Mixing and Matching
"The world is black, the world is white
It turns by day and then by night
A child is black, a child is white
Together they grow to see the light, to see the light"
--- Three Dog Night: “Black and White”
“But we still love each other.” She blurted it out and then blew her nose, hard.
“Those three letters, that little word “but”, if you took a pickaxe and cleaved it open, do you know what words would fall out? “Why?”, “We should have”, “If only”, “Maybe if”, “Why didn’t we?”, “It might have been”, “Maybe we can”. It’s like a cave full of regrets. “But” is the love killer.”
Naomi shook her head, crying softly. We sat on the sofa; a small fire was beginning to grow in the hearth. There was a bottle of red wine and two full glasses on the table, untouched.
“Did we ever even stand a chance?” she asked, wiping her running nose.
”You mean the race thing? That’s an excuse I won’t use. You know that. We did not go into this blind.”
“I know that. I meant other people. Did we not get enough support?”
I laughed. “Your family didn’t want you dating a white boy, and my family looked at you liked you’d crawled from a Pod in the New Mexican desert and asked for change.”
It was her turn to laugh. Then cry some more.
I reached over and took the two wine glasses, handing her one.
“I think you had it a lot easier than I.” I quickly put up my hand. “Let me explain before you do a verbal drive by.”
She sat back and nodded and took a sip of wine. She was stunningly beautiful to me, my Queen of Nefertiti.
I continued. “Women are more adaptable and assimilate better and easier than men, simply be having to do so continually throughout history. It comes from being a minority, which you get a double dose of, being a black woman. Adapting to the white world, the male world, you’ve been doing that all your life. My adjustment, as a white male, was something I’ve had no preparation for, no practice.”
“You’ve been playing hoops with black guys most of your life. There couldn’t have been much adjustment for you to enter my family.”
“Au contraire. The hardwood is a level playing field, literally and figuratively. Your parent’s living room is a decided home court advantage. I was playing on the road in a hostile environment every time I went to your parent’s home.”
She thought about it for a moment.
“My family wasn’t bad to you,” she said defensively.
“I’m not sure I agree with that, but the fact I was your brother’s friend, and we played hoops together for years, I think that was the only reason they may have accepted me. He kinda set the tone.”
She nodded. “Your family was fine, Donnie. I never felt left out, or like an alien, as you imply.”
He shook his head. “They disappointed me. They never got past their own awkwardness. Not one of them could engage you beneath the surface.”
“Honey, that’s true for most people with me. Especially men. Pretty black women who are smart and confident? Trust me; it is equal parts burden and blessing.”
I reached over and rubbed her shoulder. “Be careful babe. Don’t want you to separate this patting yourself on the back.”
She laughed, wiping her eyes. She’d stopped crying.
“How long have we been together?” She knew I knew, but wanted to hear me say it.
“Two years tomorrow.”
“You really think we can’t make it?”
“I think we won’t make it.”
“Ok, Naomi. Think about this before you answer. Really. Take your time. Hasn’t the novelty of us, me and you, black and white, worn off? I think it has, and what that means is we are now where every other relationship is. What do we share? What do we have in common?”
“We have a lot in common,” she blurted.
“So much for taking your time. Name some things.”
“We’re smart. We love each other.”
I sat patiently, watching her.
“We both like black people.”
I laughed. “I think I do more than you, sometimes.”
“It’s not enough, girl.”
“Then what sustained us for two goddamn years?”
It was a fair question.
I looked at her and grinned.
“Besides THAT!” she barked.
“Honestly? I think we stayed because we genuinely like one another. We’ve been excellent friends to each other.”
“We have, haven’t we?”
I could see her accept it, finally.
“Can we keep that?”
She winked at me. “With benefits?”
I laughed. “Let’s see. If we can swing that, I think it would be really nice. But if not, I still cherish being your friend. And I will always love you. For a Negro, I mean.”
She punched me in the arm, hard. “I’ll separate YOUR goddamn shoulder, smart ass.”
After I walked her to her car and kissed her goodbye, I went back into my condo and built myself a drink and took it to the fire. Two big pillows propped me up as I took my shoes off and placed my feet in front of the crackling blaze.
I took a long, slow drink and swallowed.
Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?