2 AM in the City: Part 1

Pulling up to Delta's terminal, I swiftly swerved into an empty space designated for pick-ups and drop-offs. Checking the time, it was six minutes to midnight and my nerves were high. Feeling my teeth chatter, I punched the dash in frustration because my freaking blower went out again. Perfect timing, too. Rolling my eyes, I tried to remember where Lonny told me to hit for it to cut back on but I couldn’t. Shivering, I thought back two weeks ago, my mind must’ve been frozen too because I had no recall. Somewhere underneath the glovebox but it didn’t matter because I’d mastered driving around the city with frosted windows. Inhaling the chilled air through my nostrils as I watched a couple reunited hugging and kissing, I instinctively licked my lips and wondered if my future included that. Somebody who missed me enough to display a little public affection. Exhaling sharply, my nose burned from the frosty temperature inside my car. This week alone was hell for me. I had one win and that was moving into my one-bedroom flat in the city. Closer to both my sisters but hard to keep up with on my own and my foolish pride wouldn’t allow me to take a handout from either one of them… So I’d picked up a two jobs, one as a bartender for a prissy pub in Boystown, that only served men under thirty-five so you know me being employed there raised more than a few brows. My classmate, Lenox got me the job and he had to do a couple favors for the owner to even get him to consider me. I didn’t even ask him what he did but he told me I owed him and I knew he would be calling all semester for help with him homework. Another stressful notch added to an unending heap of things I couldn’t seem to shake. Then there was my part-time gig at Walgreens which I prefered since it was right after I clocked out from the pub, in the wee-hours of the morning when the working crowd rose to pick-up small things they’d forgotten on their way into the office. It was alway pleasant in the morning. And I clocked-out from that job just before the lunch rush so I could sleep until nine and do everything over again.
Swallowing as I took in the rarity of having the night off from both jobs, I guess I could count this as another win for the week. Peeking out the window as a randow thought hit, I slapped my palm against the steering wheel, pissed I’d forgotten to stop by Walgreens for a lightbulb. My lamp blew out and I made a mental note, I should’ve known wouldn’t stick because I’d long fried my brain the first time I picked up my first blunt. Long-term memory was more my speed but anything off whim… I could forget it. Smirking as I thought about the unintened pun, BJ came to mind. We’d be doubling over laughing if I said my thoughts out loud to him. Rolling my eyes as I hated myself for keeping him relavant in my thoughts, I coulnd’t help myself. Not speaking to him was something I decided, kind of like a fly-by-night thing and it stuck. Three weeks and here I was, weedless, stressed out, and borederline ready to throw in the towel. Actually, I’d throw in the towel if I had one I could afford to lose. Groaning as I pulled my sunvisor down to look at my face, my eyes were guant, my skin was was washed, and my hair was unkempt and nappily twisted and rolled into a bun at the top of my head. I didn’t even bother to run a comb through it these past two days and my kitchen was knotted and matted. Embarrassing, yes, but I didn’t care. My lack of self was starting to show more, now, since I’d run out of my stash. Cutting off BJ meant I was inadvertently affecting my habit. Something I didn’t plan on doing but had to for the greater good. And I’ve copped from different people to accommodate the lack thereof but nobody really had any good Cali gas. Scratching the top of my head as I looked back out the window, the couple was gone and so were my thoughts of true love—Well, for the moment. I’m a hopeless romantic so these thoughts don’t easily fade.  
Rubbing my elbows as I glanced down at my apperal, everything was frumpy and black. Hoodies, sweats, and leggings unless I was dressed for work. And tonight was no different except I swapped my usual nylon leggings for fleece before it was thirty below and I’d be a fool to come out in anything less. Underneath, I wore panties and an old pair of BJ’s boxers, a tank top under my long-sleeved shirt and hoodie… Which was all covered under my bubble coat, I found on clearance at Bloomingdale’s while I was accompanying Salimah on one of her retail binges. And I know I should’ve dressed warmer considering the condition of my car but I hated the idea of looking like a walking clothes hamper. Funny, right? The girl who couldn’t care less not wanting to look too unattractive. Lifting my phone from my cupholder, a new notification from my Aunt Flow App came through reminding me to drink more water and that I was four days away from my time of the month. Yet, another reason all these L’s were taxing on my spirit. Flipping the notification screen down, I shook my head as BJ’s name appeared thirty-six times. And those were just his missed calls, not including the twenty messages he sent via messenger whenever his Facebook alerted him of my online presence. Which I chose not to turn-off just to be petty. One of Salimah’s many unsolicited tips on how to make a nigga grovel. Smirking as I mentally went over the silly things my sisters and Armeeshia suggested, I wondered if they were right. Salimah was 2-0 with her advice and I followed them unintentionally.
Leaning forward as my elbows dug into my thighs so my palms could support my chin, I thought a little deeper about my current situation. BJ had been a big part of my life for most of my life. I didn’t have friends and I’ve foolishly alienated myself thinking I could always hang with Salimah and she went on and made friends and told I should do the same. Who am I kidding? I’ve never been good at public relations. My level of awkwardness doubled when in the presence of anybody and I couldn’t shake the social anxiety I felt whenever I was put on the spot. Blowing out a breath, I scoffed as my gaze dropped to my ashtray. The guys at the pub usually spoted me something but it was never enough or good enough. Nibbling on my bottom lip as I checked the time, my eyes darted out the passenger’s side window in hopes that I wouldn’t be out here for too much longer. Groaning as I swiped my hand down my face, my hands were as cold as the inside door to an industrial kitchen’s fridge. 
Tap. Tap. Tap. 
Quickly pulling my hand from my face, my cheeks heated instantly. It’s been one month and three days and I’d anticipated this very moment. Feeling my chest tighten as my head filled with air, I was dumbstruck. Feeling like a chicken with its head cut off, I smiled goofily before the sound of Carter’s chuckling sprung me out of my state of fantasy. Knowing I looked stupid as I pulled the handle to my locked door, I grunted, popped the locks then hopped out. Making my way over to Carter, he let go of his roll-on and wrapped both arms around me. He was so warm, my face melted against his hoodie. Exhaling as an unexplanable sense of security washed over me, I closed my eyes and knew this was the feeling I longed for while watching the couple from earlier. Every text, Facebook comment, and late-night Facetime convo pailed in comparison to how I was feeling at this very moment. He smelled like a man should, fresh and fragrant but masculine. It was weird and I don’t like to curse but damn! 
“I missed you, Shawty!” his words had me floating as I pulled back from him so he could open my backdoor. “It’s colder than a bitch!” Carter shivered while closing the door behind him. “Dat chicken spot you took me to, open?” He asked me as I nodded my head, making my way back over to the driver’s side. “You was in here freezin’?” he asked me as I shrugged and twisted my lips. “Why you ain’t talkin’—Don’t pull dat shy girl shit!” 
Cracking a smile, “I’m just taking everything in,” I responded honestly as Carter nodded and got himself situated with his seatbelt.
“Why you sittin’ in da cold?"
Grinding my teeth as Carter put me on the spot, I hated repeating this situation to people… Especially to him.
“My blower went out,” I relunctantly sighed as he nodded then pushed his door open.
“Lemme fix dat shit right quick,” he told me before he pulled his phone from his hoodie pouch and turned on the light. “Knew I shoulda bought a coat…” Carter mumbled as he pulled the glove box open. 
Flashing his light inside, it took him two seconds to do what I’d been trying to remember for the past two weeks. Punching his fist against the inside of the glove box, like magic, the fan motors turned. Exhaling like I’d been waiting my entire life for this moment, I adjusted the heat levels and held my hands up to the cloesest vent to me. Like using fire to melt cheese, the icy bite of frost weathered and I could finally feel the tingling in my fingertips. Shivering as I smiled over at Carter, he grinned and nodded while clicking his seatbelt on. 
“You still hungry?” I didn’t realize how stupid my question was until I finished asking. 
Clenching my jaw as a I averted Carter’s gaze, the moment he laughed, I doubled over too.
“I’m sorry…” I sighed, dragging my hand down my face. “This week—My first day being off in I don’t know how long and technically it doesn’t count as an off day because I gotta go in tonight.”
Dropping my shoulders as I ranted, it felt like I was talking to myself because Carter didn’t say a word. He didn’t even grunt to show me he empathized with me. Putting my car in drive, I pulled off and headed for the city. I had until two to get him something to eat and I’d make it there in fifteen minutes if the boys weren’t out scouting for their monthly quotas.
“How was your flight?” I chose to get off me and focus a little on him to spring up a two-way convo.
Raising his shoulders as he reached behind him to unzip his bag, I twisted my lips wondering if I was a bit hasty inviting him up here to see me in the first place. The man he was two months ago was no present this early in the morning. With a small tin can in his hand, I nosily watched what he was doing and almost ran a red light.
“Told you bout watchin’ my shit,” Carter chuckled as I grinned and rolled my eyes.
Pulling the lid from the tin, it smelled and looked like wave grease but as he twisted the container and popped the open a hidden compartment I giggled as his smile lit up. Revealing what I’d been missing the past three weeks, I could tell by the funk I would enjoy myself tonight. And regret feeling like I shouldn’t have invited Carter here.
“Here,” he paused, sticking the wood in his mouth to light it.
The smoke had goosebumps crawling all over my skin as I salivated in anticipation for my first hit in weeks. Knowing I was thirsty, Carter’s mischivous self toyed around with me, taking his sweet time lighting when he could’ve given me the blunt and let me do it myself. 
“Ladies first.”
Mhmm…” I gently snatched it from his lips as he chuckled and lit another one. 
“You still coppin’ from dat nigga?” Carter wondered as I held my breath to trap the smoke in my lungs while shaking my head to answer his question causing him to laugh. 
Choking as I giggled with him, I cleared my throat and attempted to do the same thing again. Toking longer and inhaling slowly. Keeping the smoke in until my head was lighter and the tension in my neck weakened. This was the relief I needed. 
“I haven’t talked to him in a while,” I told Carter whose face had tightened causing the calm atmosphere to shift. “I think its for the best though,” I shrugged as Carter nodded. “Why you care though—You work out your days with your baby mama?” I wondered as he shook his head. 
“She been on my ass since she seen them messages—“ 
“How did she—“ 
“She went through my shit and calm down cuz I ain’t hit in a minute,” Carter told me as I cut my eyes, turning into the empty parking lot of Big Salem’s Food mart off 71st. 
Grabbing my chin and pulling my face over to his side of the car, I couldn’t even stop myself from cheesing. Being this close to him reminded me of the first I met him. Standoffish, lowkey, and smoking a blunt. Exactly what I wanted to be doing but Salimah and Tyrone were back to their petty ways and she wanted me glued to her hip like my name was Tyler Taylor. I don’t even know why she went out with him in the first place but I’m glad she did, otherwise I never would’ve met Carter and he wouldn’t be here in my time of need, supplying my habit. 
“Fuck you mad for? You wanna focus on your school so none of dis shit should bother you,” his breath was cool and fresh as it hit my face. 
“Did I strike a nerve?” 
“Nah,” Carter cooly shook his head as his tongue ran over his lips. “Cuz I know you ain’t mean dat shit—“ 
“How would you know?” I asked him as he released my face and undid his seatbelt. 
“Cuz you like to hear yo self talk—“ 
“I do not!” I protested, wondering if I came off that way to other people too. 
“A’ight…” Carter shrugged as he pulled from his blunt and nodded, allowing the conversation to end abruptly. 
Not waiting for me to get out, he popped the locks and opened his door. Twisting my lips as I followed his movements, I unhooked my seatbelt, opened my door and ran up behind him. Why am I this nervous? I thought just as Carter stopped before entering the store. Pulling the door open for me, I walked in slolwly, listening to the door ding as his hands slid around my waist causing me to shudder. Taking one step after mine, we walked with my back glued to his front until I could touch the counter top. 
“What can I get for you?"



African American Books,3,African American Interests,2,African American Romance,4,Amani,3,Bankroll Boyz,4,BJ,3,Carter,1,Charli,3,Chicago,7,Dallas,1,Fatima,4,Give Me All of You,1,Nayelis,3,Promising My Love,2,Promising My Love to a Boss,1,Romance,1,Salimah,5,Taylor,2,Torin,1,Torin Taylor,1,Travis Taylor,1,Trita,1,Troy,1,Tyrone,1,Tyrone Taylor,3,Yelly,1,
Characters Welcomed!: 2 AM in the City: Part 1
2 AM in the City: Part 1
Characters Welcomed!
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