Chill and Tina Sanders met at my Christmas party in Harlem. Something told me that the fake nail wearing, hair weave throwing Black princess from my job would be the kind of girl that Chill would be into. Tina had a history of dating men in prison. Chill liked sistas with big tits and succulent lips. It seemed to me that they were destined to be together.
“Come to my party, Chill. It’s not going to be an all gay male party. I want you to meet my friend Tina.”
“Word? When is it?”
“On the Saturday before Christmas.”
“Alright, Chaz, but da bitch better be what you say she is.”
“Oh, trust me. Tina is fly.”
It was my first Christmas in Harlem. I had been a vagrant for nearly two years; living from sublet to sublet and staying with friends on and off while waiting for construction to be complete on the house that my close friend, Patrick McGovern was building. I couldn’t wait to move into the remodeled brownstone on 121st Street. The walls were fresh and not a scuff mark was on the hardwood floors. I was the first to live in the apartment—quite a change from the homes I had in Brooklyn and Jersey City over the years where when moving in, I often found myself spraying for roaches and cleaning clogged hairs from sinks before I could even take my coat off.
Finally, I got my keys, paid the deposit and made myself at home. I was just around the corner from Maya Angelou’s New York City dwelling. The evergreen tree that I put up that year was decorated in purple lights and expensive velvet ornaments from Macy’s. I just had to show the place off and wanted a good turn out for my unofficial house warming party.
“Tina, I am inviting you to my Christmas Party.”
“Oh, for real? When is it going to be?”
“Next Saturday. A friend of mine who just got out of prison is coming. I want you to meet him.”
She looked at me suspiciously and asked, “Oh really?”
“He is jail trade, girl. I wish he was into my kind, but he’s not. But he’s a good friend and he needs to meet a girl. He’s been in prison for more than fifteen years, you know…”
She pretended to be disgusted by my suggestion, but I saw a twinkle in her eye—one that little kids have on Christmas morning when they wake up knowing that Santa had been in their home.
“What can I bring?”
“Feel free to bring a bottle of booze, oh and be sure to have a baby sitter for the entire night.”
“I don’t know about that,” Tina said.
“Trust me girl, you are going to want the evening to yourself and Chill.”
The party was fierce. There must have been at least sixty people who dropped by that night. They were mostly people who I did not know—friends of Tina’s from the projects and others were co-workers of my roommate, Anthony Owens. It didn’t take much work as matchmaker to establish the bond that I had imagined for Tina and Chill. The two spent most of the evening in a corner of the living room, next to the front window where my wooden rocking chair once sat.
“I like her, Chaz,” Chill whispered when Tina ran into my bathroom—the ladies room.
“I knew you would, Chill. Consider her your Christmas present from me.”
Chill just smiled.
Soon after, I appeared in my Santa suit and stopped the rap music that the strangers in my house had been playing on my stereo—music that I had not authorized but refused to change because of my charming hospitality. I placed my “Music from the Edge of Heaven” disc into the CD player and began to strip for my guests.
The mostly straight crowd began to gasp. Not at me, but at my selection of music—“Last Christmas” by Wham!
Shawn quickly grabbed his camera and we completed our mission. He wanted to capture not more photographs of me, but rather of the audience and the looks on their faces when they saw my big white bootie up close.
It made my holiday that year when Chill put a $20 in my g-string. Tina thought that was cool. She was surprised that a thuggish ex-con could be so gay friendly like she was. The act was enough to convince Tina to break her dating rule. She took Chill home that night, even though she typically never even kissed on the first date.
“How was it?” I asked Chill weeks later, after watching the two leave my brownstone, hand in hand that evening.”
“It was alright. Not bad,” he said, looking at me as if I may have some other plan to help make his transition to the real world a little easier.
“Thanks for the twenty dollars.”
“Hey, I want that back. I’m broke again,” he said.
I returned his money, feeling a little embarrassed by my holiday exhibitionism and besides, it was part of our original plan. I did tell him that Tina was a gold digger and he had to do what a man has to do…