The first part of the story can be viewed here... Just incase you missed it. :) New Cloud of Beauty. Part 1
“You’re lucky you go in-state,” I said after we picked up two of his friends, JJ, a guy I knew vaguely from middle school, and Freddy. Chris nodded. He had the luxury of going to school with people who knew who he really was.
Club 7 was a sweatbox of rum, cologne, and long hair extensions. Like any club in the city, its patrons gyrated under a cloud of smoke and weed, but unlike most clubs, the crowds came early to Club 7 because at the best joint on 8th Street the prospects of a good DJ and a good hookup were always high.
Chris grabbed my arm and led me to the dance floor once we’d all gotten through security. Turquoise and fushia and gold flashed above our heads and we danced and we danced and we danced. I wasn’t drunk but my head was light and the room was swirling, as I swung my hips in every which direction. I saw a girl jump in front of Chris and mash her buttocks against his groin to the base beat of the music, and Chris’s friends paired off in a similar fashion. But I chose to sway alone. I closed my eyes and reveled in the freedom of the dark.
After a dozen songs I felt a tap on my back. I turned around and JJ motioned for me to follow him.
“What’s up?” I yelled in his ear, but he didn’t reply. He led me through the undulating horde of people to the back of the club. I squinted, and in the dim light I saw Chris and Freddy standing in front of the fire exit among a group of ten or twelve people.
“Here she is,” JJ mouthed, and he nudged me to the center.
“Thanks,” Chris said. “Hey, Jess, these are some people I want you to meet. You know Jay and Shanice.” He gestured to a light-skinned girl who looked like Naomi Campbell and a darker one with a tighter dress, who looked like she needed birth control. “This is Jason, Eric, Larry, Sean…”
The boys all smiled and waved or tipped their hats in greeting. I smiled too, at first, but then I realized that everyone was looking at me.
“Hey,” I said. “Nice to meet you.” But my cheeks were trembling. I felt their eyes around me and upon me, and I knew they were judging me. I tried to hide my discomfort as the room spun and my vision blurred, but still I crumbled under their gazes like a speck in a swarm of ants. My skin crawled and my eyes darted. I tried to look up, but I couldn’t, so I flashed a smile as I watched the floor, and I prayed for a conversation to start.
“Do you go to school here?” drawled one of the boys; Kingsley, I think. He crossed his arms and he looked at me sideways.
“No,” I stuttered. I tried to drop the stupid smile still trembling on my face. “I go to school in Atlanta.”
Kingsley nodded and frowned. “What made you wanna go there?”
“We’re really good in the sciences, and I’m pre-med. And the campus is—it’s really beautiful.”
“You coulda stayed here,” said another one, Darius, who was next to me. “Mid-west got a lot of trees too.” He grinned. “Ya’ll got a lot of parties up there?”
“Yeah,” I said. “But I don’t drink, so...”
“Oh,” he said, and he looked disappointed.
After that it was silent for a while, but eventually Jayla said something funny, and the whole group united in laughter without me. They went back and forth about some girl and some guy, and I chided myself for thinking I was well enough to be there. Conversation is an art form, I thought, as smiles flashed from one side of the group to the other, and I wondered who’d given Chris and his friends permission to be happy.
Suddenly a hand was waving in my face. “Yo, where you at?” laughed Darius. “I said, ‘how you like this song?’” But I was startled, and confused, so I didn’t say anything. He jumped in front of me and looked over his shoulder at Chris. “I think she must’ve had something, dog, her eyes look gone.”
And at that, my best friend came over. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I mumbled. My mouth was like mush. Now they all probably thought I was stupid. “I’m just a little tired.”
“You’re spacing out, girl.” He put his hand to the small of my back and walked me towards the lounge area. “Why don’t you go sit down or something, then?”
Chris jogged back into the party. Maybe he wasn’t angry, but he was probably embarrassed. I sat on one of the plush, crimson couches and crossed my legs. There was a prostitute perched on one butt-cheek on the couch in front of me, and a man was sitting beside her. As her breasts bounced like Jell-o before the man and he pulled her closer, I thought of the last time that I’d been kissed, and how that had been my first time. I sank back into the chair and remembered the cloud of beauty that had overwhelmed us and how I couldn’t sleep for days after. But then I waved the thoughts of him away. He was gone, so there was no use in feeling anything.
The DJ turned the music up and I realized that “A Millie” by Lil’ Wayne was on. Damn I hate a shy bitch; don’t you hate a shy bitch? blared the stereos, and someone offered me a Smirnoff and I took it. My throat burned, and I began to think of the many ways that I could punish myself for being afraid of human beings. I’ve been numb for weeks, I thought, and the tears came when I realized that I wanted to destroy my wrists to feel.
I took another Smirnoff off of somebody and downed it. I turned sharply to my left and everything swam before me, and when I came to, the man sitting next to me was looking at me.
“You seem thirsty,” he said. He was dark, and his teeth gleamed when he grinned. “My name is Kirabo. It means ‘gift from God.’”
Immigrants, I thought. My parents were like that once.
“Where are you from?” he said, moving closer to me. His accent was thick and rich like syrup.
“I’m Nigerian,” I slurred. “Where’re you from, gift from God?”
“I am from Uganda. You do look Nigerian,” he said, and he grinned again. “You’ve got a pretty nose.”
I frowned, but then I smiled at him and he held my gaze until I dropped it. Usually, I would’ve avoided a random guy in a club, but I was drunk and he seemed innocent, so I kept up the conversation. He asked me gently what I was studying and I told him I wanted to be a doctor and write on the side.
“That’s amazing,” he said, and he smiled. “I can’t write to save anything.”
And I relaxed. Like my family, like my mother, writing was a natural part of me that I could talk about without blinking. But then I remembered attending a writing workshop earlier that month, and sitting at a round table and being surrounded by eyes, and I winced.
“Do you want to dance?”