After J and I broke our kiss and embrace neither of us said a word. We closed the office and walked to the elevator. The elevator stopped at the 2nd floor. Carlos stuck a leg in, followed by his head sporting a gold canine and five tooth smile. J slid over to the door opening and gave him a look that peeled the paneling off the sides of the elevator. Carlos stepped out before having his nose reshaped without the benefit of a plastic surgeon. When J turned to press the close door button, Carlos flipped me a thumb’s up.
We walked the two blocks to the corner of Loomis and Ocean Drive. Maxine’s Deli sat on the corner as it has for the past forty-three years. Zagats gives it a five star rating.
I turned to J and said, “I’m getting the pastrami and sauerkraut rueben with Maxine’s special dressing on marble rye and I’m passing on the dill pickle. I’m going to have a bottle of the oxygen infused water.” I tossed in the last item to show J I was health conscious,
J said, “I’ll have the same.” Her words were spoken with the same emotion one might have waiting for the light to change from red to green.
I passed on the dill pickle. I didn’t want to take a chance on pickle or garlic breath. J did the same. It spoke volumes to me. We walked side by side to Ocean Drive. We crossed the street and picked up the pedestrian path that curled at the edge of the cliff overlooking the reserved beaches and ocean. The firs three benches were occupied, I pointed to the fourth, “Is this okay?”
J nodded. She didn’t speak.
We sat. I opened the bag, pulled our a rueben’s out, and unfolded the wrapping paper half way around the sandwich. When I handed it to J, I said, “Mustard packet?” Mustard packets are always a good way to break the tension. I think I’ll stop by Maxine’s on the way back and grab a handful for the next group session.
J gave me a smile carried by a love beat. She said, “Yes, thank you.”
My heart was in rhythm with the ocean waves lapping against the shore. We ate silently staring out at the ocean. A cool ocean breeze, the sun at our backs, and my black Venus next me made this the most perfect moment of my life. I wanted it to last forever.
J only ate a half of her sandwich and wrapped the rest up. She handed it to me. I placed it back in the bag. I was still hungry, but I wasn’t about to ruin the moment, I did the same with my sandwich.
A brief moment later J said, “What happened? Explain it to me?”
I said the first three words that came to mind, “I love you.”
J turned turned toward me and took both my hands in hers, “M, I fell in love with you the moment I saw you. I fought it. You’re filthy rich. I grew up dirt poor. You’ve never worked for anything. I’ve had to struggle to get this far. I still owe over one-hundred thousand dollars in student loans for college. Your white. I’m black. You don’t have a serious bone in your body. I take life very seriously, it’s the only way I survived. Mama can’t stand you. I can only imagine how your mother and father will react when they see me. Do you understand all this?”
I stared into her eyes, I know she was speaking to me, I didn’t hear a word. I only wanted to look at her and hold her.
“Well? Speak to me,” said J.
I said, “I love you.”
“You didn’t hear a word I said, did you?” said J.
I nodded my head and gave her a silly grin.
“Oh M, you are like a comfortable shirt I want to toss out, but I can’t get rid of it.”
I leaned toward J, closed my eyes, and kissed her. Some moments later when we broke our kiss, I said, “Seriously, will you marry me? I don’t have a ring with me. I’m serious. I’ve never been more serious in my life.”
J let go of my hands and turned back and looked out toward the ocean seeking an answer. I turned toward the ocean and tried to use my highly limited mental powers to detect any good karma I had floating through the universe. This was one of the times I wished I watched the PBS special on developing good karma. Twice I tried to start a conversation, twice J shook her head. I sat and stared and waited.
Fifteen minutes went by before J turned toward me. “M,” she said. “I know I love you. I don’t know if I want to marry you.”
I blurted, “Is it the sex. You want to discover if I’m great in bed. I have great reference.”
J started laughing the deep laugh I heard when we first met. I started laughing too until tears were running down my cheeks. J dabbed at them with Kleenex from her purse.
Eventually a moment of calm occurred. J said, “M, I want you to introduce me to your parents. Not tonight. Tomorrow night at dinner at your house.”
“Not tonight? What are we going to do for the rest of the day?” I said hoping J was going to say make non stop passionate, unbridled love until we passed out from exhaustion.
Instead, she said, “I’m going back to the office and canceling group for tomorrow. I am going to the salon, then the spa, and you can pick me up at my apartment tomorrow for dinner. It’s 2342 Center Street, apartment 301.”
“What am going to do?” I asked.
“How old are you?” asked J.
“Thirty-three?” I said questioningly.
J said, “It’s time you figured it out if you really want to marry me.”