Three Lessons on Love
By: Alexander Kemp
Disclaimer: This is mostly a true story, but not really, but this actually did happen, but not really, but yeah, its non-fiction, except all the parts that are fiction.
New Year’s Eve
(December 30, 2016)
“Takes an idiot to date an idiot.” As soon as the words leave my mouth I’m stun by how juvenile this sounds. Kay, my befuddle girlfriend, lets the declaration hangout there like a condom dropped during communion.
“You dumbass! We’re going to have even more problems if you have the gall to call me an idiot again,” Kay threatens. She readjusts herself on the hotel bed, sitting further up, and I make eye contact with the tattoo. Consuming most of her lower left leg is the formidable image of Franny, her beloved and deceased German Shepard. Even Franny is pissed with me tonight.
“God, you just don’t listen,” Kay exclaims. “Can we talk about the problem? Or are you going to keep being impossible to talk to?” Her face seems to be getting more contorted as the words stream out.
“Of course we can talk about the problem but what’s the point when you’re being so nasty?”
“There you go again! Always changing the subject.”
“No, that’s what you’re doing. We got this fancy hotel room to have a nice time tomorrow for New Year’s Eve and that’s all I want. Let’s just be nice to each other, okay?” I plead.
“You don’t even know what the problem is, do you?”
She has me there. I should mention Kay isn’t wearing pants of any kind. What she is wearing is a Kansas City Chiefs shirt, likely from her scummy ex-boyfriend who comes from Kansas, although she denies this and claims it as her own (even though she hates football), but I’m getting distracted. The main point is she now has one knee up by her chest, revealing more of her orange cotton underwear, and I have what my priest likes to simply refer to as an “impure thought.”
“See, you can’t even answer the damn question” Kay shouts.
“I refuse to be tested like some child,” I say, with unjustified dignity. Three options are the likely source of this argument.
One.) Money! That’s all I got.
Two.) I offered to get ice from the hallway before the commercial break and not after, thereby breaking my promise.
Three.) I called her “phat” and she thought I meant fat, as in weight, not realizing I was using the 1990’s version of the word purely out of nostalgia on a throwback Thursday. It’s merely a term of endearment, just like “honey bun.”
Kay seems confident in her anger so I eliminate option three, briefly close my eyes, and make my selection. “Baby, I know you’re tense. This is an expensive hotel, we’re trying to pay off a big dentist bill and it’s stressful. I understand. I do. And I haven’t helped with easing your mind.”
She’s silent for a second. “Okay. But you need to get your act together.” Kay turns around and reaches for the water from the side table, giving me a prime view of her rear. Her posterior, certainly not too small, and what some, even she, would describe as fat, miraculously, in this light provided by the Radisson, looks right and tight.
It’s at this moment that I know how imperative it is that we conclude this argument on a good note. I’ve read never go to bed angry. And by all means, I don’t want either one of us to go to bed angry. After she quickly downs the water from her paper cup, she asks “Why’d you do it, Paul?”
“I don’t know. I just…I don’t know.” And that’s the God’s honest truth. Now it’s time to fall on my own sword. “Sometimes I’m just not good enough to be with you.” I’ve estimated this statement is true somewhere between five to ten percent of the time.
She sighs. “Oh baby, please don’t say that. I never want to hear you say that.”
“I’m sorry, for everything.” I choose not to say, it won’t happen again, since—you know.
Kay crushes the paper cup in her hand and in one smooth motion reaches back over to the other side of the bed and tosses it in the waste basket. Her movement causes her to do the subtlest of bounces on the bed.
I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist–
“Baby, go get the ice and then we can watch something else,” Kay says.
“Of course, my love.”
I locate the ice machine towards the end of this luxurious hallway I have no business being in. A month ago I surprised Kay by saying we’d spend New Year’s in a hotel and would go to a concert she had wanted to see. She was thrilled by this announcement and then the pandemonium subsided when I told her which hotel. She, by her own helpful logic, explained that if we were going to do something extravagant, why not go all the way. And so, on a salary from a non-profit which services endangered youth, I find myself in this four-star hotel. “Kay’s happy,” I whisper. With the ice bucket now full, I head back to the room.
Sitting next to Kay on the bed, I put my arm around her and she places her head on my shoulder. The television is playing, but my eyes stay on her smooth legs, probably shaved this morning. The smell of wet dogs enter my nose. Kay works at a kennel, washing, feeding and walking dogs of all ages and breeds. Kay loves her job. Anyway, I tell myself this is the aroma of love. Before I know it, my frank turns into a brätwurst. If Kay notices, she gives no indication. Doesn’t matter. I’m a grower and a shower.
“Baby, what do you think about everything I’m saying? I know it’s a lot to take in,” Kay says.
My heart drops. My eyes dart around, but there’s no help to be found. Right then, I go with the words I used in junior high when my father unexpectedly arrived home while I was smoking cigarettes, the words that would always make my grand-mama touch her chest and go, “bless your little heart.” I say “God works in mysterious ways.”
This makes Kay sit up and look me in the face. I can’t breathe. Her expression is at first quizzical and then she realizes she’s underestimated my intelligence. I’m working on a higher plain than she. Nodding in approval, she says “yes.”
She heads to the bathroom. I get under the covers and rejoice.
From the lavatory, Kay says she’s tired. Kay strolls back into the room and her legs are no longer bare. She has on pajama bottoms—the chastity belt—with a string waistband tied in a knot so intricate that only she or a Navy SEAL have the skill to undo.
The next day, New Year’s Eve, we have a delightful breakfast of cinnamon French toast and Canadian bacon. Following which, we take a dip in the jacuzzi and Kay excitedly talks about the Kenny Chesney concert we’ll be going to with her friends, Allison and Brad.
Side note: I hate country music, always have. I listen to rock and hip hop. I also hate being cold. The concert is outside, but since that’s what Kay wants, so it goes…
I’ll add now that I’m black and Kay is white. I include this cultural detail only to illustrate the discomfort that exists when I enter into a sea of people at her favorite music festivals and I’m the only person of color. That is with the exception of the brother selling roasted peanuts, who I once made eye contact with to give a customary head nod, and as he saw me being led through the crowd by Kay, laughed while shaking his head.
Anyway, getting to the good part, Kay becomes frisky as evening approaches and before we know it, we’re in bed.
I’ll spare you the most graphic or self-aggrandizing details. But I will say this, I stopped questioning why I go through all the trouble of a relationship. For the next, oh, let’s say thirty minutes (but really, who keeps track) life is beautiful. As I continue to clutch Kay’s ponytail, I make repeated contact with her plump buttocks, creating vibrations in her thick thighs. Make no mistake, the stroke of my brät is clean and true. Too much detail? Perhaps. I only want to reinforce with that moment, I give Kay my best and she reciprocates. Everything, pain, distress, anger become a worthwhile bargain.
Later that night, while freezing my ass off with Kay, Allison and Brad, listening to little Kenny screech out some tunes, I repeatedly think of the words Kay sultrily delivered as I laid on top of her after we finished: “let’s take a shower.”
(September 2, 2017)
Kay and I get out of bed late this Saturday afternoon, both feeling hungry. After four years together, we still don’t have any children, meaning we can lead a leisurely lifestyle. But Kay is talking about us both being over 30 and her clock is ticking. Whenever she says this I laugh, hoping to divert the conversation to anything else, but this only pisses her off. But getting back to breakfast, or lunch, we enter the kitchen.
“What do you want for breakfast?” Kay asks.
“I don’t know. What do you want?”
“I don’t know. Just choose something. I’m hungry.”
I look in our small fridge and see we have enough for eggs and a few pieces of toast. I tell Kay this and she nods.
“I’m thinking of just jumping in the shower,” Kay says.
“I’ll make breakfast,” I quickly say. Kay smells like a Doberman that just finished a doobie.
“Thanks.” Kay goes into the bathroom. Water hisses against the tiles.
I start on the eggs, put the bread in the toaster, and then inspiration strikes—Michigan’s football season has begun. I rush to the living room and the maze and blue are in a dog fight with the University of Florida. I’m lucky I remember when I do. Michigan needs my support. After the next timeout I go into the kitchen and turn the oven off and place a few plates on the counter. I taste the scrambled eggs and clap my hands. Why? Because I’m dope!
Standing in front of the television, I tell Kay breakfast is ready when she exits the bathroom. She goes into the kitchen.
I rush in and see her holding two pieces of black toast, glaring at me. “You can’t even make toast,” she yells. “What the fuck?”
“Calm the hell down. That could have happened to anyone. You know that toaster is screwy.”
“This type of shit always happens to you. And we don’t have any more bread to make toast with.”
“We got eggs.”
The crowd from the television goes wild and I run back into the living room. Florida scored! It’s the negative vibes. Kay rushes into the room and blocks the game.
“Move,” I say. “Please.”
“You selfish bastard! You got anything to say for yourself? What are we going to do about breakfast?”
“Eat the fucking eggs! Now move,” I shout.
“I can’t eat eggs without the toast! You know that, Paul,” she shouts.
That face. For the quickest of moments, I think back to when Kay and I met. I had brought a group of troubled teenagers into the local kennel for volunteer hours. On the third, and final day of our service, I felt the steady gaze of the lady at the front counter. She was cute. And I was rocking my new Superman chain. I figured why not be a little unprofessional and ask the lady with an amazing touch for animals to a walk in the park. I’d be able to laugh later when she declined. I don’t remember the words we exchanged, just her beaming smile. Before I could ask her on a date, she said, still smiling, “but you probably don’t like girls with freckles,” before quickly looking down.
It wasn’t until afterward that I realized our five-minute conversation swelled to half an hour. The truth flowed out as naturally as breathing in and then exhaling. “You’re sensational.”
I usually don’t think about that. Maybe it’s irrelevant. Especially since—she growls and stomps her left foot, still blocking the screen.
“You’re spoiled! Now move your ass!” There’s football on, Woman!
Closing the distance between us in the blink of an eye, she screams “I can’t take this anymore!”
With her spittle on my chin and nose, I pursue Kay as she leaves the living room. “Fuck you,” I shout with all my might. She whirls around and…and I see a woman’s fury. She shoves me into the bookcase, knocking down half a dozen books in the process.
“Fucking moron!” She then goes into the bedroom and slams the door, causing my Star Trek poster to fall.
I look over at our Pitbull, Lenny, lounging on the couch. I’m sure he only understands a handful of words from the English language, but even he looks at me with an expression that emotes, “I can’t believe this shit.”
Michigan wins the game, so I’m in a slightly better mood when I step over the fallen books and knock on our bedroom door. I’ll jump ahead here and say we then got into an argument about where to go out for breakfast (you can’t reheat cold eggs!), and then about why we argue so much, and then we got into an argument about where to go for dinner, I kid you not.
Kay went to see a country music band the night before. I think it was…who the fuck cares, they’re all the same. So she came home about three in the morning, reeking of marijuana and cheap liquor. She woke me up while getting into bed and took my brät for a joy ride. She climaxed quicker than an adolescent boy. Her oven had been pre-heated. As she sat on the floor with her knees up to her chest and I leaned against the door frame, I gambled on a hunch. “Brad was at the show last night. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Who told you?” Kay asks.
“No one told me. You were at the show last night, so him being there just makes sense.”
Kay is silent a long while before she speaks. “It’s not the way you think it is.”
Side note: Six months prior to this, Kay and I were at a birthday party for her mother. Also in attendance were her lifelong friend Allison, and her fiancé Brad. I always liked Brad well enough. We usually talked about sports, nothing more. The three of them often hung out by themselves, probably getting high, but not me; I’m too fly to get high (and my pesky employer is fond of drug tests). Sometimes, on several occasions, it would just be Brad and Kay together, off alone, discussing music, so they told me. But Allison never had an issue with it, so why rock the boat?
Later that night, as the drinking increased, a tipsy Kay was dancing with her young nephew. Everyone else, friends and family were seated at the dining table, watching them move exuberantly. Kay was twirling around in a spring dress and I couldn’t help but notice an ample amount of leg showing. While the pair did the moonwalk, Kay fell over her nephew’s big playball, sending her legs over her head and revealing her black thong with white polka dots. Her family laughed. Brad looked bored. I just thought, smart man, don’t look interested with your woman seated at your right.
If the average woman is humiliated by such an incident, then Kay safely fits in the minority. Kay quickly stood up laughing. Her nephew began chanting “I saw Aunt Kay’s booty!”
Kay’s mother laughed, “Poor Brad. He just got an eyeful!”
Allison joked, “Don’t you know Kay is a major flasher! Brad and I have seen it all before. Right?”
Brad finally cracked a smile. The three amigos stepped out to smoke.
Side note to the side note: When Kay and I began dating she told me she had been in a lot of relationships and she usually jumped right into bed with the guy. She said she really wanted to improve her relationship with the Lord and was actively taking steps to do so. I’m like, “Yeah, sure. You go, girl.” Then she tells me something along the lines of it will be a long time before my brät meets her knickers. And I’m like, “I’m happy you’re taking this seriously, baby.” Obviously!
Three months later (not that I was counting), and a double feature of Dirty Dancing and The Notebook, I finally made contact with her men’s Fruit of the Loom briefs. I caught the rabbit before laundry was done. Anyway, talk of the good Lord gradually faded, only reappearing during times of great unrest. And eventually, one fateful night, little Ms. Modesty drank too much Jack Daniels, and debuted her Victoria’s Secret thong for yours truly, and the guy she referred to as a “second brother.”
But I digress, Kay says her relationship with Brad is platonic, even though he is very special to her, always has been. He just has that something. She genuinely asks, “Do you think I love him?”
“Possibly. But all I know is you see him and afterwards you’re happy, never fails.”
Kay explains that Brad has so many of the qualities she wishes I had. She’s sometimes envious of Allison even though she knows I’m a great guy, but we’re so very different. She doesn’t want to ever hurt Allison or me. And then she says, “I’m scared of the future.”
It’s so late now that neither one of us is even thinking about dinner. Kay can finally say it. “I can’t do this anymore.” The sight of Kay still on the floor makes me sad. She looks so vulnerable and childlike. The temptation to hold her is a fleeting one though. “I won’t do this anymore,” I say.
There it is. What I have. What she has. What we both have, a sense of the ending.
(February 10, 2014)
Knocking on the door of Kay’s apartment, she opens it and is simply radiance itself. She grabs my face with each one of her hands and delivers a passionate birthday kiss. She’s curled her hair and put it up in some elaborate design, and applied a blue eye shadow and a rose colored lipstick to her face. She wears a black dress with a blue sash.
“Happy 29, baby,” she says.
Grabbing my hand, we enter her apartment together. The accumulating snow outside is coming down harder. Kay’s rapturous appearance is all for an audience of one. She’s already made dinner, bacon cheese burgers, my favorite, and after eating, she gives me my gift. While undoing the carefully wrapped paper, she eagerly looks at the expression on my face for approval. In my hand is my favorite cologne.
I kiss her, then kiss her, and then kiss her even more, soaking in the lavender fragrance of her perfume. She moves back and says, “And there’s dessert.” Kay has been experimenting with pastries since I met her a year ago and into the kitchen she goes. She comes out with an apple pie that can only be described as perfection. She knows this is my favorite dessert and she created it homemade. Later, Kay definitively says the pie is too tart, but I ardently disagree. I savor each bite, already knowing this will be the gold standard for apple pie in the future, at least for me.
We dance in the kitchen on her hardwood floors. The next song Pandora selects is an old record Kay amazingly hasn’t heard, but I remember my parents playing during my childhood. I hold onto Kay’s waist while she puts her head on my shoulder. We sway to the melody, moving together.
The first time I ever saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies
The first ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hand
I nuzzle Kay’s neck and she pulls her head back, not to kiss me, but to meet my eyes and acknowledge this moment, this feeling. While I can only speak for myself, I’m confident that right then there is an overabundance of joy. As a blizzard continues outside, my entire world consists of Kay, and the images of her face, inches from mine, are imprinted into my mind and soul.
Afterwards, we watch episodes of I Love Lucy on the couch, my arms wrapped around her. With the lights turned off, she apologetically explains that her stomach is cramping and she won’t be much fun in the bedroom. I gently kiss the top of her head and say, “you’ve already given me everything I want.” As the evening concludes, I’m grateful the lights are off, because I can feel my eyes watering.
This is the happiest day of my life. As I think back on everything, Kay likely doesn’t know this. And now, years later, she’s gone. I wish I told her.