by Timothy Willis Sanders
Illustration by Carlos Rosales-Silva
R. Kelly did the Tootsee Roll. Adina Howard watched R.Kelly. R. Kelly dipped and looked at Adina Howard. Adina Howard walked to R. Kelly.
“I like watching you Tootsee Roll,” said Adina Howard, “Take me to that Kevin Bacon movie.” She handed R. Kelly a folded napkin.
Later, R. Kelly got on the highway with Michael Bivins. R. Kelly unfolded the napkin on the steering wheel.
“Digits. Kevin Bacon movie,” said R. Kelly.
“Big ass chi-chis. Go for it,” said Michael Bivins.
“Hate Kevin Bacon though,” said R. Kelly. “Don’t know…she was with DMX. I think he’s in jail.”
“I don’t know. Maybe you have to watch out for girls who make those kinds of choices.”
“No. Why is he in jail?”
“They found a gun in his car or something.”
“When does he get out?” said Michael Bivins.
“I don’t know. I don’t really know him,” said R. Kelly.
“Probably be a while,” said Michael Bivins, “Big ass chi-chis.” Michael Bivins spread his hands over his chest. R. Kelly laughed. They exited the highway.
R. Kelly sat in the box office. He saw the Mall Security Guard. R. Kelly flagged down the Mall Security Guard. The Mall Security Guard waddled over. R. Kelly thought, “You’re like 800 pounds. Your face…” He looked at the things on the Mall Security Guard’s face.
“How long does someone go to jail for if he’s caught with a gun?” said R. Kelly.
“Depends if the gun was stolen, or used in a murder,” said the Mall Security Guard. R. Kelly looked away. He thought, “Giant chi-chis.”
Aaliyah walked to the box office. R. Kelly met her at the glass.
“Two for Titanic, 7:30 show,” said Aaliyah.
R. Kelly looked at Aaliyah’s body. Aaliyah wore slacks and a low cut top. He looked at her Banana Republic name tag.
“7:30. Are you bringing your boyfriend?” said R. Kelly.
“No. My girlfriend Missy. I like boats. She has a crush on Leonardo.”
“And you have a crush on Kells.” R. Kelly smiled and pointed to his name-tag. The name-tag read KELLZ.
“No,” said Aaliyah. She took her tickets and walked away. R. Kelly watched her walk away. He thought, “Kevin Bacon movie. Used in a murder.”
R. Kelly swept behind the popcorn machine. Teddy Riley stacked popcorn buckets.
“I like Aaliyah,” said R. Kelly. “She works at Banana Republic, dresses nice, watches movies like Titanic…not the Kevin Bacon shit I’m seeing Friday night.”
Teddy Riley sighed a little. He walked to the store room without looking at R. Kelly.
“And she likes boats,” said R. Kelly.
“Boats?” said Teddy Riley from the store room.
“Wrong movie to see if she likes boats.”
“Yeah. Who says that though? I like boats.”
“Didn’t she go out with Keith Sweat?”
Teddy Riley walked out of the store room. He had five bags of Twizzlers. He said, “I don’t know…” in a low voice. R. Kelly swept some popcorn kernels into a pile. He swept the pile into a dustpan.
Friday night. R. Kelly picked Adina Howard up at 8:30. She wore a pink top and tall black heels. Children stood at the movie theater entrance. They pointed at Adina Howard’s chest and laughed. R. Kelly thought, “Giant chi-chis.”
R. Kelly looked at Kevin Bacon. He thought, “Jesus. I hate Kevin Bacon.” Adina Howard put her tongue into R. Kelly’s mouth. He put his hand on Adina Howard’s breast. He thought, “Feels empty.” Adina Howard pushed her tongue further into R. Kelly’s mouth. He thought, “I am going to choke. I am going to die during a Kevin Bacon movie.”
R. Kelly got in the car. He rubbed his jaw. His jaw was sore from kissing Adina Howard. He parked near Adina Howard’s apartment. Adina Howard looked at R. Kelly. She looked at the ignition.
“Do you want to come in?” said Adina Howard.
“No,” said R. Kelly. He thought, “Aaliyah.”
“Not even for a little bit?” said Adina Howard.
R. Kelly drove home. He thought, “ Banana Republic.” He will talk to Keith Sweat tomorrow. “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel came on the radio. R. Kelly turned the volume knob right. He rubbed his jaw.
R. Kelly saw Keith Sweat outside Foot Locker. Keith Sweat was holding a job application.
“15% discount, if I get it,” said Keith Sweat.
“Tight,” said R. Kelly.
Keith Sweat and R. Kelly slapped hands. They walked to the food court. R. Kelly looked at the Starter logo on Keith Sweat’s Green Bay pullover. He thought, “Tight.” They got 8-piece nugget meals from Chik-Fil-A. Keith Sweat got Polynesian sauce. R. Kelly got Honey Mustard.
“What’s up with Aaliyah?” said R. Kelly.
“She’s cool. I don’t know.”
“Don’t know what?”
“She’s alright. I kissed her once in the Hallmark Store.”
Keith Sweat looked around. R. Kelly put a waffle fry in his mouth. He thought, “They just kissed. That’s all.” Keith Sweat took out the job application.
“You got a pen?”
“No,” said R. Kelly, “good luck.”
R. Kelly made a peace sign. Keith Sweat nodded. R Kelly threw away his Chick-Fil-A bag.
R. Kelly sat in the box office. He watched Aaliyah walk by. She looked at him. R. Kelly smiled. She kept walking. R. Kelly pulled out a spiral notebook. The spiral notebook had “Lyfe Journal” drawn on the cover in graffiti letters. He thought, “Aaliyah.”
He wrote two lines:
You remind me of my jeep
I want to ride it
R. Kelly thought, “A jeep is a good metaphor for Aaliyah. I should write this on a card from the Hallmark Store and send it to Banana Republic.”
R. Kelly imagined Aaliyah reading the card. He imagined being on a boat with Aaliyah. The phone rang.
“Heritage Plaza 3, this is Kells,” said R. Kelly. He looked at the two lines.
"It’s dark and hell is hot."
"You will be motherfucker."
R. Kelly hung up. He looked at the phone lines. Line 1 was red. R. Kelly pressed Line 1. Line 1 went clear. Line 2 blinked red. The phone rang.
"Heritage Park 3, this is Teddy," said R. Kelly.
"Do you know the latest time Titanic is playing," said a lady.
R. Kelly told the lady 9:30. He hung up. Line 1 and Line 2 were clear. He heard the theater doors open. People walked into the lobby. R. Kelly closed his spiral notebook. He went into the theater. He swept popcorn into the dustpan. He picked up an empty box of Milk Duds. He swept a Hot Tamale into the dustpan.
“Kells!” said Teddy Riley.
R. Kelly jumped. He saw Teddy Riley at the door.
“Someone wants to talk to you,” said Teddy Riley.
R. Kelly looked out the theater doors. R. Kelly saw a man standing in the lobby. The man had on a tank top, jeans, Timberland boots. The man looked at R. Kelly. R. Kelly nodded at the man. The man walked to R. Kelly.
“You R. Kelly?”
“I’m the brother you just got off the phone with.”
R. Kelly looked away.
“I didn’t know you was so young. I should’ve known since you workin’ at a motherfuckin’ movie theater in the motherfuckin’ mall,” said DMX. “No wonder Dina said nothing happened…how old are you?”
R. Kelly looked away.
“Shit, I came ready to stomp some ass. But nothing happened. Right?”
DMX looked at R. Kelly with an angry expression. R. Kelly shook his head.
“Right. Cause I’d stomp your ass.”
DMX walked out of the lobby. R. Kelly exhaled. Aaliyah walked by the box office. DMX waved at Aaliyah. They talked. R. Kelly watched DMX talk to Aaliyah. Aaliyah laughed and threw back her hair.
Timothy Willis Sanders (b.1980) is a writer in Austin, TX. His work has appeared in Nano Fiction. He is currently an editorial assistant and blogger at American Short Fiction.
willis.dyer [at] gmail.com
Born in El Paso, TX in 1982, Carlos has been listening to pop R&B for over 28 years.
carlosrosalessilva [at] gmail.com
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