause I was actually entirely aware of that shit when it happened. The precise moment I felt my feet slide off the pavement and leave the ground of my nice, secure, much envied life… saw my girl, my family, my highly publicized full basketball scholarship to Georgetown float away from my hands like smoke. I saw my bright and shining future sail away from me like a small ship on a large ocean. All that shit hurt, but nothin’ felt worse, or had as much clarity, as when I sensed God shrugging His shoulders and shakin’ His head. The pain of Him turning His face away from one to whom He’d given so much will stay with me forever. It said I was wretched, that I had seriously fucked up.
Gotta admit, I didn’t see it comin.’ I thought I was satisfied. I thought I was happy. Thought there was nothin’ else in this world that I needed… but I guess I was wrong. Sure, I was under tremendous pressure to perform, sure my girl was givin’ me the business about what she thought I was doin’ in my down time while I was so far away, and sure, my family was lookin’ at me like I’d just struck oil and hangin’ all their hopes and dreams around my neck like I was some kinda strong-ass farm animal, and along with all that, I was strivin’ to keep my G.P.A. up to keep my scholarship, while holdin’ down a part-time job caddyin’ golf clubs for B-list politicians.
Okay… I guess I was foldin’ under the weight on my shoulders. Deep down, where the character is built, I suppose I wasn’t quite as magnificent as everybody kept tellin’ me I was. I thought I was really tryin’ – and I think I was doin’ okay – until I arrogantly made my first mistake. Alright… since I’m ownin’ up, I consciously made that choice, too, and got involved with a girl named Keisha Bellamy against my better judgment. My girl, Cecily, had been right all along. She was right not to trust my ass.
I’d loved Cecily since I was a junior in high school. I’d gone to Georgetown, and Cecily had gone to Tulane. Stupid me I couldn’t wait college out and maybe get married to Cecily and try to build somethin’. Nope, I decided on the spur of the moment that Cecily’s platinum coated ass was too far away to tap. Cecily was beautiful, and she was a nice girl, from a nice family – but if Cecily was a dime, Keisha was a motherfuckin’ silver dollar! When I finally hit it and found out she had diamonds fallin’ outta her ass, I was gone. Hook, line, and sinker I was findin’ it hard to recall Cecily’s face in no time, and her beggin’-ass phone calls were becomin’ extremely annoyin’. I knew I was wrong, and I didn’t need Cecily remindin’ me that I was.
I lost my job in the middle of the first semester of my junior year. That was my fault, too. I guess I was feelin’ a little cocky, and maybe a bit too full of myself – which wasn’t exactly my fault. After all I’m only human. On the court, I could do no wrong – I even earned myself a nickname… Magnificent. There were NBA recruiters sniffin’ hard at me, and there was talk of me being drafted while I was still in college. I stayed in demand on the social circuit. Everybody wanted some of my shine. I even had my professors treating me like I blew rose scented farts. I was most definitely feelin’ myself, and pretty soon I felt like I was the boss. I didn’t have to take shit off anybody anymore.
The order I was given that lost me my job was a small thing, really, but I wasn’t in the fuckin’ mood. The congressman I was caddying for had been playin’ with an attitude all day. He hated losin’ and the dudes he was playin’ with were whippin’ that ass. I guess he needed somebody to take his frustration out on. He wiped the sweat off his fat pampered face, looked at me with his mouth turned down, and told me to ‘fetch’ him a bottle of water. Last I heard, dogs fetched shit and I didn’t have four legs and fleas. I looked him in his face and told him to get his own fuckin’ water and threw his clubs on the ground. I walked away from him with my head held high and my swagger in full effect, but I was secretly hopin’ McDonald’s was hiring, ‘cause I knew I couldn’t afford to be in college with out a job.
I kept my joblessness a secret for as long as I could, but it was hard to make a woman like Keisha happy while tryin’ to front like my pockets were still right. Keisha liked bein’ seen on my arm and right then, I really couldn’t afford to take her anywhere more upscale than the campus coffee shop. I fucked myself twice, bein’ so smart. I lost that caddying job, then I tried to keep Keisha from findin’ out by tellin’ her I didn’t want to go out, I’d rather spend my spare time lyin’ between her brown velvety thighs… which I did on the regular and every chance I got. That was way more than a bad move. It made me fall in love with her, and ultimately that’s what dug me this hole that I can’t seem to get out of.
Okay, well, maybe I can’t blame it all on Keisha… I arrived at the place I am now by way of a fucked up chain of events and remarkably bad decisions. I really made my own bed, so if it’s filled with bedbugs and crumbs and fitted with highly soiled sheets, that’s on me. I may do a lot of dumb shit, but I’m not stupid. I know when I’m makin’ a bad decision. Keisha finally got me to admit that I was no longer collectin’ a paycheck. She told me not to worry while she was sitting on top of me, grinding into me with that hard and aggressive swivel she had firm pressure, but all that heavenly, tight and pliant, silkily wet femininity to make it a completely joyful experience. Keisha told me she had a cousin named Rahmel in Virginia that could put me to work, as she squeezed me into submission with those sugary walls. She said I could make a lot of money with Rahmel, sellin’ weed, coke and some pills – maybe a little bit of smack. I listened as I held her down and pushed myself into her as far as I could, wanting this great and thrilling pleasure to last forever, but looking forward to the greater, much keener, thrill of the release. Keisha mentioned it would be a simple thing and well worth my while. I agreed to do it as I blasted off like I was launchin’ the goddamn space shuttle.
When I met Rahmel, I didn’t need the angel I’d always had sittin’ on my shoulder to holler at me and tell me this nigga was bad news. He reeked of it. I don’t know what I expected, maybe a little dude with ice grills and a flossed out hooptie. That ain’t what I got. Rahmel sent word through Keisha that he wanted to meet me in a really nice seafood place down by the Capitol. The waiter sat me at a round booth near the back, and I was left alone to wait on my company. Looking around, I hoped Rahmel didn’t expect me to pick up the tab. I sat back in my seat and started thinking up subtle, but spectacular ways, to slip out the back door if that seemed to be the case. I doubted I could afford an appetizer in this place.
Rahmel walked in a fashionable fifteen minutes late, wearing a two thousand dollar suit and highly shined gator shoes. I knew who he was immediately, and not just from the loose physical description Keisha had given me. He had two very large, muscular men with him that shadowed his every move as the waiter kissed his ass all the way to our table. Rahmel’s demeanor was calm, elegant, and affable as he made his approach. He had a kingly swagger, and I stood up to kiss his ring myself as he extended his hand to greet me.
“Darryl Ivey? Rahmel Benson. Keisha’s told me a lot about you. Please, have a seat.” Rahmel said smoothly, shaking my hand. I returned his shake, noting this nigga’s hands felt like they rarely got dirty. My balls crept up when I sat down and started to realize Rahmel was no dime a dozen southern drug dealer. This dude was a certified gangster. I started to feel that woozy, drownin’ feelin’, of being in over my head.
Rahmel sat back in his seat and smiled at me - a perfect toothed, slightly sinister smile – and introduced his two friends. “Meet Spike and Brutus. Say hello, fellas.”
They both nodded at me without openin’ their mouths like I wasn’t shit and I kept my mouth shut and nodded back. I gotta be honest with myself and admit I was scared to talk. I wasn’t a bit surprised that these two big-ass pit bull niggas had dog names, and I was convinced they didn’t need the hardware I was certain they were carryin’ somewhere on their person to take my ass out if I moved wrong. My balls crept up a little more. I was surprised that I was more of a scared, bitch-ass nigga, than I previously thought I was.
Rahmel ignored my obvious terror and made his pitch over lobster bisque, prime rib, and copious amounts of a fine red wine that sported a name I couldn’t pronounce. I listened to his offer, but I also ate my ass off. I hadn’t had a meal like that in a long time, and I didn’t know when I’d get one again, so I stuffed it in like I was a fuckin’ hibernatin’ bear… but I managed to keep my table manners. Rahmel was very curious as to what pharmaceuticals would sell on a college campus. I told him pills, weed, and cocaine were very popular. He said he was willin’ to set me up, small at first, to see if it was worth his while. I nodded enthusiastically as I guzzled red wine, and Rahmel said if things, worked out he’d step my game up. We shook hands over the deal and I left the restaurant with my belly full, and without havin’ to pay. I was happy.
I guess I’d been so busy tryin’ to keep my scholarship and stay on the team, I didn’t realize the student body was built in layers and sub-grouped. There were the jocks (of which I was one), the smart kids, the creative kids, the kids that just wanted Georgetown on their resumes, the Goth kids, and the slackers. Those were the layers. The sub-group was all of the above who needed a little somethin’ extra to get by… the drug kids… and there were plenty of them. I might have gone into this thing with huge doubts of how successful I’d be, but I soon found out that I’d had nothin’ to worry about. These kids took to my wide array of illicit goodies like moths to a flame.
If I was popular before, I was now popular to the tenth power. Somebody was always lookin’ for me for somethin’. Coaches, drug-heads, and women – it was crazy. I barely had any time to myself. Everything seemed like it was on fast forward, and I was havin’ a hard time keepin’ up. I did the obvious. I started takin’ a few bennies and sniffin’ a line here and there just to stay the fuck awake. I was way past coffee. Sometimes at night I smoked a little herb with Keisha so I’d be able to sleep. I didn’t do it often just enough to keep myself even. It was no big deal. I could handle it. I’d never really fucked with drugs before, but I found they were highly enjoyable… in moderation, of course.
Rahmel sent Brutus or Spike around every Saturday mornin’ to collect and bring me more drugs to sell. Business was boomin’. I even had kids comin’ over from Howard lookin’ for me. We were makin’ money hand over fist, and everything was beautiful. However, things don’t stay beautiful without hittin’ a few snags along the way. When Cecily showed up out of the blue, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Everything came to a screechin’ halt. I quickly sequestered her in my dorm room and told Keisha that I had a family emergency and I had to leave town for a couple of days. I wasn’t sure if she believed me or not, but I didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit around and think about it.
Cecily didn’t seem to mind bein’ locked up in my room with me like that. In fact it seemed like that’s what she’d been hopin’ for. She spent most of her time with me lookin’ at me with big, sad, eyes and layin’ it down on me hard. She didn’t want to lose me, but the cold fact of the matter was I didn’t want her anymore. I’d outgrown her and she seemed real simple to me. Bein’ the man that I am, I obliged her need by diggin’ her back out as deep as I could, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I wasn’t feelin’ her anymore and I just wanted her to be gone. Cecily had become a nuisance. I was wonderin’ how I’d tell her.
I could have spent the time I wasted tryin’ to dream up a way to tell her to get lost doin’ somethin’ else. Sometimes things have a habit of workin’ themselves out, no matter how ugly or distasteful. Or hurtful Cecily showed up early Thursday mornin’. When Friday night rolled around and her ass still wasn’t gone, I started to panic because I knew Rahmel would be sendin’ one of his boys around in the mornin’, and I definitely didn’t want her here for that. I did everything I could to get her out of there short of just throwin’ her the fuck out. I even stooped real low and did a line in front of her and smoked a joint, fully aware of her low tolerance for drugs. Cecily dug her heels in and refused to leave, sayin’ she’d stand by me, and beggin’ me to go to rehab. I laughed in her pretty face and went to take a shower. It wasn’t that serious.
Saturday mornin’ came and she was still there, beggin’ and pleadin’. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I started screamin’ on her that I was done. To just get the fuck out. It was anger born out of frustration, but the crux of it was I really didn’t want her to be there when Spike or Brutus showed up, because I knew my family would find out about this shit in no time. Now I knew why people killed people on Investigative TV. Desperation was a motherfucker. The third time I told her I didn’t love her anymore, she left. One of the last decent parts of me felt profound remorse for treating Cecily like that, but it didn’t live in my head long. I was way too relieved that she was actually gone and my secret was safe from my family – but I’d temporarily forgotten one very important thing that I’d been taught all my life. God sees everything you do and reacts accordingly. I should never have done that to Cecily, ‘cause everything was all downhill from there.
As promised, Rahmel stepped my game up according to my supply and demand. Now I was really burnin’ the candle at both ends. To my horror, I was beginning to rely on the amphetamines and coke to get me through the day. A day without them was a day spent in bed tryin’ to recover from the crash, so I took ‘em anyway. What could it hurt? I didn’t miss practice, I still had decent grades, I could still run my dope game, and I could still fuck Keisha ‘til she screamed for Jesus. What could it hurt?
I’ll tell you what it could hurt. The Hoyas had a big game with U Conn. I was rulin’ the court and shuttin’ niggas down, scorin’ big and often. Every time the ball was in my hands, people started chantin’ my name. Mag-ni-fi-cent!Mag-ni-fi-cent! But U Conn was playin’ hard, too. Tied almost to the buzzer. I caught the ball and ran down the court at top speed and leapt into the air like my name was Michael Jordan, the crowd was on their feet and goin’ crazy screamin’ for me with that chant. Mag-ni-fi-cent! Mag-ni-fi-cent! The last thing I remember was my hand hittin’ the rim and the ball goin’ in the basket… then everything went black.
I’d taken two bennies and sniffed up a small bag of coke before that game. I went into it with my heart beatin’ too fast, and I knew it. But I couldn’t back out. I had obligations and appearances to make… and I couldn’t let my team down. The game was too important. When I woke up in the emergency room, my coach was sittin’ in a chair next to me, lookin’ at me like I was the biggest piece of shit he ever saw in his life.
“I’m not even going to discuss the reason you’re in here, Ivey,” he said, in thin-lipped anger. “I’m just going tell you you’re on probation. I’m doing you a personal favor by not sending your dumb ass home right now. If your piss comes back dirty when I have you tested again, you’re fucking going home. Do you understand me? I’ll expose you, and you’ll be ruined.” He got up and left before I could even answer him. I thought that was my lowest level, but my biggest mistake was yet to be made.
Rahmel had stepped my game up, alright, and now I was sellin’ a little heroin now that it had come back in vogue. One day, I was sittin’ in my dorm room alone, feelin’ sorry for myself and tryin’ hard to kick the bennies and the coke. Yeah, I said kick. It was exceedingly hard to get through the day without them, so I wasn’t really off that stuff. I thought the wisest thing for me to do was to wean myself off of it, so I wouldn’t be so agitated. Keisha happened by uninvited, and watched me for a long time. Compassion was on her face, but perhaps somethin’ else lived in her heart. I didn’t actually realize Keisha was no damn good until she left me that night. Suffice it to say, that’s when I made my biggest mistake. I let her mainline me ‘cause she said it would calm me down, and wouldn’t stay in my system long. It calmed me way down. I liked being calm after all the feverish activity in my life. I didn’t have to think about shit when I was in a nod. I liked this high best of all. It became my absolute favorite.
Sure, I could sit here on my piece of cardboard on the platform of the Spring Street station of the subway as I watch the rats run to and fro, while people look at me with detached disgust and blame all my fuckin’ troubles on that bitch, Keisha. But I won’t. All that shit happened ten years ago and I still haven’t chased this monkey off my back. I lost everything, and it’s all my fault. My girl, my scholarship, a promisin’ career in the NBA… and the most hurtful thing of all… my family.
I was tired of livin’ this life, but there was always a way out, and that was a conscious decision, too. Pushin’ my funky little change cup out of the way, I stood up and walked to the edge of the platform as the number six train came in. Sure wish I could have heard the crowd yell Mag-ni-fi-cent one more time. I stepped off the edge.