“This is a stupid idea,” Antonio mumbles, again and again, trying to will himself to turn the car around, go home, or at least back to the bar. Get another drink.
He’s not drunk. Nope, not at all, he tells himself. The speedometer needle teeters between 85 and 90 as he flies through the residential area. Lights whiz by him in a blur. One of them might have been red—he can’t tell, he can’t really see.
But he’s not drunk.
This is Renee’s fault, really. He should have left Mother Goose’s when Mitchell carried Natasha’s drunk ass out of there. But Renee lured him in with that “concerned Christian” act, even offered him the rest of her hot wings.
Antonio sucks on his tongue, smacks his teeth against the insides of his cheeks. He can still taste the cayenne, the smell of smoke flavor on his breath. It agitates the back of his throat, as if he’s just inhaled a huge helping of finely ground pepper. He coughs, heaves, feels like he’s choking, like his throat is constricting in a delayed allergic reaction to whatever that was he ate off of Renee’s plate. Those weren’t hot wings, more like hell fire on a bone. Tears start to stream down from the corners of his eyes. The glide across his face at diagonal angles to moisten his ear lobes. He’s not crying. It’s just the leftover burn from the food, like slicing a yellow onion or a jalapeño pepper.
He rolls down the window for a rush of cold air to cool him off. Maybe it’ll alleviate the headache that’s also been building since he stormed out of the bar after Renee took her “You’ve been on my heart. How can I pray for you?” speech a step to far by mentioning Elise.
“Fucking bitch. I hate her!” he screams at the top of his lungs. Not Renee. He knows she means well, but she’s gotta learn when she’s overstepped her boundaries. And quoting James 1:19 isn’t going to make his situation any easier. He should know; he’s read it ten times today.
…quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…
Easy for James to say. He’s never had to deal with a spitfire like Elise. There’s no listening to her. She’ll make your ears literally bleed, the way she runs at the mouth. And she always shoots below the belt. Antonio has no doubt in his mind that she can make a cold-hearted gangster—with two first-degree murders and assault with intention to kill topping his long rap sheet—cry. And not just cry, but ugly cry. Snot running down his face, nose so red it lights its way through the fog like Rudolph leading Santa’s sleigh, eyes so puffy from all the waterworks it looks like a nigga broke out into hives.
Antonio has ugly cried twice for Elise. The first time was Thanksgiving of 2013, when she casually told his sister and brother-in-law at the dinner table, loud enough for everyone—who was still eating—to hear that he licked her ass and that she was a little suspicious about why he would go for the back and not the front, like most men do—most straight men. He could have punched her right there in the neck. And of course she decided to omit the fact that she had asked for it, that he only did it once, that it would never happen again because the bitch farted in his face.
You don’t say that shit to a man’s family. You just don’t. They already knew he wasn’t a saint. And they’ve seen the ass on her, that it’s easier on the eyes than her actual face, even more so when she opens her mouth because she talks like she has a second grader’s education and a dukes of hazard upbringing. Clearly their relationship was primarily sexual, but she didn’t have to spell it out for them! And then to question his masculinity on top of that! Who does that? Who fucking does that!
But that’s Elise. She’s not her unless she’s bringing a nigga down to his knees. The second time was when he begged her not to leave him. He begged her. After he’d caught her cheating. After she’d told him there was a possibility that Ryder wasn’t his. After she’d called off the wedding, having cheated again with his best man. He still wanted that bitch!
“Sometimes we think that’s what we deserve,” Renee said at the bar. “We’re so deep in our sin and our mess that we think we’re not worthy, that God won’t forgive us. So we dig deeper into the darkness, instead of crawling out into the light. But God has bigger and better plans for you.”
He can’t see those plans right now, although the tears blot his eyes like cloudy fish scales. But he’s not crying, won’t give Elise the satisfaction of making him ugly cry a third time. And he can see enough to pull into the drive way of the condo she’s renting.
He stumbles out, the car still running, but he’s pretty sure he put it in park. He knocks on the door, bangs on it. He knows she’s still up. That bitch doesn’t sleep unless it’s with another nigga, usually to spite Antonio. Who is she with this time?
He knocks harder, kicks the door with all his strength but stops after the second time when he looses his balance. His knocks become more frantic, allowing less and less time between knuckle meeting wood. He leans all his weight into it, calls her name into the peep hole. When she finally opens the door, he nearly topples over at her feet, but he catches himself on the jamb, reflexes still working.
“Who the fuck you think this is? The police?”
“I want to see Ryder.”
“He in the bed. And you’re drunk.”
He’s not drunk. He’s not crying. He blows past her. There’s some nigga on the couch, probably was fucking her. Right there where his son lives. Where is Ryder?
“Yo,” dude says.
His voice sounds familiar. The same guy she cheated with? Not the best man—Antonio whipped his ass. He’ll beat this nigga too if he thinks he’s going to take his son from him like he stole his woman.
Antonio throws a punch, hits only air. This time there’s nothing to break his fall. He belly flops onto the carpet, arms flailing. The last thing he sees before he passes out is the skimpy Christmas tree, barely enough ornaments on it to fill in the empty spaces between branches.
Then he throws up. All over homeboy’s kicks. He thinks they might be the new Jordan’s.