Men like me don’t get married.
Wait. I should edit that to say that men like me shouldn’t get married.
I mean, why should we?
Men like me are every woman’s dream. We’re attractive and successful. We take care of our bodies. We own our own condos and some of us even own our own businesses! We can have our pick of any woman we want any day of the week!
Of course, I didn’t plan on making Tricia my one and only. When I met her, she had just turned thirty and her biological clock was ticking so loudly I could barely hear myself talk when we were together. But Tricia was FINE. Easily one of the finest women I had ever laid eyes on. So I couldn’t just let her go for some other player to scoop her up.
At least not yet.
Things were going nice and slow with us, just how I liked it. We would meet up on the weekends for dates and sometime she would spend the night. For awhile she started talking about what I wanted in my future, but she hadn’t mentioned settling down for at least a month, when she asked me to go with her to visit her parents in Alabama. She promised me that this visit was not a set up. She even said she had told her parents we were just friends. So we gassed up my new Mercedes and hit the road. Sixteen hours later, we were standing in her parent’s driveway in the middle of nowhere. The only house that could be seen for miles was her parents’, and their entire house could have fit in my living room.
“Babygirl!” Tricia’s father called out as Tricia stepped out of the car. “Look at you! Just as pretty as ever!”
Tricia’s father hugged her so hard that he lifted her from the ground. “Daddy! I’m not a little girl anymore! Put me down!”
“And you must be...Hezekiah?” Tricia’s mother said.
“Hez is fine,” I said. I hated my name, even though I was named after my great-grandfather.
“Well, come on in here and get some dinner. I know y’all must be exhausted!” Tricia’s mother said as she took Tricia’s bag. My cell phone chirped as it searched for a signal.
“Man, you may as well put that thing away. We don’t have no cell towers out here!” Tricia’s father said as he laughed. “No wifi either, for that matter.”
I turned and looked at Tricia and mouthed “really?” She just shrugged her shoulders. I was immediately thankful we were only going to be there for a few days.
At least that's what I thought.
“Where should we put our stuff?” I asked Tricia’s mother as we stepped through their front door into their modest living room.
“YOU can bring your things down to the basement,” Tricia’s father said. “Ladybug will sleep in her own room, of course.”
I shot Tricia a look of disdain. She just shrugged her shoulders and followed me down to the basement.
As I put my bag on the bed I turned to her. “So this means I can’t get no lovin’ while we’re here?”
Tricia wrapped her long arms around me.
“Of course you will. I’ll sneak down here when they go to bed. Daddy sleeps like a log.”
“You better!” I said as I kissed her.
“So, tell me about yourself!” Tricia’s mother said.
“‘Mom! I said, no 20 questions!”
“Oh, ladybug, chill out,” Tricia’s father said. “you've told us so much about him, but we would like to hear it from him directly.”
“Well,” I said as I cleared my throat. “I’m an only child. Raised by my grandfather after my parents were killed in a car accident when I was six. I own my own cybersecurity company in Boston, and I’m hoping to open a second office in Oakland by the end of next year.” I glanced at my phone. It was still roaming.
“Very impressive!” Tricia’s father said. “So, when is the big day?”
I looked at Tricia, but she looked away.
“Excuse me, sir? Big day?”
“Yeah! When are you going to ask for my ladybug’s hand in marriage?”
“I’m sorry, sir. There must have been some confusion. I actually don't have any plans of asking your daughter to marry me. We're just getting to know each other, you know?”
Tricia’s father pushed back from the table.
“So, you're just going to play around with her until you're ready to settle down with someone else? I didn't raise my daughter to be someone's play toy!”
“Sir, let me explain! I---”
“You don’t have to explain a damn thing to me!” Tricia’s father exploded. “You think you’re gonna lay up with my daughter with no plan to make her an honest woman? Not on my watch!”
But before Tricia could stop him, her father grabbed me by my shirt and began to drag me toward the front door. Within seconds, I was on the other side of the door.
“Daddy! No!” Tricia screamed, but he pulled her back inside and slammed the door behind him.
“Are you KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?” I screamed as stood up and banged on the front door. “Come on, Tricia! Don’t let them do this to me!”
Tricia’s father raised the window and peered out. “Get your ass outta here before I make it impossible for you to walk! If you don’t leave now, I will call the police and believe me, you don’t want that!”
I dusted myself off and looked out into the distance. It was pitch black, and no houses could be seen for miles. What was I supposed to do?
I looked at my cell phone and the “ROAMING” symbol was still spinning. No signal. I didn’t even have a chance to grab my keys.
I had no choice but to start walking.
After what seemed like hours, I stumbled upon a small house that was surrounded by high bushes. There was a sign that clearly stated NO TRESPASSING, but all I needed was a working phone to try to call someone to come to pick me up and take me back to the airport.
I knocked lightly on the front door and waited.
I knocked again, this time a little harder.
Just as I started to knock again, the door sprung open and a middle-aged woman was standing there.
“Well, hello there, young man. You lost or somethin’?”
I cleared my throat. “No. Well, not really. I was staying up the road at the….” (I realized I didn’t even know Tricia’s last name.) “At the red house that looks like a barn. And the pickup truck in the yard?”
“Honey, you DO know you’re in Alabama, don’t you?” she said as she laughed and lit a cigar. “ALL of our houses have pickup trucks in the front.”
I laughed nervously. “I guess you’re right. Can I use your phone? I just need to call a cab to get me out of here.”
“No phone here, honey, sorry. But you’re welcome to my guest room for the night if you’d like. It’s not much, but it’s a place to sleep until morning.”
I looked around at her home. A deer head was prominently displayed on the mantle and a bear rug was scattered across the living room floor. Her television was on, but the picture was dim, like all of the people were ghosts. And I could definitely feel a draft from where I was standing.
“No, that’s okay, ma’am. But thank you anyway.”
“Ma’am? Honey, I ain’t that old! And it’s after midnight. Believe me, you don’t wanna be walking the dirt roads of Alabama at this time of night. Somebody might use you for target practice like they do in that big city you come from.”
Her comment made me pause. “How did you know I come from a big city?”
“Are you kidding me? Ha! Look at your shoes! Your freshly ironed pants. Even that shiny phone you’re carrying in your freshly manicured hands. All of it tells me that you come from a big city and that you take VERY good care of yourself.”
I looked at my hands and sighed. “Okay. I guess I have no other choice for the night.”
“No problem at all. If you look in the drawers in that room, you may find some sweatpants to sleep in. They’re my son’s. But you’re welcome to them!”
“Thank you again,” I said as I walked to the back of the house to the guest room.
I opened each dresser drawer, only to find ratty sweatpants and t-shirts that were yellowed. “No, thank you,” I said, halfway under my breath.
“Hey!” The woman said as she peeked her head into the doorway of the room. “I didn’t even tell you my name! It’s Beth Ann, but folks around here just call me Beth. What’s your name, honey?”
“Hezekiah,” I said. “But you can call me Hez.”
“Let me guess, your parents are church folk, right?”
I laughed. “Yeah. Something like that. I’m actually Hezekiah the 4th.”
“Whoa!” Beth Ann said as she lit a cigarette.
“Oh, do you mind not doing that in here?” I asked.
“Oh, honey. I have smoked in this House for over 25 years, so if you have some sort of allergy to it, you're in the wrong place!” She laughed as she took a long drag from the cigarette.
“I don’t have an allergy…it’s just...well…I don’t like how it smells. It gets in my hair, my clothes, you know.”
“I understand. I’ll try to keep it away from you, okay?”
“Did you find something to wear?” She asked.
“Yeah...well…I didn’t find anything that would be appropriate to sleep in.”
“They don’t wear sweatpants to bed where you come from? What do you wear? Silk?” Beth Ann asked as she laughed again, this time ending with a heavy cough.
I pulled a pair of sweatpants out of the drawer.
“These will be...just fine,” I said.
“Great, well, I'll leave you to it. Let me know if I can get you anything tonight! The kitchen is the second door on your right, and although I don't have much to offer for food, there is a sink full of cold mountain water,” she said.
“I appreciate it, thank you!” I said. I just wanted to go to sleep.
After Beth Ann left the room, I carefully took off my pants and folded them on the nightstand. I help my breath as I pulled back the blankets on the bed. The sheets weren’t visibly dirty, but they didn't look clean either. I decided to sleep on top of the blankets.
The next morning, I was awakened by a loud banging on the guest room door.
“Hezekiah! Honey, I need you to get up right now!”
It sounded like Beth Ann's voice, but it was very loud and high-pitched. She sounded upset.
I scrambled to my feet and opened the door expecting to see Beth Ann and standing there. But instead, there was a young man, not much younger than me. He was standing with his arms folded.
He was wearing a pair of bibbed overalls that were unfastened on one side. He also had on a pair of dirty work boots. His hair was blonde and oily, and he had it combed back away from his face.
“Who the hell is this? And why is he sleeping in my room? And why is he wearing my good pants?”
“Whoa! Chill. Beth Ann said it would be OK for me to sleep in here, and told me to take a pair of pants out of the drawer.”
He stepped closed to me. His face was inches away from mine and I could smell a hint of beer on his breath.
“I don’t care WHAT my mother said. Your kind ain’t welcome here!”
“My kind?” I laughed as I stepped back.
“Yes,” he said as he poked my chest with one finger. “YOUR kind. Now get outta my pants and get outta my house!”
“I wasn’t planning on staying here! I just need to get to a phone so I can call someone to come and get me.”
“Someone like WHO?” he said as he laughed. “You ain’t got no people here in this town.”
“Actually, I do. My girlfriend’s family lives just up the way.”
“So why ain’t you there with her?” he asked.
“Because we had a disagreement... You know what? I don’t have to explain anything to you.”
I took a fifty dollar bill out of my wallet and slapped it into his hand.
“This is to replace your ‘good’ pants,” I said with a chuckle. I turned to Beth Ann. “Thank you so much for letting me sleep here. I really appreciate it.”
“It ain’t no trouble, Hez. I’m glad I could help.”
I grabbed my pants from the nightstand and draped them over my arm. I had to brush past the young man in order to get past him in the doorway, but he didn’t push back.
As I stepped out onto the porch and closed the door behind me, I felt sick to my stomach. Where would I go now?
I walked down the broken pathway to the dirt road. As I looked back toward the house, I saw Beth Ann and her son watching me from the living room window.
As I walked down the dirt road, I could feel sweat beginning to drip down my back. It had to be at least 100 degrees and it was only 9 a.m. It sure didn’t get that hot so early in the morning back in Boston.
I shielded my eyes with my hand as I looked to see if I could see any other houses within my view. I didn’t. The only house I knew existed was Tricia’s parents, and I knew I couldn’t go back there after being thrown out the night before.
Or could I?
I decided to give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? Tricia’s father could beat me up? Call the police for trespassing? Either way, I could get my hands on my car keys and get out of town.
After what seemed like hours, I finally saw Tricia's parent's house. As I approached their driveway, I could see Tricia and her mother sitting in the side yard. Tricia looked beautiful. She was still in her yellow nightgown, and her hair was piled on top of her head in what she called a “pineapple”. Of course I had noticed how beautiful she was before (otherwise I would not have even given her a chance) but there was something about the way the sun was shining on her that made her look like she was glowing.
Tricia’s mother spotted me first.
“Hezekiah, now you know you are not welcome here! You better get outta here before my husband gets back!”
“Mrs….Listen, I don’t want any trouble. I just want to get my car keys so I can be on my way.”
“Why haven’t you called me by my name since you got here? Do you even know Tricia’s last name?”
“Of course I do...it’s…” I closed my eyes as though that would make remembering Tricia’s last name a little easier.
“I can’t believe you!” Tricia’s mother said.
“I know it’s a city...Charlotte?” I stammered.
“It’s DURHAM!” Tricia screamed. “I can’t believe I have wasted two years with you and you don’t even know my last name!”
“I know your last name! Stop being silly!”
“No you don’t,” Tricia said. As I walked closer, I could see her eyes were filled with tears. I tried to reach out to her, but she pulled away from me and walked toward the house.
“Where are you going, ladybug?” Tricia’s mother asked.
“I’m gonna get his keys so he can get the hell outta here,” Tricia said.
“You’re not going back with me? Seriously?” I asked.
Tricia didn’t answer as she slammed the screen door behind her. A few seconds later, she reappeared with my car keys and my bag.
“Here!” She said as she threw the keys and the bag off the front porch. The keys landed in a puddle of water.
“Tricia, don’t be this way! Let’s take a ride so we can talk!” I pleaded.
But instead of responding, she turned and walked back into the house.
“You best be getting on, son,” Tricia’s mother said as she walked towards the house as well. “If my husband comes back to find you here, God only knows what he’ll do.”
I reached down and picked up my keys from the puddle and my bag from the ground. As I got into my car, I looked back, expecting Tricia to be watching me from the living room window.
But she wasn’t.
I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I had to get as far away from Tricia's parents' house as possible. I didn't know what her father was capable of doing, but I knew I didn't want to see that fire in his eyes again.
I noticed my car seemed to be hesitating as I accelerated, but I just thought it was because of all the rain we had gotten overnight. It wasn't until it abruptly shut off that I knew there was a serious problem.
I got out of the car to look under the hood. On the surface, everything looked normal to me. But if everything was normal, why would it shut off?
I closed the hood and reached back into the car for my cell phone. Still no signal. And the sun was beginning to set, which meant I would soon be in total darkness. Just as I went to raise the hood again, I saw headlights in the distance. As the car came closer, I hear someone call out my name.
"Hezekaiah?" the voice said. I walked closer to the car to see who it was. It was Beth Ann. “You need some help?”
Remembering how badly my departure from Beth Ann’s house was, I declined. “No, thank you. It’ll start up in just a few.”
“I’m sorry about how my son treated you,” she said as she stepped out of her car. “He’s just not used to seeing people like y---, well, you know.”
“Black people?” I said. This is 2018! How could he not be used to seeing black people?”
“This IS Alabama,” Beth Ann said. “And look around: it’s pretty rural where we live.”
“That’s still no excuse,” I said as I tapped on the battery, pretending like I knew what I was doing. I’ll be fine. My phone will pick up a signal any second now, and I’ll be able to call roadside assistance.”
Beth Ann laughed. “You think we have roadside assistance in this town?”
“I don’t care what THIS TOWN has. I have it as part of my car lease.” I slammed the hood and walked back to the driver’s side.
Beth Ann was quiet for a moment. “Okay. Suit yourself! But don’t blame me if you meet up with something you can’t defend yourself against out here.”
She walked back to her car and got in.
"Wait,” I said. “Are you sure your son will be okay with me coming to your house again? He was pretty upset to find me in his room.”
“He’ll be fine. He took his meds, so he is calm now. You can stay with us until your phone works and then you can figure out what to do next. Okay?”
I looked at my phone, which still said “ROAMING”.
“Okay,” I said as I grabbed my duffel bag from the backseat. “Will they tow my car if I leave it here?”
Beth Ann laughed. “Like I said before: this is the country! No tow trucks, no roadside assistance. I can ask Mr. Bill to come and tow you tomorrow if his shop is open. That is, if he can work on foreign cars like yours.”
As we pulled up to Beth Ann’s house, her son was sitting on the front porch. A mangy dog was sitting at his feet.
“You’re back again?” he said as he stood up and started to walk toward me. “I thought I threw you outta here?”
“Relax, son,” Beth Ann said. “He’s gonna stay in Paw Paw’s room. He won’t bother you at all.”
As I walked past Beth Ann’s son, he leaned toward me so that I had to brush against him as I walked by.
“What did I say?” Beth Ann said with a slightly raised voice.
“Yes, Ma’am,” her son said as he sat back down in his chair.
Later that evening, I heard a chirping sound on my phone, which meant I had a new message. I had a signal! I was so happy I could have screamed.
As I pressed “1” to listen to the message, I sighed a breath of relief. It was Tricia.
“Hez, babe, I’m sorry about how everything went down. Daddy is a hothead for sure. If you can come back and get me, Daddy said he’d let me go back to Boston with you. At first he was trying to make me fly back on my own but I told him that made no sense. So, come back and get me, okay? I’ll be outside on the porch till you get here. If you forgot the address, it’s 730 Maven Lane. Love you, babe. And again, I’m sorry.”
I grabbed my duffel bag and went to the living room to look for Beth Ann, but found only her son, who was working on a crossword puzzle.
“What you want, man?” her son asked.
“Where is Beth Ann? I need a ride back to my girlfriend’s parents’ house.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe she’ll be back soon, maybe she won’t.”
“What does that mean?” I said as I walked to the window to see if her car was outside.
“I said I DON’T KNOW! Maybe she went to work! She’ll be back when SHE GETS BACK”. He brushed past me and went into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
I walked to the front door and opened it to see if there were any other cars outside. There was one old pick-up truck that looked like it had been parked for years, and a small two-door car that had a flat tire.
I dialed Tricia’s number but the phone wouldn’t connect. When I looked at the screen it said “ROAMING” again.
I decided to try to use the map feature on the phone to see if I could get directions from where I was to Tricia’s parents house. I typed in Tricia’s parents’ address and selected “from my location”. The phone loaded slowly, but when the directions finally appeared, it said my location was 500 miles from Tricia’s parents’ house. How was that possible when I had only driven for a few minutes earlier?
I hesitantly walked to Tricia’s son’s door and knocked.
“WHAT?” he yelled as he threw the door open.
“Listen, can you give me a ride? It’s not far from here- maybe 5 minutes? The address is 730 Maven Lane. I’ll....pay you $100.”
His eyes lit up when I said “$100”. “Let me see it,” he said.
I reached in my wallet and pulled out a $100 bill.
“Let’s go. But only because of the money.”
As I climbed into his pick-up truck, his dog jumped in behind me and sat on my lap. I hate dogs, but if this meant I would be back with Tricia and on my way back to Boston tonight, I didn’t mind being covered in fur.
“Which way is it? Do you have a doohickey map thing on your cellular phone?”
“I do, but it’s not accurate. It says the address is 500 miles from here.”
“500 miles? Man you said it was 5 minutes way!”
“That’s because it IS! Just go down this way! My car is parked right off the side down here.”
As we drove further and further down the road, I kept expecting to see my car. But I didn’t.”
“Where is your car?” Beth Ann’s son asked.
“It should have been right here,” I said, pointing to the side of the road.
He laughed. “Are you on drugs?” he asked. “Because I definitely don’t see a car on this road.”
“Forget about that for now. I remember coming down this road and turning here. So turn right and Tricia’s parent’s house will be right on the lefthand side of the road.”
“This road is a dead end,” he said. “And there aren’t any houses on this road past that sign.” I looked and saw a NO TRESPASSING sign nailed to the tree.
“Can you please just humor me? Please? Just drive down this road. Her parents’ house is right…”I said as he drove down the road I thought was Tricia’s parents house. “It should be right over…” I said as I squinted to try to see the house in the dark. “Just pull over right here. I’ll find it myself. I must have gotten turned around somehow.”
“Believe me, you don’t wanna be out here in the dark by yourself. You think I’m crazy? These folks out here make me look like Mr. Rogers.”
“I’m not afraid of no country bump---I’m not afraid of anyone. Please pull over so I can get out.”
As he pulled over, I took another $100 dollar bill out of my wallet. “Can you give this to your mom? I just want to thank her for taking me in twice during all of this confusion.”
“Surrrre,” he said as he took the bill from me. Somehow I knew the money would never make it into Beth Ann’s hands.
As he pulled away, I pulled out my cell phone so that I could use the flashlight to make sure the street sign said “Maven.” But when the light hit the sign, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It didn’t say Maven. It said Maple.
Beth Ann’s son was right. This was the wrong area, and I had a feeling that I was nowhere near Tricia’s parents’ house.
How did I get so turned around?
When my alarm sounded, I squinted to try to figure out where I was. It was dark in the room, and all I could make out was the outline of the window.
As I reached over to what I believed to be the nightstand to turn on the lamp, I realized I was not at Beth Ann’s.
I was in my bedroom.
At my condo.
As soon as I realized where I was, I jumped out of bed and turned on the lights.
How on earth did I get back to Boston? I thought as I scanned the room.
And where is Tricia?
I looked on my nightstand for her perfume and other items she always left there, but all that was there was my watch and fraternity ring.
I grabbed my phone and began to dial Tricia’s number, but then I realized I didn’t know it by heart.
So I opened my contacts and began to scroll through the names. Tricia’s name was not listed.
I felt like I was going crazy!
As I continued to scroll, my phone buzzed. The name “Bae” appeared on the screen, along with a photo of a woman I did not recognize.
“Hello?” I answered, hoping to recognize the voice.
“Hezekiah! Where have you been? I’ve been calling you all weekend! You promised to take me shopping after your event today, so don’t forget!”
“Who is...what event?” I asked.
“Silly! Your day trader event. Remember? You have 50 suckers...I mean customers who signed up and paid a half a rack to come! Please don’t tell me you’re not prepared!”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Yeah...I’ll call you when I’m done!” As I ended the call, I noticed my bag sitting on the floor by my bed. I opened it hoping it would have some of the info for the event I was supposed to be running.
When I opened the bag, I let out a sigh of relief when I saw a folder labeled “Summer Day Trade Workshop” inside. In the folder was the agenda for the day, along with copies of the packets each person was supposed to be getting.
But as I looked at the packet, something didn’t look right. The stocks that were listed were stocks I would have never suggested to my clients for investment. In fact, the stocks were forecasted to drop within the next few months. So why were they listed in the agenda as a suggested way to increase income?
As I continued to read, someone began to knock on my door.
“Hez!” a male voice called out from the other side of the door. “Open up, man! We’re gonna be late!”
I opened the door to find my cousin Tariq. We ran my business together.
“What happened to you?” Tariq asked. “You look like hell.”
“I FEEL like hell,” I said as I stepped back to let him in.
“Well, you have twenty minutes to get yourself together. We have to be at the hotel at 10 a.m.”
I walked toward the bathroom. “Hey, have you heard from Tricia?”
“Who’s Tricia?” Tariq asked. “Oh, she must be your newest conquest.”
“She’s not hardly new! We’ve been kickin’ it for almost two years!”
Tariq frowned. “Well, she must be a ghost because I’ve never met her!” he said as he laughed.
“Yes you HAVE!” I said. “We double date with you and your wife all the time!”
Tariq walked up to me and put his hand on my forehead. “You okay, dog? Because you sound like you may be losing it a little.”
I smacked his hand away. “I am FINE. Y’all must be playing some sort of trick on me. I’m gonna shower and I’ll be back in ten.”
As the water ran over me, I thought about what Tariq said. Maybe I was losing it. Maybe Tricia was just someone I had dreamt about. I dried off and pulled on a pair of khakis and polo shirt. As I re-entered my living room, Tariq started laughing.
“Where you going, to Catholic school? Man if you don’t go put a suit on!”
“A suit? For a workshop?”
“Yes, man! This is our brand! We can’t have you out here looking low budget when you’re pretending to be able to make those people rich!”
“What do you mean, pretending? We actually help people!”
“Yeah, okay, Mr. Rogers. You know as well as I do that the only people who will be rich at the end of the day is us. Now go change so we can get out of here!”
The ballroom at the hotel was already packed by the time Tariq and I arrived. My secretary was sitting at the registration table and rose to her feet when she saw us.
“It’s about time you got here! I was worried!” she said as she straightened my tie. “You okay?”
“I’m fine! Why is everyone asking me that?”
“Okay, well we’ll be starting in five, so make your way to the front of the room, okay? I have your actors positioned throughout the audience so they can stand and give their testimonies of how you made them rich,” she said as she laughed. “I can’t believe people are still falling for this scam.”
“This is NOT a scam!” I said. “They will build wealth if they follow our outline!”
“Not using that bogus list you’re giving out today. The same list you’ve been giving out for the past year.”
“I’m not giving that list out today. Can you make copies of the actual list of stocks that will grow in the next six months?”
“Are you serious?” Tariq said as he pushed me back. “This was not part of our plan, Hez! We have an agreement with the companies we are promoting, we can’t switch it now!”
“We can, and we will,” I said as I turned back to my secretary. “Please make enough copies for everyone.”
As she disappeared on the other side of the door, I began to scroll through my contacts again, hoping I had just missed Tricia’s contact info. But she was not there. Her number was not in any of my call logs either.
Was Tricia even real?
(c) 2018 Crystal Senter-Brown
To be continued
(c) 2018 Crystal Senter-Brown