Good Morning Heartache

by Jhori Barksdale

Staying in bed and crying my eyes out all day is not going to change anything so I promised last night that I would force myself to get up at my usual appointed time and get back on track. Yet the moment the sun started to lick at my sculptured cheeks at approximately 6:20 this morning, I told myself that I'd lied once again and am challenged to pull the soft covers back over my head and hide for a little while longer from the cold cruel world and having to deal with my heart broken situation.

Grandma Kelly always said that no matter how long or how far you run to hide, the problem is still going to be there waiting on you to give it the full attention that it needs and deserves. Well I know that she's right because I've been ducking and dodging for three days now and it's still there banging against the walls behind my breast to make sure that I know it ain't going anywhere any time soon. And that's not the hard part. I can bare the pain and get up and walk around with it singing its song to me all day if I have to——the real problem with my heartbreak is not so much the hurt that's making me barely drag myself out of the comforts of my bed; the real massiveness of my dilemma derives from the fact that he and I work together.

How many times has it been the focal point in Today's Black Woman, Essence and Ebony mag, that it is not a good idea to date someone that you work in close proximity with based on the repercussions of what you'll have to endure should the relationship fail. You will have to look at that person everyday and heaven forbid if they openly start dating someone else and you were the dumpee. And here my stupid ass not only threw myself into a full fledge office affair, but it had to be with someone that I work in very close proximity with on a daily basis. Adding insult to injury is the fact that for the next three months, we will basically be looking down one another's throats with a multi-million dollar project that we'd marketed and won together during our more festive of times back when we couldn't seem to keep our hands off one another. The project is what got us entangled in this mess in the first place.

It was almost a wreck dying to happen from the beginning. Two beautiful black people so strongly attracted to one another that blind strangers on street corners could see the red fire surrounding us any time we were around one another. There were rumors almost from the moment we were introduced and we wasted no time in adding fuel to the flames. Unbridled passionate looks during meetings. Soft giggles heard from behind closed doors. Slight grazing of bodies in narrow hallways. It was as if a neon sign hung around our necks that we had a love thing going on. It was so sweet. It was so bitter. Now it hurts so bad and I don't know where all the pieces of my life are so that I can begin picking them back up. I suspect than some are even missing and the puzzle will never be complete again.

I walk into the bathroom, stepping over piles of clothes while pushing my wild and unruly hair around on my head at the same time cringing at the bitter taste in my mouth. A dry wine at midnight will result in an equally dry and nasty mouth at almost 7 in the morning.

Shuffling over to the mirror, the sight I behold is less than arresting. If I state the truth, it's down right appalling. The make up that I had on the other night when we went to eat at Pano's and Paul is still trying desperately to hang on for dear life though not necessarily in the same spot that it was first so skillfully applied. The hair issue is a whole other scene that there is no since of discussing and just simply needs to be shampooed and coddled for it's mistreatment and neglect.

How did I get myself into this fine mess I'm finding myself in? Crying until I'm dry heaving. Tormenting myself by playing Brandy's depressing single Have you ever over and over again until the words echo in the walls of my mind even in silence. Allowing every single moment spent together to replay like a tape stuck on continues rewind reminding me of what once was and would never be.

So long ago I'd promised myself to never allow another being to get so close as to learn the workings of my emotions. Never would I let someone inside and consume my soul like I'd done years ago only to end up emotionally shattered and damaged beyond recognition. He'd taken what was once an outgoing and personable woman and marred her into a harsh and unfeeling bitch who used and disposed of men at her leisure, never feeling any regret for what she was doing to the people who would grow to love her enough to the bounds of confessing undying love and proposing marriage. So many men had come and gone without a care on my behalf. The less time they were around the better.

And inter-office dating has always been off limits in my book, and yet all it took was one glance of the full sexy LL Cool J like lips wrapped around even chalk white teeth and a bald head sitting atop a 6' 3" 210 lb., frame—and all my rules and good reasoning went flying right out of that 25th story window. Ramal Washington put a Jones on me like you wouldn't believe. Boyfriend had me questioning my fashion capabilities, my etiquettes, my educational background and knowledge as well as even my own sense of being. When we first began dating, I lost all of who I was somewhere between the first moment he lightly tapped my hand in the car and chastised me for trying to open my own door and when he asked me what I wanted to eat and then so eloquently ordered the meal for the both of us in beautiful flowing and perfected French.

Until that moment, I had prided myself on being this super independent woman that would make men cowl in my presence. I needed nor wanted for nothing more than the monetary and physical expectations that I required of them. For what other use were they to me? Admittedly, I'd been wined and dined by the best and elitist of them all. I had certain requirements and restrictions to be met and should you fall short, well you were displaced. Yet, Ramal was one of those seasoned romancers that had his smoothness passed down through well groomed bloodlines. He came from old money and what was new and exciting to me was simply a part of who he essentially was. It gave him a kick to be able to open up a new view of the world to someone like me—educating an already veteran to the pamperedness of a cosseted life.

Though we never openly showed affection, it wasn't a secret to anyone at work that we were seeing one another. He would spend the night often and we would ride in together and in the evenings after a long day, it was not a big deal to see us at a restaurant near our job grabbing a bite to eat. As time progressed, his presence began to have an affect on me that was never before allowed. I began to look forward to our time together and let myself enjoy us with less guard and reservation. It wasn't hard to get caught up in his world though I knew he would never come close to understanding mine and the way I viewed life. I knew what it was like to live without. I had been on both sides of the coin being a have and a have not. I knew the power that having money afforded you as well what it meant to go a whole day with only an egg salad sandwich as your only source of nutrition. I knew what it was like to stretch $20 bucks for two weeks.

Ramal was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and so were his father and his father's father, who had owned a law firm and marched with Dr. King. His family had known money and power for a very long time while I was the first in my line to actually achieve my Masters. My cousin Asana had gotten her bachelors in Finance from Georgia State but was now on her third baby daddy and working on commission in South DeKalb's men's shoe department. That's how she met her baby daddies two and three. Some people, no matter how much they have going on upstairs, don't have an announce of common sense to save their soul.

Stepping into the steaming shower, the water pelts down on my aching head and pounds onto my sore skin. Knowing that it's more psychological than anything my heart hurts and that is not to be denied. But the most tender of it all is my ego. Turning to face the water hoping it will wash away the pain I feel behind my eyes and deep down in my chest, I begin to think about the other night with Ramal—the night that has led me to my three day long pity party.

We were sitting in his living room after having come back from a very romantic dinner at 103 West. He had lit the fireplace and was in the kitchen preparing two glasses of wine when the phone rang. It was rare for us to be at his condo since my apartment was closer to our job and he now had clothes there. He was paying the rent on it, so why would I question or complain about the time we sent there.

Expecting him to get it, I was surprised but not so surprised when after the third ring, the phone stopped and then began ringing again a few seconds later. Before it stopped again, he walked back into the room with the glasses in his hand and came over offering one to me. I'd suspected for some time that I was not the only person that he saw, but never questioned him about it. I felt that what we shared would eventually overshadow any outstanding previous relationships he had before me and soon they'd be a fading memory in his mind.

"You're not going to get that?" I asked, eyeing the cordless as the little red light flickered with each ring. The few times that we had been over to his house, he would never answer the phone when it rang and when I inquired, he would always say that it could not have been more important than him focusing his undivided attention on us, and if they really needed to speak with him, they would page him. And always, 30 seconds later his pager would go off but he would look down at it and then shrug saying that just like he thought, it wasn't important.

Regrettably, three nights ago my female intuition got the best of me. Lately I'd found him to be a little more distant than usual and more than once, awoke to find him coming from the kitchen at two in the morning with the outline of his cell-phone weighing down his pajamas pocket which he would try unsuccessfully to hide.

When Ramal and I first began going out, we had discussed previous relationships and he had confessed to very recently getting out of a rather long term relationship with a woman who's family was very close to his. As a matter of fact, they had grown up together and everyone assumed they would eventually marry one day and join together their wealth and prominence. This caused me to be very cautious to say the least due to I know how the rebound thing works as I have been on both ends of that kind of boomerang situation and was not about to put myself in the line of fire again. Yet, Ramal convinced me that his feelings for her had dissolved a long time ago and they'd more or less stayed together out of familiarity than anything until it was too much of a hassle to deal with the relationship anymore and then they had parted ways amicably.

On this rare occasion, I was spending the night as we had plans of getting up very early in the morning for him to take me out on my first golfing excursion. He had bought me my own set of clubs and was very eager to pull me even more into his high society lifestyle. Tee time was 7:30 and the course was right near his house out off Sugar Loaf Parkway in Duluth. Fittingly for the occasion, he'd also purchased me a very nice pink and turquoise v-neck sweater, pink button down, beige Dockers and color coordinated argyle socks. I was sure to look like a female member of Boys to Men.

Not too sure of my golfing abilities, still I was very excited and awoke around three in the morning. Ramal was sleeping like a newborn baby and wanting not to disturb him, I got up and went down to the den to look at TV. I sat down on the black leather couch and switched on the big screen to BET. Ricky Smilie was on and hosting the new line up of Comicview. I watched and laughed for a while at the comedians but the light flashing on the phone indicating messages waiting, kept beckoning to me that answers to my many questions lay within the confines of the telephone line. Never before had I been the type to devil into peoples personal stuff because I always said that you don't go looking for anything knowing you may not like what you find, but it was like I was compelled to pick up the phone and dial the three digit code that automatically plays your messages. The first message was a knife piercing my chest.

"Hey baby. I don't know where you are this time of night. I tried calling the office but you weren't there and you aren't answering your cell, so I assume you're sleep. My plane comes in tomorrow night around 7. I've missed you so much these past few months. It's been very hard being away from you so much, but I take to heart that all of that is going to change in a month when I become Mrs. Ramal Washington. Oh, my dress is being altered and shipped in two weeks. I so look forward to you waiting at the end of the isle and seeing me in my long white dress. I love you baby. Don't forget, 7 o'clock. Smooches."

The second message is a full fledge blade plunge into my heart. "Ramal, I forgot to tell you that the agent faxed me over the contract to sign but it wasn't very legible so I called her back and told her that you would bring your copy with you to the airport when you pick me up tomorrow and I'd sign it then. She says we can drop it back by there tomorrow night and that she'll stay and wait for us. I also talked to the people at Huff Furniture and the living room furnishings won't be here for another week because it's a special order and has to be hand sewn. Well, call me when you get this message tonight or I'll just see you at the airport tomorrow. I love you."

I look up to find Ramal standing in the doorway with an unreadable expression on his face.

"Why Ramal?" Is all that I can muster to say as big tears begin to formulate in the corner of my eyes and quickly spill down the front of my cheeks..

His eyes never waiver from my face and his expression does not change. His answer is slow in coming and the silence that hangs in the air is thick enough to see, let alone hear. His shoulders eventually drop and I'm not sure if it's from exasperation or the lifting of a heavy burden that he's been carrying around for close to three months.

At this point, I really don't care and just want to know why he had to unnecessarily hurt me so bad and exactly when he'd plan on telling me that he was getting married and also, how many others at the office were aware of this. I feel like such a fool for believing in love after all this time of denying myself and now just now understanding that the cycle never changes. I knew that I did not run in his circles and felt that I could never know the life that he knows in the way that he knows it, but he had made so many promises about us and our future as if he had plans of including me in his life for the long term. I never knew or expected us of only being a temporary office fling and my only being someone that he would soon wipe his hands of like a dinner napkin. At that moment I felt so low and humiliated.

How could he explain his actions away and make them sound rational in any possible way. There was no excuse or explanation imaginable that he could give me as to what I'd just heard. All the answers I needed were stored in that little chip in the telephone and I really saw no need to sit and listen to what ever lie he could somehow muster as to his reasoning for his deceit.

Never did he try to stop me when I got up from the sofa and went upstairs to put on my clothes. With each passing second, I felt more used and dirty. I'd allowed my self the misfortune of releasing my heart when I'd vowed to never love anyone again.

When the cab arrived and I came back downstairs to leave, he was sitting in his precious all white living room on his pure white Italian leather sofa with his upper class head resting in his Spa Sydell manicured hands. I looked back at him and the last three months went past my eyes in a whirl and I wondered once again, when was he planning on telling me. And I knew then that for the last time in my life, I'd accepted someone inside but it would never happen again.

Good Morning Heartache by Jhori Barksdale

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