“Here,” teased Darnell, pointing to a shopping cart as we entered the Kroger at Ansley. “The bottom always pushes the cart.” I rolled my eyes but grabbed the cart, signaling that I was open to, um, possibilities. “I wonder if this is what grocery shopping would be like if we were married.” I shot him a side eye and he laughed. “I’m playing, I’m playing!”
Years ago, I had no idea when I was dealing with the real Darnell. He always kept me guessing and this day was no different. I was slightly overwhelmed as questions raced back and forth in my mind. Was there truth to his jokes, or was he just messing with me? Was all that talk about adoption just him rambling about a pipe dream that will never happen or was that the real Darnell? I suddenly realized that absolutely nothing had changed. Not even me. It was 2007 all over again. Darnell was still a flirtatious free spirit and I was still an insecure, needy little puppy, trying to figure him out.
I clammed up and stopped flirting back with Darnell. As he ran up and down the aisles, snatching BBQ ribs and heads of lettuce, I meandered behind with the cart, turning my focus to my iPhone. I went through the ritualistic motions: first, I checked my messages, then, I read my emails, then I checked my Twitter, followed by Facebook. And then, I logged onto Grindr.
My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw that the closest profile to me was Darnell’s, who had apparently already logged on when we were in the cereal aisle. By the time we reached the dairy cooler, he was exchanging phone numbers with someone. He giggled but his smile vanished when he looked at my face.
“I’m kidding! I’m just playing!” he exclaimed, holding up his phone for me to see. “See! I’m not really talking to anyone.” His sentence was punctuated by the beeping of his phone, signaling a new Grindr message. Fucking goddamn Grindr will be the ruin of all things gay, I swear. I rolled my eyes again and pushed the cart away. I don’t know why I was getting upset. He was not my boyfriend. We weren’t even dating. What was I expecting?
On the way back to my hotel, we stopped at Brushstrokes so Darnell could purchase a birthday card. Mark was working by himself, stocking a shelf with pink penis-shaped water bottles. While Darnell roamed the aisles in search of the perfect card, Mark and I chit-chatted about my book event and his and Tom’s New York vacation.
“We saw a lot of Broadway shows,” said Mark. “Do you ever go see Broadway shows?”
“Um, no,” I said, feeling stupid. It’s odd to live in the Big Apple and hear people talk about their New York vacations. New Yorkers take for granted the impressive, majestic views and all that the city has to offer. As Mark gushed about the list of shows he saw, I tallied up all the things in New York I’ve yet to experience. I’d never been to Battery Park. Or the Bronx Zoo. Or the Statue of Liberty. Or the Top of the Rock. Despite living in the city, I’d never been to these places because I’m too busy surviving.
When I found Darnell, he was looking at the underwear. “These aren’t birthday cards,” I said. “Hey,” I continued, pointing to a pair of purple Diesel briefs. “I have those on right now!”
Without missing a beat, Darnell reached for my waist, shoving his hand down the back of my jeans. “Let me see!” I tried to squirm away, but in keeping with the rest of my behavior around Darnell, I didn’t try too hard. His long fingers probed, grazing over my hairy ass cheeks. “Nice. I thought you shaved all that.”
“No. I only get my back waxed,” I replied, now completely motionless, allowing him to have his way. I looked at his face, and he smiled, his eyes twinkled and then I pulled away. I wanted to slap him.
And then kiss him.
When we pulled up in front of my hotel, Darnell gently rubbed my leg. “Are you going to write about this? I can hear it now: ‘As we pulled up to my hotel, Darnell rubbed my leg and licked his lips.’” He licked his lips for effect and I smirked and shook my head.
“Let the record show that it’s your hand on my leg- I haven’t made one attempt to touch you all morning.”
He quickly removed his hand. “Well, don’t write that.” We laughed for a moment but then found ourselves simply looking at each other expectantly. I bit my lip, promising myself to not be the one to break the silence. Finally, he did. “I’ve missed you,’ he said softly. “I’ve missed this.”
“Me too”, I said, studying his face, waiting for him to tell me he’s just joking.
“So, do I have time to come up to your hotel room?” He looked at his watch and my heart jumped.
“I’m having lunch with Jilly in about a half an hour,” I said quietly, disappointed. “And you have perishables in the trunk.”
“Ohhhh,” said Darnell, remembering, nodding.
“But maybe for a couple of minutes?” I relented. I’m not sure what a couple more minutes could have accomplished but down to the wire, I was ready to give in to my desire.
“Naw, I should get home,” he said, looking out the window at the waiting valet driver. He turned back to me and smiled. “It was good to see you.”
“You too,” I said, smiling back to hide my defeat. There was a hug and I wanted to say so much, but I knew better. He wasn’t ready. He may never be ready. And maybe by the time he is ready, I won’t have anything left to say. So, I got out of his Lexus.
“See you around, kiddo,” he said out the window. I nodded and stuck my hand up to wave, but he was already pulling away, the bass of trap music shaking his Lexus and eliciting an eye roll from the valet.
TO BE CONTINUED