Friday, October 30, 2015

A short story, trying to capture hopelessness.

For the hundredth time, just like the first time, I feel the smooth ash banister on my palm as I mount the porch steps. It is light, and I am dark. One, two, three, then the porch. I can’t feel my feet on the wood, sanded so finely that it feels like silk to the touch, sealed but not varnished, expensive. God, so expensive.

A tiny dark circle suddenly appears, near my right foot. The porch roof is new, it’s not raining, what…? Oh. I reach up and carefully wipe away the tears that have leaked onto my cheeks without my knowledge or permission. Wouldn’t do to get it wet. Not after I paid so much for it.

I open the front door for the thousandth time, and it’s like the first time. With wonder, I cast my eyes over the spacious foyer. I feel momentarily elated: this is my home, I made it. I had taken the outdated fixtures and shag carpet and tiny rooms and I had fixed them with hardwood flooring, recessed lighting, and fewer obstructing walls. I’d had it done, and I’d handed over my credit card.

In a fog, I float up the curved staircase (mine) to the nursery. Robin’s-egg blue, fluffy clouds painted near the ceiling. This room is really mine. I’d painted this room myself, and with every stroke of the roller I’d covered the growing dread.

“Honey, I don’t think this is working,” he had said.

“We just need a change,” I had said. “We can work through it. I know—what if we bought a house?”

We bought the house. It was an investment. Yeah, the mortgage payment was high, but he had a good job and it was only going to get better; if we needed help, we could ask his parents. Mine… well, I don’t want to talk about mine.

“Jaleesa, can we talk?” he’d asked me.

“I’m pregnant,” I’d answered.

“What? H-how?”

“I…” stopped taking my birth control, we need more, we need glue to keep us together, “I don’t know. It’s only ninety-nine percent effective you know. With those odds…”

But his eyes, blue with light lashes, his eyes said he knew the odds. With our problems, we weren’t often intimate. We weren’t going to beat them.

I place my hand on my belly, for the millionth time, and every time is the first time. I am swollen with child. I’m due in eight weeks, but I don’t know how to get through the next eight days. Love like a river, for the baby who isn’t here yet but whose existence is felt in every bank statement and bowel movement, flows through me, but it’s laced throughout with fear—desperate, desperate fear.

“Jaleesa, I met someone else,” he had told me.

“I’m pregnant,” I had wailed.

“I know. You can have it all. I know how much you love this house.”

“Wait… can’t we… don’t we…” I’d grabbed at his arm, held it tightly with the strength of a desperate woman.

He looked down at me and I could see that his eyes had tears standing in them. Not heartless, then. “Hon—Jaleesa, I tried to talk to you. So many times. You never talked back.” And then he was gone, bag in hand, to the taxi. And I stood on my porch, and to the left and right I saw my white neighbors on their beautiful porches, staring at us—at me. I could hear their thoughts: things were going back to how they should be.

The mortgage payment is due. It’s been due for a couple of months now. He owes me no alimony, because the house is worth so much. And because our judge was white, just like he is white. It’s too late to sell this house (MY house): the bank will foreclose before anything could be finalized. I don’t want to sell, anyway. I don’t want to be chased out of my dream house, my dream neighborhood, my dream life. What will I do? How will I care for my child? He had the health insurance, and he gave me no forwarding address.

For the first time—yes, the first time—in the hostile air of the exposed front yard, I walk out and sit down on the porch steps. I can hear their thoughts again (what does she think this is the ghetto), but I don’t care. I will sit here until someone takes me away. Maybe that person will know where I can go.

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