One Friday evening about one month before graduating from High School, I was heading over to my friend DL’s house to get a haircut. It was springtime in Detroit and the weather was in the high 70s which is a big deal considering Michigan winters are harsh. Young girls were walking down the street with Aaliyah type hairstyle while dudes wore tank tops and Air force 1’s. It was a beautiful day and I was looking forward to the weekend while counting down the days until my graduation.
DL’s family owned a two family flat and by senior year they gave him the entire bottom half to live in. DL’s entrance was on the side of the driveway and as usual the hard door was open but the screen door was locked. Although a good barber, DL was infamously known to fall asleep and miss appointments, so it was no surprised that I got no answer after a few hard knocks. Any other time I would leave and come back but I had to attend an open entry college program for Wayne State University(WSU) the next morning. A recruiter had came to my High School a month prior stating that the program was a probationary entry for those students whose grades may not be able to get them in the college of their choosing. The recruiter also said that the program gives students the opportunity to improve their GPA at a University instead of attending a community college. At the time, I personally had no interest in any type of school post graduation, however my grandmother who raised me had a 6th grade education and highly believed that college was the key to success. “That piece of paper is important and once you have it dem white folks can’t tell a nigga shit baby!!!,” she would often say. So I figured I’d at least enroll in the program until a better idea came along. After a few more knocks, DL’s girlfriend “Cyn” came to the door wearing lime green low cut boy shorts and a white tank top while holding the house phone on her left neck while the cord was almost wrapped around her entire body. Never stopping her phone conversation Cyn let me in where I was greeted with the smell of fried chicken and weed. “She said what?!! Hell naw, call that bitch on the 3-way right now!!! I’m gonna check this bitch!,” Cyn said yelling into the phone on one hand while offering me a piece of fried wings from the skillet in the other hand. “No thank you,” I said as I signaled to her that I was heading straight to DL’s room. “Wake that lazy nigga up and tell him to come eat,” she said. I nodded yes and continue on and sure enough, DL was in a sleep coma.
Above DL’s waterbed was a pin-up poster of Michael Jordan’s famous free-throw line leap from the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. To the left was a poster of Too $hort wearing an all black suit with the title “Get In Where You Fit In.” DL was snoring with one arm over his head and the other to the side while an astray sat on his stomach. He was shirtless, wearing a herringbone gold necklace and black jogging Nike pants with bright white socks. I kicked his leg hard a few times before he finally leaped up out the bed in shock while wiping the drool from his mouth. “The fuck nigga?!!, you damn near burnt me!!!,” he said as he brushed the burnt ashes off his stomach. “Dawg, you didn’t answer the door and yo ass probably forgot,” I said. “Naw nigga I got you, lets get this shit over with,” DL said. Before we left out the room, as usual, DL grabbed a tank top and as always stopped to look in the mirror using his fingers to straighten out his mustache. “Fuckin gorgeous,” he whispered. DL may have been average height but his self-confidence was Shaq like tall. DL smacked Cyn on the butt and grabbed a piece of chicken as we headed to the basement.
DL’s basement was indeed a miniature barbershop shop. He had a big screen TV pinned against the front wall with plenty of movie VHS and DVDs with a real barber chair. I sat in the chair and DL was brushing loose hairs off the clippers when he looked at me puzzled and said “Nigga weren’t you just here a few days ago?” I explain to him the entry program I had to attend the next morning and how they stressed the importance of business attire. “Oh college Carlton Banks ass nigga,” DL said which I took offense to because he knew my feelings on school after graduation and how I hated the idea. DL himself already had after Graduation plans to attend trade school and cut hair and do welding while saving enough money to buy a house. “Fuck that college shit nigga, I’m trying to get paid. I ain’t no college nigga,” He would often say. I on the other hand was clearer about what I did not want to do versus what I actually wanted to do. One teacher in particular told me that I was an “abstract spirit” and “it may take me either a while or a defining moment to figure out my path.” The hard truth is that I was envious of DL because he at least had a plan along with parents who spoiled him rotten with free rent, fresh clothes, a live-in girlfriend and a new Grand Cherokee Jeep in the driveway that often would give me nightmares.
After 30mins DL was brushing the loose hairs off my face when he suddenly stopped and ask me “What time was my appointment in the morning?” I told him that the session starts at 8am but they encouraged everyone to get there by 7:30am because seats will get filled quickly.
DL “I need a favor.”
Me “What is it?”
DL “Need you to take me out to Dearborn in the morning to grab this car over by my Aunt’s place. My aunt got this neighbor whose nephew left for the military and doesn’t want his Buick Regal anymore so it just sits there. The Old White Lady says I can have it but the battery needs a boost. So I need a ride and yo jumper cables and I’m good.“
Me “What time exactly?”
DL “About 5:30 or 6am. It shouldn’t take long at all.”
I figured why not considering I already had to reluctantly be up early anyways so what’s an extra hour. Almost felt like DL was doing me a favor. The next morning I was in front of DL’s house at 5:40am and he was already standing outside wearing a dark grey long sleeve shirt, black jeans and black Jordan Space Jams. I was wearing a hoodie and shorts while my dress clothes that included black pants, white shirt and a tie was folded in the backseat for the later WSU entry session. “10mins tops,” DL said as he slammed my car door. With there being no signs of traffic on a Saturday morning, I had also looked forward to possibly getting breakfast afterward.
Dearborn, MI was south of Detroit outside city limits and had a reputation for not liking us “Colored Folk.” The white residents of Dearborn, MI didn’t have the most “Welcoming” reputation for greeting black people and it was no surprise to get a “You look suspicious” look if seen walking or harassed by security in Fairlane Mall. There are also countless stories most Detroiters can speak of an encounter with Dearborn Police because they were Driving While Black. DL had me park about 5 houses away from the Blue Buick Regal and said he would signal for me after he gets the keys from the Old White Lady. At the time I was still dozy from being up at the crack of dawn that I instantly went into sleep mode. KNOCK! KNOCK! I heard in what did not feel long enough sleep was DL standing outside my car. “C’mon nigga, lets go,” He said. So I drove up to face the Regal car hood, I attached the jumper cables and started the car instantly. As I wrapped up the jumper cables and walked toward my trunk I heard a door slam open behind me. “Who is out there? That’s my grandson’s car!!! I got a gun for yo asses,” said this Old White Lady wearing a nightgown and crooked glasses that I’m pretty sure was missing a lens. The Old White Lady was standing in her driveway holding a small pistol, hands shaking while trying to load in her bullets. I looked at DL and he was already putting the car in drive and U-Turned toward the opposite road running over a garbage can in the process. I slammed my trunk, leaped in my car, and drove as fast my 4 cylinder 1989 Ford Hunchback Escort could go. Lucky for me no one was outside because I drove through 3 stop signs without a pause until I got on the main road. My brain was on fire with so many “What the fuck just happen?” thoughts that I did not notice that the yellow light had turned red the moment I passed it which gave enough reason for the sitting cop to flick me over.
The thought of being greeted by Dearborn Police was not part of my Saturday morning plans and considering I was outside Detroit city limits the possibility of getting arrested was oh so real. Within the 313, especially if the cop was black, I could possibility charm my way out of the situation with a bogus excuse, however beyond the border in the city of Dearborn was a different story. The Officer was white, about 6’2 and had an athletic built that looked like he had “Thrown a couple niggas through a window before,” I thought. “License and registration,” he said with a Magnum P.I. type mustache while wearing mirror sunglasses that reflected my soul. “I am reaching to the glove dept for my info,” I said. The Officer snatched the info from my hand, glanced at it and then said firmly “Get out the car sir.” My stomach dropped to my ankles. “Fuck,” I thought. On routine I placed both hands on top of the hood which was hot as hell because the car was still running and spread my legs. The officer patted me down and asked the basics if I had any “Guns or drugs inside my vehicle.” Saying “No” to each answer quicker than he(Officer) could ask the next question, while I also hoped my nervousness was not obvious.
Officer “Why were you in such a rush and What brings you out early this morning?”
Me “Trying to make it home.”
Officer “Why you trying to get back home so fast mister Hall?”
Me “My mother works overnight sir and I fell asleep over a friend’s house and she’ll get mad if I’m not home in time.”
The Officer just stared at me revealing no emotional reaction if he believed my story or not. “Don’t move,” he said coldly. The officer then begin to search through my car by tossing EVERYTHING out into the street. The white shirt and tie were laying on top of the dirt gravel with the Officer’s foot on top “To politely hold it in place,” he said. My CDs were thrown in the air like frisbees. First I thought the officer was laughing at me but what I heard sounded to distant to be him. I looked across the street in an empty parking lot to see a Blue Buick Regal parked with smoke coming out the windows in small short puffs that was being evaporated quickly by the wind. By the time the officer was done with his search my entire belongings were on the road even my spare tire. “Do yourself a favor Mister Hall and get home now,” he said. I reached for my license and registration thinking he would politely hand them over but instead the Officer dropped them to the ground with a smirk walking away saying “Now you have a nice morning sir.”
The officer had been gone for about 5mins when DL drove up in time to see me put the last of my stuff in the car. “Damn nigga, what you do to piss that cracker ass cop?!!” DL said. I just looked at DL with a blank stare. “What was up with that old white lady DL? I thought you said the car situation was cool?,” I said. DL took one last puff of his blunt and said “Hell if I know nigga, that old bitch just crazy and forgot she gave me the keys I guess. But what does it matter nigga? You trying to get some pancakes?” I told him I was “straight on the pancakes” and that I would check him out later. The time on my watch was now 7:45am and I had 15mins before the enrolment starts and I was easily 30mins away so I planned to put the car in high gear once I reached the “Welcome To Detroit” sign.
I rushed in the door at 8:08am and stumbled across 4 desks while apologizing for knocking over someone’s coffee mug. I found a seat on the upper far end of the lecture hall. Once I sat down and was settled, I noticed that everyone was staring at me. The speaker was upfront and said, “Are you good now sir?” With dirt on my shirt and a loose tie, I cleared my throat and said “Yes, yes sir I am, apologies.” The speaker smiled and said:
‘Its ok, young man. And now for the rest of you like I was saying, Life is about choices and today, well today you have made the first choice for the rest of your lives….”