by Sandra Bazzarelli
A long-suffering white rapper, Mitchell Dunn changed his name to Done Me Wrong and got a record deal. His rhymes were, well, they rhymed, but overall he was more of a pin-up boy with a gravelly voice and uneasy smile than a highly esteemed wordsmith. That is, until he met Maybegirl.
Maybegirl was a poet. Maybegirl got her name because she looked neither male nor female. Truthfully, the name Maybeboy could have just as easily stuck. But Maybegirl was the name that rolled off the tongues of her tormentors most efficiently. Some guys in the projects teased her, beat her up sometimes for being what they perceived to be a lesbian. But Maybegirl, tucked inside her baggy clothes, baseball cap, and general hip hop gear, wasn’t a lesbian. Maybegirl was just trying to hide.
Depending on the day, Maybegirl could have up to fifteen poems scrawled on her skin in black ink. The ones she didn’t like she washed off in the shower at night. The ones she did like she traced into herself with the slim pink box cutter that had come in some kiddie pencil case she bought at the local dollar store.
While in the city promoting his latest CD, Done Me Wrong made an uncharacteristic stop at the McDonald’s of his youth. As a kid he had frequented the very same McDonald’s because, as a kid, Done Me Wrong had been absolutely fat. The kind of fat only parental neglect and fast food could inspire. Instead of going to school, Done Me Wrong would ride his bike over the bridge and into the city. He’d meet up with a bunch of young wannabe graffiti artists and break dancers who spent the bulk of their school days underground, riding the subway and talking about hip hop. Not one of them had any real talent for anything hip hop related, but they had passion and plenty of time on their hands. Time that was, of course, afforded to them thanks to the lack of adult interest and guidance in their lives. Still, one of them, Rudy Heart, perhaps the biggest hip hop fan of their adolescent group, managed to maintain a full brain’s worth of imagination and business savvy to make use of all that extra time they had.
Rudy Heart did not fail to notice that his friend, Mitchell Dunn, at only fourteen, already had a presence. He had a quality about him that went far beyond the cloud of tobacco smoke that trailed him. The husky voice that hugged his words managed to transform his soft blue-eyed gaze into a cold menacing stare. Anything he said had an inherent, yet unsettling authority to it. Like a cop. But a filthy one.
“Listen,” he said to Mitchell one afternoon as they devoured French fries by the handful, “I think you could probably rap. Maybe you could be an MC or something. I could be your manager. We could develop you as an artist who has something original to say and then you could just, you know, say it.”
The rest of the group laughed and threw French fries at Rudy Heart.
“He’s too fuckin’ fat, yo,” one remarked.
“Yeah, man,” said another. “Plus, I ain’t never heard him spit. Not a word.”
“For real,” said another. “All he do is talk some bullshit… and eat.”
Rudy dug into his knapsack for his magazine. There, on the cover: The Fat Boys.
“You could be a Fat Boy, but without the jokes. A serious Fat Boy,” said Rudy Heart sincerely. “You could speak to people.”
The group of boys laughed themselves off their hard plastic seats, but Mitchell did not laugh.
Mitchell walked out of McDonald’s that day and never went back. He had decided that, yeah, maybe Rudy Heart had a point. Maybe he could rap. Maybe if he tried. Maybe he had something to say. But in his mind he was more LL Cool J than Fat Boy. He still rode his bike into the city every day, but not to meet up with his friends. He rode his bike into the city for exercise and then back into the suburbs for more. By the time he was sixteen, Mitchell, with the help of puberty, had lost weight, shot up six inches, and turned into Done Me Wrong. He could have just as easily called himself Bitches Wanna Do Me Now, but he wanted something that played on the misfortune his father’s name had brought him. He still smoked, but now, given his imposing physical stature, the smoking appeared less unhealthful on him. And he never drank. Never. His father had done enough of that to fulfill the taste for drink for five, maybe six generations of Dunns to come.
Done Me Wrong filed into the McDonald’s line alone, just ahead of Maybegirl. This was his first time back at this spot since he was a kid. He cautiously approached the counter. He didn’t want to be recognized. He was a star, after all, despite what the critics thought of him.
“Yeah,” he said, “lemme get a Big Mac, a large fry, and a large Coke.”
But when the time came to pay, Done Me Wrong realized that he didn’t have any money on him. The truth is, his bodyguard always carried his money for him. But he had left Bugs at the hotel and stepped out on his own today.
“You know what?” he said. “Keep it. I left my wallet back at the hotel.”
The young girl behind the counter let out a dramatic labored sigh.
“Here,” a small voice said as a slender hand pushed money onto the counter.
“Thanks,” Done Me Wrong said, turning quickly to face the owner of the hand. “I’ll pay you back. I just gotta run to my hotel.”
“Forget it,” Maybegirl responded. “Don’t worry about it. I’m, like, a fan.”
Across from one another Done Me Wrong and Maybegirl sat at a window table with their respective trays in front of them.
“Why don’t you take off your ball cap?” Done Me Wrong said to Maybegirl, hoping to get a better look at her.
“Why don’t you take off yours?” Maybegirl responded, without looking up from her nuggets.
Their conversation veered from dipping sauces to the Beastie Boys. From bubble down jackets to the crispy original hot apple pie that had been sacrificed so that the overly cinnamon-y soggy one offered at the McDonald’s of late could survive.
“They still got ’em in Europe though,” said Done Me Wrong. “The original ones without the slats. My bodyguard, Bugs, had one in Italy last week. Europeans don’t worry about burnin’ their fuckin’ tongues like we do. They know how to eat. Plus,” he added, “they don’t fuckin’ sue when they don’t.”
Both Done Me Wrong and Maybegirl laughed.
“You didn’t have one while you were there?” asked Maybegirl. “For, like, old school’s sake?”
“Nah,” said Done Me Wrong. “I gotta watch the pounds and shit. I gotta work out or else I blow up real fast. My old man’s the same. At least he was last time I seen him. He’s a fat fuck, that one. Real fuckin’ fat.”
“I’m fat too,” said Maybegirl sheepishly.
“Nah,” said Done Me Wrong. “You ain’t fat. You just layered as fuck, girl. How many layers you rockin’? It ain’t even that cold out.”
Maybegirl smiled and looked Done Me Wrong squarely in his eyes. He had addressed her as girl without asking first.
“What’s your name, anyway?” asked Done Me Wrong.
Maybegirl had seen his face in magazines. Seen him in his videos. She could hardly believe she was sitting across from him right now. And he regarded her as a girl without having to be told what she was. He was sure. This made her sure. She could hardly believe she had the opportunity to tell him what she had been wanting to tell him for years.
“My name’s Maybegirl,” she said. “And your rhymes are shit. Some of the worst I’ve ever heard. Like, the worst.”
Done Me Wrong stared at Maybegirl incredulously.
“For real,” she added.
“I thought you said you was a fan,” Done Me Wrong replied.
“I am,” said Maybegirl.
“So you’re a fan of shit then?” asked Done Me Wrong, trying to contain his frustration.
“No,” she said. “I’m a fan of yours.”
“Not my rhymes,” said Done Me Wrong.
“Not your rhymes,” said Maybegirl.
Done Me Wrong’s latest CD was a terrific flop. His record label dropped him and stopped taking his calls. His girlfriend dumped him for an American Idol runner–up. One by one his past hits began appearing in television commercials without his permission. He couldn’t do anything about it. The suits owned them. They had thrown him away because they didn’t need him anymore. The songs, on the other hand, provided a very different narrative. Those they needed. Tampons, cars, and orange juice, they all needed Done Me Wrong’s hits. Done Me Wrong, in a panic to save his career, his money, and what was left of his credibility, dropped his management team immediately and got on the horn with a man who had become the most successful music mogul in the business.
“Yo,” Done Me Wrong said into his phone in the same authoritative tone he always used, regardless of whether or not he had any actual authority.
“What up, Fat Boy?” said Rudy Heart. “It’s been a long time.”
Within moments of their first meeting in Rudy Heart’s plush Upper East Side office, Done Me Wrong felt immediately humbled.
“So,” said Rudy Heart, “the problem is your rhymes are shit.”
“Yeah, well,” said Done Me Wrong, “shit or not, my rhymes is sellin’ all kinds of other shit and I ain’t gettin’ shit in return. Turn on your fuckin’ television, Rudy. You’ll see what I’m talkin’ about.”
“I’ve already seen,” said Rudy. “And I’m not surprised.”
“Well, I’m surprised,” said Done Me Wrong.
“Again,” said Rudy, “I’m not surprised.”
Maybegirl was well aware of Done Me Wrong’s troubled times, but not having asked for Done Me Wrong’s number, and having not been asked for hers, Maybegirl had left their McDonald’s afternoon together with nothing more than a handshake and a polite thank you for lunch. She had offended him, Maybegirl figured. She had offended Done Me Wrong by telling him his rhymes were shit.
“Listen,” said Rudy Heart, “I know you’re probably used to being told how fucking awesome you are but, I’m telling you, if we’re going to fix this we have to be straight with one another. Your writing doesn’t cut it. You’re not saying anything. Nobody cares. Being good looking and in good shape isn’t enough. Not anymore. Where’s the substance? Where’d you go, man?”
“I’m still here,” said Done Me Wrong, looking down at his fifteen hundred dollar pair of sneakers.
“Good,” said Rudy Heart. “But you aren’t going to be invited to stay unless the people can connect with you. You get what I’m saying? They have to get what you’re saying.”
“I get what you’re sayin’,” said Done Me Wrong.
“Good,” replied Rudy Heart, throwing Done Me Wrong a nod toward the door. “Now get the fuck out of here and go write something real. If I’m going to get you your bloody tampon money,” he laughed, “I have to get to work here. I have to get on it.” Trying to stifle more laughter, he added, “I’ve got to get on the rag for you, homey.”
Maybegirl had not written a poem in two days. She was beginning to feel anxious. Into the McDonald’s bathroom she went with her pink box cutter. Sitting on the toilet, her thighs exposed to her, Maybegirl set out to carve into herself without first writing a poem upon herself in her favored black ink. She didn’t have the words at the moment, just the need. With the pink box cutter, Maybegirl cut a deep heart the size of a dime into the fleshiest part of her left thigh. Blood gushed forth immediately. She breathed heavily and held a wad of toilet paper over the wound. Then, reaching into one of her many pockets, Maybegirl pulled out a small stack of gauze pads and a roll of surgical tape. Quickly replacing the toilet paper with the gauze pads and throwing it into the toilet water under her, Maybegirl applied pressure to the wound with one hand. Finally, with her other hand and her teeth, Maybegirl cut two long strips of surgical tape and stretched them over the gauze pads in an X formation to secure them.
“Ohmigod! Ohmigod!” she heard two teenage girls squeal as they entered the bathroom.
“I can’t believe Done Me Wrong signed my arm! I’m never gonna wash it,” screeched one.
“He is soooooooo hot,” exclaimed the other. “I’m gonna go get him and bring him in here so I can blow him.”
“Just blow him?” asked the one in mock disbelief. “I’m gonna go ask him if he wants to fuck the shit outta me.”
The girls burst out in a fit of giddy giggles.
Maybegirl could tell that they were only half joking.
“Hey,” Maybegirl said, standing to Done Me Wrong’s right as he signed female body parts and posed for pictures on the sidewalk.
“Maybegirl,” said Done Me Wrong softly. “I been lookin’ for you.”
Once again Maybegirl looked Done Me Wrong in his eyes. Only this time, she had to look up from under her baseball cap, and he had to look down from under his.
“Why were you looking for me?” she asked, just as the small crowd of his female fans had begun to disperse.
“The thing is,” Done Me Wrong replied, “I think I need your help.”
Maybegirl shuffled her feet a bit. She wore sneakers too, but the cheap ones. Cheaper ones.
“Yeah,” said Maybegirl, “I think I might need your help too.”
Done Me Wrong nodded his head and steadily observed the small sad figure standing in front of him.
“You know what I think, girl?” said Done Me Wrong. “I think you might need my help first.”
Then, to both the surprise of Done Me Wrong and Maybegirl alike, Maybegirl began to weep. Done Me Wrong, without hesitating, reached out to Maybegirl and pulled her toward him. With his arms around her, at first, he couldn’t feel her inside all those layers. He had to keep squeezing until he actually found her in there. When he finally did, he was relieved.
“In case you don’t already know,” he said, holding her close to him, his chin resting on top of her head, “Mitchell. My real name’s Mitchell.”
Then, into his chest, Maybegirl, feeling safe and loved and understood for the first time in her life whispered, “Gregory.”
SANDRA BAZZARELLI is a singer/songwriter and writing instructor from Bergen County, New Jersey. She earned her BA in Literature and Writing from Columbia University, and her MA in English Education from NYU. The more healthful her eating habits become, the more McDonald’s crops up in her writing.