Sydney and Dre. Can we first just talk about how dope Brown Sugar was? It is still in my top five of must-watch-at-least-a-million-times movies. “You, are the perfect verse over a tight beat.” That line is still melting hearts almost twenty years later.

One of the things that I brush off of my shoulders quite confidently is the dyn-o-mite connection I have with my male friends. Married, straight, single and gay, I have an entire arsenal of testosterone, support and love that rivals some of my best female friendships.  Men are just different.  Now, as different as they are it takes a lot to earn their trust, and if there is a special someone in their life, you have to earn hers too. It’s law.

And here’s a double whammy: if that wife, significant other or latest love interest ain’t feeling this “chick that you call your sister” aka me, then I fall back. I’m a woman before I’m a friend and understand how to the naked eye, that shit just does not look kosher and not interested in twisting anyone’s arms to make them understand it.

But I’m a different breed.  These friendships didn’t stem from previous romantic encounters.  We vibe.  That’s it and that’s all.  I could say that it’s my inner tomboy coming out to play but enjoying a night out with my best guys is no different than hitting the streets with my best girls. Wayment,  it’s even better. Sorry girls!

With the guys, there’s no emphasis on anything other than getting out of the house.  It’s not about what to wear, who’s going to be there, is it open bar, are they serving food, who cooked, etc., etc. e-fucking-tc.   Men are late for everything, first of all. And so am I.  When they pull up, the music is thumping from the speakers, the cup is in the holder with a nice shot of something nice and neat,  the puff-puff is waiting to be passed-passed and we out.  If we’re going somewhere that requires some pizzazz and dressing up, oooh they pump you up so good!

 “YOOOO! YOU GOT YOUR GOOD SHIT ON! CAME OUT THIS BITCH LOOKING LIKE A STALLION!” and we die laughing.  If they come through because they need to talk some things out, I shut up and listen and think about how blessed I am to be their safe place.  I give them truth though.   I’m doing it for us for real ladies.  They hear it different from me. One other thing about these dynamic platonic friendships and the amazing parts of them that they share with me, nothing compares to hearing them talk about love. Oh, they love them some you. They may not be getting it right everyday, but they love the hell out of you all.

I get the inside scoop on everything.  I ask ‘why in the hell do you feel so comfortable telling me that?! I’m a girl dammit!” and they’ll respond snidely with, “Man, you ain’t no girl. You’re Janell.”

But things can happen and I’m not talking about intimacy.  A male friend of twenty years  broke my heart.  He and his girl were arguing and I somehow ended up sandwiched between them. Before I could remove myself, he exploded.  He placed me in a head lock and ended up slamming my body into an arcade game. It was blind rage. He was upset with her and grabbed the first thing he could get his hands on.  Unfortunately, it was me.

I ran out of the restaurant, away from twenty years of friendship. I’ve had more than my share of dating and relationship violence, and he had always been my safe place. I was devastated and made the very tough choice to never speak to him again.

Oh, but when the good times roll!

There was this one time when a group of us went to check out a mutual friend’s new lounge.  It was still early when we left so we ended up uptown on Strip Club Row and had an epic night! I was the only female and felt like boss walking through the city streets with my guys. That’s how it is, always epic and easy and I’m never going to do anything to compromise that bond.

The most important thing though, is respecting unavailable men.  Most of my guy friends became my friend while they were single. The dynamic had to change when their status change and that’s where people get it twisted.  We can’t be out here battling with girlfriends, wives and love interest with this best friend shit. Nah, love.  Late night breakfast runs, calling them to vent about some dumb-ass dude at 1am, oh hell no.  You are placed in a new position once they become acquired folk and you either stay there respectfully,  or you get the fuck gone.  But again, I’m a different breed.

I remember having a conversation with one of their wives, and I thanked her for allowing our friendship to exist, for trusting me to be all up and in his space.  She cooly said, “We love you. And honestly, I don’t have a problem with your friendship with my husband because I trust my husband.” School ’em Tiff!   Those lines don’t blur because in those circumstances, they aren’t necessary. They are my friends. They are gross, disgusting boys with amazing, beautiful women in their lives who I respect with everything in me. End of story.

What happens when the only boundary is friendship and he’s available? Well, most of my single male friends are whores (sorry, ladies.).   Those charming chumps are something else.

There was this one time though…. *que Jill Scott’s “Why Does My Body Ignore What My Mind Says”*


I had known him since junior high school.  We came from two different sides of the track – he was worked up and I was not. And that settled it.  As teens, we’d be out with our respective circles, hanging at parties and as soon as he walked in leading his motley crew of knuckleheads, me and my girls would roll. Those guys stayed starting fights!  Years later, I ran into him at a local bar and was like, “well damn, life has settled his poor little worked up soul.” He was mature and interesting, but I was just happy to see that life had been good to him.  He hadn’t gotten caught in the streets and he was alive and well. Good.

We reacquainted through mutual friends and our friendship grew. He became my dude, my one.  We had never even hung outside of our friends, but there was a closeness, something safe and familiar that I navigated towards. No feelings, no naughty thoughts, he became a true blue friend.  I could sleep next to him in a bed fully clothed, I could spend hours on the phone laughing and cutting up.  My plus one for everything, and my beat-me-to-the-dance-floor partner. This, was my dude, right?

Then he blindsided me with a very direct testament. About feelings. I hadn’t acknowledged that any even existed.  One day, during one of our hour long phone calls he says, “Some people like to spend a lifetime pretending that they don’t feel a certain way about one another.  They hide behind jokes and other people instead.” I agreed.

Until he said, “Like us.”

I attempted to stutter through a response with nervous laughter but what had really knocked a pause in me was the movie reel of encounters.  I thought about two in particular. We were out dancing.  It was a slow dance.  I made the mistake of letting the inhibition of the alcohol play with my head.  While we danced I closed my eyes and let my head rest on his shoulder a bit.  I even held him a little closer than I should’ve and almost pulled back until I felt him pull me closer too.  I opened my eyes until I noticed that his eyes were closed too. Damn it, girl.

And then, there was this one time that he was helping me carry something from my car and asked me to kiss him. I pecked him on the cheek, and laughed (laughing is what I do when I’m nervous, just in case you haven’t picked up on that.). He said, “No. Kiss me on my lips.” I did. He said, “Put your tongue in my mouth.” I hollered, hell no! But I wanted to so bad.

I sat on the phone thinking and thought about everything and I realized that he was right. It was weird.

Everything became so amplified and awkward. My feelings included. I let my feelings and lots of liquor lead me into his bedroom one night. Well, too bad that liquid courage doesn’t linger.  I woke up the next morning hungover and guilty. I just wanted to grab my things and run. But I didn’t. He was awake and we laid there like, Umm so..we actually did it?

And then something else happened.

We laid there talking for what felt like hours and hours. We shared shit, deep shit. We cried, we held each other, we listened, we laughed,  we were so vulnerable and open, and then we were silent. He said, “Do you want to do it again?” I said quietly, “Yes.” He asked if I was sure and I said yes.  It was the most gentle, intense lovemaking that I have ever experienced in my life.  He made love to my entire body. The way he kissed me, the way he touched me. I had never.  We were so into each other that it felt as if we were one.  It was endearing.   It was intimate.  It was out of this world. And it was a mistake.

We hooked up a few other times. Each time better than the first, as if that were even possible.  But shit outside of the bedroom changed. The coolness of our friendship became stiff.  The flirting disappeared. And we weren’t talking. No more phone calls. Or just not our hours of laughter and convo phone calls. Everything was quick and detached. I’d became the  “Wya, you coming through?” after midnight friend. Behind closed doors, we were among the stars and comets. Walking out of the bedroom door, I felt valley low.

I didn’t want to become that woman.  I had become that woman.  Nah, I couldn’t go out like that.  I tucked my feelings in my jacket pocket with my bra and walked out of his bedroom one final time, knowing that I’d never walk back in. The walk of shame wasn’t about creeping to my car at sunrise. Shit, I had that down to a science.  What I didn’t have down-packed was the fact that I had called this a friendship the entire time when i knew many years ago, when he walked into that bar with all of that handsomeness going on, that I was digging him.  I sat on my hands and he pulled them from under me, and that’s where we left it. Two people, afraid of taking a leap into something.  It could all be so simple.

I walked away. He continued to walk into other encounters. And I refused to look back.

While I chose to love him from way over here, where there are boundaries and mixed messages, I still hold him close. I love him, and he loves me too.  We are not in love.  We don’t keep in touch and in some ways I think it’s best.  Our last deep conversation still resonates with me.  We talked about how we saw each other.  He told me that I possess this power that you can’t describe. He called it magnetic.  “You think it’s your pussy, but it’s not. It’s bigger than that.” Wow.

I told him, that he felt like home to me.

I miss the comfortable, familiar flow of whatever we want to call our experience. We didn’t end up with scribbled notes of “will you go with me?” and a heated confession of love, like Syd and Dre.  Man, we cried together. That is love.  And it goes deeper than any stroke he could ever trace my hips with.

He will forever be my perfect verse, over every beat of my heart.





2 thoughts on “If At First You Walk The Line, You Will Eventually Cross It.

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