“Because I’m the new management”
She put her fork down and gave me the once over, eyebrow raised.
“Wait a minute? So Hamilton Simon, the scared brother who rides the bus, is the sole proprietor of Leroy’s?”
“Not the sole proprietor. I have two other business partners who helped me invest. It’s been my childhood dream to own a restaurant. And now that I’m entering this second phase of my life, I thought why not?”
Naomi just nodded as she turned her attention to the chicken fried chicken. This lady was totally different from the rest of the women that I had encountered before. Instead of looking at me all googly eyed, my appealing companion began to devour her meal, as if what I told her was something common, unimpressive even. I wasn’t used to someone not hanging on to what I said. I wasn’t accustomed to someone treating me like I was . . . regular. So, I followed her lead. I put away the desire to impress my dinner guest and decided to just be . . . . . me.
“Girl if you don’t slow down, you’re gonna inhale the plate too!”
She looked up from the chicken that was in between her delicate hands and slowly lowered it to the platter. At least I knew she didn’t mind eating in front of me! That poor bird died a second death! Even the gristle was gone! I couldn’t help but laugh to myself.
“Hamilton, don’t make fun of me!”
“Oh hush! I hadn’t eaten all day! And trying to get into that damn truck didn’t make it any better!”
“Speaking of the truck, I have a question to ask?”
“Why didn’t you just call me when you were out there trying to get into your car? If you would have answered your phone, I could have helped”
Naomi took her napkin and wiped away the crumbs before she spoke again.
“To be quite honest Hamilton, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about that since you called the tow truck. I’ve become so accustomed to figuring things out for myself that I don’t know how to ask for help. Asking you for help . . . . just seemed like a bad impression for a first date. Like you have to save me or some shit. I didn’t want our first date to be a Tyler Perry movie”
“A Tyler Perry movie? Seriously?”
“Don’t act like you don’t know! A dude is always saving the woman with the bad wig on!”
We laughed, but I could see her doing some self reflection so I leaned in and gave my full attention.
“I stopped asking people for help because they either let you down or there is a moral cost that you can’t afford. Even tonight . . .”
I could tell that there was more to the story.
My eyes were fixed on hers and she took a deep breath. She exhaled and began to tell me her story.
“Well . . . . tonight after I felt hopeless, I called a ‘friend’ who is pretty good with mechanical issues”
“Hmmmmm . . .”
“But true to form, he didn’t pick up”
“Hmmmmmm . . . .”
“What’s up with all the damn hmmmming?”
“Is this ‘friend’ your husband or boyfriend?”
Her expression turned into immediate disgust as her eyes grew three sizes.
“Mr. Simon, would I be on a date with you if I were a married woman?”
“No disrespect Ms. Brock, but I’ve dated my share of married, engaged, and committed women. For some reason or another they all gave me that line that they were in the middle of a split, but always had to go back home to their husbands or boyfriends”
“So women do that too?”
The band began to play as I gathered myself from my chuckle fit.
“Ms. Brock . . . . . . you all play the game better than men . . that is until feelings get involved”
“So you’ve fallen in love with these women?”
“Only once. I waited three years for this woman to leave her husband. When the divorce was final, she cried for weeks over him and forgot all about me! We had made plans to move in together once the papers were signed. She told me every day that she loved me. But instead of focusing on us, she put her energy in a dude who cheated on her every chance he could. Hell, buddy had moved back to Philly, was engaged to another woman, and had a baby on the way! And she still wanted him back after the fact!”
“Wow! I thought we only had stories like that?”
“Naomi, the only thing I ask is that you tell me the truth up front. No bullshit. Let me deal with the facts and choose whether or not I want to stay and deal with it”
“No offense, but that sounds like a crock of shit!”
“You know people don’t want the truth!”
“Please understand. I don’t have time for games. The older we get, the more we encounter. We grow and evolve. So it is what it is”
“So if I told you I were a former porn star or stripper, that wouldn’t bother you?”
“It all depends on the person you are now. You could say that you are a minister or some other religious title. That doesn’t mean that you are better than anyone else. We all have a past. It’s the lessons you’ve learned that make you develop into the person you are now that counts”
“So you must be some type of counselor or something?”
“As I said before, being close to death makes you see things differently. Every day is a blessing. But enough about me, let’s get back to you and your situation. Who is this friend? Are you dating him now? Is he living with you?”
“Damn, you are forward!”
“Like I said, I want to know what I’m getting into. This person has to be important that you would call him instead of coming into the restaurant and letting me help you. I mean, you did go on about not asking people for help . . .”
“It’s a little complicated”
“My friend, Calvin, he’s just . . . . convenient”
“Hmmmm. . . . meaning?”
“When I break down and need something, I call him. It may take him a minute, but he comes through”
“So why not make it work with him?”
She sat there for a minute taking a sip of her drink before she answered. I could see that my words struck a chord as the background singers began the chorus of “The Morning After”.
“Hamilton, if I can be honest . . . . . I love this man. I mean, we have been off and on for nearly ten years. I’ve been with him when he was married. I’ve been with him now that he’s divorced. He’s impregnated me only to tell me that he wouldn’t be there as a father to our child. I continue to stick with him . . . . and I don’t know why! I know he doesn’t love me, but I can’t leave him alone. I’ve invested so much damn time with him!”
She was fighting back tears, but refused to let me see. Instead, she had the last of her drink and started to finish her fries. I didn’t know what to say. I asked for her truth and she gave it to me. I couldn’t get over the fact that she actually told me all of this on the first date! This would have been a perfect time to say goodbye, but something about her honesty, made me stay. Just as I was about to speak, our hostess came back to the table.
“Mr. Simon, the wrecker is outside”
Naomi started to get up, but I motioned her to stay.
“Please sit and enjoy the band. I’ll handle this. It’s the white Range Rover right?”
“With the elephant on the front license plate, yes”
“Okay, I’ll be back shortly. Jennifer, see if Ms. Brock wants anything else for tonight”
She nodded and I went outside and met with the on call locksmith. Within thirty seconds, he managed to jimmy the lock and open the door. I sat in the car and retrieved the keys from the ignition. Even though it was an older model, Naomi’s truck looked brand new! From the paint to the leather upholstery inside, it was clean. How did a mother of two teenagers manage to keep her car so clean? Professor Brock was a woman of mystery indeed! I signed the wrecker’s slip and made my way back to the table.
“Here are your keys Ms. Brock”
“Thank you Hamilton. I truly appreciate you doing this for me. How much do I owe you?”
“Beautiful, you don’t owe me anything. I was glad to help you”
“You did. I appreciate that. For a business stiff, you’re an okay guy”
“I’m just okay?”
“Thus far. You know how people put forth their fake selves in order to win someone over”
“Well beloved, this is me . . . for the most part”
“So I didn’t scare you with my truth?”
“Like I said before, it’s up to me to accept or leave it. It would be foolish to assume that there is no one else fighting for your attention. I just wanna win”
“Is that right? So let me ask you, who is fighting to be Mrs. Simon?”
“Who is fighting to be Mrs. Simon?”
“Ah ah ah! I know that deflection tactic! I practically invented it! So come on. Since we’re being honest, who do I have to contend with?”
“I have my share of women coming into my DM’s wanting to strike up a conversation, but I honestly don’t have the time. Between my job at the clinic and helping to run this business, I stay pretty busy”
“In other words, you haven’t found someone worthy enough to make time for. Is that what you’re saying?”
“I think you said it perfectly”
“But you’re sitting here with me . . . . and you haven’t made an excuse to leave?”
“Maybe because I find you interesting. I mean, for me to skip work and ride the bus across town with flowers just to find you.. . . . I think you’re pretty damn special”
“You’re alright yourself Hamilton. So what’s next?”
“That Naomi, is up to you . . . . .”
Written by the Wednesday Gentleman