Five Years to Forgiveness
by Ana M. Gibson
I wrote down everything I could possibly think of that he’s ever done wrong to me. So many faults to be accounted for; so many promises that turned into problems—they’re all right here, right on this paper. Then my phone rings and I pick up. Unexpectedly thrown out of my thoughts, I answer, “Hello?”
“Who is this?” I ask, taking my phone from my face to check to see who it is but the number isn’t recognizable.
“William.” He says. I check my mental Rolodex to see if I recognize that name, though, I don’t remember a Will…well, I’ll be damned! That William.
“William Coleman?” I ask, somewhat blushing. How did he get my number? And why is he calling? I haven’t spoken to him in over five years; at least not since graduating college.
“Yeah, that’s me!” He chuckles. My God in heaven, it’s actually him. That same cool laugh and soothing deep tone of voice that had always sent my loins in an uproar, permissions me back down memory lane.
William was my first and only boyfriend in college. We dated all four years but somehow by the end of our senior year, a month before graduation, we broke up for unexplained reasons. All I remember was that he called me and told me he could no longer be in my life. It just wouldn’t be right if he stayed. He needed his space and that it we continued on, everything would be messed up.
How stupid could I have been to believe him? And of course I was devastated. That wasn’t anything I needed to hear right before one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. But I let it be as much as I could. Besides, William and I were always on and off, so I thought that maybe he’s just having one of his moments. However, once graduation came and gone, I never heard from him again.
Rumor had it that he had gotten some girl knocked up and wanted to hide it from me, but I knew William well enough to know that he didn’t have the heart to hurt me in that way. I denied the naysayers, even though parts of me did question; maybe not so much about the baby thing but more so his reasons for the abrupt abandonment to our relationship. So I ask myself now that I hear his voice, do I know him?
That strange, yet familiar anger and anxiety begin to sprawl up deep within but I try not to let it take over me. Perhaps he has a reasonable explanation for his five-year absence.
“Wow, William…what a surprise!”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” Finally, I let down my pen and pad and put my full attention on my ex.
“How’d you get my number? It’s been what, Five years?” I add.
“I know and I’m sorry!”
“No need to be. I’m over it actually!”
“Over what?” He says. I can’t believe he just asked me that.
“You forgot?” I’m sure that wasn’t a great start to our conversation. I mean, we could’ve at least asked how each other were doing or at least sound somewhat excited. But as I normally know him, he changes the subject and says, “Listen, can we meet up today? Maybe lunch?”
I giggle at the thought. “How are you going to do that? For all I know you could be halfway across the world.” And without missing a beat, I hear a shy snicker come from him. “Are you going to meet me or what?” He asks. I nonchalantly exhale a sigh of ‘I don’t care’ and then go on to say, “Fine. What time and where?”
“12:30. Allen Pond Park.” It was perfect.
“Again, how did you get my number?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll see you in a little while, sweetheart!” And then he hangs up. All the flushing anger subsides and immediately my stomach churns of butterflies and lilies. It’s a bit confusing, nonetheless. I hadn’t seen him in God knows how long. Well, five years to be exact but who’s counting anyway right?
I check the clock to see if lunchtime is nearing. It’s only thirty more minutes until but now I can’t seem to refocus on my work, so instead I wait for the time to pass by, looking pressed and giddy.
My apprehension wouldn’t let up and I couldn’t wait any longer in my office, so I take the advantage of going to lunch a little early. Besides, the park isn’t too far from my job.
Soon, I happily arrive and head down into the park, sitting near the large pond. I make sure I face towards the entrance so I wouldn’t miss him coming in. Five minutes pass and my anxiousness rides up my spine while I wait. I check my phone again to see if he’s called. There’s a text message in queue. Come over to the playground when you get here.
Excited, I do as he instructs and swiftly make way towards the playground. There aren’t too many people here; just a few stay at home mothers with their wild children. But then I get closer and see a guy sit down coolly upon the bench, letting go of a young child’s hand. I try not to jump to conclusions, as I know William doesn’t have a kid—at least none that I know if. I finally approach an empty bench sitting at 10 o’clock of the jungle gym. I wait for my prize with eager expectation that everything is going to feel right. It’s going to be ok.
Then, I look up to see that every same guy walking over to me. The closer he gets, the faster my heart races. My palms sweat of clammy nerves, as my vision gets clearer of this familiar being approaching me. I just know my cheeks are flushed red though I’m just as brown as cocoa butter. And with the sun slightly grazing over my face, I try to squint my eyes, refraining from smiling too hard as seeing him.
“Well hello there!” He says. I don’t answer back. Not because I don’t want to, but the cat has got my tongue. He stands directly in front of me, happy, with a twinkle in his eye. His short chocolate curly fade slightly glistens and the strong facial features of his Cherokee lineage, captivates me once again. That large black earring he’s always worn and the huge stamp like tattoo he brags upon his right are, draws me in. Nothing has changed. Not one thing.
“Well, can I get a hug?” He smiles and holds out his muscular caramelized arms. I hesitate to say anything, still amused at his arrogance.
“Hello William!” I try to say with a straight face but I don’t think it’s working. “You still look the same,” he tells me, still holding out his arms.
“Oh yeah? And how’s that?” I ask.
“Still beautiful.” At that moment, I take his hand and he pulls me up from the bench and into his chest. I remember this kind of hug; like he actually cared and loved me; as if he was scared to let me go. I remember it all too well. My nose brushes pass his neckline and the sweet cologne of Versace tickles my nostrils with nostalgia. I take a deep breath and hold it in for a while. My God, he smells so good.
“I’ve missed you so much,” he kisses the top of my head and hugs me tighter.
“I’ve missed you too, William,” I say, keeping the tears from welling up in my eyes. For so long, I’ve been longing for this moment to be in his presence again…to see that beautiful face of his and be in love once more. He was simply the love of my life.
“How’ve you been?” He finally lets me go. I take a deep sigh and sit back down. “I’ve been ok, just working and stuff. How about you?”
“I’m hanging in there. Taking care of things. You know me…” he says so confidently.
“I hear that!” Then a subtle silence falls upon us even as the loud roars of innocent children ring through our ears. I hear a little boy shouting out for his dad. So I take it upon myself to look around to see whom he’s shouting for. Just as I look up, William shouts back, “Yea son?” This is weird. My grip tightens on my keys and my breaths shorten while listening to the two, grab each other’s attention. The little boy wants William to watch him check out his new trick on the swing.
“Aight, go ahead. Just be careful!” He tells him. The tension in my body stiffens my thoughts and me. My head turns and watch this little boy swing as high as he can and then he counts to three and jumps. Laughingly, he thuds to the woodchip ridden ground and rolls over once.
“Did you see it?” He shouts, jumping back up to his feet.
“Yeah! That was cool man. You’re a little Evel Knievel,” William replies, giggling to himself. Then the young boy goes back to play with the other kids around. William takes my attention again.
“That’s my boy right there!” He says proudly. Like I couldn’t see that!?
“Oh wow, you have a son?” I question stupidly.
“Yeah. That’s my mini me.”
“How old is he?” I say, really needing to know. His smile quickly fades and suddenly his disposition becomes noticeably uncomfortable.
“Lauren, look, that’s what I need to talk to you about.” In that instant, I knew where this was headed. The memories of the past come back and taunt my head and even more so my heart. I take a deep gulp and steady my breathing, hoping that what is about to be said won’t kill me.
“Yea?” I say. He grabs my hand and connects his eyes with mine. I can see the hurt and betrayal lingering in his eyes like a secret waiting to be exposed. So I brace myself.
“You know I’ve always love you right?”
“Yeah I guess so.”
“You know we had a relationship that only you and I understood right?” I nod my head. “What’s your point?” He takes a deep exhale and then says to me, “Yes, that’s my son and he’s five.” He tells me regretfully. I take my hand away from his gently while my eyes stay glued to his.
“You remember the day I broke up with you?” He asks. I shake my head. How could I forget?
“His mother was going into labor that day. Laya Parker. You remember her?” That name definitely rang a bell. My world stops as I think about it. The surge of energy rushes through me enough that I’m ready to pounce on him, but I do my best to keep it at bay. No need in the police getting involved.
“Yea!” my tone of voice changes, undoubtedly.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen. It was just that we were going through a lot nine months earlier and well, that’s what came of it. I never wanted to tell you because I knew it was going to crush you. I had to do something…”
“Telling the truth would’ve been better than five years of not knowing what happened between us, or not knowing if you were ok? If you were alive of if you still loved me, William,” I say getting up, furious. He takes my arm and cautiously pulls me back down to sit again.
“I’m sorry, Lauren. I really am.” My eyes roll and lips tighten. I can’t believe all that I’m hearing right now. How could I have been so stupid to believe anything else?
“God, William,” I start with a stuttering sob. My tears are unleashing and there’s nothing I can do about it at this point. “And with Laya? Laya Parker?”
“No, you don’t. Don’t say that, because you don’t.” I tell him. My tears gracefully fall down my face and I try to wipe them quickly as I see William’s son running towards us. He sucks up his sorrow and puts on a saved face.
“What’s up buddy?”
“I’m getting hungry!” He tells him. I keep wiping my face so he won’t see me crying.
“Ok Cory! Give me a few minutes and then we can go, aight?”
“Aight dad. Can we go to McDonald’s?”
“Yep! Now go on and play. I’ll call you when I’m finished.” Cory. That’s his name.
Now all of a sudden I’m even madder.
“Cory?” I ask heartbroken. William doesn’t answer me.
“The name we were going to give our son if we ever had one,” I remind him. I guess he forgot about that. I guess he forgot about a lot of things.
“Are you still with her?”
“No! We never had a relationship. It was just a one time thing, but I wanted to be there for my son. You know me.”
“Don’t say that, Lauren. You know me better than anyone else,” he tries to assure me but I’m not buying it.
“I tried so hard to believe anything but that…” I say.
“This…all of this right here; your son. Everyone knew but me, William. Everyone made you out to be the bad guy but I tried to stick by your side regardless of the face that we broke up. I mean I knew we were having problems and then having the stress of graduation falling upon everything else, I just thought you needed time for a while but you played me, William. You played me for a fool. You had a girl that you absolutely knew I hated, only to get pregnant with your child. You just up and left me hanging like it was nothing. Like you breaking up with me wasn’t going to affect my life. I suffered hard and you didn’t care. I loved you and liked to me, William. You lied. How do I forgive you for that? How do you just expect me to be ok?”
Surprisingly, he never takes his eyes off of me while I explain myself. That’s new. He then goes on to say, “I can’t expect that from you.” And as he says those words, my mind goes into its memory bank of all the times I’ve stuck by him and how much he treated me wrong. How arrogant he was to believe that he was my end all and be all and how naïve I was to allow for him to place himself on that kind of pedestal. I remember those days when he had much rather leave me hanging to go with his boys or when miss Laya Parker would spot him from afar. It hurt but I stayed because why? I needed him. I needed to be his main chick, no matter if there were a second and a third just as long as I knew my place and everyone else did too.
He was popular: the star football player on campus. The world was his and I was “the lucky one” to have so called stolen his heart but little did I know, I wasn’t the only apple of his eye. My friends warned me about him, but I didn’t listen. To me, they were just jealous because none of their boyfriends had the badges that he held. It costs me their friendship too.
William was my first everything and he promised me that I was his but I shortly found out a year later that I was just his first virgin he’d ever touched. And stupid me…I justified it to be special. I was special because my innocence was the piece that he kept coming back to. It was pure and that’s what he wanted. And now the more I think about it, the more I realizes how stupid I was for falling for him; for his charm, his good looks and sitting in the position that all the other girls envied. I was his girl for four years. He was the love of my life. I trusted him with my heart because I mean, after all, he promised me the sky, stars and moon.
He promised me that nothing will ever chance, no matter how hard and tough our relationship got—I’ll always be the one for him, though five years ago, it all changed. It changed within a split second. Everything that I thought I had secured and sacredly tucked away for our enjoyment was intentionally taken without hesitation or second thought, and by the very source that I warned him about too. I mean, I thought I could put up with the manipulation and the condescending attitude towards me. I thought I could be the one to bring him back to reality by doing my job as his woman and letting him have his way. I was his and he was mine. I was that “oh that’s big Will’s girl.” I was “Mrs. Coleman, the quarterback’s wifey.” I was that girl for William…but didn’t understand that it was for the fame of his. I thought I could take it all. But this right here has taken my breath away. And what was I left with? This conversation between the two of us right here, right now. Him confessing his guilt and pulling me back in. How sorry he is—the same words I’ve heard time and time again; the phone call, telling me to meet him here because he knows that I’d do it. Maybe a part of me still felt like that famous girlfriend he once so adored for the fans. But now that I sit here…now that I sit right here, what is this telling me.
“Then what do you want from me?” I ask, holding my tears again. His eyes shift back and forth into mine. I guess he’s looking for me to say it but what do I need to say?
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“You want me to say I’m sorry?” I start to laugh sarcastically.
“No! I’m saying that I’m sorry.”
“We already established that.”
“No. I’m sorry for what I did to you.” Reluctantly, I reply, “It’s ok!” though I know I don’t mean it.
“No, It’s not ok. You know why?” He asks. I take my time looking at his face again. I don’t want to get caught up.
“You didn’t deserve me!” He says. My eyebrows lift with suspicion as I’m trying to understand what he means. “Come again?”
“You didn’t deserve me, Lauren. You deserved someone so much better than me. I mean that.” Oh Lord, here comes the water works again.
“I treated you so bad and I regret it. I treated you like you were just some other girl, not realizing that you really meant well by me. You loved me before all of the hype. You put up with my mess for so long and I did nothing but take advantage of that, and I’m sorry.”
A burden starts to slowly lift greatly from my shoulders as I continue to listen to him. I crack a smile and wipe my face. He goes on to finish.
“When Cory was born, it was like something changed for me. I saw how his mother looked at him—with the most sincere love there is on earth—and I realized that even though it was a one-time thing with her, I didn’t want my son to know that. I didn’t want him growing up thinking it was ok to use women…the very souls that bring us into this world. It hurt me bad enough I did that to her and it tore me to bits when I thought about you. I couldn’t hurt you anymore that I have. I broke up with you because I needed to save you from me. To be quite honest Lauren, you didn’t need me. I needed you. But I had to show you that by removing myself. I didn’t want to let you go, God knows I didn’t, but it would’ve been selfish had I not done it. You were too good of a girl…a woman, to go through that. You understand what I mean right?” I shake my head, hoping I truly understand. It doesn’t fix the hurt necessarily, though, I’m glad he’s being honest with me. Better now than never.
“I think so,” I say. He then smiles and grabs my hand again. I’ve never seen this side of him—not once has he ever humbled himself before me and spilled his heart out. That was usually my job.
“Why’d you name him Cory?” I still wanted to know that. He shrugs while searching the ground for an answer.
“I don’t know. I guess a huge part of me had wished it were you bearing my child. I never told her why I wanted to name him that, yet I’m glad she allowed me to.”
“Does he have your last name?” I ask. Proudly, he nods and looks over to his little look-a-like and replies, “he sure does!” Thank you Jesus I think to myself.
“Thank you William,” I tighten my grip with his hand again. He slides over closer to me and throws his arm around to rest on the bench.
“Contrary to popular belief, I was…am still madly in love with you.” He says. I nod and look out into the open space. Immediately, Cory rushes over to us again.
“Dad, I’m ready to go!”
“Ok buddy! We can go,” he tells him. “Say hi to Ms. Lauren,” he throws in. He does as instructed and I return the favor.
Our quick date comes to an end and William and Cory head back to the entrance of the park, though as they get up to leave, I hear Cory whisper, “is that the lady you’re always talking about?” I see William nod and gently push his son up the hill to go. Bashful, I blush, relieved and slightly satisfied.
I get back into my office and close the door, still in my trance. I take my pad and pen and look at my list of faults I’ve found; the ones I clearly remember and now this new one that I have been so hesitant to add. My feelings—everything I’ve always kept in over the last five years hold true on hits piece of paper. Then I flip my paper over and write at least one Con about him that makes the pain and hurt much more bearable than normal. I reflect for a moment and close my eyes. For so long, I’ve held on to questions that had gone unanswered; some about myself, about our relationship and everything in between. And in that instant, there’s a removal of guilt and shame. I find that one Con that, to me, made it somewhat worth it. So I write it down, slowly.
Have Been Forgiven.
Shortly after, I receive a text. This time I check to see who it is. My heart smiles and my world shines again. No longer do I feel slighted, but am now happy on my own terms. I realize that it wasn’t because he had a child by someone else or that he treated me poorly or the fact that he broke up with me off the cusp, that left me bitter and unsettled about everything, no. It was the fact that I allowed myself to settle for less; love for less and give so much of myself to only be used up. I needed to forgive myself f the first four years of being in it but more importantly the last five years of holding on to him.
“Hey beautiful!” William writes. I reply back saying hey.
“Thank you for today!”
“I should be thanking you again,” I respond. Then quickly my phone rings and I pick up. “Again, how did you get my number?”
“I never changed,” he says. Truthfully, I wasn’t going to argue with that.
“Hey look, um, when you said what I expected from you, is that offer still on the table?”
“Ok well, it’s not so much of an expectation but more like a repentance, if you will.”
“I just wanted to know if you could forgive me for all that I’ve done to you?” My eyes then jot back over to my pad and I read what I wrote for my Con, only this time, I place a check by it and giggle to myself. It’s funny how everything happens in the right time.