I couldn’t sleep. The clubs had closed and the Denny’s across from my downtown apartment was full. The line typically circled the building on late nights. It was the only diner that stayed open late.
The noise actually was not what was keeping me awake. To be honest, I enjoyed it most nights.
From my bedroom on the 5th floor, I have watched fights break out, people make up, proposals and even someone going into labor.
In my days, I had given a peepshow or two to the non-paying customers because I forgot to close my window.
Oh, the late-night buns on display.
On this night, I really needed that sleep.
I had an early morning and I just wanted to sleep, but it had reached that intersection where you asked yourself if sleeping was the right move.
I was now worried that if I slept, I could oversleep and miss my appointment.
Reluctantly, I turned around and pulled open my bedside drawer.
It didn’t take long but I picked my player.
I repositioned on the bed and spread my legs.
I forgot to brush my teeth.
Looking up at the monitor, I was hoping I could get out of there as quickly as possible. I took a swig of the Listerine in my purse.
A few seconds later, my client returned. It was the first time I was visiting the VA office. I never knew they were this organized and rowdy at the same time.
My client, let’s call him “Jay”, leaned over and said,
“Thank you for coming with me. I hope if we can get the records here, they will help my case”
I smiled, clutched his left hand and said
“I hope so too Jay. I hope so”
He was reading a copy of the New York Times magazine and I was replying to emails from the firm when I glanced up and saw someone at the desk being attended to.
My first reaction was the internal “hell nahhh”
I sprung up, walked up to the desk and said,
“Excuse me sir, I think you just cut everyone here and ma’am, we have been waiting for hours”
I was clearly upset but I could not understand why he was smiling. From the moment I spoke, he had the biggest grin on his face.
He did not immediately respond.
I started to scan him from top to bottom. He was wearing a matching forest green tracksuit and it was soaked in sweat.
It appeared that he had just finished a workout or something along the lines.
The lady behind the counter spoke first
“Ma’am, he is…”
I didn’t let her finish, I asked him directly
“Is there something I said that was funny?”
The smile on his face slowly disappeared and then he said
“Hi, my name is Denzel. It is a pleasure to meet you this fine Saturday morning.
I apologize if I cut in ahead of you. It was not my intention to be rude”
He then turned to the lady behind the counter and said
“Please see that she is attended to immediately”
And then he walked away.
The lady behind the counter, Anita, from her name plate, rolled her eyes and began to attend to me.
She gave me a few documents and said
“Please fill this out with your client and bring it back to me. You don’t have to wait in line”
I grabbed the clipboard, my documents and pen while turning around to sit down. Then I heard her say
“Oh by the way ma’am, that man wasn’t cutting the line. His company sponsors weekend hours with the government. He is a senior manager there and our liaison.”
I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
How did I make such a fool of myself? You see why I tell you I needed more sleep?!
I walked back to my seat next to Jay. As I sat down he said with a smile
“Don’t worry about it, we’ve all had embarrassing moments”
We both giggled, I did so wishing the ground would open up and swallow me.
The first hand embarrassment sat in my throat as I helped Jay complete the documents. We were rounding up when I heard a voice.
“Hello sir, do you mind giving me your seat for just a few minutes?”
I looked up and it was Denzel. That beautiful smile brightened up his face.
I was so lost in it, I barely noticed as Jay slid over. He also had this sheepish smile on his face.
Denzel sat down and said
“I hate to interrupt but as I walked to my car, I realized that I would be incredibly unfulfilled if I did not get your number and a chance to know you better.
So, my name is Denzel and if you wouldn’t mind, I would love your number, please”
I wanted to blurt out the numbers but for whatever reason, these words came out next
“And what if I don’t give out my number to men I don’t know?”
Unflustered, he smiled again and said
“Well, this is our second meeting and you know my name. So technically, you know me. I just don’t know you…yet”
He wouldn’t stop smiling.
It made me want to smile too, actually, I think I was smiling already.
“Well since I already embarrassed myself today, I guess giving you my number won’t hurt”
He handed me his phone and I typed in my number and saved my name.
He looked down at the phone and smile as he said
“Leila. That’s such a beautiful name”
He rose and stretched out his hand to shake mine
“Well Leila, it is a pleasure to meet you. I have to run now but I will text you as soon as I can”
I nodded with a smile as I shook his hand.
He turned to leave and said
“Thank you sir and Leila, I have a feeling we’re going to be really good friends”
At that moment, I was so glad I didn’t oversleep.
Two weeks would go by before Denzel and I would see each other again.
It turns out that right after we met, he headed to the airport and was on a work trip for two weeks.
Asides from the first two nights after that Saturday, we had talked on the phone every night and texted through most of the days.
He worked for an investment firm based out of Silicon Valley with projects all over the world as a global lead. Somehow in the two weeks, he had come up with a nickname for me “Bono”. A nod to the music icon but also a reference to the fact that I led the pro-bono department at my law firm.
If there was one thing that was truly beautiful about talking to Denzel, it was how easy it was to talk to him.
Nothing felt forced or pressured. He was so well versed in most topics that we had content for days. Never a dull moment.
We locked in a time for our first date.
It was the Saturday he got back. I wanted him to rest after his long flight from Amsterdam, but he was adamant that he wanted to see me.
We set the time for 8pm.
Funny enough, I was ready.
Typically late but on this day, I was ready. READY.
I was on the phone with my girls when the text message came through
“Hey beautiful, I’m outside”
The girls teased me because I actually looked really excited.
“I’ll call y’all later babes”
“No you won’t. Especially if you getting it on tonight”
I giggled and said
“That ain’t happening…at least not tonight”
I said cheekily as I tapped the red circle on the screen.
Reapplied my lip stick.
Fixed my blouse.
Checked to make sure I had my cards in my purse and ID.
Full body check.
And now I was ready.
As I stepped out of the building he was standing by the passenger door, leaning on the car and pressing his phone.
He looked up as he heard my footsteps.
The first words out of his mouth were
“Wow, you look amazing”
I smiled and replied
He opened my door and closed it before walking around the car to hop in.
As he started driving, I could feel how much I was liking him come through.
There was just something about the way he gripped the wheel.
I finally said
“You clean up really nice as well”
Looking at his buttoned down shirt inside his dark blue blazer.
He smiled and said
“Much better than a tracksuit, I reckon?”
I smiled and mimicked him
“Reckon… who even says that?”
That was one of the jokes we had – me teasing him about growing up in London and South Africa. At various points, he sounds like a completely different man.
He chimed back.
I laughed and teased him about the fact that he had now lived in America for almost 10years and he couldn’t claim to be British anymore.
We laughed and he kept driving.
A few minutes later we pulled into the parking garage. It was a short walk to the restaurant where we were having dinner.
Such a cute little spot by the water. You could hear the music playing out of it as we walked up.
He checked us in and we were quickly sat at our table.
It was a “wine” restaurant. I feel like there is a more formal name for it but it’s escaping me right now, so that would have to do.
Basically, the wines are the entrees and the bites plus meals serve as the sides.
We got an 8 rack which gave us a glass each of eight wines in the category we chose.
They were mostly sweet because that is what I liked but one or two were dry and crisp like he liked.
The conversation was beautiful, we talked about everything from how I decided to be a lawyer to him being a son of a diplomat and living around the world.
We talked about my dog that I just had to put down, dating in San Diego, and even the Farmer’s market.
Immigration and women’s rights did not get left out either. I had to make sure he did not vote for Trump.
As the night wound down, we agreed to take a walk by the waterfront and sober up while still talking.
I was admiring how tall he was and how good he looked in his coat when he reached out with his left hand to hold my right hand.
He walked on the side closest to the water.
His voice was so calm, the night felt perfect and we got closer to each other as we walked.
As we strolled, he noticed a rock right in the middle of the path. He slightly broke away from me and kicked it into the water.
He jokingly jogged and stretched out his hands like a soccer celebration while cheering himself.
“Oh look at you! World Cup winner eh?”
He smiled and said
“You don’t know that I scored the winning goal at the last World Cup?”
We both chuckled.
“Look at you soccer player. I bet I could outrun you right now”
He stopped and faced me while continuing to walk backwards as he said
“That’s unfair because you’re a runner but I am pretty sure I could still take you”
The competitor in me jumped out and I said
“I’ll take you on this lawn right now”
“In those heels?”
I stopped and started to take them off.
He seemed surprised but up for it.
I pulled the shoes into my hands and I pointed down the field and said
“First to that pillar over there”
“Let’s get it!”
We lined up next to each other and I counted
“On your marks, get set….. GO”
He took off!
I started to wonder why I even agreed to it, he was so much fitter than me.
He was gone and I was laughing while trying to catch up with him.
Suddenly, it got dark.
And I couldn’t feel my legs.
Seconds later, I could feel the wet of the grass from the sprinklers on my hair.
I heard his voice get closer as he screamed in panic
“Leila, Leila… can you hear me?”
I faintly saw him as my eyes closed.
That was the last thing I remember.
I woke up in the hospital.
Confused, I tried to look around and find my bearings.
I couldn’t see much around me. I was too weak but I was scared that something bad had happened.
Before I could turn, Denzel was standing next to the bed – holding my hand.
“It’s okay Leila. You’re okay”
I had a tube down my throat, so I could not speak.
I wanted to make sounds and ask him what had happened.
Just as I motioned, the doctor and my nurse walked in.
“Hi Ms. Leila, how are you feeling?
Nod if you’re feeling okay”
He looked over to Denzel and said
“Who are you sir?”
He straightened up and said
“Ummmm… I’m her friend”
He looked around and said
“Well, if it’s okay, I have some confidential information to share with my patient, would you mind stepping outside the room?”
Denzel looked at me as if to confirm that he was stepping out.
He stepped out as the nurse took out the tube from my mouth.
My mouth was bitter and I was trying to swallow but it hurt too much.
The doctor looked at me and said
“I am really sorry that you are going through this at this time but I am so glad you made it in when you did.
We did some scans and we discovered that you have a hole in your uterus.
It led to some internal bleeding and is probably what caused you to pass out.
We can try to manage it going forward but my recommendation would be surgery as soon as possible.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I think I just froze there. Thinking back now, I am sure that I was actually crying.
He leaned in and said
“I know it is scary but I promise, you are in the best hands. Everything will be okay”
It took me a few minutes to gather myself and I said
“Can I have a few minutes to think about it?”
The doctor and nurse nodded and stepped out of the room.
Denzel walked back in towards me.
As he smiled at me, I broke down.
He walked over to the bed and without saying anything, he just held me.
Tears. Snot. Fears.
What the Heck Man!
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