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It is widely believed that all men cheat. Especially black men.
We are dogs. Liars. Scum of the fucking earth so watch your back, your front, and your side, because we WILL hit it, quit it, and then brag to our homies that we did it.
And I'm not saying it isn't true 70% of the time. But damn, can a brother get a little credit for once? Just a little credit. A mere shadow of a doubt that I just might not have been screwing some random woman at my crib and then allowed her to answer the door to my home ... for my girlfriend.
Just a little fucking credit.
These days have been exhausting. I know that it jolted Ata seeing a woman answer my door after a week of non-communication, but this is getting ridiculous. My phone rings, she's watching me out the side of her eye for any change in inflection, any hint of secrecy. Late from lunch because I was speaking to a client, one of my boys, or hell, I just felt like driving slower than usual that day, and I get a "what happened, you running late?" phone call. Which every man knows is REALLY a "where the fuck are you?" phone call.
I am growing weary.
I love this woman. I really do. But damn.
I look at my cell in unbelief. We've had this conversation a thousand times. Shes going on about how we need to rebuild trust like I was the one who was hanging out with my ex that night. Going on about how she's trying to forgive me. Please.
I take the phone off my ear, push the speaker button and rest it on my leg for a moment while I navigate the Maxima through the crowded lanes. This is short lived.
"Ata baby, let me call you back when I reach my destination. Gonna vibe out for the rest of this ride. This rush hour traffic is giving me a headache." I say calmly, searching for a CD containing something that will abate the pounding in my head.
"I thought we were in the middle of a conversation, Abram." She's annoyed. Has been annoyed a lot lately. And I'm annoyed at her annoyance.
"I hear you, Ata. Heard you the previous twelve times you said it. I told you where I stand, and I completely understand where you're coming from. But right now, I'm about to listen to some music and calm down."
"Whatever Abram." She says shortly. A click signaling she has ended our conversation threatens to well up a fire in my belly, but I brush it off. I'll deal with that later.
I scroll through my contacts, find my best friend, my ace. Garrett, the man who is an expert at temporarily removing worries from anyone's mind.
"Abe, waddup!" He answers excitedly.
"Nothin man, in this traffic about to go crazy."
"Where you at? You should come through. Down in Greektown cuttin' up. Dollar beers, homie."
I laugh to myself. Cutting Up should be Garrett's middle name. "Alright G, sounds like just what I need. The Woman is driving me mad, for real."
"That's why I avoid relationships like the Swine Flu. I'ma live longer than all you stressed out, tethered-ass dudes."
Typical G. "Alright man. Be there in a few." I say, thankful I chose to keep the attire more casual than usual today.
My headache eased and mood suddenly better, I throw in some Jay, get hype as he murders the mic beyond a Reasonable Doubt. When I reach the bar, Garret is laughing with a few friends and people we know mutually, fully in the throes of beyond Happy Hour. I say the obligatory 'Waddups' to everyone, exchange a few daps and shoulder taps, then settle at a seat at the long bar. My aim: have a good, stress-free time.
It's not long before my goal has been reached and surpassed. A night out with my boys always seems to yield a positive mood. Although I have become the source of material for many a 'pussy-whipped' joke, I don't mind. We talk shit, we talk sports, we laugh, we enjoy the beautiful blessings that are the pencil-skirted, low-cut shirted, stilettoed women among us.
Soon, a few of the stilettoed creatures are chatting it up with us. One though, she waits. Clearly with the others whom have grabbed our attention, she stays back, lingers around the lone pool table in the corner for a while, talking to another girl. I notice her eyes keep finding me, though. She wants me to notice.
Beautiful is not enough. Doesn't come close to capturing in words the perfection that finally struts over to the bar and plants her bronzed legs in the seat beside me.
I can count on one hand the number of times life has rendered me speechless. The silence preventing me from uttering anything in this moment will be added to that number.
"Hello." Is all I allow my nervous tongue to say moments later.
The bartender comes, greets her cheerfully. She says she's a wine lady, asks for a glass of White Zifandel to sweeten her palate. G is all in. Takes one look at the long waves flowing down her back, the Beauty Queen features basking in her tawny hue, the hips that would make any man's loins sing a praise song, and steps around me.
Jokingly, "Excuse me Miss, what's your name?" He smiles, in playa mode.
She laughs, reveals a smile more suited for Hollywood lights than the oft gray-overcast city of Detroit. "You're a few years late with that line, aren't you?"
G laughs with her. He's not nervous, nor embarrassed. A woman is a woman is a woman, to him. "Well it made you smile so I'd say it was right on time."
She smiles again, clearly tickled. "Laila. My name is Laila." She says to him first, then slides her glance my way.
"Abram. And this man here is Garrett." I say to her expecting eyes, confirming the fact that she is indeed at the bar to talk to me.
"No way. My brother's name is Abram." She says, shocked. Her smile widens.
"What? I don't know many brothers who share my name. He must be a cool cat."
"He is." She's still smiling.
She sips her pale pink wine slowly, tells G and I she's been in town this week to support her friend both personally and professionally. Points across the small but sophisticatedly decorated establishment to a fine Mexican woman with J-Lo curves. When she waves her friend over, we learn that she is Alana Ruiz, a visual artist specializing in abstract painting and wood sculpture. Invites us to her gallery opening happening tomorrow night. Interesting.
Once G realizes Laila's attentions are focused on me, he shifts his aim to her friend. Offers her a drink and they move down the bar to continue their conversation about G's budding career as a lawyer. Ever since he graduated from law school a year and a half ago, his stock has gone up dramatically. Something about the word 'lawyer' eases panties down with no hesitations.
Fifteen minutes into our light repartee of 'what do you dos' and 'where are you froms', she asks the question any sane man would have asked her first.
"So I don't see a wedding band. You seeing anyone?" The brown of her eyes catch the dim lights mishievously.
The way she has been seeking my every detail, I highly doubt the answer to that question has any weight. I test my theory.
"How much does that information matter to you?"
"Oh, simple protocol. The specifics of that response are only of consequence if you allow them to be, my new friend Abram." Her right eyebrow lifts in a sexy-naughty way. The neatly manicured fingers of her left hand rest on the white cotton-blend of my dress shirt.
"Ahh, of course. I thought as much. You must be good at chess. Complex thinkers, people who have all the right moves ... usually are." I say casually, the conversation and my rising alcohol level from two Rum and Cokes having all but dissolved the previous nerves.
"My favorite game, actually. I'm good at getting Queened." And up goes that eyebrow again.
This slightly flirtatious banter sustains for another glass of Zifandel and one more Rum and Coke. I enjoy her wit. Soak in her beauty. Feels good to escape for a while. To have interaction with a woman without the uneasy tenseness that has accompanied every exchange between Ata and myself as of late.
Before I know it, 8:00 has arrived on the newly purchased Citizen resting on my wrist. G and his spicy Flavor of the Night are still close, off in a corner, intimately sharing breathing space. It's not hard to tell what the night has in store for them. She smiles seductively at every other movement his mouth makes, and he just keeps on talking.
"I need to get home. Shower. Change." I say, looking at my watch once more. Don't realize just how much rum is in my system until I stand and the room has to settle. I take a moment to steady myself.
"Yeah. Change and come back out ... right?" Laila smiles, the alcohol swimming in her bloodstream having already provided more than enough details about herself and what she means by 'back out', in the last hour.
She's married. No children. Separated for the last two months from her schoolteacher husband. Said he couldn't handle not being the breadwinner in the household. Her career as an art dealer is more than enough to provide the life she lives, she told me. Says he can't handle her, period.
I don't get into details. Don't ask anything else about her marriage, her bare ring finger. We're both two adults temporarily unhappy in our situations. Both seeking momentary release. Both heavily under the influence of the liquid infidelity we've been sipping on. I don't need to know anymore.
She stands behind me, touches my hand lightly as I toss a bill on the bar to pay for our tab. "Make sure you come tomorrow. I'm gonna call and give you the address." She says with a wink, tapping the business card I gave her earlier, then saunters off to pull her friend away from G's hypnosis.
"Alright." I watch those hips saunter until they're out of my sight, blocked by the square tables occupying the middle of the floor.
A glance at my phone tells me Ata has called twice since I've been here. One new voice mail. I don't listen. Don't want Ata's angry voice to pierce the alcohol-induced bubble I'm floating in right now. A wave of my hand in front of my face reveals five distinct fingers; no more, none fuzzy. I'm good. I can drive. I get to my car and flip through XM stations until I find one I like.
As soon as I pull onto the crowded Woodward Avenue, my phone buzzes. Ata's pretty face smiles brightly up at me on the picture ID. I look down at it. Pick it up, hold it for a second. Three buzzes. Contemplate what kind of conversation will take place once I hit the green button. Nah. Not yet. I need to get home. Unwind. I let her go to voice mail.
Five minutes later, a 310 area code is the cause of my vibrating phone. California. I answer. "This is Abram."
"And this is the best chess player you'll ever meet. Ready to Queen me?"
"Had a feeling it was you. What's up? Got the address for me?" I say, one hand on the wheel, the other holding my phone.
Ata's been on me about replacing my Bluetooth ever since mine was smashed by my reckless little cousin, but I just haven't found the time. When she tossed one on the bed earlier this week, I left it there, irate about yet another argument we'd had. Wish I had it now though.
"I do. You have a pen?" Laila's voice is cheerful, her heartbroken husband somewhere across the country seemingly not even a distant thought.
"Aye, do me a favor and call back and leave it in my inbox." I say, trying to stay focused.
I'm lit. doing good just driving and talking. Adding a pen and paper to the equation would be too much right now.
"Okay. Will do. But Abram ... I think you should come by the Omni tonight ... where I'm staying. I feel like we met for a reason, you know? I'm leaving the morning after the opening, and I'd like to take some memories back with me ... intimate memories. ... And maybe leave a few with you." She purrs. I can see her smirk through the phone.
Immediately, images of my mouth covering that supple toffee flesh flood my mind. Damn. I just may have to.
"Alright woman. I hear you. Call back, leave the address. We'll see what memories will result." I say, distracted by an accident ahead.
I see the first few moist droplets and curse to myself. Shit. Rain. We hang up. I look down and make sure it's her when my phone buzzes right away. It is. Two new voice mails.
Am I really doing this? Am I really going to be 'that guy'? The guy who meets women at happy hour and sleeps with them by midnight, while his own woman is at home waiting? Am I really going to join that 70 percent?
Never thought I was that guy. Never thought I could be.
Laila's dark cleavage and perfect smile blaze through my mind. Those hips only a black woman could make sway so hypnotically. Damn. I just may have to.
The drive to my place is not a short one. I merge onto the freeway, hit the XM once again until I hear Flo Rida in my ear. Nah. One more station change and Musiq's slightly bravado voice filters into my speakers.
"Love, ever since the first moment I spoke your name, from then on I knew, that by you being in my life, things were destined to change..."
Instantaneously my heart slams in my chest. "Love." The song that played softly and suggestively in the background the first time Ata and I made love. She affectionately dubbed it 'our song'. Moves close to me, smiles, takes my hand, touches me in some intimate way ... something, every time we hear it.
"Love, through all the ups and downs, the joys and hurts. Love, for better or worse, I still will choose you first..."
The words move me. Hammer into my soul as if God himself is telling me to listen. Really listen. I'm not 'that guy'. I won't be. Never was. My spirit fills with guilt at the thought of what I'd be risking by spending one possibly forgetful night with a married woman. Her sin would be no more wrong than mine.
It's not worth it. Ata is worth it.
Just like that, I'm snapped back to reality. To what is really important to me. Ata. I pick up my phone, prepare to call the woman whose name my heart calls, even when I don't hear it. Even when I'm too stubborn to listen.
I try to think of the words to soothe the anger I know is awaiting me. She's worth it. Ashamed a song had to remind me of this, but I Love her. I will not use the word in vain. Laila can play chess with some other pawn. I'm going to make love to MY woman tonight.
Fuck. The black device slips out of my anxious hand and onto the floor by my foot. I look down, see it glide to the left side, then back to the right. Lift my head when I feel the car swerve a little, reminding me of the fact that I'm functioning under the influence.
At the moment when I am in the lane alone, I undo my seatbelt, take the opportunity to reach down and rescue my only connection to half the people I know. It can't wait. I need to call her now, need to hear her say it. Need to know that through all that we've done to each other and been through in the past few weeks, that she still Loves me; right now, today, in this moment.
"What I say, is how I feel, so believe it's true. You've got to know I'm true, Love..."
I feel my fingers grab the sliding phone finally, grateful for once for the long, lanky arms I was teased so much about during my teenage years. When I raise up, the black SUV's brake lights in front of me are all I see. Where the fuck did it come from?!
I slam the brakes, but at 70 mph, I am too late. The sound of metal crushing metal assaults my eardrums. My body lifts, propels forward involuntarily. I brace myself as my mind flashes to Ata. Damn. I didn't even get to call her.
All I can see are red lights, glass, metal, and rain.
Musiq's still singing about Love.