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Love 1992: A Catechism*

Does Love exist?

Is fat meat greasy? Cuz ain’t no way I could’ve fallen so hard, so fast, so far, by myself.

Rewind that.

I didn’t fall in love. Like Toni Morrison said, I rose in it. If only for one night. I levitated for that brother with the high-top fade, tired eyes, and pretty smile. That first night, we worked it out, strangers on the club floor. Some Bobby Brown, some Chubb Rock, a little Jody Watley, the chaos and black steel of Public Enemy, and then Miss Jackson (cuz I’m nasty and he is too). We grinded, we Reeboked, and we Cabbage Patched until sweat plastered my hair to my face, plastered his shirt to his back. When he pulled me close and murmured, “Can you stand the rain, ma?” in my ear, I didn’t even mind his wet cheek on mine. My panties went damp, too. It was a wrap. You know how it is. And then back to life, back to reality. Lights up. You ain’t gotta go home, but you got to get the hell outta here.

Where shall we worship?

In his car, in the park, in his room when his mama was at work, on the stoop, always, always, in the shadows.

And when shall we worship?

Night and day. After the dance.

And how shall we worship?

However do you want me, however, do you need me, how…

How is Love manifest?

The way it always does: with a Running Man. Storms did come, and I became a Fly Girl. Chasing him, forgetting my mama’s wisdom that what’s for me will be for me.

Rewind that.

I didn’t forget a damn thing. That man’s honeyed tongue brought me to my knees, had me acting like I didn’t have the sense god (my mama) gave me.

Lisa, Angela, Pamela, Renee…he loved us all and not at all. His only consistency was looking at the front door.

Don’t walk away, boy….

So I cold bum rushed Lisa. I sliced Angela. Me and my girls jumped Renee. As if his was a love worth fighting for. As if.

(Pamela was pregnant––yeah, he had a baby on me.)

How can we speak about Love?

Besides calling his mama’s house and cussin’ him out? It took me a while before I could talk about it. Because really, what was there to say? Could I chalk it up to a teenage love if we were nineteen and knew better? Well, I knew better.

Who does Love love?


And what has changed since back in the day?

Not a damn thing. Love is like a bus you been waiting for. Feet tired, ankles swole after working all day. A few buses pass by, but they’re not yours. So you wait some more. Then your bus comes, and finally, you can sit down. Rest your weary. Relax your mental. Exhale. Drop your shoulders. Close your eyes and go anywhere your mind’s music takes you. But it seem like as soon as you settle down good, it’s your stop. Time to go, back to walking.

I ran into him the other day outside the grocery store. He still look good, about the same but with salt and pepper in what’s left of that fade––a b-boy with a round middle in middle age, eyes still heavy like he’s seen too much. Both a survivor and someone you’re lucky to survive. Smile still pretty. He hugged me, his fingers tap-dancing on the small of my back, like old times. Asked me if I got a man, grabbed my phone before I could answer and put his number in it. I ain’t deleted it yet.

And when shall we Love?

On and on til the break of dawn.

*after “The Petoskey Catechism, 1958” by Elizabeth Kerlikowske, and Mahogany Browne’s “A Hip-Hop Story in Lyrics”

Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and a Baldwin for the Arts Fellow.

Her debut novel, The True Confessions of First Lady Freeman, is forthcoming from Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, in 2025.

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