“Hey Mohammed,” I said, entering the deli. At this point of life, could Mohammed be my next husband? He already knew my needs better than anyone else did. I talked more to Mohammed than I did anyone else following the deaths of Bradley and my grandmother.
“Jamila, beautiful! You want me to get your iced coffee ready?”
“Yes. One for my co-teacher as well.”
As I waited for Mohammed to make our coffees, a man walked in that I hadn’t recognized before. The lanyard hanging from his pocket indicated he worked at a neighboring school across the street.
I stared at him. Tall. Honey Complected. Brown eyes that could fire in your soul.
I must have sparked the fancy of his attention as well, judging by the way he stared back.
“You must be cold,” he said, noting that I was hugging my body. Punishment for the fact that I ran away from the building as fast as I could – forgetting it was the middle of March.
“Maybe a little bit,” I replied. “But you look warm enough for the both of us. You should let me hold that sweater.” As a bonafide New Yorker, I had no problem making such a request of anyone willing to give me unsolicited advice. Especially one that smelled as good as he looked.
“I’m just saying.”
“You know what – you just might need it more than I do. Hold it. I know where you work anyhow.”
The handsome stranger took off his jacket, and then took off his hoodie. I couldn’t help but to notice the TSU logo.
“You went to Tennessee State? I went to an HBCU as well.”
“How do you know?”
“Do you know how often we’re in this store? You wear a Howard hoodie everyday.”
Has this man been stalking me?
“You been stalking me?”
“I don’t even know your name. I’m Francois. It’s nice to meet you. I work at Embers Charter School over on Malcolm X between Gates and Monroe. I see you in the mornings when you walk by every now and then when I’m on door duty. Also, I’m in this deli everyday. This is my prep. This is your prep. The real question is, how have you not noticed me?”
Because I lost my partner. Because my grandmother died. Because I can’t see straight. Because I’m in this deli trying to escape my problems at work. Because Mohammed is my best friend.
“Guess I couldn’t see you.”
“Girl, you ain’t notice all this?” I laughed so hard as he kissed his biceps. A clear indication he was a regular at the gym.
“Come here,” he said, gesturing to put my head through the opening of the hoodie. I placed my arms in the sleeve, and adjusted the hoodie over my torso.
“Thank you. Seriously. You gave me the shirt off your back.”
“I’d do it again, but first, you’d have to tell me your name, and let me know if you’re free tonight. I’d love to take you out.”
“It’s Jamila, and yes. I think I’d like that.”
“You think? Gonna have me spending my money for you to think about liking that?”
“I’d love to. Thank you, Francois.”
“Thank you for saying yes, Jamila.”
I scribbled down my number, and the location where he could find me after work. It was Friday, and my school was having a happy hour. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Plus, it was a public enough place for me to see him.
“You can come at 7. My job’s having a happy hour if you want to pull up.”
“I said I’d love to take you out. I’ll pick you up from there – do you think you’d be ready to leave at 7?”
I definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into, or what awaited me on the other side of saying yes. To be honest, I was uncertain if I was even doing the right thing. But there was a voice inside that just said, “It’s time.”
And I knew immediately what that voice inside meant.
It’s time to resume your life.
“Coffee’s ready,” Mohammed said.
My phone buzzed.
“Hey Jamila, I’m outside. Are you ready?”
I downed my shot as my coworkers were still deciding what we were toasting to. I hustled out the door, and let the blustery air greet me.
“You’re looking especially good tonight in my sweater, Jamila,” he said.
I don’t know what came over me, but I kissed him. And he kissed me back. I leaned over the edge of his car, and I went in for the kill. Francois held the back of my head and parted his lips for his tongue’s exit. He traced the line of my lips from corner to corner before he thrusted his tongue’s entryway. He allowed his right hand to trace the lining of my tights, and he began to rub his fingers across the crotch.
I broke the kiss and sat down. I couldn’t even remember the last time that I made love to Bradley. Was it September? No, maybe it was October. Definitely October.
Francois had me aroused for the first time in months. Was I finally connecting to the desires of my body again? Who was Francois anyways, and why had he noticed me, but I hadn’t noticed him?
I was walking around the world with blinders. I couldn’t see what was happening in front of me, but it didn’t stop me from being noticed.
Francois may have been a stranger, but he made me feel desirable when I wasn’t feeling great about myself. Every touch awakened my pleasure center.
“Let’s go back to my place,” I whispered.
To be Continued.
April 22, 2021.