by Lawrence Christopher
The week began with me sitting at a noisy Starbucks, sharing a small table with my longtime girlfriend Nat. Between sips of her Venti White Mocha, Nat was yammering about her week’s itinerary. As a corporate attorney, she had been working long hours to close a business merger of a major corporation and a small competitor who was threatening the big company. After the anticipated successful closing of the deal, Nat was looking forward to a weekend Southeastern Regional Conference with her sorority sisters at a spa retreat. This also meant that we might not see each other for the rest of the week. At most, we may exchange phone calls or a few text messages if we’re lucky.
“Matthew, are you sure you can’t watch Snowy while I’m away. I hate to have to leave her at a kennel.”
“Nat, I told you...”
“Excuse me; it’s Natalie. How many times must I remind you not to call me out of my name? If you do that, that means you don’t respect me. Don’t take it personally; the same rule applies for the people on my job. A black woman at my level must maintain respect.”
“. . . I’m not going to watch your cat.”
“But she likes you.”
“That’s on the cat, plus, I’m a likeable guy.
Natalie went on about her tight schedule and what she would have to do to drop the cat off and how much it was going to cost her. It wasn’t about the money. The woman earned a high six figure salary. It was about me not yielding to her wish of cat sitting while she was gone for the weekend.
This was a serious issue in our relationship. It seemed like every decision we were making lately would be settled like some business negotiation. It would not be a case of a winner or a loser. We compromised. It was more of “you got this one; I’ll get the next one”.
We had been dating for two years and we had already gotten in to a routine, a rut. We were like an old married couple with no excitement to the relationship. That was what was on my mind just before leaving the table, while Natalie put on her three application of lipstick. Base – gloss – liner. The attractive 28 year old, 137 pound, size six, woman stood from the table. She looked good wearing her Donna Karan suit on her personal trainer assisted sculpted body.
At that moment, I recall thinking; “Yeah, I can put up with her diva attitude and doting cat”. We both drove our respective cars to the coffee shop. I walked Natalie to her car and leaned in to kiss her goodbye.
“Ah, ah, ah. Fresh lipstick.” She warned me, and then she touched her cheek to mine. “I’ll try to call you later.”
On the drive to the office I reevaluated what I concluded earlier; “could I put up with Natalie for the rest of our lives”. In technical terms, what Natalie and I had was an unhealthy relationship. I knew how Natalie thought. She considered herself lucky to have found a black man who had a job, wasn’t married, wasn’t gay or in jail. And as for me, Natalie thought that she was so all that, that I should consider myself fortunate to be with her. What that translated to was she didn’t put much effort in the relationship.
Natalie knew the signs and what it took to avoid what she perceived as an unhealthy relationship. Yet she didn’t seem to apply or know what it took to maintain a healthy relationship. Knowing how she processes thought and argues litigation; I would think that in her mind, if we avoided the bad aspects of a relationship, then the relationship would be good by default.
I was in my office when I heard someone calling out in the reception area. It was lunch time and I was the only one in the office because I usually ate late. I walked out of my office to find a very cute looking young woman standing along side a mail cart. When I say cute; she had this natural cuteness, without the aid of any makeup. With her hair in a ponytail, she had high black cherry cheekbones and full Mary J. Blige lips. I could hardly pull my eyes away from her sexy mouth to look at the name tag on her uniform. Stitched on the uniform was Quijelmina. I was not about to attempt to pronounce the ghetto black-looking name.
“May I help you” I asked.
“Yes. I need someone to sign for this certified letter.”
“I can do that. Are you new here, I don’t recall seeing you before.”
“This is my second week delivering mail.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, my name is Matthew.”
I looked back at her name tag, not wanting to be outdone. Or maybe I was trying to prove my own blackness, by being able to say her name. It must have been obviously shown on my face that I was defeated.
“I know what you’re thinking.” She said.
“If I tell you what you’re thinking right now, you buy me lunch.”
“Okay, what am I thinking?”
“You’re thinking I’m one of those girls whose mother gave her one of those ghetto made up names. Right?”
She read me like a picture book. But even if she had guessed wrong, I wouldn’t have admitted it, just so that I could have the opportunity to take her to lunch. I looked back to her face, feeling dizzily intoxicated by her cuteness.
“It’s pronounced kee-ho-meena. Most people call me Mina”
“What... I just said, alright then.”
“Does the name mean anything?”
“Yes it does, but I will have to tell you over lunch.”
“So when do I have to buy you this lunch?”
“Today it is. Ah, let’s meet in the lobby; say one-ish. “
“One-ish... why wouldn’t you say around one o’clock.”
“It means the same thing.”
“Okay, whatever... one-ish then.”
When Mina turned to walk away, is when I seen the most delectable apple-bottom that I had ever seen on a woman, not on the pages of men’s magazine. I was ashamed to do it at first, but I stepped outside our front office doors just to watch her walk down the hall. It... she... it, looked amazing. I was so caught up in checking her butt out; I did not notice my friend Leon come up behind me.
“DAYUM, who is that?” Leon asked.
“Her name is Mina.”
“That must be the new mail girl Marc was asking me about. He asked me if I had seen her walk down the hall. Now I know what he was referring to. What does she look like? Never mind, it don’t matter. I’ll be right back.”
Around one o’clock, I arrived in the lobby. Mina was waiting patiently, while listening to music on a personal CD player. As I approached her, I noticed several guys in pockets of groups eyeing her from afar. It gave me a sense of pride to know that I was about to be the envy of all of them once I joined her.
“What are you listening to?” I asked as I stepped to her.
“Don’t Trip, by Trina.”
“Trina. She’s a rapper, right?”
“Yeah. I’m sure you don’t listen to her music.”
“I can’t say that I have, though I know who she is.”
“What do you listen to? Wait; let me guess... you listen to old school and jazz?”
“You are pretty good.”
We went to lunch at a J.R. Crickets restaurant and shared a mixed basket of Lemon Pepper and Hot Sauce chicken wings and French fries. Mina ate more than her fair share of wings. It was unusual to see a woman eat enjoyably and without any pretense. Natalie was a picky eater.
“You know what happened right after I left you... this guy runs up on me and starts with ‘what’s your name, you got a man, you want a man, why don’t you give me those digits so I can take care of you and you don’t have to work no more.’ Men mistake a big butt and a smile for fair game.” Mina said, followed by a chuckle.
“What did you say to him?”
“I told him I wasn’t pushing the mail cart around the building shopping for a man. I was on my job doing my own thing and that I didn’t need a man to take care of me. Then he said something about ‘being proud of me.’ Then I hit him with; I don’t shout or jump about or have to talk real loud when you see me passing; it ought to make you proud.’ That’s from Maya Angelou.”
“Check you out. So what did he have to say?”
“Nothing. But I told him that I wasn’t interested in him and that I had just met someone that I was interested in.”
“Really.” Mina offered with the most affectionate smile.
Then my cell phone rang. It was Natalie. I didn’t answer and I felt incredibly guilty.
“Is that your girlfriend or wife?”
“Why would you ask that?”
“I know a guy like you would have somebody. So which one?”
“Girlfriend.” I looked at her to gauge her reaction. There was none.
“So why didn’t you answer?”
“I don’t really know.”
“How about, you didn’t want her to know that you were at lunch with a phenomenal woman.”
Again, she read me like an open book. I didn’t like myself for not answering Natalie’s call. I also didn’t like the way it conceivably made me look in front of Mina. I placed the phone’s profile on meeting, so that it would ring silent.
“So what about you... do you have a boyfriend?” I asked.
“I’m not dating anyone exclusively.”
“So, you’re a player.”
“People like to use labels. I’m a woman who has a few male friends. I’m one of those types of women; men like to hang out with.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, are these platonic friends.”
“So you think men and women can be just friends?”
“Yes... as long as the line isn’t crossed.”
“What line is that?”
“The panty-line. I don’t go there with just any and everybody; even my best of friends. So let me ask you something; do you love her?”
“You don’t sound convinced.”
“I’ve not had to think about it in a while.”
“It is.” In changing the subject, I asked “So tell me about your name?”
“I was named after my father. Quijelmina is old Columbian Spanish for William. Actually, my name is supposed to end with an ‘o’.”
“So you’re Columbian?”
“My grandmother, on my mother’s side is from Columbia.”
“Kee-ho-meena,” She annunciated for me, with a hint of an accent.
“So Quijelmina isn’t a ghetto-fabulous name.”
“Want to hear a funny story?”
“When I was little, my family always called me Mina. So when I went to school in the first grade, my teacher called me Quijelmina and I didn’t know it was my name. I remember that day so clearly. I remember arguing with her about it and they had to call my mother to the school.”
“I spent most of that school year learning how to spell my name. Because I had to work so hard at spelling it, I didn’t like my name.”
“Let me ask you something; you don’t think it’s disrespectful to you for someone not to call you by your given name?”
“Not at all. I like Mina.”
For the rest of that Monday I could not get Mina out of my thoughts. Without a doubt I was attracted to her; enough so that I willingly disregarded the long relationship with Natalie. Speaking of Natalie; when I finally did return her call, she was beside herself with wanting to know why I did not answer my cell phone. I honestly told her that I was busy. After about fifteen minutes, she finally calmed down and proceeded to tell me why she wanted to talk with me.
“Mavis, our paralegal misfiled some white papers for the merger briefing. Now the meeting has been delayed. This is a disaster. I told the partner over the deal, that once the papers are found, that the firm should fire her.” Natalie vented. She was used to getting what she wanted, being an attractive, well educated black woman; she had the partners of her law firm eating out of her French-manicured hands.
“Fired. What happened to a reprimand?”
“I’ll tell you what happened to it.”
Natalie went on to tell explain how the misfiling potentially could interfere with her weekend plans. I tried and tired of listening intently to her, providing a supportive “um hmm” every now and then. My concentration was drifting to thoughts of Mina and getting to know her. I ended the call with Natalie and went to my friend Leon’s office.
“So what happened with the mail girl?” I asked Leon.
“Aw man, she ain’t nothing but another piece of booty.”
“She wouldn’t give you her number right?”
“Man, I ain’t sweatin’ that chick.”
“Glad to hear it, because I had lunch with her today and I can’t stop thinking about her.”
“What! But what about Natalie?”
“Well see, that’s where the problem comes in.”
“I know that’s right. Natalie will put a hurting on you like you have never seen before if she finds out about your little mailroom chicken-head.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. First of all, I’m not worried about Natalie per se. I’m thinking of telling her that I no longer want to date exclusively.”
“Yeah, you go right ahead and tell her that and see if you don’t find yourself either in a courtroom or a hospital room. Your girl doesn’t come across to me as one who plays. She reminds me of that chick in that Martin Lawrence movie, It’s a Thin Line between Love and Hate.”
“Whatever man. The other thing is that Mina isn’t a chicken-head. She is very bright.”
“Listen to yourself. You sound like you’re talking about a pet or something. You hardly know this chick.”
For the rest of the week, I spent time getting to know Mina. We had lunch almost everyday. During that time, we talked on just about everything. I learned that Mina had been working in the building in the mailroom for four years, since she was eighteen. At twenty-two, it was a promotion for her becoming a mail deliverer. She was going to school part-time to earn a degree in business. Mina shared an apartment with her aunt, who is a single mother. The apartment was Mina’s and she was helping out her aunt by allowing her to stay with her rent free. That told me that she was a caring and compassionate person, at least when it came to extended family.
Mina was reading Working while Black: the Black Person’s Guide to Success in the White Workplace by Michelle T. Johnson. Some guy in the building, whom she said was trying to come on to her, had given her the book. I had the book on my bookshelf, so I was able to discuss it with her.
“Have you read about relationships in the workplace?” I asked.
“Do you think it’s a good idea to mix business and pleasure?”
“Not like that. I think it’s okay to date someone you work with, as long as you respect each others space. When I’m at work, I don’t expect my man to come bumping all up on me and he shouldn’t expect me to give him a lap dance in this office. That kind of stuff is for at home, behind closed doors. I can do it just like Trina says how to do it; Dirty dance with ‘em, put a lil’ back into it.”
“I thought women liked being shown attention.”
“There’s nothing wrong with attention. Me, personally; I don’t like being smothered by a man. Like men don’t want a needy woman, I don’t want a clingy man. I like my space. But when I give my man attention, it’s undivided.”
Mina’s candid, no nonsense thinking caught me off guard. I feel as if I need an interpreter when talking with Natalie. She spoke with hidden meanings and I felt like I was being cross examined. It was refreshing to hear a woman speak openly and honestly.
I asked Mina for her phone number.
“Now don’t get yourself in trouble with this.” She warned me. “I don’t want your girlfriend calling me with drama.”
“So why are you giving it to me?”
“I don’t have a problem talking with you. You know what you’re doing. You just need to handle your business. We’re not doing anything wrong. And if someone has issues, it’s you.”
We were not doing anything wrong.
“Do you believe in love?” I asked Mina at some point in our late night phone conversation.
“I do, but... with me, love is about getting to know someone. A lot of people, mistake love with infatuation. I’ve had men come up to me saying how much they love the way I look or how I’m filling out my jeans. That’s not who I am. That’s not me in the morning with eye buggers.”
“I’m serious. Nikki Giovanni wrote, I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal, I cannot be comprehended except by my permission. Men don’t bother to get to know me. They think they know me based on what they see.”
“No, I understand. I think that liking someone first, is more important than loving them. If you take the time to get to know someone and like them for who they are, that’s unlikely to change unless that person does. Love is more about how you feel, and not based on what you know.”
“Right. Love is fluid and moves with an ebb and flow.
“Wow. I like that.”
The more we spoke, the more I wanted to talk with Mina. I know it was less than a week, but I was love-struck. It was as if I was under some spell.
By the end of the week, I was prepared to tell Natalie that I no longer wanted to date exclusively or that I wanted us to take a break. The more thought I gave it, I was prepared to tell her that we were over. In reconsidering, I thought as my last act of kindness I would not tell her until she returned from her getaway weekend. I didn’t want to ruin it for her.
I called Mina and told her my intentions toward Natalie.
“Okay. You should do you and what makes you happy.” Mina offered without a hint in her voice of enthusiasm or encouragement.
“Yeah... whatever makes me happy. Well, that’s why I’m talking with you.”
“Really. What makes you happy?”
“I’m happy being true to myself. Before we go any further, I hope you aren’t twisted about leaving your girlfriend for me.”
“No, I’m straight about what I’m doing.”
“And just what are you doing?”
“I’m getting to know you.”
We both became silent. During those quiet moments I realized that I liked Mina and I loved Mina. I looked for reason to not believe it, but there was no denying it to myself. She was incredible as a person, smart and sexy. I had to know if there was a chance for us.
“So what kind of man do you want, Mina?”
“I just want to know.”
“Okay, because I’m holding it down and doing it for myself; that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to be with a strong man to take control of some things, without trying to take over.”
“One other thing.”
“I like a man with a sense of humor. If a man can make me laugh until I almost pee my pants, that means he’s already in them.”
I understood her thinking, though it was different. I liked her way of thinking. It was practical and it worked for her.
“Alrighty then Pee Pee” I said. We both laughed.
“Don’t be calling me that at work. People might think you knew me when I was little or something.”
We both laughed again. It felt good to laugh. I realized at that moment that I couldn’t remember the last time Natalie and I laughed together. That too was sad.
“Have you ever seen I might need Security, with Jamie Foxx?” Mina asked.
“No. Is that a movie?”
“You haven’t? It’s not a movie. It’s one of his standup shows. I have it on DVD. Would you like to come over this weekend to see it?”
Mina gave me the address and directions to her apartment. She lived where some would consider the ghetto side of town. Her aunt was going to be gone for the weekend, spending it with her baby’s daddy. That obviously meant that Mina and I would be alone.
The neighborhood and the apartment complex did not look inviting to any outsider. I walked the hallway of the building in search of Mina’s apartment. The smell of old and freshly burning incense was strong. It was a far cry from the gated community where Natalie lived. Through the door, I could hear a Mary J. Blige song. As I stood outside Mina’s apartment door, I questioned why I was there.
I questioned why I had made the decision to leave my girlfriend of two years for a woman I had only known for a week. The night before, I thought that I had the answer when I wrote them on a piece of paper. I had the paper tucked in my pocket. I knocked on the door. The Mina that answered the door was quite different than the one I had seen before.
With her shoulder length hair down, Mina looked enchantingly sexy. Yes, that was the first thing that came to mind when I saw her standing in front of me wearing a pair of camouflage booty shorts and a matching baby-T. She invited me in and as soon as the door closed, Mina walked to stand directly in front of me. She reached her arms up around my neck and pulled herself up and to me. We kissed. Mina’s body was firm and warm. Her arms, her lips, and her new smell embraced me. She did not wear perfume at work.
“What are you smelling like,” I asked when we broke the kiss.
“It’s Victoria Secrets, Love Spell perfume.”
“It’s noice, vely noice.” I said with a Bernie Mac impression.
“I’m glad you like it. I wore it especially for you.”
“Mina, I know that you like poetry, so I wrote something for you.”
“Are you serious? You write poetry?”
“I didn’t know that I did.”
“So where is it, let me read it?”
“I want to read it to you. Let’s sit down. --- It’s called, More than booty to me. ”
“No it’s not.”
“Yes it is. Just listen. - - -
“More than booty to me
While you're facing me
“OMIGOD. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU WROTE THAT!” Mina shouted.
“I wasn’t trying to offend you.”
“No. No. It was cute. I like it. Thank you.”
“Mina, I know it’s soon, but I am crazy about you. I can’t explain it.”
“Wait. Just wait. I need you to hear something. I’ve been listening to this all week.”
Mina went to her stereo and pushed a couple of buttons. A smooth Neo Soul beat began playing through the speakers. Mina stayed by the stereo and looked at me. From where I sat, it looked as if her eyes were tearing. Vocal humming started. Then the verses followed.
“I think I love u” dwele, Some Kinda...