“White babes don’t do nothing for me. You know that.”

“Bullshit, your fucking hard-on woke me up.”

“Aversion therapy.”

“What’s that?”

I balked at telling her about my father locking my head into the tachistoscope and for three hours flashing split-second images of the forbidden fruit of his era, pinups and Playboy centerfolds, in my face. Bettie Page, Betty Grable, Barbra Streisand, Twiggy, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn, Sophia Loren; then he’d force ipecac and okra smoothies down my throat. I’d vomit my guts out while he blasted Buffy Sainte-Marie and Linda Ronstadt on the stereo. The visual stimuli worked, but the auditory stuff didn’t take. To this day, whenever I’m feeling down and troubled, I crank Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King from the stereo, all of who were shouting-out California way before Biggie, Tupac, or any of the Ice Coons. But if you look carefully, and the light is just right, you can see the afterimages of Barbi Benton’s naked centerfold burned into my pupils as if they were discount plasma TVs.

“It’s nothing. I just don’t like white girls is all.”

Marpessa sat up and nestled her head into the crook of my neck. “Bonbon?” She smelled like she always did — of baby powder and designer shampoo. It was all she needed. “When did you fall in love with me?”

“The Color of Burnt Toast,” I said, naming the bestselling memoir about the guy from Detroit with a “crazy” white mother who didn’t want her biracial children to be traumatized by the word “black,” so she raised them as brown, called them beigeoloids, celebrated Brown History Month, and, until he was ten years old, grew up believing that the reason he was so dark was because his absentee father was the lightning-scorched magnolia tree in the housing project courtyard. “You let my father convince you to join the Dum Dum Donuts book club. Everybody else loved the book, but during the question-and-answer session you went off on dude. ‘I’m so fucking tired of black women always being described by their skin tones! Honey-colored this! Dark-chocolate that! My paternal grandmother was mocha-tinged, café-au-lait, graham-fucking-cracker brown! How come they never describe the white characters in relation to foodstuffs and hot liquids? Why aren’t there any yogurt-colored, egg-shell-toned, string-cheese-skinned, low-fat-milk white protagonists in these racist, no-third-act-having books? That’s why black literature sucks!’”

“I said ‘Black literature sucks’?”

“Yup, and I was head over heels.”

“Shit, white people got complexions, too.”