From my vantage point in the back of the room, the bright fluorescent lighting bounced off the shiny hardwood stage flooring. The event planners did an excellent job of turning the LU campus multipurpose room into a real-life town hall setting. Four black leather chairs with small tables in between each one were centered on the raised stage. The State of Black Philadelphia was plastered on a large screen behind the chairs. There was a brown podium on the right side of the stage where I assumed I’d be hosting the event.

I remembered watching clips from The State of Black Philadelphia Town Hall on YouTube last year and now I’m hosting it. Standing near the back entrance, I took a second to take it all in. This moment was bittersweet. Getting this hosting gig is a career-high, but the timing of it is a personal low.

I missed Lyncoln like crazy, and even though I messed up our relationship a part of me was upset with him. He held me to the standard of not jumping to conclusions and talking things out, but he did not give me that same common courtesy when the tables were turned. I am still so stunned about the way he shut me down with no type of further communication. The unanswered phone calls, text messages, and emails were a shock to my system.

Thoughts of seeing him in 60 short minutes frightened and excited me. Since day one Lyncoln has adored me. Before my fateful decision in the park, he always looked at me with nothing but love and adoration. There were a few instances when I ruffled his feathers, but in the end, I was his Goddess. But I can’t get over the way he looked at me after he pummeled Xavier unconscious. Anger and hurt clouded his eyes. But the look that haunted me most, the one that I was never on the other end of receiving was disgust. Lyncoln looked at me with disdain and unfamiliar eyes, like he didn’t know who I was.

“Ms. Rainey!” A short and plump light skin lady full of energy barreled towards me.

“You’re early, we’re so happy to have you here with us today. I’m Valencia, the event coordinator.”

“It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for having me today.”

For the next 10-15 minutes, Valencia briefed me, giving me the setup and rundown for the day. After our briefing I sat in a small office outside of the multipurpose room, reading my notes, hiding out, and trying to calm my jitters. About thirty minutes before the start of the event, I made my way back inside and was introduced to two of the town hall panelists, Angel Riley and James Jackson. I was grateful that Lyncoln had yet to arrive, our introductions were a great distraction to the impending arrival of Dr. Sterling.

Angel is a political strategist and commentator. She is often featured on several major news outlets, sharing her political commentary. She’s a savage who knows her shit, you can always count on Angel for well-informed and classy comebacks and reads. Our introduction was cool, she gave me black girl magic and sisterhood vibes and even mentioned she has been watching me and respected my grind.

Award-winning journalist, James Jackson, hails from my home state. Over the past several years, he has focused his career on developing solutions and systematic change for our community. James is a staple in the Black News circuit and very well-respected. There was a faint smile and a glint of intrigue in his eye after Valencia introduced us.

As I stood at the podium on the stage flipping through the notes on my iPad, a woodsy scent with a hint of hazelnut tickled my nose. My stomach tanked like a wrecked ship at the familiar smell that always made me weak at the knees. Too afraid to face the music just yet, I kept my head buried, like what I was reading on my iPad was a magnificent piece written by the late great James Baldwin.

“Dr. Sterling! The last piece of the puzzle has arrived! We are so fortunate you were able to take time out of your busy schedule to be with us today. Thanks so much for joining us today!” Valencia said cheerfully.

“No thanks are needed,” he said in his deep and gravelly voice. “The state of the community in my city is definitely my business. I wouldn’t have it any other way but to be here today to discuss solutions and strategies. So trust me when I say, I’m elated to be here. And I take it, you must be the exceptional and ever proficient Ms. Valencia Scott? Your stellar work proceeds you.”

The fits of giggles falling from Valencia’s mouth let me know she was just Lyncolnized! Lyncoln has a knack for unintentionally making any woman melt into a puddle with his charismatic words and handsome face.

“Thank you, Dr. Sterling.” I’m sure her face is bright red right now. “Before I get you settled with the other panelists, I want to give you a chance to greet our host for this morning.”

Well played Valencia. She knew no introductions were needed. I knew our failed relationship would be the big elephant in the room today. It was no secret that Lyncoln and I used to be in a relationship. A part of me felt like the event planners for today strategically and purposely chose Lyncoln and me to participate in the town hall. Yeah, we’re both qualified to be here, but I also knew they realized some people would tune into the live-streamed event just to see our interaction.

Taking the cue Valencia tossed out, I turned my head, letting my eyes finally fall on the man whose heart I foolishly fumbled. A soft gasp slipped through my lips, as I surveyed Lyncoln from head to toe. He was donned in an all-black velvet suit and tie that clung masterfully to his fit body. Looking at the crisp hairline outlining his face, it seemed as if he just hopped out of his barber’s chair. And that beard, Lyncoln was the Don of the Beard Gang. The black curly and shiny hair in his beard appeared longer and fuller since our last interaction.

Our eyes locked on each other and for a split second, it felt as if time stopped. My heart raced, finally feeling alive again after seeing the man I now realized I love. When Lyncoln told me it was over and shut his car door, it was like an awakening for me. The regret set in and the realization of how ungrateful and foolish I’d been started to seep in. I’ll never forget the feeling of emptiness I felt when he left me standing in the park with tears streaming down my face.

For a minuscule of a moment, a look of relief and awe flashed across his eyes. It was only for a millisecond. And if you didn’t know Lyncoln as I do, you would’ve missed it. But, Lyncoln quickly caught himself and a cold and professional demeanor took over his face.

My voice was stuck in my throat like a tire wedged in 2 feet of snow. The awkward silence didn’t last long, as Lyncoln took the lead like he always does.

“Ms. Rainey,” he finally said, extending his hand.

I cleared my throat and put on my professional mien before placing my hand in his. An electric jolt warmed my body and it felt like all the hair on my limbs was standing at attention. That connection, it’s still there.

“Dr. Sterling, it’s a pleasure to have you on the panel today.”

Talk about Issa Rae awkward!

Lyncoln held onto my hand, piercing me with his intimidating glare. His lips were tight and I could see the slight flexing in his jaw. He was assessing me closely as only Lyncoln could. The liquidation that was going on in my panties as he stared me down should be illegal! Between his intense gawking, glorious smell, and beautiful face my undies did not stand a chance at staying dry.

Releasing my hand, Lyncoln nodded his head before turning around and walking to greet the other panelists. Trails of his enticing cologne lingered. The moment he released his touch from mine, that emptiness I’ve been feeling for the past few months returned.

The first 30-45 minutes of the town hall went smoothly. As soon as I got the countdown to start, I went into work mode, slipping right into my comfort zone. I was able to skillfully navigate the questions and conversations between all three panelists. They all gave their input on the social and economic conditions black people were facing in Philly and the nation as a whole. Not looking Lyncoln directly in the eye helped me get through my interactions with him on stage. Of course, Lyncoln was nothing short of professional and charismatic, showing off his charm and intellect. He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

Towards the end of the town hall, the floor was open to the audience for questions. Not only were audience members in attendance posing questions but I was also being fed questions from viewers on the webinar from the event coordinators.

“Thank you for that question,” I said, smiling at the older black woman from the audience who asked about housing instability in the city.

“Now we’re going to take a question from one of our viewers online. This question is for you Dr. Sterling. Ernest wants to know, what core value drives the heart of your political commitments and activism?”

Taking a deep breath, I paused before glancing at Lyncoln. Lyncoln briefly looked down while adjusting his tie. Lifting his right leg, he comfortably rested his ankle on his left left knee. He dropped his elbow on the armrest and placed his chin between his thumb and forefinger.

Still delaying his answer, I had a feeling Lyncoln was waiting for my eyes to settle on his before responding. Don’t ask me how I knew. We were just in tune like that.

In an attempt to not delay his response any longer, I lifted my eyes to meet his. Squirming under his penetrating stare, I could feel the intensity coming from his chocolate eyes. Finally, Lyncoln acquiesced and shared his answer.



Karma Latoya Jones, get your ass in the house!

Rose Gold Part II…Available on Amazon!