Liberty: 28 to 48 intimacy & love lost in bipolarizations and writer narcissisms (short fiction) by LaToya Faulk
Writing "Liberty" @ The MSU Library
Nelson sat on the grey corduroy love seat with his legs crossed. His long legs decked out in expensive jeans. I stood awkwardly as Frances and Jemicka rested on each side of the couch.
“Hey, so who’s the Helen Bianchine reader?” said Nelson.
“Me,” said Jemicka almost blushing.
“Yeah, my sister was a huge fan,” Nelson said, than stepped outside to smoke a cigarette before Jemicka could respond. I stood, looking out the window at Nelson who was now standing at the end of the driveway on a cold Saturday. He puffed and blew grey and white mist with one hand stuffed in his coat pocket. Nelson was usually a man of too many words.
“He smokes?” said Aunt Frances, she looked at me and begin scratching and digging at the back of her head. I assumed the sight of cigarettes brought memories of her late husband. She started pacing the living room floor. Occasionally, I looked outside the window, and at him, my lover. I’d only called him lover in my journal. To my Aunt Frances he was “my old man.” Weeks ago, she’d asked me what a young girl of twenty five was doing with a man “that experienced.”
“Does he have God?” she asked. When I responded with a nervous “Well,” she interrupted by whispering “Dear God!”
“We know what happens when you fool around with men with no God, they tend to create meaning out of everything and nothing,” said AuntFrances.
“Does he have children?”
“Yes, two grown boys, he raised them himself.”
“Two grown boys!” said AuntFrances.
“You need a man your age, a man growing and maturing as will you, not some washed up bohemian brotha from da’ D who was pushing Cameo lyrics when you wasn’t even thought of,” said Aunt France, who was single and nearing late 40s herself.
AuntFrancewalked back into the kitchen and began pulling out recycled butter bowls with left over macaroni and cheese, turkey dressing, egg salad and bean casserole. “Come on and make you a plate if you’re hunger,” said AuntFrance. Jemicka joined AuntFrancein the kitchen; I slipped out of the front door to make sure Nelson was doing fine.
He was by far, the best let’s get caught up on the banality of our lives coffee house acquaintance I’d ever had. He was well-traveled and charming, but credulously loose with money, and had admitted he’d once fallen madly in love with a white woman fromBirmingham, but was ashamed to go out in public with her. I was what he called a “white-washed student,” someone who relished Aristotle and Plato, when there was MolefiAshantiand Harold Cruse.
He sat, legs crossed knee over knee like a dame when his vibrating blackberry echoed from his brown khaki blazer pocket. He unclasped his hands and removed his elbows from the table. He reached inside his blazer and placed the device onto his left palm. I was exhausted with his literary groupies— his 5,367 friends on facebook, his commitment to them seemed deeper than ours. How attentively he coddled their inquiries, crept from dining tables to blush and console their florid validations.
As his left hand balanced the blackberry acrobatically, he reached into his inside blazer pocket and pulled out a pack of Pall Mall Menthol cigarettes. His fingers clicked and danced upon the tiny keypad. He tapped his right fingers onto the bottom of the cigarette pack forcing a single to fall onto the table. I looked at him with disapproving eyes. Having paid no attention to me or my look he placed the white and brown twiggy instrument between his thick fleshy velvet spotted lips, set it aflame and as black ashes fell unto the table he blew white clouds from his mouth. I placed my hand atop of his texting fingers. He pulled my hand toward his face and kissed it—then he continued texting.
We’d met at the university in a scholars program for students of color. The program “promised to give folks from interesting backgrounds a chance at understanding the politics of the white man’s bureaucracy,” said the program’s graduate assistant, Mrs. Jenkins—in an informal meet and greet at The Country Club of Lansing. We’d caught eyes at the program’s research caucus inside the Lansing State Capital. The building was just as multi-colored and multi-storied as the new bodies that had inhabited it. I reluctantly dragged around a two-year old full of zip and zing. I guess out of pity and some familiarity of a certain kind he felt obligated to tend to me. He walked over, kneeled down and began smiling and entertaining my son.
“Don’t worry, white folks bring their kids to shit like this all the time,” he said, as he stood up. I laughed for the first time that day. He gestured toward a back entrance way left of the four story buildings multihued rotunda, and we spent the rest of the afternoon discussing parenting styles. Days later I received a call from him.
“Libby this is Nelson, I was wondering if, if you’d had a chance to complete the assignment for our research methodology class,” he said nervously upon my “Hello”. We hadn’t spoken much after that call, and over the years I’d run into him on campus as a newlywed. His wife was petite and wore her hair in a short afro. She was a high school math teacher who appeared both soft and strong. Later Nelson would describe her as “a good wholesome country girl,” He’d married her for her simplicity, and her good nature, but would recall how little he loved her.
It was Sunday and he’d driven fromDetroitto Okemos to figure out where this relationship was going— or not going. We had been regulars at Lucky House. He’d charge toward the front corner window, and signal by waving his hands toward the smiling cook that we were ready to order. Although the cook, who was also the hostess, told Nelson his name multiple times, Nelson would only address him as “Brotha” or “HeyMan.” Mr. Chan Young Choi would smile or wink. His short flaky black hair moved very little each time he tilted his head to the left when he didn’t understand our English or Nelson’s usage of Ebonics. Sometimes he would say “Excuse me,” the way he’d been taught at the English Language Institute when he didn’t understand, other times he’d just smile and nod. Mrs. Choi was a small pear-faced woman who rarely spoke. She’d sweep the floor, and spring from table to table greeting customers, then return back to her cooking station, spoon rice and pull fried egg rolls from the deep fryer with her chin slightly tucked mid section of her neck.
A woman who had to have been a former teen pageant beauty walked into the restaurant. Her blonde bleached hair fell beyond her shoulders. Her muffin top belly was being used as a head rest by a tall and slim 8-year old. She was holding a child who hadn’t reached a year in age. I sat staring with my hand under my chin as the small child fingered and mouthed the woman’s frayed hair. Her acrylic finger nails combed through her hair to prevent the child from causing any additional damage. The man a tall business like figure with a modest beer belly directed his scouts to the table, and Mrs. Choi handed out menus, and hastily placed the Chinese calendar table clothe, silverware, napkins and plates on the table as she had done earlier when we arrived. The husband arranged the children by age, the youngest one assembled closest to him. The woman and small child would smile and make gurgling noises at each other while the other three young ones entertained their father. Nelson had been observing the couple as well. “Ever wonder how they got there?” he whispered, while he rested the device on the table.
“See how distant they are?”
“Children have their ways of possessing relationships,” I said.
“Reminds me of my kid’s mom, when she gave birth to our second son she wouldn’t touch me or look at me for months,” said Nelson, “She was usually so caught up with Lamonte, I wasn’t sure what to do.” I smiled with my eyes then reached over and planted a kiss on his lips. It wasn’t just children that possessed relationships, they possessed women, and so did men. That’s what I really meant. That’s why people shouldn’t have babies until they had come to terms with death or were ready to die. That was my philosophy and I’d figured it was best not to communicate it because it might aggravate him.
Too often children, religion and men stupefied women, turning their brains into decorative playgrounds for their pleasure. A single woman’s misfortune was implied by the unfortunate unmarried circumstance she’d found herself in, but to be a woman possessed by children and a husband seemed all the deeper of burdens to consume. Perhaps this was the same reasoning I’d brought with me during scheduled appointments atAnn Arbor’s Planned Parenthood. I ignored the oversized dust bunnies behind the examination room door, or the stained hand written signs or printed advertisements for birth control that reminded women that our bodies were certainly our own—or the strange bearded paunchy white man with dirty fingernails who had been accompanied by an orchestra of virgins dressed in black. He crept up to my car to ask me invasive questions that could only be conjured up by imagined entitlement. I entered the office building with the pamphlets I’d been handed by the black clothed mob and approached the front desk. This was my third visit. The first and second a matter ethics and morality. I’d had a normal ultra sound a week prior to the third appointment, I’d thought about keeping it, and had felt it move inside me the night before my third appointment. I wondered if it was a girl or a boy—then questioned whether it being a girl or a boy really mattered. Did it look more like him or me? Would it grow up to be a writer like its father? I knew all too well how quickly those religious saints appeared in times like theses, posted outside of abortion clinics like spectacles of purity, but who disappeared after they felt good about themselves. I knew because I was once one of them.
When I’d told him I was pregnant he was inBrooklyndining with a dreaded out pushcart nominee. “Is it mine?” he’d respond. “Are you certain?” said Nelson, and he hung up the phone.
2 years and one abortion later here I was sitting in the acidulous Chinese restaurant we’d ritualistically dined at vacant of banter to woe him with. When the waiter returned to place the hot food on the table, he barked commands for condiments and waved his hands to dismiss the waiter. I think I wanted that baby, but I also didn’t want to die— so it could live.
“What do you want from me?” he said. I wasn’t certain how to respond. I knew the answer to the question. I wanted a man. Something of a man, somebody to help me raise the child I’d abandoned for graduate school. Someone that didn’t give me chronic heart palpitations or keep me up at 11 and 12 o’clock at night worried and attentive to ‘what if’s’ ”
“I wish I knew,” I said.
“Well, while you figure it out, my flight leaves for Arizona at—uh, 10:15 Friday evening,” said Nelson, “No matter what, I’ll always love you deeply” I said.
“Yep,” he said and nodded. “That’s what women say when they’re certain they’ll be at your funeral, and most definitely they’ll have tears running from their eyes,” he said and laughed.
“Are you serious?”
“It was a joke, Libby, for Christ-sake can’t you just relax”
“I don’t have time for that”
“Speaking of funerals”
“When are you going to pay for your half of the abortion?”
“I thought your insurance covered it?”
“No, it wouldn’t cover it so I put it on my Visa”
“I don’t understand why your insurance wouldn’t cover it” said Nelson, “Don’t all insurances cover abortions?”
“What are you trying to say, that I’m a liar, huh Nelson?”
“If you can make that kind of decision alone you can pay for it alone, wouldn’t you agree?”
“That statement only confirms my decision, who would want to have a child with a man that can’t take on the responsibility of having it sucked out of your fucking uterus.”
He started laughing. “Are you on drugs!” I said.
“You don’t get it, who aborts a man’s child without his consent and then demand he pay an equal share of your moral retribution”
“I asked you to pay for half of it.”
“Let’s just not talk about this,” said Nelson, “My head is starting to hurt”
“Do you have any aspirin?,” he asked.
“No, I think pain should be endured naturally.”
“I need aspirin.”
He walked out of the restaurant and toward his car. I’d been forewarned. He was newly divorced and had told me 5 years ago when we were merely colleagues, not lovers, that after he’d raised his children and sent them off to college he would not answer to anyone. His first recently published collection of short stories had been written traveling with Kerouacism, ritualizing the vagrants of roadsides, strumming his old guitar in cheap musty hotels across mythical interstates. I’d “thrown out the trash,” he said when referring to his ex-wife, and “The living is out there,” he’d say once with his hands pointed east outside Lucky House restaurant, where he’d ordered and was now forking the Egg Fu Yung, and sipping coffee with extra sugar, extra crème. I swirled and dipped dry white rice in the brown gravy from my plate. When he returned he pushed his plate aside and headed to the quaint cash register booth where a slender man with sleepy eyes smiled and took the money he’d pulled from his wallet, and nodded. I sat there.
“See,” he began as he returned to the table.
“See, I can’t deal with this, that’s why I need me a white artist bitch.”
I’d heard it before, this time it hadn’t stung, hadn’t caused heat from my pelvis area to rise. He’d once told me this before when I’d purposely smacked his blackberry onto the carpeted floor of a cheap apartment flat I’d been renting after being evicted from an overpriced condo I’d leased but surely couldn’t afford. I don’t remember why I slapped his phone out of his hand, but I remember how he glared at me venomously. Then with little warning he chivalrously picked up the back end, battery and interface of his now dismembered companion.
“You fool,” he said. He walked out the door of my apartment, pouting like a teenage boy until he reached the driver’s side of a black rental car. At that moment the Steve Harvey lessons of men seemed too melodramatic, too trouble-free, and way to unattainable. Maybe I should have taken that book How to Love a Black Man home when Gilda—a friend from college— who had offered up her copy during a lengthy speech about how black men had been different, and should be loved differently. Although the rant and the book had been hard to follow because the matter seemed unaccommodating and comical, my impatience with Nelson had grown large and boundless.
Did he remember the days my legs folded around his thick naked pelvis? He rubbed my neck, running his bruised mocha hands into my coarse hair affirming my neckline with his tongue. He laid my body unto the bed, kissed and sucked her breasts softly and existed with me. That night after arriving home from Lucky House we tried love making. He lay naked and supine on a $300.00 queen mattress purchased months ago to decorate the floor of a mostly abandoned apartment that would never be a home for me. We kissed, groped, stripped and soon he had entered. Arbitrary touches were handed out, insecurities revealed themselves in the most inopportune times.
Focus, Focus, Focus, Come on, Come on and Focus, Don’t think about that or that; think about here, about right now, and this.
He stopped and air blew from his nose onto my chest. He lifted his hand from my back, paused atop of me, and then began picking at his nose. I laughed and pushed him off.
“Are you serious?”
“What are you doing?”
“Woman,” he said.
“What? Seriously!” I said.
“I was— ”
“Man you always fuckin’ up shit.”
“You were picking your nose, Dude!” I said and laughed shaking my head. I dressed my naked body with a cotton black night gown and walked to the kitchen for a bottle of water. He reached for his BlackBerry.
“I’m finsta head to the movies, you can come…”
“and by the way, I will NEVER let you on my facebook page,” He said.
There was something about the way he said never that seemed funny to me. I was convinced this whole situation had been taken from some horridly bigoted Woody Allen film. When he returned from the movie, I heard him rumbling about within the darkness of my apartment as he threw his blazer jacket on the floor and woke me to apologize. We had sex that night. That morning while in bed I offer up breakfast: rye toast, spinach and feta cheese omelets, and tea—his favorite. He kissed me goodbye, grabbed his jeans from the floor and left.
Something about that man was tenderly ugly and vulnerable, yet he’d reinvented sacred spaces, existed for me where years had been spent existing in a world that could not speak the real of my language. I’d envied his lack of responsibility, his leisure travel and belong-lessness, worshipped his matter of facts, but wondered if I might bare another day, another minute of him.