Promise Me Always(4)

By: Rhonda Shaw


“Fuck!”

I tossed the journal onto the floor and it landed with a smack, loose papers spilling out the side, each one of them with nothing but fucking scribbles. Words were out of reach, which worried me more than anything. The inability to produce a mean quip or a clever verse just wasn’t an option. I had to come up with something.

Being famous at almost twenty-five years old was a concept still hard for me to grasp. My songs climbed to the top of every hip-hop chart known to man, a surprise to me each and every time, and they earned me more money than I knew what to do with. Everywhere I went, people recognized me because of the interest my music garnered, both good and bad. I laughed when my songs showed up as examples of what was wrong with the people of my generation by the stupid fucking politicians and public interest groups. But I was humbled whenever they were declared a prime example of pure talent in the hip-hop world.

With the popularity came women, lots of them. I could have a different choice every night, if that’s what I wanted. Sometimes I took up an offer, needing to find release outside of a bottle, but other times, I only wanted to go back to my room—alone—to wallow in my grief.

Every one of my dreams had come true, everything I’d worked so hard to achieve, but I struggled to enjoy any of it because I was fucking miserable. I longed for the one real thing ever to exist in my life, resulting in me walking around with a black hole in my chest for the past six years. My only means to surviving the time without her was to numb the pain wracking my body, and then even my escape of choice turned on me when I’d collapsed. Dollar found me, only hours from death, and called 911, but I almost wished they’d left me to end my misery.

The phone in my room shrilled, threatening to cause a relapse of the headache that had finally relented. I debated not answering, but then whoever it was would keep calling, and if I still didn’t answer, there’d be a knock on my door. A welfare check, as they liked to call it.

“Yeah?”

“You have a visitor, Mr. Anderson.”

“I don’t want to see anyone.”

“Tell him it’s me…Dollar,” I heard on the other end, and I sighed. He’d been trying to visit me, and I’d turned him away each time, not ready to face him and hear his lectures, but I’d put it off too long.

“All right. I’ll be down in a sec.”

Dollar was already there when I arrived, and he jumped up from one of the chairs.

“D, my man.” He pulled me into a one-armed hug.

“Hey, man. Good to see you.” It was, even if I had been avoiding him.

If there was anyone who had complete confidence in me, it was Dollar. Ever since day one, when he first heard me in a freestyle battle at The Sanctuary, a club from our old stomping grounds, he’d become dedicated to doing whatever he could to get me on the path to stardom. He’d hounded me to cut recording after recording, and to rework quips so they were cutting as well as lyrical. Because of him, I’d made it and would never forget all he’d done for me. Not only was he still one of my closest friends, he was my manager as well.

There was only one thing we’d ever disagreed on and that had been Gabrielle; but in the end, it hadn’t mattered because he’d gotten what he wanted.

“How are things going?” he asked.

“All right. Still working through things.” I sat in the chair across from him.

“When are they going to let you split this joint?” He smiled, displaying multiple gold teeth.

“When I’m ready, man.”

“We need you back out there. We need to start some new shit.”

I slouched in my chair and hissed out a breath, not ready for this conversation. “I need fucking time, Dollar. Let me get my shit together. I can’t think straight yet.”

“That’s cool, man. That’s cool. I get it. I’m just curious is all.” He eyed me. “Do you need anything, man?”

My eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

He shoved his hands inside the waistband of his jeans and pulled out a small plastic bag, tossing it into my lap. I picked it up and, recognizing the long, white bars of Xanax, threw it back at him.