The Antonio Roberts Series : Antonio Roberts_The Boat

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July 99

My mother always told me to look my best when I went on a job interview. That's the one thing she taught me that I never forgot. But as I walked into the ballroom where the job fair was being held, I saw chicks dressed like they were scheduled for an appearance on Soul Train .

One thuggish looking guy had on a fisherman's hat pulled down over his cornrows. Another girl had on a t-shirt and jogging pants.

I didn't know about them, but I needed a job. After being laid off from my teaching position, I was 2 months behind on my rent. And though Mr Gomez -- my landlord -- seemed to be understanding, I knew that my time was running out.

"Antonio Michaels!"

I looked to my left and saw a woman standing at the end of my row with a bunch of manilla folders. When she called my name again, I quickly got up and walked towards her.

A woman from the accounting department asked me job history questions. To which I tried to act calm. I didn't want to bad mouth any previous employers or downplay my role in each position. And I began to believe that the job was mine, until she asked me if I was interested in applying for any additional positions. But since I had nothing to lose, I answered in the affirmative. Might as well double my chances to work on the casino boat by applying to various departments.

As a "runner" ushered me to a row of seats nearest to the other department, again I waited for my name to be called.

This time, my interview lasted 15 instead of 5 minutes, as the interviewer and I continued to jump off of the subject. And when she finally congratulated me, I couldn't believe my ears.

"Th-Thank you," I said nervously, shaking her hand as I was ushered into another ballroom next door.

This time I got a huge packet of paperwork that I had to turn in two weeks later. In addition, I was given an appointment for a drug test later on that afternoon. No sweat. I don't do drugs, smoke or drink alcohol. No problem.

.

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Problem ... At the clinic there were 12 seats and 40 people waiting to get their drug tests. I'd messed around for two hours, thinking that I'd be in and out. Yeah, right.

I hope this is worth it , I thought to myself as I leaned against a wall. For 20 minutes, I stood contemplating this decision to re-enter the world of riverboat gambling.

Truth be told, my heart's desire was not to be a "change person" on a riverboat casino. Nor was it to be a substitute teacher as I'd been for the past three years. In fact, what I really wanted was to spin music at receptions, grad parties and the like.

After doing the after set at a youth rally last year, I was hooked like a fish. Seeing teenagers dance to Gospel artists like SOUNDS OF BLACKNESS and BEBE WINANS warmed and delighted my heart. And like a drug fiend, I wanted more of that type of high. Unfortunately, after passing out flyers at this year's Gospelfest in Downtown Chicago, no one was calling ... Not even a whisper




"...Yeah Girl. I can't believe they scheduled us all at the same time. What is that?" a petite young lady next to me said.

Exploiting the opening, I joined into the conversation. "They must really need some folks to start right away."

She nodded in my direction. "Right. I just hope it's worth it though. 'Cause I'm not trying to make a career out of this. I just need some money for my wedding."

"Oh really?" I asked, trying to pretend like I was still interested.

"Yeah. My boyfriend is a rapper, trying to get a record deal. So when that comes through, hopefully I'll be able to jump ship."

"A rapper? Really? Shoot. Must be nice. Tell him I'll carry his bags for him. 'Cause I ain't tryin' ta do this forever either. I'd much rather be around some music."

"You should try some of the radio stations ..."

"Actually, I used to work at WGOD. I just left there last year."

"Get out of here!" she said with brightened eyes. "My boyfriend is a Gospel rapper. His brother got a record out now."

My mental rolodex went crazy as I suddenly remembered a CD recently received in the mail. "He's not from Gary, Indiana is he?"

"Mmm hmmm. His rap name is Son of Thunder."

My mouth dropped open I couldn't believe that I was talking to a relative of one of my new favortie artists. "Get the heck outta here! I was just bumpin' that in my ride on the way over here ... Then your boyfriend must be the Young Evangelist."

"Uh huh!" she said, suddenly bursting with pride.

"Yo. Their stuff is serious . I love that C.D."

After more conversation, I learned that the young lady -- Shayla Hall -- was looking for a disc jockey to spin at their wedding reception. For which I was definitely down. And before getting my drug test, I even had a chance to meet her boyfriend, who'd been waiting in the car.

Dawson Cooper and I hit it off to the point that he gave me his phone number and told me to give him a ring. And when I said that I would, I couldn't help noticing that Shayla was staring at me with a seductive smile on her face.





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I ran though the parking garage frantically. The orientation began at 8:30 sharp and it was now 8:27. I couldn't be late for this.

After getting a temporary badge from Security Control, I flew upstairs to the same ballroom I'd been interviewed in. And I was a little upset when I realized that nothing had started yet, even though the room was full of folks. I'd nearly given myself a heart spasm for naught.

The tables were pushed together, making about 9 rows. The rows were tight too. So tight that one literally had to squeeze into a seat. And though I was hungry and really wanted to partake of the free danish and juice on the East wall, I didn't dare try to squeeze back out and into that row.

I shook my head in contempt as I looked around the room. I distinctly heard the woman tell everyone to dress professionally when she gave us our paperwork. But some of he same folks came in looking all "broke off" and "thrown away". One chick even had the nerve to be wearing some Daisy Duke cutoff denim shorts. But CATHERINE BACK brought a taste more class to hers than this skank-a-licious tart standing before me.

As the session began, the head blonde in charge spoke of the joys of working for the Royal Riverboat Casino. But I only half listened as I scoped out the "fem-ah-nee-nahs" in the room. 3 females in particular interested me the most.

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Antonio Roberts Meets Tiffany Glover

A neon green colored hairclip held some of her hair in the back of her head, while the rest hung on either side of her face.

She was dark skinned with sweet, trusting features and an infectuous laugh. And by the way she talked, you could tell that Tiffany listened to mostly Hip Hop, hung out on "the boat" for fun, went to the club every weekend while drinking wine coolers and 40 ounces.

She wore a silk blouse and a leather skirt. On her feet were high heel sandals; the kind that seemed to be nothing but thin straps stretching across her feet. The kind of shoes that I'd usually consider ugly if I saw them on display in a store window. But on the right woman's feet, they could be extremely sexy ... Tiffany Glover was the right woman.

I couldn't keep my eyes off of her sexy feet; one ankle adorned with a bracelet. Then when we got a break in the orientation session, I managed to check out the rest of her fine brown frame. To which it became urgent that I make contact with this bodacious woman.

She was leaning over the third floor railing, looking down at would be gamblers milling around the pavilion.

"Excuse me," I said ever so politely. "But do you always come out of the house looking this gorgeous?"

Tiffany tilted her head downward, blushing with a soft giggle following. "So you think I'm gorgeous, huh?" she asked, in a way that seemed more like an insecure question, rather than the sarcastic statement that she probably meant for it to be.

"No ... I know you're gorgeous."

She looked as though she was about to curse me out at the first part of my response. But then when she heard the conclusion, she caught her breath, sucking her potentially tart tongued response back into her mouth.

I extended my hand. "Hi. My name is Antonio."

"I'm Tiffany," she said as she shook my hand firmly. I liked the way if felt.

I smiled charmingly as I made direct eye contact with her. "Really? I always wanted to date someone named Tiffany."

She arched her eyebrows in confusion, which made her look even sexier. "Why?"

"Cause my grandfather once told me that women named 'Tiffany' have the amazing ability to love you better than any other woman possibly can."

She blushed again. "Yeah, right."

"No. Seriously."

"He didn't."

"Yeah. He did ... But I guess that its only one way to prove it though. So why don't you let me take you out tonight to see a movie and for dinner ... And then maybe we can start to ascertain whether or not the old dude was 'straight up' or 'off his rocker'. Either way, you get a free movie and grub. All though, I gotta let you in on one little secret before you decide."

"What's that?"

"My Grandpa George and Grandma Tiffany have been married for over 40 years. So it's gotta be some kind of truth to it."

Tiffany stared at me for a minute. Then she coyly reached into her purse and pulled out a pen and a piece of paper.



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Antonio Roberts_Meeting Kima Harris

Kima Harris. Another dark chocolate, ebony beauty. Long, swept back hair that hung below her shoulder blades. Fushia lipstick. Fushia low cut top. White skin tight leggings that showed off her track star legs and killer butt. Chunky, leather, platform type heels with all of her toes exposed.

Kima was twenty one years old and already worked a job from four pm to midnight. Fascinating, considering that our training lasted from 8am to 4pm.

She sat at the same table as I. And during a get-to-know 6 people icebreaker, I spent the majority of the time talking to her.

"... I like Jazz," she told me when I asked about her favorite music.

I must say, I was impressed. "Get outta here. Are you serious?"

Her cheeks rose into an embarrassed blush. She had Indian cheek bones. "I guess that sounds kind of corny," she said in a near whisper.

"Naw," I quickly assured her, briefly touching her shoulder. "It's just that I've never met a sister who's into Jazz. Unfortunately, all of the sisters I've run into are strictly NAS, DMX, FOXY BROWN and LIL KIM."

"I hate Foxy and Kim. They are so skanky." And when she said that, her nose scrunched up.

"Yeah ...," I continued. "And chicks like that can't feel a brother who's into Jazz, Gospel and dusties.

Kima's eyes lit up. "You like Gospel and dusties? For real? Me too."

"For real?" I said, truly surprised. If she didn't watch it, I was going to fall in love. "Naw ... You just messin' with my head. You probably ain't never heard any songs by AL GREEN or THE TEMPTATIONS or STEVIE WONDER."

"Are you kiddin'?!" she said, slapping my arm -- hard. "I love Stevie. And Al is the bomb, singing R&B or Gospel."

"True that. Can't nobody touch Al."

"No doubt."

I was liking this a lot. But she seemed to good to be true. So I decided to play with her some more. "You just teasin' me Kima. If you like Stevie Wonder. I mean, really like Stevie ... Tell me your favorite song from, like, 15 years ago."

Kima rolled her eyes, but was still smiling. "15 years ago ... 1984 ... That's too easy."

"Really now."

"Yeah. I'll go back farther than that."

"Go ahead. I'm waiting."

Kima licked her lips as she thought back. "Knocks Me Off My Feet ... Ordinary Pain ... Hey Love ... Golden Lady ... You need more?" she asked coyly as she cut her eyes over at me.

"No. I need you ."

Tiffany snoozed in my bed, clutching the pillow as if it belonged to her. But then, I guess she had staked her claim for more than just the pillow. And I felt as if I'd been blindsided by a truck. I just couldn't put my finger on how and why it had happened.

I kicked Tiffany's rayon shorts set to the side and walked towards the saloon styled doors that separated my bedroom from the sparsely furnished living room. But before I could cross the threshold, the telephone began to ring. However I quickly switched the ringer to "mute" before answering it.

"Hello?" I said, watching Tiffany's body shift a bit in the bed from the noise. Fortunately she remained asleep.

"What's up Mack Daddy?"

I couldn't help smiling at the sound of Kima's voice. "Hey You."

"Do you know who this is? 'Cause I swear, if you call me by another female's name ..."

"Kima Harris."

"Very good. Bet you didn't expect to hear from me again."

"Pretty much. But I'm grateful for the privilege."

"So smooth. I don't know why I keep calling. You probably a dog like the rest of 'em."

"If you really think so, then you're a fool to be wasting your time. Though ... You don't much strike me as a fool. Or maybe you just like dogs ..."

Silence.

"So whe we going out?" I continued.

"Who said I wanted to go out with you?"

I could feel her smile through the phone. As much as I could feel the breeze coming through the half open windown from a passing car.

"Don't you?"

More silence ... Then ...

"Saturday."

"Huh?"

"I want to spend all day Saturday with you. You pick the venue. Just keep it clean. Otherwise I'm hitting the bricks."

"Hitting the bricks?"

"Yes."

"You need to stop watchin Cosby Show reruns."

She laughed a soft, sweet laugh. I knew when I heard that laugh that she'd never be able to do any wrong in my sight.



photo by Noel Barnhurst
photo by Noel Barnhurst | Source
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Antonio's Date With Kima

"So how'd you get into Hip Hop?" I asked her over a plate of steak and eggs.

I'd brought her to the Cotton Gin, a down home styled restaurant on the campus of Kramer College. The kind of place that placed a basket of homemade buttermilk biscuits on your table as you decided on what you wanted to order.

Kima blushed as I caught her in the midst of stuffing her mouth with a fork full of syrup drenched pancakes. She waved a finger at me to hold up for a minute.

Once she swallowed with a big gulp, she said, "I remember Kramer's radio station was having folks call in to debate whether or not they should play a tune by an artist called REVEREND RHYME ... This was around '88, I think it was ... I was so curious. So I went down to the Christian bookstore, saw this sampler and I was hooked.

"Who was on the sampler?"

Kima smiled. "D-BOY, D.C. TALK, P.I.D., E.T.W. AND TRANSFORMATION CRUSADE ... I can't believe that I remember that. That had to be about '90. 'Cause T-Crusade was just coming out."

"Yeah," I agreed.

"So I heard this little dollar ninety nine sampler and just had to check out the full projects of each artist ... I bought D-Boy first ... Then T Crusade, then one by S.F.C. because I liked the cover of the cassette."

"Who were your favorites?"

"Everybody but S.F.C. Their sound was like PUBLIC ENEMY to me. It was a little dry for me though. Just beats and bass. The others were more produced; Pop or R&B influenced. Even now, I'm more attracted to those types of groups more so than the gangster flavored acts."

I took a sip of orange juice. "Yeah, I feel you. When I first got S.S. MOB'S Papa Didn't Raize No Punks ... I couldn't listen to the whole thing in one sitting. It was just too ... dark sounding. You know?"

"Right. Right," she agreed. "I gave mine away. I couldn't hang. Folks be talking about how they 'keeping it real' ... But I like lyrical wordplay. I like tight flow ... Samples that are used creatively ..."

I listened to her talk .... Her words were like butter on my grits ... Sugar in my punch ... I felt as if I could listen to her talk all the live long day.

"I'm sorry ...," she said, blushing. "I'm talking too much."

I reached over to grab her hand and kissed it lovingly. "No ... I love listening to you. And believe me, that's not something I ever tell a female ... Mostly because it's never applied before."

She looked at me with a long, intense stare. And when she tot whatever she was looking for, she took her hand back, feeding me some of her pancakes. And let me tell you ... Despite all the physical activity I'd engage in with Tiffany Glover over the past few days ... Kima's simple gesture, truly felt like good sex.

After breakfast, I took Kima on a tour around the campus. This included my old classrooms, dorm room and the building where my old choir used to rehearse.

We held hands throughout the tour down memory lane; walking off the grub that we'd gorged ourselves with. But mostly just enjoying one another's company.

"Must've been nice going to school here."

"Yeah ... It was ... A sense of family like I've never experienced before. I mean, you had your characters and shady incidents every now and again ... But 90 percent of my experience was friendly faces, 'hello' every morning, I got yo' back, you got mine ..."

Kima nodded. "Sounds like they took pretty good care of you here."

"No doubt."

I'd never really thought about it before until Kima brought it up. But I did have some good times in Kramertown. More than I'd realized. Every other step seemed to bring back a pleasant memory ... Good memories.

We sat down on a bench in the courtyard. And when I put my arm around Kima, to my surprise, she snuggled close to me, resting her head against my chest. It was in this position that I got a good whiff of her perfume. And boy, did it really play havoc with my nerves endings. I so wanted to be even closer to her.

"Tell me about yourself," I whispered, overwhelmed by the fragrance and the lady.

"I don't know. What haven't I told you that you want to know?" she asked softly.

"What do I have to do to earn your love?" Yeah ... I surprised myself with that one.

Kima raised her head and looked into my eyes. Stroking my cheek, she had me spellbound, anticipating her next move. Then before I could react, she moved in closer than close; kissing me passionately for a couple of minutes. And after wiping lipstick off of me, without a word, she placed her head on my chest.



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Kima Visits His Apartment

"So this is the command center huh?" Kima asked as she checked out my crib. "Quite impressived. Very clean."

"Well, you know that Ii cleaned it just for you."

"You lie like a rug," she said softly.

We sat down on the couch and I slid a CD in.

"Ooo That's TROY JOHNSON. Let me see the case."

I handed her the case to the I Will album, amazed that she was hip to such an obscure Contemporary Christian artist. I liked that about her. I liked it a lot.

"I've been lookin' at this in the stores for years. But even though I got his previous one, I was a little hesitant to buy this one. Is it good?"

"Yeah, it's more of a Pop production, whereas the previous one had that Urban thing going on. I just found this one a few days ago for 99 cents."

"Stop."

"Seriously. It was a demo version that they played in the store. Plus its 5 year old. I was buggin' when I saw how much they'd marked it down. So I had to get it."

"Good buy."

We sat back and enjoyed the smooth grooves emanating through the room. Both of us agreed that his voice sounded like a mixture of MICHAEL JACKSON and HOWARD HEWETT.

I was enjoying myself. I couldn't talk to anybody else like this. That's why I wrapped her up in my arms, holding her close to my heart. Not wanting to let her go. But then she threw cold water on my romance.

"Let me see what you got," she said, breaking away from me to sit on the floor in front of my compact disc towers.

This would be the big test. If she failed this, nothing else would matter. Kind of extreme I suppose. But if she didn't respect my music, what good was she?

"Dag ..."

"Whazzup?" I asked, easing up behind her like I had with Tiffany.

"You have a serious collection here."

"You likes?"

"Most definitely."

"Wow ..."

Kima turned her head, checking out my expression. "What's up? You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm straight. It's just that ... Like I told you on Monday ... Some chicks ... I dated a girl once who told me, 'I'm starting to get used to your music' ... Like she was doing me a favor."

She put down the WINANS CD that she'd been examining. Shifting her body, she reached back to stroke my face. "Poor baby ... Your music is part of who you are. I get that, because I'm the same way ... I can get lost in a song and won't even answer the phone."

"That's tight Kee."

She blushed when I called her by her new nickname. Leaning on me like BILL WITHERS, Kima seemed to trust me not to let her fall. Then out of the blue she kissed me lightly on the lips. And just as suddenly, she pulled away.

"Gosh ... You have a tight collection ... NUJOI, TOUCH OF FAITH, all of MIKE E's junk ... D.O.C.?! I ain't seen that one in years!"

"You know ... I'm kind'a picky about loaning my music out ... I've learned in the past that even folks that aren't on the same page, will borrow your stuff and keep it ... However, anyone with the key to my heart ... Well, she could ... She would have all access."

Kima smiled. "Oh really now?"

With that thought hanging in the air, I abruptly got up from the floor, grabbing my key ring off of the desk. Sliding off a key whose origins I couldn't remember, I gave it to my new best friend.


"What's this?" she asked in that soft, sweet voice.

"The key to my heart."

Corny? Yes. Effective? Good gosh yes. Next thing I knew, she'd tackled me on to the floor, sliding out of her powder blue top and her shoes.

For a minute, I thought that she was going to slip off the tank top and pants, but I was content with kissing her like there was no tomorrow, yesterday or today. And as the phone rang I pretended like I was lost in a song and ignored it.

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