Stages: A Handbook on Men and Relationships – Chapter 14

Chapter 14
This is where everything gets odd. In a handbook that details the circumstances, or patterns, that a man might go through in reaching the “promised land” of a “perfect” relationship, that handbook should remain somewhat reliable.
I had the best damn date a man could have without having sex. I wanted Janice so bad that night, I had to turn on some freaky deaky movies when I got back to the house. I thought getting next to Janice wouldn’t be a problem and that I’d be able to pull the whole thing off as I had with Laney. It just didn’t work that way, but that’s later.
For me to remain a reliable source, I have to say that I actually felt like shit after I cut Laney off. It wasn’t so much that my conscious was bothering me as it was that I saw her a few weeks after with some tall, White guy. That shit ate at me for more than a minute. I wondered if I drove her to that. I wondered if she would ever date a brother again. It was almost time for me to call her and see how she was doing, but ironically I didn’t know if I could handle it if she said she was already over me. I wouldn’t have appreciated that at all. Selfishness is not a good trait to have, and I think I’m guilty of being the most selfish guy in the world at times. Well, you reap what you sow. If I was indeed doing wrong, then it would come back on me, right? Then again, no it wouldn’t, the bad guys always get away with murder if they have the right defense, which I have. My defense is the truth. It ain’t my fault if women never ask the right questions. If a woman can honestly sit down and live her life without having to have a man then I wouldn’t go in and out of relationships because there wouldn’t be any one to go in and out on, you dig? You have to keep your eyes open. There are signs that a man is a Stage One or Two brother, clear signs. Allow me to share with you these pieces of info about the male psyche:
One, if a brother gets a lot of phone calls and he always says that it’s one of his boys, watch out. A man usually has two friends, he doesn’t have boys (notice the plural). He only has two. Of those two, one is going to be Stage Four and the other is going to be Stage Three, that is if he is the one at Stage Two. Things change when you find yourself in the equation. As simple as recognizing this trait is, it is often taken for granted.
Two, if it seems as if your dates are alternated between weekends, watch out. That’s all I have to say about that, imply what you will.
Third, if you get to a point where you want to say I love you and he says it also, and it’s less than four months, watch out. There are some exceptions to this rule. I, for instance, never say those three words. Some guys use it at random, or something close to it, especially when he’s really reaching to get a woman in bed.
Three simple yet effective ways of recognizing these signs. There are more, but I can’t get bogged down in the rest. I may later, but I won’t right now. What I will say is that Laney with that White guy definitely bothered me. It wasn’t because of his color, it was just that I never thought she was the type. I called Laney up to say hi.
“Laney, how are you?”
“I’m fine and you?”
“Kind of miss you, but I’m maintaining.”
“You know, I missed you also, but not in the same way I think,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“I think I missed having someone to talk to about small stuff, you know, work and stuff like that,” she laughed at something in the background.
“What are you doing right now?” I asked her. I figured since I hadn’t slept with Janice yet I could get a little something from Laney. It had only been two and a half months since we called it quits. I was horny anyway.
“I’m chilling with a friend of mine.”
“Oh, who is it Stacey?”
“No. His name is Will. He’s a guy I used to work with who got out of Navy this year.”
“Man that was a short grieving period.”
“Tee, it’s not like that. He’s just a good friend. I’m being extremely rude, can I call you back?”
“No, it’s cool I was just calling to see how you were doing. Don’t rush to hit me back, it’s all good.”
“Bye Terrence, I’ll talk to you later right?”
“Yeah, peace.”
I had just committed a major sin. I had played myself and she heard it in my voice. Going from Stage One to Stage Two changed more rules than I thought. There wasn’t anyway to stay with a woman for longer than three months and expect to still be in good if you called things off. It just didn’t work that way. She would automatically go out and meet someone after the breakup just to justify that it isn’t her that’s fucked up. Laney had done this faster than I ever dreamed. I had too, but it’s different with guys. I picked up my journal and added something that has become a universal trait in the Stages. It goes for either men or women I assume:
If a relationship has lasted a while and it ends without the consent of both parties, both people will go out and meet someone as fast as possible, if they don’t have someone lined up already. They will revert back to Stage One and not really give a damn about the person they’re with. They will do this to make themselves feel better and that’s the only reason they do it.
It just ain’t the same in Stage Two. I didn’t like it, but it was something I had to deal with and continue to deal with. I’ve been with Janice now for almost three months and will still haven’t consummated this deal yet. I haven’t really given it a shot. I guess that night after the crab dinner threw her for a loop. It seemed as if she wanted to come in the house with me. It was a Friday night and we had basically spent the whole afternoon and evening with each other. But at the end of the night I jumped out of the car without kissing her.
“Did you enjoy yourself Mr. Terrence?”
“Of course I did, but did you handle me like you did at the club that night?”
“I don’t get it?”
“Was this pity?” I asked.
“No pity on this side, just a really good feeling.”
“I have a good feeling also, but I have a lot on my mind still.”
“I understand,” she said looking at me as she turned the car off.
“Call me when you get in,” I said climbing out of the car.
She was stumped. Just as I had done at the club that night, I blew her off. I got out of the car and watched her pull off. She waved out the window as she drove by me. This, now that I look back on it, was supremely idiotic. The chance had presented itself, and like a moron I overplotted. This part of my masterful plan to keep her on a string, didn’t work. She thought I was still stuck on Laney and she stopped pushing it. Another rule of smoothnicity I discovered was defined:
Don’t allow any chance to make something happen pass you by. You may end up screwing yourself in the long run.
My smoothness had been tested and I had to respond. She called when she made it in.
“Are you okay Terrence?”
“I’m cool. Did you make it home without any problems?”
“Yes, but I did have one problem.”
“What happened?” I questioned.
“This guy I know who’s still mourning over something that’s finished is allowing this great chance to slip away.”
“I mean I understand that he’s hurt and may need a little time to adjust, but sometimes you let luck enter and change some things.”
“You know I’ve said the same thing a few times myself.”
“Then why did you let me leave?” she asked.
“No mistakes on this one, gotta make it right.”
“I understand that and I won’t question you on it again.”
“So what are you doing now? I hear some music in the background that doesn’t sound like jazz.”
“Oh that’s the TV.” I turned off my porno flick and switched the channel to videos.
“Yeah, the TV, right.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Nothing at all Terrence, nothing at all.” She paused, “What are we doing tomorrow?”
“I’m going to wash my car and clean up the house a little. Then we can do whatever you like.”
“Maybe I’ll wash my car too.”
“I’ll wash it with you, notice I didn’t say for you?”
“I noticed. I also noticed how you said that we could do whatever I wanted afterwards. I want to buy an apple pie from Julian.”
“What? Black folks don’t go up to Julian. You know San Diego turns into Mississippi the further you drive east.”
“No, I don’t know that. I do know that you always seem to mention racism, but it seems that you have a lot of racist things to say yourself.”
“I’m not a racist. I just look at things in a certain way.”
“Terrence, name me one state where there isn’t racism and I’ll give you anything you want. No strings attached.”
“No strings attached? Give me a few to think about that. Don’t change your mind either.”
“You can’t take all day. You need to give it up anyway, there isn’t one.”
“There’s one.”
“Have you ever been to Alaska?” she asked.
“Then what the hell are you talking about?”
“Name me one brother in Alaska, it’s too damn cold to hate somebody in Alaska. You can think cold thoughts in Alaska, but I’ll be damned if you catch anybody burning crosses or having a rally in Alaska.”
“Good night Terrence, it’s late and I guess you start losing your mind the later it gets.”
“You know I’m right.”
“Do you look at sports Terrence?”
“Of course.”
“You look at college basketball?” she asked.
“Yeah, do you?”
“Who’s your favorite team.”
“Come on now, you know it’s the Vols. What else would I say?”
“I like Duke myself, my folks are originally from North Carolina.”
“What are you getting at?”
“They have a shooting guard from Alaska.”
“He’s Black.”
“No he isn’t, he’s Eskimo.”
“Good night.”
“Hold on I was just kiddin. I felt like being a little goofy. Janice, I really had a fantastic time tonight. I enjoyed being with you and it felt like what we were doing was real.”
She seemed to think about what I said for a moment. She responded, “And why would it seem unreal?”
“I was just saying that because of how well we worked together.”
“It sounds like you’ve never just let yourself go. Maybe you were to busy trying to run game to see the fun that can occur when two people are honest,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess I haven’t allowed myself to trust. I’ve always wanted to control everything.”
“I won’t allow that anyway. As for being unreal, Terrence it was real. There isn’t anything fake about me. I hope there isn’t anything fake about you.”
“So what are we doing here?”
“Nothing at all. We’re being friends,” she said.
“I like that.”
“Me too, good night Terrence.”
Now, remaining honest in the telling of this story/ handbook I have to say this, rather, I have a little story to tell. Just go along with it and yes it has a point:
Jimmy worked down at the five and dime on Broadway. He worked there for thirteen years of his life. About six weeks ago this woman asked him to join her for dinner. Jimmy had to have been about six foot three and about two-hundred and forty pounds. He wasn’t bad looking either. Rumor had it that in the seventies he was a fierce pimp with a stable of about fifteen women and then the drama started between him and this other cat named Johnny. Johnny had been in the city longer than Jimmy had and didn’t appreciate the way everything had gone down concerning the amount of money Jimmy was bringing in. Anyway, Jimmy had these two beautiful sisters working for him. Johnny wanted those women in his house.
The thing was that Johnny wasn’t right in the head and he had killed other women before that wouldn’t work for him. So instead of allowing Johnny to kill his ladies, Jimmy took all of his money and sent them all away. He took every penny he had made and split up between each woman. Now, a lot of this money the women definitely deserved, but the amount they received was not proportionate to what each of them may have earned. But even the women that did well received thousands over what they might have made while working for Jimmy. The women all disappeared. Johnny attacked Jimmy with a straight razor and caught him twice beneath his ribs. No one knew what happened to Jimmy after that. All they knew was that the women had all become successful business ladies. During the whole time that Jimmy was running those women everybody thought Jimmy was the worst person in the world. After the confrontation with Johnny everyone considered him to be a saint. Then a few years after the incident settled down, Jimmy returned to the city and began working at the five and dime. From that point on Jimmy worked there, until recently. This sister walked into the store and asked him out to dinner. From the way it went down, I assume Jimmy didn’t know who this sister was. When they got to the restaurant the lady had her driver bring a briefcase in. She passed it to Jimmy and walked out of the store. Inside was a handwritten letter signed by each of the girls that he had sent away. The letter read: Because of what you did for us by pulling us off of the tracks and treating us like women, we became successful. Here is what you gave us all that day, with interest. We love you. Three hundred thousand dollars was in the briefcase.
Whether this is a true story or not, I think it shows that all players aren’t bad people. Sometimes it takes a player to put a woman on the right path, don’t you agree?
If that wasn’t a smooth analogy to show how valuable what I’m doing is, then I don’t know what else to say. Yes I do, I had to make myself feel better by writing that.
The truth is when I got off the phone with Janice I felt as if I had made all the right decisions in moving on to her. I enjoyed being with her and we hadn’t even had sex, which wasn’t killing me, but it would’ve been nice. That Saturday we kicked it. I called Flip and let him know what was happening. I actually didn’t have to call and tell him. Tina always got the new info from Janice about what was going on and I guess she couldn’t keep her mouth closed. Flip was successfully mastering Stage Three and was making his way to the final stage, four. We got together at a sports pub on Sunday to look at some basketball and rap a little bit.
We ordered drinks, a large pepperoni and an Italian sausage pizza. As I walked to the fountain to grab me some more soda I noticed that some of the people in there were having a bachelor’s party. The guys around this tall brother were all cheering and singing crazy songs and stuff. They all seemed pretty damned happy that their friend was getting married.
“That gonna be me and you real soon? Me throwing a bachelor’s party for you?” I asked.
“Like I said, maybe. Tina and I have been talking about that kind of stuff but I don’t know. I like her a lot though.”
“I feel you. So how does it feel?”
“How does what feel?”
“Being locked in with one woman?”
“It ain’t so bad if you don’t think of it as being locked in. I like it man. I like to wake up in the morning and honestly like the person I’m waking up with.”
“For real man. Check it right, I was feeling real bad after work last Thursday right?”
“Yeah we put in a lot of work that day.”
“I got home and she happened to get off earlier than I did. She’d cooked a nice little dinner and everything. Nothing extravagant, but a nice small dinner.”
“She got a key to your crib?” I asked.
What I had failed to do was expect that a brother who had arrived at Stage Three would move so rapidly to try and get to Stage Four.
Okay, here it comes the one I’m sure has been on your mind for some time now, Stage Three:
When a man can no longer stand to play the game anymore he makes a decision to call it quits. He will hang up his trunks and pull the gloves off. He will walk into the corner and accept the position he’s in. That position is one of submission, which can be good or bad. That man will not lie to get what he wants in a relationship and he won’t cheat, unless the opportunity is overwhelmingly strong. The person he would cheat with, will be someone that the woman will already know about, like an old girlfriend. Now Stage Three is a good time to catch a man. He is more than willing to work out any problems that may come up in the relationship.
Sounds good huh? The catch in this Stage is a big one though. The man isn’t settling down because he cares for you, or loves you. He’s settling down for himself, because he wants to. The woman that happens to come along at that time just happens to get the benefit of his decision. The reason this is a problem, follow close now, is that the man may settle down with a person that he does not truly love. He will even go as far as marrying that woman. These are the marriages that fail. It isn’t any fault of the woman or the man, just a problem with timing. Stage Three man assumes that the world is his at this time and will have a long relationship with the first woman that comes along. Sometimes it can last, very often it doesn’t because a brother has decided to be with his lady because it was time for him to settle down. But when a man is at Stage Three and everything is mutual, life seems to take a turn for the better. It can and will last.
Flip had become a Stage Three man right in front of me and from my vantage point it didn’t look so bad. He seemed happy enough, but I had to ask him.
“Yo Flip, why was Tina the right person for you?” I knew that this question would answer for me where Flip was. I hadn’t given Flip my spill about the Stages, but if he answered correctly I would tell him what I had so far.
“I guess the way she looked had something to do with it.”
“And I hope that wasn’t it.”
“It wasn’t. She was professional. I didn’t have to worry about her needing me for much.”
“So you’re saying you wouldn’t settle down with a woman that’s needy?”
“Tee, I didn’t say that. I just prefer that a woman can pull her own weight if necessary. You’re the same way, so don’t front.”
“True, I am, but I’m just interested.”
“Why? You thinking about going in the same direction with Janice?” he asked me.
“No. What was it man? What was it about her that made you say, fuck it all.”
“If you recall it wasn’t her that made me say fuck it all.”
“So you made the decision to settle down for yourself?”
“Yeah, but don’t we all?” he replied.
That was a good point. I was going to have to make an amendment to my journal. However the current info I had still seemed to fit enough to express what I was going to try and get across to Flip.
“Alright Tee, Tina said something to me that made me think real hard.”
“What was that? If it’s personal I understand,” I asked.
Flip took a bite of his pizza and drank from his cup before he began.
“When we were going to the Park and doing all of those things that were freaking you out,” he laughed for a moment. His expression took on the same face he had when he spoke passionately about something. “She told me that she had never really enjoyed San Diego. Relationships had been one disappointment after another. All that most men saw when they looked at her was a nice piece of ass, but not a woman to bring home to their mother.”
“With her job, education and her looks, no one wanted to be with her?”
“I never told you how old she is did I?”
“She’s twenty-nine. She didn’t lose her virginity until she was twenty-two and she only did it with her first love and two other guys.”
“I’m sorry man, but you believed that?”
“Tee, serious man. I’m trying to tell you why I decided to settle down man you asked.”
“I’m sorry Flip.”
“She was with a number of men that left her alone when they found out she was a still a virgin in college. Don’t tell Janice this shit man.”
“I ain’t gon do that man.”
“Well, when we were in the Park she kept telling me that she wasn’t going to get too close to me. She kept saying it jokingly, but I could feel that there was more. So I asked her why she kept saying that:
‘Flip I have really enjoyed these last couple of weeks. That night at the club when you guys came over to the table, I felt something different from you. You had this look on your face like I was the only woman in the place that you would’ve said something to.’ she said.
‘You were the only woman I spoke to that night. I had a lot on my mind and I just wanted to release some tension.’
‘The reason I keep saying that I’m going to keep my distance is because the last person I was with-’ She started crying man,” he stopped telling the story and looked down.
“Flip you don’t have to tell me this. It sounds like it was personal,” I said. I could feel that what he was about to say was heavy. I hadn’t seen him so passionate about something since he realized that some of the people on the line didn’t have any health care. He continued to look down when he began speaking again. He wiped his face as if he was crying.
“Tee she told me that the last dude she was with wouldn’t take no for an answer, basically.”
“Don’t tell me that man,” I said not knowing what else to say to him. His chest heaved slightly and he sucked his tears up and looked me in the eyes.
“She hasn’t been with anyone in over a year. She hasn’t dated or anything.”
I couldn’t help but think why she decided to tell him all of this. Such a personal issue wasn’t shared lightly. Flip interrupted my train of thought.
“Tee you know we’ve been together for a little over six months right?”
“A little bit longer than that man.”
“We’ve never made love. I hold her at night sometimes until she falls asleep. She wakes up at night sometimes in cold sweats. I don’t know why she decided to trust me and I don’t really care but sometimes God brings people into your life for a reason. That’s why I settled down Tee. I settled down because God wanted me to. Now you know.”
I didn’t respond. I know in some situations you just don’t say anything. You allow the silence to speak for you. I wanted to tell Flip that I understood but all I could do was sit with him. My mind wandered as I sat. I thought initially that it all sounded too scripted. Why would a woman stay at a man’s house after something like that happened to her? I almost asked him if he thought it was a lie, but I could see in his face that he thought it was truth. If Flip thought it was truth, as far as I was concerned it was.
Maybe God does place you into peoples lives for a reason. Then again I’m sure he does. What secrets were there to be told by Janice? I wondered. Would I be man enough to ask her? I guess Stage Three is God’s way of slapping a man in the face with an ultimatum.
Flip finally calmed down and sipped on his drink. I ate another slice of pizza and reached out my hand to him. He shook it and we interlocked our thumbs in an arm wrestling like grip, which was our way of saying we had each other’s backs.
“Flip I didn’t know man and I won’t say a word.”
“Tee I know you’re thinking the same thing I did.”
“Which is?”
“Why me? Why did she decide to seek comfort in me? Is she lying? Am I right, is that what you’re thinking?”
“Yeah but-”
“Don’t worry about it. I thought the same thing, but then I decided to let it go. Why question everything?”
“I don’t think you should.”
“You ready to go back to the pad?”
“Yeah let’s roll.”
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