Read an Excerpt
Chapter Two: In the Beginning
The roller-coaster ride all began in my senior year at Howard University in Washington, D.C. We called it The Mecca, the high ground of black American culture and education. I was surrounded by high-achieving brown students from every state in America, including plenty of students from the Caribbean and from countries in Africa.
As one could imagine, there were many different types of sisters and brothers to choose from to get hitched to. And the first people you were attracted to were usually in your same classes, whether they noticed you or not. However, just because you were there at Howard, surrounded by all of those beautiful black people, it didn't necessarily guarantee you a partner. Some guys had what it took to entice sisters romantically and some guys didn't. I was one of those guys who didn't. I was a nice guy, and a perfect gentleman from Greensboro, North Carolina. You know the type; "He's just a good friend."
There was this sister from New York named Pearl Davis that I'd had the hots for since our freshman year. We were both radio broadcast majors. Pearl was tall, fine, and intelligent, but her attitude was strictly New York. She carried herself like the halls had her name on them. With me being an unglamorous son of the South, Pearl hadn't paid me any mind for three years. I was the dirty tile floor underneath her brand new shoes.
I remember when I first got her attention. It was late September, 1985. I had finally secured a morning DJ spot on WHBC, Howard University's AM radio station. I was wearing a blue silk shirt and had just gotten a fresh fade haircut. Cheap silk shirts were the things to wear back then and all of the guys wore their hair in fades. I was trying my best to keep up with the Joneses. Howard had a long reputation to uphold, which included campus fashion.
Pearl strutted into the studio and asked me, "What's up with all this Trouble Funk and this go-go music shit?" I got off the air at eleven o'clock. Pearl was on after me. She paced impatiently inside the studio lounge area for ten minutes. I watched her.
"It's on the playlist," I told her with hunched shoulders.
"Yeah, but shit, you have to play it twenty damn times a day?" she ranted. "That shit is so whack, man! I'm tired of hearing that shit!"
I was thinking, I wonder if she knows any words other than shit. "This is D.C.," I reminded her. Go-go was their homegrown music.
"So! This is our radio station! We should be able to play what we wanna play!" she responded to me. "I know I will."
I smiled at her. She knew better than that. "If you do that on a real job, you'll end up fired real fast," I told her. Messing with the playlist was a definite no-no in the radio business.
"Yeah, we'll see," she said. Pearl slid her tall, slim frame into the recording room in blue Jordache leans. She looked damned good! She had a smooth, angular face with rapid roving eyes that caught everything. To tell the truth, I was intimidated by her.
I grabbed my things and headed for my next class. Faye Butler, my sophomore friend, was waiting for me down the hall. Faye was a fellow southerner, from Macon, Georgia. She was a television/film major with the soft, rounded, baby-face features of a good girl. She was the kind of young, good-hearted soul that knowing mothers liked to fix their sons up with. And although Faye was fully developed with all of the right curves, since her freshman year we had only been friends.
"Hey," Pearl Davis yelled down the hall to me, "I like your shirt! That shit is stupid fresh!"
Faye frowned at me and shook her head in disgust. Even graduation-bound New Yorkers spoke with the street slang of the day, no matter how ridiculous it may have sounded to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, it was 1985, so it wasn't that peculiar.
I was an easily pleased sucker from North Carolina. I smiled back at Pearl wider than a circus clown with a painted face. I looked into her caramel-colored mug, viewing her reddish-brown, wavy hair, and was infatuated. "Thanks" was all I could say at the time. After that incident, though, I couldn't get her off my mind. My smile didn't last long. My friend Faye read my gleeful expression with horror.
"You like her?" she asked me. Before I could respond she spat, "I can't stand that girl."
There was nothing I could say to that.
"I don't know who gave her the key to the world, but she needs to check herself," Faye added.
Like the saying goes, two is company, three is a crowd.
As fate would have it, since we were seniors, Pearl and I had to show our faces at a lot of the campus events to stay informed for radio. At every event, Pearl would pick with me for the hell of it. I actually felt privileged to finally gain so much attention from her.
"Here, 'Big Bob,' wear my chain. I can't have you in here looking like a country bumpkin," she said to me at an October party. It was rumored that Def Jam's Run DMC would be performing. They never did show.
Pearl wrapped a thick rope chain around my neck. I was too much in awe to resist. She and her New York girlfriends then proceeded to make me their entertainment for the night.
"You call him 'Big Bob,' hunh?" one of her girlfriends asked Pearl with a grin. Pearl liked to make fun of my six-foot-four-inch frame, especially since I wasn't much of a basketball player.
"Yeah, look at his feet," she responded to her friend. "You know what they say about brothers with big feet, y'all."
"Oh, shit, I need to borrow him tonight then, 'cause my man got little feet," another one of her New York girls commented as they laughed at me.
"No you don't," Pearl snapped with a smile. "I found him first."
"Yeah, well, tell me what woods you caught him in, so I can go big-foot huntin', girl."
It's embarrassing to even think of it. I wasn't too good at defending myself back then. Compared to my plain and practical Volkswagen Bug mentality, Pearl Davis was a red Corvette at a car show.
"Where do you live?" she asked me later on that night. It was nearly four o'clock in the morning. We were all leaving out. No one was particularly hurt that the Run DMC thing was only a rumor. It was still a lively party.
"I live in Slowe," I told her. I was a bit nervous about it. Why is she asking me where I live? Oh my God! What does this mean? I remember thinking. At that time of night, a where-do-you-live question could have been easily construed as a possible sleepover.
"You still live in the damn dorms? Shit, man, get a life," she told me with a half frown, half grin. Then she had to tell her girlfriends, who were all climbing inside of a black Honda Civic. "Hey y'all, Big Bob still lives in the damn dorms. I told y'all he was country."
I smiled and began to take off her gold chain. I wanted to say, "It's cheaper to live in the dorms," but I kept it to myself. I don't believe I would have won any brownie points with a comment like that one.
"You don't have to take it off," Pearl told me. "I might be coming with you," she teased, or at least I thought she was teasing.
My heart leaped into my throat. "Hunh?"
Pearl was loving it. She was absolutely the aggressor. "Hey y'all, should I go over to Big Bob's barn tonight?"
"Yeah, girl, go choke yourself some chickens! " one of her friends yelled out from the laughter.
"Well, I don't have room to take both of y'all. And you're not sitting on that big nigga's lap in my damn car," the owner of the Honda huffed.
"He only live at Slowe. We can walk over there," Pearl shot back. We were at Ninth and T Streets Northwest. Slowe Hall was less than ten blocks away on Third Street.
"Well, get to walking," her girlfriend told us. "Nobody gon' mess with y'all, 'cause Big Bob will take out his hunting knife and jack them up. Won't you, Bob?"
I just smiled, shocked that Pearl Davis had actually decided to go to my dorm room with me.
Pearl didn't say much on the way to my dorm. I was doing most of the talking for a change. I didn't know what else to do. The woman of my college dreams was coming to spend the night.
"You got a lot of work to do this weekend?" I asked her.
Pearl smiled and said, "Why, you got any plans for us?"
I hunched my shoulders. "No, not really."
"Well, I don't have nothing on my mind but sleep," she told me with a grin.
That was fine with me. I didn't care if I didn't get any. I was elated that she would even be in my room. I signed her in and led her to my room on the second floor.
"Hmm, neat room you have here," Pearl said. Then she started taking off her clothes.
My jeans grew so tight that it was beginning to hurt. "I have a sleeping bag. I'll sleep on the floor and you can take the bed," I told her.
She looked at me and smiled. "You are a big teddy bear. Do you know that?"
I smiled back at her while clearing out space on the tiny floor to place my sleeping bag. I had to stretch it from the doorway to the edge of the bed, which was basically the length of the room.
"What are you doing with a sleeping bag anyway?" Pearl asked me. She was pulling her bra off from inside of her shirt.
I looked away and answered, "My mother made me take it."
She stared at me and burst into laughter. "Oh my God! You're a momma's boy, too?"
"No I'm not," I snapped. I really wasn't. I had always been closer to my father.
Pearl didn't comment on it. "You got any shorts I can wear? Clean shorts?" she asked me. She stood right at my chest, as if she was daring me to touch her.
I maneuvered around her and to my dresser to pull out a pair of gray Russell shorts.
Pearl smiled at me and said, "Can you close your eyes while I take off my panties?"
I felt ready to burst open at the seams. This isn't happening! I kept telling myself. I closed my eyes and could hear Pearl giggling while she pulled her jeans and underwear off.
"Okay, you can look now."
I opened my eyes and peeked at her in my shorts. She was actually wearing my shorts! Pearl Davis! Then she climbed into my bed and got under my covers. I stretched out inside my sleeping bag on the floor. Then I heard Pearl sitting up. She was staring around my room in the dark. I looked up at the clock on my desk. It was close to five in the morning.
"Are you tired?" she asked me.
I was, but I wasn't going to tell her if she wasn't. "Why?" I asked, hesitantly.
"Because I'm not."
We sat in silence for a moment. I didn't know what else to say.
"You wanna get up here with me, or you want me to come down there with you?" Pearl asked me.
I was baffled, not believing my ears. "Hunh?"
Pearl sighed and slid out of the bed and onto the floor with me. Then she leveled herself on top of me. I was too paranoid to move a muscle. "Can I go to sleep like this?" she asked.
"I don't know. Can you?" I responded.
She laughed and shook her head. I knew she could feel my hard-on. "Any other guy would have been clawing at my pants as soon as he closed the door," she told me.
"Well, my name is Bobby Dallas. I'm pleased to meet you." It was the first clever remark I had ever said to Pearl.
She chuckled, and her tall, slim body vibrated against mine. "You ever kissed a girl before?" she asked me. She French-kissed me before I could respond. I mean, she pushed her watermelon-flavored, Jolly Rancher tongue all the way inside of my mouth. She and her girlfriends had been eating Jolly Rancher candy all that night.
"Are you afraid of me, Bobby Dallas?" she asked.
"Very," I told her.
Pearl laughed again. I was on a roll.
"Do you have any protection?"
"Yeah. I'll get it," I said, trying to free myself to get up.
Pearl held me down with her hands pressed against my chest. "No. Where is it? I'll get it."
"It's in the closet, toward the back of the shelf."
She smiled as she stood. "That's your little hiding place, hunh?"
I smiled back at her, embarrassed. I said, "I guess."
Pearl reached up onto my closet shelf and came down with two condoms. "Close your eyes again," she told me.
"What are you about to do?" I asked.
"Just close your eyes. Trust me."
I did it. I then felt her tugging at my shorts and drawers to get them down. I pulled my legs out as she took them off.
"Lord have mercy! I was right!" she said. She was pleased, I guess.
I smiled to myself, proud of my genetic information. Pearl ripped open a condom, slid it on me, and rolled it down. Before I could count to four, she was upon me. I was no longer hesitant at that point. I did what I had learned to do.
"O-o-oh shit! Bobby!" Pearl moaned as her hair dangled in my face.
I began to rub my hands into the small of her back and breathe with her as she did what she had learned to do. Our tall bodies were too much for that small room. I was embarrassed at how much thumping we were doing on the floor. I was wondering if whoever lived in the room below me was hearing the early-morning freak show. I wasn't planning on stopping, and neither was Pearl. You don't stop a dream come true, you enjoy it to the fullest. So I held on to Pearl Davis for dear life, as if she would slip away into oblivion if I ever let go. And with every spasm of the feel-good, I told myself, I'm not dreaming! I'm not dreaming! This is real! This is real! It's Pearl Davis! YES!
When we were done, Pearl fell out across my chest and began to pant as if she had just run the mile. I was pretty worn out myself. We went at it pretty good.
"You better not have a girlfriend," she breathed into my face, still exhausted.
"Naw. I don't," I breathed back.
Pearl crashed back down to my chest. "Now you do," she informed me.
That was it. I was Pearl's new man, whether I liked it or not. It still amazes me how simple many things were back in those college years. Things would get a lot more complicated after college. But on that night, I was in love like I don't know what. I felt pretty good about being Pearl's new man, right up until the phone rang at seven-thirty that morning.
"Hey, are you ready to go jogging?" It was Faye. I had forgotten all about our Saturday morning run.
I panicked. "Aw, man, ah, I was up a little late last night at this function I had to attend." I hoped that Faye would get the message that I was canceling without having to spell it out to her.
"Oh, so you're gonna have me jog all by myself? Some pervert may snatch me off the street," she joked. If Pearl wasn't stretched out across my chest, I would have laughed along with her.
"That won't happen," I said. I was as steady as a man in a coma. I don't know why I even bothered to answer the phone in that situation.
"Okay, well, when I get back, let's go to breakfast together," Faye suggested.
"All right," I responded quickly. "I'll be up by then."
"I'll see you later then," she said.
As soon as I hung up the phone, Pearl grumbled, "Who was that?"
I was startled by it. "I thought you were asleep," I said.
"I bet you did. Well, who was it?"
"It was just a friend of mine."
Pearl leaned up and looked into my eyes. "Are you sure?"
I hesitated. "Yeah, I'm sure."
"Hmm," she grunted, falling out across my chest again. "You better not be lying to me."
I stared up at the ceiling not believing the predicament I had put myself in. It was the beginning of the end of my peaceful and platonic relationship with Faye. I was afraid to come clean and simply tell her that Pearl was my new lady. Although Faye and I were just friends, on some days it seemed we were just a word or a touch away from being much more.
Copyright © 1997 by Omar Tyree
Chapter One: A Metaphor or My Life
Ever since I received my college degree back in the spring of 1986, my life has been a big roller-coaster ride, filled with climbs, dips, loops, curves, and high-speed free falls. I call it The Bobby Dallas Whirl.
I thought a formal education was supposed to bring a guy job security and some type of stability in life. Maybe if I had been interested in a career other than radio broadcasting, I would have been better off a lot sooner. Then again, with the money I'm making now, maybe the bumpy ride was worth it.
There hasn't been much stability in radio. A real skill like architecture or engineering would have been a more stable profession. But who am I kidding? With those careers, you would actually have to do some real work. Not to say I don't do my share of work in radio, or that I haven't paid my dues, because I have. I'm just saying that radio is a hit-or-miss game, like the lottery. You never know what to expect or if you'll even be employed the next day. You could be on top of the world one day and stuffed underneath a trash can the next. Oscar the Grouch from "Sesame Street," who lived inside a garbage pail, comes to mind as the alter ego of any happy-go-lucky radio professional. A lot of us may seem happy while on the air or out in public, but behind closed doors, we're very insecure. That's just the nature of the business we're in. Nevertheless, on good days with good pay, the bottom line is that we love what we do.
Radio is like a game of Russian roulette -- you either get a big bang or nothing. The thing is, once you've experienced that bang, no matter what other stuff you have to go through, you're always willing to keep at it. It's like a night-and-day marriage. On some days you love it like a beautiful, spirited woman, and on other days you hate it like a villain who haunts your dreams at night.
My profession is actually the perfect metaphor for my life. After I completed college, I had no idea what the hell I was getting into from one day to the next. I was like a high-caliber shotgun with no safety clip, trying desperately to find a proper target. I've always been a good man and a good person, but that didn't seem to matter. I mean, I've really been through some hectic shit during my postcollege years. I had to reevaluate my life more than a few times. I got a chance to travel and do a lot of soul-searching, though. I haven't been married yet, and I don't have any children, but I'd like to experience those things. I can't say that I didn't have enough opportunities with women either, because I did. Things just never worked out. Half the time, I was simply trying to gain control of my life.
I'm just now beginning to earn the kind of money that would make any parents proud, and beginning to live the way I always imagined living. I just can't handle the emptiness of being alone anymore. I'm thirty-one years old, for God's sake, and I'm still searching for peace of mind and a permanent woman! Honestly, though, after all I've been through in the past decade, sometimes I don't think I'll ever settle down. Maybe, though, if I looked at my love life in the same light as I look at my profession in radio, expecting everyday surprises and daily letdowns, and just learned to roll with the punches, just maybe I could make a relationship work. Maybe I could find that peace of mind in a commitment to one special woman. Or, then again...maybe not. And maybe I'll be one of those good black men who got away.
Copyright © 1997 by Omar Tyree
Chapter Three: A Broken Heart
I tried my hardest to keep Faye from finding out about Pearl, but realistically, it was only a matter of time. I continued to go jogging with Faye on those few Saturday mornings when I was not held hostage by Pearl the Friday before, but it was getting harder and harder to keep coming up with creative excuses. Faye then suggested that we jog on Sundays instead. Since we both had late classes to begin the week, I convinced her that we should run on Monday mornings. That idea worked until Pearl began to plan my entire weekends with her. That's when Faye got suspicious. I hadn't been able to spend time with her on the weekends for months. And once we had gotten past the fall semester and were nearing spring break, Faye had had enough of my elusiveness.
"What is going on with you?" she asked me. She knew that I would be graduating soon. We were standing in the hallway on the second floor of the C.B. Powell communications building. We were about to head to our media relations class that I had somehow put off taking until my final semester.
"What are you talking about?" I responded to her. I was stalling. I knew exactly what Faye was asking me.
She stared at me for a moment. "Are you trying to avoid me for some reason?"
"Avoid you? I see you nearly every day," I said to her. The C.B. Powell building wasn't but so big, and Faye and I had several meeting places where we were sure to see each other.
"I'm talking about on the weekends."
I frowned and said, "What, just because I don't go jogging all the time?"
She returned my frown. "No, it's not just that. I mean, we used to go to see movies and do a lot of different things on the weekends. Now all I'm getting is your answering machine."
I looked away from her. I was never good at lying face-to-face, especially to someone I cared about. Some guys are able to do it every day. "Well, you know, it's been hectic with so many events and things going on that I have to cover for the radio station," I told her.
Faye gave me an evil stare that I didn't know she had in her. "You used to ask me to go with you," she snapped.
"Yeah, and most of the time you turned me down."
She stormed off for class without me. I followed her into the classroom and took a seat. Faye chose to sit on the other side of the room. I felt guilty as hell, but I figured it would have been worse for me to tell her that Pearl was my girlfriend and that I had been spending my weekends with her. Even the sight of Pearl in the hallways sent Faye into a rage. I never asked her why she felt so strongly about her. Faye acted as if they had some kind of personal beef.
After class, Faye pulled me aside and apologized. "I know I probably seem childish to you."
"No, not at all," I said, cutting her off. She was telling the truth, though. She was acting a bit childish.
"Well, it's just that...remember that talk we had before about sex?"
I damn near swallowed my tongue, and my heart rate increased. "Ah, yeah, I remember." Why is she asking me this, and in the middle of the hallway of all places? I was thinking to myself.
"Well, I know that we're just friends and all, but when some guys find out that I'm not into having sex and everything, they just get turned off and start making up excuses about being with me."
I shook my head. It was a coincidence that Pearl and I had started seeing each other right after Faye confided her virginity to me during a long, late-night phone conversation.
"That has nothing to do with anything," I told her.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. I know we're just friends. I wouldn't do that to you. I'm not a sex fiend like that anyway."
Faye tossed her hand on my arm and smiled. "That's good to know."
My stomach cramped up. It felt as if I was about to throw up my lunch. I wasn't a sex fiend before I started seeing Pearl. But Pearl was. That made me guilty by association. She wasn't having sex four and five days out of a week by herself. Pearl was into repetitions and going the distance, and I wasn't exactly turning her down.
"So you don't need sex either?" Faye asked me.
I took a deep breath before I answered her. "I wouldn't exactly say that."
"Are you seeing somebody?"
Oh my God! I thought. "Not right now," I lied, briefly looking away again. She knows I'm lying, I told myself. Then again, I was so unassuming back then that maybe she couldn't tell. I mean, it wasn't as if I was the kind of guy that girls suspected of having a reputation. I was more of a bashful loner. I probably could have gotten away with telling Faye I was a virgin myself.
I had my opportunity to come clean with Faye and I blew it. The next thing I knew, she was squeezing my hand and leaning to whisper to me, "Sometimes I think about us. Do you?"
No, no, no! What do I say now? Faye was moving in for the kill and she didn't even realize it. "Everybody thinks about it," I said. It was a good answer.
Faye let go of my hand. "Well, hopefully, if you're not too busy, we can go to the movies or something this weekend."
"Yeah, we'll see." I was praying that I didn't sound too committed to the idea. We parted company with Faye smiling at me. As soon as she disappeared into the stairway, Pearl popped out from down the hall with a girlfriend. She was distressed.
"I don't believe this shit. My mom had a damn accident this morning," she told me.
"Down here?" I asked her. I had barely caught my breath from the conversation with Faye.
Pearl looked at me as if I was an idiot. "No, not down here, in New York. In Manhattan. I'm about to go buy a train ticket now. I'll see you when I get back."
Just like that, Pearl was out of sight and on her way to New York. I didn't even get a chance to ask how long she would be staying. I knew that she would at least spend the night. I got to my dorm room and called Faye immediately.
"You want to go out tonight?" she asked me. She was surprised by my urgency.
"Well, the thing is, I can't make any promises about this weekend, but I do know that I'm not too busy tonight, so why not?"
"Well...okay," she agreed. Knowing Faye, she probably had a million things to do. I figured if we went out that Wednesday while Pearl was in New York, instead of on the weekend, I could grab a bird and dodge a bullet at the same time. I realized that Faye and I would not have time to cover any bases on a weeknight. It was perfect. I could take her out and successfully maintain our platonic friendship.
I forget what movie we went to see, but it was at Tenley Circle on Wisconsin Avenue. I remember a bunch of black teenagers from D.C. acting rowdy in the lines. Wisconsin Avenue was in the white section of the city, almost in Maryland, but that never stopped the inner-city blacks from taking over the theater. The movie was one of those midweek releases, so the line was packed.
"Wow!" Faye said to me. "This must be the night!"
"Yeah," I mumbled to her. I was looking around to make sure none of Pearl's friends were there. They were always where the action was.
"Are you looking for someone?" Faye asked me.
I was startled. "Naw, I'm just seeing who's out here."
"Oh." She looked suspicious, but I paid it no mind because I didn't see anyone I knew who knew Pearl.
I purchased our tickets and headed for the refreshment line. Faye said she was going to the rest room. When she walked back out, some big, husky guy tried to pick her up. He was dark and intimidating. I know I sound like a petrified white boy, but that's what I remember; he was big and black and built like a football player.
"Can I watch the movie with you?"
"I'm with a friend," Faye told him.
He looked around and quickly spotted me. He was as tall as I was and forty pounds heavier. I was sure glad that Faye wasn't my woman. I might have been compelled to act heroic in some way. To say the least, the situation was embarrassing.
Faye walked over and joined me in the refreshment line. The big black guy followed her.
"Y'all don't go together, right?" he asked Faye. "We could go out another time then."
I couldn't believe how forward he was. He cared less about me being with her.
Faye said, "I don't think so," and turned her back to him.
He looked at me and frowned before walking off.
"I hate guys like that," Faye told me. "That was very disrespectful."
"What if I was your brother?" I asked her with a smile. I was attempting to take things lightly.
"It still would have been disrespectful. There are certain ways that you approach people, and that's not the way."
I thought about what would be the best way to break the news to Faye that I had a girlfriend. There is no best way, I told myself. Any and every method would hurt her, especially since it was Pearl. I spent the whole time in the movie contemplating my predicament. That's probably why I don't remember it.
On the bus ride back to campus, Faye fell asleep against my shoulder. It wasn't that late. It was only after nine, and I kept wanting to wake her up because I was beginning to think some rather sexual thoughts, and people were looking at us. But I was afraid to touch her.
Miraculously, Faye woke up a block or two away from our stop on Georgia Avenue. I was really nervous then. One of Pearl's girlfriends could have been anywhere. I had a strong fear of what would happen if Pearl suspected me of cheating on her. I wasn't looking forward to that type of drama in my life. At the time, I was still very much an amiable North Carolina boy.
"Why are we in such a hurry?" Faye asked me, noticing the pep in my step.
"This is a weekday," I reminded her.
She smiled. "I thought you said you didn't have much to do tonight."
I was puzzled. She was right. I did tell her that. "Yeah, I don't, but I bet you do."
"Mmm-hmm," she grumbled, "blame it on me."
We got to the all-girls' Bethune dormitory. I was tempted to say "'Bye," and keep on walking down Fourth Street toward Stowe, but Faye made me walk her to the door.
Shit! I remember thinking. This is all I need.
Faye looked into my eyes as if she was expecting a kiss. "Well, I guess this is good night," she said.
I stood there as stiff as an Egyptian mummy. Then I shoved my hands inside my pockets. I didn't know what else to do with them. "Yeah, I guess so," I responded.
"Well, okay," she said, with one hand extending to the door.
I nodded, ready to head on my way. "All right then. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Bobby?" Faye said. "You're not gonna give me a hug, Mr. Handsome?"
I was apprehensive about it. It doesn't take much to get aroused when you're already thinking things. "Since when did I become Mr. Handsome?" I asked her, stalling again. Faye had never called me that before.
She stepped out of the doorway to let people by. "Bobby, I always thought that you were handsome," she told me. "You have one of those perfect faces. Everything is in the right place. And you have the perfect brown complexion, like a new penny, right before it starts to turn old. I only get that pretty color in July and August. You got it all year-round."
I burst out laughing. She put a lot of thought into that. "Well, ah, you look nice, too," I said, still chuckling. Plain guys like me didn't get told that they were handsome much. Faye had caught me off guard with it.
"So, can I have a hug or not?" she pressed me.
I was still hesitant about the hugging thing. "Are you sure you want me to?"
"Why not? We are friends, right?"
"Yeah, but if you were a guy I wouldn't hug you," I joked with her.
"But I'm not a guy," Faye argued. She was getting impatient with me.
I still didn't like the idea. What if it felt too good for us to break away? I quickly walked over and hugged her up and off of her feet to get it over with.
"Oh, such strong arms you have," she told me.
I put her back down and laughed it off. I was too afraid to comment on it. I didn't want to start another discussion with her. Who knows where that could have led. I didn't want to find out.
"I'll see you around," I said to her, walking away. I had to get myself out of there in a hurry.
As soon as I got back inside of my room, the phone rang.
"Where were you?" Pearl ranted.
"I went to the movies," I told her.
"Me, myself, and I." It was much easier to lie over the phone. I don't know if Pearl believed me or not.
She grunted and said, "Anyway, I won't be back until Sunday night. I decided to stay in New York with my mom for a few days."
"All right," I told her.
"Behave yourself. You hear me?"
"Yeah." I hung up the phone with Pearl and was terrified. I doubted I could make it through that weekend without at least thinking about sleeping with Faye. Things were getting hot and heavy between us. Fortunately, Faye called and told me that she would be working on some big assignment she had to finish up before spring break. She still wanted to go jogging that Monday morning, though.
Pearl got back from New York that Sunday night and was in heat. After I signed her into the dorm and led her to my room, she dropped her things and went straight for my private parts.
"Mommy's back home and she missed you, Daddy."
She backed me right up into the bed while tugging at my clothes. I admit, I missed her too. I had gotten used to having sex with Pearl. All of the carnal thoughts that had been running through my mind concerning Faye made me more aroused that night than usual. I went at Pearl as if I was plugged up into a socket in a wall. And she liked it, a lot!
Pearl looked at me and said, "Damn, maybe I need to go on more vacations! That shit was good, baby! What did you have to eat today? Give me some of that shit!"
If she only knew, I was thinking. I looked at my clock and it was close to midnight. I was wondering if Pearl was going back to her off-campus apartment or staying the night with me.
"You need me to help you with your things tonight?" I hinted.
She took a deep breath and said, "Yeah. I wish I didn't have to leave, but I got shit to take care of I'm tired as hell." She rubbed my chest and smiled. "Thanks to you," she told me.
I felt good about that. For a regular guy I was sure getting a lot of ego massaging. I smiled and said, "Hey Pearl, do you, ah, think I'm kind of handsome?"
Pearl looked at me with a sideways frown. "What kind of question is that? You look good, Bobby, you just don't know it." She laughed at me and said, "You gotta come out of that shell of yours, man. Stop acting like a damn Cinderella. I wouldn't be with you if you didn't have potential, Bobby."
I thought about the three years when she had ignored me, but I decided not to say anything about it. Why ruin a beautiful future with reference to an ugly past? I reasoned.
We got dressed and walked over to her apartment. As soon as we arrived, I put her things down and headed for the door. "I'll call you tomorrow," I said.
"Where are you going?" Pearl asked me. She looked shocked.
"I gotta get up early tomorrow."
"I'll just turn my alarm clock on for five-thirty then."
"Now you know we don't get much sleep when we're in bed together," I told her. I really wasn't planning on staying.
Pearl walked over to me and pinched my right cheek with a smile. "Cute. But I really am tired. There won't be any more of that tonight."
It was pretty obvious that she wouldn't allow me to leave. We had been away from each other for four days, and I didn't have a good enough excuse.
I stripped down to my boxers and T-shirt and crashed on Pearl's queen-sized bed. Pearl was busy unpacking. Then she made a few phone calls to find out what she had missed in class. I don't remember when I fell asleep, but when I woke up, it was after seven.
"SHIT! I forgot to put my alarm clock on!" Pearl was screaming.
I jumped right out of bed and started to get dressed.
"I'm sorry, Bobby. That was my fault," Pearl was saying as I dashed for the door. I nearly ran her roommate off the stairs.
"Damn, aren't we in a hurry!" she huffed.
By the time I got back to my dorm to check my messages, I was drenched with sweat and it was almost eight. There were no messages on my machine. I called Faye and got no answer. I didn't hear from her until she called me later that day.
"You know, I ended up spending the night over at my girlfriend's apartment last night," she told me. "I'm sorry. I didn't plan to be over there that late, but we were both working on assignments, and then we got to talking about guys and stuff, and it got later and later until I just fell asleep. You're not mad at me, are you?"
"Naw," I told her. I was relieved if anything. I felt for sure that she would have had a hundred questions for why I had missed out on our early morning run again.
"Well, I got good news for you. I'm going to Virginia Beach for spring break after all. Ain't that good news?" she asked me.
Dammit! I was thinking. It wasn't good news for me. I was supposed to go to Virginia Beach with Pearl and her friends. There was no way I could keep our relationship from Faye at the beach. Pearl would be all over me. It was easier to do at school. Faye wasn't into going to parties and she did most of her schoolwork inside the library. Pearl and her friends were never to be found in the library and they were seldom up early on the weekends, so I filled in the times and places between their opposing schedules. Outside of the communications building, I was pretty safe. Pearl and Faye were both too busy to hang out and gossip inside of the hallways. Or maybe I had just been plain lucky. There were a lot of close calls, but the biggest thing going for me was that Pearl wouldn't consider Faye in her league. And I was sure that Faye didn't consider me to be Pearl's type of guy. I couldn't believe I was seeing Pearl myself.
"You know what, I don't know if I'm still going," I told Faye. "I haven't seen my parents since Christmas."
"So, most of us haven't. Spring break is supposed to be our vacation time. That's what made me change my plans. There's nothing at home for me. I'll see my parents in May." Faye had a good point.
"Yeah, well, I still haven't made up my mind yet," I told her.
"I was looking forward to being with you, though."
I was speechless. Just one more month until graduation, I thought. This is getting too close for comfort.
"You know you're graduating soon. This might be the last time we get to be with each other," Faye added. She was reading my mind.
"Naw, I'll come see you after graduation," I assured her.
"What are you doing after graduation? Do you have a job lined up yet?"
Good question, I was thinking. "That's one of the reasons why I want to go home. I want to discuss things with my parents."
"Oh," Faye mumbled. She sounded disappointed. I couldn't blame her. I was really being a coward.
"I promise, we'll be together before it's over. Mark my words," I told her.
Faye sighed. I don't think she believed me. "Okay," she let out.
We just lingered on the phone after that.
"Well, I have some work to do," she told me. I knew that she just wanted to get off the line.
"I'm sorry," I whimpered.
As soon as the phone clicked, I felt miserable. Faye was such a beautiful person, inside and out. I felt like ending my relationship with Pearl and being with my true friend. I had never been a friend of Pearl's.
When I talked to Pearl that week about Virginia Beach, I broke the news to her plain and simple. "I'm going home."
"What? Stop trippin', Bobby, we planned this."
"I got some things I wanna straighten out with my parents. I didn't bother you about going home to be with your mother."
"That's because she was in an accident. I wouldn't have gone home if it wasn't for that."
"Even still, like I said, I'm going home to see my folks."
It was the first time I stood up to her. Pearl responded by slamming the phone in my ear. I went home to Greensboro, North Carolina, for spring break and had a good sit-down with my folks.
We were inside the kitchen, sitting at the small pinewood table -- me, my mother, and my dad. My younger brother, Brad, ironically, had gone to Virginia Beach.
"You know, your brother is going on to grad school at Chapel Hill," my mother informed me. "I think that's a good idea. What do you think about it?"
Brad, a year younger than I, was finishing school at North Carolina A&T, my parents' alma mater, a year early. He had gone to school straight through summer, so we were both set to graduate from college that same year.
"I'm happy for him," I told my mother. Brad had his way of living and I had mine.
My father chuckled and sipped his coffee. He realized I was avoiding my mother's question. My mother, an alert, disciplinarian schoolteacher, was not to be fooled.
"I'm glad that you're happy for your brother, Bobby, but what do you feel about graduate school?" My mom was a tall and straightforward woman who carried herself with importance. She thought the world of higher education, but all of her academic enthusiasm was a definite turn-off for me.
I got up to get myself a refill of lemonade from the refrigerator. "To tell you the truth, I haven't thought about it."
"Well, why not? What's so terrible about it?"
"There's nothing terrible about it, I just haven't given it any thought."
"Well, what are you planning on doing? You're not coming back here," she snapped at me. "It's time you grow up and do something with your life."
It was the same speech my mother had given me before I enrolled at Howard.
"Roberta, I keep tellin' you, Brad and Bobby are two different boys. Bobby'll be all right. He's just like me, a slow, fine wine," my father said in my defense. He was a big man with massive limbs, but he was pretty lighthearted too. I never saw him use his size to get his point across, yet I realized that he could have if he had wanted to.
Mom grunted and marched off to the bathroom.
Dad looked at me and laughed. "The world ain't gonna end tomorrow. You got time. Sometimes, when you move too fast, you fly right past a good opportunity," he said.
I smiled. My father had a good saying for everything. He was a well-known roofer in our community. His business didn't take off, though, until he was thirty-eight. He told me of several of his young friends who had moved too fast and had run out of steam. "As long as you're breathing good air, eating healthy food, and not hanging out with the wrong kind of people, you always have time to do something with your life," he told me.
My dream was to make forty or fifty thousand dollars a year at a radio station. I had always loved hearing those smooth, brother voices over the radio waves. I had never bothered to be a DJ, though. I liked the talk shows instead. However, after doing several internships around D.C., it seemed that only the big-name people were making any real money. Donnie Simpson at WKYS was one of them. In fact, most of the radio personalities making good money had been around for a while. The younger personalities were mostly rambunctious DJs. You had to be talented, hip, and aggressive. Nevertheless, the word around town was that they still didn't make much money. Radio was a profession you simply had to love in order to last.
I didn't know how talented, hip, or aggressive I could be. As far as being rambunctious and loud, I was more of a mellow kind of guy. I had my own ideas about what would be hip for radio, I just needed an opportunity to show my stuff. One thing was for sure, after driving around North Carolina that week in my father's Buick, I wasn't planning on going back home after graduation. Going to school in Washington, D.C., had spoiled me for the big-city life. My hometown had become too damned small and quiet for me.
I wasn't sure if Pearl and I still had a relationship when I got back to school, but she squashed those doubts immediately. Pearl couldn't wait to see me, just to tell me off.
"Well, I hope you had a good time, because I sure didn't."
"What happened?" I was just walking into the lobby area to sign her in after receiving a page from the front desk.
"First of all, my girlfriend's car broke down on the way there. Then we had to fight with this hotel manager about our room. My other girlfriend lost a hundred and fifty dollars. And after all of that, it kept fucking raining on us."
I felt like laughing but I held it in. Pearl reached out and squeezed my ass on the way up the stairs and asked me if I had missed her.
"Did you miss me?" I asked her back.
"I asked you first."
"Well, I thought you were still mad at me."
"I was. But after all that shit happened in Virginia, I figured that you had gotten a better deal. I feel like I wasted my damn money."
Pearl stepped into my room and gave me a brown bag out of her rather large pocketbook.
"What is this?" I asked her.
"Look the hell inside and see."
I looked inside and pulled out an eight-by-ten wooden frame. Inside was a photo of Pearl wearing a bright and colorful bikini at Virginia Beach. It reminded me of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Pearl was very much into taking pictures. She had her own portfolio. Sometimes she even talked about modeling professionally.
"Surprise, surprise," she said to me, planting a sloppy kiss on my lips. "I look good, don't I?"
I smiled and said, "Hell yeah! Definitely!" It was the kind of picture that would make any man proud.
"That's what you missed," she teased.
"Can you put it back on for me?" I asked her.
She laughed good and hard at me. "Hell no!" she responded. "That's what you get for not going down there with me. Everybody had a man but me."
As soon as she said that, I began thinking of Faye. I wondered if Faye had found someone at Virginia Beach to spend some quality time with. I was feeling guilty again.
"Did you behave yourself?" I figured I'd ask.
"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. You wanna find out if I'm still snug?"
I couldn't believe that she said that. I had a hard-on quicker than you could strike a match. I forgot all about my guilt for Faye. Pearl and I jumped right back into doing the nasty.
That next day, I got a knock on my door and I answered it without looking through the peephole. To my surprise, Faye walked right into my room.
"How did you get over here?" I asked her.
"I have other friends in Slowe." She stood right next to Pearl's picture on my dresser and hadn't noticed it. I was about to have a heart attack!
"Let's go to the library. I was just about to head over there," I lied. I made a move toward her. Faye quickly eluded me and took a seat on my bed.
"I don't want to go to the library. I came here to have a face-to-face talk with you."
"About what we mean to each other," she answered.
"We know what we mean to each other," I responded. "Come on, let's discuss this in the library, I got stuff to do."
I could feel sweat dripping inside of my armpits. I was tempted to move over to my dresser and stand in front of Pearl's picture, but I was afraid that it might bring attention to it. Maybe I would get lucky and Faye wouldn't notice it.
"Why? What's wrong with discussing it in your room? Are you expecting somebody?" she huffed at me. "Or is it that you don't want me in here?"
I was about to explode! I had become too pushy with her, making her more suspicious. And when Faye stood up from my bed and looked toward my dresser, I felt like barging out of the door and making a break for the exit stairway.
Oh, what do we have here?" she asked me, holding up Pearl's framed picture.
I was ready to duck, thinking that she might throw it at me. What the hell could I say? I just looked at her to watch for her reaction.
Faye gently set the picture back down and headed toward the door. She was crushed.
"I didn't know how to tell you," I said to her as I stepped aside.
"I'm sure you didn't," she said in a cracked voice.
I attempted to reason with her. "I mean, but we're just friends, right?"
"Friends don't lie to each other like this."
I would have felt better about it if Faye had gotten mad and slammed the door or hit me or something, but she didn't do any of that. She just walked out, obviously heartbroken.
I felt like running down the hall after her, but what would I have said once I reached her?
"It's just a picture, Faye," I mumbled to myself. "It doesn't mean anything."
It's funny how you come up with responses after the fact. It wouldn't have worked had I used it. Even if it was just a picture, with it being a picture of Pearl, Faye's nemesis, I might as well have been taking candy from the devil.
When I think back to how I treated Faye, I realize that guys make the same mistake a lot of women do; we always go for those people who are more likely to hurt us than to love us. I knew I had some bad karma to deal with after I had broken Faye's heart, but I still had to live my life. All I could do was expect for it to come back around to me in the future.
Copyright © 1997 by Omar Tyree