The easiest way to present what I’m trying to disclose here is to simply show rather than tell. I know, as smooth as I am, even a brother that’s got his stuff together can get on your nerves. I wouldn’t want that to happen because what I’m saying here is important. It’s as serious as someone sitting on your new couch, jheri curl smearing on the material leaving a stain that, if not cleaned immediately, leaves a hole in the linen, woven cloth couch that you recently bought after you had just enough money to pay off the layaway on the rest of your living room set. It’s serious.
When a man has reached the point where he wants to call it quits from the race, he quits sometimes because of meeting the right woman. I believe there is something that will cause a brother to change more often than the right woman, frustration. The fun in being with more than one woman kind of plays itself out really fast, but you wouldn’t know that because of how most men live. The whole dating scene is a pain, the riding around looking cool, saying the right things, hoping that a woman will accept what you’re saying so you can hook her, it’s all a big pain. So why do we do it? Ego, maybe, fear, maybe. Mostly it’s the idea that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want, selfishness. Frustration is a constant for a Stage One or Two man. It is this frustration that is the precursor for most men who settle down.
My boy Flip is a perfect representation of this. I’ve known Flip for a few years and as far as I’m concerned that gives him a much higher status than just an associate, he’s like family. We met at work. Being the only two brothers in the department we instantly bonded and became good friends. He asked a lot of questions his first day, which is normal. Usually I avoided new people cause I didn’t want to play twenty questions with them. But because Flip was a brother, or close to being a brother, I felt that I had to be there for him.
“How long have you been working here?”
“Bout three years,” I said.
“Are you an engineer?”
“Nah just a QA analyst. I repair what the engineers mess up before we ship the stuff out of here.”
He laughed and continued with the questions.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
“You’re an inquisitive brother ain’t you? What are you supposed to be doing and how old are you?”
“I’m not quite an engineer but we do the same thing.”
“Oh, you run programs and print out old schematics without having a clue of what you’re doing?” I said.
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Terrence Matthews,” I said holding out my hand which he shook with a firm grip. I pulled my hand away. “Easy, easy umm?”
“Felipe’ Mendoza. You can call me Flip though.”
“You Part Rican or something?”
“I’m Puerto Rican, but I was raised by a Black family.”
“Too much information, let’s get back to work.”
Flip and I walked back towards the assembly line and ran into Mr. Samuels. His suit was tight, snug tight, not nice looking tight, as usual but at least it was clean today.
“What’s up Mr. Sams.”
“Hey Tee, I see you’re showing around our rookie engineer,” he said chuckling, his chin shaking with every giggle.
“Yeah I got him before you guys ruined him. If I let him get in cahoots with you office boys he’ll be sending down bad schematics in three or four days.”
“As long as you’re down here to catch those bad drafts we’re okay.”
“Thanks Mr. Sams. You want him back now.”
“No, no, no, keep him with you. Maybe we’ll make him the floor engineer.”
Anytime the office boys hired another brother I always thought that something was up. Most of the brothers worked on the line. The only other minority engineer they hired was whitewashed and never came down to the floor. After time passed I realized that nothing at all was going on. Flip was just a damn smart brother, with a great personality. I considered it to be a minor blessing having him there. And it’s been pretty good having him down on the floor. I thought for a while that they didn’t want him up in the offices anyway, but who cares the young brother was getting paid.
“I’m twenty-three, and they decided that they would take me on at an engineers pay. I didn’t mean to say I wasn’t an engineer. I’m actually a computer science-”
“Don’t worry bout it man. Us brothers have to stick together. This ain’t the street, where you have to look out for yourself to an extreme, and I ain’t the jealous type. I may be hourly but at twenty four-bucks per-”
“Too much information Terrence,” he said cutting me off. “Let’s get to work like you said. I think I might like being the floor engineer.”
From that point on Flip and I were tight. Two high powered brothers in a small focus facility for Motor Control Centers Inc. in fantastic San Diego. I could’ve easily been an ignorant brother with Flip and gotten jealous that he made the same amount that I did starting out. But I’m doing fine, if another brother is doing okay there ain’t no reason to clown. As a matter of fact I think that’s reason to celebrate.
Flip had a place in La Jolla and I stayed in Mission Valley. Neither one of us was wanted in the areas we stayed. I assumed getting away from the South, would free me from ignorant folks. I realized in the matter of a year how biased San Diego is. This buried racism made me more conscious. I knew that whenever you had a chance to meet another brother who wasn’t phony, in other words a bother who isn’t trying to keep up with the Joneses, that you had to do right by that brother. I guess that’s why Flip and I became friends so quickly. I think he could feel the city’s tension, he just couldn’t place it into words. With me in his corner and him in mine, it was like having a younger brother.
What impressed me about Flip was his patience. For a younger cat he didn’t allow anything to get to him. At least not at first. We ran through San Diego with a vengeance. Every club, every bar, White, Black, Filipino, Mexican, we didn’t give a damn. We just kicked it, me and him at Stage One.
Buy Stages now if you want to read it at your own pace.