Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dating Series: Looking For A Love Jones, Part 5

We release an installment of "Looking for a Love Jones" each week. If you'd like to share it, you can do so with the hashtag #lookingforalovejones & tag @rivaflowz and @bae_app on IG or Twitter.

We walked through hipster heaven, I mean Williamsburg, where he pointed out all the spots he loved to go. 

"That's this sushi bar that's open 24 hours, seven days a week."
"They have the best lattes here."
"We have to come to this dessert bar, after dinner."

I smiled at his excitement, "You must pay a lot for rent."

He laughed, "Oh, you're straight to the point aren't you? I have two roommates. We make it work. 

I couldn't stop thinking about Williamsburg, ten years ago. I was astounded at the change, no matter how many times I visited. I expressed this. 

"You're looking at me like I'm a gentrifier."

"Policy and protocol rarely change when wealthy blacks move into a neighborhood, so no I'm not, but I digress. Where are we headed to dinner?"

"There's this gorgeous Mexican place I've been dying to try."

I did a little dance, "Cultural, I can dig it."

We talked, over just made guacamole and tacos, about Donald Trump, design innovations, and even the Bae app we'd met on. 

"I think it's important to have our spaces. If you know what you want, a sista, Bae is the place to get it."

I nodded, "Some folks believe online dating is weird, but more than 50% of the singles in the United States are on one of the sites or apps."

"I think folks are terrified of telling their future children that they met through a swipe or that they might meet someone crazy."

"This is New York; you can meet someone crazy anywhere."

"This is true, and we're apps will probably be the antiquated thing to say you met on, twenty years from now."

"How will our children say they met?" 

"Through holograms."

We both started laughing; the conversation had taken a nerd turn. 

Geeks for life.

We ended up grabbing "crack pie" at The Milk Bar and hopped on the closest train home. He insisted on getting off at my stop and walking me to my door. I was leery of him seeing where I lived but decided to trust him. Brooklyn was foggy, the distance unclear, much like my recent dates. We had rain, earlier that day. 

He broke the silence, "In some of your pictures on the app, you rocked an afro."


"Well...I see that you also had braids, and now you're rocking a weave. What's that about?"

"It's called protective styling and prerogative." 

I was getting feisty; I wasn't about to let him give me any hair critiques.

"All I'm saying is that I like the afro."

"Oh, thank you."

I hugged Ricky goodnight and headed inside; I watched him walk down the block, through the window. I never knew how to take comments like the ones he'd just uttered. Was that a statement or a request?

Clearly Ty had something other than alcohol, that evening.
Perhaps I'd had too much.

I was angry at his statement, but I knew my anger was indicative of something I was denying.

"I'm not in love with Raymond."

Ty shook his head, "Yeah and I'm not drunk."

"What makes you say that?"

"Do you two see yourselves? You have a date night that you've disguised as a drinking night. At your last get together, he manned the grill, showed up early to help setup, and you were hosting together."

"We were not! He was just helpful."

"I showed up to the door, and this man took my wine and put it on chill. You two proceeded to joke around and play fight in the kitchen before you went back to the grill. Straight couple status."

Ty was putting some things into perspective for me, "Maybe it looks that way from the outside looking in, but here...on this side...we're just friends."

Ty sipped his drink, "Whatever helps you sleep at night."

"Well, you're his best friend. Has he said anything?"

"Yeah, that he's not in love with you. Denial. I can't stop hearing about how much he hates this Mason guy, though."

"He told you about Mason?"

Just then, Raymond came outside to call us back in with Miss-Coils' arm around his shoulders. The sight of them made me sick. I picked up my purse and hugged Ty and waved goodbye to Raymond. He stood there confused, trying to understand why I was leaving so early.

When the Uber driver pulled up to my home, my phone went off:


"I've never been to Prospect Park, this late."

Travis put the blanket on the ground and motioned for me to sit down, "First time for everything."

I snickered, "I feel like you're referring to yourself."


We dug into our meals and talked about the gallery, its owner, and how they'd met. 

"You can't tell anyone that story, though."

I promised I wouldn't. I'm keeping that promise, here. *wink*

A young couple walked past us, headed to a nearby bench. The woman queried, "Do you two live over here?"

We both found her question to be awkward; thus we gave her a blank stare.

"My husband and I come here every night. It's just that we've never seen you."

Travis smiled, "I live around here. Do you need help with something?"

"No. I was just curious."

The woman and her husband took a seat and began to talk. 

I nudged Travis, "What was that all about?"

"I'm just gonna keep quiet, or I'll have nothing nice to say." 

He was visibly annoyed, so was I. I tried to lighten up the mood."

"Travis, you av' on expensive shoes and linen garment and yuh couldn't tek me to a nicer restaurant. You av' me ah sit on the ground, outside!"

He was startled by my patois, but he was also of Caribbean heritage. He understood every word.

He started to laugh and play along, "Listen gyal, this is what bad mon can afford."

The couple looked at us in alarm, surprised by our new accents and moved to another bench. We laughed even harder, as we watched them play into the stereotype. 

Travis lay back on the blanket, still laughing; he spoke again "You're going to have to make me."


His voice was grave, all of a sudden, "I don't know how to stay in like, I don't think I've ever known love. I'm in and out of women's lives, and I can't stay still. Can you make me? Can you keep me here? Can you fight whatever it is that's pushing me away?"

"I...I'll try. But really, no one can do that but you..."

"I'm super comfortable around you. I feel like I could tell you anything. Is it too soon? Does that sound crazy?"

"Maybe it's the educator in me? I'm an excellent listener."

"Will you make me?"

"I can't make you do anything you don't want to do, Travis."

He held my hand, "I know, but it was worth a try."

Fiction Series: The Villa, Part 3

We'd been back in the villa for less than five minutes when the FaceTime calls began. Damn automatic wi-fi. My ex, Robert, was incessant; he was not going to let the day pass without talking to me. I excused myself from the living room, where everyone was playing dominoes and throwing back Heineken. I walked out to the patio and answered the next incoming call. 

Robert smiled the moment we were able to see one another. His background was a stark white, there was music playing, and I could hear women in the background. He was in his studio, probably just wrapping a shoot.

"Just finished a shoot, baby. Excuse the noise."

He was so predictable, "Congratulations, what's this one called?"

He gestured his hands to emphasize the title, "It's called sex and sand."

"How original. Also, don't call me baby."

Robert ran his hands through his curls, "Baby, I said I'm sorry."

"You were late to my graduation. I've had my head in a book for this entire year and I finally get to the finish line and you missed it."

"What do you want me to do? How can I fix this?"

"You can't. You can't even tell me where you were."

"I was at a shoot! I told you that."

"No, Robert. You told me that you were out to dinner with your boys."

"What day was that? Was it Wednesday? Maybe I have my days mixed up."

"You were with one of your models."

"Those girls on my IG are clients and the ones who comment are fans. They don't mean anything to me." 

I pressed the end button. I could no longer listen to any of his lies. Everywhere I went, someone had something to say about Robert's indiscretions. I worked in the marketing department at a major magazine, that he took photos for. When Robert arrived, the women in my office would straighten their dresses and fix their hair. We never disclosed our relationship to anyone, so I was privy to conversations about him. During our lunch break, women would squeal and gossip about the man I went home to every night. 

"I hear he has a girlfriend."

"Robert is tied to nothing. He's been with every model we've used for a shoot. I've even had some of that."

"They say he never leaves the studio. He probably sleeps in there."

"Exactly. What woman would put up with those hours?"

I'd sink my teeth into a tuna sandwich and act as if I couldn't hear them while they went on and on about what they deemed to be true. 

Robert and I planned to come to Jamaica together, but a month before the trip I finally worked up the nerve to check his phone. I'd told my mother and friends about my concerns and they all told me that if I searched through his personal items, I was bound to find something. They weren't encouraging me, they were trying to point out our trust issues. I took the advice, literally.

As soon as I put his passcode in, I went straight to the messages. I spent the next five minutes scrolling through half-naked photos of women, a few more wincing at wink emojis sent alongside "come and see me at the studio", and the next half hour packing my things to leave. 

Robert called the next morning after I left. I wondered if he'd noticed my items were gone: my pajamas, my books, my toothbrush. Instead, he called to inquire why I hadn't made breakfast like I usually did. 

"Babe, you left so early. No breakfast, this morning?"

"Robert, I left last night."

"Oh, you did. I slept on the couch, it was late and I didn't want to wake you."

I didn't even bother to tell him I wasn't coming back. It wasn't until I failed to send his itinerary for the trip that he truly realized that I was gone. 

Netflix, Tyler Perry, and all those low budget stand-by-your-man's-side movies can go to hell. We're often shamed for not being a ride-or-die or helping to hold things together when it's falling apart. We're force fed monologues of sistas not wanting to be the spine when a brotha is broke.

But what are we to do when he's not just broke...
What do we do when he's broken?

Alphonso spent three months on our couch when he lost his job. He'd come to work, one day and his desk had already been cleaned. He was laid off, without notice or severance and came home with a sullen face and pockets full of lint. 

He never saved. We often talked about this, while dating, but he shrugged if off. He felt like he'd always have a check coming in and had nothing to worry about. 

At the time, I was staycationing at his home, staying there three days a week, while he did the same at my place. We were content with snuggling in front of movies, spending hurricanes inside with hot cocoa, ordering in sushi, joining his friends for drinks at all the local hotspots, and thumbing through individual reads while the fireplace crackled. We took this comfort for granted, sprawled out into our luxury, never thinking any of it would be torn away.

It started with the phone calls. 

Alphonso was ignoring his phone, quite often. He'd look at his phone, worried, and then press ignore. At first, I thought he was cheating. I would ask him who was calling and he'd shake his head and explain that it wasn't important. He used to check the house voicemail in front of me and play the messages out loud. He stopped doing that too. 

We went on a date night together, one that I thought we could do without, that he insisted on and we fought the entire time. He hadn't found a job, but we were still going to elegant restaurants, keeping up appearances with his friends. 

On the way home, he couldn't contain his disappointment, "Why can't you just appreciate when we go out? Why must you complain about everything?"

"Because you don't have it!"

"You don't know what I have. You don't know my situation."

"Okay, Alphonso. I'm just the random person who's been by your side for years."

He pulled up to the apartment building and got out of the car, "Oh, since you know me so well, you should know not to embarrass me like that!"

"You offered to pay the whole bill! Everyone at the table has a job. You didn't need to do that."

"I'm going to get a new job. We're going to be fine. I'm keeping my commitment. We're still having our date night, every week. I don't care what it costs."

We walked past Alphonso's doorman and said goodnight and stepped into the elevator. The short ride was quiet. I knew we'd sleep in separate places for the evening. When we got out of the elevator and up to the door, Alphonso a few steps ahead of me, I watched him snatch a piece of paper off of it and stick it into his pocket.

"What was taped to your door?"

"It doesn't matter. Can we just go to bed?"

I nodded yes, watched him disappear into his walk-in closet and looked over at the house phone that glared red with fifty-five new messages. 

I left the villa's living room, to check on him. He was still where I'd left him, snoring away. I slipped into bed with him and he instantly wrapped his arms around me, a reflex born from familiarity. I wanted him to be just as open with his troubles.

I whispered into his ear, "Let me in."

I was headed back into the living room when Jasper made his way out to the patio. He'd been real friendly since I got here. We'd met informally, a few times, at birthday parties and mutual outings. He was handsome, the type of good-looking that you might miss if you didn't give him a thorough glance.

"Everyone still inside?"

"No, everyone went up to their rooms."

"Oh. Why aren't you upstairs, with Kimani?"

"She's in one of her moods. I honestly just wanted some peace and quiet."

I looked out at the stillness of the pool and could hear the ocean in the distance, "Well, you're in the right place."

He smiled and sat down on the patio chair, next to me, "Are you? I thought this was a couples only wedding."

"Ha. You're just going to call me out about my nonexistent plus one?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Robert and I are over. He's no good for me. I'm here to soak up some sun and never look back."

"I hear that. How are things at the magazine? Your cousin tells me you're in the big time."

"Yeah. We're a pretty solid household name. I'm just a humble marketing servant, though."

He placed his hands on the armrest of my chair, "You're amazing. No need to be humble, for me."

I couldn't tell if he was flirting. His close proximity made me extremely uncomfortable, "So, when are you and Kimani getting married? I feel like you guys have been together, for an eternity."

He sat up straight, in his chair, and turned his legs towards me, "I don't think that's going to happen. Kimani and I aren't exactly together..."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fiction Series: The Villa, Part 2

I pulled myself out of the tub, hours after everyone arrived. I must've cried myself to sleep; I could hear the sound of crickets and the roar of the ocean's tide as I realized night had fallen. I couldn't believe Jasper hadn't woken me up or come to check on me. He wasn't the same man I'd promised myself to, all those years ago. 

Jasper was once consistent and sweet, the type of man brown girls yearn for and can't seem to keep or find. (Or so it seems..) I was amazed at my good fortune, I thanked the lord for him every time I heard the horror stories of the dating world via my friends. 

Jasper was poetry: 

Coming to my dance practices, watching me pirouette. 
Playing love songs and using his knuckles to drum along, dedicating the tune to me. 
Finishing my words, before I could strum up an argument.
Rubbing my tummy, before I announced that it was hurting. 
Bragging about me, when he thought I wasn't listening.
Kisses for my momma. 
Camaraderie for my father.
Simple love. 

Jasper had become someone I couldn't recognize, a stranger walking around in his body. He put his phone face down at dinner, his eyes made their way to other woman repetitively, he forgot to open doors and pull out chairs, he'd checked out of our relationship. 

We were watching a movie, one night, on our sofa, when the female lead was sprawled across the screen, long flowing hair and fair skin. She was beautiful; I could not deny that.

Jasper clapped loudly, "She's perfect, she's just my type."

I tried not to let my insecurity get the best of me, I failed, "What do you mean, just your type?"

The woman on the screen looked nothing like me. I played with the coils of my close, tight afro, and looked in his dark brown eyes, the complexion of my skin. 

"She's pretty, that's all I meant by it."

I rolled my eyes and diverted my attention from the screen. Jasper was growing into his large head and big ears. Women that didn't give him a second look in high school were now blatantly flirting with him, even in my presence, and Jasper didn't seen to mind. He was feeling himself, now that he'd decided that he no longer wanted to be a pastor, now that he was comfortable enough to act up, now that he realized he had options. 

I pushed open the bathroom door and unzipped my suitcase. Jasper's clothes were already strewn across the sheets, he'd clearly already been out for the day. 


I threw on a comfortable house dress and made my way down the spiral staircase. The sound of laughter bounced off of the wood paneling and I knew the gang had arrived, their cackling distinguishable. The moment I hit the last flight of stairs, the laughter ceased, and everyone's heads turned towards me. 

Brianna ran over and hugged me tightly, "Kimani! You're finally awake!"

I heard Jasper murmur, "Yeah, finally."

I pulled away from Brianna, ready to slap the taste out of his mouth. Before I could say a word, I saw Briana's cousin Tyani had taken the seat next to him. She was all grown up. The last time I saw her, she was a scrawny teenager helping Brianna move out of her dorm. Now, she'd made her way to voluptuous, all thighs and smile, with her feet up on Jasper's lap.

The insecurity swirled in my stomach, crawled towards my throat, and would've regurgitated on them both if everyone hadn't started to surround and greet me. 

We all wanted to go down to the beach. The vacation residents were having a bonfire and everyone  in the neighborhood was invited. They were even selling crab and festival, a bread-like pastry I'd heard so much about and wanted to try. 

Everyone got up from the couch and put on their shoes, as I watched Alphonso slowly walk towards the steps. I followed him.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm going to take a nap. Is that okay with you?"

"Why can't we go to the bonfire with everyone else?"

"We? You can most certainly go, babe."

"I want to go with you."

"Must this constantly be a theme?"


"Everyone knows we're together. We don't have to prove it by going everywhere together."

He started to walk upstairs, I could already hear my friends calling us back down as they prepared to leave, "I'm not saying that we do, but how stupid does it look for us to not go on the first outing together?"

"You're always worried about damn appearances, Taylor. Are you worried about what it's going to look like when I can't help pay the bill?"

I pulled some colorful Jamaican currency from my bra and stuffed it into his hand, "Here. Can you come now? You can pretend it's yours."

He sighed and rolled his eyes, handing me the money back, "Keep your money, Taylor."

"I'm trying to make you feel like a man. Isn't that what this is all about?" 

"Psshhh, I am a man. I don't need your help to feel like one."

"You're certainly not acting like one."

Alphonso turned his back and walked into our bedroom, clearly getting ready for his nap. He lay on the bed and fluffed a pillow for his head, "Enjoy your bonfire."

The fire twinkled, while everyone ate. Taylor and Kimani conversed about the good ol' college days, while Jasper and Brendan talked about fantasy football. Tyani and I took a walk, along the shore, initially there to wash our hands, watching my friends from a distance.

"I still can't believe you cut Tony off, like that!"

I laughed at Tyani's sentiment, she'd become so attached to my ex-boyfriend, "I'm about to marry Brendan, Tyani. When are you going to wrap your head around this concept?"

She pushed me into the water, "That's for Tony. He was a good guy."

"He was a good guy, with four kids, and good you-know-what."

"Duh, that's why he had four kids." 

We both started cracking up. Tony was hundreds of miles away with another pregnant woman, from what we heard. It was amazing that all of this was humorous now. A year ago, I was on the phone with Tyani crying and she was assuring me that it would be something we'd look back at and laugh. She was right.

Tyani came to visit me, during my last year in college. Brendan was a navy guy that made his way to campus often with friends that took classes there. The men that lived on the naval base nearby were sneaky, they wore school branded book-bags and hoodies to assimilate. We would never think to ask them if they actually attended the university. I'd met Brendan on the night Tony threatened to put his hands on me, in public. 

I'd taken Tyani to her first club outing at Mooney's, the only spot near the university that would let an eighteen-year-old in. Although she wasn't old enough to drink, I knew she'd get a kick out of hanging with college students and dancing the night away. My phone was tucked into my purse all night and I even made the acquaintance of a navy guy at the bar. He was persistent, but I made it clear that I was in a relationship.

When I got outside, Tony was waiting for us. He was supposed to be studying, but it was clear he was upset when he started yelling my name across the parking lot. I told Tyani to get into the car and she complied while I went to talk to him.

"Tony, what are you doing here?"

"You said you were just catching up with your cousin. You didn't say anything about you going out." 

"I'm not doing this right now, you're clearly tripping."

"I'm tripping? I've been calling you for three damn hours!"

"Relax, I wasn't paying attention to my phone. My girls and I got caught up and..."

He grabbed my shoulders and pulled me towards the car, "C'mon, we're going home."

I shook myself from his grasp, "I'm not going anywhere with you. I have to take Tyani, home."

"Tyani could take herself home, she's grown."

"She's staying with me and she's in my car. You're overreacting."

"I stood out here and watched you talk to some guy, for the last half hour. I'm not overreacting, I'm taking you home so you can stop acting up." 

"You're crazy."

Tony lifted his hand. It all happened in what seemed like slow motion. One part of me, could not believe this man would ever hit me, even when it was about to happen, even when he'd shown signs of abuse before, and his paranoia was always present. Tony used those hands to hold my face when he kissed me, to gesture when he told stories of his day, to cook me meals when I was too tired to cook for myself. There was no way he would hit me. 


I'd readied myself for the sting to cross my face, as his hands grew near, but I opened my eyes to find him on the floor in front of me. The navy guy I'd been sitting next to at the bar had come to my rescue. Tony was on the floor in front of us, holding his face, and reaching for his keys. 

I ran to the car, where Tyani sat in the passenger side, oblivious to what had just taken place. The navy guy came to my window and knocked on it, as I started the car. I was startled, for a moment I thought it was Tony. I rolled the window down, "Thanks for your help. We're going to head home now."

"Not before I give you my number, beautiful, I'm Brendan," he slipped a piece of paper through the window into my hand.

Brendan had his flaws. He was immature when he didn't get his way, his anger could sometimes get the best of him, he perpetuated the cycle that we put ourselves in, but he was the first man to rescue me...

...from myself.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dating Series: Looking For A Love Jones, Part 4

We release an installment of "Looking for a Love Jones" each week. If you'd like to share it, you can do so with the hashtag #lookingforalovejones & tag @rivaflowz and @bae_app on IG or Twitter.

It was a Basquiat. 

Anyone that knows me knows that I adore Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

I looked at him, at the painting, and then at him again,"Travis, is this legit?"

"Yes. I did my research orrrr you had his crowns in your photos on the Bae app. Go ahead, you could touch it."

I was amazed. I walked up to the piece, which was done on an inanimate object. I could tell it was probably one of the pieces that one of Basquiat's "friends" sold when they were in a bind. He had a habit of giving his work to people, as gifts, that were likely to give it away for something else. I ran my fingers along his brush strokes, I envisioned the pain he must've been in when he wrote "father", where I traced the letters.

"Why do you love him so much?"

"I just know so many people like him."

"Like who?"

"It's a long story. They're all long stories."

Travis sat on a nearby gallery bench, "I've got time. Tell me one."

I told him about one of my best friends who was addicted to drugs and suffered from psychosis, starting in her early twenties. She was creative and amazing, but something was always missing. I always thought her issues could've been prevented if she had parents that paid more attention; if their expectations weren't so high. They applied so much pressure for her to be things she didn't aspire to be. 

He looked down, concerned, "Are you still friends?"

"Not really. It was hard for me to see her that way. I couldn't do it anymore."

He held my hand, "C'mon. Let's get out of here."

We walked back to his car and I hugged him, prepared to say goodbye.

"Oh, I'm not leaving you yet. We're going to get something to eat, I'm starved. I'll bring you back to your car, later."

I got in, he pushed his AUX cord into his iPhone, J. Cole lyrics filled the car, and we drove off into Brooklyn's night.

His GPS was pointed towards a restaurant I knew well, but after a few blocks he pulled over and changed the address. 

"Where are we going?"

"I wanted to take you somewhere I love, but there's somewhere I love even more. We're going to go there. You seem like someone I can share that with." 


In a few minutes, after several smiles and the pointing out of his old hangouts, we pulled up in front of a local Jamaican takeout spot.

We walked in and he was instantly greeted by everyone behind the counter, "Travis! Wha gwan?"

He leaned over to hug a woman with her arms outstretched, "I'm alright Auntie May, how is everything?"

"Business is okay. You know we'll always be okay."

Travis leaned on the glass case, filled with Hardo bread and assorted cake slices, "Let me get a curry goat dinner and a curry..."

He looked at me and I realized it was my turn to speak, "Chicken."

Auntie May winked at me, "Coming right up."

In five minutes, she came back out with the dinners and started to place them into paper bags with our drinks. Travis handed her a hundred dollar bill.

She laughed, "Travis, take your money back."

"Bye Auntie. See you tomorrow."

She tucked the money into her bosom and smiled.

He took the bag, took my hand and we started walking back to the car.

"Who is she to you?"

"She's my boy's mother."

"Oh. That's sweet."

"Yeah, he's kind of lost, like your friend. Your story made me think of them. I go and see them every day, but I was going to skip today for you."

I admired this, "You're dope. So, where are we headed? I know we're not eating in that fancy car of yours."

"You're damn right! We're headed to the park."

He popped the trunk of his car and pulled out a blanket and a bottle of wine.

"Oh man, you're just all kinds of prepared huh?"

He opened a duffle bag and dropped all the items in, even a corkscrew.



I was on one side of the bar talking to Raymond's friends, about DC characters and we could not seem to agree on anything. 

"Superman has all of the best powers! Are you kidding me? I'm sick of you guys glorifying this man with a tool belt!"

"That's why Batman's the man! He doesn't need powers."

I groaned and took another swig of Sangria, frustrated with defending Kal-El of Krypton for the thousandth time.

From the corner of my eye, I watched Raymond flirting with a girl at the bar. She was tall, with an hour-glass figure, and beautiful coils sprouting from all over her crown. He pointed at her back so that she couldn't see and I nodded in agreement.

I looked down at myself, I was wearing my work suit, but my legs were out and my makeup was flawless. I found myself doing this often, comparing myself to women that Raymond found attractive. I could not fathom why. I thought I'd grown out of my attraction to him. 

After more DC and Marvel chat, Ty invited me outside to get some air. Ty and Raymond had known each other since they were teens. They were so much alike that it was hard for me not to see Ty as a close friend too.

Ty scrolled through his Instagram, as Fort Greene buzzed with drunken hipsters,"When are you gonna tell him?"

"Tell who, what?"

He closed out Instagram and sighed, "When are you going to tell Raymond that you're in love with him?"

Ryan, my home girl, and I made it to DC at 9 pm. We'd left work, hopped the Amtrak and made sure we threw our suitcases into our AirBnB so we'd have enough time to have drinks.

D.C. is my favorite city, despite the memories. I could not wait to run through all of my favorite neighborhoods. We hit a Caribbean bar, on U-Street, first.

Ryan called to check in with her guy, they'd been together for years and he wanted to make sure she was safe. 

"I love you too, baby."

I mocked her, "I love you too, baby."

"Oh stop it. I remember when you and you-know-who did that."

"You know better than to say his name, with his Voldemort behind."

Just as our dark & stormys arrived, my phone went off. It was a text from Mason:

"You're in town and you weren't gonna tell a brother?"

A smile spread across my face, Ryan knew what was up. 

"Mason or Travis?"

"It's Mason. Travis is in Australia this week."

"I told you not to update your location on Facebook! I'm gonna have no time with you."

"Oh, please. He's just saying hey, he's not trying to hang."

Just as I said that, another text came in: "I want to see you."


"Now, right now."

See you next week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

15 Ways To Know You're A True Hampton University Alumni (& Stories)

Homecoming is right around the corner. A friend of mine, that I didn't meet until senior year, called to ask about my plans and we started reminiscing. I found it interesting that we shared so many experiences post graduation and I just know others do too.

After a few texts and calls...I realized I was right. are fifteen surefire ways to know that you're a true Hampton University alumni:

1) You've spotted one of your classmates in Black Enterprise. 

Don't front, you leaped out of your chair during that doctor's visit, the only place you sit still to read magazines, because you recognized Justin, in an ad, or someone from HU talking about their latest endeavor. You did the cabbage patch, center waiting room, with folks who have insurance and common sense watching you and wondering if you missed the therapist's office.

"Do you know who that is?"
"That's my homie!"
"HU is always doing big things!"

Because much like Taraji, Kerry, and Viola, we know that when one of us wins, we all win.

2) You rep your freshman dorm harder than your bloodline. 

It gets real specific. Like, realllll specific. Folks will have gone on to pledge greek and academic organizations, start their own companies, and revitalize their brand, and still yell at the top of their lungs:


I remember very confusing and heated conversations that occurred in the freshman lobby, when the pre-college girls would hear their first dorm being trashed and had no choice but to claim the one they'd been assigned in September.

3) You've had to correct Howard folks when they start with their annoying rant of prestigious alumni and exclamation of how we were once an institute.

Excuse me, I need to sip some tea before I go any further.

Jetuan, the queen of shade above, and founder of Hamptonians Who Brunch is having an awesome one during homecoming. Peep.

4) You've had to explain to an interviewer how "horseback riding" made it on your resume.

Listen, Linda, listen, we all tried Equestrian or know someone who did. Either you dropped out of that class halfway through or you added it to your business management resume. I fell off of my horse the third class in, so you know Whipple Barn saw me soon after. That horse never did like me.

5) You reassessed the tuition breakdown and realized you were paying for gym, bowling alley, and movie theater usage.

I wasted that money. I know you did too. I watched "Shottas" in the movie theatre the one time Caribbean Pre-Alumni showed it, I used the bowling alley for a bowling class (that I also dropped out of), and I gained the freshman fifteen, sophomore twenty, junior thirty-five, and senior damn-I've-got-to-hit-the-gym-when-I-get-back-to-NYC.

6) You're a master BS chef, because "Gourmet Services" put you to work. 

In the words of Jess Moore, current Social Media Strategist at the New York Times *cough*, you had to get creative. "Inventions with cafeteria food stretched the bounds of your ingenuity. Think of all the amazing things we did with rotisserie chicken."


See, this is why I'm fat...

7) You have amazing calves because you turned into Usain Bolt at curfew.

Yup, we had a curfew. I'm not ashamed. I was annoyed at first, but then I realized that my debauchery would've started wayyyy earlier in the game. Not that there was much of it.


8) You can jump, hop, and skip over any animal you did not want contact with. 
CC: Water rats. 

If you've never had a confrontation with one of these suckers by the estuary in front of our dorms, you're not a G. I was out there with a few of my friends, when one straight rolled up on us. We thought it was a cat. That's how big these things are. Master Splinter joints. I somersaulted over my homegirl's fresh Remy and made a beeline for the church.


9) You realize that you can't act up, because we are literally everywhere and our network is SCROOOONG. 

I cannot go anywhere without seeing y'all.

I'm in the supermarket.
Did you to HU?
I'm walking in Georgetown in DC.
Did you go to HU?
I'm on a trip to Jamaica, WI.
Did you go to HU, mon?
I'm in an igloo in Antartica.
Did you go to HU, brrrr? Gucci!

10) You're convinced of all the myths and have stories to prove them.

We could have had a hurricane, tornado, and mudslide all wrapped up into one on a Wednesday, but if there was Parent's Weekend or Homecoming on the was going to be nice. Someone who was not a believer would look at their unreliable iOs app and tell you that it was going to be horrible that day and you knew what was up if you were/are a believer. I present to you Harvey's weather machine...

11) A lot of the memories you have occurred during the 12-2pm.

I tried to avoid having classes in MLK. The elective would say MLK and I'd be like: NAWL. I would have to walk through the fiesta of strolling greeks and folks you haven't seen in a while and deal with DeJohnette calling me out, for being late. 

*sips tea again* 

12) You stand out. 

Remember how we had to introduce ourselves with our name, year, major, and blood type? I do that every time I'm in major meetings and I also dress like I'm going to Ogden Hall quite often. Not too shabby, these days. 

13) Your parents will NOT let you forget about their assistance with tuition. 

My dad often uses commentary about tuition when he wants something or to just harass me. If I offer to do to do graphic work for his business, he'll say, "That's a good idea, let's put all that tuition I paid to work."

14) You feel like you're a part of a HUGE family. 

We come together in crisis. Prayer conference-calls, job hookups, picnics, and girl-do-you-need-a-hugs...we're always there for one another. 

15) You glow, glimmer, shine. Melanin. Melanin. Melanin. 

Nuff said. 

See you soon, HU!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fiction Series: The Villa, Part 1

You love me quietly and still I let your wounds rub my own, pretending we're healing one another when all we've got is friction.

We arrived at the villa before anyone else, with just enough time to listen to the sound of the island's waves pummel our anxiety. We were liars. The tickets were purchased, months ago, and we both were too afraid to let our coupled-up friends know that we were no longer united.

Jasper spoke first, "Would you like me to take the bags upstairs, to the room?"

I gave him a blank stare, "Does you wanting to see other people excuse you from being a gentleman?"

He got up from the loveseat he was perched on and sighed, "I see this is going to be the longest four-day weekend ever."

I followed him, planning to pick my bags up right before he got to them, intent on showing him I'd be fine without him, "You should've thought about that before you sprung your assinine I-need-space monologue on me."

He stopped dead in his tracks, ready to reiterate the speech he'd been giving all week long. I walked past him, making it clear that I wasn't going to listen to it again. He didn't care.

"We've been together since we were sixteen. I feel like we're drifting apart. Longevity does not automatically equate to love."

Jasper and I have been together forever, at least it seems that way. I was on the praise dance team and he was the church-drummer. I waited for him, forgoing my HBCU's parties and rituals while he studied theology an entire state away. My roommates and best friends, Brianna and Taylor berated me for my virtuosity. They insisted that Jasper wasn't waiting around for me and was probably out hanging with "church girls." I'd rolled my eyes at their comments, pushed them out of the door in their sparkling dresses, and get back to my studies or wait for his call.

I grabbed one of my bags and started to ascend the staircase to my room, "I am not drifting anywhere, Jasper. My love has nothing to do with longevity."

I thought we'd be together for an eternity. We both shared a ferocious love of our lord, kept our bibles near, and prayed together. On the night he decided that he didn't want to be a minister like his father, we both dropped to our knees and asked God to help him make the right decision. The next morning, I helped Jasper pack his things into his Jeep and drove back to Mississipi with him to tell his parents. We'd been through so much together, my love had nothing to do with longevity. My love had everything to do with trial and tribulation.

He followed me up the stairs, bringing up the same crap I'd asked him to keep to himself:

"I think it's healthy for us to get out there."
"We've spent every day together."
"Don't you want more, Kimani?"
"C'mon, it can't just be me!"

The house was incredible. It was a flawless beige on the outside, adorned with wooden shutters, and palm trees all around. You could see the beach from every room, white sand and melanin abundant. It took us five whole minutes to find the room with our names on it. Jasper went on and on, as I rolled my luggage down the hallway, hoping the sound of the wheels would drown out his lies. I whispered a silent prayer for double beds as we got closer and closer to the door of our room.

We pushed open the white door to reveal a gorgeous area. I'd never seen anything like it; Brianna, my best friend that was getting married, always had impeccable taste. The decor was sunshine yellow and seashore blue, there was a small office area, and rose petals were skewed on our...queen size bed.

Jasper dropped his bag and took mine from my hand, "I guess we're going to have to sleep next to one another."

I couldn't face him, I made a beeline for the bathroom, locked the door, and crawled into the tub to cry.

The glow of the computer screen was keeping him awake. This is what he said, as he turned back over and fell into slumber. was easy to sleep when someone else was carrying your burden, paying your bills, and making sure you had somewhere to rest your head. A half hour ago, he was getting ready to go to bed when I finally worked up the nerve to ask him the question. 

"Do you have your half of the money, for the trip?" 

Alphonso fidgeted with his towel after he dried his body, "I really can't front that, right now." 

I wanted to scream, I was so tired of this. He saw the anger building, in my face. 

"Babe, I didn't want to go on this trip. You could've gone without me."

I stood up, from the computer desk where I'd been checking my bank account, "I'm going to go to our friend's wedding, alone? I'm not single, Alphonso. Why didn't you say that when I was purchasing the tickets?"

"Because I thought I'd have a better job, by now. You're lucky I'm going. I can barely afford to be a tourist." 


This is what I told everyone that I was when I met Alphonso. He was perfect: A slim build, tailored suit, strong hands, chiseled face, and a dangerous smile. I was a cashier at J. Crew, but I was clamoring to be a stylist. The stylists were on the floor, they helped customers put together the best fit and even made a commission. When my manager wasn't looking, I'd recommend that paying customers change something about an outfit they'd chosen for themselves. 

Alphonzo chose a plain plaid shirt to go with his Ludlow suit. He walked to the counter and flipped open his wallet like he'd done it several times a day and his black cards glimmered in the store light. 

"Are you ready to be rung up?"

"Yes, ma'am."

He motioned for a stylist, holding his size in every seasonal item, to come to the counter. As he walked over, I asked, "Are you really going to do this plaid, with this suit?"

"Yes, why?"

"If you're going for casual, sure. However, this is a Ludlow. You need something smoother. I mean, if you're going for smooth."

He licked his lips and smirked, "I'm always going for smooth."

The stylist placed the rest of his purchase next to the suit. He furrowed his brow, "Listen, my man, you have something nicer than this plaid, for this suit?"

The stylist smiled, eager for more commission that I'd practically handed him, "Absolutely, I'll be right back."

I chose every outfit Alphonso wore out, on our dates, upon his request. He spent hours talking about his love of the business world and I swooned watching his eyes filled with passion and the right tie, under his chin. 

A year into our relationship, he lost his job. I didn't flip out, I didn't berate him like a child to find another one. I held him close and told him that it'd be okay. I put my WonderWoman cuffs on and proceeded to find a part-time job to make up for our deficit. 

It's been a year and a half since I put those cuffs on. They were starting to cut off my circulation. 

I looked over at Brendan as he gazed out of the plane window. I couldn't believe we made it. I meant that in so many ways. We were late getting to the airport and flying international was no joke. We were lucky that the airline staff was so kind. We were almost late getting to the aisle, too.

But when I looked at Brendan and when I felt what he meant to me, I realized that it would've never been too late. 

Exactly six months ago, we were sure that we'd had enough of one another. Brendan stood at the door of his guest bedroom with his service gun, I could hear him taking the safety off. I was behind the door, half naked with another soldier that he was acquaintances with, in Brendan's house. 

We heard the gun cock, "Brianna, come out of the room."

I tried every excuse in the book, but Brendan was no fool, "I'm changing baby."

"I've seen everything you've got and whoever is in there with you is going to wish he hadn't!"

"Baby, it's not what you think."

I leaned against the door, my tears everywhere. I could feel Brendan trying to turn the knob when I heard a thud on the other side of the room. My "lover" jumped out of the second-floor window and was now half limping and half running across the apartment complex's parking lot. I turned back to the door and heard Brendan running down the steps, he must've heard his escape too. 


I pulled my robe on and ran downstairs and outside, where I found Brendan firing at the other soldier's tires. I jumped on his back, trying to get him to put down the gun.

"What are you doing?!"

Brendan sunk to the floor and threw his gun under the nearest car. His eyes were filled with water, as I got off his back and sat next to him. 

"What am I doing? What are you doing, Brianna? I love you."

"You love me so much that you went on tour and cheated on me."

"So what was this? Payback?"

"No. It just happened. He was here for me..."

"The minute I found out that she wrote you and told you, I asked for leave. It was a mistake. I came home to surprise you, I wanted to tell you that I was one-hundred percent in the wrong."

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, "Maybe, this isn't meant to be. Look at us."

I could hear sirens in the distance and I wanted to convince him to leave or come inside before he got into trouble. 

"We're meant to be, baby. I can't see my life without you. I was drunk. I'm so sorry."

Brendan was sobbing now while I was trying to pull him up and get him back into the house. I finally succeeded. He was on the floor of the living room, still sobbing uncontrollably but safe. I looked at the letter his tour-one-night-stand sent to me. I could still feel the hurt welling up, in my chest.

Dear Bri, 

Isn't that what he calls you? Cute. I watch your letters pile up, near his bed, and wonder what he'll say to you. When he does write, he lies. He tells you that he's excited about coming home and that things are alright, but none of this is true. He's broken, he doesn't handle war well. He has nightmares, because of things we're ordered to do here. He's hurt children, via command, that look like his godchildren. Who do you think he relates to? Is it the corporate annoyance at home or the beautiful comrade that knows his struggle? You do the math. 



We'd seen countless therapists, our reverend, and spoken to our parents, since then. We relied on strong advice, other's experiences, and faith. We were still repairing our love, but during the process Brendan asked me to marry him. I said yes. 

& now I watch him, gazing out of the airplane as we take off and I thank God that we made our ascension. 

Thank Christ, for airplane mode. 

Before takeoff, I'd received five texts and three calls from Robert. We purchased our tickets months ago and I made sure, after our breakup, to leave him out of all of the definitive plans. I wasn't going to Jamaica with a man who slept with every muse he'd come across. Damn photographers. 

I took airplane mode off, as I walked through customs. The line was moving pretty smoothly, compared to the usual hustle and bustle of folks impatient to show off that they'd been to "foreign." I showed my passport to the agent and he stamped it, "Welcome to Jamaica."

I couldn't help but smile and think of Terry McMillan, even though I'd left all of my groove in New York. I needed a serious break from men. I was going to enjoy this vacation, with no interruptions. 

The moment I picked up my bags from baggage claim, I heard my name yelled from the passenger pickup.

"Tyani! Little cousin!"

I looked over to see my big cousin Brianna and her husband-to-be Brendan. Brendan looked serious, pushing suitcases into their taxi and eyeing my own to see how they could fit. I was still shocked that Brianna was actually going to marry him. They'd been through so much drama together, in the last year, that no one thought they'd make it. 

Brianna was ready, she wore a long orange maxi dress and was slathered in sunscreen, her twists draped her shoulders and she looked like she'd grown from the tropical ground, "Hi, Bri! How are you?"

"I'm great! I'm getting married!"

I smirked, "Yeah...I know."

"Dang, don't do me like that. Don't let Brendan hear you talking like that either. He wanted us to run away to Vegas, so we didn't have to deal with judgment."

I followed her to the taxi, "Ain't nobody judging y'all...much."

I laughed and Brianna pinched my arm.

The ride to the villa was easy. We passed several communities, filled with natives and tourists along the roads, and the smell of coconut and sea breeze stood out in the air. I couldn't wait to be by the beach. We pulled up to the villa when Brianna woke up. She was so excited to see her friends, "I can't wait to tell them you're here! They heard all about you in college."

I grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the car, "Wait, you didn't tell them I was coming?"

"No, I guess not. It's my villa. I invited who I wanted to."

"Yeah, you invited two other couples and your single fine ass cousin."


"So! I will be perceived as a threat."

"Girl, stop. Everyone in that house is in a relationship and they're confident about their union."

"Is that right?"

"That's right...I know my friends."

 "The Villa" drops every Tuesday! You can show love by leaving a comment below or posting and using #thevilla & @rivaflowz on IG or Twitter. See you next week!