Introducing Story District’s new monthly column. After 25 years in the storytelling biz, we’ve learned a lot and want to share our stories and insights with you. In this column, we feature the written version of a story Dr. Antwan Perry performed as part of “Sucker for Love” in February 2020. Antwan is just one of our favorite storytellers sharing one of our favorite stories at Story District’s 25th Birthday Bash. See him perform an entirely different story live at 7 p.m. on October 1, 2022 at the Lincoln Theatre.
Growing up, one of my favorite television shows was a show called “A Different World.” In case you haven’t seen it, the show is about college students attending a historically Black university in Virginia. Two of the main characters were Dwayne Wayne, who was semi-nerdy, but very cool, and Whitley Gilbert, who was very beautiful, but also very pretentious. As it goes in the world of TV sitcoms, the two of them fell in love and lived happily ever after. When I watched this television show every Thursday night, I said to myself, “That is going to be my life. I am going to find my Whitley Gilbert, and I’m going to be her Dwayne Wayne.”
After high school, I coincidentally attended a historically Black university in Virginia. The first day on campus, I didn’t look for the bookstore. I didn’t look for my classes. I looked for my Whitley Gilbert. It took me a while, but by my junior year, I found her. She and I started dating after graduation, we became inseparable, and a few years later, we got married.
Things were going great for the first few years of marriage, but around year three, I don’t know what happened. We just grew apart. And one day, she sat me down. I’m thinking we’re going to strategize on how to fix our relationship. She says, “Antwan, you’re a great husband, but I don’t think I can make you happy. I want to divorce.” I was crushed. I mean, she said I had been a good husband, and I really tried. I was complimentary, I was romantic, I dressed well, I was nice to her, and though I look skinny, I’m ripped. I didn’t understand how any of this could happen because this is not how it happened for Dwayne and Whitley. After that, I said to myself, “There’s no more falling in love for you, no more getting married ever. Matter of fact, you can’t even date for a full year.”
Several months later, I went to my college homecoming and saw a friend from college who looked so much better than I remember. But I told myself I had to walk away and give myself a year. It had only been eight months. I turned around…and I immediately turned back around. I walked straight up to her and before I tapped her on the shoulder, I licked my lips like LL Cool J, put on my sexy voice, and said, “Hey, girl.” She said, “Hey, Antwan, you look good.” And I thought, “This is going great! But what can I say to not mess this up?” So I said, “You look better. Let’s go to brunch on Sunday, girl.”
So we went to brunch on Sunday and we stayed there for about four hours talking — not wanting our time to end. She suggested we see a movie and we went and saw “The Intern” starring Robert De Niro. She loved the movie, but I have to be honest, I can’t tell you a thing that happened. While she was watching, I was daydreaming about where we would live after the wedding. In my daydream I thought, “We’ll have a child or two. We’ll have a beautiful daughter and a handsome little chocolate son who wears bow ties and talk like Ron Burgundy. Before you think I’m absolutely crazy, she talked about having kids all the time once we actually started dating. Sometimes — as new couples do — we made up names for our fictitious children. One day I said, “Our son shall be named Richmond.” Richmond, as in Virginia. She said, “Antwan, you want to name our son after the capital of the Confederacy?” She had a point so we settled on the name Cashton.
We dated for about a year before we got engaged. A year later, we got married and we quickly started to try to have a family. After several months of nothing happening, she went to the doctor to make sure she was okay. She was but when I went my urologist said, “Antwan, there’s something off with one of your tests. You should go to see a radiologist and get some imaging done.” So I go to the radiologist on my way to work one morning. He comes in and in a very monotone way he says, “Antwan, there’s a tumor on your right testicle. It looks like cancer. I’ll send these to your doctor.” And he walks out of the room. As he left, it was almost like the air in the room left with him. My wife was out of town so I called her to tell her the doctor said I have cancer. She told me not to worry, that everything will be okay. Soon after my doctor said additional tests revealed that I was born with a rare genetic abnormality. The only symptom is that I would have difficulty fathering a child naturally. She told me not to worry about it and focus on my health.
After my surgery, I was doing great, but our relationship was not. She seemed to be angry all of the time. Like the morning that I forgot to take the garbage cans to the curb. She called and said, “Antwan, are you stupid?” I said, “Okay, girl, hold on. What’s wrong?” She said, “You forgot to take the garbage cans to the curb.” I said, “Okay, it’s cool. Like they come twice a week. It’s okay.” She said, “No, Antwan, this is serious. I’m gonna have to start doing this myself, like everything else.” And she hung up the phone on me over trash cans. After giving it some thought, I realized that it wasn’t about the trash cans. It was our first year of marriage. We had to deal with me having an illness, I was struggling to pay for IVF, she was going to have to take hormone injections, and our doctor said that our efforts guarantee nothing. One day, my wife sat me down and she said, “Antwan, you’re a good husband. But I want to have children, and I don’t think that’s something you can give me. I want to divorce.” I couldn’t believe I have found myself in this place again. Again, this is not how it worked out for Dwayne and Whitley.
As devastating as that was, there was still so much for me to be grateful for — like no longer having testicular cancer.
If you don’t know what having testicular cancer means, it means that a doctor puts you to sleep and removes one of your balls. It’s okay. Because before the surgery, I was able to look through a catalog of balls. I searched far and wide, and I was able to select a brand new ball that really fit my personality. My new ball is it’s very humorous. My new ball is very educated and confident. Everything’s phenomenal down there, I promise.
I did a lot of personal work on myself. I was able to assess both marriages, and if I ever get married again, I know that I will be an even better husband. But most importantly, I’m no longer trying to replicate the love that I see on old television sitcoms. Now, I’m embracing the real love that I experience every day in real life.
About Story District: In 1997, The Speakeasy was born, an open mic series for storytelling. Over time, we evolved into Story District and now we host dozens of shows and classes every year, while also leading trainings and creating custom performances for businesses, government agencies, colleges and nonprofits. Visit StoryDistrict.org, subscribe to our podcast, “Story District Presents,” our YouTube channel StoryDistrictLive and follow us on Instagram @storydistrict.
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