Authors: Carl Weber
“Darnel, did I tell you that Sandra is the manager of my gym?” I said while we were eating dinner. I was hoping to give him a conversation starter, since there were too many silences between them as far as I was concerned.
“Oh, cool,” he mumbled between bites.
“She’s increased membership almost fifty percent.”
“I just like being able to offer people something that they really need,” Sandra commented.
“Darnel is the top salesperson at his insurance company,” I threw in there to keep it moving, since Darnel wasn’t making much of an effort.
“People need insurance. Especially with all the natural disasters,” Sandra added.
“Yeah, like the one right here.” Louis pointed to me, laughing.
“Yeah, our Jamie is something,” Daddy added, but I could hear his fatherly pride. Besides, I didn’t mind being the target of their teasing for a while if it would loosen up Darnel. But he didn’t even seem to notice half of what was going on around him. He just sat at the table, constantly checking his phone.
“Darnel, Sandra just won a five K race out in Long Island,” I said, trying to pry Darnel away from the phone.
“Oh, cool.” He barely looked up when he answered.
“Darnel went to school on a track scholarship. He almost made the Olympics.”
“Naw, I barely made tenth place at the trials.” Darnel was finally participating in the conversation, but only to make himself sound less than the superman I was trying to present him as. Damn, did he always have to tell the truth? That boy had to learn how to stretch things if he wanted to start getting any quality women.
“That’s still pretty good. Most people don’t even get invited to the trials,” Sandra offered as a compliment to Darnel.
“He could have gotten a basketball scholarship,” I added.
“Really? What position?” Sandra asked. “That’s my game.”
“I played forward,” Darnel answered.
“So did I. I played forward for Delaware State.”
“Yeah, we’re big B-ball fans around here,” Daddy added.
“Almost all of us.” Louis didn’t have a thing for sports, which was fine with me. It meant I ’d never be one of those sports widows.
“I love the Lakers,” Sandra shouted out enthusiastically, like she had spent some time cheering for the team.
“You mean the Fakers?” She had finally gotten Darnel’s attention.
“Hey, hey, don’t talk about my team. You gonna make me get my number twenty-four jersey and wipe the floor with you,” Daddy threatened Darnel playfully.
“Kobe is lame,” Darnel shot back.
“What?” Both Sandra and Daddy spoke at the same time.
“It’s all about LeBron James,” Darnel hollered, gesturing proudly toward his jersey. But Sandra and Daddy pounced on him with names and facts and figures.
Daddy started. “We gonna see who’s the sucker team this Sunday, ’cause the Lakers are going to kick the Cavaliers’ asses this weekend.”
“Puhleease! In your dreams.” Darnel was getting jazzed. He and Daddy had always bonded over sports.
Finally, something to put some life into this conversation,
I thought with relief.
“We already got fifty on it,” Darnel said to Daddy. “Why don’t we make that a hundred?”
“Can I get in on this?” Sandra asked.
“Sure. You can take the other fifty,” Daddy offered eagerly.
“Don’t matter who’s in it as long as I get paid,” Darnel
said, laughing. I noticed that he’d finally put his phone back into his pocket.
“Keep laughing now. You’re not going to be laughing when my Lakers spank that butt.” Sandra looked like she was as much into basketball as they were. She knew how to work her thing, and I wasn’t mad at her. “Now I can’t wait to watch that game.”
“You two should watch the game together.” I threw it out there innocently enough. “I mean, you both are going to watch it anyway. It’s not a problem, right, Darnel?” I had him on the spot. He’d never be rude to a friend of mine, and I knew he wasn’t about to start now.
“Well, I was supposed to watch the game with the old man, since we got money on it and all.” Darnel glanced at Daddy. I couldn’t tell if he was hoping Daddy would rescue him from this setup, but it wasn’t happening. Daddy disliked Keisha as much as I did.
“A Lakers fan is always welcome in my house,” Daddy said. “Besides, I’m sure she’s going to want her money as soon as the game’s over. As do I.” He smiled confidently as if the game were in the bag.
Darnel waved his hand at Daddy. “Okay, so I’ll see you two Sunday. Bring cash. I don’t take checks.”
As everyone at the table erupted into laughter over the friendly bet, Darnel’s phone rang, and he jumped up from the table. “Excuse me a minute.”
I was sure that it was Keisha on the phone, but at the moment, I didn’t even care. Now that Darnel and Sandra had plans to get together again next weekend, I knew that Keisha’s days with my brother were numbered.
As I sat in my living room having a drink, I thought about the barbecue I ’d had with my kids. Once again, Jamie had accomplished what she did best—she manipulated the situation. Don’t ask me how Jamie made it happen, but Darnel, who was still preoccupied with Keisha, ended up driving Sandra home. Despite the fact that it was the result of my daughter’s meddling, I actually thought this was a good thing. Someone needed to do something to take Darnel’s mind off Keisha, and I was starting to doubt that anyone would be able to. Then Sandra showed up, and maybe meeting her would push Darnel in the right direction—away from Keisha.
I was hopeful that it would work out between Darnel and Sandra, even if only temporarily. Darnel’s ego needed a little boost. Sandra seemed to be a nice enough girl, and there was no doubt that she was a looker. Hell, if this was twenty years ago, who knows? I might have given my son a run for his money. The sad thing was that if this really were a competition between the two of us, I ’d come out the winner. Darnel had been so damn devoted to Keisha that it was like all other
women were invisible to him. He sure didn’t know how to play the game. I just hoped he didn’t blow it with Sandra, because she was definitely showing signs of interest.
The doorbell snapped me out of my thoughts. I walked to the front door, wondering who might be stopping by. It probably wasn’t one of the kids, because both Jamie and Darnel had keys to my house—which, by the way, was something I hoped to change as soon as Darnel found his own place. Between Jamie barging in while I was in bed with Crystal and Darnel moping around every day, I was more than ready to fly solo again. I loved my kids, but their constant presence was starting to interfere with my social life, and I wasn’t gonna have that.
In the short time after Jamie moved out, I had enjoyed the luxury of having the whole place to myself. I could let a woman into my home and take her right there on the living room couch if I wanted to. With Darnel around, that had become impossible.
As I realized now that he was out with Sandra and might be gone for a while, I hoped that the person at the door was someone of the female persuasion coming to call for a night of pleasure. If so, she would be right on time.
When I opened the door, I saw that there was indeed a woman, but I didn’t know why she was there, because she didn’t usually stop by unannounced like this, especially since she lived in another state.
“Hello, James,” Crystal said as she pushed past me and made her way inside.
Although I was confused, she was a welcome surprise.
As I closed the door, I peeked outside and noticed
that there was no car parked in my driveway. It was safe to assume she had parked a few blocks away. After the way Jamie had busted in on us last time, Crystal wouldn’t want to take any chances. She was smart that way about her creeping. Back when she was living in Queens, she tipped around with me all the time, but her first husband, Joe, never caught her. In fact, Crystal was so slick that Joe probably never would have suspected a thing if Darnel hadn’t spilled the beans.
Even though I was his father, Darnel never wanted me and his mother to be together once he figured out I didn’t intend to marry her. I can’t say I blamed him, though. He wanted to see his mother with a fully committed man, something I never pretended I could be. The problem was that no matter how hard he tried, he would never be able to change the sexual chemistry between me and Crystal.
After all these years, the attraction was still powerful. Crystal had her hands all over me before I could even ask her, “What are you doing here?”
“Milton’s brother passed away, so we came up to make arrangements,” she answered between kisses on my neck.
“Where’s your husband?” I asked, though the answer never seemed to matter. Wherever Milton was, Crystal always found a way to see me whenever they came to New York.
“He’s with his family. I told him I was going to see Darnel.” She placed my hands on her breasts, and I gladly massaged them.
“Where’s Darnel?” She quickly glanced around the room; then her eyes came to rest on my crotch.
“What are you trying to do to me, girl?” I teased her like I’d done when we were young.
“Where is he?”
“He’s not here.” I looked into Crystal’s eyes and saw the desire burning there. “So, what’s up? You trying to go upstairs?”
“You so bad,” Crystal joked, like that wasn’t on her mind in the first place. She was standing so close to me that I could smell her Trésor perfume wafting in my nose. And like two dance partners who’d always done the same familiar tango, we wound up in bed together.
After a couple of lustful rounds in bed, I sat back and enjoyed the view while Crystal put on her bra and slid her underwear up her legs. This whole scene was customary for us: an hour or two of passion, then Crystal getting dressed and us parting ways, both knowing that it wouldn’t be the last time we made love. But this time, Crystal decided to flip the script.
“I’m thinking about leaving my husband and moving back to New York.”
Oh Lord, not this,
I thought. We hadn’TVisited this subject together in quite a long time. After all these years, I thought that Crystal finally understood where she stood with me—I loved her, but I was not
with her. She was one of the best bed partners I ’d ever had, but there was something missing, something that prevented me from taking our relationship to a higher level. There had always been something missing.
The truth was, there was something missing with every woman I ’d ever met. But it was just like the old saying, “It’s not you; it’s me.” I had known some fabulous, sexy women in my life—plenty of them went on to make wonderful wives for other men—but I ’d never met any woman who made me want to hand in my
player card. It just wasn’t in my genetic makeup, I guess, but whatever it was, I had explained it to Crystal plenty of times, so I had no idea why she was bringing it up again.
“I thought you said you and Milton have a good life.”
“We do. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy.” She came over and sat on the bed. “I spent one night with you last month and two hours tonight, and I felt more passion than I’ve felt with that man in all the years we been married.”
“So come up more often,” I suggested, hoping that would be enough to satisfy her. “Let’s plan some secret getaways. But you don’t have to leave him.”
Crystal sighed. “You just don’t understand, do you? I’m still in love with you, James. I’m just going through the motions with him. I almost can’t stand for him to put his hands on me anymore.”
When she looked at me, I saw that her eyes were glistening with tears. I wished like hell that I could make her feel better, but I would never be the man she wanted. I hated these conversations.
“I’m not asking you to marry me,” she said sadly. “I’m just asking you to let me be your woman.”
I held her hand and said, “You know how things are with us, Crystal. I’m not gonna change, so you really oughta try to make it work with Milton. He seems like a good enough guy. He really loves you.”
“In other words, I’m good enough to be a booty call but not good enough to be your woman,” she said, pulling her hand away.
“You know you’re more than that, Crystal. You’re the mother of my only son. A good mother. You raised Darnel to be a good man, and I can’t ask for more than that.”
“But, Darnel aside, how do you feel about me as a woman?”
“You’re a good woman. If I had half a brain, I would have married you years ago.”
“I’m a good woman,” she said sadly, “but evidently not good enough.”
I knew I was hurting her, and I hated to do it, but I had never lied to Crystal about where we stood, and I wasn’t about to start now. “It’s just that I have never been the marrying type. I told you that when we met, and my story has never changed.”
“You don’t have to marry me, James. I’m just looking for you to make a commitment to me. You’re not getting any younger, and neither am I. Sure, you can still sling it, but the Viagra days aren’t far away.”
“You sure know how to hurt a brother.” I laughed to deflect the sting of her comment, but the idea of using Viagra was chilling. I had always been a vibrant man and planned to be for years to come. Sure, I had been noticing that I got a little more winded lately during sex, but there was no problem with the important equipment.
“It’s not funny, James. I ’d always envisioned us growing old together, sitting on the porch, rocking in our chairs, waiting for Darnel to bring our grandchildren by.”
It was a nice image—for someone who was a romantic. But it bothered me, because all it really meant was that it didn’t matter how honest I ’d been with her all these years. She still held it in her head that someday I would change my mind.
“I just want to be a part of your life,” she said.
“We will always be in each other’s lives, Crystal. We do have a son together, you know.”
“Yeah, but Darnel’s grown, and he never really
wanted us together anyway, so you can stop making excuses. This isn’t about Darnel, and it isn’t about Jamie either. It’s about you and me and whether you love me enough to have a committed relationship.” She wiped away a few tears.
I stayed silent, because I knew I couldn’t give her the answer she wanted to hear.