I listened intuitively as the stout, almond colored, African-American, officer of the law, broke down the morbid details of the horrific accident that claimed the life of thirty-three year old, Natalie Barnes, the mother of my one and only child. I hadn’t spoken to her in over three months, and I remembered how heated the discussion became, but in spite of how much I detested her loose behavior and obnoxious demeanor; there was this certain place in my heart that I had saved for her.
After all, she was the mother of my thirteen year old son, Harlem Young.
I’m sure that the befuddled, distraught, expression on my face was baffling to the officer, and that he was probably wondering why I wasn’t wrought with grief, hearing about how twisted and mangled the vehicle she was riding in was but, the reality of things were pretty much as cold as the world we all live in; the end of her life marked the beginning of mine. I know how insensitive that must sound, but I’m just being real with my feelings.
Natalie Barnes’ life ceased being worth more than those expensive stilettos she wore without fail the day she locked arms with, Jensen Adams, the notorious, neighborhood, illegal pharmaceutical distributor. That was four years ago, when Harlem was only 13 years old and, needless to say, I was beyond pissed when I discovered that she had my seed in the company of dangerous individuals who didn’t have any respect for life. When my cousin, Mina Harper, dropped the news on me I immediately left the office and high tailed it over to Jensen’s house to retrieve my impressionable kid.
By the time I made it up the walkway that ran through the immaculately kept lawn, I was steaming like a kettle that had been on the fire long after the water had started boiling. I could literally feel the blood vessels bulging through my arms and across my head; her trifling, irresponsible antics were borderline neglect. How could a woman who had a child calling her mother be so callous about her responsibilities as one?
Our periodic reconciliations were only about fulfilling our lustful desires and nothing else, so it really didn’t surprise me that she wound up indulging in drugs and becoming part of the seedy underworld with all of its glamour and gloss. Natalie always wanted to live the high life, and because I was a lowly nine-to-five worker, her boredom with a simple life with me eventually caused her to stray. I saw it happening when Harlem was just five years old, but there wasn’t anything I could do.
The more I tried telling her that we’d have the house, the nice car, the money to do nice thing with eventually, the more she’d balk and throw tantrums. For her, later was taking too long and patience was one thing that she never possessed. It was a noticeable flaw in the beginning; how I thought that I could ever retain her affections and keep her satisfied when she wanted so much is beyond me, but the confrontation that day pretty much solidified the end.
I’m telling you, when there is a gun pointed at your temple it changes your entire perspective on things. Jensen pretty much warned me once that if I ever came around him, his woman, or his house again, that he would splatter my brains across his front yard without batting an eye. It was the only warning that I ever needed, and whenever I wanted to spend time with Harlem, she’d meet me in the parking lot of a shopping center to drop him off.
Whenever she showed up she was always made up like a common whore; her face was packed full of makeup, her attire was usually revealing, and she had enough karats on her fingers to cause a riot at a rabbit farm. The black, S Series Benz she drove was an announcement to the world that she had money, was about money, and didn’t want to know you if you didn’t have any money. The troubling part of all is that, Harlem was falling into the same train of thought as her; he wanted the same glitz and shine that his mother had, to him I was broke-ass-dad.
“Sir…sir…” the officer called, trying to snap me out of my painful moment of reminisce.
“Yes, man, I heard you,” I weakly said, as a lone tear streamed down my right cheek. You see, even though we were at odds with one another, I still loved her for carrying and delivering my son.
“There was a young man in the car as well, someone who witnessed the accident gave us your address and said that we should contact you about this young man, named Harlem Young,” he said, with calmness in his voice.
“Harlem! Is he okay? He didn’t die too, did he?” I asked, in a panic, praying that my son was okay.
“No, the young man survived the accident with a few minor scrapes and bruises, we have him in back of the squad car right now, we just wanted to make sure that the witness had all of her facts straight,” he said, turning from me, and giving a thumbs up to his partner who was standing outside the black and white police car.
Without ever thinking about it, I dashed past the officer who was talking to me, cutting him off mid-sentence. Whatever else he needed to say had to wait, the only thing that concerned me now was consoling my son. When he emerged from the backseat of the car, his facial expressions assured me that he was overwhelmed with sadness and, in that he was my son, my only son, that sadness filled me up as well. When we finally embraced, we both broke down and cried.
“She’s gone, dad, she’s gone…” he sobbed.
“It’s going to be alright, son, I’m here, Daddy is here…”
A life lived recklessly with just the desire for material things is one as warped as a plastic bottle over a fire. Soon it melts into a distorted image of what it used to be, and that it is how distorted the mother of my only child, Natalie Barnes, became. Her mission in life was to acquire as much wealth as possible; regardless of who she had to step on to get it. She was my first love and my first heartbreak.
It’s disheartening to watch someone you love transform into someone you hardly know right before your eyes, but Natalie did just that. Her parents used to always ask me why I was so patient with her and I’d tell them it’s because I knew her heart; I knew the core of who she was and that I had enough love within me to keep her grounded – I knew she loved me because no one could look anyone in the eyes the way she looked into mine – so deeply and lovingly.
Well, I must have been on Fantasy Island with the old gray-haired Mexican man, and his midget companion who wore the white suits, because we weren’t married a good two months before she began her ambitious quest to get the car, the clothes, and the money she so desperately craved. She went after material things like a crack head going after that crystallized white rock. The front door of our home was like a revolving door at Macy’s.
“You’re running the streets like a common whore…that’s no way for a wife, a pregnant wife, to be conducting herself! What about the welfare of our baby, you tramp ass bitch!” I yelled, as she passed by me with her middle finger held up with a smug smirk on her face.
It was one of a hundred times that I had to remind her of her delicate condition, but did that ever stop her from repulsive behavior? Hell no, she took what I said with a grain of salt and would always pack up more clothes for her two, three, or four day stays. I had no idea where she stayed until one of my friends hipped me onto her whereabouts.
“Brother, I don’t mean to get into you and your wife’s business, but I hate to see a brother being played,” Rodney Franklin, said to me on the low. He lived directly across the street from where we stayed and his wife, Cynthia, had the dirt on any and everyone.
“Look, my man, you’ve said this much, so go ahead on and tell me what you know – or should I say, what your wife told you. I know Cynthia is the one who tipped you off,” I told him, with my arms crossed tightly.
He looked around to make sure none of the other neighbors were in ear shot, and once he was certain no one was paying attention to us he started filling up my ears with everything he knew. The longer he talked, the angrier I got. It’s no wonder so many “good” black men wind up with high blood pressure – dealing with certain black women would put you in the grave quicker than a diet of pork and beef.
Instead of putting myself into harm’s way by confronting her in front of the brother who was filling her head with dreams of grandeur, and obliviously keeping her purse fat with green, I decided to sit and wait until she came home to get dead in her ass. It took three days, three long days of waiting before I heard her pull up in the driveway and when I opened the door my mouth dropped wide open.
“Bitch, where in the fuck did you get that Benz from…?” I asked her, walking toward her with a fury building up inside of me that I had to contain. Even though this was just a memory, the rage inside of me still had a kick to it.
It was a moment that I would never forget as long as I lived – I knew I had lost her, because there was no way, on my salary, that I could ever afford the diamonds she wore around her neck, or the S Series Mercedes she was sporting now. Needless to say, my world changed that day. I held onto a small piece of hope, thinking that the birth of our first child would snap her back to her senses.
That tiny piece of hope vanished as I was standing at the nursery window, thirteen years ago, looking at my son, because who did I see coming up the hospital corridor out the corner of my eyes on that blessed day? No soap opera writer could have ever written something as cold as that encounter at the hospital.
With a bunch of congratulatory balloons in one hand, and a large, black ass teddy bear, beneath his arms, Jensen Adams, the sucka who she had been spending her time with showed up looking every bit like the callous bastard he was, grinning like a demon and dressed like a baller. He had more ice around his neck than a damn polar bear in one of the poles, and a flashy designer suit that reeked of blood money.
“What’s happening, blue-collar brotha…pardon me while I go check in on my lady and the little one,” he said, chuckling like a wicked clown in a horror movie.
Her parents and my parents looked at me in disgust.
But that was then, and this was now.
Her funeral service was packed with relatives, friends, and that same hustler I encountered at the hospital. He was sitting in the front pew of the church with the family and that is when I did what I should’ve have done at the hospital. I leaped over her mother and father and grabbed him around the throat. There were screams of horror as I went after him like a crazed animal – I wanted to choke the life out of him for ruining my family.
“Daddy…what are you doing,” I heard my son say in the cloud of rage I was in.
“Harlem, son, this motherfucker is the reason why your mother is dead. If she would have been at home where she belonged, she would have never been in that car where she…where she…” I started sobbing uncontrollably. I suppose, regardless of how she had done me, I still loved her, but death ruled out any reconciliation.
“Motherfucker, you don’t know who you just put your hands on, you’ll be dead before the end of this day!” He said, straightening out the collar of his silk shirt.
“Whatever you’re going to do, do it now you slick ass fucker…do it in front of all of these witnesses so that they can haul your ass off to that cell you will eventually wind up in soon,” I said, gritting my teeth, wiping away the tears of anger and sadness.
He chuckled triumphantly.
“There’s a funeral service going on…what kind of idiot are you to desecrate the observance of someone’s passing?” He scoffed, shaking his head in pity.
“Baby, now is not the time for all of that…sit down, you’re making a fool of yourself, and disrespecting her family,” my mother said, in a hushed tone, pulling me backwards towards her and my father.
“How could you, Daddy?” My son said, with pain etched on his face, and sorrow in his eyes.
It was another moment I had to stifle because it was the wrong place at the wrong time. The world had been throwing me some serious curve balls, and the only good thing I had out of that marriage to her was my son, Harlem, and based on his reaction I wasn’t sure how much of him I still had. To keep the peace I sat silent throughout the rest of the service, and held onto him as if I were holding on to dear life – and I was at that point.
Author G. D. Grace reserves all rights and reproduction without written permission is not permitted. If found, legal action will be taken against the person(s) or company(s) that have cut or pasted (Plagiarized) any portion of this written document. Author, G. D. Grace; Published © 2010 September