It was just a few minutes before kickoff (of whatever the terms is for soccer), so I didn’t plan to keep “My Partner” on the phone long. He’s an avid soccer fan. The kind who hangs jerseys on his living room and bedroom walls. He protects them in the plastic dry cleaner bags.
Privately, I had always planned on being The Good Girlfriend who gets the jerseys preserved and sealed in shadow box frames. Not to mention, it would be more aesthetically pleasing. Being a couple in our forties for nearly two years, the natural plan would be to move in together. And soon. We’re grown and we should know and act on what we want without hesitation. I wouldn’t erase all his personality, but at the same time our shared living space could not resemble a bachelor pad. I am a woman with good taste and our place would reflect as such. No plastic bags hanging on the walls.
I called him. He’d been fielding calls and texts to wish him Happy Father’s Day all morning. Even his mother had called from Trinidad. He seemed a bit annoyed when he shared this news.
“She asked me if my daughter called.”
“OK. Why would that be a problem?”
“She knows my daughter never calls me.”
That caught me off guard. The sole, living, breathing reason people even call him on Father’s Day doesn’t bother to call him on Father’s Day? He tried to blame his ex for not instilling the importance of calling him. Even though, I’d only heard terrible things about the woman, I had to defend her.
“Well, you can only blame her so much. Your daughter is old enough that she should be aware to call you on Father’s Day and other holidays.”
“The only time my daughter initiates phone calls is to thank me and let me know she received whatever gift I sent her.”
This made me sad for him. His sixteen-year-old daughter, his only child, never calls or initiates texts. I felt a small tinge of guilt. I had made the conscious decision not to call my father to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. I wasn’t in the mood. Ours was a tense and estranged relationship though he seemed to think that things were great between us.
I tried to cheer up My Partner (his preferred phrase over the so-called juvenile terms of boyfriend and girlfriend) by saying that maybe when she got older she would initiate contact. In college she’d meet someone who didn’t have a present and active father either by being a deadbeat or actually being dead and she would extol on her how lucky she was to have a living father. She’d encourage her seek a relationship with him. I shared how every so often, my aunties would gang up on me to call my father to wish him Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas or Happy Father’s Day. Though I was an adult, I would heed my elders and make the call. I didn’t 100% mean the expressed sentiments, but I also didn’t 100% not mean them.
I didn’t succeed in making him believe me, just as I didn’t succeed in talking him into coming over to my place so we could spend the day together. I had only seen him once since returning to Brooklyn from his deployment a few weeks prior. Self-quarantine period over, I’d finally seen him the week before. Covid-19 punked us away from riding public transportation. He had ridden his bicycle to my place. When he declined my invitation to come over, I understood. It was his day. I wasn’t going to push for him to bike for nearly 45 minutes in the heat to come to me, even though I offered to cook him dinner because I didn’t think he should be cooking for himself on his day.
I tried several times to end the conversation because I didn’t want him to miss the soccer game. Instead he asked me to tune in and watch with him. We watched the whole 90-minute game together over the phone, with him patiently answering my naïve questions and us also talking about other things. The hours long phone conversation reminded me of when we first started dating, especially the first week before we met in person. We went from messaging on the app to talking on the phone. I had just returned to New York for a cousin’s wedding and he had flown to UK, with his mother, for his grandmother’s funeral. The time difference didn’t keep us from chatting for hours, even as he shared a hotel room with his mom.
I missed him. I missed us. I told him so. The game ended and players and coaches were doing post-game interviews when we both decided it was time to hang up. It was past 4 pm and neither of us had yet eaten. I tried again to push for us to spend the rest of the day together.
“I’ll catch a Lyft to you.”
“Are you forgetting that just a week ago you were freaking out because you thought you had Corona?”
“Yeah, but I’m ok and that’s because I had been at a protest. If I can be in the midst of hundreds of people, I can ride a Lyft to be with you.”
“Why are you being so hard-headed? Just stay home.”
I guess I took that as a challenge. After we hung up, I started making myself dinner, but I was struck with the brilliant idea of making dinner for the both of us. It would be a lovely Father’s Day gift and surprise. He’d love it. He’d be touched. I’d be Girlfriend of the Year.
I had already defrosted turkey cutlets. Being an island boy from Trinidad, I’m sure he’d want some rice. I didn’t want to do plain ol’, boring, white rice. No, I got fancy with “rice and peas” even though I’d grown up calling it rice and beans (actually we Haitians called it diri kole). White rice cooked with kidney beans. I couldn’t stop there. Dessert was a must. I baked a cake, that technically was a brownie recipe that I poured into a loaf pan. Instead of cocoa I used cocao powder and chocolate protein powder. The piéce de resistance: I added chocolate chips and I crumbled walnuts on top. I diced up some watermelon for a snack. I was too tired to make a salad, and it was getting late. I still had to shower and make the trek over to him.
At no point while I was cooking, packing the food, searching for an outfit, taking a shower, exfoliating, shaving my legs, drying off, moisturizing, sponging my hair, getting dressed, packing an overnight bag, or calling a Lyft did I think it was a bad idea to head over there. The only thing that gave me pause was that it might be rude to show up at his door unannounced. I used the app feature to text him a link to track my ride.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
I replied with his home address.
“Why are you hard headed?”
“I’m a Taurus.”
“You’ll be glad I came.”
He didn’t reply.
Only then did I panic, for just a moment. My aunt called and I updated her. She thought it was a wonderful idea and that it would be a pleasant surprise. She had called me while I was home and told me that I should have had that plan all along, but his original weekend plans were to continue to do yard work while the weather was nice and while he was still here. We were waiting to hear if he’d be deployed again in July. He was still sore from the day before and because it was Father’s Day took a rest day. He had declined my offer to help him work.
She was impressed with the menu. I told her I had to go. It felt creepy speaking with her while the driver listened. By his name I was certain he was Haitian and was convinced that he was judging me. I was a woman heading to man’s house at nearly 10 o’clock at night, in the midst of a pandemic.
I texted him to come open the door as we turned down his street. He said he wasn’t going to open it until I got to his door. I wondered if I should’ve gone to the downstairs door when he didn’t appear. I stood out there for at least 10 seconds before he arrived.
The last time I had darkened his doorstep was the day he left for Iraq. As I stood in the same spot I had months before, waiting for him as he grabbed his bags, his mother walked by the door and stared me down. I greeted her and she ignored me. It was the first time we met. Months later, her son was giving me the same treatment. There was fire in his eyes. He was not pleased to see me. My heart sank and my stomach dropped. Or is it, my heart dropped and my stomach sank? I ignored it.
“Will you hurry up and get in here? You’re letting bugs in.”
I stepped through the threshold and looked up at him with smiling eyes. I still had on the face mask.
“I have a surprise. Take a look.” I held up the bag with the packed food.
“I don’t need to. I already know what it is.”
“Aren’t you going to take a look and see what goodies I brought?”
He walked out of the room. I stripped naked so as not to enter deeper into the house wearing ‘Rona clothes, and to entice him. When he re-entered the room, I wasn’t sure if his eyes or brain registered that I was nude. There was zero reaction. Unimpressed. Not turned on. Uninterested. Couldn’t care less. Eyes were blank.
He told me to get dressed. I lied and said I hadn’t packed a change of clothes. The intention was to stay naked. Not only did I have a change of clothes, but I had mindfully selected the seamless, maroon Victoria’s Secret cheekie panties (his favorite cut on me), the camo leggings and the v-neck t-shirt that gave me bangin’ cleavage. I’d also packed sweet smelling body butter and other things to make myself appealing, although after months apart, I should be appealing to my boyfriend no matter what.
He left the room again to retrieve a change of clothes. I stood in the foyer, deflated. I figured he simply needed a moment to calm down before he’d get excited about my presence. He returned and told me to come get the clothes. As I walked over to him, I told him that I had cooked the food and not ordered take-out, hoping to impress him. When I reached him, I pressed my naked body against his.
“Aren’t you happy to see me?” I purred into his ear and stroked his neck and back.
“Put these on.”
“You’re gonna have to dress me.”
And he did, as if I were a child and not his lover. There was nothing romantic as he told me to lift my leg or push my arm through.
“Do you want me to leave?”
“You’re already here.”
I should’ve left. I know I should’ve left, but I reasoned that any moment he was going to snap out of being upset and become ecstatic that I was there. He would feel foolish and want to make it up to me by making sweet love to me or fucking my brains out right there on his mother’s living room couch. Whichever would bring me rolling orgasms and cause me to squirt. I had to be readily available and easily accessible once he crossed over into being happy that I was there.
We watched 90 Day Fiancé on TLC. We sat with space between us as if we were homeboys or platonic friends. I decreased the space between us and played with his dick through his shorts. He never got fully hard. At some point, I fell asleep.
When he woke me up so we could go to his bedroom downstairs, I was wide awake. Before knocking out, I had taken the food containers out of the bag and placed them on the counter to cool off. While he made space for them in the fridge, I used the bathroom and was hoping to use the time to freshen up. He came into the bathroom while I was on the toilet. I hate using the bathroom in front of him, but that’s a boundary he never respected. I waited outside the door while he took his turn then went back in.
“What are you doing?”
“I need to rinse off.”
I didn’t want to go to bed with pee-laced coochie. I fully intended for him to ravage me that night, including eating me out. He needed to know all traces were rinsed away.
I could not get comfortable in bed. I felt out of place. I felt humiliated. I felt like a fool. I felt like a loser. I felt like a clinger. I felt like a pick-me. Every time he moved, I moved. He shifted, I shifted. Even when he didn’t move, I did. The air was thick.
“I have a lot on my mind.”
“Like, I don’t understand what happened tonight. I feel humiliated. I feel like you don’t even want me here.”
“I told you not to come over. I told you I wanted to spend the day by myself.”
Even though I was lying in the bed beside him, I felt like he was Scar and I was Mufasa right after he’d been thrown over the ledge. Confusion, betrayal and hurt flooded me. He had never expressed that he didn’t want me to come over and I hadn’t arrived until after 10 pm so he had spent the day alone.
“I told you to stay home.”
“I thought you said that because you didn’t want me to risk catching Corona. I didn’t know it was because you didn’t want me to come over.”
Crickets. There it was. This man really didn’t want me to come over. That’s why he hadn’t been happy to see me. That’s why he hadn’t warmed up to my being there. He. Didn’t. Want. Me. There. Period.
He apologized for not making it clear he wanted to be alone. He defended himself by saying it takes time to calm down after being upset. My counter: why was he even upset at my presence? I had cooked dinner and trekked over there to surprise him on his day. To me it seemed sad that not only had his daughter not called, but he was spending the day alone. I took it as a sign of loneliness that he wanted me to watch the soccer game with him over the phone. The whole game. For hours. I didn’t get vibes that he wanted to be left alone.
Somewhere in the conversation, he asked if I were crying. I told him I was beyond crying. I had no more tears to give.
“I don’t know if it’s your pride that won’t allow you to show me affection or if you just don’t have affection to give me, so you don’t.”
Crickets. It felt like another punch to the gut.
I don’t know when it started happening, but I had full body shakes. He held me but I couldn’t stop. It was just the two of us in that dark bedroom, but I was as humiliated as if I were standing stark naked in packed Madison Square Garden and there were jumbo screens for the people in the nosebleed seats. Everyone was laughing at my never flat belly and always flat booty.
I asked for the time, but considering his boonie neighorhood, I knew a Lyft would take forever to arrive. Not to mention, I was still hoping that with this recent spilling of the guts he would feel bad and try to make it up to me. Physically. Not even a kiss on the cheek or a hug. Just an arm across my back and leg on top of mine. When he got tired of that he re-arranged me so that I was resting on his chest even though it was awkward and uncomfortable for me. But he was comfortable.
There was sunlight and birds chirping before I finally fell asleep. He had asked me what time I needed to wake up. I asked him what time he wanted me to leave.
“Don’t you have to work?”
Romantic me had imagined us having such a fun night that he wouldn’t want me to leave in the morning. I had packed my work laptop and charger so I could stay.
The next morning he got up and left the bed without so much as touching me or saying a word. He continued his yard work. When he returned, he told me it was 9:30 when I asked. I got up to brush my teeth and at least log on. There was no way I’d be able to work.
I sat in the kitchen alone for hours. Enough time to call my aunt and fill her in.
“You should not have stayed. I would have turned around the same night and gone home.”
I knew she was right. I’d thought the same, but low self-esteem and not knowing my worth kept me there. My humiliation skyrocketed again.
Around 11, he came into the kitchen. I told him I was hungry.
“There’s food in the fridge.”
“I’d like to be served, please. Don’t I usually serve you?”
He huffed and made his way to the refrigerator. Moments later he placed a plate in front of me. He served me my own food that I had brought over the night before…for him. I had spotted pots on the stove and storage bowls on the counter when I arrived the night before. I thanked him and ate it without saying a word. Only when I was done did I ask if he had eggs or other breakfast food.
We made our way to the couch, occupying the same spots as before. We watched a soccer game. Right before the match started and shortly after the players donning “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned jerseys had taken a knee, a plane had flown above with a “White Lives Matter” banner. His phone kept buzzing from his group chat where everyone was ganging up on him for being the lone wolf on a matter. He shared some with me.
He swore a lot and had negative commentary about a lot of things we watched. Quite out of character for him.
“What is wrong with you? You’re in such a bad mood with all this swearing and whatnot. Is this PTSD? The PTSD I wanted to avoid by not dating military men, cops and fireman.”
“I don’t know. I guess it is.” He smirked and didn’t seem apologetic.
Another aunt called to have me go online to file a claim for her unreceived stimulus check. We lazed on the couch for hours before he went to the bathroom. I heard running water. He knows I like to shower together. We almost always do, even during my period. Perhaps, he was cleaning the bathroom. From what I’d seen, it needed to be cleaned. The sound of running water continued.
When he exited the bathroom, I asked him if he’d just taken a shower.
“I’m sure you heard the water.”
“Why didn’t you ask me to join you?”
“Why didn’t you just come in? You always do.”
“I’m gonna go.” He didn’t try to talk me out of it. My dress was hanging on the doorknob in the foyer. Again, he saw me naked and was unfazed. I asked him to reimburse me the $52 Lyft ride.
“You didn’t ask me if I have cash.”
“Do you have your checkbook?”
With pursed lips, he wrote out the check. As he did so, I asked again why he hadn’t asked me to join him, especially after the tumultuous night we’d just had. It would’ve been a nice gesture. A way to make me feel wanted. Earlier that morning, he had said he wanted me to stay, but only after I asked him point blank if I should stay or leave. Otherwise, he never would’ve asked me to stay. He told me I should’ve joined him like I’ve done a million times before.
He tore the check from the book and handed it to me.
“You can fill in your name.”
I started to ask why he didn’t fill in my name, but he wouldn’t look at me. He looked straight ahead with a combined blank and agitated look on his face. I’d never seen his eyes so angry, as if I had done something wrong like hacking into his phone. This wasn’t the first time he reimbursed me with a check, but the first time he didn’t sign my name. He’d taken pride in learning how to spell my eight-letter first name and twelve-letter last name early on in our relationship. I asked if I had to wait to cash it. He waved me away and said I could cash it whenever.
My heart was in my throat. I didn’t allow the tears to come. I knew it was over. I couldn’t continue to fight for something that only I wanted. That only I ever wanted. I had promised myself that I would not settle nor remain in relationship just for the sake of being in one. I didn’t expect a fairytale. I wanted a 90s R&B love song. This fell all the way short. He had never claimed me in public, private, texts, emails, verbally. When I had asked him if he thought I was beautiful, he told me I was great. I told him I missed him, he didn’t say it back. What was I fighting for? Why was I throwing myself at him so hard? Even if he did care or love me the way I wanted, he would never go against his mother for me. When I told him I thought I might be positive for Corona, he told me his mother would never forgive me for getting him sick.
His mother never liked me. She didn’t like me before there was even a me. Once she suspected he was dating, she hated “the pussy that made him forget he had a home.” It was easy to imagine him walking away from the relationship if she demanded it. He’s a mama’s boy, though not in the traditional sense. He does not worship the ground she walks on, nor does she think the sun and moon rise and set on him. He feels an obligation to her and she thinks that he should act like the sun and moon rise and set on her. He’s her only child and she never married. Theirs is a toxic relationship beyond Level 10, worse than my father’s and mine.
He asked how far out the Lyft was. The app had said 2 minutes for well over 2 minutes. I had folded the t-shirt and shorts he loaned me and placed them on the kitchen table. He took them downstairs and returned shortly before the Lyft arrived. He walked me outside. In the exact spot where his mother and I had locked eyes. He kissed me on the cheek.
“Let me know when you get in.”
I replayed the whole night and the day in my head the whole ride home. I contemplated texting him my feelings from the car, but there was no point. I remembered a post online. “Delete the paragraph, sis, and move on. He doesn’t care.”
I got home and didn’t text or call. Neither did he. This is not how I had pictured us ending. Sure, despite discussions about color schemes, destination, wedding party size and guest list, I had doubts, HUGE doubts, about us ever making it to the altar one day, let alone having a happily ever after, but I would have bet money that we would have ended another way. Not like this.