I got my first baby doll. Her name was Clara Mae. I fell in love with her painted brown eyes and black yarn hair. But after months of our many adventures together, her left leg tragically dropped off by summer’s end. Some kind of defective ball and joint mechanism that seemed to be going around at the time. I did everything I could to save her, but she never quite recovered from that last emergency triple-duct-tape surgery. At least not the way I’d hoped. So we had a talk. And she seemed cool with retiring to my bookcase, right next to my canopy bed. Been living there ever since. Top shelf. I owed her that much.
My sixth grade dance…
Twisting my imagination into that gymnasium wearing my first pair of high heels. Two whole inches. Brand new patent leather that owned a color that settled somewhere between Victoria’s Secret and Pepto-Bismol. I strutted around for two minutes like Naomi Campbell during Fashion Week. Couldn’t tell me nothing…until I sank into a graceless Chinese split in front of the punch bowl and the cutest boy in school. Bruised inside and out.
It was the first time I ever skated backwards. On a triple dare. Nobody else I knew could do it yet, and I was not about to be punked. So I stepped out on the rink, picked up speed, closed my eyes and reversed it on ‘em. Had bragging rights for the rest of the week.
My first boyfriend…
How could I ever forget him?
After the pink heels, before the triple dare.
His name was Timothy, who at that time was the love of my life right along with fudgesicles. But he tragically broke my heart five months after the only tight-lipped kiss we ever shared in my tree house. Good thing too…hear he’s a struggling ballet dancer now. In Great Bend, Kansas. Living with some dude named Rasheed…
But I digress.
And now here I was on the brink of another. Well, sort of. It was kinda new…but not.
Like a remix.
More specifically, a six-foot-two-point-five-inch, ridiculously sexy, chocolate remix with a passionate spirit and an irascible nature. A man that I learned long ago to love more than fudgesicles.
Even my grown vodka-crème-de-cacao versions.
I’ve been doing my best to keep it at bay. But he’s been the reason for my morning mantras for at least the last few weeks. Got me standing in front of my bathroom vanity, looking like a damn fool, eyes closed, chanting, “Juuussst my friiieeennnd.”
You’d think I haven’t been married the past two years, huh?
And that I would be smart enough not to risk a beat down and hurt feelings…especially knowing this unfortunate situation was sure to hurt more than just me.
But I just couldn’t help myself.
With every passing day came more justification for my renewed infatuation. I mean, what do you expect to happen when your husband abruptly checks out on you?
It’s still hard for me to believe he actually left me.
It was a Tuesday.
My late day at work.
Shock couldn’t begin to describe how I felt coming home to see him in our bedroom tossing clothes into the $400 rolling dress bag I’d bought months ago but hadn’t used yet.
So I walked out.
Told myself a story all the way downstairs to the kitchen. Stuck a spoonful of rocky road ice cream in my mouth as I convinced myself that he was just taking a trip with the guys. Another spoonful to assure myself that he just needed a long weekend to clear his head. You know…figured he was just being a man. But then something dawned on me on my way back up the stairs.
He was packing too many damn clothes.
What came next? It’s still difficult to recall all the horrible things I said before he left, but I can still remember that empty feeling when the door slammed shut and Dez’s car disappeared around the corner. After two days and no word, I cleaned our five-bedroom, four-bath brick house until it sparkled. I was determined to make up with him. To sit down and get our marriage back on track.
If only he had come back…
Now two months have come and gone, and I’m still not sure exactly where he is, who he’s with or when he’s coming back. That first week was maddening, my voicemail messages to his cell phone expressing every emotion imaginable. But they were never returned.
I stopped only when the computerized heifa on his voicemail politely told me his mailbox was full.
Two weeks crept by before I got a call back. Found out he’d taken some random assignment more than a thousand miles away. He delivered that bit of news to me in the same manner he used to tell me to pass the hot sauce for the collard greens I usually cooked every other Sunday for dinner.
Like an afterthought.
And it hurt.
Because I deserved more than that.
He had been gone nine days only to tell me his assignment wouldn’t be over for at least nine months?
That’s when my fear took over. Actually started believing in “the other woman,” praying she wasn’t white because, to tell you the truth, it took me a little longer than most to really believe that my black was beautiful.
He could be anywhere. With anyone. Doing anything.
The doubt was overwhelming.
Immersing me into my very own special kind of hell…
“No bad news…at least not until ten,” I warned, swiveling my chair to face my intruder. I quickly noticed it was one of the guys from the downstairs deli easing his way through my now opened door. Glancing at the covered tray in his hand, I was pretty sure he’d made a mistake. I hadn’t ordered anything this morning.
“Hello, I’m Jim. Breakfast is served!” He buoyantly placed plates of pancakes, sausage and scrambled cheese eggs on my credenza along with a small bowl of strawberries and grapes settled between a cup of ice water and cranberry juice. When I offered him a few dollars, he graciously declined saying he’d already been tipped…very well. “Enjoy your breakfast, ma’am… and you have a great day!”
“Absolutely! Thank you…John.” Oops…was that his name? Too late. He was gone. John? No…Jerry? I’m terrible with names but a tasty forkful of syrupy, buttermilk pancakes was my forgiveness. “Mmmm…go ‘head…Jer, uhh…Ji-Jim! That’s it…Jim… cookin’ like that, I’ma remember you now…”
My tasty surprise had me doing the chair rendition of my happy dance. Stomach full, I swallowed the rest of my cranberry juice then answered my buzzing office line just before the last ring. “Now that’s—smack—what I’m talking about! Breakfast of champions…”
“Glad you enjoyed it,” the man replied. “How’s your morning?”
“Slow start. But I’m much better now.”
“I bet,” he said, a smile in his voice. “Look, I have a meeting on your floor this afternoon, so I’ll stop by later.” I heard a buzz from his other line. “Gotta take this call. Enjoy your morning, beautiful.”
Settling the receiver back in its cradle, I relaxed into my first real smile all morning.
Of course he’d be the one to give it to me.
It had been five weeks since his arrival as Telecom Manager at Weiston Enterprises. Nine since he returned to the city. Had the nerve to leave that first voicemail on my cell like it had been five hours instead of almost five years since we’d last spoken. But that was Rowe. Always familiar. He probably didn’t even bother to look me up. Bet he just dialed my number, sure that I hadn’t changed it in all these years.
I wish I had changed it…
I’d always made things too easy for him.
Which is why I was halfway beating myself up for answering when he called the second time. And then the eight times after that.
And I knew better than to have all those drinks with him at Carsons a couple of weeks later on a lonely Thursday night. But I did it anyway…and managed to end up passing his resume to one of the senior recruiters the morning after when I stumbled in to work, suffering the remnants of an epic hangover.
I know. Not smart.
The job hookup, not the hangover.
But come on…the guy was down on his luck, ok?
He’d recently taken severance, another one of the many victims of corporate downsizing in this shitty economy. As a decent human, I had to help.
And before I knew it, I was congratulating him on his new job a few floors above me…helping him pick a condo…painting walls…reading instructions while he assembled furniture…accepting his thank you of dinner and dancing at my favorite restaurant…
What can I say?
Guess it was just like being at Golden Glide all those years ago…one minute I was rolling along to the music and then the next I was in reverse, my back to the wind. Never missing a beat…
I took a deep breath, lifted the small vase from the breakfast tray and inhaled the sweet scent of the lovely orange rose delivered just for me.
The first time I’ve owned that emotion in weeks.
Cheating on my husband?
Yeah, this was gonna hurt…