Raymond was a 34-year-old man, separated from his wife and daughter. He had bug-eyes, a large beer belly, and used copious amounts of gel to pretend that his blond hair wasn’t thinning. He wasn’t handsome, by any means, but was quite likable and energetic. He often talked like Chris Tucker and wanted to be part of the black culture so badly that he nicknamed himself “Redbean.” He had a corporate day job that he hated where no one would even think to call him “Redbean.” Once a week, he hosted a popular stand-up comedy open mic near the French Quarter in New Orleans where people only knew him as “Redbean.” Oh, and I should also mention that he was my boyfriend… when I was a senior in high school.
I was suppose to go away for my senior year in high school to North Carolina School of the Arts. My high school acting teacher told me that I was a “shoe in” since he was best friends with the instructor over there, and that I was surely talented enough. I also convinced my aunt and uncle to pay for my tuition. I told everyone in my life that I was leaving. Plus, I was ready to get the f*ck out of New Orleans. It was a done deal…but then it wasn’t. The ONE other girl in my class who auditioned got accepted, but not me. I returned to high school the next year feeling ashamed, depressed and hopeless.
So I decided to do stand-up.
I was scared since not only was I the youngest one there at the open mic, I was pretty much the only female there too. In the beginning, I felt untouchable. One would would think that there is an unspoken rule as an adult male to not hit on or date girls that are currently enrolled in high school. But since it was the South… that rule did not apply.
It all started because my older brother told Redbean to watch and “protect” me from another older comedian that was romantically obsessed with me during the New Orleans Comedy Festival. This guy would just NOT leave me alone and was determined to kiss me or who knows what. Redbean didn’t leave my side and bought me drinks at the bar all night long. Later, he drove me home, parked his car in my family’s driveway, and then kissed me.
I was surprised, but then I wasn’t. I mean, I knew he was attracted to me. I knew all those alcoholic comics with low self-esteem wanted to sleep with me. I had been with only one guy before, another boy from my high school the year prior, but we were both virgins at the time. Overall it was innocent and sweet.
But with Redbean, it was different. It felt taboo which…well, turned me on... and I was drunk...so of course, I kissed him back.
And then we started to date. He bought me a cell phone because he didn’t want to speak to my dad when calling my house. This was around 2001-2002 so not everyone had one. I was thrilled to have my very own Nokia cell phone. I guess Redbean wanted to save money, so he put me on the cell phone family plan… with his ex-wife.
Redbean was a mess. He drank heavily and pretty much was going through a mid-life crisis. He drove drunk late to my house on school nights. I snuck out to his car and he would incoherently tell me about his day. He apologized for his ex-wife since she often would call my cell phone and explain to me that I was a whore. Redbean said he loved me, not her, but they did have a daughter to raise.
As for me, I knew I didn’t love Redbean, but he was a ticket out of feeling trapped. (And yes, I called him Redbean because that’s how I was introduced to him). On the weekends, he took me out to dinner, got me drunk to the degree where I always threw up, and then I’d sleep at his place. He would get hammered, too, and was basically impotent all the time. I mean, sure there would be times where we’d have sex. He once commented on my pubic hair and told me that his ex-wife would have heart shaved pubes before they got married hinting that I should do the same. But in high school, I never thought about my pubes. Thinking about pubes is more of a 20 year old thing. A 30 year old thing. I was too scared to put a razor to my vagina so I ignored his suggestion. Plus, I thought it was unfair.
Our relationship did not last. Eventually, his ex-wife showed up to my house. My dad opened the door and led her to my room where I was with my math tutor preparing for a calculous exam. She aggressively nabbed my cell phone and stormed out, but not without my dad making a pass at her. I got a “C” on that test.
Years ago, Redbean added me as a friend on Facebook. He wanted to tell me that he saw my Toyota commercial air during a Saints game. Other than that, we didn’t really converse much. I guess I didn’t have any hard feelings. I just didn’t think about him a lot. But recently and especially now with the whole #metoo, I HAVE been thinking about him. He has a daughter who is now a couple years older than me when we were dating. Whenever I look at pictures of the two of them on his Facebook page, I get grossed out. So, I de-friended him. It was a strange time in both of our lives. But dude, I was in high school.