The Hook Up Part II
I tried to rationalize what I was feeling but the only thing that was coming up was regret. I only knew him for a few hours and for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to sleep with him because I was lonely.
Todd and I were together for six years and I’d been single for a week before I slept with someone else. Last night also showed me I was not ready to date like I thought I was. Auntie Tess’ advice was usually sound but getting under someone new was not the way I needed to handle this. Indya was right, as she usually was.
Even though I knew Indya was still sleep, I went ahead and ordered us breakfast from room service. The money we paid for this resort was worth it because food and drinks were included. I got a southwest omelet and ordered yogurt and cereal for Indya. She was not a fan of breakfast so I knew between the yogurt and the cereal, she would be ok.
I went to the living room and started the coffee pot to get my day started. I was drinking my coffee and thinking about last night when Indya emerged from her room.
“Yes! Coffee! You are a girl’s best friend!” I wasn’t sure if she was referring to me or the black liquid she was pouring in her cup.
“Good morning sunshine! Long night?”
The smile that crept onto Indya’s face was one of pure bliss. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that got some last night.
“Yes,” she replied breathlessly. We moved to the sofa to get comfortable to talk about our nights. This felt like our Sunday ritual. No matter what we had going on, Indya and I usually reserved 2-3 Sundays for brunch, dinner or just hanging out. We fell into this groove so that when work and life got busy, we knew we could catch up during our Sunday dates.
I could hardly wait to hear about her evening. “So, tell me about Zion.”
I didn’t think her smile could get any bigger.
“Well, I was with the ladies we met, and we all played Taboo and I ended up on his team. We played well together and we just kind of stayed together. He is 32, father of two, and he is a high school basketball coach. He lives in Macon and he loves his mama.”
“You know you gotta be careful of them mama’s boys,” I joked. “What did ya’ll do last night?”
I was kind of hoping that she slept with him so I could say ‘oh yeah, me too.’
“After the game night, we weren’t quite ready for the conversation to be over, so we just went to the beach and talked almost all night.
I was waiting for her to say something else, but she didn’t. “That must have been one hell of a conversation!”
“Oh, it was!” she gushed. “We talked about everything. And I mean everything. It was probably one of the best nights of my life.”
I could tell by the sound of her voice that she was smitten by Zion. And even if I left here with nothing, just knowing my friend encountered someone that made her smile like this was worth all the money.
“So that’s all ya’ll did? Talk? No…body talk?”
Indya laughed. “No…I didn’t feel a need to, you know? It was just…I don’t know how to explain it. It’s almost like I’ve been with him before. There was no awkwardness, no pressure. I was content to sit on the beach, listen to waves and talk to him.”
“Wow! That’s beautiful!” I hoped my reaction wasn’t too generic because I meant it. It was just that…well…I didn’t feel like that about DJ and I just gave it up.
“Enough about me, tell me about DJ.”
I shifted in my seat and exhaled. “I mean…he was cool and all but there wasn’t much there.”
“I couldn’t tell by the way you guys were last night.”
“Yeah, but I realized that I was moving too fast. I am really not ready to date.” Indya didn’t say anything, but her eyes were screaming ‘I told you so’.
“Is the feeling mutual?” Indya questioned.
“Yes. He is divorced and he thought he was ready, but he wasn’t. We’re both cool with it,” I shrugged. It sounded like a good enough lie but in all honesty, I had no idea why he ghosted me.
We sat in silence for a second, sipping our coffee. “Did you come to that conclusion before or after you slept with him?”
I whipped my head in her direction and wondered how the hell she knew. The knock on our door gave me a few seconds to try to figure out how I was going to answer her. The server wheeled our breakfast in, and I tipped him before removing the lid from my perfectly cooked omelet.
“I got you cereal and yogurt,” I informed Indya. She nodded and removed her lid and doctored up her yogurt with nuts and blueberries. My omelet was to die for, and I wondered how something so simple could be so good.
“So, you’re going to act like you can’t eat and talk?”
One thing about the friendship I had with Indya was that she was going to make me talk through things. I was still friends with some people from high school, but Indya made me accountable.
I chewed my omelet slowly and took a sip of my coffee to stall. I kept my eyes on the Atlantic Ocean in front of me, refusing to look at her. “I knew it before and after. There was nothing special about him.”
“So why did you sleep with him?” Indya asked digging into her yogurt.
“Because I miss Todd,” I admitted. “I miss the companionship. Having someone to come home to. Someone to sleep with. Someone to wake up to. I missed being with someone.”
“Hmmm…comfort. I understand that. But do you realize why that isn’t the best situation for you to be in?”
“Kind of,” I began. I paused to eat some of my breakfast. “I mean, I understand that I am not ready and that can lead to feelings getting involved. But at the same time, I can’t just sit around and mourn Todd leaving me.”
“Very true,” Indya said and finished off her yogurt and moved onto her cereal. “Not saying you can’t meet someone here and it’s a magical fairytale, but have you assessed the relationship yet? Thought about what went wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes?”
“You already know where it went wrong. He strung me along for six years.”
“Did he string you along or did you believe something that wasn’t there?”
Her question pissed me off initially. She was there for most of my relationship. Todd was the reason we met. Todd and I went to undergrad in South Carolina and after we graduated, Todd was offered a job in Georgia. He moved and when the distance became too much for me, I said goodbye to my family and friends in South Carolina and moved to Georgia to be with him.
Come to think of it, the distance was fine for him, it was me that didn’t like it. Todd never asked me to move to Georgia, but he didn’t object either. We never really talked about marriage, but he was aware I did want to get married. I kept asking when we were getting married and he kept telling me he wasn’t ready. After six years, how could he not be ready? Finally, I gave him an ultimatum: Either we get married or it was over. He chose the latter.
Todd leaving me was difficult. We met our freshman year of college at South Carolina State University. We dated all four years of undergrad so naturally, I thought marriage was our next step. Apparently he didn’t think so. When he left, I felt like I wasted six years of my life on him. The only benefit was that I met Indya and I loved my job.
Everything about Todd wasn’t all bad. He had moments of thoughtfulness. I got flowers on my birthday and Valentine’s day. He bought me gifts for Christmas. He liked to cook so I got homemade dinners regularly. I didn’t have to worry about maintenance to my car or putting gas in it. But…what was missing was his intent. Most of the time I felt like he did these things out of obligation, not because he truly cared about me.
But the more I thought about her question, the more I realized that he really didn’t string me along. I assumed marriage was our goal, but he did nothing to make me think that was an option. All the talk of marriage, rings and wedding colors was from me. He barely had input. I guess I should have listened when he said he wasn’t ready instead of pressing the issue.
Indya knew I was thinking, and she didn’t need me to answer out loud. “So, what are you going to do differently?”
I had to think for a second because in my heartache, I hadn’t considered moving on with my life, much less dating again. But after sleeping with DJ, I knew I needed to consider what Indya was saying. “Make my intentions known. Not ignore the red flags. Not waste my time on potential. Enjoy being single.”
Indya smiled almost as big as she did when she talked about Zion. “That’s what I want to hear, sis!”
Indya and I continued talking, mostly about Zion, and eating until it was time for today’s activity: a 90s R&B pool party. I went on a cruise last year and bought five different bathing suits. I brought all five of them here and the only thing I had left to do was decide which one I wanted to wear today. I decided to wear the navy-blue halter and boy shorts. I had a sheer coverup that I would discard if I chose to get in the pool. Since I had sisterlocks, I had no issues with getting in the water.
Indya and I walked with some other women from our building over to the pool and again, I was surprised by their friendliness. I saw pictures of the pool online but in person, this was spectacular. I have never so many pools in one area before. There was a standard pool, and infinity pool with a bar, a few hot tubs, a small water park replete with a giant slip and water slide and a surf pool. For those who were not getting in the water, there were plenty of lounge chairs and opportunities to relax without feeling pressured to get wet. And I fully expected everyone to be standing around sitting on lounge chairs but there were so many people in the water that I suspected that they didn’t get the memo that black people didn’t get in pools at pool parties.
Indya and I put our things in a locker and I almost had to fight with her to take off her cover-up. Her body was banging in her orange two-piece tankini. I had to remind her that no one knew her here and her body was banging enough to sport this bathing suit with pride.
We roamed the pool area for a little while trying to decide what to do first. We decided to hit up the small water park. Maybe it was the 90s R&B pumping through the speakers but sliding down a waterslide at almost 30 years old was almost as fun as the game night last night. After we had our fun, on the waterslides and slip and slides, we headed to the infinity pool to relax and get some drinks. There was an edge that we could sit on and it was relaxing to be half-submerged in water, sipping a sex on the beach and being surrounded by black people.
After relaxing and people watching for a little while, it was announced that lunch was ready. I was really surprised by the menu. Grilled ribs, hot dogs and burgers, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, pasta salad…it really felt like we were at an old school cookout. I didn’t see who cooked the food, but I could just imagine a man named Willie Earl was grilling his heart out with the iconic cookout sandals on and his wife, Mae Pearl was more than happy to whip up the sides to compliment her husband's meat. The vibe was old school, neighborhood cookout where the host made sure you got enough to eat.
In the food line, Indya bumped into Zion and they grinned at each other like two fools in love. I never believed in love at first sight or even falling for someone so fast, but I could tell there were some feelings there. Everything ceased to exist when they got in each other’s presence. Which made me regret sleeping with DJ even more. He didn’t give me that kind of vibe.
“Hi, I’m Nahji. Looks like we’re on our own for introductions.”
Zion snapped out of his daydream with Indya and laughed. “My bad. Nahji, this is Indya and her friend Marley. Ladies, this is Nahji, my suitemate.”
“Nice to meet you,” Nahji stated and extended his hand. I shook it and I didn’t want to be attracted to him, but I was. He was a six-foot sun-kissed Adonis. His chiseled chest and arms were covered in tattoos and while I was not a fan of tats, they looked amazing on his body. He also had locs, maybe about three or so years and they were pulled back into a low ponytail. I could tell he had been in the water because of the water dripping from his hair. His slightly slanted eyes looked kind and I have never seen a man with such straight, pretty teeth.
Indya nudged me to remind me to respond. “Nice to meet you, too…Nahji? That’s different.”
“Yeah, but don’t ask me what it means because I have no clue,” he laughed. Even his laugh sounded heavenly.
Before I realized it, Nahji and I were sitting at a table eating our lunch while Indya and Zion sat at a different table. It wasn’t that they were trying to make us talk but they wanted to be with each other, not us. If I was going to be pawned off on someone, I didn’t mind it being Nahji.
“So you and Zion just met when you got here?” I questioned. I really didn’t like eating ribs in public because it could be too messy, but these were so good, I didn’t care what I looked like eating.
“Technically, yes. We found out we were going to be suitemates about a week before we came, and we chatted a little bit.”
Since Indya and I were friends, we didn’t have that issue. But I thought it was cool that they talked beforehand so the meeting wouldn’t be awkward.
“How are you enjoying the retreat?” he asked taking a huge bite of his burger. His body was the evidence of him working out but with the way he was eating, I knew he had to be a gym rat. I was curious to see him eat the burger, two hot dogs, ribs, and all the sides spread across two plates.
“It’s nice, more than I expected,” I admitted.
“Yeah, the pictures do it no justice.” He finished his burger and moved on his first hot dog. One of my cousins ate like that; he ate all of one thing before moving on to the next thing on his plate. “You ready to play 21 questions?”
His grin caused me to smile back at him. Until I remembered what I just told Indya a few hours ago. I’ve only known Nahji for half an hour and I was ready to jump back in again. But the biggest difference between DJ and Nahji was that I was actually attracted to Nahji.
He picked up on my apprehension. “If it makes you uncomfortable, we don’t have to. I was just trying to get to know you better.”
So far Nahji wasn’t giving me any red flags and DJ proved to me that I was not ready for anything outside of this retreat. So, I decided to just entertain him for the afternoon.
“No, it’s fine.” Dramatically, I took a huge swig of my lemonade and wiped my mouth. “Ok…question 1. Shoot!”
Nahji laughed. “Ok what’s your birthday?”
“April 16th. Yours?”
He cocked his head to the side. “Seriously? Like no joke?”
“Why would I joke about my birthday?” I questioned slowly.
“Because…that’s my birthday.”
I cut my eyes at him. Surely this was a joke. I know it wasn’t uncommon for people to be birthday twins. It was just weird meeting someone with my birthday at a singles retreat.
“Where are you from?
“I was born in Louisiana, but I’ve lived all over,” he told me. “My pops was in the military.”
I nodded my head. “Worst place you lived?”
“North Dakota. I was one of three black kids in my class. You?”
“Ummm…I’ve only lived in Georgia and South Carolina. Neither of them are bad.”
“Cool. A good ole southern girl. Can you cook like your great grandma? Chitlins? Hog maws? Pig feet? Collard greens? Sweet potato pie?”
I almost choked on the lemonade I was drinking. “Sir, I do not eat half of that slave food. But I can cook. Can you build a house?”
It was his turn to laugh. “Actually, I can. I am a contractor.”
“Sure, you are. Tell me anything!” I chuckled.
“When you get to your phone, Google Steel Homes, Incorporated.”
“You best believe I will. Favorite color?”
“I don’t really have a favorite color. I guess I am partial to black. Yours?”
“No…turquoise,” I snickered. “What do you do in your spare time? You know when you are not building houses?”
“I coach my nephew’s recreation basketball team. Two-time state champ. Ask about me! And I write a little here and there.”
“So, let me get this straight. You are a contractor that spends his downtime coaching kids and writing poetry. Why are you at a single’s retreat?” I decided to leave out the part about how sexy he was. I didn’t need for him to get the big head.
I swore I saw the light leave his eyes and like me, he was probably here nursing a broken heart. “You know, every woman doesn’t want the same thing. Some women want a husband, home, 2.5 kids and a dog and other women want to be Internet famous and broadcast the details of your relationship to the world. Why are you single?”
“Yeah, social media has messed up a lot of people. And I am single because…we wanted different things. I wanted marriage, a home, 2.5 kids and a cat, no dog and he wanted to be my boyfriend forever.”
“Unfortunately, we can’t force people to be what we need them to be. I see you have a yellow bracelet on…what are you really looking for?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all. I came here on a whim, Indya was already coming, and I came because me and my ex had just broken up. What are you looking for?”
“Pretty much the same. Just seeing what’s out there. I haven’t been single in a long time. It’s different from what I remember.” Nahji finally made his way through all of his food and he looked like he could go for a nap.
“You got that right. This is like foreign territory for me.” I decided to switch gears because the last thing I wanted to think about was why I was single after six years. “Are you a football fan?”
“Of course I am! Who dat!” He boasted proudly. I made an exaggerated gagging motion like I was throwing up in my hand which made him laugh heartily. “Let me guess…you’re a Failcon fan?"
“Hell no! Ain’t no dirty bird fan around here! It’s all about the Carolina Panthers baby! Keep Pounding!”
“Ok I guess you’re cool. I like Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and Christian McCaffrey. Kyle Allen stepped up big this season. But ya’ll haven’t looked good the past few seasons, not since ya’ll went to the Super Bowl.”
“And ya’ll can’t seem to make it to the Super Bowl…ya’ll got burnt the last two years!” I joked.
“You got jokes I see!”
I wiped my hands on a napkin and took a sip of my lemonade. “Nah but for real. That no call was horrendous last year. That was one of the worst no-call I’ve ever seen. I actually felt sorry for you guys that year.”
Nahji nodded his head in agreement. “That was quite possibly the worst no call in the history of sports!”
“It really was. Only child? Or the baby of the family?”
“What makes you think I’m the baby?” he smirked.
I smiled. “Just a guess.”
“Good guess. I am the youngest of 4. Three girls and then me. My pops really wanted a boy.”
“Your mama is a good woman. I would have stopped at two girls.”
“There is nothing Sonia wouldn’t do for Winston! Had I been a girl, she would have tried again! What about you? You strike me as the oldest.”
“The youngest. My parents died in a car accident when I was three and I was raised by my Auntie Tess. Her sons, my cousins, are more like my brothers.”
“Oh damn. I’m sorry about your parents. I bet that was tough.”
“A little. I really don’t remember much about them, but Auntie Tess did a phenomenal job of raising me if I do say so myself.” I always downplayed any conversation pertaining to my parents. It was so long ago that it seemed pointless to talk about.
“I don’t know,” Nahji began. “You can’t cook chitlins so…”
“Who eats chitlins? Willingly?” I asked incredulously.
“Me. That’s who!”
“So, because I can’t cook chitlins I am not a good woman? Graduating Summa Cum Laude from South Carolina State University with a degree in business and a master’s in human resources isn’t enough? Or the fact that I am now the Human Resources Director for Circuit State Technology, Incorporated?”
“I mean, yeah that is impressive. Beauty and brains is always a great combination. But if you could cook chitlins, that would make you the whole package.”
I doubled over in laughter. I really couldn’t believe I was having a conversation that involved chitlins. “Dude. You and these chitlins! How can you even want to eat something that smells like shit?”
“I don’t know but I love them. Not enough places sell them.”
I laughed again. I kind of understood what Indya meant when she said she enjoyed the conversation with Zion last night. Talking to Nahji was enjoyable. Todd was so serious and he kind of made me serious. At times I could be goofy, but he really didn’t want to have fun with me, play around or anything like that. If this was a couple’s retreat, there was no way he would have gotten on the water slides. And he would have spent last night playing chess. Come to think of it, he would have refused to come.
“Are you good right here or would you like to get back in the water?” he questioned.
“Umm...I guess we can get in the water and let someone else have a seat to eat.”
We threw our plates away and headed to the shallow end of the standard pool. It wasn’t super hot out today, but it felt good to get out of the sun and into the cool water. We continued our game of 21 questions.
Getting to know Nahji was like a breath of fresh air. He didn’t feel like a stranger even though he was. After a few hours of talking and chilling in the pool, I was ready to head back to my room. Tonight, was open mic/karaoke night and I’d been to a few around the city, especially when they had some art on display. I was looking forward to tonight.
I had no idea where Indya was but if she was with Zion, I knew she was in good hands. Nahji walked me back to my building much like DJ did the night before. If anyone was paying attention to me, which I was sure they were not, they would realize this was the second man in a few hours that had walked me to my room. Luckily, most people were concerned about their own groove to be worried about mine.
“Are you coming to the open mic tonight?” Nahji asked when we made it to my door.
“We planned on it. I guess I might be going alone because I think my best friend is smitten with your suitemate,” I snickered.
“Yeah, it looks that way. If you want, we can go together.”
I thought for a second. My interaction with Nahji felt nothing like my interaction with DJ. Or even Todd for that matter. And spending time with him was about comfort but it wasn’t comfort in a way that made me feel like I was just trying to replace Todd. I genuinely enjoyed his company. “Sure. I’d like that.”
He smiled at me and I wanted to ask him how much he paid to get a smile that pretty. “I can come back around 8:30. Unless you just want to meet there.”
“No, you can come back. I’ll be ready by 8:30.”
Nahji gave me a pensive look and held his hand to his chin. He looked like the thinking emoji I used frequently. “You aren’t one of those women that says you’ll be ready by 8:30 but you really mean 10:30, right?”
I howled in laughter. “No sir. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Nahji chuckled at me and we said our goodbyes and I headed in my bathroom to get ready for the night. I was chilling in my room until I got restless. I decided to browse the art in the lobby again. I pulled my hair up into a messy bun, threw on some leggings and a tank top and headed to the lobby. I looked at some of the art, taking note of some of the artists I hadn’t heard of before so I could see if they had social media or a website.
I was heading back to my room when I spied DJ sitting in the lobby engrossed in his phone. Seeing him made my heart beat faster, not in a good way. I really couldn’t pinpoint what I was feeling but I really needed to know why he dipped out on me.
“Hey, DJ,” I acknowledged coolly when I reached him.
He looked up at me and smiled briefly. “What’s up? Ummm…Marley, right?”
My face burned with embarrassment. Did he really not remember my name or was he playing with me? “Yeah. Sooo…care to explain?”
His face contorted in confusion. “Explain what?”
The way he was acting was pissing me off. Even though he wasn’t the best conversationalist last night, he didn’t act like this. “Why you just dipped last night.”
“What did you expect me to do? Hang out with you? Spend all my time with you? This is place is crawling with single men and women,” he replied nonchalantly.
I was taken aback by his callousness. “I’m not saying all that, but we are both adults. You could of told me…something.”
DJ chuckled to himself before standing up and sliding his cell phone into his pocket. “Word of advice Marley. Giving it up so easy isn’t a good look. Men don’t want a woman that doesn’t make him chase it. Honestly, we could have been cool, hung out, but…I can’t take you serious if you just sleep with every man you meet.”
The weight of his words hit me like a ton of bricks. I wanted to punch him in the throat. “You know what, asshole,” I began but took a few deep breaths to calm down. The last thing I wanted to do was explain to Auntie Tess that I had been arrested in Florida for attempted murder. “Whatever. You’re not even worth it.”
I walked off, feeling embarrassed, ashamed and pissed off. How dare he accuse me of being easy when he didn’t object to sleeping with me. He really didn’t understand the hypocrisy of his statement. The double standard of us sleeping together was unreal. We both did what we did but to him, I should feel bad about it.
On my way back to my room, I got angrier. Not at DJ, I mean, I was pissed at him for his dumbass logic, but at Todd. Had he not left me, I wouldn’t be trying to plot ways I could kill DJ and get away with it. But as much as I wanted to be upset with Todd and DJ, I had to admit most of the blame lied with me.