I met Vaughn on April 7, 2019. It was Sunday afternoon after church – at the only esoteric shop that existed in Birmingham.
We would also happen to be the only Black people in the shop.
I noticed him the moment he walked in. He was tall – around 6’8″, muscular, with a mahogany complexion. By his side was a young girl, no older than 8 I surmised, who sported a similar raw sienna brown complexion to myself, a natural afro puff, and squared framed black glasses that matched the shape of her Daddy’s and mine.
What an adorable daddy/daughter pairing, I thought as I aimlessly browsed the crystals waiting for the right one to say, “Pick me.” My eyes were truly focused on the pair, and I was already involved in a full fantasy where my husband and I were exposing our daughter, gently, to other spiritual truths that would probably be regarded as deviations from Christian values.
“Hey, you’re really pretty, ma’am,” the girl would say to me. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that the two were in my vicinity.
“Well, I think you’re really pretty too!” I told her in reply. And I did. She reminded me of a younger me – curious, bright, full of energy, and an innate understanding that everyone’s a stranger until they say, ‘Hello.’
“What are you looking at, ma’am?”
“Actually, I don’t know what I’m looking for yet, but I’m looking to feel inspired.”
“How do you know when you feel inspired?”
“I wait for an internal tingly sensation in my body – the kind of feeling one feels when they get excited or surprised.”
“Hey Dad, come here!” said the little girl who summoned this fine specimen with whom she shared half her DNA. “She told me that when you pick crystals, you should feel inspired!”
“Well, who is she?” He’d inquire. He had a slight lisp which you could hear especially on the ‘she,’ but not Mike Tyson distracting and heavy.
“I’m Jamila,” I replied, and I extended my hand. “And who are you, might I ask?” I directed my gaze upward at the handsome gentleman.
“I’m Vaughn, and this here is Madison.”
“Hi, Ms. Jamila!”
And there we were. Already becoming acquainted with one another. I bet since we’re the only Black people in this store, the other patrons probably think we’re kin.
“Hey, would you mind watching my daughter for a bit? If this is not the strangest request, I thought. I pray I’m not being set up for an episode of What Would You Do.
“Ok, no problem.”
Madison and I browsed crystals while her father walked out the shop. Damn, I really hope this wasn’t a setup or something, I thought, but truthfully, I didn’t mind. Madison was shaping out to be one of my favorite impromptu students. As she picked up each crystal, she talked about the properties of each stone, and wondered the purpose of each stone.
“What’s the purpose of this stone?” she asked about a shiny, sparkly rock.
“I don’t know, but do you know who does?” I asked her.
“You read my mind, girl!” I replied. She truly was a student after my own heart, as she already knew the magical search engine that would render her answers.
Madison became fixated on pyrite, a stone known for its ability to deflect negative energy, and enhance one’s willpower and determination during challenging times.
“They call it fool’s gold,” she stated.
“And why do you think that?”
“It might have something to do with how shi- DADDY! LOOK!” When did he sneak his way back into the shop?
Madison was trying to explain pyrite to her father, while her father kept his eyes fixated on me. Vaughn sent Madison off to the book room with a store clerk to pick up a book about crystal healing properties.
“Listen, I drop her back off to her mother at 6pm. What are your dinner plans this evening?”
“It’s 4pm. You don’t think same day plans are a little bit much?”
“Do you plan on eating dinner tonight?”
He got me good with that one.
Vaughn slipped me his business card. On the back, he wrote his name, his cell phone number, and a simple request on my end. ‘Text me.’ He signed it with a heart. “Looking forward to hearing from you, Ms. Jamila,” he said.
Vaughn selected an oyster bar restaurant located on 280, the area I resided in. I met up with him – 30 minutes later than the agreed upon 7:00 pm dinner date.
“So you like to make your men wait on you, huh?” Vaughn said, eyeing me down. I settled on a yellow romper that revealed my cleavage, and flaunted my toned legs. He was giving me exactly the attention I was hoping for.
“Thank you for waiting for me.”
“Thank you for not standing me up.”
We talked that evening about our careers, and what led us into the esoteric shop in the first place. For Vaughn, exposing Madison to a world that’s different from the one she’s accustomed to, was his own personal protest to the limited views of other Birmingham residents – and Madison’s uber religious mom. The conversation flowed well into the night, as we were the last patrons at the restaurant that night.
“You know, I’d like to see you again,” he stated, as he opened my car door to let me into the driver’s seat.
“I think I’d like that.”
“I’ll give you a call on Tuesday? Let me take you out again.”
Let me state it here, that the attention that Vaughn paid so early in our interactions was not something I was used to in these hookup culture streets. When Vaughn wanted my attention, he took me out on a date first. If I met him at the date location, he opened my door for me. If he picked me up from my house, he was waiting outside the passenger door to guide me into his truck. He held every door, offered kind words to every stranger, and paid for every date.
By the following Sunday, I was ready to invite Vaughn into my most intimate space.
We decided to have dinner at Jim and Nick’s, a BBQ spot. I had some barbecue sauce escaping the left corner of my mouth. Vaughn leaned in, and licked the sauce off my face, and gave me a kiss.
We must have both felt the same thing, because he immediately asked for the check, and suggested we finish the night off at my house.
That night at my house quickly turned into after work moments at my house, and we’d continue a pattern of going out every Tuesday and Sunday for dinner, and fucking every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Vaughn did not have sex on Sundays.
During one particularly enthralling night, Vaughn pounded me out on my balcony – in full view – for all the neighbors to see.
He never came quicker.
As we laid in bed, he asked, “Do you plan on staying in Birmingham?”
“Would you consider it?”
As much as I loved living in Birmingham, I knew Birmingham was far too small to contain my big energy. Though the people were among some of the kindest, hospitable, and chivalrous people I’d ever met, I wanted to embody this energy – or at least, bottle it up – for the next stage in my life.
I think that was too much for Vaughn, because after this moment, I wouldn’t hear from him for 4 weeks.
He reached out at the end of May.
I had already deleted his number.
Unknown Number: Big eye emojis
Me: “Heeeeeeyyy, who’s this?!
Unknown Number: A stranger….
That Nigga: Your first bham boo ol
Me: “A stranger indeed.”
Vaughn: “How have you been”
Me: “Let’s backtrack to why a stranger is hitting me up after ghosting for over a month asking me how I’ve been.”
Vaughn: “Because I ain’t shit, I get tunnel vision.”
Me: “That inconsistency aint shit.”
Vaughn: Hope all is well, have a good day.”
This man texted for three days straight – to update me about who he thought would win the NBA finals (my money was on Toronto), how my job was going, and even a text message to let me know he prayed about me.
I finally responded. Actually, I know it wasn’t me who responded. It was definitely my vagina.
Me: “I’m still mad at you. Let’s break bread? You pick the spot, but my treat this time?”
Vaughn: “Thanks, but I don’t like you paying.”
Me: “Ok, I won’t then.”
Vaughn: “You open for this today?” – Nigga, yes.
Vaughn: “Ok…You must wear a sundress.”
Me: “With or without panties?”
Vaughn: “No panties…you already knew that answer lol”
We went to a Medditerranean restaurant tucked away in a strip mall. I wore a long, sheer, yellow floral print buttoned down dress, and a pair of tan heels to increase my chances of giving him easy access to my body.
I remember nothing we talked about that day.
Outside of the workers, we were the only people in the restaurant. Somehow, we had managed to dip off to the bathroom for a quick romp. Vaughn took me from behind, and grabbed my afropuff to angle my head upwards, so I could see us in the mirror.
When we came back from the bathroom, the waiter asked us if we were celebrating our anniversary. “More like a reunion,” he replied.
And unbeknownst to me, this would be the last time I saw Vaughn.
Our next few conversations would be filled with his excuses for why he couldn’t meet up.
June 4, 2019
“Hey sir…what time are we getting together?”
“Sorry I need to reschedule, not sure when I’m getting off. 2 of my employees flipped a truck, one has a broken arm the other is hurt as well.”
June 9, 2019
Me: “Hey, where are you? You said you’d be here today.”
Vaughn, two minutes later, sent me a picture of him driving with the kids in the back.
Me: “Aww! Look at your sweet faced children! You texting and driving out there?!”
Vaughn: “If I didn’t text you back you would swear I was ghosting you lot”
Me: “You right. Got a point there. I still like safety. Can’t lick me later if something happens. Hit me up when you are better able to?!”
Vaughn: “Ok I will!”
He wouldn’t. Actually, he wouldn’t even send me another message until the end of June. I was not a fan of his inconsistencies, and kindly asked him to lose my number, to which he replied, “I hope you find someone better than me, you do deserve better…make sure you take care of yourself. You’re a great person.”
If I’m such a great person, why was I ghosted and dusted?
Thank you for being a welcoming stranger to the foreigner in a strange place. Thank you for helping me learn my bearings around my new city, and for sharing yourself with me.
Ultimately, your actions confused me. You wined and dined me, knew what to do to make me feel appreciated, and then you dropped me, only to continue popping back up randomly. What’s up with that? Where did you learn that inconsistency, and who let you think that’s okay? I can’t believe you even had the audacity to message me in September! Seriously. What were you looking for from me?
You know what? I don’t want to know.
I will never understand the urge to ghost before a sentiment is expressed. Were you upset that I never wanted to stay in Birmingham, or were you upset that you didn’t have the ease to leave like I did?
I am thankful that my feelings toward you never grew, for had they grown, I would have had to accept that I would have you from a place of lack.
No one needs that.
Thank you for solidifying for me that once a man starts showing this shifty behavior, it’s time to dip.
I pray that you are well. Send kisses to your daughter on my behalf.