Archive for August, 2009

Ex-Files: Guy 1 Part 4

A large woman wearing a peach blouse and gray slacks passed out in front of Tanya. Everyone in the tightly packed Koinonia Hall of Maranatha Church had their hands lifted in praise. Sweat was in abundance. A short balding guy at the door handed Tanya a folded program on plain white paper. Shouting was in no short supply, and John jumped right in.

“Thank you, Lord. Bless your name, Jesus! You alone are worthy. Hallelujah!” He yelled with his arms above his head and each hand cupped toward the ceiling. At least a third of the church was speaking in tongues. This was a far cry from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches that Tanya grew up in. She recalled a couple of women in the choir at Ward AME falling out. Her mother had to keep her developmentally disabled sister from laughing at the women as they danced about. Tanya often wanted to laugh, too. She’d even seen a couple of people speak in tongues at Brookins AME, but she had never witnessed an entire congregation praising at such an intense level.

Tanya wondered if the minister would present a well-prepared lecture like her father did or whoop and holler like the preachers in movies. She sat on the bright red cushion of the pew, and flipped through her program. She noted that there was not a single typo in the bulletin. After finding a bullet marked “Fellowship,” she became nervous about having to shake hands with people. Tanya hated meeting new people, but every church seemed to include this section. Since she was a preacher’s kid, when she visited churches with her parents, the minister would always ask the entire family to stand and be recognized. Tanya wanted to implode every time. Each year on the first day of elementary school, Tanya would vomit profusely at the thought of new people, a new teacher, and new kids.

John sat down next to Tanya. “Are you alright?” He asked. Tanya nodded. A tall charismatic woman got on the microphone to welcome everyone. The second thing she did was ask all of the visitors to please stand. Tanya remained seated. She did not want this type of recognition. John looked at her with his brow frowned. He was confused. “Aren’t you going to stand?” He asked.

“I’m good.” Tanya replied, shaking her head nervously. Just then an older woman with a white suit on came over to Tanya.

“Young lady, I don’t remember seeing you before. Please stand. We like to welcome our visitors.” The lady said smiling. Tanya stood reluctantly. She wasn’t going to disobey an elder. The crowd applauded harder. At this point, Tanya could have shriveled up and died. Just as she turned to sit back down, the woman on the microphone said, “We would like for all of our visitors to please remain standing while our congregation greets you!” Tanya rolled her internal eyes as the congregation broke into song and came over to shake her hand. Lots of people hugged her and some even gave her kisses on the cheek. Tanya thought this was the creepiest experience ever. She and five other poor creatures stood, with forced smiles, as the church members showered them with affection. Though it felt like forever to Tanya, it only lasted for one song. Everyone took their seats.

The church did a quick offering and then it was time for the message. A tall, dark, distinguished man with short black hair approached the podium after an excellent introduction. He wore a black suit with a white shirt and red tie. His voice commanded the attention of everyone in the room including Tanya. He wasn’t yelling, though. His voice was soothing. He sounded like a cross between a night time radio show host and a phone sex operator. Tanya listened for content. His well constructed sermon on “Listening in Relationships” was well received.

After church, John and Tanya dropped his mother off and headed west to eat at Tanya’s house. Her mother was cooking turkey wings, rice and gravy, and cabbage, and she did not want to miss it. Tanya had a habit of introducing the guys she dated to her parents too soon. She really wasn’t seeking their approval. John’s mother let him borrow the car, so he’d be having turkey wings, too — whether her mother was prepared for this or not.

On the ride to her house, Tanya reiterated to John that her family was strange. “My sister has Tourette’s syndrome, we have three cats, my mom is anti-social unless you’re into sports, and my dad is … Well, he’s my dad.” Tanya said unbending a paper clip she’d found a corner of her cluttered purse. They stopped at the light on Robertson and Pico. John leaned over and kissed Tanya on the cheek.

“We’ll be fine.” He said. “Where’s your mother from?”

“Omaha, Nebraska by way of Louisiana” Tanya replied, wondering what this had to do with anything.

“Cornhuskers. Got it. What college did she go to?” He asked next.

“UCLA and Pepperdine for undergrad and UCI for her masters program. Why?” Tanya asked.

“Bruins. Nice. Alright. What does your sister like?” John inquired.

“Music mostly. She plays a ton of video games, too.” Tanya said shaking her head. Tanya had outgrown video games several years prior and thought they were a major waste of time.

“Excellent.” John replied smiling. “I’ve got this. Your family is a piece of cake.”

Tanya looked at him admiring his confidence. She didn’t think he understood. Her nerves gathered in a small clump at each of her temples. She was moving a lot now — fishing for keys, applying lip gloss, and looking in the visor mirror. She instructed John to turn left on Prosser, and they were in front of her blue trimmed white house in no time.

“Whoa! Your parents are loaded!” John exclaimed as they parked in front of the house. “Why do ya’ll have so many cars?

“They’re all junk.” Tanya rolled her eyes. “… and we’re not loaded. My dad has a shopping problem — mostly at thrift stores and used car lots.”

“That Rolls Royce isn’t junk.” John said opening Tanya’s car door.

“Well, don’t expect any fine furniture or polished silverware when we get inside. Tanya answered. John admired Tanya’s teenaged curves as he followed her on the path along the well-manicured lawn. Tanya opened the large wooden door.

TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW

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Ex-Files: Guy 1 Part 3

Through her living room bay window, Tanya could see the sun beginning to rise. “Eight ‘o clock service is too freaking early!” She mumbled to herself running back in her room. She pointed her pink polished toes, and put her other size ten foot into one side of her sheer black stockings. As she wiggled to pull them up, she hopped over to jab a small gold hoop earring into each ear. “Mom, do you have a bible I can borrow or something?” she yelled.

“You’re really going all out for this one.” Her mom chuckled sarcastically from the other room.

“Mom.” Tanya answered rushing.

“I’m just saying.” Her mother, Marilyn, said walking into her room with a crisp black Holy Bible. “I have to drag your tail out the bed every Sunday to go to church with us.” She smiled at her daughter. “You look very pretty.” Tanya’s mom was always on her side. She never wanted to have a bad day with her daughter. A tall light skinned black woman with deep dimples and very kinky hair, Marilyn was a proud preacher’s wife. Even though she was quite antisocial, she wouldn’t miss a Sunday supporting her husband in his endeavors. “He must be really special.” Her mother said. “Have fun!” She shouted behind her daughter, who was already running out of the door.

Tanya had put her white Mercury Sable in the shop the day before to have the radiator examined for the third time that month. She didn’t mind walking down the suburban streets of Cheviot Hills to get to the Santa Monica Blue Bus, which would get her to John’s house. The number seven ran up and down Pico Boulevard every twelve minutes each day. As she approached the bus stop, she thought about dashing across the street for McDonald’s breakfast. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had an Egg McMuffin. Unfortunately, the bus was pulling up and she wanted to make a good impression on John’s mother. She hopped on the bus heading east.

The ride couldn’t have felt longer to Tanya. She glared out of the large chrome trimmed window at all of the landmarks she knew so well. When she passed the McDonald’s on Pico and Pointview, she knew she was almost there. She figured she’d get off on Hauser like she did when she went to Winnie’s house. She wasn’t sure if there was a Burnside exit. The middle aged latina lady sitting in front of her had to have been wearing at least two bottles of perfume, and there was a fussy infant, who’d gotten on the bus one stop after Tanya. They arrived at Hauser before she knew it.

Now Tanya wished the ride had been longer. Nervous, she stepped off of the bus quickly, remembering why she’d always feared bus doors. When she was two years old, her baby sitter had accidentally let the back door of an RTD bus close on Tanya before she could get off. Tanya screamed and was forced to ride to the next stop before other adults on the bus notified the driver. He carried two-year-old Tanya off the bus at the next stop and handed her to the sweaty sitter, who’d run all the way from the last stop.

Wiping the perspiration off of her neck, Tanya proceeded toward Burnside. She almost never sweated. “Get it together.” She said to herself. “She’s either going to like you or she’s not.” She was extra nervous since John had told her that the night before his mom asked if he and Tanya were having sex. He assured Tanya that his mom was just straight forward, and that he’d told her they weren’t. Even though they really hadn’t, Tanya hoped his mother couldn’t detect her freakiness with her mama senses.

Tanya’s red lips were the first thing that entered John and Sandra’s appartment — at least to Sandra they were. She was John’s single pious mother, who was actually from around the way. She looked at Tanya’s neatly ironed white blouse and, without a facial expression, admired the way it was tucked into her black knee length pencil skirt. Sandra didn’t really want Tanya to know what she thought. Her face didn’t look pleasant, though. “Hi.” Tanya said stepping into the house to take a seat on the black leather loveseat near the door. She wondered why John and his mother were dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Upset that she’d missed the casual dress memo, Tanya tugged at her skirt to make sure it covered her knees when she sat.

“Hello.” Replied Sandra, whose voice had a little of the same rasp as her son’s. “I’m Sandra, John’s mother.”

“I’m Tanya, John’s … friend.” Tanya said wishing she’d just told the woman her name instead of stumbling for a title.

“Are you hungry, John’s friend?” His mother asked smiling. She knew the ball was in her court once she could detect Tanya’s nervousness.

“Yes, ma’am. I rushed out without eating.” Tanya answered relaxing a bit.

“Come on in the kitchen, and you can make some instant oatmeal.” Sandra said in a welcoming voice. Tanya quickly sauntered into the tiny kitchen and looked down at the yellow linoleum floor. She held her breath as she looked around the cluttered room for the oatmeal. Sandra had taken a seat at the table in the family’s cozy breakfast nook, leaving Tanya to fend for herself. “You’re not scared of roaches, are you?” his mother asked.

Tanya sucked in a breath. Her eyes suddenly darted all around the light blue kitchen. She noted two medium-sized cockroaches gliding over the sink full of dishes. “No.” Tanya lied. She was not used to anything but ants and spiders, and she wasn’t too fond of those either.

“Oh, good.” said Sandra. “My daughter, Tashawn, is in Ghana right now. She went with a group from our church. Tashawn is usually our dishwasher. John and I do our best.”

She grabbed a small blue saucepan from the old-fashioned stove, and rinsed it out in the empty side of the sink. Adding a little water in it, she placed it on the burner. While the water was heating to boil, Tanya found the oatmeal and opened the package. She was trying to move as quickly as possible, so nothing would crawl up her leg. Now in full roach panic, Tanya fanned herself, and wondered where John had disappeared to. She left the kitchen to peek into the living room, where she found him flipping through her bible on the couch.

Tanya pushed her fears into her diaphram and dragged herself back to the stove. Her water was boiling, so she selected the maple brown sugar packet of Quaker Oatmeal from the variety pack and poured it into the water. “Can you cook, Tanya?” John’s mother asked from her seat.

“Hell yeah!” Tanya responded with vigor, completely forgetting where she was. She stirred the oatmeal, and turned off the fire. John, hearing this, looked at his mother, who was clearly appauled. Her bottom jaw was on the floor. Tanya was totally oblivious about her offense. She would hear about it later from John, though. “I’m done.” She called from the kitchen.

“There are bowls in the cabinet above the spice rack.” Sandra offered. When Tanya opened the chipped cupboard, roaches scattered. She quickly shut the door. Instead, Tanya decided to hover over the pot and eat directly from it. She took a spoon from the sink and washed it vigorously. After two bites of oatmeal, she poured the rest down the garbage disposal, and announced that she was full. The three headed down to the blue Thunderbird that would take them to King Boulevard, where the church was. John’s mother let him drive, but Tanya insisted that she sit in the back.

They arrived at the church. It sat in the parking lot of the Santa Barbara Plaza near the Baldwin Crenshaw mall. There were a lot of cars in the lot, but John found a parking spot immediately. It seemed like it was waiting for him. He opened his mother’s door first and then Tanya’s. Sandra dashed off into the building. “See you after church!” She called out.

“She’s not going to sit with us?” Tanya looked up at John.

“Oh, no. All of the youth sit together.” he replied. This made Tanya completely uncomfortable. She and her sister, Harmony, were the only youth at her dad’s church. She wasn’t looking forward to awkard stares and strained conversation. She wanted to go home. From her frowned brow and the way the corners of her mouth turned down, John could sense something was wrong. “You’ll be fine.” he said. “I’m honored to be walking in with you.”

“They’ll all be wearing jeans.” Tanya said. “They’re all gonna laugh at me!” she quoted the horror movie, “Carrie.” Just then two girls walked by wearing pink and gray Nike tennis shoes. Both were shorter than Tanya in her heels. They looked at her and snickered.

“You *are* a little over dressed,” he said, “but you look fine.”

Tanya rolled her eyes at him. “That was my ex-girlfriend, Tiffany. Don’t pay her any mind.”

“Which one?” Tanya asked.

“The one with the braids and the big nostrils.” he responded, massaging her shoulders briefly. John and Tanya laughed and walked into church.

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Ex-Files: Guy 1 Part 2

Tanya’s feet stuck to the chipping tan paint on her way up the narrow stairway. When she reached the top, she looked down at the wilted flowers at the bottom of the steps, and hesitated before raising her hand to knock on the black iron door.

“It’s open.” She heard in a deep voice before her clinched fist met the metal. She wasn’t sure if this was John, so the nervous flutters in her belly switched to sheer fear. Just as she was ready to bolt back to Winnie’s house, a tall silhouette appeared in the doorway. Tanya pulled her shoulders up and sucked in a breath. From the Hardaway shape of his head to each pearly tooth beaming through the tiny holes in the door, Tanya could make out that this was John. “Were you scared or something? Come in.” Tanya stepped onto the tattered brown carpet and spotted a worn black leather couch.

“Should I sit?” She asked nervously. John took her right hand and walked her around the large entertainment center to his room. The two sat on his neatly made twin sized bed. An old record player crackled “Wait for Love” off of the Luther Vandross Greatest Hits album at a volume low enough that the two could hear each other speak. John pulled off his plain blue t-shirt, and tossed it on the edge of the dresser. He laid back on the bed and pulled Tanya to his chest. Tanya’s breathing quickened. John told her to relax in the most soothing voice.

“I’m fine.” She said trying to convince herself more than him. She really didn’t want anything frisky to happen, but she wasn’t sure she knew how to prevent it.

“Do you have any talents?” John asked, hoping to get Tanya comfortable with him.

“I’ve been tap dancing since I was three, I can cross my eyes, and I’ve managed to survive life with a retarded sister.” Tanya answered plainly. John let out a belly laugh.

“What? What’s so funny?” Tanya asked confused.

“Wow! You just called your sister a retard. You don’t think that’s a little harsh?” He replied.

“I’m sorry — developmentally disabled. Is that politically correct enough for you? She really is slow. Retarded just means slow.” Worried that her tone may have gotten a little funky, Tanya followed with, “I’ll concede that it has negative connotations, though. I’m sorry if you were offended.”

“It’s just that you were so nonchalant. I mean I thought you had a regular sister that you just didn’t like. I didn’t get that you were serious, and she has a problem.” John lifted his hand and stroked Tanya’s wavy hair. “You did something different to your hair.” He noted, changing the subject.

“It’s just wet with conditioner and gel. I washed it this morning.” She wondered if he liked it, but she didn’t ask. Just then the song switched to “A House is not a Home.” John stood, and pulled Tanya up gently burying her face in his smooth hard chest. He smelled like Ivory soap. Swaying rhythmically from side to side during the intro of the song, he began to slow dance with her.

Tanya melted when John began to sing “…A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sittin’ there.” She closed her eyes and her head filled up with his perfect voice and floated out of the room. One of his strong hands gripped the center of her back while the other caressed her damp mushy curls. The warmth of his torso penetrated her arms. John continued his sweet serenade hitting every note, singing all of the runs, and belting out the nuances in the song.

When it was over, the room fell silent. Tanya didn’t let go, and neither did John. Eventually, the sound of a helicopter circling above the building propelled Tanya into reality. She slowly opened her eyes not loosening her grip at all. There was a digital clock on the wall that read four thirty in large red numbers. Tanya lifted her head. “Oh my gosh! I have to go.” She said.

“What’s the matter?” asked John.

“I teach at 5 ‘o clock!” responded a flustered Tanya. “I’m never late. Oh, I have to leave now. It’s right down Pico. I should be fine. My car is around the corner at Winnie’s.” She started toward the door. He followed. Tanya turned around to acknowledge John. “I’m sorry. I had a really great time. Your voice is beautiful. I’ll be here for church on Sunday morning.”

“Wait! Should I walk you?” asked John.

“Walk?” Tanya laughed running down the stairs. “I have to run. Bye.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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Ex-Files: Guy 1 Part 1

Tanya was sucking on dried plums covered with chili powder. Her hair was pulled back in a slick ponytail, and she was wearing her typical summer get-up — Daisy Dukes, rolled up displaying the full length and shape of her high yellow dancers’ legs and lipstick that was so bright red, her mouth looked like the Target logo. Winnie, a whole head shorter than Tanya but equally attractive, was eating a dill pickle and dreading going home to care for her four younger siblings. The young ladies were walking up Burnside Avenue, a street lined with duplexes and middle-class charm.

Tanya and Winnie didn’t attend the same school anymore, because Tanya had switched to King Drew High School of Medicine and Science the year before. They were trying to spend as much time together as possible before school started. Just as the two best friends were turning to head down Ridgeley Avenue, they heard R. Kelly’s “You Remind Me of Something” blasting from at least a block away. Tanya stopped and closed her eyes with a big smile on her face. Raising her sunglasses, Winnie asked in a motherly tone, “What are you doing?”

Ignoring her, Tanya threw her arms up concert-style, and yelled, “Heeeeyyyyy! That’s my jam!” She started singing. “You remind me of my car, I wanna ride it…” Glancing around to make sure no one was witnessing her hoochie friend, Winnie pulled her sunglasses back down and began to walk faster. A gray Altima pulled up. Tanya immediately stopped undulating and turned to bat her eyes behind her shades.

Winnie sighed. Already half a block away, she lowered her shoulders and returned reluctantly to rescue her often careless friend. As she approached Tanya, the driver, a caramel brother with an athletic build sporting a curly top, beckoned to her. “Excuse me. May I speak with you?” He asked, distracting her from pulling her friend away.

“You’re welcome to come and speak to me if you get out of the vehicle. I don’t lean in strange cars talking to guys.” She replied in her very proper voice while continuing to do the “Let’s Go!” eyeroll at Tanya.

Tanya was focused on other things. In the reclined passenger seat rested a tall young man with chocolate skin stretched over high cheek bones. Her eyes sunk into the dimple next to his lips, and then wandered over the waves of his bald fade. His well-defined arms were folded behind his head, and she noticed a golden cross peeking through the folds of his Orlando Magic jersey.

When the car first stopped, he said absolutely nothing. She found it kind of creepy. The street was empty, and there was hardly a breeze. The sound of her friend yammering in the background and her own hand rattling the plastic wrapper from her snack filled her brain. Tanya fidgeted with her ponytail as he stared. She looked down at her sandal clad foot, and quickly glanced back up struggling to maintain her gaze. After the longest awkard pause, he flashed a cocky smile under his faint Etch-a-Sketch mustache. “My name is John.” he said, his tenor voice slightly raspy.

“I’m Tanya.” She offered hoping he would say something next. Her neck was starting to sweat. She could no longer pretend to be distracted by Winnie, who was now fully engrosed in conversation with the charming driver. “How old are you?” Tanya asked.

“I’m seventeen. Is that old enough?” John responded deepening his grin.

Tanya chuckled politely and answered, “I guess. Where are you guys coming from?”

“We just came from playing some ball at the park. I had to stop. You’re beautiful.” He folded his arms in front of him and rested them in the car window.

“Thank you.” Tanya replied, shocked by his williningness to compliment. She glanced over at Winnie, who was now laughing hysterically and appeared to be really into the driver. “I thought you couldn’t speak at first.” Tanya said.

“I was just checking you out. So, is there a way we can keep in touch?”

“Well, you looked like you were undressing me with your mind, and yes, I have a phone number, but I’d prefer to take yours.”

“Do you promise to call.”

“I make no promises to strangers,” said Tanya gaining confidence for a moment. She now had one hand on her hip. She tucked the tiny package of salty plums into her large purse, and waited for him to hand her the number.

John pulled a receipt from the passenger door of the car, and grabbed a pen. Tanya’s head became light and her stomach fluttered at the thought that she’d have to get closer. John wrote quickly, and his hand seemed a little shaky. This was the first sign of discomfort she’d noticed from him. “Take your sunglasses off.” She ordered. “I want to see your eyes.”

“I can’t see *your* eyes either.” He answered. “Let’s take them off at the same time.”

The fact that removing his glasses was a big ordeal scared Tanya. Was he hiding some sort of insecurity? She thought he may have some strange eye disorder or something. She just snatched her own glasses off revealing her medium-sized bashful brown eyes. John removed his sunglasses slowly. Tanya found herself lost in the slanted almond shaped eyes set in his flawless bone structure. The two smiled seductively. “I’ll call you.” Tanya said. She backed away slowly, and turned to grab Winnie. The girls walked away with their arms linked discussing their newfound acquaintances.

Winnie, now in a much brighter mood, shared, “His name was Kevin.” Tanya tried to tune in for the full recap, but her mind was focused on when to call John. She wanted to run in Winnie’s house and call him right then. He had succeeded. She wanted to know more.

Tanya called John that night. He and his mother had just returned from Bible study at Maranatha Church. He was super excited about what he had learned that night. Even though she’d noticed the cross around his neck, Tanya didn’t expect this level of devotion. “Wow, you’re really into church.” She stated bluntly after his long monologue about finding peace from within.

“Are you not?” He asked. The words swam around Tanya’s head like lint making its way to the bathroom drain. She bit her lip. Her memory concentrated on the lines of his arms, the sway of his chest. An elemental hunger for his touch pushed at the inside of her teenaged pelvis, but her social awkwardness held her sometimes salacious tongue still.

After brief silence, Tanya responded, “My dad is a minister.”

“That’s not exactly what I asked you. Do you enjoy going to church? Do you get anything out of it?”

“I go.” Tanya answered evading the question. She sat up in her bed and turned down the KJLH that had been humming in the background.

“Maybe you should come to church with me next week instead of your dad’s church.” John offered.

“I’m not sure that it would make much of a difference, but okay.”

TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW

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Ex-Files

I haven’t been around the block, but for a woman who’s approaching thirty, I’ve had my fair share of handsome dudes, lovers and manfriends. While I can’t say that any of them were similar, one common thread is that they all treated me kindly.

As ground-worshipping as they were, they’re not here today. I’m married to some other guy. There are complicated reasons for that, so I’m digging into the past. I hope that my shovel uncovers both behavioral patterns and selection patterns.

I’ve heard that poor pattern recognition is common among the species. I figure if I analyze the data, recognize the pattern and alter my choices, then I should be fine, right? We’ll see…

Tune in for gentleman number one tomorrow.

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