by Leon L. King
I really do hate to stare. But it seems as if eye contact isn’t working. I’d like to know your name and tell you mine. Start simple. If anything more complicated than that is not possible (you may have a man, or a woman, currently dislike all men because of the man – or woman – that you recently had, or you just may not be interested), then at least I can say that I took the jump, pushed my ego aside, and made the attempt to get to know you. These flowers are just a token from a man who thinks that you are a beautiful woman. Look around you and meet my eyes.
Davonte had planned on just writing a brief sentence but by the time that he’d finished, both the front and back of the napkin was filled with words. The Spanish flower peddler stood patiently by as he wrote. A promise of ten dollars in addition to the ten dollars for the flowers had gained the flower guy’s loyalty. Davonte shielded what he was writing the best that he could although he was about to put his words into the man’s hands. He finished in a flurry, checked it for incorrect grammar and folded it in a triangular half. He randomly picked a bouquet of the flowers and inserted his note.
He paid the man and his new amigo rushed off to make the delivery. The flower guy had immediately forgotten about his pen that he’d let Davonte borrow. Davonte watched as he almost knocked people down in the crowded restaurant to complete his assignment.
Davonte had spotted her from across the room. He wasn’t sure what exactly it was that made her stand out from the rest of the pretty faces but once he saw her, everybody else faded away. She sat in a booth with two other women. Her friends’ backs were to him but she sat facing him, oblivious to his set of eyes. A few drinks were scattered on their table as she sipped what looked to be a margarita.
She’d only taken a few sips in the few minutes that he’d been watching her. She was laughing a lot, throwing her head back to express her happiness, as her left hand rose to her chest as if she were trying to keep the laughter in. There was no ring displayed.
They were talking about people, he assumed, because every time that something was said, a pointed finger followed it and everyone’s head in the group would turn in the direction indicated.
They were having a good time. They were definitely having a better time than he was having at that moment. He’d only come into the Mexican restaurant because he’d seen the crowd of black people. When he walked inside it was immediately clear that the place was more of a Friday night hangout than eating establishment. There was more drinking and socializing than ordering of food. The only Mexicans were the employees and the rest were all black. His people.
He found an empty spot on the wall. Luckily, he was on the thin side of slim or else he would have never fit in the spot. The place was crowded, breaking all kinds of fire codes, and every seat and booth was occupied. It was standing room only for the latecomers.
It seemed to be a local place. People were high-fiving, bumping fists, and hugging all around him. Nobody paid any attention to Davonte as he soaked everything in.
A waiter stopped and asked Davonte if he needed anything. He ordered a beer for no reason other than to have a security blanket. It was ten minutes before he saw the waiter again. When the waiter saw Davonte as he was passing by, he hit himself on the forehead to signify that he was sorry for his forgetfulness.
“You ordered a Long Island, right?” He asked with a noticeable accent.
“No, I ordered a Heineken,” Davonte responded. He’d actually ordered a Corona but any beer was one and the same to him. He could have probably said that he ordered orange juice and the waiter wouldn’t have known any better. The waiter left in a jalapeno hurry, becoming quickly engulfed in the crowd.
Davonte looked around him again. Somebody’s daughter took it upon herself to provide entertainment by molesting a barstool. The other women in the restaurant threw hateful glares and snickers at her. The men who were with dates suddenly found something in the opposite direction to interest them. The men without dates, such as Davonte, watched as inconspicuously as they could. Some men just openly ogled her with their tongues protruding from their mouths.
Davonte looked away so that he wouldn’t be labeled as one of the desperate ones. That was when he first saw the object of his affection. She was watching the scene also. Her friends were doing a Linda Blair maneuver, as they seemed to completely twist their heads around with turning their bodies so that they could see the girl’s Player’s Club routine.
He wasn’t sure how he’d missed her in all the time that he’d been there but when he first laid his eyes on her, everyone else became nothing more than faded wallpaper.
He temporarily lost sense of time and the din of the crowd became nothing more than static. He wasn’t sure if he was staring. Three minutes of looking directly at a person were a couple of minutes under the time that he thought people considering staring.
He looked away when the waiter came back with not a Heineken, Corona, or Long Island, but a melted margarita. Instead of arguing, Davonte paid and tipped him, and let him go on his way.
When he looked back again, the lady that he’d been watching was gone. Her friends were still in their seats but the one that mattered to him had mysteriously disappeared while the waiter was in his field of vision. Hope kept him glued to his vantage point as he surveyed the crowd. His hope changed to temporary panic when he saw her across the room being mugged by one of the male hunters. He had her pinned against the wall, his left arm barring her way past him. Davonte could immediately tell that he didn’t have a chance though.
His panic dissipated like a high speed internet changing web pages. He’d first thought that the guy was sitting down since the top of his head only came to her chin. She signaled that he had to be so tall to ride her ride and moved his arm out of her way.
The short guy followed her for a few steps as she ignored him. He muttered a few choice words behind her back and went back to his bar stool to sit down with his friends. They were laughing and making him feel just a little bit smaller. He was actually taller sitting down.
Davonte’s lady of interest disappeared into the bathroom. She was taller than Davonte had expected, standing at about 5’9” or more. When she’d been sitting down, she exhibited the cool, laid-back posture that adults would always warn the kids about as they were growing up. Her height added to her sex appeal. Davonte was taller than the average man and thought to himself that her height would compliment him.
A scuffle broke out on his right. It was a one-sided affair as a man tried to hold a woman’s arms to keep her from pummeling him. Davonte had never even heard an argument ensue as he was stalking his female interest with his eyes.
Another girl joined the fray. She was either the man’s sister or an incestuous lover as she called the other girl a few B words followed by my brother this or my brother that. All of the men surrounding them parted like the Red Sea in hopes of seeing a cat fight where a breast would likely expose itself.
The women began windmilling and clawing at each other as everyone else cheered them on. The brother/lover watched with as much glee as the strangers. Sure enough, the first girl ripped the other girl’s blouse open but the only thing that the men got to see was a size A cup bra that was barely filled even with the tissue that she’d added.
Everyone that had been watching laughed. To add further insult to the breastless girl’s injury, her brother was laughing also. The fight ended at that moment with the first girl knowing that she’d did more damage than a butt whupping was capable of. The loser clasped her blouse closed in the best way that she could and tried to make herself as invisible as possible as she rushed to the nearest exit. Her brother either realized that he hadn’t driven or that his sister had received the short end of the stick. He gave chase when she’d almost disappeared through the doorway.
In the few minutes that everything had happened, not one restaurant employee had come to break up the fight. Davonte had seen a policeman standing outside as he’d made his way inside. It was obvious, however, that the policeman was paying more attention to the backside of every man (yes, man) that walked past than anything else. Since he’d never shown up to squash the madness, Davonte assumed that he’d probably found a boyfriend. After all, it was Atlanta.
As the crowd dispersed from the scene, Davonte looked in the direction of his girl (he’d taken to calling her his girl in his imagination). She wasn’t anywhere to be seen. One of her friends was climbing down from the booth seat that she’d used to get a higher viewing position. As he turned around, he almost bumped into her. She’d been standing behind him and a little to his left as he was focused on the fight.
He finally had the chance to meet her instead of watching from a distance. He reached for her hand to get her attention. The only attention that he got was from another man who had been thinking the same thing that Davonte was thinking. As they both reached for the woman’s hand, they only succeeded in holding each other’s. It was a full two seconds before they realized that they were not touching the extremely rough hand of a woman.
Davonte pulled his hand away as if he’d been shocked. His "my bad" collided with the other man’s "my fault" as they tried to wipe away the fact that they’d just held hands. The vow that they would take their secret to their graves passed silently between them.
The woman was still trying to get back to her seat as almost every man that she passed was trying to get her attention with corny one-liners or through the brute use of force. She shrugged them off as politely as she could without having to hurt their fragile pride.
Davonte was glad that he hadn’t grabbed her hand as he watched the other men. He also wasn’t proud of touching another man’s hand but that was beside the point. His trying to get her attention would have been like everyone else trying to get her attention. He liked to distinguish himself when he approached a woman. He liked to make women notice him and not just see him. In all the time that he’d been watching his girl, her eyes had never come to rest on his whenever she decided to pan the crowd. Also, his eyes were more than likely not the only ones that were focused on that particular booth.
The gray haired, Spanish gentleman with the flowers had passed by him once or twice, maybe more, earlier in the evening. Davonte had paid little attention to him because of his infatuation. The traveling florist’s repeated chants of “Flowers for the ladies” (it sounded more like “frowers for the ray-dees”) had passed through his auditory senses without being completely registered. Even as he was trying to think of a clever approach, the words struggled to have a meaning to him.
The flower man almost knocked Davonte down and brought him abruptly back to reality. He apologized and then held the bouquet of bouquets of flowers in front of him. With a sincere smile he asked Davonte directly, “Flowers?”
At first Davonte was going to say, “No,” but a quick look at the flowers and a glance at his girl again quickly formed an idea in his head.
“If you find a pen and a piece of paper for me, I’ll buy some flowers and make it worth your while.” Davonte half said and half shouted to be heard over the music and the crowd. Davonte wasn’t sure how much English the man would understand, so he animated his question as he’d spoken, giving a writing gesture to signify his message. The point got through as the man’s eyes lit up and he replied, “I be right back,” and rushed off.
As Davonte waited for the man to return, he tried to think of clever words to write. Sending a note to her seemed like a simple unconventional way to get her attention. Even if she didn’t accept his gesture, at least for a few seconds she would wonder who he was. Corny lines were a personal pet peeve for him and he strayed away from using them. Good conversation was a talent of his and he sought someone who could hold her own when talking to him.
By the time that the flower man returned, Davonte had written some words in his mind. The man produced a pen as if were an ancient sword but no paper. Davonte raised his eyebrows as if to ask what could he do with just a pen. The man thumped his forehead with the heel of his hand which made Davonte briefly wonder if he was related to the waiter. He then held up a finger to indicate that he would be back again, and left.
Davonte thought over his words again and decided that they didn’t sound quite right. He erased them from his memory and began all over. He looked in the direction of his girl again and tried to transmit telepathic thoughts. Just when she was about to look up, a man with one white tooth – the rest were gold - approached her table. He said something to her and she said something back that wasn’t to his liking because he abruptly turned and stalked off as if someone had knocked his last cookie out of his hand. Davonte’s lady friend began cracking up with her friends and he was relieved that he’d never walked over to approach her.
He wasn’t sure if the guy had said something completely stupid or if she was just turned off by the fact that he would never make it through airport security with all the metal in his mouth, but he still felt a tinge of pity for the man. A man’s ego is tested every single time that he approaches a strange woman. The male ego is tested even more when the woman is with a group of her friends. The thought had crossed his mind only once to walk into the lioness den but the possibility of reproach was too great to give the thought serious consideration.
The flower man, Davonte’s new friend, returned. Davonte was second-guessing himself after see the other guy’s hopes get dashed in a thousand pieces. The smiling man in front of him had been through so much trouble for him that he decided to plunge ahead with his idea. The man had brought a couple of white napkins for Davonte to write on. He took a deep breath and wrote the first sentence. The rest flowed liked a cool night breeze. He finished and looked it over. He’d misspelled a word in his writing frenzy and rewrote it word for word on the other napkin. Misspelling a single word would have ruined the whole purpose of the note. He wanted to seem intelligent, not illiterate.
Davonte described as best he could to the flower guy whom the note should go to. He listened intently and then said, “Aaah! The beautiful one!” and rushed away before Davonte could make sure that they were on the same page.
As Davonte watched the old gent go to make the delivery, the temperature seemed to rise by ten degrees. The man stopped at a table near his interest. He gave the flowers to an obese lady that was everything else but beautiful and then looked at Davonte and gave a thumbs-up as he beamed a goofy smile.
Davonte shook his head furiously to let him know that the flowers were not meant for that woman. The man’s smiled disappeared and he snatched the flowers out of the happy woman’s hands. He moved over a table – the correct table - and waited for affirmation before he gave the flowers away again.
Davonte nodded yes but some of his excitement had dissipated along with the woman’s smile when the flowers were abruptly taken from her. The flower man gave the bouquet to his girl and then gave the exact same thumbs up and goofy smile again.
Surprise sprang from the Davonte’s fair lady’s face and transformed what was already beautiful into a glimpse of what heaven will look like. She held the flowers close to her chest and then sniffed them with her eyes closed. When she opened them again she spotted the note. As she began to reach in the bouquet to get it, one of her friends snatched the flowers out of her hand. The friend took the note out and threw the flowers on the table. She opened the note and began reading it as the other girl read along with her.
The friends began cackling and talking loud much to Davonte’s chagrin. He moved from his location and began making his way to the door. He didn’t know whether his interest had managed to get the note in her hands or not. He didn’t care at the moment. He was embarrassed and ashamed. The note had been meant for her to see first. Anyone who saw it after that would not have been a factor. He felt as if his privacy had been invaded: that a secret of his had been exposed.
It was slow and torturous progress as he tried to get out of the restaurant while he still had a bit of his pride intact. He never tried to look back at the one lady who’d unconsciously controlled the rhythm of his heart all night. When he made it outside, a crowd of people was blocking the ramp leading from the wooden deck. They were watching the same participant from the earlier scuffle make a spectacle of herself as she tried to get back in. She’d apparently left and then returned with a tighter shirt and a couple of friends. The policeman was finally doing his job and refused to let her back in.
Davonte felt a sense of relief when he made it outside. He felt that he was invisible and could care less about the note. The chill of the evening November breeze felt good to him as walked to the deck railing to wait for the commotion to end. As soon as the spectators cleared out he would be hopping in his car and heading north on I-285.
He saw her, his lady of the night, magically appear in his peripheral vision. She stood right beside him. She rested her back against the railing with her left elbow almost touching his hand. Davonte’s mouth went dry as he tried to turn around as casually as he could. He looked at the restaurant entrance/exit and saw the flower man once more give a thumbs-up in Davonte’s direction while grinning from ear to ear. There was no question how she’d found out who he was. Davonte gave a thumbs-up in return and the man who was both a traitor and a savior disappeared inside.
His new female friend held the flowers in her left hand and the note in the other as she studied it. She spoke in a voice that could only be described as musical before Davonte could muster the courage to even say hello.
“My name is Shaunda. What’s yours?”
Friday night looked as if it wouldn’t be wasted after all.