Book Excerpt – The Other Side of the Game
Copyright © 2005 Kennerson Books/Anita Doreen Diggs No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.
Phil is taking me to B.B. King’s blues club in Manhattan so I’m trying to find the right pair of shoes to go with my line green wrap dress and listen to my best friend, Josephine Styles, at the same time. That’s what I like about Phil. I don’t have to beg him to take me out or buy me a thoughtful gift. It was his idea for us to hang out in the city tonight and he even picked out this new dress for me to wear. He is a wonderful boyfriend. But just because he hasn’t given me an engagement ring, I have to listen to Mama’s mouth and Josephine’s mouth. They harangue me constantly but I don’t pass the stress on to Phil. He and I agreed that as soon as Saundra moved out of the house, it would be my time. Phil said that back in his hometown of Dayton, he saw many relationships fall apart simply because two grown women could not share the same space in peace. I agreed to wait for him to handle his business with his daughter. I’m happy with the way things are. So, that’s that. Or it should be.
Josephine and Mama think that Phil is dragging his feet for some unknown reason and that I should push his back up against the wall and drag a wedding date out of him. That’s crazy. I’ve waited six years and Saundra is getting married in a few months. Why should I start some mess now?
Even now, instead of helping me pick out the shoes, Josephine is sitting on the side of my bed, running her mouth, ’Sweetie, when is his daughter getting married?’
I waved my hand airily, trying to look unconcerned. ’In June.’
’So, why can’t Phil buy your engagement ring now?’
’We’re both always so busy. The subject just hasn’t come up.’
Her voice rose. ’Hasn’t come up?’
I shushed her. ’Keep your voice down. Mama is trying to get some sleep.’
Josephine lives down the street with her husband and two handsome teenaged sons. I love her but right now she was creating negative energy.
’I’m surprised your mother can sleep at all with her only child dangling on a hook for the past six years.’ Josephine slipped off her shoes and put her feet up on the ottoman.
’Why should I rush this man down the aisle, Josephine? I’ve never been interested in having children. I’m not feeling insecure because I always know where he is, and we’re only going to City Hall when we do tie the knot. We can just jump up and do that any time.’
Josephine was still a brainwashed sistah. Meaning that her hair was streaked with a red that is unnatural to African-American women and it was also chemically relaxed. She flipped it over one shoulder now. ’Fine. Call him now and tell him to jump up and marry you next Friday. I’ll go with you.’
’Phil is one of the last good men left and I don’t plan to lose him by listening to you,’ I said.
’Don’t get me wrong, Evelyn. I like Phil and everything, but something just isn’t right. I think he must be one of those commitment-phobic men who I read about in this book called Men Who Can’t Love.’
’Phil definitely loves me!’ I protested.
She took a long swig of Sunny Delight. ’Yes, he loves you, but the idea of saying ’I do’ probably makes him wake up screaming in fear. I’m not putting him down. It’s a serious emotional condition and he’ll need to see a shrink to get over it.’
’How can you drink that stuff? Why not just buy orange juice?’
’Don’t change the subject.’
’Actually, I am going to change the subject.’
’Fine. Just ask Phil to set a date and see wht he says.’
’I don’t want him to feel pressured.’
’Pressured?’ After six years? Puh-leeze, girl. He’s lucky you haven’t shot his ass.’
’Josephine, I’ve been married before and it flopped. Plus, it’s not like I don’t have any life outside of Phil.’
’Something just doesn’t seem right to me, Evelyn.’
I’d had enough. ’How are your boys?’
She sighed. ’You just saw them yesterday. They’re fine.’
’Look Josephine. I believe in Phil and you’re just going to have to respect that.’
She clicked the remote and started surfing for something enlightening to watch. ’Fine. I’ll never bring it up again.’
Josephine and Mama need to handle the procrastinators in their own lives. Mama and the local butcher have been flirting with each other for the past ten years. She spends hours standing in that store talking to him about God knows what and sometimes he comes to our house and they yammer some more. Has he ever taken her to the theater, out to a nice romantic dinner or held hands and traded kisses with her during a movie? No. Does he buy her a card and a gift on her birthday? No. Does he show up with candy and flowers on Valentine’s Day? No. So, what is she pushing me for? The butcher has it made. Mama listens to and counsels him about all his personal problems. They cheer each other on. Talk about their disappointments and sharing what few dreams they have left. In other words, he has a free girlfriend without any of the responsibility (financial or sexual) that goes along with a real romantic relationship.
And Josephine? She and I have plans to quit the police force and open up a weekend spiritual retreat for women in upstate New York. But every time we get ready to file for incorporation and move forward, her husband convinces her to wait. I listen to her complain endlessly about how tired she is of him holding us back. Then she’ll stiffen her backbone and promise me that we’re really going to do it. Next month. He drags around looking sad for a few days and when that doesn’t work, he becomes mean and starts nitpicking at everything she does until her migraines start up again. This has been going on for over a year. I’m beginning to think that I should just start the retreat by myself but Josephine and I have been friends since high school and I don’t want to alienate her.
Today I wrote an advertisement for what should be our first program:
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Mama can’t get the butcher to commit to simply being her boyfriend. Josephine can’t get her husband to leave her alone long enough for us to find out if her idea has merit. Why should I listen to either one of them and start nagging Phil about a wedding date?