Before the Block: Better Days

Nakia and I were on a much-needed stretch break when my phone rang with an unknown number. Knowing that Yanni was constantly calling from blocked numbers, I picked up the phone.




“You know, I should come, find you and fuck you up!” Marques’ voice came growling through the phone.


Out of reflex, I jumped, and then calmed down as I remembered we were now separated by a couple of states.


“I no longer fear you, Marques, so save it,” I said, adding a little bass to my own voice.


“If I knew how to find your ass, you would. It’s all because of you that my frat is pissed at me and shit. It’s also your fault I’m stuck at my parents’ house and can’t go to work.”


“Boy, what in the world are you talking about? I don’t have anything to do with you current situation. You need to find another scapegoat—which I’m pretty sure you’re good at doing.”


“Wait. I think we got off on the wrong foot. You’re right, it’s not your fault,” he said, his tone softening.


I lifted the phone from my ear and stared at it blankly. This fool was absolutely crazy. Nakia gave me a questioning look. I nodded to let her know that everything was under control and turned back to the conversation. “Look, Marques, I don’t have time for your Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde shenanigans. Now what do you want?”


“I want you . . . to come back home. For us to be like we were before?”


“OK, this is some kind of joke, right? You leave me seeing stars and then have the nerve to think I’d go back to you? You really do need help.”


“And if you come back, I promise I’ll get help. We can both go together.”


I shook my head in disbelief and anger. “You must be outta your mind. I’d be crazy to go back. Do I look like a sucker for punishment?”


“Please, Starlet, it didn’t have to end this way. You have to understand why I did what I did.”


Now I was fuming. “You did what you did because you’re controlling, hateful and, generally, a sick individual.”


“You wanna talk about sick?” he asked, his voice rising in typical Marques fashion. “You need to be checking your so-called detective cousin out. That muhfugga is sick.”


“What does James have to do with this?”


“Oh, let’s just say he hides behind his badge, ‘cause if he didn’t have it he’d be dead today. Then you’d be coming back to attend his funeral.”


With those words he peaked my curiosity. “Marques, what are you talking about?”


“Oh, so now you interested. Yeah, it’s just what I thought—all of ya’ll are evil. You probably already knew what was going to happen. You planned it, didn’t you?”


“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Nakia looked at me as if to ask “what gives?” I shrugged and climbed into the passenger side. Nakia got in on the driver’s side and started the car.


“That’s the problem with you bitches. Always creating shit, and then acting like you so fuckin’ innocent.”


I switched on the speakerphone to give my ear a rest. “Look, if we’re going to talk much longer, you better straighten out your language.”


“So, now, you givin’ the orders? Let me guess, Nakia’s your bitch, right?” he asked, working himself into a rage. “Is that what this is about? You wanted another bitch?”


Nakia placed a hand over her mouth, trying to suppress her laughter.


I breathed deeply. “Marques, why would I want another woman? Are you that insecure?”


“Yeah, yeah, that’s what they all say. Something made you leave.”


“Couldn’t it have just been you going upside my head?” I smiled in Nakia’s direction, though, I kind of felt like crying for allowing myself to be abused in that way.


“You needed reining in—so I did that.”


Nakia grabbed at my phone, but I yanked it back. Her face had grown tight. Not a sign of laughter in sight.


“Are you done, because I got to go,” I said firmly.


“I bet you do. You run off with some bitch to who knows where, and then you got to go. Seeing as I could still press charges against your cousin you need to be real nice to me.”


“Press charges?” Nakia and I both deadpanned on the phone.


“That mothafucka invited me out for a drink, and then bashed my face in,” Marques was saying.


“Hunh? Repeat that?” I asked, as an odd bubbling sensation erupted in my throat.


“See, that was one of the things that would get on my damn nerves,” he said, totally unaware of what was happening. “The fact that I had to repeat myself over and over and over—”

“He bashed your face in?” It was then that the laughter freed itself from my throat and rushed past my teeth. I laughed and laughed. I couldn’t stop.


“You think this shit is funny? Do you realize the power I have? Hunh? Hunh?”


I tried to regain control. “Oh, no, Marques. It isn’t funny at all. You have all the power.” Now Nakia and I were both laughing uncontrollably. So much so, she almost drove off the road.


Marques continued to rattle on, but I didn’t hear any of it. Eventually, I just hung up on him.


“Did you mean to do that?” Nakia asked, still laughing so hard tears were running down her face.


“What did I do?” I asked innocently.


“You hung up on Marques.”


“Girl, it’s time to really let that man go. He’s back home with the only people who will put up with him, and I’m moving on to bigger and better things, better days.”


“Sounds good to me,” she said, between snorts.


I looked up just in time to see the Welcome to Louisiana sign. I took it as a sign that things would only get better from here on out.