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Shooter's Free Verse (Excerpt)




"I'll take a strawberry-shortcake-topped vanilla cone."

"Do you want extra sprinkles this time, Lexiana?" The truck driver asks.

"Not today, Mr. Rojos." She dances on her tippy toes, excited like the other kids beside her. I bypass the menu keeping my gaze exclusively on Lexiana. Everything about this girl screamed perfection: From her pouty lips to a head full of disheveled curls and the insane way her body caves inward at the waist. Shawty is fine. And the mole sitting on the bottom of her lip adds a unique flavor to her.

"Yo, you look mad cheesy, staring in my grill like that." She caught me, and her graceful stance reminded me that she had moves that flowed through her flawless body like water.

Not at all embarrassed that I missed the part where she got her treat and turned to face me, I announced, "If you weren't tryna fit the whole ice cream cone in yo mouth, then I wouldn't have a reason to be staring so hard."

"Shut the fh-uck up, Shooter," she gently pushes me away, keeping a smirk on her face. "How come it feels like you're stalking me, hunh? Do I need to start keeping protection on me?"

"Depends on the type of protection you're talking about." We both stand there, digesting the weight of my answer. Of course, she didn't have to worry about harm coming from my way, nor did she really need a condom. I wasn't planning on fucking her. But the back-and-forth banter we share keeps me entertained.

"You're gonna be a lot of trouble, Shooter. I can feel it." Lexi walks ahead of me, then looks over her shoulder to see if I'm following. I'm not. She places her free hand on her hip, "And baby— I can handle it. I'm just not sure if it's worth it."

Now that got me strolling in her direction. "What do you want from me?"

"To be your friend. To get to know you," she grips the bottom of my shirt, pulling me with her. In return, I swathe my arms around her neck like we've known each other for years. Something about this girl makes it easy to let my guard down and not worry about the unknown.

"So you two have been acquainted?" We let each other go, looking behind us. Ahmad's brows are crinkled, probably confused by the comfort Lexi and I share.

"Something like that," I answer. "She lives a few houses down from yo spot."

His eyes bounce between us, an amused look creeping along the way. "Oh, shit. Wow, small world, hunh?"

"Yep," Lexiana replies. "I just finished some choreography work over there," she points to the construction area adjacent to the studio. "And now I'm headed back to our neck of the woods."

“A’ight, then. I'll let you two wrap up," Ahmad suggests as he prepares to move along.

"Hol' up, Ahmad," I stop him in his tracks. "What's the move from here?"

"Nothin' much. I was gonna drop you back at the crib unless you wanna roll with me to my place?"

"Or—You can roll with me," Lexiana cuts in. "I mean, I ain't drive today, but at least you can see New York from a different perspective since I'm catching a subway home." She bats her eyes, long eyelashes extending her wistful stare while twisting her body side to side as she awaits my answer.

"That's your call, Shooter. You know where to catch me," Ahmad wanders off.

"Damn, it's hot as fh-uck!" Lexiana calls out, lifting up the bottom of her shirt and letting it rest comfortably below her chest.

A pink diamond ring hovers over her innie belly button. Her strides down the pavement are purposeful and long. She says nothing as I trail behind her until she makes it to the thick silver fixture plastered on the corner of the street. "They know dang well they need to uncap these fire hydrants." She then takes it upon herself to twist the cap. Without her asking for help, I come closer, using both hands to loosen it up. After a few turns, water bursts out, pressure stronger than I expected. Kids fill the streets in no time, enjoying their very own water park.

Without notice, droplets start trickling down my face. Lexiana didn't care that I was Gucci'd down. "Come on, Shooter! We only live once," she screeches before I shovel her in my arms, tossing her over my shoulder.

"Oh, you wanna play and splash water all over me?" I spin her around, going directly to the water, letting it drown her words out.

"Stop!" she cries before coughing. "My hair, my shirt, my—"

"My nothing," I back away from the fire hydrant, placing Lexi in front of me. Pebbled nipples shoot straight at me. She was soaking wet, hair stuck to dewy skin.

"Why would you do that?" Lexiana pouts, giving me the saddest puppy eyes.

"How else was I supposed to teach you a lesson?" I pose the question, not thinking much of it.

"Sometimes—I feel like you say things to get a reaction from me in the most sexual way possible."

I chuckle, trying to keep the laughter at bay, "Shawty, get the fuck outta here."

"I'm serious," she intertwines our arms, moving us along the way. "I know we barely know each other, but something is there. Like a small connection. I can't quite describe it."

"I suppose that's why you're moving me farther and farther away from my ride."

"Gotta make sure we stay the course. I think I can show you a better time than your boy can." She winks, then gestures behind me. "Are you gonna tell him to go on, or you're gon' rain check on me?"

It wasn't going to take much convincing for me to roll with Lexi, so I shot Ahmad a text, letting him know I'd check in with him when I got back to the crib.

Two hours later, we found ourselves kickin' it at a park filled with some of the most intricate and creative graffiti I’ve ever seen. When Lexi said she wanted to get to know me, she meant every word. "All right, question nine hundred and seventy-one. What's your social security number?"

A snort escapes from my gut, "bahahaha. Girl, you’re crazy-ass is hell."

"What? I'm dead-ass serious."

"A'ight. Six, seven, two—."

"Shut up, Shooter, you play too much." She pushes me into a guardrail.

"You love putting yo hands on somebody," I snatch her into my chest, giving her a tight bear hug. "And enough about me. I wanna hear more about you. You gave me an earful on your dance journey, your crazy-ass friends, and how a girl from the Bronx ended up in Queens. But I don't get the back and forth between school and the studio. You got a whip, but you take public transportation most of the time." With the sun turning over for the night, I see our shadow along the sidewalk as Lexi's palm strokes my back.

"Here's a fun fact. Driving is NEVER a necessity here. It's easier to maneuver through subways, buses, and sometimes on foot. When I tried driving to school, I noticed there was nowhere to park. Or how ridiculous the parking fees are when you're out and about. And shit, let's not talk about traffic."

"Ahhh." I bob, thinking about all my running around since being here. Lexi's point is valid. And only because I dealt with car service I never had to worry about the hassles she expressed.

"We probably should get going. Especially if we want to make it to the station by eight twenty," Lexiana looks up at me, chin propped on my torso.

"You're the leader. I'm on your time," I stare back down at her, using my index to wipe ketchup from the corner of her lip. One thing about New York is that you're bound to find a food truck nearby. And damn it, if Lexi didn't grab her a hotdog and fries the minute we spotted one.

"Dang, now you know I'm a lousy eater. I swear I don't care who's around. I'm a stuff my face and still leave proof behind."

"S'all good. You still look good."

"Oh, now I look good? You ain't been checking for me."

"Just because I don't sweat you don't mean I don't see you." I tilt her chin upward, "That mole is dope as fuck. Your face-stuffing behavior shows you're more human than you'd like to admit. Oh, and you goofy as hell." That makes her cross her eyes together, tongue sticking out. I can't help the chortle coming out. "It's nice to see someone be carefree yet as attractive as you are."

Nothing could out beat the redness covering Lexiana's face. Her blushing was one of the most feminine things I've seen her do. "If only you knew how much smaller I was last year. I've thickened out a bit. Maybe ten pounds heavier. Thank God I dance and can manage my weight."

Involuntarily, my nose flares, mouth set in a hard line, "What makes you think ten pounds added to your body is so bad, Lexiana?" Instead of an answer, she plays with her hair, wrapping an errant curl or two around her finger. Her voluminous hair adds more charm to her feminine appeal. "You define who the fuck you are! Size, color and all those other things don't matter. It's how you feel about yourself that does."

A trembling voice is all she can muster, "You're right. That's a word. But since we're getting deep and learning so much about each other, can I, at the very least, know your real name?"

I give her no rebuttal, leading her out of the park so we can make it to the train station. A few steps in, I answer, "To the world, I'm Shooter Ro, but those closest to me know me as Roland. Roland Jones."




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