The Games We Play

I barely wake up before the texts start.

I’m downtown tonight. An event at that lounge where we first met. Wear all black. You’re on the list.

I’d smile but my jaw is clinched.

I cycle through the new texts, emails, and IMs I’ve gotten overnight.
Still nothing.

In the light of day, I feel slightly calmer. I’m not nearly as emotional or irrational. I feel myself shutting down, closing off. I realize I’m acting out of character. I get up and start to get ready for my day. I check my phone like an addict.

Still nothing.

An hour later I’ve gotten myself so worked up that I’m pacing, muttering under my breath to myself. I send a text:

I’ll be there.

I keep myself as busy as possible at work, gearing up for the next few weeks which are sure to be busy enough they’ll kill me. All through the day, I’m still getting texts. The last one:

I’ll have a Soco and lime waiting for you when you get here. Can’t wait to watch you walk in.

I wrap up work, throw on my dress, and hit the highway. I make it there, park and evaluate myself in the mirror. Dark makeup, wild curly hair, black dress. I look just like I feel.

I walk up to the door and the bouncer recognizes me.
“Go on inside. He’s waiting for you in VIP. Up the stairs and to your right.”

In the back of my mind I’m starting to wonder if he’s mapped this shit out this way.

I see him before he sees me. Well, I see his back, the horizon of his broad shoulders. I blend in and watch him work the room a bit, shaking hands, making small talk, smiling, laughing, patting people on the back, beckoning to waiters to refresh drinks that have gotten low. Even I have to admit, he’s wearing the hell out of the suit he has on. I bite my lip to keep myself in check. I remind myself that this is just a game.

The crowd has settled momentarily. I step into an opening and watch him. I won’t call his name. I’m determined to make him feel my eyes on him. I see his back stiffen. He turns and scans the crowd. His eyes fall on me. He takes me in, the wild hair, the charcoal rimmed eyes, the little black dress, stilettos. I let him watch me for a moment. Then I walk. I feel eyes on me. I keep my eyes on him. He smiles like he feels special. He fights valiantly to keep his eyes from falling to rest on the skin of my thighs that’s rapidly being exposed with each step I take. The dress crawls higher, he smiles wider. I stop in front of him without a greeting. He looks like he wants to reach out for me, but he knows better than to touch me.

“Damn that walk is vicious.”

No response from me. He looks at me curiously.

“Drink?” he asks. I push past him and wind towards the bar, letting my hip graze his hand just slightly. I feel him jump. He falls in line behind me.

“Why are you not talking?”
“I don’t have to.”
“How you figure?”
“You’re following behind me aren’t you?”

He stops short and bursts into laughter.
“You’re something else.”

My stride never falters. He catches up to me at the bar.

Before I can get it all out there’s a glass in front of me.
“I know,ma’am. I was told to make it when you walked in,” the bartender tells me, and turns away smiling, content he’s done his part to contribute.
“I told you I’d have one waiting for you.”

He smiles, content with himself, like a little boy who’s just discovered his own shit.
“Cute,” I say. And that’s that.

We talk while I sip my drink and I watch him watch me. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good to be finally getting some attention. We wind up standing in a corner, him behind me, his hands on my back, him whispering in my ear telling me who everyone is, who I should meet, us not so discreetly talking about people. Every once in awhile, a new person enters the room, someone he needs to make feel important, if only momentarily. Every time he leaves, he kisses the tattoo on my shoulder, leans over and whispers in my ear, “Gotta go make moves. I’ll be right back, baby.”

He never leaves my side for long.

I don’t fail to notice that many of these trips to “make moves” are short lived when he catches another man moving towards the space I’m occupying. He’s not slick.

He leaves again and I whip out my phone and text my sister. She makes me smile. I feel slightly less uneasy. For awhile I busy myself with a couple instant message conversations, trying not to sound too bitter when a friend tells me there’s someone out there for me.

“The tale of The One is a Disney movie we feed our kids so they don’t have to grow up with the depressing knowledge that love is a battlefield not ever safely traversed.” I’m surprisingly eloquent even though I’m a little drunk.

After a few more sentences I put my phone down. By this time, he’s made his way back to my side.

“You miss me?” he asks.
“Ouch. Evil.” We laugh.
“So tell me La, who ARE you missing? ‘Cause I know you’re not here out of the kindness of your heart.”

I look him square in the eyes, hoping mine don’t give me away.
“No one.”
“Well, the way you’ve been worked up the last 2 days, I’d say that no one is kinda under your skin.”
“You WOULD say that.”
“I mean granted, I know you like me. We’re two young, attractive, single people-”
“I’m not single.”
“You’re not sure about that. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. I may not know you but I know your type La, and you’re not a cheater. And anything that can even classify as maybe cheating would not be something you’d indulge in. You wouldn’t be here with me tonight if you were sure that you had a man. Am I somewhat right?”

I nod, just a little.
We talk a little bit more. He asks me what I want.
“Not a relationship,” I answer too quickly, too bitterly before I have a chance to censor my response.
“Oh, come on La. Don’t be one of those chicks that gets fucked over and is done with all men. Don’t give up. Next nigga just gotta be perfect is all.”
He pauses.
“Hey, I don’t think I ever really introduced myself. My name is Kappa Boy but everybody calls me Perfect.”

I burst out laughing. Is this guy serious?!?

“Did you get that from a movie or something?” I ask, my voice heavy with sarcasm. He chuckles despite himself.
“I’m just sayin’-”
“In that case PLEASE don’t just say again.”
“Look, La, no bullshit, you just look real hurt right now. You look like my sister did when her boyfriend died.”
“Someone did die.” His face clouds over for a moment.
“I’m sorry. I-I didn’t know. Who died?”

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