Tulips

I put tulips under all the pillows and then I set fire to the house.  Sounds dramatic, I’m sure. I mean, will forensics even know there was tulips there if everything is ashes by the time they get there?  I would know the tulips were there. I will always know. I will never forget. I bought those damn pillows. I remember researching which ones would enhance his quality of rest. The way you sleep impacts the way you live. He worked so hard, by the time he slept, I wanted it to be deep fruitful sleep.

She found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car.  My daughter found it while picking up some fruit loops that fell out of her mouth and rolled under the drivers seat.   Araina picked up the bracelet and dangled it in front of her face. When the light danced with the glass in the rear view mirror, I snapped out of my mommy daze. “What is that, Araina?” “Your pretty bracelet, Mommy.” I turned green with envy.  My heart began to bleed. The last time we saw a movie, we fought through the first 30 minutes and left early.  He was drooling over the main character.  I found this to be disturbing and pathetic because it was one of those graphically enhanced movies like “Avatar.”  “You’re getting horny over a computerized character!?” He just rolled his eyes at me.  The chick wasn’t even human.  I should have known then that we were a mess. I can’t compete with imagination. I should have known our reality was being invaded. Who was invading our reality?

I prayed it wasn’t something cliche like a chick at work or an Instagram model.  It was both!  Apparently, Lily was an aspiring actress.  She was a brand ambassador and a party promoter but that wasn’t bringing home the bacon. She decided to get a second job working for my husbands telemarketing company.

One late night when I surprised my husband with an under the covers “special treat”, the taste of lipstick left a residue on my tongue.  I could smell baby wipes and cologne.  We were arguing so I don’t think he expected my mouth to replace his alarm clock.  We were both surprised. He denied my blatant accusations. He labeled me abusive when I smacked him. I knew I was right though.  I knew something was going on.  One night while he was overseeing the OT crew, I hired a sitter and drove the 17 miles to the job. In a true act of absurdity and a visual reenactment of every urban novel ever read…there they were.

In the employee lounge, over the sound of the office dishwasher they were grunting and moaning. They were so bold.  It was as if they were supposed to be together and that was their sacred space. There on the floor slipping and sliding in the free office supplied french vanilla coffee creamer was their love nest.  I decided not to make a scene.  I decided not to ask, “why?” I decided not to beat the bimbo up. These were all quick decisions.  This didn’t need to be a Waiting to Exhale Moment.  This didn’t need to be an episode of Snapped. I picked up my pocketbook and returned the visitors pass to the front desk.  I drove home without the radio playing and I slowly counted my breaths.  I walked passed our lime green deck chair. My husband would watch golf in that chair on the iPad while drinking an ice cold Stella Artois in the summer.  I kicked that ugly ass chair into the salt water pool and paid the babysitter. I then carefully selected 5 Lily flowered tulips from our backyard garden and placed them under all the pillows in our master bedroom.  I packed two bags, unplugged Arainas Nintendo Switch from the charger and strapped her in the booster seat in the CHR we kept around for guests.  Then I took a safety match from the glove compartment and set fire to the house.

We drove away from the flames and the ashes of my cremated marriage.  I cried silently while my daughter slept in the back seat.  I mourned my youth spent with someone who didn’t deem me worthy of honesty.  I wondered if the smoke smelled like lilies or regret.

By: Shaun Liriano

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“Having My Cake and Eating It Too” (Chest Naked Part 7)

“Whats this I hear about my son being a girlfriend beater?”

Travis’ mother, Tori was speaking musically in a key Travis had never heard before. His mother’s voice was high-pitched and her tonality was a falsetto that could rival Mariah Carey. She was angry and he could tell that the conversation was going to be extremely long.

“Mom, I’m guessing you went to church today?”

“Hell yeah!” she exclaimed. Tori then realized she responded to a church reference with the word “hell.” She quickly whispered, “Lord forgive me.”

“I’ve been out of service for a couple of weeks because of the operation on my hemorrhoids. By the way, why didn’t you come see me in the hospital? Sire came to check on me.” Tori took a thoughtful breath and then when   Travis didn’t respond she continued. “Anyway, why did you abuse that poor girl? I liked Tamara. She did so much for you. Pretty girl too. What’s wrong with you? Where did I go wrong? ” Travis didn’t say anything. Every question was rhetorical. This wasn’t a conversation. It was a dramatic monologue. When he couldn’t take any more badgering and his ears began to ring he decided it was time to interject.

“How did I abuse Tamara?”

“From what I understand from Sister Karen , you threw the girl on the floor, ripped her clothes off and borderline raped her. I’ve already changed your name in my phone to ‘Ike Turner’. Then Sister Tamica said you are with some fast girl named ‘Nice’ or some foolishness like that.”

“Her name is ‘Special’, mommy.”

“They should have named her ‘Speedy’ because she’s fast! Apparently I should have named you ‘Stupid’ because you are embarrassing me to no end!” Tori shrieked.

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about mom. I’m grown. I’m not your responsibility anymore.”

“Oh yes you are! Need I remind you, technically you’re married! Your father left you all that money on one condition…”, Tori said.

“…I must be a married, ‘responsible’, committed and dedicated man. Yes I remember”, Travis finished his mothers thought.

“Yup! That wonderful girl married you knowing you were so …lost. She really believed in you. How do you repay her? You treat her like garbage. I’m glad she busted up your apartment! Glad your brother kicked your -”

“Mom, did you call to say anything positive?”, Travis interrupted.

“Absolutely not,” Tori stated firmly. Then she hung up the phone.

Travis missed his father. They say women with “daddy issues” have trouble in their relationships but what about sons? Travis and his father were buddies and traveled together all the time. They were like brothers. Travis senior supported his son, loved him, and communicated with him. Then when Travis was a junior in high school, his father died of AIDS. Tori told people that it was cancer but the truth was Travis senior was having an affair and contracted it from his lover. Luckily, Tori tested negative. There wasn’t much love-making in their marriage. Besides, Tori insisted on condom use since her handsome husband was always traveling and couldn’t be trusted.

Travis knew Tori was right. He missed Tamara all the time. He didn’t miss her physically but he missed knowing that she would be there if he needed her. She never smothered him. She was patiently waiting to be to be validated. Travis always introduced her with her name and no title.  Despite the lack of respect, Tamara agreed to marry him so he could collect the money his father left for him and avoid the 9-5 rat race.  She never saw a cent.   There was no bells, bows, or ceremony. He didn’t even claim her as his girl. They were married on paper only.

Travis lived a sustainable life at home. It wasn’t cushy comfy but he could survive and that was good enough for him. On the side, he sold his art pieces. That’s when he would splurge on the more lavish things he liked. If Tamara divorced him he would be forced to find a job.  For some reason, his father allocated his money based on his relationship status. Travis assumed it had something to do with his fathers fascination with “The American Dream.” He was always taught you must have family, property, and profession.  Would Tamara divorce him?  He never even thought of that.  He wondered if his brother Sire had begun to plant seeds in her impressionable mind.  He couldn’t stand Sire.  He loved him a little bit but he hated him a little bit more.  Travis was convinced Sire was jealous of him.  Travis was also convinced even though Sire was bigger and buffer…Travis was brighter and looked better.  They were in constant competition.  Travis always won.  He would get Tamara back and keep Special on the side and neither woman would suspect the other.  While he continued calculating, his phone rang again.  Once again, it was his mother Tori.

“Yes maam”, he answered annoyed.

“I forgot to tell you, you need to watch that funky temper of yours.  Keep your hands to yourself and keep your gun in the drawer.  I gave that weapon to you for emergencies only”, she said.

“Ma, I have absolutely no earthly idea what you are referring to. My gun doesn’t leave the drawer and the safety is always on.”

“Boy, you think I’m stupid?!  You shot that poor girls back window out!  According to the rumor mill, her cousin Courtney is working on a retaliation strategy.  You may want to take the safety off that gun, son.”

Travis was alarmed now. Thoughts were swimming in his head. All his previous intentions were quickly overshadowed by concern and obsessiveness. Travis was furious.

“I didn’t do it, mom.”

“Well who did, T?”

“A dead man”, Travis answered. He then ended the call. He powered off the phone, took the battery out and put it in his pocket. He put a shirt on, grabbed the 9mm out the drawer, loaded it and tucked it in his pants. He left a note for Special with specific instructions on how to move out and how to return his key.  Then he swiftly exited the apartment without even locking the door.

(To be continued…)