“Man, what is that freaky thing?” the hip-hop superstar asked me.
I held up the freaky thing. “It’s my notebook.”
“It’s the twenty-first century, y’all. Why you ain’t got no tape recorder or some shit?”
“Notebooks are cool,” I replied.
“Rev,” he said, “you think notebooks are cool?”
The Rev, who sat next to him in the stretch SUV that sped across the Triborough Bridge, was less a man than he was a looming piece of landscape. Without a word, he tilted his head slightly. It could have been a nod or a shrug or any number of gestures.
The hip-hop superstar snatched the notebook from my hand. “Lemme see that.”
“All yours.” The main qualification for my job as a sleazy reporter for an even sleazier New York tabloid was a high narcissism tolerance, so it was going to take more than this display of dominance to faze me.
“Is this some kind of motherfuckin’ code?
He snorted. “It that your gangsta name?”
“It depends,” I told him, “on whether or not I can use a dollar sign for the S.”
He turned to the Rev. “Can you believe this guy?”
The Rev tilted his head.
The hip-hop superstar said, “Max Fuentes, you all right.” He tossed back the notebook, but because his aim was kind of pathetic, it ended up beneath my seat.
This is not how I’d planned on spending my day when I arrived in the office this morning, because, when I had arrived in the office this morning, I’d planned on spending my day praying for the sweet release of death. I hadn’t actually made it home since last night, out on assignment, trading tequila shots with a former child star looking to tarnish her image and make a comeback. What I got out of it was a scandalous interview, a clumsy visit to second base, and a five-alarm hangover.
The hangover, though, wasn’t really from the tequila. Okay, technically, it was from the tequila, but I doubt I would have been so eager had I not put my past on a plane yesterday afternoon, bringing to end a glorious and excruciating thirty-six hours. Also, in the two days prior to that, I’d lost my girlfriend, a wallet full of cash, and my home.
In short, the past week left me questioning everything I knew about myself, and what I needed was to recover my footing. For me, that was a bender, a make-out session of some sort, and a journalistic coup. And so, lethal headache aside, I was feeling pretty good about myself.
As I passed by his office it was clear that my editor had no shits to give regarding my identity crisis. As I shuffled past his office, he shouted, “Max, get your ass in here!”
I stood in front of his desk and grunted.
With both hands, he removed his reading glasses and studied me with what could have been concern. “What? No snide remark?”
“I prefer to think of my remarks as cheeky.”
Satisfied that all was normal, he returned his glasses to their rightful place on his nose and began barking at me. For some reason, my damaged brain took that moment to worry about his future. When this newspaper folded under the weight of the Internet, where would he go? His skills were universal, there was no doubt about that, but his persona was as obsolete as shorthand in a notebook. Would any blog have any place for a gruff-but-loveable editor who wore suspenders and shouted a lot? My rumination ground to a halt as soon as his monologue did. “Any questions?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Which one do you want me to interview?”
“I don’t have time for your shit today, Max.”
“This isn’t shit,” I told him. “I know it sounds like shit, but I assure you there is no shit here.”
“Not at this particular moment, anyway.”
He sighed. “Explain to me this absence of shit you’re talking about then.”
“There is a pretentious indie band with that name. And a hip-hop sensation. And a three-man off-Broadway performance-art troupe, though I can safely assume we’re not talking about them.” I took a second to wonder if I missed one. “Oh, yeah; it’s also the stage-surname of an up-and-coming porn star. How come I never get to interview porn stars?”
“Jesus,” Myron muttered and picked up his phone. Several pushed buttons and one moment later, he said to it, “That piece you wanted my guy to write? Who’s it on?” He waited for a response. “I heard that part. There’s like three of them and some mimes.” He grabbed a pen and a piece of scratch paper. “Spell it for me.” He carefully repeated what he heard, “N, Y, M, hyphen, B, dollar sign, dollar sign.” Without another word, he hung up and read what was in his hand. “This is like a goddamned license plate.”
“Hip-hop sensation, then?”
And so, this afternoon, as I dug my notebook from under the patent-leather seat of the speeding SUV, I told the hip-hop sensation, “You never answered my question.”
“Hey!” he snapped. “I answered five of y’all’s questions!”
“You answered seven of my questions,” I replied, “but not the one I keep asking.”
“You wanna know why I call myself Nym-B$$?”
“That would be the question in question.”
He looked at the Rev, who tilted his head. “Wheels!” the hip-hop superstar yelled to the driver. “Let’s show this dude why I call myself Nym-B$$!” He asked me, “You know what a nimbus is, $horthand?”
“It’s a cloud,” I replied.
He frowned. “Is that right, Rev?”
The Rev tilted his head.
“Well, that ain’t why I picked it. And I’m gonna show you why.” He yelled, “Wheels! Are we ready to show him why?”
“Twenty,” Wheels replied, “maybe twenty-five minutes.”
“I’m gonna show you why in twenty, twenty-five minutes.”
After ten minutes of uncomfortable silence, Nym-B$$ asked, “Catch the game the other night?”
“Brutal,” I said.
The Rev tilted his head.
Thirty more uncomfortable minutes followed, until the SUV squealed to a halt. Blinking in the painful afternoon light, I poured myself onto the sidewalk and followed Wheels, the Rev, and Nym-B$$ into a battered, but solid, Methodist church.
The hip-hop superstar gestured toward the Rev. “This is Reverend Alvin Jefferson.” He gestured to a statue of Jesus Christ. “This is my lord and motherfuckin’ savior.” He then very specifically pointed to the halo around Jesus’s head. “And that is a motherfuckin’ nimbus.” He wrapped it all up by returning his attention to me. “You got all that?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “I got all that.”