Call Me Lucy Brown
There’s nothing like the sensual caress of satin sheets and the seductive embrace of a thick goose-down mattress to consummate a steamy weekend romance.
I sat propped up on two fluffy pillows, my toes curling as I savored orgasm number three with twin brothers in a single night.
And I was only on page twenty.
In the fireplace at the foot of my bed, flames danced above the embers to the percussive rhythm of raindrops falling on my tin roof.
Dozing, I switched off my bedside lamp on the nightstand and peeled off my reading glasses, setting them beside the soothing candle I always lit to set a romantic mood for my read. As I leaned over to blow it out, cold raindrops hitched a ride on a gust blowing through the window I had cracked open for some fresh air.
Jumping out of bed, I found myself standing in a puddle of water on the cold linoleum floor.
After shutting the window, I stepped onto the bedside rug to dry my feet, pulled a pair of warm crew socks out of the top drawer of my nightstand, and sat on the side of the bed to slip them on.
The puddle on the floor could wait until morning.
Getting my feet wet on cold linoleum was a surefire wakeup call, so I decided to turn the lamp back on, throw another log split on the fire, and return to my ingénue’s seemingly endless orgasms.
Interrupted in flagrante delicto by a bright flash of lightning, I was fascinated by its terrifying beauty. I reflected on the stark contrast between my romantic take on lightning on a stormy night, and a physicist’s empirical take. And yet, lightning is still lightning, unswayed by either observer’s point of view.
I looked out the window to watch the rain and asked myself why I had moved back to Live Oak after college. After all, I could have taken my teaching degree and gotten on a Greyhound bus to New York City or Chicago, where people are more educated, more sophisticated, and less tribal. A place where there are no Confederate flags still flying proudly and no monuments to Robert E. Lee erected to celebrate a heritage of slavery and white supremacy.
But then, I always reminded myself that the answer was simple. I was born in Live Oak and I have embraced my people and the pace of living here since my earliest memories of balmy summer days, lying on my grandmother’s tattered quilt to look up at the blue sky through the lacy green leaves of towering pecan trees.
As an adult, I loved that Live Oak was home to Florida Memorial College where colored youth could earn a degree and pursue a career, even though it had downsized after moving most of its operations to South Florida.
Yes, there are still lots of things to love about Live Oak—if you can maneuver around the empty pride and blind prejudice of white citizens who still gleefully sing, “Oh, darkeys, how my heart grows weary,” as part of their beloved state song, “Way Down Upon the Suwannee River.”
Besides, I had always been comfortable living among my own people. It had never been in my nature to “cross the line”—to go where I was not wanted.
Aside from the fact that coloreds are discouraged from voting in Suwannee County, segregation means little to me in my daily life. After all, why would I care to associate with people who don’t appreciate my company?
Feeling my eyelids grow heavy again, I marked my place in my romance novel with J. L.’s business card. Closing my eyes, I let the intermezzo of rolling thunder transport me to the land of unfulfilled dreams. A place I always visit when I consider the irony of trying to enjoy a spicy romance vicariously without my own lover to hold me in his arms.
Reading a dime romance novel is a lot like leafing through a Good Housekeeping cookbook, perusing lists of ingredients without being able to savor the dish itself.
Still, the ingredients are the stuff of where a girl must start if she’s ever going to savor the entrée.
I chuckled, recalling how my Jewish friend from New York had told me about the mythical creature known as golem, and how Jewish mystics conjured it to life from a clay image by reciting “avra k’davro,” the words we know as “abracadabra.” My friend also told me she was convinced that she would have to use this kind of sorcery to find herself a suitable mate.
So, clay and incantations aside, what are the essential ingredients in a quality colored man? Looks? Every woman can tell you that looks are only skin deep. Money? Money’s nice, but the few women I know who married for it complain that they must earn every dime they squeeze out of the relationship.
So, what ingredients would a recipe for a quality colored man include?
I sat up to grab a pen from the nightstand and started making a list on the inside back cover of my novel. Let me see—
I know, I know, it’s an impossible list. Yet I can say that J. L. embodies all these qualities, except for romantic, since we haven’t had that kind of relationship—yet. Not to say I haven’t fantasized.
I had no idea why I kept using J. L.’s business card as a bookmark since I always ended up pulling it out of whatever book I was reading and dog-earing the page where I left off.
Closing my eyes, I held the card and ran a fingertip gently over the embossed print to read it as clearly as if my eyes were open.
J. L. Hopps, M. Ed.
Florida Memorial College
Post Office Box 104
Live Oak, Florida ● Telephone: 21-OK
It had become a recurring ritual, as blind and sensual as any romantic fantasy that plays out in my novels. Unfortunately, like a pulp romance, it’s a ritual that lacks the warmth of a man of my own; a man I can hold in my arms and treasure his embrace.
As with all quality colored men, J. L. is married. Beatrice is her name. In the South, it’s pronounced “Bee-AT-trice,” not “BEE-uh-trice.”
Beatrice is a traditional Italian name translating loosely as, “She who brings happiness.” And, yes, to top it off, Beatrice was Dante’s guide on his journey from the inferno to his beatific vision of paradise.
J. L.’s Beatrice, known as Bea to her friends, is on the faculty with me a few blocks down the street at Douglass High, where she teaches bookkeeping. She’s my best friend. I see her every day when we take our break in the faculty lounge.
It’s odd, our friendship, alongside my stolen glances at J. L. in the hallways, even though it’s only once a month when he conducts our in-service training. When he walks down the corridor, the air parts before him like the waters of the Red Sea before Moses. And, like Pharaoh’s pursuing chariots, I’m completely helpless in the wake.
Oh, yes, I must admit that I’ve driven by his house once in a while to see if he’s working shirtless on his lawn. His naked torso is beautifully sensuous, with a powerful chest tapering down to a slender waist with well-defined muscles. It’s a prelude to undressing him with my eyes.
Well, maybe I’ve driven by more than occasionally—okay, maybe several times a week. But that’s only in the summer.
Looks aside, I have always found myself intrigued by his vast knowledge of literature and history. I suppose I’m as much in love with his brain as I am with his body.
I never did have a poker face, so I must rein myself in when we have fleeting conversations after in-service training. Otherwise, I would go totally giddy from the inevitable fantasies that race through my head.
In the romance novel authored by my fantasies, J. L. is my lover. He pushes all the right buttons—his bronze skin, his kindness, his intellect, his dashing good looks in his brown tweed suit, matching hat, and brogue shoes.
And, oh yes, his ever-so-sophisticated meerschaum pipe and Prince Albert apple-spiced tobacco.
When I have orgasms, they’re always with my dream lover, J. L., not with a handsome fictional lover on the cover of a pulp romance holding a willowy virgin against his glistening manliness.
I don’t think of it as cheating when a married man takes on a mistress. Why? Because a mistress satisfies needs that a wife can’t possibly fulfill. Someone he can talk to without ever being criticized. Someone to pull out the Kama Sutra and practice a few positions that his wife might find embarrassing or even disgusting. Someone to praise his accomplishments and support his ambitions. Someone to welcome him into a house with no barking dogs or screaming children. And someone who never complains of a headache.
As far as I’m concerned, every successful man deserves a devoted wife—and an admiring mistress. Powerful men throughout history have had their concubines and their mistresses for good reason—they appreciate the softness of an admiring woman, and her special talent to make them feel important and proud of their accomplishments. Someone who cares enough about them to want them to be happy.
On the other hand, when a mistress is appreciated by a quality man, her life is improved as well. Such a man will lavish her with affection and show his appreciation with an occasional gift.
I have often asked myself why I didn’t find a man of my own in Tallahassee when I studied at A&M. A young professor, perhaps?
Now, I’m into my late twenties and overly educated for most colored men’s liking. Besides, I’ve never been willing to take in a man—no matter how physically attractive—who relies on my income while considering it his right as man of the house to boss me around. What’s a girl to do?
After considerable deliberation, I resolved that there are only two alternatives: I can be either a girlfriend or a mistress. I’ve always believed that the difference between a mistress and a girlfriend is that a girlfriend is a dreamer who lives in a fantasy, always expecting her man to divorce his wife and marry her. A mistress, on the other hand, is a pragmatist who wants her lover to stay married so she can enjoy the best he has to give while she maintains her freedom.
I suppose that’s the real reason I’ve never married. Not because I couldn’t, but because I’ve always treasured my freedom. The idea of being a “Mrs. J. L. Hopps” and losing my personal identity is repugnant. I am Lucy Brown, and I will always be Lucy Brown, and that’s that.
Maybe I’m cut of a different cloth from most single women who sit around like giddy-headed schoolgirls, obsessively penning their married names in meticulous cursive before their nuptials. Then, after the ceremony, there is the marriage license—which is little more than her husband’s title to her—like the title to his house or car.
And in Florida, if a man dies without a will, the case goes into probate, and his wife is entitled to only a child’s share of her husband’s inheritance, even though she has pulled an equal yoke over the course of their entire marriage. I know a woman who lost her house to her three offspring who turned on her for their inheritance after their father died. Poor thing couldn’t afford to buy their shares from them, so her house was sold—the very house where she had delivered those three greedy little monsters into the world.
I recalled my mother telling me that I was different from other girls, that I’d end up being an old maid if I didn’t stop “talkin’ crazy.” I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, spin her around and tell her to take a good look in the mirror. I wanted to tell her that crazy to me was the abuse she put up with from her three ex-husbands. But I never did. God rest her soul.
Anyway, I wished that I could find a book on the art of seducing a man. Not in a salacious sort of way, of course, but with style and sophistication. So far, I haven’t found that book, and I haven’t quite mastered the art of being a mistress well enough to write it.
After all, a woman can dress only so seductively and still conduct herself as a schoolteacher. And my love of teaching is the one thing I won’t trade for the love of any man, even J. L.
Maybe, instead of listing ingredients for a man of quality, I should make a list of ingredients that such a man would find attractive in a mistress. Okay, here goes.
Good in bed
Finishing the list, I glanced up at a photograph on my dresser. It’s of me as the prom queen at Douglass High, class of ‘29. There I am, sitting on the rumble seat of a Plymouth in my billowing white prom gown, waving to my admiring crowd.
Atop my head is a sparkling tiara. Meanwhile, in the background stands a wealthy banker alumnus who lost everything in the crash later that year and hanged himself in his attic.
I really was an attractive young thing—five-feet-five, with a thin yet curvy build and a smooth light milk chocolate face that a black-and-white photograph just couldn’t capture.
I often indulge in a fantasy of walking down the high school hallway again, savoring admiring looks from the boys and jealous glances from the girls.
I will always treasure that photograph, and the memories it freezes in time.
A sobering thought snapped me out of my fantasy. Fourteen ingredients for a mistress, and only eleven for a quality man of color? And why should that be surprising?
You know what they say. Ginger Rogers does everything Fred Astaire does—but backwards and in high heels.
The Three Spot
Seems like the past six days got sandwiched between two Friday nights with nothing interesting to savor in the middle—just the usual paycheck and a stack of English papers to grade.
Bored with my usual pulp romance novel, I decided to have a drink at the Three Spot, J. L.’s jook and the only place in town for coloreds to socialize over a drink and snacks.
I entered the Three Spot to see the usual cloud of smoke hovering over the bar, fed by cigarettes dangling from the mouths of scruffy men in work-soiled overalls and muddy boots.
Louis Armstrong’s “I’m in the Mood for Love” trumpeted from the Wurlitzer in the back, drowned out by the raucous laughter of customers leaning into their booze. Several painted ladies in tight skirts far too short for the dress code at Douglass High stared intently at their dates across round tin-topped tables fashioned from spent telephone cable spools. Their job was to feign interest in the liquored-up babble of men playing it rich for the night from the payout on the quarter they had bet on the illegal game of bolita. Three lucky numbers paid out five to ten bucks every Friday, depending on how many people gambled on the numbers during the week.
For a single colored woman who scrapes out a bare living at twenty-five cents an hour, a Friday night date with free liquor and music at the Three Spot is a reprieve from a week of cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors for white folks. I had also heard that any service more intimate than tolerating their boor of the evening came with a modest surcharge.