Sidney sat down on the bed with a defeated look. I flicked the lamp on the nightstand and pulled myself up against the headboard. After a few moments of silence, she spoke.
“I’m sorry Jam,” Her eyes were on the floor. “I have to tell you something…I just, hope it…I hope it won’t scare you away.”
“It’s a little late for that.” I pointed toward my face and looked down at my ankle.
“I didn’t mean to…well I did mean…I just…I’m really sorry Jam.” She’d given me the nickname Jam about three weeks into our ‘situationship’. “…I saw you with Tanya and, I got…worried. You don’t know the history here, Tanya’s dangerous.” She warned.
“She seemed pretty harmless to me”
“She isn’t what she seems.”
“No, Sidney, YOU aren’t what you seem.” I elevated my voice. I needed her to understand how serious I was. This wasn’t about to become Sidney’s pity party.
“I’ll take that.” She turned to look at me for the first time. Her eyes were red. You could tell she’d been crying; the bags under her eyes insinuated she also hadn’t slept much. She no longer smelled like a distillery, that made me happy.
“Whatever Sidney, what are you doing here. I see you still have a copy of my key.” I fumed.
“I just wanted to check on you.” She conveniently ignored my statement about the key.
“I don’t need you to check on me. I told you we’re done, Sidney. There’s no excuse for what you did – NONE! ZERO! OK! So, I really don’t need to hear you out.” I waved her away and diverted my eyes.
My last comment was directed more to myself than her. While a large part of me was livid with her, there was still a part that was moved by her effort to profess her sorrow and – hopefully – her love. I knew I should’ve asked her to leave, but I wanted to hear her out. Strange, I know, but it’s honest.
“What happened, Sidney?” I asked with a pained expression on my face; our eyes met. I wanted her to take-in what she’d done. I wanted her to face the damage.
I saw the hurt in her eyes. She looked away and mumbled something I couldn’t make out before moving from the bed to the armchair across the room.
“Does this make you more comfortable?” She asked calmly.
“Now, will you give me a chance to explain?”
“Go ahead.” I sat quietly as Sidney attempted to explain herself.
She wanted to surprise me with the white Jaguar that I saw parked across the street the other day. There was a mix-up in the delivery, and the car was sent to her address instead of mine. Monica accepted it and initially thought the car was a gift for her…until she realized it was registered in my name.
“That’s something I’ve never done for her…you understand what I’m saying?” She waited to confirm I understood, I nodded. “I’ve never put anything in her name. It’s always in my name or she’s authorized on my account. I’ve never trusted anyone enough to do something like that, and understanding my history, she didn’t push.”
My phone vibrated. I didn’t bother to pick it up.
“Then I met you. And you’ve just been…” She stood and turned her back for a moment. “You’ve been everything. I trust you in a way I don’t trust Monica. You’ve been nothing but good, I’ve started to understand what it’s like to be with a woman who appreciates me…someone who cares about more than her happiness above all.”
I swallowed hard. These were the things I’d wanted to hear, but these certainly weren’t the circumstances under which I wanted to hear them. Tanya was right, the fantasy always leaves out the bad stuff.
“Monica recognized my feelings weren’t casual anymore.” She left the chair and kneeled on the side of the bed nearest me, clasping her hands around mine as if she were pleading, “You don’t understand how much I think about you. I’m make moves with you in mind now…before I only made moves for myself…and my kids, of course.”
My heart skipped. She moved in close and I wanted to kiss her, but I didn’t.
“What about Monica?” I asked, our lips almost touching.
“What about her?” Sidney quickly retorted, “She’s fucking Tanya anyway” Her eyes remained on mine, she cocked her head slightly – positioning her lips perfectly for a kiss. I pulled away. She nodded and sat with her back against the bed.
“How do you know she’s having sex with Tanya?” Tanya confirmed they were having sex, I just wondered how she found out.
“She told me. The Jaguar arrived while I was out, so she accepted the delivery. When she realized, the papers were in your name, she was pissed; and I returned home to a bitch-fest. She said I was disloyal and demanded to know if I loved you. I lied and said I didn’t, but she saw through it and called my bluff. …she wanted me to cut you off. I refused.” Her expression was serious.
Did she just say she lied about not being in love with me? “But…why?” I asked instead.
“BECAUSE. I. LOVE. YOU.”
YES! She is in love with me! I knew it! I celebrated in my mind. I wanted to tell her I loved her too, but I was still angry with her for everything she’d done. My emotions were all over the place now.
“The fight got nasty, so I had a few shots trying to calm down…” She lowered her voice, “…and I did something I haven’t done in a long time.”
“and that is….” I braced myself for the worst.
“….yea…” She began to rub her head the way she did each time she was nervous. Unlike Tanya, Sidney sported a short cut that perfectly framed her face. Her jet-black hair was filled with waves so deep, men often stopped her on the street to ask for tips to help them get their ‘wave game up’.
“What kind of relapse?”
The word rolled off her tongue and into my ears. I’d always thought about trying cocaine – back in my wild days – but I never had the nerve. In my early twenties, I briefly dated a woman who’d snort cocaine off my stomach before we had sex; and it was always amazing sex. She had the stamina of five women and could go for hours. It was literally orgasmic…again…and again…and again…I bit my bottom lip thinking about it… I wondered what it was like to be with Sid when she was…Focus Jameka, FOCUS!
“I had a really bad go of it a few years,” Sid continued, “…cocaine was my drug of choice. But I’ve been clean for two-and-a-half years now.”
She dropped her head back and stared up at me, “At least I was.” She poked out her lips making a sad face, “That’s not all though…that’s not why I lost control.”
“What do you mean?” I was afraid to hear more…
She sucked her teeth and blurted it out, “I have Bipolar Disorder…and what you saw was a break – mental break – exacerbated by cocaine, booze, and the stress of my failing marriage.” She closed her eyes as if allowing an ache to pass. She opened them after a few moments and eyed me attentively. I suppose she was waiting for my reaction.
The only thing I could come up with was, “Oh…”
Bipolar Disorder? I was partially stunned, but fully relieved. I knew something had to explain why she behaved that way. I blinked as thoughts of the past several months rolled through my head.
“Wait, are you saying you’re mentally… unstable? Like, you actually hear voices and stuff?” The panic in my voice was evident, and I’m pretty sure the appalled expression on my face didn’t help.
“No,” she corrected me, politely, “I’m not Bipolar schizophrenic, I don’t hear voices. I’m Bipolar – period. It’s a mood disorder, my mind is perfectly capable and fine, I just feel things more intensely than others. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. When I get into a bad space, I can react on impulse and make some very bad decisions. I haven’t had that happen in a long time…not since I my father passed and I had a severe manic episode.”
“A manic episode?” She seemed pleased that I thought enough to ask questions, “it’s an extreme case of elevated mood. You notice sometimes how I’m extremely talkative, impulsive, excessively playful, and hyper-sexually aroused?”
“Nine times out of ten, that’s because I’m manic. It’s like being on a continuous dose of ecstasy, without taking the drug. When I’m manic I feel great…I can do anything, I can save everyone. Even myself.” She chuckled, a slight dimple appeared.
“…but when I’m depressed, it’s like seeing only shades of grey, in a world full of color. It’s complicated, but it’s not. As long as I maintain control of my stress levels and triggers, I’m fine. The problem here is, Monica knows how to pull my triggers – sometimes on purpose. I can’t blame her though, it’s my fault for allowing it. She’s been manipulating me from day one.”
Sidney met Monica in college. They were roommates who quickly hit it off. Monica was immediately attracted to Sidney and vice versa, but she told Sidney she wasn’t interested in a relationship because she had someone back home – Tanya. Despite this, they remained inseparable and were practically in a relationship – just without the title, or the sex – that’s how this whole non-sexual relationship idea came into play.
“One day, during our Sophomore year, Monica comes in the room, tears streaming down her face and asks me if I loved her. I told her I did – at least I thought I did – so, she asked me to prove it by marrying her.”
“What? Just like that?” I wrinkled my forehead in objection.
“Just like that. I hadn’t even looked at another woman since I arrived on campus. Monica has a way of…keeping your attention, and she kept every bit of mine.” She grinned at the thought, I rolled my eyes.
“I wanted her from the moment we met, so I jumped at the chance – impulsivity and bipolar disorder go hand and hand.” She shrugged. “Obviously, at the time we couldn’t legally marry, so we put together a commitment ceremony with a few supportive family and friends. Her parents and my aunt split the cost of a small ceremony, and we were married within six-weeks.”
Damn, Monica was good. She needed to teach a class.
“…didn’t you think that was odd?” I asked judgmentally.
“At the time, all I thought about was having Monica,” she talked as if she and I were old friends, instead of celibate lovers. “Monica was the first woman I dared to – outside of my Aunt MeMe and my kids, of course – she’s the only person I dared to love after my mother…was killed.”
She sat against my bed with her legs bent, balancing her arms on her knees. She kept her gaze on the floor and allowed the tears to fall.
“My mother was a fragile thing. Beautiful, delicate, feminine, intelligent beyond words; but her demons were deep. Her father raped her until she was twelve. It only stopped because he died of a heart attack as he forced her to give him head while he took a shit. She didn’t even realize he’d died until he fell over on top of her as she tried, quickly, to finish him off. My aunt MeMe was the one who came and peeled her off the floor.”
I flinched at the thought, “What about your grandmot-“
“..she turned a blind eye. She walked in on him with both my aunt and sister in a…compromising situation…and apologized for interrupting. She told them not to speak of what happened, said their dad was just teaching them how to play house so they could be ‘good wives’ when they grew up. Can you believe that?” She snarled her lip and I felt like I would vomit. What kind of demons does that to their own child? Thank God the man died before Sidney was born. I just wished He’d have done something to help her mother. Damn.
“Unfortunately, my grandmother re-married. This time she called herself doing good by getting with this preacher she’d dated before she’d married my grandfather. Rumors swirled around town about his love for young girls, but my grandmother ignored this. She said he’d provide “security” and would be a good father, someone they could trust. Within four months of marriage, he picked up where my pedophile grand pappy left off. Except he was into a whole world new world of fucked-up.” She paused, “I’m sorry for all the cursing, there’s just no other way to properly explain the bullshit that is my family history.”
I nodded. She continued,
“He’d started “loaning” my mom and aunt out to different men at the church for “babysitting” and “house cleaning” jobs, except there were no kids and often, no houses to clean. Sometimes they’d have ‘parties’ where the men paid and he made them have sex with groups of men at a time, or one after the other. My aunt said one time my mom got pregnant, and obviously had no idea who the father was. She let her husband convince her my mom had gotten pregnant by some knucklehead for being hot-in-the-ass and ordered her to have an abortion. My grandmother beat my mother for disgracing the family name and ‘lying on a God-fearing man’, and took her to get a back-alley abortion the next day.”
“Wow” My mouth was open, this was…heavy.
“…about two months later, my grandmother came home and caught him going down on my mom in their bedroom. Just like before, she apologized for interrupting and excused herself without a word. My mom and aunt confronted her a short time later and asked why she didn’t do anything to stop it. My grandmother actually told her she seemed like she was having a good time… then casually added that if she wasn’t, she better act like she was because, “some things a woman just has to learn to live with; and rape is one of em’. It’s just a natural part of a woman’s life.”
She shook her head and sucked her teeth. I had no idea what to say.
“…and before you ask why they never called the police, their stepfather worked on the force. Many of the men they served, were on the force. Basically, my mom never had a chance… it was as if God forgot about her and she forgot about herself.” She shook her head side to side as she recounted the details of her mother’s life,
“Meeting my father was the nail in the coffin. My aunt said my mother would ‘open her mouth so my father could shit if there weren’t a toilet around’. Turns out he was just like the other men in her life. He’s often beat the shit out of my mother over the stupidest shit.”
My phone vibrated again. I averted my eyes to and noticed I had four new text messages, all from Tanya. She could wait.
“When I was five, he knocked her unconscious because the chirping of baby birds outside their bedroom window woke him up from a nap. When I was eight, he smashed a glass pitcher over her head because the iced tea “had too much ice”. And on my ninth birthday,” She smiled, sarcastically, “he smashed her face into a cake pan, then beat her with it, all because he thought it was a Tuesday, and it turned out to be Wednesday.”
Her face was hard now. Her eyes filled with regret, it was the look that said she wished she could’ve done more.
“I watched him beat her to death when I was fifteen …right in front of my face. I tried to help but he hit me with something that knocked me unconscious. I woke up to my mother’s lifeless eyes, staring at me. They were actually the first thing I saw when I came too. She had her arm around me and, oddly, a slight smile on her face. For a moment, I thought she was alive…then I realized she took her last breath trying to comfort me, trying to make sure I was ok. How fucked up is that?”
She wiped her face, now soaked with tears. I grabbed the box of tissues from my nightstand and handed them to her.
“I…wow…I’m so…” I struggled to find appropriate words. What do you say to something like this?
“You don’t have to say anything, it’s not like you had anything to do with it. My father was a horrible man and he was worse when he drank, which was often. Beating my mother to death was the least of the horrors he’d done to her.” She pulled out her phone and flicked something off the screen before turning it off.
“…He was also her pimp; and if he’d had his way, he’d have pimped me too, but that’s where she drew the line. Some of her worst beatings were because she refused to allow him to pimp me out, like her step-father had done her. She wouldn’t fight for herself, but she’d become a monster when it came to me.”
“What happened to your father?” I dared ask.
“He went to jail. Someone in there beat him to death. He got what he earned…and you know what I got? To pay for his sins…and my mother’s weaknesses. Bipolar disorder, addiction, intimacy, and abandonment issues, plus a temper that I’m still learning to control, sometimes I feel like a pressure cooker waiting to pop.” She inhaled and stretched her arms above her head. Her eyes landed on me again, she motioned to see if she could sit on the bed, I granted her request.
My lip was cut, slightly swollen, and I had the makings of a nasty bruise forming under my right eye. She reached out her hand and caressed my bruises. She cried as she acknowledged the damaged she done, not only physically, but emotionally.
“I know people say, saying sorry doesn’t mean anything after someone hits you, but...I really am…sorry…” She continued caressing my face. “The idea of losing you, especially to her, enraged me. I snapped, but I promise I’m going to get help. I honestly never meant to hurt you. This isn’t who I am. I love you, Jameka….”
She learned in and kissed me deeply, just like she did the first time we met. I fell into her arms and kissed her back. “Tell me you love me, Jameka.” Her lips trailed down my neck. “We can fix this, I know we can.”
I wanted to believe her, but I didn’t know if I could. I opened my mouth to object, we had a lot more to talk about, making out was the last thing we needed to do….
“Sidney,” I called out in objection, “…stop…” My lips said stop, but my actions said keep going. I pulled her closer, falling back into the bed. I had no idea how this was going to work…or if Sid was even honest about getting help;but, as her lips made their way to the fullness of my breast, I really didn’t care.