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Cover of Learned Reactions, by Jayce Ellis, on Brunch Spread. Caption: Sunday Brunch Bites

With Learned Behaviors on its way, it’s time to get to know Carlton a little better. And while it’d be easy to have Deion ask him questions, I thought it’d be more fun to let his other, newer, friends, JaQuan (Jaq) and Lawrence, do the asking. This convo takes place before Learned Reactions (which you can pick up here), so Carlton hasn’t quite found his happily ever after yet. Since Learned Reactions and Learned Behaviors (Jaq’s book, which you can get here) run a bit in tandem, Jaq hasn’t quite found his HEA either, but he’s a bit further along in the process.

Jaq: Alright, we’re gonna start with a softball here. What’s your favorite quote?

Carlton: You can be my wingman anytime.

Lawrence: *chokes on coffee* Dude, are you serious? From Top Gun? That’s your favorite quote?

Carlton: Hey, I never said I was deep.

Lawrence: Obviously.

Jaq: Lawrence, don’t be an ass. *Looks at Carlton* Can I ask why that’s your favorite quote?

Carlton: *shrugs* Me and Deion used to say it to each other all the time in college. It was our version of fighting over who was Batman or Robin. I know it’s stupid.

Lawrence: Dammit, now I feel like a tool for talking about you. That’s kinda cute or whatever.

Jaq: See what happens when you’re an ass?

Carlton: *snickers and sips own coffee* Okay, what’s next?

Lawrence: I’m up. Would you rather hear the good news or the bad news first?

Carlton: Good news. One-hundred percent the good. I’m used to bad news, so if you have good, I want that shit upfront so I can inject it in my veins and get high off it while you’re trying to bring me down. 

Lawrence: That was a quick response. You didn’t even have to think about it.

Carlton: *shakes head* Nope. I get bad news first and think about it so much I miss the good. So just give me that good good and hopefully I can miss the bad.

Jaq: Is that healthy?

Carlton: Ask me if I care.

Jaq: *laughing* Understood. My turn. Who in your life inspires you to be better?

Carlton: For the longest time it was Deion.

Lawrence: *straightens, brow shoots to the moon* It’s not anymore?

Carlton: I mean, it is. He always inspires me.

Jaq: *chin on hands* Aww, that’s so sweet. 

Carlton: *rolls eyes* You’re in love or whatever. Your opinion is rose-colored as hell. But what I was going to say is that Deion is always my first inspiration, but after a year with Trey? It’s a whole different kind of inspiration, if that makes sense. I want to be a role model for him in a way I don’t need with D.

Lawrence: That makes sense.

Carlton: High praise coming from you.

Lawrence: *Shoots him the middle finger* Alright, I’ve got one more question to go. Would you rather date someone you love or date someone who loves you?

Jaq: *whistles* Damn, that’s a fucked up question.

Carlton: *runs hand over face* For sure. Umm, this is gonna sound really fucked up, but I think I’d rather date someone who loves me?

Lawrence: Is that an answer or a question?

Carlton: Both. But, I have parents. I already know what it’s like to love people who don’t love you. I didn’t have a choice in that one, but I’ll be damned if I choose it again. If those are my only options, I can learn to love someone. I don’t have faith in the reverse.

Jaq: *whispers* Fucking hell. Carlton, I’m sorry.

Lawrence: Same. I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have…

Carlton: Did my answer put the great Lawrence Jackson in a position where he can’t find the right words? Score one for me!

Lawrence: How can you be poignant and still an asshole?

Carlton: It’s a gift.

Lawrence: It’s something.

Jaq: You two are worse than Tanisha with her friends.

Carlton: *raises brow* are you making a gender comparison?

Jaq: Absolutely not. I’m making a maturity comparison, and right now, they win. Now hush and let me ask this last question. What stereotype do you completely live up to?

Carlton: For being Black or being gay?

Jaq: *shrugs* Hell if I know. I definitely hit the teenage boy getting a girl knocked up stereotype.

Carlton: And then blew it out of the fucking water by going all-in on being an amazing dad to her.

Lawrence: True that. I’m pretty and high maintenance as shit.

Jaq: *looks at Carlton* Did he just call himself pretty? *turns to gape at Lawrence* You arrogant mutha—

Lawrence: But did I lie?

Carlton: I hate you so much sometimes, but you ain’t lyin. *Thinks about question* I don’t know, I don’t think I really live up to a stereotype. Is that obnoxious?

Jaq: *snorts* No more than Lawrence calling his damn self pretty.

Lawrence: You’re really gonna stay on that, aren’t you?

Jaq: It’s seared into my brain now.

Lawrence: Any way to make you shut up?

Jaq: Yes. Next round of coffee’s on you.

Carlton: Yeah, we can watch him not flirt with the barista.

Lawrence: Who thinks I’m pretty. *Walks away*

Carlton: *shaking his head* He’s such an ass.

Jaq: But we love him.

Carlton: That we do.

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