A few years ago, I got involved with a man I shall-to protect the guilty-call Thomas. (Names and potentially incriminating details have been changed throughout.) He was new to the small town where I lived, but I knew his cousin, so I took Thomas at face value. Besides, the place was short on Black-male prospects, and Thomas, who hailed from a chocolate city, brought with him a sexy street vibe that I took a liking to. We had lots of fun together, going to baseball games, to all-you-can-eat cafeterias and, eventually, to my place and to his for nightcaps. It wasn’t hope-to-die love, but he was easy to be with and I started to think of him as my man.


A few months after we met, as Thomas and I sat in a laundromat chatting and watching my clothes chase one another in the jumbo dryer, a police siren blared. It got closer and closer. Suddenly Thomas hopped out of his seat, looking crazed.


“Relax,” I said, “they’re not coming for you.”


“How do you know?” His eyes fixed on mine.


“Well, why would they?”


“Because I’m wanted in three states,” he whispered.


“What?!” I squawked.


He told me the offenses, none of which had been violent. Still, three states worth of bad behavior was plenty for me. I started to imagine us as a twenty-first-century Bonnie and Clyde dodging round after round of police bullets. That’s when Sistergirl had to step.


You know how it goes. You meet a guy and all the bells and whistles go off. He seems perfect until you discover the thing that you cannot live with. No way, no how. Once you discover it, you realize that there were hints all along, and you wonder why you didn’t pick up on them before you invited him into your heart.


Don’t beat yourself up over it. We’ve all let a bozo or two spend more time than he should in our lives. But when we start to feel as if we’ve dated the whole Ringling Brothers crew, it’s time to wise up and ask ourselves what role we’ve played in creating our own circus.