We feel we have nothin’ to lose. So we offer you, well, we offer our lives, right? What do you bring to the table?
Jay-Z “Can I Live


     I went out this weekend for one of my friend’s birthdays. (Yes, a real friend.) While I want to tell you the details of the night –the Grey Goose, the Malibu with the write-on bottle, the Patron, the Moet (and all in one cup) complimented by the amazing greenery– something else happened that affected me much more. 

     As we walked back to the car –loud, pretty and stumbling –one of the girls I went with started singing along to Rick Ross’s “Blowing Money Fast.” Apparently, she upset some lame when she said “Funny you claiming the same bitch that I’m penetrating.” (Vulgar lyric, yet oddly great for sing-a-long.) “Girls don’t penetrate!” Boy went off. He went off the the point that he has to push…. no... shove her from one side of the sidewalk to the other. One thing I can’t stand: When men put their hands on women. Especially with no provocation.

      So, I went off. I don’t usually… but when you’re with a group of girls, you have to stand up for each other because sometimes, men like to act real dumb. & Some men (if there are any real men around) will stand up for you if a guy can’t handle his liquor and is getting ahead of himself.

Let me say… I LOVE being home.

    “Is there a problem?” I asked him, “Because we can call some numbers if there’s a problem.”
    “I can call numbers, too,” he said pulling out his phone.

     Listen… here’s the truth. If he woulda called Kiki, Shante and all them hood girls up the block, I’d be done. At 5’2, 125lbs I am admittedly a lightweight… But… this is why I love home. As we mouthed off to this guy, a group of guys came around to us and said “You don’t have to call, we’re already here.” I had no idea who they were until one of them came right up to me and said my name TWICE, followed by “we’re here.” I finally saw who I was trying to yell through and realized that it was someone I had grown up with… by grown up with I mean… “walking around the city, riding bikes and hanging out on corners till curfew” grown up with. My friends have given me an army and I had no idea. Protection in a millisecond.

     Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mouth off where ever I am. I’m not a dumb girl in any avenue. While I lived in Baltimore, I kept myself in check. I had no one there. Here’s another rule for you: Never start problems you can’t solve. I’m not a fighter, but I can defend myself. I don’t wage wars that I can’t compete in.

     I’ve been away for four years. Every time I come home, I have to be introduced to new people my friends are starting to hang out with. Since I hang out with a bunch of guys, I have to be separated from the females they bring around. “You bow down to her when you see her,” my friend, Harvey once said to the guys we were hanging out with. Although it was a joke,  you cannot disrespect me in my own hood.

     While this respect is given to me, has been earned. My loyalty lies in my friends. I was once involved with a guy and had to ask “permission” to do so because he was from the wrong city, (Very Romeo & Juliet, no?) Street smarts is a very mafioso state of mind. I don’t have to ask anyone permission to date, but in this circumstance, it was more about respect than fear. I can’t expect them to be there for me if I can’t show then that I’ll be there for them. & I always am.

     Loyalty cannot be learned. Perhaps this is why I’m so confident in my friendships. Because I’ve shared a loyalty with my friends that I rarely see elsewhere. I’ve been friends with the girls since the second grade (14 years) and with the guys since the 7/8th grade (8-9 years). This isn’t new. This is the closest to family friends can get. And then today, I’ve written post after post about friendships, something I take completely seriously. I don’t know if it’s the Jay-Z or the gangster movies (both of which were impressed upon me by my older brother) but I’ve got a very particular view of friends.  “Scarface the movie did more than Scarface the rapper to me, still that ain’t to blame for all the shit that’s happened to me.” (Jay-Z, “Ignorant Shit“)

     There’s an exchange in The Godfather when Bonasera asks him for a favor (you can only ask favors because it’s the Don’s daughter’s wedding day. Mafia custom.) Bonasera wants the Godfather to take care of the men who raped his daughter because the cops won’t sentence them. Here’s Don Vito’s response:

“The police protected you; and there were courts of law. And you didn’t need a friend of me. But uh, now you come to me and you say — “Don Corleone give me justice.” — But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship.” 

   There’s also the movie, Donnie Brasco, where Lefty (Al Pacino) says to Donnie (Johnny Depp —yes, amazing cast; amazing movie),

 “When I introduce you, I’m gonna say, ‘This is a friend of mine.’ That means you’re a connected guy. Now if I said instead, this is a friend of ours that would mean you a made guy. A Capiche?

   Friendship is serious. They imply connections. Where I’m from, it also implies protection. When you go out with a group of people, there’s always the thought of “what if” and who will have your back.  The girl I took up for the other night didn’t expect me to speak… but she cool and she was with us. She was connected. Now she ‘s not Made. The other girls I was with are Made, but since she was with us, the loyalty transferred for the time being. 

     On a regular day, I’m just a small girl who likes make-up, high heels and prefers Circoc Vodka. A college graduate who works full-time and speaks perfect English on the phone and via email. But, when I’m home, I’m a made man. 

Believe that.