I remember my first kiss. We were standing in the tiny lobby of my building while my parents were upstairs waiting, fretting, ready to call the police, because it was past midnight.
I remember losing my virginity in a car and thinking it was a cliché.
I remember thinking that if I found the right man I’d be happy. I thought many other things too. Many times I wasn’t thinking. My therapist said “sex is the currency of love.” I used to like to count them, trying to remember their names. But I couldn’t always remember them all. I still can’t.
I couldn’t help myself: I had a weakness for men who shared my political ideologies. I was after all a “red diaper baby.” As such, I was inexorably attracted to Marxists, communists, Stalinists, leftists, whatever you want to call them. They however did not always make for the best partners, lovers, boyfriends, whatever you want to call them.
I met the first one at the university where I was studying and working. I was married by then. S. was a professor of sociology and Latin American Studies. Short, with an Afro hairdo.
My first affair took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to be “that” woman, the wife who cheats. I didn’t think that way about myself but I was bored. Life at the university proved too exciting for a young woman who missed the intellectual excitement a professor can offer.
I felt at home for the first time since arriving in Chicago eight years before. The stimuli danced around me day in and day out. We talked politics, music, social issues, we laughed, and all or much of it in Spanish.
After the first one, it gets easier. The second one was younger, a classmate in Introduction to Marxism class, Jamaican, tall and golden. P. had a twin brother, both track and field athletes for the university. They lived with four other Jamaican runners in an apartment provided by the school. We’d spend the afternoons together in his small room after class. After, I’d take him out to dinner and introduce him to different restaurants. When P. tired of me, we broke up. And I met R.
The Wild Hare Reggae Club + one very cold night in early January, 1981 + Sonia’s friend Phyllis = meeting B. It was a weeknight. The place was virtually empty. We danced for a long time. He liked my long black hair. He took my phone number and I went home.
I didn’t know at the time that he was there to meet Phyllis’s friend, not me. I’m sorry. I was just being myself.
The Campbells were unusual. At least to me. First of all there were a lot of them: three sisters and four brothers plus one more sister who had died of sickle cell anemia before I ever met them.
I found myself in the middle of this black family from Evanston. It changed my life.
B. had been a Jehovah’s Witness but had been kicked out for having an affair with an older woman when he was seventeen. Now he was just a Christian as he told me when we met. He had a difficult time accepting my atheism. He tried to talk me into believing in a Christian God. He tried to change me. Not the first man to try that, nor the last.
“I like my bread like I like my men,” I told Valerie at the school cafeteria after I ordered a tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat. She asked me about my live-in boyfriend. I told her about B. And as I explained who he was, as I described him and what he did for a living, I saw her face change colors and expressions.
“I know him,” she said. “My roommate’s been seeing him for a while. He’s been spending evenings at our place.”
My heart skipped a beat first, then pounded fast and furious.
That explained his unexplained absences, his coming home late every other day, his weekend away “to find himself.”
That was how I learned that B. had been cheating on me for six months with this woman who used to be a nun.