“The early bird catches the worm; a stitch in time saves nine. He who hesitates is lost. We can’t pretend we haven’t been told. We’ve all heard the proverbs, heard the philosophers, heard our grandparents warning us about wasted time, heard the damn poets urging us to ‘seize the day’. Still sometimes we have to see for ourselves. We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep today’s possibility under tomorrow’s rug until we can’t anymore, until we finally understand for ourselves like Benjamin Franklin meant. That knowing is better than wondering, that waking is better than sleeping. And that even the biggest failure, even the worst most intractable mistake beats the hell out of never trying.” – Meredith Grey
Back in 2000, I had a boyfriend nothing serious, not even a real boyfriend in the sense of the word. We had dated on and off thru college, and even played around with the idea of getting married, and living happily ever after. Well he decided to grow up and get a job some states away. I wasn’t ready to relocate so we toyed around with the idea of having a long distance romance, until I was ready to be where he was. I lived in North Carolina. The boyfriend lived elsewhere. We were good. And then I met RAM by accident.
I was new to the city, moved here to get a teaching job, knew no one other than the family members that were already in the city, and a few areas surround Charlotte. I befriended a guy, Tony, who lived in my apartment. Tony was a Charlotte native. He dutifully agreed to take me under his wing and make sure I got a sense of the city without getting myself maimed in the process. Tony was also the only black guy who lived on my side of the building. We hung out most weekends. That’s what we were doing on Saturday night uptown in the Queen City. We were supposed to be meeting up with his cousin.
I’d just followed Tony to the basement of this little hip-hop club when I spotted a man. He was so very much my type. I was into pretty boys . Said stranger looked over at me. I smiled; he smiled back. I don’t know what came over me, but I walked up to him, and we began to dance.
After a few songs, I was compelled to do my girlfriend duty and blurt over Biggie’s “Hypnotize,” “I have a boyfriend, you know?” There it was on the table. I’d let him know I was not on the market. He looked directly into my eyes as he spoke more into me than to me. My monogamy censors went crazy at this clear threat as he responded, “It gets cold in Charlotte.” Then he smiled, a perfectly imperfect thing that made my heart go thump-thump.
Three hours later, I left the dance floor. I’d sweated out my dress and my hair. I didn’t want to be caught looking crazy when the lights came on. I hadn’t even asked the stranger for his name, and we hadn’t had any real conversation other than my declaration that I was unavailable to date. But I knew I wanted to know him, likely in the biblical sense. I thought about my boyfriend and decided it would be best for my relationship if I carried myself home without having a way to contact this new, smiling, dancing man.
I thanked the stranger for a wonderful night, excused myself, and followed Tony to the door. Then my song came on. It was “One More Chance.” I scurried back to the floor for one more dance with the stranger, then left as soon as the song was over. Tony was waiting after all. Standing on the corner with him, looking for a cab with its light on, I asked about his night. I hadn’t seen Tony since we’d walked into the club.
“Did you see your cousin?” I asked.
“Who? RAM”? He laughed. “I saw him. Didn’t get a chance to speak with him, though.”
“He was busy,” Tony explained.
Tony laughed again.
“So why didn’t you say anything?” I prodded.
“You wanted me to interrupt you?”
It took a moment, but I got it. Ohhhhhhhh! That would be the sound of light dawning above my fluffy- haired head.
He gave me the you-cannot-be-that -naive look. Ooh, but I was.
RAM and I became the greatest of pals. Hung out every weekend at the movies and various restaurants. We talked on the phone most nights, mostly about nothing, sometimes just breathing into the phone while we did other things.
The only giveaway that we weren’t completely platonic was his greeting, a hug that was a little too tight, then a smack of his lips right on my cheek that lingered a little too long and was a little too close to my mouth to be just a friend. Me? I had to bite the insides of my cheeks to keep from grinning with all thirty-two every time I met up with him.
Because I was convinced that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I told my boyfriend about RAM, my newfound NC friend. Of course, he wasn’t too happy to hear about it, but I assured him, “There’s nothing going on.” It was the God’s honest truth.