Art King hadn’t been on a date in nearly 12 years, yet there he sat in a restaurant; having dinner with a very attractive woman. Art was a 51-year-old man and had already been married three times yet he still soldiered on. Art did what he could to look younger and as attractive as he used to look. In order to hide his receding hair line, he simply shaved his head. “Hey, it’s cool to be bald these days!” he would say when people would ask ‘why’. After all – The look suited him. To keep people guessing at his age, Art colored his beard and mustache. He also kept it trimmed sharp and close, the way the younger crowd fashioned their own. Art also did what he could to keep his weight in check, but with his affinity for snacking, he found himself letting his belt out every so often. Although a part of Art King believed he was just a washed up old guy, there was another part of him that believed he was a suave and debonair type of guy. The true Art was somewhere in the middle.
Art’s date was a very attractive woman, just a couple years his junior. He felt proud walking into the restaurant with such an amazing woman on his arm. As the Hostess escorted them to their table, many heads turned and watched Art stroll across the room with his beautiful date. At first, Art thought people were gawking because he was white and she was black. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that had happened. It was difficult not being able to see what it in the hearts of others. Art didn’t care; because he knew they made an amazing looking couple.
During dinner, an elderly woman leaned over and smiled at Art and his beautiful date as she said, “I just want to tell you I think it’s so lovely that the two of you are together!” Art knew that when most people forced their opinion in that manner, they were either being gracious or they were doing so simply to hide the fact that they’re actually racists deep down inside. Art would know if the woman had a follow up. “I voted for Obama, you know!” The woman did indeed have a follow up; just as Art had learned over some years – a gracious person gives you polite compliment; however, a racist who feels guilty about their racism will give you the compliment but then feels the need to sell the compliment with a follow up. Back before the 44th President, it used to be, “I have a black friend too, you know.” or “My best friend is black”. Now they can brag and say they voted in a bi-racial president and feel like they’re part of a grown crowd! As if they did something special. But the truth is – they’re still a racist.
Art just couldn’t believe that this woman wouldn’t stop talking about her vote for Obama. He looked at his date and she gave him a coy smile, indicating she agreed with whatever he was up to. “You voted for Obama?” Art scoffed with disbelief in his voice.
“Oh, why yes.” The woman sounded surprised by Art’s reaction. “Didn’t you vote for Mr. Obama?”
“No.” Art said plainly. “Neither of us voted for Obama.” He said, using his index finger as he waved it back and forth between himself and his date. “We didn’t like his policies.” Art waited for the woman to respond but the simply stared at him. “Many people voted for him because he was young and good looking, but not us.” Art gave the woman another chance to say something – anything in support of why she voted for 44 but she had nothing. Art continued. “Plus there was just something about him we didn’t like.”
The old woman’s head nearly snapped off of her shoulders as she pulled it back to her own table like a snapping turtle with a fresh caught carp.
As Art drove Melanie home, the two laughed as they recalled the look on the old woman’s face when Art told her there was something about Obama they didn’t like. “Why do all white people do that?” Melanie said with a laugh. “Like, is that supposed to make me think she ain’t some hood-wearin’; KKK praisin’ Nazi?”
“Aw, don’t go generalizing.” Art said, trying to cool the race flames.
“I ain’t generalizing anything.” Melanie was obviously heated. “But why is it that if I wanna have dinner with a white man, some ol’ white lady feels like she gotta come give me her approval?”
“I understand.” Art said as he turned the corner and pulled up in front of the house. “Just like tonight, when I walked with you into the restaurant – the valet gave me the head nod.”
Melanie was confused. “Head nod?”
“Yeah – you know…” Art mimicked the slight nod that was given to him by the young, black man who parked his car. He looked at Art and then Art’s date and then back to Art with a smile and gave him a perfunctory nod. “It was as if he was giving me his blessing and saying, ‘You go ahead, white boy!’”
Melanie laughed as she got out of the car. “You crazy as hell!”
Art walked Melanie to the door and took both of her hands into his. “I really did have a good time with you this evening.”
“Good!” Melanie said with a smile. “Because when the night started out, you seemed kind of tense.”
“Just nerves.” Art replied quickly. “This whole dating thing is new and I wasn’t quite sure how to act.”
“Well I quite enjoyed how you acted this evening.” Melanie smiled.
Art stepped closer as to get a kiss goodnight but Melanie stopped him. “Just so you know – this goes no further than a kiss goodnight.”
“I wasn’t expecting anything more than a kiss.” Art replied honestly. Not to say he would have turned down any advances she would have made otherwise, but in his mind, he only expected a kiss goodnight.
Melanie slid her arms around Art’s waist and then let her hands travel up his back as she gripped his shoulders with both hands and pulled him closer, all the while kissing him passionately. Art wrapped his arms completely around Melanie and pulled her in tight, replying to her kiss and allowed her to feel his body against her. After nearly two full minutes of open mouth kissing, Melanie pulled back as she realized her two grandsons were in the window giggling and wooing at them. “I’m sorry about that.”
“No, no.” Art replied catching his breath. “I guess that was for the best.” The bulge in his pants and increased rate of his heart told him he needed to leave before things got out of hand.
“You’ll call me, right?” Melanie definitely wanted to hear from Art again.
“You can count on it!” Art said as he climbed back into his car.
As Art pulled up to the curb in front of his basement apartment, he noticed his light was on; yet he specifically recalled turning it off before leaving for his date. As he walked up the slate path to the heavy aluminum door that led into his tiny, studio basement apartment, he could see his buddy Rick through the basement window; sitting in his La-Z-Boy recliner. As a joke, Art kicked in the door and jumped in loud like a cop, scaring Rick out of the chair.
“Damn, MAN!” Rick screamed and jumped up out of the chair in one fluid motion. He was doubled over holding his chest and panicked” You don’t do that to a brutha’ What if I shot yo’ ass!”
Rick’s skin might have been black, but that dude was whiter than Art. Actually, Rick was very light skinned, only a few shades darker than Art. He also shaved his head and though he didn’t have the same style beard as Art, the two could have been carbon copies of one another. Rick’s wife often commented how creepy it was that the two were so much like alike.
“What would you have shot me with? You don’t have a gun!” Art retorted. “What are doing here, anyway?”
“The ol’lady wanted to hang with her girl” Rick said as he pointed to the upstairs apartment, “so I thought I would come down here and chill wit’chu.” Rick liked to refer to his wife as his ol’ lady, but never in her presence. Whenever his wife visited upstairs, Rick would always spend the visit with Art.
“Yeah, well I was on a date.” Art said.
“I know.” Rick felt embarrassed about being in Art’s apartment alone. “I didn’t mean to intrude, but yer neighbor has a bunch of kids up there and they’re all running around like wild animals up there and I just had to get out of there, man!”
Art laughed. “It’s all good, man. Besides, you know you’re always welcome here.”
“So how was…. ‘the date’”? Rick said the date like it was some type of code word.
“Whaddya mean?” Art asked.
“You know…” Rick literally winked at Art. “How was the date?”
“It was just a date, Rick. Nothing more.”
“Yeah, but c’mon, man. You’re still married.”
Art suddenly felt the twinge of the past eleven years. He and his wife had a whirlwind relationship. When they met they were head over heels in love with one another and believed they would be together forever. However, it all seemed to change once they were married. After dating for seven years, they married and suddenly, there was no more magic. She blamed it on menopause and he blamed it all on anger issues and together they finger pointed and mis-read cues and before either of them knew it, four years of marriage and eleven years total had gone by. Neither of them were happy and both were contemplating divorce. “Yes, Rick, I’m still married and she’s still married, but for how long? We’re doing what we can to fix it. Can we fix it? Is what we’re doing going to work?” Art thought about the arrangement he had with his wife and wondered if things could work. “I mean – it’s not like we’re cheating on one another!”
“Did you kiss her?” Rick asked sincerely.
Melanie walked into her living room and was lovingly attacked by her two grandsons, who gave her hugs and kisses. “What are you guys doing up so late?”
“You’re home early.” Her daughter said as she walked into the living room and shoo’d the boys off to their room. “Bad date?”
“Actually, it was real nice.” Melanie replied. “We had a good time.”
“C’mon, really?” Melanie’s daughter didn’t like the idea of her mother being out with Art. “Why don’t you stop all this and find someone else?”
“Why don’t you stop trying to be the mother and start being the daughter.” Melanie said as she playfully touched the tip of her daughter’s nose with her finger. “I don’t want to talk anymore about it. Are we clear?”
“Well that’s gonna be a problem.” Marie called out from the kitchen. “The only reason I came over here was to talk about your date, so you better not shut me down, girl!”
Melanie was glad her good friend, Marie was over to visit and walked straight into the kitchen and brewed up some coffee. The two friends sat at the kitchen table talking about her evening; including the nosey ol’ white lady who proclaimed to have voted for Obama! Melanie explained how Art put the old woman in her place and they laughed as Melanie mimicked the look on the old lady’s face.
“Oh, girl; I wish I could’ve been there to see that crotchety old biddies face!” Marie said as she raised her coffee mug up to her lips.
“I couldn’t believe Art put her in her place like that!” Melanie said. She seemed proud of the fact that Art stood up and said something.
“You sound surprised.” Marie said. “I mean – I’ve never really been a fan of Art but I’ve never seen him as the type to back down from telling someone how he feels.”
Melanie thought about Marie’s words. “You’re right.” She said. “He has always spoken his mind. Even when he shouldn’t.” Melanie thought about Art some more. “he says whatever is on his mind.”
“Then why are you makin’ such a fuss over this?” Marie asked.
“I honestly don’t know.” Melanie stared into her coffee as she thought about everything she knew of Art and couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer. Just then something struck her. “What a minute – What do you mean you’re not fan of Art?”
Marie shrugged her shoulders. “It’s no secret.” She said nonchalantly. “I really don’t care for the guy.”
Melanie was shocked “Why haven’t you ever said anything?” Melanie felt as if she’d just been punched in the chest.
Marie’s face went crooked as she looked at Melanie. Almost as if to say, ‘Really?’ “Look, I have a man, and the fact that you’re with Art or you’re not with Art… it really doesn’t affect me.” Marie took another sip of coffee. Not that she was thirsty or wanted the drink, but more as though to end what she had to say. She let Melanie think on her words for a moment and then, just as the taste of coffee disappeared from her lips, she started on another subject. “So – for how long are you going to let this continue?”
Melanie didn’t have an answer. She simply shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Until we’re back on track.”
“Y’all are crazy, you know that, right!” Marie said as she tapped her toes on the kitchen floor. “Crazy!”
“Don’t avoid the question, man.” Rick was adamant. “Did. You. Kiss. Her.”?
Art smiled. “Yes.” His smile grew even wider. “I kissed her like I’ve never kissed a woman ever!
“Are you telling me, that in all your years of Marriage – You’ve never kissed your wife the way you kissed your date this evening?” Rick’s eyes became narrow as his brow furrowed. Suddenly, Rick was becoming some type of parental figure rather than a friend and drinking buddy.
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you, man!” Art said. Suddenly he was realizing what it was that his marriage had lost. “In all the years of marriage, I knew I loved my wife, but we had no passion for one another. Last night, I dated a woman and we spoke about things that I never spoke about to my wife. We laughed about things that I never laughed about with my wife. So, when the evening ended, I didn’t need sexual gratification to feel fulfilled…” Art suddenly had an epiphany. “I was getting fulfillment all night long just from engaging with a smart, sexy; beautiful human being!”
“You can’t do that with your wife?” Rick asked defensively. “You couldn’t do that living in the same four walls as Husband and Wife? Instead you had to move into some dumpy little basement?”
“Why are you the one getting so upset about this, man?” Art was getting mixed signals from his friend. “I thought you liked living vicariously through me and my arrangement.”
“WELL I LIED!” Rick confessed. “I miss doing the couples things, man!”
“Aren’t there other couples you guys can do stuff with?” Art was trying his best to cheer up Rick.
“Sure! There are lots of other couples! And they’re all a bunch of idiots!” Rick read off a slew of couples that his wife introduced him to. He told Art about the guy who collected old A&W Root beer mugs. Then there was the couple who were Mary Kay consultants. Both of them! And then there was the one couple who seemed real nice. They liked to drink whiskey, and shoot pool and the husband knew about baseball – everything seemed great until they asked Rick about wife swapping. “And this guy’s wife looked like a HOG with lipstick!”
“So – basically; if I’m not mistaken – your interest in getting my marriage on track is so you can have a better couples experience?” As much as Art wanted to understand his friend’s dilemma, he couldn’t help but feel slightly miffed.
“EXACTLY!” Rick cried out. “C’mon, man! Can’t you just go to your ol’ lady and tell her you want to fix things?
“Dude! Art grabbed Rick by both shoulders and looked him straight in the eyes. That’s exactly what this arrangement is! We’re fixing things! Just then there were two small taps on the ceiling above them.
“It’s them damn kids again!” Rick said.
“There’s nothing crazy about it.” Melanie said as she picked up their empty cups and brought them to the dishwasher. “Besides; a lot of couples have tried this.”
“No, girlfriend! Not like THIS!” Marie said, spreading her arms out wide, indicating the rest of the house. You and your kids and your grandkids and….”
“That’s enough, Marie.” Melanie cut her friend short. “I love you and you my girl, but I won’t let you disrespect me or my family in my own house.”
Marie raised both her hands in mock surrender. “Alright. It’s all good.” She said soft and calmly. “You right. You right.” Marie stood up and opened her arms as if to give a hug. “Bring it here, girl.” As the two friends hugged, Marie apologized for upsetting Melanie and then told her she was glad she had a nice time on her date. “It’s late, so let me get on home.”
Melanie felt bad. It wasn’t as if she was pushing her friend out the door and she certainly didn’t want Marie to feel that way. “Are you sure? We can still talk some more”
“Seriously, girl. It’s good.” Marie picked up her purse and smiled to let Melanie know everything was fine. “Just lemme get my buster out yo basement…. Marie then opened Melanie’s basement door and yelled down for her husband.
“Git yo busted ass up here!” Rick’s wife screamed down from the upstairs; causing Rick to look at Art as if he wanted to say something but both of them knew better.
“RICK!” Marie yelled again. “C’Mon, now! I need to git home!”
“Don’t forget what I told you, man.” Rick said as he headed towards the stairs that led to the main house. He looked like a child being called home for a whoopin’.
“I won’t forget, man.” Art said.
“I’m serious, Art! I don’t wanna deal with Mary Kay and A&W Root Beer shit anymore!” It almost looked like an invisible rope was dragging him up the basement stairs to the main house.
“Shut yo’ ass up and git up here!” Marie said as she grabbed Rick and yanked him into the house. When the main door closed the basement became quiet. Art listened closely and could hear Melanie close and lock the front door, just as she did every night for the past four months. He then heard her footsteps as she walked from the front door to the main bedroom. Three, two, one – a soft click and the bedroom door was closed just as it had every evening since June. Art walked to the back of the studio apartment he built in the basement of his house and turned his futon sofa into his bed. He then plugged his cellphone into the charger and was just about to fall asleep when suddenly, the cellphone lit up the entire studio apartment with a notification. Art picked up his phone and noticed it was a text message from Melanie. GR8 TYM 2NYT. ❤ Art smiled and felt compelled to reply. ME 2 ❤
As bad as things had become in their marriage, they weren’t about to just quit. They couldn’t just walk away from one another. Even though her family told her she needed to leave him and his family told him “If you’re not happy you need to get out.” Deep down Art and Melanie really did love one another but they just lost the passion and the fire that they had in the beginning. Art was actually listening to his family and was going to end things with Melanie. He thought he would be sparing his wife any future agony of having to live with such a miserable person. However, it was Melanie’s idea that they live together, but live separately. Art fixed his basement into a studio apartment and rather than use the front door, he started pulling around to the back and entered his home through the basement door. The idea was for each to live a separate life under the same room and try to get to know one another all over again through dating. This was their 2nd date and the upcoming Friday to be their third date. After their third date, they would “steady”. They could call each other on the phone regularly and get back to that place where they were when they first met. The purpose of their arrangement wasn’t just to try to impress the other by showing how he or she could change. The purpose was to show one’s own self just how much he or she had already changed since being married and to try to change back to that passionate, fun loving person with whom the other fell in love.
Marriage is difficult. We learn this when we say our vows and we promise to see our marriage through anything. I promise to take this person in Sickness and in Health. For Richer or Poor. For Better or Worse. No where in our Vows did we ever say – I promise to file for divorce if I feel I can’t handle it any longer. If (and when) you get to that point in your marriage when you say, “Why did I marry this SO&SO?” That’s not the time to throw in the towel. That’s the time to find all the reasons you fell in love with that person in the first place and do what you can to get back there. View all the different angles of your relationship and examine them. Look at them from all sides and study them so you can use them to help you find that passion your relationship once had and then grow that love. Get all views, pros cons and opposing views to help you. But whatever you do – Don’t just give up and throw it away. That would be the wrong view.