The Lover, the Brother, the Jeweler, and the Ring
B. Sharise Moore
B. Sharise Moore
Cairo glanced at his wrist for the fifteenth time in as many minutes. Indecipherable symbols darted across his watch face, some glowing fluorescent green, others red and blue. He squinted hard before shoving his hands in his pockets. The alley stretched before him like a careless river of trash. Shattered glass, used condoms, discarded food wrappers, and party flyers stared up at him from the ground. On either side, the skeletal remains of vacant buildings in various states of decay towered above him.
Out of the corner of his eye, a knot of hooded figures huddled together behind a dumpster. A woman staggered past, her limp wrist held out to hail a hack. When a sour smell drifted toward his nostrils, he held his breath and resisted the urge to take another look at the watch he couldn’t read.
“She’s worth it,” he mumbled to himself. “She’s worth it.”
Two years prior, he’d met a woman on the Yard at Morgan State University’s Homecoming. Admittedly, all he’d seen was body: thighs, ass, curves he knew he could handle. But when she’d asked him to meet her at Red Emma’s bookstore for a discussion of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, he knew things would be different. Turned out, Marvellus was even more brains than she was body, half-chemical engineer, half-aspiring politician. When she talked, she taught, and he listened. Not long after, he discovered that she was a 1,000-year-old Time Traveler. Now, here he stood, ready to propose. He couldn’t see himself waking up without her.
He flinched as wisps of smoke took solid form into a tall man, thin as a rail.
“Sup, Truth,” Cairo extended a closed fist for a dap. “Thanks for agreeing to meet me. I know you be busy and everything.”
The man called Truth squinted through the washed-out amber of a nearby streetlight, but left him hanging. “Aight. I’m here. So, what’s good?”
Cairo stared at a filthy shopping bag near the toe of his sneaker and took a deep breath. “So, you know me and Marvellus been seeing each other for a minute now.”
“I wanna marry your sister,” he said, gathering the words clogging his throat. “And since your dad is gone, I figured I should ask you for your blessing.”
Truth stood there a moment, then cocked his head to the side. “For the record, I think my sister can do better. And…” he looked him up and down. “I pictured her with someone with a whole lot more style, nah mean?” He gave Cairo his back to consider and strolled toward a building in the distance.
Cairo looked down at his shoes and sucked his teeth. What the fuck was wrong with his style? He smoothed his tee shirt and popped an invisible collar only to find Truth’s thin frame almost half a block away. Shit! He grit his teeth and broke into a light jog to catch up.
It started with the practical jokes. He’d endured plenty of insults, voice changing, clothes shrinking, and eye-crossing spells since their first date. Though Truth finally agreed to fall back, Cairo often found himself daydreaming about punching him in the face. Today was no different. He rubbed one of his biceps as he walked. At 6 feet even and a solid 220, he felt he could take him if he fought fair, but of course, that was out of the question. The whole family was armed with centuries-old charms and otherworldly abilities that could crush him in a blink of an eye. Seers, Marvels, Ghoul Gatherers, Time Travelers…he knew he wouldn’t stand a chance.
Cairo gazed at Truth’s back. Red, black, and green kufi, a matching Marcus Garvey tee, and an army fatigue jacket plastered with buttons large and small, all touched by magic. He couldn’t help but stare at the buttons as they flashed Huey Newton and Fred Hampton quotes before quickly dissolving into middle fingers and obscenities. Cairo stifled a chuckle.
“Fly bastard,” he grumbled under his breath. The crunch of gravel and trash muffled their footsteps as they traipsed through the alley. Cairo sped up until he was in lockstep with Truth’s long strides.
“What kinda rings you been lookin’ at?” Truth called over his shoulder.
“I saw this two-carat diamond the other day…”
Truth whirled around to face him. “Anybody with an ounce of sense knows diamonds are lethal to Travelers,” he rubbed his temples, annoyed. “Blood diamonds! What makes you think my sister would want a blood diamond, bruh?”
Cairo stood slack-jawed.
“Humans can wear diamonds, we can’t. But to tell the truth, they ain’t none of our friends. Poisons our blood,” he spat on the ground. “Fucks up y’all spirits.” A mahogany chew stick etched with flashing symbols dangled between his lips as he spoke. “I had a feelin’ you ain’t know what the hell you were doing.” He shook his head. “Good thing I had the foresight to make this appointment.”