The Underwear Drawer: Return to Sender

Written by: Langston John Blaze

“Maybe I should give up on men and start dating women,” I told my friend Omar, during one of our long talks about love and relationships over the phone. “Oh no, I don’t do fish.” I couldn’t help but laugh. Omar and I had seen each other go through many dating situations, all ending with no prospect of a long term anything. He’d made his mistakes, but he’d seen me make even dumber ones.

The Spring of 2011, I began talking to Anthony Patrick. (Sidebar: The phrase, talking to someone has become the new generations way of saying, “I’m single but I have high hopes for a potential love interest.) Anthony and I met online via Twitter, and even though I hated the thought of people one day asking us, “How did you meet,” and the dreadful sound of, “Online,” came mumbling out of my mouth. Nevertheless, I pursued him; well, not initially the way I would have liked to.

I was working on a new book and I wanted Anthony to pose as the leading character. He seemed excited about the idea and direct messaged me his number. However, I noticed an excitement pour over me that had nothing to do with casting a model in my book. I wanted him. In that very moment, I knew it. I text messaged him that same evening and decided to be upfront. We spoke casually for awhile and somehow, I managed to slip in, Do you have a boyfriend?No, why? Wassup LMPRAO!!!? (Laughing my Puerto Rican ass off). I was sure he knew wassup. With a smile on my face, as I walked through the Wal-Mart parking lot to my car, I leaned against my trunk and replied, I’m interested in you. Oh really? he messaged back. Really, really I responded.

Suddenly, as I got in the car, waiting for Anthony to reply, he said, I hope you’re being genuine. The reply was strange to me. Anthony was not the average-looking guy. In fact, he was beautiful. He had this pretty boy thuggish appeal. I wasn’t normally attracted to guys like that. He often bragged about smoking weed online, which turned me off. Yet, his sense of humor, style, tattoos, his ambitions, and sex appeal outweighed the marijuana talk. In my mind, “I hope you’re being genuine,” implied there was a reason I wouldn’t be attracted to him. Maybe he was one of those gorgeous guys who said, “I don’t think I‘m attractive.” A call out for attention? I didn’t think so. Maybe it went beyond the surface of anything I could see.

As I arrived home, I asked Anthony to give me a call whenever he was free. My heart was pounding. Lord, was this guy really making me that nervous I  thought. Yet as my phone rung, I saw an “unknown number” notification come on the screen. I frowned at first and answered it anyway. “Hello?” “Hey, what’s good?” a man’s deep scratchy voice greeted me. I smiled. “Who is this?” He laughed. “It’s Anthony.” I laughed. “Oh ok, I didn’t know if it was you. Your number came up unknown.” “No, that’s just because my number is private.” “Oh ok,” I replied.

As a brief silence came over the phone, I finally got Anthony to open up. Originally from New Orleans, he’d recently moved from Dallas to New York City. He was 30, but he told people he was 25, which was a secret I vowed to keep. He was very shy. He answered with a sexy hesitation whenever I asked him a question. “So what do you do professionally?” Silence again. “Um, I don’t want to talk about that.” I frowned. “Oh ok.” He laughed. “You’re not CIA, are you?” I joked, using as many icebreakers as I could come up with. “No,” he chuckled. “You don’t sell drugs, do you?” I continued, totally ignoring his previous answer. “No, nothing like that,” he laughed. “Okay, as long as it’s not anything dangerous.”

Later on, Anthony and I continued to converse and he agreed to call me in the morning before work. I was excited but hesitant. What was the big deal about his job? I thought. Maybe he’s a stripper I wondered. He definitely had the body for it and enjoyed showing it off. On Anthony’s Facebook page, he had more friends than Facebook. If he uploaded one picture, it received a thousand likes, not to mention the flirtatious comments. The next morning, I woke up to the text, Good morning, papo;-))).

I smiled hard like a kid who had gotten every toy for Christmas he’d asked for. Immediately, I responded, Good morning, babe.

            Lord, it’s taken us one day to go from Twitter follower to pet name I thought. After a few friendly text messages, and me, trying to stop my feet from going to cloud 9, we decided to webcam. I set up my computer in the dining room, cheesing nervously, excited to see him. As I logged into my Skype, I entered his username, and within seconds, there he was. Anthony grinned at me with beautiful dark eyes and full pink thick lips. He had on a red fitted cap, no shirt, and gym shorts.

As the gays would say, his body was siiiiickkkkening. Hell, if anyone had anything to be insecure about, it was me! I was still toothpick skinny and coming into my own skin; blossoming. The sound wasn’t working on my cheap camera, and after I told Anthony, we laughed about it and didn’t take our eyes off each other. He looked like he was in a hotel room, which did not surprise me since he loved traveling. Suddenly, as he got up from his seat, he started giving me a little striptease. The tattoos on his caramel body stood out to me even more.

My innocent eyes were enticed by the way he moved. He turned his cap backward and slowly pulled down his shorts. Oh. My. I thought to myself. Did he just…Yup, he did. This wasn’t the shy guy I thought he was. Meanwhile, after his striptease which was more like a d–k tease, Anthony decided to roll a blunt as we continued via webcam. I rolled my eyes and laughed it off and before he could make me late for work, I got off line.

I had not liked a guy like this in along time. Ever since my first love, Porter, had practically dumped me, I had not truly liked a guy strongly. Yet, Anthony felt different. I didn’t like that he was secretive but otherwise he was amazing. The investigator in me decided to find out more information about him online. I started looking at his Twitter followers to see what mutual friends we had. To my shock, Halo, a good friend of mine, was on Anthony’s page. That evening, I put on my Nancy Drew hat and called Halo.

I didn’t quite want him to know I was doing a background check on his friend, and frankly, I didn’t know how close Halo and Anthony were. Casually, I text messaged my friend and brought up Anthony’s Twitter name. “Yeah, that name sounds familiar. It sounds like my brother, Anthony.” DING! DING! DING! I thought. Halo added on that he and Anthony were not biological brothers but they’d grown up in the same ballroom scene, which was like a family oriented, home away from home atmosphere or for some who had no home or family to turn to. Just to make sure, I described him more, and everything appeared to add up. Nevertheless, Halo stated, “Just a precaution, I wasn’t sure if you were aware, but Anthony’s an escort.”

I was deeply disappointed. Halo specified he did not know if Anthony was doing it currently, but it would explain him not wanting to discuss his job and his means of being able to travel frequently. Oh God, was that why he was in the hotel room the morning we webcamed?

            Nevertheless, after my investigation, I told my best friend, at the time, Tommy about the entire situation. “Oh no! Next! Let him go, Langston!” my friend said as we shopped in the mall. Tommy had witnessed the loads of bullshit I’d put up with involving men. I knew I shouldn’t get in too deep with Anthony after finding out something like this, but it sucked. I already liked him. Besides, Halo wasn’t sure if that was Anthony’s lifestyle now. Or was I in denial?

The more I communicated with Anthony, my feelings got deeper. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere the evening he called me. He told me how he’d almost given up on black men and wanted to start dating white guys, how he wanted to settle down, go to school for culinary arts, and become a chef. I liked his dreams. In the back of my mind, I kept hearing, “He’s an escort! He’s an escort!” But I dared not bring it up. That was potentially putting Halo in a bad situation, seeing as though they were family and after in depth conversations, I’d told Anthony, Halo and I was friends.

I needed Anthony to know that I was for real about us. I could recall the fuse in his apartment building going out and he called me to find a hotel room for him in Brooklyn for the night. I thought it was odd that had asked me, seeing as though I was so far away, but sure enough, I called everywhere, trying to locate a room. My actions were saying, “I love you.”

Months passed. The communication between Anthony and I was inconsistent; mostly on his end. I found myself getting jealous and hating the fact that I had set myself up for failure, seeing as though Anthony lived so far and God only knew what he was doing. I became virtually territorial, checking Anthony’s Facebook and Twitter page constantly, reading who’d messaged him and if I thought he was talking to them. Yeah, I was losing it.

The truth was, it was easy to spot Anthony’s fans verses his friends. Yet, the fact of the matter was, I didn’t want to get wrapped up in a guy, who was unwrapping himself of me. “Don’t get on his nerve. Don’t pay him any mind. You have to act like you don’t care and stop waiting on him,” was the advice I would get from my coworkers, upset that Anthony had not called in a couple days. Suddenly, I was the  only one leaving the “Good morning,” messages. Through the course of us getting to know each other, I recalled Anthony saying, “I always f–k it up when things start getting serious.” He’d also stated, “I’ll only tell you what I want you to know. Don’t waste your time trying to figure me out.“ That meant more to me now then it did before. Maybe that was the Leo in him I told myself. I was into astrology and according to our Taurus/Leo compatibility, I was going against the universe. We weren’t…compatible.

Regardless, when Christmas season came, I got excited. Anthony and I had started communicating slightly better. My conscious told me exchanging gifts was premature but I couldn’t help myself. I picked him out a nice pair of jeans and a silky long sleeve light purple dress shirt. I even bought him sexy Calvin Klein underwear. With a nice letter, expressing how I felt about him, I sent Anthony’s package off two weeks before Christmas.

Suddenly, as New Year’s passed, I found myself in the same bad place I’d been in with Anthony. Being sentimental had dried up with him. When I asked him had he picked up his Christmas gift, he answered, “It’s at the post office. It’s not going anywhere.” Talking to my friends about it did not help, they were too stuck on the fact that I was talking to an escort. Funny thing was Anthony had sent me sexy nude pictures and we’d go back and forth sexting all the time. It was like he trusted me with his body and sexual thoughts but not his heart and not his mind and not his security and not his stability.

In late January, Anthony told me we could not be together. I assumed it was a combination of the long distance and the fact that he hated Atlanta and his secret life he did not know I knew about. I was sad but drained. “You know, I was never trying to be a fan, Anthony. I liked you. I wanted more than that.” He said he knew. Months later, coming home one evening, I walked up my front porch to see a bright green beat up Christmas box. It was the same present I’d sent to Anthony months ago.

I was surprised the post office had kept it so long. Attached to the box, in big bold print, it read: RETURN TO SENDER. The next day, I messaged Anthony that they’d returned the gift to me. Even then, when I explained to Anthony what happened, he replied, Ok. Ok??? I responded. He never messaged back. I felt stupid. “Why do you love him?” Tommy asked me one night at his place. I couldn’t come up with a reason that was valid enough to say, “I love you,” and Tommy knew it.

However, I had to have some reason for caring so deep. In truth, it took me until that summer to completely get over Anthony. Somehow, I still considered him a friend. I wanted to end it appropriately. I need to talk to you I text messaged him. Is it dire? he asked. “Is it dire?” I repeated out loud. It took me a moment to interpret what Anthony was asking, because as many times as I’d probably heard and used the term, “dire”, I’d never actually seen it spelled out. As I stood in my room, analyzing the hell out of his question, I asked myself, “Did this nigga just ask me is what I have to say important? Wow.”

That was the last time I spoke to Anthony. I was prepared to get closure out of the entire situation, but apparently, what I had to say wasn’t dire. Suddenly, the phrase RETURN TO SENDER took on a whole new meaning.