Noni Jones in Harlem #25: Another Woman


The setting was an opulent lower east side night spot and the crowd was decidedly Black and upscale. It had been years since I’d mingled with this crop. Probably close to four. The promoters had changed but the feeling was the same. The line of scantily clad women teetering in skyscraper heels, donning their best runway looks wrapped around the corner. Clumps of men hoped to make it it in before the club satisfied its unfair female to male ratio. It so felt like undergrad.
Geneva was still nursing her physical and emotional wounds and wasn’t feeling festive. Caroline was playing a game of cat and mouse with Lance. And Carter, of course, was away. This time in Philadelphia doing God knows what. Lord knows I have stopped asking.
So it was Caroline and I, shivering in the 11 PM breeze off the Hudson, both of us clad in mini dresses. Mine was tough– Black, long-sleeved and skin tight with peek-a-boo shoulders. It was like a sartorial tribute to the Funky Divas of the nineties, En Vogue, and the man behind me was never gonna get it, even though he would try. I kept catching him in my periferal, his eyes greedily sizing me up. He looked smart. He wore a nice blazer and coral button up. He looked like a man that scored just over 50 percent of the time. I could tell by his reticence to say hello, he figured, no he knew, the woman in front of him was out of his league. So I helped a brother out.
“Hi,” I said looking over my shoulder with a coy smile.
“Well hello. How are you tonight.”
” Doing well. And you?”
“Great. I hope I’m not being too forward but you’re killing that dress.”
Some near by men were spying our conversation, probably trying to figure out how he did it. I didn’t want his number or anything, just his attention. I had spent half year underneath my phantom lover and I wanted to feel like a single femme fatale again, even if only for one night. Besides, the last time I did this scene, I was college student hanging out with my grown friends. A petite girl, with a big butt and smile who sometimes flew under the radar. I hate to say it, but I love the fact that now, it’s all eyes on me. Wait, I don’t actually hate to say it. Caroline looked at me like I was crazy but she knew what was up . Clearly we’d both be on hot ass mess patrol all night.
The fellow from the line tried to buy me a drink once we finally shelled out our ATM-crisp twenties and strutted in. I told him I was good and promptly lost him. Once inside, I spied an orgy of brown all partially revealed in shadows and flashes of light. The bass mixed with my blood. My veins were dilating to the beat and what can I say– the spirit took hold of me. Glo-Ray! I took Caroline’s hand an headed to the center of the dance floor just in time for Beyonce’s club classic, ‘Get Me Bodied’. And as I turned, squirmed, and performed my spirited rendition of the Black girl’s two-step, I could feel the chemistry between me and the surrounding fellows scorch. Soon Caroline and I were lost in the crowd, working it out song after song. Damn I’d been couped up in the house too long. I didn’t even recognize most of the music the DJ spun– a sister has got to get out more– with people my own age.
That’s when I saw him. When I noticed the familiar silhouette I had trouble keeping the rhythm. I was distracted. He was tall, fair skinned, and his head was shaped like an almond. That was all the clues I needed. I recognized that silhouette anywhere. Even in the dizzying strobe. It was the silhouette that made my heart skip a beat when I first laid eyes on him at an Af-Am House Party sophomore year. I didn’t know much about him then, just that he was also Muslim, a med student and supposedly a real conscious brother. The picture of Malcolm X hanging on his dormitory wall right next to the incscription of ‘al-Fatiha’, a surah from the Koran, confirmed the hearsay. But it took about a year before I was inside of his dorm, inside his world. Between that time we made eyes, then formed a coy friendship, one tinged with thick sexual tension that I, like mad, wanted to break. He had a reputation. He slayed women. Took them down like Mayweather bodied opponents. But that I didn’t care. Shame on me. I’d be the victim, so long as it gave me the chance to get close to him.
In spite of his rep, he played himself off as the perfect gentleman. By the summer before my junior year, I began to think that if I played my cards right, I could bring him home as a souvenir. Wasn’t trying to be MRS. in undergrad, but at that point in my life he fit the mold. The superficial mold.
Anyway, dreams were crushed when I didn’t oblige to his advances on the night we snuck out of a party together. In spite of endless temptation, and prodding with his fingers and tongue– I couldn’t let him enter me. I wasn’t bout it enough– I guess, and he moved on. After a few months of sleepless nights, and hunger pain, I was too depressed to eat, I finally began to see him for who he really was. A man, a nice man who craved the spotlight, and blessed the countless women who gave it to him with his jism. A man who refused to see a woman’s worth because he couldn’t see his own. Hell, a man.
He’s a surgeon now.
He was walking toward me, his eyes focused on mine, a broad smile emerging. His gait far more assured than I remember. “Wow! Long time. Long time.”
I made my way through a throng of people to enter his outstretched hands. I gave him a church hug. Didn’t want to feel anything. And thankfully, I didn’t.
His eyes went roving, forehead to toes. “How’ve you been?”
“Great. I’m a surgeon at Mt. Sinai,” he said proudly.
“Wonderful. I’m happy everything worked out for you. And how’s your brother.”
“He’s alright.” I could tell that he probably wanted to keep the attention on himself. “What are you up to?”
I know he knew. “I write books.”
“You look great.” He said, leaning in close. That’s when I caught Caroline just over his shoulder, rolling her eyes at us, and not missing a beat with her dance partner. Too bad. The worst part about back on the scene was running into those people you didn’t miss. A pretty pair of legs walked by and his eyes followed.
“Thanks love. It’s cool seeing you Ahmad. You take care of yourself.”
“You too.” He gave me one last charming smile, maybe hoping to make an indelible imprint on my mental map. 
Too bad. The space was already occupied.
I bought Caroline and I drinks. Yes, I could have had a man buy them, but I didn’t want to owe anyone attention. We took a moment to rest from our dancing, and look around the club. I was so happy to be removed from the NYC single scene. Being a Black single female in New York can feel like being dehydrated, on a boat, surrounded by salt water. So many men, yet it feels like there’s not enough to go around. Once you eliminate the gay ones, and the ones that don’t date sistas, and the ones who are out of your league, and the ones your girls have dated, and the ones who are whack— you’re left with a few brothas who know you want the hell out of them. So they stand there, unmoved, by every fly sista walking by. They don’t bother with game. They don’t bother with courting. Why should they? They know that we need them to fulfill our fantasies of what it is to be Black, female and successful. That is to complete the trifecta– Fly degree. Fly job. Fly man. In that order.
“Wait, I’m actually over it.” Caroline said, practically reading my thoughts. “What is going on? All these men just standing around against the walls, just waiting to be approached. Why can’t men be men? Damn!”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. ” Maybe because women have stopped demanding it. I tell you, it only takes a group of thirsty women to ruin it for everyone.”
“You think so.”
“Of course. That’s why we all have to get our thatch snatched. A few women thought it’d be cute to go bare and now men go down there, see hair, and panic.”
“Noni, too bad.”
” I’m just happy to be out of the pack girl.”
“I would be too. You know this is not my scene. I can’t stand cocky men.”
“You don’t act like it.”
“You could be up under Lance right now if you weren’t being such a mess.”

“Actually Lance is a mess, more than you know.”
“He’s wonderful and all but first of all the man doesn’t believe in marriage. Strike one.”
“Make him believe.”
“Noni, I actually can’t with you.”
“And what’s strike two?”
“He’s selfish.”
“And you love him, and I’m sure being with him is better than competing for attention here.”
“I mean, I can’t.”
Drinks were finished, and we lingered at the bar. Actually Caroline had a second. Men approached us. Caroline and I had both studied, thorougly, The Art of Seduction, and we could be femme fatales when we wanted to. We returned to the dance floor and partied some more till just after 2.
It was closer to three when I stumbled home. My feet were killing me. I’m not convinced that Louboutins, as fly as they are, aren’t intended to be instruments of S&M. I was looking forward to throwing my dress on the floor and collapsing onto my big, fluffy bed, which I would have all to myself.
Change of plans.
His eyes jump when I appeared before him in the freakum dress. Shit.
“I’ve been calling you.” I pulled my phone out of my purse and saw 5 missed calls. Damn. I had it on silent. Besides, I never would have heard it in the club.
“Caroline and I went to a party. I thought you were in Philadelphia.”
Just then I heard footsteps. Another woman’s heels on my mahogany floor.
“Hi Noni.”
It felt like I was swallowing a rock. “Tamika! Hey!” I started to ask what she was doing here and why the hell Carter was not in Philadelpha. Carter was still making sense of the sexiness that was not meant for him. His eyes were taking me in, leaving question marks on every contour of my body.
“We thought we were going to have to call the police. We were worried.” No this bitch wasn’t instigating. 
“Well, Carter, you were out of town so Caroline and I just went out for a bit.”I tugged down my dress and took a seat.
“Yes. That’s what I told Carter” she said, crossing her shiny legs. ” I told him you were probably out partying since he wasn’t around.” Not slick.
“So did you have fun?” He asked, eyes still cold. He looked like he was angry, but didn’t want to show it in front of his friend. He looked like he’d lost a bet.
“Yea, sweety, I did. It’s been a while since I went dancing.” I laughed. “And what are you both doing here?”
“I got in early. Tamika was in the City.”
I hated that she was in my house. I hated her energy. I could feel the venom of words stated in my absence. She had a satisfied grin on her face. Carter looked furious. And damn it, I just went out to have fun.
“I’m tired. I’m going to bed baby. Sorry I didn’t hear my phone.” I kissed him, tenderly, on his lips.
“It’s cool.”
“Tamika, nice to see you again.”
“You too girl. Glad you’re alright.”

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