Monday, July 5, 2010


NOTE: if you missed any chapters, please feel free to click on the chapters/installments on the left to catch up! thanks!

Two-hundred hours.

Two-hundred, hours.

Eight and a half days ago, Abram careened into the back of an SUV, and out of consciousness.

We're still awaiting his return.

Two-hundred hours sitting, waiting, wishing, hoping, praying … for a miracle. For some sign that there is possibility. All I want is a positive possibility. Something, God. Please.

These are the thoughts pervading each brain cell as I awake, stretch, and roll over in my empty bed. I'm still not accustomed to sleeping alone. Still not used to opening my eyes and not feeling Abram's familiar arm draped over my waist, his morning wood awaiting my morning good.

There is a big difference between him choosing not to be here, and him being unable to. It's lonelier.

I'm miserable. Simply miserable.

I throw my arm behind me lazily, feel around for my Berry. Seven a.m. and already, it has begun. I look at the three personalized 'Happy Birthday!' texts and respond with a "thanks" to all three in one message.

The wall calender stares at me from across the room, quietly informing me of the date in plain black and white.

August fifteenth.

The day God decided to redefine greatness. The day I was born. Yes, it's my birthday.

It is definitely not a happy one though.

I guess Abram wasn't joking when he said August is his unlucky month. Two-hundred hours have gone by with absolutely no change. Unless you imagine the inner tissues hard at work repairing the damage done by a black Envoy and five drinks too many, it seems as if Abram isn't doing anything but sleeping life away until God sees fit to take him.

I'm trying my best not to be morose. Not to think we are doomed to not make it through this trial. But it's depressing. Where is the progress? Where is my Abram? Why can't he just be better? Two-hundred hours is an eternity when holding your breath. When waiting for the exact minute when hope becomes real; when you can breathe again.

Abram is still, peacefully worrying myself and all those who love him into fearing the worst. It's a quiet fear though. Not as urgent or furious as that day about one-hundred and seventy-five hours ago. That day, we didn't know if Abram would still be here eight days later.

But still, it's a fear. A silent, ebbing one, slowly telling me to give up hope because Abram, will never be returning. And even if he does, he won't be the Abram I know and love. He'll be some invalid. Some frame of his former self, some dependent.

Abram would hate that, depending on other people for everything. Hate that more than he hated rappers like Soulja Boy and that Waka Flame person. Hate it more than the okra stalks his mom used to make him eat when he was little.

Abram would never be okay with being anything but my Superman.

This day is going to be a long one. I turn my phone off. Not ready to deal with the "let me cheer you up" offers just yet. Don't want to have to inform anyone that nothing can suffice to fill that space today. Don't want anyone's pity. I just want to be alone with my thoughts. 

I spend the next hour and a half lazily preparing for a day of more laziness. I plan to read the New York Times. Watch the Tyra show. Paint my toenails a bright pink. Eat three of the yellow cupcakes with cream cheese frosting I bought last night. Watch a movie or two. I'm going to spend my morning and afternoon doing a whole lot of nothing. Then I'm going to see my fallen Superman.

After a bowl of ice cream for breakfast and a shower, I throw on a bra and a pair of Abram's many basketball shorts he keeps here, and attempt to clean my place. After the week I've had, my apartment is a reflection of my mood. Disheveled. In the process of gathering a week's worth of mailers and throwing them out, I come across a piece of mail for Abram.

Oh snap. His mail. No one has been to his house since that first night, when his mom needed to get his insurance information. I was given the task of checking on it and collecting his mail. Sounds like just the thing to do on my 26th birthday.

I slip on the first nondescript tank I find, step into a pair of sandals, tie my getting-more-massive-by-the-week hair back into a messy puff-bun creation, and take the long drive out to Abram's place; the key that he gave me a month ago dangling from my own collection. My phone powers on at the press of a button, almost three hours after I turned it off this morning. Immediately it begins flashing and beeping, excitedly informing me of the new texts, voice mails, and IM messages I have. Twelve in total. All more birthday wishes. I know I should be appreciative. I should care that people care, and I do. But right now, I just want to bring in twenty-six alone. I don't respond to any of them.

I pull up to Abram's complex and instinctively seek out his car among the parking lot. Once I remember why it's not, a new sadness sets in. The what-ifs immediately flood my brain. What if Abram's car never returns? What if he never comes back to this apartment? What if the rest of my visits here are solo? This realization stings too much to even keep thinking about it.

After stopping by his mailbox to get the armload of envelopes awaiting, I blink back tears and turn the key, walk into a place I haven't been inside alone in nearly a month.

I walk in timidly, nervous almost. Abram loves this place so much, takes such good care of his belongings, that I'm sure they've noticed his absence. It must feel the abandonment. I only pray that he will be able to return and restore the balance.

A great thing about Abram is that he fits exactly into the profile of the stereotypical neat-freak bachelor; faithfully cleans his place from top to bottom every Sunday after church … unless it's football season, in which case he just uses his usually lax Saturday mornings to do the task. Rain or shine though, work or not, it gets done. Interesting seeing as though he's the only one who lives here, and I don't add clutter to his place at all. Still, he does, and won't even let me help in any other room but the kitchen.

His home still reflects the last Sunday's cleanup. The day before the accident. Nothing is out of place, no smelly crustations stuck on old bowls of spaghetti, no dust balls rolling through the halls wild-west style. I inhale deeply and release a slight smile. It always smells so good, so inviting in here. Exactly what you imagine a magnificent black man's place to smell like.

The first time I was invited over, I walked in and immediately said "Mmm, your place smells sexy. Comfortable. Yeah, like Sexual Comfort." After laughing, Abram thanked me for providing his stage name for the pending stripping career he had lined up in case of economic despair. A smile tugs gently at that memory. Sadness replaces it almost immediately.

I walk through his home slowly, fight the anguish that threatens to overshadow the joyous memories he and I have created in this space. Sit, then lay for a while on his plush leather sofa, remember three weeks ago, when I lay here in this exact same spot, wearing only a lacy black bra and panties, and a wild fro. Abram's sixty-pounds-heavier frame lay atop me, his face buried in the crook of my neck. Tears rise. I see Abram's image, his lust-filled eyes looking down into my own cold and untrusting pair.

"Let me make love to you, Ata. I want to make love." He'd said over and over, tired of arguing, tired of tension. We'd been hashing out the same old points of disagreement since I'd stepped foot out of the shower, and all he wanted was to stop; to crawl deep inside of me and stay there, until he'd eased some of the unnecessary resentment that had settled so heavily between us.

I'd been so mean that day. So annoyed by his roaming hands and uninvited kisses. So cold. The heat of his tongue's trails down my neck and breasts both aroused and repelled me. I found it increasingly difficult to not picture he and that woman, 'tisha', who'd answered his door for me all those months ago, each time he touched me like that.

I'd pushed him away. Heard his quickened heartbeat, felt his throbbing girth resting on my thigh through his thin shorts, looked in his loving eyes ... and pushed him away. Told him I didn't want him. Told him we still needed to talk.

He'd recoiled at my words. A tortured mixture of anger, disbelief, and hurt filled eyes previously overcome with the beginning stages of passion. Flaccidity almost immediately replaced the log cabin that'd been erected in his shorts. I'd actually said I didn't want him. I told him that, my own stubbornness refusing to give, refusing to work it out.

He'd pleaded with me that day, asked me to not destroy the connection between us; told me to not kill his love. Said I was pushing him away not only physically, but emotionally. He couldn't handle it, he wouldn't. Warned me that it was in human nature for one to go in the direction they were being pushed ... and I was forcing him away from me.

I realize now how trivial that was. How stupid I was for convincing myself that he wanted someone else when all he did everyday was show me how much he desired me. How much he loved me. I'd let my insecurities blind me to what was real. Created a whole volatile situation between us that didn't have to exist. I'd said I forgave him for those trying times, but I see now that I hadn't. I see now that those were only words sent his way to punctuate an argument-ending smile. I was so stupid. So cold.

We got past that argument, talked it out and I apologized. I knew he'd never forget though. Knew those words would always be resting in the back of his mind. I couldn't take them back. I had built that wall of rejection between us.

I blink the inevitable tears out of my eyes, bring myself back and leave those thoughts in the past. Jump mentally to today, August fifteenth. I thought bringing in twenty-six by myself would be somehow better than any alternative; would help me accept Abram not being here to celebrate with me. So far I am failing miserably. I long for his touch. His kiss. His smile. His log cabin, a joke I'd made very early in our relationship that had stuck somehow. I miss Him.

I make my way upstairs, mad at myself for being almost afraid to enter his bedroom. Maybe if his condition would improve just a little, my thoughts wouldn't focus so much on the what-if-he-nevers. Maybe they'd be focused on the when-he-recovers. Maybe that. I just want to know that he will be alright. I want to look at his bed and not imagine it already having had its last epic love scene of Ata and Abram. I need positive possibility.

His bedroom is big, spacious. Being a software developer for one of metro Detroit's largest consulting firms has afforded him the right to his king-sized 'throne' as he calls it, and all its amenities. His obsession with the color black is evident; his olive-green walls the only thing not draped in the dark color.

I sit on the bed, turn back the covers, inhale his scent permeating throughout them. I travel to the walk-in closet, take a couple of his work and play shirts for those moments when I need him near in the middle of the night, even spray a few with the Kenneth Cole Black cologne he keeps as a scent staple. Mixed with his body chemistry, it is heavenly.

I open the top right drawer on his chest, intending on grabbing a few pair of his boxers as well, when something catches my eye. Laying atop the stack of neatly folded underwear is a glossy white folder, '8/15 – 8/20' in black marker handwritten in the right corner.

What other choice do I have but to open it?

I don't believe it. I can't believe it. He remembered. He not only remembered, he actually was planning on taking me. I blink tears, so many tears back, as I pull out two itineraries for a flight to Orlando, Florida. Underneath them are pamphlets on both Universal Studios and Disney World.

Disney World.

In one of our very first conversations, I'd mentioned to Abram that one of my regrets was that I had chickenpox the week my father had planned a family trip to Disney World, and I never got to go. My mother and father started having 'differences' soon after and they'd separated for a while, my Disney trip being all but forgotten.

I told Abram that when I got some extra money, that was one of the first places I was going to go. Especially now that the new Harry Potter World was opening at Universal Studios. Considering my near-obsession with the young wizard and his friends, I couldn't hide the excitement in my voice. Abram had teased me, called me a big kid and jested about me being the biggest person on every ride if I ever went.

He never mentioned anything else about it. But he'd remembered. And he was planning on surprising me.

Inside this glossy white folder, there are package details of our stay at Disney, printed-out descriptions of the $385 a night hotel resort, and scribbled notes and reminders about who to ask for and who he talked to on what dates. Even notes about places and events to 'make sure we hit'.

I am overwhelmed. Guilt courses through my body for being so confrontational, so mean, the last few weeks. Competing with the sadness already inside ... I can only cry. So tired of flooding my face with sweet-salty lashdrops, yet all I can do is, cry.

I spread the paperwork of Abram's carefully planned out trip on his bed, read every line of every piece of information. Right now, we'd just be arriving in the land of palm trees, recreated movie sets, and Mickey Mouse. So many tears. He actually remembered. I am a big kid. And he remembered.

My phone rings, almost violently, the entire day. My mom leaves so many messages I finally text her an explanation, let her know I'm alright. Everyone is set on cheering me up in some way. Everyone wants to bring a smile. And I appreciate them, I do. But I don't want that. I want to be alone. I want to not be bothered. I just want to sit here and smile and cry and feel happy and miserable about the fact that Abram and I would be frolicking through Harry Potter Land right now, if it hadn't been for a dumb ass nineteen-year-old drunk.

Somehow I've managed to place all the blame, hurt and anger I feel … onto that driver of that Envoy. If she had just not hit her breaks, not been drunk, not been driving, I wouldn't be begging God to breathe some semblance of life back into my Superman. She has become the enemy. All that is evil and bad in my world, is somehow this under-aged alcoholic's fault.

Two-hundred hours later, on August 15th, I bring in my twenty-sixth birthday alone. I call the hospital, speak to Abram's nurse on duty, ask her about his condition. They've all gotten to know me and his parents well in the last eight days, and this one, Amy, is always particularly hopeful. I only call when she's on duty.

"Happy birthday, hun." She says once I identify myself. Tells me Abram's mom has already been up there today, already chit-chatted with her about today's significance. She tells me Abram's stats are slowly improving, how he's a fighter, for sure. She asks if I'm coming up to spend the rest of it with him.

"Nah. I think I'm going to stay here. I've spent the whole day with him here. I think I'll spend the night with him, too." I say firmly.

The clock reads six o' clock. I grab the framed picture of Abram and I that he keeps on his dresser. Smile down at it, even as tears cloud its image. Smile at the thought of this grand surprise he had planned. Smile at how much he wanted to make me happy today. And for the first time in two-hundred hours, I am.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

19: "HOPE"

NOTE: if you missed any chapters, please feel free to click on the chapters/installments on the left to catch up! thanks!

Peanut Butter Cup Perfection.

Chocolate ice cream, Reese's peanut butter cups, peanut butter, and fudge in a waffle cone bowl. 880 calories. 52 grams of fat. An exorbitant blend of all things deemed "heart attack foods" by myself and every health magazine in America, all combined in one muddy pile, in a fudge-dipped waffle cone.

The first time Abram ordered that from Cold Stone, I watched him indulge in his own personal heaven. As I looked on in horror, I told him to enjoy it as much as he possibly could, because he would never be consuming that much death disguised as dessert in a cone at one time again. I would not lose him because his arteries decided to take the fatty objects of his gluttonous indulgence as in-house guests.

He only smiled, said he'd just have to up the intake of his own personal Peanut Butter Cup Perfection. He jokingly (and sincerely all at once) called me PBC that entire month, and much to my delight, up his intake he did indeed. He thought it was cute that I worried about his physical wellness when he was a perfectly viable 27-year-old man whose own doctor was impressed by his Grade-A bill of health. Told me God's will had yet to be hindered by anyone denying themselves a Cold Stone creation. Yet and still, I refused to allow such corpulent consumption on my watch.

A friggin waffle cone of chocolate ice cream, and some punk ass peanut butter.

I was worried about it taking Abram away from me. Looked down the line twenty years and refused to see a trail of frequent visits to a popular creamery as the reason he exited the world prematurely.

Not some horrible accident. Not a mugging or a robbery or a plane crash. I chose to obsess about peanut butter.

I never thought I'd be an ICU girlfriend. Never thought the cause of Abram's demise could be unnatural causes. Never thought I'd look at yesterday as a missed opportunity to tell him how much I Love him, or to kiss his sometimes dry lips, or fuss about him leaving my toilet seat up, or swat his hairy-knuckled hand away from my behind in public; or spoon feed him a whole cone full of Peanut Butter Cup Perfection.

I want to be mad at him, to be loathing his very existence right now.

More than anything in the world, I want to rewind to eighteen hours ago, when I was angrily plotting the ways in which I'd make him pay for being a dirty, lying dog. I want to go back and find him there in that hotel room; shirtless, maybe sweaty, he could even be wearing the Dolce & Gabbana boxer briefs I bought him from Neiman Marcus last week. And he looks damn good in those.

I just want to go back. I want a redo. I want him to be there at the Omni, in that skank's hotel room; guilty. I want to yell and curse and scream and tell him to not touch me when he desperately tries to apologize. I want him to be cheating and lying and yelling about how he isn't cheating and lying. I want him to be there.

...Because then, he wouldn't be here.

Because then, I wouldn't be here.

If he was cheating, he wouldn't be laying in a cold, lonely room in the Intensive Care Unit of Sinai-Grace hospital fighting for his life. He wouldn't be unrecognizable, bandages and tubes and bruises and scratches ruining his previously untarnished brown canvas. If I had just been right about him being wrong, he'd be safely tucked away in a hotel suite, creating tainted memories with the arrogant brown-skinned woman with wavy hair.

I could deal with that pain. That pain could be directed. Blamed. Made responsible for.

This though? The pain of not knowing from one hour to the next if I will be planning funeral services or ICU visits in the near future is unbearable. Seeing Abram in this state is the kind of pain that people fear their whole lives. The idea of losing someone close to you, losing someone you … losing that ... well you might as well have lost your left hand; life will go on, but you will never quite be whole again.

I don't want a prosthetic Abram. I want my Abram. The real one. I do not want another left hand. There is no replacement.

The slight rap on my window briefly interrupts the train of thoughts barreling through my brain. The rain outside is furious, the sky even angry at such a tragedy marring this day. Mr. Montgomery's face is morose when I roll my window down. He sighs at the torrent of tears littering my face, my shirt that looks as if I've just walked to the car through a thunderstorm myself.

"Ata, you should come inside. Your mother wanted me to check on you. Why aren't you answering anyone's calls?"

"I don't want to talk to anyone."

"They took him for another emergency surgery about an hour ago. You should be inside with him, Ata. Spend as much time as you can. My boy is strong, but the doctors--" At this his voice catches, his eyes find the ground, his head follows in defeat. He is seemingly unaware of the raindrops beating his thin jacket into submission. "...the doctors are saying it's not looking good. Oh, my boy. My son. It's not looking good, Ata."

His silent tears blend with the rain on his solemn face.

I want to yell for him to shut-up and leave me alone. I want to curse him for walking through a flood of sky tears to tell me what I already fucking know. I want to hug him and comfort him and cry on his shoulder. I want to go hold Abram's hand, kiss his tattered skin, and by osmosis, transfer every healthy cell from my body to his; to mend his mangled bones and un-collapse his pierced lungs. I want to sit by his side and pray to God until he is 100 percent. I want to witness the miracle. I want to smack him for driving in that lane in that moment on that freeway. I want to slap him for not being with me in those minutes. I want to call my mother and have her tell me everything's going to be alright and assure me that God has Abram in his arms, that he will be okay. I want to go be the shoulder for a crumpled Mrs. Montgomery, mentally preparing herself for the worse, and yet refusing to let any water shed from her eyes while in Abram's room, because she knows he'd never want her to be this upset. I want to be strong.

But I can't.

I can't do any of that. All I can muster up the strength to do right now is sit here, numb and unmoving, overwhelming my face and my vision with tears that refuse to stop taking suicidal leaps off my lashes.

They won't understand that I can't. This is their son. I imagine losing a child is a worse pain than even losing a mate. If they can be strong, then I should be able to as well.

But this, isn't their fault.

This accident ultimately, is traced back to me. I am the reason.

I've sliced it a million different ways, and each way leads right back to me. I am the reason Abram entertained that wavy-haired bitch. I am the reason he chose to let alcohol soothe his evening. I am the reason he took the long route home. I'm even the reason he likes Rum and Coke, which I'm sure he was drinking.

Abram's friend Garrett sped up next to my car earlier today, looking like the rest of us; distraught, eyes red, wondering how a few hours could change life so drastically.

"I should've told him to take his ass home. Damnit, I should've told him to go home. This is all my fault." He spoke as though he really believed Abram's predicament was on him.

He'd been with Abram before the accident. Before, according to witness accounts, a black GMC Envoy driven by a drunk 19-year-old girl, had careened three lanes over in front of Abram and hit the brakes to avoid hitting some imaginary car in front of her. Abram hadn't had his seat belt on and had rear-ended her going 75 mph.

She had a broken arm, back pain, and a few scratches.

He'd been thrown from his car.

I've never seen him drive without a seat belt, and that was enough to tell me he'd been drinking, even before Garrett arrived and filled in some of the holes. They'd gone to happy hour. I asked him if at this happy hour, was there a dark-brown woman with wavy hair.

His response: "Um, why?"

That, was all I needed. That was my answer. Abram had met her at happy hour. The happy hour he was only at because I'd made spending time with his actual girlfriend a volatile thought. I can't even stomach the disgust I have with myself for the petty arguments I've been starting the last few weeks.

"I don't like you Garrett. I think you are grossly immature and a menace to women everywhere. If this was your fault, I'd gladly place the blame. But it's not your fault. It's mine." I said when he parked next to me and climbed into my passenger seat. He was obviously completely broken, ravished by undeserved guilt.

"Nah. I invited him. I told him to come down. He was on his way home and I fucking told him to come downtown and drink."

He told me how Abram had been stressed over what he assumed was an argument with me, and he'd offered a harmless detour on his route home. I told him about the message I'd heard from the wavy-haired woman, and about my little visit to her room. Explained how this was all ultimately, my fault.

His eyes raised in disbelief, tried to refute it with facts of yesterday's happenings. Claimed that Abram didn't have it in him to cheat. It looked bad, yes. But he knew his best friend, and that just wasn't him. Abram was loyal to a fault.

I decided not to argue with him. He'd somehow convinced me to go into the hospital and face the vision of what I knew would be a broken shadow of Abram's former self. He'd had to go through six hours of emergency surgery to correct the trauma that the collision had caused to his body, his organs, his brain.

The doctors were amazed that he was alive. Being thrown from the car had actually saved his life. Told us if he'd been wearing his seat belt, he would've been crushed to death by the impact. But the outlook was still dim, at best. They were watching his brain functions, the swelling, his pierced lungs from cracked ribs; they had induced a coma to keep his heart rate stable.

I walked into the room with full trepidation.

I soon found it was for good cause.

I didn't even recognize him.

He was not Abram. This was not my Superman. This, was some weakened, kryptonite-stricken, bandaged being, whom I had somehow managed to villainize in my own head. Tragedy makes you remember the important things. Tragedy makes you realize how small some issues are. How precious life really is.

My phone has not stopped ringing since I arrived at the hospital. Everyone is concerned. The flower arrangements began pouring in from Abram's friends, coworkers, mentees. He is a vastly loved individual.

The world can't afford to lose him.

While I was in his room, I talked to him, told him how sorry I am. Told him I love him. How much I want him to awaken and tell me the same. How I will be here by his side, everyday until he does. I told him he can have as much Peanut Butter Cup Perfection as he so desires, if he would just fight through this.

If he would just return to me.

I need him to come back to me.

I look over at Mr. Montgomery, still standing in the rain, fighting his own fears, coping with the idea that he may be witnessing his son's last hours. The son he taught how to ride a bike and play every kind of ball. The one he picked up from school when he got into fights and comforted during the worst times of his life. The son he had lengthy talks with about sex and girls and sports and college and career and life; the son he raised.

I see that fear of losing all those years, the pain of losing 27 years invested in watching and helping the only fruit of your loin grow into a Man, and my sadness deepens.

I suddenly feel selfish. Even in blaming Abram's accident on me, I have somehow managed to selfishly turn this into an Ata issue. It's not about me. The love of my life is in that hospital fighting for some semblance of life, and I'm in my car feeling bad for myself. I wipe the still-falling tears and clear my vision.

"Let's go see if anything's changed." I sniffle as I say this to Mr. Montgomery, snap him out of his troubled thoughts. He still seemingly has not noticed the rain.

We walk slowly in and I'm surprised to see my mother and stepbrother Jake have joined Mrs. Montgomery and the rest of Abram's family. Yes, they are ALL here. A prayer circle has been formed around the small room and they hold hands, send pleas up to heaven for my wounded Superman.

My mother's arms wrap around me, take me back to when I was sixteen and we were at this very hospital, waiting for the doctor to let us go in and see my dad. I never saw him alive in this hospital. Never got to say goodbye.

I close my eyes, let my mother's embrace comfort me. Beg God to not let Abram see the same fate as my father did that day in this place, nine years ago.

All heads turn when a middle-aged Indian man walks into the waiting room, adorned head to toe in scrubs, a surgery mask dangling around his neck. He acknowledges everyone in the room with a sweep of his head, then turns to Abram's parents.

"As of right now, his stats are much better. The surgery relieved a lot of the pressure and we consider that a success. Now, all we can do is wait." He offers a small smile, one that gives me hope.

And hope is all I have right now.

Monday, February 1, 2010


NOTE: if you missed any chapters, please feel free to click on the chapters/installments on the left to catch up! thanks!

I pick up my phone for the fifth time in the last ten minutes. Nothing.

This negro has lost his mind.


One-thirty. In the fucking AM.

And Abram still hasn't returned my call.

Three voice mails I've already left, which he'd probably know, if his phone wasn't turned off. The last time we spoke, I ended the call before he had a chance to say a proper goodbye. Yes, I hung up on him. So.

He should be used to my temperament by now. He should've known I'd call back. And he should've known that whenever I decided to do that, that I would expect him to be available to talk to me.

But his phone is turned off. Off.

1:30am and his phone is in the off position. If it was voluntarily powered off, he has some explaining to do. If it died, that means he's not home (since his car charger has been at my apartment for the last week and a half) ...and he still has some explaining to do. Especially when he told me he wasn't going anywhere tonight. Especially when he said if he did go anywhere, it'd be to my place. And he very clearly isn't here.

My street is quiet, dark. No headlights coming towards my place in the distance, not even a lone wondering soul on foot. Yet I can't help but peek through the blinds every five minutes. Nothing but the moon's glow keeping me company. Oddly enough, it's full.

I pick up my phone again, the small hope that somehow the Berry has malfunctioned and forgot to notify me of a new text, or missed call; something. A press of the trackball button only reveals the screen-saved image of Abram kissing my temple as I smile so hard, my cheeks look as if they are about to burst.

No new texts. No missed calls.

The day has found my heart in turmoil yet again over the state of our relationship. I just want to be happy. Can't he see that? Why can't he see that? Arguments, attitudes and irate discourse have plagued almost every interaction of ours lately, despite both of our promises to 'make it work'. Trust is hard to come by these days. And I have just about run out.

I know he Loves me, I do. But as Toni, Halle, and any other woman who has waited up pacing the floor for her Him to walk through the door has said, Love shoulda brought his ass home.

1:40am. Still no word.

Anger boils over with a fervor that I almost can't control. I find myself constantly checking my phone and ... nada. Nothing but that smiling screen saver, reminding me of happier times.

The strand of hair that has become the victim to my stress yet again, winds and unwinds around my forefinger. The soft gleam from the moon though the open blinds provides the only light inside my little abode as Billie sings the blues in the background, provides the solemn soundtrack to my ire. A half-empty wine glass sits atop the counter, its maroon content slowly but surely decreasing with each completed pace around my living room.

All that's missing is a few more glasses of wine, a stumbling alcoholic fit, maybe me drunkenly wielding a butcher knife at the air, and this would be a perfect motive scene for a Snapped episode.

I can see it now. It'd start off with a smiling, happy picture of Abram and I, probably my screen saver: "They were the perfect couple; young, happy, and in Love. But one full-mooned night, something went drastically wrong."

Cut to Abram lying on the floor bleeding after my drunken knife-wielding. All bad.

"Stop it, stop it. You're not going to have to kill him. Just stop." I say aloud. Oh great, talking to myself. I may as well just call the Snapped producers right now.

When my phone lights up suddenly, I pick it up before the first vibration is complete. It's a text.

[Heard from him yet?]

A text from my best friend Jasmine. I type with heavily disappointed fingers as I reply a simple "no."

We talked earlier, when she was on her way out to a party near his neighborhood. "If I see him, you WILL be getting a 911 call to come whip his ass, don't worry." She said. My girl. Always had my back.

Soon my phone lights up again.

[That's not like him is it? Not to sound morose but are you sure nothing is wrong?]

He'd said he would call me when he made it home ... and he hadn't called yet. The thought that maybe something happened has been in my mind, trying to creep through the anger. The rational side of my brain telling my heart that I shouldn't jump to conclusions, that I should make sure he is okay before assuming he is somewhere he doesn't belong, like between a foreign pair of thighs.

But that would be worse than cheating. Far worse. I need him to be alive and well so I can kill him if he IS between some foreign pair of thighs. Hadn't even allowed those thoughts to develop. Now Jazz has fertilized the seed my mind planted hours ago.

[IDK. I'd rather him be doing dirt, honestly. What should I do?]

[I dunno. But maybe you should make sure.]

Immediate panic sets in. What if I've been huffing and puffing all night and he's laying in a dirty alleyway shot and robbed? What if he's had some horrible kind of accident? What if a bout of latent epilepsy seized him and rendered him helpless in some fast food place somewhere? I'm saved in his phone simply as 'A'. My idea, so that I'd always be first in his phone book.

But no one would know to call 'A'.

For the next ten minutes, my mind continues these traumatic somersaults, conjuring all the possibilities of tragedy that could have occurred since I last spoke to him. The thoughts alone almost make me sick. I immediately ask forgiveness for all the not-so-nice names I've been calling him in my head.

Damn that Jazz.

I call Abram once more, his voice mail kicking straight on. The outgoing message so professional, his tone so deep and sexy, I always let it play all the way through.

"This is Abram. Please leave a detailed message and I will return your call at my earliest convenience."

The newly trusting girlfriend in me loses the battle with my curiosity, and I press the pound key when it ends. During his now infamous "company" week two months ago, when it was a hit or miss on whether he'd answer my call or not, I'd figured out the code to his voice mail. His mother's birthday. Not something I'm proud of. Not something Abram will ever know. Not even something I've used since the week after our reunion.

I promised myself I wouldn't be that girlfriend. Wouldn't be the insecure woman who felt she needed to decipher access codes and passwords to break into her significant others' voice mail, email, bank accounts. I wouldn't. I have friends like that. And no desire to be like them.

Yet, here I am.

I convince myself it is out of necessity. That this will somehow provide pertinent information and ease my worries as to whether or not he is okay.

"You have five new messages." The automated lady says pleasantly. "Press one to listen."

I press one.

The first is from me. As soon as I hear my slightly irritated voice start speaking, I press the pound key again.

"Message skipped. Next message, received yesterday, at eight twenty-seven pm."

"Mmm what a sexy voice mail. You know, my new friend Abram, you just may have the whole package. I suppose we'll find out tonight though, won't we? Ha. Anyway, the gallery address is 2301 Woodward in Royal Oak. Starts at seven. And my room number here at the Omni is---"

The sound of my slamming heartbeat drowns out the rest of the message. I press one again. The message restarts.

"Mmm what a sexy voice mail. You know, my new friend Abram, you just may have the whole package. I suppose we'll find out tonight though, won't we? Ha. Anyway, the gallery address is 2301 Woodward in Royal Oak. Starts at seven. And my suite number here at the Omni is 312. Just come up. And wear something sexy. Hahaha."

Breathe. I must breathe. Remember that this is my phone, and hurling it against the floor won't make this voice mail not happen. Won't change the fact that some foreign pair of thighs just left an address and hotel room number for my man, using her 'sexy voice'.

Cant help but press one again.

"... I suppose we'll find out tonight though, won't we? Ha. Anyway..."

I suppose we'll find out tonight. I suppose we'll find out to-fucking-night. Okay Abram.

Those names I'd just asked heaven to forgive me for rush back with ferocity. And to think I was feeling guilty for thinking that way. To think I was worried about him.

Yes, we will find out tonight, I think to myself as I step into my low-heeled black boots and toss a black turtleneck on over the tank I've been pacing in. Yes. We will find out.

Again the annoying rational side of my brain kicks in briefly, questions why this--and all the other voice mails--were not listened to. Abram is anal; doesn't like "stupid little notifications crowding his screen." I reason for a moment. His phone must have died. This is the only solution that makes sense. His phone died, and he found her anyway. And where is he? He is at the Omni right now, in room, oh excuse me, suite 312, showing some woman that he is indeed a complete package. My package. When he is supposed to be here with me. Oh, but he is going to see me. Tonight.

I hastily grab my purse, throw my jacket on, and head out to my Honda. Luckily I live near downtown, not even ten minutes away from the site of Abram's probably still-in-progress transgression. I must breathe. Remember to breathe.

[Get bail money ready. I'm going to kill him.]

I send this text to Jasmine as I speed down Jefferson, angrily plotting a plausible way to get away with murder. Or at least a tire iron taken to a certain beloved Maxima and its owner. My phone vibrates two minutes later.

"Bail money." I say calmly when I answer.

"Girl didn't you learn anything from Kwame? Don't send incriminating ass text messages like that! Gosh! Now, what did he do?"

I recount almost in verbatim what I heard on his voice mail the five times I listened. I know I shouldn't. I know I should leave our issues between us. Very aware of the fact that well-intending friends can do more harm than help when it comes to your relationship. But after tonight, there won't be an us.

"Oh hell no. So where are we going to dispose of the body?" She says just as calmly as I'd answered.

"I don't know. But I'm here. I'll call you back." I say quietly as I walk in the hotel behind a laughing thirty-something couple.

We hang up and I walk unassumingly onto the elevator after them, raise my cheeks upward a little, offer the smiling couple a mirror of their happiness. I press three. They get off at two. Good.

By the time the elevator reaches the third floor, I've already convinced myself that there in suite 312 romping around, are Abram and Tisha, the label representative whose cleavage answered his door for me that day. And I've already resolved that although I'm not a fighter, I will simply have to beat her down for violating not once, but twice.

I walk down the plushly carpeted hallway until I reach 312, and stop. Breathe. Breathe again. Is this really happening? The heavy wood door boasts carved designs, elegant numbers, and a beautiful gold knocker. I try to listen over my rapidly beating heart, but the door is too heavy to let any noise escape anyhow.

"...I suppose we'll find out tonight though, won't we? Ha."

Her sex-kitten voice purrs through my head over and over. Breathe Ata, breathe. Have to remind myself again. I look at the door, will myself to do something.

The suspense this waiting is creating is killing me. I lift the knocker and slowly tap twice. Like ripping off a band-aid, you just have to go for it and get it over with. I knock again, my left hand covering the view of the peephole.

My phone's muted buzz in my jacket pocket breaks the silence, and I hurriedly use my right hand to quiet it without bothering to look. I'm sure it's Jasmine, wondering if I'm in handcuffs yet.

My fury battles my heartbeat in intensity as I hear the doorknob turn slowly. When it does, I am fully expecting to see Tisha and her cleavage, or a half-naked Abram wondering who would be disturbing their love fest at two in the morning.

When the the door opens the slightest crack, I push it and walk in forcefully, locked and loaded with a full on black woman attitude.

It isn't Tisha. Who is this chick?

"What the hell? Who are you? Do I need to call security?" The dark-brown woman with wavy hair and royal blue lingerie meets me with the same attitude.

"Where is he." I say quietly, doing a quick sweep throughout the two-room suite with my eyes as my body follows. She's right behind me, but I don't care.

No Abram.

"Um look honey, I think you have the wrong room. There's nobody here but me. But I suggest you leave before my forgiveness wears off and I call downstairs." She says, phone in hand, her eyebrow raising with annoyance.

"No, you look, honey. Abram. My man. I heard your skank ass tell him to come to room 312. Well, this is room 312 am I correct? So where. Is he."

An arrogant smile of recognition spreads through her face at the mention of his name, her body language relaxing. "I knew that negro had a woman. I knew it. Bringing drama to my room at two in the morning. Please."

My expectant stare remains. "Where is he."

"Well I wish I could help you, but Abram never came here. I haven't talked to him since I left that message. Might want to call the next chick on the list." She says, a heavy, satisfied sarcasm dripping from the last statement.

In that moment, my phone buzzes once more, interrupts my thoughts, and I temporarily suspend the reactionary slap I have waiting while I pull it out of my pocket.

"Ah, see. I bet that's your boo right there. Now, run along please. I have an early morning. Sorry for this mix up. Maybe you need a tighter leash or something." She says, not knowing how close she still is to having an Ata palm decorate her face.

She fades into the background as I stare at the number on my screen. Why is Abram's mother calling me at two am? This can't be good.

I answer hesitantly. "...Hello?"

"Ata. You need to come down to Sanai-Grace. Abram's been in an accident. It's bad." She says, choking back sobs.

My phone is suddenly too heavy for me to hold; drops to the ground involuntarily. My vision blurs. All I can hear is white noise.

Breathe Ata, breathe.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

17: "LOVE." [Abram]

NOTE: if you missed any chapters, please feel free to click on the chapters/installments on the left to catch up! thanks!


It is widely believed that all men cheat. Especially black men.

We are dogs. Liars. Scum of the fucking earth so watch your back, your front, and your side, because we WILL hit it, quit it, and then brag to our homies that we did it.

And I'm not saying it isn't true 70% of the time. But damn, can a brother get a little credit for once? Just a little credit. A mere shadow of a doubt that I just might not have been screwing some random woman at my crib and then allowed her to answer the door to my home ... for my girlfriend.

Just a little fucking credit.

These days have been exhausting. I know that it jolted Ata seeing a woman answer my door after a week of non-communication, but this is getting ridiculous. My phone rings, she's watching me out the side of her eye for any change in inflection, any hint of secrecy. Late from lunch because I was speaking to a client, one of my boys, or hell, I just felt like driving slower than usual that day, and I get a "what happened, you running late?" phone call. Which every man knows is REALLY a "where the fuck are you?" phone call.

I am growing weary.

I love this woman. I really do. But damn.

I look at my cell in unbelief. We've had this conversation a thousand times. Shes going on about how we need to rebuild trust like I was the one who was hanging out with my ex that night. Going on about how she's trying to forgive me. Please.

I take the phone off my ear, push the speaker button and rest it on my leg for a moment while I navigate the Maxima through the crowded lanes. This is short lived.

"Ata baby, let me call you back when I reach my destination. Gonna vibe out for the rest of this ride. This rush hour traffic is giving me a headache." I say calmly, searching for a CD containing something that will abate the pounding in my head.

"I thought we were in the middle of a conversation, Abram." She's annoyed. Has been annoyed a lot lately. And I'm annoyed at her annoyance.

"I hear you, Ata. Heard you the previous twelve times you said it. I told you where I stand, and I completely understand where you're coming from. But right now, I'm about to listen to some music and calm down."

"Whatever Abram." She says shortly. A click signaling she has ended our conversation threatens to well up a fire in my belly, but I brush it off. I'll deal with that later.

I scroll through my contacts, find my best friend, my ace. Garrett, the man who is an expert at temporarily removing worries from anyone's mind.

"Abe, waddup!" He answers excitedly.

"Nothin man, in this traffic about to go crazy."

"Where you at? You should come through. Down in Greektown cuttin' up. Dollar beers, homie."

I laugh to myself. Cutting Up should be Garrett's middle name. "Alright G, sounds like just what I need. The Woman is driving me mad, for real."

"That's why I avoid relationships like the Swine Flu. I'ma live longer than all you stressed out, tethered-ass dudes."

Typical G. "Alright man. Be there in a few." I say, thankful I chose to keep the attire more casual than usual today.

My headache eased and mood suddenly better, I throw in some Jay, get hype as he murders the mic beyond a Reasonable Doubt. When I reach the bar, Garret is laughing with a few friends and people we know mutually, fully in the throes of beyond Happy Hour. I say the obligatory 'Waddups' to everyone, exchange a few daps and shoulder taps, then settle at a seat at the long bar. My aim: have a good, stress-free time.

It's not long before my goal has been reached and surpassed. A night out with my boys always seems to yield a positive mood. Although I have become the source of material for many a 'pussy-whipped' joke, I don't mind. We talk shit, we talk sports, we laugh, we enjoy the beautiful blessings that are the pencil-skirted, low-cut shirted, stilettoed women among us.

Soon, a few of the stilettoed creatures are chatting it up with us. One though, she waits. Clearly with the others whom have grabbed our attention, she stays back, lingers around the lone pool table in the corner for a while, talking to another girl. I notice her eyes keep finding me, though. She wants me to notice.

Beautiful is not enough. Doesn't come close to capturing in words the perfection that finally struts over to the bar and plants her bronzed legs in the seat beside me.

I can count on one hand the number of times life has rendered me speechless. The silence preventing me from uttering anything in this moment will be added to that number.

"Hello." Is all I allow my nervous tongue to say moments later.

The bartender comes, greets her cheerfully. She says she's a wine lady, asks for a glass of White Zifandel to sweeten her palate. G is all in. Takes one look at the long waves flowing down her back, the Beauty Queen features basking in her tawny hue, the hips that would make any man's loins sing a praise song, and steps around me.

Jokingly, "Excuse me Miss, what's your name?" He smiles, in playa mode.

She laughs, reveals a smile more suited for Hollywood lights than the oft gray-overcast city of Detroit. "You're a few years late with that line, aren't you?"

G laughs with her. He's not nervous, nor embarrassed. A woman is a woman is a woman, to him. "Well it made you smile so I'd say it was right on time."

She smiles again, clearly tickled. "Laila. My name is Laila." She says to him first, then slides her glance my way.

"Abram. And this man here is Garrett." I say to her expecting eyes, confirming the fact that she is indeed at the bar to talk to me.

"No way. My brother's name is Abram." She says, shocked. Her smile widens.

"What? I don't know many brothers who share my name. He must be a cool cat."

"He is." She's still smiling.

She sips her pale pink wine slowly, tells G and I she's been in town this week to support her friend both personally and professionally. Points across the small but sophisticatedly decorated establishment to a fine Mexican woman with J-Lo curves. When she waves her friend over, we learn that she is Alana Ruiz, a visual artist specializing in abstract painting and wood sculpture. Invites us to her gallery opening happening tomorrow night. Interesting.

Once G realizes Laila's attentions are focused on me, he shifts his aim to her friend. Offers her a drink and they move down the bar to continue their conversation about G's budding career as a lawyer. Ever since he graduated from law school a year and a half ago, his stock has gone up dramatically. Something about the word 'lawyer' eases panties down with no hesitations.

Fifteen minutes into our light repartee of 'what do you dos' and 'where are you froms', she asks the question any sane man would have asked her first.

"So I don't see a wedding band. You seeing anyone?" The brown of her eyes catch the dim lights mishievously.

The way she has been seeking my every detail, I highly doubt the answer to that question has any weight. I test my theory.

"How much does that information matter to you?"

"Oh, simple protocol. The specifics of that response are only of consequence if you allow them to be, my new friend Abram." Her right eyebrow lifts in a sexy-naughty way. The neatly manicured fingers of her left hand rest on the white cotton-blend of my dress shirt.

"Ahh, of course. I thought as much. You must be good at chess. Complex thinkers, people who have all the right moves ... usually are." I say casually, the conversation and my rising alcohol level from two Rum and Cokes having all but dissolved the previous nerves.

"My favorite game, actually. I'm good at getting Queened." And up goes that eyebrow again.

This slightly flirtatious banter sustains for another glass of Zifandel and one more Rum and Coke. I enjoy her wit. Soak in her beauty. Feels good to escape for a while. To have interaction with a woman without the uneasy tenseness that has accompanied every exchange between Ata and myself as of late.

Before I know it, 8:00 has arrived on the newly purchased Citizen resting on my wrist. G and his spicy Flavor of the Night are still close, off in a corner, intimately sharing breathing space. It's not hard to tell what the night has in store for them. She smiles seductively at every other movement his mouth makes, and he just keeps on talking.

"I need to get home. Shower. Change." I say, looking at my watch once more. Don't realize just how much rum is in my system until I stand and the room has to settle. I take a moment to steady myself.

"Yeah. Change and come back out ... right?" Laila smiles, the alcohol swimming in her bloodstream having already provided more than enough details about herself and what she means by 'back out', in the last hour.

She's married. No children. Separated for the last two months from her schoolteacher husband. Said he couldn't handle not being the breadwinner in the household. Her career as an art dealer is more than enough to provide the life she lives, she told me. Says he can't handle her, period.

I don't get into details. Don't ask anything else about her marriage, her bare ring finger. We're both two adults temporarily unhappy in our situations. Both seeking momentary release. Both heavily under the influence of the liquid infidelity we've been sipping on. I don't need to know anymore.

She stands behind me, touches my hand lightly as I toss a bill on the bar to pay for our tab. "Make sure you come tomorrow. I'm gonna call and give you the address." She says with a wink, tapping the business card I gave her earlier, then saunters off to pull her friend away from G's hypnosis.

"Alright." I watch those hips saunter until they're out of my sight, blocked by the square tables occupying the middle of the floor.

A glance at my phone tells me Ata has called twice since I've been here. One new voice mail. I don't listen. Don't want Ata's angry voice to pierce the alcohol-induced bubble I'm floating in right now. A wave of my hand in front of my face reveals five distinct fingers; no more, none fuzzy. I'm good. I can drive. I get to my car and flip through XM stations until I find one I like.

As soon as I pull onto the crowded Woodward Avenue, my phone buzzes. Ata's pretty face smiles brightly up at me on the picture ID. I look down at it. Pick it up, hold it for a second. Three buzzes. Contemplate what kind of conversation will take place once I hit the green button. Nah. Not yet. I need to get home. Unwind. I let her go to voice mail.

Five minutes later, a 310 area code is the cause of my vibrating phone. California. I answer. "This is Abram."

"And this is the best chess player you'll ever meet. Ready to Queen me?"

"Had a feeling it was you. What's up? Got the address for me?" I say, one hand on the wheel, the other holding my phone.

Ata's been on me about replacing my Bluetooth ever since mine was smashed by my reckless little cousin, but I just haven't found the time. When she tossed one on the bed earlier this week, I left it there, irate about yet another argument we'd had. Wish I had it now though.

"I do. You have a pen?" Laila's voice is cheerful, her heartbroken husband somewhere across the country seemingly not even a distant thought.

"Aye, do me a favor and call back and leave it in my inbox." I say, trying to stay focused.

I'm lit. doing good just driving and talking. Adding a pen and paper to the equation would be too much right now.

"Okay. Will do. But Abram ... I think you should come by the Omni tonight ... where I'm staying. I feel like we met for a reason, you know? I'm leaving the morning after the opening, and I'd like to take some memories back with me ... intimate memories. ... And maybe leave a few with you." She purrs. I can see her smirk through the phone.

Immediately, images of my mouth covering that supple toffee flesh flood my mind. Damn. I just may have to.

"Alright woman. I hear you. Call back, leave the address. We'll see what memories will result." I say, distracted by an accident ahead.

I see the first few moist droplets and curse to myself. Shit. Rain. We hang up. I look down and make sure it's her when my phone buzzes right away. It is. Two new voice mails.

Am I really doing this? Am I really going to be 'that guy'? The guy who meets women at happy hour and sleeps with them by midnight, while his own woman is at home waiting? Am I really going to join that 70 percent?

Never thought I was that guy. Never thought I could be.

Laila's dark cleavage and perfect smile blaze through my mind. Those hips only a black woman could make sway so hypnotically. Damn. I just may have to.

The drive to my place is not a short one. I merge onto the freeway, hit the XM once again until I hear Flo Rida in my ear. Nah. One more station change and Musiq's slightly bravado voice filters into my speakers.

"Love, ever since the first moment I spoke your name, from then on I knew, that by you being in my life, things were destined to change..."

Instantaneously my heart slams in my chest. "Love." The song that played softly and suggestively in the background the first time Ata and I made love. She affectionately dubbed it 'our song'. Moves close to me, smiles, takes my hand, touches me in some intimate way ... something, every time we hear it.

Love. Damn.

"Love, through all the ups and downs, the joys and hurts. Love, for better or worse, I still will choose you first..."

The words move me. Hammer into my soul as if God himself is telling me to listen. Really listen. I'm not 'that guy'. I won't be. Never was. My spirit fills with guilt at the thought of what I'd be risking by spending one possibly forgetful night with a married woman. Her sin would be no more wrong than mine.

It's not worth it. Ata is worth it.

Just like that, I'm snapped back to reality. To what is really important to me. Ata.
I pick up my phone, prepare to call the woman whose name my heart calls, even when I don't hear it. Even when I'm too stubborn to listen.

I try to think of the words to soothe the anger I know is awaiting me. She's worth it. Ashamed a song had to remind me of this, but I Love her. I will not use the word in vain. Laila can play chess with some other pawn. I'm going to make love to MY woman tonight.

Fuck. The black device slips out of my anxious hand and onto the floor by my foot. I look down, see it glide to the left side, then back to the right. Lift my head when I feel the car swerve a little, reminding me of the fact that I'm functioning under the influence.

At the moment when I am in the lane alone, I undo my seatbelt, take the opportunity to reach down and rescue my only connection to half the people I know. It can't wait. I need to call her now, need to hear her say it. Need to know that through all that we've done to each other and been through in the past few weeks, that she still Loves me; right now, today, in this moment.

"What I say, is how I feel, so believe it's true. You've got to know I'm true, Love..."

I feel my fingers grab the sliding phone finally, grateful for once for the long, lanky arms I was teased so much about during my teenage years. When I raise up, the black SUV's brake lights in front of me are all I see. Where the fuck did it come from?!

I slam the brakes, but at 70 mph, I am too late. The sound of metal crushing metal assaults my eardrums. My body lifts, propels forward involuntarily. I brace myself as my mind flashes to Ata. Damn. I didn't even get to call her.

All I can see are red lights, glass, metal, and rain.

Musiq's still singing about Love.