When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
I followed J to the Toyota and walked to the driver’s side to open her door. My love offensive was in full throttle. I opened the driver’s door, J slid in and looked up at me, “You can close my door and get in. And, thank you.”
“It was the first time she thanked me. I wanted to do cartwheels around the Toyota to the passenger side. The only thing preventing me from doing cartwheels is that I don’t know how to do them. So I settled for a fist pump. My team still had a chance. I got in, buckled my seatbelt, and said “Let’s go to the airport, head to Vegas and get married, and have honeymoon sex in a poolside cabana.”
J half turned toward me, “The next time you ask me to have sex with you I am going to grab hold of both of your big ears and rip them off your head. You don’t need them since you don’t listen to me. You only listen to your mother. I never met her, but if she is anything like the haggard bitch on my wall, I feel sorry for you.”
J’s understanding of my rough deprived childhood was a signal to my immature male mind that soon our bodies would joined as one, perhaps as soon as this evening. It was time to ratchet it up a couple of notches. I said, “I think it’s important for couples who are going to be intimate to be able to talk about sex. Don’t you?”
“We’re not intimate. Get it? Whatever your fantasy, we are not intimate, we are not going to be intimate?”
J’s anger was my aphrodisiac. I was so turned on, my dials were popping off. I searched the storehouse of my stored memories on how to seduce a woman. I kept coming up blank since I wasn’t at a bar. While I was sitting speechless, J started the Toyota and pulled out of the parking lot.
My conscience interrupted me, “You want to listen to me or are you going to throw me out?”
“How do I get J to come home with me tonight. I can’t stand being without her.”
“You want sex without a commitment. You want sex without marriage.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked my conscience.
“If you really love J, and I have my doubts, I’ll give you advice. I’ll only give it to you if you promise me you will follow through on it.”
“What if I say I will follow through and then don’t follow through? You can’t hurt me. I got more money than you. You’re not connected with the mob or a gang, are you?” I asked.
“Fair warning, if you cross me, watch out.”
“Does that mean I’ll get hemorrhoids? I hate hemorrhoids. I had them once and the only good thing about them was Mother made Natalie insert my suppositories.”
“I know. Let’s not get into a discussion about your Mother. Sarah has her hands full with her and she’s begging for additional resources,” said my conscience.
“Mother has a conscience? I would have never guessed,” I said.
“She has one, but she’s never used it. I shouldn’t be telling tales out of the school. Sarah’s the low conscience on the totem poll. She doesn’t have enough seniority to bump any of us off. I need to meet with my support group, you going to take my advice or not?”
“No, you scare me,” I said.
“You’re on your own, kid. I can’t get a sub, no one wants to work with you. I’ll pick up the pieces when I get back.”
“Your lips keep moving. Who are you talking to?” asked J.
“You don’t want to know,” I said.
“Are you okay? Are you cracking up? Normal people don’t talk to nobody.”
“I didn’t start the conversation, he did,” I said.
“So, you were talking to someone,” said J.
I needed to change the subject. The last thing I wanted to do was to tell J I didn’t take my conscience’s advice. Given her high moral standards, that would be a sure turn off. Instead, I said, “Give me a good reason why you won’t marry me?”
“You want a good reason? I got so many it’s hard to choose the best one. How’s that for a reason?” said J.
“Watch how you’re driving. You almost hit that guy with a squeegee and water spray bottle. That’s not a good reason. That sounds like something somebody in the group might say,” I said amazed at my reasoning.
J hit the breaks and skidded to a stop at a red light. “Don’t make eye contact with anyone. Stare straight ahead.”
We both stared straight ahead. I dared move my eyes slightly to the right, but kept facing forward. I’d never seen people like this. Dickens would have described them as urchins or beggars. Mother might describe them as disgusting, lazy, and burdens on the backs of filthy rich people. I didn’t see anyone who might make the cover of GQ or Glamour. They’re carrying signs asking for money. The only people I’ve seen ask for money have been hedge fund investors, stock brokers, and people running for office. The light turned green, J pressed hard on the accelerator and got through the intersection.
She said, “Okay, I’ll give you a reason. You never asked me to go out on a date. You asked me to get married. You asked me to have sex. You never asked me to go out on a date.”
A date? Wasn’t that a dried fruit? Going out for dinner and expecting to have sex after dinner is not a date? I need some help here. ‘Hey, conscience, where are you?’ I asked and received no answer. I was on my own and I was watching the only woman in the world who mattered to me slowly walk out of my life. I needed a lifeline. I needed to phone a friend. I needed to look on someone’s paper and copy the correct answer.
The first duty of love is to listen.
When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.
When J ordered our drinks, I was hoping for a Bordeaux or Pinot Noir. What I got was a choice of Bud, Bud Light, or iced tea. Okay, I’m a snob, I only drink imported or locally brewed outrageously expensive beers. I didn’t dare ask for Perrier or a Pellegrino. If I asked for water, I’m sure it’d be tap water. I’ve never as much washed my hands in tap water. Mother said tap water is for the masses, not for the privileged. I ended up saying surprise me.
When I explained all the perks of being filthy rich to J, her desire for me, my body, and my wealth would kick in and she’d be mine. I was aware I was in hostile territory. I had to downplay my riches and uppity attitude, and only use my wit and charm to win my fiery black opal.
J was about to say something. I held up my hand to prevent her from saying something I knew she’d regret like let’s walk out of here and check into a motel and have sex. I wanted her to keep her self respect. We can have sex after lunch. I said, “You can count on me being faithful to you all my life. Although, the Sanderstuffs have great DNA and I’ll probably outlive you by twenty years. Will you mind if I get remarried after you die?”
There were three men sitting at the table to my right. Two were holding large beef ribs in their hands. They turned toward J and me. The other man, was sipping an iced tea and started coughing. He must has swallowed a seed from the lemon. On my left, there was a woman who could play linebacker for any of the pro teams and a guy in bib overalls covered with grease smears. I caught a glimpse of her tapping him on his forearm and nodding her head toward us. I turned a bit toward them and gave the woman my charming smile. I only hoped it didn’t make her become obsessed with me.
J spoke up, “I don’t know where to begin. Didn’t you go to school? Didn’t you learn anything about relating to another human being? You don’t know anything about me. How old was the ugly bitch who hangs on the wall in my office when she died?”
I knew right away the ugly bitch J was referencing could be no other than Grandmother Houston. She had the face of a prune, the eyes of a hungry wolf, and the body of a starving coyote. I proudly said, “The ugly bitch outlived her husband by ten years. She died when she was ninety one. Everyone wanted her to die sooner because she had a temper worse than a chef who can’t find his garlic press. “
J waited until our server brought our drinks. We both had iced teas in plastic glasses big enough to quench the thirst of four adults. Our iced teas were as dark as the people in the restaurant. J watched me hold the iced up toward the light to gauge its quality. She said, “Drink it. Ask for a refill and don’t say a word. Not one word. Not one grimace. Not one snarky comment. Did I cover it?”
I love this about J. She is helping me to practice my social graces with the undesirables. I can’t wait to tell Mother how the undesirables eat and what they drink. I hope Mother has an aneurysm. Not fatal, but one where she will give me power of attorney. J interrupted my thoughts. She said, “For the eighth time, we are not going to get married. We are not going to date. I am not going to be your lover. I will not be your mistress. And, I will not have your children.”
The plus size woman from the table next to us said, “You go girl.”
J smiled at her, then looked at me. I said, “I love you. Will you marry me. I will make you the happiest woman in the world.”
The guy at the table with the plus size woman jumped in, “That’s it rich white dude, don’t quit. Fight for the woman you love.”
“You watch your mouth. He’s a white boy. He don’t know how to love a black woman like a black man knows how to love a black woman.”
I turned my attention away from J for a moment and said, “I am so sure I will be faithful to J and never, never as much as flirt with another woman that I’ll sign a prenup giving J five million dollars and a life membership to the country club.” I said the wrong thing. As soon as I mentioned five million, fifty-six black heads all turned toward me. J kicked me under the table. I recovered quickly, “That’s if I hit Powerball.”
The room broke into laughter. I felt relieved. J whispered, “I’m impressed with the quick comeback.”
The fully figured black woman wasn’t through with me. She said, “If you ain’t that rich, what makes you think you gonna be faithful to her. Tell me that one and don’t give me any white boy talk.”
I turned toward her and said, “You want to know why I’m sure. You sure you want to know why I’m sure?”
“I’m sure,” she said.
I didn’t know. The only thought in my mind was something I heard in college at a frat party. I said, “Once you try black, you never go back.”
The black male with the fully figured woman said, “You damn right.”
“You mind your own business,” said the fully figured woman to her companion.
J stood up, grabbed my arm and said, “Let’s go before you get killed and I develop a guilty conscience. What was I thinking, thinking you knew how to act in public.”
J didn’t wait for me. She was headed out of Harvey’s as if the place was on fire. I knew she was overcome with emotion at my level of commitment. Most men, according the men’s magazines I read report that men have tough time with commitment. Not me. Once I met J, my heart stood still. I know I’m name dropping song titles, but I’m a fool in love. When I got to the door, J was half way to the Toyota. I hollered, “Stop in the name of love.”
J stopped and turned around, she said, “What!”
I kept walking toward her. When I reached her, I said, “I plead guilty by reason of being so deeply in love with you I don’t know what I’m doing. If love can cause insanity. Then I’m, guilty, guilty, guilty.”
“Oh, sweet Jesus, please help me,” pleaded J.