The next afternoon, Jesse just up and asked me out for drinks while we were in the Teacher’s Office alone pulling files. I know it’s unflattering to be as surprised as I was but I wasn’t thinking about appearances at the moment. Several thoughts were racing around my skull jockeying for a position of prominence.
The thought that was vying most vigorously was how rare it had been for me to be asked out by a woman I found attractive. Despite what music videos and some R&B song lyrics suggest, black women, in general, are not likely to shake their tail feathers in your face and say come and get it big boy! At least not at me. Can’t speak for Snoop Dogg or Tiger Woods, though. And, this might be the 21st century but a woman asking a man out in Brooklyn is still on the risqué side. Nope, in my experience, women would sooner throw subtler hints like winks or telling a girl the two of you both know to tell you that she’d asked whether or not you were seeing someone- but not to tell you she’d told the mutual acquaintance to tell you. That kind of thing was more common for me. One time a girl I used to see everyday on the train suddenly walked up to me as I was about to get off the train and slipped me a note. You see, we had taken that same train for almost six months and daily we’d make eyes at one another without a word being said, but the letter informed me that she had found a new job and wouldn’t be available every morning for eyelash batting and peek-a-booing for she’d be taking a different train to her new job, ‘…so here’s my number, call me some time,’ it read.
Another of the thoughts bucking brutally for priority was this: though I had had relations with white women several times in my life, it had been a while since the last time. A good decade or two at least. I know, as an American, interracial dating should be a non-issue. Half the black professional athletes and entertainers in the country can attest to that. And, at one point in my early adulthood, I went through a ‘black women are mendokusai‘ (too much trouble) phase and started expanding the playing field. I started hanging out more at bars and clubs in the city (which is what New Yorkers call Manhattan; an area where Jungle Fever was much more likely to be contracted.) This phase only lasted a year or two. During that time I had had a couple of flings with white girls. My first white girlfriend- Amy something or other- was my first taste of loving outside my race. Jungle Fever, being mostly a state of mind meant psychologically the loving had a lethal intensity. But physically it was what it was: sex. Outside the bedroom, however, I found it tiring to stand up to the scrutiny we received when we walked hand in hand down the streets of Manhattan (I never brought her Brooklyn, I wasn’t courageous enough.) White people gave her dirty looks and black women gave me the evil eye. Black men, however, looked on me with envy or spat attaboys galore at me which is probably why the relationship lasted the 6 months it had.
The third thought that was crowding my mind was that I was seeing someone at the time. Well, not really someone. I mean, no one in particular, but rather I was seeing a Nationality, and I only had eyes for that Nationality. I was infatuated with Japanese girls, suffering miserably from symptoms associated with yet another syndrome some people here in Japan refer to as Yellow Fever. My susceptibility to these types of maladies is high apparently (-: The major symptoms were: daily whiplash (caused by ogling every girl who passed), the weekly Roppongi visits (you know, just to see what’s up), at least one nampa attempt per day (flirting: can’t hurt to try), a euphoric sensation coursing through your nerves and synapases informing your brain and body that you have found nirvana on earth… yes, I wasn’t a pretty sight, but good times were had.
Now, don’t get me wrong: Jesse was cute, and I was digging her amber eyes and charming personality… but she didn’t have anything on Japanese girls. Not while the fever was in full swing.
She was still waiting for my answer, but not really. I had taken so long to respond she must have taken my silence as a no.
“Sure, how about friday after work?” I said.
She lit up like an hanabi. “Really?! Cool!”
“What do you like to do?” I asked her. “I’m not much of a drinker…”
“Really? Big guy like you!”
“Yeah, you wouldn’t think so,” I laughed. “But three beers and I’m three sheets to the wind.”
“Wow,” she said aglow. “Me too!”
“Ok…” I paused. “Ok, so why don’t we meet at that Starbucks near minami guchi (south exit), have a cup of coffee and work from there!”
“Sounds good to me!” She shrilled.
On the train home that evening I thought about Jesse and the look in her eyes once our date was set. I’d seen that look in a girl’s eyes before so I knew where this date was going: anywhere I took it. So I made a decision. I’d hang out with her but I wasn’t going to let it go too far and wind up getting involved with her. Actually, I knew I had made the decision when I’d turned her drink invitation into a coffee date. I would have done just the opposite with a Japanese girl. I think primarily I’d made the decision because though I’d done it a number of times in my life with varying – mostly bad – results, shitting where I ate was not a wise idea. Plus with the ongoing obsession I’d had with Japanese girls, she had absolutely no chance. No chance.
Still thinking about my Jesse dilemma I arrived home to my find my roommates sitting in the livingroom. I said what’s up, distracted a bit, slid my room door open, went in and slid it closed behind me. I turned on my computer and was planning to do some writing about this dilemma when I heard Joe call me from the living room.
“Yeah?” I replied.
“We’re meeting tonight, right?”
“Oh shit! I forgot all about it!”
I came back into the living room and the two of them were watching me. Joe looked high or drunk, but he often did. Greg looked evil.
“You wanna go first?” Greg offered but with a tone that suggested he had something burning to get off his chest and if he didn’t get it off right that second he would spontaneously burst into flames and take half of Saitama with him.
“Nah, y’all can go first…” I said. “But, let me just say something before you do. I want to thank both of you for taking the time to meet this evening and I apologize for forgetting about the meeting, even though it was my idea. Lucky thing I came straight home, eh.”
They both watched me and nodded.
“Ok, well,I don’t think we need to make any rules for this meeting. We’re all, well, I believe we all have respect for one another and won’t get too carried away…but I should tell you, I come from a place where people in general are pretty direct. And I intend to be direct. I invite you both to do the same.”
“Ok,” Joe said. “You stink!”
“Yeah,” Greg added, “Do all colored guys smell like shit, or is it just you?”