Two months later, Thomas and I ran into each other at a mutual friend’s party. As much as I had thought I’d written off our connection, I obviously hadn’t. I became anxious, my heart raced, the butterflies in my stomach fluttered. I took a nice deep breath to get centered.
He looked quite healthy and fit with his golden tan, white teeth, shiny long hair, bright sparkling eyes, and a body that exuded strength and agility. I was pleasantly surprised to see him, and his re-action indicated he felt the same about me. We smiled and did that flirty thing again with our eyes. I looked cute that night in a black fedora hat, a sexy low-cut black blouse, a muslin ankle-length skirt and lace-up black boots.
He was with the usual suspects and I was with two waitress-girlfriends. There was no way I was going to let this opportunity slip away. So I ditched my friends to at last confront the man I couldn’t stop thinking or writing about.
“Psst, Thomas,” I gestured. “Come ’ere.”
His entourage watched as he followed me into a bedroom. I quickly shut the door.
“What’s the story with you?” I half-smiled.
“What?” He blushed and walked to one of the windows.
“When you look at me that way.”
“What way!” He turned towards me and did it again.
“That way—you know what way,” I twanged in my street-girl voice as I approached him.
“You’re cute, that’s all.” He looked back out the window.
“Thank you. You’re cute too.” Suddenly, I flashed back to kindergarten, I was five years old and had just kissed a boy for the first time.
He turned to me again. “I like your hat.”
I smiled. “I like your jacket.” I paused. “One of my friends tells me you’re engaged to a California girl.” I paused again.
He didn’t answer and moved towards the door.
“So … are you?” I asked.
“Ya know, I really don’t like to gossip,” he said.
“We’re not gossiping, we’re having a conversation.”
“I’ll just say we were close friends for years, but then she wanted to be more.” He reached for the doorknob.
“Wait! So it’s only a rumor? You’re not engaged?” I walked towards him.
“I’d rather not get into this.”
“Okay, okay. Well then, are you available?”
Again, he didn’t answer. I was getting frustrated. “I have another question. I don’t know the prim and proper way to ask this so I’ll just say it—do you prefer black women?”
“Gee, Marlo, you’re sure blunt!”
“What! It’s a legitimate question. I was just wondering if you only like a certain type of woman.” Even I couldn’t believe my line of questioning, but frankly I wanted to know. “Some guys like blondes, some brunettes, others redheads; some like petite gals, some like long legs, a lot like busty women, some prefer cushy booties, you get my drift.” I sighed.
“Oh, African American, of course. So … do you only like…?”
“I refuse to answer. So I’ll keep you guessing. How’s that?”
“Well … just in case I don’t see you for awhile, and before you go off and get married…” I rushed up to him and stood on my tiptoes. “Here’s a kiss from a Jersey Girl!”
He looked surprised. I gently grabbed his head and leaned in to kiss him. At first he resisted, but he quickly sank into it.
After a few moments, I took a step away and sighed with pleasure. He looked dizzy. Our eyes remained locked.
His lips were the softest I had ever kissed. My body throbbed with excitement. He stood frozen, looking shy. I wanted to throw him onto the bed, but my mission was now complete.
So I straightened my shirt, fluffed my hair and spoke ever so lightly as I quickly left, “Have a fun night. And congratulations if you are engaged…”
My plan to get Thomas to want me more clearly didn’t turn out as I had hoped. My short and sweet tantalizing taste of him was just that—a taste. After that night I didn’t see or hear from him. So I told my waitress friend not mention him anymore. It was better that way.
I was happy being single, fully enjoying coming and going as I pleased and not checking in with anyone. I had great suppers and gatherings with my family and Nina. I spent quality time playing with my young nieces and nephews.
On the music front, several New York studio managers called me regularly to lay down background vocals on albums. I appreciated the gift of music and loved being in the soundproof room singing into the microphone. Hearing my voice on playback was exciting, although that took some time to get used to. But the quest to improve and also accept things in my life remained in the forefront.
Since my income bumped-up immensely from the studio work, I no longer had a need to be a cocktail waitress. It was perfect timing. The stench of cigarette smoke and the drunken butt-holes who grappled me night after night had worn paper-thin. The icing on the cake was the night a jock yanked my strapless uniform down, revealing my bra-covered breasts while I was carrying a tray full of drinks over my head. I quickly pulled up my dress with my left hand and kicked him in the shin with my right foot, instantly breaking the skin and drawing blood.
Minutes later I was summoned to my boss’s office and reprimanded with a warning of termination. I smiled as I responded, “Let’s make it simple! I quit!”
I went back to teaching calisthenics at a local gym. It was a win-win. I had fun and kept in shape while instructing others to do the same and I got paid for it. My favorite exercise was the ‘fire hydrant’ where you kneel on all fours to imitate a dog peeing. After two hundred of those on each side, you’re grateful to stand up again, but your bootie is two inches higher. It doesn’t stay like that for long before going south again, however, so the daily exercise was a bonus for me.
But as the saying goes, “all work and no play make Jane (or Marlo) a dull girl.” I missed my girlfriends, Nina, and the waitresses from the club. So I finally picked up the phone to schedule a girl’s night out. Everyone seemed to have other plans, dates, to be exact, except, for Nina. We agreed to meet at a quaint Italian restaurant where I had worked years ago for a very brief time. It was one of many businesses along Route 22 in New Jersey where I’d worked. My dad always said I worked more jobs in my early years then he worked in his whole life.
I sat at the charming bar, sipping brandy with a soda back, a sophisticated cocktail that needs to be savored slowly and with purpose. I looked at my sterling silver and onyx watch. Nina was late. It was unlike her.
I turned around. “Thomas! Wow, what a surprise to see you. What are you doing here?”
“I’m friends with the owner’s son, Tony.”
“You’re kidding? Me too. You know, I used to work here!”
“Really? Small world.”
“It sure is,” I agreed, taking a sip of the refined mouthwash. I wanted to ask Thomas many questions but I just held the pretty snifter and smiled casually while checking out his duds. Cool-cool-cool. This California cat was nice.
He became antsy. “I … I’m here ‘cause I’m going to invest in a pizza parlor with Tony, here in Jersey.”
“Great! Sounds like fun.” I could hear myself talking on autopilot. But what kept running though my mind was how handsome he was.
“Forget about it!”
Did I miss something? “Okay,” I frowned as I sipped my drink again, wondering if he’d heard my thoughts. Remembering the power of our kiss at the party ignited my urge to kiss him again.
“Forget about it.” Geez! He is a freakin’ mind reader.
I was getting ticked off. “Alrighty, I will.”
Oh my word, this guy definitely has ESP. I was getting a buzz so I put down the drink and grabbed the water.
“Marlo, ‘Forget About It’ is the name of the Pizza Parlor.”
“Oh – fungool! Funny, very funny.” I laughed at myself for misunderstanding.
Then we looked at each other in that ‘I feel like I’ve known you a long time’ way.
He finally said, “I’ve thought about you a lot.”
“Me too you,” I quickly admitted, then glanced away. I wanted to scream so why didn’t you call? but I didn’t.
“You married?” I asked, looking at his left hand.
“Ah, are you here with anyone? I don’t see your groupies tonight.”
“Now you’re being funny. I’m here solo.”
Tony suddenly shouted for Thomas, who excused himself and crossed to the back room.
My head dropped, I couldn’t believe we ran into each other. I was blown away but tried not to over-think this unexpected meeting. Yet I couldn’t help wondering: Was it fate? Did I make the right choice by surrendering to the Universe after all?
An hour later, Nina still hadn’t shown up. I had a hunch she had hooked up with my younger brother. They had just started dating so things were hot and heavy. At this point, it was best for me to go home. When Thomas came back, I didn’t want to be sitting alone, looking deserted. And if he left without saying good-bye again, it would hurt way too much. Maybe, just maybe this time, my departure would make him want me more!
I paid my bar tab, left a fat tip and was just about to walk out the door when I heard my name. Minutes later, I was happily anxious as Thomas followed me back to my place. He drove a spiffy little sports car with a personalized license plate. DOGOOD.
As we climbed the three flights of stairs to my apartment, it was obvious by our body language that we were both a bit nervous.
I opened the door and said, “Make yourself at home. I’ll be right back.” I slipped into the bedroom to change into a tight pair of jeans and a relaxed yet sexy tee-shirt. As I went through all the right motions, it felt as if I was in a romance movie playing both the lead and the audience.
I soon headed to the kitchen, followed by Thomas: “What can I get you to drink?”
“Do you have hot chocolate and whipped cream?”
“As a matter of fact, I do.” I opened the door to the balcony and in blew a cool peaceful breeze along with delicate music from the chimes.
“You look nice,” he said, fumbling with knick-knacks on the table. “You looked nice before too. Why’d you change?”
“Uh, I’m not sure. I guess I’m nervous,” I admitted with a smile as I measured two heaping spoonfuls of chocolate into a mug.
We moved to the living room with our steaming drinks, green tea for me. We chatted small talk about each other’s careers and what we’d been up to. I still wanted to kiss him, but this time I refused to make the first move.
He must have read my mind again. “You know, you drove me crazy that night at the party,” he said. I grinned, pink with satisfaction.
“I’d like to get to know you better,” he added.
“I’d like to get to know you better too,” I said with restraint. Finally, I thought.
“I’m not like most of the guys you’re probably used to.”
“How so?” I wondered. I already knew he was a rare bird.
“I believe that being intimate is a very precious thing, something that should be undertaken slowly and respectfully.”
I didn’t know how to respond. So I just looked at him, jaw hanging open, eyebrows raised.
“Did that make you speechless?”
“N-no, I guess that’s an honorable way to be.” Darn! We weren’t going to have sex!
Since we were talking openly and honestly, now I wanted to ask if he got the same feeling about us knowing each other in another lifetime that I did. But I couldn’t get the words out. I was still playing it safe.