Fear is a funny thing. Not that he was anywhere near laughing. It was just queer.
Lesli was the best woman to have happened to him — and scared him to within an inch of his life. Someone, somewhere, might’ve been his mother or an aunt, had said, “Never lose your head over some tail.” Whoever it was had never met Lesli.
Beyond question, no one else had been in, as they say, the same league.
There’d been Laura, a saintly, tall, broad-hipped, blue-eyed blonde. Could’ve stepped off an ad for suntan lotion. Exactly the kind of beautiful White woman a Black man might feel he owes himself.
She taught slow children in a moneyed suburb, Dix Hills in Nassau County on Long Island, if he remembered right. Finally, she became too saintly, grew too fawning to stand day after day. Boring to death.
Eidrienne also had large, comfortable hips. Flowing light brown hair. Intelligent, articulate. At the time, he felt she had betrayed him by knowing his good side and putting up with the bad, but, in the end, she had refused to accommodate his gargantuan ego. And left him with a dose of the clap.
Ase. He’d been playing behind someone doing one of those Black blues has-beens still-getting-rich-in-Europe tours. Might’ve been Muddy Waters. Or Etta James. Whoever. Whatever. This tiny brunette, so slim she needed to run around in the shower to get wet, but with big, grey eyes you could fall into forever, pushed up on him at the load-out. And was his for the length of the tour.
When it stopped in Germany, they’d actually become pretty good friends. But, it was time for her to stop running around the world, settle down and get married. Which was where the fun ride stopped for him. They’d parted on good terms.
Then there was that strawberry-haired honey, Gretchen. From a small town out of the middle of nowhere in the Midwest. Come to think, he was filling in for Arthur Lee on lead guitar at First Avenue in St. Paul, or Minneapolis, one of the Twin Cities. She had baggage on top of baggage.
Which didn’t worry Keith. But, she kept pushing herself farther and farther away. The more he reached for her, the more distant she became. Finally, intelligent and articulate as she was, he had to throw in the towel, because she was emotionally frigid.
Keith had reached the point where he’d posted on Facebook, “If women were not the only opposite sex, they’d all be s.o.l.” And, of course, he caught three different kinds of hell from comments all over creation. Yeah, well, popularity was never a high priority.
Then, there was Lee. Christ, she’d dreamt and lied and lied and dreamt as he’d clung to hope things between them might, at some point, amount to a real relationship.
Finally, he’d called a halt to the dizzying manipulations. He’d learned through her that, beyond a doubt, it may be all well and good to fall into a woman’s arms, but if you fall into her hands, that’s your behind.
He’d thrown in the towel after all that and was done with it, availing himself strictly of one-night stands. Maybe, a weekend at the most. Monday morning, whoever she was, the woman was history. Without exception. Until Lesli.
She had slipped past his resolve. It is much easier to tell someone she is not your dream come true when you are, in fact, sure she isn’t. But, when they’d met again — by one of those crazy occurrences nobody would believe but you can’t make up — he knew he was a goner.
A bunch of the guys had been flown out to L.A. to appear in a television flick — everybody could play, but they’d been chosen more for their looks. That’s Hollywood for you. They also were probably going to be on-screen for all of about a minute and a half. That, too, is Hollywood for you.
He didn’t waste a second after getting off the plane and dropping his bag on the hotel bed before calling her. Actually, he’d called soon as the gig was guaranteed but had to leave a message on her voicemail. They hooked up on the location, a blues club.
She was greatly impressed by all the lights-cameras-action activity. “Much more exciting than life at the library,” she’d informed him. He conceded she had a point there. Even as head of her department, this had to be a far cry.
He still couldn’t wait to clock out and go with her somewhere for a nice, quiet drink. When they’d hit the sidewalk, neither of them had the first idea where to go. “Why not just,” she invited, “come back to my place?”
“You’re on, lady.” They got to her crib early in the evening and, late that night, early in the morning, sat on the couch running their mouths, smiling at each other, running their mouths, kissing and running their mouths some more. They took a break now and then to freshen their drinks, have a light meal and pet her cat.
Bruno was his name, a spotted black-and-white tabby, big as a small dog, affectionate and — poor guy — dumb as a doorstop. She’d pour food in his bowl and he’d still stand there in the middle of the kitchen floor, meowing to beat the band until she went over, picked him up and put him down in front of the bowl. Then, he’d bury his face in it.
Finally, it just didn’t make sense for Keith to keep sitting there, holding down the living room furniture. So at length he got up, gave her a long kiss at the door and left. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t tried to make a move. She couldn’t, either, from the look of confused frustration on her face. She’d given him several green lights, just about every opening aside from jumping his bones, and might’ve been starting to wonder if he was undecided about being heterosexual.
Keith was having a few doubts about himself now, in his own place, certainly questioning his own judgment. Lesli twisted on her hip, gave him a saucy grin over her shoulder and, wearing nothing but his slippers and a smile, headed back to the bathroom. “Suit yourself, baby. The water’s waiting. And,” she added, “so am I.”
Next week: Keith broods on as the water runs and Leslie waits.
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