you started crushing on the cute, funny guy who was on the verge of dropping out and got arrested last week. At 16, there was always someone to fall in love with.
Over time, as the social hardship of being black in such a white region began to grate on me, the whole adult dating process started to wear me down too. I thought that if I were prettier or white I might find a husband more easily. I lost some of my confidence, some of my smile, because I thought something had to be wrong with me. As evidence, I once took the fact that the 60-year-olds in the halfway house next door flirted with me. One day, the short greasy faced one with rheumy eyes and a mouthful of dentures stopped me and asked me out. He talked like a frog was in his throat. He was always wearing a suit and tie and usually wearing a felt tip hat. Tufts of permed and died black hair peeked out from the hat’s brim. Before he extended his offer, he explained to me that I was barely good enough for him. “You look all right,” he said. “I’ve seen better, but you’ll do.”
I knew that old guy was full of shit, but by the time I hit 30, I had frustrated myself enough to realize that something had to change. Dating stressed me out and it wasn’t fun. Accepting that I didn’t know how to look for a husband, I gave up on the goal. I didn’t want the drama that can come with having a baby daddy, so I decided that it would be best for me to build the family I wanted through adoption. I would need to make a lot more money to feel comfortable with those responsibilities. I was a struggling writer, but that was a challenge I could accept and likely accomplish. So I took it on.
Around this time, something interesting happened. Two men that I actually liked hanging out with showed up in my life at the same time. Neither wanted to get married to anyone at that point in their lives and made that abundantly clear. But they were smart, funny, attractive and liked to take me out for fun. It was innocent and felt good to be pampered. I let them do just that.
A Birthday Surprise
Around 9 pm on the evening that I was supposed to attend the birthday party with my friend, I was having serious doubts about whether I should go.
Home was so comfortable.
I didn’t want to pay a cover charge.
I didn’t want to drink.
Reading seemed more fun, but I had already flaked on one friend that day. I couldn’t flake on two and expect to remain worthy of friendship. Plus, this friend had never been to Luka’s and I had long said she should. It was a new restaurant, bar and club – one heralding another wave of Oakland gentrification – that served some decent, if expensive, Belgian food and beer. The interior was decorated like a French bistro, with ceramic tile floors, mirrored bar, and lots of fancy woodwork, classy features by downtown Oakland standards. The beers were good – I had my first Chimay there — but the club side was better. The DJs knew how to spin, some of the best I’d heard in the Bay Area. I told my friend I’d be there.
When the appointed hour approached – I think it was 10 pm – I was already wearing my outfit, the same one I’d been wearing all day: a vintage t-shirt emblazoned with Felix the Cat, saying “BORING!,” a pair of GAP jeans, some big copper earrings and some sneakers. I slipped a leather hat on over my dreadlocks, because my dreads were too disheveled to wear loose. Then I took a few seconds to apply eyeliner, mascara and lipstick and left my apartment for the 15-minute walk to the club.
When I arrived, I found my friend sitting down in a corner booth, at the edge of the dance floor. Not only had she found a seat, it had a great view. I sat beside her and ordered my drink. She said the birthday party was for two people whose birthdays were close together and that she hadn’t yet seen either one of them. As we relaxed with our drinks and waited for everyone else to arrive, I danced in my seat.
A few minutes later, when I was sipping my drink, I noticed that she was waving at someone. When I looked up, I saw a tall, at least 6-feet, stunningly good-looking man with broad shoulders walking towards our table and staring at me. Knowing that I was about to meet him, my heart started beating fast.
He looked like a multiracial California person, with yellow-brown skin that could have been East Indian, Ethiopian, or Middle Eastern as easily it could have been African-American. I could see that he had close cropped salt-and-pepper hair, a square jawline with an aquiline nose and deep-set eyes. He was wearing