I subscribe to the theory that relationships are like investments: the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.  I’m not going to reveal all the various forms of physical and sexual Kryptonite I have a weakness for, but I will say this: I’m a man.  I’m reminded of an old Eddie Murphy joke: if a woman spends enough time catering to a man’s ego or libido, well, it’s no guarantee he’ll fall in love or sleep with her.  But she’ll definitely end up on his radar.  Men are simple like that, even me.

Right before one of my high school summers, my guidance counselor pulled me into her office and asked me if I would be interested in going to some type of multicultural summer camp.  I have no idea what possessed me to do it, but long story short I spent a week out in the country with a bunch of other city kids from both sides of the State Line.  I’m not trying to undersell it; it was a very moving experience for us, especially at that age.  That said, we were still teenagers with out of control hormones; there were more than a few sparks developed over that week.  I had a thing for this nice, light skinned cheerleader from the Missouri side.  I talked to her for a quick minute; I remember she was the first sister who expressed anger at me that I would consider dating someone other than a black woman…

Later that summer there was some type of camp reunion and I ended up hanging with Deniece.  I believe the line I threw at her was, “Hey, hey woman!  Why don’t you, bring your pretty little self over here?  Find out what it’s like to go home with a real man!”  OK, OK, I didn’t go all Clubber Lang on her, but that was always the tone between us.  I would just start cracking jokes and acting silly and she would crack up.  “Make her laugh” was the first of many life lessons I would pick up in my relationship with Deniece.

In a way I feel sorry for her looking back.  I was in full bloom as ‘the firstborn teenage son’, which translated into constant arguments and disagreements with my mother.  Like clockwork, every Saturday night I would storm into the basement (which was becoming my favorite part of the house) and call Deniece ranting about whatever I was heated about at that particular moment.  I pride myself now on being both a good listener and someone who will protect your secrets if you confide in me (because that’s what I demand if I become close to someone).  Anyway she’ d just let me blow off steam, knowing when I wasn’t mad, I turned into a straight nut.  I was cordial with everybody I went to high school with, but we weren’t hanging out together socially, and I wasn’t really dating anybody from school, so at the time Deniece saw that part of me no one else knew existed.    She was the first girl who complimented me on my biceps (Lesson 2: keep the physique tight); she was also the first woman to expose my jealous side.  This is a funny story she may not even remember, but it wasn’t even from another guy in Kansas City…

I’ll never forget this; we went to go see Above the Rim with a couple other friends.  Pac was in that movie, a young Wood Harris is in there, Duane Martin.  But they were all about some Leon boy!  This cat…really?!?  Some skinny fool is really going to go down to Rucker Park in some cordoroy jeans in the middle of summer and ball up on the best of the best?  Are you kidding me?  Leon…anyway since I’m nowhere near a hothead personality-wise, it was a great tell of the nature of how I felt.  We were going to prank a mutual friend and tell him I got her pregnant right before college…which ended up crashing and burning because he really did get his girl pregnant (and couldn’t go to college).  Yes, that was foreshadowing…

We’ve gone our separate ways since college, but through the magic of current day technology we’ve refound each other as adults.  I still smile when I get a random note from her once in a while; I like to believe I can still make her laugh with my foolishness. 

But back in my teenage years, she was probably the only one who saw that on a regular basis.  I was about to get a whole lot…darker…

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