Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day
THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE
Kyle was a memorable date in many ways, and it was a flashback that Kyle was black. When I was a straight teenager, black boyfriends had been a part of my life. Kyle had rebooted my adolescent interest, so when I got back from Nepal, I searched Nerve for black profiles. No luck there, but I did find another website, Black People Meet, and I joined right away.
The response from my first four hours on Black People Meet was eye-popping. I had more than two-dozen hits. Within twenty-four hours, there were more than sixty. Remembering my evening with Chicago’s Finest, I was sure I had hit the female bachelor’s jackpot. Who would have guessed there were so many single brothers in town? After all, I lived in Seattle.
That was the beginning of my cultural introduction to the adult black man, and the first of many opportunities to demonstrate my white girl naiveté. Of course, there weren’t sixty brothers in Seattle lining up for my attention. There were maybe fifteen local men on that first day. The messages came from more than a dozen states, and had very little to do with actually meeting me. I learned that when a black man liked your look, he was going to make it known. He didn’t have to read the profile, consider the compatibility of the lifestyle, or even bother to check the airfare across the country. If the picture jacked his jaw, he had a keyboard and the inclination to make it known.
That was the only way to explain, that by the end of the week, I had more than two hundred and fifty messages. I deleted most, and narrowed in on the locals. The compelling Tyrone Davidson made the cut, and we made a date.
Tyrone was only thirty, which seemed comically young for me. But he stood out because of his profile picture; a tall man dressed in a cap and gown, standing between his parents, with a Harvard diploma in his hand. Who did that—a picture with your folks—when trolling for chicks? Plus, his profile intrigued me. Tyrone had a Georgetown undergrad degree in political science, a Harvard MBA, had recently launched a new business, had a taste for world travel, and a preference for smart, independent women. I wasn’t fond of his age, but he had my attention. I decided to find out what thirty was about.
We met on Broadway in the morning. It was the start of a sunny and warm day, and I soaked in the brilliant weather as I walked the few blocks to Julia’s Café. Julia’s served the neighborhood’s mix of hipsters, aging liberals, and queer Seattleites, with organic comfort food and coffee. It was a cozy space, with hardwood tables, cascading foliage from potted plants, and on that day, the oversized windows flooded the room with light.
It was the lull between breakfast and lunch, and there were only a few customers inside with their coffee and newspapers. He was sitting next to a window, and he stood up as I walked toward the table, smiling. When I came up beside him, I had to tilt my neck sharply to keep eye contact, and he bent over—way over—for a quick peck on my cheek. Tyrone wasn’t just tall; he hovered in the clouds. He was dressed in a white, knitted T-shirt and aqua-blue athletic pants with sneakers, and I was surprised by his choice. I would never show up for a date without dressing to impress, and I thought it was careless— maybe a mark of his youth. But my white girl was showing again. The truth was, Tyrone was decked out in the high status leisurewear common for African American professionals, when the event didn’t require business attire. There were clear codes of success broadcast by every label of his ensemble from the sneakers to the watch, to the sunglasses that lay on the table. He had dressed to impress. I just didn’t know the code.
Tyrone had a reserve that I took as the mark of a serious man, not a shy one, and it would be a while before I would see the bold smile that had attracted me in his online portrait.
“Tell me about your business,” I asked, curious about which trade he had chosen. He explained he had a partner in New York responsible for finance and contracts, and that he was the operations supervisor, handling the contractors, personnel and equipment. I was keenly interested; business turned me on. I love the creativity and risk required to start one, and I like the initiative required to take a company to the next level. I also like winning, which only happens if you risk losing. I was following the broad scope of his start-up, but as my questions sharpened, I discovered that the business Tyrone Davidson operated was based in Iraq.
A year later I would read an investigative article in Rolling Stone magazine that described the corruption involved in this booming industry, which supported our military presence in the country. Lucrative contracts were pouring out of the U.S. Treasury, and were being awarded to companies like Tyrone’s that had been quickly incorporated to broker business in the war zone. The economic chaos of Iraq required that contract finances be distributed exclusively in U.S. cash. Oversight was nominal, triggering reckless accountability, fraud, and maybe even murder. The Rolling Stone article implied that an assassination-by-ambush scheme of a dirty American contractor had transpired. When I read that a business associate of Tyrone’s was mentioned in the article, I paled at my three degrees of separation from the greed and corruption of international war opportunists.
“You’re a war profiteer,” I said, calling it as I saw it.
“The business doesn’t take a position on either the ethics or the justice of the war,” he answered smoothly. “The conflict exists, and the services are critical. We’re engaged in building the infrastructure of roads, compounds, and utilities necessary to support U.S. troops and allies.”
I listened stoically, with my arms and legs crossed. I had been an anti-war activist when I was twelve, protesting the Vietnam War. And this war was just as criminal as that one.
“We’re also in a position to provide expertise and trained personnel when the conflict is over and reconstruction of the country resumes. There’s been a lot of destruction. It will take years to rebuild. The nation has been impoverished for so long, they’re going to need foreign contractors and capital to reboot their economy.”
His explanations were persuasive. I couldn’t argue with the facts—support and reconstruction were vital in every war zone. He was making perfect sense, but I was stuck on the moral implications of his business. War is ugly enough for soldiers, who are only doing their jobs: but to choose to do business with war, and profit on the heels of death and destruction?
“What does your mother think?” I asked, remembering the proud parents in his profile picture.
“She doesn’t like me going to Iraq,” he answered. “But she is proud of the fact that we were able to persuade George Schultz, the former secretary of state, to join our board of directors.”
I continued to interrogate him, and he never strayed from his calm, almost professorial demeanor. I was interested in how the system worked, and he didn’t deflect or dismiss a single question. He looked me in the eye with the confidence of a man who is clear about where he stands and why.
“You’re an interesting man, Tyrone Davidson,” I said when I returned from the ladies room. “I’m not going to say I think it’s cool that you and your partner are building a career from our illegal invasion, but at the same time, I understand there have to be contractors. I just hope that it’s a short war—and you get to make a living from reconstruction instead of troop support.”
Tyrone leaned into the table, and looked me in the eyes. “I regret that I’m leaving town tomorrow, Vicki Marie, and I have business tonight. If that wasn’t the case, I would take you out of this bright coffee shop and into a dark room, and I would do my best to keep you entertained there—for hours.” While I was processing the image of the entertainment that might be forthcoming in that dark room, he changed the subject.
“Do you IM?”
“What’s IM?” I had heard of it, but really had no idea what it was. I felt every day of my age when he explained that IM—instant messaging—was the current communication preference of his generation.
“It’s a good way to stay in touch on the road,” he told me, and I thought to ask him what was wrong with email or telephones, but I kept my mouth shut, wondering what else might come out of his.
He towered over me as we walked the two blocks to my car. He was stiff-legged in his gait, or so I thought, before he explained through tight teeth, “Look what you’ve done, woman. I haven’t had an uncontrollable hard-on since I was nineteen.”
I was unsure whether to apologize or say thank you. Instead, I just smiled, amused by the contrast between his reserved confidence, and that helpless hard-on. I liked his style. I liked how his mind worked. I liked the frankness and the flattery, and I liked how different he was from anyone I knew. I didn’t like his business, but I was impressed with how he stood his ground, without arrogance or defensiveness. Quite frankly, the young man had savvy and balls, and for the time being, he also had my attention.
TOMORROW: Chapter 28
Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.