Authors: Tiana Laveen
She prided herself on memorization, but she had a sneaking suspicion emotions may get in the way. Regardless, she’d do her best; she owed everyone, including herself, at least that much. When the night fell at 8:00 P.M. that Friday evening, she was to enter the facility with a special badge and be escorted to an area only for married couples. The attached building reminded her of a small apartment complex. From the outside view, all of the many windows had eggshell colored blinds and paper white curtains drawn together, closing off the inside from the rest of the world.
She journeyed up a flight of metal stairs, her mauve and gray paisley bag in tow. With each step she took, her heels clicked against the steel steps, creating a loud clanking noise that got her nervous heart to racing. She didn’t dare look right or left, only straight ahead. She could feel the uneasy glare of several armed guards watching her every move as she continued on her way until she saw the unit in question: C7-D.
Removing the key provided by the front desk staff from her pocket, she slid the thing inside but not before glancing down at her wedding band. Yes, it too was provided by Dr. Owens. The man had been quite meticulous about the most mundane details of the matter, but had not disclosed what he’d done and said to get things the way they currently were. It troubled her when she obtained news that Aaron had agreed to meet her, and at the same time, it filled her spirit with immense joy, too.
The lock clicked, disengaged, and she slowly swung the door open. Taking a few steps inside, she closed and bolted the thing behind her. The place smelled of cleaning solutions, reminiscent of Windex and lemon dusting spray all rolled into one. She looked around the modestly decorated place.
The walls were stark white and one large window stood to her right. A beige couch that was definitely from the 1980s sat there, sad and sunken, an old coffee table with peeling faux wood in front of it. On top sat an artificial plant arrangement, the green leaves glossy from a recent wipe down. A television rested on an entertainment dresser and alongside it, a small silver CD player with three musical selections beside it.
She let her duffle bag slide onto the couch and clutched her arms, feeling a slight breeze. Perhaps it was all in her mind. But, she confirmed the source a few seconds later when she directed her attention towards the ceiling and took note of the open vents that allowed the cool, blustery air conditioning to enter the place and freeze it almost solid.
I’ll have to find the thermostat and turn that down.
As she made her way around the couch, she soon stepped into the small dining room to find a small round table with a bowl of fruit atop of it. Much to her surprise, the assorted crimson apples, oranges, and ripe bananas were real. She smiled at the display, taking it all in, then leisurely turned and entered the kitchenette area.
The room was spic and span. Decorated in various shades of green, it was unusually small, making it almost impossible for the white refrigerator to be opened to its fullest extent. Once she managed, she took note of the case of generic brand water inside, a loaf of white bread, a small, unopened jar of peach preserves, and four small cartons of vanilla yogurt. On the shelf sat a stick of butter, a dozen eggs, and a small carton of 2% milk. She closed the refrigerator and plucked open one of the cabinets, taking a peek inside. A box of Honeynut Cheerios sat there alongside a salt and pepper shaker. On a shelf just below it stood a jar of peanut butter and two tins of sardines in mustard and hot sauce. A clear container there contained straws and napkins, and in the adjoining cabinet she found four plastic bowls. In a drawer right below it were the utensils—some plastic, some metal—all clean and ready for use.
On a sigh, she made her way out of there, through the dining room, and stood before what she presumed was the bedroom. Briefly closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and circled the doorknob with a slightly shaky palm, revealing the area.
Much to her surprise, it was absolutely gorgeous. To the left, up against the wall she took note of a Queen sized bed with stark white sheets, pillows, and a fluffy, thick comforter to match. White throw pillows with fringe were tossed in between the oversized shams. The room smelled like fresh linens and, to add to the beauty, a small vase of fresh daises had been placed on a small desk in the corner. The room also had a small television, an older model, the kind she grew up viewing in her parents’ home. Beside it was a DVD player and two movies, one of which she could clearly see was titled, ‘Men in Black 3.’ The remotes to the items sat on a nightstand beside the bed, next to a white, elegant wicker basket filled with assorted condoms—all brands, styles, and sizes.
She drew closer to the bin and took a peek inside, tipping it a bit towards her. Her face cracked with a tilted smile.
“Is everything to your liking?”
“Ahhh!” She jumped in the air, practically losing her footing and inhaling sharply. Bracing herself, eyes closed, she rested her hand along her chest.
“My apologies, Mia. The door was open and I told you I’d be over before he came. He’s downstairs, actually.”
“Yes, you did tell me that, Dr. Owens. You just…” She slowly opened her eyes and swallowed. “Never mind, yes, everything is fine, just fine. I haven’t seen the bathroom, but I’m sure it’s fine, too.”
“I believe it’s right over here.” He stepped back, allowing her room to maneuver around him. He then walked ahead and opened a nearby door down the short hall. “Yes, here it is.”
She made her way past the man and looked inside. Rather tiny, it was nevertheless clean. An unopened, Irish Spring bar of soap sat on the sink and the other on the bathtub, along with three rolls of toilet paper placed on a short, metal pole, awaiting use. More products included a Suave Refreshing Waterfall Mist shampoo bottle and matching conditioner, along with four white folded towels, washcloths, and two hand towels. She opened the toilet and took note of the shimmery, deep blue water…
The housekeeping definitely wasn’t lacking…
How odd that the place was so clean, yet could still make one feel so dirty… This was an area used to see a loved one that was missed, a place to reconnect and be one with them after months, perhaps years of absence. Yet, in this case, it was about to be used as a meeting room for one of the most uncomfortable conversations she was certain to have—a place to unleash their secrets, to possibly fall apart. She was there to speak with a lover she’d never seen, touched, felt…
But no, that was actually completely untrue.
Aaron… She’d seen
of him, and loved him anyhow.
She’d touched Aaron… and he touched her back…
She’d felt that touch via his letters and his smooth, silky words through the phone… he’d already made love to her, and she’d already made love to him. They were connected in a way most could never understand. Articulating it was damn near impossible but one word did come to mind, time and again, and that word was…
Their love was real, authentic, un-beautiful, yet perfect.
And now, she was a
He’d become a stranger, a man who wanted nothing to do with her and had warned her more than once to keep away. Yet, she simply could not. She turned towards Dr. Owens, who stood out in the hallway, the distinguished fellow with the glasses and serious expression, and said what was on her mind.
“Dr. Owens, I don’t expect Aaron to suddenly want me, to be alright with all of this. He isn’t interested in black women, I know that. Even if he resolved himself to no longer being racist, and I trust he was almost there, him having an attraction towards a woman like me is near impossible considering everything. I’m not here for that; I’m being realistic.”
Dr. Owens gave a nod of understanding.
“I’m here to ask him for forgiveness for lying to him, for not being upfront. I know I may not get that; matter of fact, I’m sure I won’t but hopefully, in time, it will help him along his way. With any luck, this experience will open his eyes… I just pray I haven’t messed everything up, that it’s not too late.” She hung her head, hating how everything had ended and came to be.
“Aaron can’t suddenly want you, Mia.”
“I know that.” She slowly lifted her head, a bit miffed that he’d once again stated the obvious truth, echoing her words.
Didn’t it hurt enough when I said it?
“No, you don’t understand me.” The man offered a gentle smile as he placed a hand on her shoulder. “You can’t suddenly want something that we’ve already established is desired.”
She simply looked into the doctor’s eyes and then, her face broke out into a smile.
“Mia, he fell in love with the person that you
, not what you look like. Don’t you see? I have no idea what will happen between the two of you. What I do know is that he is quite angry but equally perplexed. He wants answers. At this juncture, this is a private moment and a private matter. I just want you to be honest with one another; that’s crucial. No more secrets. There is no need for a performance, either. I simply told you some things you needed to know about him from a mental standpoint, so that you can watch those triggers, to not set him off. When he first walks through this door,” he said, pointing behind him, “you need to listen and not do a lot of talking. That was my advice. After a while, when it feels right, then, begin to engage him more. Aaron is struggling with this. This is life altering for him.
“Just watch out for certain cues. If you sense him getting angry, back off. He will self correct. If you sense him wanting information or answers, oblige him. If he wants space, give it to him; do not push him. If he wants to leave, we will have to respect that as well. Other than that, just be yourself… because that’s who he fell in love with, Mia. No hardcore rehearsing or briefing needed…He fell in love with the real
… so, that’s who he needs to see tonight…”
ARON STOOD OUTSIDE
the door with a gigantic bullfrog caught in his damn throat. He hadn’t been out of the watchful eye of the prison system in what felt like an eternity, but here he stood, outside the door of the place with his small luggage bag in tow, and a shiny, thick wedding band on his left ring finger. A guard stood behind him and one above him on a different floor—two black men with hard, serious expressions on their faces. He was certain they’d push a bullet in his ass faster than he could turn in a circle and say, ‘Boo!’
He exhaled, closed his eyes for a second or two, then rapped on the door. Just as he had been told ahead of time, Dr. Owens opened it.
“Come on inside, Aaron,” he said solemnly as he turned his back and walked towards a couch that sloped in the middle. He immediately paused, his eyes growing large as he sought her,
for her… She wasn’t in sight, but her scent mingled with the natural odors of the place…
She was close, so close! His damn body craved her, mixing in with his angst and hatred for her all at once. He was sickened by the experience; his head throbbed with complete confusion and his skin jumped from his worked up nerves. He paused and inhaled the air so hard, he nearly passed out. On a swallow, he began to back away, as if ready to flee. But then, he closed and locked the door behind him, losing his sense of time and place. Slowly but surely, he looked around the apartment, checking out his unfamiliar yet tranquil surroundings, then walked near Dr. Owens, his bag in tow.
“Go ahead and place your stuff wherever you wish for now.”
Aaron looked about, deciding the floor was just as good as any other place. He reluctantly released the handle of his sports bag, and it made a small thud as it hit the floor. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he rocked back on the soles of his dark brown loafers…
Fucking loafers on his size twelve feet… they were what Dr. Owens provided, and told him to replace his combat boots with. He wasn’t certain why; this was no damn date…
different in civilian clothing,” Dr. Owens chuckled as he took a seat. “You look really good, Aaron, especially for a man that supposedly wasn’t trying.”
“Thanks.” He didn’t miss the man’s sarcasm.
“Nice haircut… I see you left a bit of a shadow on your face. Why is that?”
Aaron looked away.
“It’s okay; you don’t have to answer. Anyway, Mia is here. I asked that she give you and me a moment alone before she comes out.”
Aaron nodded in understanding, though he couldn’t help but wonder where she was hiding out at… and then he noticed a shadow by a backroom door…
A dark shadow against the light, yet inviting, so inviting…
She moved about, her ear no doubt up to the door. For a split second he felt sorry for her, but he got over that fairly quickly as his thoughts morphed into incensed bursts.
“Here is the deal, Aaron. You’ve agreed to this, so I need you to understand that this is about
talking and discussing whatever it is that each of you need and want to say. It’s an open forum. With that being said, however, if you feel overwhelmed, I need you to do what I asked you to do, okay?”