Doors (The Opening)
by L. L. King
My fifteen-month old son has a thing about an open door. Whenever he sees a door, whether it is slightly ajar or fully opened, he has to close it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the door to the bedroom, bathroom, closet, or kitchen cabinet. If it can swing open, in his tiny head he thinks that he can swing it shut. He’ll place both of his hands on the door and push forward with all of his might: sometimes hitting his head on the door in his effort. He slammed a door on his fingers once and crushed mine twice. He has locked me out of the house at least four times during his short tenure on earth. He’s also closed himself in a dark bathroom or closet on too many occasions to count.
When I want to keep him occupied for a while, I will open all of the kitchen cabinets and let him do his thing. As he goes and closes each open door, I will open it again when his back is turned. This drives him crazy and after a few times he will get smart and watch a door that he has just closed out of the corner of his eyes as he goes to the next one. If he catches me in the act of opening one of his doors, he throws a tantrum and falls flat on his back.
I’m sitting at the dining room table as I watch him perform a routine check of my apartment, looking for a door to close. I can barely see the top of his curly head as he walks back and forth through the rooms. When he is satisfied that everything is in order, he spots the cordless phone on the living room table. He promptly gets it and begins jabbering away to God only knows who.
He has a lot of toys strewn about the floor from the kitchen to the living room and also in my bedroom as well as his own. It is futile to try to pick them up as he puts them down so I just clean up his mess after he goes to bed. Yet, even with all of his many toys within his reach, he refuses to play with any of them most of the time. He prefers playing with my cell phone, remote controls, or the cordless telephone. I’ve had to replace each at least once because somehow they all end up in the toilet. I feel that this is all a part of being a normal baby. My mother says that it’s being bad.
I never tire of watching my son do his babyish things. I could watch him constantly, with no commercial breaks, and never get bored. His insatible curiosity has him poking, prodding, pulling, and God forbid, tasting everything that he sees. I don’t watch with the eyes of a worrying parent but with a singular fascination with his innocence as he explores the world around him.
And just as I watch him, he watches me. He imitates everything that I do—if he can pull it off. Yesterday, I just barely saved him from nicking his delicate skin when I caught him trying to shave with one of my razors that he’d managed to tiptoe and get off the bathroom counter.
He’d always become as still as a statue and watch me as I shaved every other morning. Some mornings, I would put a dab of shaving cream on his chin and pretend to shave it off as a reward to him since he watches with so much interest and is still for more than a minute. Luckily, when I caught him, he was holding the razors backwards or else he would have shaved off half of his cheek.
As he makes his rounds, I quickly flip through the mail that I’ve picked up on the way in from picking him up at daycare. “Bill, bill, junk, bill, junk, junk, bullshit,” I mumble as I look at each piece. My income tax check still hasn’t come and it’s been over three months since I obediently filed my taxes. Instead of the IRS giving the hard working American people a deadline to file, they should also impose a deadline upon themselves for refunds. It’s not as if I’m hurting in the financial category though. As soon as I get it, I plan on treating myself to a laptop for no reason other than to have another electronic device to play with. I go to Best Buy so much that the last time that I went to their store, the greeter called me by my first name.
The phone rings while Justin is still holding it. It startles him, which causes him to drop it and scramble away as fast as he can.
“Uh huh, that’s what you get,” I laugh and say. I pick up the phone and check the caller ID. It’s my mama.
“Shellooooo,” I answer.
“Whatever, JJ Evans. You’re both about the same size,” she says and laughs heartedly at her own joke.
“Yeah yeah yeah,” I say with mock agitation. “What did you cook?” I always ask her that every time that I talk to her and usually get the same answer.
“The same thing that I cooked yesterday when you came over. Absolutely nothing. I don’t have any kids living here to raise.”
‘What about your grandkids? You’re helping raise them”
“Now you know that I feed them McDonald’s or whatever else they want that I don’t have to cook.”
“When we were growing up, we had to beg you on our hands and knees to take us out to eat.”
“Y’all were too damn bad. . . . Speaking of bad, where is my bad ass grandson?”
“Your GRANDSON is playing,” I say and look around the room. He has disappeared somewhere. “At least I think he’s somewhere playing. I don’t see him.”
“See, I told you that he was bad,” she says as I start looking for him. “He’s probably closed himself in somewhere the way that he loves doors.” True enough, he’d managed to close himself in the coat closet. I can hear him knocking on the door. I open it and see nothing but the whites of his big eyes and all of his eight teeth.
“He was in the coat closet,” I say to her as I usher him back into the living room.
“Did I tell you that the last time he was over here, I had my head underneath the cabinet, and he came and slammed the door on it? I started to beat his little ass. I called him a little muthafucka before I could even realize who it was I was talking to.”
“Mama, I’ve told you to stop cussing around those kids. You already have Shay saying S-H-I-T and she’s barely over two,” I exclaim as I laugh at her story. I’m 26 years old but I still can’t find the nerve to actually say a cuss word in front of my mama.
“That’s her mama’s doing, not mine. Anyway, I wasn’t finished telling you about Chuckie yet.” Chuckie is her pet name for Justin. I don’t mind it. It was better than bad-ass-muthafucka any day. “Later on that night he closed himself in the bathroom. The lights were off and I was going to let him stay in there for a while to teach him a lesson. Do you know that that child didn’t even cry? Petey’s scary ass would have torn the door down if he were in a dark room. I let him out just to see if he was okay.”
I laugh again. My mama never fails to bring a smile to my face. She is the comedienne of the family. All five of her grandkids, myself, and her other two kids adore her: filthy mouth and all.
I say, “I know you didn’t call to tell me that. What’s really going on?”
“I was calling for my grandbaby. I miss him.”
“I could have sworn that you just said that he was bad.”
“Well then, I miss my bad grandbaby,” she says with a fake attitude.
“Don’t you go to the casino boat on Fridays?” I ask. Justin is now playing with the buttons on the TV. He’s turned it on and then off again, changed channels, and messed up the contrast in a span of one minute. I wonder to myself if he is maybe as bad as my mother says.
Mama says, “I hit last week so I’m going to stay away this week. It’s bad luck to go again right after you hit.”
“How much did you win?”
“N-Y-O-B?” I ask.
“None of yo’ damn business.”
“The D is silent.”
I ignore what she says and ask, “Did you win enough to buy me a laptop?”
“How much is it?”
“About a G.”
“A G? Speak English.”
“It costs about a thousand dollars.”
“FUH . . . I mean, HELL NO!” she exclaims.
“Well it was worth a try. . . I have bad news though. This is his mammy’s weekend to have him.”
My mama sighs heavily. “When was the last time that she saw him?” she asks, her voice dripping with distaste.
“It’s been over a month. She came and picked him up one Saturday. She kept him for a few hours and then brought him back home.”
“A few hours? That’s it.”
“Yep. She said that he was crying a lot. You and I both know that he hardly ever cries unless he hurts himself.”
“Or someone else hurts him,” she adds.
I know what she is insinuating and I say, “I honestly don’t think that she would hurt him.”
“You didn’t think that she would lie, cheat, steal, strip, or God knows what else either! Any woman that can give up her own child is capable of anything. Don’t get me started. You know how I feel about that wench.” I can imagine mama fanning herself after her outburst. She continues, “ Every time I hear her name, my blood pressure rises. Why are you letting her keep him? Isn’t she still working at that strip joint?
“I don’t know. Ask Mrs. Belinda. She seems to know more about Tracey than I do.”
Mrs. Belinda is the person who informed my mother that Tracey is working at The Wishing Well, a gentleman’s club located on the north side of Chicago. Mrs. Belinda incessantly runs her mouth about things that are the least concern of anybody else in the world. She knows some dirt about everybody in the neighborhood and takes it upon herself to share her knowledge with others. She never talks about the good things that are happening with anyone. People will never find her discussing how good it is that Pookie is graduating form high school and going to college or that Sheniqua is making it without the help of her deadbeat baby’s daddy. The only dirt that she will never talk about was that of her own two kids. Her oldest son is in prison and her daughter is selling her body to pay for drugs. In my own opinion, selling one’s body is a far cry worse than stripping.
I continue, “I’m not going to come between her and her own son. I know that I’m not the one who should be taking up for her, but everybody has his or her own issues.” The phone beeps to indicate that I have another call. My caller ID shows that it’s a cellular call but I don’t recognize the number. I’m assuming that it can only be my baby’s mama. “Speak of the devil and he’ll come knocking,” I say. “I think this is Tracey. I’ll call you back later to beg for your money.”
“Okay. Don’t forget to call me back,” she says and hangs up.
I click over to the other call. “Hello.”
“Hey baby, it’s me.” It’s Tracey just as I’d thought.
“Who’s me?” I ask, trying to fake spite but actually happy to hear her voice.
“You know who this is. Quit playing. Where is my baby?”
“My baby is sitting here playing with his toys.”
“Do you have him ready to go?”
“By the time you get up here I’ll have his diaper bag ready.”
“Can you bring him down? Pleeeease . . . I have curlers in my hair.”
“I don’t care about your head. You haven’t seen him in over a month, so you come up here and get him or he’s not going.” I hang up on her before she has the chance to get another word in.
I look out of my window and see Tracey’s Grand Am. The parking lights begin flashing and she gets out of the car. I don’t see a sign of any rollers in her hair.
I can see another head on the passenger side of her car. The cell phone must have belonged to him or her because there is no company dumb enough to have Tracey as a customer. No credit or bad credit was acceptable to some providers. Tracey’s credit was not.
I slowly begin to pack Justin’s diaper bag. I assume that Tracey is going to be pissed when she gets to my apartment. She’s always been used to getting her way. When I finally grew some nuts during our relationship and found that I had the ability to say no to her, things began to go downhill.
One evening, when we were still a couple, I saw her come out of a restaurant holding hands with a brother that was so dark, he made Wesley Snipes look like a white blonde. I pulled over and watched them do everything short of having sex in public as they waited for the valet to return with his truck, a 2003 Escalade with personalized license plates that read “VIP CLUB”. It was right then and there, before my heart could slow back down to its normal rhythm, that I felt that I could never make her happy.
To make matters worse, when she was seeing this other man, she was two months pregnant with our child. We had already been to the doctor to make it official and begun thinking of names for either sex. I was sick with my grief for three days. Tracey thought that I had the flu and I didn’t tell her that it wasn’t. I also didn’t tell that she’d been caught in the act until much later.
Lying around, all but drowning in my heartache, enabled me to think about our situation. I was deeply in debt trying to make sure that she always had the finer things in life. I’d messed up my credit and ruined friendships trying to keep her happy. She had the brand new vehicle while I drove the used one. Her clothes were always name brand but I wore mine until they were threadbare. She worked off and on at any dead-end job that she could manage to get. I worked at the post office until they had to send me home every night.
I finally decided that I had to get my act together: not for Tracey but for my soon to be born child. After finding out about her infidelity, I began to worry if the baby was actually mine. Tracey had wanted to have an abortion when she first found out that she was pregnant but I was totally against it. I had dreams of spending the rest of my life with her but I guess that she knew otherwise at that juncture in our relationship. If there was one good thing that she did for me, it was the fact that she never did abort.
I took the first step to living without Tracey by beginning to clean up my credit. I cut up all of my credit cards except one that would be used for emergencies. I stopped paying Tracey’s car payments although I was legally the owner. I didn’t care. I had a plan. When the repo man started calling and she found out that I hadn’t been making the payments, she threw a conniption fit and refused to drive it, just as I knew she would. She threw the keys at me and left to stay with her mother. She was almost six months by this time so she couldn’t go very far.
I had been saving the money for the car payments and I paid what I owed plus all penalties after her expected departure. I sold my used and abused Maxima to catch up on some of my other bills. I felt that I was finally heading in the right direction in my life. I have to admit that it felt kind of good. I knew that it would take years to fix my credit situation but I didn’t plan on going anywhere for a long while.
Tracey came back after a week. She’d actually lasted longer than I had expected her to. She and her mother could barely live in the same city, much less live in the same household. Mrs. Braxton loved her daughter dearly but she knew that Tracey was a manipulative brat. Her trust in her only child had been exhausted completely and she used every chance that she could get to tell Tracey so. If there was one person in the world that I could get to side with me when I needed to vent about Tracey, it was Mrs. Braxton. Of course, my own mother would take my side against Tracey too but I preferred not to bring her into most of our conflicts.
I let Tracey come back into my home without a moment’s hesitation. She thought that it was because I was still so in love with her and that she still had me wrapped around her little finger. She was right that I was still in love with her. There was no denying the fact no matter how much I tried. However, I could honestly say that the days of me asking how high when she said jump were over. I stopped being the passive man that she once knew. I began challenging her at each and every game that she tried to play. Not her curses or her tears could sway me, as they did not so long before. I was a man and I wanted her to know it.
By the time the baby was born, Tracey and I were barely acknowledging each other’s presence. The first thing that I did after receiving assurance that the baby was healthy was to get a paternity test. Tracey was shocked at my action and asked why I would even think that I wasn’t the father. That was when I told her about seeing her come out of the restaurant, hand in hand, with the dark dude (I didn’t quite put it that way though). I recounted what she was wearing, what he was wearing, the name of the hotel, and the make and model of the car that he drove away in as well as his license plate number.
Her shock at my utterances wore off even before I was finished. She just stared at me coldly and said, “And? . . . What are you going to do now.”
I wanted to slap the taste out of her mouth. I probably would have but she was holding the baby at the time. I’ve never hit a woman in my life but at that particular moment I figured that I might as well have gotten the first time over and done with. Instead of becoming like the men that I despise, I let it go and walked away.
I was on pins and needles waiting for the results of the paternity test. My heart told me that the wiggling bundle that I was yet to hold in my own arms was my son but I needed proof. I’d resisted holding him on the first day. The nurses had tried to get me to hold him after he was delivered. I took one look at him with all of the baby goo on him and declined. Son of mine or not, they were going to have to give him a soap and water bath before I touched him.
One day was as long as I could go without touching him. I knew that the paternity test result would take at least a week. I didn’t want to wait that long and I felt that everything would turn out as I wanted it to. I thought about the possibility of a negative result but I didn’t know exactly how I would react. I thank God to this very day that all of my worries were for nothing. The paternity test came back 100% positive.
Justin and I bonded immediately. I was able to calm him when no one else, including his mother, could not. I am that way with most of the kids that I encounter though. While I literally gush over babies and toddlers, Tracey will stand far enough away so that they couldn’t touch her with their sticky hands and mess up her new outfits. Justin was no exception. She couldn’t take the diaper changing and spit-up associated with motherhood. When I would get home from work, she would practically throw him at me and run to the farthest corner of the apartment to hide.
It never mattered whether I had a long day at work or not; as soon as I crossed the boundary of my door, the only thing that I wanted to do was to hold his small body in my arms. I was happy to take over in Justin’s care and I was jealous that Tracey was able to be at home with him all day. I lovingly gave him his baths, changed his diapers, fed him, and dressed him whenever I could even when she was around.
Tracey and I were still strangers in our own household: fallout from the problems that we had even before Justin’s birth. When she felt that we’d reached the point of never turning back and being able to re-establish what we once had, she packed her bags and left for a final time.
She began living with one of her girlfriends. When she left she neglected to pack a bag for Justin. I was perfectly okay with that fact. The only reason that I’d never asked her to leave before was because I was afraid that she would take him. I was afraid for nothing as it turned out.
That was almost a year ago. Since then, almost the only contact that Tracey and I have had has been solely for Justin’s benefit. About six months ago, I received a call in the middle of the night from her though. She was crying and seemingly drunk. She tried to tell me that I was the best thing that she ever had in her life and that she was a fool to have ever let me go. I told her that I already knew that, gave her a dial tone, and lay back down to cuddle with my new love interest. I already knew that she was stripping and receiving more than enough attention from the club patrons. Whatever she may have wanted or expected from me that night still remains a mystery to this very day.
I hear Tracey knock at the door and I take my time in going to answer it. Justin follows me to greet her although he has no idea who it may be. This is his normal routine. He loves company and isn’t afraid of anyone. He quickly wins over anybody who happens to look into his soft brown eyes. It doesn’t matter if we happen to be in the checkout line at the supermarket or walking through the mall, Justin always seems to make a new friend. He has also involuntarily made a new friend for myself on more than a couple of occasions.
Although I know that it’s Tracey knocking at the door, I go through the motions of asking who it is before I look through the peephole for verification. I can’t see anything because she’s covered it with the palm of her hand.
“I’m not opening the door unless you move your hand,” I say.
Tracey uncovers the peephole and I am greeted with her middle finger. She’s grinning and showing all twenty-eight of her teeth. All four of her wisdom teeth were pulled a couple of years ago. I honestly don’t know if she screamed louder at the dentist that day or while she was having Justin.
I open the door to let her in. She sashays past and cuts her eyes at me as if she is still on my lease. As she comes in, she fails to see Justin who, as usual, is hiding behind my leg and peeping around it to see whom my visitor is. She stops in the middle of the living room and with her back still to me and asks, “Where’s Justin?”
“You passed right by him,” I say as I still stand at the door. As she walked away from me, I gave her a quick once over. She stands at 5’8” tall and tonight she’s added at least two inches with the pair of black boots that she’s wearing. Perpetually conscious of her appearance, she is wearing the hell out of a pair of black hip huggers with a red blouse, which stops just above the small of her back. I quickly make up my mind to get her off my premises as soon as possible. I can already feel the stirrings of a troublemaker awakening inside my warm-ups. I walk into the living room with Justin in tow all the while, thinking of Tracey’s physical appearance.
Tracey is a dime-piece, if there is no other. She can have any man that she desires eating out of her hand. I still can't understand why she chooses to strip. We'd spent four years of our life together but she was always as complex as any woman that I've ever known in my life. I've never been sure how to unlock all of the feelings and emotions that are contained inside her: which is her gift and also her curse. It was her gift because I think that she protected herself with her ability to keep me guessing. It was her curse because if I’d only known what else she could have wanted from me that she had to get from someone else, we could still be together.
I loved her, adored her, and completely idolized her entire being during her reign as my partner. I've never quite been able to relinquish the memories that I have of her. To have seen her with another man and letting go was easy enough when I set my mind to it. However, late at night (or any other time of the day) when my nature rises and my sexual drive shifts from a mere want to desire, my mind still falls on Tracey.
The sexual chemistry that we shared with each other would erase any memory of any previous argument that we may have had during our relationship. That is the sole reason that we lasted a lot longer than we probably should have. A simple look was all that it used to take to sometimes light our fires. There is not one place in my apartment that has been left untouched by our passion. One of my friends that I've shared our sexual escapades with still refuses to eat at my kitchen table: he says that it's tainted.
One particular Friday night a couple of months ago, when I was alone and Tracey was on my mind a little more than usual, I decided to go to the gentleman's club in which she worked. Some of the other guys at the post office where I worked had been there and they would always rant and rave about how great the club was. I heard them talk about one of the ladies who worked there more than any of the other ladies combined. From their physical description of her, I was able to gather that it was Tracey that they were talking about. I never said a word about our past to any of them and none of them had ever seen her with me. I would have been embarrassed if they’d found out that she was my son’s mother but I was also secretly proud that she was openly admired by men who didn't even know her real name.
When I made it to The Wishing Well at nine o' clock that night, I couldn't find a parking spot no less than a quarter mile from it. As evidenced by the lack of parking, the club was packed. Men from every walk of life and profession imaginable were together for one common cause: to see beautiful women. Also in the crowd were more than a few women, most of whom were on the same mission as the men. The rest of the women were there with boyfriends, husbands, or just seeking to satisfy their own personal curiosities.
I positioned myself at the back of the club in the dimmest corner that I could find. For the next hour and a half I drank three cokes and saw three white women perform: each of which had a lot of chest but less backside than I have myself.
I'd seen no sign of Tracey and was preparing to leave when the DJ announced the next dancer. He introduced her as Treat and a roar of applause and bevy of catcalls erupted from the regulars in the audience. Most of the audience began to move closer to the stage to get a better view or craned their necks forward from where they were sitting. Unless one of the patrons was cross-eyed, every single eye in the place was on the stage, the DJ included.
All of these signs told me that Tracey was coming out next so I sat back down again. The lights dimmed and India Arie's Brown Skin began playing. I knew that that was one of Tracey’s favorite songs. She strutted onto the stage in a sheer black negligee and a pair of black stiletto heels. Through the negligee material, I could see a pair of black thongs and silver pasties over each of her nipples. She came to the edge of the stage, just far enough out of arms reach, and stood there with her hands on her hips and her left leg slightly bent, surveying the crowd and tapping her foot to the slow beat of the music. Every man, and woman, in the place were mesmerized and at her mercy. The only sounds that could be heard were those of India's music and her lyrics of how much she loved brown skin pouring through the speaker system. At that moment, India was speaking for all of us.
Tracey's eyes seemed to stop directly on me as she panned the crowd and I tried to will myself to somehow become invisible. She couldn't see me though and she continued to look around at the audience. When she was satisfied that she was the one single thought on every man's mind, she began dancing to the music. Her gyrations were hypnotic. I had to concentrate on stopping myself from moving closer to the stage. I knew that when I went home that night, that I would not be alone if I took matters into my "own hands" to satisfy the desire that was being molded by Tracey's motions.
A waitress momentarily interrupted my trance and asked if I needed anything. I told her no and she then asked me if she'd seen me somewhere before. I took my eyes off Tracey long enough to look at the waitress. I'd never seen her in my life. I was never one to notice many white women but I would have remembered this one because of her bright pink hair, if nothing else.
I told her that it must have been someone else because it was my first time at the club. I then turned my attention back to Tracey. The waitress stayed where she was and asked me if I liked what I was seeing. I irritably told her that the show was alright and pushed her existence completely out of my mind. She left to bother someone else just as another song came on with a faster tempo breaking the spell that Tracey had woven on everyone.
All time had stopped for five minutes. It was a little less for me because of the waitress. Not a single person had thrown a penny or dollar bill on the stage during the first song. Tracey had complete immobilized everyone, just as she had planned.
It was time to pay up though and everyone paid their dues and then some more. She rid herself of the negligee and gave the crowd a sneak peek of a body that had to have been sculpted from the finest materials that could be found on earth by a collective effort of the gods. I'd seen her body in the flesh a thousand times but I'd never wanted her as badly as I did that night. Having a baby had only enhanced her natural curves and she’d successfully rid herself of the leftover stomach that was associated with most women who had given birth. Tracey was a goddess that night and any other night that she stepped on stage. I would have given back the entire check that I’d received from her earlier that day too if I hadn't been afraid that she would see me if I’d tried to get closer to the stage.
After she left the stage, I settled back down again. I saw the pink-haired waitress again as she was walking by and asked, “Is she performing again tonight?”
“Who is she?” she teasingly asked.
She knew who she was as if I had to spell it out. “Tracey,” I said.
She looked at me in a strange way and then said, “She’ll be on once more,” and walked away smiling.
A little while later, Tracey came out to mingle with her many fans. Although I wanted to stay, I also didn't want her to see me and I snuck out of there as fast as I could. That was the first and last time that I ever went to that club. There have been many nights when I wanted to throw on a hat, pair of shades, and black trench coat to sneak in to see her again. I always resisted though. It was hard but I helped myself out by spending come quiet time alone.
“There’s my boo-boo,” she exclaims as Justin and I walk into the living room. She kneels down and extends her arms. Justin hesitates for only a moment and then runs into her bosom, all the while squealing excitedly.
I feel a slight pang of jealousy as I witness the scene. He’s been with me for 99% of his life but he still, somehow, instinctively knows who his mother is. I push the feeling aside and walk away to finish packing his diaper bag and allow them a private bonding moment.
I can hear Tracey’s cooing and Justin’s happy gurgling as I pack diapers, baby wipes, clothes, medicine, and a bottle. I stand back and pick my brain to try to think of anything that I may have missed. Not being able to think of anything, I grab the bag and go back into the living room.
Tracey is still kneeling as Justin tries to get her to play patty-cake. She thinks that he just wants her to clap his hands and he is trying his best to convey what he wants. Her hip huggers have crawled down enough to fully expose her red lace thongs to me as I stand behind her.
What was once a stir is now fully aroused and wants to see with its one eye what my two eyes are having the pleasure of seeing. I bite down on the index finger of my free hand to stifle the exclamation of approval that I desperately want to make. There is nothing that is sexier to me than to see a well-built black woman in a pair of thongs and Tracey’s figure goes beyond just being well built. With the current fashion trend of women and hip huggers—or low-rise jeans as they are sometimes called—I’ve been able to see more than my fair share of strange female’s undergarments. But there are some visuals that I can do without seeing ever again.
I’ve convinced my current female interest that it isn’t hoochie—as she would once refer to the trend—to wear the thong where it could be seen. I personally feel that it is a lot sexier than seeing some too-big bloomers being bunched at a woman’s lower back.
“He’s trying to get you to play patty-cake,” I tell her after I feel that I’ve regained some of my composure. I kneel down beside her to show her what he wants and say, “Remember this rhyme;
Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker’s man. Roll it, roll it, roll it, and put it in the pan.”
Justin does his baby version of rolling his hands and spreading his arms as I sing the nursery rhyme, all the while drooling and showing the few teeth that he does have. He then turns to back to Tracey and grabs her hands again to get her to play along. She gets it right this time and he is even more delighted than he was as I played with him.
She laughs with him and pulls him closer to give him a hug. He pushes away and looks her in the eyes for a couple of seconds. He then puts his chubby hands on her cheeks and pulls her mouth to his to give her a kiss full on the lips: sound effects and spittle added at no additional charge. He shifts to turn around and settles in a lap that is twice as soft as mine and lays his head on her breast. My only wish is that I had my camera to take their picture. My camera was in electronic heaven after having taken a swim with the tidy-bowl man. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how that happened.
Tracey says, “I love you too, baby. I missed you so much.”
I start to ask why she hasn’t been around for the past month if she misses him so much, but I decide against it when I see her watery eyes. I’ve never believed in kicking a man, or woman, when they are down. Tracey voluntarily gives me the information after an extended moment of silence as I patiently sit by her side.
“I was going through some things the last time that I kept him,” she says. “That’s if you can actually call the time that I spent with him keeping him. When I got back to my place, I had over ten messages from one of the customers . . . one of my regulars . . . from the club. He was making crazy threats and I panicked. I was going to the police station to file a report and I didn’t want to take Justin with me . . . and I know that you wouldn’t have wanted him there either. I lied to you because I was embarrassed for you to see that I was even in the situation. . . I am so sorry”
We are silent again for a while. I have a question that I want to ask her, but I resist until I feel that I can’t take it any more. I ask, “So where have you been for the past month?”
“Well . . . I’ve only had a day off here and a day off there from the club. I made a special request to have this whole weekend off to spend some time with my son though. I will never go that long without seeing him again.” She kisses him on the top of his head. Justin is as content as he can possibly be at the moment.
“So you’re still stripping, huh?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“I’m a dancer,” she says. “You know that’s what I always wanted to do.”
“I thought that you meant ballet, breaking, or even river dancing. What is the difference between exotic dancing and stripping?”
“I don’t take all of my clothes off. We . . . as in me and the other dancers . . . wear pasties on our breasts and the bikini bottoms.” She pauses and then adds, “You should know.”
“How should I know?” I ask, wondering if she really knows that I was there once.
“Because you do and you know it, Jermaine Darnell Henson. You’re busted. My roommate saw you there.”
“I don’t even know what your roommate looks like, so how does she know me?”
“My roommate was the waitress. I have a couple of pictures of you and Justin on my dresser. She’s been in my room and sweated your picture enough to recognize you on sight. She came into the dressing room on the night that you were there and told me that someone that she thought was my ex was sitting in the back. I took a look and guess who I saw, trying to be Mr. Incognegro?” She laughs at my being exposed. Although I try not to, I laugh with her too. Justin sits up and looks at both of us as if we were crazy, causing us to go into another gale of laughter.
“You mean the white girl with the pink hair? That’s your roommate?” I ask after I catch my breath.
“Her name is Rainbow.”
“Okay, so Rainbow is your roommate?”
“Yep.” She pauses for a moment as she repositions herself to face me. “So my show was just alright, huh?”
“Man,” I exclaim, “she didn’t leave out anything, did she?”
“That’s my girl. It’s her duty to give me every single detail. You know . . . you probably could have gotten away with it but you gave yourself away.”
“Because you called me by my real name, dummy,” she says and playfully punches me in my side. “Everybody that comes to the club knows me only as Treat but you called me Tracey. Duuuh.” She punches me again.
My phone rings at that moment and I get up to answer it, faking extreme pain from her punch. I check the caller ID and see that it’s the same number that Tracey called from earlier in her car. Still clutching at my side I ask, “Isn’t someone downstairs waiting for you?”
“Oh shit! . . . I forgot all about Robin,” she says as she grabs the phone from me. She answers it and says, “My bad, girlfriend. I’ll be right down. . . . No, I wasn’t trying to get some.” She giggles mischievously while she listens and looks at me. “Anyway, as I was saying, I’ll be right down.” She turns away from me and continues the conversation in a hushed whisper. I try my best to eavesdrop but I’m unsuccessful.
She hangs up and stays where she is on the floor. She begins playing in Justin’s hair with a half smile playing across her lips. He looks as if he is ready to doze off with his glassy eyes. Tracey says, “I guess that I need to go now.” She still doesn’t make any effort to get up though.
“I would tell you that you can stay but that wouldn’t be a wise thing right now,” I say. “We could both get ourselves in trouble.”
“And how is that,” she replies, playing dumb.
“You know what I’m talking about. Believe me, I want you to stay but we will end up in a very sticky situation if I have my way.”
“I know . . . I know. I could tell that you wanted me when you walked past a little while ago. Your pants don’t hide very much,” she teases.
I laugh nervously. It seems to have become a little bit warmer in my apartment all of a sudden. “Your friend is waiting,“ I remind her and extend my hand to help her up.
She keeps stroking Justin’s head and says, “Look out of the window.”
I go and look, finding that Tracey’s car is gone. I look around at her and she’s showing all of her 28 teeth again. I turn away from her and put my hands in my pockets to shift the erection that has suddenly sprung up again for the second time. My heart is beating much faster than normal. I slide down on my loveseat, far enough away from Tracey to keep myself out of trouble. The pheromones in the room are wreaking havoc on my mind and body. I know that the slightest touch, brush of her hand—or other appendage—will send me over the edge.
Tracey eases my mind by saying, “Don’t worry. She’s just going to the gas station up the street. She’ll call when she gets back.” She pauses again and looks at me over the top of Justin’s head. She then says, “Robin won’t be gone long enough to make up for a year’s time anyway.”
“It has been about a year since you left, huh? Even longer since we had sex.”
“The last time that we had sex was the last time that I had sex at all,” she replies.
Her revelation shocks me and it shows in my eyes. She asks, “Why is that so surprising? Just because men get to see my body doesn’t actually mean that they also get to touch it.”
“I . . . I just didn’t know. I guess that I just assumed that you were having sex with someone. How many men approach you every night trying to get you to fulfill their fantasies?”
“I don’t even try to keep track of all the knuckleheads trying to get some. In the beginning, when I first started working there, I was blown away by all of the money and promises that were thrown my way. For each and every single thing that was offered, there was a price to pay and I wasn’t willing to go there. All that it took was a couple of dates for me to see what the agenda was for most of the men that I met.”
“Well what did you expect when you meet someone at a place like that?”
“In a way, I guess that I didn’t expect much at all. But still . . . everyone has hopes that maybe a person will want you for you and not because of the outside.”
I study her for a moment. Justin looks just like her only his left eye is slightly smaller than his right and Tracey’s is the opposite. It isn’t her looks that have changed though. It’s something else that I can’t quite put my finger on. She is somehow different from the Tracey that I once knew. She seems to be a lot mellower and contemplative, as if something is on her mind. She is also speaking more freely of herself and what’s been going on in her life. I say, “There had to have been someone that you considered having sex with.”
“Nope,” she replies.
“So you’re not with anyone now?”
She smiles widely and says, “I have a friend who’s living with me right now.”
“Do you have to rub it in by smiling?” I pause for a moment and watch her watch me become green with envy. I break the eye contact first. “Anyway, how long have you been with your friend? Inquiring minds want to know.”
“Hmmm, someone is getting personal,” she says as she grins from ear to ear. “We’ve been together for over a year.”
Her reply shocks me and it shows again on my face. I don’t even do the math or else I would know that Tracey was with me a year ago. I am more astounded that some guy never tried to have sex with her after a year’s time. “You mean to tell me that you’ve been with a guy for over a year and he never tried to get it?”
It finally dawns on me that our relationship ended about a year ago. “Were you with this dude while you were with me?” I ask. Suddenly I’m not feeling as good as I was about this conversation.
She says, “We became acquainted with each other not that long after you turned me down. Do you remember?”
“No. I don’t remember you meeting some other guy.”
“No. . . I meant . . . do you remember turning me down?”
How can I ever forget? It was a few days after I saw her and Midnight (I’ve never bothered to find out his name) at the restaurant. After I stopped wallowing in my self-pity and started moving around, Tracey attempted to bring me all the way back to health while I was lying on the couch. She’d figured that my silent treatment was just one of my mood swings. She climbed on top of me and began kissing me softly on my neck asking if I felt better. Any other time, all that she had to do was blow on me to get me in the mood but the thoughts of her being with some other man still weighed heavily on my mind. I pushed her aside in a not so gentle manner, got up, and stalked to another part of the apartment.
She’d never said anything about it until today. Now I knew why. It was because she had already begun to see somebody else. I feel a pressing need to know who this man is… this gentleman who would wait a year for what I could barely wait to get off work for on most days. “Was it that dude that I saw you with?”
She is still smiling and I feel like going to get my pliers and pulling out all of her teeth. I see that she isn’t going to offer any more information than I ask for. This is a game that I’d played with her many times in the past.
“What’s his name?”
She looks up at the ceiling for a second and then says, “Bill. . . his name is Bill.”
“No it’s not. You made that name up. Where is Bill from then?”
“That’s easy. He’s from China.” I didn’t think that it was possible but her grin becomes even wider. I begin to think that I just might catch a case tonight.
“Why are you lying? There are no Chinese dudes named Bill around here. Is it somebody I know? Is that the reason you’re giving me the runaround?”
“Sweetheart, I’m not giving you the runaround. Bill is from China. I swear to God.”
Tracey doesn’t swear to God unless she’s telling the truth. I am appalled. A Chinese dude. I shake my head and ask, “How did you end up with a Chinese dude?”
Tracey bursts into laughter. If looks could kill, she would be a very dead woman right now. I wait and fume for almost a minute as laughter wracks her body. Justin wakes up a little, smiles, and laughs with her thinking that he must have been the cause. When her laughter subsides, she takes a deep breath, exhales, and stares at me with a smile that threatens to become another grin at any moment. She begins to shake her head slowly and says, “You just don’t get it, do you? Bill was made in China. Do you get it now or should I spell it out for you? A girl has to do what a girl has to do sometimes. After you turned me down and never tried to even look at me straight or make a move on me, I had to do something.”
There isn’t much that I can say after that. I feel foolish for thinking that she was actually dating a Chinese dude and also because I thought that I knew that she was sleeping around. I was wrong about a lot of things concerningTracey and for the first time I was just realizing it.
Tracey asks, “So . . . Who are you talking to now? That’s human, that is. Anybody special?”
“I have a friend that I spend time with every now and then.” I’m not grinning from ear to ear as she was doing earlier though. I think that makes me the better person.
“A friend can be a lot of things,” she says. “Somebody that you go shopping with, to the movies with, or even work out with. Among other things.” I let her last sentence hang in the air for a few seconds. Justin gets tired of all the grown up talk and gets up out of her lap. He goes to his toy bike and seems to think about getting on but instead ambles off to another part of my apartment. Tracey and I eye him warily as he plods away.
When he disappears around the corner, I sigh and then say, “I think that you really want to know about the among other things part. But, like I said, she’s just a friend. We’ve been there . . . had sex . . . a couple of times before, but its nothing serious.
I am actually downplaying my relationship with my friend. We have sex like rabbits when I can get away from my parental responsibilities for an extended amount of time. That’s all our relationship/friendship is based on though. When the sex is over, there is nothing to talk about until the next time our needs become too much for us to handle ourselves. I feel that Tracey doesn’t need to know that though so I just choose to keep things as simple as possible.
Tracey is still looking in the direction in which Justin has disappeared. He had been heading in the direction of my bedroom. My parental instinct doesn’t tell me that he’s managed to get into any trouble though. At least not yet.
Instead of pursuing the subject of me and my friend further, Tracey says, “We did a good job, didn’t we? We produced a beautiful, healthy baby boy. Some people aren’t as blessed as we are.”
“You’re right. Some people do have some ugly kids.”
Tracey chuckles from deep within her throat. “That’s not what fortunate means to me.” She pauses and then looks directly at me. She says, “You know, we’ve never did anything together as a family. Not that I can remember. Can you?”
I shake my head.
She continues: “Its supposed to be nice tomorrow. Let’s do something together.”
“Something like what?”
“Let’s go to Brookfield Zoo. Justin will love the animals.”
“Justin calls every animal a dog but I agree that he will enjoy himself. I wouldn’t mind going just for myself.” I hesitate before I ask my question. “But I have to know . . . is this just for Justin’s benefit?”
Tracey gives me a soft demure smile that I’ve always loved and seeing it after so long sends another warm feeling sailing through my groin.
“Yes . . . and no,” she says. “Yes, because it wil be good for him to be with both of his parents at once. And no, because I am also thinking that it may be good for us.
“Good in what way,” I ask, purposely playing the naïve role.
“We could catch up on things and also do a little talking face to face. I don’t want you to think that I’m just trying to barge back into your life but I honestly feel that there may just be a little something left between us.”
She was speaking the truth. I can also feel that something still exists. I don’t think that it’s as little as she thinks it is though. I refuse to show my hand by openly agreeing with her though.
Instead, I entertain her statement with an extended silence before I finally say, “Maybe . . . just maybe . . . we can see if there is something left.”
Tracey says, “I’m glad that I know you well or I would think that you really don’t care. At this point though, I’ll just take what I can get.” She rises from the floor and goes to peek out of the window. “ I didn’t know that it was supposed to rain,” she says.
“I didn’t know it either. I’m really going to hate being alone tonight.”
“Oh, do you now,” she says, turning back to face me. “Let’s see how tomorrow goes and maybe . . . just maybe . . . we can spend the evening together. Maybe even the night.”
I concentrate on counting sheep to keep from getting hard all over again. Justin reappears and begins to rummage in his toy box, putting everything on the floor. Tracey and I just watch him go about his business. Not finding anything of interest, he picks up a blue water gun that he’d put on the floor and once again ambles out of sight.
Tracey’s pager vibrates on her hip. I want to tell her that pagers are played out but I remain silent. She retrieves it and looks at the ID. She frowns and puts it back in its place. I’ve always held the belief that people should mind their own business when something evidently doesn’t concern them. I pretend not to notice but Tracey is still in the information-volunteering mode. She says, “Why don’t some guys just get it. If they call, leave messages, and never get a return call, why keep calling?”
“Well, you are a beautiful lady. Most men won’t give up that easily with somebody like you.”
Her quick and simple statement shocks me into silence. Even though I don’t feel that she’s entirely right, instead of digging deep and telling her what I truly felt, I choose to ignore what she said.
I say, “So, when is your friend coming back?”
“She should be back any minute now.”
“That’s too bad . . . I guess.”
“Why is that too bad,” she asks as she lowers herself back to the floor. I catch another glimpse of the thong that I’d worshipped earlier.
“Honestly, I would have liked for you to stay longer.”
“How much longer? I don’t have much to do. I was planning on doing a little shopping, but that can wait.”
“We probably shouldn’t though.”
“Well I’m not going to beg. There isn’t anything to be afraid of. I could have slept in Justin’s room.”
“That’s just it. If you stay, I wouldn’t want you to sleep in there. And if you did, then I would be right in there next to you.”
Tracey pulls her right knee up to her chest and rests her chin on it. She puffs her cheeks and exhales heavily in exasperation. She says, “Well, if something should happen, would that be so bad. Maybe after tonight we can start to put some things behind us.” She pauses. “I’m still in love with you. I thought that I wanted something else at one time but now I know that I don’t. So you tell me . . . what do you want to do?”
I think for a minute. I want to shout that I want her to stay but I just don’t want it to seem that easy for her. Especially when it really is that easy in the first place. So I continue to play hard to get and say, “Let’s just do what we talked about earlier. Spend some time together tomorrow and see how that goes. If the day goes well, we can talk about getting to know each other again over a homecooked dinner by me.”
Tracey smiles and replies, “Okay. That sounds cool. I have to warn you now though . . . just the thought of what tomorrow may bring is going to make me break Bill out one last time tonight.”
I purse my lips at the thought of what could be. “You didn’t have to go there,” I say. “That’s hitting below the belt.
“That was my target.”
At this moment Justin comes back into the living room with the blue water gun. It’s dripping onto the carpet as he holds it with the nozzle pointing toward him. He holds the gun above his head and lets a few droplets of water trickle onto his tongue.
Tracey says, “Let me see your gun, Boo Boo. Mommy wants some wahwah too. Your inconsiderate father never offered me anything to drink.” She holds her hand out to animate what Justin doesn’t understand.
Justin goes over and hands the gun to Tracey. She pretends to replenish her thirst but at least two drops touch her lips. I watch with interest. It’s a little while before I realize that the gun had to have been empty of water since it was in the toy box. I say to Tracey, “I think that I need to find out where that water came from.”
“Why? Didn’t it come from a faucet?”
“Not that I know of. Hold on” I get up and follow the trail of water that Justin has left behind. It leads me to my bedroom and then into the bathroom. The trail ends at the toilet with numerous drops still on the seat. Evidently, Justin has been working in the toilet again.
I walk back into the living room trying my best to suppress my smile. If I smile, then I know that I’ll also laugh but I don’t want to do it at that moment. Tracey can tell that something isn’t quite right though because of the way that my lips are pinched together.
“Where did that water come from?” She asks.
“Let’s just say that you’ll be happy to know that I keep my toilet spotless.” My laughter erupts when I see her jaw drop almost to the floor as her eyes widen in shock. She begins to wipe furiously at her mouth with the back of her hand.
I barely have the strength to pry the gun from Justin’s hands so that I can go and disinfect it. Between laughs, I tell Tracey that she may want to wash Justin off too since the front of his shirt is also wet with toilet water. I leave her on the floor gagging as she also tries to fend off Justin who is trying to get back in her lap.
While we are in the bathroom taking care of our baby, we talk about small things. We exchange news about the people that we know who are knocked up, rocked up, locked up, or just plain and simply fucked up. Talking about others keeps us from talking about ourselves. Just as I am slipping another shirt over Justin’s head, her friend honks the car horn.
“Damn, that was fast,” Tracey says.
We rush to get everything together and I walk them to my front door.
“So, what time tomorrow?” I ask as we stand in the vestibule.
“Cool. You need me to get the carseat out of my car?”
“No, that’s okay. Robin has already did me a big favor tonight and I don’t want to keep her waiting any longer. I’ll run right to Target and get one. It’s only a few minutes away and I’ll sit in the back and hold him.” She picks up Justin and puts him on her hip.
“Okay then,” I say with hesitation. Something doesn’t feel right but I dismiss the feeling as being overprotective. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” I tell her.
An awkward silence passes between us as we wait to depart from each other for the night. I make the first move and lean forward to give her a hug. With Justin squirming between us, the hug is even more awkward than the silence. Tracey puts him down and we try it again.
We haven’t touched since she’d left and it feels good to be so close to her again. Having gained an inch, I decide to go for a mile and try to give her a kiss. She lets me get a fraction of that inch from her lips and then smoothly turned her head and lent me her left cheek for just a quick peck.
Tracey breaks away and steps over the threshold with Justin leading her. He knows the way out all too well. She looks down at him and says, “Daddy is being a bad boy.” She looks back one more time before she descends the steps. I watch them until they disappear and then wait until I can’t hear them before I close my door.
I plop down on the couch and close my eyes. I open them about a minute later and look toward the door that I’d just closed. I spot one of Justin’s shoes lying on my welcome mat. He must have kicked it off while I was trying to hug and kiss Tracey. They couldn’t be too far away so I run and grab the cordless phone and retrieve her friend’s cell phone number from the caller ID.
“Hey, this is Jermaine,” I say when the phone is answered. “Can I speak to Tracey?”
“This is Tracey.”
“Why are you answering the phone?”
“Because I can . . . and Robin’s driving. Do you miss me already?” she cooed.
“Puh-lease . . . I miss Justin but not you,” I tease back.
“Mmm hmm. What’s up?”
“Where are you?”
“In the car.”
“I know that you’re in the car. How far away are you?” I ask.
“We are . . . almost to State Street. We caught a couple of lights.”
“So you’re still on Kimball?
“Yes . . . Why?”
“Have you noticed that Justin has only one shoe on?’
“Justin!” she exclaims. “Boo Boo, what did you do with your shoe?”
“Where do you think it is if I know that he doesn’t have one on?”
“Yeah yeah yeah . . . you probably took it off on purpose to get me back over there. All you had to do was ask.” I hear Tracey say to Robin, “We have to go back and get Justin’s shoe.”
Robin says something but I can’t hear her clearly over the music of the radio. Tracey begins laughing at whatever she said. Tracey’s laugh is cut short and I hear her yell, “ROBIN . . . OH SHIT!” I hear a deafening crash through the phone followed by a woman’s screaming. It sounds like Tracey.
“Tracey!” I yell into the phone. There is no answer but I can hear her saying “Oh Jesus” rapidly over and over again.
I stay on the phone and repeatedly scream Tracey’s name at the top of my lungs for a couple of minutes while pacing feverishly through my apartment. The intersection of State Street and Kimball Avenue is only a couple of blocks away and I decide to see if I can find them myself. I rush out of my door, taking the phone with me.
I’m all the way at my car when I realize that I don’t have my keys. Other voices have joined Tracey’s on the phone. No matter how loud I yell, I still get no answer. I think about going back to get my keys but I decide to foot it instead. By the time that I run to the apartment and back to my car, I could already be at my destination.
I finally stop screaming Tracey’s name but I keep the phone glued to my ear as I take off running. I begin to hear static over the voices as I get farther away; Tracey’s voice has stopped. The phone begins to chirp when I’m almost out of range and then falls silent. I toss it into the street and hear it break into pieces. At the moment, it is a perfect portrayal of my life. I keep on running.
I feel as if I’m twelve years old again. When I was that age, no one in the world could tell me that I wasn’t the fastest thing alive. I ran everywhere except inside buildings. If mama sent me to the store, I ran. If I was going to school or coming home, I ran. When I couldn’t talk my way out of a fight, I ran.
Whenever I would run, I would zone out. I’d be in another dimension, moving at Star Trek-like speeds. I’d feel nothing but the air on my face as I propelled myself forward on a thin cushion of air. My feet would never touch the ground. The world became a blur in my peripheral vision and I only focused on the destination in front of me.
When I made it to my sophomore year in high school, I gave in to the urging of my peers and tried out for track. I was an instant star. I could run any event from sprints to long distance and I never lost a race. As track season wore on though, running became a job and not just something that I loved. I felt freer when I ran because I’d wanted to and when someone else didn’t have to lose. The magic of running slowly began to ooze out of me from the first practice. By the time that my final race of the season came, there was no magic left.
I never ran track again after that year. Everyone was disappointed but I didn’t care. I tried to regain that magic that I once had: that feeling of being free. But although I could churn my legs all day, my heart, mind, and soul seemed to slow them down.
The reference point ahead of me that I focus on tonight is the rotating lights of a police car. I hear sirens sounding far away but getting closer. Another police car zooms past me and rushes toward the scene. The siren that I am hearing is that of an ambulance as it passes me also, a few seconds after the police car.
I don’t feel myself getting tired but the pounding of my heart against my ribcage loudly tells me that I should stop running or I would never make it to my goal. I am almost at the scene by then and I become one of the other people who are moving toward the scene also.
The police are holding people at a safe distance from the scene of the accident. The closer that I get, the more I piece what happened together through the words of the onlookers.
“I was right beside him at the light. He floored it when the light changed. She hit him dead on at full speed.”
“She ran the red light.”
“How do you know that it was a she?”
“I heard the police talking.”
“The light was borderline. I’ve cut it closer than that before.”
“It didn’t do much to his truck, did it?”
“How many people were in the car?”
“Two . . . no, wasn’t there a child too?”
“Did anyone get hurt?”
“Look at that car. What do you think?”
“Traffic is going to be backed up for a while.”
I can hear all of the invisible voices and I am processing the information at gigahertz speed. I force my way to the front of the crowd and hear the people that I push out of the way complaining. A policeman tries to stop me. I lie without thinking and tell him that I am the husband of the driver. He lets me through. I walk by the man who was driving the other vehicle. He’s a balding, overweight, Asian man of average height. He has tussled the remainder of his black hair from nervously running his fingers back and forth through it. His face is a bright crimson as he speaks to a police officer. He’s talking fast and animating each syllable. I float past him.
I see a black Hummer that has ended up in the yard of a house located on the intersection. There are skid marks leading from the street and through the grass. The front of the Hummer stopped only a few feet away from the front porch. A Spanish man and woman are standing on the porch holding each other tightly: probably thinking of how close they’d just come to meeting their maker.
The Hummer’s rear left side is smashed and the wheel is bent at an unnatural angle. Police and paramedics surround Tracey’s car: at least what remains of it. The entire front is destroyed. The steering wheel is pushed back at least a couple of feet and I know immediately that Robin didn’t survive.
As cruel as it may sound, I am not concerned with Robin. Or Tracey. I only care about Justin and his condition.
Tracey is sitting on a gurney. The right side of her face is bloody and she’s crying hysterically. She keeps repeating the words, “I tried to hold him,” as a female police officer and a paramedic try to calm her down. The policewoman is crying. I think that is odd. I always thought that all police were desensitized to these types of things.
I know why the policewoman is crying, but I am forcing myself not to face the truth. A few yards away from Tracey’s car are two bodies on the ground covered in white sheets. One body is about the size of a female adult. The other body is small; the size of a standard pillow. Too small. My mouth becomes dry and my heart begins to hammer at a dangerous pace. I can hear the sound of the synapse signals shooting through my brain, registering all of the auditory and visual information coming at me from everywhere. The signals sound like exploding firecrackers that are far away. I seem to glide toward that small white lump. The hands of a policeman tries to stop me but I don’t feel them.
The firecrackers are getting louder, building to some sort of grand finale. To my left – maybe my right – I hear someone say, “All babies go to heaven.”
An explosion occurs that is audible to only me. I rush to meet the ground and it rushes to meet me. My last thought is that this is going to hurt. But I feel nothing.