There’s nothing more beautiful than a black man.
His boldness, his confidence, the power in his stance
When he’s strong, he’s invincible—do not get in his way
No force in nature tougher; there’s nothing he can’t face
There’s nothing more beautiful than a black man
But this please understand
He’s not so hard as not to love, but giving his heart is rare
If he’s down for you, he’ll hold you down, but handle him with care
For, there’s nothing more beautiful than a black man,
His sense of protectiveness, his loyalty and…
The way you see the soul of him when you look into his eyes
Magnificent, exquisite, wonderful and wise
There’s nothing more beautiful than a black man…
“Caitlyn! Caitlyn! Over here!!!” Caitlyn plastered on a smile as she prepared to face what could only be her mother’s dainty “yoo-hoo” tone. Here we go, she thought, knowing that each step towards her parents was leading her closer to her mother’s scrutinizing appraisal. Inevitably, her mother would find something wrong with her appearance, and her father would question her endlessly as to John’s noticeable absence. Bracing herself, Caitlyn gently hugged her mother, careful not to muss her hair and participated in the bourgeois ritual of bestowing air kisses to each side of her face. Wouldn’t her mother’s European ancestors be proud? She thought, sarcastically.
Caitlyn had to give credit where credit was due. No matter how pretentious her mother could sometimes be, it was obvious that Patricia Cannon was a lady in every sense of the word. Her sense of style, beauty and class could not be denied. For this occasion she had chosen a simple A-line sheath in classic black and cream with a black silk shawl draped around her shoulders. An envelope clutch with matching bone colored sandals, a dainty diamond and pearl earring and bracelet set that just happened to be replicated in the hair jewelry loosely securing her silken reddish brown hair in a regal up-do allowing just enough wayward curls to accent her regal cheekbones completed the look. A black Princess Diana…that was it…it finally came to Caitlyn; the perfect words to describe the picture of perfection that was her mother.
Caitlyn’s dad had often told anyone who would listen that there was no luckier man on earth, for he had found his angel…his African Queen. Looking at him watching her, even now, after 38 years of marriage, it was obvious that he revered her as royalty. Though her mother often overshadowed her dad because of her outspoken, outgoing nature; no one could deny that Phillip Cannon Sr. was a giant among men. At six foot three, 240 lbs, with smooth mocha skin, dimples in each cheek, and a muscular frame he maintained by jogging and bench pressing on a regular basis, her father still garnered his share of attention. Together they were a formidable couple in more ways than one.
As Caitlyn stepped out of her mother’s embrace, the appraisal of her appearance began. “I see you finally decided to wear the suit I bought for your birthday. Coral is such a pretty color on you dear. And those shoes are perfect! But, oh my God, Caitlyn!! What have you done to your hair??? Your beautiful hair?? Turn around, oh no! Baby, what would possess you to cut your hair that short? What did John have to say about this? Lord, have mercy, you know a woman’s hair is her glory! Phillip!! Phillip! Look at your daughter! Can you believe…?”
“Yes, Trish, Look at our daughter! She is more beautiful each time I see her. Your mother is right princess! You are very pretty in pink!” Caitlyn’s dad laughed as he winked at her before grabbing her for a big bear hug. Her daddy always knew just what to say to make her feel better. She held on to him for as long as she could, inhaling his familiar scent and feeling a sense of security that only he could provide.
“Thank you, daddy! I wore it just for you!!” Caitlyn said in her most dramatic voice, joining her dad in a conspiratorial wink.
“Oh you two!!! It is Coral, not Pink! Coral!” her mother exclaimed exasperated, but ignoring the hint to back off. “Don’t ignore me, Caitlyn. What does John have to say about this new haircut of yours? And where is the handsome devil anyway?”
“Yeah, baby, where is John? We need to check out the new golf course while we’re in town. He owes me a rematch after that last round! I know these greens like the back of my hand. No way he’ll beat me here.” Her father swore, referring to his love of golfing at the local country club located just a few blocks from his Alma Mater.
“Mom! Dad!” Caitlyn and her parents turned to see Phillip, Jr. heading their way carrying his cap and gown. Saved by the bell, Caitlyn thought, taking this opportunity to run to meet her brother and hug him as if she hadn’t seen him in months instead of just minutes ago.
As her mother and father joined them, Caitlyn and her mom stood in complete adoration of father and son as they greeted each other with their ritualistic shoulder hug and handshake. “There’s nothing more beautiful than a black man.” Caitlyn barely hear her mother utter those words under her breath and smiled at her in agreement. Her father and her brother were beautiful inside and out. Although her brother was going through his “ho” phase at the moment, she was sure he would be just as committed as his dad once the right woman came along. She wasn’t, however, quite sure what woman would finally be able to resist the game long enough to provide her brother with the challenge necessary to capture his heart. Bridgette, the love of his life, had left him so damaged that Caitlyn was afraid he would be mackin’ for many years to come. It was going to take a strong woman to break through that wall he had built up around himself.
“What are you two staring at?” Phillip Sr. asked with a suspicious grin on his face.
“Oh…Nothing” both ladies replied simultaneously, looked at each other and laughed. “We’d better get going.” Caitlyn’s mom exclaimed, glancing at her watch. “Phillip, you’re going to be late for your own graduation if you don’t hurry and get lined up.”
“Awe, mom…how long does it take to put on a cap and gown, anyway?” Phillip smirked as he pulled his mom into his arms for one last hug. “I’ll see you guys in a few!! And guys…no air-horns or screams when they call my name, OK? I know it’s going to be hard for you to control yourselves and all, but just let the honeys do all the screaming.” He laughed as he trotted towards the stadium.
“Boy, please!” His mom exclaimed “If I hear any honeys screaming, I’m going to introduce myself to them after the ceremony and see if they are interested in giving me any grandchildren!!!” She yelled at Phillip Jr.’s retreating back.
“Patricia! Don’t scare the boy.” Their dad admonished as Phillip, Jr. nearly tripped over his own feet when he heard his mother’s threat.
“JUST KIDDING!!!” They both yelled at the same time causing yet another comedic outburst.
“Now where did you say John was, dear?” her mother asked as they turned to head towards the spectator seats.
“uuuugh!!” Caitlyn groaned inwardly.
Picking up on his daughter’s discomfort, Phillip Sr. quickly intervened. “Patricia dear, isn’t that Broadway Joe from Power 92?”
“Oh my God! It is him! P.J. said he would be here. I didn’t realize that he and Fitzgerald Hill were such good friends.” Caitlyn’s mom said in reference to the popular D.J.’s attendance at the graduation ceremony in which Fitzgerald, former Razorback defensive coordinator and current president of Arkansas Baptist University, would be giving the commencement address. Phillip Sr. knew that his wife was a faithful “Toast and Jam” fan who started each morning with the Broadway Joe Morning Show. Her favorite part of the show was the Power People Poll Question of the Day. This morning’s topic in particular sparked her interest and as usual she had a definite opinion that she insisted upon drawing Phillip Sr. into a debate over. A woman called in and asked if it was appropriate for the pastor of a church to stand in the pulpit and encourage his members to vote for one particular politician, claiming that a vote for the other candidate was a vote against all that the Christianity stood for. Of all the things Patricia was proud of, being a Christian and a die hard Democrat were the two things of which she was the proudest. Therefore, she took offense to the thought of anyone, especially a so-called man of God implying that her support of that particular candidate made her less of a Christian. Phillip still got tickled thinking of the colorful things his usually demure wife shouted at the car radio earlier. She called that man everything but a child of God. He almost felt sorry for Broadway Joe as he watched his wife march towards him. Judging from her stride, she was determined to get to him before he reached his seat. No doubt to take this opportunity to share the opinion she failed to share this morning due to a busy signal each time she tried to call in. If it weren’t for the fact that the doggone Power People Poll Question had caused so many disagreements in his home, he might have attempted to divert Patricia, but the way he saw it good ole Broadway Joe deserved to know how his most faithful listener felt. He barely contained his mischievous grin as he turned his attention back to his obviously troubled baby girl.
“OK Princess. What gives? And don’t you dare say there’s nothing wrong. I know when something is bothering my baby no matter how well she tries to hide it.” Caitlyn’s dad began as he placed an arm around her shoulders, guiding them towards their seats. “And you’d better hurry up and share. I don’t know how much more poor Broadway Joe will be able to take and still maintain his fan base.” He chuckled.
“You know you were wrong for that, don’t you?” Caitlyn laughed. “You need to be keeping an eye on your wife over there…I know Joe might be a little young for her, but she’s always said he has the sexiest voice of any man she ever met. Except you, of course dad.” Caitlyn added as a precautionary measure.
“Ha! Ha! Now I don’t mean to keep beating a dead horse, but where is John? That’s the power poll people question of the hour as well as the source of your discomfort, if I’m guessing correctly.” Her father teased.
“Long story short.” Caitlyn began, aware that her mother’s tirade appeared to be coming to an end. “Something came up at the last minute, and John had to work. He said he’d try to join us later on if possible, but I told him not to worry about it. He really wanted to be here, but I knew he’d be too tired to make such a long drive after working so late. He’s planning to meet me tomorrow though. He’s really sorry he’ll miss your golf game and I know he’ll make it up to you when we get back home.” Caitlyn explained, carefully choosing her words to avoid outright lying to her dad. She didn’t want anyone knowing how deeply it hurt that even though she had practically begged, John refused to take off work to attend the ceremony. And she knew her father would not be happy if he knew John wasn’t going to make the trip at all. He liked John well enough, but thought that he spent too much time at the office and not enough time with Caitlyn, especially when it came to family gatherings.
“Oh, I see.” Her father said. “He had something more important to do than attend his future brother-in law’s college graduation. Caitlyn, you know I think John is great. It’s obvious the boy is going to do great things, but I’m beginning to question his priorities. Don’t get me wrong, your relationship is just that…yours, BUT, I don’t want to see you become a workaholic’s widow. So, even though it is obvious that you two appear to be the perfect couple, just be sure he is going to be able to give you the attention you demand and deserve. Here comes your mother. We’ll continue this discussion later, ok?”
“OK, daddy, but it’s no big deal, really. I just don’t want to discuss it with mom because you know how dramatic she can be. Bob just walked in and I promised I’d save him a seat.” Caitlyn said as she pulled out her cell to call Bob. “We’ll sit right down here below you and mom, if that’s ok.”
“Just don’t go too far, baby girl. You know how your mother feels about Bob.”
“I know, that’s why it’s probably best if we sit a row or two down. I’m glad the seats are filing up so it doesn’t look so obvious.”
“Don’t worry, baby. I’ll make sure your mother is so preoccupied with me and the many fashion faux pas around here that she won’t think about John again at least for the duration of the graduation. I make no promises about dinner tonight though. Of course, if you were to invite Bob…I’m sure he could keep her riled up about something else.” He winked.
Everyone knew Patricia though Bob was a spoiled brat playboy who would never amount to anything. She was also convinced that he had designs on Caitlyn. Her mission in life was to marry Bob off to someone…anyone else, but Caitlyn. She could understand why Caitlyn, LJ and Teia remained friends after high school, but she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why they all were so close to Bob. Patricia was still firmly grounded in the old school of thought that there was no such thing as mere friendship between a man and a woman. It probably didn’t help matters that Bob was as big a womanizer as P.J., perhaps even worse. Patricia was certain that Bob was a bad influence on P.J., and she was just as certain that he wanted more from Caitlyn than friendship; although Caitlyn appeared oblivious to that fact.
“Boyfriend is FYIINE!!!”
“You ain’t said nothin’ but a word girl. That man is all that and some change!”
“NOOO, my sistah! You gotta get your own. I saw him first!!”
“Oh yeah! Well, possession is nine tenths of the law and I’m about to get my hands on that!” the taller of the two women proclaimed.
Caitlyn looked around to see if she could spot the supreme specimen the two women walking in front of her were appraising. She got tickled when she realized he was none other than her “Boy Friday” Bob.
“They better ask somebody” she thought to herself. If they knew how big a playa Bob was, they wouldn’t be wasting their time competing for his attention; they’d know he would gladly service them both…in the same night even, if there were any truth to his scandalous reputation. And Caitlyn was quite sure it was all true. Bob was a definite chick magnet with his tall, dark, dangerous good looks. She had to admit, if she didn’t know him, she might even find him irresistible. Who wouldn’t? Bob was an imposing six foot three inch, deep chocolate brother with a body to die for. He worked out on a regular and it was obvious even in the loose fitting slacks and wife beater he was currently sporting. The boy was ripped! Add all of that to the fact that he had gorgeous eyes with lashes better suited for a woman, big feet with an even bigger bank account and it was easy to see the attraction.
Caitlyn decided to be a Good Samaritan and save the ladies from themselves. Instead of calling Bob to alert him to her position as she had originally planned, she decided to rush past the feuding females to greet him face to face.
Bob was so busy flirting; he didn’t even notice Caitlyn approaching him and was caught completely off guard when she hurled herself into his arms.
“Hey baby! Looking for me?” Caitlyn asked as she pulled him into her embrace and planted a soft kiss on his lips.
Momentarily stunned and thinking thoughts best left alone, Bob quickly recovered by drawing Caitlyn back into his embrace and attempting a much less platonic display.
“Not here, sweetheart!!” Caitlyn ground out in a saccharine bittersweet tone meant to warn Bob and deceive their audience.
“I figured if you were going to block, I might as well tackle!” Bob whispered in her ear as he smacked her ass. “By the way…nice haircut! I almost didn’t recognize the new you. For a minute there I thought you might have been one of my freaks stalking me and thangs!!”
“Alright, alright already!! I give up!” Caitlyn laughed, linking her arm through his. “I was just trying to spare you the naughty plans Cruella and her evil twin over there had for your tired ass! But if you wanna roll like that….”
“HMMM…that depends…what were they planning exactly?” Bob teased, raising one eyebrow and licking his lips seductively.
“ I only caught part of it, but I distinctly recall hearing something about bondage, whips, and cameras..” Caitlyn began. “So if you’re down, I’m sure I can go back over there and negotiate a fee for services promised!” she continued.
“HELL TO THE NAW!!! I’ll take my chances with your mother first!!” Bob protested, knowing that Caitlyn was alluding to the night he got drunk at a frat party and woke up tied to the bed with Big Beth leaning over him. He still wasn’t sure if it was just a cruel joke or if he actually slept with her, though he was pretty sure he would have had more bruises had she really ridden him like she claimed she did. To this day, his fraternity brothers refused to come clean! Thankfully LJ couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it, and against all protests, had let it slip that T.L.C. (Teia, LJ and Caitlyn) had convinced his dogs to set him up and teach him a lesson about his whorish ways. Good thing he had a soft spot for those girls, ‘cause he wasn’t quite sure he would have had such a good sense of humor had anyone else scared him shitless like that. Of course, everyone knew he could never stay mad at Caitlyn for very long.
“I thought you’d see it my way.” Caitlyn said, laughing at the exaggerated expression of pain Bob displayed.
“Now be a good boy, and play along at least until we get to our seats! Mom can’t wait to see you again!”
“On second thought, maybe I ought to take my chances with Cruella and company!” Bob attempted to turn back towards his admirers only to be jerked back around by Caitlyn who gently guided him in the direction of her parent’s seats.
“OK!!! I’ll go with you THIS TIME. But tell me again, why is it that I let you talk me into this?”
“Because, your being here will keep my mind and my mother’s mind off of the fact that John is not! And besides…you were coming to the graduation anyway and you said yourself you didn’t want to be tied down to what’s-her-name tonight. This way, we both get what we want. As soon as dinner is over, you are free to “mack” again. Phillip assures me that there will be plenty of “honeys” at his party tonight and mom and dad will be long gone by then.”
“Oh Yeah!! Now I remember! John has kept you so busy that you haven’t had much time for me or any of your other friends and suddenly out of the blue, you called me for the first time in over a month because you don’t want to have to explain to your mother why her perfect future son-in-law bailed on you and you know she wouldn’t dare discuss family business in front of the likes of moi. Does that about sum it up?” Bob teased.
“In a nutshell!” Caitlyn affirmed.
“Well, that explains why you wanted me here, but it sure as hell doesn’t explain why I agreed to the torture I’m about to endure with yo mamma!” Bob whispered as they approached a frowning Patricia Cannon.
“Just remember you love me and that’s what friends are for.” Caitlyn whispered back, forcing a smile on her face to match the fake one Bob was now displaying.
“If only you knew.” Bob thought to himself as he prepared to maintain his composure. “Mr. and Mrs. Cannon! How nice to see you again! It’s been so long. And Mrs. Cannon, I swear you are lovelier each time we meet!” he gushed as he lifted Patricia Cannon’s hand to his lips in an attempt to kiss it.
“Yes, Bob….it’s a pity we saw each other only last month. No telling how gorgeous I could have been had you waited a bit longer to reappear.” Patricia drawled, half teasingly, half serious and quickly removing her hand from his grasp.
“Patricia, dear, let’s get situated. They’re playing our song.” Phillip Sr. interrupted referring to the distinct intro to Pomp and Circumstance being played by the school band.
Good old dad to the rescue. Caitlyn was relieved to finally be able to take her seat and get ready to enjoy the ceremony. Hopefully, Fitzgerald wasn’t going to be too long winded, because from the looks of this book of graduates they could be there a while and she wasn’t so sure how much longer she and her dad could run interference.
“You owe me BIG TIME!” Bob leaned over to whisper in her ear as Caitlyn, her mom and dad began clapping and cheering when Phillip Jr. marched by. “You don’t really want to start keeping score, now do you?” Caitlyn inquired, reminding Bob that she had run interference for him on more than one occasion to get him out of some scrape or another; usually involving an obsessed female.
“Yeah, but having to play nice with your mom ought to make us even, don’t you agree?”
Caitlyn shot him a fake grin and replied noncommittally “Sure….Sure.” For the rest of the ceremony, the two settled back into their familiar routine and caught up on the haps of the last month since they had seen each other.
Later on that night back at P.J.’s apartment, Caitlyn reminisced on the evenings events as she prepared to change into something a little more comfortable for the graduation bash. Things could have been worse, she thought…drifting back to the one tense moment when John called her during dinner. She hit the ignore button on her cell as quickly as possible, but her mother wasn’t one to miss much and immediately asked “Who was that dear? Wasn’t that your phone?”
She quickly apologized about forgetting to turn her phone off during dinner, knowing how much her mother doted on proper etiquette, and excused herself to go to the ladies room. Apparently, this caused her mother to become even more suspicious, because Caitlyn emerged from the stall to find Patricia in the mirror powdering her nose.
“Tell me, Caitlyn dear, how long did you think you would get away with avoiding my questions?” her mother asked, never taking her eyes from the mirror.
“For the rest of the night maybe?” Caitlyn answered sheepishly
“Don’t be droll dear, it isn’t becoming.” Patricia responded patiently. She returned her compact to the clutch resting on the basin and stepped back to allow Caitlyn room to wash her hands. “So what is going on with you and what’s his name out there?” she continued.
“Mother, you’ve known Bob since we were in the sixth grade. His name is not that difficult to remember.” Caitlyn admonished
“True, but I would certainly like to have the chance to forget it. Did you notice how shamelessly he was flirting with our hostess? As tasteless as that was, however, I must admit I was glad to see him taking an interest in someone other than you. Hopefully that means he is really just here as Phillip’s friend.”
“Why else would he be here mother?” Caitlyn asked
“Well, who knows?” Patricia answered feigning exasperation. “I mean, you must admit it does look rather suspicious that he showed up at the graduation and sat with you, then rode with you to dinner and no one ever even mentioned John’s absence. Which leads me to the real question—-where is John?”
Caitlyn knew this was coming, but still was unprepared to lie to her mother. Those piercing eyes and the way she was tapping her heeled foot reminded Caitlyn of the few times she had actually disappointed her mother. She felt like she was seventeen again and refusing to return to Girl’s State as a counselor. You would have thought she’d gotten pregnant the way her mother carried on about her lack of responsibility. She had no excuse that would appease her mother then, and she certainly couldn’t fabricate one to fit this situation.
“John had to work mother, it’s as simple as that.” Caitlyn responded, unable to hide the hostility in her voice.
“Don’t you take that tone with me, young lady!” Her mother reprimanded. “It’s not my fault you didn’t give John enough notice to allow him to take off to be with you.” She continued.
Caitlyn was sure that she had heard her mother wrong, but Patricia continued saying “ That’s right, I called John after you wouldn’t answer my question earlier, and he said you waited until the last minute to tell him about the graduation so he didn’t have a chance to get out of the business meetings he had scheduled. Honestly, Caitlyn, how could you have been so thoughtless? It’s your own fault and you shouldn’t have tried to make him feel guilty for having to work when you’ve known about this date for months, but only told him last week.”
Caitlyn was stunned. She didn’t know what shocked her most; the fact that John had lied to make himself look better, or the fact that her mother had overstepped her bounds and believed John’s excuses. Rather than continue the conversation and risk further distressing her mother, Caitlyn decided to let her believe what she wanted. She would deal with John later. “I’ve just been so busy mother. I thought I had told John, but I guess I didn’t. I don’t know why he thought I was upset, I understood perfectly. I’ll just have to call him to reassure him that everything is ok.”
“That’s a good girl.” Patricia purred, running her hands through Caitlyn’s hair to smooth it back around her ears. “A man doesn’t like to feel guilty about working to have the better things in life. You know John is only thinking about securing a good future for the two of you and he doesn’t need anything from you but support and if you don’t give it to him, there are plenty of other women out there just waiting for a man with benefits. Take it from mother, honey. Take care of your man and he will take care of you.” Patricia gently warned before turning her attention back to the wall length mirror.
That replay of the highlight reel from the night’s events caused Caitlyn to get stuck on one particular message that annoyingly played over and over again in her mind. She kept rewinding the conversation with her mother and one sound bite echoed repeatedly “ If you don’t give it to him, there are plenty of other women out there…” Convinced that she was just being overly sensitive because of John’s absence, Caitlyn brushed off her sudden desire to check up on him and opted instead to wait for him to call her back and apologize for his thoughtlessness and deceit. She couldn’t believe he’d had the audacity to lie to her parents and make it look like she was being less than understanding. Things like that had been happening just a little too much lately, and Caitlyn planned to address her concerns with John as soon as he called, which really should have been hours ago already. She double checked her cell phone to make sure she had no missed calls, then pumped the volume up to the highest level plus vibrate, just in case the music was too loud to her it ring once the party began.
Unsure exactly what mix of friends Phillip had invited to celebrate his graduation, Caitlyn was torn between bourgeois or hood attire, so she settled for compromise in the form of a short white flouncy skirt trimmed in black with a sleeveless scallop neck black tank.. She chose black wedge heeled sandals for a trendy look that complimented her big legs, sprayed a mist of her favorite perfume, Aqua Di Gio, and walked through it out the bedroom door towards the music she could hear bumping in the distance. She was so busy trying to secure her leather phone case to the waist of her skirt that she didn’t notice the couple arguing in the entryway between the bedroom hallway and the great room until she literally collided with the man just as she heard the woman saying “I guess that’s why yo’ triflin’ ass didn’t want me to come with you tonight, so you could get with one of these HOOCHIE HOS flittin’ around in here half naked…” and that was all Caitlyn heard as she bumped into the somewhat perturbed “triflin’ ass” who immediately reached out to brace her as she twisted her ankle in her tortuous wedge heels. She grabbed his arms to keep from falling and the immediate thought in her mind when she felt how his muscles rippled while he gripped her, was “he might be trifling, but he’s strong as hell..” As she looked up to say she was sorry and to thank him for preventing her fall she noticed two things: 1.— she was once again looking into the most intense eyes she had ever seen on a man; the same gaze that had caused her to cream her panties earlier in Wal-Mart—non other than “You took my breath away, please call me, Jay” and 2. If looks could kill, she would have been incinerated on the spot, because whoever Jay’s girlfriend was and however mad she might have been earlier, the way she was looking at Caitlyn over Jay’s shoulders right now sent a powerful message that Caitlyn felt quite sure she could interpret telepathically…. She seemed to be saying “Bitch, I will KILL you, if you don’t back up off my man!”