Friday, March 25, 2011


Chris was honey. A golden melanin drizzled over a perfect frame, a picture worth 1,000 words. His lips pressed together quickly, letters sifting from between them. If you asked what the words were, I’d fail to give you an answer. A sucker for intelligence and a smile I leaned into him awestruck. He asked, “What makes you so different?”

We’d sat for hours, at his dining room table, working on a class project and stringing our lives into conversation. He told me he was a bit of a playboy. His tan lips pressed stories into my ears. He brought youthful girls home, fooling them with his cloak of pharmacy major and loosely portrayed flaws.

“I’m pieces of someone’s broken past.”

He then gestured his pointer finger around the room, “This apartment, this education, and this whole get up. It’s all glue. If my past was to do a three-sixty into my future, he’d guffaw in amazement.”

Chris was born to a seventeen year old mother with a full scholarship to anywhere-but-here. She was prone to parting legs under the bleachers for boys who didn’t treat her like the golden child. In her letter, intended for Chris when he was of “understanding age”, said, “Your father kept me grounded. He didn’t leave me sifting high in the aspirations of your grandparents. He left me….grounded. I liked it down there.” The truth was she’d done some leaving herself. She left a hoping mother and father with her new child in their waving arms. She was coming back.


Chris was raised by his grandmother and grandfather. The two were separated, but still lived in the same house for religious reasons.

“I was raised in a home of silence and tears.”


His abuelo, a Puerto Rican man with mustard seed for skin and gray skies for eyes, never spoke to him. A “good morning” and “good night” were the only utterances to the brightly smiling resemblance that roamed his hallways. Chris was a reminder of his daughter’s pretend perfection.


There were no phone calls, no holiday visits and no postcards. Just she’ll-be-back-one-days evolved to she’s-never-coming-back. Chris’ mother became a blur, an evaporated notion that would scarcely condense on their tongues. Abuela, peppered hair and maps for palms, cried most on Christmas. Her tears blinded the visual of a little boy on a stepping stool, adding the star to the blinking mountain he created alone.

He placed his trembling hand on my own and asked again, “What makes you so different?” I shrugged my freshman shoulders with a renewed awareness. He was hitting on me. I finally spoke, “I listen to stories. I rarely become a part of them.” He laughed.

He was right. In the very moment he’d begun to place his tale on my cerebrum, we’d tied the first knot. Here I am, trying to untangle a web you might or might not understand. However, one thing is certain: You will be stuck. Like a spider and his prey, you will sit as I did in that dining room and wait to be devoured whole by his story.

You must understand that Chris and I were just friends. He left his “playboy” behind the threshold of the apartment before we collided into our four hour dialogue. Because of that I promised to listen. Much like the cracks in his history, his story comes in fragments: Bitter, broken, and beautiful.


He decided somewhere on the border of junior and senior that he needed a year off. At this point, I was accustomed to his randomness and wished him nothing but a temporary farewell. The first week back home he stumbled into a party to celebrate his new freedom. The playboy buried inside him turned inside out, grabbed the nearest naiveté in a skirt and headed to the closest bathroom. A few twist and turns and they stumbled back on to the crowded dance floor musky and flustered. They didn’t even exchange names.


A year passed. Chris was working at a local pharmacy, falling in love with a regular that visited his counter, and playing Russian roulette with his education. He called to tell me that he didn’t want to come back. I posed no rebuttal, for fear he’d damn my judgment. I am still angry at myself for that moment.

She showed up at his grandmother’s doorstep. A pair of familiar long legs and gorgeous skirt to match stepped from an unfamiliar car. He peered at the girl from his window. She walked to the back door, opened it and emerged with a small child in her arms. Chris sneered, “It’s always the sexy ones.” She stared up at the window, nodded her head in a decisive way, and headed straight for his doorstep. He answered the door with a confused face, trying to place the caramel legs he scarcely remembered.

“It’s me, Kayla. You know? From the club?”

It took her about four more tries to jolt his memory. It took two shakes to break his amazement when she said the child was his. It took another fifty tries of “please” and “sorry” to gain entrance into his home.

His grandmother was crying again. His grandfather, having passed two years prior, rolled in his grave. They all agreed on a paternity test for Alexan, their “maybe” three month old daughter.

It would take a month for the results to come from the lab. In the mean time, Chris and his grandmother had advised Kayla that it would be best to keep her distance. Despite the warning, the long legged girl slurred her way back to his doorstep again. She was baby-less, drunk, and desperate.

“There was a party out here. I can’t go home. I can’t make it there.”

Before he let her in, he made her assure him that the baby was somewhere safe. She agreed. In the middle of the night she tossed and turned, making loud and angry noises in her sleep. He came down to the couch she slept on to ask if she was alright. Her words sputtered and choked, her drunken breath dangling in the air like a fallen star.

“I don’t understand why I got to stay away. Why can’t we be a family? You don’t want me?”

Chris didn’t know her. He tried to jog his mind. Where was she from? Where did she live? What nationality was she? Nothing. He pulled himself away from her, “It’s time for you to leave.”

He watched her wobbling long legs and stilettos walk to the subway and went back to his bedroom filled with nightmares. The mere thought of night frightened him now. What could be darker than the place he was in?


A doctor from a boarding home for unwed and single mothers called the next day. “Are you the father of Alexan Williams?”

Chris answered, “Who? Um, I mean yes. What is this concerning?”

His soul shook. A world and a universe crushed somewhere alongside his spine. He lay effortlessly on the ground. Dead. His maybe-child was dead.

Kayla had wobbled her way back home, a home Chris was never told of. She took her wailing baby from the arms of a responsible roommate and placed the child in bed with her, forgetting that Alexan had a crib with her own embroidered blankets nearby. Throughout the night she ran back and forth to the bathroom releasing her anger to a porcelain goddess. Eventually she brought a wash bucket to her bedside to contain the vile that left her orifice.

Between that moment and the sun rise, God wept. Angels cascaded from the heavens bearing embroidered blankets and “A” rattles. They removed the wings from their backs and quilted a flying cradle for baby Alexan to dream in. This is how I must imagine it.

The truth is too hard to bear: The baby rolled off the bed in the middle of the night and drowned in her mother’s vomit.


Chris called me from an unknown number.

There was a crack, then a beep and a mutter in a robotic voice: “You’ve got a call from a correctional facility.”


His voice regurgitated a sea into my ears, “Erica, the funeral was today. The paternity test also came today. Everything was today. She was mine. She was mine. Alexan was mine. I couldn’t go. I couldn’t face her family. They all think I’m some kind of…. I didn’t know what to do. I drank. I drank. I was on the bridge and I tried to drive off. I tried. I tried. The cops came. I have a DUI. They’ve got me locked up. Here. Locked Up. Here.”

He may have been in actual lock up, but I knew Chris was referring to his heart. A blemished and tarnished muscle drained of its capability to hope and believe was lying on that bridge. I went there to find it the next morning. I watched the joggers and cyclists pedal and run over it as if it didn’t exist. I prayed they would pause for a moment so that I could lift it and carry it on the angels’ leftover wings to a better place.

A better place.

This apartment, this education, this whole get up; it’s all glue.

This baby, this girl, this accident; it’s all shatter.

I told you you’d be stuck. Stuck like my fingers to this keyboard, stubborn tears to my cheeks, and his narrative on my conscious.

The purpose of a story is to be a crowbar that slides under your skin and, with luck, cracks your mind wide open. -Jodi Picoult




Kevin L. Matthews said...

That sent me through a wave of so many different emotions and you wonder why I want to be you when I grow up. Out of all this particular part stuck me the most:

"They removed the wings from their backs and quilted a flying cradle for baby Alexan to dream in. This is how I must imagine it.

The truth is too hard to bear: The baby rolled off the bed in the middle of the night and drowned in her mother’s vomit."

Keep 'em coming its things like this that keep me writing myself.

T. ODIS said...