Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ambivalence Over Roast Beef

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By Michael "Yasir" Belt

I didn´t invite her.  Why the hell would I? Since I´ve been home all I´ve done is avoid her, but now here she was, sitting right across from me, smiling, like everything was okay, as if nothing had ever been wrong. But so much had been wrong, and it´s been so long, but now she was here.

Who the hell invited her?  I doubted my mother did.  Mom knew exactly how I felt about her.  How I'd done everything possible to never be in the same room as her, or even in the same house.  I´d tried to never be in the same zip code as her, and that part´s the hardest.  Her mother and her grandmother both have houses less than a block from my mother´s, where I´m always at.  So, when she came back to the city, it was kind of hard to avoid her.  But I did.  Religiously.

Maybe it was my baby sister.  Maybe she wanted to see her nephew, who´s a year older than her, and my oldest son and his mother came along for the ride and free food.  It could´ve been my youngest brother, thinking he was doing the right thing. Or was it my little sister wanting to enjoy watching me squirm?

I don´t know.  She could´ve invited herself for whatever veiled propitious reason of her own.  The only thing that mattered now was that the old gang´s all here, gathered around the dinner table, chomping and chatting away, ignoring tensions just like any other happily broken family.

There had been no warning signs either.  No Facebook updates, no tweets. Somehow her GPS had been deactivated so I hadn´t even received an alert when she´d entered the city.  One time I´d been asleep and almost missed it.  I woke to a beeping reminder showing that she was two blocks away, heading in my direction. I rolled out of bed into a pair of shorts and sneakers and grabbed a t-shirt out of the dirty clothes hamper on my way out of the room. I hit the back door and ran down the alleyway just as the GPS put her within 50 feet of my mom´s front door. I kept running all the way to the gym, three miles away from the house.  I had to since it was below 40 degrees outside and I was damn near naked.

That was one long day of working out my stress while fighting hunger pains with no wallet. But today I couldn´t run.  I was caught off guard with my hand in the pot, literally, cooking Sunday dinner for the family when the doorbell rang.

I didn´t pay it any mind.  I thought my daughter had come back from the store with the eggs and lemon extract.  I was oblivious to the fact that someone let them in, with no warning. The only alert I´d gotten was from my baby sister, who´d been standing in the kitchen doorway, screaming out my youngest son´s name.

“Shit,” was the only thought I could muster.

I closed my eyes, squeezed them tight, begged God that she was mistaken, playing, just yelling out random names, for it to be my youngest son somehow miraculously by himself, for me to be invisible, or have a brain aneurysm, maybe abducted and probed by aliens, just not to be there at that exact moment.  But God doesn´t like me.

I finished my prayers and opened my eyes, and the figure at my peripheral was taller.  The hairstyle was different, skin lighter, boobs were actually boobs and not buds.  I knew the sharp jut of that chin, the pout of those thin lips, the wonder-filled gaze of those beautiful brown eyes. I hated them all.

“Hi,” she´d said.  “Die,” I thought.  And everything I´d tried to keep out, all that I´d tried to forget, things I´d forbidden my consciousness, all the emotions, the memories, the pain, the sorrow, the regret and longing, hate, love, contrition and impetus to be moribund.  It all came to shore like a tsunami and my mind was waist deep in the sand.

I remembered how much I’d loved her, how long I´d loved her, the amount of time I´d spent continuing to be in love with her, even after our divorce. A letter she´d written me while I was away came to mind. “My dearest husband,” it started, “I will not let you divorce me.” Then she’d done everything in the months to follow to convince me to divorce her.

I´d Jedi mind-fuck her into divulging her insidious endeavors.  The revelations weren´t pleasing to me but I need to know.  Then one early morning I called her.  It wasn´t a normal time for our calls but I was missing my wife. That was the day I just couldn´t take it anymore.  I´d caught my wife crying because her boyfriend was upset who she´d had lunch with another man she´d been seeing and was in love with.

And, now, here we all were, eating and being merry.  My daughter looked away from her big brother long enough to give me a wink.  Everyone was smiling and talking between mouthfuls of tender roast beef, Moroccan style lamb chops, green beans with smoked turkey butts, some weird yet tasty fried rice with cashews and raisins that my daughter had made, and some soupy noodles my sister called baked macaroni and cheese.  All were enjoying this moment.  All but me.  The food was good, I think, though I couldn´t really taste it.  Every morsel tasted like regret to me, each bite filling me with remorse.

I hadn´t been the best husband before I went away.  Not the most available, emotionally or physically – timewise or otherwise.  I wasn´t the most patient, the greatest relater of my love, the best interpreter of signs, feelings or emotions, nor the most faithful.  And, for all of that, my punishment was its reciprocation at the worst possible time and the inability to appreciate joyous moments of fervor.

Somehow I made it through dinner with few spoken words and without my soul imploding and erupting from my body´s cavities like confetti.  I made the plausible excuse of having to run off some of my indulging in order to maintain my physique’s impeccability and excused myself.  There were a few rolling eyes, maybe even a lascivious pair, but no one seemed to pay me any mind. I changed clothes and headed out of the door.

I needed to get my Vivian Green on.  You know, run my three miles to clear my head.  Less than a mile in though, I knew it wasn´t going to work.

I couldn´t breathe.  It felt like Mount Vesuvius was trying to spew through my chest.  Its lava rose into my throat and poured itself out of my tear ducts, blinding me.  I slowed, stumbled.  My legs felt like decaying trunks of weeping willows, unable to bear the burden of their upper branches.  Somehow, my fingers entangled themselves into a chain-link fence, saving my face from the rising concrete.

I have no idea how long I was there, knees on the ground, clutching the fence, gulping down air, my thoughts raced away from me at super-sonic speeds.  I could see them different color streams, wave by wave, shooting back into the direction from whence I´d come from.  One, bright red and beating, halted in mid-air, turning back, looking at me, waiting, urging me to follow.  When I didn´t rise on my own, it launched itself into my chest, knocking me to my feet.  I could feel it coursing through my burning veins, and heard its word as the infected blood reached my brain.


I broke into a dead run full speed back to the house. I´d no idea why, or what I was going to do once I got there.  The only thing I´d knew, the only thing I could feel or that made any sense was for me to be in that place at that time.

No one was in sight when I walked through the front door.  Laughter and the blaring of a T.V. came from upstairs in my mother´s room, the traditional after dinner movie.  Someone turned on the faucet in the kitchen.  And, somehow, I knew.

I stormed towards the kitchen, blindly, with no clear intention.  With every step, my consciousness tore further away from my body.  I was watching myself, the narrowing of my eye lids as they locked on my target, the clamping of my teeth and the clenching of the jaw on a face painted with contention.  She froze with fear, wrist deep in dishwater as I was bearing down on her.

My hands shot out and gripped her shoulders, propelling her backwards.  I pushed her up against the wall; not hard enough to hurt but forceful enough to let her know that, at that very moment, I was in control, and there wasn´t a damn thing she could do about it.

My hand traveled to her neck, and I realized I was whole once more, face to face with my demoness, my tingling fingers tightened ever so slightly around her throat.  Her eyes were wide-open, mouth agape, looking up.  I leaned in, a rat tail´s width between our faces, sweat dripping down my bald head.  My chest heaved up and down, the scent of Victoria Secret´s Love Spell invading my nostrils.

I – wanted – to - die! 

Her eyes became slits.  She licked her lips slowly, then bit her bottom one.  I´d forgotten how much she´d enjoyed this type of thing in the past; or had I?

She placed her wet hands on my chest, pulling me in closer, our cheeks grazing past one another.  Her breath began to burn a pleasant hole through my neck, lighting a fuse at the top of my spine, setting off tiny explosions at every vertebra down my back.

I wanted to run. I did run.  I made it to the kitchen´s threshold when some force began dragging me back.  It was too powerful, too strong for me to fight against, too compelling to resist.  I turned back to see what could be so irresistible that I could not flee it and I saw myself still being held in her grasp.  After one more fleeting attempt at evading enamoring, I resigned myself, drawing deep within.

There was so much I’d wanted to say to her for so long.  But now I wasn´t sure whether I wanted to speak my piece or to get myself a piece.  So, I withdrew further inward.

She should know why I hate her.  I want to give her a vivid description of what it felt like to be ripped apart from the inside with nothing but time to dwell on life, a life without her. How I´d gone through the thralls of pain year after year.  She should  know I´m still in love with her and how my next wife will hate her even more vehemently than I do, having to nurse wounds that will never heal.

Should I start with how sorry I am?  Sorry for leaving her by herself, susceptible to the perversions of the cruel world?  For giving her every reason to leave me?  Should I start with words like “It´s my fault, I made you do it?”  Tell her I´m not mad at her?  How I´m in fear of her ability to hurt me more than anyone?

No.  I needed to be myself again.  No backing away, no avoiding, no running.  The power would once again be mine alone.  I needed to show her I would be fine without her.  That my heart would, one day, be intact; whole again, and functioning independent of her.

Yeah, that´s it.  And then maybe I´ll die.

With all of the courage I could muster, I shot to the surface and touched my lips to the tiny, fair hairs that lining her earlobe and whisper one word.


I was awakened by the chime of an alert on my phone.  There was a message from my daughter.

“Hey Dad.  Dinner on Sunday? I´ll make a lemon cheesecake!”

My reply: one word, “No.”

Michael Belt KU8088
SCI Houtzdale
P.O. Box 1000
Houtzdale, PA 16698

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