Sunday, February 24, 2008

Green-eyed Monster

I had an action-packed weekend, and all the "action" was much-needed. As I have mentioned repeatedly in past posts, I had pretty much been spending every weekend at home on my couch. I hate cold weather and just can't seem to motivate myself to leave the house when the temperature is below 50 degrees. But, this weekend, I had places to go and people to see! I was invited to 3 birthday parties this weekend (one Friday, two Saturday). Interesting things happened at each of them, but I will just stick to one for right now. I had no idea that I knew so many people born in February! Happy birthday to my Pisces friends!

Friday night was full of surprises.

I had been excited about this party for weeks! My good friend Abdul was turning 28 and his parties are famous, so I knew I would have a good time. DC can definitely be a small-town at times. I love walking into a place and knowing more than half the people in the room. Friday night was like that. This actually happens a lot because people who are from DC find it hard to leave DC. Every now and again one of us escapes to another city or country, but for the most part we stick around our hometown for years past our expiration date. As a result, I have the distinct pleasure and honor of having known most of my friends for most of my life. The people at Abdul's party were people I had known since at least middle school. We are now in our late 20s, so you do the math. In other words, these people are like family... and what's better than partying in a room full of fam?

Here is some backstory on me and Abdul. We run in the same circles and had been kicking it with the same people for years, but we had never made each other's acquaintance. It took a trip to Atlanta to bring us together. In 2003, my girls and I took a trip to ATL for the NBA All-Star Game. When we touched down, we started calling around to see who from home had made it down South for the game. My bestie had gone to high school with Abdul and his cousin. Abdul’s cousin O was one DC-er who managed to escape to another town and was now calling Atlanta home. Abdul was staying at O's house for the weekend. On our second night in Atlanta, Abdul, O and a couple of their other friends met us at our hotel and the bunch of us spent a very entertaining (and platonic) night together, exploring the city and enjoying the sights and sounds of All-Star Weekend.

Well, suffice it to say, Abdul and I immediately connected. We laughed, joked, and flirted all night and made arrangements to link up when we returned home. I’m not sure what attracted us to one another. We had totally different backgrounds (he is African and Muslim, I am Black American and Christian), totally different personalities (he was quiet and shy, I was outgoing and boisterous), and really not much at all in common otherwise. But something about him was just magnetic. Part of the attraction had to do with the fact that he is possibly the cutest thing on two feet. He’s got a slender build, smooth jet black skin, and the most beautiful set of straight, white teeth that I’ve ever seen, made more pronounced by the contrast between his skin and his smile. It didn’t hurt that he could dress his butt off and was probably the sweetest guy I had met in years. All-in-all, he was a pretty good package.

When we got back to DC, Abdul called me, and a few days later we spent several hours together, just talking and getting to know each other. For months after that, he was my “going out buddy”. We went to dinner, to the movies, to the park. Anything we could think of, we did together. We just genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. We never slept together but many of our outings were peppered with hot and heavy makeout sessions. He would’ve been just about perfect – if not for what I perceived to be our very obvious differences. We would argue all the time about the stereotypes he thought were true about Black Americans and Lord knows I believed some of the stereotypes about Africans. And when he began to criticize my faith, that just about did us in. Eventually, our “dates” became and less and less frequent until we got to the point where we pretty much saw each other every once in awhile. We went on like this for years. Hot and heavy one moment, cool and cold toward each other the next. Luckily, I didn’t have much invested in the relationship so it wasn’t really the emotional rollercoaster that it appeared to be from the outside looking in.

One day, Abdul and I had a discussion and we decided that we should just be friends. Take away all the physical and friendship was what was left. And I truly enjoyed his companionship. When I didn’t have a date, I knew I could call him and he would eagerly join me for a bite to eat or a movie. If I wasn’t dating anyone at the time, I knew I could count on him to provide the male company that I needed. Then, I met Mr. Ex and became so wrapped up in him that Abdul fell to the wayside. He didn’t complain, but after Mr. Ex and I were through, I went back to Abdul seeking his friendship and he was reluctant. Who could blame him, really? We still hung out every now and again, but things weren’t like they used to be. I now know that I took him and his friendship for granted for all those years. And as soon as I found what I thought was “better” (turns out it was really oh so much WORSE, but I digress), I kicked him to the curb.

A couple of weeks ago, Abdul and I went to the movies. It took me days to track him down, but I finally caught up with him and he agreed to go with me. I know that sounds formal to say that he “agreed” to go with me, but that’s exactly how it played out. I told him that it had been nearly impossible to catch him. He explained that he had just been busy with work. And to me, that was weird. Work had never been an issue before, but he did have a fairly new job, so maybe this position was just more demanding. I told him I wanted to go to the movies and he agreed, although he seemed a tiny bit reluctant. We saw the movie, he paid (as always) and he hated it. I felt bad and offered to take him out in a couple weeks to make up for it. Then, I didn’t hear from him again... until he called to invite me to his birthday party.

“Abdul, you know I wouldn’t miss the party, but you were supposed to call me so that I could take you out.”

“Oh, I know. I just been busy. But let’s get together soon. I’ll call you.”

I hang up and know that something is not right. Any other time, Abdul would’ve jumped at the chance to hang out with me, but, I couldn’t put my finger on what caused him to act differently toward me.

Later, I tell my bestie, “I think I lost my going out buddy.”

She laughs because she knows that Abdul and I tight. “He’ll come around," she says. "He’s probably just busy.”

“That’s what he said,” I sigh. “But he’s never been ‘too busy’ before. Ever!”

So, I call him on Friday afternoon just to confirm the time and the location of the party. It will be at a lounge in Bethesda, a suburb of DC. I tell him I’ll be there.

“Alright baby girl,” he says. I can tell he’s smiling into the phone. “Thanks so much for calling.”

Aww, that melted my heart. This was sounding more like the Abdul that I know and love. Love? Well, yeah. I guess I do love him. And my heart was bursting at the thought of seeing him later that night (it had been weeks) and wishing him a happy birthday.

I did my hair, put on the new shirt and jeans I had purchased for the occasion and headed to Bethesda to meet my bestie and our girl T. I walked into the lounge and immediately found Abdul in the crowd. He came over with hugs and cheek-kisses for everyone. He squeezes my arm and tells me I look good. And he looks great. His white button down seems iridescent against his midnight skin. He has a fresh shape-up and his smile is brighter than ever.

I don’t crowd him during the night, I let him do his own thing, only speaking to him when he comes over to check on me and my girls. Literally, half the people in the spot are there for him. He’s a well-known and well-liked dude and it shows every time he has a party.

Toward the end of the night, I see him standing by himself, which is rare, since all night he has been surrounded by other people. Standing nearby is a girl who is my namesake. We have the same first name and even spell it the same, which is unique. She is also standing alone. Needless to say, we grew up with her, too.

My bestie says, “Hey! Look who it is. Let’s go say hi.” I am not really interested, but I walk over with her. I exchange pleasantries with my namesake and she and my bestie strike up a conversation. Meanwhile, I grab Abdul and start dancing with him. He holds me close and I breathe in his cologne.

Then, he leans down, kisses me on my cheek and over the thumping bass he whispers in my ear, “Let me introduce you to my girlfriend.”

My heart drops. “Girlfriend.” The word sounds foreign coming from him. It’s almost like he said it in his native language because I do not understand it.

“Girlfriend?” I repeat. He quickly turns his back and grabs my namesake’s hand and pulls her over. He introduces us.

“I know her,” I said and then walked away. I know it was rude, but I just needed a moment! My head is swimming and the music and noise from the crowd has been put on mute. I am lost in my own thoughts. Why am I devastated by the news that Abdul has a girlfriend? Is it because he didn’t tell me before tonight? Is it because he chose my namesake to be his woman? I mean, I have no real problems with my namesake. She is actually a very sweet and very kind girl and I know that she will only be good for him. She is not the issue.

I wandered around the club aimlessly until I made it back to Abdul and the namesake who were now dancing with each other. Her back was facing me and he was facing the crowd. Abdul’s eyes meet mine and he looks at me tentatively. We stared at each other for awhile until he mouths “I’m sorry.” And in that moment I realize that the reason why I am so devastated is because I am just now recognizing that Abdul is a catch. He has been all along. I just didn’t realize it… maybe I even realized it, but just didn’t acknowledge it. How does the song go? “On and on it seems to go, but you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

So as you can deduct, I am a bit schizophrenic when it comes to relationships. One second I’m lauding the benefits of the single life. And then I'm cursing being lonely the next. I guess what it comes down to is sometimes my relationship status is “single and loving it!” and other times I am “desperately seeking someone... anyone, in fact”. But the truth is that I do want to eventually find that person who is right for me. The yin to my yang. The peanut butter to my jelly. The lighter to my cigarette (thank Ashanti for that). I know he’s out there, but some days I am doubtful. And I feel like I just lost a good prospect for a partner in crime. Abdul and I get along famously aside from our friendly competition of Africans v. Black Americans. But now, he was left to argue his points in favor of African folk with someone else.

I know I am being unfair. My bestie pointed out later in the night that I could’ve had Abdul at any time over these years. All I had to do was say the word and I would’ve been the person he was holding hands with on Friday night. But I didn’t want to be that girl until someone else landed that role. Me being maddened and upset by the news of his new relationship was immature and childish and I know that instead of being envious, I should be happy that my good friend found happiness with my namesake. This lightbulb moment didn’t make my heart hurt any less, but it did at least make me have some “act-right” until the party was over...

I put on a happy face and pretended to enjoy myself for the remainder of the night. Hoping that my night would somehow get better... and believe it or not, it did...

1 comment:

brown-eyed monster said...

This is again, so relatable. I don't have this kind of friend who I've had more with but am close friends with now. But I can still feel you on this. I think I would have felt the same way, and feel that way for you actually! Thanks for sharing. If things are meant to be with Abdul, he'll come to the realization that she's just a 'faux' Lovely Brown Girl. Nothing's ever better than the original . . . and if not, that's fine too because there's definitely someone better suited for you out there :)