Joshua Bayin’s green eyes flashed as his sister Minty chattered and dominated the conversation with his date. He wanted to ruffle his scrub of blond hair in frustration, but resisted the urge. He was terribly annoyed with Minty, even though he knew she was sincerely interested in getting to know his date. His date, Maia Cambridge, smiled warmly, and her hazel eyes glowed with good natured humor. Maia was a beautiful Black woman with skin the complexion of silk chocolate, slanted hazel eyes, a wide full lipped smile, and woolly black hair that stood out in thick, tight jojoba oil scented curls. He had met Maia at a poetry café in Ann Arbor over a month ago. He had immediately been struck by her exotic beauty. The shine of the single stage light seemed to illuminate the depths of her eyes like light brown crystals, shimmered off her skin, and glistened on the darkness of her thick cloud of curls. She had impressed him with her commanding stage presence and dramatic eloquence. He was no poet, but he could appreciate the rich intonation of her voice as it rose and fell rhythmically. He had become so lost in the epic of her voice that once the poem had ended he felt as if he had drifted from a cloud, and landed with a jolting thud when the room exploded into applause. He watched her descend from the stage, and move through the crowd with an easy grace. She hopped on a stool before the counter, and was bantering smoothly with the waiter as he fixed her a clear glass mug of chai. Joshua was momentarily distracted from his observation of her by his “date”, a cute, yet annoying brunette named Tara with sparkling brown eyes, and the amazing ability to chatter non stop without taking a breathe. His best friend Brian had suggested that they hook up with her and her friend Jeanette, whom they had met two weekends ago at a dance club. Bored out his mind with sitting in front of his computer in his dorm room at University of Michigan he decided going on a double date would be better than a uneventful night of playing on the Internet. This particular spot they had chosen to meet at was an artsy coffeehouse, The Coffee Grind, known for its excellent coffees, smoothies, sandwiches, and its ongoing popular local poetry series. Having been to a few readings before Joshua had found it relaxing, and Tara was cute even if she was little too talkative for his taste. Now she was becoming annoying, and he resisted the urge to give a sigh of irritation. She was asking him a question, but he was only half listening. As he was about to respond a clear, throaty laugh rang throughout the cozy room and drew his eyes back to the subject of his previous observation. He caught the flash of her blindingly white teeth, and the sparkle of her eyes was entrancing. She caught his glance, and her smile faded as she stared back at him with such directness that he was taken aback. It was then the corner of her mouth had quirked up in what he could not decide was a slight smile or a smirk. Then she had turned away as if dismissing his gaze. He wanted to know what that look had meant. Hastily excusing himself from Tara he worked his way through the throng of coffee drinkers toward Maia. He had taken a seat next to her, and she had calmly sipped her chai with out acknowledging his presence. He felt awkward as silence permeated the slight space between them. Finally she had set down her cup, and looked over at him, and asked dryly, “Well I know you didn’t come over here just to stare at me, did you?” He didn’t know whether he should laugh or not, so he blushed instead nervously rubbing the back of his neck. It was then he caught the flicker of amusement in her deep hazel eyes. He felt hypnotized. “Blushing? Now that’s different.” she chuckled. Joshua felt his face grow hot, and knew he was probably flushing brighter. Why was he acting like such an idiot? What was it about this woman that made the words turn to lead in his mouth? He figured he already looked foolish, so he might as well plunge ahead. “Yeah, well it’s an easier introduction to conversation than staring, now isn’t it?” he joked with a lopsided grin. She tilted her head and replied, “I’ll say it’s far more original than some techniques. So I suppose you have a name, right?” He blushed again, and felt like such a retard as he responded, “Uh, yeah, my name is Joshua.” The humor on her face was apparent as she spoke, “My name is Maia.” “That’s a pretty name, Maia. It’s nice to meet you.” He said extending his hand toward her. Maia, glanced down at his hand, and did not make a move to take it. The humor had faded from her face and was replaced with a serious demeanor. “What’s your angle, Joshua?” she asked in crisp, flat tone with a no-nonsense gaze. Feeling flustered, he asked in mingled confusion and embarrassment, “What are you talking about?” “Hmph,” she snorted, “C’mon you did not abruptly depart your little friend over there to make trite conversation, now did you?” Joshua felt the blood rushing to his face once more as he realized why she had become so direct. The implications in that question were not wasted on him. He was no fool. He knew what she was talking about. He was White and she was Black. He hated that she had opened up the gap like that, dispersing the moment of simple conversation. It had become more complex in a matter of seconds, and now it was not about two people trying to get to know each other, but about his underlying intentions toward her. He knew it did not help that he was here with someone else, and he felt a heavy weight settle into the pit of his stomach. By no means was he deluded about the reality of racial relations. This was not the first time he had encountered this situation. He could only imagine that perhaps some other white guy had approached her just as he had now, and maybe he had been a jackass looking to get his thrills off her taboo dark beauty. He had known some guys that were real jerks like that. Who looked upon Black women and other races of women as if they were some exotic, forbidden creature, instead of just as beautiful, natural , and above all human women, not defined in terms of culture, class, or color. How could he convince her that he was different from the men she had probably encountered before? Perhaps, he thought with a small spurt of hope, it was not so much his color as that she might be suspicious of all men. Had she recently gotten out of a bad relationship? Maybe she was weary of dating anyone right now? He felt stupid and helpless standing there staring at her, as the numerous thoughts raced through his mind. It was then he sighed audibly, and looked at her with such an unguarded expression of vulnerability, dejection, and consternation that strangely touched her. “Hey, “she said in a softer tone, “Look I apologize if I seem defensive, but usually when one of “you” approaches me I don’t know what the hell to expect.” Joshua gave a sigh of apparent relief, and felt hopeful again as he responded. “I can understand that. I was just thinking of the complexity of this situation, and I was hoping it would not be like this. I’m not stupid…..I know how this looks, especially with her over there….” He trailed off shrugging eloquently toward the table where Brian, Jeanette, and Tara sat chattering and laughing. “But she is NOT my girlfriend. Seriously, we decided to hook up at the last moment. I only met her a couple of weekends ago.” “You don’t have to explain to me.” Maia said calmly, but not unkindly. Joshua stuffed his hands deep in his pockets and shrugged as he said, “Yeah, I know, but I want to. I don’t want you to think I’m just some jerk looking to hook up with you for some freaky fantasy. It’s not like that, really. You caught my eye, and I was curious about that look you gave me earlier. Plus your poetry is really good. You had me mesmerized while you were on stage. I’m not a artist or anything, but you have a great performance voice.” He noted with a flood of gratitude that she looked slightly pleased and more relaxed as she responded, “Thanks for the compliments. You seem like a decent guy. I appreciate your honesty. It takes a lot to say what you just did.” Then she had rewarded him with a warm smile that made him blush. “Do you always blush so much when you’re talking to women?” she asked with an amused expression, “Looking at you it would not seem you are the shy type.” He laughed then as he replied, “Well usually no, but I think you’re special. I mean I am kind of shy, but never in my life have I blushed so much, well at least not when I’m talking to a woman.” He amended. She flashed her winning smile again, and it surprised him the rush of pleasure he got from seeing that smile, and he gladly would have done something else to see it again. “I take it you’re a student at U of M,” she said nodding toward the university logo on his t-shirt as she sipped her chai, “What’s your major?” “Yeah, I am. My major is in architecture, how about you? I’ve never seen you around campus, but the university is so big you never know.” “Actually, I graduated from Wayne State University this past summer with a degree in English and Journalism. I just moved to Ypsilanti a few months ago. I mean I’ve had family up around this way for years, but I decided I needed a change of scenery from Detroit for awhile.” “Wow, graduated already! How old are you?” “Twenty. I graduated from high school a year early. I started college courses in my senior year of high school.” She explained “That’s impressive,” he said with a whistle then teased, “I’m not a genius like you, but I’m 21 and this is my last year at the University, thank God!” She smiled and asked, “Are you excited about graduation or just glad to get it over with?” “To be honest, I’m glad to get it over with. I’ve never really liked structured learning, but my parents would have killed me if I had not gone to college.” He said with a laugh. Maia chuckled. “Yeah, I know what you mean. My parents are the same way.” “I know they must be really proud of you. How did they react when you moved away from home?” “My momma acted like she going to have a conniption, and my daddy could not be helpful enough. I’m the last baby” she laughed. He smiled. “Hell, both my parents could not wait to get me out. I’m the oldest; they still have my younger brother and sister to worry about.” He was enjoying their conversation so much, that he had lost track of time and had completely forgotten about his friends. The irritating high pitched voice of Tara interrupted their pleasant banter, and Joshua resisted the desire to shrug her off. Tara was glaring at him and Maia, despite her fake sugary tone, as she joked that she thought he had gotten lost. He reluctantly introduced Maia and Tara, but did not miss the gleam of laughter in Maia’s eyes at his obvious annoyance. He quickly thought of a plan to rid himself of Tara, because he did not intend to let Maia out his sight until he had gotten her number. He easily managed to get Brian to take care of Jeanette and Tara, while he disappeared unto the patio where Maia had agreed to meet him at. She had laughed that infectious laugh at his well meant deceit, and had given him her number. They had talked everyday since they met, and they had been dating for a several weeks now. Now as he sat with Maia watching his sister peck at her salad momentarily, he almost regretted that he had decided to double date so soon with Minty and her boyfriend, Miguel. Miguel was a cool and humorous, Latino with smiling dark eyes, and a ready grin and quick wit. Joshua had not been secretive about dating Maia with Minty, and he had talked about Maia so much to his sister that she had insisted on meeting her. He had become used to having Maia to himself, and was reluctant to have her attention drawn away from him. Maia was patient and easily answered Minty’s numerous questions, and seemed to be enjoying herself. Joshua’s irritation with Minty melted away as he felt Maia squeeze his hand beneath the table, and her eyes sparkled. Miguel gave them both a look of understanding, and smiled indulgently at his girlfriend as she launched into an account of a recent shopping spree. Miguel must have the patience of a saint, he thought as he sighed resignedly and took a bite of his steak stir fry. Maia glanced over at him a resisted the urge to laugh at his expression.