The Hook Up Part I
“Are you sure you want to do this? Like…are you sure sure?” Indya asked me. She kept her eyes on me, her finger hovering over the mousepad of her laptop, refusing to hit the submit button until I answered her. We had a staring contest before I reached over her and tapped submit since she wasn’t going to do it.
I sat back on the sofa and downed my entire glass of wine in a few gulps. “Does that answer your question?”
Indya sighed and shook her head while closing her laptop. She refilled my glass and I immediately picked it up and took a few sips. I really needed to slow down on drinking, but I needed it tonight. Indya came to be my designated babysitter so I could drink until I didn’t feel anything. I was halfway there and after this glass, I would probably feel what I needed to feel. Which was nothing.
“I’m going to ask you again…how sure are you about this? I mean, how healthy do you think this is? Don’t you think you need to take some time to-“
“I’m sure,” I interrupted. “I need to do this. I don’t need time. I need…I need to getaway. Clear my head. And what better way to do that than to mingle with some sexy, single men?” “But you’ve barely been single a week!” Indya admonished me. “It’s been four days, Marley.” “Four days of hell. Please believe me, I’m ok. I need this,” I informed my friend. Even as the words left my mouth, neither of us believed it. The tears that escaped my eyes were proof that I wasn’t ready to date, mingle or anything that required me to intentionally be in the presence of men.
Indya pulled a few pieces of tissue out of the Kleenex box. Like a real friend prepared to nurse me through my heartache, Indya showed up to my house with food, wine, chocolate, and tissue. A lot of women said they didn’t like hanging with women because they were too messy. But three years ago, Indya befriended me, the new girl in the office, and we became fast friends. Tonight, as I was nursing my hurt with food and wine, I was so glad I made a friend at work.
Indya let me cry until I was all cried out. I was tired of crying, thinking and feeling anything related to Todd, my ex-boyfriend.
“I know it hurts right now, but you will be ok. I promise. It’s just going to take time,” Indya smiled and patted my hand.
I smiled back, grateful she wasn’t letting me handle this alone. “I know I will be ok. The Hook Up is the cure to my broken heart!”
Indya smirked but her concern did not waver. “I just want you to be sure. Like really sure.”
“Auntie Tess always said the best way to get over someone is to get under someone new!”
Two days later, Indya and I were on one of the dozens of buses transporting black men and women to The Hook Up retreat. When Indya saw the ad for it a few weeks ago social media, she jumped at the chance to attend. I cautioned her, feeling like it was a set up for drama, mess, and diseases, but the reviews said otherwise. Black people could not wait for an opportunity to mix and mingle with other black men and women in a beautiful private resort in sunny Florida. After Todd and I called it quits, I asked her what I needed to do to sign up. We checked the website and there were only a few openings left. We were able to switch Indya’s single room to a shared suite so we could be roommates.
Pulling up to the resort was breathtaking. It looked like something out of a magazine that catered to people that spent more on hair and nails than I made in a year. Palm trees, beautiful greenery and colorful flowers made up the landscape of the property as we pulled off the main road. The first building we pulled up to looked like a mini-mansion and I could only imagine the grandeur of the rest of the resort. Four large white pillars adorned the sides of an iron and glass French door. The outside of the building was a peach color stucco and made the greenery around it really pop.
But the outside was nothing compared to the inside. The large tiled floors and modern, brightly colored furniture let you know you were at a hotel. But it was the black art that let me know this place catered to my people-black people.
I followed a lot of artist on social media because I found art to be soothing and comforting. I drew and painted myself, not good enough to hang in a resort, but I did all the art in my home and in Indya’s. It was a hobby of mine, something I did to get my mind off the stress of being the human resource manager for a large corporation. I recognized some of the work on the walls and I was immediately at peace.
Indya and I made our way to the registration desk to get checked in.
The Hook Up was the brainchild of two married entrepreneur couples, Chanel and Kelton Carson and Aderra and Mark Potts. These four friends came up with the concept to provide a physical space for singles, married and the sexually adventurous to participate in a lot of different, fun-filled activities. Sometimes dating was difficult, even with online dating and they kind of took the guesswork out of it. From outdoor activities to cooking classes to art to movies to walks on the beach, The Hook Up had something for everyone. The name didn’t just refer to sex; the Carson’s and the Potts looked at themselves as your homegirls or homeboys “hooking you up” with someone you could spend time with, creating the perfect backdrop to rekindle your marriage or to just free your sexual inhabitations. They invested a lot of time and money to bring their ideas to life; I was impressed with the pictures I saw online, but pictures were nothing compared to seeing it in real life.
The resort was broken up into three different sections with colored bracelets to indicate why you were here. The married crowd sported red bracelets. Those who were single and ready to mingle had yellow and those who just wanted to get their rocks off wore black. The staff, including some plainclothes security, wore green bracelets. For those in the LGBTI+ community, their bracelets had the main color sandwiched in between a rainbow to take the guesswork out of meeting someone with the same sexual orientation. For the most part, the three different groups wouldn’t have interactions with each other but just to be on the safe side, the bracelets showed intent. I was impressed with the thought process of this place. I wanted a black bracelet, but Indya talked me out of it. I can neither confirm nor deny she threatened to punch me in the throat.
I wasn’t sold on this place at first because it just seemed like it was a haven for messiness. But they have been hosting these retreats a few times a year for five years and their negative reviews were few and far between. They didn’t guarantee anything; they just provided the opportunity for people to meet, for couples to get their groove back or for freaks to play. They also promoted safe, consensual sex and I don’t know how they did it, but there have been no allegations of rape or sexual harassment and they have never been sued for anything. It was almost unbelievable.
30 minutes later, Indya and I were in the living room of our suite taking in the view from the third floor. We were right on the beach and the scene was phenomenal. We each had our own bedroom and bathroom and shared the living room as a common space. Our rooms boasted king-sized beds with the most incredibly soft mattress and what felt like the highest thread count sheets in the world. There was a beautiful arrangement of yellow and green calla lilies on my nightstand. I loved the bowl sink sitting on the modern granite vanity in the bathroom as well as the walk-in shower and jacuzzi tub. Even if I didn’t meet anyone worthwhile, this room would be worth it.
“Can you believe this place?” Indya asked.
“It really is something!”
Indya moved from the window and picked up our itinerary. There were a lot of different activities for the single and ready to mingle crowd. Tonight, there was a game night that doubled as a meet and greet.
Indya and I took a short nap and then got ready for game night. Auntie Tess, the woman that raised me after my parents died, always told me you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I wanted to look good but not too desperate. The dress code was casual, so I decided to wear my dark denim high waisted distressed capris and a green V-neck t-shirt with the words Black and Educated on the front in white. The shirt wasn’t quite a crop top, but it showed just a sliver of skin and ample cleavage. Having turned 29 just last month and I still had a lot of youth left in me to dress how I wanted to without feeling like I was too old to show some skin. My hips, thighs and butt were courtesy of the Davis gene passed down to the women in my family. I had a love-hate relationship with my boobs, depending on what I was wearing. Today, I was in love.
I spent a few minutes putting on my lashes and some lip gloss. Five years ago, I made the investment in sisterlocks hair because I was tired of fighting with my loose natural hair. With that lifestyle, I was pretty much natural everything. Except my lashes. I loved lashes and without them, I felt naked. I was fortunate for my sienna complexion and smooth skin that allowed me to go without makeup if I wanted to, even though there were some occasions I felt like getting all glammed up.
I emerged from the bathroom to find Indya sitting in the living room. “Ok then sis! I see you!” I tried to twerk a little bit, but I wasn’t moving anything but my back and my arms causing Indya to fall out with laughter. I was what southern people would call thick and if times were ever hard, I had the body to be a stripper, but not the moves. I was probably one of the handfuls of black people that had zero rhythm.
“Girl you are going to throw your back out,” Indya laughed.
“Shut up! You shouldn’t hype me up like that!” I snickered.
“Nah, but for real. You look good!”
“Thank you! But stand up, let me take a look at you,” I encouraged Indya.
Slowly she stood and I could see the apprehension on her face. Over the years, I learned that Indya struggled with her self-esteem. It was baffling to me because I thought she was absolutely beautiful. Her skin looked like chocolate chips and she had a perfect smile. Indya had a head full of naturally curly hair, thick thighs, a small waist, and bigger boobs than me. But even with a stunning body and pretty smile, men still overlooked her because of her complexion. It baffled me that some men were so caught up in colorism that they could not see the beauty and brains of my friend. I already knew that if any man here told her she was pretty for a dark skin girl, I was going to fight on sight.
Indya was wearing gold and white maxi dress that accentuated all of her curves. Her makeup was subtle, but it gave her a golden hue. Sis looked like a million bucks.
“You look great Indya!”
She smiled but I knew she didn’t believe me. “I mean it. You look really good.”
Indya shrugged her shoulders. “Thanks. You ready?”
I wanted to stay in the room and convince her that she was indeed beautiful, but India.Arie’s lyrics popped in my head. “No matter what anybody says, what matters most is what you think of yourself.” I couldn’t convince her that she was beautiful; she would have to see that for herself.
We grabbed our purses and made sure we had our room keys before we left. In the hallway, we ran into some other ladies heading to the game night and sparked up a conversation. I thought the women would be catty and jealous seeing as to how we were all vying to meet someone worthwhile, but this group of ladies, four friends from Jacksonville, were so cool. One of the women complimented Indya on how her dress fit and she beamed. Sometimes compliments from strangers were more endearing. This sista didn’t know how much Indya needed to hear that.
We made our way over to the next building that served as a multipurpose space. Tonight, the space was transformed into the ultimate game room. There were spades, poker, Uno and tonk tables. Giant chess, checker and Connect 4 games. Taboo and Scattegories. And even old school games like Trouble and Operation.
But I think was most impressive was the laughter. Here were adults, 25 and up, laughing and enjoying the vibe. Sure, games like spades could get crunk but everyone was just enjoying the atmosphere and having a good time. It was amazing.
Our group of six walked around trying to see what we wanted to get into. We walked past a spades game when a woman got up from the table and her partner was asking if anyone wanted to play with her. I jumped in with no hesitation.
“I’m going to walk around with them,” Indya told me.
“Ok. I’ll be here kicking some ass!”
The sista across from me smiled big. “That’s what I’m talking about, sis!”
The two gentlemen at the table laughed and started talking junk. “Listen. Don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash.”
As I suspected, the man saying this dated line was probably pushing 60. That wasn’t that old, but that was one of Auntie Tess’s favorite lines. Fortunately for him, I was raised to be respectful but when it came to spades, I talked trash with the best of them. “Don’t worry. I can back up all the shit I talk!”
The older man’s partner snickered but didn’t say much. He didn’t stand out to me at all, just an average black man. Low cut hair, brown skin, dressed casually in a Polo shirt and shorts. He looked decent enough but nothing about him was memorable.
“How are we playing?” I asked. Auntie Tess used to host spades parties almost every Friday night. I learned to play when I was about 10. Her boyfriend at the time taught me and by the time I was 16, I could fill in if a regular didn’t show up. I didn’t have a gang of friends, but if I did have some kind of party or gathering, you could bet we played spades.
“Joker, joker, deuce, deuce and a point a book,” the old man’s partner informed me.
I nodded and even though I didn’t prefer to play like that, I could. My partner dealt the cards and I made good on my promise. Me and my partner won three of the four games. The older man got tired of losing and left the table. Me and my partner high fived each other and laughed.
“You want to find a new partner to get your ass kicked with?” I asked the guy.
He took a swig of his beer and stood up. “Nah, ya’ll got it.” He smirked at us and then left. Me and my partner laughed again. I was ready to go another few rounds but my growling stomach stopped me. “Girl, after I eat, I am going to come find you!” I told my partner.
I made my way to the buffet area and was pleasantly surprised by the spread. They had damn near every finger food you could think of. From chicken wings to sliders to egg rolls to cupcakes. There was also water, lemonade, tea, beer and all different types of Ritas. I thought it was smart to have limited alcohol so that people wouldn’t make drunk decisions. I piled food onto my plate and found an empty spot to sit down to eat. I looked around for Indya but didn’t see her. I pulled out my phone to text her and I took a bite of my buffalo chicken slider as I waited for her reply. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. Usually with buffet and bulk food, it wasn’t that good. This was delicious.
“Mind if I have a seat?”
I followed the voice floating over me and fo