To prime myself for the evening to come, I listen to the energetic sounds of Bob Marley, which echoes throughout my apartment as I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and brush my short curly hair. As I stare at myself in the mirror, I see that it is my freckles scattered across my face that make me look heaps younger than my thirty-five years.
Filled with adventure, I stroll into the front room, smiling as I fantasize about my night to come. There will be live music, and already I can feel the excitement as I meticulously search through my closet for something pink to wear. Ever since Sarah Jane introduced me to color magic weeks prior, I am curious to find out if wearing certain colors can actually create purposeful happenings. Pink is supposedly the color of love and romance, and if romance is what I want, pink is the color of promise.
When the phone rings, I assume that it is Sarah Jane calling to let me know that she is heading out and will meet me at the Exodus Reggae Bar. But that is not the case at all. Though it is Sarah Jane calling, she is calling to inform me that she has a family emergency, and will not be able to meet me. When I end my call with her, I wonder: Should I call the whole thing off, or should I go ahead as planned, even if it means going at it alone? Seconds later, a decision is made. Already in the mood, I decide to forge ahead and finish off the evening a la carte.
It is a quarter after eleven when I leave my apartment and make my way north on Clark Street. Arriving in Wrigleyville in my pearl white Ford, I don't bother to hunt for a parking spot on the street. Instead, I cruise into the parking lot next door to the Exodus Reggae Bar. I shift the gear into park, turn off the engine, and chew on my fingernails.
This being the first time I frequent a nightclub alone, I feel unsure of myself, and if that isn't enough, it is the evening of my birthday. For two minutes, I sit in the car with the window halfway down. I gaze at the people as they enter and exit the parking area, consuming bits and pieces of their conversations. Even in the cold of autumn, people gallivant outside as if it is a hot summer day. So not to be pegged as a voyeur, I blow a breath from my mouth and step from the car. After paying the $10 cover charge, I head inside, wearing navy dress pants, my supposed lucky pink sweater and a leather jacket. A tall Sudanese man working the door smiles at me when I present my driver's license and already I feel welcomed. Though this place is much smaller than I expected, the music booms as I experience the Caribbean energy almost instantly. The Exodus Reggae Bar is the hot spot of reggae, all the more reason to call it Summer's place because of my love for reggae music. There is something about reggae music that just makes me feel so good.
New Vibration, the five-member African band, bursts with vigor onto the elevated stage while I maneuver my way through the crowd of white people, black people, Hispanics and Nigerians. There is somebody here for everybody. I continue through the mass of bodies, making my way to the bar. With the music sweeping, the band popping and everyone seemingly having a good time, this is the place to be. All I need now is a drink to take the edge off, but I am not sure that I am quite ready for one just yet. Luckily, I find a seat at the bar and ease down onto the bar stool, all the while observing the pictures on the wall of yesteryear performers, Bob Marley being front and center. Two songs later and more relaxed, I unzip my jacket, release my purse from my shoulder and tuck it in my lap.
The energetic sounds continue to thrive, and I long to rise to my feet and roll my hips in unison with the beat, but am too shy to do so. When the band breaks down the music to a light drum, it seems to captivate everyone's attention. The lead singer, wearing jeans and an African smock, is as tall as the average woman, but his presence demands attention as he asks the crowd, "Anyone out there in love?"
The crowd roars with a rigorous noise. "Yeah," they scream.
I remember what it was like to be in love, and so much I wish that I could have been included in that grand yeah.
The band leader continues. "I want to talk to you about love tonight. Is that all right?"
Pandemonium at its finest. The crowd follows his lead and screams, "Yeah."
"Back in the day," the lead singer bellows. "A long time ago, I didn't know anything about love. And was too busy for love, didn't have time for love, didn't want to love, and I have to tell all y'all something tonight. Are you ready?" The band plows into a song, "Make Time for Love."
I spring to my feet, and the crowd goes ballistic, clapping their hands and stomping their feet. His words obviously strike a vein with the group, and they seem very vocal in expressing themselves. I clap my hands along with everyone else, not being able to remain silent any longer. Then, it hits me─why I like reggae music so much. It speaks about what is real, what is true, and most of all, what is in my heart. Captivated by the moment and the song, out of nowhere, I feel someone tap me on the shoulder.
"Hello, Summer," the gentleman says.
I turn around and my jaw drops. I look and then look again, my heart beating out a guilty beat while I try to tell myself that my eyes are playing tricks on me.
Is this who I think it is?
There he was, just as handsome as ever, in the flesh, the man who broke my heart─John David. He is a sexy tanned man with piercing green eyes and a body that will make any woman swoon. I try not to notice how good he looks in his black turtle-neck sweater and dark pants, but his sexiness permeates through him. He possesses chiseled cheekbones, and his mouth is so inviting, and, at this moment, I have a major hard-on for this man.
"John," I say, with a warm smile, then quickly remember how much he enjoys being called Officer David.
"Give me a hug," John says, with his arms stretched out to welcome me.
Happy to comply, I stand to my feet and embrace him warmly, my arms snug around his back, and against my will, my body reacts strongly to his masculinity.
John slowly pulls away and smiles at me, his eyes bathing me in admiration. "Are you here alone this evening?"
"Sarah Jane was supposed to be here with me, but she bailed on me at the last minute."
"Really? Well, her loss is my gain." He pauses, then, "The funny thing is, we were supposed to go somewhere else, but at the last minute, my friends and I decided on this place."
I consider reminding John that it is my birthday, but then decide not to, for fear that it might embarrass him for not remembering.
Flattered by such a coincidence, I begin to think that our chance meeting is a sign of us possibly reuniting in the future. It sure has the markings of fate to me.
John eyes me like I am a piece of candy, and I so much want to be his candy, if only for this one night. His eyes are almost hypnotic, and I feel my temperature rising. As wonderful as it is to see him again, being in his presence arouses old fears and uncertainties, and it is crucial that I keep the conversation moving.
"Do you still live at the same place?" I ask.
"Not for about a year. I bought a new place in the Gold Coast."
"Moving up in the world, are we?"
"Yes, we are."
It is hard for this moment not to bring back memories of the days when John and I would indulge in our role-playing game. And the game was always the same. I would go into a bar, and John would follow me in soon afterwards and pretend to pick me up. And that was it. Even though it was the same role being played, because of my adoration for him, it always delivered all the excitement as the first time we experienced it.
John stretches out his hand to me. "Shall we dance?"
Still in shock and not completely grounded back into reality after crossing paths with my ex, I return to my seat and say, "Soon."
John benches down next to me, giving me his full attention while I glance at his beautiful skin, admiring it so much that I yearn to touch it or maybe even lick it. My heart is beating two miles a minute from the shock and excitement of it all, and I think I might explode. I think about how courageous it would be to move into John's arms and lift my face to his for a kiss, and for a moment, I almost consider doing just that.
The band performs a Bob Marley song, Waiting In Vain, and I can't help but rock my shoulders to the beat. Already, I am experiencing an emotional buzz, and I fail to even have my first drink.
"You sure look like you're ready to dance to me," John says.
The powerful romantic beat surges through me, and I figure it is indeed time to hit the dance floor.
"Okay." I stand and wrap my purse strap around my body, a tinge of excitement stirring through me. John sips down his beer before setting the bottle on the bar, then leads me onto the dance floor. Having reconnected with my heartthrob and ready to live it up on the dance floor, I want to pinch myself. My eyes linger on John's slick shoulders. He is much taller than I am. I have always liked that. Oh, how I like that. Thirty minutes pass and more people flood the dance floor, causing me to feel more and more like a sardine. But I do not mind because tonight is a very special night, and not just because it is my thirty-fifth birthday, but because of whom I coincidentally ended up spending it with.
The top of my head just reaches his big, broad shoulders and every cell in my body is reacting to his dangerous proximity as his powerfully muscled chest beneath his sweater. John sways his body towards mine, our hips almost grinding. He trails my every move, and I soon realize that dancing erotically with him will surely lead me into trouble. Casually, I step away from him and shout over the loud music. "Is it always this crowded?"
"On a Saturday, yes. Aren't you warm in that jacket?"
"I'm starting to get kind off warm." I wipe the sweat from my forehead. "I need a rest."
John leads me off the dance floor and over to the bar. "What would you like to drink?" John asks.
"Coke," I say, removing my jacket.
I am about to go into my purse when John says, "Don't worry about it, I have it."
"Thank you." I fan myself with my hand. I am hot and tired.
The bartender hands John our drinks and John hands me mine. "No Long Island tonight? I know that's what you like."
"That wouldn't be a good idea tonight," I say, knowing just how uninhibited alcoholic beverages can make me under the right circumstances.
"What do you make of us running into each other tonight?" he asks with the sexiest smile I have ever witnessed.
It is as if we are thinking the same thing.
"When you think about it," John says. "You and I could have come here on any other night, yet, it is this night that we both happened to show up. You were supposed to be here with your friend, and I wasn't supposed to be here at all."
"That is something to think about," I say, knowing I had already pondered the coincidence from the very first.
"Do you think it means anything?" he says in his sensuous voice.
Just hearing him ask the question sends quivers down my spine. "Maybe."
"I definitely think it means something," he insists.
I want to ask him about his ex-girlfriend, but the fear of hearing that she might still be in the picture prevents me from doing so.
"I have missed you," John says, bathing me with a complimentary stare.
I smile, insanely flattered. "Really?"
There is a short silence, as if John waits for a response from me, then he asked, "Have you missed me?"
"Maybe," I say.
I am not going to dare let on just how much I really did miss him, so instead, I just play it safe. "Maybe."
As I give thought to Sarah Jane's unexpected and vague excuse for not coming out with me this evening, I can't help but wonder─Had my coincidental meeting with John been prearranged?
"Did Sarah Jane tell you that I would be here tonight?" I ask.
"Is that what you think? How on earth would I have been in touch with Sarah Jane?"
"You know I have always had a curious mind. I had to ask."
"Well, you can put your mind at ease. I had no idea that you would be here this evening, and your friend Sarah Jane had nothing to do with my showing up here tonight."
Maybe I am just being paranoid, still the same, I have to ask.
"Are you still writing?" he asks.
"Have you written anything about me yet?" he asked.
"I'm working on it. And you, are you still arresting people?"
"Every chance I get."
"I always feel so much safer knowing a police officer is nearby."
"As you should, but I'm not a police officer any more," he says. "I'm a detective."
"Detective?" I question with a smile. "I'm impressed."
"As you should be."
John is definitely not suffering from any self-esteem issues.
"Should I call you Detective David now, or is it still Officer David?"
"It still is and always will be Officer David to you."
There is something so titillating about a man of authority that I find absolutely intoxicating.
John moves in towards me and asks in a seductive whisper, "Does that still turn you on that you have to address me by my professional name?"
I feel the color in my cheeks bruising and exhale a long breath in an attempt to release the sexual energy circulating inside me. "Maybe," I say, not wanting to let on just how much. "You're not going to try and handcuff me or anything like that, are you?" I ask him.
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
My flirtatious smile gives him an unequivocal yes. Why must he be so cute?
John excuses himself to his friends near the entrance, and upon his return, he says, "My friends and I are getting ready to head over to Pinky's Place. I'd like for you to come with us."
"Where is it?"
"On Halsted, not far from here."
"Okay," I say. "I'll follow you in my car."
After setting eyes on this man who I used to love so dearly, I don't dare let him disappear from me this easily. Who knows? Maybe this is going to be the beginning of something wonderful. As far as birthdays are concerned, this one is definitely a good one.
I trail behind John in my car, buzzing with excitement, hoping the night will end as exciting as it began. Already, I have visited the Exodus Reggae Bar and danced with the sexiest man in the city. Now, I am on my way to another club, my insides screaming with excitement. Coming out tonight proves to be a good idea as I discover sparks of adventure in myself that I never knew existed.
I will remember this night forever.