In a simple hello, I felt a flutter.
It embarrassed me as I fidgeted a bit, regaining my composure.
Willing myself to force the flush of red from forming on my cheeks.
Stay cool, ice-cold.
A warm baritone, asking me how I’ve been, soothing and familiar.
I just want to fall into that sound. Wrap myself in your words and feel at home.
Damn your disarming, charming southern hospitality.
It’s been hard out here, in fact.
But instead, I reply with a smile, I’m good. I’ve been working my way up the food chain at work and now I’m in school.
Still humble, you are.
People milling about, trying to get your attention.
But you stay fixed on me. I thank you.
I don’t want to glamorize you. You have to do those things– those annoying, awful things that can tap dance on a nerve.
Because you are human. Because you are still a man.
But I love feeling kind of giddy and silly. I love the involuntary inflection change in my voice when speaking your name.
I love remembering what it’s like to crush. So if nothing else, you gave me that gift of feeling. I wouldn’t even have to ask you for anything else or feel shorted.
But I see your light and can feel it’s warmth. That’s a good thing. That’s as close to the IT feeling one can get.
You can be so big, so loud and bright and light up a stage.
But one-on-one you are not overpowering. You don’t interrupt or exert a need to be heard. You know how to navigate your spaces. You never, ever make yourself smaller, but you allow room for others to enter and take up their space too.
There’s something about visiting the south. Your senses open up and you want to overdose on everything. Sweet tea, food, warm weather and random acts of conversation. You want to slow down.
You want to dream of wearing a kaftan, sipping mint julep, listening to blues music and walking out to your wrap around porch.
You want to dream of slow dancing with a lover behind you, cradling you and kissing your neck, smelling your scent, willing your memory to cement it permanently into your brain.
You want to dream of sundrenched kitchens, smelling of good things like window-cooled pies and fried fish.
I want to close my eyes and feel you because you feel like home, you feel like soul music, Motown, Philadelphia funk. Bass lines reverberating in your bones. Energy. Life. Passion. You feel like clean skin on fresh cotton dried to perfection, hanging on a clothes line.
You feel like old school, you feel like stomps of praise on wooden boards, dust rising, cries of Hallelujah in the air, dabbing sweat with an old embroidered hankie.
I want to dance and holla with ushers circled around me.
I want to be a little bit country with no shame and no shoes on my feet, feeling the Earth beneath, baffled how I could feel so high, grounded by your spirit, your ID, your who-you-are.
I want to lay under a ceiling fan and let it circulate moist air of a hot, southern day that bends your will and requires you forgo the labor of the day, forcing you to lay. To rest.
You make me want to rest.
I trust that I can rest with you.
Because there is a confidence. A manliness in you, marked by experience and disappointment, triumph and testimony, humility, lessons learned, battles lost, yet a resilience and a sweet, sweet dignity that humbles those in your presence. Your transparency illuminates.
Real recognizes real.
I guess that’s why we always got along.
I want to play blues, jazz and gospel and sway like an Alvin Ailey dancer. You rocka my soul. I’m inspired to be better, to be sweeter and kinder, to be vulnerable and gentle. Abraham’s bosom has nothing on your embrace.
You sweet, southern man. Maturity and age looks so good on you. I hope you see the light in me.
I hope you see the music.
It’s rich with bright color, sometimes painted with remnants of pain, a little broken in some places. But there’s good there nestled in the gaps and the cracks.
See the light in me and feel my warmth. I’ve grown too.
If only now, I could have another chance to grow with you.