Even back in New York, Keith could not escape Lesli’s reach



The only thing Keith hated worse than taking off in an airplane was touching back down in one. He’d done this dozens of times but still couldn’t get used to it. As the ground got bigger and drew closer, Keith wondered, every single time, what would happen if they don’t put the brakes on in time.

They did, of course, put the brakes on in time. Every time. That never registered. He’d leave the plane, ignoring flight attendants’ plastic smiles cheerfully welcoming him to New York City, and swear there had to be a better way of getting around.

In the terminal that time, fresh back from Lesli and L.A., he’d looked over the limo drivers for whoever was his guy. And spied a fellow holding up a sign with “Jackson” scrawled on it. He went over, shook the man’s hand, and tossed his shoulder bag on the back seat. “Hi. I’m Keith. Gimme a minute to get hold of a Red Cap to go get my things.”

“Yes, sir.”

“What’s your name, man?”


“Okay. Can we be on a first-name basis? Onliest people call me Mr. Jackson is bill collectors.”

Ray gave up a small smile. “Okay. Sure.”

Keith didn’t even like using limos, and not just because they were expensive as hell. All the flashy to-do about it got on his nerves. And he sure didn’t want to be mistaken for one of those snobs who think their you-know-what don’t stink.

Especially not some actor. The only star he ever saw step out of a limousine that didn’t want to make him puke was Christopher Walken.

His boy Chris — it wasn’t really his boy, but they used to live across West 72nd St. from each other — would climb up to the sidewalk with his long, lanky self, wearing shades and a million-dollar smile, a blonde on each arm. Each time he rolled out the house or rolled back home, Keith would wave. Walken would wave back. And keep on with that leisurely stride like all was well in the world. And Keith had to laugh to himself: “I guess all is well in that man’s world.”

But that time, just home from Vegas and L.A., he’d felt like treating himself. Just like usually he’d go get his own luggage. For once, let somebody else do it.

As Ray had pulled out of the airport and into the nightmare that is New York City traffic, Keith settled back into the well-cushioned upholstery. They’d sped along the Hudson River and he glimpsed the Statue of Liberty. He always referred to it as “That Big Green Broad in the Bay.”  And would never look at it the same way again.

Lesli had informed him that the original statue was Black. He’d thought she was pulling his leg. She’d hopped up off the sofa, loping over to her bookshelf — God did he love to watch that woman walk — and came back, sitting in his lap, opening to a page. Sure, enough, it was right there in black and white. France gave America the first statue and they didn’t want it, insisting on a White face. Which France turned right around and gave them. He’d had to shake his head at that one.

At the apartment, Keith tossed the stack of mail on the coffee table, opened the living room curtains, got himself a beer out of the fridge, then plopped down on the sofa and kicked his sneakers off. Grabbing the remote, he’d figured to watch himself some TV.

Perfect timing: HBO was running a marathon of The Wire. All the seasons in one shot. And they were barely into the first one. With his boy Idris Elba as Stringer Bell, the thinking man’s drug lord.

Idly sifting through the bills, junk mail and such, he’d stopped with a stupid smile on his face. She had put a card in the mail in time for it to show up when he got home. Well, he’d thought, I’ll give her this: The woman knows how to stay on a man’s mind.

He’d put the envelope to his nose. It was scented with her perfume. Yep, she knew how to make sure you thought about her.

Not that he needed any help.

The front of the card was gorgeous, a scenic shot of a beach at sunset. Inside, it was blank. Except for one neatly written line: “I love you.”

“Well,” he’d said out loud, “I guess that answers that question.”


Next week: Lesli and Bruno come to New York.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 


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