Hold on to My Feets
by LaKimbra McKinley
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4
Later that week, we had a court date. Reginald made sure not to sit with or acknowledge me. Looking back, I was so naïve: everyone but me knew he had left me. I got so angry I got up out of my seat and sat in the row behind him and his parents. I lit into him with a wicked line of questions.
He yelled, “We are not together. Leave me alone!”
I backhanded him and screamed at his mother for encouraging him to leave me. Reginald walked over to speak with the bailiff and a handsome thirty-somethingish guy escorted me to the corridor.
“Girl, you must be crazy. You don’t hit people in court. If the judge saw that, she could hold you in contempt of court. You could get two years,” he warned.
“I’m tired,” I cried. “I have put up with too much. Now he claims that we are not together.”
Later that day I called my cousin. I was in tears. I told her about what happened in court and how Reginald had been avoiding my calls and he would call a couple of days later and say he forgot his charger or that his phone was dead.
I was tired of excuses. But you know that old saying: “Don’t go looking for trouble, because you just might find it.” Well, I was tired of living in limbo. That night, I was seeking answers. Reginald didn’t care if I ever discovered the truth. He wanted me to deny my gut feelings and brush them under the rug. He wanted me to believe in his inconsistencies and lies. He said I was too jealous and called me crazy.
* * *
That night, I was going to miss one of the stabilizing forces in my life: the television show Sanford and Son, because Francine and I were traveling incognito. Her husband agreed to let her drive his new Escalade. Francine called earlier and said our mission has to be quick because her son wasn’t feeling well.
She was punctual, as usual. I received her text exactly at 8:00 o’clock. It said, “Outside.” I gulped down my last pinot grigio and hurried out the door.
Francine was in Jeremy’s Cadillac and dressed like a ninja. “You ready, Mohana?”
“I see you got the memo.”
We exchanged pleasantries and rode in silence. Francine searched the radio for the right song. Finally she settled on Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.”
“It’s going to be just like old times. Remember when we used to check car hoods and spy on old boyfriends?” Francine asked.
We laughed, remembering the scourge of our youth.
“We did not do this in a minute, girl. You remember the rotation,” she said sarcastically.
“Unfortunately, I do,” I said. “Girl, this is so sad, but it’s for a good cause,”
“Of course, he won’t tell the truth.” Francine snickered. “So now we have to do it the old ‘110th street’ way.”
“It’s a shame that folks make you stoop to such a level of desperation,” I said. “Tonight I’m seeking my own answers.”
“I know that’s right, girl,” Francine said.
We turned into the “In and Out” in Hollywood to grab a quick bite and strategize. Twenty minutes later, we pulled up in front of Reginald’s house.
We parked three doors down. Equipped only with flashlights from our phones and gloves dangling about our waists, we made our way to his backyard.
My children were supposed to be sleeping over at my sister’s house. Therefore no one should be in the house except for Reginald. Using a system of hand and facial gestures, we moved stealthily into the darkness of night. With catlike precision, we scaled a fence and then a small storage shed.
A flickering light on the second floor illuminated the window, and two shadowy figures appeared. I climbed onto Francine’s shoulders. “Lift me higher,” I said.
“Girl, it feels like you put on a couple of pounds,” Francine said.
“Oh you’ve got jokes,” I said. “Don’t make me fall trying to be cute.” I shot her a phoney smile.
“I’m almost there. Dang, I’m too short. One more time. I’m going to stretch this time,” I pleaded.
Again I tried. I put one foot on the wall and stretched to see inside the window. I saw everything. “Oh no! That mothafucka is with a girl. Let me down, I don’t want to see anymore. I’ve seen what I need to see, now let’s go so I can do what I have to do.”
Feeling betrayed I jumped down and ran to the car. Francine followed in close pursuit with a look of terror in her eyes. My marriage had been a lie, and I had been sleeping with the enemy.
The porch light came on as we sped down the dark street. Memories played in my head like a bad movie. My stomach cramped and I felt sick. “So that’s what’s up,” I said.
Francine adjusted her five-feet one-inch frame as she turned onto the freeway. Her bifocals steamed up as we rode in silence. It was the first time I saw how naturally beautiful she was, her freckles were impeccably placed and her dimples appeared deeper.
Still no words were uttered except for an occasional “Ump, ump, ump, that bastard and don’t start.”
Finally Francine said, “Cousin, first allow me to extract your head out of his ass. Now let me guide the shoulders out: you allowed him to mistreat you. You always rushed home to be with him and never let him miss you. A man is going to do what you let him do.”
“You’re right. I agree. From now on, I’m not going to let anyone mistreat me. I am going to love me first,” I cried, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, trying to convince myself.
When we pulled in front of my house, I hurried inside. I screamed so loud that Francine came running in the house. I was on the floor, screaming.
She knelt with me and pleaded the blood of Jesus. She rebuked the devil, called him a liar and began speaking in tongues. “O shala blaba involvaloo o shala shalami shalami. Bless her, o Lord,” she said with outstretched arms.
Why couldn’t I go berserk? When the squiggly lines, bright stripes and zigzags appeared. I knew I was having a nervous breakdown. I collapsed onto the couch, holding my head.
“Mohana, are you okay? Reginald must be going through a mid-life crisis. Men are so stupid. They’ll change up on you on a dime. But like I said, you loved him more than you loved yourself.”
“Francine, please I can’t take anymore, please just stop.”
“Okay, I was only trying—”
“I know, but I’m trying to survive. Please stop.”
Francine dutifully helped me into my nightgown.
“Mo, I’ll stay if you need me to. Just say the word and I’ll stay, sweetie.”
“No, go home to your family. I’ll be all right.”
Francine excused herself and took a call in the hallway.
“Hey, babe, how are the kids?”
“Oh no,” she said to me, chuckling a bit. “He does that when he is tired.”
“Well, I am at Mohana’s. We just got back. I called to let you know that I might be running a little late. I’ll be leaving in fifteen minutes or so. I’ve got to make sure my girl is all right.” Francine ended her call and went downstairs to the kitchen.
A couple of minutes later, she returned with a cup of tea and two shortbread cookies on a tray. “Girl, I’m sorry about tonight, but at least you know the truth.”
“It still hurts. How could he?”
“I know, sweetie, drink some tea so you can relax. And remember what we talked about: loving you first. If you feel low, call me. I’ll come back. I just have to put the kids to bed.”
“Girl, no, you got kids and a husband. I thank you for everything just the same. I’ll feel better, but for now, I want to have a good cry and go to sleep.”
Francine kissed me on the forehead, walked quietly downstairs and out the door. When she left, all the evil thoughts came out to play. I envisioned shooting him then his girlfriend. Why her? In the words of the immortal Richard Pryor, “She was home.”
Then I started to come unglued. I cried like a baby. I was hurt to the core of my soul. “Grandma, help me, somebody help me, please. I wish you were here, Ma.”
Although my grandmother had been dead for three years I needed her, and I needed her now. I cried intermittently throughout the night.
* * *
I awoke early the next morning to Reginald’s keys hitting the nightstand.
“Morning, sweetheart, how are you doing?” he said.
“Don’t sweetheart me. I know what you were doing last night,” I said raking my fingers through my hair, wiping the corners of my mouth and eyes.
“The kids were at Monique’s, and I spent the night alone.”
“Liar! I saw you fucking some tramp with short hair,” I said, sitting up in bed with my arms across my chest.
“Aw man, I’m sorry. I’m a devil. I don’t deserve you. Honey, I made a mistake!”
“Pack your rags and get the hell out,” I said.
After he left I entertained the thought of suicide. But having no pain tolerance, that idea was quickly scrapped. Besides I don’t like the implications that go along with taking one’s own life. I re-entered the world of the living, clutching a Bible in one hand and 20 extra-strength Tylenols in the other.
* * *
Two weeks later, I mustered up the courage to file for divorce. I was in a festive mood and wanted to celebrate. I called the neighborhood “weed man.” Tim told me to come through and try some “fire” he had on deck.
“All right, in a minute,” I said.
Grandma was appearance-conscious. She taught me never to go anywhere looking bad. After a quick shower, I combed my hair and put on clear lip-gloss. I made a beeline to the car.
I stopped by the Liquor Bank to pick up Hennessey, a soda pop and two swishers. I hopped back into the car and headed to Tim’s house. Five blocks and two quick rights later, I turned onto Tim’s street. I parked directly in front of Tim’s house. His garage door was open. That was a sure sign he was open for business.
I strolled casually up the walkway and knocked on the door. When there was no response. I called him from my cell phone and his voicemail came on. I tapped on the door and, to my surprise, it opened.
“Timotheeee,” I sang out playfully. “Oh Timmy, you good. Where you at, dude? This ain’t funny.” I said.
In the living room, an eerie feeling lingered. The silence was deafening. The floorboards creaked as I surveyed the house.
Kat, the family dog, scurried behind the couch and whimpered pitifully. I followed Kat and discovered Tim’s lifeless body. Kat lay at his feet wailing. Tim was staring blankly at the ceiling. His arms were tied up, and he had a gunshot wound to the chest and another to the right bicep.
“Aw man, golly gee whiz, what the hell happened to you, dude? No, Lord, say it ain’t so! Aw, man, I’m so sorry, brother,” I said, studying him closely.
The hair stood up on the back of my neck as I alternated between examining Tim to conducting a 360-degree surveillance of the room. A masked gunman lay in the hallway. He was shot in the cheek, chest and stomach.
“Help me,” he moaned.
A solid thud came from the rear bedroom. Ignoring his cries, I continued to the back bedroom. Beads of sweat gathered on my forehead as I crept closer with my hand covering my mouth to muffle the impending scream that might or might not happen. I pushed the door open and entered.
A guy in a Green Bay Packers jersey was slumped over a chair. Upon further inspection, I saw the guy was Tim’s nephew, Ant; a twenty-one year-old college student and aspiring rapper. I grabbed a towel and applied pressure to the spreading stain on his shirt.
“Two dudes robbed us,” he said, going in and out of consciousness. “Take the money and weed in the hall closet.” Blood gurgled from his mouth with every word, and a doomed look gathered on his face.
“Don’t speak, Ant. Stay with me, baby. I’ll call the police.”
He tapped at his chest signifying he had already called.
“Stay with me, Ant. I can hear the sirens!” I pleaded with him to hang in there.
“Go, get out of here,” he said.
I hurried out the same way I came in and stopped at the hall closet. The three duffel bags were in there, just as Ant had said. I grabbed them and hurried past the masked gunman, who was now sitting up.
He grabbed my legs. I kicked free. He crawled towards a Desert Eagle rifle. I took a running start and kicked him in the chest. Three wads of cash fell from his jacket. The sirens were growing louder.
With no time to spare, I scooped up the money, grabbed the bags, and hurried out the door. I threw everything in the trunk and drove cautiously down the street. My heart was beating so fast it felt as if it was going to come through my chest. I calmly passed two police cars at the corner.
A third police car barked an order over the loudspeaker. “Move to the right! Move out of the way!”
I quickly complied. Goose bumps rose on my arms as the police and ambulance cars sped pass. I drove down the street, weaving through traffic. “Drive, baby, drive,” I whispered.
True to form, if it ain’t one thing, it is another. My head swooned as the contents of my stomach were on the way up. Just when I tried to feel better and wish it away, I heaved once, then twice, and pulled over. I opened the door and voilà: vomit. The only good news was that I was at the highest point of awful and hoped to come down soon.
My hands trembled as I tried to use mind over matter to settle my stomach. “Everything is all right,” I said, trying to convince myself that I was all right.
I adjusted the rearview mirror and saw fear staring back at me. I turned the key and started down the road again. Tears fell as I thought of Tim and Ant. I drove five blocks and turned into McDonald’s drive-thru.
“Welcome to McDonald’s,” a voice said.
“A Seven-Up. More ice than soda, please.”
* * *
Copyright © 2014 by LaKimbra McKinley