D. Alexandria aka Glitter
Never in my life would I have thought I’d regret my career. Before this year, if you told me there would be a time I would seriously be considering getting out of the game, I would have fallen off my chair laughing along with my peeps. That just wasn’t conceivable. I’ve worked too hard to make it just to say no to it all. My career was my number one priority; nothing else came before it. It was my lover and child. And as soon as I made the decision that it was what I wanted to do, I gave it my all and never looked back.
Well, I was looking back now. And every scene that passed in my mind showed painful holes. Every interview, every award---every moment that I was in the limelight had one big hole standing beside me. A hole that I never noticed, purposely ignored or didn’t think needed to be filled. But damn…now I knew. And now I had to think. I had to think what was more important to me: Risking my career by allowing myself to be happy and be with the woman I loved, or turn my back on her and ultimately myself.
And here I was, on the balcony of a hotel suite, smoking a blunt, staring out at the Los Angeles skyline, just thinking. Part of me wanted to quietly pack a bag and just walk out. But I had to be realistic. In order to get out I’d have to get past my crew partying in the main suite, then my bodyguards outside the suite door, and then the various hotel staff who knew my ass was here. Hell, if I managed to get that far, I’d have to walk the streets and pray that I wouldn’t be noticed.
My eyes settled on the large billboard picture of my face on the next building. Oh yeah, leaving unnoticed would be easy. I had just finished a last minute promotional shoot for a magazine layout, and was laying low with my crew before a much needed vacation. Christmas time was normally a relief for me, cuz I got to spend time with my moms, who I didn’t get to see as often as I would like. But I had more on the brain. I had decisions to make; big ones that could affect everything I worked so hard for.
I took a hit, closing my eyes as I let my head fall back, praying for the weed to separate all the unnecessary shit from what was important, hopefully enlightening me to what I needed to see, so I could make the right decision. God, what I would give to be able to talk to Alexus right now. I found it ironic that whenever I needed to get through hard decisions like this, the first person I’d call would be Alexus. Her comforting, rugged voice, full of open ideas and objectivity, always seemed to make everything so damn clear. The reason it was straight irony was because even though this was the toughest situation I had to face, she was the one person I couldn’t call. She was the reason for my contemplation.
See…shit wasn’t supposed to go down like this. For the past eight years I had successfully avoided this exact situation. I knew what my goals were, putting on blinders to all other distractions. In order to be successful in this business, you couldn’t be distracted by relationships. Relationships made you want to be stable in one spot. Relationships made you want to include that person in everything you ever wanted and dreamed of. And I’m sorry; I just didn’t have time for that shit cuz I knew what I wanted.
Or at least I thought I did. Now I don’t know what I want.
Fuck, it used to be so easy. All I had to do was pick up the mic and the decisions were made for me. As soon as it was in my hand, anything unnecessary would filter out and the words would just flow. The mic was what I knew. It was basically the only thing I really knew well. I sweated, bled, and beat all the odds to be taken seriously. I spent years and all my hard earned money by working odd jobs to make my own demos and shop them around to radio stations, clubs, and all the record labels I could think of. And when I finally got my big break at eighteen, I thought I had it made.
Don’t get me wrong, I did make it. I was living large and enjoying all the perks, but shit, I won’t lie. The game is not easy. Behind the money, the cars, the house, the fame and the recognition is little sleep, constantly being on the road or in the studio, and promoting yourself on some level. And, of course, the loss of privacy. I don’t really belong to myself anymore. Before I signed on the dotted line, Jared Nicholson, my manager, and the CEO of the record label was straight up in telling me that I wouldn’t really own my image. “Pandora” would “belong” to the public. And, at the time, it seriously didn’t matter to me. All I could think of was the big pay off; getting my name out there, having my words heard, and finally no longer having to worry about money. The ultimate was being able to look at my moms and tell her that she wouldn’t have to work three jobs anymore and she could finally own a home and be able to breathe. She supported me from the beginning, even giving me my stage name, and I wanted to give back everything I could.
All of that was in my head as I signed that contract. I knew who I was. I was Pamela Irving, and knew the image of Pandora was basically the real me: loud, in-your-face, confident, independent and unapologetic. I was set with who I was, so why would I need to worry about the public “owning” my image? It’s not like I had to apologize for being a bit hard. Most MCs had that thug-for-life image. They made it and were successful and happy being themselves. I wasn’t that extreme, but I was still gonna stay true to who I was. And who I was, was what you got. No worries.
Except I was gay.
I stubbed out the blunt and lit a cigarette, remembering my “coming out” conversation with my boy Vocal, who I knew as Frankie growing up. He sweated along with me, co-producing all my tracks. We worked so damn well together and he was my best friend, the only person I could truly trust. He had been the newest kid on our block, having come from Virginia only a couple of years before and still had that southern twang when he talked. He always wanted to be a producer, and would spend all his free time working on his music with the hand-me-down turntable and other equipment his older brother had given him, keeping an ear out for guys who he thought could balance his unique art. But to his surprise, the only person he found that could was me…a chick. We were both thirteen, one day having a discussion after school on rappers and rapping styles that we liked, when he let it slip. He wouldn’t even hear me out until I just stood on the bench and free-styled for him, leaving him wide-eyed and dumbfounded. After that, all he could do was give me daps and call me partner.
It took me six years to get the courage to tell him I was gay. When I finally did, he just stared at me intensely for a moment, and I could tell he was choosing his words carefully.
It took him five minutes. “You can’t be fucking serious.”
“For real,” I just said.
“How do you know? You been with a chick yet?”
I shook my head, “Believe me, dawg, I just know.”
He got up, starting to pace. “Yo, Pandy, you know I got your back no matter what you do, but you realize that if this shit gets out you could be finished.”
I already knew that and just nodded silently. My debut album, Open Da Box, had released the week before, and my first single “Let It Out” was still in the top ten. At the time, we were on the road promoting the album, and that very morning I made my first appearance on BET’s Rap City. I knew what the stakes were.
He sighed, “So, what are you gonna do?”
“Nothing,” I said. “You’re my friend. I needed you to know. This shit stays between us, aight?”
He grabbed my hand, holding it tightly, then pulled me in a tight hug. “You got that, kid. D-L.”
And that was that. Every once in a while, we’d discuss it whenever we were sure we had privacy. At first, I knew it bothered him, and not for the reasons you may think. One, he was heated that it took me so long to tell him, but eventually he understood why I kept it so quiet; out of fear of him deserting our friendship and flak from other people. Two, over time he started to see me not only as his friend and partner, but also a sister. And Vocal wasn’t a fool. He knew being alone would just eat at me eventually. He was the only person I could talk to and we both knew that keeping to myself wasn’t enough, but it was the only option I had.
“Don’t you want a girl, yo? I mean to at least hit it once?” He’d ask me occasionally.
And my answer was always the same. “Now’s not the time.”
But I did. I so fucking did. I’ll be honest with ya’ll. I mean, shit, I had never been on a date before. And I did want that. If push came to shove and I wanted to experience an actual date just for the sake of it, I could have went out with any of the numerous industry guys who asked me out. But I just wasn’t feeling it, and didn’t want to betray myself, know what I mean? No point in getting all up in the mix of something if you know from the start it’s not what you want. And a couple of times, I felt the pressure of giving into my feelings. I’d catch myself browsing online personals, or I’d see a chick on the street while I drove by or in the crowd as I performed. I just wanted to try it. To see what it would feel like. But I’d have to remember who I was, where I was, and what I was doing…and I couldn’t take the risk.
I’ll also tell you that I am still amazed I kept cool through all that shit. Especially when interviewers would ask if I had anyone in my life, my outside appearance was so smooth and unaffected always saying I was too busy for dating, but on the inside I felt like I was falling apart. Every time I thought about taking that step, all I could think of was how my moms was gonna react, my career, what would my peeps say. Always in the center of it all, was what I had worked so hard for. If I decided to claim it and come out, I could lose everything.
But I still hoped. All the rumors floating around about Queen Latifah, Da Brat, Missy Elliot, etc, would have me pacing, hoping that one of them who’d already made it would truly be gay and have the confidence to come out. But of course, nothing would happen; the rumors would still play on, even though they’d start to fade. And in the end, I’d just square my shoulders and go about my business.
And I was doing so well too. Five fucking years in this game without a mistake. I was climbing out of the underground category getting my first real taste of mainstream; my first album went gold, and my second surprising everyone by hitting platinum. Five fucking years of ignoring the groupies, the so-called “video hos”, the models, and all the make-you-wanna-bite-your-fist, fly-looking honeys who literally decorated the industry. I did so well. So damn well.
Until I met Alexus.
Alexus was an entity not to be ignored. I recognized that as soon as she walked into my trailer and introduced herself as if I was nobody special. After awhile, when everyone blushes, screams, stutters, and all that shit in your presence, just being treated like you were everyone else was surprising…yet a welcomed thing. And I liked that about her from the start.
We were in New York, getting ready to shoot the video for my latest single, which was the title track for my second album, “Chaos.” It was four in the morning; I was in my makeup trailer napping in my chair, when I heard a knock on the door.
“Yo, Pandy! Makeup and wardrobe!”
I yawned, rubbing my eyes as the door to my trailer opened, and a strikingly beautiful dark-skinned sista, with extra long braids, walked in, toting a large silver and black case on wheels. She smiled at me, shaking my limp hand.
“You must be the star,” she said. “I’m Alexus, your stylist for the video. You can nap for five more minutes while I get ready.” Then she walked to the end of the trailer checking on the clothing rack, nodding to herself as she shifted through the clothes that arrived a little after I did.
I couldn’t help looking around. That was it? One person? “Where’s everyone else?” I didn’t mean to sound rude, but I was used to one person for my hair, another for my makeup, and another for clothes.
She turned to face me, hands on hips. “I’m it. One girl crew.”
She was kidding right? I kept my mouth shut as I watched her unload her supplies, talking a mile a minute about the new ideas she had for my hair and makeup, and that she and the director thought I could try something a bit more risqué with my clothes for the video.
“I don’t show skin.” I said flatly.
She stopped what she was doing and looked at me. “You can’t always hide that fabulous body.”
I shrugged, her comment completely flying over my head. “I like staying covered.”
She just nodded to herself before going back to what she was doing. “Are you opposed to letting your hair out?”
“I like my braids.”
Her eyebrow rose. “And I suppose you refuse to do visible makeup.”
“Not into the femme look?” She suddenly asked.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
She smiled as she stood behind me, pulling my bandana off my head. “You don’t like looking feminine?”
I just shrugged, noticing the scent she was wearing. Musky, spicy, earthy. Not that flowery or fruity shit most girls wore, which got on my nerves. “Never really been my style.”
Her reflection in the mirror just nodded as she started pulling a comb through my hair. Her hands were soft and gentle, and I started to relax.
“So what is your style? Tomboy-for-life?” She asked.
I just smiled. “It works for me.”
“Even the tomboys give in sometimes.” She replied. “Look at Da Brat. Remember how she used to be? Look at her now, wearing bras and see-thru pants. And the Queen broke down too.”
“Don’t care. I’m not them.”
She stopped moving and our eyes locked via the mirror. “No, you’re not.” She said softly, half to herself. Then she winked, before resuming on my hair.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so I just remained quiet as she braided. Chick had skills; cuz in twenty-five minutes, my hair was done, braided in a kick-ass design that would make Allen Iverson jealous. When she was finished she went to the clothing rack, pulling out the outfits I would wear during the shoot. As soon as I was dressed, Alexus tossed the plastic sheet over my body and started on my makeup. It always amazes me that you still gotta wear so much shit on your face just to look like you’re not really wearing anything. But she was quick and I was grateful. And by the time they called me to the set, I was ready.
The first day of shooting took about twelve hours, with a few breaks in between. Alexus was there the entire time, helping me change outfits and keeping my look on point. I soon realized she was a talker, and normally that shit would get on my nerves, but I found her talking soothing. I liked her voice. It was throaty and seductive, and at one point I teased her about it, calling it rugged like Scarface, which earned me a bop on the head, and we just laughed. I was digging her style. Sista was…real. She didn’t have that industry fakeness you bump into way too many times, and yes, even with the makeup artists. As we worked, I got to know who Alexus Celestine was. She grew up in Brooklyn, the youngest of seven kids to a single mother, a Haitian refugee, who had recently passed. Alexus was completely self-reliant, wouldn’t take bullshit from anyone, and even though she had her foot in the door towards her dream, she wasn’t about to follow all the “plastic bullshit”. If people couldn’t accept that she was real, then she didn’t need to be in their company. I had madd respect for that.
At the end of the first day, I was so exhausted I practically crawled into the back of the SUV and fell asleep on the way to my hotel. But I’ll admit, as I knocked out, Alexus was in my head, her confident smile shining.
The second day was smoother, and again Alexus was right there keeping me company between takes. She definitely wasn’t like any other stylist I had worked with previously. Most were all-business like I wanted, but Alexus had no problem with being so friendly and I took to it with ease. By the time the director announced we were wrapping up, I didn’t find myself relieved as I normally did when finished with a video shoot. As soon as he called cut, my eyes immediately found Alexus and the first thought that ran through my mind was that I wouldn’t see her again. The thought gave me a slight panic I’d never felt before, and it pushed me to do something I normally didn’t do.
“What are you doing afterwards?” I asked as I watched her re-hang my clothes. I was at the vanity removing my makeup.
“Grabbing a quick dinner and shopping. I drove past this children’s store on 165th that had this adorable skirt set I want to get for one of my nieces.” She paused and turned to look at me. “Why?”
For a second I was going to back out, but I held firm. “Well, some of us are checking out this spot called Sugarcane that someone told us about. Would you like to come along? I mean, it’s nothing special, just us hanging out and celebrating the end of the shoot---and, uh, since you were a big help and all I figured you should be a part of it, know what I mean?” Damn, I could feel my heart literally pounding in my chest.
Alexus just smiled, “Actually I don’t live too far from there. Sure, I’d like to come. I’d have to be home no later then midnight though. I got another job early tomorrow.”
I had this overwhelming urge to jump and shout, but I kept my cool. “We’ll make sure Cinderella gets home on time.” I even winked. Was that going too far? I hope she didn’t take it the wrong way.
But she blushed. “Great. Let me just finish up and I’ll meet you in a bit.”
I nodded, watching her collect her things and leave the trailer. I waited until the door was closed before I let my excitement takeover. I turned to look in the mirror and I was surprised by how happy I looked.
“Go on, playa,” I said to my reflection.
Three hours later found me, Vocal, Alexus, and some other folks from the shoot sitting in the far corner of the stylish Caribbean restaurant, enjoying some of the best food I’ve had in a long time and live entertainment. It was as if we had been hanging out all our lives. Alexus and Vocal got along well, and she had some knowledge of music production that even impressed him. Actually she was a Jill-of-all-trades, so to speak, having tried singing, dancing, and even acting in a couple of commercials before she decided to become a stylist.
“All of those careers were great, but unfortunately not as stable as I’d like.” She told us. “And to be honest, despite the fact that I can do those things, I’m not a big ‘look at me’ type, know what I mean? I’d rather make everyone else look great.”
“I thought I recognized you.” Zeek, one of the dancers said as he crammed his mouth full of coconut shrimp like he was starving. “Didn’t you do one of those commercials for Dark & Lovely a few years back?”
She chuckled as she grimaced, “Lawd, yes. I try to forget that cuz my hair and makeup looked whack. Seeing how I looked is what made me want to become a stylist in the first place. I don’t pretend to be the best out there, but at least I know that women my tone have no business wearing bright pinkish-orange lipstick.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “I thought the darker you were the better bright colors compliment you.”
She shook her head. “Child, like they said back in the day, ‘don’t believe the hype.’”
Alexus was fantastic. For the entire night, it was hard to keep my eyes off her, and I found myself noticing little details, like when she found anything funny she’d clap her hands together as she laughed or slap her thigh. She had this slight habit of biting her bottom lip whenever she had to think, and, good God, she had this smile that just lit up the entire room. Throughout the evening, people would approach our table for an autograph or to talk to me, but I’d notice a few people look her way and smile to themselves, and I knew it wasn’t just because she was physically attractive. Something about her just screamed beautiful person, inside and out.
As the night wore on, some people left claiming fatigue from our hard day, but I was enjoying the music and wherever I went Vocal was glued to my hip, so eventually it was just the three of us. I glanced at my watch, and sadly noticed that it was quarter to midnight.
“We need to get Cinderella home.” I said as I stretched. I couldn’t believe how relaxed I was.
Vocal signaled the waitress and after paying the bill, we left, climbing into the SUV. Alexus gave the driver directions to her apartment building and in less than five minutes I had to say goodbye to her.
“I had a great time, thanks for inviting me.” She said as she slipped out.
I don’t know why I did it, but I got out as well and walked her to the front door.
“So did I,” I smiled. Think fast, think fast, I told myself. “Listen, I was happy with your work on the video. The next time I’m working in the area, can I ask for you?”
She tilted her head to the side as she gave me a curious look. “Is that all you want to contact me for?”
I was taken aback by her question, and I glanced at the SUV for a moment trying to think of what was safe to say. “Well, you know...I mean, I’m kinda picky about the people I surround myself with. So, you know, if I like someone, it’s best to keep contact with them, know what I’m sayin?”
She smiled as she nodded. “Yes, I do.” She reached into her purse and handed me her business card. “It was a pleasure working with you, Pandora.”
And then she took me by surprise by giving me a hug. As I felt her body press against mine, I felt a spark in me. I returned the hug, letting myself inhale her scent and relishing in the feel of her even if only for a brief moment. After we let each other go, she winked as she walked into the building, and I walked down the stairs, half in a daze.
“Sista was nice, huh?” Vocal said as I got into the SUV.
I just nodded, “Yeah.”
He gave me a questioning look as the SUV started to move. He glanced at the driver before leaning over to whisper in my ear. “If I didn’t know better, nigga, I’d say you were sprung.”
I just looked out the window watching the buildings fly by. I had no choice but to agree.
It took me four whole months to gather the courage to call Alexus. Between getting ready for my first headlining tour, having to promote it by doing numerous interviews and appearances on BET, MTV, radio stations and anywhere else Jared could think of, I barely found time to breathe. But when I did, first on my mind was the dark beauty who caught me in her spell. I was behaving like a fool, for real. I’d have a spontaneous thought about her, and regardless of whatever I was doing, I’d just zone out completely lost in the memory of her smile or laugh. Too many times during rehearsals, Vocal or someone would have to stop everyone and check me on some mistake I made or get my attention because I was distracted.
After the fourth time we had to stop because of me, we decided to take lunch so I could get my head in order. Vocal walked up to me, shaking his head. He waited till we were alone before looking me dead in the eye.
“I’m gonna tell you this once and only once. Either get your virgin ass laid or call that chick. Just do something so you can get your ass in gear, for real, yo. We go on the road in three days and you’re actin’ like you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Point taken. I managed to keep my act together for the remainder of rehearsal, and by the time I made it back to my hotel room, it was almost midnight. We were in L.A., and even though I knew it was late, I had to call her. Finding Alexus’ number was easy since I kept her card in my wallet.
The phone picked up on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Is this Alexus?” Like I had to ask. That voice was unmistakable…and groggy from sleep. Shit.
“Yes it is, and who is this calling me at three in the morning?”
She paused for a moment then said, “Wow, hi.”
Wow, hi? She sounded kind of put off. “You don’t sound particularly happy to hear from me.”
“No, no, it’s not that. It’s just...well, it’s kinda late. And to be honest, I didn’t expect to hear from you, that’s all.”
“I’m sorry for calling so late, but I figured you might be one of them night owl types, being that your in the business and all. But why didn’t you think I’d call?”
She yawned, and dammit if she didn’t sound sexy doing it too. “C’mon, Pandora, you know the deal. In this business everyone says they call, but they rarely do. And for the record, not everyone in the business keeps party hours like you MCs.” She said sarcastically, but she was laughing. “So, what made you call? Are you heading my way?”
I lit a cigarette. “Not yet. I’m gonna be touring for the next two months starting in a few days. I won’t be out your way till towards the end.” Why were my palms all sweaty and she wasn’t even near me? “I came across your business card, and I was wondering how you were doing.” Good, good. Sound nonchalant, not desperate.
“Well, I’m doing pretty good. Work is steady; everyone wants to look beautiful. You?”
“Same shit, different day, different hotel.”
She laughed. “The video was off the chain, by the way. It was number one on TRL for a couple of weeks.”
“Well, you know, I had this skilled stylist keeping me looking fly.”
“And here I thought you looked fly naturally.”
I paused. Was she flirting with me?
“Yeah,” I was suddenly feeling a bit uneasy, realizing I didn’t really have much of a leg to stand on as to why we’d be talking.
But I swear, as if she knew I was flip-flopping, she took the problem out of my hands.
“I’m actually glad that you called, Pandora. It was chill hanging out with you. I know how artists are about their privacy and who they let in and all, but I’m hoping we can be friends.”
My reply was quicker than I would have liked, but it was honest. “I’d like that too.”
That day started one of the best friendships I’d ever experience, next to what I shared with Vocal. While on tour, Alexus and I talked at least five times a week, normally late at night while I curled up in bed, totally exhausted from being on stage. She admitted that even though she knew of me and my music, she didn’t know anything about me, so she was surprised I was from Boston, since, for some reason, not many mainstream rappers were, and my style had a laid-back West Coast/Southern feel. At first, I was surprised she picked up things like that, but I’d soon learn that Alexus was not your average chick. As we talked we found that we had a lot in common, especially when it came to our love for Hip Hop.
There were nights we’d seriously take a “Back in The Day” tour, digging up old cassettes and CDs and play them, our appreciation for each other growing. There were times I’d lay in bed, my head rocking to the beats of Rob Base, Young MC, EPMD, Biz Markie and countless others Alexus had saved. In turn I’d play Eric B & Rakim, Jungle Brothers, Arrested Development, and Digital Underground, and laughingly we both admitted we still knew how to do the Humpty Dance.
“I think I fell in love with Hip Hop, when I first saw Baby-D rap.” Alexus said one night.
“J.J. Fad’s Baby-D?” I couldn’t remember the last time anyone mentioned the group.
Alexus giggled. “Yes, J.J. Fad. I loved them. I never really thought of girls rapping before them and Salt-N-Pepa, cuz my brothers’ made it seem so Boys Only, know what I mean? But something about J.J. Fad just spoke to me. God, I collected as many pictures of them as I could, begging my brothers to make me copies of their cassettes so I could play them over and over. I used to know all of their lyrics too.” She gave a contented sigh. “Who was your first?”
I smiled at the memory. “Whodini. I was at a friend’s house watching music videos, and Magic’s Wand played. I was literally glued to the television. It was over from there.”
“Damn, he was great one, huh?”
“That he was.”
I found it easy to share my ideas on future songs or concerns I had about my career—-even things I didn’t tell Vocal. Alexus had this maternal way about her that would easily calm all my fears while giving me so much more important things to think about. She was different than most people I knew. She didn’t go gaga over my celebrity status, or constantly question me about who I knew, what I saw, etc. She was always interested in me the woman, and what I wanted out of life. In turn, I was fascinated about her life, her dreams and wants, and whatever made her smile or cry. Alexus was a strong woman, who had this amazing sense of pride and common sense that she attributed to her mom.
“She taught me what it means to be strong and to stand up for what you believe in, no matter what. She wanted a better life for us, and she knew she had to sacrifice for it. I’ve learned to take absolutely nothing for granted.”
“She sounds like a wonderful woman.”
“She was. I think the one thing I’ll miss the most is the motherly advice for when I have my own family. I’m more old-fashioned than most people realize. I love the idea of being married, being a mom and raising kids. Having a strong, loving family has always been important to me for as long as I can remember.”
I was nodding even though she couldn’t see me, “Yeah, I know what you mean.” Part of me felt sad because hearing her say that validated I had no chance with her. Not that I could even take the chance if I was brave enough.
But the conversations with Alexus did open my eyes in so many ways, and I found myself wondering about my own life and what I wanted after my career was over---something I never thought about before.
“What do you want to do besides this?” I asked Vocal. We were walking into the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, three hours ahead of show time, surrounded by security.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“Well, you know. Producing can’t be the only thing you want, right?”
He gave me a quizzical look, “You high?”
I rolled my eyes, “Nah, nigga, for real. I mean, after this, what do you want to do?”
He shrugged. “I never see an ‘after this’. Music is my life, dawg, you know that. Gonna give Dre and Diddy a run for their money and be the top producer out there. In a few years, start my own label. You know the deal.”
I shrugged. “You know how fucked up the industry can be. One minute you’re on top, the next you’re not. I guess I want to make sure I got something else in my life, know what I mean?”
“Smart thinking, kid.” He gave me daps and then the conversation was forgotten as soon as we walked through the doors.
After that show, we did D.C., Philly, and before I knew it, we were on our way to New York…and Alexus. I was giving two sold out shows at the Apollo Theatre, arriving the morning of the first show. I had enough time to drop my shit off at the hotel then do an interview at the local hip hop radio station, Hot 97, where they were holding a contest giving away free tickets and a chance to meet me backstage. As soon as I was finished there, I raced back to the hotel and left a message on Alexus’ cell letting her know I had arrived safely and she had tickets and backstage passes waiting for her. Even though I originally planned on having her work with me backstage (I mean, that was my alleged reason for contacting her, right?), I wanted this to be an enjoyable evening for her as my guest.
I’ve been nervous before a show, but never like this. Fuck the butterflies; it felt like I had full-grown eagles renting space in my stomach. I managed to keep my shit together as we did the usual sound checks and shit, but in the back of my head, all I kept thinking was how I couldn’t wait to see her.
Minutes before show time, everyone gathered backstage for the normal prayer lead by Vocal. As we broke, Vocal and I hugged then I turned and faced my entrance getting ready. We were opening with “Let It Out”, and as soon as I heard the first few chords of the track, my nervousness faded and Pandora took over as I walked out on stage to thunderous applause and screams.
My adrenaline was pumping, I was feeling hyped up, and my voice was strong. Being on stage gives me a delirious feeling I can never explain. When I had the mic in my hand nothing else mattered and I felt all-powerful. I felt every word I said was law and couldn’t be contested. My style was perfection, my flow flawless, spitting out each line seamlessly as if I didn’t need to breathe. When the chorus came, the crowd who was on their feet joined in and it was deafening. We skipped the second verse, repeating the chorus a couple of more times, then cut the track. The crowd screamed as I pulled a rag from my back pocket wiping the sweat from my face.
“Wassup New York!” I screamed. The response was more screaming and it made me laugh. I loved how hyped Hip Hop fans get. For the next couple of minutes, I said hello to the audience and just spoke my mind, giving my crew some time to get ready for the next song. My eyes quickly surveyed the front row, and I grinned as soon as I saw Alexus standing front row.
When she noticed me looking at her, she winked and I winked back. God she looked good decked out in a white dress that hugged every inch of her perfect body, her hair shorter this time, framing her round face. I didn’t think it was possible, but I felt my excitement rise even higher and I continued talking until Vocal gave me the signal that everyone was ready. I told everyone to enjoy the show, and stood center stage as “Chaos” started, the heavy, hypnotic beat taking over. The crowd got loud again when they recognized the song and it made me smile cuz I knew then the night would be perfect.
And it was too. The remainder of the show was off the chain, New York being a great crowd, getting me so into it that I gave three encores cuz I didn’t want the party to end. As I left the stage, everyone was congratulating me on a good show, but all I wanted was to get to my dressing room and get ready to see Alexus. But Vocal was quick to remind me that I had to meet the winners from the radio contest.
Not even fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on the door and the stage manager led a guy and girl into the room. Both were nice, the guy, David, speaking the most as he congratulated me on my performance, telling me how he was my biggest fan, and telling me how I should listen to a demo of his group. As he spoke, I couldn’t help but notice the girl that stood slightly behind him, waiting for her turn to speak to me. She was a complete tomboy, decked out in Sean Jean gear, a cap low on her head. After I signed his copy of my CD and thanked him for coming to the show and told him to leave his tape with Vocal, I turned to her.
She called herself Angel and was laid-back with her mannerisms, although her eyes showed pure excitement. It’s hard to explain, but I felt a weird mix of connection and tension while we spoke, and she kept staring into my eyes as if she was trying to see something that wasn’t easily noticeable. I started to feel uneasy, so I quickly gave her my autograph, posed for some pictures with her and David, and gave them the two gift bags that were filled with a cap and jersey from my favourite basketball team, The Celtics, gift certificates around the city, and other stuff like that. We all talked for about fifteen more minutes, then the stage manager showed them to the door.
Angel suddenly stopped and turned to look at me. “Yo, one more thing.”
“Yeah?” I asked.
“You got support out there, yo, just so you know,” She gave me a nod. “You’re madd respected for doing you, know what I mean? No one’s mad at ya. Just keep doing what you do. It gives the rest of us hope that we’ll be there one day.” And with that, she followed David and the stage manager out the door.
“You aight?” Vocal asked.
I realized I was staring at the closed door, mouth slightly opened in shock, but I just nodded. “Yeah, I’m cool.” Although it sounded like the normal well wishing that most people may give, I caught what she was saying between the lines. And I wasn’t sure if I was excited that I had someone out there who understood and supported the real me, or if I was nervous that someone figured me out. But I didn’t have time to dwell on it, cuz Alexus arrived a few minutes later, completely erasing my memory of anything that might have gone on before my eyes took her in.
“You were wonderful!” She cried as she gave me a hug. At first I wasn’t sure how to respond since technically this was the first time I was seeing her since the video shoot. But familiarity took over and I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her close.
As soon as she let me go, she gave Vocal a hug as well then stood back smiling at us both. “I have never seen a performance like that in my life. Ya’ll got something like Dre and Snoop mixed with De La Soul. It was fabulous.”
“It ain’t all that.” I could feel myself blushing.
“Oh don’t even try the modest thing now. You act like I don’t know you.” She gave me a wink. “So what’s on the menu for tonight? I’m in the mood to celebrate the best concert I’ve ever seen.”
On the menu was a night of after parties upon after parties. I was thrust into the New York club scene, making small appearances here and there being bombarded with the usual autographing, photo-taking, and everyone and their grandmamma trying to convince me that they were the next big thing. Despite being under the normal celebrity scrutiny, I had a good time since Alexus had her ways of distracting me from the probing eyes. At one point, she pulled me and Vocal on the dance floor, but went on this solo trip, totally losing herself to the music and I found myself entranced by her body and how it moved, every muscle in her body seeming to move fluidly with the beat of the song. I must have been staring for too long cuz Vocal eventually nudged my arm bringing me back to reality.
It was past five in the morning when we finally headed back to the hotel. Everyone in the crew went to their respective rooms, Vocal, Alexus and I retreating to the two-bedroom suite Vocal and I shared.
“Aight, ya’ll. I’d love to stay up and chit-chat, but I got some shit I want to do before tomorrow’s show.” He gave Alexus a hug telling her it was great to see her then he went to his room, but not before giving me a sly wink.
And then it was just Alexus and me.
“I probably should get going too.” She said.
“You sure?” I asked, sitting on one of the overstuffed loveseats dominating the common room. “I mean, you don’t have to. I’m not tired or anything and I’d like the company.”
“I don’t know.” She crossed her arms under her breasts, looking out the big picture window.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” I chuckled. “You got someone more interesting to hang out with?”
“Pam, what do you want?” She asked suddenly.
“What?” I asked.
She finally turned to look at me, her gaze serious. “What do you want? What are we doing?”
“I know that we started a friendship, and that’s been great, believe me. Knowing you has been chill and you’ve become a great confidant. But I also know when someone’s interested in me and when they’re flirting. And you have been.”
Fuck. I was sure I was acting normal around her, not letting on that I was digging her. It’s one thing to not know how to act around someone when you like them and don’t want them to know yet, but it’s even harder when you know they’re not feeling the same way.
After a moment, I realized I had been silent, “Uh, Alexus...”
“And don’t try to deny it, Pam.” She took a seat on the loveseat opposite me. “I know you gotta protect yourself and your career. I respect that and wouldn’t tamper with it. But if you’re gonna be flirting with me, at least own up to it, so I know what I’m doing.”
My eyebrow rose at what she said. “And what would you do?”
Alexus crossed her legs, the hem of her dress rising to expose a thigh, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the long, slender limb. I found myself wondering how soft her skin was. When I forced my eyes up to meet hers, she had a smirk on her face.
“I’d flirt back.” She said confidently.
Talk about shock. I know, I know, but seriously, I figured she truly was straight. “You mean…you’re…?”
“Gay?” She chuckled. “Yes, Pam, I’m gay. You thought I was straight?”
“You just didn’t come across as---I mean, not that there would be any signs if you were---you know what I mean…I don’t know.” I sighed, “Some of the things we’ve talked about and some of the things you said. I figured you were straight.”
“Yet you still flirted.”
“Yes---but not intentionally---I mean, I tried not to---fuck.”
“You are attracted to me, right?”
Might as well be honest. “Yeah, I am.”
“Good,” She smiled brightly, her hand playing with the hem of her skirt. “So, back to your not-so-subtle flirting, and my reaction to it.”
I suddenly smiled myself, realizing the newfound situation. “And after you flirt, what should I do?”
“If I were you, I’d decide on how far I’d want this to go, then do something about it.”
It took me all of two seconds to talk myself into walking over and sitting beside her. I was doing my best to keep my cool, but once I was there, I didn’t know what to do first.
She must have sensed how I was feeling, cuz she gave me a seductive smile. “Pam, do you want me?”
Damn, cue the sweaty palms. “Yes.”
Alexus moved to straddle my lap, and I could feel the warmth of her on my thighs through my jeans. Her eyes were full of lust as she slowly licked her bottom lip. “First, you need to know I’m not some groupie or some ho.”
“I never thought you were.” I said, starting to feel heady from having her so close.
“If you’re planning on hittin’ it then expecting me to disappear, let me know now so I can leave. Cuz as much as I like you, it ain’t my style.”
“I don’t want that either.” I told her honestly.
She pressed her body into mine. “I’m serious, Pam. I want you, but not if you’re not gonna respect me afterwards. If you want me, you’re gonna have to take all of me, not just my pussy.”
Our eyes locked, and I said what had been on my mind for the past few months. “I want you. All of you. I want to see where this can go.”
She smiled and again licked her lips. “Well, if you want me, you’re gonna have to kiss me first.”
My hands found their way in her hair and I pulled her face to mine, my lips meeting hers. I was trying not to fuck up, knowing this was the first time I was kissing anyone and wasn’t as experienced, but it was hard to keep all that in mind when the feel of her delicate lips completely surrendered me. I was kissing her feverishly, just wanting to lose myself in the feel of it, when she pulled her lips away, placing a finger against my lips.
“Shh, slow down, slow down, I’m not going anywhere,” She whispered, winking at me. “Let me, ok?”
Can I tell you how my ego fluttered right then and there? I mean, despite being a beginner, I didn’t want to let on that I was…yet, for some reason, I felt okay allowing her to take over. So, I reluctantly nodded.
“Now, close your eyes.”
I did so, and after a few moments I felt her lips gently touch mine. She planted several feathery kisses on my lips, her fingertips softly caressing my cheeks and neck. “Nice and slow,” She said between kisses. “No need to rush.” She then parted her lips, nibbling on mine, as her fingertips still grazed my skin, traveling to my ears, and my hips were twitching in response.
“That’s it,” she said encouragingly as she gave my lips a gentle lick before returning to the feather kissing. Every drawn-out move she made was driving me crazy. It wasn’t that I was being impatient, because I wanted to enjoy every step we were taking, but every touch from her was causing my heart to pound harder in my chest and any self-control I had left was threatening to slip away. When she licked my lips again, this time more persistently, I parted them and her tongue pushed its way inside, slowly exploring my mouth. My hands crept up to stroke her back, and she moaned. Her tongue twisted around mine, stroking it leisurely as she grinded into my lap. My hands slid down to cup her butt to keep her pressed against me as we moved together.
Alexus pulled her lips away and again returned to the feather kissing, this time planting them on my cheeks, eyelids, forehead and nose. Her lips found their way down to my neck and I groaned feeling their softness followed by the teasing tickling of her tongue. I let my head fall back as she kissed my throat and the curve of my neck, her teeth gently nipping at my skin as she made her way to my ears.
Her tongue tentatively licked the edge of my ear, “I want you to touch me.”
She didn’t have to tell me twice. My hands reached for the hem of her dress and she raised her arms as I lifted it over her head, tossing it beside us on the sofa. I was now taking in her body clad only in a pair of lacy white panties and matching bra that seem to glow sexily against her skin. My hands started at her arms, traveling up to her shoulders and neck, exploring the curves of her throat and collarbone, and down her back where she trembled when my fingertips traveled the length of her spine. I continued, feeling her full ass under my hands, the swell of her hips and thighs, wondering how I could have been able to go so long without discovering this. My mind was registering how good she felt under my hands; how she managed to feel delicately soft yet firm at the same time, how her body responded to the slightest touch, her skin growing more and more warm as I explored her. Alexus’ eyes closed as my hands caressed her flat stomach, my fingers fanning out as they rose to the edge of her bra…then stopped.
Her hands immediately covered mine, moving them to the front clasp of her bra. I took the hint, unhooking the clasp, and there was no way I could suppress the gasp that escaped me as her small breasts spilled into view. My hands quickly started kneading them, gently pulling on her hard, fat nipples and she whimpered in response. I let one arm curve around her waist as I pulled her forward, sucking a nipple in my mouth, and she hissed, pushing her chest forward. She rotated her hips harder, and I swore I felt wetness on my jeans.
“Pam, I want you…NOW.” She said huskily as she started to move.
We both got to our feet and, no lie, it was like a mad dash to the room, and we were giggling like kids. Once there, we fell on the big bed, Alexus pulling at my clothes impatiently. When we were both naked, we lay side by side, just kissing each other softly as our hands explored each other’s body. Surprising myself, I was slowly taking control, aggressively touching and kissing her wherever I felt. When my hands rested on her thigh, she slowly parted her legs. My eyes rose to meet hers and she smiled and nodded, taking my hand in hers and placing it between her legs.
“Just go slow.” She told me. She held my hand in a way that still gave me access to her, her fingers covering mine almost exact. She pressed her middle finger forward, causing my middle finger to slide between her lips. We both groaned from the contact and I was amazed by how wet she was. She continued guiding me, showing my fingers how to explore her folds, and I watched what she was showing me and also her face for her reactions. After awhile she pulled her hand away, and I continued mimicking her movements. Alexus’ hand rose to my lips, coating them with her juices, and I licked my lips then her fingers, sucking each one luxuriously.
I was feeling comfortable in my actions, boldly stroking her as she moaned, her hips writhing. I let my fingers slide down until I was at her opening, and without waiting for her, I slid inside and she cried out.
“Don’t stop.” She said quickly, as she grabbed my arm, keeping my hand where it was. I settled beside her, contentedly watching her face as my fingers continued, instinctively sliding in and out of her. I remembered at one point hearing that some women weren’t thrilled with their facial expressions during lovemaking, but I couldn’t understand why since I was fascinated with Alexus’. Her eyes were clamped shut, her lips slightly parted as she groaned and panted. This was pure pleasure and it looked absolutely beautiful.
My eyes left her face, traveling down her squirming body to where my hand joined with her. Curiosity took over and I carefully climbed over her until I was settled between her spread thighs. I could feel her watching me as I looked at my first pussy up close, my nostrils filling with her musky scent. I was half aware of licking my lips and the sudden grumble in my tummy before I cautiously pulled my finger out of her and my lips made contact, kissing her labia.
“Oh, Pam, yes,” Alexus crooned, her hands resting on the back of my head.
I continued kissing, my tongue eventually sliding out to lick her slit. Once my tongue got a taste of her, it was all over. My thumbs spread her lips, as my tongue just licked every possible spot I could find, familiarizing myself with every nook and cranny, getting used to her taste that only made me crave for more. Encouraged by her moans and sighs, I pressed in, letting my face get wet with her, my tongue finding her hard clit. Once I licked it, I knew I was home by how her hips suddenly heaved off the bed and her hands tightened their grip on my head. My lips closed on the little hard nerve, softly licking the very tip while my hands were trying to keep her steady.
“That’s it,” She gasped. “Right there…slow, slow…yes, just like that…Oh God, just like that.”
There was nothing that could have pulled me away from her at that moment. My hands slid down to cup her ass, my fingers kneading her flesh as I sucked and licked her clit. Alexus still managed to rock her hips, but I welcomed it, enjoying the feel of her moving against me, knowing it was because I was doing it right. I continued licking, my tongue occasionally sliding down to tickle her entrance and she’d cry out, her nails biting into my skull. After a while, I felt her thighs starting to close in on my head, her hips gyrating at a quicker, steady rhythm.
“Pam…Pam…Pam,” she panted. “It’s gonna cum…oh fuck, goddamn, yes, it’s gonna cum…”
Her thighs suddenly clamped shut on my head and I couldn’t see or hear anything, except feel her shudder beneath me. My mouth was rewarded with a rush of her hot juices and I pushed my tongue inside her, lapping as much of it as I could.
“No, no, no, baby stop, stop.” She tried to pull away, but I was persistent, holding her down as I licked her clean, her entire body trembling in response to every movement my tongue made. When she finally calmed down, I pulled away, licking my lips as I climbed over her.
Alexus grabbed my face, pulling me down to kiss her. I stretched my body over hers, enjoying the feel of our naked skins touching. I was feeling more relaxed and confident kissing her this time, lazily sucking on her tongue and lips, until she pulled away, smiling up at me.
“You are a wonder, you know that?”
“What do you mean?”
She sighed then chuckled, “You were born to make love to a woman, Pamela Irving, never doubt that, okay?”
I blushed, not knowing what to say, so I just kissed her again, my brain screaming excitedly that this was it. This was what I had wanted for so long, and it felt so damn natural to me, regardless of how long I took to find it.
I suddenly felt her hand creeping between our bodies, her fingers finding the spot between my legs, and I groaned.
“Now,” She said, winking at me. “Let me show you how good it feels on the flipside.”
Alexus stayed with us until we had to leave New York for Boston. Waking up to her the next morning felt so surreal, I lay in bed just watching her sleep afraid it might have been a dream. Occasionally I’d gently caress her cheek or back, not wanting to wake her, but finding it hard to not touch her. I was memorizing every contour of her face, the blue-blackness of her skin, her full lips, flat nose, and wide eyes with the long lashes that angelically rested against her cheeks while she slept. By the time she woke up, those dark eyes fluttering open and joining the bashful smile she gave when she realized I had been watching her, I knew I would never forget her image.
She made a brief visit to her apartment for a change of clothes, but spent the entire day with us shopping, doing sound checks, and hanging out backstage during the second show. That night the three of visited a few clubs, then dinner in Harlem at one of her favorite restaurants, Bayou. We ended up back at the suite, talking and playing in bed until morning. Watching Alexus leave was harder than I thought it was going to be. Waking that morning was nowhere as comforting as the previous time, because I had absolutely no idea when I’d see her again. We had breakfast in the suite, and then Vocal had a driver take her home.
After the show in Boston, I had my one day of rest and spent it with my mom. Rosetta Irving was the bane of my guilty conscience, because she absolutely refused to move to Los Angeles with me. I spent the first two years trying to talk her into it, promising her a huge house, cars, and anything she could ever want. But she told me to spend all my money on myself and not to worry about her. Eventually she did give in to letting me buy her a house in Dorchester and pay her bills, but she was adamant about keeping her job as a nurse.
As soon as she opened the door, she pulled me into a huge hug and I knew I was home.
“You’re not eating enough.” She said immediately. And before I could even protest, she was heading towards the kitchen, and like a good puppy I knew to follow her and sit at the table while she fed me till she was content. As I ate, my stomach enjoying the West Indian cooking that I so missed, she then proceeded to lecture me on taking care of myself, despite my schedule, and, of course, the importance of keeping my priorities straight.
“And it wouldn’t hurt to start dating, you know.” She added.
“Ma,” I whined, feeling the heat rise in my face. “Can we not talk about that, please?”
She sighed as she took my empty plate, and instead of heading to the sink she went to the stove and added more ackee and saltfish. “You’ve worked hard, Pamela, and you have money saved. It’s time to concentrate on other matters.”
Even though I already felt full, when she set the plate before me, I dug in. “I will when I’m ready. Right now, I don’t want to be distracted, that’s all.” As I spoke, I couldn’t help but think of how good it felt to hold Alexus in my arms. The thought brought a smile to my face.
“Looks like distraction found you,” My mother said as she patted my arm. “What sweet you so, that you’re smiling like that?
For a moment, I wanted to tell her the truth. I wanted to say, Ma, I found the person of my dreams and it’s a woman, and I hope you’ll understand cuz it feels so right. But instead, my smile faded as I composed myself. “Ma, for real, it’s nothing.”
She pursed her lips as she gave me the once-over, but just sat back and smiled, “I know there’s something. But when you’re ready, you’re ready.” Then she changed the topic.
I spent the rest of the day getting all the gossip on relatives, her coworkers, and people around the old neighborhood. Hearing her talk and relaxing in her company gave me a warm feeling. My mother was a new person to me at times. During my childhood she tried to be there for me despite working so much, but always had a layer of hardness to her you only find in single black mothers. She spent almost two decades living from pay check to pay check, trying to make ends meet, always worrying. But whenever I look at her now, she seemed so much more relaxed and unstressed. It felt good knowing that I could give her that kind of comfort. And as always, I was reminded that it was all dependent upon my being able to stay successful, and I felt a pang of guilt when memories of Alexus surfaced. It was beyond conflicting…how feeling completely liberated could feel so right yet at the same time so threatening. Just as the thought hit me, I realized the time and that I had to get going.
“Are you sure you won’t come to California with me?” I asked as we hugged. As I embraced her, I secretly slipped a rolled-up stack of bills in the pocket of her housecoat. “Even for just a visit. I miss you. And winter’s coming soon; you won’t have to worry about blizzards out there.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Pamela.” She gave me a wet kiss on my cheek. “I’ve lived in this city since I came to the States. This is my second home. I’ll be here whenever you’re homesick and tired of the plastic.”
There was no changing her mind. “Will you at least let me get you a cell phone so I can call you whenever?” I asked half-jokingly as I walked towards the car.
“What do I need that nonsense for?” She called after me. “I have voicemail, that’s enough. Don’t make me have to use yours to remind you to eat, hear me, Pamela? You’re not too grown!”
I chucked as I walked away. As I entered the car, I told myself to remember all she had done for me and all the sacrifices she made, and that this was my time to do for her. Yet, I couldn’t forget what I found with Alexus, and knew deep down that what I said to her was true. I wanted to see where this could go. So somehow, I was going to have to make it all work.
Copyright © 2005. Used by permission of author. All Rights Reserved.