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The Project

McKinnon gently caressed my face, kissing me before delicately placing me into the passenger seat of the van. We both giggled softly before pulling away as Gary came around to the driver’s side. I closed my door smiling at the ground, staring up at the warning label on the closed mirror - joy oozing out of my orbits.

“Ready love?” Comb-Over asked, looking adoringly in my direction as he took my hand.

“Yes baby.” I said, blissfully yet softly, ruffling his perfect hair the tiniest bit as I interlocked my hand with his.

McKinnon nodded his head, looking out the front view window and reversing the van out of my complex’s parking lot.

I shut my eyes, taking a deep breath as I noticed the van pulling into the parking lot of McKinnon’s condo.

“Babe, may you please carry my backpack inside?” I asked, looking into his eyes pleadingly and guiltily.

“Of course sweetheart! It’s absolutely no problem.” Gary locked eyes with me, nodding reassuringly.

I was deep in thought, as I exhaled in relief, looking down at the van floor. My fingers were still interlocked in Gary’s as he gently placed his hand on my leg, initiating me to make eye contact with him.

“I’m so proud of you, Chanti.” Gary spoke softly, caressing the side of my face. “I know that couldn’t have been easy.” he continued, understanding in his eyes.

I appreciate you acknowledging that darling. It'll get easier.” I replied, optimistically, a gentle grin curving the side of my lip.

Gary put the car into park. Shortly after, he unbuckled his seatbelt and hovered into the backseat to grab my backpack, opening the car door and shifting his body towards it to place his arms inside the straps and over his back. Gary came around to his side of the van holding the door open, ducking his head in for a brief moment.

“I can carry you too if you’d like.” He whispered gently, only a few centimeters away from my face, taking the opportunity to unbuckle my seatbelt as well.

“As you demonstrated earlier Mr. Rich-Rich.” I responded, playfully and softly - a gentle smile forming on my face. “I’m okay this time around, but thank you.” I finished my sentence, eying McKinnon adoringly.

“Will you at least let me help you out of the car?” he pleaded earnestly, narrowing his eyebrows and tilting his head slightly.

“Technically, I don’ need your help..” I paused, briefly eyeing the car floor. “But, since you insist.. “ I eyed him playfully, “I’ll allow it.” I grinned whimsically, as he rolled his eyes playfully annoyed and hoisted me out of the car, holding me by the waist.

We entered the cream painted, modernly designed living room as McKinnon slung my backpack off of one shoulder onto the floor. I inched closer to him removing the cane from my left wrist as I faced it toward him, signaling him to take it. I proceeded to place my caneless hand into his freehand, applying pressure to it as I removed the remaining one from my right wrist.

“Don’ be nervous, ’kay?” I asked reassuringly.

“What do you mea-?” Gary began to inquire as I faced my hands palm side down and fell forward using them to catch myself.

“See? Nun’ to be nervous ’bout.” I said, shruggingly but laughingly as he gazed at me with shocked smoldering eyes.

“You cheeky little thing you.” lightly tapping the ball of my nose with the tip of his finger, flirtation filling his voice.

“Well, I am big cheek-boned!” I replied, under the guise of an innocent vocal pitch as I lightly poked my dark brown dimples with the tip of my index finger, staring up at McKinnon naively.

McKinnon said nothing in response, only continuing to look at me with great wonder and mischievity pouring out of his piercing navy tinted orbits - shaking his head from left to right. A pink tinted natural hue of blush colored my cheekbones out of partial embarrassment and arousal from him staring at me the way he oh-so loved to. I hopped myself up onto the silver carpeted floor seductively crawling over to him, my left leg dragging slightly behind due to my condition. It didn’t take me long to reach Gary’s feet where I remained in my crawl- like position.

“Hi!” Gary said emphatically, peering down at me.

“Hi!” I said, with lust filled eyes.

“Enjoying yourself down there?” he asked teasingly.

“Not yet.” I said, narrowing my eyes at him, reciprocating his humorous demeanor as I took his hands in mine.

“Why no?-” McKinnon started to inquire as I pulled him down onto the floor with me, interrupting his sentence.

That’s why.” I responded, while attempting to put on my best “gotcha” facial expression.

“Got me there, Chanti.”

“I sure did!” I replied in a childlike, “I win!” manner.

“C’mere!” he playfully shouted, grabbing me by the waist and pulling me into a passionate kiss. I hesitantly pulled away, recalling the reason we were on the ground in the first place as I spotted my backpack a few centimeters away from the both of us.

“Project!’ I stated, through my laughter and grin. Gary proceeded to lift up my shirt licking my abdomen, laying me down on the ground.

“Ha-hello!” I attempted to get his attention, through a pleasure-filled moan.

“Time to.. Wa-work on our project!” I said, laughingly and assertively.

“What if I have a project of my own?” he asked cheekingly, as he pulled himself from atop me. I then sat up, pulling my shirt back down with a slight smile, mushing him in the face with my palm and all five of my left-hand fingers.

"Mess!” I exclaimed teasingly, seeing his laughter-filled expression peek through. I then used the same palm previously placed on his face to ruffle his hair endearingly.

I knee-crawled over to my backpack, unzipping it and turning it upside down, emptying all of its contents. I then retrieved my mini wireless printer and canvas paper, and a couple of magazines including the latest issue of Essence and Ebony, and a folder filled with reprints of photos from Jet Magazine.

“Cool gadget ya got there.” Gary said, eyeing my printer, leaning over to get a closer look.

“Oh, thanks! Wanna see how it works?” I asked, smirking, anticipating his cheerful response.

“Yes!” McKinnon responded just as excitedly as I could’ve hoped for.

“Bet!” I exclaimed, reciprocating his excitement. “So basically, I tap a picture,” I paused, selecting an Eartha Kitt and John William McDonald wedding photo from Pinterest and downloading it to my camera roll. “Then,” I continued, “I save it to my camera roll and go into my printer app.” I further elaborated, opening the application on my phone. “Next, I hit the “select a photo from camera roll,’ option and tap it,” I paused again doing so. “Finally, I tap ‘print.’ ’ I finished explaining as my device processed and deposited the photo from my handheld printer.

“Neat!” McKinnon responded jubilantly.

“I know!” I replied. “But the magic isn’t over yet.” I continued, smirkingly. I retrieved my lefty-friendly scissors and began meticulously cutting the subjects of my newly printed photo out. Gary then handed me the glue and I applied it to the back of the picture, sticking it onto the lilac hued canvas board. I outlined the photo with my black permanent marker to make the subjects further standout, giving a “handmade” effect, also sketching hand drawn stars around the photo. McKinnon sat silently as he watched over my shoulder enthralled.

“Wow... “ he said, his voice trailing off in amazement.

“Rendered speechless by my flawless technique and wristwork, aren’t you Mr. Rich-Rich?” I teased.

Yeah... that too.” He said, smirking mischievously in my direction.

“Whatchu tryin’a say?” I asked, as I slipped into my AAVE touching the palm of my hand to my clavicle with widened eyes.

“I mean, I’m just a little taken aback that you chose the center photo of your project,” McKinnon started, “the one that most viewers will notice first, to be one of the most famous interracial marriages in history!” He exclaimed, taking a brief pause. “Subconsciously envisioning getting married, are we?” I stared at him, my mouth slightly agape - the natural mauve blush from earlier repainting itself onto my face. “Not that it couldn’t happen, of course, if we mutually agreed to it.” he paused, jerking his left shoulder nonchalantly while still making eye contact with me. “Then again, I haven’t asked you, so obviously, you haven’t yet had the opportunity to say ′ ‘yes’’“ He finished, smirking widely as I stared back at him absolutely dumbfounded.

“I- I’m sorry… are you - are you implying that we - are you asking me - to, to marry you?” I asked, the words barely escaping past my teeth.

“No, no!” McKinnon replied reassuringly, vigorously blushing and rocking his head left to right - his signature 38 adult tooth smirk never leaving his face.

“Okay, that’s um.. Good! So... great..” I managed to utter as I nodded my head at the floor, exhaling a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding in relief.

“Ya would though.” he revelled smirkingly.

“Yeah, I -!” I replied excitedly. I was so consumed with my self-assigned task of cutting out a photo of Prince - doing with this photo what I had done with the last, causing me to not be as cautious as I usually would be on what I’d say in response. “I mean... wait! That was so… not nice of you! That was not an invitation, mister!” I said, still blushing and pointing the tip of my marker in his direction.

“Mhm!” he responded, smirking at me.

“Project!” I demanded flusteredly, touching the side of my fade as a method of coping with my embarrassment.

“Oookay, I guess that’s a good place to take an intermission from flustering you....” he responded, half jokingly while continuing to peer his eyes in my direction. “How can I help?”

“Well you can start by…” I paused, blush painting my face again as I eyed his expression, causing me to lose my train of thought.“Quit looking at me that way!” I demanded laughingly, grinning at him, “It’s distracting!”

“So exactly the effect I intended.” McKinnon remarked, assuredly. I proceedingly glanced up at him from my canvas board - eying him piercingly. “ Gonna be kinda difficult for me to stop now, Chan.” He continued, narrowing his brow.

I smiled a wide tooth grin, my chocolate brown orbs landing back on the picture of Prince that I not too long ago placed on the canvas paper. I said nothing as I held my smile and reached over for my supply chest. From it, I pulled out a thick black Sharpie marker and got onto one knee. I leaned forward and handed it to him.

“Well, it’s whatchu git!” I exclaimed, adjusting myself to sit square on the carpeted floor. We both laughed hysterically for a few minutes before the space fell silent, our eyes still locked on one another’s. I peered my eyes at him, furrowing my brow before finally breaking it.

“You notice the gaps within the pictures I’ve placed down so far?” I asked, smiling innocently, awaiting his answer.

“Yes sweetheart, I notice them.” McKinnon responded, nodding his head and smiling back at me. “I also notice the gap between you and I, and I gotta be frank with you hon’ I’m not too feelin’ too hot about it!” He continued, still gazing at me in his signature way.

“Oh.. would ya-!” I paused making eye contact with him a bit flustered as I slightly tilted my head to the right. Uncapping the marker in my hand, I proceedingly aimed and hit the cap onto the center of Gary’s perfectly sculpted forehead. “Knock it off?”

“I’m sorry! I really can’t help myself!” He exclaimed through a mouthful of laughter. “What would you like me to do darling?” he inquired, his orbits practically pouring into mine.

“Other than for you to stop looking at me like that,” I started, making eye contact with him and chuckling, “Jus’... use the marker to make patterns of shapes and dots, y’know? Squiggles and whatnot.” I smiled.

He nodded his head in understanding and immediately began filling the spaces in between my cutout photos as I cut, pasted, and outlined more and more. The canvas was soon creatively piled with pictures of influential African American figures such as young Cicely Tyson, Mohammed Ali and the infamous intake photos of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was now at the left corner of the canvas board, making myself directly across from McKinnon as I cut out a photo of Sam Cooke from a reprint of the cover of the original sheet music version of “A Change is Gonna Come.”. I also took the artistic liberty of trimming the gray background around him, using to outline his pose.

“I was born by the river!” I not-so lightly belted out the first line of Sam Cooke’s 1963 hit.

“In a little tent.” Gary sung along, looking up from the canvas board, pausing his task.

Okay!” I exclaimed, briefly making eye contact with him and nodding out of surprise caused by not only the fact that he knew the song, more so by the way that he smoothly interjected himself in. I proceeded to giggle and continued shortly after. “Oh, and just like the river I’ve been running ever’y since/It’s been a loooong, a long time coming/But I know- oh- oh, a change gon’ come,/ Oh yes, it will.” I sang, in his direction, pausing and laughing in slight embarrassment. “Didn’t know you had it like that Gar’! I exclaimed in excitement.

“Oh yeah! I sing..” His voice trailed off as he stared up at me.

“As you can see I wouldn’t advertise it as my strongest talent. I jus’ stick to the shower.” I smiled, nodding my head.

“You do that!” Garry quipped, emphatically his face painted a deep shade of red.

Hey! I’m certainly no Aretha! But I can spit though!” I exclaimed laughingly.

Really?” he inquired, interestedly. “Lemme hear a lil something.”

“Aight, say less!” I bellowed, slipping into my AAVE.

“Girllll. you seem to love me now/Would you love me if I was down and out? Would you still have love for me girll?" I laughingly sung the chorus of 50 Cent’s “Would You Still Love Me?”

“I think someone beat ya to that one, Ren.” Gary responded cheekingly.

I peered my eyes at him for a brief moment, looking up at the ceiling to think. Nodding my head away from his direction. I regained eye contact with McKinnon - I’d come up with something.

“From the time their birthed, the black child is placed in systematic shackles,/ Lack of /generational wealth and opportunity has more potential to cause conflict/ Uncle Sam built the justice system to tackle us down like players in the NFL/Most of the time we got no dimes to grant our children a world where they wishing us well,/ Locking us up in cells/ Just as the massas did when they put our ancestors up for sale/ Masses is protesting, rightfully arguing that we being targeted,/ The people in power rebuttal saying “That ship has sailed”/Say that we should hold our lips silent,/ "The variety of subsidiaries we provide for thee compensate more than enough for/ The pain they had to endure”/ What about the young black boys who have to risk they lives to get Skittles and iced tea like Trayvon?/ Scared to walk around, out of fear they might be the next Mike Brown!/ Stare at the television where most of our natural born features is frowned/Upon./ Personally ready to utter the statement “by any means necessary!/ Cause I’m not yet/ Satisfied with the outcome/ Brave afro-american folks had to protest to sit at the same restaurants and drink out of the same fountains, go to the same schools/ Yet still can access videos of our people being brutalized through the use of technologically advanced tools?/Now we decencitized/ No longer traumatized, the dehuminazation of our people has become sensationalized, normalized/ At times like this I/ Miss, Malcolm who could immaculately describe the plight of the negro man with much detail, him and MLK knew they’red come a day where justice would prevail/ Some of us covering ourselves with designer labels/Watchin' self-depriciating programs on cable, living below the poverty line we are not able /To cope./People come to America for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness/ But for most black and brown folks, I ask why is American Dream made 3 times harder for us to reach?/ They falsely claim, say that Chris Columbus sailed/ The ocean blue in/1,4,9, 2,/ In gradeschool make sure the black dots on that ship don’t really mean nothing to you/ Not sure how to reconcile?/Well, America,/ How bout you ’pologize for the decentering of my ‘cestors, forcing them to board the Mayflow?’ - the ship accredited with the creation of the first sail? Bow!”

As I finished, I looked back up in McKinnon’s direction , blushing and chuckling slightly.

Wow....” he uttered, his mouth agape in amazement.

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