Picture it. An urbane night spot packed with BUPPY's in polo shirts and skinny dresses. Outside, the shapeless crowd is contained by wrought iron. The lights are dim. The night air moist. BUPPY's are moving hip to hip, cheek to cheek in one choppy, highly uncoordinated social dance. Above all there is music. Sweet voices harmonize with deep ones. Glasses clink. Heels tap. White bahia couches hover low glass tables and BUPPY's hover those.
I'm sitting with my legs crossed on the edge of a couch. I have just ordered cranberry juice and vodka. Mr. Right Now is to my right, covertly stroking my shiny leg, sneaking glimpses into my soul. We're surrounded by our mutual friends, none of whom have any idea we are dating and have been dating since the beginning of the year. I prefer it that way.
The attorney and his girlfriend are on the adjacent couch celebrating her birthday. She and I have exchanged air kisses and I've complimented her dress. I first met the attorney and Mr. Right Now together at Negro Night aka First Fridays. I remember I went to the bar to get a second cranberry and vodka, go figure, and he struck up a flirtatious conversation. He called me a few times afterward but nothing ever came of it.
The next time I saw him it was months later, at an event. He reintroduced himself and his girlfriend of three years. I smiled and pretended to have never met him.
This is the new "it" spot and there are Black people, though not many, that I don't recognize. My eyes are busy dissecting the crowd. That's when I spot a striking profile making his way toward the restaurant entrance. He is tall, athletic, with cappuccino skin. He has the cock sure gait of a man who wears Ferragamos and carries a money clip. He is an executive. Off the clock.
Mr. Right Now pulls me back into the conversation. My seabreeze arrives and I take several sips one after the other. I let the cold liquor go to my head content to, for a few quiet moments, hold my glass to my lips and people watch.
Alas, I've mellowed out, caught the groove of the libidinous atmosphere. Mr. Right Now has just discovered that he may be related to another gentleman. They both have kin-folk in some southern town too small to have a dot on a map. I'm getting ready to do the electric slide in honor of the impromptu family reunion when I see him again.
He's entering the terrace with two other men. I take a slow, unhurried sip of my drink that allows me to lower my eyes at the precise moment he enters my sight. I throw my gaze. He catches. After a few seconds, he leads his crew to an empty railing beside me.
Mr. Right Now is on the phone with his aunt confirming that he has indeed found a second cousin, once removed, on his father's side. Somebody call Tyler Perry. Mr. Right Now and his second-cousin-once-removed are exchanging stories about their little town of origin. It gives me a chance to study this stranger, who all the other ladies around me have also noticed, at the same precise moment.
One of our friends knows him. They strike up conversation and a trail of other women follow her lead. It is Prince Charming at the ball being greeted by debutant after debutant. Curtsy and smile then step back and cross your fingers. I hesitate. Instead I return my attention to Mr. Right Now.
I can sense the conversation beside me has fallen flat. Smiles have dropped like curls on this humid night. They have taken position in his court, not sure what to do next, but still too enchanted to leave. His body is elegantly poised on the railing, one leg crossed over another. He's dressed in expensive jeans, brown leather shoes with a sharp toe box, and a stiff blue button down. His skin is bronzed. He is handsome.
I make my way over. I'm wearing a billowy knee-length black dress that alludes to the shape of my body every time the wind blows past me. My dancers walk is enhanced by sexy Michael Kors heels. "Hello!". I shake hands with his two friends first and then I face him. His eyes are translucent, and smiling.
"Hello-- Gabrielle*, but you can call me Gabe*." And he has a quiet storm radio voice, the kind that'll have you dialing up the radio station in your car late at night trying to speak to the host.
"Well hello, Ike*" I said, grinning. "I like the way you say that".
"I can say it again."
We laugh. That's when Gabe's friends begin a game of Negro Geography. They are from Atlanta and I am uninterested. Gabe is in and out of the conversation, filling in the cracks with coy comments. I'm beaming. I glance at his left hand, but it is hidden behind him.
We continue playing Negro Geography. We all have friends in common. Gabe tells me he's from Boston. I frown.
"Oh, why the look?"
"Oh I'm not a big fan of Boston. But I do have lots of friends who migrated there after school and don't plan on leaving."
"Where are you from?"
He's eased into the conversation. I can tell he's intrigued. "New Jersey myself."
The two musketeers launched a barrage of questions but I was distracted. The two musketeers were from Atlanta, but the catch lived in Medium-City. Yes!
I was trying hard not to project my Betty fantasies on him. But it's too late.
In swift and unforeseen sequence of events, his friend drops the H-Bomb on his behalf.
I wasn't the paying the second musketeer any attention until I heard "... when Gabe was at Harvard."
Suddenly couch stuffing and shards of glass are flying through the air and in the midst of the smoke and debris storm, Betty is doing one hell of a victory dance.
kick bolchange, kick bolchange, potaburre, kick!
Black Cupid was in the house. Hey! "Oh, you went to Harvard?"
"Actually Harvard Law."
Do not make any sudden reaction. "Oh, I'm a Yalie!"
"Oh so that's why you don't like Boston. New Haven," he smiled, acknowledging that pretentiousness Black Ivy connection that quickly unites Black folks, especially when far away from the preppy northeast.
"Partially," I smiled.
"Well what brings you down here?"
"My job." And then he went on to tell me about his fabulous job in an exclusive historic section of Medium-City, South.
"Oh I know where that is. Wonderful!"
We had bonded. I wanted him. Betty wanted him. The H-Bomb only sealed our destiny. I admit, I temporarily forgot Mr. Right Now was not only feet away, but that he existed.
Then he stretched his hand out and I caught a glimpse of a silver ring. It was kind of eclectic though. So maybe not. Couldn't be. Please God, tell me this man wasn't feeding me vibes for the past 20 minutes and he's married.
I let another girl cut into the conversation. I guarded post on the railing. The subject moved to dating and like a true journalist I butt in with my question. "So how long have you been married?"
That's the one aspect of post-collegiate dating I'm to which I'm still growing accustomed. Always check the ring. And for real, some wives need not let their fine, Black educated men go out too often, unattached. I'm just saying. Not every woman shares my dignity.
-Flyness and funk(y ring fingers),