I took possession of my new house on Valentine’s Day. I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. As a single man, I always felt tremendous pressure, especially if I wasn’t seeing anyone. Seeing people coupled up was usually a prelude to depression. That year, I wasn’t seeing anyone and sure enough I was depressed, except that I wasn’t depressed because I wasn’t seeing anyone, I wasn’t seeing anyone because I was depressed. I had options.
Kerri of the big beautiful butt and I had just begun seeing each other, but I hadn’t asked her out for Valentine’s Day. Ivory and I were still fooling around. There was a woman in Minneapolis that I was romancing, but she was in Minnesota and, in spite of the evenings of phone sex, I wasn’t committed enough to spend plane fare to fly to across the country. There was a woman in Brooklyn i’d dated a few times, who was waiting for me to ask her out. Don’t misunderstand, I am not trying to brag about how popular I was; the point is that I didn’t have to be alone on that evening. I had options, but I chose not to avail myself of any of them. All of these women were beautiful, smart, and charming. Any one of them would have been terrific company that evening, but none of them were special enough to break through the malaise.
Besides, the woman I wanted to be with that night was the redhead, but she was involved with someone else. Prior to the opening of Strictly Business, she had issued an ultimatum. “I need someone I can count on,” she said. And if I wasn’t serious about being with her she was going to move on. The fact is that I was in love with her. I didn’t understand it, but I was.
A few months earlier–late August or early September–we’d spent the afternoon together and she was coming back to my apartment to spend the rest of the evening. As we rode in the taxi, she rested her head on my lap. I looked down at her and stroked her hair. In that moment, it hit me: “You are in love with her.” I kind of shook my head as if to clear some glitch in the synapse. I couldn’t be in love with her. She was not the woman I had envisioned myself with; she was short with red-hair and freckles. I spent the rest of the evening running away from her. And even though I was talking myself out of what my heart felt, the fact was that at the time of her ultimatum, I wasn’t seeing anyone else. Sure, there were a few women that I called from time to time, but the only woman I was romantically involved with was her. The only woman I called each night was her. I suppose she had every expectation that I should finally commit to her.
But the timing was just bad. I had a lot of other things on my mind, beginning with the release of my first feature film. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) in Black Hollywood was telling me that I was about to “blow up.” Strictly Business had audience-tested higher than Batman and was projected to be a huge hit, (which just goes to show you how inaccurate audience testing can be). In a few days, I was on my way to a six city tour to promote Strictly Business. I was also in the process of buying a house. I was spending days at a time in New Jersey, house-hunting. I was organizing both my finances and 10 years of life in Park Slope.
The final season of the Cosby show was also underway and I was not being called. Not only did I want to work, I needed to work; I still had bills to pay. My frustration with the show was turning to anger.
All of the anxiety, stress, and frustration began to fuel another episode of depression. I wasn’t excited about what lay before me. Sure, I could see the blessing of everything that was happening, but there is no logic to depression. Depression is a weight that pulls everything down. I was functioning every day, but there were times that it seemed as if my feet were just a bit heavier. My steps took just a bit more effort. I got tired sooner. And sometimes I just didn’t care.
So, when the redhead drew a line in the sand, I just couldn’t respond. I was also concerned with being honest with her. I didn’t want to tell her that I would be true if it was a lie. I had hurt her feelings once before (to say nothing of the feelings of so many other women) and I wasn’t going to do that again. Because I couldn’t make sense out of what was going on with me, I decided to let her go. Of course, after a few weeks, the fog lifted and I realized that I had made a horrible mistake, but it was too late. I called her, but she let me know that she had moved on.
So, on what was supposed to be one of the most exciting days in an adult’s life, I was by myself, pining away for a woman who was spending the evening with another man. It was just another f-ed up Valentine’s Day.
I distracted myself by preparing the house for my move-in, which would be in two days. I cleaned the house from top to bottom. My mother would have been proud. I scrubbed and dusted every corner. I vacuumed the carpet, swept the floors, and washed windows until that house was spotless. When I’d finished, I sat on the steps for a few minutes, contemplating the last few years of my life, then climbed back into my rental car and drove back to Brooklyn to finish packing for my move.