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Single Mom, Page 3

Omar Tyree

  Little Jay shook his head and smiled again. “Sometimes he do, sometimes he don’t.”

  I was surprised. “What don’t he like about it?” I asked.

  “He just don’t like living in the suburbs.”

  I burst out laughing. “He don’t like living in the suburbs? What he think, he’s a city slicker?”

  “I guess so.”

  We got to the front door, and Little Jay pulled out a key that hung on a metal chain, under his T-shirt. I hesitated at the door. “I’ll just wait for you out here,” I told him, sitting on the front steps.

  He looked back at me and asked, “You want me to get you a T-shirt and some shorts? I got some that can fit you.”

  I looked at him and grinned. Baggy clothes was the style of the day with young folks. “You know, we wore extra-large clothes with no belts in jail, because that’s what they gave us. Now you young guys are running around, wearing extra-large clothes and no belts because its trendy.” I laughed and said, “All right then, hook me up, and I’ll wash them and give them back to you next time.”

  I was still hesitant to go inside, but Little Jay was waiting for me. I guess he didn’t want me sitting outside on the steps, sweating and whatnot.

  “You not coming in?” he finally asked me.

  I was acting ridiculous, and so was Neecy. Little Jay was the only one making any sense. I wasn’t going to rob their house! What kind of a father would I be if I did that?

  I got up and said, “Yeah, I’m coming in. What the hell?”

  Neecy had bright blue carpet throughout the house, with nice furniture that I didn’t want to sit on until I got out of those sweaty clothes.

  “Damn! It looks like your mom put a lot into this place,” I said. The house’s two stories didn’t look that elaborate, it was just extra clean, and a long way from where Neecy and I had grown up.

  Little Jay smiled and led me to his room. He had a bunch of basketball posters on his walls; Anfernee Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, Barkley, Pippen, Jordan.

  “Which one is your favorite?” I asked him.


  I nodded. “You wanna play guard?”

  He hunched his shoulders. “I don’t know yet. If I keep growing, maybe I’ll play the three position, like Pippen and Grant Hill.”

  I nodded again. “Yeah, that’s what I thought about it. I played the two and the three when I was in high school. As you can see, I wasn’t as tall as you, though. I would have had to play the two in college. And I had a chance to go to a couple of junior colleges, but I didn’t.”

  I was hoping my son would ask me why, so I could give him an early pep talk about staying focused in school, but he didn’t, so I figured I would save it for later. I didn’t want to push anything on him, especially so soon. He hadn’t even started high school yet.

  My son gave me a change of clothes, and I put them on in the bathroom. That place was spotlessly clean, just like the rest of the house, and it smelled like incense.

  Shit, this woman is serious! I guess I should stop calling her “Neecy,” I told myself.

  I walked out of the bathroom in my son’s clothes, and he tossed me some sport deodorant.

  “I stink, too, hunh?” I asked him with a chuckle.

  He reached out his hand and said, “If you don’t want to use it …”

  I said, “Naw, I’ll use it. And thanks.”

  I was feeling good about my son. Our relationship was just fine. I was sure glad he wasn’t one of those disrespectful punks that talk shit about their fathers. I mean, I did realize that I was far from perfect, but I never put a hand on his mother, and I did come and get him whenever I could. I know I could have done a lot more, but that was all in the past.

  I said, “You know, I start this new night job next week. Hopefully, if I’m able to keep this one, I’ll be able to see a lot of your games this year.” My son was actually the main reason why I even applied for a nighttime position. I would have rather had a daytime gig, but once I thought about Little Jay in his freshman year of high school, I figured it might have been a blessing in disguise for me to have a nighttime job. I could go to more of my son’s games than my father could make to mine.

  He looked at me and asked, “What kind of hours do you work?”

  “From twelve to eight,” I told him.

  He said, “Man, I hope you don’t fall asleep in the stands.”

  I laughed and said, “Naw, your games wouldn’t be until later on, right? And I don’t need that much sleep. I ain’t raisin’ no baby or nothing.” Then I smiled and said, “I remember when you used to sleep all day and cry all night. So this’ll be just like old times with me staying up late on account of you.”

  We shared a laugh. Then I asked him, “So where’s this rec. center? Is it big, with fiberglass backboards and whatnot?”

  “Yeah, it’s pretty big, but they don’t have fiberglass backboards.”

  Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to see the place. I hadn’t been inside of a good-looking gym in a long while. I hung out that entire day with my son, watching several summer league basketball games. He was one of the youngest and tallest guys on his team, and the coach had him playing small forward, just like I thought he would. Jay played the position well, too. He scored 19 points, had four blocked shots, and plenty of rebounds. His team won 68-54.

  Jay told me their record was 7-1. The only game they lost, he had fouled out of. The play-offs for the championship started in another week. Then Jay told me he would be joining another league. It was early July, and he had already played in a spring league. I used to play basketball all year long when I was his age, too.

  Before I got ready to leave him, I told my son to tell his mother I said thanks for her cooperation. I saw a recent photo of her in the living room that I was thinking about for the rest of that day.

  “Is your mother, ah, talking to somebody?” I ended up asking my son. I really didn’t feel right asking him that, nevertheless, I wanted to know. I had to know! I was feeling lonesome. I mean, I had a few women I was seeing off and on, but they weren’t like Neecy. Neecy was prime, barbecued rib. The other women I had were cold hot dogs, with no mustard. Why couldn’t I have done things right? I asked myself. I could have had a beautiful family with Neecy.

  Jay looked shocked by the question. “Hunh?”

  I know he didn’t want to answer me, but I pressed him anyway. I had already asked, and it made no sense to turn back.

  “Who is your mother seeing? You heard me.”

  I tried to make it sound as lighthearted as I could, but I still wanted to know.

  Jay laughed and looked away a few times.

  “I’m not gonna cause any trouble, man, I just wanna know,” I told him.

  “She’s talking to some truck driver.” He still couldn’t look me in the face when he said it.

  I was shocked as hell! “A truck driver? You bullshittin’ me?” There was no way in hell I was going to believe that! A truck driver! Ms. Denise “Big Shot” Stewart that didn’t want to be called “Neecy” anymore! No-fuckin’-way!

  Jay looked at me and said, “She calls him her friend.”

  I was staring at him, still in disbelief. “I don’t believe this shit!” I shouted. “A truck driver?!” Then I calmed down and asked, “Does he own the company or something, and he just drives trucks for a hobby?” I figured it had to be a catch to it.

  Jay lightened up and started to laugh. “Naw, he’s just a driver.”

  It wasn’t that funny to me. “So, I guess he’s been over to the house and all that, right?” I asked. I stopped my son before he answered me and said, “Matter of fact, I don’t even want to know any more. I never should have asked you that in the first place. You just tell your mom that I said thanks.”

  I rode the blue line train back to the West Side and was more pissed than a motherfucker! A damned truck driver! And she didn’t even want me inside of her house! Ain’t that some shit! But I guess I brought it all on myself.

  Full Custody

  Y wife Beverly and I sat at the dining room table in our spacious, two-bedroom townhouse in Lincoln Park, on the lower North Side of Chicago. At the moment, we were in silence. I had just shared my thoughts with her about gaining custody of my adolescent son, and Beverly just stared at me. I realized it would be a tough situation for her to handle. There was no way to break such life-altering news to my new wife without expecting a few waves to smash up against the shore. Nevertheless, I had to get the idea out in the open to at least see what the reaction would be. I figured we needed to have a pros-and-cons discussion on it.

  We had just finished eating juicy steaks for dinner that she had excellently prepared. My wife should have been a young gourmet chef in an upscale restaurant, instead of a young college administrator at Loyola. She worked wonders with food. Maybe I could invest in a restaurant called Beverly’s for her in a few years.

  “How long have you been thinking about this?” she asked me. She was easing into the process and getting all the facts. Beverly has always been a rational woman; tall, stately, attractive, and reserved. That’s why I felt so comfortable with my decision to marry her.

  “Actually, for a few years now,” I answered. “I began to feel more strongly about it after I saw how close you were with your nieces and nephews. They really love you,” I told her.

  Beverly had been around my son on a few occasions before we were married. He even went to a picnic with us at Union Park and met her extended family. Beverly had two married sisters and one unmarried, with five nieces and three nephews. Her oldest niece was thirteen. I thought they all got along with Walter quite well.

  “And how does he feel about it?” she asked me.

  “Well, I honestly think that it would have to grow on him.” I leveled with her. “But it’s for his own good, sweetheart. He’s a very intelligent boy, and I just don’t want to sit back and watch him become another ugly statistic, if I can do something about it.”

  Beverly began to show her first signs of disagreement with a noticeable grimace. “Well, they do live in Oak Park, Walter. I mean, that’s not exactly the ghetto. It’s far from it.”

  I nodded to her. “Honey, I know that, but in case you haven’t noticed, my son is what you would call—for lack of a better word—a wannabe. He looks up to his older brother; he lived in the West Side of Chicago for a number of years, and I think he wants to be, you know, what they call hard core. He was even picked up for shoplifting in a mall last year.

  “I mean, those are the kind of things that a good role model could stop before they get out of hand,” I suggested. “And I just want to make sure I don’t make any mistakes by procrastinating, while trying to convince myself that things are going to be all right.”

  Beverly sat quietly again. I had told her enough about my relationship with Denise for her not to be in the dark about things, but I knew that we were ready to have another discussion about it. It was only logical; Walter Perry III was Denise’s son.

  “And how does Denise feel about this?” my wife asked, right on cue. We had been married for a mere six months, but we dated for nearly three years.

  I took a deep breath. “That’s going to be the biggest problem,” I answered. “I had mentioned the idea of a son spending more time with his father for those crucial teenage years, and she all but ignored me.”

  “I can imagine,” Beverly commented.

  We were planning on having kids of our own, and I could hear her motherly instincts kicking in. Beverly was twenty-seven and I was thirty-two. Our biological clocks were good and ready for children.

  “You never thought about marrying her?”

  She had never asked me that before. I figured that before we were married, maybe she just didn’t want to know. My answer was quick and decisive. “Never.”

  Beverly peered at me. “I’m just curious as to why not.”

  “She just wasn’t my type.”

  She was still staring. “Explain that to me.”

  I sighed. It’s always tiresome, tedious, and definitely challenging to explain the mistakes of your youth. “We talked about this before,” I said. “I told you. I was a young college student with an interest for a local Chicago girl, who had a lifestyle that was totally alien to my own.

  “It was a doomed relationship from the start. And in a more perfect world, it never would have happened.”

  Beverly shook her head and stood up from the table. “You know, it really irks me that men continue to have these flings with women they don’t care two cents about. These women are human beings, Walter. They’re not pieces of flesh.”

  I listened to her words and wondered if she felt ashamed of marrying me. What if women were just as willing to factor out men who had children, like men often did to them?

  “Honey, we’ve already agreed that it was a poor decision on my part. Now, at this point, there is nothing that either of us can do to change that, but we can make a difference in my son’s life by accepting an imperfect situation and dealing with it on very real terms.”

  Beverly seemed to be in so much turmoil that I was impelled to stand up and hold her.

  “Have you ever stopped to think about how I would feel about this?” she asked me.

  “That’s what I’m doing now, by sharing my thoughts with you,” I commented.

  She leaned away from me and looked me in the eyes. “Walter, you made it seem more like your future intentions, rather than just some thoughts that you were having. I mean, sure, your son is nice to have around sometimes, but what if I like the closeness and the space that we have together before we have our own kids? And maybe, I would be more accepting of this kind of thing after I had a chance to discover motherhood on my own. I want to go through each stage of it, instead of being tossed right in the middle of parenthood. I mean, I’m sorry, but I just don’t know if I’m ready for this,” she told me, before breaking away.

  I had no idea she would react so strongly. “I thought that you loved kids, after seeing how you dealt with your sisters’ children,” I responded to her.

  “Walter, that’s because I know they’re not my constant responsibility. I can say no to them, and have time to myself whenever I want. And at least, while you’re pregnant, you can go through nine months of getting ready for that loss of freedom. You’re asking me to give up that freedom immediately.”

  “Beverly, it’s not like he’s an infant. If anything, he would be able to help out, more than get in the way.”

  “Okay, well, if that’s the case, then why are you so concerned about his future? I mean, it’s obvious that you want to take him on as some kind of project, and if he’s really not intending on being here and enjoying what we have to offer, then how is that going to be helpful to us? You already said it yourself; he wants to run the streets, and I don’t know if I’m ready to deal with that right now.”

  “Look, we’re not talking about some at-risk youth from a foster home, we’re talking about my son here.”

  “Yes, your son! Denise’s son! And I don’t want to be in the middle of this any more than I already am,” my wife blurted out to me. Then she marched off to the bedroom.

  I sat back down at the table and thought about taking a couple of Advil. I rarely had headaches before the night Denise Stewart announced that she was pregnant with my child. I thought of her as an exciting and seductive adventure while finishing my undergraduate studies in business at the University of Illinois at Chicago. However, she quickly became a long-lasting headache, and a constant reminder of my stupidity. It took me four years to even admit the mistake to my parents. I thought they may have disowned me. Fortunately, it never got to that point. In many ways, I was still a nervous kid back then, getting all worked up and exaggerating things.

  I met Denise at a club in Greektown during those early eighties, where I had an off-campus apartment nearby. After growing up in Barrington, so far away from the action of a big city, I was eager to mingle with brothers and si
sters from Chicago. Denise was two years my senior, and at the time, she had a Jheri curl that hid most of her attractive brown face. But it was her body that I was crazy about, and she knew how to use it. Whenever we were intimate, I felt like an explorer in an ancient, lost city of treasure, especially when we visited one of her Chicago locations. I think that added to my fantasy, the mission of traveling through a rough city to sleep with a woman who had been there. A native.

  I was so strung out for Denise’s pleasures that I practically flunked out of school at one time, for absenteeism, tardiness, and incomplete assignments. Then she told me that she was pregnant, and everything changed. Not only was she pregnant, but she was four months pregnant, past the first trimester. She said she was confused about whether to tell me or not. Therefore, she procrastinated.

  I was a blind idiot who didn’t even notice that she was picking up weight. I hung up the phone with her and broke down and cried. After that dreadful night, all I thought about was my schoolwork, my career in banking, and getting back on track with my life, as if my liaisons with Denise had all been a bad dream that would somehow go away. However, I had to face reality.

  I wasn’t there for her every day, but I made sure I gave her the money she needed to raise a child. Outside of a marriage proposal, I gave her whatever she asked of me. And Denise had never asked for marriage. I don’t believe she ever thought too strongly about it. It was pretty obvious to both of us that she was still in love with her first son’s father. He was doing time in jail for armed robbery, so I became Denise’s temporary adventure as well. We were trading places, so to speak. Or more like sharing places in our universal lust. So when she got pregnant, it was understood that we wouldn’t become a family, we would simply deal with it.