Year one in Charlotte was profitable. I had a job with the city as a researcher in the Neighborhood and Business services department. I loved my job – at least for a while. In my first year working with the city, I had a wonderful mentor, Sonia Parker. She’d been the woman I wanted to be when I grew up, smart as a whip, fair but tough and respected by all. When she took me under her wing, I knew moving to Charlotte and selling my house in Raleigh – at a loss – had been the right choice.
“Mimi,” Sonia had said one afternoon as I headed out the door.
“There you go with that ma’am stuff,” she joked. The native New Yorker hadn’t been a big fan of being called ma’am, despite the fact that she was 50 years old. She would often say that she didn’t look a day over 30. She was almost right, I’d say 40.
“My mother taught me well,” I said with a laugh. “What’s going on?”
“I have a personal favor to ask of you.”
“My cousin fancies himself as a DJ and he’s spinning or whatever at a club tonight. I don’t do clubs, but you have to support family.”
I nodded, but didn’t wholeheartedly agree. Cuzzo would just have to accept my congratulations in a text message.
“So, will you be my wing woman?”
“I don’t want to go to the club alone and you need to get out. It’s a win-win for both of us.”
“Well, I was going to . . .”
“Mimi, you work hard. You need a social life. There’s this thing called work life balance and I don’t think you have that balance. You don’t want to burn out.”
This from a woman who was the first person in the door in the morning and the last to leave at night. “OK. Where is this club?”
“At the North Carolina Music Factory, you know where that is, right?”
Nodding, I felt like telling her that I’d only read about that place would’ve been a bad idea. “Great,” Sonia said. “The club is Butter and David, I’m sorry, DJ QC, will be handling the music.”
“DJ Queen City?” I questioned, thinking that was the lamest name for a DJ ever.
She nodded. “He’s also a producer and wanted to come back to Charlotte to sign some local talent for his label.”
“That sounds great.”
Sonia picked up her iPad and showed me a picture of David with a bunch of Cub Scouts. Down, Mimi, I thought as I focused on this chocolate man with the smoothest skin I’d ever seen. Bright brown eyes and a killer smile. “That’s my little cousin,” Sonia said. “I’m proud of him because he could’ve stayed in New York, but he came home to make a difference in the old neighborhood.”
“Just FYI, don’t say that to him. That’s the bane of his existence. North Charlotte will always be North Charlotte, no matter how I try to explain what redevelopment of that area is vital for the city. He says the city just wants to push black folks out of their homes.”
I kind of agreed with his point of view, but would I share that with my boss? Hell no. I’ve learned that sometimes you do have to play office politics. I laugh at corny jokes and I leave my personal life – or lack of one – at the door. Work is work. Granted, there are a few fine men who work in my department, but after my experience with Rich, I just keep it moving. Speaking of Rich, he had the gall to call me a month ago because he was in Charlotte working on the hospital project. I hung up on him, didn’t even curse him out like he deserved.
“What time does this thing start?” I asked.
“Well, I’ll see you then.”
“Great. And thank you. Make sure you dress for an evening out and not a day at the office.”
“I might have to hit the mall,” I quipped. “I have a closet full of business suits.”
Sonia rolled her eyes. “I think you’re older than me. See you later.”
On the drive home, I my mind wandered to my closet. I seriously didn’t have any clubbing clothes because I had decided that until I found a jazz club like the one in Mo Better Blues, I wasn’t going out. And it would help if there was a sexy band leader like Denzel blowing a trumpet to take me home as well. But I digress. As I nearly ran in the back of a Charlotte Area Transit bus, inspiration struck me. Black leather. Tonight, I’d morph in to my own version of Catwoman, circa Batman Returns, not that Halle Berry bomb.