Friday, August 21, 2015

Dating Series: Looking For A Love Jones, Part 1

It was the sixth time I’d been to D.C., this year. My best friend could not fathom how I could still visit, with the memories I had there. We sat in my living room, dressed and ready to have our Friday Beer Garden ritual. As per usual, I was still packing my purse probably deciding between taking my journal or a new read.

I’m such a nerd.

“I could never go back to Buffalo, not even for a homecoming weekend. Karen still has a year left there; I could possibly run into her. Even when she graduates, all those buildings will remind me of the moments we shared. Nope.”

I laughed at Ray; I couldn’t believe he’d let Karen decide on his actions.

“It’s not funny, Riv. She broke a young god’s heart,” he clutched his chest, feigning pain.

I threw a pillow at him, “Shut up. I’m living my life. D.C. will always be my favorite city. Sure, I have bad memories there, but I’ve got good ones too.”

Ray got up and adjusted his crushed blazer, “Let’s make some memories around lager, before the spot closes.”

I looked at my watch, we had three hours until last call, he was right.

Ray and I met when we were nineteen. A friend introduced us, on a three-way phone call (remember those?), trying to prove me wrong about something. Ray was the friend of one of her exes; she wanted him to relay something he’d witnessed that I didn’t believe. Hilarity ensued, as we spent hours cracking jokes on one another. Before we got off of the phone, he and I exchanged numbers promising we’d keep in touch.

A few months and phone calls later we met up at an ice-cream spot, the only place to hang, after 8pm in our Long Island town.

You can tell, instantly, when someone isn’t feeling you.
It’s usually in their eyes, in their body language.
Most men’s attraction is influenced heavily by physicality.
Sure, they can get to know you, discover something deeper that opens another entrance, but you’ve got to open the first door: physical attraction.

I pulled up and Ray hopped out of his car and into my own. He looked over and smiled, hesitantly, “Hey. You look a little different from your photos.”

I frowned, partly because this isn’t how I wanted us to start out, mostly because I’d discovered good lighting, angles, and he was slightly right. I knew he was referring to my weight. I took a lot of neck-up photos, hoping no one would notice that I’d chosen to omit my spilling belly, large thighs, and oversized feet. I was almost 6-feet tall and 200 pounds. I was height, weight proportionate, but society’s depiction of beauty trumped that every time.

Society’s depiction of beauty trumped a lot of things:
My smile.
My ability to make others laugh.
The altruism radiating through my actions.
My uncanny ability to connect with all children.
The culture I’d cultivated.
The mind that was always conjuring something incredible.

I learned to peel these things open, quickly, before initial interest faded. I could watch the disinterest, in my physicality cloud their judgment, through their pupils. From the first cloud, propelled by insecurity, a need to be loved, and a slew of other things I’ve grown to dismiss, I spoke like the wind:

I’m brown,
sand brown like the remnants my grandfather left behind in my father’s eyes,
we’re of Cuban jazz and Jamaican reggae,
my mother has adapted,
she conjures ziti instead of jerk,
wants me to know more than my heritage,
wants me to assimilate with patois under my tongue,
just in case I have to cuss someone who’s hurt me,
I collect comic books,
I can talk superheroes and Harry Potter,
with my eyes closed,
I’m versed in a little bit of everything,
just enough to keep you intrigued,
just give me a few minutes to change your mind.

I changed Ray’s mind, after ten minutes. I saw his mouth begin to form words I’d become accustomed to.

“Listen, I can stay a few minutes. I have to…”

I cut him off, “Dang, I thought we could catch late night tag at Q-Zar. It’s unlimited.”

He looked at me, stunned, “You’d laser tag, on a first date?”

“Is that what we’re on?”

He shrugged, “I guess we are. I’ll drive.”

We spent the rest of the evening, running through mazes, on opposing teams. (I kicked his ass, but he’ll never admit it.) At the end of the night, we sat in the car laughing and recounting the mistakes of our team members and how we’d almost had one another, several times.

“Erica, you’re cool.”

I felt the initial dating scene, from the movie Just Wright, coming on. I waited for the conjunction to roll off of his tongue, for him to deem me a homegirl, without ever making me feel at home.

“You’re cool too.”

“We should do this, again. You skateboard, right? Let’s hit the boardwalk, tomorrow.”


I don’t think Ray and I ever went on another “date.” Almost a decade later, we’re still hanging out, keeping every other Friday for catch up and beer garden fiasco. He’d tell me about the latest girl he was seeing and I’d tell him about the current guys that were getting on my nerves.

Today he was focused on my recent trips to D.C. We were finally seated and sipping on our favorites. Ray was big on beer and I wasn’t. I went to this spot, strictly for him. I nursed a shandy, a Stella Artois mixed with Sprite. It made the beer go down, easier.

“Who is he, this time?”

“Ugh. How do you know I didn’t go for business?”

“Because you’re glowing fool. Spill.”

I blushed, “His name is Mason.” (You can read my introduction Mason, HERE.)

“What does this one do?”

I pushed Ray’s shoulder, playfully, “You make it seem like there are so many.”

“You’re right. There aren’t. But the last three have been below the Mason-Dixon line. Heh. No pun intended. I don’t know why you can’t find a Yankee hat, Timberland-wearing New York brother.”

“Because y’all ain’t sh*t.”

We both laughed. He knew I was kind of right. I couldn’t make it one block without rejecting an advance and being told 'I was ugly anyway.' There was something about southern charm that I couldn’t resist. There were great guys in NYC, but they all seemed to be taken and/or playing for the other team.

“I’m a good guy.”

I rolled my eyes, “Today.”

Ray chuckled, “Okay, spill the beans.”

“He’s an A&R.”

“Oh shoot. Upgrade. I remember when you used to date strictly emcees, as a teen.”

“This is true, but I was an emcee too…I ain’t no..”

“Groupie, we know.”

“He’s good people. He’ll be out here in a week to see some showcases.”

“Let me guess. He’s staying with you?”

“No, he’s not. He’s staying at the Marriott downtown.”

Ray snickered, “Ten blocks from your house. Great. There’ll be no Friday night ritual that weekend.”

I touched his hand, “I’m sure you’ll be caught up with one of your Karen rebounds then.”

“Stop calling them that!”

I drank the last gulp of my beer, “You know that’s what they are, Ray. You need to just take a break.”

“Right after you stop coming back from D.C., with new beaus.”

“Touche, negro. Touche.”

I waited for him to make plans. I hadn’t heard anything, since he told me that he’d be in town for the weekend. It was Thursday and he was supposed to be in NY, in less than twenty-four hours.

You know you’ve done this before:

"I’m going to go write."
Checks phone.
Starts writing.
Thirty minutes later, checks phone.
Instagram likes, Facebook conversations that have nothing to do with you.
Stop notifications.
Keep writing.
Text message sound goes off.
Runs across room to phone.
Oh, it’s mom.
Hi, mom.

It wasn’t until the next morning, after checking my phone, I realized he’d text me in the middle of the night.

"I’ll be in town tomorrow, around 9 am. I’ve got a ton of meetings, but I thought we could grab dinner and chill around 8 pm."

Oh yeah, plans. Commence cabbage patch. 

He arrived around 7:30. He was super early. I threw the small amount of mess left, in my closet, fixed my hair in the mirror, and headed to the door.

He was in a windbreaker and jeans, with a duffle bag on his arms.

“Hey love.”

We hugged one another.

“Hey, it’s so good to see you.”

“I know we’re headed out, but do you mind if I drop my bag inside? I didn’t check into my hotel yet and I didn’t want to leave it in my car, visible. My trunk is filled with swag.”


He stepped into the apartment and dropped his bag, in the foyer, “Your spot is big. You live here, alone? Dope. I know where I’m staying the next time I come to NYC.”

I raised an eyebrow, “Oh, is that right?”

He smiled nervously, “Maybe?”

I grabbed my purse, “Let’s go, mister.”

We headed to Brooklyn Bowl, in Williamsburg. Questlove was spinning and the place was packed. We went straight to their restaurant area to get some of their famous catfish. I’d been telling Mason that it was to die for and he couldn’t wait to try it.

He sat down, on the other side of the circular booth, “I haven’t eaten all day, just so I could have this.”

I was suddenly conscious about ordering the same thing and the dessert I planned on. When the waiter arrived, I asked her about the salads.

Mason stopped her, “Don’t tell this woman anything about the salads. She better have some fish, ribs, or something. I know you don’t eat salad. We’re eating like the foodies we are.”

His comment didn’t make me uncomfortable. It was true. I laughed and decided on the catfish and cornbread. After the waitress left, Mason and I got closer in the booth. During our conversation, my phone vibrated over and over again. I decided to check it, just in case it was an emergency.

It was Jenna and Ray, both my best friends, texting to tell me that they’d found one another in the same space I was in. They’d spotted me. Before I could text them, to tell them to stay away, they’d made their way over. Jenna pushed herself in on Mason’s side of the booth and Ray sat on mine.

Jenna introduced herself first, “Hello, Mason. I’m Riv’s best friend, we’ve heard so much about you.”

I scoffed, “She hasn’t heard that much.”

Ray jumped in, “Don’t be modest, girl. Tell that man you’ve said good things about him. Men like compliments.”

Mason seemed to be enjoying their antics, “You must be Ray.”

They shook hands.

“Yes, these are my crazy friends.”

“I’m not crazy. I’ve just got a good memory. I hope you're not applying to be her male bestie, Mase. That spot is already taken.”

Mason smiled, “It’s Mason and believe me I’m not trying to be her best friend.”

He moved closer to me and Jenna made lovey-dovey sounds, while I kicked her under the table.

Ray looked uncomfortable, “Good for you. How’d you know my name, anyway?”

“I’m a good listener. I definitely remember male best friend names.”

Everyone grew silent at Mason’s comment, Jenna broke the tension, “Did you guys order the catfish?”

I responded, “Yeah, we did. It’s so good.”

“I know girl, I’m about to order it, once the waitress gets back. She's taking way too long.”

I looked over at Mason, he seemed to be checking in on his tweets. I then stole a glance, at Ray, seeing that my date was preoccupied. He wore a scowl across his face that I’d only seen one other time in his life.

It was the day Karen broke his heart.

See you next week. :) 

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