The Star in the East

It took me a while to find the path that was right there in front of me

The year had just sucked. I was 33 and desperate to be married. An unwanted breakup had left me brokenhearted, my job as an HR manager meant nothing to me and my Los Angeles apartment had a funky odor that neither I nor the super could identify. One day, as I laid in bed crying, a friend called and asked me to accompany him to New York City. The offer felt like the spark I needed.

My friend had his own accommodations, so I stayed with my brother in Staten Island. Making my way to a girlfriend’s apartment in Brooklyn, I immediately felt energized. The Fort Greene area where she lived was electric, and I could hardly contain my excitement as I walked down the store- and restaurant-lined streets. Brooklyn was a city where walking offered the gift of encounters — maybe even life-changing ones —and I was ready for mine.

An army-fatigue maxi-skirt caught my attention in a store window, and I could see that it would fit my slim figure perfectly. I stepped into the boutique and was greeted by a man with a golden complexion and long locks. His features were strong and masculine — full lips, a large nose and a finely chiseled jaw. To this day, I swear I heard angels sing when he approached.

“You’ll look nice in the skirt," he said. "I designed it with women like you in mind."

I felt the store spin around and white light filled my vision. When it finally subsided, I found us gazing into each other's eyes. James and I exchanged numbers and made plans to meet again for dinner the next evening.

When I returned to Los Angeles a few days later, I decided to move to New York and start a new life. James — handsome and charming, a dream come true — was sure to be my savior.

My brother and his wife readily agreed that I could come and stay with them. They’d been married for more than 20 years and rarely said no if someone needed help. By the time the holidays rolled around, I was shipping off to New York, trusting that the city’s energy (and one of its most attractive residents) would open the door to a new Monique.

Things were immediately not what I had expected. The day after I arrived, I woke to the sound of my sister-in-law packing her things.

“You can take care of him now," she shouted at me. "I’m leaving.”

She left before my brother was home from work. While this event cast a pall on my new adventure, I was still glad to be in the Big Apple. It was almost Christmas and my ferry ride from Staten Island into the city each day felt like a world away from the freeways of Los Angeles. Best of all, the man who’d blinded me with his love light when I first set eyes on him was having a birthday party that weekend.

We met at his home before we headed out to dinner. He had a gorgeous Christmas tree and was dressed in clothing that perfectly reflected his casual but confident attitude. We sat for moment and drank a glass of wine. I was excited and felt special that he had invited me to his celebration this early in our relationship. “Yes,” I thought, “he must be ‘the one.’”

We entered the restaurant and sat down at a large banquet table with about 40 other people. Apparently, we were the last two to arrive. I quickly noticed that most of the other guests were women, and could feel their stares piercing right through me. It took little imagination to know that a number of them were thinking, “Who is she? And what is she doing here?” All of a sudden, the reality of the situation hit me — I was new to the city, with my new suitor, on his birthday — and I couldn’t wait for the evening to end.

When I returned to my brother’s house the next morning, he greeted me with his typical calm demeanor.

“How was your evening?” he asked.

I gave him all the ugly details — the woman who nearly killed me with her venomous stares, the table swarming with James’s several ex- and current girlfriends, his efforts to be “gracious” toward me and finally how his brother kept me company for most of the night.

“Mo, why do you chase men?" my brother finally asked. "You don’t have to answer that, but do you know you don’t need to do it?”

I laid there quietly thinking about his words. In that moment, I realized that I’d mistaken the light for the path itself. James was not my savior, but the light that guided me to New York, like the star in the east that shone for the three wise men, was real. It was my brother.

I spent the next 6 months in New York, living with and learning from him. The collision of his divorce and my cross-country crisis would prove to be exactly what we both needed to mend our broken hearts.