The Stories of People: Just Us, Part II

“Ava McLeigh?”

My body stiffened. Heart rate skyrocketed. Suddenly, a headache came on.

I knew that name anywhere.

I looked over to see her walking towards the nurse at the door. Her: the woman who, for six years, I wondered if she was real or some made-up figment of my imagination. He’d been keeping her identity from me since we met. His ability to successfully keep her under lock and key, yet have such a public relationship with her and me at the same time shows exactly the kind of man he is. He’d done it so well, sometimes I forgot she even existed.

One time, a few years ago during a heated argument he let her name slip out. Ava. I didn’t verbally note it then, but that name has been etched in my brain ever since. Marcus—oh, excuse me—Jonathan is one of the few people left on the planet who doesn’t engage in social media, though I encouraged him in the beginning for job opportunities and advancement. Ironically, his woman isn’t either. By chance, I found a piece of mail in the lap drawer of his computer desk with her name on it while I worked on a spreadsheet in his home office. That’s as close as I’ve gotten to her. They seem to live very separate lives despite their life together.

I’ve wondered what she looks like. If she looked like me. What kind of fun did they have together? Did they even have fun, or was he as miserable as he claims to be in his relationship when he’s with me?

After our first date, he’d told me that he admired me for having so much drive. I knew exactly what I wanted out of life, and had a plan in motion to get it. That was no surprise. I’ve been ambitious since my mother pushed me out of her womb. There is a strict way to achieve excellence, and my life reflects that. My home, car, wherever I am most is filled with books because learning is instrumental in the race to the top. My closet only consists of very basic colors because I don’t believe in standing out much. My hair is cut short so you can see my face, but I don’t cover it in pallets of colorful makeup like most women do these days. Sometimes, simple is best. Besides, I can prove myself without the burden of or the dependence on aesthetics. What matters most is the mind.

I may not act like many other women, but still, I am a woman. I watched Ava saunter through the threshold of the door until I could no longer see her shadow on the adjacent wall. Her hair was thick and curly, dark and shiny. Her body was tall and curvy in stature. A pretty face with tight eyes and what looked to be a tattoo on her wrist. I instantly wondered what it was like when they made love. Was he as gentle with her as he was with me, or was he aggressive and carnal? She seemed like she could bring that side of him out.

What was she here for? Is she pregnant? Doesn’t look to be.

Caitlyn, get a hold of yourself. What do you think she’s here for? She’s a woman just like you. It could be for a number of reasons.

Even if she is, I know Jonathan, and he has rigid rules on children. He refuses to be a father even though he was raised in a wonderful home by a loving family. If you want to be a part of his life, children cannot be a part of yours.

“Ms. McMain.” The receptionist was staring at me like I was an alien. Her calling my name wasn’t a question, but a demand as if to insist that I come back to Earth.

“Your appointment has been scheduled for next month, August 13. In the meantime, we’ll text you when we call your prescription in to the pharmacy.”

“Oh okay. Great.” I tried to mask my emotion by wrinkling my nose and shaking my head slightly.”Thanks so much. Have a great day!”

I rushed outside to get some fresh air. Inhale…exhale. The sun was scorching at about 90 degrees, but it was no match for the heat radiating from my heart.

There’s something about seeing someone with your own eyes that makes things so real. You realize that this bubble that you’ve created for yourself to blissfully dwell in—that you’ve decorated with the best and brightest colors– either can no longer exist or never existed in the first place. You’d been in that bubble alone, and now it’s time to come out with the rest of the world.

I jumped in my car and sat there for a moment or two. Instead of turning on my classical music, which helps me think, I picked up my cell and pressed the contact for Diana. I needed to get some thoughts out now.

She picked up on the fifth ring.

“I saw her,” I blurted out.

“….You saw who?” I could hear the cluelessness in her voice.

“Her. I don’t want to even say her name.” It was pointless though, seeing as how her name was a revolving door in my head.

“Ooooh, what her name? Ava?!”

Damn, that stung.

“I told you not to say it! But, yeah—”

“Well, I had to guess, Cait. Where? What does she look like?”

“Nothing like I imagined. Like a free, earthy Amazon.”

“Umph…That’s surprising. So, how do you feel?”

“Unnerved. Almost sick.”

“Okay, bring the dramatics down just a bit. You should definitely feel a way, but take a second to  figure out what that feeling is. It’s not like you haven’t known about her.”

Diana was always the voice of reason. She’s been against my dealings with Jonathan since the beginning, but because she’s my friend, she supports me. He’d always told me I wasn’t like other women, but the truth was, I was never different. She was.

“I know, but to see her was a wakeup call,” I sighed. “I don’t understand how a man can be with two totally different women. We’re nothing alike, D. NOTHING.”

“He’s a man. Why would he have two of the same kind of people? There’s no fun in that…So, besides her being “earthy” or whatever, what else stood out?”

“I can’t put it into words, but she seems so…less than. You know?”

“Uh, no. I’d say at this very moment, you two are quite the same. You both love a fucking fool.”

I see where this is going. “Not now, D.”

“I’m just saying. Think about it, and call me later…” She hung up before I could agree to end my vent session.

I looked across the parking lot where an ice cream shop was located to see a cute young couple walking hand-in-hand. The woman was smiling at him, clearly the aftermath of a joke they intimately shared. Jon and I could and would never do that. We’re only seen as colleagues in day hours. When the sky falls we’re secret lovers. I often wonder if we’re really the talented actors we think we are, or if everyone knows and is patiently waiting for the curtain to drop on our ridiculous production.

Get. It. Together. You can do better than this. You are better than this.

“I’m sick of this shit!” I screamed out and banged my leather covered steering wheel, not caring if anyone heard me through my window. I’m a top executive at a technology firm. No one questions my authority nor my intelligence. I’m known in elite circles around the metropolitan area and it’s idiotic for every part of my life to be in balance, except my personal life.

The fact is Jonathan has been a crutch for me. I’ve had no reason to deal with anyone else and their foolishness since he’s come into my life. Yes, everyone has their own version of crazy, but I’ve been content with his because I’m used to it. When I think about things we’ve experienced together, though, it angers me. I’ve shortchanged myself and my life for him and with him. It will hurt, but it all ends today.

I press MK for Marcus Kingsley on my iPhone ‘Favorites’ screen. Surprisingly, he picked up on the first ring.

“Hey babe,” he whispered. “Surprised to hear from you so early.”

“I need to talk to you.”

Here goes nothing.

Read Part I here

The Stories of People: Just Us

“So you’re going to think about it?” He put the puppy eyes on.

I ran my foot up and down his leg, feeling his smooth hair.“Maybe. You really don’t want me to work?”

“It’s not that I don’t want you to work. You don’t really need to anymore. I know you’re always in limbo about your job.”

I shifted my eyes upward.

“You won’t look at me, so that means you know I’m right. I’m surprised you’ve lasted as long as you have.”

He was right. I love what I do…sometimes. And truth be told, it’s not the work that drives me insane, it’s the people I work with. Out of a group of say, eight, I’m the only one who doesn’t have children. When marketing events are scheduled for the weekend, someone throws my name in the bucket, assuming I’m available because I’m childless. As if letting their children run wild in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant is more important that whatever I do or don’t do.

What gives them the right to feel so entitled? They’re only kids. Cute, but also whiny, bad-ass kids who if not loved properly, will grow up to be serial killers. Who in the world would voluntarily put themselves in that situation—to be responsible for that? Not me.

Jonathan and I have a good life. We can come and go as we please without so much as a second thought. A good friend of mine, Christina, mother of three, says I’m trapped in a selfish phase that unlike everyone else, extended far beyond my early 20s. Just last year, while those  SuperMoms were begging their overbearing mother-in-laws and dinky teenage neighbors to keep their kids for a few days during Spring Break, J called me and told me to pack my bags. And just like that, we were off to London, catching shows at the West End theater. I can’t let that freedom go, so, I say “so what?” to Chrissy and anyone who has a problem with me and my life.

Jonathan is my boyfriend of about eight years. I met him during a routine stop through Barnes & Noble. He was there for intellectual and scholarly nonfiction. I was there  for magazines and coffee. We’re polar opposites, but maybe that what I like. No, he won’t likely pull me into a secluded corner for a quickie, but he’s the kind of man who keeps things together. He balances my crazy. With every mention of his name, my mother cringes because she can’t understand why we won’t marry. “Chile, when I had you, I knew you were special, but I didn’t know you were this special. Why must you go against everything normal?”

Normal isn’t my thing though. When I was 20, much to her dismay, I left school and used my loan refund to travel abroad. I couldn’t deal with the structure of school. It seemed to me the goal was to produce clones who would scrap over the same dollar to “make a good living.” I ultimately landed in Lima. There, I lived and loved like only a free spirit would. I met a lovely man, also an American transplant about two inches shorter than me and 11 years my senior. Jacque was a bronzed Adonis with red hair, scattered freckles and one dimple in his left cheek. It was with him that I confirmed the myth about older men and lovemaking. Every single time he touched me, I saw stars. I’ve searched for someone to show me those same constellations ever since, but it hasn’t happened.

Instead of stars, Jonathan gives me security, which I’ve realized is more important. When things begin to fizzle between us, I close my eyes and think of the small gifts he leaves under my pillow just to say “I love you.” Or the impromptu excursions out of the country as a reward to both of us for nailing a business deal at his stiff corporate job. Over the years, I learned that that’s the way he loves, and maybe those gifts compensate for his insecurities. The best way for me to stoke his ego is to accept the gifts and say thank you. I’ve become a pro, and honestly, I expect it.

What’s the need for marriage anyway? They never last, and what we’ve built together transcends any legal document or other people’s judgements about our love.

So after J kissed my inside of my wrist and told me he wanted to stay this way forever—just us, I made an executive decision for my own life. I kissed the tip of his nose, hopped out of bed and called my gynecologist.

***

 Although it’s a necessary evil, I still abhor coming to this place. The OBGYN office is always full of pregnant women or women who already have children. Gives me the creeps. The stacks of Parent and Good Housekeeping magazines are on the coffee tables just stare at you, as if every woman who comes through these doors automatically wants to be a mother. I’ve learned to keep my earphones in and blast music or stare out of the large window no matter what the sky looks like outside of it.

A gangly black woman with braids flung the door of the waiting open and scanned the room. You’d think she’d know my face by now.  “Ava McLeigh?”  That was my cue. Let’s get this over with.

Inside the patient room, I grabbed a few non-mom magazines to flip through while I waited. I’d already given my urine sample, so the rest of the time should be easy breezy. Trish Katy, a tall beauty, walked in with a big grin. She’s been my doctor for so long, I don’t even bother calling her such. She’s Trish, and somewhat like a sister to me after all this time. Never judges me for my rants about how my body turns on me at given second. The pain I endure during a decade long bout with endometriosis is a close second to labor pains, she says. And for that alone, I’ll pass on carrying something inside of me for nine months.

“Ava, what’s up? We just saw each other, didn’t we?”

“Yes, we did, but this is a special visit…”

She cocked her head to the right and raised her eyebrows. “Yesss??”

“Take it all out. I’ve made my decision.”

“Take what all out?”

“You know…the stuff.”

“As in a hysterectomy, which will kill your chances of having a baby?!

I stared at her blankly. We’ve been through this a million times.

She laughed. “Honey, I don’t know if that’s something you want to go through with if you’re still referring to your reproductive organs as ‘the stuff.’”

“I’m serious.”

“Is the pain back?”

“No.”

“Have you talked to your other doctors?”

“No.”

She heaved a deep sigh. “So, why are you back on this again? I thought we agreed that you would wait until you were 35 to make a decision on motherhood. Was the Mirena not enough?”

That contraption’s been knocked out of place more times than I can count. “No, you agreed that I would wait. And I’m 33…and a half, remember? There’s no need to prolong the inevitable.

I don’t want kids, and if I can be frank, I’d like to have hot sex freely without the shackles of birth control or its horrible side effects.”

This time, she rolled her eyes. Hard.

The cute little nurse pushed the door open and asked to see Dr. Katy. I grabbed my phone out of frustation ,hoping this wouldn’t be a struggle. If Trish wouldn’t okay the surgery, someone else would.

She opened the door and stood in the corner.

“So, let’s continue this talk about this hysterectomy,” as I laid back across the examination table like it was my plush sofa at home. “It needs to happen—sooner than later.”

She huffed, as if to mock me, “Well, Ava, as your doctor, it’s my job to give the best medical advice as possible. I’m saying no the surgery.”

“Why?!”

“You’re pregnant.”

She dropped my test results on the table, and then the room went black.

The Stories of People: The Boy in the Picture, Pt. 2

~~~

After some months of talking by phone, Skyping and failed visit attempts, we finally saw each other again. As I sat on a breezy riverfront wrapped in his jacket, he shared that he was no longer attached and wanted to spend more time with me. I obliged and before I knew it, we entered a courtship. Those things I had been missing, like trust and assurance in men, were quickly restored.

I didn’t stop to pay attention to some of the things he’d said in conversation that made me question if he was as serious about us as he’d said. I ignored that our sense of humor wasn’t compatible even though I missed being able to belt out laughs with a man. He’d told me he wasn’t “the funny guy,” so I willingly became the comedienne. Secretly, I felt rushed into how the relationship was progressing considering how it began.

There was chemistry, but there was a small strand of something missing, and whatever that something was, it was important. To blight the feeling, I remembered that the man who made me laugh hysterically was a disappearing act who was also emotionally unavailable. I magnified how I felt when the boy in the picture ran his fingers through my hair and kissed me. Add that to listening to my circle of girlfriends dishing of their happiness for me when I thought he was too good to be true.

“Are you sure?” a close friend asked over her crackly cell phone. “He seems like a great guy, but make sure you protect your heart.” I was annoyed because she challenged me and reminded me to trust my gut.

I shrugged off her concern, as well as my own. I’d literally run into this wonderful man, and we’d already learned so much from each other. He taught me to open my heart and verbalize what’s inside, rather than putting a cork on my emotions, and I encouraged him not to sweat the small stuff. I figured we’d come into each other’s lives for a reason, if only for those.

We traveled together up the East Coast. Since my first visit to the New York City, I’d had dreams of walking hand in hand with my lover, sharing a passionate kiss on the street as the rest of the world buzzed by us. There I was in that place with that person–a perfect set-up for my dream to take shape. On a cold December morning, we caught a cab to Harlem from Brooklyn. As we zoomed down avenues and turnpikes, I laid my head on his shoulder and soaked up all the energy the city had to offer.

I was numb.

I didn’t feel what I thought I should’ve felt considering the time, space and place I was in. The feeling caused a small panic, and I tried my hardest to shake it off. Later that day, we leaned into each other for secret kisses over plates of soul food in a small mom and pop eatery. A true Southern gentleman, he and the owner talked as if they were old friends. She was enamored by his bright eyes and magnetic personality just as I was. When we visited an old friend of mine, she pulled me into her bedroom after dinner and gushed about my beau. “I wish you could see the way he looks at you. This is like a romantic comedy!”

There were many talks about our future together and what we would do the “next time we go away.” I made a conscious decision to accept that this man was real, and not a figment of my imagination. Those youthful folks in that old picture could actually be together. Don’t get crazy and mess this up, I told myself.

Just hours before our flight back home, he’d changed his reservation to remain in the city a couple of days with family to prolong going back to his stressful job. I was livid.

As we stood at the escalator to airport security, he pulled me in for a hug and asked, “I just need a couple of days, that’s all. Don’t let this ruin the good time we had this weekend. I’ll be home soon.”

I barked at him, trying make him aware of his selfish and inconsiderate move. I felt immature for doing so, but I stood in the airport security line with eyes full of tears hiding behind my oversized sunglasses anyway. I traveled back home alone.

When he returned and we resolved our quarrel, I realized that for the first time, I wasn’t keeping score in a relationship, trying to one-up my guy. I was pleased with my personal growth.

A routine call about his travel home went unanswered, along with countless other calls and texts that followed. I became worried about him and his family. Was he dead or alive? A random text reply that read “I’m okay” several days later solidified what my intuition had already told me. He was ending things. Did something happen while we were away? Is that why he stayed in New York?

For some reason he couldn’t say, we weren’t going to work as a couple. I didn’t put up a fight because by then, I was already emotionally and mentally exhausted.

I experienced a different emotion for each day of the next week, from confusion to sadness to anger to relief, and then repeat. We spoke more than once about his decision to end things, and he blamed it on a pesky personality trait–indecisiveness–which had left more than a few burned bridges in his past. My warning to him was to look before he leaps before sweeping another woman off her feet knowing she would reach a quick expiration date. There was forgiveness, but no real reconciliation.

Some time passed, and he called. I reluctantly answered. We quickly gave recaps of our lives without each other, and after a few awkward silences, it all became clear. I remembered that weird feeling I had in New York paired with other “shoulder taps” I’d intentionally overlooked from the beginning. He and I should have never been “us.” His abrupt end to things shouldn’t have surprised me either. He’d been upfront about who he was and how he handled relationships. I didn’t miss any of the signs he flashed before me, but I’d ignored my own.

Luckily for me, he had enough courage to acknowledge his feelings and take action, even though he did so erroneously. He wanted to try again, but by then, I was completely sure in my decision to pass on reuniting with him. We, or maybe, just I, shouldn’t have to learn the same lesson twice: Always go with your gut.

The Stories of People: A Slave Woman’s Life

I’se just a po’ slave. I’m about 47 years old, I reckon. I never knew my birthdate, but my mama always told me I was born in 1767 give or take a few years, so every year I count and add another year.  I feels like I’m bout 100 though. It’s been a long, long journey. The only companion I has is friend named Jessie who come to this plantation from Georgia ’round 10 years ago. I was drawn to her cuz she like me. Her folks is gone and she can’t bear no chil’ren.

I been wit chile four times and done lost every last one of ’em. Miss Becca, Mr. Joe’s wife, say it’s cuz I lets so many mens on top of me. I don’t know where she get that from. I know the truth, but to keep confusion down, I agrees wit her. Put on a shamed face, nod my head real slow-like and say, “Yes ma’am, I know.” Truth is, so many white mens, just like her man, who claim to be takin’ good care of dey “good, prime” slave girls done lay on top of me night after night.

 The only man who looked like me that I been wit was my true and only love,  Benjamin. When he told me his name, it sound like royalty to me. Like he shoulda been a king, or atleast living in the big house on the plantation. But he was just a field slave like me. He say everybody call him Ben for short, but I liked Benjamin so much, I ain’t never call him nuthin’ else.  His skin was about a shade and a half darker than mine. Mr. Joe would tell me I was golden brown, like the sun. He wished I was lighter. I guess, maybe white like Miss Becca.

I was all of 14, if I remember right, but I felt like I was a full grown woman like my mama when I was around Benjamin. Ain’t take too long for me to get pregnant. I was at prime age to be birthing babies, the elders ’round the plantation say. Shoulda been trying to have babies. Me and Benjamin ain’t know much bout no babies, but he was so happy and ready to be the pappy. After all the screaming and hollerin’ I did having that baby, I was too tired to notice that  I was the only one cryin’. I didn’t hear a sound from my baby. It was boy, and he was born dead.

Don’t nobody know the pain, the hurt. I’s a good girl. Do all my work and keep a smile on my face even when da sun beatin’ me down.  I figure as much as I loved Benjamin, if that’s what doing our business git ya, I might as well not do it no mo’. After that, I ain’t let Benjamin or no other man touch me. 

Then Mr. Joe come around some years later and make me his slave mistress, I ‘spose. Mama had died and I ain’t have nobody else to see bout me. Benjamin was sold to another plantation somewhere in Kentucky. Me and him was at odds for so long cuz he wanted what he thought was his as a man. I was too scared though. That fear wouldn’t let me go, so he let me go, instead. I stayed mad at him for a long time, but I ain’t never stopped loving him–even after he took dat ride  down the dirt road not to return. I ain’t heard or seen of him since den. I’d be a lyin’ woman if I say I’on ever think about him.

So Mr. Joe loved to do his business wit me. Made me wonder if he ever touch his wife at all. When he come to me, he seemed so full of fire and ready, even when I was not. He would pump and sweat like dere was no tomorrow. Felt like he was takin’ somethin’ out on me, instead of loving me. I used to know what that feel like, dat real lovin’.

I could say I hated it, but truth is, it wasn’t so bad all the time. Me and him together always remind me of pouring milk over black sand, if dere’s such a thang. On top o’dat, he never call me “lil nigger girl” like he did to the other slave girls. That made me feel special cuz dey called us niggers so much, I like to think it was my real name, instead of Reecie. He say I don’t feel like Miss Becca and I smile, but all the while shaken up a lil bit. I can’t imagine what could feel diff’rent. We got the same thang, don’t us? Then I think of how my skin be so rough and ashy, especially after a bath on a cold night, if I get to take one. How could I feel better than that white woman who prob’ly got all dem creams and thangs to make her prettier than she already is?

Sometimes, I look at Mr. Joe and wonder how he got so white. He got freckles and it look like all the color been sucked outta him. Besides his soft hair that flows through my fingers, I can’t think of nuthin’ that compare to Benjamin’s dark skin. It used ta glistened even after a long day of working in the field. So since I couldn’t have him, I just close my eyes and wish when I open them, it’ll be him, instead of Mr. Joe. Ain’t never happened, but memories is what keep me goin’ until he wanna stop.

I got pregnant again, but lost the baby. It was Mr. Joe’s and everybody know’d it. I was shame, but what could I do? He send people to tend to me and make sure I was alright, but before I knew it, he was back in my cabin again. I started to get me a slave man just to keep him away, but it wouldn’t do no good. Besides, no slave man wanna have anythang to do wit me cuz I was “Mr. Joe’s Woman.” Didn’t wanna get hurt by messin’ wit me, but I doubt if Mr. Joe cared who had me.

The only time I feels good is when I go to church on Sundays. The white folks don’t like it one bit, but if we didn’t go, we’d probably be all crazy by now. I ‘member first time I really heard about God, or Jesus as we like to call Him. I was about 11 or so. Until then, I hadn’t been to church. The overseers would tell Mama since I was so young and keen, I needed to be out workin’.

I’d always heard the white folks talk about Jesus, but they seemed so calm, like he was just a ordinary person. He coulda been walkin’ round the plantation, how they act. I heard them say the Bible teach us to be slaves. It was right for us to live like dis under them. Wa’nt nuthin’ wrong wit’ slavery cuz actually dey was being good Christians by takin’ care of us, feedin’ us and everythang else they do. They was goin’ to heaven, and just maybe if we was good slaves, we’d go, too, but they doubted it. If so, we was prob’ly gon’ be in another part of heaven though cuz we was second class to them.

That sounded ’bout right since dey said it so much, but when I went to church for the first time, I didn’t feel like that no more. What kinda God Mr. Joe and Miss Becca was talkin’ bout? Didn’t seem like the same God the other slaves was praising. Oooh, they was excited! There was shoutin’ and singin’ and one person would say somethin’ and everybody else would say somethin’ back. I fell into it quick cuz I likes to sing. They sing a song bout a chariot comin’ to carry me home. Must be talkin’ bout Heaven, I thought. The oldest woman on the plantation, who would lead everybody into singin’ them songs told me years later a lot of them songs was called Dr. Watts hymns. She say she heard he was a white man. He wrote them songs? Couldn’t be!  Do he know what it feels like to be a slave? But slaves put so much feeling into ’em, that they sound totally different from when white folks sing ’em.

I believed fo’ sho’ in Jesus after that first day of church, and went every Sunday since then. I figure even as a chap, that that man had to be sumthin’ special to keep us from killin’ these white folks day in, day out. He had to be real to see us through our mens bein’ kilt, whipped, chil’ren dyin’, rape and sickness. It was almost like the Jesus we know and the one dey know is two different people, but He love us, too. All o’ us.  He’s just got power like that.

Here I is, 47 years old, no family, but yet still holdin’ on. I make peace wit’ God and wit’ myself that I can’t carry no chil’ren. My womb is old and worn out anyways. But I got one friend on dis here land, and friend that will always be there, Jesus. He done kept me and kept me good. All the chil’ren on the land come to see bout me. I’m too tired to work in the fields now, so I jus’ tend to babies. Treat em like dey is mine since all mine up in Heaven now. I can’t wait to see ’em one day. Maybe by the time I gets there, Heaven won’t be for whites only.

The Stories of People: A Tuesday Kind of Love, Pt. II

Two weeks had passed, and I still hadn’t run into the Mr. Reflex again. That’s the alias I gave him since I didn’t know his name. If and when I find out his name, he’ll still be referred to as such.  Aliases w always used until said person becomes of major importance. No real names allowed. (I know it sounds objectifying, and I’d be pissed to find out a man gave me an alias like Ms. Independent, but it’s what I do. Sorry.)

Anyway, in the meantime, I’d been passing time going out on meaningless dates with Marcus, affectionately known as Mr. Snooze. Any guesses why he has that name? Yes, he bores me to tears. Sometimes, I’d rather car watch on a country dirt road than to listen to stories about his accounting job or his adventures in fishing. But he’s much more attentive than I am, complimentary and loves to take me out. So, I go. I guess you can’t have it all.

I’d decided weeks ago that I was going to put an end to our dating stint. He deserves to be with a woman who actually enjoys his company. After months of dating and careful speculation, I realize that I’m not that woman. We’re much better as friends, associates even.

Boredom is foreign to me, or atleast it used to be. Lately it seems like I’m surrounded by it in every area of my life. At one time, it was nothing to drop everything I was doing to go late night dancing or book a last-minute weekend trip to the beach. Those were the kinds of things I did with Daniel aka The Ex.  It was an exciting, yet turbulent time. It took me two whole years to figure out that our relationship was going absolutely nowhere, while everyone around me knew from Day One. Go figure. Reality hit me the day I asked him for the final time about marriage. He answered like he was revealing new findings from a major study. “I don’t think I’m the marrying type.”

I swear, I saw stars and birds flying around my head like they do on old cartoons. I shook my head, as if to rattle my brain back in its place. “Since when? You’ve never said that–EVER.”

“I know, but  honestly, I don’t know if it’s in me.” He looked down at his files he’d brought home from work, instead of  in my eyes. He knows how I feel about eye contact. “Who says two people in love have to get married? The whole idea is unrealistic, and I think I–we’re smart enough not to fall into that trap.”

From across the great room, I stared him down with my most evil eye. “So when did you figure that out? And when were you going to tell me?!”

He leaned back, looked away the way he did when he was ashamed or wanted to avoid something.

So that was it. Mr. Suit and Tie from a two-parent middle class home. Educated, yet street smart. Loved by all, including my always disapproving parents. Church-going, tithing. Who I was supposed to build a family with. That is what he ultimately had to offer. Nothing.

I made a Big Girl move, and moved on, rather trying to make something be that never even existed in the first place.

Many months later after the mourning of my relationship with Daniel, I jumped back into dating, only to discover that I have a habit of dating the same type of man. Which is how I ended up seeing Mr. Snooze.

Last night, after he walked me to my door, and gave me the infamous “church hug,” I immediately called my best friend, Ava.

Before she could say hello, I blurted into the phone, “I can’t do it anymore.”

“Do what?” She laughed as if she was expecting a punchline to a joke.

“Marcus.”

“But you’re not doing him. I thought that was the problem.”

“Very funny. I mean, I can’t continue to do this with him, or this terrible thing called my dating life. It just has to be better than this.” I fell on bed.

Ava is the most logical, no-nonsense woman I know. I come to her when I want realistic advice. Not that fairytale crap my other friends dish out. Even if she resorts to calling me a self-centered, psycho bitch to knock some sense into me, she’ll do it. It usually works.

She paused for a moment. Cleared her throat. I was expecting her to tell me to grow the hell up and be grateful Marcus was even pitting with me, what with my flaky attitude and uninterested demeanor. Honestly, I thought that was working for me, but clearly, men don’t catch hints very well–if at all.

I braced myself for her tongue-lashing.

Instead, she said nonchalantly, “You want me to hook you up?”

“What? I’m serious, Ava!”

“I’m serious, too! There’s a new guy who works in the blood lab in the new wing of the hospital.  Everyone’s had their eye on him. I had no idea he was friends with Erica, and she speaks  highly of him.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Erica, huh?” I was already hesitant. Erica was the type of woman who had tons of male friends–because she’d slept with them all, and it just didn’t work out. If she referred to a man as her “family” or “brother ” that meant she’d probably slept with him atleast three weeks prior. I don’t think there’s a man in the city she hasn’t laid, but she’s cool nonetheless.

“I know what you’re thinking, and no, they haven’t been together. He’s a friend of her brother’s from college. He just moved here after being in the military for a while. He went back to school since he worked in the medical field overseas. I’m telling you, he’s definitely your type. And don’t make me go into appearance specifics. Just know he’s your type. You trust me, don’t you?”

“I don’t know, Ava…You know how I feel about hook-ups. Name one that has resulted in anything other than me dodging emails and phone calls.”

“Aww shit! You make me tired, Bianca.” She blew a ton of air out into the phone to prove her point. “I guess you’re hoping to run into…er, what’s his name–Mr. Reflex–again?”

“No, I’ve given up on that.” I was lying through my teeth. Not a day went past without me scoping out the parking garage. I even drove around slowly, making sure I didn’t miss him. No luck.

“Yeah, well, approval or not, I’m telling Erica to pass your email and phone number on to him.”

What did I have to lose? Not a thing. “Okay, you win. Let me know what he says,” I said. “Nevermind that we don’t even know if he’s interested in dating someone.”

“Like, seriously, B,” Ava said. I could imagine her waving her hands in the air. “He’s a man in a new city. They’re always interested in dating.”

“Wait!!! What’s his name? I think I need to atleast know that before I send my phone number.”

Jeremiah. Bye!!”

I ended the call, and tried to move on to the next item on my mental list to think about. I could have plotted out the conversation I’m going to have with Marcus to end our less than exciting courtship, or maybe what this Jeremiah guy looked like. How Ava would be right about him being my type, whatever that is. How for once, a hook-up would actually work out for me like those couples featured in Sunday’s romance column. Instead, I fell back on to my bed and imagined running into Mr. Reflex in the elevator again.

To be continued…

The Stories of People: A Tuesday Kind of Love, Pt. I

I met him on a Tuesday.

It was only 8 a.m. and already, I wasn’t having a good day. During my 30 minute commute to work, the weather went from sunny to a monsoon. Only 10 minutes away from my office, my manager called me in early for an emergency meeting. I was sure said emergency was something that could have been taken care of without me, but the higher-ups act as if life can’t go on if I’m not there. Oh, the life of an executive administrative assistant. Sigh.

I met him on a Tuesday.

Tuesday is the day of the week that gets the least recognition. Monday is usually dreaded or taken as a fresh start to the work week. Wednesday is Hump Day.  We love Thursday because it’s just a day away from Friday. And Friday is…well, you know. It’s like a mind-blowing orgasm to end a lovemaking session—long awaited and so necessary. Then there’s Tuesday. I never anticipate anything great on a Tuesday, and I don’t think other folks do either.

But I met him on a Tuesday.

I was cranky and not even my Gospel mix cds were calming my spirit. I entered my building’s parking garage and drove to the top floor. Just as I was about to swoop into the last parking spot,  this guy came from out of nowhere in front of my car. Another foot and he and my windshield would have been in a relationship. I honked my horn and screamed a few expletives as he jumped out of the way, even though he couldn’t hear me past my blaring music. Boy, you better thank whoever you pray to for quick reflexes. Today is not the day. Who doesn’t see an entire car coming at them? I mean, really.

By the time I reached the elevator to press the “down” button, the green light flashed alerting me that the elevator going up. Great. Three minutes and counting, the elevator chimes, and the doors open. I rushed on. I stood there with my eyes tightly closed, trying not to inhale the foul stench the old elevator had to offer. There was someone else in the elevator.

“You were in a rush this morning, I see.”

I opened only eye to see where the booming voice was coming from. “Not really.”

“I think so,” he said. “You almost ran me over a minute ago.”

Well, I’ll be damned. It was him—the guy from the garage. I gave him a thorough once-over.  I was in such a frenzy earlier,  I didn’t realize how handsome he was. Nor how well dressed he was. “Ooh, yeah….Sorry about that. I really didn’t see you.”

“I’m sure,” he said. “You always seem to be in a rush when I see you. Good thing I have good reflexes.”

Wait, he’d seen my before? I’d never seen him a day in my life. Where on Earth had he been hiding? “I guess you’re right….Glad you’re okay.” I adjusted my shades over my eyes, even though I was technically inside, thankful he couldn’t see me staring at him. This was beyond awkward.

“Make sure you get some coffee when you get to your office—you know, to take the edge off,” he said. I turned to see him smiling a bright smile. He didn’t seem half as pissed off as I would have been after meeting the person who almost sent me to my Maker.

The elevator hit the ground level with a loud thud. I threw another apology his way and rushed out onto the street for my three block trek to my building. As I fiddled with my PDA, I had this strange feeling that though I’d never seen him before, I’d be seeing him again soon. I looked back as the wind blew fiercely, whipping my hair across my face to catch another glance of him, just in case I was wrong.

And just like that, he was gone.

To be continued…

The Stories of People: Dancing in the Dark

I remember how I felt when we first kissed. Something else had suddenly taken over me. I knew I should stop touching you, but I couldn’t. I was powerless. Spellbound.

It was so gentle and passionate. When our lips finally parted from each other’s, only one thought came to mind…

I wanted to dance with you. At that very moment. Crazy, right?

Not bumping and grinding or whining to a slow beat. But your arms wrapped around me, holding me close, just moving. Swaying. Rocking to the beat of our souls. The kind of dancing that only required me closing my eyes and being engulfed in your scent. There would be nothing but the sound of our exhales, so we didn’t need music. All we needed was us.

Organic closeness. Simplistic intimacy.

I wanted to dance with you.

The Stories of People: The Chase

Inspired by Jozen Cumming’s blog post, I Could Have No Idea What I’m Talking About.
FOR THE WOMEN

Quit playing hard to get, start playing hard to keep.

Yesterday I tweeted the following sentences: “Girl, I’m not chasing you. I have asthma.” I don’t really have asthma (hopefully anyone who does isn’t offended), but what I was trying to say is I don’t have the time or the energy to chase after a girl and try to wear her down. Women who think playing hard to get will find themselves not gotten sooner than later.

Ladies, let a man have you, but do so on your own terms and watch how long he stays around. Now, he may bounce after the first sentence of back talk, but if he does, just let him go ladies. My point is, let a man work for the power he wants because honestly, it’s all we ever really want. Power….

—————————————————————————————————

I wanted you, but I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it was because you wanted me first. Or maybe because I knew I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have you. You were with someone else and I respected your relationship. I respected her.  Or maybe because the first time I saw you, you made me wonder who you were. That’s unusual because I’m rarely impressed. Or it could be that undeniable swagger of yours that made you stand out, even though your looks, to some, were second-rate. Maybe it was the stories I heard about you. You were off-limits– the bad boy, but to me you were always all good. Sweet, even.

You wanted me so you chased me. Just the way I like it. Our flirting sessions were magnetic. Always drawing us close, but never so close that we couldn’t pull back. It was all I could do since I couldn’t have you, after all. Eventually, when you parted with her, the chase elevated. Our interactions were no longer restricted to secret gazes and phone calls, brief exchanges of words. We were seen publicly, often in the same place we met: on the dance floor. You could turn and spin me, as if we belonged that way–arms intertwined, moving to the same beat, on one accord. There was something magical and unspoken between us that is still inexplicable.

On a humid spring night, you told me The Chase had to end. It was inevitable that we would be together–in some way–any way I would allow. Your words were very matter-of-fact–a turn-on and annoyance all at once. To give in to you would make me the loser in this neverending game, but I couldn’t say I wasn’t still feeling you. I was totally transparent.

Surprisingly, I, the orchestrator of The Chase stayed with you for a night. You were a perfect gentleman. I’m too old now to wonder if that was part of your “game”. Game or not, it was just what I needed then. For the first time in the many years of The Chase, we put the bullshit aside and actually talked. No distractions from the outside world or our own consciences. Just you and me.

A lot of questions that I had about you were answered that night. You told me your attraction to me was beyond physical. What you liked about me was that I exuded confidence and sexiness effortlessly. Those were the same things I liked about you. Conversation and laughs carried on into the late hours of the night. You weren’t the asshole I thought I knew anymore. You were your true self, and I’ll take that any day.

When I protested you holding me while we slept because I knew it would feel too good, you didn’t think much of it. You just laid there with me and fell asleep. Over in the night after darkness had blanketed the sky, I awoke to see that you’d wrapped your arms around me anyway. And that was fine with me.

The sun shined vibrantly through your bedroom window blinds alerting us to the morning. It was hard to believe that The Chase had possibly reached its apex. Your arms were still around me, and I didn’t want you to let go. I knew that from that moment on, things would never be the same. But they would have to be.

Years have passed and though not nearly as often as back then, The Chase is still there. And just the same, I wonder if I will ever let you catch me.

The Stories of People: A Life Worth Living

Here we go again. I let out a heavy sigh.

An invitation to be the keynote speaker at some frumpy women’s luncheon. You know, the kind where they’ll probably all be wearing “church hats” and glitzy suits. I guess you could call it a “high tea.”  Eh, I’m not excited. Yet another “thing” added to my calendar. There’s just too much to do. There’s always something to do.

I never dreamed I’d be in this place. When I 17, I received a full scholarship to a small Christian college on the west coast. I wish I could be cliché and tell you I was the first in my family to go to college, but that’s not true. Both of my parents graduated from Southern University (that’s where they met). My sister, Michelle, who’s five years my senior, went to Stillman College for a semester, but she dropped out. Said she couldn’t handle the pressure.

I still remember the looks on my parents’ faces when she told them she wasn’t going back. Talk about pissed! She’d told me her escape plan two weeks prior, and as mad as we both knew they would be, I knew she’d go through with it anyway. She was 16 when she up and decided that none of her clothes needed to match anymore. How dreadful. She pulled if off effortlessly, of course. Michelle’s that kind of person though–courageous and unafraid. I have always admired that about her, but I’ve never told her.

 The day my family drove off from my dorm, leaving me alone in a new city, I vowed to finish what Michelle started. Somebody had to fulfill the dream–why not me? My book smarts paired with my level head made me a prototype for the Perfect Student.For the next 10 years, my tunnel vision was matchless. My degree in clinical counseling took four years to complete; I finished in 3.5. Mama and Daddy met in college: I found my beau there, too. Graduate school was supposed to take roughly two years; I took summer courses and worked full-time to finish in a year and a half.

I got a job immediately after graduation and became engaged. It’s hard to believe that Jordan and I had been together almost six years. I almost killed myself (and my bridesmaids) in the process, but I had the fairytale wedding I’d always dreamed of. When mama and all four of my aunts started asking, “When ya’ll gon’ start working on them babies?” the need to please kicked in again. I was pregnant in an instant, and mommyhood began. What a glorious time!

I was so busy being Mommy Dearest to Lei’ann, I totally forgot about Jordan, and what he needed from me as a wife and companion.

“Do you know what my favorite color is?” he asked while I was folding clothes one evening.

I threw his basketball shorts in a pile and did a double-take. “Huh? Your favorite color?”

Yeah. As in the color I like the most–that I wear the most.” He was clearly annoyed.

I tried to imagine the inside of his closet. “It’s purple, isn’t it?”

“Uh uh.” His voice was flat. His eyes were dead. He walked out of the room.

Damn. I didn’t even know my own husband’s favorite color. How terrible is that? Maybe I never knew him that well at all. I remember studying and attending club meetings in college more than I remember us just spending time with us. Seven years later, we were strangers. People change, and I’d been so busy, I didn’t have time to notice.

Meanwhile, my career in counseling was taking off. In addition to being a head counselor at the hospital, I was being invited to speak to women across the city, my duty being to encourage them and put them on a plan of action to make better lives for themselves. Nevermind their past dealings in drug addictions, abandonment and sexual abuse. With my help, they got through their ordeals. I’ve always been good at helping people.

So now, I am here. In this place of accomplishment. Living  what seems to be picture perfect life with my husband  and my baby girl. I am miserable. My family is the world to me, but with every engagement I commit to, every award I receive, every I realize that’s all my life has been. Committment. Structure. Little to no fun. Did you know I always wanted to ride a huge rollercoaster? Go sky-diving? Put on a show during karaoke (think: Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding)? Have a drunken one-night stand, even? Yep, but none of that has ever happened. My reputation won’t allow it. I won’t allow it.

For Mother’s Day, Michelle, who still doesn’t have children or a steady boyfriend, for that matter, gave me a card. Inside was a slip of paper with the following quote written on it:

“First I was dying to finish high school & start college. And then I was dying to finish college & start working. And then I was dying to marry & have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I could get back my career. And then I was dying to retire. And now I am dying & suddenly I realize …that I forgot to live.”

– Author unknown

She didn’t wait for my response to the note. She just smiled with her eyes and kissed me on the cheek. Was that what she thought of me? Well, she hit the nail on the head. I wasn’t offended; I was empowered. It seems like just yesterday I was trying so hard to be the polar opposite of her: straight-laced and conformed. Now I want to take a walk in her shoes. See what’s like to be without restriction imposed by others and even myself.

I took that quote and posted it to the bulletin board in my home office. I read it aloud everyday after my morning prayer. It’s time to live. Really live.

But back to this “high tea” deal. I called the women’s auxiliary and graciously declined the invitation. I picked up the phone and dialed Jordan.

“Hey. The fair is in town, right?”

“Yeah, it is. Why?” he asked. I could hear his eyebrows raise in inquisitiveness.

“Let’s go tonight.”

“Really?”

Yes, really! Are you surprised?

“Honestly, yes, but that’s cool, ” he said. “I’ll call Mom and ask her to babysit.”

“No, Lei’ann’s coming with us. It’ll be a family Fun Night.”

I could tell he didn’t know what to think. “A-ight. But you’ve never cared for going to fairs and theme parks. Remember when I tried to take you in ’01? What’s this all about?”

I leaned back in my leather chair, swung around with my feet lifted off the carpeted floor. I could feel Michelle in veins. “Tonight I’m riding the biggest  rollercoaster out there.”

The moment I ended the call, I started living life.

The Stories of People, Pt. II: The Last Words I Said to Her

“Do you want me to lock the door?”

Those were the last words I said to the woman I love. It doesn’t get any more poetic than that.

That was a pretty dumb question anyway, seeing as how I’d just placed the key to her home on the end table. I was returning her belongings and picking mine up to start a new life without her. How could I lock a door with no key? I blame habit and wanting to say something–anything other than “Bye.”

In true storybook fashion, she had my things in a huge Bebe shopping bag (WTF? Was I not worth a box?) by the door. Inside were a few of my frat shirts, a set of clippers that I no longer thought existed and an old KING magazine (the one with Stacy Dash on the cover).  She secretly hated that I was a subscriber, but she understood that men are visual creatures.

When she’d opened the door, she gave me a dry “hey” and immediately plopped back down on the sofa. She was watching one of the many reality shows she’d probably DVR’d throughout the week. It was like I wasn’t even there. The lights were out and television screen illuminated barely enough light on the wall so I could see. Damn, she wanted me outta there. Truth be told, I didn’t think parting ways was the thing to do, but she’d insisted. Said I’d been hanging by a thread for a while. Benefit of the doubt had run its course.

After I said my final words, I stood in the entryway for about five seconds, hoping she would atleast give me a glance. It felt like an eternity, and I hate waiting.

She didn’t even turn around. She continued to sit quietly on the sofa with one leg propped under the other that was dangling off the armrest. She twirled her hair around her fingers. That was a signal that she was either aggravated or nervous. I knew most of her habits like they were my own.

I’m no fool, so I did what seemed logical after a bad breakup. I just closed the door. Forever.