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Best Laid Plans

Thanks for the great comments on yesterday's post. They're still coming in and I now have a poll to go along with it, so please cast your vote.

I write on this blog, but in my heart and mind (if not in reality) I am a writer. I have a relationship with words. And with words as the Bible warns, I've learned how to create and destroy. But so much more than that, I dream with my eyes wide open through my words and I'm blessed to be able to do so.

'Nough said. Below is the first chapter of something that I don't have a title for right now. It's my gift to you folks. Some of it might sound familiar depending on how much you read this blog.


Chapter One: My Ten Year Plan Shot Straight To Hell

On the morning of my twenty-eighth birthday I woke up and realized I had been an idiot for the past twenty seven years of my life. A good amount of that time, it wasn’t my fault. I was growing up. But from twenty-one on, I had been a mess, thinking I knew stuff because got I good grades, went to an Ivy League university, and had a Master’s Degree. The reality was that I didn’t know diddly.

This was the day I became a man.

Upon becoming a man I had things to do, places to go, people (women) to see and meet and bed and experience. I figured I’d romp around the world with my twice-used passport and settle down in time --- my mid to late thirties --- to start a family at the age my father did, thirty-nine.

This new me was in stark contrast to who I had been --- romantic to a fault, needlessly trusting and stubbornly unwilling to let the past be the past when it came to relationships.

The new me was strong, brash and braggadocio. I had a swagger that said, “You can look, but you can’t touch.”

I’ll never forget a brief rekindling I had with an ex. I told her my plans. Baffled, she asked, “Well, what about getting married and having kids?”

I laughed loudly at the insanity of her suggestion.

“Check this out,” I answered, coldly. “I’m going to travel and be a student of life before I ever settle down again.” In my head I hoped to find the love of my life in a foreign country, just to make things extra spicy and sexy. I should’ve known I hexed myself the second I spoke these words.

Little did I know the love of my life was living in the same city as me in New York City’s Upper West Side. Little did I know our paths would cross only couple weeks after my fling with my ex. Little did I know that when I did eventually meet this woman, my ten-year plan would be shot straight to Hell.

On the day I met her, nearly eight years ago when I walked into Macy's Herald Square on 34th Street during my lunch break, I hadn’t managed to travel any farther than the Carribbean. A friend of mine, novelist, Bernice McFadden, was having a book signing for her latest literary offering. Bernice introduced me to the gentleman who set up her event, coincidentally a fraternity brother of mine from a chapter other than my own. I greeted him by announcing my full name thinking the coincidences ended there. Not even two seconds later a woman abruptly eased into our conversation, announcing herself as the man’s coworker and claiming to have the same last name as me. Before she asked me if we were related I knew we weren’t. My nose is a bit broad on my face and this woman's nose sloped at a perfect 45 degree angle. She told me her family hailed from Barbados. Over the years, I’ve been able to trace my origins back to the early 1800s and not a single family member ever originated or was settled in the Caribbean. From there the woman and I broke off from the original conversation into one of personal trivia. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a sly smile develop on Bernice’s face. In that moment she knew what I didn’t --- I had been hooked.

Her name was Nadja. She was beautiful, electric, articulate and feisty. According to her, I caught her eye and she sized me up quickly as a summertime affair, something she later confessed she fully expected to be over by September. Her next words to me after that were, “…I go to school at nights at Fordham University…and I have a five year old son.” Followed by a good minute’s worth of miscellaneous information I didn’t request. I looked her up and down and said, “Thanks for the rundown. I’m Eric.” She looked me up and down, visibly amused and hardly fazed by standoffishness. She let me know that she wanted to make sure I knew the basics before we started. Started what, I wondered. I wasn’t accustomed to immediate forthrightness, especially since this wasn’t my own style.

When it was time for me to return to work Nadja handed me a raggedy sheet of notebook paper with all her contact information on it. She explained that it was her first week on the job and she hadn’t yet received her business cards. I didn’t know if I should believe her, but she had all her teeth and there was something free and exciting about her. So exciting, that I walked back to work with a bop in my step.

It took me a few days to call as it often does with men. It was a Sunday night conversation that lasted long enough for her to decide to cancel her plans with the man she was dating at the time. It rained horribly the next evening and I spent most of it wondering if Nadja was home thinking about me the way I was thinking about her.

The next time we spoke, we made plans to see the sequel to the Nutty Professor on the following Sunday. The day before our first date I was a groomsman in a wedding where the bridal party had been arranged for the sake of matchmaking on the part of the bride and groom. Unfortunately for my bridesmaid, my thoughts were with Nadja and have been ever since.

In Nadja, I had potentially stumbled across the perfect girl to hang out with. Someone I didn’t work with. Someone I didn’t know through a friend. Someone I didn’t meet at a party. Someone who was fiercely independent and someone, based on this independence didn’t appear to be interested in sharing her son with me. Getting to know her was like chugging an energy drink for the first time and then jumping off a cliff (with a parachute).

But after a few short weeks of summer fun, Nadja quietly determined she had discovered a whole lot more than I had. Nadja had found herself a husband.

Seven years and counting, after a rollercoaster romance that included several plays I never thought I’d see (or wanted to) on Broadway, a whole lot of good food eaten on dates at top-shelf restaurants, lots of bad behavior, spectacular knock-down, drag out arguments, a year-long stint of unemployment after being laid off at work, an ugly separation and an even uglier reconciliation, a blessed “surprise” that would become my daughter, more vacations than I can remember, the beginning of a true friendship, a proposal adventure that was the stuff of sitcoms, the birth of my daughter, the death of my hooptie, a seven-month paternity leave (otherwise known as my second stint of unemployment, this time self-imposed) only two months after buying a brand new car, a bunch of random ups and downs in between called life and successfully flipping of my first property, I got married at an intimate wedding on the South Coast of Barbados, West Indies just before sunset..

Just add water. My insta-family was “official” on October 6, 2007, but it had been born long before then.

Now, as a newly married man the conversation, that often turns to debate, with my wife is not about where to eat or vacation, but rather what to do with my twelve year old boy who is almost as tall as me and a little more handsome except that he smells like onions most of the time. He believes he’s grown and has no reason to think otherwise because he’s growing out of control, wears a size 11.5 shoe, and has the retail and entertainment industries marketing to him as it markets to me. Then there’s the baby girl: a beautiful, gentle, kind, compassionate, demanding, outrageous two year-old evil genius bent on taking over the world and intent on bossing everyone around while doing it.

There are no decisions to be made about when is the right time to build a family. Been there done that, had no choice in the matter.

This book isn’t about innovations in the stroller market, although I admit I get excited over a hi-tech stroller when I see one. The same goes for sitters, activities to do with kids and all that other stuff. There are too many good and established writers already doing all that stuff. This is all about my take on being man, dad, husband and a few other things as I’ve tried to make sense of while not going crazy living and working in New York City. Oh, and did I mention I was black, or African American or whatever it is, depending on who’s saying it?

Managing all of this, all at once, is a bit much any given day of the week. Most days I wear it all like an “S” on my chest like Superman. But then there are those days when it really begins to pile up and it just makes me wanna holler.

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