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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gray

Ricardo the Ladies' Man

"Ricky" is indubitably fine. 5'10, light brown eyes. Broad shoulders that look like an inverted V as they cascade into a slim waist and legs of a track star. Perfect smile that would make any human look twice. He's a masterpiece. Hair waves in a full 360- one of his proudest accomplishments. And women fall in love with every wave. And he loves that. In fact, he’s learned to make every woman even the ones he’s not attracted to feel wanted. Let’s be clear he doesn’t actually want 98% of them. And the 2% he does, he pushes away. Afraid that it might not last, he's become a master of leaving. Why wait for someone else to push you away when you can do it for yourself?

He grew up with an intimate relationship with rejection. He wasn’t tall or athletically inclined enough to hoop with the guys in the hood and was surely looked over at the private boys college prep school he attended in Bethesda. But you know what he was always good at? Wooing women. All the women. His momma practically worships at his feet as he convinces her she’s the most important and beautiful woman in his life. He grew up having to affirm her in this way as his father moved in and out of their lives at his convenience. Big Ricky was fine, too. Think a young Frankie Beverly. He kept a rather unorthodox career choice as self proclaimed business man. The love of his life Kim always knew that was code for street pharmaceuticals. They met each other in the Bronx- you know the story. Ricky could’ve had any woman he wanted yet there was something he desired in the stability of Kim’s studious nature. She was the good girl, middle class family, family dinners and shit. He wanted that kind of life of sending holiday cards and hosting the whole block for Thanksgiving dinner. BUT. That wasn't his reality. His life was precarious, anxiety driven and violent. And he’d do anything to shield her from his rough reality.

I'm getting too ahead of myself...

To do that, he actually had to pretend to be studious -ask Kim for tutoring in subjects he already had mastered. His parents had migrated to the US from Puerto Rico in search of the promise of upward mobility. They never found it. Worked their fingers to the bone and were still underpaid and over used. But they were rich in a way- culture and family meant the world to them. They made meals for the block every Sunday and his dad was the unofficial mayor of the Bronx. Everyone knew and admired Sunny! He was the kind of man that would stop and check on neighbors, he'd carry groceries for the auntie down the block. He was protective of the things and people he had- often kicking the drug dealers off the block. And they respected him. Big Ricky's mom, Natalia, an expert seamstress had dreams of creating the most beautiful gowns. She would create the coolest patches for Ricky's playground ripped jeans. A beautiful woman who was proud of her African ancestry and Puerto Rico.

One day, Sunny's lingering cough made Natalia demand he go to the doctor; a rare occasion. Colon cancer. Sunny's diagnosis of colon cancer dimmed his light even though he pretended to be fine. Watching him deteriorate broke Natalia and Ricky's hearts. One day, surrounded by loved ones, Sunny's spirit traveled to the ancestral realm. It was like he was waiting for the perfect sunny day to made his ancestral debut. Grief is a terrible thief of joy. Soon after, Natalia's salary at department store wouldn't cover the cost of living or sustain Ricky's education at the private school his father demanded he attend. With the risk of Ricky's life be disrupted one more time because of a lack of resources, Ricky decided to make ends meet his way. And he made ends meet so much that he became high ranked by 16 in this "business". Natalia knew his facade of working at fast food was a lie. He never once smelled like fries or any other food for that manner. Eventually, he stopped pretending to work at the burger joint. He was determined to make his mother's life luxurious. I mean who else drove an Acura their senior year?

Kim didn't care that Ricky had "stuff"- she liked his charismatic jokes and the moments where he stared off at the moon fighting tears when talking about Sunny. She was in love with the fiber of Ricky's character. Upon graduation, Kim was applying for Howard University to study education. Ricky knew he couldn't let her go alone so in August, they packed the Acura, kissed their parents and started life together at the Mecca. Soon class became less appealing than the bustling "market" in D.C. Despite Kim reminding him that things didn't replace quality time, he pushed even harder in the business. As he pondered dropping out, Kim discovered that food poisoning didn't last for months. They were expecting. Ricky knew Sunny would want him to be the best dad he could so he doubled up on classes and business meetings. Soon after graduation, Ricky and Kim planned a small wedding at the chapel. Natalia and Kim's parents were thrilled they had managed to get through senior year with little Ricky, graduate and then marry.

Big Ricky moved the family to Bethesda because business had grown. By this time, Kim and little Ricky were fully assimilated to the good life. She knew it wasn't a sustainable career for Big Ricky though. While things were good she'd put herself through a masters and doctoral program. This turned out to be a good decision as Big Ricky's "business" took him away from the house more and more. His "business associates" started calling later than normal and he returned home with their scent a few times. At this point, little Ricky was entering high school. It was time for him to enter into the convoluted definition of manhood laid out for him now. He had learned from the best. Big Ricky had sometimes taken him along to meet these associates. Little Ricky wouldn't dare betray his father's trust though. One day, Kim received a call from a woman saying Ricky was the parent of her unborn child. Kim had enough and told Big Ricky to leave their home. Little Ricky despised Kim secretly for this decision but knew very well it was not a good quality of life.

Grown Ricky had learned how to get what he needed from women. It was like a masterful game of risk and reward. He didn't need them for money- he had that. But he needed them for the emotional and nurturing capital that women are socialized to give broken men. He relished in the olympics of how much pain can she withstand before leaving. He then justified her leaving as she wasn't strong. Surely not strong like his mother. The acquisition of women was more appealing that struggling with one. So he dresses to the nines, dripped in Tom Ford cologne, Hermes labels and drives a Range Rover. He loves being recognized by his local 100 Black Men chapter after his annual donation of 10K for the collegiate chapter after all he was Howard legacy like his parents and believed in giving back. Giving back included his annual homecoming party where he picked the women like ripe fruit on trees.

One day Ricky wakes up and realizes he's the only one of his friends who isn't getting married or having children. Surely that what's missing in his life, right? That will make him feel whole, right? Until he met...


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