Mind is Weak, Body Weaker
Terrebonne’s football team left the torrential downpours behind them in South Lafourche as the busses made it back to Houma. Parents lingered around the parking lot waiting to take their kids home after a long night. Even to them, the manner of the win didn’t sit well after the two brawls that erupted on the field at the end of either half.
Devin walked out of the Field House, mentally and physically exhausted from the game. Now that the adrenaline had worn off, his knee throbbed from the chop block he’d been on the receiving end of in the first quarter. Shuffling that leg to keep weight off it, he limped toward the parking lot.
He nodded his thanks to the smattering of fathers who commended him on a good game. It probably helped their opinion that he’d stayed on the fringes of the fracas at the end of the game, having no desire to get involved in something Caesar started.
As he approached his car, he spotted Scarlett leaning against it. She smiled at him, but he was too tired to return it.
“You didn’t go home?” he asked, getting his keys out of his pocket.
“No, I had Tiffany drop me off here so I could see you. I thought you could come over tonight since it’s already late,” she said.
He scratched his head. He could still feel the grime from the mixture of rain and sweat that had settled on his hair. It instantly doubled his exhaustion. “I’m sorry, Scar. I just want to go home, take a real shower, and go to sleep.”
“And you can’t do that at my house?”
“Yeah, but I’m in a shit mood, too. It’s not fun having 300 pound fat boys diving at your knees and the refs not doing shit about it.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with me, Devin.”
He sighed. “Can you just leave it? I can bring you home and I’ll come by tomorrow when I’m feeling better.”
“No, you’re in a shit mood. I’ll find my own way home,” she said, rolling her eyes as she pushed away from the car.
“C’mon, Scarlett. Who else is going to bring you home? It’s damn near midnight.”
“You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll manage on my own. I have been for months anyway. What’s one more night?”
“Good night, Devin. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She didn’t let him get another word in before she walked away toward the crowd of people standing near the entrance to the field.
Devin thought about going after her and trying to get her to see reason, but he was in no mood to deal with someone being stubborn so he simply unlocked his car, tossed his duffel bag into the back seat and got in himself.
Hasan came running across the parking lot before he could crank up the engine. He knocked on the window, which Devin rolled down.
“Hey, man. Your girl looks pissed,” he said.
“Can you give me a ride home? I was goin’ to bum a ride from Noah, but he said he got some pussy on standby or some shit. You know niggas be lyin’, though.”
Devin unlocked the passenger side door and waved his hand toward it.
“Thanks, bruh.” Hasan ran around the car and hopped in.
“Nothing big tonight. It’s already damn near Sunday and we’re just getting back. It’ll be one in the morning before shit really gets going,” Caesar said as he flicked through his unread messages. Cell reception between the boonies of Lafourche Parish and the boonies of Terrebonne Parish was notoriously suspect and he’d gotten dozens upon dozens of notifications when service returned.
“You say that like your parents are going to pop up at 7 in the morning and question what you’ve been doing before that,” Ron said. He walked slightly hunched over from the battering his mid-section had taken.
“Not the point.”
Britton walked out the field house behind them and scanned the crowd before speaking. “I’m going to sit this one out, guys. Me and Janelle are going to hit up the Waffle House and then go back to her stepdad’s for the night.”
“You’re not sitting out shit. Tell Janelle that I said that y’all can have one of the guest rooms to yourselves when y’all want to call it a night. I’ll even give y’all some fresh sheets to fuck to your little hearts’ content,” Caesar said.
“She doesn’t really like hanging out with us, man.”
Ron shook his head. “We’ve been through thick and thin together, B. You can’t let a woman come between us in our last few months together as a team! Caesar offering y’all a good deal. He doesn’t even let me get a guest room.”
“Don’t you stay in the guest house
after the parties at his?” Britton asked.
Caesar spotted Emma, waiting for him as he’d told her to, by the gate to the street. “Just tell Janelle what I said and throw in that I’ll even promise to not make any poor kid jokes for the entire night or she can punch me in the dick.”
Caesar broke away from the two of them and worked his way through the crush of parents waiting for their kids. Some of them gave him dirty looks, but it wasn’t anything that he wasn’t used to and nothing that he wouldn’t get again a thousand times over.
Emma was turned away from him when he reached her so he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close. She yelped and looked back with fight in her eyes, but calmed down when she saw it was him.
“Hey, look who I stumbled across,” she said, nodding to Scarlett who was standing next to her.
Caesar raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing out here? King was one of the first one’s out of the door.”
“He left me,” Scarlett said.
“I could drop you by your house on our way to mine.”
Emma looked up at Caesar and then back to Scarlett. “Or, you could just come party with us. Anytime a guy pisses me off, I always go to a good party to get my mind off the fuckery.”
Scarlett glanced at Caesar for his input, but he only shrugged.
“C’mon. You know it was fun hanging with us the other day. We won’t do anything that’ll get you killed or arrested. It’ll be fun,” Emma said, prodding further.
“I won’t drink too much in case you decide you want to leave,” Caesar offered.
He, of course, made that same offer last time and she had to Uber her way home. Nonetheless, she nodded slowly. “Okay, I’ll come.”
Sitting in Jamie’s stepmother and father’s house, Devin found himself growing increasingly regretful for lying to Scarlett about his desire to go home and just go to sleep. Albeit, he did intend to go home before Hasan got a text from Bart for them to come through to hang out for a bit before they all turned in for the night.
Judging from the chubby little boy nuzzled in Jamie’s arms, Devin suspected it was just a ploy for Bart to avoid his fatherly duties for a little longer.
Jamie’s dad walked down the hallway, scratching at a rotund stomach that was barely hidden by a dirty wife beater. He looked at Devin, Hasan and Bart and held up a five dollar bill. “Can one of y’all go get me some smokes?”
“It’s like one in the morning,” Jamie said. “That’s not even enough.”
“Make it enough,” he said, tossing the bill on the dirty coffee table and heading back down the hall.
Bart sighed and snatched the money up before shoving his feet into his shoes. “Devin, you could run me up to the chink store?”
“The what?” Devin asked.
“Doo’s. At the corner of Scott and Park.”
Devin shrugged, stood up and picked up his keys, following Bart to the door. Hasan, who had been nodding off, hopped up and jogged behind them out of the door.
“Hurry up!” Jamie shouted behind them before the door closed.
Hasan laughed as the three of them got into Devin’s car. “So, let me get this straight. Yo ass got kicked out ya auntie’s house ‘cause you knocked her ass up so you gotta live with her nasty ass people? That’s why I don’t mess with no white women like you niggas.”
Bart shook his head. “It’s the price I gotta pay. The pussy is fire though. Jamie’s anyway. I try to stick to our sisters, too.”
Devin backed out of the driveway and pulled onto the main street to leave the neighborhood. Jamie lived on the edge of Terrebonne’s catchment area. He briefly wondered if she’d still be a teen mother if she lived across the street and went to H.L. instead.
“Speaking of white folks, I’m a deny it if y’all tell anyone I said this, but that motherfucker Britton a real one. He was all the way with the shits tonight,” Bart said. “I don’t know about his homeboys, they pussy, but he was throwing haymakers like Wilder back in the day.”
“That’s why you gotta keep a white boy or two around,” Hasan said. “Good thing coach ain’t see the shit, but he dropped their quarterback at the end of the game.”
“He probably doesn’t care anymore because he’s going to a shit school,” Devin said, pulling to a stop at a red light. There were no other cars on the street and it made him a tad nervous that a cop would pull up out of nowhere and ask why they were out.
“Damn, not even a preferred walk on somewhere like LSU?”
Devin shook his head. “That’s not what he told me. Sounds like he’s going to some barely Division I school.”
“Better than having to go the JUCO route. Turn there,” Bart said, pointing to one of the many bridges along Main Street in Houma. “I’m probably going to have to go some small ass hick town for a year or two to get to D1. That’s it right there. Pull up on the side.”
Devin did as he was told and pulled his car into a spot on the side of the store. Outside, various ragtag groups of people loitered around. Most of them looked like they hadn’t showered in weeks. As Bart walked toward the store, he swatted away a few of them who approached him with their hands out.
“This the ghetto ghetto,” Hasan said. “I see why he livin’ with his girl people.”
“The school is right across the bayou. We passed it getting here,” Devin said.
“Man, I ain’t never been over here at night. It’s different. I ain’t know it was like this out here. This the fuckin’ country.”
Devin shrugged and looked out the window at the people eyeing him from the other side of the glass. “You know what they say about assumptions.”
Moments later, Bart walked out of the store, holding a bag and a styrofoam container. He said something to one of the loiterers that made them laugh before he got back in Devin’s car.
He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of the bag and held it up. “Y’all think this the shit he smoke?”
“You don’t know for sure?” Devin asked, his hand reaching for the shift selector.
“Nope.” He put the pack back in the bag and put the styrofoam container on his lap. “You mind if I eat in your car?”
Hasan looked around the seat as Bart opened up the box to reveal boiled shrimp. “Nigga, you eatin’ shrimp from a place that you called the ‘chink’ store?”
Bart rolled down the window and threw a discarded head out of it. “These motherfuckers be hitting different in the morning, bruh.”
“This is fuckin’ Houma. It’s shrimp everywhere and you chose to eat Chinese shrimp from a hood corner store? Tell me I’m not the only one think this is crazy, Devin.”
Devin only shook his head and let the two of them continue their argument about the shrimp. His mind suddenly wandering to Scarlett and hoping she’d gotten home safely after her refusal to let him bring her home and her lack of responses to his texts.
Scarlett looked around, shocked at the buzz of energy around her. Caesar said that they were only having a “little get together” and there must’ve been 40 people in and around his house. She asked him if he was concerned about people stealing things, but he simply said that his parents likely didn’t know what they owned themselves to know it’d been stolen.
Emma poured vodka into three shot glasses and shoved one each into Caesar and Scarlett’s hands. Caesar knocked back the shot with the practiced motion of a regular drinker. Emma cringed a little as she drank hers. They both looked at Scarlett.
“I’ve never actually drank. Unless you count the wine at mass,” she said, eyeing the clear liquid in the small glass.
Emma poured herself another shot and held up the glass. “Just drink it quick. It’s just like the first time you swallow, you know?”
Caesar shook his head. “You don’t want to know what she’s talking about.”
Emma put her hand under Scarlett’s and lifted, coaxing her to drink the vodka as she did the same. Closing her eyes, Scarlett threw back the shot and immediately started coughing. Emma cringed less this time around.
“In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, amen,” Caesar said, laughing as he made the sign of the cross in front of her. He snatched a bottle of water out of the hand of someone who was passing by and handed it to her. “Here, drink this.”
She took the bottle and drank deeply. Before the aftertaste even subsided, Emma was replacing the water bottle with another shot. Caesar quickly took the shot glass out of Scarlett’s hand and drank the vodka himself.
“Caesar, c’mon! You can’t just take a girl’s shots!” Emma said.
“Two shots and this lightweight will be falling on the floor. Not everyone has been knocking them back since they could walk,” he said.
Emma rolled her eyes, snatched up the bottle and stalked off to find someone to get drunk with.
“Thank God,” Scarlett said. “I’m already feeling light headed after one of those. That’s not normal, right?”
Caesar shrugged. “Fuck if I know. I’m not a doctor. Come on. We probably have wine coolers in here somewhere so you can drink and not get drunk.”
He put his arm around her shoulders to lead her through the crowd and she stiffened instinctively. He pulled away.
“My bad. Bad habit,” he said. “Used to being the battering ram for people trying to navigate around, you know?”
“No, it’s fine. Just not used to too many people touching me,” she said, offering him a smile.
“Alright, let’s find you something to drink that won’t get you drunk.”
Scarlett followed Caesar down the hall to his room, the sounds of the dying get together drowned out by the floor below. He opened the door and motioned her inside.
“You really don’t care if people steal, do you?” she asked as she walked into the room.
Caesar looked around at the almost bare room. “I don’t think anyone is going to be coming in here and hitting the jackpot. Besides, can’t throw parties at your house if you’re going to be worried about people stealing from you all the time. You can take the bed. I’ll find a guest room to crash in.”
She started to walk over to it, but hesitated. “Are you sure Emma’s not going to be mad? Do you even know where Emma is?”
“Yeah. Ron sent me a text a while ago. She’s been with him for a little bit now I’m guessing. She’s mad, but she won’t do anything to you.”
Caesar nodded as he opened a closet near the door and pulled sheets out of it. “If I had to guess, they’re probably fucking. Or were fucking. Might not be happening currently.”
“What?! Isn’t she your girlfriend?! Isn’t he your best friend?! Why are you up here and not down there?!”
“It’s not that serious.” He laughed as he continued to rummage through the closet. “It’s just sex and I don’t reeeaally like her all that much so if she wants to go fuck Ron to get back at me then I hope she and Ron both have a good time. Besides, Ron and I mostly share on that front. All consensual of course.”
“Share? Good Lord. That’s just—I don’t even know what to say,” Scarlett said, walking over to the bed and sitting down. “It really doesn’t bother you?”
“Again. It’s just sex. It’s something fun and enjoyable to do. If I’m bored, have sex. If I’m tired, have sex. If I’m happy, have sex. If I’m sad, have sex. If I’m stressed, have sex. If I’m horny, have sex.”
She shook her head. “It’s not just
sex. Sex is more than that.”
Caesar walked over to the dresser along the wall near his bed and leaned against it, facing her. “I get it. I am a God-fearing Catholic, too, but once you get that thought out of your head. It just makes it what it is. Sex, fucking, getting skins, knocking boots, bumping uglies, whatever you want to call it. You get your nut, have yourself a good time, pull your pants up, and go about your business.”
“You’re oversimplifying it.”
“You’re overcomplicating it.”
“Having sex doesn’t just whisk away your problems!”
“You’ve never done it. You wouldn’t know. I’ve never sucked a dick or have any desire to do so, but who am I to tell a gay guy that sucking dick isn’t cathartic if he says it is?”
“That’s horrible logic.”
Caesar shrugged. “You’re stressed right now, right? That’s why you’re here in the first place, right?”
“You want to fuck?”
“What? N—no,” she spluttered. “You know I’m with Devin.”
Caesar drummed his fingers against the dresser. “And I’m with Emma, who we’ve already established is probably in the guest house sucking Ron’s dick.”
“I’m saving myself for marriage.”
“Let’s make a deal with the Lord then. I don’t know how sex ed goes at Terrebonne, but Sister Boudreaux always said sex involves penises going into vaginas. You don’t question Sister Boudreaux.”
Scarlett raised an eyebrow. “I’m not getting your point. I’m not cheating and I’m saving myself.”
“I’m changing my offer. No penises will be entering any vaginas in here tonight.” He pushed away from the dresser and walked around to sit on the bed next to her. “So, if we don’t have sex, you can’t be cheating. And you’d still be saving yourself for when you become Mrs. King or whatever the fuck.”
“Right? You’re losing me here.”
“You’re stressed. I’ve been with a lot of chicks. Oral does them right just like dick. We can test your theory that orgasms don’t whisk away your problems, and you won’t be cheating because oral ain’t sex.”
She shook her head. “Don’t ever become a lawyer. You’d have all of your clients in prison.”
“It’s a simple yes or no, Scar. If you say no, I’ll get up, head down the hall somewhere and be back to bring you home when the sun’s up. If yes, lay back and it’ll be our secret.”
She was quiet for a moment and Caesar could see the wheels turning in her head. There was a pregnant pause and he started to get up to head to the guest room. He was halfway to standing up when he felt her shift her weight.
Then, Scarlett scooted further up on the bed and laid back.