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Posted on 2004-10-08 07:19:33 by Denver

Seed


I'm meeting her at 5pm but she will probably be late. In my experience
women are usually late for the first date. I will have time to drink a
beer, relax, and observe the characters in the bar. And I will also be
showing her the respect of being there at the agreed upon time. With the
advent of cell phone technology it has become common to delay traveling to
a meeting and to call and make an excuse for your lateness. These phones
have obviated the idea of punctuality. People now have an ambivalence
about showing up on time- yes, promptness is respectful to the person
you're meeting but on the other hand, you don't want to appear over eager.
You never hear anyone whisper enviously "Oh, she's soooo prompt." The
latecomer also wants to communicate that they have very important things
to take care of before they meet with you and that your meeting is an
"interruption" in their itinerary. In the business world, the last person
to walk into the meeting is usually the most powerful. The latecomer gets
to make "an entrance". As a theater person I recognize the symbolism of
this gesture and try to diffuse it by always bringing reading material
(today I have brought The Economist) so that I can appear not to be
"waiting" (with all of the attendant metaphorical reverberations) for
their entrance but instead transform their late arrival into an
"interruption" of my own activity.

The woman I'm meeting, Cecile, is tall, slender, and dark skinned. She has
a beautiful smile and short, soft, braided hair. Two weeks ago I stood on
the dance floor at Niagara at 2am and spied her and another tall black
woman enter a seething crowd of white, twenty-something year olds. At my
friend's urging I approached her and we had a drunken conversation of
which I don't remember too many details except that we discussed the
culture of the borough of Queens, drank from the same wine glass, danced
in each other's arms, and kissed on the lips. At four am we stood
enwrapped in front of a mural of Joe Strummer on the corner of 6th and A,
my hands tracing the muscles along her spine, her phone number scribbled on a napkin in my pocket.

Cecile works out of town frequently. We exchanged voice messages and
finally arranged an evening of sober conversation at 5pm at the Lotus Club
tonight.
It is 4:59 pm and I'm almost at the intersection of Stanton and Clinton
when I pass these two Hispanic girls twelve or thirteen years old. One is
short and thin. The other is heavy set. They are standing in a pile of
loose gravel that has been sprayed over the sidewalk and gutter- debris
from an ongoing construction project. I am wearing a bright lime colored
dress shirt untucked over a pair of black jeans.
"Caw. Caw."
The girls are cawing at me. I ignore this and continue down
the street toward the bar.
Pum
A small pebble hits the back of my ear lobe.
Pum. Pumpumpumpumpum.
Pieces of gravel are ricocheting off my head, back, arms, and legs. I turn
and see the girls laughing and trailing me ten yards away.
I make several more strides toward the intersection when a spray of tiny
rocks comes cascading down around me. I am at the end of the sidewalk
waiting for the light. The girls are behind me camouflaged by hipsters strolling to their next appointment. As I cross the intersection I wonder why it is that I am being persecuted.
Why was I selected? I can only figure that my shirt and my height resemble
a brightly colored lure for teenage female predators. My foot is on the
doorstep of the bar when I turn my head and see that my attackers have
followed me across the street, and the heavier one, with dark curls and
long braids falling down her back, is right on my ass, fingers dripping
gravel.

I swing around.

"You know, you really shouldn't throw rocks at people." I say.

"SCUSEME?" she shouts in my face, "DO I KNOW YOU?"

"No. You don't. That's why you shouldn't throw rocks."

"And who R YOU?"

"Doesn't matter who I am. You shouldn't do that."

"Maybe you should go home to yo mammy."

"Maybe you should go home." I snap back.

"You should go home."

"You should go home."

"You should go home."

"You should go home."

Out of the corner of my eye I see Cecile walking up to the bar. Right on
time.

"You should." the girl barks at me.

"You should." I volley.

"You."

"You."

"You."

"Bye." I say to her and turn and face Cecile, who is staring at us.

"Denver?" she asks hesitantly.

"Hello Cecile."

We kiss awkwardly, on the cheek. She is more beautiful than I remember,
with question marks in her eyes.

"Who's that?" she asks.

"That's my little rock throwing friend."

"Ah."

"Is that your mammy?" The little fat girl yells at me.

"Yeah, my mommy." I mutter at her.

"Take him home Maaamy!" she yells with glee as I escort Cecile into the bar.

The Lotus Club is crowded for a Sunday afternoon. I find us a table by the
windows, glancing nervously through the glass as we settle into our seats.
Astral Weeks is playing on the sound system. She is wearing a green
striped top with jeans and high heels. Her hair is short and bursts forth
in a spray of thin brown braids. I can remember the thicket of people on the dancefloor and threading my fingers through her coils.

"How are you?"

"I'm good," she replies, "How are you?"

"Oh." I think back to the anticipation of this date that I held inside all
day. Before the rock throwing incident. Before the angry couple arguing on
the subway. Listening to R. Kelly in my living room. Trying on different
shirts. The memory of my fingers on her skin. The moist kisses. The bass
thump and the tinkle of keyboards.

"I'm good."

"What was that all about?"

"Oh. With the girl? I'll tell you what happened. You want something to
drink?"

"White wine, please."

I get the drinks and then tell her about the girls. She tells me about her
career and a short history of her life growing up in Jamaica and moving to
Brooklyn at age nineteen with three of her sisters. Her parents are still
in crime ridden Kingston. I am so overeager to impress her that I use the
Y word twice, in describing my lateral journey from theater manager to
grad school at that priggish Ivy league institution to office temp at
Citigroup with writerly ambitions. She asks me what I want to be doing in
twenty years. She asks me about marriage and children. I tell her I want
one or two kids and marriage seems like an attractive prospect. She wants
to know where I desire to live eventually. I don't have an answer for
this; Jamaica? Kentucky? Brazil? I cannot tell if she wants to flee New
York within the next five to ten years like most of the women I've dated.
Then she asks me if my parents would have a problem with me marrying a
black woman.

"They're hippys" I say, "They wouldn't have a problem." And then I add, as
if I had given too pat an answer to this thorny issue of race relations in
America,
"My grandparents, on the other hand, they're from a distant generation."

After I have clarified this a bit more she asks me how I feel about
homosexuality. She tells me that West Indian culture is very homophobic
but that she has come a long way in dealing with this. I do not elaborate
on my own views except to say that I do not have any desire to kiss a man.
But then I mention the incident with Armando.

"How far did it go?" she asks.

"Well he kissed me." Even as I say it I feel tiny dagger pricking my gut.

"And that was it?"

"Well, I, he tried to get on top of me."

"And then?

"He tried to get my pants off."

"He did?"

"Yeah. I don't have any desire to be anally penetrated."

This is kind of a non sequitur. I am trying to conclude this conversation
without appearing to slam the door. I search for a transition but my mind
is scanning a vast, empty network.

Tap Tap

Pebbles bounce off the window next to my face. I look out and see the
little girls hiding behind a phone booth across the street. One of them is
pretending to make a phone call.

"So where do you like to hang out in the city?" she asks

I mention some bars, some dance spots, a few restaurants in Chinatown.

"On the weekends," she replies, "I like to go to dinner in Soho - Mercer
Kitchen, Canteen, Aqua Grill."

I wince at the mention of Aqua Grill - the pathetic week-long audition
there for a waiter job during my unemployment, then my mind circles the
culinary routes of my own downtown travels - the two dollar Indian cab
stand meals, the twenty cent dumplings, the three dollar Thai sandwiches.
And I try to remember that I like eating dinner in expensive restaurants.

We both mention that we have absolutely no expectations for any romance.
She shares some of her bad date stories including the lech who stared at
every other woman in the restaurant on their first date, and the
cheapskate who left her with a huge bar tab.
I share one of my own. About a month ago, I tell her, I took a woman out
for drinks at the Sidewalk Bar & Cafe. She is a friend of a friend. We
had six or seven gin and tonics and I walked her home to her apartment
building on the lower east side of manhattan. As we stood on her doorstep
she motioned down the street to an awning several doors away. Three
homeless men were there drinking, talking and preparing their bedrolls for
the evening in a recessed doorway.

"Christ!" this woman says to me, "I pay good money for this apartment and
it is sooo frustrating to have these homeless guys drinking and camping
out there. I don't know why they can't move them somewhere else."

It was a pretty shocking thing to hear, I tell Cecile, and I never went
out with her again.

""It's interesting to hear this stuff." Cecile says, "Some of my
girlfriends go on these dates and everything seems fine and then the guy
never calls them again."

There is an awkward pause.

"Hey, do you like Redd Foxx?" I ask her, "He was in Sanford and Son."

"Yes, I know who he is. I am a black person, remember."

"Yeah. Well, I was telling these secretaries at my work a couple of his
jokes, and they didn't like 'em. I thought maybe he wasn't so popular
anymore. Do you wanna hear 'em?"

"Sure."

"Okay. Two girls were talking. One of em says "Do you smoke when you
finish? The other one says, "I don't know. I ain't never looked."

A smile spreads slowly across her face. Slim slow slider, sings Van
Morrison over the chatter of the bar crowd. I am checking under the hood
to see if she is a prude, though the groping of a stranger in the middle
of the night in an east village bar would already seem to have ruled that
out.

"Here's another one. Prudes are always getting mad at me, but I say the
words 'shit' and 'fuck' for only one reason. Because that's what people
do. If you're never fucked.shit. (pause) If you're never shit.Fuuuck!"

I make Redd Foxx's googly eyed stare. She laughs. A fusillade of gravel
pellets smash into the window.

"Christ."

"I think they must have a crush on you."

"Or they want to hurt me. Eggs, dirt clods, rocks - I threw all that stuff
at people when I was a kid. I don't remember being this aggressive."

"I used to throw tomatoes at kids." she says.

"You did? I used to bash my neighbors' pumpkins with a baseball bat."

"One time I stole the cane of a blind man."

"Oh yeah? I launched a five pound water balloon out of catapult into the
cab of a speeding pickup truck and almost caused a five car pileup on the
main street in my town."

"You don't want to know what I used to do to my sisters."

"Yes I do."

"Well I'm not going to tell you. This is our first date."

The girls are gone when we leave the bar and walk to the Pink Pony on
Ludlow Street to have dinner. After the meal we walk west across Soho
towards the Hudson River to have a drink at the Ear Inn, the oldest bar in
Manhattan. We talk about food. She asks me if I like tripe. I had it at
Babbo once, I say, smothered in tomato sauce. It was edible. She tells me
about the stew her father used to make when she was a child, with whole
chicken feet.

"Can't eat those anymore" she says.

I urge her to eat more raw vegetables, especially avocados.

"Avocados are not a vegetable." she corrects me.

"What do you mean?"

"Avocados are a fruit. They have a seed."

"Yes. That's true. What's a vegetable?" I ask.

"A plant that you eat that has no seed."

The conversation turns to Jamaican music - Sizzla, Buju Banton, and reggae
dancing. It is almost midnight when my fingers graze her back and I gently
grasp her lapels and we kiss each other greedily on the subway platform as
she waits for the F train uptown to Queens.
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