We take the incline up Broadway, my mind trying to react to what she just asked me about meeting her soft-legged lover, whirring and clicking and whirring as we jog by the probation department. We come up on a red light and stretch some more while we wait for it to change. The signal makes a coo-coo, coo-coo, coo-coo sound when it changes to green, that good old audio signal for the blind folks heading north and south. It chirps like a sweet bird going east and west, so we know we have the right-of-way and it's okay to get back to running north toward freedom.
Before we make a step, a Soul Train of impatient drivers almost mows us down.
We jump back. Both of us almost get hit. That lets me know that both of our minds are elsewhere.
Nicole says, "Be careful here, sweetie. This is where all the assholes rush to get on the Tube."
Someone driving a black car with a rainbow flag in its window slows and allows us to cross.
I run behind Nicole. Check out the fluid movement of her thighs. Seven years ago they weren't so firm. Back then she had a whacked Atlantic Star hairdo that hung over one eye and she looked like Janet Jackson, not the Velvet Rope version, but the chubby-faced Penny on Good Times version. Now her belly is flat and the muscles in her calves rise and fall, lines in her hamstrings appear, her butt tightens; all of that shows how much she's been running, doing aerobics, hiking up every hill she can find.
It fucks with me. I try not to, don't want to, but it fucks with me and I can't help thinking about her being naked with another woman. Keep thinking about all the videos I've seen with women serving women satisfaction, but refuse to see Nicole in that light, in that life. I want to believe that they sit around baking cookies, knitting sweaters, and watching Lifetime Television for Women.
Those silver bracelets jingle as she gets a little ahead of me, not much. My shoes crunch potato chip bags and golden leaves. Buses spit black clouds of carbon monoxide in our faces.
The light at 13th catches Nicole. I catch up and ask, "Why does she want to meet me?"
"Because. Curious, I guess. I love you; she knows that. Sometimes she sounds intimidated."
"Because I'm a man."
"Maybe. After seven years, we have a solid history, don't you think?"
That makes me feel good. The simple, five-letter word solid makes me feel good.
The signal coo-coos three times. We run north.
We race the incline toward Telegraph, a liquor storelined street that leads into good old Berkeley.
At 20th, under the shadows of a sky-high Sears and World Savings building, she turns right toward Snow Park. We avoid a million chain-smokers who are congregated out in front of Lake Merritt Plaza, the black-lunged outcasts of a politically correct world, then cross several lanes of fast-paced traffic and head toward the children's park and petting zoo called Fairy Land.
I maintain a steady pace and ask, "This hooking up, is this for her, or for you?"
"For me. Because I'm in fucking purgatory."
"Where do you think I am? I'm standing next to you."
"Feels like I'm dancing naked on the sun."
"That sounds painful."
"Wanna see my blisters?" She clears her throat, spits. "It's important for her because she needs to get comfortable with my needs, and wants, with my love for you, to be secure. And it's for you."
"How in the hell is this hooking up for me?"
"Because I see how much it hurts you. You're an open book."
"Don't go cliché on me."
"You put it in all of your books. Especially the one with the orange cover. The one where you wrote about the wedding."
"A fictional wedding."
Reprinted from Between Lovers by Eric Jerome Dickey by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Eric Jerome Dickey. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.
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