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Reign Phorest Part II: Departure


Historic Charles Street, Mt. Vernon, Baltimore
Image by greencitybaltimore via Flickr

A cigarette is lit. Phorest takes a drag from his Newport and blows smoke toward the sky as if releasing some sort of tension. There’s a crowd outside Cignel’s. Phorest and I usually talk about everything and nothing as we make our way down Charles Street to our favorite club, but not tonight. Tonight we walk in silence. One or two patrons yells to one of us or the other as we pass by; we never wait in line.

“The fuck’s that?”

“I don’t know,sounded like Tootie.”

“So where to?” Phorest acknowledges no one and we enter the club.

“You know where; Salisbury. It’s on the eastern shore.”

“Whatever. Let’s dance.”  For whatever reason, I refused to believe my deciding to go away to school could affect our friendship. I hardly thought it mattered to Phorest or to anyone for that matter, but It did. That night, while two friends danced and sipped ill-gotten drinks, and smoked, and eventually laughed, things changed.  I would examine that summer of nineteen eighty-six repeatedly over the years never quite understanding the abrupt nature of our psychological departure. Phorest and I would lunch or hang out together at intervals over the coming years but our friendship was changed, and forever. In the winter of 2010, during a conversation with Phorest, I had an epiphany. He in Japan and me back home in the States, we talked on the phone about that weird time.

“I looked for you in New York. I couldn’t believe you left me here,” I said. “You left me,” he said laughing. The statement puzzled me.

“I never left you.”

“You left first. Remember you went away to school?” As the words rolled off Phorest’s tongue, I was instantly taken back to that summer. How could he not know, I wondered. I didn’t leave him. I left before he could leave me. I realized that feeling I had in nineteen eighty-six was fear. I knew Phorest would not be in my life for long. He was talented and creative, and had already experienced things I could not. At no time did I consider he might feel abandoned in the friendship. I retreated.   “We’ll have to agree to disagree about this one, my friend.”

By nineteen-ninety-one, Phorest was gone; to where I had no idea. Also by nineteen-ninety-one I’d transferred to a school closer to Baltimore which was probably my first mistake. I wonder  if there are people in this world who know exactly when their madness began. The minute, the second, the day; does anyone know. I know. Mistake one; move home. Mistake two; marry a man for sex. Mistake three; pretend it’s all good.  The moment all three of these decisions are repeated aloud to one’s self, the madness begins. From then on your life is a maze and no matter what tales you tell, what you settle for, what you achieve; until you figure out the maze you continue to go mad.

A coffee pot is brewing. My husband enters the kitchen, his kitchen and reminds me that I’ve loaded the dishwasher improperly.

“I can’t imagine what difference it makes if the dishes are all clean.”

“It makes a difference or it wouldn’t come with instructions. Perhaps you don’t get it because you’ve never had a dishwasher.”  My husband could be quite the smug son-of-a-bitch. these words and several other demeaning comments would be made to me over the years. I had no idea how they were affecting me but they served a purpose for my husband. His was a therapeutic type of abuse. That type of therapy intensifies the maze, but it also sweetens the reward. Marrying  a man like the one I married assured me good sex and nothing else but because I was making it “all good,” no one knew my pain. The marriage or as I’ve come to term it, the one night stand,  lasted  for thirteen years. Eventually madness gave way to common sense and I emotionally left the marriage.  The rest was just a matter of time.

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