The Next Day…

So you should come over tonight and let me cook for you. I throw down in the kitchen with dinner… and breakfast too. Your call šŸ™‚

Oh you’re pushing it.

Just come over after work. Lemme cook.

I’ll let you know.

Stop playing so damn hard to get and just let a nigga do something nice for you.

Who said I was playing?

The texts stop after I send that. Momentarily.

Call me when you get to the gate.

I didn’t say I was coming.

You’re coming. Call me.

Damn his cockiness.

I go of course. I never turn down a homecooked meal.

I get there and promptly jump up on his counter, sidekick in hand, IMing some friends.

“Ay get your big ass off my counter.”
“You know you’ve been trying to figure out a way to get my ass on your counter since you met me,” I retort, barely giving him my eyes.

He smiles but says nothing. I keep typing. He’s putting the finishing touches on the food and I’m pretending it doesn’t smell as good as it does.

“Put the phone away. You’re on my time now. Food is ready.”
“Excuse you?” I say, all neck rolling and attitude.
“I said, PUT. THE. PHONE. AWAY. I cooked for you, the very least you can do is give me your undivided attention for awhile.”

I do, but I take my time with it.

We eat, and the food is sooooooo good it’s ridiculous. Chicken fettucini and capers, fresh tossed salad (no homo), garlic bread, tiramasu for dessert. SOOOOOO GOOD. I’m impressed.

After we eat, we grab a bottle of wine and curl up on the couch, on opposite ends, my feet in his lap. We start to talk, shallow at first, slowing wading out into the deeper side of the ocean. It happens. Inevitably, the conversation turns to me, to my last relationship. I shift uncomfortably and try to gloss over it. He calls me on it.

“Be real La. It’s just a question.” I clear my throat.
“Well,” I start, unsure of my footing on this terrain, “we were together-ish for about 2 years.”
“Yeah. Let’s just say we were involved for 2 years and extenuating circumstance,” I make air quotes with my fingers, “kept us from making it official until much later.”
“So what?”
“So why are you here with me instead of wherever he is with him?” I clear my throat again.
“There is no… him… anymore… for me.”
“Did he die?”
“Then there is a him.” Again my throat needs clearing. “So,” he says, “tell me about him.”
“What do you wanna know?”
“Anything. Tell me whatever you want. How did you two end up together?”
“The same way as everyone else. Friends first, we hit it off, could talk about anything. We were just… drawn to each other.” He grunts.
“You met at Howard?” I nod. He smiles at my discomfort.
“La, I’m just asking you about your man,” he says, amused at my vague answers.
“He’s NOT my man,” I say, a little too loudly. I see him recoil. It’s his turn to clear his throat.
“So how did that happen?”
“How did he go from being someone you were drawn to, to someone who’s name you refuse to speak?” We’re quiet for a long time. I’m shifting. I’m uncomfortable. He waits.
“I- I don’t… I don’t completely know.” He stares at me curiously. “We haven’t… had… a conversation.”
“So for all you know, he could still be thinking that you’re together.”
“Uh no, I doubt that,” I say, with more than a little bitterness peppering my tone. He’s quiet for awhile. I am too, feeling right on the verge of throwing up in my mouth.

“It’s hard when you realize that not only what was, isn’t anymore, but it probably never was to begin with.”
“What do you mean?” he asks me, his fingers kneeding gentle circles in the balls of my feet. I lean my head back on the arm of the couch and slouch down.
“He and I, we went through… so much. I stayed, he stayed, when so many other people would have thrown down their hands and walked away from the table. We… worked. We worked hard at us. And…” My voice trails off.
“And…?” he prompts me.
“He just gave up on me. He just walked away. It was so easy for him. And…” This time he waits.

“And I don’t understand how that’s possible. How, after all this time of talking about everything, being there for everything, he could just… let me go. Without a word, without a fight. He just gave up two years like it was… nothing.”
“And that’s what you feel like now; nothing.”
“Nothing to him. Nothing at all to him. Nothing was all I ever was to him.”
“I don’t think you can say that.”
“It was just SO EASY for him,” I say, louder, more heated now. He looks at me like he wants to hug me. I shake off the sensation. I lean my head back again. We sit in silence for minutes that stretch on like days. The next time I speak my voice is barely above a strained whisper.
“I think I finally just realized that he didn’t love me. He doesn’t love me. He couldn’t. This isn’t love.”
“That’s not fair La. You can’t discount 2 years of togetherness just because of a breakup.”
“Why not? He did.”
“He loved you La. He probably still does. I don’t know any man that would spend 2 years with a woman he didn’t love.”
“Well,” I say, clearing my throat, “I guess none of that matters anymore.”

Once more we’re silent, him rubbing my toes, me pulling at the hair at the base of my neck. I can feel the energy in the room, running over my skin. I feel him wanting to ask more questions.

“You can ask me,” I tell him, not bothering to meet his eyes. I can feel them on me.
“So how do you feel about him now?” I am still, waiting for something particularly poigniant to come to me.
“I did all the things I was supposed to do. I erased his number from my phone so I can’t call or text. I deleted all his screen names. I went through my email account and erased all our emails, 2 years worth of emails that I had saved, gone. I haven’t called, haven’t written, and I won’t, because he doesn’t even care enough to get in touch with me. I took down the pictures, erased him from… everything. But, most of the time I still feel right on the verge of throwing up. There’s just… nothing. Every emotion I even think I feel about it comes and goes just as quickly. I’m just… nothing. I’m just coming to terms with the fact… that he didn’t, doesn’t love me. Or respect me. Or want me. Or… anything for me anymore. And probably never did. That’s what I get to remind myself of everyday.”
“That can’t be the case La. You’re not the type of woman you pretend a whole relationship with.”
“Well, he did a damn good job didn’t he? And here, I thought I was the actress.”

We’re still. I force my mind to go blank. I listen to the air crackle around us. I feel him looking at me, I sense his instinct to protect me, to make it better for me, to want to make me not be hurt anymore. I feel him getting attatched.

“Why are you single K.B.?”
“Because I am tired of being a ladder for women.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Women see me, see my life, my apartment, the cars, the people I know, the places I go, and they see me as a stepping stone to get to the next level of living they don’t think they can reach on their own. They see me as a potential husband, not as a person, not as a whole man. They just wanna be the one to say, “I got him.” And I’m past the point in my life where I’m willing to spend every date being evaluated like I’m on a job interview.” He pauses.
“My last girlfriend, we were together for 3 years. She cheated, broke my heart. I didn’t date for awhile afterwards. When I finally did start dating again, I found that every woman I met was doing fine for herself, but was looking for more. Not someone to come in and enhance what she had, but rather someone to come in and give her what she felt she was missing. I’m not that guy.”

I look at him slightly different now. I never considered it from the other side of things, what it’s like for a man like him who’s considered the prototype for many women. Just wanting someone to take you as you are, not take what you can give them.
“So what do you want now?” I ask him, and I’m pretty sure I know what the answer will sound like.
“I just want something real.” I look up and he’s looking square at me. He’s asking me a question. I groan on the inside.
“K.B. I’m not gonna be that something for you.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yeah I do. If for no other reason than because I don’t wanna be.”
“You could change your mind.” I chuckle to myself. Sometimes men are such… well, women.

“I won’t change my mind. I’m not at the point where I want something real. I just wanna be.”
“But you won’t always feel that way and-“
“You’re not waiting around on me to decide that maybe one day I wanna be someone else’s girlfriend. I won’t let you.”
“How you gonna tell me what to do?”
“Look, I’m being as upfront as I know how to be. I WILL NOT be that girl for you. I don’t want to be. You can do whatever you want to with that. I’ve given you fair warning. Anything that happens from here on out is on you.” I return his stare, letting him know I’m dead serious, hoping he feels the weight of what I’m saying.

“Aiight then La. Let’s play.”

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