Noni Jones in Harlem #20: Does Love Have an Expiration Date?

Geneva

 

So… Exactly why are you here?

Each time I watched Paul grab OJ from the fridge to drink from the carton or warm up some more leftovers, that question went off in my head. It wasn’t tripping over his free-loading; laying around the house, eating up the food, being here when I closed my eyes at night, and at first morning blink. I wasn’t tripping over that. My roomate’s never around any way.

I was annoyed that Paul was suffocating me when I needed to have some privacy. I needed to sleep alone. To eat alone. To be left alone.

He finally left on Thursday. He fled into the Harlem night like swirls of dust after a good porch sweeping. Good-grief. It felt like fresh air returned to the house and I could breath again.

By the time he left, the gloom had passed. It always does, like a storm cloud that exhausted itself then cast the sky steely gray. But even in the damp quiet, I needed to figure out my life. Figure out how I’d so easily slipped into another dark episode. He wouldn’t give me space to do that.

Honestly, I didn’t ask for it. My ass is too polite. Instead, I let him crowd my space with his twisted energy and shards of chatter that occasionally erupted silence like the smattering of glass. Paul is the only man I know that can accomplish avoidance and suffocation in one. When he wasn’t on campus, he was sitting on the living room couch, comforted by an open window, reading a book. Not talking to me, talking through this, trying to figure out if we could salvage what was left. No. There was no love happening. There was the only the turning of pages, fan blades cutting through air, and the occasional profanity shouted on the other side of the window.

Shame.

“Yo, I’m about to pick up something from the bookstore.”

I had just walked home from work and I was changing into a cotton dress. Our AC was broken. If Paul wasn’t there, I would have stripped naked, and curled up next to the fan. “Okay.”

“You wanna come with me.”

“Yea, that’s cool.”

We walked down into the 145th street subway platform and waited on the C. It was hot as hell. I could feel beads of sweat crowding my kitchen. He wrapped one arm around my waist and held my hand with the other. “You alright?”

“I’m good.” Since when had I become so delicate? Since when had he grown so quiet. Where was the man that hosted Fight Night in undergrad, shouting at the TV screen like he was ringside. Where was the man that gave Black kids from New Haven tours of Yale? Where was he? Still it was a nice gesture and the only one I can recall from the week. Paul held my hand until we made it to the used and rare bookstore in Noni’s neighborhood.

I had been feeling guilty that his being there wasn’t the healing I needed. A month ago, the only thing I wanted was Paul to come around. To know where he was and to know he was thinking of me. I felt the guilt of a sinner when he finally tosses a prayer in the air it comes down unanswered. His presence wasn’t my healing. Let him tell it, it was the healing, the salvation and the testimony.

I don’t know why men think that their jism is the cure-all, like it can mend a broken-heart and fix a relationship. No. Cum is not super glue, it’s just cum.

Every night, like clockwork, he’d come in from the shower, hit the lights. Take off his boxers. Force my legs open and pump me like with enough effort he could cum inside my mind . His body felt good to me. Better than I should admit. But something wasn’t right.

This wasn’t the same sex that made me fall asleep with a smile on my lips. This wasn’t the sex that made me want to get up and make him breakfast, make him feel like a King at my kitchen table. I felt like he was feeding me left overs. Spoils that he’d either been sharing with someone else or had been left sitting for so long, they’d gotten stale.

I wanted his love when it was fresh. I wasn’t satisfied with the day-old, caked up kisses he was feeding me. It wasn’t filling it any more. I was hungry. Hungrier than I ever knew.

Somehow, I was fasting and it wasn’t for my spirit.

What Paul and I have is past it’s expiration date. It no longer smells the same. It no longer looks the same nor tastes the same.

But I’m not ready to throw it away.

-Geneva

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