Finally, a story of a handsome, educated, heterosexual black man and his experiences with careers and relationships in the fast-moving ‘90s!
Bobby Dallas, a budding radio talk-show host, has no skeletons or kids in the closet. All that's missing is a talented, sexy, smart black woman by his side. And that should be easy, right?
But after a shattering breakup with his first love, Bobby wanders for years between women and jobs, unsure about marriage, family, economics, and his overall stability. Having achieved his dream of becoming a highly successful radio talk-show host, Bobby is a man with the best of intentions not only in his career, but also in love. He learns, though, that being a “do right man” is far from easy.
The roller-coaster ride all began in my senior year at Howard University in Washington, D.C. We called it The Mecca, the high ground of black American culture and education. I was surrounded by high-achieving brown students from every state in America, including plenty of students from the Caribbean and from countries in Africa.
As one could imagine, there were many different types of sisters and brothers to choose from to get hitched to. And the first people you were attracted to were usually in your same classes, whether they noticed you or not. However, just because you were there at Howard, surrounded by all of those beautiful black people, it didn't necessarily guarantee you a partner. Some guys had what it took to entice sisters romantically and some guys didn't. I was one of those guys who didn't. I was a nice guy, and a perfect gentleman from Greensboro, North Carolina. You know the type; "He's just a good friend."
There was this sister from New York named Pearl Davis that I'd had the hots for since our freshman year. We were both radio broadcast majors. Pearl was tall, fine, and intelligent, but her attitude was strictly New York. She carried herself like the halls had her name on them. With me being an unglamorous son of the South, Pearl hadn't paid me any mind for three years. I was the dirty tile floor underneath her brand new shoes.
I remember when I first got her attention. It was late September, 1985. I had finally secured a morning DJ spot on WHBC, Howard University's AM radio station. I was wearing a blue silk shirt and had just gotten a fresh fade haircut. Cheap silk shirts were the things to wear back then and all of the guys wore their hair in fades. I was trying my best to keep up with the Joneses. Howard had a long reputation to uphold, which included campus fashion.
Pearl strutted into the studio and asked me, "What's up with all this Trouble Funk and this go-go music shit?" I got off the air at eleven o'clock. Pearl was on after me. She paced impatiently inside the studio lounge area for ten minutes. I watched her.
"It's on the playlist," I told her with hunched shoulders.
"Yeah, but shit, you have to play it twenty damn times a day?" she ranted. "That shit is so whack, man! I'm tired of hearing that shit!"
I was thinking, I wonder if she knows any words other than shit. "This is D.C.," I reminded her. Go-go was their homegrown music.
"So! This is our radio station! We should be able to play what we wanna play!" she responded to me. "I know I will."
I smiled at her. She knew better than that. "If you do that on a real job, you'll end up fired real fast," I told her. Messing with the playlist was a definite no-no in the radio business.
"Yeah, we'll see," she said. Pearl slid her tall, slim frame into the recording room in blue Jordache leans. She looked damned good! She had a smooth, angular face with rapid roving eyes that caught everything. To tell the truth, I was intimidated by her.
I grabbed my things and headed for my next class. Faye Butler, my sophomore friend, was waiting for me down the hall. Faye was a fellow southerner, from Macon, Georgia. She was a television/film major with the soft, rounded, baby-face features of a good girl. She was the kind of young, good-hearted soul that knowing mothers liked to fix their sons up with. And although Faye was fully developed with all of the right curves, since her freshman year we had only been friends.
"Hey," Pearl Davis yelled down the hall to me, "I like your shirt! That shit is stupid fresh!"
Faye frowned at me and shook her head in disgust. Even graduation-bound New Yorkers spoke with the street slang of the day, no matter how ridiculous it may have sounded to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, it was 1985, so it wasn't that peculiar.
I was an easily pleased sucker from North Carolina. I smiled back at Pearl wider than a circus clown with a painted face. I looked into her caramel-colored mug, viewing her reddish-brown, wavy hair, and was infatuated. "Thanks" was all I could say at the time. After that incident, though, I couldn't get her off my mind. My smile didn't last long. My friend Faye read my gleeful expression with horror.
"You like her?" she asked me. Before I could respond she spat, "I can't stand that girl."
There was nothing I could say to that.
"I don't know who gave her the key to the world, but she needs to check herself," Faye added.
Like the saying goes, two is company, three is a crowd.
As fate would have it, since we were seniors, Pearl and I had to show our faces at a lot of the campus events to stay informed for radio. At every event, Pearl would pick with me for the hell of it. I actually felt privileged to finally gain so much attention from her.
"Here, 'Big Bob,' wear my chain. I can't have you in here looking like a country bumpkin," she said to me at an October party. It was rumored that Def Jam's Run DMC would be performing. They never did show.
Pearl wrapped a thick rope chain around my neck. I was too much in awe to resist. She and her New York girlfriends then proceeded to make me their entertainment for the night.
"You call him 'Big Bob,' hunh?" one of her girlfriends asked Pearl with a grin. Pearl liked to make fun of my six-foot-four-inch frame, especially since I wasn't much of a basketball player.
"Yeah, look at his feet," she responded to her friend. "You know what they say about brothers with big feet, y'all."
"Oh, shit, I need to borrow him tonight then, 'cause my man got little feet," another one of her New York girls commented as they laughed at me.
"No you don't," Pearl snapped with a smile. "I found him first."
"Yeah, well, tell me what woods you caught him in, so I can go big-foot huntin', girl."
It's embarrassing to even think of it. I wasn't too good at defending myself back then. Compared to my plain and practical Volkswagen Bug mentality, Pearl Davis was a red Corvette at a car show.
"Where do you live?" she asked me later on that night. It was nearly four o'clock in the morning. We were all leaving out. No one was particularly hurt that the Run DMC thing was only a rumor. It was still a lively party.
"I live in Slowe," I told her. I was a bit nervous about it. Why is she asking me where I live? Oh my God! What does this mean? I remember thinking. At that time of night, a where-do-you-live question could have been easily construed as a possible sleepover.
"You still live in the damn dorms? Shit, man, get a life," she told me with a half frown, half grin. Then she had to tell her girlfriends, who were all climbing inside of a black Honda Civic. "Hey y'all, Big Bob still lives in the damn dorms. I told y'all he was country."
I smiled and began to take off her gold chain. I wanted to say, "It's cheaper to live in the dorms," but I kept it to myself. I don't believe I would have won any brownie points with a comment like that one.
"You don't have to take it off," Pearl told me. "I might be coming with you," she teased, or at least I thought she was teasing.
My heart leaped into my throat. "Hunh?"
Pearl was loving it. She was absolutely the aggressor. "Hey y'all, should I go over to Big Bob's barn tonight?"
"Yeah, girl, go choke yourself some chickens! " one of her friends yelled out from the laughter.
"Well, I don't have room to take both of y'all. And you're not sitting on that big nigga's lap in my damn car," the owner of the Honda huffed.
"He only live at Slowe. We can walk over there," Pearl shot back. We were at Ninth and T Streets Northwest. Slowe Hall was less than ten blocks away on Third Street.
"Well, get to walking," her girlfriend told us. "Nobody gon' mess with y'all, 'cause Big Bob will take out his hunting knife and jack them up. Won't you, Bob?"
I just smiled, shocked that Pearl Davis had actually decided to go to my dorm room with me.
Pearl didn't say much on the way to my dorm. I was doing most of the talking for a change. I didn't know what else to do. The woman of my college dreams was coming to spend the night.
"You got a lot of work to do this weekend?" I asked her.
Pearl smiled and said, "Why, you got any plans for us?"
I hunched my shoulders. "No, not really."
"Well, I don't have nothing on my mind but sleep," she told me with a grin.
That was fine with me. I didn't care if I didn't get any. I was elated that she would even be in my room. I signed her in and led her to my room on the second floor.
"Hmm, neat room you have here," Pearl said. Then she started taking off her clothes.
My jeans grew so tight that it was beginning to hurt. "I have a sleeping bag. I'll sleep on the floor and you can take the bed," I told her.
She looked at me and smiled. "You are a big teddy bear. Do you know that?"
I smiled back at her while clearing out space on the tiny floor to place my sleeping bag. I had to stretch it from the doorway to the edge of the bed, which was basically the length of the room.
"What are you doing with a sleeping bag anyway?" Pearl asked me. She was pulling her bra off from inside of her shirt.
I looked away and answered, "My mother made me take it."
She stared at me and burst into laughter. "Oh my God! You're a momma's boy, too?"
"No I'm not," I snapped. I really wasn't. I had always been closer to my father.
Pearl didn't comment on it. "You got any shorts I can wear? Clean shorts?" she asked me. She stood right at my chest, as if she was daring me to touch her.
I maneuvered around her and to my dresser to pull out a pair of gray Russell shorts.
Pearl smiled at me and said, "Can you close your eyes while I take off my panties?"
I felt ready to burst open at the seams. This isn't happening! I kept telling myself. I closed my eyes and could hear Pearl giggling while she pulled her jeans and underwear off.
"Okay, you can look now."
I opened my eyes and peeked at her in my shorts. She was actually wearing my shorts! Pearl Davis! Then she climbed into my bed and got under my covers. I stretched out inside my sleeping bag on the floor. Then I heard Pearl sitting up. She was staring around my room in the dark. I looked up at the clock on my desk. It was close to five in the morning.
"Are you tired?" she asked me.
I was, but I wasn't going to tell her if she wasn't. "Why?" I asked, hesitantly.
"Because I'm not."
We sat in silence for a moment. I didn't know what else to say.
"You wanna get up here with me, or you want me to come down there with you?" Pearl asked me.
I was baffled, not believing my ears. "Hunh?"
Pearl sighed and slid out of the bed and onto the floor with me. Then she leveled herself on top of me. I was too paranoid to move a muscle. "Can I go to sleep like this?" she asked.
"I don't know. Can you?" I responded.
She laughed and shook her head. I knew she could feel my hard-on. "Any other guy would have been clawing at my pants as soon as he closed the door," she told me.
"Well, my name is Bobby Dallas. I'm pleased to meet you." It was the first clever remark I had ever said to Pearl.
She chuckled, and her tall, slim body vibrated against mine. "You ever kissed a girl before?" she asked me. She French-kissed me before I could respond. I mean, she pushed her watermelon-flavored, Jolly Rancher tongue all the way inside of my mouth. She and her girlfriends had been eating Jolly Rancher candy all that night.
"Are you afraid of me, Bobby Dallas?" she asked.
"Very," I told her.
Pearl laughed again. I was on a roll.
"Do you have any protection?"
"Yeah. I'll get it," I said, trying to free myself to get up.
Pearl held me down with her hands pressed against my chest. "No. Where is it? I'll get it."
"It's in the closet, toward the back of the shelf."
She smiled as she stood. "That's your little hiding place, hunh?"
I smiled back at her, embarrassed. I said, "I guess."
Pearl reached up onto my closet shelf and came down with two condoms. "Close your eyes again," she told me.
"What are you about to do?" I asked.
"Just close your eyes. Trust me."
I did it. I then felt her tugging at my shorts and drawers to get them down. I pulled my legs out as she took them off.
"Lord have mercy! I was right!" she said. She was pleased, I guess.
I smiled to myself, proud of my genetic information. Pearl ripped open a condom, slid it on me, and rolled it down. Before I could count to four, she was upon me. I was no longer hesitant at that point. I did what I had learned to do.
"O-o-oh shit! Bobby!" Pearl moaned as her hair dangled in my face.
I began to rub my hands into the small of her back and breathe with her as she did what she had learned to do. Our tall bodies were too much for that small room. I was embarrassed at how much thumping we were doing on the floor. I was wondering if whoever lived in the room below me was hearing the early-morning freak show. I wasn't planning on stopping, and neither was Pearl. You don't stop a dream come true, you enjoy it to the fullest. So I held on to Pearl Davis for dear life, as if she would slip away into oblivion if I ever let go. And with every spasm of the feel-good, I told myself, I'm not dreaming! I'm not dreaming! This is real! This is real! It's Pearl Davis! YES!
When we were done, Pearl fell out across my chest and began to pant as if she had just run the mile. I was pretty worn out myself. We went at it pretty good.
"You better not have a girlfriend," she breathed into my face, still exhausted.
"Naw. I don't," I breathed back.
Pearl crashed back down to my chest. "Now you do," she informed me.
That was it. I was Pearl's new man, whether I liked it or not. It still amazes me how simple many things were back in those college years. Things would get a lot more complicated after college. But on that night, I was in love like I don't know what. I felt pretty good about being Pearl's new man, right up until the phone rang at seven-thirty that morning.
"Hey, are you ready to go jogging?" It was Faye. I had forgotten all about our Saturday morning run.
I panicked. "Aw, man, ah, I was up a little late last night at this function I had to attend." I hoped that Faye would get the message that I was canceling without having to spell it out to her.
"Oh, so you're gonna have me jog all by myself? Some pervert may snatch me off the street," she joked. If Pearl wasn't stretched out across my chest, I would have laughed along with her.
"That won't happen," I said. I was as steady as a man in a coma. I don't know why I even bothered to answer the phone in that situation.
"Okay, well, when I get back, let's go to breakfast together," Faye suggested.
"All right," I responded quickly. "I'll be up by then."
"I'll see you later then," she said.
As soon as I hung up the phone, Pearl grumbled, "Who was that?"
I was startled by it. "I thought you were asleep," I said.
"I bet you did. Well, who was it?"
"It was just a friend of mine."
Pearl leaned up and looked into my eyes. "Are you sure?"
I hesitated. "Yeah, I'm sure."
"Hmm," she grunted, falling out across my chest again. "You better not be lying to me."
I stared up at the ceiling not believing the predicament I had put myself in. It was the beginning of the end of my peaceful and platonic relationship with Faye. I was afraid to come clean and simply tell her that Pearl was my new lady. Although Faye and I were just friends, on some days it seemed we were just a word or a touch away from being much more.
New York Times bestselling author Omar Tyree is the winner of the 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work—Fiction, and the 2006 Phillis Wheatley Literary Award for Body of Work in Urban Fiction. He has published more than twenty books on African-American people and culture, including five New York Times bestselling novels. He is a popular national speaker, and a strong advocate of urban literacy. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Learn more at OmarTyree.com.
Jawanza Kunjufu Author of Good Brothers Looking for Good Sisters Omar Tyree has done an excellent job of describing what the major media either cannot find or does not want to discuss -- a good Black man.
Booklist Tyree shares the black male struggle, experience, and feeling with insight and humor.