Losing Time

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young Haitian-America adult male, flashes back to the events that led up to a life changing experience, one that made him see what's important in life.

Submitted: August 09, 2011

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Submitted: August 09, 2011

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A few times on our lunch dates my mother would say to me, “Tan ale, li pa tounen,” a Haitian proverb meaning time goes but it never comes back.  She’d said it to remind me I was losing time with my family—a plea to get me to move back home without actually saying it, but I’d never acknowledged her words, just gave her a simple, “Oui mama,” and changed the subject to whatever was new at Tatie Maggie’s house.  The fact is I’d probably been more concerned about how to kill time then worrying about losing it, until the day I was dying.

It just happened to be a case of wrong place at the wrong time; the type of shit you see on TV and regardless of living in Brooklyn, you never really think it’s gonna happen to you.  But I had no way of knowing some crazy old white guy would be robbing the gas station.  I walked in, twenty in hand, blind.  I didn’t have time to register the gun before I felt my flesh split and a sharp pain in my chest, which knocked me to the ground.  Everything turned black before I had time to even look down and see the warm blood soak my shirt.

When you’re lost somewhere between life and death time passes and you have no clue.  There are no clocks or calendars in the unconscious world.  There’s nothing much in the unconscious world, just a black background.  There was nothing significant, no flashbacks or conversations with dead family members or messages from God about how you should be living my life, nothing memorable like that.  And I’m sure if any of those things happened I’d remember or have some sort of feeling that something significant had happened but I didn’t. I didn’t wake up with any life changing epiphany or a sudden need to change the world or anything like that.

I figure maybe I had a regular dream with no special meaning, just an ordinary dream like any other night I go to sleep.  I never remember my dreams but if I had to guess, I was probably back in that hotel room with Freeda. 

Freeda Manning is the most important person in my life, aside from my mother and my sister, but they are family.  Freeda is my girl, my best friend, and the one person who knows me better than anyone.  She’s the full package and the only girl that’s been worth me being faithful.  She’s beautiful with dimpled cheeks on smooth honey colored skin, bright hazel eyes with long lashes, and long, thick, black hair that falls to the center of her back. And on top of all that, the girl is cool, funny, and smart, goes to school for psychology, and spends her afternoons tutoring for the Big Sister program.  She has an aura about her that makes you feel good no matter how shitty your day was. I’ve never cared about keeping a girl as much as I cared about keeping her.

We spent the night at the Travel Inn Hotel in the city for my 20th birthday.  The hotel was nice, very clean, and the white lady at the front desk who checked us in was very cheery and polite, not seeming to care that we were a young black couple.  There were no decorations except a large pumpkin filled with butterscotch candy on the desk.  I grabbed a few and put them in my pocket before we went up.  Room 2912 was a large square with white walls and a navy carpet, and polished wood furniture.  The queen sized bed was perfectly made, the navy comforter lay on top of white sheets, folded in the middle, and the thick white pillows were perfectly arranged against the headboard.  I’d never slept on a queen sized bed before and just the idea of being able to sleep on it comfortably, with my girl next to me had me feeling good, real good.  In that moment, I swear I loved Freeda 10x more than I had 20 minutes before.  It was her that made it happen; she had saved her money for that $200 hotel room so we could spend the night together, someplace nice on my birthday without me having to sneak out at 6 in the morning before her mom woke up and without having to keep quiet when we had sex.

I pulled her close to me as soon as the door was shut, held her slender body in my arms, taking in the light scent of her peach body spray.  I kissed her softly at first, placing tiny pecks on her soft full lips, gradually getting deeper, kissing her more passionately.  I wanted to move to the bed right then and there but she stopped me, pulled away, and said sweetly, “Plenty of time for that.”  I loved to hear her speak, loved to hear that Southern accent she’d gained living the first 14 years of her life in North Carolina. I smiled and said, “Okay,” gave her a quick kiss and looked into those hazel eyes.They were smiling, laughing, happy, just like mine were.

We spent the evening eating Dominos pizza and drinking screw drivers, and watching funny DVDs in between rounds of sex.  After the last time we both fell asleep almost immediately, leaving our mess scattered on the floor.  It was the best sleep I’d had in years. 

In the morning, we showered together, another new experience for us.  I liked the fact that we could be intimate in this way and not have to rush. 

Although I appreciated her doing this for me, in the back of my mind I was trying not to let it bother me that it had taken nearly a year into our relationship and her putting the money down for a hotel room, for us to have all this uninhibited alone time.  In the cheap $40.00 motels I could afford, we only had time for one thing and then we were out of there. 

I tried to remember that soon it’d be like this all the time.  Still, I wish I could’ve done it but I found it impossible to dip into my savings for anything unnecessary.  Dunkin Donuts had cut my hours bad, making it hard to live off of, let alone save.  But I had got lucky; Johnny hooked me up with a job.  I’d almost started selling for him but didn’t want the trouble so I choose to drive one of his dolla vans instead, and with all that extra money coming in it was a matter of a time before I was able to get my own place.

***

I sat on the edge of the bed in my boxers and watched her get dressed.

“Why are you looking at me like that? You better stop, you need to get some clothes on. You know we gotta be outta here in 20 minutes.”

“I know,” I said giving her a seductive look.

She matched that look with a sexy smile of her own.  A quickie, I could see it in her eyes, but she played the game well and distracted me with a kiss while she pinched my nipples.

“Ooww Damn!”

She laughed, an evil grin pasted on her face, “Told you to stop,” she said sticking her tongue out at me.

I got up quickly, threw her down on the bed, and tickled her mercilessly until I heard her say, “Ok, ok, ok, I’m sorry!” 

I fell back on the bed laughing.  This cat and mouse game is a regular in our relationship.

***

As we walked out and left our room behind, the fact that I would probably be sleeping on that uncomfortable air mattress on my Cousin Mark’s bedroom floor, hit me hard.  I didn’t want to go back to that, not tonight, not ever.  My chest felt heavy as frustration worked its way inside of me.  I stayed quiet as we waited for the elevator, keeping my face neutral, but she knew something was wrong. 

She poked my stomach and made a silly face.

I looked at her and said, “What’s up,” in a low tone.

“Why you so quiet?”

“Nothin’ just don’t wanna go home now.”

“Aaww bay-bee,” she said, making a cute face, showing off those dimples.  She threw her arm around my shoulder, pulling me towards her and gave me what Bill Cosby coined as a zerbert— one of those sloppy fart kisses on the cheek.  She was always being silly and I couldn’t be mad at her for trying to make me laugh; she came close though.

I smiled, shaking my head at her, as I wiped my cheek and entered the empty elevator.

We walked around the city for a bit, mostly window shopping, looking at the Halloween decorations scattered across Time Square, and pointing out the adult entertainers dressed as familiar television and movie characters like Harry Potter.

We ended up in Downtown Brooklyn, eating breakfast for lunch at IHOP.  We sat in there and wasted time till she had to go to work. 

***

The bus dropped me off right across the street from P.S. 256.  I tried to pick Sabrina up from school at least once a week, check-up on her, make sure everything was cool at the house.  I never really needed to worry; Sabrina was a good kid, eight years old, shy, sweet, and good in school.

Halloween was especially important to me, it had been our tradition for the past 2 years that I pick her up from school and take her trick-or-treating.  I didn’t want her to miss it the way I did.My parents had never been fond of Halloween and hated the American tradition of trick-or-treating.  As a child they told me “it’s dun-ger-us,” their thick accents pronouncing each syllable.  It seemed everything had been “dun-ger-ous” when I was growing up and I missed out on a lot because of it.

Swarms of parents and children surrounded the building and I had to say “excuse me” about 50 times just to get to the front door.  When I walked into the large gym where the kids were dismissed, it only took a few minutes for Princess Tiana in a sparkly pink dress, and pink tiara, to notice me and come running, crashing into me .

“Hiiiii Stanley,” she said.

“Hi Sabrina,” I said laughing as I hugged her back.  “Mmm lemme guess… Cinderella, right?”

“Noooo,” she smiled and rolled her eyes.

“Ooohh I got it, how could I make that mistake you’re obviously Sleeping Beauty!”

She rolled her eyes again, “Staaanley!”

“What? What did I do?” I said laughing.

“Because you know who I am, you bought the costume,” she said making her mean face.

I pinched her cheeks lightly and said, “I know and you are so cute,” mocking the way people speak to babies.  She pushed my hand away, her face scrunched up, half pouting, and a slight smile poking through.  Still laughing, I grabbed her backpack and zipped up her jacket, slowly but surely that half pout turned into a full smile.

I took her around a few blocks, avoiding my parent’s block completely.  Last thing I needed was to run into my father.  Somehow I’d managed to successfully avoid him for 3 years.  He was just as stubborn as me and didn’t feel the need to apologize for what he deemed pinisyon for his son bringing dwòg into his house.  I didn’t bring shit into his house, he just smelled something and assumed.  I’d gotten used to the belt ass whoopings but damn near cracking my jaw was crossing the line. 

I helped Sabrina hide the two handfuls of candy I’d let her keep in various compartments in her backpack.  I told her not to eat it all at once or she wasn’t getting the rest.  My mother knew I took her but acted like she didn’t.  I watched from down the block as she walked to my parent’s house, midway down Avenue N.

By 6 o’clock I’d begun my usual route up and down Flatbush Avenue, finishing my run over by Atlantic at about midnight.  A big dude and his girlfriend were my last passengers.  “Good-night” I said to them as I collected $4 from the guy, watching them crouch down as they got out the van.  I sat parked for awhile, counting my money, and was satisfied walking away with $136 for the night. 

I’d planned on running the van back to Johnny’s house; give him his 15% and then walk eight blocks over to Alex’s house, hoping if his girl wasn’t there, we could chill and smoke and I could pass out on his couch.  But I never made it.

***

It took three whole days before light finally broke through, three days of unawareness, three days of lost time.

The conscious world was fuzzy at first, swaying as if looking out from a boat, and it took me a moment for things to come together.  My father’s face was the first thing I saw.  He looked up when he saw my knee move under the white sheet.  He looked old and pale, his eyes moist, lips dry and outlined in white.  The lines in his forehead, which were usually tight, angry, were looser now, worried.I didn’t know what to make of his presence.  Slowly I turned my head.  I saw the IV to my right, the heart monitor next to it, but I had not yet been able to place myself in a hospital.  I hadn’t even registered the fact that I was lying in a foreign bed, my mind was blank. 

And then he spoke, his words soft as he looked upwards, “Merci bon Dieu!” That simple motion of looking up to thank God, along with my father’s distraught face, and the machines all around me, I remembered what happened. 

I felt his moist hand touch mine and it was then that I looked down and realized my father’s position, kneeling beside my bed but rising now, his eyes fixed on my face. 

 “What’s up old man,” I said in Kreyol with a slight smile, trying to keep the moment light.  The words came out very hoarse and rough and even the slight cough to clear my throat caused a dull pain in my chest.  My father didn’t respond, he just kept whispering, “Mwen regrèt,” his eyes locked on me, starring at me as if waiting for me to disappear.

 “It’s ok,” I said.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the vulnerability in his deep brown eyes, something I could never recall seeing before.

Silence remained between us for what felt like hours but what must’ve been only a few minutes, until my mother and Freeda walked in the room, coffee cups in their hands.  They had been talking but stopped when they saw me, sadness written on their faces, though not as devastating as my father. It was weird seeing them together, in the same space; family and friends had always been separate in my world. 

My mother rushed over and gave me a kiss, asking me if I was ok and telling me she loved me and a whole bunch of other things, which she said too fast for me to really catch. 

Freeda was standing in the doorway.I looked over at her and she smiled, “Glad to have you back,” she said as she inched her way closer to me.  She took a seat at the edge of the bed and put her hand gently on my leg.

I grinned, “You don’t have to worry about me, I wasn’t going nowhere,” cockiness in my tone. 

She rolled her eyes and gave a half smile, “Always trying to be brave.”

I wanted to say “I love you,” but I looked up at my mother first, her eyes were right on me, that sadness beginning to fade. 

I looked over at my father, who by now had taken a seat in a chair a few feet away from my bed, watching my mother, watching me, occasionally letting his eyes fall on Freeda.  He was quiet but I knew there were things weighing on his mind, things that were too soon to discuss, things we may never discuss.  But it didn’t seem to matter anymore.

 


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