I sat minding my own business on a pollen-glazed bench, half reading a book and half daydreaming. Out of the corner of my eye was approach of a pair of expensive cargo pants. I could tell they were expensive because nothing about them looked like they were ever intended for work. This immediately made me look toward the feet of the man coming toward me. They seemed deliberately pointed in the direction of my yellow dusted bench, making it difficult for me to pretend to take him in as he passed. There would evidently be no passing. My eyes did a roll to the right under hooded lids, making an arc on their way back down toward the pages of my book. European casuals, I assessed, with none of the standard symbols or designs I’m used to on actual feet. I get my virtual shop on and have run across similar shoes on occasion but had never met any in person.
His personal style was impressive and prepared me to take in what I assumed would be Euro sexual ambiguity. Instead I was greeted, starting at his hands, by a long shot of chocolate syrup. His skin was full of depth and richness that made my tooth hurt, back and to the right, where cheap chocolate causes me to ache. He was anything but cheap. I closed my book to take a more deliberate look at him. “Beautiful afternoon, beside this ridiculous pollen.” His head tilted, took me in, and smiled. “It is, isn’t it?”
This loud strumming sound took over and distracted me. I searched around me for the fluttering wings of a humming bird. I’m a nature buff and bird watching has always gotten me open. Nerd…I know. So I’m searching for this bird and see not a wing in sight. Nothing. His face hadn’t changed, no reaction to the sound whatsoever. Suddenly I realized it was my heartbeat, racing as though for the cure. I smiled, stifling the desire to chuckle. His eyes were on me again, like he had a secret. “What are you reading?” I tried to do a quick assessment of whether he might actually read books or if he was just making small talk as a predecessor to what I hoped were larger plans. See, his eyes were deep pools that presented the most exquisite danger to my non-swimming ass. Maybe it was his lashes that looked like fans inviting me to cool the heat that he was causing. I had to do an internal pinch to snap out of it. “Sula.”
At this moment I was a proud black girl. I was grown and reading a book by a literary great. There were no photo shopped glossy covers of pseudo gangsters with sagging jeans and some tragic but well coiffed woman wearing his wife beater and pledging to ride or die by her grip on him. You know, that trash you see many of us reading on the train to work in the morning. “Toni Morrison, right?” I like to fell right off the bench with this dessert-like man sitting next to me in all his dapper dan glory who clearly has read more than a text book and a King magazine. This kind of thing only happened in the movies that my folks tend to be scared to write because no one wants to see us actually love each other. That’s not the point.
So…we’re sitting there discussing literature. No, really, we did. He put me on to some of his favorite non-fiction and I hipped him to some writers who don’t paint pictures of all black men as Mister from The Color Purple. We even discussed the value of telling a story with Mister in it. We talked Martin vs Malcolm, the fine points of vegetarianism, the best sushi spots in town, where to find good local honey, and wondered together what ever happened to good cobblers. And no, we don’t mean the peach or berry kind. As it all went down I had an out-of-body experience and wondered what universe I had stumbled onto and how I could accidentally on purpose find myself stranded there. The ring of a cell phone interrupted the train of thought of my floating self.
“I’m just sitting in the park, things got a little stuffy at my desk… I just need to send a few emails and then I’ll be ready to go… The reservation’s for 6:30… I have a say? Where the red, it’s my favorite… I love you too. See you soon.”
When he finished he apologized for the interruption. I smiled wittingly and raised my book slightly, as if to say, “I’ll be getting back to this now.” He tilted his head again, took me in and said, “Sure…” In one fan of his beautiful lashes I found myself looking at those beautiful shoes walk in the direction they came. The long shot of chocolate left me with my toothache and a bitter pill.