The following is a snippet for a novel I’d begun titled Didn’t I Blow Your Mind, one of my many novels set during a period I’ve been a bit obsessed with (the 70s).
It is the third official option in my BringItBYKE2021 ‘project’ that I announced in my previous post.
Please enjoy, leave your thoughts, and Happy Reading!
Paul sat silently, staring into space like a lost puppy, hurt or wounded without any hope of being found or nurtured. He hadn’t smiled in over a week. Hadn’t been active in over a week, getting up for nothing more than a shower and a small meal. His mother came by daily, forcing him out of bed for at least the duration of her visit.
“I’m just itching to go to that heffa’s job, drag her by that patchy afro, and slide her across the parking lot. Hmmph, mess over my baby. Got some nerve.”
Paul blinked twice and took a deep breath, speaking for the first time in what felt like an eternity to Jean. “I’m fine, Mama.”
“Fine? This is fine? You sitting and walking around in nothing but your boxers day in and day out, missing work, avoiding friends… that’s what you think is fine?” She scoffed, looking at her son. The anguish was written all over his face.
Paul tried his best to hide his emotions, to act tough at all times, as if nothing ever bothered him throughout his twenty-two years. But Jean had always taught him that it was perfectly fine for a man to express his feelings in whatever waves they came, and that freedom never gave him any reason to build up walls or defense mechanisms on the rare occasions he found himself hurting emotionally.
And from her, he got his sensitive nature, his big and open heart that could only be worn on his sleeves. “If I didn’t drive over here, I’m almost certain you’d have been in the same pair all week long, wasting away. You’d be nothing but a walking stick.”
He shook his head. “I’m not that far gone Mama.”
“Yes you are. And as your mother, as close as you and I are, I am here to tell you one thing and one thing only.”
“What’s that, Mama?”
“The heffa is gone, and it’s best that she is. Good riddance.” Jean dusted her hands, looking directly at her son. “It’s good that you caught her, because we all know you don’t base your actions or decisions off anyone else’s instincts, opinions, or what they come to you with.”
“Most people lie, that’s why.”
“Well my gut doesn’t lie, and I wouldn’t have lied to you or said I didn’t like that gal just because she’s another woman in your life. You’ve had plenty of girlfriends since you were twelve, and though I didn’t care for more than two of them, she’s the only one that gave me bad vibes. Disrespectful lil’ thing but she put on a big front for you. And you wouldn’t have noticed it yourself, but she started changing things about you, you started changing for her and for all the wrong reasons.”
Paul looked at his mother, lowering his eyes in confusion at her sentiment. “I haven’t changed, Mama.” His voice was so soft, low and a bit shaky. As if the accusation had hurt more than what was currently going on in his world.
“You have Baby, and it’s not even a subtle change to people who truly know you. Your whole life, your attitude, the way you act, the things you do. You barely talked to your family, because of her. Let go of certain friends, for her. And those very friends, if they didn’t know your heart, they wouldn’t even accept you again if you went to them. There’s so much that’s different about you, Son. From your appearance, to your actions, the way you speak. She made a whole new man out of you, and certainly not for the better. Your personality has even changed. You used to be so lively and outgoing, so happy and cheerful. You were in this great relationship, yet you rarely smiled when speaking to or about her. Rarely had a good thing to say. Had you running in circles when she barely did the minimum or basic things one should do for a loved one. You settled, Son. And many people do at twenty-two or younger, but that was not the right one to go about settling with.”
Paul nodded, taking in his mother’s words, taking note of the passionate way she spoke as she ran down a quick list of what he had been, and what he was now. “So why didn’t you force the issue if you noticed and felt all of this?”
“Because, unfortunately, you were in love with that gal. And at one point you were happy. If you’re ever truly happy, I won’t impose myself into your business. You know that. I asked you often if you were okay and if you were happy. Though I could hear in your voice that you weren’t, I dropped the issue when you said yes because I try my hardest not to meddle in your life and affairs. Hoped you would come to me when you were ready to talk or get things off your chest, but you never did.”
He nodded his head, understanding perfectly.
Jean had gone through this same problem with her daughter years before. Spoke on her gut feeling, tried to get her daughter to see what everyone else saw and it backfired, causing a large rift between the women just before her daughter’s relationship crumbled. Theirs was a strained relationship for many years, and Jean did not want that to happen with Paul. For the sake of keeping him close, she would allow him to make his own mistakes and be there when he needed her.
“Mama, can I ask you a question?”
“How would you feel if I said I was just going to live a bachelor’s life, like my dad? Minus the having multiple families and breaking up happy homes thing he likes to do. You know, a few one-night stands here and there when I feel the need, but no girlfriend or wife. Let my main focus be work, and then have that lifestyle on the side.”
Jean shook her head, hoping her son wasn’t being serious in his thoughts or question. “I’d say you need to get your life together and fast. Being footloose and enjoying life is one thing, but a lot can happen if you go out there being young and dumb because you’re trying to emotionally detach yourself or avoid feeling things when you come across new people. You gon’ slip up and have a bunch of babies in different places, then you’ll be struggling to keep in touch with ‘em all while avoiding the mothers. Ask your father how that life works out for him and his garnished checks.” Paul shook his head, already knowing how things worked for his father. Apart from his youngest child, Laurence Simmons, had and wanted nothing to do with any of his kids or their mothers. “On top of that, it wouldn’t work out for you. Not with the personal morals and values you have. You care entirely too much, love too quickly and too hard, invest too much into everything that you do. You’d say casual sex or relationship, or open relationship, and be upset if you had feelings and the woman didn’t. No Son, don’t let that wench change you into something or someone you’re not. Next question.”
Paul exhaled, nodding his head as he slouched down further onto his couch. “It was just a question Mama, but thanks for reading me like an open book.”
The phone began to ring, and for the first time in over a week, Paul picked up the receiver, his tone dry and emotionless. “Hello.”
“Boy, I thought you were dead or something.”
He pulled the receiver from his ear, silently counting to five before he placed it back and replied. On the other end was his best friend, a man that constantly danced between the fine line of ‘certified genius’ and ‘village idiot’ when it came to the things he did or said. “Why on Earth would you think that, Aiden?”
“Because your moms said you were out here tripping, you weren’t answering your phone or your door…”
“You came by?”
“Four times. If you heard me knocking and chose not to answer, I’m gon’ beat your ass when I see you.”
Paul rolled his eyes. As much as he wanted to laugh at his best friend’s threat, he couldn’t even bring himself to do that. “Sure you will, Aiden. Sure you will.”
“For real, Man. Cut that broad loose completely and consider yourself lucky that you got out now and not way down the line. I told you she wasn’t no good anyway.”
“So, everybody just knew and felt this about Cicely but me.”
Aiden nodded, though Paul couldn’t see him, and continued. “Sure did. But it’s alright, Paul. Men do stupid things, and it’s hard as hell for us to see the truth or let go of something bad when we truly care or love. And you, you ain’t the typical dude.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that you’re not like any other brother out here, trying to take advantage of women just because they throw themselves at you. You don’t play around, don’t lead anyone on. You’re committed, dedicated, caring, honest. Trustworthy, stand by everything you say and do. The type of dude most of these women look for. Just so happens you just got snatched by the wrong one. It happens to the best of us.”
Aiden sighed, making his own admission. “Actually, Barbara and I just called it quits. That woman was entirely too much. Blew my mind… and my pockets while stomping on my heart in the process. Real love is blind, Brother, and we walk around hoping that it’s received and reciprocated by someone that loves just as hard as we do. Someone as deserving of us as we are of them. Sometimes we get tricked and fall for the wrong ones. It happens, we lose our way and ourselves a bit, but you know what we do?”
“Pick ourselves right back up and move on. Now me, I’m a dog, through and through. And I finally got a taste of my own medicine. Me getting dogged was deserved. You, on the other hand, didn’t deserve it. But don’t let her dogging you be the reason you turn those negative vibes and ways back on other women. Just like we’re not all bad, neither are all of them. Also, I hate to see a good man switch up. So please, get it together.”
Paul sat quietly, thinking to himself for a few moments. “My mama told you everything?”
“Just the basics. But only because she knew you weren’t going to call me. I mean, you rarely called or answered when you were with Cicely, so, I knew what bit of pride you have would keep you from reaching out to talk with me.”
“It wouldn’t have been pride, Aiden. Guilt and shame for cutting off a friend, and probably the only one that would have cared enough to see about me. Thanks, I appreciate you.”
“Aye, that’s what friends are for. Pull yourself together, give Ms. Jean a break so she can stop worrying about you, and meet me down at Mack’s so we can have a few drinks and play a couple rounds of pool.”
“Yeah, see you around eight.”
“Alright! Catch you later.”
Paul hung up the phone, looking towards his mother with a big smile spread across his face. It warmed her heart. “What?”
“Thanks Mama. I love you.”
“Love you too, Son. Go ahead and get yourself together. I’ll fix you a really good meal so you won’t have to walk around hungry. Knowing you and Aiden, you two will drink yourselves silly. Might as well drink on a full stomach so the food can absorb some of that. I’ll fix his hardheaded behind a plate too.”
He shook his head, stretching as he stood. “No Mama, I won’t be drinking that much. One of us will have to drive, and I can guarantee it’ll be me.”
“Good. Can I get a hug please for all of my hard and tireless work this past week? I grew some new gray hairs stressing behind you.”
“Haha, yes Ma’am. And I’m sorry for worrying you, but I truly appreciate you for checking on me.” Six feet even, he looked like a giant compared to his mother. Engulfing her in a gentle hug when she came closer, he thanked her once more before heading off to his bedroom.