Sometimes my mohawk makes me feel cool, and I behave accordingly.
My mohawk and I had about an hour to kill at the Atlanta airport Thursday night, so we took a seat at the bar of the SweetWater Draft House. I ordered the coolest beer on tap—a LowRYEder IPA—from a twenty-one-year-old, light-skinned black woman with short-cropped, bleached blonde hair and hazel eyes. Her thick physique was amplified by her natural charisma; both of them proved distracting. I was trying to read a book but kept looking up to watch the young bartender flirt with her older coworkers, the customers (everyone but me, really—sometimes my cool reticence is a curse), tossing sharp little comments in all directions like darts. At one point she threatened to shimmy and I nearly dropped my book, which wouldn’t have been very cool at all.
About halfway through my beer, a run-of-the-mill, middle-aged white guy claimed the stool to my left. He wore a t-shirt and jeans; I think it’s fair to describe this man as an everyman, which would soon become problematic. The cool young bartender I’d been silently admiring since my arrival introduced herself to the man as Diddy.
“Dee?” the everyman asked.
“Diddy,” she said. “You know, like P. Diddy—”
“Do you know who that is?”
The everyman laughed. “Yes, I know who that is.”
“Quote one of his lyrics,” Diddy said.
“Well I can’t go that far!”
Diddy and the everyman laughed, but I knew what had just transpired, and I failed to find the humor in it.
P. Diddy is not a good rapper, doesn’t even write his own lyrics, usually, but he’s still a black star of the highest wattage. (And he does deserve credit for his production, business acumen, and most of all, his eye for talent. R.I.P. B.I.G.) The problem with an everyman is that he speaks for all of us—in other words, the man to my left had just cost white people a sack full of cool points. Points we could ill afford to lose, already being the squarest people on the globe.
What’s worse: the everyman ordered a bottle of Corona. At the SweetWater Draft House. Even with my mohawk and LowRYEder, I had a lot of ground to make up. Frankly, the man to my left was starting to feel less like an everyman and more like a burden, an asshole, even.
Fifteen minutes later, when I handed Diddy my debit card, I had the chance to retrieve a handful of those cool tokens the man to my left had been spilling all over the bar like an alcoholic at an arcade.
“Here you go, Mr. Allgood,” she said, handing the card back to me. “I like that name: Allgood.”
“Thanks,” I said.
But, for Diddy—one of the coolest bartenders I’d ever encountered (bartending being an inherently and disproportionately cool line of work)—even my cool demeanor, last name, haircut, and drink order couldn’t erase the memory of the everyman to my left, stupidly drinking a Corona. The man who could probably quote fifty Jimmy Buffett lyrics, who wouldn’t need a prompt to do so. My people needed something more.
I thought for a beat (beat being a cool word for pause, or moment), ran my hand up and down the soft hairy spike bisecting my head. I had it. At the bottom of Edidiong’s copy of my receipt, I wrote the following: “Don’t worry if I write rhymes / I write checks.” – P. Diddy
I didn’t look back as I walked out.
Evan Allgood's work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Millions, LA Review of Books, The Toast, and The Billfold. He lives in Brooklyn and contributes regularly to Paste. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter @evoooooooooooo.