There’s no time to waste. I call Mr. Ex back intending to leave a message on his phone. I have to say goodbye right now. In all the times I’ve bounced on him in all these years, his only complaint is that I never told him I was going.
He answers, surprising me. I tell him where I am instead. He must hear the panic in my voice, and tells me he’s nearby (not at the hospital.) Maybe we had a bad connection and the lines crossed. Mr. Ex says he’ll be there in ten.
“I don’t have ten! Come here now! As fast as you can!” I blurt.
He promises to make it.
I go back in the ballroom and plead with the DJ [oddly enough, Kid Capri, who spun the first club I ever went to in college, Quiggley’s] to start the music NOW! I don’t know anyone in this room but my Mom, but these party people will have to do. As soon as the first beat drops, to a reggae song no less [anyone who knows me knows I don’t do reggae], I run from table to table frantically telling people to get on the dance floor. They abide.
By the time the last table is clear, everyone’s standing in a circle on the dance floor like they don’t know what to do. (Kids restaurant = no liquor.) I get in the middle and start to wind with my hands in the air. I’m sure I’m off beat and not doing it right, but I am dropping it low and doing the best I can, dammit. This is my last ten minutes. I will dance to reggae before I die.
The dance I’m doing is Tariq’s classic move. I catch myself thinking about him and Ace back in DC. I smile as I wind. I saw Tariq’s new condo the previous weekend. It’s beautiful and he’s off to a great start in life. I spent most of last weekend with Ace. She’s finished grad school and has interviews lined up with great places. Life seems tough right now, but she’ll have everything she wants and more. Last weekend was the best time I’ve spent with them in a long time. I’ll never see them again, but I’m sure they’ll remember me at my best. I’ll RIP knowing they’ll be fine.
The song is winding down, and I run to the DJ booth, begging Capri to play Jay-Z.
Mr. Ex walks into the ballroom and straight toward me as the sound of “Big Pimpin’” blasts through the speakers. This was my shit when I was in college. I partied hard at so many fiestas to this. It’s perfect for my last hurrah.
“What’s wrong?” he asks before even saying hello.
“Just dance with me!” He was always a great dancer. This is how we met in 2000. [see previous blog.] Mid-dance, I turn my back to him and throw an arm behind his head, rubbing it as I bounce my hips around to the beat in front of him. It’s such an overtly sexual dance. I first started doing it when dancing with him, and I only do it when I want to start “trouble,” which won’t happen ever again.
I close my eyes and lose myself in the moment, then I think of the past. The first time I danced with him this way was at a strip club he took me to. I was fully clothed in jeans and a shirt, but some man liked what he saw and tried to give me a dollar. I laugh at that, remembering my outrage and Mr. Ex trying to calm me down, and for a moment, I forget, I am at the end of the line. What I would give to go back.
I turn around to tell Mr. Ex all the things I never said, but wish I had. To apologize for my role in all the fucked up things that have passed between us. But I realize I don’t need to. When I go, he will know how I felt because in my last minutes here, I called him to be with me.
I don’t know how much time I have. I refuse to check my watch. But there is something I must do. “Hold on a sec. Stay here,” I tell him.
I run to the table where my Mom is sitting and watching all the madness that this party I have helped get started has turned into. People are getting it in! If my Dad was here, he would be proud. The Lucases always did know how to throw a stone cold jam. My Mom will tell him about it and he’ll laugh and say “well, the girl’s got it honest.” Then he’ll correct himself and move the verb to the past tense.
I take out the cosmetics that are in my bag and put them in Mom’s purse. She’ll know when I’m gone that I knew it was my end and she’ll appreciate that I went out doing it my way (cue Frank Sinatra) and I cared enough to spare her panic. I hug her good-bye and kiss her forehead and mess up her hair (she hates that.) She flips her head and it falls into perfect-place again. I smile at her with love.
She thinks I’m nutty. I can tell by the face she’s making. Then with a knowing look that tells me to go to him, she nods toward Mr. Ex who is waiting for me on the dance floor. I turn to find him watching me from a distance.
I grab my purse (I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m showing up fly), then walk calmly toward Mr. Ex. I hope I was a good daughter. And a good friend. I hope that when my friends arrive for the party, someone will tell them I am gone and they will stay and dance in my memory instead of crying. I hope they will remember me as a fun chick who said crazy ish and made them laugh and smile. I hope Ace will remember she deserves the best and that Tariq will find a great love.
I decide I am going to tell Mr. Ex that I am leaving soon. He’s the only person I’ve told a lot of stuff too. I shouldn’t start holding back now. And too, he won’t fall apart if I share my burden.
“Death is here,” I announce in a matter of fact tone when I’m close enough to him. “He’s waiting out front.”
He doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation to know what I’m talking about. He never did. “Go back to your mother,” he says firmly. “I’ll be here when she's gone.”
I shake my head. “He’s not here for her.”
He screws up his face. “Who’s he here for?”
I open my mouth, but the words don’t come out.
I see the surprise on his face as he reaches for me.
I fade to black before I feel his touch.
*Tomorrow, I’ll continue with Anatomy of A Break Up (Down)