“what happens when the lights go out?”
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When I woke up that morning, she was gone. I was late for work so I had to get going.
For some reason, I was just tired because the food and the sex that we had the night before had obviously conked me out. I felt groggy and sluggish. You know that feeling you get the next morning after a great session the night before. You’re smiling from ear to ear, glowing but super tired. That was me as I slumped onto my desk at work that morning.
I turned on my computer and responded to some work emails. I remembered that I had to check in for my flight the next day. It was already 24hrs before the flight so I could check in online. I remember being thankful I did not have to pay for my luggage because I was able to pack all my stuff into one bag. Tasha on the other hand was horrible at packing. She would come over to my house for the night with a minimum of four bags and even bring her own food. It was amazing and just comedic sometimes.
I remembered Tasha and picked up my phone and texted her,
“Hey you, how’s your day going?
You just bailed on me. Thanks for last night. I appreciate it”
She responded about seven minutes later saying,
“Oh babe, I’m sorry. I had an 8am meeting. I left and I didn’t want to wake you up. I even forgot to tell you there were some eggs for you in the microwave. You didn’t eat this morning huh?”
I knew she was right. I barely ate, so I elected not to respond because I knew her and I knew she would immediately get upset with me. I continued my day and texted Jules to find out what we would be doing on the day before his Sunday night dinner. His response was strange but I didn’t even think so till much later. He said,
“Oh you’re coming for real?”
I was surprised but I joked it off because I thought he was teasing because I had flaked on coming to visit him a few times. I typed back,
“Of course, I’m coming bro. It’s your big night. My flight leaves tomorrow”
I didn’t get another response from him but I didn’t even need one. I was leaving the office heading home. I was excited to see my brother, Jules but I was still unsure about Jacques.
I was driving home and the worry of what might go down with Jacques was still very much on my mind. I reached for my phone as I sat in traffic and began texting,
I hated when people told me they wanted to tell me something and then proceeded to not tell me immediately they told me. Funny, how much I hated suspense!
Knowing Tasha, there was no way to express things she didn’t want to. I just had to wait and I waited all night. I so desperately wanted to text her but like many, I didn’t want to be the one chasing after her.
So I lay there in bed and wondered what she might have wanted to tell me. Why hadn’t she spoken to her brother? Why was she holding back? Was she really in on it with him?
I began to weave ideas in my head. What was going on? I just needed to know. It was too much to stay awake for. I had to go to sleep; I had an early flight to catch.
The flight was reflective of my life at that time. There were some smooth moments and then there were some rocky times as the turbulence made the flight unpleasant. Whilst on the plane I thought about how long ago the three J’s had been together. I was the type of person to internalize the problem. I would make their problems, my problem and worry consistently about them so the disconnection between us saddened me. I understood some of Jacques’ frustrations and fears about his sister dating me. I understood that I was an asshole before but I was a changing man. I really wanted to do right by her. I saw myself with her long term. I wasn’t going to cheat on her or mess around. I knew that once we got back together, it was for life and I was ready for that.
I spent most of my time after I landed in my room because Tasha was scheduled to arrive later that night and Jacques and I obviously weren’t talking while Jules was also off running errands and putting finishing touches towards the dinner to be held at his house the next day.
I ventured out of my hotel which was around the airport and hit the mall. I did some light shopping and wandered into my favored Aldo store to pick up some new shoes that caught my eye. I thought to myself that it was going to be a truly odd experience when we all meet the next day. I remembered the last time we had all been in the room together like that. It was the night of Jacques’ birthday party. There was so much love, laughter and food in that place that night. I was not sure how it was going to be this time.
I had brunch with a friend at a local dinner not too far from my hotel and then I returned to my room to take a nap. I got up at about 4pm and I just had this sickening feeling in my stomach. All of a sudden I was really nervous. I felt like I had done something wrong. I just wanted to back out of the whole thing. I got under the warm water in the shower as it covered me. I just wanted to stay there. The water drowned out any outside noises and left me feeling safe in a way. I began to wish that I was just allowed to stay there but I couldn’t just be there. Stepping out of the shower with a towel lying on the ground, I began to dry myself off. I reached for my pants and put them on and then my hair brush as I put my shirt on. I started brushing my hair and looked into the mirror; this was a reflection of me. My eye sight was still not great. I had to put my eye drop in before leaving. I needed to make an appointment to see my optometrist again and also get a refill on my prescription eye drops.
I was done. I reached for my jacket and put it on and then I grabbed the gift back that included a bottle of a custom made Pinot bottled in 1972. That winery only made 250 bottles that year due to a fire on the farm. So the value of those bottles sky rocketed costing thousands but Jules was worth it. I looked around my hotel room and made sure I had everything. I put some floss in my wallet and sprayed my cologne. I never left to any meal without floss. I hated food stuck between my teeth.
. . . . . .
I arrived a little late like I always did making sure I was not the only one there when other guests showed up. There were about 4 people there already including Jules. He seemed happy to see me but I was over the moon. I gave him a big hug and attempted to catch up with him before his girlfriend pulled him aside to continue the preparations. People began to trickle in and then Jacques arrived with his new girlfriend and Tasha. I wondered why Tasha didn’t ask me to come and pick her up even though I was sure she wasn’t staying with her brother and his girlfriend. She came over and gave me a warm hug and kissed me. It had only been 4 days since I last saw her but it felt like forever and I had actually missed her. I leaned in and planted a kiss on her cheek and hugged Jacques’ girlfriend. I had totally forgotten her name. The party began as Jules, girlfriend on his arm, welcomed us all and thanked us for coming. We began to dig into the great food.
About 45 minutes in more people had arrived and there were 13 of us seated across the table with an amazing outlay of food in our presence. The food was being passed around while we all filled our plates. I was seated at an angled corner from Jacques. The tension in between us was palpable. You could touch and feel it.
There was a way he glared at me. His girlfriend was repeatedly trying to redirect him by engaging him in small talk. He wasn’t having any of it. It truly just seemed like he had everything bottled up on the inside. Dinner was coming to a close and the bottles of wine on the table were piling. There was slow beach music playing in the background as we all drank, talked and laughed. A couple of Jules’ co workers were looking like they were about to leave so it seemed like the perfect time to have a toast right before they left.
I raised my glass as I rose up and gently tapped my unused bread knife on it. Everyone turned and looked at me. Jules sitting at the head of the table to my left turned down the volume of the music playing. I cleared my throat, smiled and started my speech with,
“We are all gathered here to celebrate a good man. A hardworking man who I have had the privilege to grow with and know for many years, his determination and dedication towards the things and people he is passionate about is amazing. I appreciate you as a brother, a friend and a confidant. This new phase for you will only bring great things. You have shown that through hard work, loyalty, integrity and honesty; you can achieve anything. Congratulations bro, you deserve this”
Right before I was able to finish a now drunk Jacques blurted out,
“At least he knows what loyalty looks like”
I wasn’t taken back or surprised because I knew Jacques and his problem with regulating himself when alcohol became involved. I was angry. For the better part of the night, I had controlled and contained my temper and right then I just was about to lose it but I kept calm. I was not going to engage with Jacques. I tried to ignore him and sit down when he said,
“that’s what I thought, you lying piece of shit”
His girlfriend placed her hand on his arm as if to rein him in but it didn’t help. I looked straight at him sitting down at the table and with a built up but controlled rage I said,
“Jacques are you really trying to do this? Are you really trying to do this here?
Your plan is to air our dirty laundry in public here? Are you serious right now???”
He looked at me and said,
“yes! You wanna stand there and give a speech about loyalty and honesty and shit. Yet you’re out her operating behind people’s backs!”
I was actually startled and had this puzzled look on my face. Jules was surprisingly not standing to interrupt or break up what was about to happen. I thought it was because he had been doing that between us for so long and he must have been fed up or he was just too drunk. I didn’t know when I dug into the reserved anger in me and said,
“Bruh! You need to chill the fuck out with that. What I have to do with your sister has nothing to do with you? Let it fucking go!
She’s a grown ass woman who can make her own decisions and she’s decided to be with me. So be a fucking man and leave it alone. I have never done anything to hurt her and I’m not planning on it so niggaa! Chill the fuck out!”
People were starting to get really uncomfortable and some began to excuse themselves while Tasha held me back and Jacques girlfriend tried to calm him down. The girl Jules had been talking to, Victoria, was puzzled and trying to keep the peace.
Jacques charging at me yelling obscenities suddenly paused after what I had said and smiled. He said
“Oh she didn’t tell you?”
looking at Tasha and then he continued talking,
“I thought you would be one to hurt her but I guess she got to you first. Hahaha such a shame”
I was now confused and I looked at Tasha who was holding my right arm and saying
“Don’t listen to him baby. He’s just saying that to make you mad.”
“He hasn’t said anything yet. What are you talking about? What is he trying to say?”
“Nothing baby. Just forget it and calm down. It’s not important”
She responded and then Jacques cut her off,
“Yeah, that’s not what is important. What’s important is the bullshit you told the NCAA when they called to investigate about the Championship game and why I didn’t test. You were the only one who knew about it and now they are investigating me. You broke the trust you fucking traitor and now you want me to let you be with my sister?! Hell no! I’d rather die you son of a bitch!”
Now, I was mad! If it was possible to see the fumes coming out of nostrils, they would have been enough to burn a corn field in the California drought. I yelled back,
“Me! Me?!!! Are you mad?! Why would I do that? After all that we went through. After all those years. You think I would turn on my brother now?! Now you’re the one not thinking.”
Jacques was a bit taken back by how angry I was. I was close to tears. Whenever I got really angry and I didn’t have the words to use, I would just find myself crying. It also happened whenever I was wrongly accused of something. I was about to lose my shit proper. Tasha had let go of my arm. Jules was quiet in the corner with his girl looking in shock next to him and then Jacques said
“So you’re trying to tell me you never told anyone about our plan back then?”
I shook my head and said
“No! I never told anyone…”
Then it dawned on me. I did tell someone. I did tell one person. But NO!
It was absolutely impossible that the person would have done that. No they could not have betrayed me, betrayed us like that.
I turned to my left and looked at a now worried Jules. He stepped back and then I said,
“I told Jules and only him”
Everyone turned to Jules who made no attempt to defend himself as he took steps backwards. Jacques spoke first before anyone could speak
“You told the NCAA about that. You tried to ruin my life after trying to ruin my sister’s relationship? You bastard! You blackmail my sister and then try to ruin me?!”
Jules chimed in
“I didn’t know my testimony in the investigation was bad. I just said what I thought they wanted to hear. It was so many years ago”
I now had an idea of what was going on and I needed answers. I turned to my right and looked square at Tasha and said
“Tasha, was Jules the reason you didn’t come to the hospital all those months?”
I needed more than that.
She was now crying. The Tasha I knew was solid even in the face of pressure. Something was off but I was frustrated. I yelled
She was wiping her tears when she pointed at Jules and said,
“It was him. It was because of him.”
“What do you mean?”
“He blackmailed me. Jules and I had slept together only a few months before you and I began talking. It was just sex. Nothing more I promise but…. *she sobbed a bit more* when you and I got serious, I didn’t know how to tell you because he was so close to you. So I thought it would go away. He did go away for a while and then he returned when the accident happened and told me that night we were both at the hospital that if I didn’t have sex with him, he would tell you that we had been having sex before you and I became. And I didn’t want that to happen so I gave in. It was only oral but I could not bring myself to look at you again. So I stopped coming to the hospital and stayed away hoping that you would forget about me and my secret would stay dead. I am sorry”
As the last words sailed into the open and shocked room, it felt like a dagger went right through my heart. I looked at Tasha and tears began to streak out of my eyes. I was hurt; again. I had no words to convey my emotion. I felt so stupid.
I was waiting for this girl and hurt that she was not there when I woke up, not knowing that she had been with someone I called a brother. I sat back down in my seat, shocked. I could see Jacques and his face was filled with such regret and sadness. This was not how he wanted me to find out about all this.
I felt so naked. You know that sense you get when you are the last one let in on a secret so significantly about you. I could not imagine that they all knew and nobody told me. I looked around at Jacques; his entire expression said he was sorry without even using words. I turned at the other guests and they all felt sorry for me. I slowly with my teary eyes moved and looked at Tasha, she was sitting in the corner with her hands over her face and all her makeup smeared. I still loved her but I was hurt and while I understood what she did because I had been in that situation before, I was pretty hurt.
I turned over and looked at Jules. It all made sense now. Distributing all the focus away from himself and not wanting to talk about Jacques or Tasha back then. It seemed like all my hurt and anger was channeled that way. I was ready to pounce on him and then he made the biggest mistake ever. He opened his mouth and said,
I lost it. I don’t even remember how fast I ran that way. I jumped out of my chair pushing it back with my left hand. I ran around the couch and dashed for him. Victoria tried to block me and I darted around her. Jules was a tight end in college, a really big guy. I pushed into him and he barely moved. I don’t know exactly what happen next but I swung at him trying to punch him and missed. Trying to defend himself he pushed me and I slipped, falling backwards I crashed into the center piece of the table and the glass shattered and right then my head smashed into the tiles on the ground. The sounds of the glass were familiar, like that day on the road. It was very loud. And just like that day, it all went dark really quick and then quiet for a little while.
All of sudden I heard people rush out to me and I could hear a really scared and worried Tasha calling my name
I could hear Jacques on the phone calling for the ambulance and Victoria yelling at Jules for what he had done. Slowly the noise died out in my head. My eyes batted. I could feel hands on me. My breathing slowed. And then it went completely dark and silent.
. . . . . .
The sounds were the same, the beeping of the machines. It felt like a familiar place. I yawned and slowly turned. I could hear the chatter and the voices from far off. I felt sore and my head throbbed. I felt stiff like I was strapped onto a surfboard.
I turned around moved my legs. I could feel a pounding in my head.
It was tight and dark around me. I could feel a cool breeze from the fan blowing all over me. I knew where I was. The smell of drugs and the moist in the air, I knew this hospital bed. I knew people were in the room but I wasn’t sure who.
I wanted to ask who it was as I turned my head to the left and then I heard a voice.
“Mr Osho, I’m sorry to hear about the situation but from the initial scans we ran it doesn’t look good at all. There seems to be a lot of scaring in your eyes and the little shard of glass has moved into a dangerous position. It is quite possible we might be looking at some permanent damage here”
I clinched the sheets and I knew.
I knew that I had gotten lucky one time. There was no way fate was going to be kind on me the second time. I just felt it in my soul. The doctor continued,
“We will run some more tests and see what we come out with. For now, get some rest and we’ll hope together”
I heard someone thank the doctor as the door closed behind him. I believed in my heart that it was over. Jacques opened his mouth and began talking,
“Jerome, I’m sorry bro. I truly am. I’m sorry for doubting you and for accusing you of those things. I should have trusted you. I should have known that you would never betray me, betray us after all that we went through. I’m disappointed in myself and in the things I said. I should have never allowed my feelings to come between you and my sister. I made the biggest mistake in a long time. I just hope you can forgive me and I want you to know that I will be here for as long as you need me. I’m sorry bro…”
Jacques was sorry I could tell. He had always wanted to protect me. From putting himself on the line for me back in college to loaning money when I was searching for a job, this man always had my back. It was just sad that this situation had caused this rift between us. I wanted to cry and I knew we were both hurting. I gathered myself and said,
“It’s okay bro. I’m sorry for the things I said too. I hope we can move forward and put all this behind us. You’re a brother to me. Not even like one and I am sorry that all this came between us from your sister to the NCAA thing. I’m so sorry I let my temper get the best of me. I love you bro”
I paused and then said,
She muffed her response
“I love you. I always have from the first day I met you. I knew I had to have you. It has been hard. Bumps along the way but I have never stopped loving you. I don’t even know why I’m saying this right now but I want you to know that I will always love you. I wish you had told me the truth then. It would have been better to be hurt then and he would have never been able to use it against you. You are my heart. You and your brother are my family”
I held her hand and squeezed it tight. They stayed for a few more hours before Jacques left for the night.
I was wheeled into the room for an MRI early the next morning. Tasha had brought me some Chinese and fed it to me as my eyes were still blinded by the material. I was seated up in my bed eating and watching the Price is Right when Jacques walked in. We exchanged greeting and he sat next to me. All three of us were in the room and my sister who was flying in was on her way. The doctor walked in and addressed me. He asked if they could please excuse us and I said,
“No it’s okay doc, they are my family.”
Tasha squeezed my hand. The doctor said
“Mr Jerome, I’m sorry to say this but there is significant damage to your eyes. The MRI just showed that the repeated trauma to that target position had done more damage. Sadly, you may never see out of those eyes anymore. I’m sorry.”
The doctor stopped talking and asked us to let him know if we needed anything else. I was already in tears. He turned around and left the room. As he left, I felt Jacques and Tasha embrace me on the bed with big hugs. I was now crying heavily. I had prayed that things would get better after the last time. This was definitely not it.
I was never going to see the basketball championships, watch someone get pulled over or watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It was going to be steady darkness. I kicked my head back and heard the sounds as all three of us cried on the hospital bed.
I asked myself before what would happen if the lights went out. I guess I finally had the clear opportunity to find out. My vision in life was drowned out. I felt a new set of tears flow down my cheeks as I cried out a soft but heavy
The lights were out. I had to redefine myself and who I was going to be and how my life would be. My whole life basically changed in a day. This was going to be a difficult life change that I didn’t know what it would look like. I wasn’t sure but I surely was surely about to find out. I had people that loved me that much even though they had messed up and that was at least one thing I didn’t have to cry about. We had been physically and emotionally bruised and battered in this journey. Broken relationships, broken dreams, tattered hopes, darkened worlds and there I was scarred and now leaning on the same people that contributed to the wounds to help me heal. Funny how life works sometimes, people hurt us and we forgive them and then task them with the project of helping us rebuild again. This was going to be hard. My whole world seemed black; I put my hand around Tasha’s head and pulled her close. A fresh set of tears flowed out my eyes.
“There is a saying that the ant that eats/kills the plant is actually on the plant to begin with.
Well something like that. Over time, we go into relationships and situations that have outcomes that would eventually blindside us and cause us to be hurt. In this series, there’s forgiveness but there’s loyalty, a lack of communication, deciet, lies, pain and love. The relationships we have provide a perfect balance with all those things or at least so we hope right. I’m not asking you go and confess all your sins today but I’m asking you to watch how you wield the blade. You are immersed in the lives of certain people and your actions matter. I used the blindness of Jerome as a metaphor for scarring people for life, from those that break hearts to those that collect them; you can leave a long lasting scar. One that might never heal or even one that you might never be able to help heal. Do good and give good.
You cannot control what others do unless you’re a magician or you’ve got your voodoo master on Facetime, but you can control what YOU do.
The positive energy you give off, the honesty, loyalty, dedication, forgiveness, patience, open communication, the LOVE.
Be good to those that love you today because trust me, you don’t want to be the reason they cry out “Why”.
Be a bright light and shining spot in their lives. Never be the reason, the lights go out.
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