“In thirteen seconds the tape will flip itself over if nothing is being played.” Flip said.
I drove up to Flip’s crib in La Jolla to look at his new stereo system. He had bought a CD player and a tape deck that did a lot of technical stuff that we usually consider work talk. But because of the importance of electronics, computers, cell phones, Playstations and anything else that uses batteries or voltage, for Flip and I to stand and wait on the tape door to open, slide out, turn around, retract and play with the same amount of clarity as it did on the first side, wasn’t a problem at all. As a matter of fact it was like a religious moment when the tape flipped and began to play.
“Nice huh?” he said.
“It’s pretty sweet. My tape deck will just reverse the tape without doing all of that.”
“But when it does that, it stretches the tape and can ruin it. The sound gets muffled.”
“Who cares Flip? No one listens to tapes in the house anymore.”
“But it’s nice to be able to pull out an old collection of tapes and play them, don’t you think?”
“I guess. I’d just buy the CD to replace the old tape.”
“Check this out then.”
He stood up and walked over to his shelf. On it sat a glass container with a CD inside of it. The CD was facing out, instead of laying down.
“Watch how this CD comes out.” He waved his hand in front of the stereo window and the glass windows slid open. “Ha Ha, yeah boy, you like that don’t you? Tell the truth that shit was dope, right, right?”
Flip was excited as hell. So I went along with it.
“Aww damnnnn, that shit is the BOMB.”
He looked at me sarcastically and said, “Fuck you Tee.” We laughed our asses off. He put on some music and sat down on the couch. The pillows sunk in as he placed his feet up on the matching black footstool.
“You know I took a pay cut right?”
“I kind of figured that you did.”
“From forty-nine thousand to forty-three. But at least a couple of people got a raise from eight to thirteen dollars.”
“Why Flip? Why did you do that?”
“I ain’t never had shit Tee. It doesn’t hurt me to lose that money, but it made a hell of a difference for Manny and Hilda. They got four kids.”
“I guess man.”
“I think I’m going to move though.”
“This place too expensive for you? Or is it that all the White folks are getting on your nerves?”
“The second one is bothering me a little, but I just think I should move south a little.”
“But it only takes you a few minutes to get to work. Then again forty-three thousand ain’t a lot of money.”
“I’m twenty -four years old. I have a ninety five SC that will be paid for this year and one credit card.”
“Just one?” I said.
“For emergencies. I need to move by my people.”
“Ain’t no Puerto Ricans out here.”
“Stop being stupid man. I’m serious. Why did I move up here in the first place, do you know?”
“You never told me.”
“Because when they hired me they said La Jolla was the safest place to live in San Diego. I don’t like it up here. You stay down south.”
“In Mission Valley not Southeast ‘Dago’.”
“Listen to yourself man, for real. You sound just as bad as these other cats. You always talk that Whitey shit. I’m starting to think that you a little white-washed yourself.”
“Hold up Flip, that’s fucked up. I worked hard for what I got, I don’t want no jealous niggas…” After leaving the South and coming here to work for MCC, I actually had forgotten where I was from. Everytime someone mentioned Southeast San Diego I responded like it was the worst place in the world. I didn’t even go to any of the soul food restaurants on Imperial any more. I stayed at those places when I first moved here. Not only had I moved up and out, but mentally I had castrated my Blackness. Flip realized it.
“I ain’t saying that you didn’t work hard, you just forgot. I’m reminding you that’s all. You’re my boy man and I wouldn’t say anything to offend you or slight you, but you had to be checked.”
“I feel you Flip, I feel you. So you want to move?”
“I already picked a house.”
“You renting or buying?”
“Buying, I figured I’d get a jump on it since I’m young. I got about eight grand saved up for a down payment.”
“So where is it? Let’s go see it.”
“It ain’t far from you. The place is in Kensington.”
“Kensington? Man I thought you was moving to southeast or something, giving me this speech about forgetting who I am and you moving to Kensington?”
“I said I didn’t want to forget, I didn’t say I was stupid, but on the real I just thought it was time for me to start getting right.”
“You already started that.”
“Flip you’ve had it right for a long time. I know cats your age that still stay at home. I admire you and what you’ve accomplished.”
We walked out of his crib and took his car down to look at the other house. Little did I know that talking with Flip that afternoon would make me consider, being with Laney and only Laney. I mean I was damn close to doing that until Flip asked, “You wanna go to the club tonight?”
“By the bay.”
If I wouldn’t have gone out that evening I would’ve been okay, but as far as I’m concerned it would’ve been to soon anyway.
Besides how could I finish this handbook if I would have settled down back then?
That night at the club we met two friends, Janice and Tina.
Pulling up to the club we could see a small line outside. People were talking and exchanging business cards before they got inside and started relaxing. We walked into line behind this tall brother who we were sure played football for the Chargers, but we couldn’t remember his name.
“Damn ain’t that-”
“Ol’ boy that plays tight end right?” I added as Flip rubbed his beard.
“Yeah, he does play tight end. Got drafted a couple of years ago.”
“I bet that’s his Benz over there.”
“Anyway, man look at the ladies. You think you might meet somebody tonight?” I asked not expecting this answer.
“I ain’t looking man. I think I’m ready to meet the right person though. You know I’m sick of all the drama,” Flip said.
I stood dumbfounded. This was my running mate telling me he wanted to slow down for certain. We were both having small droughts and I’m sure he was just considering the alternatives.
“I could call up Eve tonight, maybe. We kind of split on bad terms though and she’s good for frontin on a brother,” he said.
“I don’t split on bad terms with anybody.”
“Bullshit Tee. What about Laney?”
“That was a misunderstanding. She thought I said she was the one for me.”
“No, I told her she might be the woman I’m waiting for.”
“No, I never told her she was the one. I make sure I never say that kind of shit man. I say you might be, or you are damn near perfect, or you have to be an angel heaven sent-”
“I get it man.”
“Never say words that are definite, that leaves you without any leverage.”
“But at least I can still call up all of mine.”
We showed our ID’s and walked in. Since the no smoking rules inside of bars law had been implemented it was getting harder and harder to tell who the smokers were. I began to try and smell women’s breath when I spoke to them. It worked sometimes. Flip instantly walked to the hot wings table and began to place the food on his tray. I knew better, he did also, but I guess he didn’t care. Sisters pay attention to a brother that’s eating a lot. I think they assume that a guy who’s eating everything ain’t got nothing at home. I tend to agree. But in Flip’s case they would’ve been wrong. So here we are sitting at our table. Flip eating hotwings and jalapeno poppers and me with a glass of some wine special that had fruit in it.
“Settle down? I can see it, but I just don’t understand how you can say that right now.”
“Why not?” he returned.
“Man you are only twenty-four. Hell I think you got at least another year of living to do.”
“Another year? How long should it take for me to decide when to settle down?”
“First off I don’t think you decide.”
“Hold on now you’re the brother that said a man decides when he’s ready to call it quits.”
“I said that, and you’re right a man does decide-”
“Make up your mind Tee. You either think one thing or the other.”
“Let me break it down for you. I just turned twenty-seven in October okay? I know I’m not ready so I won’t even pretend to settle down. Because I’m not ready you dig?”
“Right on brother.”
“On the real Flip, a man will settle down as soon as he wants to, with a woman he either likes a lot, or a woman he’s willing to put up with.”
“I don’t think so man. A brother is going to settle down only when he finds it convenient to.”
“Convenient?” I asked.
“Convenient. Tee the only reason I said that I’m looking to settle down is because it’s getting harder to find women that I really enjoy being with.”
“Sexually or kicking it?”
“Both. I figure it would be better if I start taking women a little more seriously.”
“So you’re saying I don’t?”
“Then what are you saying?”
“I’m saying I’m looking to settle down,” he said.
There it was in those five words his step up to Stage Three. I saw it coming, but I didn’t want to hear it. We stopped talking for a moment and sat quietly. I wondered what he was thinking. I was trying to figure out which way I was headed. I thought about what I wrote in my journal. Talking with Flip had helped me understand that it was time to meet someone that I wanted to be with for more than just the sex.
Stage Two, I pulled out a pen and grabbed a napkin:
When a man decides that he should only sleep with women that are possible candidates for settling down, that is settling down due to circumstances beyond his control, then that man has reached Stage Two. No more sex for the purpose of just having sex. There has to be a little bit more to the woman.
I thought to myself, “It’s time to be picky, which doesn’t mean I’m about to be in a relationship, I’m just deciding to be with women who have their shit together. That’s what Stage Two is.” The words on the paper looked as if they made sense. I held the napkin in my hand and folded it up. I placed the paper into my pocket and felt stimulated by my discovery. I had written, in detail, what the first two stages were.
Isn’t that something? The way I came up with this philosophy about the Stages. I truly hope you are starting to see where I’m going with this, because once again, it is all important. My words should be adhered to like commandments. In these days where most men are failing to realize their shortcomings, I’m providing a simple, explicit way for sisters to understand men. I should be paid heavily for this. Don’t you think? I researched the material, formed an hypothesis, studied and reviewed my records and formed a thesis. What I’ve explained up to this point has mostly involved Stage One. There hasn’t been anything for you to measure the difference between One and Two. Keep reading and you will see the difficulties that come with only dating women you actually like. Like night and day, one, if added correctly, will become two and two will become three and so forth.
When Laney spoke to me in the park that day, I remembered to write those words down, but I can’t give you Stage Three yet, and don’t read ahead. Like trying to perm Little Richard’s hair, this is a very long process. Well, since we don’t know how long it takes to perm his hair, let’s just say the process has to be done in a sequence that can be compared to cooking greens. First I have to pick the words I’m going to use, clean them up a little so I won’t offend anyone, let the ideas simmer and finally I can serve the whole dish to you. Stages One to Four.