“Yo, Shao, where you at?” His deep rasp of a voice startles the calm in Shaolin’s soul. This isn’t the first time, but he’s always caught off guard when those feelings stir. The ones he can’t quite place, because it was something he has never experienced before. It’s something like belonging, but he also recognizes happiness. Although a fleeting emotion for him, he’s felt it before, many of those time being with Zeke and the rest of their Get Down crew, and this is it too. Along with right-ness. Maybe perfection is a better word? All he knows is, it just is, and it felt right. Natural like. Yeah…natural.
“Shao, nigga, I know you hear me.” The added base in his voice rumbles in Shaolin’s chest as well.
“I’m in the library, Books,” the lady-killing romantic tries to sound like his usual cool and casual self, but his voice sounds breathless. He feels it as well. Lately, being around Zeke consumed Shaolin with nerves. He had avoided him the past week just so he wouldn’t feel what he’s feeling now: needles poking at his lungs; his heart roaring against his ribcage. But that sense of belonging and happiness resurfaces the Calm. Like a tidal wave, it soothes over him, just as the cause comes closer. Only Zeke could set him ablaze then put out the fire just as quickly, whether it be with his presence or his words. The thought of the eloquent words of his wordsmith and best friend puts a toothy grin on Shaolin’s face.
“What you grinning for?” Now Zeke is staring down at him while he splays across the beaten up couch. He had watched the grin appear so gracefully and wondered what had delighted the DJ.
“Ain’t nobody grinning, nigga.” Shao smoothly leaps up from his lying position in the way only Shaolin Fantastic can, and lunges at Zeke.
Smiles and laughs now come out of Ezekiel’s face as he dodges the swift hands of Shaolin Fantastic. For a brief second he thinks about how magical the hands are whenever they touch a turntable. His boy can spin just as good as his words can form into rhymes so effortlessly. He’s a bad mothafucka, alright. And with Zeke’s guard down and his mind distracted, Shao lands a punch a little too hard.
“Fuck!” “Oh shit.” The two simultaneously cursed as blood spurts from Ezekiel’s nose. Once the initial shock wore off, Shaolin goes into action, closing the gap between them and grabs the bridge of Zeke’s wide nose.
“Tilt ya head back,” Shao softly commands and Zeke follows. Shao’s touch and their closeness sends a rush through him, reminding him of the night they’d promised to take over the world…and just like that, the pain is forgotten. Shaolin wasn’t exempt from that rush either. In fact, he couldn’t keep his lips from spreading, showcasing the grin that got them here in the first place. “I’m sorry, Books, I ain’t mean to hit you so hard.”
“You good, man, it was an accident,” he voices quickly, hoping to absolve his friend from any feelings of guilt. Shao watches the movement of Zeke’s lips, briefly entranced, before traveling up to his eyes. Silence befalls the two and their eyes meet, even with their height difference and Zeke’s head tilted back. The rush intensifies, coursing through their veins and lingering in their extremities. Their hearts thump so loudly they swear the other can hear it. Zeke finds himself lowering his head, drawn in by Shaolin’s dark brown orbs. Words appear in his mind, a rhyme materializing right before his eyes.
Lookin’ at you got my heart
beatin’ so fast, it’s sweatin’
The fuck is goin’ on
in my head, I’m trippin’
This feelin’ is sumthin’
familiar and new
But how can they be for another dude?
But you not some ordinary nigga
You Shaolin, my main man, my best friend
and when I met you,
I knew I’d never be the same again
Who would imagine that
this is what that meant?
So much adrenaline,
I needa run somewhere
Fuck it’s so hot,
is the sun in here?
Now my mind’s on that sunrise
and I envision the world
as our enterprise
with you, my heart’s conductor,
right by my side.
The words in Zeke’s head hang heavy over him, not quite clear of their implications. He just stares at Shao, the words becoming a continuous beat as if Shaolin were conducting it himself. The older teen is the first one to break their stare down as his eyes catch blood spilling from Zeke’s nose again and heading towards his full lips.
“I, uh, let—” he stumbles over his words before swallowing hard. Zeke watches his Adam’s apple jump in his throat then Shao’s voice brings him back to his face. “Lemme get you some tissue, iight?” As soon as Shao takes away his touch and creates space between them, the pain comes back and his nose throbs in agony.
“Shit,” he hisses, slumping down on the couch behind him. The words of his poem are still on a continuous loop, his brain thoughtlessly adding more lines, and further adding to his headache.
Shao comes back with a cold rag instead of tissues. “Here,” he offers, sitting next to Zeke. He grumbles a thanks, rests his head on the back of the couch, applies the rag, then shuts his eyes.
The DJ watches his friend, hoping to find answers to the questions firing in his brain. Instead, he finds himself taking in his side profile. He never realized how long his eyelashes were. His sideburns makes Shao wonder what it would be like to run a finger against the patch of hair. Would it be soft or rough? Then he lands on the beauty mark on the right-side corner of his top lip. The mole truly marked its beauty. He wanted to frown at the thought that seemed to come to him naturally, but his mind seems to lose the fight with his heart and the corners of his mouth turn upwards anyway. Rather than question the action or the sentiment behind it, he asks Zeke a question. “What you doin’ here, Books?”
Zeke turns his head to look at Shaolin, and was slightly surprised by how close he was. He didn’t move away, though. “What, I can’t chill with my boy now?” His tone is harsher than he means it to be, but Shao doesn’t seem to take offense to it.
“I ain’t say that. I just thought you’d be spendin’ the day with Mylene since she’s about to be off to Manhattan.” He hopes Zeke doesn’t hear the annoyance in his voice because he knows he’ll get upset. Zeke scolds him for treating Mylene rudely and disrespectfully, but Shao can’t help how she gets under his skin. Mylene was always taking Zeke away from their fun and from his destiny. When Shaolin first heard his poetic sentences, he knew Zeke was destined for greatness way beyond the Bronx; the two of them would have their own kingdom together. Mylene distracted Zeke, though. Plus she painted Shaolin as a lowlife who wanted to keep Zeke down in the belly of the beast. Although the pair often found themselves in compromising situations, Shao would never intentionally involve Zeke into his bullshit. Their adventures were always spontaneous and Zeke was always down, enjoying their escapades but also keeping Shao levelheaded before he could divulge into any recklessness.
Shao thinks about the night of the fire, when his mind was boggled by past memories, present pain, and future struggle. Books affirmed he had his back, showing a true loyalty and compassion no one else ever had, not even his own parents. Mylene threatened that; she made him fickle. He was always ready to drop everything for that girl. What if he decides to travel after her once she made it big? What would happen to them? He felt the resemblance of jealousy boiling inside him, but he wouldn’t dare admit it aloud or even acknowledge it to himself.
“Nah, she left last night,” Zeke answers, causing Shaolin to frown deeply.
“Yo, if you only here so I can entertain you while ya precious Butterscotch Queen is gone, then you can go back to wherever the fuck you was at.”
Zeke sits up, scooting to the edge of his seat, and gives Shao a look of disbelief. His best friend has his arms crossed over his chest and a mug rests on his face. Rolling his eyes, Zeke sucks his teeth. “Shao, I know you still not on that shit, B.” He doesn’t respond, just huffs and turns his head, looking at nothing, but needing to avoid Zeke’s eyes. “I ain’t never chose her over you. But I’m always breaking my promises to her so I can rip and run witchu and the rest of The Get Down Brothers.” Shao’s still paying him no mind, but he notices the way the DJ’s nostrils flare angrily. Zeke heaves a sigh. “Shao, c’mon, look at me.” A few short seconds past before he does as he’s instructed. Shao can see the plea in his friend’s eyes and his face softens. “I got so much goin’ on: our music, Mylene, that internship…” Zeke pauses, shaking his head. Even the thought of his many responsibilities overwhelm him. “I just need you to cut me some slack, iight? Mylene’s my girl, shit, you knew that when you first met me. She ain’t goin’ nowhere no time soon, but you ain’t goin’ nowhere either, Shao. I may not be able to hang witchu as much, but you still my best friend, and you’ll never not be important to me. Ya dig?”
“Yeah, I dig it,” he says as his teeth and gums do everything but hide. As if contagious, Zeke soon has the same goofy look on his face.
“So we good?”
“Yeah.” Once again, no sounds exchange between them as they stare at one another. Suddenly, Shao pulls a joint from his pocket like he always does when he gets nervous around Zeke. He’s afraid of what he might say or do so he keeps himself occupied with the smoking and passing of the joint, and if all else fails, he knows he can blame whatever actions on the weed. Like that time he felt the urge to kiss him on the rooftop of his dojo, and on the hood of the Cadillac, and in the back of the OJ.
What the fuck is these feelings? Shaolin mothafuckin’ Fantastic don’t do feelings. Certainly not for another man. He’s convinced this is simply raging teenage hormones. I just needa find a bitch to fuck. Before he could even end the thought he dismisses it with a deep scold. If he’s honest with himself, the thought of sex left him feeling queasy. Oftentimes it was simply a means to an end. It was always mechanical and emotionless.
That isn’t him and Zeke, though. Everything Zeke does is deep and passionate. Every step he takes, every word he utters, is delivered with intensity, meaning, and purpose. What Books makes him feel is nothing like sex. It’s light and sweet…like cotton candy. Shaolin smiles at the analogy. And once again, Books is lost, left wondering what keeps making his friend smile so goofily. Was that how he was with Mylene?
“Damn, Shao,” he begins with a soft laugh. “What girl got ya nose open?”
“What you talkin’ ‘bout, Books?”
“Man, you been grinnin’ to yaself all day like you in love or sumthin.”
He sucks his teeth. “Go on somewhere with that love bullshit, B.”
“Well, what else got you so giddy?”
“Damn, I can’t just be happy?”
He wants to tell him there’s a difference between being happy and being giddy, but he doesn’t press the issue. “Well, I’m happy that you happy.” There’s a pause as the two look at one another grinning, their faces so close, they were nearly inhaling each other’s carbon dioxide.
Once nervousness takes over him again, Shao remembers the joint in his hand. He turns away from Zeke, fishing through his front pocket for a lighter. He pulls it out then lights up the stress reliever wrapped in white rolling papers before taking a deep pull. A thick cloud of smoke bellows from Shao’s thick lips and Zeke is seduced by the sight. His friend can make just about anything look cool, but this is the first time he made something look sexy. Eyes wide, he gulps as he sits back, acknowledgement hitting him like a ton of bricks. What he thought was friendship and adoration could possibly be something more.
I think I like Shaolin Fantastic.
He briefly thinks of buying a new notebook to fill with poetry inspired by his newfound muse before he shakes the thought from his head. He’s not sure what to do with the newly discovered information, so he takes the joint from Shaolin’s outstretched hand without a word.