The Morning After
"I got a feeling! Ooh, Ooh! That tonight's going to be a good night! That tonight's going be a good, good night!" my phone alarm rang.
"Noo.." I moaned. It couldn't possibly be morning already.
"I got a feeling! Ooh, Ooh!" my alarm starts to sing again. I turn over, grab the phone and shut it off.
"Ouch!" my head is ringing. The sun burns my eyes. I try and bury myself under my down comforter.
"Rough night?" I hear a familiar voice ask.
"Rough would be an understatement," I mumbled.
"Obviously," Sophia, my roommate and younger sister says as she crawls to the edge of my bed and waits for me to elaborate. I don't. Instead I try and recall the events of last night. Waiting on Ethan's steps, confessing, driving home in tears, opening the first bottle of wine, then the second, and watching my favorite scenes from Brown Sugar...
"So, you told him, huh?” she asked.
"He called you?" I yelled, shot up from under the covers, forgetting the pain in my head from my wine hangover then immediately reminded and so quickly laid back down.
"No, he didn't. Calm down. The bottles of wine, cookie dough package and Brown Sugar menu screen, say a lot love."
Crap! It was pathetic. My younger sister caught me being pathetic. She's caught me being or doing much, but pathetic was something that I hoped would always remain my secret. "Yeah, I told him," I sighed. My eyes started to tear up. "It was so embarrassing, Soph. Like I just yelled at him that I loved him and rambled on and on and all he could muster up to say was something about taking a step back."
"You think that may be the best thing right now."
"It may be the best thing, but it could also be the worse."
"Why would it be the worst thing? Because you love him and he doesn't love you in the same way?"
"Because my love could have just cost me my best friend," I said.
There was a pause; a marinating of thoughts. It’s funny how loud silence can be; because Soph couldn't come up with a response confirmed my truth. No matter how Ethan and I tried to recover from this, it would always be different between us. My words left stains that neither of us could remove. We could cover up, overlook, and pretend they aren't there, but under the surface we would always be well aware of their existence.
"So what are you going to do now? Drink your life away," she said with a smile. She was great at that, moving on. Even after Daddy died, she just picked up and moved on like it didn't faze her. I admired her strength to hold it together, even if it was her weakness.
"Coffee," I sighed. "Right now, I need lots and lots of coffee." I started to pull myself out of the bed. There was a slight spin to the room. Soph got up with me, put her arm through mine.
"Its going to be okay. I promise. Not today, not tomorrow, but one day it will be okay. You've been through worse."
"I know. Just sucks, that's all," I said as I pulled away from her and headed to my bathroom.
"I'll make your coffee,."
"Ok. Thanks," I said solemnly.
"Kamryn, look at it this way: his life, his choice, his loss," she shrugged her shoulders and walked out the door.
"Or mine," I thought.
They day after my 8th birthday my father told me that I was his favorite and I believed him. He was in his office at his desk grading papers when I walked in and told him I didn't want to be his princess anymore.
"Why not?" he asked as he removed his glasses and set them down and looked at me perplexed.
"Because princesses don't play sports and I want to play for the WNBA!" I said definitively.
He laughed. His laugh was deep and billowy. It always seemed that it came from some secret cave buried within him. He got up from his desk and walked over to me and kneeled so he would be at eyelevel.
"Soph, you can still play basketball and be my little princess. That's what makes you a special princess.
You're not all prissy like the others."
"You mean like Kamryn. She's prissy."
"You're sister isn’t prissy. She's just not into the same things you are."
"She's spoiled. You and mommy spoil her because she likes to read and does all good in school and stuff."
He got up took my hand and walked me over to the leather sofa in his office, sat down and put me on his lap.
"Both of my daughters are very special and I love you both very much. But you want to know a secret?"
"You're my favorite Sophia."
"Nuh uh. You're lying! You get all happy when Kamryn brings home good grades. Plus Kamryn looks and acts just like you! Everybody says so!"
"And you know who you remind me of? The first woman I ever loved, your mother; who we know is a sassy, wily spitfire just like you."
I smiled. "So really daddy, I'm your favorite?" I asked again.
"My favorite Sophia in the whole world," he said as he kissed me on the forehead.
It wasn't until when he died that I realized that he played on his words. It’s funny how this story came to me as I made Kam's coffee this morning. The morning after Ethan broke her heart, though she didn't know Ethan and I broke her heart a long time ago. I wonder if I would still be Daddy's princess if he knew that I broke his favorite Kamryn's heart.
I loved my sister. We typically got along pretty well and when we were angry or upset with each other we knew each other well enough on how to deal with it. We were so different, her and I. She was easy to talk to. Dainty. Classy. She expressed herself openly and sometimes dramatically. I was abrasive. Rough. A guy's girl. I held everything within.
"Coffee ready?" Kamryn asked interrupting my thoughts.
"Almost. Want to go shopping today? A new pair a shoes is the best cure for a broken heart!" I said with a smile.
"Shouldn't you be studying or something?" she asked with her ever so obvious judgmental eyes.
"It's a special occasion," I said rolling my eyes. Here I was trying to be nice and her asking me about studying was her way of pointing out my failures. I hated school mostly because I didn't see the point. I guess I can understand her frustrations. I mean I am a 6th year undergrad at the University of MD. I've changed my major 3 times. I just didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I don't think I can pinpoint a career out of all the things that I love.
"Seriously Soph? You've got to decide on something." she said filling the awkward silence; reading my thoughts.
"I know Kam. But we aren't talking about me. We're talking about you. So what are we going to do today to cheer you up?"
"We aren't doing anything. You are going to do homework or study or write a paper one of those things I'm sure you should be doing. And I am going to work on my piece for Essence. I have a deadline." she grabbed her cup of coffee and started to walk away.
"You can't run from this, Kam and hide in your work. You have to deal with it."
"And you can't run from growing up. You have to deal with it," she said as she left the room.
What was the point? Why did it all matter? Especially when you couldn't be with the one you loved. I got out my phone and texted Ethan, playing dumb.
"She told you how she felt didn't she?" I texted him.
Twenty minutes later he responded, "Yeah."
I laughed. Only because he knew I wanted more than just a yes or no, but he wasn't going to give it to me. He liked it when you worked for it; whatever "it" may be.
"Did you tell her about us?" I texted back, pretty confident of the answer, but just asking to make him think about the us we used to be.
"I told you I wouldn't," he responded.
"Thank you." I responded. Then his next text stabbed me. "How is she doing?" he asked. When I wanted him to think of me he was thinking of her.
"How do you think?" I replied.
And as if he knew he messed up, he replied, "How are you doing?"
"How do you think?" I replied again. Part of my response was out of spite, the other part out of truth.
Guilt was like gangrene. It spread and infected you quickly. But how can you amputate your heart?
The sun scorched my back. "Come on Noah, one more mile to go," I coached myself. It was unusually warm for November. The leaves that paved the trail crunched underneath my feet. "I swear this mix could sink the sun!" Jack's Mannequin screamed from my IPod into my headphones. "Bzzz!" my phone vibrated in my pocket. "Hoooonnnkk," horns blared in the street aside me and the mix of sirens and jack hammers whispered in the distance. The soundtrack to my morning jog.
My trail finally navigated me back into my off campus housing subdivision. I went through the backdoor of the three bedroom townhouse I shared with two other guys who arranged their course loads around their party schedules. I steered through the pizza boxes, beer bottles, textbooks; sweaty socks and Wii remotes upstairs to the master bedroom opened the door and entered serenity. My room was a stark contrast from the rest of the house. Clean, neat and orderly. I didn't have time to party like I wanted to. Medical school was kicking my butt. I crashed on my bed after taking my phone out of my pocket. Twelve missed alerts. Seriously? I bet at least six were from my mother. I hit the menu button. Surprise, surprise. Only two were from her. The other four were from the other two most important women in my life.
Kam's first text said, "Call me ASAP!" Followed by her more aggressive text, “Where the heck are you? Why aren’t you answering me! I need you…NOW!" Kamryn was so passionate. She either loved it or hated it. Everything was serious even when it wasn't. I'm sure that this was another moment in which her reacting preceded her thinking instead of the other way around. I checked the time of the last text, two hours ago... she's fine by now, I'm sure. However as I convinced myself of that fact, my trust waivered when I read the next two alerts which were from Sophia. "Hey, Kam told Ethan. She's totally bummed. We should take her for pancakes or something." The next one read, "Did your phone get cut off or are you still asleep? Don't you have class?" I wanted to reply, "Don't you?" But I decided against my better judgment, put the phone on the nightstand and proceeded to undress to hop into the shower.
So Kamryn finally told Ethan. I shook my head. It's about dag on time. I was so over hearing them both build him up to this elevated state as if he could do no wrong and then complain to me every time he hurt their feelings, made them cry, pout, curse. I contemplated, calling Ethan and asking him the less dramatic, simplified male version of what went down before I talked to either one of the Williams sisters. But Ethan and I had grown apart over the last couple of years. It had really started to annoy me the way Kamryn would throw herself at him and he would dismiss her like a fly. He knew that Kam loved him, he allowed her to give of herself and he wouldn't reciprocate and that made me like him less. Kam was like my big sister and I totally felt he disrespected her, but how do you tell someone whom they should or shouldn’t love?
I got dressed in my scrubs and decided to respond to Sophia first. If Kamryn would ever find out she would throw the whole "You-two-love-each-other-just-be-together" in my face. "Is she okay?" I texted. You’ve got to love modern technology. The era in which our most intimate moments and thoughts can be transmitted to millions in just a mere click of a "SEND" button. Technology protects us from facing the people we love or the people we hurt.
"No, not at all. She OD'd on wine, cookie dough and Brown Sugar last night," she responded.
"Brown Sugar? Lol. Like packets of it?"
"No, like the movie. Lol."
"A black movie?"
"Yes, Noah. Sanaa Lathan, Taye Diggs. The one Kam's pressed for...N e ways it doesn't matter. What are we going to do about it?"
"What are we supposed to do? She'll get through this she always does."
"Yeah, I guess. But do you think this will mess up everything? Like all of our friendships and stuff? Like I don't want to have to choose."
Choose? I mean did she really have a choice? Kamryn was her sister. Ethan was just Ethan.
"I'm sure it will be fine,” I decided to respond.
"Ok. I hope you're right."
Of course I am. I mean it wasn't like we all hung out like we used to anyways. Kam, Soph and I were all within an hour of each other. Ethan lived further out near the slopes; a good two hours from the three of us and Zuri lived down south. We grew up. We grew apart. Every now and then we would cross paths, connect and intersect at the important events of our lives, but as time passed so did the necessity to be forever linked. I cared about them all, loved Kam and Soph with all my heart, but it was time I learned who I was outside of them.
Kamryn was next. She deserved a call. I couldn't disrespect her moment with a text.
"Hey babe," she answered solemnly.
"Hey what's going on?" I said cheerfully and pretending to be naive.
"I’m so stupid! Why I thought he could ever love me, I don’t know!" she cried between sniffles.
"Kam-Kam, what's wrong? What happened?"
"Are you busy? Can we get pancakes?"
"Yeah. I'll be at the IHOP in fifteen."
"Thanks babe, I’ll see you then."
On my drive over I considered what I would say and how I would respond to her broken heart. I didn't have a clue. I never had the right words, just a listening hear. Hopefully that was all she needed. I wasn't the best to give advice. I mean, I was hiding my own feelings for Sophia. Well not really hiding them, I am sure they were painfully obvious, but I ignored them because the ramifications of that could mean the death of an amazing friendship.
"How did we all get here?" I said to myself as I got out of my car and headed into the restaurant. It was so much simpler when we were younger. Or maybe it was that the weight of our lives at that time was lighter. We could carry it with grace, honor, and pride. Now somehow we've managed to make a tangled web of complications with the most delicate of relationships. Being in love with your best friend is typically the ideal circumstance. But that ideal quickly becomes a nightmare when your best friend decided not to love you back.
I got a table and ordered coffee for the both of us. Kamryn walked in and her appearance screamed, "I'm-trying-to-cover-a-broken-heart." Her hair was pulled up in a messy pony tail. No make-up, not even lip gloss. Sweats, Ugg boots and that god awful Dr. Seuss striped sweater. I rose from my seat and wrapped her in my arms and let her cry her pain onto my chest.
"It will be okay," I lied to her.
She just nodded but proceeded to cry harder; evidence to me that she knew I wasn’t telling her the truth.
I fell in love with Ethan the night he held my hair back as I puked in his toilet. If I had to pinpoint it to a night, that would be it. It was October. I was home from Virginia Tech for the high school homecoming weekend to watch Noah play in the football game. He was the skilled quarterback that led the team to their best season ever that year. They won the game and of course the 5 of us had to celebrate in style.
“Speech! Speech! Speech!” the crowd of at least twenty screamed at Noah. We were crammed in Ethan’s studio apartment above his mother’s garage. There was minimal furniture, so people were sprawled on the floor, on his bed and on the countertops.
Noah hopped up on the bed, nearly stumbled off, spilling some of his rum and coke and yelled, “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me!”
The crowd cheered and started wailing “We are the champions…” and I made my way through them to the kitchen where Ethan was mixing drinks.
“Fill her up,” I said handing him my red Solo cup.
“You sure you need anymore?” he asked as he poured.
“Hell yeah! I crammed to finish my report for Econ, my essay for US History and my analysis of a serial killer for sociology just to be here to party with you fine folks this weekend! So fill her up!”
He laughed, shook his head and added cranberry juice to my vodka. “You asked for it!”
“Thank you very much bartender. I’ll make sure to leave you a nice tip,” I said as I turned away from him to and head back towards the crowd.
‘”That view is a nice enough tip for me!” he smirked.
Turning towards him and grinning for ear to ear, I said, “Well if you want a guided tour, be sure to let me know and I’m sure that can be arranged.”
“I’ll be sure to ask Lauren, if she’s okay with that.”
“Hey she can come too. I don’t discriminate!” I flirted.
“I think I should confiscate you’re drink, now.” he laughed.
“You started it.”
“And you always manage to finish it.”
“Gotta love me!”
“Yeah, I guess I do,” he said as he wrapped his arms around me and blessed me with a hug. “I’ve missed having you around, Kam. It’s not nearly as entertaining without you.”
“Oh, I’m sure your lovely girlfriend entertains you just enough,” I said. And as if on cue, Lauren walks over.
“How’s Virginia Tech?” she asked, obviously annoyed by Ethan and I’s embrace.
I pulled away from him and answered her, “Tech is great! How’s the squad?”
“Just perfect!” she answered.
“That’s…perfect! Ethan, I’ll talk to you later,” I said rolling my eyes and leaving him and his jealous girlfriend behind.
Ethan had been dating Lauren, at that time for about a year now and I was the one that introduced them. Lauren was on my cheerleading squad and I genuinely adored her. She was actually smart, athletic and talented. Tall, Hispanic, curvy and perfect she was infatuated with the fact that I knew and was friends with the star shooting guard on the varsity basketball team. Ethan didn’t generally date girls, he played them like chess pieces; and so because she appeared so fragile, I was reluctant about introducing them to each other. But Lauren persisted, and I finally conceded.
Ethan must have seen what I saw, because he took a liking to her and they dated ever since. She changed though, after they started dating. She didn’t appear so adorable and innocent. Well, either she changed, or I did.
The next thing I actually remember from that night was my head in a toilet, Ethan beside me sitting on the ledge of the tub, holding my hair back as everything I consumed that night released itself from my body. Soph and Noah were in the background laughing hysterically and taking pictures.
As I was coming through, Ethan handed me bottled water, looked me dead in my eyes and asked me, “What are you hiding from Kam? You hit it pretty hard tonight. That’s not like you. You okay? School okay?”
His bloodshot eyes were painted with concern. He smoothed the bangs from my eyes and transferred them behind my ear. He held my chin, parted my lips with his thumb and gently guided the water down my mouth. Our eyes never left each other’s. I took a long drink; he removed the water bottle from in front of me and wiped the solo tear that was falling from my cheek, “You’re so pretty. You’re so smart. You shouldn’t have to run from anything,” he said.
I closed my eyes as my stomach began to flutter and cramp, open them up, turn away from him and whispered, “Except you,” as I returned to hurling away my pain down the toilet.
I fell in love with Ethan that night. At that moment he made me feel what I craved for every day since my daddy died; safe.
I am sitting at my Netbook, returned from my semi-comforting breakfast with Noah glancing at pictures of my past. Photographs that captured innocence and happiness in its purest form. Memories are a blessing and a curse. They reminded you of how things were, but they also forced you to remember how they weren’t.