The Art of Being Un-Wired: Chapter Seven - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

The Art of Being Un-Wired: Chapter Seven

(Read the other chapters here.)

I understood what Mr. Dickerson was saying, but still I loved Francisco.  I was a woman caught in a relationship that required away more effort to break free from than to stay in.  And so, when Francisco was not working he did everything around the house but cook.  The yard was always immaculate.  The laundry washed, ironed and put away.  My blouses couldn’t have looked better if I had taken them to the dry cleaners.  He did inventory of the groceries, clipping coupons, only shopping at stores that had double off and sales on the items that we ate on a regular basis. When the savings were substantial, as they often were, he would save the receipt, making a point of showing it to me when I came home from work. I had to admit he ran a tight ship. Even so, unlike Francisco, I still found none of this even remotely Cosbyseque.  But Francisco did not know this. To him it made no difference that his father was not a physician, but was a known drug dealer, or that his mother didn’t practice law, but had acted as a madam, advising two generations of girls in the fine art of customer satisfaction. Still it came as a surprise when he said, “Babe, I think we need to have a baby.”

“Why not, babe? I could do the house husband thing. I mean, I’m already doing it. How hard could it be to cart around a little Francisco or Estella?” Hearing this I’d smile, not commenting, and sometimes changing the subject to escape his concentrated and questioning gaze.  But this did not deter him. Finally, to be done with, I told him I couldn’t have a baby. That something wasn’t right with me. This he seemed to accept. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t want him to be the father of my child. He had one son he never saw, and I knew how it was to be fatherless, even sporadically so, though Pete had been as good a stepfather as a man could be before leaving, especially considering the wife he had chosen to leave was Glory.

In some ways Francisco reminded me of Pete, the only man I knew for any real length of time as a father. He married Glory soon after we moved to Florida. He left the family when I turned ten, saying as he left out the door, “You done throwed that Bible at me one too many times, woman. You don’t know when to stop having at a man, that’s your problem.”  Once when he thought no one was home, I remember over hearing him talking to a friend, and around this same time, I started to notice things, an item here, an item there—his–missing from the house.

“Yeah, I’ve been takin’ it slow, got to, man.  A piece here, a piece there.”

“It’s like that, Pete? That bad?”

“Man, it’s gotten to the point where I’m startin’ to think my name is ‘Furthermore Pete,’ and not Pete Tinsdale.”

“Yeah, but what about the kids?”

“Dyson will be fine, he’s his mother son, but Essy, that’s another story.  She’s not mine, but she’s my baby girl. Everything about her is me all over.” A month later he was gone.

Pete, like Francisco, had a big heart and was also a dreamer, only Pete was law abiding, a straight shooter, and, unlike Francisco, he didn’t have a shiftless bone in his body.  What Francisco was, was a 185 pound testosterone overloaded child who couldn’t push a broom for even three months without becoming either bored or depressed, sometimes both. He couldn’t sell hot DVD players out of his truck without getting arrested and going to jail for six months.  He couldn’t jaywalk without getting a citation and tongue lashing from some wet behind the ears parking cop .

Feeling this way, made me sad those times he’d tugged at my sleeve, smiling as he pointed to some cute kid.  Still of all the things I had indulged Francisco, having his baby wasn’t going to be one of them.

That’s why it came as a surprise when four months short of our second anniversary, I was pregnant. I bawled for three days straight. I cried for two of the those day at home, curled into a fetal position in the center of the bed, with Francisco smiling and jumping around, supportive in that he couldn’t cook a lick, but he went to all our takeout restaurants and got all my favorites. When people asked was this his “first”? he said yes, and then followed this with how we wanted more, but really didn’t care as long as it’s healthy. This only served to make me even more depressed. Until I finally pulled myself out my funk, returning to work, buoyed by Glory, who called everyday to send “prayers and blessings” to her grandchild through the phone line.

I had hoped with Francisco’s enthusiasm, Glory’s acceptance, and my own love of children, I’d have a change of heart and want to raise a child with Francisco. And though I knew I could walk away from what we had: A mixed platter of co-dependence intermingled with a big helping of off the chart attraction; I also understood I could never keep our baby away from him. Then God intervened, and I slipped, falling most of the way down the Tudor’s highly waxed and gleaming stairs.  Francisco heard the scream and ran, picking me up and racing me to the hospital.  I lost the baby.  I was sad, but even so, I felt a weight lifted. Francisco cried. He yelled. He cursed everyone except me and God. Glory quiet at first, listened to my regrets and sorrows at learning it was a girl. I told her I had thought to give a girl the middle name Estella after us both. She grunted, saying, “Naming a child after a parent, or a grandparent’s, too much of a burden, especially when the child isn’t up to the weight.”

I looked back at her, my hands roped with veins, my eyes wet with disgust.

Glory continued. “I know what you did, and I done forgived you. But I want you to know killing a baby is an abomination, and there will be consequences.”  I had no words for her.  I simply wished her a safe trip as she went about her travels.  And even as we tried to get back into our rhythm, it was if something in Francisco had hardened toward me, as though he too believed that I, his Estella, would do something so heinous. Three months later, we decided that to keep trying as we had been was way more painful than going on without each other.

I had been sitting on the couch a full hour, and would have been there the rest of the day if there hadn’t been knocking at the door.  Even so, I no longer felt that overwhelming urge to talk to Francisco. Sitting there in my new home, looking down at the brand new wood floors, and even hearing the unfamiliar chime of the doorbell now ringing more urgently, I knew I no longer had a need to talk to Francisco.  I also knew the tears drying on my face, would be the last ones I’d ever shed having anything to do with him.

Jose was nothing if not a man true to his word.  He stood there just inside the door with the yellow bag from Best Buy, filled with among other items, several yards of telephone wire.

“I’m not too early?”

“I thought we said tomorrow?”

“I’m too early,” he said, turning to leave.

“No, you’re right on time, Jose,” I said, touching my fingers to my face once more to make sure there were no more tears.  I’d sigh every so often as Jose went about his wiring, smiling when he’d look over at me with a questioning look. “Everything’s fine,” I said, nodding, feeling better, but still a little too exposed.

Once Jose finished, I wanted to show my appreciation, in addition to paying him for installing the alarm, but didn’t think cookies or a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade would do.  Also I didn’t want my gratitude to be misunderstood. There were cookies and there were cookies.  Instead, I shook his hand, telling him again how much I appreciated all he had done, and that I’d call Rudy to let him know what a great job he had done.

Jose blushed, saying, “You’re happy, then I’m happy, Miss.  I like working on your house.  Your taste is good. Someday I’ll have a home like this.”  Then he reached out and kissed me on the cheek, and three more times, but with those kisses he allowed his lips to travel over to my mouth, where they lingered.  Before I could either protest or push him away, he stepped back.

“You are very beautiful,” he said.

You’re muy bonita,” I said.

Then he picked up his tool bag and was gone.

 to be continued…

About the author

Willett Thomas

Willett Thomas is the president of Write of Passage, Inc. She earned her MA in writing from Johns Hopkins. She has received artist fellowships from Blue Mountain Center and the Millay Colony. She was selected as a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation fellow for the District of Columbia, and is the recipient of the 2008 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award for fiction. Contact the author.

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