The Beginning II
"The description of the mussels in linguine looks really good. I'll have that please."
"Sure. I'll be right back with your water."
"Okay..." I started scrambling through my favorite red Marc Jacobs purse... "I'll be right back.. I think I left my phone in my car."
I walked all the way to my car, only to discover that my phone wasn't there.
"Damn.. I must've left it in the store."
In a haste, I headed over to the corner of 36th and Falls Road, where the old church that houses The Hunting Ground is located. That morning, I decided to treat myself to some much deserved vintage retail-therapy. But I couldn't believe that I left my phone. I prayed that no one picked it up in the short time that I was gone.
"Hey ladies! Did I leave my cell here?"
"Yes V.. We have your phone. I'm so glad you came back!"
"Thanks Jen! I'm glad you guys are honest people!"
"Of course. No problem. See you and Taylor soon!"
I was about to say goodbye when I realized that Taylor was already out the door! My hands were filled with three big brown bags, causing me to lose my grip on his leash. He ran all the way out of store and up the stairs of the next building, ferociously barking at a rich-brown Rottweiler that was three times his size.
"Taylor! Calm down!" I grabbed his leash after dropping my bags in the middle of the sidewalk to chase him up the stairs.
"Taylor? That's a nice name for a dog. His name is Lexington."
It was close to ninety degrees in Baltimore that day. I was already hot and it didn't help that when I looked up and saw his face, I almost melted faster than a Mr. Softy chocolate-vanilla cone. This brother was everything. He had to be about 6'3". Wearing a denim oxford and burnt orange khaki shorts. That color looked good on him. But I could imagine that every color looked good on his smooth sienna-brown skin. This man was the kind of gorgeous that you only encounter if you're lucky.. I mean, you may see this type of gorgeous on TV or in magazines but not in real life. And if you do, he's usually already somebody else's guy.
"Lexington... Are you from New York? And are those Polo Rugby pants?"
"Nah... I'm from Houston. You know? Texas.." He laughed. "But I'm guessing you're from the Big Apple right?"
"How can you tell?"
"Because you know about Rugby.. And most people out here don't ask me if he is named after Lexington Avenue. Only a true New Yorker would know that."
"I guess you got me there. So if you're from Texas, what are doing out here? And why did you name him Lex?"
"I'm a corporate accountant. My job offered me a higher position out here that I couldn't refuse. I'm single, no kids, 28. There was nothing holding me back and I never lived on the East Coast. So I went for it."
"Wow.." I laughed to myself. He was giving me his entire resume, right there in front of the Hampden Public Library. I couldn't be more tickled.
"So, you still haven't told me. What's up with the name for Lex?"
"Lex? You New Yorkers are always taking the liberty of giving someone a new name."
"That's funny. My best friend says the same thing about New Yorkers."
"He was actually named after my grandmother's street. She named him. That's the street that she bought her first home on. She lived in Harlem for most of her 97 years. We still own the home but I don't go up there as much as I wish I could."
"97! Thats amazing." I wondered more about his grandmother but I didn't want to seem super pressed or nosy.. I decided to change the subject.
"So, were you just coming out of the library?"
"Yes. I'm still in school. I needed to get a couple of books at the last minute."
"I'm actually getting a masters in real-estate and infrastructure from Hopkins. You sure don't have a problem asking a lot of questions do you?"
"What are you a teacher or something?"
"There you go again! Guessing correctly! Great job!" I said, in my most teacher-like voice.
"I like your smile. I want to see it again tonight. Can I take you to dinner? You like Thai food?"
"Damn.. And I thought the south was slow!"
"I like to get straight to the point. But 'damn' huh? I thought teachers don't use swears.."
"Swears? Who calls them swears? Oh that's right... You're a Texas boy."
"A man. You can call me Texas but don't forget to change that boy to man." He was firm.
"Excuse me, man." He was really keeping me on my toes.. I liked it. "To answer your initial question.. I would love to let you take me out tonight but I can't. I'm sorry but I have a paper due on Monday. I have to work on it. Plus, I'm traveling the NYC tomorrow."
"Oh .. That sucks. Well, where are you headed now?"
"To the Italian spot on the corner. I almost forgot that I ordered food!!! They probably don't think I'm coming back!"
"Can I walk with you? I'll hold on to your bags.." He took them from my hands before I could even say anything.
"I don't see why not.... Thanks for carrying my bags."
When we got to the restaurant, my water was still on my table.. Tay's water was still in the round steel bowl that the waiter put on the ground for him.
"You were going to have lunch alone?"
"Yes. I enjoy sitting outside reading on sunny days like this."
"Can I join you?"
"Actually, I'm not going to stay. I really should get home and do my paper."
He looked disappointed but unwilling to beg me to stay.. "Alright then."
"This is funny.."
"I'm not sure what you mean..." He was confused by my laughter.
"Well, we've done all of this talking and I still haven't gotten your name!!"
He laughed.. "That is funny. I'm Able."
"Abel? Like Cain and Abel?"
"No. I'm familiar with the story but I'm not a religious person, although my father was a pastor. I'm Able.. As in, A-B-L-E."
"Oh wow... That's powerful." I was stuck. Who names their child that? It didn't even matter because he was obviously proud of his name. I noted the way he kept saying, "I'm Able..." Instead of, "My name is Able.." I wanted to know more... But I didn't have enough time.
"And what is your name? Or should I just call you Charmant?"
"Lovely.." I smiled again.
"You speak French?"
"No but I know a few words... charmant happens to be one of them. My name is Valencia."
"Like Spain? ...or the orange. Are you Puerto Rican?"
"No. No. And No. My mother just liked the name. She didn't know about it's history. And my father is Dominican."
"Well, I hope I didn't offend you. I know how the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans don't like to be mistaken for each other. I am actually Creole. My grandmother taught me to speak French fluently when I was a young buck."
"That's very attractive." ...*Wait!! Val! Did you just say that out loud!? Girl!! Inhale-exhale-inhale! Get yourself together!
"Thanks .. Now you have me smiling." and he smiled.. long enough for me to notice his dimples.
...*whew.. that was close!
We exchanged numbers and I went back home. I started feelin' sickah' than a po' junkyard dawg... as my pops always says, in his deep southern accent. The unbareable anguish of my ailment caused Taylor and I to stay in bed.. We never made it to New York. Able texted me later that night to see how my paper was going. I didn't even respond. I didn't want to be bothered. He was persistent though. He texted me almost everyday after that weekend and I would always 'curve' -as Uptowner's say. Not because I wasn't interested but because I was super busy. I had so much graduate work that needed to be completed, planning and preparing for my middle schoolers, attending various events in DC, traveling back and forth to NY, and still recovering from being sick. I just didn't have time to be gallivanting with him. But I could've at least texted back to let him know that I was unavailable... Sometimes I can be so inconsiderate.
Two weeks passed since the day that we first met. I was going through my text messages and emails to make sure that I didn't miss any pertinent messages from work when I came across his name. I noticed he'd texted me that morning but I never responded.
I felt bad. I walked into my bathroom, looked in the mirror, and said, "V! What the hell is wrong with you?! No need to excuse the profanity. It's just me and you. Here we are! Always praying for a man.. and this guy.. this single! handsome! intelligent! and hardworking guy!!! was trying his best to be a part of our world and you're just going to sit here and ignore him?! Think back to that 'first time laying eyes on him' feeling! When we imagined going dancing with him - like Love Jones. We had butterflies!! When does that happen?! Get it together V! Get-it-to-geth-er!" I pointed into the mirror..
I knew it had been two weeks and he was probably over me.. I knew I was wrong. I just had to text him. The worse thing that he could do was ignore me back. I would just have to respect that.
For about an hour, I waited. Phone in hand.. Hoping he would reply. He never did and eventually, I fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning with a simple text message on my iPhone's lock screen. I let out a huge sigh of relief.
I thought my eyes were mistaking me. I didn't even know this guy and he seemed so compassionate... so sincere. How could I be so mean? Was I crazy? I need more people like him in my life.
"I'm fine, just really busy. I'll tell you about everything on Friday night ....if you want to go out then.." With as much single-black-female savvy that I could muster up, I asked him out on a date.
"Friday is cool with me. See you then."
That was Wednesday night ... By the time Friday came, I was yet again, ready to cancel the date.
"Hey .. I'm sorry. I have too much to do tomorrow. I can't go out tonight."
"Wow. It's cool. I'm good."
Damn.. I lost him.. At least, I thought I did..
"I know we've only met once but I'm really interested in getting to know you. You're beautiful but you're playing games. Make up your mind. If you're not interested, I won't reach out to you at all."
"I'm not playing games. I'm just really flustered. But I wanted to see you.. If you want, you could come to my house ..I can't go out though. Have to do my hair and laundry ..but we could hang here ..bring some food ..we can watch a movie or something when I'm done.... How's that sound?"
"Do you eat Chipotle? If so, what would you like?"
"Yes. A bowl, white rice, pinto beans, chicken, a little hots, pico, corn, sour cream, and dressing - ask them to pour the dressing into the bowl, then add the lettuce.. and a Nantucket apple juice... Please."
About an hour later, he was at my door. Chipotle in one hand and a bottle of Georgian red wine in the other. Although I don't drink, I was impressed by his taste. Likewise, he was impressed by mine.
"That's Sinatra. 'My Funny Valentine'. I'm impressed. What do you know about 'Songs for Young Lovers?'" I was playing one of my new records softly in my studio when he walked in.
"I grew up on him. My gran loved Sinatra. My sister and I used to play karaoke to his Christmas carols for fun."
He laughed a little as he began to take off his shoes.
"Thanks for dinner..." I took the bag from him. "Don't take your shoes off so fast... I was about to ask you if you could help me carry these laundry bags downstairs?"
He shook his head and gave me the cutest side-eye as he picked up the two heaviest bags. We went to the basement of my building.
"You're a cheap date huh?"
"What?" I rolled my eyes.
"You brought me over here for laundry and chipotle. That's not a bad thing. I don't know any man on this Earth who would object to a night like this."
"You're analytical. I didn't even think of it like that. But I will say, it doesn't take too much more than great food and good music to fill my soul with happiness.
I loaded all of the clothes before we headed outside to walk Taylor.
"Sorry.. I have to make sure he goes before I get too comfortable.."
"You don't have to explain yourself to me."
"Oh that's right.. You have a dog too.."
"Yes but I'm saying, in general, you don't have to explain yourself to me. By the way, you look really nice tonight."
"I do?" I was wearing my favorite vintage Calvin Klien sweats, an oversized Woodlands hoodie, and a pair of black Birkenstocks.
"Yes. You do."
I blushed moons as we headed back to the basement to finish the clothes. He helped me fold everything except my panties and bras, as we talked about our most embarrassing experiences... Like the time his dad caught him making out in the family room ..and the time I got popped by my gran! In front of everyone that lived on Manhattan Ave, for stealing Jimmel Gorly's Brandy tape. We talked for hours. I realized that Able and I were so very different as a result of growing up in two different parts of the country, but our mutual love for the Aqua 8 Air Jordan's made us one in the same.
We finished the laundry and took the elevator back upstairs. I put on a pot of chamomile tea and we sat on my balcony.
"Do you want some tea?"
"No thanks. Is this today's paper?"
Before I could even respond, he began reading. I sat with him and started flipping through my anthology of short stories by black writers.
"I love this story! I haven't read it in a while. You want to read it together?"
"Let me see..." He reached for the book. "Hurston. I want to see Their Eyes Were Watching God on Broadway."
"Me too. Here, you read the first paragraph."
"Cool. You mind if we go back inside? It's getting breezy out here. We don't need you getting sick and ignoring me for two weeks again."
"Shut up!" I laughed.
We went back inside and sat on my couch. We took turns reading each paragraph to each other. I practiced my southern accent and he was right in his element, no practice needed. His southern twang was slick ... and sexy.. After I finished reading, I looked into his dark brown eyes and passed the book back to him. As he continued with the story, I laid my head on his chest and listened to his heart beat.
I didn't even know I had fallen asleep until I woke up the next morning, to the smell of turkey bacon, grits, cheese-eggs, and biscuits. Yes honey, biscuits! Not only did this man put me to bed... He was about to feed me breakfast.
"Morning Sleeping Beauty... Or should I call you Alice, the dreamer?"
"I prefer Alice..." I smiled..
....to be continued.