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Jasmine scented candles illuminated the studio creating a spiritual ambiance. I reclined in my chair as I listened to the song "Is it a Crime" by Sade. The candles had become a ritual ever since I started at WTLK back in '89. The flickering light and smell of jasmine were relaxing and made me more introspective aromatherapy, they called it.
The faint candlelight also served as a camouflage for the dilapidated condition of the studio. The carpet was covered with decade old cigarette burns, the plaster was falling off the ceiling, and the exposed water pipe leaked into an old Folgers coffee can. "Sade, your song is right on time," I said as I glanced around the room. "This place is a crime."
Just before the song ended, I put on my headphones and adjusted the volume to the mic. The digital clock on the console read 11:55 PM. "Five more minutes and I'm outta this dump!" I said with contempt. My producer, Mitch, was in the control booth next door setting up the calls. I could see him through the large soundproof window. I switched on the intercom to get his attention.
"Well, Mitch, in a few minutes it'll all be over," I told him. "The final episode of The Green Hornet and Kato."
"Don't be so dramatic, Julian," he said in his usual smooth tone. "It's not the end of the world, just another phase in life."
"Listen to you, sounding all philosophical. That must be one of the benefits of old age."
"Who you callin' old?"
Mitch had smooth dark brown skin and short black hair with grey streaks. He looked very distinguished but he had recently turned fifty-five and was getting touchy about his age.
"Look, we can arm wrestle for your Viagra prescription later," I laughed. "Right now, let's get to work and try to wrap up the show on time."
There were five people on hold. Mitch printed their names in bold letters on a piece of paper and taped it to the window. That was our sophisticated communication system. "Five, four, three, two ," I heard Mitch count. Then he pointed at me to signal we were on the air.
"Welcome back to Love, Lust, and Lies on WTLK," I said in my deep radio voice. "We only have enough time for two calls, so let's go straight to the phones. Adam, you're on. What's your question or issue?"
"Hey, Julian! I just want to congratulate you on your new show," he said. "I hope you don't get big-headed and forget where you came from when you blow up."
"Negro, please! I've been struggling in this business for fifteen years. I've never been about money or fame," I told him. "I've never owned a new car, don't own a nice watch, I cut my own hair, and every night I go home to a ten-year-old girl who's goin' through puberty. Now, if that doesn't keep you grounded, nothing will. Thanks for calling." (Click)
Mitch was laughing his ass off because he knew I was telling the truth. I drove a beat up 1994 Toyota Camry, which I bought used in 1996. And my scratched up Gucci was ten years old. I laughed myself because when I looked down at it, it had stopped working again.
"Okay, Sharon. You're my last caller!" I said as I pushed the button to line two. "What's your question or issue?"
"My question is about love and commitment," she sounded depressed.
"We don't have much time, sweetheart, what's your point?"
"My point is, when you love someone you should stand by them no matter what, right?"
"I agree, if you truly love someone, nothing should come between you."
"Well, I thought my husband loved me, until
She stopped in mid-sentence.
"Come on! It can't be that serious," I said jokingly trying to cheer her up. "What happened? Did you gain a little weight, loose your job, get a bad hair weave? What?"
"No, Julian, he left me because I was raped. The doctors said the damage was so severe I'll never be able to bear children," she said. Then she began to cry. "And after going through that hell, can you believe that no-good bastard had the nerve to tell me it was my fault that I got raped? How's that for love and commitment?"
I hit the mute button on my microphone and buried my head into my hands. When I looked up at Mitch, I knew he was thinking exactly what I was thinking. Why tonight of all nights? The clock on the console read, 11:56. We were almost out of time. But I was determined not to end my last show on a negative note.
"Are you all right Sharon?" I asked. "Do you want me to put you in touch with a therapist?"
"No, Julian, thank you. I'll be fine. It happened a long time ago." She quickly composed herself. "I'm just sick and tired of men using the word love at their convenience. The only thing they love is getting pus
"Hold up," I cut her off, "I get the point! And you're right, love is a serious word men shouldn't say it if they don't mean it."
"Have you ever been in love, Julian?"
"Hold on a second, who's interviewing who?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. But I was just wondering if there's ever been a woman worthy of your love."
I paused for a second as I reminisced on my wife, Carmen. Her picture was right in front of me, the one we took in Vegas on our honeymoon. I never spoke about her on the air since that day it was too painful. But I decided to open up. Maybe I was caught up in the moment, or by the vulnerability in Sharon's voice.
"Yes, I've been in love once," I told her.
"Are you still with her?"
"No, she's gone cancer took her."
"I guess we have something in common, Julian," she said, then she hesitated. "We're both alone."
Mitch was nodding in agreement. We both knew why. But I wasn't about to go there on the air.
"Like you said, it happened a long time ago," I told her. "You've got to let go of the pain in order to move on. And speaking of moving on, it's time for me get out of here."
The phone lines were ringing off the hook, but there was no time left for calls. The management at WTLK was strict about ending segments on time, especially since the station was programmed to go off the air at midnight. The clock on the panel read 11:58.
"Before I go, I want to end the show with an inspirational poem, the way I always do on Hot Buttered Soul Friday. I call this piece Movin' On. I reached for my notebook. "This one's for you Sharon, and all the ladies out there who are trying to move on." I cleared my throat and began to recite.
be it bad or good
teaches us a lesson
or at least it should
turned out to be mr. wrong
learn from your mistakes
keep the faith
press forward sista
dry your tears
wipe your eyes
find the strength
don't call him
don't see him
don't play one sad song
block his cell
delete his email
look ahead my sista
just move on
take care of yourself
and if the need arises
sista please yourself
do a check up
from the neck up
say a prayer
sista hold your head up
cause one day you'll have all the joy your heart can hold
and then you'll be glad you pressed forward
and so thankful you moved on
After I finished reading, I felt choked up. I was closing the show for the last time. I hesitated for a second, then I let it go.
"Goodnight, Chicago," I said emotionally. "Thanks for allowing me into your homes, your hearts, and your minds peace."
Mitch quickly turned on the studio lights and came running over. He was holding a bottle of Dom Perignon and two glasses. He shook it up and then popped the cork. Champagne sprayed everywhere.
"Congratulations, Julian," he said as he poured it over my head. "You're finally escaping this concentration camp!"
"Yeah, it took me over ten years, like Shawshank Redemption, but I finally made it," I laughed as I wiped the champagne from my eyes.
He poured two glasses and handed me one.
"I'd like to propose a toast," he said. "To the most outspoken, talented, and arrogant son-of-a-bitch in talk radio."
"Hear, hear!" I said as we tapped glasses.
"Now, I wanna propose a toast. To the man who has given me inspiration, motivation, and die-reaction. Here's to you, Mitch."
We toasted again. Then there was an uncomfortable silence. I had dreaded this moment all week.
"You know, Mitch. I'm sorry I couldn't work out a deal to take you with me. You know how much you
"Look, Julian," he interrupted, "this is your time your season. You were born for this. Besides, I've got a big deal I've been working on. I only wish Carmen could've been here to share this moment with you."
"Yeah, me too." I stared at her picture on the console. "She's the reason why I stuck with this raggedy ass station for as long as I did."
Mitch walked over and put his hand on my shoulder. He was a short man, standing about five-six. I towered over him at six-three but he had a charismatic way of speaking that demanded attention.
"It's been two years, Julian. When are you gonna let it go?" he said in that fatherly tone. "You said it in your poem, life goes on! Why don't you stop feeling sorry for yourself and start taking some of your own advice?"
"Look, Mitch, dating is not high on my list of priorities!" I said as I pulled away. Then I started packing up my equipment. "I'm moving to Houston in two days. I just want to finish packing, have a farewell drink with Eddie at Club Nimbus, then get the hell outta here!"
"Sounds like a plan, Julian." He poured himself another drink. "But you know as well as I do, Sharon was right, you are alone. You should've asked her out she's obviously single," he added sarcastically. "Tell you what, why don't we see if she's still on the line."
Mitch reached for the button on the console. All five phone lines were lit and my microphone was still on.
"Cool out, Mitch!" I grabbed at his hand. But he managed to press the speaker phone button for line two. There was a sudden click then a dial tone.
"It's best that she's gone, anyway," he said as he backed away from the console.
"And why is that not that I care."
"Because Samantha will never allow another woman into her life, or yours, not until she learns to accept that you are a man with needs."
He sat down his champagne glass on the console and headed for the door.
"Where you goin'?" I walked towards him holding my glass. "I thought we were celebrating tonight."
"I'm going home to my woman, what about you?" he said as he opened the door. "I really hope you find what you're looking for in Houston, Julian." Then he turned off the lights and walked out.
As I watched the candle wax slowly melting away, I thought about what my father told me before he died; "Son, money can buy a lot of things in this world but it can't buy back time." As I stood there in the dim silence of my spiritual ambiance, I had to face up to reality of what Mitch said. He's right, I thought to myself. Samantha was too possessive and I was only making matters worse by not having a life of my own.
I gathered up the rest of my things and placed them inside my gym bag. Before I put away the picture of Carmen, I looked at it. Then I spoke to it.
"You know I'll always love you, Carmen, but it's time for me to move on with my life!" I said, as tears rolled down my face. "My mind needs it, my heart needs it, my soul needs it. And I ain't gonna lie, baby, my body needs it, too." I laughed.
I kissed her picture, then placed it into my bag. "You'll always be my Queen."
On the way out the door I blew out my jasmine scented candles and put them inside my bag. At that moment, I decided it was the only baggage I was carrying with me to Houston.
Copyright © 2002 by Michael Baisden