COED _ Chapter 27 (My NaNoWriMo Novel)

Chapter 27

She said…

I’m going to miss being at the shop: the whiz of clippers, the smell of perm chemicals, the conversations. I guess I’ll miss Trap as well. We haven’t really said much since he cheated on me. He’s tried but, dang right, I’m giving him the cold shoulder. I don’t know why guys expect, after they’ve wronged us in some way, that we’re going to just bounce back and be best buds again, jump right back in the sandbox and let you get us dirty again. These things take time. I’ll speak for myself. These things take time with me.

I’m leaving CoEd. I feel it’s the best move right now because I can’t go on working around Trap. It’s not the same anymore. We used to have a comradery that was difficult to put into words. We weren’t dating but we were hella close. We weren’t pretending to be play brother and sister, didn’t pretend to be play cousins. The relationships of play brother and sister and play cousin are just façade associations that create this boundary that allows a woman to keep a man near and dear to her heart without getting emotionally and physically involved. I guess it’s cool to have that opposite sex around you and know that the imaginary line will never be crossed and that you’ll never have to worry about your heart being broken. That’s the goal anyway, right? Your play brother or play cousin can be that man that you talk to about the actual man that you’re emotionally and physically involved with. Perhaps a counsel of sorts because he’s a man. Who better to know the inner workings of Manville than one of its inhabitants?

The play relationship has many benefits but it is also fraught with unavoidable pitfalls. I truly believe that there is this energy that women and men emit, opposite and attractive. Just like wild animals, we’re not far from our primitive roots. I’m not that far from a doe spreading her estrous on the bark of a tree and Trap isn’t that far off from a buck coming by and sniffing the whiff. The play relationship says those things aren’t done just because there’s no physical attraction or because we have put up these invisible borders that neither of us will cross. That is the agreement we had. But while our mouths are saying one thing, our primitive hearts were still spreading and sniffing scents that we couldn’t help but emit.

With Trap and me, it was worse than a play relationship because we never agreed to such a thing. In fact, in the back of our minds we left that door open. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the blatant and honest truth: my hooking up with Trap was bound to happen. There was never a wall, invisible or otherwise. We walked around each other butt naked, just daring each other to come and get a taste. And our moving in together, I admit now, was a set up from the get up! We both knew we’d end up in bed together because that’s what we both wanted. We just didn’t want to admit it.

But if we never learn from our mistakes, we never grow. It was a mistake to buy the shop with Trap. It was a mistake to move in with him. It was obviously a mistake falling in love with him. And now it was time to correct my mistakes.

We were closing up and Trap was in the office. Sulking, because I hadn’t spoken to him all day, even though he tried on several occasions to get my attention. He sighed when I entered the room and asked, “So how long are you going to just dog me like this?”

I said nothing to him and that caused him to shake his head in disgust. I guess it was time to let the brother off the hook. Besides, I needed to tell Trap that I was leaving.

“Why’d you tell Teddy about our towel incident?” I asked.

“You’re speaking to me now?”

“Didn’t I just ask you a question? Now what’s up with this ‘you had me at the Terry cloth towel’ business?”

“Sade, I was just trying to find some way to break through your defenses. We need to have a conversation and for that to happen, you need to be speaking to me.”

“Okay,” I said. “We can have this conversation. Besides, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“Well go ahead,” he said. “Ladies first.”

No Trap. If I started the conversation, I would also by default be ending it. Because my part of the conversation, besides listening to whatever cooked up excuse Trap had for cheating on me, was to tell him that I was leaving.

“You’d better go first,” I said.

He looked nervous, like he wasn’t really prepared. It’s easy, Trap, I thought. Just tell me you’re stupid and then I’ll tell you I know that and then I’ll tell you that I’m leaving.

“You see, Sade, it’s like this.” He held up his right index finger and then curled his left fingers until his left middle and ring finger met the tip of his curled thumb. Then this clown stuck his index finger in his hand hole and started moving it in and out. I gotta tell you; I did not see that coming. “Well with me and you,” he said, “it’s more like this.” Then the boy bundled the four of his right fingers and put them into what I assumed was my hole. Now my mouth was wide open. What was he trying to say?

“Okay, Trap,” I put my hand over his to stop the hand porn thingy that was going on.

“No, Sade. I’m nervous.” He pulled his hands from mine and the brother started doing a sock puppet show. “I was trying to talk to you all day,” he motioned his right hand as if it were a mouth moving a mile a minute, “and you were like this,” he clamped his left hand tightly. I wondered if next he was going to play rock paper scissors with himself.

“Trap, I’m leaving.”

“What?” He dropped his hands.

“The shop. I’ve gotta go. This, you and me being together, ain’t happening.”

“Why?”

Are you kidding me right now? This boy had the nerve to ask me why I was leaving. Of all the stupid one word sentences, that one out of his mouth took the cake.

“We hadn’t been official for one day and you cheated on me, Trap. And if that isn’t bad enough, now that we’ve flamed out I feel I have nowhere else to go and nowhere else to turn. I slept here in the shop the night before and was about to do it again last night until Ken called me and invited me to sleep at his house. And like a fool, I did it. I slept in that creep’s house because for some strange reason I’m afraid to live alone. I can’t move back in your house. I can’t find a roommate for some strange reason. It’s like all the roommates in Greenville County decided to pair up on the day I needed one. So yeah, I’m living with Ken, a man I detest probably more than you. And it’s all your fault. If you knew you couldn’t be faithful, why didn’t you just tell me off the rip? Why’d you have to break my heart?”

“Sade, I cheated on you because I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“Newsflash, dumbo! You did hurt me.”

“But I never got the chance to hit you.”

Hit me?

Posted in books, relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

COED _ Chapter 26 (My NaNoWriMo Novel)

Chapter 26

He said…

Brothers, if you have made it through life with your woman and she has never ignored you and given you the silent treatment, God bless you and may Heaven smile upon you. You’re doing something right. You deserve a parade with confetti and fanfare. You’ve earned yourself a medal. Something special because you are a phenomenal human being.

See, the silent treatment is what women do to us when we’re on their bad side. They act like we aren’t in the room. Check that—they act like we don’t exist, never existed. All normal men know what I’m talking about. If you’re an average dope, then you’ve been there. You’ve walked into the house, said “Honey, I’m home,” and your woman just looked at you and replied with absolutely nothing. If she was real nasty about it, she might’ve smiled. The smile is fake, fellas. Don’t fall for it. She’s only baiting you. Making you think she might speak to you finally. Heck, she might even give you some cut. You feel all good about yourself, bopping through the house singing Back in Stride Again. And just when you think your time in solitaire confinement is over, she slams that little slit closed and puts you right back in the dark. She has you screaming and scratching at the floor like Denzel Washington when he played Malcom Little in X. “What He ever do for me, Chappy? Huh? He ever come see about me? Arrggh! Arrggh!” Finally, after you’ve been in the hole for days and your drawers are sticking to your backside, she’ll open that large metal door and ask you to recite the numbers on your prison uniform. And you’ll recite those numbers. You couldn’t stand another minute in that darkness. Then, she’ll pull you outta the box and drag you to the shower. You’re a grown man still being put on punishment. You think punishment stops when you turn eighteen. Nah, bruh. They have timeout for grown men, too.

Now here’s the silent treatment I can’t stand: the kind where your woman is silent to you and only you. She’ll caw and cackle with everyone else but you. As a matter of fact, she’ll caw and cackle way louder than usual just because she wants to emphasize the fact that she is not talking to you. In addition, she wants you to hear—loud and clear—all of that good conversation you’re missing out on because you’re in the dog house—the hole. Because she knows you’re starving for her words. Your famished ears are crying out for her verbal affections. That’s the type of silence Sade gave me that morning in the shop. The silent but deadly kinda silent treatment. She was yapping it up with Olivia, Stacy, Teddy, all the customers. But she just looked at me like she could see straight through me. I told her good morning when she came in and she just cracked a semi-smile and kept on walking to the office to drop off her satchel. I said, “Sade, we need to talk,” and she brushed past me like I wasn’t even there. She had me wondering if I was there. So much so that I said, “Now let’s see. I said hello to her and she didn’t respond. I told her that I needed to talk to her and she kept right on walking as if I wasn’t talking to her. True, she didn’t speak to me this morning. But hold up a minute. Did anybody else speak to me this morning?” I was standing there in my office talking to myself, trying to connect the dots, thinking it through like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense. “Am I really dead? Did Mr. Coleman kill me this morning after I gave him a shave?”

“Why are you just standing there in the middle of the hallway, Trap?” Teddy asked.

“Oh good,” I said, “I’m not a ghost.”

Teddy laughed. “Sade not speaking to you, huh? What you do to make her mad already?”

“You don’t wanna know. Look, I need a favor.”

“Say the word, boss.”

“I need you to get a message to Sade for me. ‘Cause she isn’t checking for me.”

“What did you do?”

“Teddy…”

“Okay, boss. What do you want me to tell her?”

“Tell her that she had me at the Terry cloth towel.”

“She had you at the Terry cloth?”

“Yeah,” I interrupted. I had already told him more than I should have. “And I need her to hear me out.”

“Okay. Terry cloth. Hear you out. I got it.”

“Good.”

Teddy walked over to Sade’s chair and worked his magic, I guess. He whispered my message into her ear. She looked over at my direction and giggled. Then she said a few words to Teddy, looked back at me and smiled. That made me feel good. Had me bouncing. I was back in stride.

So I walked over to Sade’s chair because she gave me the signal. The barricade was down, you know? Everything was peace. I flashed my smile, and I say, “Can we get together over lunch, then? Talk about it?”

No lie; Sade looked me up and down, looked at her client and said, “Is he talking to you?”

The client said, “Oops!” and put her hand over her mouth the way women do when a man’s face is cracked and lying on the ground. Then Sade said “Anyway” and went back to her client’s hair. The smile. The smile will get you every time.

I picked my face up from the ground and headed back to my side of the shop. The men’s side.

CoEd.

Men on one side, women on the other, but everyone together. It was an awesome idea. Mr. Coleman laid it out plainly. He was a little overt with that index finger and hole bit. But it made perfect sense. I could see that now. The life of this shop and the life of our friendship hinged on me getting Sade to drop her silent treatment. But to release that life, I had to find some way to put my key in Sade’s lock.

Posted in relationships | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

COED _ Chapter 25 (My NaNoWriMo Novel)

Chapter 25

She said…

I stayed at Ken’s house last night and I must say it was an adventure in truth. First of all, he made breakfast. At one in the morning, the man made omelets. And I don’t mean an scrambled egg folded over a slice of cheese. I mean, the man threw jalapenos, spinach and onions in the fryer, made those vegetables sizzle and fill the house with this heavenly aroma. And then he whisked eggs in a porcelain bowl. He whisked as if he were a professional, holding the bottom of the bowl in his palm as he powerfully—but gently at the same time—worked the whisk through this egg, milk and vanilla mixture. His hand rotated at the speed of light. He poured the mix into the fryer over the veggies. Grabbed the fryer’s handle, whipped it a few times and threw the layer of egg and veggies into the air. And get this; he actually caught the omelet with the frying pan. I was ready for us to have a good laugh when the omelet hit the floor. But no. The man was a magician as well as a liar. He moved  like he a chef. Was he a chef? He was a cheat, living a double life in Oakland with Ursula and their son. Let me find out the man also was a master chef at some restaurant there.

Anyway, his plating was superb. He folded the omelet like it was a towel. How did he do that with all of those peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc? I’ve tried my darndest to make omelets like that and have sorely failed. But Ken’s omelet was a thing of beauty. Folded neatly. A smoking, yellow Terry cloth, speckled with reds, whites and greens. The thing looked like I could unfold it, lay Ken back, put it across his face and then give him a real good shave.

A shave? With a straight razor? I had to put that thought away because me holding a straight razor around Ken was not a good idea. He’d do something stupid, like talk, and I’d slice his jugular with the business end of the blade. I know that would be a dirty thing to do, considering the man just whipped up breakfast. The cops would ask why I sliced his throat and I would tell them, “Because he lied to me.”

The cop would arrest me for sure. But before she did, she’d ask, “Why was there egg on his face?”

“Duh,” I’d reply, “He did something stupid.” I’d laugh then. “Egg on his face? Did something stupid? You get it?”

“I get it,” the lady cop would say. And then we’d both have a real good laugh at the expense of stupid men. “You’re free to go,” she’d say.

“Why thank you,” I’d reply.

It wouldn’t go down like that. But you can’t blame a girl for dreaming.

Ken and I were eating and in between bites he explained everything about Ursula.

“She’s this crazy chick that works at a truck stop in Oakland. A “behind the counter girl”, rings up the gas and stuff. Anyway, at most between us (or as far as I was concerned) was hi and bye. She knew I had a girlfriend. I told her that from the jump. But this girl is persistent. A stalker, really. She called my cell one day and told me she had a son and the boy was mine. I told her to stop calling me and that boy couldn’t be mine because we hadn’t even had sex. But she’s all in my face when I go to the truck stop, you know? And then I was at her counter one day ringing up and forgot my gas card. I run back out to my truck to get it and left my phone on the counter. I guess that’s when she got your number and called you. And that’s what happened.”

Ken.

Come on now, Ken.

He’s looking at me as if I bought all that horse manure he just tried to sell. Let me break it down line by line so you’ll understand how the lie just doesn’t hold up in court, how the hypothesis is easily disproved.

At most between Ursula and me was hi and bye.” This is a lie. At some point, she had Ken’s phone long enough to find out about my living situation with Trap. How does that work if all you do is see the person, smile and wave, and go on about your business? Ohhhh! You left your phone on the counter. I get it. And Ursula is bionic. I can see her now—scrolling through your phone at lightning speed, her beady little eyes zipping back and forth as she downloaded all of your pertinent information in about two minutes. Less than that, because you walk all fast. You couldn’t have been out at your truck that long looking for the gas card.

“She knew I had a girlfriend from the jump.” How would she know that you had a girlfriend, Ken, if all you said was hi and bye? She should know absolutely nothing about you, Ken, except that you drive a big rig and you have the ability to say “hi” and “bye.” But she knew you had a girlfriend? I say she didn’t know. But the reason Ken lied about this is because he was trying to establish that he was upfront with Ursula in the beginning. But don’t you see how he has twisted himself up in his own lie? If you barely know someone, it doesn’t matter if you’re upfront, up behind, down front or down behind with them. You barely know them. What Ken was trying to do was establish that Ursula was crazy. I don’t doubt that she is—just as crazy as I am, I guess. But the brother is assassinating her character upfront, to establish his innocence. Ursula is this crazy, bionic chick that can’t take no for an answer, knows he has a girlfriend and doesn’t care, and is willing to use her speed of light reading ability to gather all the dirt on him she needs.

“She’s persistent. A stalker. She called my cell one day.” Ding! Ding! Ding! How did she call you, Ken, if you didn’t at some point giver her your number. You see, the number on Ken’s truck goes to his answering service, which then routes those calls to his dispatching service. No one calls his personal cell unless they know him personally. And if she was persistent, a stalker, why did Ken spend hours talking to her? I set up Ken’s phone plan. He liked my plan, loved the money I saved. Said he wanted to save money, too. Asked me to put him on my plan. I did. He never realized that I could check the call logs since it was under my account. I did that after my chat with Ursula. An hour and a half. Two hours. Thirty minutes. Three hour conversations. Really, Ken? You spent three hours on the phone with Ursula telling her to stop stalking you? I smiled as the brother laid on all that thick horse crap. It was starting to smell in there. So I told him, “Ken, I checked the phone logs. I know that you are lying through your teeth right now.”

“What?”

“You can make a mean omelet but you couldn’t lie your way out of a paper bag.”

“Um…the phone logs?”

I had a copy in my purse. I calmly went to retrieve it and when I got back to Ken’s dining room, the man had turned beet red. “You see here,” I pointed. “Ursula, Ursula, Ursula, Ursula.” Having pointed to her number as well as the various and numerous minutes Ken had spent on the phone with her, I sat back. Let it all soak in.

“Ken, I’m going to give you a chance to redeem yourself. Tell me the truth, right here, right now. Go.”

His eyes darted. He was searching for the right words to say.

“If you’re thinking of a way to explain the call log, Ken, don’t bother. I want you to tell me the truth. Tell it to me like I already know it.”

“I met Ursula at the truck stop,” he said. “She worked behind the counter.”

“Uh huh.”

“We said more to each other than just “Hi” and “Bye.” We…um…kicked it a couple times.”

“Okay.”

“She got pregnant.”

“Go on.”

“I told her to stop working at the truck stop. Just stay home and do my taxes, my books. She didn’t want much.”

“Then she found out about me.”

“Then she found out about you.”

“You see how easy that was, Ken? How easy it was to tell the truth as opposed to a bunch of lies that never match up?”

“Why are you here then?”

That question floored me. Stole all my little thunder. Before, I had my witness on the stand and I was treating him like a hostile witness. I was winning. The jury was all smiles. I even heard a few “You go, girls!” I thought the judge was going to have to bang his gabble and bring the crowd in for how good I was presenting my case. And then my hostile witness asked me–the star attorney, the astute litigator–why I was there with him when I knew he was lying through his teeth.

“Because I didn’t see any more calls from you to Ursula after you got caught,” I said.

Do you believe this crap? I wanted to slap myself in the mouth. Where was Nanna Mosley when you need her? She surely would have slapped my face for that answer. WHAP!!! She would have made me go and pick out my own switch and I better not bring back something skinny. That switch better have some meat on it. “And keep the leaves on it,” she would say. The leaves did something to make the switch sting more. Increased surface area, plasticity of the leaf? I don’t know; never claimed to be a scientist. But after hearing me bring that stupidity out of my mouth, Nanna would have gotten after me with a vengeance. And she was old-school. She would swing on every syllable. “Don’t—you—ev—er—say—some—thing—that—stup—id—a—gain!” Each syllable, that switch would hit my bare thighs and little green and brown leaves would fly every whichaway. When Nanna beat you, you prayed for small words and short sentences.

Ken came to where I was sitting. Almost crawled to me. And he said, “Is there a chance for us then?”

I nodded yes. Braced myself for Nanna’s switch.

***

The conversation afterwards was a blur to me. Something about Ken saying he was sorry and thanking me for giving him another chance. Something about me needing time, though, and still being vulnerable. Blah, blah, blah. I told Ken I wasn’t ready to sleep with him yet and he respected that. So he slept in the living room while I slept in his bedroom. It was way early in the morning. I was thankful to be lying flat on a mattress. Don’t think I could have survived another night on that loveseat. I could hear Ken snoring right outside the bedroom door. And if that was supposed to make me feel safe and secure, it didn’t. All this time, scared to live alone, I worried that there was some monster on the other side of the door trying to hurt me. I was not alone now. Ken was on the other side of the door. However, he was still a monster.

Or maybe, whether I was alone or with Ken or my old roommate or Trap, it didn’t matter. There was always going to be a monster. But it wasn’t on the other side of the door in the next room. This monster was with me, at all times—in the brightness of day and in the shadow of night.

 

Posted in books, fear of living alone, fiction, novels, relationships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

COED _ Chapter 24 (My NaNoWriMo Novel)

Chapter 24

He said…

I popped another pill—my daily ritual. I never thought I’d have to take medication on a daily basis. I guess this shocked me so that even as a teen, I often complained to my physician. I’d ask, “Isn’t there some herbal supplement I can take instead of this stuff whose name I can barely pronounce?” My doctor would smile and say “Look on the bright side: at least you don’t have cancer.”

I agreed to look on the bright side instead of the gloomy one. All I suffer from is a mental condition that causes me to fly off the handle every time I get upset. Can’t have my skin turning green and my muscles growing so abnormally large that I bust out of every stitch of clothing, except the thigh part of my jeans. So I might as well pop this pill every day. It is my lot in life.

I wash my medication down with some water and I think about Sade. Sade, my friend. Sade, the woman I hurt. The one for whom I made a terrible mistake because I really love her and I just don’t know how to handle the situation. She’s been on my mind non-stop since we returned from Myrtle Beach. In fact, believe it or not, Sade was on my mind when I was having sex with that woman named Carissa. A woman I don’t love. A woman who I really don’t know. But I know Sade. I know she couldn’t handle being with me. She doesn’t know the real me and I don’t ever want her to know who I really am so instead of telling her that my name is not Dr. Jekyll, that in fact my name is Mr. Hyde, I slept with another woman. Go me! Gold star for Travis!

It seemed like a good idea in the beginning. Every idea seems good in the beginning, I guess. Hindsight is 20/20. Right now Hindsight is telling me, “You are an idiot! How in the world could you do this to Sade? How could you hurt her? Aren’t you her friend?” And I say to Hindsight, “Can’t you see how dangerous it would be for Sade if we were in a serious relationship? Cheating on her was the only thing I could do, Hindsight!” If it really had eyes, Hindsight would roll them at me. I chuckled. Hindsight must have eyes to see 20/20.

I shelved those thoughts and move on to something else, something I feel that’s more important right now. And that’s trying to find out why Sade was sleeping at the shop. I know it was her on the phone when I spoke with Mr. Coleman. I knew it because I saw her there early the previous morning and the only way that could have happened is if she spent the night. But where in the world did she sleep? In our office, maybe? Perhaps she slept on the loveseat. But that thing is too short for anyone to sleep comfortable unless you were a child. I thought about how Sade would look sleeping on that little thing. Probably on her stomach. Her bottom all up in the air. I laughed because the thought looked crazy in my mind.

My plan this morning was to get to the shop early enough to catch her sleeping. Private investigators stuff. Inspector Gadget, Carmen San Diego type stuff; yeah I already know that. But my catching her in the act it seemed the smartest thing since she would then be forced to tell me why.

But she wasn’t at the shop at five o’clock in the morning and then I felt stupid for taking Tomlin to my brother’s house so early. When I showed up at four something, my sister-in-law asked me, “You got some third-shift hair to cut?” I laughed and played it off because I didn’t want to give her the real answer. Imagine how that conversation would go.

“I’m trying to catch Sade at the shop.”

“At five in the morning, when y’all don’t open until ten?”

“Exactly!”

“That doesn’t make any sense, Trap.”

“Of course it doesn’t. It’s crazy. We’re crazy. But the thing is, I think Sade has been sleeping in the shop.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Exactly!”

“Trap, have you been drinking?”

Nah, I just laughed it off. There was no logical way to explain my trying to catch Sade sleeping on the loveseat, on her stomach, with her booty tooted up in the air.

But Sade wasn’t there. At first I thought she might have cleverly parked her car elsewhere. But there was no car and inside the shop, nobody. To be thorough, I looked under the desk to make sure she wasn’t hiding under there. No Sade. I actually looked up at the ceiling, like Sade was gonna be up there Spider-Man style. How silly does that sound? Sade wearing a tight red and blue suit with webbing on it. Hmm. I just had a visual.

Anyway, I checked the bathrooms. The closets. Nothing.

I went back into the shop and who was standing at the front door waiting? Mr. Coleman. He peered inside. Rapped on the glass.

“We’re closed!” I said. Old dude knocked again. “Doesn’t he see the Sorry We’re Closed sign flashing.” Maybe his ninety year old eyes were too feeble to notice it.

Finally, I went to the door and unlocked it. Opened it and said, “We’re closed.”

This dude walked right into the shop like he didn’t even hear me. Had this bow-legged limp and this ornery grimace. He grunted something that sounded like “good morning” and then he walked over to my chair and plopped down in it.

I shrugged. Locked the door and walked on over to Grandpa Coleman. Like, I know he owns the building and all, but he just can’t barge in here expecting service at all times of day or night.

“I know I own the building and all,” he said as if he were inside my head, “and I’m not barging in here expecting service at all times of day or night because of that, but I figured since you were here, trying to catch Sade sleeping in the office, I might as well take advantage of the ‘no wait time’ and get me a shave.”

This old man right here! But Pops had a point. I made some lather then draped a smock over the old sage. “So that was Sade I heard over the phone last night,” I said, waiting on his confirmation.

“Miss Celie!” the old man replied with a smile, “come on here and gimme my shave.” He laughed. “I love that movie, Color Purple. Love that line, too. It’s fitting now. ‘Cause even though you ain’t Miss Celie, I do want you to hurry up and give me my shave. I gotta get ready to open the restaurant.”

I nodded. The old man was going to tell me everything I wanted to know. He just wanted to make sure he got his end of the deal.

I started shaving and said, “Did Sade say why she was sleeping here?”

“No,” Mr. Coleman said. “But you’re her friend, ain’t ya? Why can’t you ask her?”

I sighed. “I did something stupid and I’m not so sure we’re still friends.”

“Ain’t it just like us men to do something stupid?”

“I had a good reason.”

“A good reason to do something stupid? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. And being my age, I’ve heard a lot of dumb things.”

“Seemed smart at the time.”

“Everything seems smart at the time.”

Was Mr. Coleman the brother of Hindsight? He was old enough to be.

“I remember when Walter and Brook came to me wanting to lease the shop.” Sade and I had bought the shop from Brook, Walter’s ex-wife then. “I was happy to lease it to them. They had such a great idea—a unisex shop and salon. Men and women. Coming together. A beautiful thing. And it was until Brook and Walter split up, Walter died and Brook remarried and moved away. I thought the shop was gonna go down. But then you and Sade came to me, said you’d gone in together and bought the shop and you wanted to renew the lease.”

I’d saved up some money. I guess that was one of the things I’d done correctly with my life. Sade inherited a boatload of money when her grandmother passed away. Hair was a passion for both of us. In fact, our passion was the people. We had connected with our customers. We were their family. And Sade and I were so tight, I think everybody fed off of that tightness. Our positive energy just spilled into the streets, so-to-speak. And me? I was happy, you know? I had come through a bad split with Kelly unscathed and was now an entrepreneur. How many people can say that they are actually doing what they want to do with their lives? How many can say that they own something?

“I was happy to lease the place to you,” Mr. Coleman said. “So happy, I discounted the lease price tremendously.” I always knew that he was giving us a tremendous break on the price. “I did that because you guys were sowing so much into the community and because you guys,” he held up his right index finger and made a hole with the fingers and thumb of his left hand. “Now, I’m not trying to be nasty,” he said, “but this is you” (he waved his right index finger) “and this is Sade.” (he waved the hole of his left hand) “What you represent. What this shop represents. Man—Woman. Key—Lock.” He stuck his index finger into the hole. “Perfect fit,” he said. “And the lock, it’s just right for the key. It stretches for the key. It lubes its walls for the key. The key gets in and unlocks the door. And you know what’s behind the door, son?”

“What’s that?”

“Life.”

Wow! I’d spoken to Mr. Coleman thousands of times; but this was our first conversation.
“Key—Lock,” he said. Then he put his index finger inside of the hole and asked, “You get it?”

“Yeah, I get it. But if that key is me,” I said, “you’re going to have to add about three more fingers.”

That made the old man laugh something terrible. We both laughed. And even though my response was comical, and his example was…interesting, I got what he was saying. What Sade and I had was bigger than just a trip to the beach. Bigger than my mistake. I was the key to her lock. We (men) are the keys to their (women) locks. Sade and I represented something powerful. Now, I was going to do everything in my power to make that right. I just hoped she would understand. I hoped that we could open that door that I had slammed closed by mistake.

 

 

Posted in books, fiction, novels, relationships, romance, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

COED _ Chapter 23 (My NaNoWriMo Novel)

Chapter 23

She said…

I should want to live alone, finally. Walk around the house wearing only my bra and panties. Or I can lounge naked, let my breast flop. I hear that’s fun. I could play Tupac as loud as I want. Leave clothes in the middle of the floor. Be like Kelly shouldn’t be, on account she has kids.

Wait a minute.

I have no kids.

I have no man to tend to. It’s just me. I should be happy about that. Should be ecstatic to come home to an empty house where no cave man is yelling, “Me hungry. Make steak for me, medium rare.” A place where no ungrateful kids are whining about wanting snacks or having to poop. Or fighting each other and screaming my name. But they wouldn’t call me by my first name, would they? I’d be mommy. And they would say it in the most annoying voice they could conjure. “Mommy!” or “Mommyah!” or “Mummy!” Anything to get on my last nerve and drive me up the wall. They would all need me. Suffocate me. Strangle me for the last ounce of love and affection I had to give. And when I was completely empty and had nothing else to offer, when I had no pulse and was lying on the floor half-dead and barren, they’d call my annoying title and demand I give them more of what I don’t have. I should be happy I don’t have to deal with that. But I am not.

I was trying to get comfy on the loveseat, as if that was indeed possible. I thought about the origin of the name loveseat. Perhaps it was a loveseat because only two people could sit on it and they’d have to sit close together so they’d better love each other sitting that close together. But as a resting place, there wasn’t anything lovely about this seat. No matter how I turned, I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried sleeping on my back but I was sort of making this V shape with my body. Not comfortable at all. I tried sleeping on my side but half of my bottom was hanging off the cushions. I slept that way the night before because it was the lesser of two evils. But I paid for it the next day as my back was hurting. Being a stylist and having to stand up all day, the last thing you need is your back hurting. Tonight, I was giving sleeping on my tummy a try. That wasn’t happening. It probably looked cute when I was a baby, with a onesie on, my booty tooted in the air. I looked silly.

My phone rang again. Ken, again. He keeps calling me. If you got a gold medal for persistence, Ken would be on the podium, wearing a black glove with his right hand raised in conquest. He’s rang my phone about one hundred times since Trap and I returned from Myrtle Beach. I think he’s got the idea in his head that I let Trap hit it. That’ll do it to a man every time, I guess. He can be the biggest player and dog on the planet. But let his woman return the favor, and it’s like his entire world comes to an end.

By the amount of times he’s called, I can tell that it’s eating him up. He’s thinking about how Trap had me grabbing the shower curtain. Oh yeah, Ken and I watched the video together. Everybody at the shop were talking about the Love and Hip Hop Atlanta stars’ who decided to make a sex tape. Shame to say, Ken and I really got off on that. Him more than me. He kept asking about the shower scene, wanting to recreate it. “You need a strong shower curtain rod to do that,” I said. “I’m too heavy for my rod. I’m pretty sure I’d tear that thing down.” But he begged and begged until he had me in the bathroom. I always give in. We were naked and I had my hands around the shower curtain and everything. Ken gets up in there, I grab the shower curtain, throw my legs around him and BOOM! We landed inside the tub, thank goodness. That tile floor at my old place was nice and hard.

I told Ken afterwards, “We’ll try it again when we go to Myrtle Beach. The hotels bolt their shower curtain rods to the wall. It should hold my weight.” I tell you the truth; Ken was more excited about the shower scene in Myrtle Beach than seeing Lalah Hathaway sing. So I know for a fact that he thinks I took Trap to Myrtle Beach and put that curtain rod action on him. He probably has that image burned into his mind and he won’t be able to get it out until he talks to me. I’m going to let him sweat. Sweat bullets. The more my phone rang, the more Ken was perspiring.

My phone stopped ringing eventually. Mr. Coleman still had his blues playing. I decided to sleep in the floor but I removed the loveseat cushions and made myself a little mattress. Of course my lower legs were hanging off the thing but…

“Who is that?”

I thought I heard someone outside the office. Mr. Coleman’s blues music shut off suddenly and all I heard was this terrifying silence. A hush. And then it sounded like someone was knocking about outside in the shop.

“Who’s there?” I said.

I crawled over to the office door and slammed it shut. Why’d I do that, I wondered. Now I’m trapped in this office in the dark. I flipped on the office light. Opened the door slowly. Headed down the short hallway. “I can hear you in there!” I dove into the shop and there was absolutely no one there. I felt like such a fool.

My phone rang again. I walked back into the office and I didn’t feel foolish anymore. I felt fear. Fear and shame. The phone was ringing, it was Ken again, and I was embarrassed. My cellphone was ringing and buzzing, Ken was calling and harassing me, and I wasn’t flattered; I was relieved.

“Hello?” I said.

“Sade?”

“Yes.” My voice was shaky. Probably because I had crawled to the shop from my office like a child and I was afraid for my life. Afraid of the boogey man, I guess, like I was a five year old, scared little girl.

“Sade?”

“Yes.”

“My goodness, you finally answered.”

“Ken…I…”

“What baby?”

“I’m scared.”

“I’m sorry, Sade. I’m sorry about Ursula, I’m sorry about not being there. I’m sorry. Please, come see me. Where are you right now?”

“I’m alone.”

I was alone and I didn’t want to be. I was afraid and I loathed myself for it.

“Tell me where you are and I’ll come to you and be with you. You don’t have to be alone anymore.”

I heard voices in the shop that weren’t there. I heard footsteps in the shop when there were no feet to step. I had this strange feeling that some monster was outside the office door, waiting to what—eat my eyeballs or drink my blood? That monster didn’t exist. I knew that. But alone, in the office, at night, that monster was as real as my right hand. Funny thing, though. When I started talking to Ken on the phone, the notion of the monster outside the office just vanished.

I figured humans just need affection. We crave, and rightfully so, companionship. We weren’t built to be alone. The people that like it, and have learned how to survive on their own, are the abnormal ones. The folks that can sleep in an empty house and not hear strange sounds are the ones that need help. I didn’t need any help. I needed to be with someone.

“I’m coming to you,” Ken said. “Just tell me where you are and I’ll come. Where are you?”

“I’m at the shop.”

There was a pause in which I’m sure Ken looked at his watch. Then he asked, “Why are you still at the shop?”

Posted in fear of living alone, novels, relationships, romance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

COED _ Chapter 22 (My NaNoWriMo Novel)

Chapter 22

He said…

Tomlin was staying at my brother’s house during the day since he couldn’t come back to daycare and since my brother’s wife didn’t work. How could she work with five going on six kids? I left the shop at about seven. Went by the gym to release because after that whole stare down with Sade, my nerves were all over the place. I worked mostly on the heavy bag, you know. Hooks. Jabs. Straight lefts. Giving the bag all that I had. Frustrated. Tired. Lost. I’d made a horrible mistake with Sade in Myrtle Beach. Then, to get out of the mistake, I did something stupid. But as I punched the bag, I knew that I wasn’t the one at fault. The person at fault, the face I had mentally plastered to the heavy bag, was my father.

I was leaving the gym when I got a frantic call from Mr. Coleman, the guy who owns the building where the shop is located. He said he heard a crash coming from the office areas.

“I was listening to my John Lee Hooker,” he said, “and I heard, I don’t know, sounded like glass breaking.”

“Well, call the cops,” I told him.

“I ain’t calling no cops. I was in Vietnam. Nothing in America scares me.”

Mr. Coleman is a crazy old man. He came back from the war and really hustled his way into a lucrative real estate business. He owned several commercial buildings on Laurens Road and a few on Heyward. I figure he’s gotta be raking in the dough through his property. He can’t make any money at his soul food restaurant. He serves these astronomical portions—two meats, three sides, bread and a drink—and he only charges $3.00 per plate. Now dude’s restaurant is always hopping at lunch time, but he can’t make any money there.

Anyway, I was yelling to the crazy old coot to call the cops and he was just telling me that he had his nine milli. He said it just like that, too. Nine milli, like the young folks say it. He’s always trying to be hip.

“Mr. Coleman,” I said, “call 9-1-1.”

“I ain’t calling no 9-1-1. I’m gonna shoot whoever’s in here. You hear that!” he said to whoever was in the shop. “You’re a dead man!”

I’m thinking to myself, this old dude is going to get himself killed. So I get in my car and planned to race over to the shop. I was going to call the cops as soon as I disconnected with Mr. Coleman, though. And by the time we got there, we’d no doubt find Mr. Coleman dead as a doornail. Shot up.

“It’s a shame,” the cop would say. “Old coot survived Vietnam, lives to ninety, and gets shot by some burglars.”

But then I heard Mr. Coleman say, “False alarm.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Could’ve sworn I heard a woman’s voice.”

He told me that it was his lady friend. Funny. His lady friend sounded just like Sade.

***

I started to go by the shop anyway. I know I heard Sade and it made perfect sense. Her being at the shop this morning before me. She slept there. But why in the world would she do that? I wanted to confront her about it. And perhaps talk to her about why I slept with Carissa. Tell her it was a stupid mistake. I was only trying to save her from a potentially painful experience. But I figured she just wouldn’t understand.

So I picked up Tomlin from Ahmad’s. When I got to the door, the boy leapt into my arms. All happy like he’d just made a brand new friend.

“Daddy! Daddy!” he yelled, “guess what?”

“What’s that, champ?”

“Um…” Ahmad said, “let’s let your daddy get in the house good.”

Then he did something strange. He locked the door. And the dead bolt. And the chain latch.

“Uh…It’s late,” I said. “I should get Tomlin ready for bed.”

“You live just down the street,” Ahmad said. “Besides, come in for a second. There’s something I gotta rap to you about.”

That’s when I saw him—my father.

I looked at Ahmad. He raised his hands in surrender.

“It was me, son. All me. I parked my car down the street so you wouldn’t know I was here.”

My father was standing in front of me. I was holding Tomlin. We were three generations of monsters.

“Come here, little man,” Ahmad said to Tomlin. Then my big brother gave me the eye. The eye that said, hear him out. He’s our father. Funny. I was alive because of this man. But I was also dead because of him.

***

My father hadn’t aged a day. Still fit and trim. Still had a head full of wavy, black hair. I mean, the man had no gray hair and I’m pretty sure he didn’t dye his hair. He looked like the picture of health. But my mother? Where was she? That’s right! She was dead. Rotting away in Rest Haven Cemetery. She died of breast cancer. Can you believe that? She looked horrible when she died. Didn’t have hair. Her skin, dry. Her nails, brittle. She was not the picture of health. But she was beautiful. Way more beautiful than this ugly SOB standing in front of me with that nervous smile on his face.

“Son, I’m so sorry. I wish I could take it all back. Wish I could go back in time and do it all over again.”

“You didn’t hit her hard enough the first time,” I said. “Wanna go back and get another crack at her?”

It came out so fast. Unchecked, I was afraid of what I was going to say to this man. Afraid of what I was going to do.

“I deserve that,” he said.

“Stop. Just stop. You deserve worse. It should’ve been you dying of breast cancer. Should’ve been you losing your hair. But here you are. Alive. Still got all your hair. Still handsome. Still young. I bet you got you a little girlfriend on the side now.”

He shook his head. “I could only love your mother.”

I almost swung at him.

“Tomlin!” I yelled. “Let’s go.”

“Son…”

“Don’t call me that. How dare you? I could only love your mother. You sure have a funny way of showing your love.”

“That was a long time ago, Travis. I was a different person.”

“Do you know what I’ve done because of you, man? Do you know how many women I’ve hurt?”

“Tell me, son. I’m here now. Talk to me. I will listen to you. You have my ear, son. You want to tell me that you hate me? Go for it. You want to tell me that it’s all my fault? Go for it, son. You want to tell me that I’m going to burn in Hell for what I did to your mother? Yes! Please, son. Tell me that. Just talk to me. Even if you’re cursing me out, I’m cool with that. Just talk to me. I can’t take your silence, Travis. Talk to me.”

I was breathing hard. So was he. My son was in the house somewhere. Someday, he’d be an adult. Someday, I’d have to look at him through an old man’s eyes. He’d ask me why I wasn’t with his mother anymore. He’d ask why his mother had a mental breakdown. He’d wonder why his mother, for the life of her, couldn’t keep a clean house. He’d look at me through the eyes of a grown man and I would have to answer to him. So I owed it to my father. I should have talked to him. But I wasn’t ready yet. I knew I couldn’t talk to him without going to war with him. So, unfortunately, I had to continue giving him my silence.

Posted in books, relationships, Writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

COED _ Chapter 21 (My NaNoWriMo Novel)

Chapter 21

She said…

I’m not built for this love thing. I’ve tried it before and I’ve failed miserably. You see, with Ken—the long-hauling, philandering jerk with a family in Oakland—I had an idea that he was unfaithful. There were context clues all along that the brother left that I just conveniently ignored. I would call and sometimes he would seem like he had to go, he couldn’t talk. I shrugged it off. Looked forward to his return to me. Knowing in the back of my wayward mind that the brother was living foul. I mean, come on. He had the perfect cover. My name is Ken and I drive big rigs. But I only drive them cross-country. And I stay away for weeks at a time. I bet he was telling Ursula, the woman he impregnated, the same story.

But the sad thing is, even having found this out, I still wanted to be with the guy. I was actually thinking about giving him another chance. I’d played out in my mind how I would justify it. We’d go through counseling. I’d make him promise to be faithful. Make him promise to only drive local as well and be home every evening. He’d have to send me picture texts every hour on the hour. Crazy stuff. But I was willing to do it. Why?

I didn’t give up on Ken until Trap came into the picture. And then, I lied to myself. Told myself that I had always loved him because he was conveniently there. And I knew him. We were friends. And here’s something else I haven’t told you. That day I went to Trap’s and caught him sleeping with Carissa, I had told Olivia that I was going to tell him that I was moving out. But the truth is, I was only going to tell him that. I had no plans on actually following through with it. I was going to go through the motions, tell Trap that we shouldn’t be living together since we were dating. And he was going to say something like, “Come on, Sade. Stop being so old fashioned. Everybody’s doing it. It’s cool, you’ll see.” And I would have said, “Maybe you’re right.” I know I was going to say that. But why? Why am I willing to look past lies? Why am I willing to compromise what I feel is right?

The shop was closed and I was still in the office I shared with Trap. I reached into my duffle bag and pulled out my toiletry bag. I brushed my teeth and asked myself why I was sleeping in the office and how long would it be before someone found out. I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror, so I brushed my teeth looking at the wall. I was listening to the blues. Some song about a man who lost his woman and his dog, or something or another. Whatever the song was, it was sad. Mr. Coleman, the man that owns this building as well as the soul food spot next to our shop, also has an apartment right above us. He played blues every night. Maybe he was sad about something. Maybe he lost his woman and his dog as well. The thing was, he was right above me. All last night as I slept in the office. Playing his blues records. Moving around. His footfalls right above my head. So I really didn’t feel so alone.

I spent the night at the shop last night. That’s what it’s come to. It’s come to me sleeping on the little love seat listening to the blues, not knowing my next move, too ashamed of myself to look into the mirror when I brush my teeth.

I picked up Ken’s picture from my desk and through it against the wall. But I didn’t do it because I was mad at him. I did it because I was the closest thing to me to throw and I was mad at myself. Why couldn’t I live alone? What was I afraid of?

Suddenly, the blues above me stopped. I heard footfalls scamper from what I assumed was Mr. Coleman’s living room. Shortly afterwards, I heard a knock on the front door.

“Who’s in here?” I heard Mr. Coleman say. He was heading to the office. “Yeah, Travis,” I heard him say. “I heard a crash coming from the office. Don’t worry, I got my .9mm.”

Oh my goodness, I thought. This crazy old man is going to shoot me.

“I ain’t calling no 9-1-1. I’m gonna shoot whoever’s in here. You hear that!” he said to me. “You’re a dead man!”

Actually a dead woman.

I ran over my options. I could open the office door. But crazy old Mr. Coleman might shoot me. I hated myself but I didn’t want to die. So I did the next best thing. Announced my presence, knowing that Trap would hear it as well. He’d come down here and ask why I was sleeping in the shop. I did not want to talk with Travis Barber right now. But it was that or get shot a couple of times.

“It’s just me, Mr. Coleman,” I said.

“Sade?” he said.

“Yes. I’m alone. I’m going to open the door now.”

I did. And Mr. Coleman got the shock of his life—me standing in the doorway wearing nothing but my bra and panties.

***

“No, Travis,” Mr. Coleman said. “Just a false alarm. Nobody’s in the shop. Mm hmm. A woman’s voice? Oh…that was just a lady friend of mine. She came down to the shop with me…Oh yeah, she ‘bout it. Ain’t that how you young folk say it? ‘Bout it? Okay, Trap. I’ll lock up for you.”

Mr. Coleman disconnected the call.

“Thank you,” I told him. I was waving for him not to tell Trap that I was there in the shop. I told him it would lead to too many questions.

“I can see that,” he said. “Honestly, I have a few for you.” He looked at the broken glass and the frame on the floor. “Why you sleeping here anyway?” he asked.

“It’s a long story.”

“Well, I’ve got some stew happening upstairs. Put on some clothes and then you can tell me all about it.” He put the gun away. “Whew! It’s been a while since I seen all that. I gotta go take my pressure pills.

***

Having eaten the stew and some of the most delicious apple pie I’d ever tasted, Mr. Coleman and I sat the kitchen table of his modest apartment. He lifted his hoary eye brows, I guess wanted me to go into my long story.

“I slept in the office last night,” I said, “because I knew you’d be up here in your apartment.”

To this, he furrowed his brow. Started patting at his skinny chest. “Child, I’m a little too old for that.”

“No, Mr. Coleman. What I mean to say is for some reason, I don’t want to live alone. If I sleep in the office, and you’re upstairs, it’s like your just upstairs.”

“Well I am upstairs.”

I laughed. “That’s true. Do I make sense to you?”

“Not really. Um…don’t you own the shop with Trap?”

“Yes sir.”

He pulled the left side of his lip into his cheek. Scratched his bald head. “I see people coming in and out of the shop all the time. Y’all making good money, right?”

“Yes sir.”

He bowed his head this time. “The rent on the space isn’t that much, is it?”

“It’s fair.”

“Then why don’t you just buy your own place?”

I didn’t know. And the person who knew, Nanna Mosley, has been silent on the subject ever since I asked her about it.

Posted in books, relationship | Tagged , , | Leave a comment