Keegan: Remember when you said I can call you for anything? Like if I needed anything or wanted to talk.
Me: It was a month ago, Keeg. Of course I remember.
Keegan: Are you busy now?
Me: Just doing some work I should have taken care of earlier. What’s up?
Keegan: You’re working on the weekend?
Me: Wow. You really are 18. What do you want, Kid?
Keegan: Have you ever been in love?
Me: Beg your pardon?
Keegan: Love. Have you ever been in it?
Me: Uhh. Sure. A time or two, I suppose. What’s this about? Where’s this going?
Keegan: I need to ask someone about love.
Me: Keegan, I have a lot of work to do. I thought you had some sort of 8:30 lab.
Keegan: You SAID I could call for anything. That if I needed ANYTHING–
Me: Yeah. But I MEANT “money.” I CLEARLY meant “money.” You know. For books, or going out, or those little ugly ass cheap ass clothes you like to wear. Not intrusive, silly questions.
Keegan: Please? Look at our family. You know I can’t ask anyone else.
Me: If you knew anything about me, you’d know I’m hardly the go-to person.
Keegan: So tell me about you so I know not to ask again. I need an old person’s opinion.
Me: I’m not OLD, Keegan.
Me: Keegan, I’m nuts about you, but your timing is so unbelievably off on this shit, right now.
Keegan: Please. Fifteen minutes, tops.
Me: *sigh* Ten minutes.
Keegan: Yay! I love you! Okay. Have you ever been in love?
Keegan: How many times?
Me: Idunno. More times than I’ve wanted. Less times than I should have, I suppose.
Keegan: I don’t know what that means. I need a number.
Me: Somewhere between two and four, Keeg.
Keegan: How can you not know?
Me: Because shit looks different in retrospect. Things that looked like love might have just been an unwillingness to let go out of habit. On the other hand, situations that I’ve let go thinking they were nothing, could have been more than they appeared while I was in them. Feelings look different when you deconstruct them.
Keegan: So you’ve thought you’ve been in love, but really haven’t?
Me: Yeah, that’s the jist of it. Although, I don’t know how fair it is to assess these things in the abstract. Could be that how you’re feeling in the moment is the only thing that matters. Idunno. Like I said, I’m not the best person to ask.
Keegan: You’re doing fine. How old were you the first time you think you were in love?
Me: Mmm. Your age. 18.
Keegan: Did he love you back?
Me: He loved everybody back.
Keegan: Oh. So that didn’t really work out?
Me: I went a little crazy, cut off all my hair, stopped eating meat, and wrote some epically shitty poetry. On the plus side, I still keep my hair short, am still a vegetarian, and realized I should never attempt poetry. So it wasn’t all bad.
Keegan: Mmm. What about the next one.
Me: Keegan, I ain’t fixin’ to sit up here with you and go through the roster of my love life. This is bullshit.
Keegan: Okay, okay. How do you know when you’re in love?
Me: You know, I’ve maybe answered my phone three times in the last 4 days. And I picked up for you. Will NEVER make that mistake again.
Keegan: Hey, I COULD have been asking you for money.
Me: Somehow, I think it would have been less expensive than this call.
Me: *sigh* It’s different for everyone, Keegan. And honestly, I don’t always buy into it, myself, so, I don’t know.
Keegan: What do you mean “don’t always buy into it?”
Me: I’m not going into that with you. I’m not prolonging this discussion any more than necessary.
Keegan: Fine. Then just tell me what it feels like when YOU’RE in love.
Me: Ummm. Well—
Keegan: Hold up, hold up. That’s Jakeema. Lemme conference her in.
Keegan: Jakeema. You met her. We went to high school together, member?
Me: That fastass girl with the big ole swole up donkey booty? THAT’S a friend you took with you to fuckin’ college?
Keegan: Shut up! Be nice. Hold up. Lemme get her.
Keegan: ‘Keema, you there? She’s getting to the good part.
Jakeema: Hey, Fooler!
Me: Hi, Jakeema. I guess you don’t have any homework either?
Jakeema: I finished it.
Me: Mmm hmm.
Keegan: Go ‘head, Fooler. How do you know when you’re in love? You, personally.
Jakeema: I think you just know. Like that moment you look into his eyes and you just know. Like y’all was meant to be together. Like y’all are gonna be together forever. That’s how it was with me and Eric.
Keegan: “Wow” what? “Wow,” it’s true?
Me: Wow, it’s incredibly stupid.
Me: Just dumb.
Jakeema: I’m saying. That’s just how it was for us. Might not be the same for you. Errebody different. Me and Eric been together for nine months.
Me: Is he at school with y’all?
Jakeema: Nah. He at Norfolk State.
Keegan: “Wow,” what?
Me: Just dumb.
Keegan: Anyway, come onnnnnnnnn. Answer.
Me: You don’t wanna wait and see if Jakeema’s gonna fell us with some more of her 18 year old, long distance, we both go to large HBCUs, nine month old first relationship ever wisdom?
Jakeema: Do you even have a boyfriend?
Jakeema: Mmm hmm. Keegan, she don’t even have a man.
Me: You won’t either by the time this semester’s through.
Me: Hey, y’all called me.
Keegan: Are you gonna answer?
Me: I don’t remember the question.
Keegan and Jakeema: How do you know when YOU’RE in love?!
Me: *sigh* It happens slowly, for me. A series of revelations. Wow, this person isn’t stupid. Wow, this person is kind. Wow, this person puts up with my moods. Wow, this person makes me laugh. I want to spend more time with you. I want to tell you more about myself. I feel different when I’m around you. Less guarded. Idunno. I let you touch me more. I wanna write you shitty poems.
Keegan: What then? Do you tell him?
Me: Level with me. Did you call to find out what *I* do, or what you *should* do?
Jakeema: Her. She don’t know what to tell Shawn.
Me: Mmmm… “Shawn,” Cousin? I thought you told me there wasn’t anybody.
Keegan: I don’t know how I feel. I just don’t want to look stupid, you know. That’s what you always say, right? Don’t let anybody make me look stupid.
Me: Jesus. Is that what I told you?
Keegan: Yes! A hundred times.
Me: Kiddo. There is a fail-safe way to not get pregnant. There is a fail-safe way to not catch VD. There is, however, no fail-safe way to keep your heart from being broken. Not any way I’d recommend, anyhow. To the extent that you are able, avoid whores, and smooth-talkers, and men who are careless with other people’s feelings. But don’t adopt tough at 18.
Keegan: So now you’re telling me it’s okay to look stupid.
Me: I’m telling you there’s no way to avoid it. Jakeema seems happy enough.
Jakeema: Least I got a man.
Me: Hold on to that, Princess.
Keegan: So I’m gonna look stupid, no matter what? Is that what you’re saying?
Me: I’m saying you don’t look any less stupid sitting home alone because you choose to regard every person that crosses your path as a liability. Be smart. But be reasonable.
Jakeema: How come you’re by yourself, then?
Me: I’m unreasonable.
Keegan: I bet you don’t look stupid, though.
Me: It’s a good thing you’re in college, then, with no real money to wager.
Keegan: *sigh* So I should tell Shawn I love him?
Me: How the hell should I know? I don’t know your life.
Me: Look. I can think of a million reasons not to tell him. Namely that you’re 18, just got to school, and wouldn’t know a proper emotion if it tea-bagged you in the face. All I’m saying is, don’t NOT tell him because you’re afraid to look dumb.
Me: Now I have to go. Y’all have taxed my nerves.
Keegan: K. I love you.
Me: Yeah, yeah. You apparently love everybody. But, I love you, too. Congratulations on that strong black love, Jakeema.