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A few months ago, I held a barbecue at my house. My closest friends and I spent a month clearing out the unwanted shrubbery and stray cats that infested yard of my brownstone, so we could use it to entertain.
After spraying the iron patio furniture a summer yellow and buying a grill, we were ready to go. Raymond was excited about the things we had planned.
"I'll man the grill; I'll even help buy the groceries. Do I get to invite my boys?"
"Of course! Who will entertain the ladies, if you don't?"
We both laughed and high-fived one another. Ryan and Ty snickered nearby.
I rolled my eyes at them, "What are you two laughing about?"
Ryan spoke, "You two sound like a married couple."
We both pretended to stick our fingers down our throats, disgusted at the thought."
"I'm just saying. You host events together all of the time."
"Yeah, so we'd make great co-hosts."
Ty laughed and high-fived Ryan, "Or mom and dad?"
Raymond and I ran after them, chasing them into the house.
It was difficult to suppress these memories while Raymond apologized relentlessly. He'd called every day, text me often, and my neighbor mentioned he'd stopped by a few times.
"What do you want me to tell him if he comes back?"
I shrugged and opened the door to my apartment, "Tell him I moved."
I was only half joking. I'd moved from the space that we were always in; the space where denial and regret meet. We were already where I never wanted to be: standing on the boundary of friendship and love, watching our bond diminish.
I was sitting in front of a plate Travis prepared, surf and turf done well. I stuck my knife into the steak; perhaps it was done too well. I was still impressed, despite the tough meat. He'd tried, which is more than I can say for several men I'd dated.
What does that say about me?
Do I attract fools, because I allow myself too or do they hide their jester well in the beginning?
Am I not paying attention, to all the signs?
Travis wore oven mitts, as he pulled the dessert out of the oven. I sipped on a glass of wine and stared on in absolute awe.
"This is rare for you, huh?"
I was about to get defensive, but I realized my face might've shown it all. Travis also had a habit of seeing right through me. It was scary and sexy, all at once.
"Yeah, it is."
"Weren't you engaged for a while?"
"Something like that."
"Three years and no meal?"
"He tried once or twice. It wasn't cooked all the way through and on both occasions I had to ask."
"Sometimes men don't know what you want until you tell them. Women are the mind readers, contrary to popular belief."
"I'm sure that women are well aware that men aren't mind-readers, by now."
He chuckled, as he finally sat next to me. He stuck his knife and fork into his steak, "Perhaps. Women are tough cookies to crack, too, like this steak."
I snorted and almost spit out my wine, "Damn! I wasn't going to say anything, but..."
We both laughed together.
Travis was real.
There were no walls when I was around him.
I felt like I could be myself, hang loose.
"How's the new job?"
I smiled. He remembered the position that I told him I was going to take. We'd had large gaps in between seeing one another, due to his out of town trips. I didn't expect him to remember every little thing.
"It's good. I'm still getting used to the new kids. I miss my babies, back at the old school."
"I bet they miss you too."
I pulled out my phone to show him a picture an old co-worker sent me. It was a photo of my students holding up a large sign that said, "We miss you, Ms. Erica!"
I teared up a little, as I showed it to him.
"Hard to move on?"
He touched my hand, from across the table. I thought about all the dinners I cooked alone. I remembered the arguments post dinner. Flashbacks of a neverending makeup session suddenly flooded me.
Travis was worth moving on.
"Speaking of moving on, we're taking on some exciting clients for this new stock photo thing."
"We're trying to get well-dressed black men and attempt to target the fashion blogs. There are so few black male stock photos that reflect that reality of male attire."
"Dope. You guys are doing much-needed work."
"We're getting regular dudes with a sense of style. My partner has been targeting some of his wealthy friends. One of our first models is this guy named Ricky. I added him on Facebook the other day. You're the only friend we have in common, besides my partner. I thought you could tell me more about him."