I thought about what I would say to Janice on the drive to the house. How would I begin? I had been practicing certain lines like, “I want this thing to work but it’s gonna take both of us.” Nothing seemed real. It all sounded rehearsed. I figured when I saw her I’d know what to say. We pulled up in front of the house, I didn’t see her car. The garage door was open and my car sat next to Tina’s inside. But Janice’s car was nowhere in sight. I felt kinda depressed when I saw that.
I had really changed and I couldn’t believe that it had happened. Over the course of putting this down on paper everything I thought was going to happen didn’t. I converted and the funny thing is Clyde my barber said it would happen soon. He was right. When I asked him to give that card to old girl at the shop, he said something that I declined to say. That day in the shop went down like this, I hope you remember:
“Alright man, I’ll do it but don’t make this a habit,” Clyde said.
“You need Jesus.”
“And you need to come back from Stage Three.”
“What?” he asked. This is what I left out, now pay attention…
“You know what Tee, I did the same thing before I met Beverly. The same thing. Big Mike gave this girl my card at a club and told her I wanted to talk to her.”
“At a club? That was stupid,” I said.
“Yeah it was stupid, but it happened for a reason. I didn’t talk to that girl. I met Beverly the next day at church.”
“Church? I didn’t even think you went to church.”
“Listen, I met Beverly and fell head over heels. I didn’t know it then but I went back to church just to see her. I went back again and again until one day I got up the nerve to say something to her.”
“At the church? You were checking out someone at the church?”
“Like you ain’t done it? Like I was saying, I finally talked to her. She had been waiting on me to speak to her since that very first day that our eyes met.”
“So what does any of that have to do with me?”
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen like that with you. I just feel it Tee. I think you gonna slow down real soon, not because you want to, but because everything is going to fall into place.”
“I don’t think so Clyde.”
“I’m gonna keep this whole twenty for my services.”
What Clyde talked about had indeed come full circle. And to think that conversation with him only happened a week ago. That day before I went to Sunset Cliffs went Janice. You get what I’m saying. No more than a week after that haircut here I was worrying about not being able to see Janice. I guess that’s why I decided to start this handbook/story from that point, cause it all seemed so crazy to me before. But not now, I had gone down to the shop to get a haircut the day before the move. I was still in partial denial, so I figured I would break out of it by trying to get Red’s girl. Clyde must’ve really made his mark with me.
We began unloading the furniture from the truck when Tina walked out to the porch and placed a triangular door stop beneath the storm door to keep it from closing on us. Flip looked around the apartment and liked the way that Tina had placed the pictures on the wall. He even liked the addition of the candles in the corners of each room. She had hooked it up. All that was missing was the furniture.
“Baby, how much money did you spend on this stuff,” Flip asked her.
“Not much, don’t worry about it. I want your house to have that touch to it,” she said patting him on the butt as we passed with the chairs.
“Watch out there girl, you gon make a brother get weak,” Flip said. She laughed.
We continued to move the heavier things into the house. It didn’t take long before we could see the back of the truck. All we had left to move was the bedroom stuff and that would be it. I still hoped that Janice would come. I never stopped to think that there wasn’t any way possible for Tina to have done all of that hanging and cleaning without any help. We finished up with the truck and the final touch was Flip and his stereo. What I hadn’t noticed was that we had brought in speakers that he didn’t have before. I didn‘t notice until he opened the boxes that he had placed in every room. Each box held a small speaker which mounted onto a place on the wall that seemed to be pre-designated.
“Tee, wait till I finish with putting up all these speakers,” he ran from room to room hanging speakers.
“Did these wires come in the house like this?”
“No, you see the borders? I had someone come in this week, lift them up and run wires through out the house. I had them terminated in the Music Room.”
“How much did that run you?”
“Bout fifteen hundred. I pulled it from the down payment for the house. I also took a thousand and had it invested in a mutual fund. That was Tina’s idea.”
I looked at Tina and she smiled. She had begun to open the boxes.
“I’ll stop. I remember how much you said you enjoyed taking the equipment out of the box,” she said. He trotted past her and kissed her on the lips. I went into the living room and started to arrange the furniture.
“Call me when you finish Flip. I’ll try to make this living room presentable”
“Alright, hook it up.”
Flip was into it. He was plugging the wires in and setting the equipment on its stand. I could hear him laughing with Tina. She was organizing the CD’s and finding what they wanted to listen to first. I continued with the front room until everything was spaced out pretty good. The good thing about the move was how Tina had moved all the small stuff during the week. There were hardly any boxes to unpack, which made finishing the job a snap. Five minutes after I finished the room I heard music floating through the house. I stopped and listened to how clear the sound was. I listened closer and realized that it was my Kenny Lattimore CD. I walked back into the room.
“Ain’t that my CD Flip?”
“Yep,” he replied doing a little dance with Tina. “I figured I’d listened to it one more time before I gave it back to you.”
“Hell, you’ve had it since I bought it. You might as well keep it. Consider it my housewarming gift.”
“Thank you bro.”
“Don’t mention it. Is there anything to drink in the kitchen?”
“Yes, help yourself,” Tina said.
I grabbed a water from the fridge walked back into the living room. I was stinking from the move.
“Hey Flip, I’m gonna go home and catch a shower.” They both came out and thanked me for helping.
“You coming back tonight? We’re gonna have a little pizza party to break in the new house?”
“Sure Flip, I’ll be back. You know I can’t pass up take-out pizza man. Take it easy Tina, I’ll see yaw’ll later.”
She waved and they started dancing again. I made it to the house and took a shower and chilled for a few minutes. I needed to take a break. It was six forty-five. The sun was starting to creep down towards the horizon although it wouldn’t set for another hour. I got up and left the house at about seven fifteen to go back to Flip’s place. The whole day I had thought about Janice and I really wanted to see her. But I guess she didn’t want to see me. At least that what I thought. I made it to Flip’s house and asked where the pizza was. They had already started eating. They were looking at some corny horror movie when I walked in. I walked through the dining area and into the kitchen. Janice was standing with two glasses in her hand. There were two wine cooler bottles on the counter.
“Janice, how, how have you been?”
“Not good. I’ve had this headache and this heartache all week.”
“Me too. I want to apologize for being so closed-minded last week. I know it took a lot for you to say what you did and I just wasn’t man enough to hear it. I had been denying what was ahead of me, what was waiting for me, that I just didn’t realize that-”
She placed the glasses onto the table and wrapped her arms around me. I buried my head in her shoulder and she placed her head into my chest and we held each other. I felt my eyes water, but I caught that before it fell. I still had to remain cool, even if I had accepted the increase in status.
What, did you think I would lose my cool and start balling? Not yet.
“Terrence I thought long and hard about the way I walked away from you. I can’t say that you didn’t deserve it, but I can say that I needed to do that to you.”
“You’re right. Let’s take this pizza back in here and look at the movie.”
So there I was, confirmed bachelor sitting at my boy’s house eating pizza with a woman who knew everything about me, well not everything, but it felt good and it felt right. Just as everything had fallen into place for Flip, everything had worked out for me. My journal had taken a different turn. All of this information that I was trying to give you helped me find the woman of my dreams. I was a Stage Three brother and proud of it.
We sat in the room on the couch and joined Tina and Flip. They were sitting, on the opposite love seat, engrossed by the movie. Janice sat between my legs and rested her head on my chest just as she had done at the beach. Just when we got comfortable, Flip turned off the TV.
“We just can’t stand it anymore, are you guys-” Tina complimented his words by pointing to both of us in that, ‘Yaw’ll together’ way. Janice didn’t answer, and rightfully so it was my decision. She had already told me how she felt. I needed to say the words now. I sat for a moment and played the ignorant role.
“What? I didn’t understand the question.” Janice looked at me and I finally confessed. “Yes, I want Janice to be the woman in my life,” it wasn’t so bad. I felt a ton of pressure drop off of my shoulders. Tina walked over to Janice and took her by the hand.
“Help me put this stuff up in the kitchen so it won’t spoil,” she said.
“Pizza doesn’t spoil baby,” Flip said to her.
“Shut it,” she replied.
“You want anything Tee?” Janice asked. I guess she wasn’t at the baby stage yet. I wanted to be, so I said it, “Nah, I’m cool baby.” Flip looked at me and shook his head in disbelief.
“What the hell happened in the kitchen?” He asked.
“I listened and it all made sense. Besides I couldn’t let my younger brother out do me in the maturity department.”
“That ain’t why you did it I hope. Remember wha-”
“Flip calm down, it was a joke.”
“I knew that. I did.”
“Right Flip. I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity. What if God did all of this for a reason and I blew it off?”
“Word. I feel you.”
“She’s beautiful, her best friend is your best friend, she’s independent and most of all I respect her.”
“So you finally admit that you didn’t respect any of those other women?”
“I didn’t say that. Why do you always put words in my mouth?” I asked.
“Whatever man. Congratulations though, on the real. I think you made the right choice.”
Coming from Flip that meant a lot. I could’ve talked to anybody about what had just occurred but their words wouldn’t have held any weight at all. Flip was the family that I never had. My mother was back in Tennessee and so was my sister. I rarely got to go home and I knew I wouldn’t be going back there anytime soon, so I had to find a new family. I never found a new, “family.” I never wanted to put up with the drama of dealing with a lot of people so I stayed to myself, until I met Flip. I love him to death. He knows I’ll do anything in the world for him and I’m sure he’ll do the same.
He walked over to me and we gave each other the famous brother hug. The one where you grasp each others hands and pull each other like your about to wrestle and then you either grab the head or the back, depending on how serious the conversation, or emotion was. We held each others backs for a moment. Yeah I’d made the right decision, I could feel it in the air.
“Let’s go back here and see what the women are doing,” Flip said.
We stood outside of the door and listened.
“Does it feel right though Janice?”
“More than right, girl. I mean as much as I believed that he was no good, I could feel that he would be good to me.”
“I know how you feel. I told Flip about what happened to me at the beginning of our relationship. Six months ago girl and he hasn’t acted funny or anything.”
“Have you slept with him?” Janice asked. I heard silence from behind the door. “Tina I know if you feel as strong as you say and I know that you just can’t get over something like that, in a day or a year or a lifetime, but I honestly think he loves you.”
“I know. I know, but I get so nervous, so worried.” I could hear her voice trembling.
I whispered to Flip, “Let’s go back up front man, this ain’t right.” We walked back up front and turned the TV on. Neither of us was concentrating on the movie.
“I’m sorry I doubted you.”
“Tee, I love her to death. I know that we haven’t been together a year yet, but I know she’s going to be my wife. Janice is right, I would love to make love to her, but I could spend eternity with her and just hold her.” He stroked his goatee over and over and placed his thumb and index finger in the corners of his eyes. I moved over beside him.
“I understand what Janice is saying. But maybe you should express to Tina that you can wait, just so she’s sure that you really do love her.”
“I’ve already told her that. She seems to think I’m just being nice. But I mean it man. I don’t want anything from her, except what I have and that’s her soul.”
“Everything’ll be okay,” was all I could say. Those cure all words which, from the right person, can make you truly feel that everything will be okay. I could hear Tina and Janice coming back up. We straightened ourselves up and stood up. Janice walked to me and held me. Flip did the same with Tina. It all seemed surreal. They both smiled, as did we, but they were smiles that held a foundation that we would build on. Hugs which encompassed everything that’s good about being in a relationship. That everything was compassion, truth, and more than anything else, patience.
Buy Stages now if you want to read it at your own pace.