Learning How to Love: Chapter 6




May 26, 2012

I can’t believe he expects me to spend the weekend with him at my boss’s house. He’s so nonchalant about it, too, like it’s not a big deal for me to sleep over at my boss’s house who I literally just met 2 months ago. If he thinks he’s getting laid this weekend – he’s going to be in for a rude awakening. I just think it’s too much, too soon.

I’m no stranger to spending the night at a guy’s house. I once spent 2 weeks in New Mexico with Mr. Right. We cooked breakfast, we lounged, we explored, we smoked weed, drank beer – you know – the usual. I wasn’t scared of spending the night with another guy. I was scared of what would happen after Mr. Money and I spent the night together.

Does this mean we would be exclusive? Does this mean we have to start dating?
Does this mean I have to make you my boyfriend? 

Mr. Money is a natural salesman. If he were selling me a car, it would have been a best-in-class 4-door sedan with additional warranties and policies that I really didn’t understand or need. I’m sure he would have thrown in some free all-weather mats and a roadside assistance kit, too, just for flair. He doesn’t know how to take no for an answer and will convince you why you should say yes. Eventually, you will say yes.

He might think I’m playing hard to get, but I’m really not playing. I really am hard to get – even just to understand. I don’t have time for games; I invited Mr. Right for a summer in Humboldt and I’m pussyfooting around with another guy. This romance doesn’t feel authentic – it feels like it’s been built on a broken foundation waiting to crack open at any time. I haven’t been honest about Mr. Right, mostly because I feel a deep shame for having made those plans in the first place.

You can’t let your guard down around these heteroguys. Once you do, they’ll think they “won you over” as if you’re some sort of consolation prize promised to the bird who squawks the loudest. I’m no consolation prize; nobody worth keeping around wants to truly love me. But I only think Mr. Money wants me so bad because he can’t have me. Truth be told, I’m not really looking for anything serious, anyway.

I really do like how easy it is to talk to Mr. Money, though. He doesn’t make things complex; He accepts statements with ease and engages in great surface-level conversations. Being around him is so easy, too; I don’t have to change much about myself to make this work. I just keep things simple with him.

I heard this piece of advice once: “If their kiss doesn’t leave you mesmerized, they won’t leave you mesmerized, either.” Truth be told, I’ve kissed a lot of folks, and not many were lips worth bragging about, not even Mr. Moneys. His lips were timid but strong. The way he parted his mouth to let me inside was half-assed; I had to lead this kiss. I don’t think he’s ever learned to kiss anyone with a passion.

The lackluster kiss is hardly what struck me as odd; it was the apparent lack of understanding that what he delivered was indeed a bad kiss. In fact, he described the kiss as “amazing.” Yes, in fact, was amazing. I’m a great kisser with loads of experience. Mr. Money, however, kissed me like it was his first time; It was brief, dry, and a little awkward. Nothing short of a business email – I’m sure.

But he cradled my neck when he kissed me. Just the gentle touch of a young man sent chills up and down my spine. No one had ever caressed any part of my body like that. If he hadn’t done that, I would have never kept kissing him. I would have never stopped the first kiss he attempted and took control of the second kiss. I placed a hand on his cheek and guided his chin toward mine. I puckered my lips and gave him a soft and wet kiss with no tongue – the lingering kind that leaves you wanting more.

For the last week, he’s treated me like an absolute princess – not a Queen. A Queen is not scared, is sure of herself, and knows how to use her power. A princess – me – is spoiled, still learning how to wield power and is dependent on others. Mr. Money has taken me out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and ice cream dates all in the last 7 days.

I will admit, walking around town with a new dude holding my hand seems really weird. I told Mr. Money I’m not into public displays of affection, but I lied. I am actually terrified of Mr. Right showing up out of nowhere and starting trouble with me and my new friend. He’s not supposed to be in town for another week, but I still wiggle out of every arm-over-the-shoulder and awkward-hand-holding opportunity Mr. Money gets.

We did have one sleepover in this last week – let me rephrase that. After two hours of begging me to spend the night with him, I finally agreed to spend the night. Just one night (this was before I knew there would be a whole ass weekend). One weekday night of cuddling – that’s it. As long as we didn’t have sex, there wouldn’t be a risk for greater attachment, right?… Right?

But that was it – that’s what did it. When he held me, his body molded into mine and we stayed that way all night. In the morning, his roommates asked if I was able to sleep with his loud-ass snoring in my ear, and I said what snoring? You mean I slept through what sounded like someone choking all night? Fuckinaye. If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.

I keep telling Mr. Right that him coming to Humboldt is a bad idea – that I wasn’t thinking straight when I agreed to these terms. I hinted that I changed my mind and things weren’t going to work out. But his response was assuring me things would be fine and everything would work out as planned. He made it sound like we were going to start a life together – in Humboldt. Is that what I agreed to? In his “defense,” he couldn’t get a refund on his Greyhound ticket, so he had no choice but to come.

Erykah Badu – “Didn’t Cha Know” – Official Music Video

June 7, 2012

Before I knew it, the web of lies I spun had caught up with me. Not really, I had to come clean to both of them. I came clean to Mr. Money first – after all, he’d done for me he deserved to know the truth about what I did. Shortly after the weekend I spent with him – after we slept together, after we played house, after we fell in love – I broke it off.

“Listen, I don’t know how to tell you this,” I tell Mr. Money in a sad and soft voice. While watching the passersby on a park bench, I decide now’s the time to come clean. “Remember that guy from last month? The one who threw the fit in my dorm?”

“Yeah, your ex-boyfriend? The one who was an asshole to you?”

“Yeah, yeah. Him.”

“What about him? Did he contact you again?”

“Actually…he’s supposed to be my roommate this summer.” I look down at my feet and away from him. I can’t look him in the face right now. I don’t want to see his reaction. 

“What do you mean?” he asks nervously. “What do you mean roommate?”

“I mean, before I started dating you, he and I made plans to live here in Humboldt – together.” 

“Are you fucking serious right now?” he snaps at me.

“Yes, I’m serious.” I pause and let out a sigh. “Look…i’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. This wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I told him not to come. But he’s coming anyway.” My legs shake as I wait to hear his response. Part of me wants to get out of here as soon as possible and the other part of me wants to call Mr. Money right then and there and tell him to fuck off with his stupid non-refundable Greyhound bus ticket.

“So, what does that mean for us?”

“I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

He bites his lip, stares off into the sky, and doesn’t say another word. Suddenly, my heart aches, like I’ve lost a loved one; more like I just pushed my lover into a volcano. He didn’t deserve this. He deserves so much more; a better me.

I have to keep the promise I made to Mr. Right. I feel like an early 19th Century European middle-class white woman caught between a budding romance and her cruel and vicious husband. She can’t leave her husband because (1) she can’t prove he is unfaithful to her and (2) he’d probably hurt her if she tried. Here I am – 200 years later – anxious to leave an abusive relationship, even after experiencing healthy love. The details may have changed, but women are still expected to obey men, regardless of what they really want.

New Chapters are available to read every Wednesday @ 8 PM.

Learning How to Love: Chapter 5




May 10, 2012

“Can’t believe you’re graduating this weekend! You must be so excited,” I cheered. I’m genuinely moved when I see brown folks succeed; I feel like if they can do it, then I can do it.

“Yes! Yes, I am!” Mr. Money’s smile was so big, it could have walked off his face. “I’ve worked so hard for this. Brown people have to work twice as hard in this country to get ahead, so I’m glad I get to pave the path for my younger sisters.”

“That’s incredible. What are you doing after graduation? You gonna stay, or what’re the plans?”

I’ve only known Mr. Money for a few weeks. He’s been training me to take over his job once he leaves. He’s charismatic in the way he makes you feel important when you’re talking to him. The whole office – mostly the women – adores him. He’s got a perfectionist attitude, but I feel like there’s more to him than just work, school, and family.

“I’m working here in Housing for the Summer and then I’m moving back home to study to be a licensed financial advisor.”

Of course, he’s got it figured out. Nevertheless, I rejoiced, “Wow, that’s awesome! You know, ‘cause you actually have a plan,” I joked. 

“Since we’re both working here over the summer, I’ll see you around, yea? We should hang out,” he insisted.

Mr. Right is not supposed to be back in Humboldt for another couple weeks, so I have a little time to kill. “Yeah, totally. Hit me up whenever!” I remarked.

Mr. Money isn’t the kind of guy I would have paid attention to back home. He wears button-up shirts with Jordans and he’s snarky but in a funny, respectful way. He’s really flirty, especially with all the women in the office. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were dating one, or already had dated one. Besides his obvious love for shoes (which I respect), the only thing we have in common is that we’re from LA.

I can tell Mr. Money is really into me. His eyes glisten and gleam when they look at me and he can’t stop smiling when I’m around. Plus, my boss Glenda hasn’t stopped talking about what a great young man he is and how he still hasn’t found a “nice girl.” I think he got into her ear about liking me. It’s kind of weird since we all work together; but coworkers date, right?

Glenda’s the kindest boss I’ve ever had. She’s got kids our age, and they’re both in college, too. On the surface, she’s a middle-aged white woman living in a predominately white community. The only systemic struggle she’s had to fight is being a single mother and survivor of intimate partner abuse. That’s where we bonded; I needed a mom and she needed to talk to another survivor. I think that’s why she asked Mr. Money to train me, so we could bond, too. We call her White Mom.

When Glenda asked Mr. Money to walk me to my dorm last month, I felt grateful but embarrassed. The more questions he asked about Mr. Right, the more shame I felt. I didn’t want to tell my coworker why I was still fucking with this immature older dude who wasn’t good for me. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and face the truth; Mr. Money might actually one of those “nice guys” everyone keeps talking about – the good kind, not the weird kind.

Plus what if Mr. Right was still in my dorm? What was he going to do to Mr. Money? Beat him up for walking me home? I was scared shitless of that possible outcome. Mr. Money was packing decent muscles, but something tells me he wasn’t quite the hoodlum he thought he was in L.A. Mr. Right is a tall beefy sum’bitch; I was frightened of what he could have done to my new friend.

When Mr. Money dropped me off at my dorm, he lingered for a minute or two. Just before we stepped a few feet from my suite, I covertly surveyed the parking lot for Mr. Right’s car. There was no sign, so I let Mr. Money give me a hug and wish me well. When he hugged me, I felt safe. I felt like I could take deep breaths again. Why hadn’t I met you sooner? He grabs my shoulders and stares into my eyes with furrowed brows.

“You deserve better,” he tells me.

I look down, let out a long sigh and mumble, “I know.”

May 19, 2012

The summer here hardly feels like summer. I know it’s still Spring, but it’s still overcast 99.9% of the time and rains every other day. We’re lucky if we get a few hours of sunshine a week. Part of me wishes I was back home in the L.A. desert, but the majority of me craves independence. Working over the summer is the only way I’ll be able to afford the rent on my new apartment. And with my roommates gone for the summer, I’ll have to rely on my coworkers for support and having fun.

I took up Mr. Money’s offer to hang out, but since I’m not 21 yet, we’ll have to drink at his place. To his content, the Lakers are playing tonight so we’ll hang out and watch the playoff game. I’m not certain this is a date, or just some coworkers hanging out. I know he’s into me, but he doesn’t know I’m into him and I want to keep it that way. I’m not really eager to get involved with anyone right now, especially because I’m expecting a visit later this month.

I decide to look irresistibly cute anyway. You only live once, right? It’s a bit chilly, but I’d like to wear a floral stretch mini skirt because they’re comfortable to wear. I add black tights for the weather, a black and white Incubus band tee ‘cuz it’s my fave and my cheetah print Vans – because, duh, why the fuck not.

I split my hair down the middle and French braid each side. Shoulder-length hair doesn’t give me a lot of up-do options and this one is by far my favorite and the cutest. I grab one braid and pin it under the opposite side and do it again to the other side. This is as close as I get to traditional anything. I loosen up the braids a little to give it a textured look and spray down the back. Having my hair out of my face makes me feel bold and in control.

I’m ready to head out to Mr. Money’s place; But first – snacks. I can’t show up to the homie’s house empty-handed. I stop by the grocery store and pick up some chips and salsa. As I’m waiting in line to pay, I catch the eyes of a very handsome young man. He looks like a Vegan Veterinarian who promotes world peace and creates his own compost. He probably does that farm-to-table crap all these yuppies do. If I had the means, I’d probably farm-to-table, too.

Handsome Young Man decides to get in line with me and ask me what I’m up to.

“All dressed up for chips and salsa?” he inquires.

“Yea, I’ve got a hot date with some beers, so the chips and salsa help make a good impression,” I jokingly said. We both smile and examine each other’s bodies and faces.

I’m not sure how I’ve got the attention of two guys at this moment. I’ve been trying to get laid for at least 6 months and now that I’m not desperate for someone to notice me, suddenly I’m popular?

“I’m having a small party tonight. You should come,” he asserted. He writes his number down on my receipt and hands it to me. “Call me and I’ll give you the address; starts at 7.”

At this point, I’m thinking, “Is anyone else seeing this? Am I being set up? Ashton – is that you in the corner? Am I being Punk’d?” Handsome Young Man just gave me his number as I’m on my way to meet another dude whose – excuse my accent – been on my nuts since day one. The Universe took pity on my thirsty ass and sent fine ass blessings my way! I’m receiving, Universe, and thank you for being so gracious.

“I’ll see where the night takes me,” I coyly stated. I flashed the approval smile, gave his whole essence a once over, and bounced out of that grocery store like the heartbreaker I intend to be. I’m not going over a stranger’s house in the dead of night for a possible hook up. I’m a brown girl from L.A. in the heart of a racist county – I’ll pass, thanks.

Mr. Money’s place is a bit of a hike away from the grocery store, so I arrive a bit sweaty. To my surprise, I’m greeted by a very casual Mr. Money. He looks like he’s been cleaning his place all day. It’s Saturday, so he could have been cleaning from the break of dawn until now like most Mexican children have been trained to do. He’s wearing basketball shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt. I don’t think I gave him enough time to get ready. I look at my watch, and I’m 15 minutes late; I guess this isn’t a date after all.

Shockingly, I feel more at ease seeing Mr. Money in his Saturday cleaning clothes. He introduces me to his roommates, and we all drink and watch the game in his living room. This doesn’t feel so formal, so I don’t have to be on my best behavior; I can relax and be myself.

I hate the Lakers, so I’m talking shit. More specifically, I’m not a huge fan of Kobe and what he did to that young girl. I know the media lies, and he said he was sorry, but something about the whole situation doesn’t seem right to me. Mr. Money doesn’t get into the politics of who deserves praise, or forgiveness; he just appreciates the hard work it took for the man to get on top.

When the Lakers lose, he expects my sympathy. But instead, he gets my arrogance. He’s a team player, so he takes the L on the chin and pops open beers for the both of us. I wonder what kind of person he thinks I am to console someone when their team loses. Did he not get my whole -liberal-independent-feminist vibe?

I gotta hand it to him though – he’s surprisingly fun for a Business major. I thought those folks were all uptight and all about the money. At least I know I was wrong about one thing. He brings out a bong and packs it with some fire. Score! Homie has a 24 oz mason jar full of dank ass bud that’s supposed to last him through the summer. I guess we can stay friends.

We take some kitchen chairs and prop them on the lawn to soak in whatever sunrays are still left. Bong in one hand; Beer in the other.

“What made you want to come to Humboldt State…so far from your family?” I ask.

“I wasn’t going to get far staying in L.A. I was hanging around bad people, doing a lot of drugs and I needed a way out of all that. So I came here. Plus this was one of the only schools that accepted me,” he stated matter of factly.

He has a very mature nature. Like he’s seen the world crash, saved humanity and is now living life in a carefree, but responsible way. You all know the type, right?

“That’s crazy. That’s kinda why I came so far, too. I had to get out of the fucked up world I was living in,” I added. He didn’t really ask about me, but I felt inclined to share anyway.

As the sun sets, so does my hand-eye coordination. I’ve never drunk these beers before – IPAs or some shit? They’re a little bold, but I manage. They’re strong so drinking the 3rd beer while taking bong hits is taking its toll on my movement management. In order words, I’m cross-faded so I have to call it a night before I get sloppy.

Mr. Money insists on walking me home – oh, what the hell – I accept. He pulls on a red Southpole sweater that does absolutely nothing for his Saturday cleaning outfit. He probably should have put shoes on, but who am I to judge? About five minutes into the walk, he tries to grab my hand, but I tactfully hide my hands in my jacket and act like I didn’t just bust his move. He’s crazy if he thinks he’s going to make moves on me. We’re coworkers.

By the time we get to my place, we’re deep in conversation about who we are as people: what we believe in, what we want, what we hope for and what we dream of. I really needed someone to see me authentically and mirror that back. I really needed the company of someone genuinely interested in my personhood and not just what I had to offer.

When I was ready to head inside, he leaned in for a goodnight kiss, and I turned my cheek. My instinct was to turn away. I didn’t want to share a kiss with a coworker I may or may not be into. He’s a great listener, but I’ve got a dude coming over in 2 weeks. I can’t start something new while not having ended the thing I share with Mr. Right – whatever that is.

He took a step back and asked if he read the signals wrong.

“I’m just not ready to start anything new right now. You’re great, but I need time,” I explained. I didn’t want to give him any details; like the fact that I’m kind of single, but not really.

I omit the truth to keep my shame hidden, but I am being honest about not being sure about this guy. He’s got a good heart, a good head on his shoulders, he’s funny, he’s charming, he’s a college graduate, he’s stable, he’s responsible…why didn’t I accept his kiss?

The next morning he texts me bright and early, “Good morning, beautiful. Can I please take you out for coffee today? Maybe even a bite to eat?”

I take my time to text back. I don’t want to sound too eager, because I’m not. After 2 hours, I finally reply with, “I’m down. Just let me know when and where.”

New Chapters are available to read every Wednesday @ 8 PM.