Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ruination

The phone rings right around my second swipe of red lipstick. I assume it’s either someone finalizing tonight’s plans or the only person who calls me at this time of night that I actually answer for.
It is neither.
I stand a few feet away watching the phone light up on the charger. The me on the display looks back at me, a picture from months and months ago of me wrapped up in his arms, my hair blowing and a smile stretching as wide as my face. His face is nuzzled in my neck and hair, his smile sliced by the strands.
That smile used to undo me.
I watch the phone light up over and over. Twice. Three times. A few more times after that. I knew this was going to happen. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to come to this city where he resides and he not reach out to me. I knew it even before I ran into his homeboy in the airport- too tired and on my way to drunk from the whiskey on the plane- to remember to ask him not to tell him I was here. The text message chime goes off not too long after the last call is disconnected.
“You’re in my city?”
I don’t wanna do this.

We down the shots his homeboy just poured us, discarding our glasses and heading back out to the open space that has been cleared to make a dance floor. We snake around each other, leaning in to hear the other talking over the music. We laugh and dance, my body tingling from the shots and his touch. We’re easy, moving like we’re connected, and at one point I throw my arms around his neck, kissing him as gently as a drunk person can, and tell him, “I’m glad we’re here.”

 “You already know the answer to this.”
“You came and didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t think I needed to check in.”
“Yeah, you were never good at that.”
“Neither were you. Clearly. But aight.”

I put the phone down and head back towards the bathroom as it begins to light up and chime in rapid succession, pages and pages of angry texts flooding my inbox. He’s angry. I’m putting on my eyeliner.

An old school R. Kelly song shuffles on, and he spins me around deftly, his entire front pressed against my entire back without space for even air to pass between us. We dance like we’re in high school, all slow grinding and groping, his hands all over me. He’s saying slick shit in my ear, and with each comment that is more outrageous than the last, I meet him with the same dare; “Do it,” I tell him. “Or shut the fuck up.”

My phone has finally stopped singing the symphony of the disgruntled and I glance over the messages I’ve gotten. All the CAPS lock. And exclamation points. Accusations and victimizations. I sigh, heavy and resigned. This shit was over months ago. I don’t wanna do this.

I fish a thong out of my suitcase to wear under my dress with one hand, and type lazily with my other.

“We’re not doing this.”
“Don’t you think we need to talk about this?”
“We coulda talked about this months ago. You showed your ass. So, your opportunity to talk to me is over.”
“We need to resolve this.”
“It’s been resolved.”
“Why are you being so cold?”
At that I laugh, loud and long, tickled down to my red toes that this is a problem for him.
“This is what you wanted.”

He turns me back around to him, hooking his arms around my waist and settling his cheek on top of my hair. We sway to the music, probably drunkenly off beat but not caring.
“Hey, did I tell you I was going outta town next week?” I tell him no, figuring it’s one of many business trips to somewhere that he takes often.
“Where are you off to?”
“Mexico.” This gives me pause a bit. Mexico doesn’t sound like a business trip.
“Mexico?” I parrot back.
“Yeah. Mexico. With Carey.”
I rock back on my heels away from him, look at him like I just watched him grow two heads.
“You’re going to Mexico. With… your ex-girlfriend?”
“Yeah. I didn’t think it would be a problem.”
“Thinking is clearly not your strong suit, then.”

“Can we meet somewhere?"
“We’re not doing this.”
“I just wanna talk this out.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Don’t be like this.”
“This is what you wanted.”
“You know, I know where you’re going tonight. I could just show up and make you talk to me.”
“I think I have more than proven I am willing to and capable of showing my whole and entire ass in public, so try me if you want to.”
“It shouldn’t be like this.”
“No, it shouldn’t.”

I push through the double doors that lead out to the backyard and he is close on my heels.
“What’s the problem, La?”
“What’s the problem?! I can’t tell if you really don’t think it’s a problem, or if you’re hoping that if you act as though it’s not a problem, I will be convinced.”
“It really isn’t that big a deal.”
“You’re going on vacation with the ex you thought you’d marry and it’s not a big deal? That shit doesn’t deserve discussion of some sort?”
“I mean, you know what this is, La. This trip doesn’t mean anything.”
“Nigga, you must think I’m stupid.”
“I never said that. But we never said we were cutting off other people.”
My mouth falls open,and for once in my overly articulate life I am actually speechless. I didn’t think it needed to be said to this friend who’s gotten to know me and watched me date other people for five years that I expected that while we’re dating, he isn’t going on a Mexican rendezvous with his ex. I try to rack my drunken brain for when and if over the last few months, I have in some way given the impression that this type of thing would be okay with me. And I realize that by assuming that he knew me- that the stretch of months we’d spent together meant the same thing to him as they did to me- was my mistake.
“You know what, you do think I’m stupid. But that’s my fault. Because I have been acting that way. We 'bout to get that shit right right now, though.”
“La, you know what this is.”
“Obviously you and I have very different ideas about what “this” is.”
“Obviously.”
“I expect that the person that I’m dating not be going on vacation with their ex.”
“But we never said we were exclusive though.”
“You’re absolutely right. And that’s my fault for not being clear about my expectations. But this is not okay with me.”
“I don’t want to be bound by all the titles and the bullshit.”
“So all the benefits and none of the responsibility. That’s a change from that shit you were dream selling.”
“Yo, why are you being such a bitch about this?”
I absolutely fucking lose it.

“Please just meet me somewhere so we can talk.”
“No.”
“Why are you being like this?!”
“This is what you asked for.”
Eventually I agree to meet him outside my hotel, so we can settle this once in for all and I can go on about my plans for the evening a few pounds lighter. I promise myself that this won’t turn into a shit show like it did last time.

“La, you are fucking trippin’.”
“You think so? Cuz this is me on about 6. You ever call me a bitch again and I will spend the rest of the time between then and when they carry your ass to the hospital on 15.”
“Why are you so mad?”
“Would you let me do it? If it were the other way around, would you be okay with me doing it? If I told you that I was going on a trip, say with the friend that you’re so intimidated by, would it be okay with you?”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant.”
“That’s because you refuse to be wrong. And you know you’re wrong as fuck.”
“I didn’t expect you to be such a girl about this.”
“You know what, fuck you and this argument.” I turn to walk back into the house and gather my things to head home. It’s his turn to lose it.

“Hi.”
“You have five minutes.”
“You think we can have this whole conversation in five minutes?”
“This isn’t a conversation. I have nothing left to say. You wanted to talk. You have five minutes to do that.”
He looks at me long and hard and sighs. He starts, his confidence obviously thrown. He says all the things someone says when they knows they have broken something they can’t piece back together but their pride won’t let them not try.

“Don’t fucking walk away from me,” he says as he grabs my arm.
“If you don’t let me go, it will be the very last thing you do with that hand.” He turns me loose and we stand there almost snarling at each other, toe-to-toe, neither of us willing to back down.
“I shoulda known better.”
“Excuse me?”
“I shoulda known better than to try to be with someone as fucking broken as you.” I stand there in heartbroken shock as the friend I’ve known for years, who’s been around through trials and triumphs and deaths and promotions and heartbreaks, runs down all my flaws, all my heartbreaks, all the things we ever discussed in hushed confidence that I thought I was sharing with someone who unconditionally had my back.
He pauses his rant only long enough to take a deep breath, and a detached calm settles over me.
“Are you done?”

“I’m really sorry, La.”
“No, you aren’t. I’m just glad you finally got to say what you felt about me.”
“That isn’t how I felt- how I feel- about you. I was just angry and drunk-“
“And that’s how I know you spoke your heart. But it’s cool. I am uninterested in being with someone who is with me as though it’s a favor to me.”
“La, we go so far back-“
“And that’s why this is such a shame.”

“You really are an asshole.”
“Yes. I can be. But that wasn’t my question. My question was; ARE YOU DONE?!”
“Yeah, I’m done.”
“Good. Me too.”
“You know, I liked you more when you weren’t so emotional.”
“Oh, you mean you liked me better when I didn’t give a fuck? That? THAT I can do.”
I turn and walk away, back through the house where people pretend to have not just been watching our heavyweight bout in the back. A friend volunteers to take me home. As I slide into his passenger seat, I am taken aback by the fact that even though I am riding in the same car I came in, I am leaving with nothing I came with.

“I think we can fix this.”
We don’t need to fix shit. Because we didn’t break it.”
“What are you saying, La?”
“I’m saying you ruined this. And don’t you ever fucking forget it. Your time’s up.”
Before he can say another word, I step into the street, hailing a cab at the busy intersection and sliding in to make my way to my next destination. I don’t know if he’s still standing there watching me, or if he’s accepted his defeat and headed back to wherever he came from, because I have no real use for looking back.   

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Reason

I think that day I was complaining about all the junk. Or maybe the filthy, dark bathroom I had to share with my little brother. Either way, I was complaining, the latest bitch session of many bitch sessions about the things that were driving me to drink (more) about living with my daddy and stepmom and brother since relocating. And my dear friend QQ, bless her heart, was still patiently listening. When I paused for air she asked me, “So why don’t you just move?”

I didn’t have any answer for that.

*          *         *         *

At the end of a long day, I finally park my truck outside the house after fighting 45 minutes of traffic to get here. I dodge the oversized potted plants and their spilled soil on the top step and walk inside. Honey greets me at the bottom of the steps, her tail wagging mightily and running around in excited circles.
“Hey Honey boo boo chile!” I greet her as she sits down and waits for her customary end-of-the-day belly rubs. When she is done, she sprints up the split stairs as I follow behind her, curling up at my daddy’s feet.

“Hey Daddy.”
He returns my greeting, using my first and middle names as he always does, as though they are one name and not two. 
“You hungry?”
“Yeah.”
“Okay dinner is almost done.”

I sit down on the couch across from him, slipping off my shoes and taking my hair down. 
“You did that when you were a kid too.”
“What?”
“Rub your face when you’re sleepy.”
I pull my hands down from my face, not even aware that I had been doing it.

We don’t talk about anything. How my day went. How spoiled the dog is. What’s for dinner. What’s on TV. Football. I follow behind him as he shuffles into the kitchen, his knee still sore from the surgery he had a few months back. We laugh and crack jokes as he puts the finishing touches on dinner while I try to steal food from his pots and pans when he isn’t looking. We settle in front of the TV as we always do since my stepmom is at work and my little brother isn’t fond of coming out of his room.  He finds Family Feud, the one with Steve Harvey because he doesn’t like the other hosts, makes an immature joke about farts and we eat.

A couple hours later, after we have sat and watched TV and made inappropriate guesses about the responses 100 people gave to random questions, I take our dishes to the kitchen to wash and he sets up the ironing board. When I return, I pick up an edge of the pants he is pressing and throw them off the ironing board.

“Oh, I’ma beat your ass,” he says to me faking more malice than either of us believe and smiling so hard his eyes crinkle.
“Whatever, old man, ain’t nobody scared of you.”

We watch NCIS and talk about how he wanted to be an air force pilot. We talk about the dog putting on weight and the best way to sear a roast so it doesn’t get dry. We talk about more nothing before we both head upstairs to our bedrooms, him dragging a basket of laundry, me with the dog trailing closely behind me.

I shower and then curl up under my covers, slipping on my glasses and reading a little before my daddy comes in. He sits on the foot of my bed, rubbing the dog and telling me about a comedy special he wants me to watch before he leaves. Later, while I’m lying sprawled across my bed, smiling into the phone pressed against my cheek, he peeks his head in to give the dog a treat and tell me he is making my favorite meal tomorrow.

And really, this is it, isn’t it? This is the reason why, despite my bitching, and my discomfort, this is why I’ve not left. Because I am finally getting what I thought I never would; the chance to get to know my dad.

I worried for the longest that something would happen to one of us and we would still be strangers to one another. That time would get away with us and we would never be able to mend the things that had been broken between us. And I know, logically speaking, that my moving barely ten minutes away from him isn’t going to change anything.

But if I am being honest with myself, as I am trying to be these days, there is a kid here somewhere, who is just enjoying hanging out with her daddy. And a fear that change, any change really, might ruin what I never thought I’d have.