By the time I arrived at my apartment, all I wanted was a bath and a glass of wine. How could this have happened! This is what happens when you don’t research your dates, their wives go ballistic. And Derrick was such a charmer, too. How could I have let myself get caught up in this?
This was the worst date ever! And the worst part was that I had 10 days left to find Prince Charming. Ten days and two guys left to make a connection worthy enough of Fred’s arrow. One of the other two had to pay off. I was running out of time.
I walked up the three sets of stairs to my apartment, defeated. At my final step, I looked up to see Michelle waiting by my door, a bottle of red wine and a box of chocolates in her hands.
“Thought I’d drop by since I was in the neighborhood.”
“You were on this side of town at this hour?”
Standing there like a pair of dorks, we erupted in laughter and gave each other a hug. Our “I’m sorry” ritual went back to our college days. During our junior year we had one of those falling out arguments that changed the course of friendships. To this day, I don’t remember what the argument was about but I remember the apology part. We wondered, if guys say they’re sorry with flowers and chocolates, why can’t women. So that night we bought each other chocolate bars and plastic flowers from the dollar store (college kids have no money) and we made up. So now, when one of us apologizes, they have to spring for chocolates and flowers. Our tastes have gotten expensive—Godiva chocolates and roses—but the ritual stayed the same, for the most part.
“Where’s my flowers?” I asked.
“Thought the bottle of wine would be more fun.”
“Wino.” I winked at M as I opened my front door.
Once inside, it took M 2.5 seconds to start the apology sequence.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t let you explain—”
“I’m sorry that I wasn’t supportive—”
“—it’s just that when you said you wouldn’t—”
“—of course I like Gary, and I like you with him—”
“—I went into Bridezilla mode, which I hate. I can’t get married without—”
“—and you’re gonna be so happy. I want you to be happy you’re my—”
“—best friend,” we finally said in unison. And then we hugged and everything was as it should be. M was back, a glass of wine was awaiting us and … wait a minute. Fred was right! Michelle was back in my life. He was two for two tonight, better than my batting average.
After our hug, I opened the wine, sat M down and told her everything. EVERYTHING. From Fred to the hourglass, to Derrick and the incident with his wife. I wasn’t sure if she was going to believe me; it was already a far-fetched story with the Cupid thing and all. But she was my best friend and even if she thought I belonged in a white straitjacket eating tapioca somewhere, it was the truth and she needed to hear it.
After I was done, Michelle sat in silence. All I could see were eyes moving back and forth in an attempt to register the story. I bit my tongue and waited.
“Where’s the hourglass?”
I ran to my bedroom to retrieve it. When I came back I set it on the coffee table in front of her. I watched her expression again as she eyed the timepiece, with four days worth of blue-purple sand sitting at the bottom.
“This has got to be the weirdest thing that has EVER happened to you. Like EVER.”
“I know!” My arms sprang toward the sky. “Finally! Someone I can talk with.”
M sat back on the couch, crossed her legs and took a sip of wine. I joined her.
“Okay, so you narrowed it down to three guys. And Derrick is a wash. Damn cheater. Who’s next?”
“Nelson Perry in two days.”
Michelle’s eyes grew wide right before she shuddered. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me? Nelson
“ ‘The Tongue’ Perry. I can still hear him in my sleep!”
Ah yes. Nelson was a corporate lawyer and, as such, he was use to arguing and making deals all day. Problem was that his business behavior spilled over into his personal life. Everything was a negotiation. I wanted Mexican for dinner but he wanted Chinese. The compromise was takeout from both places. One time, he actually found a Mexican/Chinese buffet. If I wanted to go to the beach for the day, he wanted a weekend getaway in the country. The compromise was a fan, a bottle of sand and a CD of the sound of waves playing in the car was we jetted away to a country cottage. It got so bad that when I wanted to break up with him, he wanted to negotiate bedroom visits twice a month. M and I called him “The Tongue” because he wouldn’t stop talking.
It wasn’t all bad, though. He was crazy about me and our brief but intense courtship nearly ended in a marriage proposal, sorta. We couldn’t negotiate the right ring. I wanted Tiffany’s, he preferred Harry Winston. But I could overlook that easily; I’ll just let him win. Done! He had impeccable taste anyway.
“Come on, M. You know that if I had let him have his way, I’d be married,” I said.
“And miserable! He would have insisted on 2.5 children and find some sort of half dog and half cat combo,” she laughed. “Well, all you need is a spark, right?”
I nodded and took a sip.
“Well then, spark away. After that loving feeling is gone, we can concentrate on getting you a real man.”
Michelle grabbed the remote from the table and clicked it to channel three. “Sorry, girl. Gary is giving an interview and I promised him I would watch it.”
I gave her the okay and went into my room to change. For a day of turmoil, it ended alright. M was back, she knows about Fred, and she’s on my side. That’s what I needed, someone that was on my side as I went through this. Doing this love search thing alone wasn’t the best way of doing it. Maybe M had another suggestion of who I should call. Maybe there was a rock that wasn’t looked under.
But then again, if Derrick wasn’t married, he would have whisked me away somewhere romantic for our reconciliation. Now, I was back to square one. Well, almost. There was Nelson, of course. He’s no Derrick but in a pinch, he would do. Aesthetically, Nelson had nothing on the smooth as silk Derrick. He was shorter, not as lean, and was prematurely balding. However, Nelson could hold his own when it came to style. He had his own twist. Where Derrick was Hugo Boss classic, Nelson was Calvin Klein, modern and fresh with a touch of the old style. While Derrick was helicopters and lavish tables nestled in cozy corners, Nelson was a limo ride to his high rise apartment with the breathtaking view as Emeril Laggasi, a close personal friend, cooked in front of us. Both very worthy men with style, just different that’s all.
“Marty, when is your date with Nelson?” Michelle asked from the living room.
“Two days from now. Why?”
“He’s not going to make it.”
“What?” Confused, I ran to the living room where M’s face had gone as pale as a ghost. She pointed her ruby red-manicured finger toward the set, the glass of wine still clutched in her other hand. Glancing at the screen, I knew exactly what made M the color of rice paper. Nelson’s picture was plastered on the news. M turned up the volume. The news wasn’t good.
“Corporate lawyer Nelson Perry was arrested today on ten counts of obstruction of justice and insider trading. He is being held without bond,” the anchor lady said.
I plopped down on the couch next to M in disbelief. The footage showed Nelson being taking out of his downtown office, wrists restrained by handcuffs, and a glare bouncing off his shiny, bald head from the t.v. cameras.
“If convicted, he’ll face 20 years in federal prison,” the anchor lady finished.
Speechless. I was completely speechless. Nelson was a great many things but a criminal…I would never have guessed “What are you going to do,” M asked.
“There is only one thing to do,” I answered.
As Nelson was guided into the cop car, I had a sinking feeling that my time and chances were running out quicker than the sand in the hourglass. Lorenzo Castillo, for better or for worse, was my last chance at love.
After a quick conversation, Lorenzo agreed to move our date up. Finally, some good news. For the evening, M loaned me her man-catching black dress. It was backless and sexy. Gary fell in love with Michelle when she wore it. It was her good luck charm and, hopefully, it would be mine.
We agreed to meet at a theater downtown but it wasn’t to see a play. It was to see a concert. A rap concert. Under normal, non-cherub circumstances, this would worry me. After all, Lorenzo the pharmacist enjoyed classical music—Mozart, Handel. But hearing him say the word “yo” at the end of a sentence rolled off my back. “Nice to hear from you again, yo.” Yeah. Okay. Whatever.
While Nelson wanted to propose, Lorenzo actually did. He went through the whole bit, one knee, princess cut diamond, roses, band playing, etc. It hurt when I said no.
Did I mention he proposed on our second date? The second date! Our relationship was a newborn and he wanted to trade wedding vows! Amazing.
Lorenzo was my impulsive Latin lover. He was a modern day Dezi Arnaz minus the drum and the accent. Part Puerto Rican and part Dominican, everything about him said islander. He walked at a slower pace, wasn’t at all worried about trivial things like mortgage payments or credit, and always was sun-kissed, even in the dead of winter. Despite his laid back ways, Lorenzo was ever the romantic and was ready, personally and financially, to fall in love. I don’t know why I hadn’t called him sooner.
The theater was more than crowded, it was a solid block of people most of who looked like they could either be my little sibling or could steal my car in a blink. They were a sandpaper rough crowd and I felt like a piece of glass about to be scratched up. The noise was a combination of loud conversations and a rap act on the stage no one paid attention to. Women, who couldn’t be more than 22, looked at me like I had a turkey sitting on my head. Their dark eyeliner and chunky gold (fake?) earrings reminded me of the high school bad girls. And just like those bad girls, they wore enough clothes to avoid an indecency charge—barely. Tube tops, crop tops, bikini tops, all in different colors and styles, showed more than my eyes could take and were coupled with either super saggy pants or super tight jeans. Unfortunately, some thought underwear was optional with their looks.
The men weren’t doing any better. Looking like nightmares, the men were the generic versions of the rappers I’d see on television. Every guy wore a jersey from either a football or baseball team paired with another team’s ball cap. Diamond studs, some as big as fat raindrops, dotted their earlobes. They couldn’t be any older than the ladies they were accompanying, although some looked like they were paired with their daughters instead of dates.
With lips curling like pencil shavings, my heart beat faster and my mouth dried. Some of the twisted looks from the girls made me nervous, like about-to-take-my-lunch-money nervous. But those glances were nothing compared to the ones from the guys—a distinctive t-bone in front of a lion glare.
Lorenzo was nowhere to be seen.
Avoiding eye contact, I stood on my tip toes to look for him. Just then someone shoved me from behind.
“Watch where your—”
Standing in his pizza delivering uniform was Teeth, err Jake, without a pizza in his hands and a growing smile.
“Hey, love. What are you doing here?” Jake yelled as loud as he could. I shook my head to let him know I could barely hear him. He stood closer to me, leaned into my ear and repeated himself.
He smiled delicious. Not like pizza at all.
“I’m suppose to be on a date. What are you doing here?”
“Just delivered a pizza backstage.”
My anxiety started to subside and I felt less threatened with him around. At least I knew one person here and if I couldn’t find Lorenzo, at least Jake would make sure I was safely in my car. Well, at least I thought he would. We’ve only seen each other a couple of time. I mean, we’ve never seen each other like a date or anything, we just met the other day, but it felt like I knew him beyond a simple handshake. But it’s not like we know each other…
“A date? In this crowd?” He chuckled, placed one of his hands on my shoulder and leaned closer. “Are you sure you’re in the right place?”
I opened my hand-purse and took out a slip of paper with the address. Jake read the address and gave me a thumbs up. He leaned in again. “I didn’t think you’d be the type of girl who’d go for a rapper.”
“Oh, no. My date isn’t a rapper.”
Lorenzo wasn’t into rap or hip hop or anything unless it was written by an old guy centuries ago. I wasn’t sure why he wanted me to meet him here.
“Hey, listen. This is a rough crowd and I don’t want anything to happen to you. I have some time to hang out—”
A short man dressed in a red and black jersey with a thick rope chain dangling from his thick neck walked up to us. He looked older than the average crowd-goer and acted more mature as if he was in charge.
“Yo, you Lo’s chick?”
I looked at the man, at Jake and then at the man again. “Lo’s chick?”
“Yeah, Lorenzo. You his chick?”
Hum. Chick. Like chicken. Like his little chicken? My eyebrows scrunched in the middle of my forehead and my hands went straight to my hips when the man said: “He’s waiting for you backstage.” He grabbed my hand, dragging me through the crowd. I turned to wave at Jake who getting further and further away.
Backstage was an interesting place, much less crowded than the front and more adult. Men in Italian suits and gold rings clicked out messages on their Blackberries. Their female companions, more formally dressed, lingered around them like flies to honey, blank expressions on their made up faces. Walking pass them, the man lead me downstairs to another dark hallway where more people hung around. He opened the second door on the right and motioned me to walk in.
I should have turned arouThe room had exactly one chair, one couch, and two handfuls of people—loud and drunk people who were probably on something stronger than Jimmie Walker. Women in tight, bright spandex and big boobs hung to men like coats on hangers. And not that the men were that impressive. It was more of the same from the crowd, jerseys, chains, ball caps.
And in the middle of it all, sitting on the black leather couch with a white towel on his head was Lorenzo–Lo to this crowd, apparently.
I walked over and sat next to him. As I touched his shoulder, his pretty green eyes focused in on me. He grinned, winked, and gave me a hug.
“What’s up, babe. I’m glad you came out. Respect.”
He chuckled to himself and continued. “I’ve missed you, gurl and your fine self. You gonna let a brotha hit that?”
I recoiled. “Lorenzo Castillo! What the hell is going on?”
A sheepish grin crept on his face. Yanking the towel from his head, I saw that his luscious raven hair was gone and in its place was a Mr. Clean baldness that almost made me weep.
“I’m making my debut, baby,” he said nodding. “I’m about to set it off in this bitch.”
“What are you talking about?”
“There are some record label execs upstairs waiting for the next Pitbull. I’m about to blow up!”
What. The. Heck. “You’re going to be a rapper now? Aren’t you a pharmacist?”
Lorenzo laughed. “That just wasn’t me. This is me.” The palms of his hand were flat on his chest. “This is me.”
Before I had a chance to protest, a woman in tight yellow spandex cloth thingy sat on the other side of Lorenzo and started to whisper in his ear. He grinned and nodded and the woman ran her red-nailed hand up his shirt. They started to kiss sloppy insignificant kisses that only a used up woman gives.
That was my cue to leave Lorenzo, former Latin Lover, now wanna be rapper, M.C. Lo — the M.C. standing for mega crazy or mega creep. I didn’t know who to be sadder for, Lorenzo for going down a crazy path or for me seeing the last potential date go down the drain along with my last chance for happiness.