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Authors: James Earl Hardy

Love the One You're With

BOOK: Love the One You're With
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james
earl
hardy

LOVE
THE
ONE
YOU'RE
WITH
a novel

DEDICATION

“THIS IS … FOR THE
CHEATER
IN YOU …”

CONTENTS

Dedication

1 Call me

2 Love the one
you're with

3 That's What
(Girl) Friends are for

4 All Night
Long

5 Soul on
Ice

6 Say it Loud, I'm
Black & I'm Proud!

7 Long Distance
Love

8 For the Love of
Money

9 Young Willing and
Able

10 Just the two
of us

11 We've Got to
Stop Meeting Like This

12 Family
Reunion

13 A Song for
You

14 I Just Called
to Say I Love You

15 I Got My
Education

16 Midnight at
the Oasis

17 Secret
Rendezvous

18 Love
Stories

19 Daddy's
Home

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Praise For James Earl Hardy's
Love the One You're With

Copyright

About the Publisher

1
CALL ME

I picked up the receiver before the phone could ring once …

“Hi, Pooquie.”

“Hay, Baby. How you know it was me?”

“Who ­else would be calling me at this hour? Besides, I could tell it was you by your ring.”

“My ring?”

“Yes. The phone rings in a special way when you call me. It sounds like you when I'm bangin' that booty.”

He giggled. “You
cray-
zee, Little Bit.”

“About you? Most definitely.”

“I ain't wake you up, did I?”

“No. I've just been laying ­here, waiting for your call. So, I see you got ­there okay.”

“Yeah.”

“And how was your first flight?”

“It was da bomb!”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah.”

“You didn't pass out?”

“Nah.”

“You didn't throw up?”

“Nah.”

“No? ­There wasn't any turbulence?”

“Nah, Baby. It was a smooth flight.”

“You didn't even get queasy sitting by the window?”

“Nah. Shit, that was one of tha best parts.”

“Okay. What ­were some of the other highlights of the trip?”

“Yo, ­they know how ta treat cha in first class. I had a brotha servin' me.”

“Mmm. I bet he was all too happy to see you.”

“He sho' 'nuff was: we was tha only Black folks up in that section.”

“Doesn't surprise me …”

“And he made sure I had as many blankets and pillows as I wanted, that my glass was never half-full, and I always had some eats on my table. Ha, if I had asked him, he prob'ly woulda served his ass on a plate. He was all in it.”

“Hmm, I can't blame him.”

“He wanted ta give me his digits. Told me if I wanted a tour guide ta give him a call. But I told him my Baby wouldn't like me acceptin' a stranger's phone number up in tha air.”

“And what did he say?”

“‘What if I give it to you when we land?'”

We laughed.

“Then he asked if
you
was my Baby.”

“He did?”

“Yeah. He said he saw us checkin' in.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“I told him yeah.”

I beamed. “Did you sleep on the plane?”

“How could I wit' him checkin' up on me ev'ry five minutes? And tha brotha can
talk.
By tha end of tha flight, I had him and that other flight attendant in first class sayin'
jood.”

“Ha, you're gonna have the whole world sayin' that word soon.”

“Yeah. After tha movie went off, he came ta collect my headphones, saw tha look on my face, and said: ‘I take it the movie wasn't jood, huh?'”

I giggled. “What movie was it?”

“Forrest Gump.
They shoulda called it Forrest Junk. Only white folks would go fuh some American-pie bullshit like that. And tha movie is too damn long!”

“Well, the movie aside, it was an all-around jood experience, huh?”

“Yeah. It was real excitin' and a lota fun. Tha only minus was my ears poppin' when we took off. Couldn't hear a thang fuh like a minute. That Big Red was no match fuh it.”

“I'm glad your first flight was such a success. I just wish I could've taken it with you.”

“Me, too, Baby. Me, too.”

We sighed together.

“Did they have a car waiting for you?”

“Yeah, a black stretch limo, Baby. And a
sista
was drivin!”

“Really?”

“Yeah. And she was su'prised I was a brotha. Said she always be gettin' them stodgy, white studio VPs. She was able ta finally turn on some hip-hop and turn up that volume. We had madd fun just cuttin' up. She from Boogie Down.”

“You should request to have her take you back when you leave.”

“I will.”

“Was someone from the studio at the hotel when you arrived?”

“Yeah. This white girl named Clemmy.”

“Clemmy?”

“Her name is Clementine. She say ev'rybody calls her Clemmy.”

“Clementine? As in ‘Oh, my darling'?”

“Yup.”

“Ha. I bet she is whiter than white bread, too.”

“You know it, Baby. And she got this orange hair.”

“Orange?”

“You heard. It matched that hoochie halter she was wearin'. Her hair is really spiky but short. And speakin' of short—she like a Munchkin and shit. And she was wearin' these seven-inch black platforms.”

“Mmm … I bet you two were a sight to see at that front desk. What does she do on the project?”

“She a producer's assistant.”

“Uh-huh. A gofer.”

“Ya know it.”

“And since she was wearing, as you put it, a hoochie halter, I take it the temp is high …?”

“Yeah. It's like seventy-five.”

“Nice. It's in the teens here.”

“What? Yo, I'm glad I'm outa that deep freeze. As soon as they said we was about ta land, I took that sweater and them slacks off.”

“Hmmph, no wonder you had folks trying to give you their digits up in the air. But don't get too used to that summer weather. Remember that you'll be coming back to this deep freeze in a couple of weeks.”

“Ha, don't remind me.”

“Oh? So you've been there all of a few hours and want me to send you the rest of your things?”

“Nah, Baby. This just tha first time in my life I ever been able ta wear shorts in February.”

“Mmm-hmm. How is the hotel?”

“It's like Trump Tower and shit. Chandeliers, crystal, and stainless-steel glass ev'rywhere. And tha elevators are outside.”

“They're outside?”

“Yeah, you know, you get a view of tha whole hotel as it goes up.”

“Oh. That must be nice.”

“And I got a phat room. It's got two double beds, queen size, plus a separate livin'-room area wit' a kitchenette. I'm gonna be nukin' that chicken you cooked fuh me in a minute.”

“Well, they just givin' you the Tom Cruise treatment, ain't they?”

“Baby, if I was gettin'
that
kinda treatment, I'd be stayin' in the Presidential Palace not the Governor's Suite.”

“Ha, indeed. But it sounds like you on your way there.”

“I guess.”

“It's almost ten o'clock out there. You've got a big day ahead of you. If you're not too tired, you can call me back after you eat and get settled.”

“You gonna be up?”

“Mmm-hmm. Waiting for your call.”

I could feel that smile. “A'ight. I love you, Little Bit.”

“I love you, too, Pooquie.”

2
LOVE THE ONE YOU'RE WITH

“Well, well, well … if it ain't Miss Jean Brodie!”

­There was Gene, right where he said he'd be: sitting at the bar in Pizzeria Uno, a rather trendy restaurant just blocks from Christopher Street in the West Village (aka Homo Ville). Besides dishing up some very jood pizza, it's also one of the prime locales in the city where the homiesexuals go to meet one of the Children. While their unsuspecting girl­friends or wives wait for them to take a leak, ­they're usually exchanging digits with one of us in the bathroom or by the bar. Gene loves to have a ringside seat for the festivities. He's been coming every­ Friday night for the past three years (given how much green he spends in the place, he should own some stock in the company). On a slow night, he sees a ­half-dozen love connections—and he's usually making at least one of them himself (although in his case it would be lust).

We hadn't seen each other in over two months—mainly because I stopped speaking to him. We had a major blowup just after Thanksgiving. Gene and I had never really had a fight before; we argued, even had a couple of shouting matches (in each case over the two things folks should
never
discuss—re­li­gion and politics), but our dis­agree­ments didn't end up with one of us so angry at the other that we decided to cut off all ties. But that almost happened this time. And it was Gene's “big-azz ­mutha-fuckin' mouth” (as Pooquie calls it) that started it.

The incident that almost broke up our friendship happened at my place. We—meaning Pooquie, Gene, B.D., Babyface, and I—had all settled into the living room after a very jood Sunday dinner. I made the turkey and dressing; B.D., the ham; Babyface, the peas and rice; Gene, the string beans and potato salad; Pooquie, the biscuits, with my help (he can't cook … not in the kitchen, anyway); and the cheesecake was courtesy of Junior's. Pooquie and B.D. were anxious to trounce Babyface and me in
Jeopardy!
for the fourth straight time. One would think Babyface, a Manhattan district attorney, and I, the award-winning journalist-turned junior-high-school writing teacher, would be the doubles tournament champs: Pooquie is a high-school dropout, while B.D.—a dancer with his own company, Nia—is a little ditzy (his initials stand for Barry Daniels—or
Brain Dense
, depending on who you talk to). But since Gene was with us this eve, we decided to play Truth or Shade. Instead of the verbal challenges players face in Truth or Dare, each person writes down a question or two on slips of paper and they are put into a bowl. If anyone believes that the person hasn't answered the question they've chosen truthfully, they will be thrown
shade
and the group will vote on whether to believe the challenged or the challenger.

To my surprise, Pooquie not only wanted to play but, after everyone wrote down their questions, volunteered to go first. But after reading over his question silently, it looked as if he wished he hadn't.

“What do you like better: fuckin' someone or bein' fucked?”

No doubt Gene came up with that one and the person he wanted to pick it did. He had inquired about our sexual proclivities on more than one occasion and I would've shared them but knew that he was the
last
person Pooquie would appreciate knowing.

“Uh … I don't think I could choose one over tha other.” Pooquie looked at me. “Variety is definitely tha spice of life wit' my Baby.”

I think Gene was thrown by his response; he assumed that Pooquie got done (“The
B
in B-boy
really
stands for
booty
, and that's something those boyz know how to give up”) but probably didn't expect him to admit it. And the goofy grins on both of our faces were all the proof everyone needed to know he was telling the truth.

B.D. was next. “Have you ever slept with a woman before? If so, when and why did you do it? If not, why not?”

I knew who contributed that question—Pooquie. And I'm pretty sure he wanted me to pick it. He had asked me in the past if I had and I don't think he believed me when I told him no (he thinks that
every
man—gay or not—has or at least thought about doing it). He probably figured that presenting it in this forum would force me to disclose that I had in fact done it, especially if I admitted it to any of the others.

BOOK: Love the One You're With
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