3 – Love Don’t Live Here (Zyara)

I can’t do this anymore. I’m just existing with no purpose in this relationship and it’s really a waste of time. The lovemaking feels like a slow death. Each thrust is an attack to my core. I am convinced that I am truly paying for something I did wrong in my past life. I just pray for him to hurry up and get off of me. I know there are other women and I am tired of the disrespect. I am tired of arguing with him. He knows I know too but he won’t admit it. I feel defeated and I can’t function. I’m like a zombie at work and I can barely retain anything in class.

The reality cinder block hit me when I came home early from work to find a woman in my apartment. In my bedroom. In my bed. Our bed. The bed that we slept in. Mark was in the shower so he hadn’t heard me come in. I knew something was up when Shawn had a surprised look on his face when I came through the door. At eight years old, my son was extremely perceptive. He knew something was about to go down.

Shawn was in the living room alone watching cartoons. I’m assuming Mark had a fuck session while watching his son and decided to take a shower, leaving his whore lying in my bed. Chyna. She was slightly older than I was and she lived in Virginia. It seemed Mark had a thing for older women. It appeared that she was in town and Mark had her over because no one would expect me to be home so early. She sat up in the bed when she saw me and was speechless. She clutched the sheets over her breasts as if she were caught off guard. Not sure how off guard she could’ve been knowing that she was sleeping in another woman’s bed. Chyna had professed her love for Mark in letters I’d found in our closet some months back so I knew she wasn’t just a whore he was fucking. Funny enough, it felt good to finally put a face to the name. Something about when a man is cheating, the girlfriend always wants to know what the other woman looks like. As if her looking better or looking worse has some sort of bearing on how angry she’ll be.

I’m not a fighter. I didn’t fight. No vibes no scene. I just left. I didn’t even take Shawn with me. I remember asking him “You want anything from the store?” He asked to go with me. He got up and started to put on his little sneakers. My poor son knew I was hurt and he wanted to be Mommy’s partner in this. I told Shawn not to worry. “I’ll be back, I promise.” I backed out of the apartment and walked into the hallway, down the stairs and to the train station. I was hurt, yes. But it was that hurt that puts you beyond tears. That place where you’re just numb. You know the part of the movie when everything’s happening all at once and the protagonist is just standing there in silence? Yeah, that was me. In spite of knowing what it was, seeing it in my face was something I wasn’t prepared for. Now what was I supposed to do?

I called Ayanna because she knew the story. She’d been telling me to leave Mark for years. In fact, Ayanna had been on a date one night some years back with one of her random dudes and saw Mark at the movie theater with a woman. She called me immediately and told me. Like the thug that she is, she asked me “Do you want me to say something to his ass?! You know I will.” I knew she would but I told her not to. It wasn’t worth it. I was torn inside but it was just the beginning of what would be a series of difficult situations I’d have to navigate through.

I was trying to stick it out for the family. I had a connection to this man and it wasn’t as simple as just packing and leaving. I mean, where would I go? It was just too much to think about right now. I never thought I’d be here. At 26, I always envisioned myself in a different place. I should’ve been married and finished with school by now. At least that was the plan. I got pregnant straight out of high school and the rest just happened from there. I don’t regret my little man, not in the least. But if I had to do it all over again, I think I might have waited.

I had to work before thinking about going to school. So I did what I needed to. Fast food, office work, airport security, whatever I needed to do to make ends meet. I just thought life would be easier with a partner. Having a partner I learned made it worst. I dreaded coming home because love wasn’t there anymore. I longed for that feeling of anxiety when he’d walk through the door and instead of greeting him with an attitude, I’d embrace him, tell him how much I’d missed him, and how much I wanted to show him after he showered and climbed in the bed with me. Those days were long gone however, and I was over the idea of sharing those moments with Mark.

Mark knew I’d come by the apartment . I could tell from the missed phone calls that started to invade my phone. Fuck him. I never answered. I just sat in the coffee shop on Fulton and stared out the glass window at the traffic and the people moving hastily on with their lives. I was sad but not angry. Sad because I knew I had to make a move but my poor baby would suffer. My brain was tired. It was a Wednesday and I needed just enough strength to make it to Friday.

While I sat in the coffee shop, Djembe called me. We’d been texting each other periodically but nothing too serious. Mostly “hey, how are you” or “hope all is well”, playing it safe. It was probably too soon to lay all of this drama on him but when he called and asked if I was free, I gave him my location so he could meet me.

Djembe arrived at the coffee shop in a little under 20 minutes. He was dressed in dark fitted blue jeans, a black defining button up shirt, suede sneakers and a plaid blazer. He had a fresh haircut and smelled of everything heavenly. He was tall and took great care of his body, especially his shoulders. Djembe was about 10 years older than me and had this sensuous appeal to him. It wasn’t the way he talked or they way he’d gently touch my shoulder. It was his gaze. He could’ve been talking about candy corn, but his eyes were piercingly sincere and he looked right through me. For the duration of our sitting, I found it difficult to make eye contact. I was in such a weird place, I didn’t know what to disclose or what to suppress.

He had been in the military and was well traveled by 37. He’d been all over and shared his fascination with the many cultures he’d come across during his travels. I’m not sure what it was about him coming to me at that moment, but I knew something was happening. I was connecting to this man but not sure why or what this would become. I was vulnerable but I played it cool. We caught up on classes we were taking, work and life in general. He was taking the second part to the Chemistry course and some other courses. I was still completing some prerequisites and trying to figure out if I would still stay in the Medical Assistant program.

My phone continued to ring so I just turned off the phone. Djembe suggested we take walk, if I had the time. Shit, I had all the time in the world, right now. We left the coffee shop and headed to his vehicle. Djembe opened the passenger door for me and closed it once I was sitting comfortably.  We headed to Tillary Street and parked alongside the park where some guys were playing a serious game of basketball. We headed over to the Brooklyn Bridge. As we approached the opening of the bridge, Djembe took my hand in his. I was shy and nervous but I reciprocated and held his too.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I got back home. I just knew I was with this man right now. I didn’t think about tomorrow or yesterday. I was just in that moment. Enjoying his attention, his soothing voice, his aroma. He was everything I was missing and I didn’t know what to do. He was a gentleman and he seemed to worry if I were comfortable with him. He was calming and I needed him, right now. It was as if what happened earlier hadn’t even happened. I was in a safe place and wanted to stay there. But I knew I had to go home and prepare for the next day.

Djembe was pleasant and gentlemanly and appealed to my senses. I knew, if the opportunity presented itself, I would take full advantage of it.