The Hook Up Part III
Getting ready for my date with Nahji was nerve-racking. Not because I was nervous about seeing him again, but because of the encounter I had with DJ. Now, I was questioning if I really needed to spend my time with Nahji. DJ was really making me question being at the Hook Up. I didn’t want to stand him up, but I needed to let him know that I really wasn’t up to doing this. This being spending time with him while we were here.
The entire time I was getting ready, I lamented having to tell him. I didn’t want to punish him for another man’s mistakes, rather, my mistakes, but I really needed to chill. I understood I was at a retreat aimed at singles making love connections, but I really needed to focus on healing from Todd and not meeting anyone new.
I decided on my long black, red, yellow and green skirt and a white tank top. I didn’t do anything to my hair, leaving it in the messy bun on top of my head. I finished off my look with lashes, earrings that matched my outfit and bright red lipstick. I felt like my lips were too big for a red lip, but I liked the way I looked in the mirror.
At 8:20, Indya came rushing into my room. “You going to the open mic?”
“Yes, let me guess. You and Zion spent all day talking?”
She didn’t answer, just smiled her really bright smile. “Yes. We were going to go, but I don’t know if I will be ready on time.”
“It starts at 9…you might be late, but you can make it.”
Indya thought for a second. “You’re right. Let me go get ready. Are you going to wait on me or are you going to go ahead and go?”
I realized that even if I wanted to wait on Indya, I didn’t have Nahji’s number to tell him I would meet him there. “Well…I am walking over with Nahji.”
Indya raised her eyebrow. “I take it you guys had a good time today?”
“Yeah, it was cool,” I said downplaying it. I didn’t want to tell her I had a good time with Nahji at the pool party, but DJ said some foul shit and now I was questioning spending time with Nahji.
If she was thinking something, she didn’t make mention of it. There was a knock on our door, and she went to go open it. I heard Indya and Nahji making small talk. I grabbed my phone, my purse, and my room key and went to the living room. I’d seen Nahji in a nothing but swimming trunks but seeing him again fully dressed was a sight for sore eyes. The man was sexy with a capital S.
He had on pair of jeans and a t-shirt with a red, yellow, black and green lion. Without even trying, we matched. Indya looked back and forth between us and smiled. “I’m going to get ready. I’ll see ya’ll there.”
She left us and even though I spent most of my afternoon with him, he gave me butterflies. I was sure I was too old for butterflies, but I liked it.
“Wow! You look amazing!”
I smiled. Even though I knew I needed to let him down easy, I couldn’t. Not right now. He was just so damn sexy. “You don’t look so bad yourself. And you were looking in my window.”
Nahji laughed. His laugh could become one of my favorite things. “It seems that way. Are you ready to go?
We left my room and made the short walk to the same room we had the game night in. It was now transformed into an intimate space for open mic/Karaoke. The lights were dim all over except for the brighter lights around the stage area. There were candles strategically placed around the room to give the space a soft glow. There were small bistro-style tables, larger tables with seating for four or more and an open bar. There were easels of black art around the room and before we sat down, I was drawn to the pieces. I almost forgot he was with me until he spoke.
“Are you an artist?” he questioned.
“What makes you think that?”
“Just the way you’re looking at these pieces. Either you are a lover of art or you are an artist yourself. Or you are both.”
“A bit of both,” I admitted. “I like to draw and paint. My work is nowhere as good as this though.” I stopped to admire the painting of a black woman adorned in shades of purple. I loved the colors, the brush strokes, the angles, the way the woman’s body language screamed Queen.
“I bet it is. Let me see something you’ve created.”
I finally tore my eyes away from the painting to look at Nahji. Just the way he looked at me did something to me. I blushed a little and pulled out my phone. I scrolled to the last painting I did. It was one of my most intricate paintings to date. It was a painting of Africa with each country in different shades of red, yellow, and green. It was a large canvas, 24x36 and it took me a few weeks to finish it. But I was proud of it. I was trying to find a place to put in in my home, but that meant I would have to take another picture down, and I wasn’t prepared to part with any of my art.
“Wow! This is really dope! Like really, really dope. What was the inspiration?”
“I really can’t remember,” I begin. “I’ve been wanting to do a painting of Africa for a while and one day, the inspiration just hit me. I love the colors, as you can see.” I gestured to my skirt.
“I thought blue was your favorite color?”
“Turquoise,” I corrected. “You're really going to keep calling it blue.”
He chuckled at me. “I’m just messing with you. Do you sell your work?”
“Sell it?” I repeated quizzically. “Nah, I’m not that good. It’s just a hobby.” I felt Nahji looking at me, but I refused to look at him.
“Don’t shortchange yourself. Your work could just as easily be displayed here like these other artists.”
I shrugged, unaccustomed to praise of my work, outside of Indya. I never posted it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle any negativity about something I was passionate about. Nahji’s interest in my art was refreshing. Todd never had an opinion about my art. He would give the perfunctory ‘that’s nice’, but he never asked about my inspiration or wanted to discuss why I chose certain colors or why I decided to draw something rather than paint it. Come to think of it, most times I felt my art was a nuisance to him. He always felt what he did was more important because I carved out time to create. My little hobby was nowhere near as important as the work he did so he was dismissive of it. And Nahji’s interest in my passion was making it that much harder to have to tell him we didn’t need to see each other after tonight.
“If you haven’t signed up for karaoke or open mic, please do so within the next ten minutes,” a well-dressed man announced over the microphone on the stage.
Nahji nudged me. “You want to sign up?”
I chuckled. “No sir. I am just here as a spectator.”
“Ok. Can you grab us a table? I need to run to the restroom.”
The room was filling up and I was able to snag a table in the middle of the room. While I was waiting for Nahji to return, I pulled out my cellphone. I had a text from Indya asking if the show started. But that was 10 minutes ago, and I saw her and Zion sitting not too far from us. I waved to her and she waved back, and I was loving the way Zion was making her smile. By the time Nahji returned, the show was starting.
Every event that I have attended at The Hook Up has been better than the last. And this open mic/karaoke was no exception. I was enjoying the singing, even though some of it was bad and the poetry was deep. I was impressed with the talent of my people.