I changed jobs earlier in the year. It was the type of job that had me jump from plane to plane and airport to airport as a consultant. Seems as I was no longer playing travel hopscotch, I had plenty of unclaimed time to spread my wings and nest in. While people chose things like painting and hot yoga, I opted to indulge in copious amounts of primetime television foolery. Unashamed, I lazily channel surfed on my couch during primetime viewing hours like a boss.
One particular game show had a strikingly gorgeous young sistah as one of the contestants. After a round of questions from the rather funny yet silly-acting host, she shared a gem her well-known father told her after being asked about dating in today’s social climate.
She quietly said, “He told me: you are the prize.”
I heard this man’s voice in a fatherly way say these words to me at that very moment. It became an incessantly annoying sound-byte that became a daily fixture.
I heard it during mundane activities like brushing my teeth, taking out the trash, and while I jogged/power-walked through my neighborhood. Day in and day out, I’d hear his rich baritone voice quietly mutter the words:
You are the prize!
After dozens of sleeps, and a summertime mixtape of glorious mornings and golden sunsets, life would find me at my local Starbucks, sipping tea across the table from a king I’d been playfully frolicking with, in text messages and phone calls. He was a brown-skinned, multiple degree holding, down to earth, “way taller than my 5’10 self” Trinidadian king.
Not a court jester, joker, or a jack, but a King!
Cloaked in my royal threads (ne’ ripped jeans, a cute top and my braids pulled back to show my multiple ear piercings), I sat proudly before him in the comfort of who I am: a brown-skinned woman of Jamaican descent, multiple degree holding, tech conference speaking, wordsmithing queen. But, even in all my peacocked glory, he wished not to see my dopeness or understand the things that made me the woman I am. He instead tried to blind me with the jewels of his achievements.
He subliminally told me through his fearless yet intentional dedication to his awesomely busy, tightly compacted, 10 hour-a-day schedule, that he is to be earned. He has to deem me worthy of the available slivers of time he just happened to have, or the eaten-through leftovers of hours his job and whatever else he found important left behind.
His mouth said, My job keeps me very busy.
His heart said, I will not give you the time and effort you require.
My mind replayed the countless stories I heard about women who valiantly fought for the attention of these somewhat available kings. You know, the ones drenched in melanin with stable careers, a home to call their own, and a luxury car parked out front. I had heard the stories of women “playing the game” on his terms. They were willing and able to pop up for late-night sweat sessions before he ran out on the breath of morning to preside over his territory, leaving her behind to mull in confusion over where she stood in his life. These queens waited with bated breath until…
He became available.
He decided he was ready.
He made room for two.
He decided it was time to take things to the next level.
All the while not knowing she was just another face in his lineup of women sitting courtside, ready to enter the game. I’m sure a well-meaning sister-friend would’ve encouraged me to go against my intuition and enter that burning building to simply “see where it goes.” After all…
He is available…
He has his stuff together…
My mind began to roam into the land of “maybe”. Maybe I would be the exception to his rule. Maybe I’d be the one to break the ice king’s security wall. Maybe I’d simply be “The One”. Then suddenly, that familiar baritone voice softly wrapped my eardrums:
You are the prize!
I am a fighter. I regularly channel my inner lioness to prepare for battle when I am challenged. But what was the battle? What was at stake? The opportunity to be in a situation-ship?
I silently closed my eyes like the heroine in Kill Bill, where everything went from color to an eerie grayscale. Samurai-style fighters in tailored black suits came rushing in while O-Ren Ishii stood on a balcony. But instead of O-Ren, it was him. He was subliminally inviting me to enter into a terror dome of obstacles to win his hand.
I gripped the sword of a thousand battles fought and won by women to earn a man’s heart. Who wins in this battle royale? Was it going to be me or him? I want to be ushered into the hallowed and sacred halls of a man’s love by his complete desire to have me there simply because of who I am, what I have to offer, and not by how well I can dodge the tricks he throws. Silly little tricks like canceled meet-ups at the last minute, intentionally shallow conversations, and subtle hints for things physical, disguised as awkwardly corny jokes.
In no uncertain terms do I want to lay expended on the goal line of the dating game bruised, battered, exhausted, and barely holding his heart in bittersweet victory. What will I have left to give him as well as myself when it’s all over? Am I not worthy to be sought after or cherished? Does my value decrease because there are plenty of “me’s” that come in different shapes, sizes, and cultures who are readily available to suit up and play for the heart of a Black man who appears to have his stuff together?
I loosened my grip and allowed the sword to fall so that I could hold myself tighter than I ever had before.
It was in this moment the words spoken by that familiar voice finally settled onto the foundation of my heart:
You are the prize!
I looked into his handsome face and bedroom brown eyes while J-Dilla, Common, and D Angelo’s “So far to go” provided the soundtrack to my fantasy happening in real-time while I sipped the last of my passion fruit tea. A fantasy in which we’d be holding hands in Miami’s Wynwood district while looking at graffiti art, or engaging in a Soca music fueled, sweaty whine-up session amid thousands of people at Miami Carnival, while waving the flags of our respective islands, or syncing our footsteps on a nature path in the cool of the weekend mornings and the purple dusk of warm evenings.
The sweetness of the tea I quietly drew upon my lips could not change the flavor of the truth no matter how glorious the notes of hibiscus, raspberries, and lemon were.
His eyes looked inviting, but I didn’t see forever in them much less tomorrow or even a month later. I only saw the end of our date approaching and my total unwillingness to participate in the game of trivial pursuit he put on the table. The pursuit of it all was indeed trivial. Visions of a love unlimited where 90’s R&B provided the soundtrack faded into the sounds of the rainstorm outside that overpowered everything except:
You are the prize!
I never knew a collection of words, intimately spoken to a daughter by a father would save me, a complete stranger, from crashing into a wall where I’d be left to pick up the pieces of my emotional wreckage while said guy walked away unscathed, free to move on to the next chick.
When the rain let up and the music changed from the velveteen vocals of D’Angelo to some sort of bouncy Taylor Swift medley, we hugged the infamous yet all too familiar I’ll see you around hug. Sunrays that were strong enough to break through the clouds provided a break from the monotonously grey of the day, but not the iciness of the circumstances. He watched me climb into my chariot, and I watched him climb into his. We went back to our territories that were so close but yet so very far apart.
I straightened my crown and drove into the rest of my life, knowing that I won’t pursue kings simply because they’re kings who are somewhat available.
I deserve more than the table scraps of a man’s time, because I am unequivocally the prize.
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