(Originally written Saturday, March 31, 2012)
Wow, time really flies! It is been 8 months since my last blog entry. Instead of making a single entry, I’ve decided to make several entries culminating into one story of a pivotal chapter in my life. We are all innocent and so none of the names have been changed. LOL. Here goes nothing.
It was 10 years ago when I decided to go to a Community Alternative Policing Strategies (CAPS) meeting. I owned rental property in the hood and needed to get to know the Police Officers patrolling the surrounding neighborhood. After all it was almost March and the “natives” would be getting restless. So after a long and hectic day, I made my way over to St. Ailbe’s church for a 7 o’clock meeting. Arriving 15 minutes late, the church community room was jampacked. I spotted a seat way in the back and like a good Baptist boy, I instinctively raised my index finger to meander through the chairs, transfixed on the very last seat. I hurried. “Oops, excuse me, pardon me ma’am”, I whispered as I bumped people. “Shit the meeting is starting”, I hurried more still.
Just steps from my seat I felt someone tugged my wrist as I passed. It was a fair-skinned pleasantly plump woman with a familiar face. That face you know but just can’t recall from where. She said whispering with force, “Cortez?! Hey! It’s me!” She was so excited to see me, never realizing that I was clueless of who she was. I smiled ingratiatingly and said, “Heeey YOU!” That meant, I don’t remember your name. With extended arms, she rushed to hug me in what felt like a strangely long embrace. Delivering four quick questions, she fired off, “What are you doing here, how have your been, do you still live in the old hood, how’s your momma doing?” In that instant I snapped out of it, realizing that we were standing for all to see in the middle of the meeting. I leaned to her and whispered, “let’s just talk after the meeting.” She gestured with one of those “oh yeah…” And we took our seats.
For the rest of the meeting I had the hardest time focusing on the subject matter. You see, Amy was a girl from the neighborhood. Someone with whom I had “hung out” in Englewood for a very brief time during one very hot summer more than 20 years ago. This fair skinned woman was jolly and round. But the fact that she remembered me, the fact that she recognized my face so readily, the fact that she embraced me as if we had seen each other just yesterday was very strange to me.
I allowed myself to fade into the meeting and deal with the matter at hand of policing a protecting my property. I thought noticed her look back at me once or twice during the meeting. Surely she didn’t think I’d..… No, surely she didn’t. Surely not, right? Questions, answers and 2 hours had passed before I knew it. The meeting was over. And amid the sounds of all the chairs sliding back on the vinyl floor, I turned to see Amy patiently waiting for me to pass by. I did eventually reach and this was the ensuing conversation, “So wow, you look just the same as you did when we were kids,” she said. I could not exactly offer the same compliment. Amy didn’t look anything like the young, slimmer barely mixed girl I had known back in the hood with the white mom. In the hood, there was always that one “mixed family” where one of the parents was white. Oddly, those families always seemed to make special effort to be tough and “urban”. And I can remember Amy’s brother, being particularly tough and particularly urban. I can also remember him dying in a hail of gunfire during that hot summer now 29 years ago.
So Amy & I stayed there in the church exchanging niceties for 10 minutes or so. She asked about my family and told me all about hers. It was clear to me that the conversation was not going to end any time soon so I did the unthinkable. “So Amy, ummm, why don’t we exchange cell numbers? That way we don’t have to wait 20 more years to talk again.” She said,“Cortez I would like that.” We exchanged cell phone numbers and hugs and said goodbye.
The next day at work in the midst of the busiest part of my day I felt overwhelmed by ringing phones, people in and out of my office. It was just plain chaos! Like Sargeant-at-arms my Assistant silenced the room be announcing, “Cortez, there is an Amy on the phone for you?” Without thinking I grabbed the line and said, “Hey Amy, how are you?” She replied in a voice revealing that she had been chilling all day long. She sounded refreshed like she’d just step out of the shower. “Heeey you! How you doing today? You got some time to talk?” I looked up at the people milling about sitting in my office, my Assistant nervously rumbling through files, the other phone lines flashing and answered, “Amy, I am swamped. We’re going to have to talk some other time. I’ll try to call you later today.” Back to the chaos I went.
Six ours later while sitting in the kitchen helping my daughter with her homework, my cell phone rang with a remotely familiar number. It was Amy. I answered and gave her a few minutes of small talk before telling her that I was exhausted from the day. She said, “Oh okay, I’m sorry. I’ll just call you later.” I did not protest. I turned my attention back to the math homework.“Honey I’m going to need to see the book. No, chapter one!” LOL
The next morning on the ride to work, Amy called again me while I sat in rush-hour traffic. I answered the phone and went straight in saying, “Wow Amy, I have talked to you more in the last 3 days than I have in the past 20 years!” She said, “Yeah I was just so surprised to see you. It’s been such a long time and I was hopeful we could have a conversation.” Once again I began to think,“I wonder what she wants. I think she wants to go out. How can I let her know that I’m not interested in her like that?” Until that point she had given me to open to say,“No thank you.” So I said to her, “Hey listen, I forgot to do a morning conference call. I promise you that I’ll call you this evening and we can have whatever conversation you’d like. Okay?” She said, “Thanks, I look forward to talking to you tonight.” I took the conference call, allowing myself to drift in the haze of my morning commute.
Like clockwork Amy called me that evening at 8 PM sharp. That irritated me. I’m sure she could sense WTF in my voice when I answered the phone. It had been a very long day, I was hungry and missed my kids who lived with their mom. I was in the mist of a divorce too and had really thin skin. It has been 4 long days since Amy any reconnected. I was ready to shut this weird exchange down once and for all. I was done! She opened the conversation with, “Cortez, like I was saying last night, it is so good to see you after so long. You really look great in everyway. I mean, when you walked in that room back at the church, I just couldn’t believe it was you.”
Before she could continue her litany I cut her off, “Amy, hey it was nice to see you too. But it seems as if you we’re on different pages. I mean you’ve called me 4 days in a row. And I don’t want to sound arrogant or like I am all that but I don’t know how much more there is for us to talk about. It’s been 20 years since the one or two summer nights we spent together as teen. Twenty long years we really are very different people, wouldn’t you agree?” Suddenly, she busted out laughing and then crying in the same moment. She said, “Oh my God Cortez, I’m so sorry. It’s not what you think. It’s just that when I saw you, I realized that I needed to talk to you. I understand where you are and respect that. But I just need you to know something.” The phone fell silent and I didn’t say a word though the long pause. Then from frustration, I barked out, ”What?!” Clearing her voice as if to sober up, she calmly replied, ”We have a son. His name is Christopher and tomorrow is his 19th birthday. He lives in Minnesota and is coming to Chicago next week.”
For the first time in a very long time I was speechless. Completely and utterly speechless. All I could rationalize was, “After 20 years, why are you telling me now?” She replied, “Sorry, I cant keep this to myself any the longer.” And my entire games changed.[To be continued….]
I hope you enjoy the next few entries on Confessions Café – a photoblog. If you’d like to author a story or two on Confessions Café, inbox me on Facebook. I’d love to share your stories.