Things started out pretty G-rated.
Derek invited me over to his place for dinner. He made rockfish, roasted rosemary sweet potatoes, and garlic broccoli.
But things turned up a little as soon as we finished eating and decided to watch “something” on Netflix in his bedroom. We didn’t get past the menu before our PG rated kissing turned into PG-13 making out.
I almost never wear dresses. Like, never. Only maybe for special occasions, which really rarely ever require dresses for the types of things I go to. But that evening, for maybe some unconscious reason, I decided to wear a dress to have dinner with Derek in his apartment.
So, when he slowly slid his hand up said dress while half of his body was flanked on top of me, it was very easy for him move us into some R-rated action pretty quickly. As we kissed, he continued to slip his hand up my leg and past my panties, where he stopped on the perfect place to begin massaging with the perfect amount of pressure and pace.
He was so patient and exact in his knowledge of what his was doing to me. At one point, he even stopped kissing my neck in order to look at me as he continued this prestidigitation.
I was so lost in the pleasure that I’d completely lost track of how long he’d had me literally wrapped around his fingers. But just when I thought this couldn’t get any better, I felt his middle finger easily slip inside of me, while his thumb continued taking care of work outside.
I’m certain a tear left my eyes at one point. But knowing how close I was to exploding, he pulled his hand out.
I quickly opened my eyes to see what was going on, only to find him staring right back at me. He leaned in and kissed me again, but only for a brief moment before he stopped again. This time, he lifted himself up just a bit and leaned over to the nightstand, opened the top draw, and retrieved something without closing it.
He showed me the signature wrapper of an ultra thin condom with an ancient Greek soldier on the front. He handed it to me as he took off his shirt.
I looked at the condom in my hand, and I looked at the chocolate covered six-pack coming back toward me. This time, his kisses started on my thighs, as he stirred his way up, leaving a trail with his lips along the lower part of my body. And just when he wrapped his hands around the band of my panties, preparing to pull them down, I remembered…
“Mm. Wait. Wait. Stop—”
“What? What is it?” he asked, almost afraid that he had offended me in some way.
I sat up, trying to gather myself—letting the blood flow back to my lower extremities.
“What? What’s wrong?” he asked.
He kept maneuvering his head to try and make eye contact with me as I looked everywhere but at him.
“It’s just… I can’t. I just realized that I gotta go,” I said. I pushed him away, and turned and jumped off the bed. “I forgot something. I gotta do something right now. Important.”
Without looking at him, I could still see that he was sitting up on his knees, staring at me with a grimace.
I quickly hurried out of the room.
“Kenya. Kenya, would you wait, please?”
But I kept walking.
“What do you have to do right now? Right this minute?” he asked, following me into the living room, where I retrieved my purse from the couch where I had dropped it next to my coat when I came in.
“So, you’re not going to tell me what’s wrong?” he asked.
“Derek, I just… It’s important. I have to go, okay?”
Still confused, he stood there watching me with that same
“Something with music?” he asked.
And although it wasn’t music related at all, I said, “Yeah. Yeah, it is. It’s like hella important and I almost forgot. I’m sorry,” I said, very insincerely.
He watched me go to the door, open it, and leave.
I stood just on the other side for brief moment, thinking that he was going to come after me.
I had avoided Derek’s place for this very reason. I had avoided late nights with him, alone, movies in the dark in his bedroom, back massages on his bed, making out while wearing dresses…
Until tonight, I had avoided all of this because: I had been avoiding telling him… that I had never actually… done any of this. I had never done it before.
+ + +
+ + +
Adulthood is one of those things that kind of sneaks up on you. It happens the moment you’ve accumulated more debt than your parents are willing to help pay—some time after the start of matriculation, but before legally being able to purchase alcohol. By the time it happens, most of us are way too overwhelmed to even enjoy what we said we couldn’t wait for all those years—to be a grownup.
“Five more minutes. I just need to put a load of clothes in the machine,” Ty said, rushing back and forth from her bedroom to the bath to the other room, as J and I continued to wait for her.
I had, what some would call, the “patience of Job,” (as you might already imagine, given what I just told you about me), but J had become a bit fidgety as we waited. Perhaps, her patience had already been tested on the elevator ride up to Ty’s apartment when the rambunctious 5-year-old of a neighbor pushed every button between 2 and 8, making us stop on every floor on the way up.
So now, she strolled Ty’s place, observing random things like she was in a museum, when she’d been in this apartment hundreds of times already.
“Are the machines in-unit or is there a laundry room in this building?” she asked, just as Ty was quickly passing by again.
“In-unit. Why?” Ty responded.
And J shrugged. “You just don’t see that in older buildings much. I like this place. What does it go for?”
Ty shrugged. “Rent controlled. It’s been in my family for years. My aunt offered it to Renee and I when I moved to DC, but he didn’t like it.”
“How could he not like it?”
“Well, he thought we should buy instead of renting. We actually had a pretty well-thought out plan…”
And Ty went on explaining to J what that post-nuptial plan was before things had gone awry.
See? As an adult, you find yourself talking about adult things, like the price of apartments in upper northwest, marriages that didn’t work despite your hard work… Then you look up and realize you’ve been doing this whole “adult” thing far too long to suck at it this much.
“Now it just… It feels like there should be more to it than this,” Ty concluded.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
She looked up, obviously thinking to herself, How should I say this?
“I’m tired of feeling like I’m just along for the ride. I should have more control in my life.”
“What she means is: even her fucking rent is controlled,” J clarified. “Me? I’ve never taken on any real responsibilities or commitments. And shit, you still live at home with your father.” She stopped and looked at us both, back and forth, before saying, “It’s time all of us started taking shit seriously.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like…” And she thought and thought… “Shit. I don’t know.”
Ty looked at her and said, “I know exactly what you mean.”
“You do?” I asked, still confused.
“Yes!” Ty said. “It’s like… You don’t feel like life is just happening to you and that you’re not who you want to be?” she asked me.
“Well… there’s always time—”
“No!” she said, panicky, cutting me off. “There’s not! There’s no time!”
I was taken aback by her passion about this. But I can admit that I saw their point. Outside of being able to say “twenty” before the other numbers in our ages, all of us were still just kids with various size bank accounts.
That night, after a 10 pm screening at E Street Cinema of some indie movie none of us could remember the name of, I sat on my bed with my computer on my lap, thinking about Derek.
I looked at my cell phone sitting on my bed beside me. The adult thing to do would’ve been to call him, explain why 24 hours ago, I was escaping his apartment like it was on fire.
I picked up the phone. I even scrolled to his name on the recent calls list. But I still didn’t know how to explain to him that the woman he’d been dating all this time was, in fact, still just… a little girl.
+ + +
+ + +
I walked into January’s office to find her laughing and talking with slender white guy, whose face I couldn’t see because his back was to the door. Her secretary had sent me in, but I felt like I was interrupting something important, so I turned to leave before I might overhear something not meant for my ears.
“Oops. Sorry. The secretary told me to go in, but—”
“No. No. It’s okay,” January said. “I told her to send you in. I want you to meet someone. Jacques, this is my good friend, Kenya Shaw. Kenya, this is my other good friend, Jacques David.”
“Good friend? Is that all I am to you now?” Jacques said, as he stood up and start toward me to shake my hand.
My mouth hadn’t closed since he turned around after I made my presence known. This was Jacques David. The Jacques David.
“I know who he is,” I said to January as Jacques smiled while shaking my hand.
“You two’ve met before?”
“No,” I said. “I just know who Jacques David is. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. David.”
Jacques David was a striking man, somewhere between 50 and 60, but who probably looked better now than he did when he was 30. He was slender and not very tall, but not very short. His suit, obviously, wasn’t off the rack, as it was almost as perfect as the thick, brown mane atop his head.
He was too effeminate to mistake as straight, but not so flamboyant that you could hear him coming. His last name was pronounced “Dah-veed,” but I wondered if that was the real way to say it, or if it was something he added for extra panache.
Playfully flattered by my recognition of him, he smiled and said, “I guess in being the publicitor, I am therefore publicized.”
“Jacques, Kenya runs her own indie record label right here in DC,” January announced.
“January never mentioned that she was friends with arguably the greatest publicist of all time. You’re on my bucket list of people to work with. I’m going to hire you one day,” I told him with certainty.
“Well. You are just a little firework, aren’t you?” he replied, laughing. Then he looked to January, “Listen. I’ll see you later this week. I need to get back across town. These stories aren’t going to sell themselves. Kenya: a pleasure.”
He took my hand and raised it up to his face to kiss my knuckles before he left.
I looked back at January with my mouth still open.
She waved off my need for explanation as she retook her seat behind her desk.
“Jacques and I have been friends for ages. And as you already know, he is very good at what he does. His fucking retainer is more than most people make in a year.”
“So why did you want me to meet him?”
Without looking at me, she said, “It’s good for people to be able to place a face with a name.”
To which I concluded, “So you’ve been talking to him about me?”
She didn’t dignify my question with a proper response. She just said, “Listen, kiddo… I called you here for another reason.”
I came over to the chair facing her desk and took a seat as she swiveled the computer monitor around so that I could see the screen. On it, played a commercial for the popular kids television show, A Lion’s Pride.
An hour later, I was playing this exact same commercial for Tk, while sitting in the basement/studio of his house, as I explained: “They want to market the show with a ‘hipper’—their word, not mine—a hipper appearance, so they’re doing this huge campaign for it. This is a really popular program—”
“I know. I’ve seen it,” he said.
I looked at him without verbally asking him why he’d seen the program.
“I have a kid, remember?”
I’d forgotten all about baby Isa, his two-year-old son.
“Yeah. Sure,” I said with playful condescension, implying that his son wasn’t the reason he’d watched the show. “But you see how cheesy the ads are? My friend, who’s overseeing this thing, suggested that they approach it with more authenticity. So they want a real hip-hop artist to do it.”
I was hoping Tk would be excited. Maybe not as excited as I was, but at least show some sign acknowledging how incredible this opportunity was that I was presenting him with. But he just sat there staring at the floor as if he was putting some serious thought into the idea.
Then he smiled and chuckled before saying, “Look, I know I’m not exactly a gangsta rapper, but have you even thought about what doing a cartoon rap would do to my street cred?”
Surprised at that use of words, my eyebrows went up before I asked, “Your street cred?”
“I’m just sayin’,” he said.
“Look at it like this,” I said, showing him a video of kids of all ages enjoying A Lion’s Pride toys. “How many rappers get the opportunity to branch out into markets like this? Don’t just think about what it is. Think about what it could lead to. Imagine doing big time ads like Dr. Dre.”
“Look, I’m not turning it down, I’m just… I’m trying to picture this. I never thought about…” And he started laughing. “Doing songs for cartoons. How much does something like this even pay?”
“We haven’t gotten that far yet. Whatever it is, we can use it,” I reminded him.
He continued staring at the screen as he thought about all of this.
“I thought you’d be more excited, I mean, it’s a great opportunity,” I said.
He took a deep breath. “I am. And, yeah, it is,” he admitted. “Still. Let me think about it.”
“Okay. But they’re moving fast so—”
“I understand,” he said, patiently, almost as if he wanted to calm me down. “I still just… need to think about it.”
Meanwhile, two girls and two boys, all between the ages of 12-14, sat with their guitars, facing Lucas, who was sitting facing them in the front of the room. Chuck Levin’s music instruments store was where Lucas worked as of two weeks ago. Part of his job included teaching guitar to students after school.
I stepped into the room and stood in the back, so not to interrupt his lesson.
“Okay, so when it comes together, it will sound like this,” he said, as he began strumming the guitar.
The kids all looked back and forth at each other, smiling in amazement.
When he finished, he happened to look up and see me standing in the back.
“Alright, so, tomorrow we’re going to add onto it,” he said, as he stood up.
They all began putting their guitars in cases, preparing to leave, as Lucas placed his on the floor before coming over to greet me.
Smiling, I said to him, “You know I had to see this for myself.”
He smiled, bashfully.
“They say you get better by teaching,” I encouraged.
“They also say, ‘those who cannot do, teach,’ he added, with his normal tinge of cynicism.
“Hey, listen,” I said. “I know you would rather not be doing this, but just think: it’s better than a 9 to 5—”
“No, I know. It’s cool,” he said. “It just… makes me have more appreciation for my gigs. You don’t know how much I’m looking forward to that brunch show in Baltimore Sunday.”
Which reminded me… “Yeah, about that. I’m not going to be able to go up there with you—”
“It’ll be fine. Just, when you get there, check in with the manager,” I said. “They’ll show you where to set up. You know how these things work—”
He walked away, staring at the floor, becoming more panicked with each step. “But, but I don’t know how to collect the money! You know I’m not good with stuff like that—like, asking people, ‘where’s my money?’ And then what if there’s paperwork and shit to like sign? Plus, what am I supposed to do if something goes wrong?”
To stop him from continuing, I grabbed his shoulders so that he could look at me. “Lucas, what can possibly go wrong?”
And his eyes got wide. “The fact that you just said that? Means plenty. Plenty can go wrong.”
He stepped out of my grasp and continued pacing. I stared at him, hoping that he was joking about this.
“I’m not doing it,” he said.
“What?” I asked, hoping that he was joking.
“I’m not going. I’m not doing the Baltimore show. Not by myself.”
But he wasn’t joking. I was stunned. I knew that he had grown attached to me—almost too attached—but this was just ridiculous.
And just to make sure I understood, he reconfirmed, “I’m not going to Baltimore without you.”
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