Book of Love

William July wrote about achieving great relationships. Then he had one.

Promiscuity, for instance, didn't work. As he later told an Essence writer, "I've felt compelled to do a lot of things Iwasn't enjoying sexually. I could be sitting, watching TV, cooling out, and the phone would ring, and just because Ihad an opportunity to get sex, I'd get up and go get it."

He realized he had a problem, he said, when he once fell asleep during sex.
From those and other miserable experiences, he distilled life lessons. He wrote "Five Things Women Do That Men Can't Stand" for Today's Black Woman, "I Want Your Soul" for Papyrus, "Why I Didn't Call" for Black Elegance and "How to Love a Black Man" for Upscale. In '92 he got his big break: his first article, "Hello, How Are You?" in Essence.

Those essays became the foundation of Brothers, Lust and Love. While he was writing the last bits, he says, he was celibate for six months -- "a long time for a guy."

"We all get lost in the physical jungle," he explains. "It gives you time to clear your head."

It also gave him time to finish his book. Which, at the publishing conference, he gave to Lacy.

The two started off just as friends. Lacy had sworn off men. She wanted to focus on her career as a personal trainer and on getting her daughter, Laney, through high school.

Lacy talked to July on the phone. They were both writers, so they started with that, but the more they talked, Lacy says, the more alike they seemed. The first two months they logged 200 hours on the phone.

It's easier to say what they don't have in common than to list what they do. For instance, she says, she likes to go out and do things, but he likes to hole up in the house. "She likes to stay at home too," he says, a bit defensively.

The more they talked, the more electricity there was between them. They both think Mike Judd is a genius and make up Beavis and Butthead episodes for fun. They're both hugging people, and they're picture-taking people. They love dogs.

Revising his book for a big-league publisher, July took out the never-crossed-the-color-line bit that had bothered Lacy. In fact, he rewrote the chapter to say that you shouldn't date a woman based on her skin tone, it's the woman inside that matters. And he changed the chapter's title from "Does Love Have a Color?" to "Multicolored Love."

When they crossed another line -- the line between just-friends and more-than-friends -- Lacy decided they needed to slow down. They dated a few months. Then, she says, "he started talking about good genes," explaining how her creative and athletic traits would come out in their children.

He got down on one knee in her kitchen, took her hand and asked her to marry him. She thought it was sweet and cute and fresh and corny, all at the same time.

But she hesitated to say yes because she's not 100 percent healthy. Because breast cancer runs in her family and she discovered cysts in her breasts when she was 19, doctors had scooped out her breast tissue to prevent cancer and put in silicone gel implants. The implants burst three years later when she was breast-feeding her daughter.

Those implants, she thinks, are why she has symptoms of lupus; the connective tissue throughout her body is hardening. Some days she gets really tired and the pain gets really bad. She told July that she didn't know if she was going to get worse or if she was going to get better.

He didn't care. He told her he could marry someone who was in the same shape she was in five years ago and they could get killed in a car accident tomorrow.

They jotted notes for their vows, but when they met with the Reverend Karen Tudor, she had already included everything they wanted to say. She talked about the two candles representing them as two independent, separate, complete people, and a third candle as their union. It's a wedding commonplace, but July saw it as symbolic support for the idea in his book that complete people attract complete people and don't meld into one -- they both have their own souls and keep them after the wedding. Going over their vows he and Lacy both started to cry.

They were married October 23 at Unity Church of Christianity. It was a small ceremony. July wore the $2,000 suit that he wears on his book cover. Lacy's best friend sat with her mouth open the whole time. She couldn't believe Lacy was getting married.

Now they live in Spring, in a four-bedroom Tudor-style house on a corner lot. July has the cream-colored computer by the windows; hers is the black computer in the corner by the red accent wall. There's a copy of his book cover by her screen. He'll put hers up when it's out this summer.

A self-typed sign, "DISCIPLINE, PATIENCE, PRACTICE," is beside his computer, and there's a little note tacked to the screen: "What do YOU think? What would you say? How do you feel? Just be conversational." A yin and yang hovers to his right beside a framed Hallmark message exhorting, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." (Lacy gave him that.) To his left is his favorite picture of Lacy, before the bright blond grew out of her hair. She's wearing a black jog bra and leggings, either about to work out or just finishing a workout, he can't remember which.

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