The war raged on inside me. My breath was becoming short as I got off the bus. I was desperately trying to keep my composure but my heart was racing too fast. My mind attempted to convince me that this rendezvous was a bad idea. It was quickly overruled by my heart who painted pictures of Black love and happily ever afters. I continued my plight down Peachtree. I paused at The Ellis to reflect on the night we consummated our affair. I still couldn’t believe that I spent an entire week’s pay on a room! I mean who the hell needed electricity anyway?
“Eric? Is that you?”
I peered across the way and saw her standing there, as radiant as the sun. Her hips and thighs influencing my every movement. Her smile ignited my soul once more. In an instant, I found myself teleported to where she stood.
“Been waiting long love?”
“Long enough to see you reminiscing about our first time”
“Can you blame me?”
“No I can’t. I don’t think we even slept that night! I came so much that night I couldn’t walk the next day!”
“I remember. I ended up missing work and paying for another night because we couldn’t stop!”
The thought of having more nights with Lauren made the bus trek worth it. We entered Sweet Georgia and were greeted by a familiar face.
“Eric Houston! It’s been a minute chef! How’s the new restaurant coming along?”
“It’s going well my man. No complaints”
“Man, it’s good to see one of us make it! I was at ‘The Six’ the other night. Chef, I gotta tell you, we got nothing on the food that you’re cranking out!
“Thank you fam. I’m just trying to have something of my own, ya know?”
“Trust me, I understand. This place ain’t been the same since you left. What brings you back here? You wanna stick it Martha for not making you a partner?”
“Nah, I’m above that. My lady and I wanted to travel down memory lane tonight . . . where it all began for us”
“Ohhhhhhhh . . . . . . . . I gotcha. Well enough of my yammering. Since you family, we’re gonna give you the best seats in the house”
“Thank you Rick. You’re good people”
“Just remember a brother when you on the Food Network aiight?”
Rick motioned one of the hostesses over and gave instructions. As we followed our escort, I noticed Lauren walking swiftly as if she were trying to hide from a scorned lover. Then as we took our seats, Lauren made her way to the edge of the booth instead of the center like most.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“You referred to me as your lady. Why did you do that?”
“Ummmmmm . . . . were you not the one that called me telling me you wanted to be my wife? Did I imagine that voicemail you left on my phone this morning?”
“Yes it was me . . . . . . but we need to talk some things out first before you go proclaiming me as your woman. I’m my own woman . . . . . ”
To say this was strange was an understatement. My heart was striving to understand Lauren, but my mind was beginning to burn hot.
“So what happened between the call back this morning and now? I was under the impression that you wanted to be with me?”
“And I do . . . . . but I’m not ready for marriage yet, which is why I couldn’t accept your proposal that night”
“So why are we here Lauren?! This is pretty extravagant just to say you want to be fuck buddies again”
Lauren didn’t comment as our waiter made her way to the table. I ventured to switch off my anger, but my mind began dragging me down the rabbit hole again. . . . .
Caramel Jackson was my grade school crush. I loved her since the third grade! While all the other guys said she resembled a gorilla with a Jheri curl, I considered her to be a goddess. As she began to develop her curves, my counterparts started to see what I coveted. I was no longer able to speak to her freely. When I finally built up the nerve to ask her out, Caramel told me that I had to wait until she finished dating Tai Chaney, then I would be next. Unfortunately that was not the case as she dated my friend, Steve, instead of me. I was the simp then and I was feeling like the ass now . . . . .
“Can I have a Jack on the rocks please”
Lauren looked on in distress.
“You’re drinking?! Eric . . . . . . you said that after the accident you would never drink again!”
“Well, life brings about change love. But back to my original question. Why did you want to meet tonight if you didn’t want to commit to me?”
“Honestly, I owed you an apology for how I’ve flaked out on you”
“You could have apologized over the phone instead of making me meet you across town”
“I know . . . . . but I missed seeing you, hearing you. Just being in your presence has made my entire world better again”
“Hmmmmmm. . . . .. So what about ol’ boy? Aren’t you still with him?”
“Well . . . . . . not so much anymore. We mutually agreed to take some time apart. He’s dealing with an ex and it’s all over the news. He didn’t want TMZ following me everywhere asking questions”
“Uh huh . . . . . . So now I’m your choice by default huh?”
“Far from that babe. I want what we had before. You were so good to me . . . .”
My drink couldn’t come fast enough! I was listening to a woman who had mislead me . . . again! She didn’t want to be my wife. She wanted me to be her fill in until ol’ boy was in the clear.
“So let me get this straight. You wanted to meet me here . . . . of all places. . . . just to tell me that you want to fuck me again?”
“Eric, you make it sound so crass! But yes, I want you again . . .and again . . . and again if you let me have the chance”
“But you don’t want me to be your man . . . . . right?”
“Eric, there are some things that I need to work through first before I can become anybody’s woman. I’m still trying to better myself. It’s been a change with the twins out of the house now. Taking care of them, I felt that I had a purpose. Now, I’m having to find that purpose all over again”
“Lauren . . . . that’s a load of shit . . . . really . . . . . . . .”
Lauren bit her tongue as she could see her entree headed in our direction. As for me, I was tired of the shower hearing my confessions and what ifs. I was tired of being the pussy that Lauren could just pick up and do whatever. When the waitress set down Lauren’s order, I motioned her to bring me two more drinks.
“So this is what it’s like when you drink huh?”
“No . . . normally I don’t remember shit after. . . .”
“Eric . . . . . . . . . I’m sorry if it’s not what you wanted to hear”
“Lauren, if you didn’t want to be my wife, you could have said so! You didn’t have to leave that melodramatic message on my phone saying that you wanted to come back to me! What I’m wondering now is why are you trying to play these mind games with me? If you wanna be with me, be with me! Don’t string me along for your fucking enjoyment!”
“I’m not stringing you along, I promise you . .”
“So having dinner at the first place we met is not stringing me along? What do you call it?”
Lauren sat silent for a moment as she attempted to collect her thoughts. For me however, Jack had given me the nerve I needed to combat every woman who curved me for one reason or another.
“So is he better than me?”
“What do you mean ‘better’ Eric?”
“That’s the reason why you’re still committed to him right?”
“He’s not better than you. You’re a renaissance man! You walked out on faith and started your own restaurant! You’re a great father. What woman wouldn’t want to be with you?”
I glared at her as she asked that retarded question.
“So if I’m all of that Lauren, why not pull along side of me and make this work?”
Lauren just shook her head as she attempted to eat her asparagus. Then I noticed the new purse she had. The sparkles in her ears were new too. Matter of fact, her entire ensemble looked like it had been bank rolled by my competition!
“I get it now. I don’t make enough money to be your man . . . . . ”
“Noooooooooo Eric! These are just material things . . . “
“But it’s the things that you cherish far more than me. I’m so damn stupid! I should have noticed the signs before! The Instagram photos of you and him in the Dominican Republic.? You two at every Falcon home game? You don’t even like football! But it makes sense now . . .”
“Eric you’re not . . . . “
“Not rich? You’re right! I’m simply following my dream. I can’t go back to working for someone who doesn’t want to promote me. I had enough of that when I was a social worker! As hard as it is for a Black man to be recognized for something more than being an entertainer or an athlete, I thought you would have been there to champion me through the dry season but I was wrong . . .”
Before she could respond with another lie, I handed the waitress the money for my drinks before making my exit.
“Since I don’t make enough for you, you won’t mind paying for your own dinner tonight!”
I didn’t even stand there long enough to hear her response. I walked away as the band began its first number. I could see the confused look on Rick’s face as I exited the door. When the night air hit my face, all was right in the world again. I took out my cell phone and dialed her number.
“Morgan? Hey love, It’s Eric. I wanna take you up on your offer . . . . . .”
Written by Michael Dock, Founder of the Wednesday Gentleman