…masters, no trades…

I felt painted into a corner with a colour of oil paint that made my eyes water and my head hurt. Lin was my friend, mine. Ever since we met as budding reporters at the radio station I always valued her straight-forward level-headed opinion on things. I was sure that she would have agreed with me on this. Especially since she was pursuing her Master’s Degree as well. But he will always be a better salesman than me, even when it involved the direction of my life and career.

Getting my second degree was hot button topic of discussion since our daughter shot out of me and bumped his chest nearly three years prior. I would approach it from all angles and the desired response was always delayed. Today it felt closer to a ‘no’ as he got Lin to present the argument that getting my Master’s isn’t necessary if the intent is to leave my government job and become an entrepreneur. She was right, I don’t need it to run a business, it’s surely irrelevant in the business of mixing oils, butters and waxes. He smiled smugly, confident that I’d drop the topic finally and concede to his superior knowledge once and for all, while we stood in Lin’s spacious new townhouse we pretended we didn’t envy.

I couldn’t drop it. It was more than getting my Master’s. It was about getting back myself.

We were always partners in everything we did. All decisions were made after long discussions and a consensus was agreed upon. Communication made us work, that and the fact that I felt like he respected and truly valued my opinion. Then, I got pregnant. The anxiety of becoming a mother made me question and second guess my own shadow. I conceded everything to his seemingly better judgement. A decision which yielded mixed results. When we decided to turn our kitchen hustle into a legitimate business, I finally felt like I found my stride out of the post-par-tum fog. By then however, he wasn’t ready or willing to relinquish the reins or even share them.

Everything was what he said as he said. A sliver of dissent meant I didn’t respect him as the man of the house. The business, an idea born out of my struggle and love of mad science experimentation since the age of 8 years old was taken over by him the minute we grew in social media popularity. I became a mere workhorse employee, though he was excellent at selling a different version of events. I felt lost in my own life. I wanted to retreat to the version of myself that I knew best. The Academic. He wanted no part of it.

As we drove home, I sat in the front seat of of his gold Kia. Another bone of contention with us. A purchase he made with no consultation but the cost of every broken part was known all too well by my dwindling savings. I thought hard about the conversation that broke my heart. Is getting my Master’s Degree really a waste of time if my goal is to become an Entrepreneur. Is becoming solely an entrepreneur truly my goal?

I was silent when we got inside. He barely noticed. Probably preoccupied with the glow of his victory. I sat on the edge of the bed. I waited until I heard the click of the closed door behind him. Then, the tears flowed. I didn’t wail, scream or even sob. Partly because I didn’t want to wake our sleeping toddler in the next room. Also partly because my tears felt more like a mourning of someone passing. Someone you knew was sick, has been sick for some time and their death felt like an act of kindness given by the universe.

Like a drop of adrenaline, the idea dawned on me. Ms. Red. She has her Masters. She has her own business. She is a woman I admired. She’d have an insight that neither I, him or Lin can provide. Would getting that second degree really make a difference to your life trajectory?

Ms. Red and I were friends in the loosest sense of the word but we were more than just associates. I loved what she was about and showed my support. She provided an avenue through fashion for women of a particular size to learn to love themselves and the skin they’re in. She in turn gave me the opportunity to show my love of fashion and strutting in beautiful clothing without spending a cent. We didn’t run in the same circle but there was a mutual respect and admiration there that grew over time. I found her number.

I struggled to express my perspective as the phlegm and tears bubbled in my throat. I all but expressed how I felt lost in my own life. How getting my degree was more than just the piece of paper. It was an opportunity to find out beneath the labels of mother, wife, employee, businesswoman… who am I really?

She calmly listened to my blubbering, a disposition that seemed foreign on me as I was always quiet and smiling around her. Then, she spoke, “The fact that you are asking this question means you know in your heart what you want to do. I cannot tell you that getting your Master’s would be beneficial or not to your dreams to be an entrepreneur. Getting mine helped me in some ways but it wasn’t really essential. But if you feel like you need to take that step to really be effective as a business woman and become comfortable in your career and your life then do it. It’s knowledge. I can never speak against a woman seeking more knowledge. If that’s what you need to do. Find a way to do it. Pray about it. Ask God to make a way for it and do it.”

I applied in an MSc. Management Studies programme the following June.

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…Cascade Carnival…

I sat with my group trying my best to pay attention to the tenants of brainstorming versus brain-dumping in relation to planning and plotting points for our Organisational Behaviour assignment. I struggled. My heart was a storm and my head was a dump. I bolted. I made up an excuse that my sitter called and she couldn’t keep my daughter. Truth was, I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere. No where felt safe. No where felt comfortable. No where brought peace. At least, no where that I would go.

My phone buzzed, a text from Digicel that I missed a call from my mother. I returned the call. She was in Cascade with a patient who’s family left for the Carnival and she had the house mostly to herself. She heard death in my voice. The shell of the child she gave birth to some 29 years ago. She flexed a muscle she rarely used and offered me the opportunity to spend the long weekend with her in Cascade.

Perfect.

The house had a pool, it was near a green-space and mom made her own groceries. All I needed to bring was myself, my reading material for my project and a swimsuit. As for my daughter…it pained me but not her. I couldn’t look at her without seeing him. A face that once filled my heart with joy and pride brought rage and sadness. And it wasn’t even her fault.

I left her. Let him field the questions, deal with her pained face wondering where I am. When am I coming back? Why did I leave without her? All questions I’ve had to craft creative responses for her in an effort to save her father’s image in her eyes. I doubt he’d give me the same courtesy.

I arrived at the house. My legs stung from trudging up the hill. The house took up half a block in the gated community. The guards were lax as they just waved me in assuming I was a house-keeper or a geriatric nurse like my mom. My attire betrayed nothing about me, other than I was just tired. My mom greeted me with a hug. Something she usually asks for rather than take. She took it and I was grateful.

She showed me the room I’d be staying in for the next three days. It was small, it fit a built-in wardrobe and a full-size bed. I sat on the bed and saw the small green space outside. I decided that would be my hiding spot during the day. Just then, my phone rang. It was him. I couldn’t breathe. As far as he knew, I was still in UWI in my group meeting. I’m terrible at lying but excellent at playing dumb. I answered.

“Where are you? I have something important to do and you need to take our child.” I exhaled and chose my words carefully. “I’m out. Won’t be back until Tuesday afternoon” I heard his voice change in octaves before he responded, “Fucking Tuesday! Where are you? I’m coming for you in UWI now!” I somehow felt assured that he’s too far to do anything to me physically. My inner brat came out, “UWI is big, might take you three days to find me if you go searching. Either way, I’m not there. I’d be home on Tuesday. There is food for Sky in the fridge and if all else fails, you know your way around the kitchen.” He matched my attitude to deliver some jabs of his own, “I know all of this, I’m the one who cooked. You’re never in the kitchen unless it’s to make hair butter. If you cooked more…” I hung up. I knew where this was heading. I wanted to get away from that. My phone rang a few times, then came the messages, as quick and angry as the content and its sender. I left the room, and the phone in it.

The next day, I sat on the balcony overlooking the hills of Cascade. My laptop sat in front of me but my attention was captivated by the colours of the hills. I know nothing of birds, but they sang to me, or maybe to each other. My mom brought me a some toast and cheese with Lipton tea. I can count on my fingers the number of times my mother has attended to me so closely. Every single occasion I was sick. I guess this time was no different.

My phone buzzed. A message from Shivani popped up on my screen. Shivani, a new friend from Spanish class, had become both my sounding board and my ice-bath of reality since the whole ordeal started. I clung to her for her directness at a time when everyone around me treated me with velvet gloves. It also didn’t hurt that she was the best in the class at Spanish.

I opened her message, “So I’m in Superpharm with Chris, because I’m in need of deodorant. Guess who’s two lanes over?” I knew where this was going. I refused to accept it. But I had to indulge. I had beaten myself up for what had happened for too long.

“Who?” I asked the stupid question.

“Your husband, person or whatever. With her, the horsefly.” my heart sank at the sight of words which meant to inspire humour. As soon as I’m not around, he ran to her. But my imagination wasn’t enough to pacify me.

“Pics or it didn’t happen.” The pictures came. The two of them caught mid-flight like two criminals fleeing the scene. There she was in her signature attire of a cleavage bearing V-neck top and shorts that were two sizes too small. He wore a shirt I bought him back in his slimmer days. It clung to his stomach which hung over his grey shorts. He almost fell out of his leather slipper. His full attire, bought by me.

“I hope you appreciate me risking my life here, because he looks pissed.” I did. At least I had evidence that I’m not as crazy as he leads me to believe. There was now proof. Proof that would be helpful if ever there was a divorce. “I’ll keep you in my prayers, and sponsor your coffee next class.” Three hug emojis followed, “Make it a coke. So what are you gonna do now? If you’re confronting him, let me cash and leave first.” Made sense. I chuckled at how theatrical my life became. “Let me know when you’re out.”

“Out.”

I called him. Half of me didn’t expect him to answer. Half of me didn’t want him to. He answered. “What?!” Good. Give me attitude. Give me rage. Give me the liberty to peppa yuh muddacunt! “Where is my child?!” I stood up and walked away from the balcony as it was a bit too close my mother’s patient for this conversation. “Like you even care, she’s with the sitter. I had some turns to make so I dropped her there for a few hours.” I heard the car start.

“Turns? Did you somehow manage to turn up at Trincity?” I heard him honk his horn at fellow drivers. His fair to average driving skills fade to absolutely atrocious when he’s mad. Part of me wanted him to crash. Part of me wanted to hang up phone and flush myself down the toilet that I sat on. “So you have spies on me now? I see the coolie bitch and she faggot man taking pictures in Superpharm.” I laughed heartily at him. “Coolie? Ok dougla boy, self-hate is alive and well in you boy. A pity you’re behaving just like the father you hate so much.” I heard a car screech. Not sure if it was his. At the moment, I didn’t care.

“You ever thought that maybe the reason why I ran to her is because you’re such a cunt!” I did. But he’d run to her when I’m not being a cunt so why bother being nice. “Well you’re married to this cunt so how about you just divorce me and go live happily ever after with your slut. I hope she knows that wearing pants that tight causes yeast infections. Hope you like your fish cheesy.” He shouted something. I couldn’t make it out because his phone probably fell, a regularly occurrence, angry or not. “Fuck you! I wish I never met you! You ruined my life you fucking bitch!” Good. Lay the foundation, let me finish this house.

“Life?! What fucking life you had before me? With your two CXC passes and your security wuk?! Where were you possibly going that I hampered your future? I’m the one who was getting the degree. You hated that so much that you stopped me for two years from doing my Masters. Now I’m finally doing it, and you decided to fuck up my progress with this shit. You and all your insecurities.” My mind ran on my abandoned laptop on the balcony and all the reading I had to do. “My mother was right. I chose wrong. You, sir, were the one who fucked up my life and derailed my career for the sake of your legacy. The minute I no longer fell in line, you found my replacement. A diluted one at best, a fuck buddy at worst. You are the worst possible thing to happen to me. I should have taken another street instead of giving you a minute of attention by Nicholas Tower.”

He took a breath before he responded. A low blow would be a euphemistic description for my words. I knew him. I knew how to hurt him. And I also knew how to deliver a kill shot. “I wish you did too.” He hung up.

…St. Valentine, 2009…

Fergie began to sing from my pocket, muffled by my thighs and jeans fabric. All eyes swung to me. I pretended I didn’t notice. I sat in the middle seat of the taxi. Did they really expect me to be able to reach my phone? Fergie had stopped regaling the passengers about her humps as the taxi turned onto lower Charlotte Street.

The taxi came to a stop and I did a little shimmy to get my brick of a Motorola Rokr out of my back pocket to see the missed call.

“2 missed calls from Othello”

I called back and began to walk up Charlotte Street, absent-minded to the fact that South Quay would have been a quicker walk to the Movietowne taxi stop. Othello answered and by the tone of his voice and the silence of his background, I knew where this conversation was heading. He wasn’t on his way to meet me like he promised. His mom said no. He didn’t do all his Saturday chores. So no privileges. Sigh…that’s what you get for dating a 18-year-old. Stood up on Charlotte Street on Valentine’s Day.

I turned onto Independence Square and debated my options. It’s 7 at night on a Saturday. My friends are all out on dates and I really don’t want to go home. I can go drown my sorrows in whatever slasher movie that’s in theatres. Also, I need to dump Othello.

I crossed from KFC to the bank and approached Nicholas Tower. I slowed down and when I saw the commotion ahead. A group of men were talking and laughing loudly over what looked like a box. I approached slowly and debated if to make a U-turn. As I drew closer, I realised they all wore a dark navy uniform. All except one. A familiar face. Ozzy!

Despite being the shortest on the group, he stood out. He had everyone’s attention. He wore light blue shirt with black trousers. A huge contrast to the attire I’m familiar with on him. Gone were the blonde dreadlocks with the green and purple strands. In its place was a sharp skin fade with neat curls on top. No skateboard. No converse. No saggy pants with chains. Ozzy grew up!

As I approached the conversation stopped. Maybe it was my stride or the fact that I was dressed in all black approaching a group of security officers. Either way all eyes were on me.

“Happy belated Birthday Ozzy.” I greeted him with a smile. He smiled back probably impressed that I remembered his birthday was yesterday. Thanks to MSNchat, I did remember. I also sucked my teeth when I saw it because yesterday he was the shaggy rugrat who harassed the girls outside the library. The miscreant in the hoodie who carried a skateboard, but rarely skated. Who would talk big about his non-accomplishments and start fights with other guys at the library over girls. Who tried to get me fired from my vacation job two years ago around the same time I made employee of the month. The guy who I had an inexplicable crush on, knew this and still chose to sleep with my best friend. I hated that guy. That guy was Ozzy. A nickname he got likening his personality to that of rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

“Remind me, what’s your real name again.” I parted the crowd of men as I walked towards him. He told me. “Like the Russian dictator?” I clarified. “Yes, like the Russian dictator, it’s spelt slightly different, but my mom named me after him.”

This clean look suited him. His dimples stood out more and I noticed how white his teeth were. An incredible feat for a pack-a-day smoker. But his darkened lips against his caramel brown skin revealed the truth of his habits. “So what are you doing here?” He was probably surprised to see me not attached to a textbook or complaining about an assignment deadline. “I’m headed to Movietowne to watch a horror movie, wanna come?” He pulled his neck back in shock. “On Valentine’s Day? Why not a romantic comedy or something?” I rolled my eyes at the obvious stereotyping, “Because I enjoy horror movies. The adrenaline rush from the jump scares and trying to figure out who is the killer. Those things excite me. Romantic comedies are chick flicks and boring.” I shifted my weight to my left hip, simultaneously folding my arms. I felt his eyes on me. Honestly I felt all their eyes on me. I was a 21 year old girl in black skin tight jeans and a matching t-shirt out after dark talking about horror movies. And if these men knew Ozzy’s reputation, I’m either trouble or I’m about to be in trouble.

“Aren’t you into heavy metal? Wanna take in a scary movie with me?” I stereotyped him from what I remembered when we were 17. “Nah. I don’t like horrors. They give me nightmares. Maybe a regular comedy. I like to laugh.” The admission softened him. He smiled as he said it and those white teeth caught the streetlight.

A soft whimper came from the nearly forgotten box on the ground next to us. I noticed there were holes punctured sporadically around the box. Then, I saw a nose poke through the top. I stooped to see what creature beckoned for our attention in there. “Her name is Bob.” He introduced her unusual name for a female pet. “Why Bob?” I didn’t look at him. I was enamoured by the black and brown puppy who was so excited by my affections. She was unaffected by the fact that she was about to topple over the box with her wagging tail. “There is a rasta woman working with us and we call her ‘Bob’. She’s a bitch.” I don’t know why I laughed. Maybe I thought the correlation to be clever.

“So do you still live Morvant?” I closed the box and stood up. I took my default stance of putting my weight on my left hip and folding my arms under my breasts. He noticed them perk up. I noticed him noticing. “Why, want to come visit?” His arrogance knew no bounds. “No. I was thinking it would be a short trip for you to drop Bob home then meet me in Movietowne. We can take in a late movie.”

“Boss!” we were interrupted by his colleagues, “you forgot to sign for the relief officer.” He excused himself and left me with whimpering Bob on the sidewalk of Nicholas Tower. Boss? Someone hired him to be in charge of something? Guess he has grown up. He came back. He always had a quickened pace like he’s in a hurry. A habit probably developed due to being a shorter than average guy with a larger than average personality. He overcompensates.

“So how about I come by you? You have a DVD player?” I thought about his proposition. My brother was home. My mom wasn’t. But she was two blocks away doing an overnight shift at Bryden’s. I changed the topic, “Who was mad enough to make Ozzy a boss?” I pointed at collection of officers assembling at their posts behind the glass doors and walls in the building behind him. “A Syrian.” He smiled. “And don’t call me Ozzy please. I’m not that fella anymore. Call me by my name.” I did. I wanted so badly to believe that he changed.

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…the ID card…

“Girl, she kick in my room door, she crazy!” he shrugged when I asked him about his ex. He even flung his wrist just as dismissively. And just like that the relevance of his last relationship which lasted three years was diluted to one sentence. Now I’m the crazy one, I thought, as my chest heaved and my own blood dripped from my right fist.

The drive home was tense. We had maybe three fights while on the road. Two were about her, the other one was about my inability to give directions which could be clearly read on Waze. We passed the market and I managed to get a clear view of the baby blue dumpster and I chuckled.

Earlier that week I discovered her ID card in his wallet. I debated if to launch an investigation into his increasing laundry list of lies. I debated if to confess to him that I knew he was lying yet again. Instead, I left for work. As I passed the market, I came up to the baby blue dumpster. I analyse the card one last time, staring hard at her birth-date ‘1993’. Then, I chucked it. It bumped the rim then fell in.

We pulled into the street and as my duty required, I opened the gate and he drove in. He barked at me for not getting my keys ready immediately because he and our daughter had to wait for me to open the door. As I ushered our daughter in, his cell rings. His face tensed, then he walked towards the back yard. 

After I set up our daughter with a snack I followed the sound of his hushed voiced. I found him hunched like he was hiding a secret. He explained to the caller that he was just wrapping up and would be there soon. Over his shoulder I facetiously questioned, “Customer?” He carefully covered the screen with his chest but by now my eyes were slick to his movements. I saw the ‘K’, the first letter in her afro-centric middle name, a contrast to her very euro-centric first name. But the bitch was all Trini. He attempted to dismiss me with the flick of his wrist, urging me to go inside. Ever the good wifey, I obeyed, right after I shouted, “Tell the bitch to get a new ID card because the old one in Sea Lots by now.” then I strutted inside, but felt inspired to hasten my stride when I heard him end the call. 

” You did what?!” With a sense of morality on my side I squinted at him smugly. He was always shorter than me. According to his ID card, I had a solid 1.5 inches over him. But he was broad, thick shoulders from the couple years he spent playing American football for his high school in Brooklyn. His waistline filled out over the near decade of our life together. He had a dense build, his fat and muscle intertwined due to years inconsistent exercise, mashed potatoes and stewed beef. 

“I found it in your wallet and I don’t want nothing for that bitch in my house so I threw it away!” He flushed from caramel brown to bright red, gritting his teeth and contorting his face like someone stomped on his big toe. He slowed his speech as if talking to a child but his volume raised with every word, “Are you crazy? Why the fuck would you throw it away? That’s illegal!”

I mocked his speech pattern but keeping my voice down, “Why the fuck is it in my house?” Recognising his volume and the fact that our front door was wide open, he feigned calm, “Baby, I had it a long time now. You could have just told me you found it and you don’t want it in the house and I would have gotten rid of it.” I felt my face and neck become inflamed, but while my melanin didn’t betray the rage. My voice did. “Why is it in your wallet in the first place? Why is it here? Why do you have it?” I watched him straight his eyes, I glanced left then right then at his mouth. The corners of his lips would always curl into a slight smirk when he’s about to lie. And curl they did. Before a sound escaped his mouth, I mentally dismissed him, throwing my hands the air. Simultaneously, I aimed for the open front door. 

The sound of his left hand connecting with my right cheek was dwarfed by my immediate howl. It was more the shock of the slap than the actual pain that made me cry. I sobbed harder when my daughter surfaced, she rushed to my side to comfort me. I didn’t want comforting. I wanted immediate vengeance. With tears in my eyes I picked up our daughter and placed her on the foot of the stairs. As I was getting up, he had already darted out the door and headed for the back yard. I instructed her to go upstairs into her room and don’t come down. She questioned my request while simultaneously obeying. 

I stepped outside, my face wet, my cheek stinging from the rage and the slap. Our eyes connected and he made strides towards the driver’s door. My blood, while clinging to my face and head, it made a detour around my brain. He attempted to apologize. He attempted to explain that he’d go cool off by his cousin. I heard none of it. I kicked the passenger door, screaming that he spend the night by his slut. Sitting in the driver’s seat, he shrieked, “You fucking crazy! Yuh go mash up mih door!”

I am whatever you say I am! And if I wasn’t then why would you say I am!

-The Way I am.

Eminem

The car was pulling off, I frantically and repeatedly kicked the car door to the passenger seat that he allowed her to sit in like she belonged. He rolled down the window to scream for me to stop. I pulled at the wing mirror, spinning it attempting to rip it off. My rage and adrenaline wasn’t sufficient. Instead I punched it. 

By then, the car was in the narrow street. He shrieked, ” What did you do? Are you fucking crazy?” I streaked his white wagon in splashes of crimson, fulfilling my role, because indeed I was mad.

… three broken hearts…

The voice note turned blue. They all had listened. They all knew.

Desh was the first on the ball, “Nah, nah, nah, nah! You not serious. Honestly, I’m in shock!”  

It was shock to everyone. Of course it was, we were the beautiful black couple with the beautiful baby and beautiful story. We climbed from nothing, we were in the making of becoming something. To the public eye, we supported each other’s dreams, careers and education. We even shared our anniversary celebrations publicizing our love and devotion, despite being at each other’s throats between camera snaps. We were loving and adoring fans of the other always posting about the other’s achievements on social media and how proud we were of the other. We were diligent, aspiring entrepreneurs with matched ambitions and drives. Lord only knows how grossly mismatched we were, but we wore the facade well.

I sent the picture I found.

Red faced emojis followed in response. 

I sent screen shots of the Facebook conversation I had with the young lady.

Lin began typing, “So if their friendship is so innocent, why lie about how they knew each other?”

“I don’t know. I’ve always been very accepting of his female colleagues. He thought it was a safe bet.” I rationalized. “You know, I always believed that men are just bred to cheat. But for some unfathomable reason, I thought he would be different.” My mind fazed to my father, dead now, he too was afflicted by the plague upon Caribbean men to spread their seed with little regard. This was evidenced by my two brothers born in 1992 but were not twins. 

“I don’t know what to say, doll. What are you going to do now?” Lin attempted to assess where my head was at. 

“I don’t know. Counselling I guess. I’ve been begging for us to go to counselling for months but he insisted we don’t need it. We definitely need it now.”

Lene, while online, didn’t type a syllable. Lene had a different connection with him. He was more than her old friend’s husband. He was her God-son, as she stayed for him when he converted to Catholicism through R.C.I.A. He was the colleague who taught her the ropes at her new job. He was her friend too. He was also her last hope that there may still be good men in the world. 

“Whatsapp needs an angry emoji with no tears.”

Lin sent one, encouraging me to use it as much as I needed to.

Lene finally joined the conversation “I’m not believing any story. I’m not believing anything he has to say. I’m just so f***ing pissed right now!” Ever the pious catholic, she couldn’t bring herself to type the word. “Girl, I’m crying on my side right now. How could he do that to you after everything.”

“Men cheat. It’s not a matter of if but when.” I addressed it nonchalantly.

“But he was one of the good ones.” I can almost hear her voice crack as I read her words.

 “Was.” I quipped. Desh echoed my nonchalance by pointing at my one word response with a brown hand emoji. 

“Well ladies, this bullshit has cost me enough sleep tonight. I’ll try to reach out to the Deacon in the morning about counselling and I’ll keep you posted.

“Alright doll. Let us know what’s happening and if I need to dismount my knives from my wall.” Desh attempted to lighten the mood with her trademarked dark humour.

One by one they attempted to console me that night from their beds. Three hug emojis each.

il_570xN.896881731_jzit

 

… a broken promise…

The validation of months of suspicions swelled in my chest. Then came the hubris: how dare you Cheat On ME?!!! I flipped back and forth through the three pictures scrutinizing her face, her body, her features. She laid on the floor of her livingroom with her skirt hiked up showing a generous amount of leg. She stuck her tongue out in assumed jest. In each frame her back was more arched than the previous shot. Seemingly innocent, obviously not. She wasn’t even that pretty, I thought. What a slut?! She looked like a horsefly. A cross-eyed horsefly.

It would be months before I noticed that in the right corner of each frame next to the yellow bowl of gold fish crackers was the bent knee and stubby toes of my four-year-old. This had to be a joke. But if it were, why would he delete the photos from his phone gallery. If it weren’t for the automatic upload feature of Google Photos, the evidence of his transgression would have gone unnoticed.

I didn’t give myself an opportunity to second guess it. Something had changed. He had changed. He got promoted. A bigger salary. Twice what he made before. His clothes improved, better shoes. He worked hard. He deserved it. That wasn’t all. He went out more. Honestly he was always a social butterfly, a prevalent point in our list of incompatibilities.

Then there were the strange questions and anecdotes. Once he asked me if I believed in emotional cheating. He insisted the question stemmed from a conversation he and his colleagues were having at work that day. He said the topic was raised by the new girl in the office. According to him, his colleagues believed she had a crush on him. I even played along at home whenever he raised the topic. “How could she not, you’re the cute star-boy salesman. She wants you!” I’d tell him. “Why else would she accompany you to go Christmas shopping?” 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered she never worked with him. The conversations with his colleagues were all convoluted creations meant to introduce his new friend. An attempt to acclimatize us to one another perhaps.

I met her once. Barely. He brought her to our home then took our daughter to Gulf City Mall to go Christmas gift shopping. I insisted that year that I wanted a leather jacket as my gift and I saw one one sale on Facebook at a store located in Gulf City Mall. She went for the ride. She sat in the front passenger seat, my seat, smiled and waved at me, “Merry Christmas!”. I half waved back with a sweaty face and cobweb in my hair from cleaning and holey pajamas. I messaged him, apologizing for my rudeness as I really didn’t expect guests.

In February of the following year, while in the pit of my depression, the events of that day came to haunt me in a case of mistaken identity. The mother of one of my exes recognized my daughter and husband with ‘me’ at the mall that day, shopping. She said ‘I’ looked so much slimmer with my braids and baby blue shorts. I got so fat now. I laughed it off insisting it was my sister she saw and not me. “It was my sister”, was a reasonable explanation of why the three of them looked so close and happy together like they were family.

With his phone still in my hand, I leaped at him like a soucouyant seeking blood, demanding answers I truly didn’t care to hear. The thumping of my pulse filled my ear with the opening chords of a song so fitting for the moment.

Who the fuck do you think I am?

You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy!

– Don’t hurt yourself, Beyonce ft Jack White.

“Me! You horn me?! You were a security guard before me! You lived in a rat hole before me!”

There it was again, the hubris that pushed him, emasculated him. A task made easy by the fact that every fibre of his character was riddled with insecurities. He was never confident in himself and what he brought to the table. Frankly, neither was I.