Panama Jackson/VSB

Did I ever tell you about the one time I went to Rochester, NY? I probably didn't. I've been to Rochester, NY, one time in my life. And because I am both genius and legend, I went in February, in the dead of cold in 2004. It was so cold when I landed in the ROC that I immediately regretted my decision. And that was BEFORE the trip went to hell in a handbasket.

How I ended up in Rochester is a story in and of itself. So let's start there. After I graduated from Morehouse in May of 2001, I, along with one of my best friends from Morehouse, moved to Hyattsville, MD, as we were beginnig graduate school at the University of Maryland - College Park. Now, despite living in Maryland, I managed to make it back to Atlanta at every possible opportunity. If there was a three-day weekend, a long week off, or whatever, I was back in Atlanta. This was for two reasons: 1) I REALLY missed Atlanta; my body was in DC but my heart was in Atlanta; and 2) at the time, I was enamored with a woman who was still living in Atlanta so I'd go back to see her. Because idiot. This was back before I realized that the friend zone was a real place and going out of your way to visit a woman who just wanted to cuddle until the guy she was really interested in came around was a thing. That's neither here nor there because by 2004 she was DOA anyway.

Anyway, for New Year's of 2003 going into 2004, I went to Atlanta to hang with my people. It was probably a vainglorious affair because they always are, but I can't lie, I don't remember anything about it. I don't know if that was the time I slept on the toilet from throwing up so much or, you know what? Never mind.

What I do remember is that on January 2, 2004 (a Friday), I went to Gutbusters in the West End to get me a sammich. Now, while I was waiting in line, I see this table with five people. There are three women and two dudes. One of the chicks is giving me the eye but she's sitting next to a dude and my thought is, either she's the type that likes to see her man fight or that ain't her man. Either way, it isn't worth it for me to find out. She was attractive, but you know…I ain't got no type…bad biii…never mind. Anybody who has ever been to Gutbusters knows you end up waiting maaaaad long for your sub. It was like waiting for your wings at Stegall's on Clark's campus. Except at Stegall's, if they called your number more than once they were giving your food away.

Stegall's was trill. RIP Stegall's (and Audrey's).

Well, while I'm sitting down waiting, the chick who was eyeing me walks up to me and tells me she thinks I'm cute and probably said something like, "I feel like I'm your rib." It's possible that I'm making that up. (I'm making that up.) She does says to me, "if I give you my number, will you use it?"

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Bad chick. Approached me. Yes, I will use it. So she writes her number down. We make small talk then I get my food and bounce. She told me her name was Tina and that she lives in Rochester and was down visiting her friend for New Year's Eve. She tells me to give her a call that night.

Well, I'm in the A with my homeys and we're kickin' it for the weekend so I don't actually call her because liquor. Because love. Not that night anyway. In fact, I didn't even call her that weekend - which, considering that she lives in upstate New York would have been the ideal time. Nope.

I waited until I got back to DC, like a week later to give her a call. She doesn't actually remember who I am at this point. I wasn't offended but I mean, it's only been a week. How many motherfuckers was she giving her number too? But when I was 24, I never saw a red-flag that I didn't like so we ended up conversationing fairly frequently. She was interested. I was interested. And this was before camera phones so I only had my memory to go off on how she looked. We talked about everything and nothing and apparently skimmed over important details about life and shit. Well over the course of our conversations we decided that I should go to Rochester to visit her. I'd never been and I was up for adventure. It wasn't like I was going from Alaska to Mississippi in my car or nothing. And I for damn sure wasn't driving to Temecula. Naw, a quick flight to Rochester to hang with a chick I'd seen for all of 5 minutes at a sub shop in Atlanta.

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Of course I should go.

She made sure to let me know that this wasn't a trip for sex. She was interested and I was too so I was like, "yeah, cool. No sweat. Sure I'll fly to upstate NY to spoon. On my dime." So we kept talking and being entertained by one another and laughing and doing the things you do that make trips to see people you don't really remember seem like common sense.

So one cold February day, I flew up to Rochester, NY. And THAT'S when shit got weird.

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To be continued.