Spring came early. I was thankful. There’s absolutely nothing like New York City those first few weekends when warm weather arrives to stay-always something to do, always some place to be. And with the warm weather came a renewed vigor and enthusiasm to extract myself from the malaise I’d been in after the cold, post sergeant winter months. I’m not sure if it was he who’d caused my hibernation or if it was just a product of the harsh winter, but either way I was happy it was over. I’d just finished my masters, my annoying internship was about to end and I was excited at the prospect of getting into the heart of my career. So as the salt dusted dirty brown snow trapped sidewalks gave way to green leaves and fallen poplar seeds, my ponytails, jean-tucked galoshes, and forays with not-so-single-men gave way to consistent creamy crack doses, dresses, high heels and hopefully, higher standards. One might say I had a extra lil’ pep in my step … and they’d be right … I felt like I was back.
I guess it was that extra pep that convinced him it was finally time to speak. I was making my way down my apartment stoop quite gingerly, purse on shoulder, big box in both hands:
“Damn girl, you got it?” he said. Nice frames it was not.
“I think so.” I responded.
“Nah, you need help, lemme grab that.”
He was a neighbor, and like most of the people on my little Brooklyn block, he always said hi. He was an alright looking guy, the kinda black man who looks both old and young at the same time. From afar, the first few times I’d seen him, I assumed he was my age; his style of dress and general swagger screamed mid to late twenties. But finally seeing him up close, as he took the box out of my hands, I could see in the corners of his eyes that he was at least 10 or 12 years my senior. He smiled genuinely, and in his smile you could see the scars born of a life not without its difficulties.
He carried the boxes to the bottom of my stairs then looked back at me with a bit of confusion.
“My name is Lance by the way. Been saying ‘hi’ all this time, but never actually introduced myself.”
“Yea, I know, all good – I’m Samantha.”
“Cool … so uhhh, Sam, where we carrying this?”
“To the post office,” I said laughing.
“Awww man, the one all the way up by Fulton?”
“Yep, don’t worry though, I’ll manage,” I assured him.
“You planning to walk?” he said surprised.
“Yeah … it’s really not that far.”
“You bugging, lemme grab my car.”
I protested dutifully, but he persisted. In truth, I wanted a ride. My plan to carry a box filled with New York nicknacks for my family back home a full 13 blocks wasn’t very well thought out. A trip that would have taken me an hour and a half ended up taking only fifteen minutes. He dropped me back home and as I got out the car he passed me his business card telling me to call him if I ever needed anything.
About a week later I decided to stop at a local bar on my way home from my internship. It was my last day on the job so I decided to have a celebratory drink. It seemed like a good idea at first, but as soon as I sat down the awkwardness of being alone at a bar not knowing anyone and not expecting anyone, quickly settled in. In walked Lance, right on time. It felt like I was seeing an old friend. He sat down next to me, asking if the seat was taken first, and the bar tender passed him something dark in a small glass, without him asking.
“You come here often?” I asked, laughing inwardly at how pick up line-ish it sounded.
“Every so often,” he said.
“You know, I really appreciated you helping me with that box that day. It would have been a huge deal getting it to the post office without you,” I said.
“Ain’t no thing. How you been though? He asked.
“I’m good. About to be on the job search heavy.. Just finished an internship today.”
“Oh yeah? Wow, you’re in college, you’re younger than I thought.”
“Well, not anymore, and not college – grad school. Just got my masters. That’s why I’m here – I’m celebrating”
“Oh well then congratulations – let’s drink to that!” he said.
We laughed as we clinked glasses. He ordered another round and as we settled into our drinks, he began telling me about his life. He’d live a full life, one a lot more interesting than I might have imagined. He’d been a bodyguard for a famous rapper, got his real-estate license and flipped houses during the bubble, and bought into a restaurant downtown that one of his friends had started; all the while building a corporate cleaning business that seemed to be his true baby.
“So I had some change left over. I took most of that and used it to get the contracting stuff off the ground, then gave the rest to my boy to help get his restaurant started. Then all the white folk started moving to Brooklyn and the spot took off.”
“That’s awesome,” I responded. “So how’s the cleaning going? You’re still doing that?”
“Yeah, it’s at a point now where I don’t really have to be so hands on in managing it,” he said proudly. “I can basically just show up, make sure everything is running smooth. It’s good, because I have a couple other projects I want to get off the ground now..”
“Wow, you just don’t stop do you?”
“It’s a hustle, you know … but so’s everything. But yo, how’s your job search coming?”
“Eh … I mean. I’m really just kinda getting started right now. Had a couple of interviews so we’ll see where those go. I’m optimistic at this point, but if I don’t find something in a few months, it’ll be a bit of an issue.”
“I understand …” he said.
“Yeah sure you do Mr. Bodyguard/Entrepreneur/Real Estate Mogul/Restauranteur.”
“Whatever …” he said as we laughed.
“The restaurant though, have you ever been there?”
“No but a few of my Friends have … all good reviews.”
“If you and your girls ever wanna go, definitely hit me up … my treat. It would be fun.”
“Really?” I asked – curious as to whether this was a real offer or just talk.
“Of course. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. We can celebrate your graduation. That’s a big deal, you deserve to do more than just a couple drinks at our local spot. When do you wanna do it?”
I was taken aback. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I might want to have a more full celebration of my graduation. I’d been so focused on school and finding a new job that it never crossed my mind. But now that he mentioned it, it seemed like it might be fun. Just then I thought about the Sergeant. Nothing is free.
“Let me think about it,” I said finally.
Summer in Brooklyn flew by. I spent my Saturday afternoons drinking frozen mojitos at Habana Outpost and my Saturday night’s I partied at the museum. July 4th I stood under the bridge in DUMBO watching the fireworks over the East River. A few friends even made our way to Coney Island when the dog days of August became too much to bare. There were men here and there, a couple guys interested, a couple guys interesting, but it was summer and the counterintuitive humidity made it impossible for anything to stick. But every couple of weeks I’d run into Lance and we’d go grab drinks or dinner. And while it was clear that he was attracted to me, it was also clear that the attraction wasn’t mutual. He was forty four years old and I just couldn’t get passed the age difference. Still, it was nice to have a drinking buddy who lived around the way. He’d tell me about the success of all of his varying businesses, and I’d vent to him about my lack of success on the job hunt.
By the time four of my girls and I were finally able to find a free Sunday to make our way to his restaurant, it was already September. He’d been insisting we come all summer; I agreed on the condition that he let us pay. He showed us a great time. From round after round of drinks to a tasting menu of all of the house’s specialties, to desserts made to order, it was really nice. Half way through the night, as my mind’s cash register calculated what I was going to end up putting on my credit card, I pulled him aside.
“Lance, we gotta stop, I can’t afford all of this.”
“Don’t worry about … I got it.”
“No, I told you, I don’t want …”
“Yo … chill out … just let me do this for you.” Reluctantly, I left it alone.
We wrapped the dinner, hung out for a while and eventually, my girls all made there way home in taxis and Lance and I jumped in his car to head back to the block. The ride home was silent. He seemed nervous which in turn made nervous. Despite how much I’d implored him to let me pay, I felt like I owed him. I resented the fact that he made me feel like I owed him. My resentment had me preparing to say “no” to advances that at this point seemed inevitable. He parked his car, we got out, he walked me to my door.
“Good night Sam,” he said. I was surprised. I felt guilty. I was mad myself, mad at the Sergeant, mad that his foolishness had blinded my eyes making me incapable of recognizing what now seemed to be a true friendship.
“Good night Lance,” I said walking up the stairs.
Monday afternoon I got an text from Nicole inviting me to an event her job was hosting.
“IDK, you know what happened the last time I went to one of your jobs events … lol Plus, I’m kinda tired”
“Oh Please! You’re unemployed you ain’t got nothing to do … you better be here.”
A few minutes later my phone rang. Assuming it was Nicole, I picked up without looking at who was calling.
“Yeah it’s me.” The voice was husky, low, and barely audible.
“Who?” I said, pulling the phone from my ear and looking at the ID.
“It’s me” he said.
“Lance? Hey … what’s up?”
“Look, I ain’t got time for a girlfriend and shit and I ain’t got time for games.” I giggled, unsure how to respond.
“I can give you five hundred for three times a week.”
For some reason, I remember noticing that it was an old school phone with a receiver as I could hear it slam as he hung up me. I laid back in my bed, trying to comprehend what just happened. My phone rang.
“Yo, don’t act stupid. I ain’t got time for the games…”
“Lance, are you asking if you can pay me for ss…”
The old school phone slammed down on it’s receiver once again. I dropped my phone beside me on the bed and my eyes began to well with tears. I pulled my comforter over my head. This did not just happen, I thought. No way. Did I seem like that kind of girl? What kind of messages had I been passing him. Though he had never made any sort of advance on me, though he had never even really touched me, no man had ever made me feel so cheap and dirty. Hurt, embarrassed, horrified, I cried myself into a nap.
I woke up around five and was focused. I got dressed, jumped in a gypsy cab and made my way to Nicole’s event. It was packed, as her jobs events always were. When I finally found her we hugged. I thought about telling her what happened, but decided instead to just put it out of my mind and have a good time. I sat at the bar as Nicole worked the crowd.
“Excuse me,” a voice said.
“Could you just grab the bartender’s attention for me when you get a chance, it’s just so crowded,” he said with a sheepish smile. He was short, but wore what height he had well.
“Oh yeah, sure,” I said sipping the last of my martini.
“And can I get your next one?” he asked “… for being so kind.”
“Oh it’s already on the way,” I said “ But thank you.”
Before the bartender finished making either of our drinks we found ourselves in the middle of the dance floor. I wanted to move and he was game, in his own way. Every time I tried to get a little close, he’d ham it up and do something purposely silly, clearly using slapstick humor to avoid the initial awkwardness of suggestive dancing. We danced a couple songs then went back to the bar for our drinks. We downed them quickly and were back on the dance floor. We repeated this cycle two more times, each time, liquid courage decreasing his inhibitions. By 9pm I was ready go.
“Hey sweety … I’m ready to go home.” I spoke, but the words weren’t my own.
“Oh ok, yeah, you probably have to work tomorrow,” he said. “How are you getting home?”
“Oh, I’m just going to take a cab.”
“Ok, well let me walk you out and grab one for you.” He said.
As the cab pulled up, he slid his arm around me, pulling my back into his chest, kissing me on the cheek. I clasped his hand at my belly button, turned my head and laid a gentle kiss on his lips. Still holding hands, he opened the car door helping me in. I slid over to the other side, making room, looking back at him, my eyebrows raised inquisitively. He mimicked my gesture as if to ask “you sure?” I smiled, and he got in. All I remember from the cab ride is that our lips were never apart. As we pulled up at my house, passing Lance’s a few doors down I wondered what he could have been thinking to assume he could buy this. As he fumbled to find his credit card, I handed the driver two twenties and told him to keep the change.
Things started off awkwardly. First he had to go the bathroom. When he came back, he fumbled with the umbrella as if he’d spent his whole life living in southern California. But once we began dancing, we again found our rhythm.
Laying in bed, the following morning, I tried desperately to remember my little shorty’s name. I found it hilarious that I could not. I couldn’t even remember when he’d left. I shut my eyes and headed back to sleep with a smile on face, thinking about how much I had enjoyed my first and last one night stand.
And then the toilet flushed. He hadn’t left.
***Admin Note: If you haven’t been following along, this is the second installment of a series that follows the dating life of a good friend of mine (Samantha) as she grows, matures and learns how to build successful, healthy relationships.***