When I was traveling between Houston and Beaumont, I covered this hip hop conference in Houston called The Third Coast conference. Yeah, I know.
The story never ran because my editor at the time didn’t like hip hop. But I had just bought my own car, and I was feeling free. A friend and I hung out after the conference with this rap group from Pittsburgh. The quietest among them was Richard, and we hung out separate from the group.
When I tell you I can’t remember a single conversation I had with Richard, I’m not exaggerating. The conversations we had were about Biggie, Pennsylvania and the fact that his mother thought I looked like Erykah Badu — probably because he had never brought another black woman into her kitchen before. I don’t think I was even wearing a headwrap at the time.
(Note to self: Even some of the coolest white men have families that are a little bit dismissive of black people and sometimes they all think we look alike. That scene felt like it happened a century before Simon Baker and Sanaa Lathan got down in “Something New.”)
He was the first of several men I dated who had a love affair with the glorified gangster life, which included smoking more weed than seemed humanly possible or even necessary for blacking out the entirety of his existence. This didn’t make him a big talker. That made our three-month long-distance relationship pretty challenging.
I tried, though. I flew to Pittsburgh. I hung out with him for a weekend. Soon after that, he decided he was going to the Marines.
One day I will write more about my love of military dudes. Something about the willingness to die for what you believe in, the structure and discipline military life requires. Oh — and yeah — my dad was in the military.
Our romance ended abruptly when he said he bought a ticket to come visit me in Beaumont and instead, I called him in Pittsburgh that morning and his mother said that he’d missed his plane so he had just decided to stay home. I think he sent a card, but I was so heartbroken that I dismissed it. He called and said he signed up for the Marines I think, and at some point, I got a card from him saying when he was going to Camp LeJeune and then I never heard from him again.
I spent the next four months chatting with men on BlackPlanet before I drove across country to Seattle.