Sticky notes clutter the house. Little reminders to myself.
Clean dryer lent trap.
Take out trash.
Remember to feed Netta.
She sneaks on me like a ghost. Frail bones and skin pale as her hair. “Is Thomas still out there slopping the pigs?”
I don’t have the heart to tell her again that he died in the smokehouse in Summer of ’39.
She draws the curtain back, sees only her reflection. It gets dark early now.
I take my pencil from behind my ear, on the last yellow square sheet, write, “Set clocks back.”
I must remember to buy more.
He rests his head on my chest and kisses me right in the middle of the V in my sweater.
“I love you,” he whispers behind a crack of thunder.
I don’t mean to laugh, but it’s hard to believe. After a Dairy Queen fish sandwich and Bollywood on Netflix as we ride the storm?
“How do you know?”
“I enjoy spending time with you. We have fun together, we laugh. I’m comfortable. To me, that’s love.”
I’ve endured too many heartbreaks for him to make it sound so simple.
But even I must admit, “I’m comfortable with you too.”
Weekend parents can’t raise kids.
And a weekend lover can’t fix a marriage.
Maybe it’s my unresolved daddy issues that’s kept me in this relationship three years with a man who barely pays attention.
“I know I said I was coming—I’ll make it up to you.”
“You haven’t even made up for the first, or second…”
Or third or fourth…
“But you understand I have work.”
I’ve reached my wits’ end, and I doubt he knows. No matter how many times I complain, nothing changes. I still feel neglected.
Empty words. Broken promises.
I hang up.
Friend zoned for a dude that beats her. Can’t say it’s unheard of, but I wasn’t waiting around for her to change her mind.
Her message this morning had me shook. He’ll do it this time. Got me thinking homeboy done graduated from domestic abuse to first-degree murder.
The cops arrived ahead of me. One by the door, the other peaking through the window.
“No sign of life whatsoever.”
“The text should be probable cause!” I’m ready to break in when the boyfriend pulls up in his pickup. The stained blue tarp in the bed makes me sick.
I can’t hear him breathing on the monitor, so I tiptoe down the hall to the nursery and lower my head over the crib rail, SIDS occupying my mind.
The quick, shallow breaths—the tiny squeak at the end of each exhale—lull me. Satisfied, I return to my room and find my husband sitting up in bed.
“When will you sleep?”
“His little snores are so adorable!”
He flips the covers back, and I snuggle into his body like a spoon. “You should have a listen.”
“Shhh, later.” He wraps his arms around me, kisses my ear.
All I see for miles are fishing lines. End of season, most vacationers have gone back to school and work. The only people left on the beach are fishers, those who live here, and those who are drawn.
Me being the latter.
Hurricane season. Miles offshore, a storm churns the waters. Outer bands have started to roll in. The stifling humidity a warning the storm is getting closer, growing stronger.
Wherever the path in the next 24 hours, this area will be under a mandatory evacuation. This time tomorrow, the beach will be completely deserted, save for one body.
“All my life, men have told me they loved me, then left me in that same breath.”
“Why do you think they leave? Do you blame yourself?”
I spin the gold band around my ring finger. The only reminder I have of my ill-fated marriage, though no one knows. We eloped.
“Let’s talk about your father?”
“He left when I was ten.”
I look up. Her eyes chide me over the rim of her glasses. Our routine for the last two months.
“You’re only wasting your money if you don’t open up.”
“I’ll see you next week, Dr. Sims.”
Sick of eating leftovers, I decide on a morning jog.
I haven’t been back in Georgia since Ryan called off the wedding. Didn’t think his would be the first face I’d see when I entered my childhood home after three years.
I stop and bend over, hands on knees, heaving in air. A car slows to a stop next to me by the curb.
Why won’t he let me suffer in peace?
“How ’bout some coffee?”
“What about your wife?”
“You mean your sister?”
It’s so stuffy in that house. No matter how far I run, I can’t get away.
The white woman’s potato salad is the butt of every Black family’s Thanksgiving jokes.
Last year was rough.
Stammering “A-A-Allison” to blank stares. Realizing Darren never bothered to mention me before I invited myself to dinner. His Nana asking if I’m only there because my parents disowned me.
“I don’t see them because they live in Utah. Not because my fiancé’s Black.”
This year I come bearing the gift of an old family recipe, hoping for Nana’s blessing.
When her eyes widen, I think I have it. But almost immediately she’s gasping for air.
Apparently, Nana is allergic to paprika.
“Grateful for you.” He leans over and kisses me.
I feel nothing. Just skin touching.
He knows I don’t mean it.
Everyone else around the table chews in silence.
“Well, I’m grateful for Grandma’s mac and cheese! We missed this last year.” My sister Shelby shovels a spoonful into her mouth. Her stomach is the size of the 20-pound turkey at the center of the dining room table.
It’s no secret how the pandemic has treated our respective marriages.
But for Grandma’s sake, Frank and I have agreed we’ll wait until after the holidays to announce the divorce.