The worst day of my life was the day I caught my husband cheating on me.
You know those movies where the wife forgets some important papers for work and comes home in the middle of the day to get them, only to find her husband in bed with her best friend?
I should have been so lucky.
I opened the fridge to get a bite to eat before going back to the office. That’s when I heard it.
Not a regular foot-shuffling bumping like someone walking around. This bumping had a rhythm to it. A beat.
I stepped into the dining room and stared at the ceiling. The noise came from the master bedroom, directly overhead. Women’s intuition rose from my belly to form a lump in my chest that ascended to my throat. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.
I tried to reason away the knowing in my head. My husband, Kevin, usually spent the one Saturday a month I worked playing basketball or writing music. Yeah, that was it. He was pounding out the beat to a new song with his size 13 feet.
In the bedroom. Instead of his studio down the hall. Where he usually wrote music.
I tipped toward the steps, hardly able to breathe. Movie clips of guilty husbands and shocked wives flashed through my mind. Which one of my friends would it be? Or I bet it was Janine, the cutesy little soprano who sang all the leads in the church choir. During every rehearsal, she batted her eyelashes at Kevin and always needed him to stay after to help her get her solo right. I knew she was a skank ho.
I dragged my feet up the steps, fighting to lift them as I got closer to the top. I wasn’t sure of the protocol for such a situation. Did I throw the door open and cry, “Aha, I caught you!” Did I knock on the door and wait for them to get dressed and come out and admit their crime?
Nothing in my life could have ever prepared me for what I saw when I swung the door open and sang out, “Honey, I’m home.”
Imagine my surprise when I realized that the she I thought she would be was actually… a he.
I had never fainted before – but then again, I had never caught my husband of two years cheating with the guy who was supposed to be his closest “friend.” They were close all right. Closer than two men should ever be.
When I opened my eyes, they were both scrambling to pull on some clothes – eyes wide, mouths hanging open. I took a deep breath, made sure I didn’t have any life threatening injuries, jumped up and went to swinging.
“Wait, let me explain!” Kevin held up his arms to ward off my blows.
“Explain? What could you possibly explain? I’ve seen enough to know there’s no explanation you could possibly come up with that could begin to explain what I just saw.”
I searched the room for something to swing. Why hurt my hands? I threw books, hangers, a lamp – one of those big floor ones – anything I could get my hands on. I caught Kevin right above the eye with my alarm clock. I felt triumphant when blood trickled down his cheek.
“And you, Trey! You smile in my face, eat dinner at my house, talk about how happy you are for us and how happy I make Kevin, but all the while you were scheming on how to steal my man.”
“It wasn’t like that, Monica, I promise. I –”
“Wasn’t like that?” I threw one of my high heel shoes, aiming for his eyeball. “Obviously it was, Trey.”
I stomped out of the room and disappeared down the steps. They probably thought I had gotten tired or come to my senses. I wasn’t anywhere near coming to my senses. I just remembered Kevin’s golf clubs in the front closet.
When I came back, the look in Kevin’s eyes said he regretted the day he ever became obsessed with being the next Tiger Woods. Trey screamed like a girl and ran out of the room when he saw the driving iron in my hand.
I made a wild swing at Kevin and hit the wall instead. Paint and drywall crumbled to the floor. While I was prying the club out of the wall, Kevin grabbed my arm and wrestled me to the floor. “Monica, calm down. Please, calm down and let’s talk about this like rational adults.”
“Calm down? Rational adults?” I unleashed a spray of curse words – strung them together like a pro. Kevin’s eyes widened. He had never heard me curse before. By the time he met me, I’d gotten delivered of the cussing demon I picked up my freshman year of college.
I twisted a hand free and slapped his face. Hard. Twice.
He grabbed my hand again and tried to pin me down. He was forceful enough to stop my assault against him, but gentle enough not to hurt me.
“Monnie, please.” His eyes begged me. Those big, beautiful eyes I had fallen so deeply in love with. Seeing the tears forming in the corners of them took some of the fire out of me. I stopped struggling for a minute.
Kevin looked like he was trying to decide if I was faking him out or if he could trust me enough to loosen his grip. He stared, obviously not knowing what to say. What could he say?
I realized my dream life, my fantasy, had just come undone. I let out a wail. “Oh my Gaaaaaawwwwwddddd…”
“Monnie, I’m sorry. I –”
“You’re sorry all right. You sorry son of a…son of a… You mother-lovin’…” Forget it. It was too hard. I unleashed another spray of foul language, knowing no matter how much I cursed or how many times I hit him, I’d never be able to make him hurt as much as he just made me hurt.
I sure could try, though.
He’d let his guard down, giving me perfect space and time to kick him in the groin. When he fell, I jumped up and kicked him in the side with all the force my leg could muster. I didn’t know such violence lived in me. I had to make myself calm down before I really hurt him. Even though he deserved it.
I paced around the bedroom. “Help me, Jesus. Help me not to kill him. Help me not to go down to the kitchen and get a knife and gut him. OhLawdJesus, help me. I want to take this golf club and beat him in the head ‘til his brains drip out his ears. Jesus, keep me. I need you, Lord, otherwise I’m gonna …” My eyes darted around the room looking for other things I could murder my husband with.
Kevin stood up, holding his side, sheer terror in his eyes. He had only seen me this mad once before – the last time my mother caught my dad with one of his many women.
“Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus…” I called His name like I was on the tarrying bench, trying to get filled with the Holy Ghost. When Kevin heard me praying in tongues, he scrambled toward the door.
After I heard the front door slam, I screamed from somewhere deeper than I knew my soul went. What had just happened? How long had it been happening?
I started pacing again. I walked up and down the steps, into the kitchen, into the den, into Kevin’s music studio, back up the steps, into our bedroom, into the guest room, into my exercise room I never used. Every time I tried to stop and sit, this wave of anger-bewilderment-shock-sadness-confusion-fear-insanity would come over me, and I’d have to walk again.
After about fifteen minutes of walking, cursing, and praying, I got tired. The initial adrenaline rush wore off and I remembered how out of shape I was. I looked at my watch. My half-hour lunch break was over and I was due back at work. I caught my breath and picked up the phone.
“Greater Washington Family Medicine, how may I help you?”
“Anthony, this is Monica. I need to talk to Dr. Stewart. Is she in with a patient?” I tried to keep my voice from doing that shaky thing it did when I cried.
“What’s wrong wit’ you, girl?”
“Not now, Anthony, just get her for me. Please.” I hoped the “please” would soften my snippiness. I wasn’t in the mood for Anthony to catch an attitude.
“Let me check. Hold on a sec’.”
I waited for a moment, trying to think of a way to explain why I wasn’t coming back to work. My brain was too fuzzy to come up with a good lie.
“This is Dr. Stewart.”
“Hey, it’s Monica. An emergency came up. I won’t be able to make it back this afternoon.”
“Oh dear, I hope everything is okay. Let me know if you need anything. See you Monday?”
“Oh yes, of course. Everything will be fine by then,” I lied.
I hung up the phone and went straight for the freezer to grab a pint of Tom & Larry’s ice cream. Chocolate Walnut Brownie Crunch. My favorite. I plunked down in the middle of the family room floor and stared at the walls, covered with pictures chronicling the last six years of my relationship with Kevin.
Tears fell as I looked at the beautiful black and white engagement picture of us staring into each other’s eyes. I should’ve known it was too good to be true. Kevin was every woman’s dream. He was the one man I knew who wasn’t afraid to share his feelings. He was my best friend. Closer than any of my girlfriends. I could tell him anything and he could tell me anything.
Or so I thought.
How could he have deceived me? This wasn’t something he just tried out. He’d known Trey since childhood. Trey Hunter showed up at our door six months ago, after not having seen Kevin in years. Kevin introduced him as his high school friend. I guess high school sweetheart was more like it.
I should’ve known something when Trey first appeared. Trey was more effeminate than me, and I couldn’t think of any of the straight men I knew who were close friends with gay men. But something should have alerted me long before that. I racked my brain searching for clues I might have ignored.
Kevin and I met not too long after I finished college and started visiting the church he attended. They had the best choir in the city and sang the latest contemporary music.
I joined after visiting a few Sundays. As soon as I finished my new members’ classes, I joined the choir. I had sung in the choir as long as I could remember. Never sang a solo, but I was one of those solid altos any director could count on to keep everyone else on key. Kevin was the minister of music. I was the section leader, so me and Kevin hung out after rehearsals to discuss songs or parts or whatever.
One night, we went out to dinner at IHOP afterwards and talked until two in the morning. From then on, we were inseparable. We went out after every rehearsal and every church service. Sometimes with a big group from the choir, sometimes just us.
The end table held a picture of us and our choir clique at our favorite table at IHOP. Judging from the fatness of my cheeks, my all-black outfit, and the salad instead of pancakes on the table in front of me, I must have been on an upswing of my lifelong weight yo-yo. Kevin had this enamored look on his face and I had this look of total shock like, “he’s really with me?”
I scraped the bottom of the ice cream carton. Where did a whole pint go that quick? Good thing they had a two-for-one sale last week. Or maybe it wasn’t such a good thing. Forget it. This was no time to be worried about my weight. I needed all the comfort Tom & Larry could offer right now.
I turned to stare at our wedding picture hanging over the fireplace mantle. Kevin was dashing in his tux. I looked at his mocha chocolate skin, tall muscular body, thick, curly hair, and heartbreaking smile.
Sistahs was hatin’ on me that day.
I had crash dieted to get into my size 12 wedding dress and looked good, if I do say so myself. My classy Halle Berry haircut complimented my heart-shaped face. The dress was perfect for my hourglass shape. That was one thing I had going for me. Even at my largest, I was still well proportioned, andalways had a waistline.
I knew some of my fellow choir sistahs were jealous and I felt good to be the one that caught the mysterious, elusive Kevin Day. He was charismatic as the minister of music – able to lead the whole church into the highest realms of praise and worship. But he seemed nervous when all the women fawned over him and vied for his attention.
That shoulda let me know something wasn’t straight.
But then again, what would I know? Kevin was my first and only real love. The only man I ever had a serious relationship with, the only one I’d ever been intimate with. And now…
Help me understand this, God. Kevin is…gay?
Something in me snapped. I picked up a book and crashed it into the picture. I don’t know what broke it, the book or the high-pitched scream I let out as I threw it.
I began picking up pictures of me and Kevin from all over the den. The one from our honeymoon in Negril, I threw against the wall. I sent the last year’s Christmas picture hurling into our engagement picture hanging over the stairs. One by one, I destroyed the evidence of what I thought was our wonderful, God-ordained life together.
As I smashed each picture, I felt my heart shattering with the glass. My throat was raw from screaming. I couldn’t stop though. I had to destroy everything that told the lie I now knew my marriage was.
My mind was spinning. Instinctively, I picked up the phone to call my best friend, Trina. Right after the speed dial finished, I hung up. What would I tell her? “Hey, girl, guess what? I just caught my husband with another man?” Too embarrassing.
I started pacing again. “Oh my God. Did that really just happen?” No matter how much I walked, I couldn’t escape it. “Okay, Monnie. Get yourself together.” I made myself stand still and take ten deep breaths.
The phone rang. Without thinking, I answered it. “Hello?”
“Did you just call me?”
“Trina…I…yeah, it was…I dialed by accident.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing.” I tried to clear my throat and sound normal.
“Monica, stop lying. What’s wrong? You sound like you been crying.”
I didn’t say anything, knowing my voice would betray me.
Why did I answer the phone? I could have played this off to anyone else but Trina.
“Monica, talk to me. What’s going on?”
I choked on the lump in my throat and started crying again.
“I’ll be right there.”
“No! Don’t come over. I’m fine –” Too late. She’d already hung up the phone.
I looked around at the mess. Trina lived only about fifteen minutes away. I knew she’d be speeding to get to me. I grabbed a broom and swept the glass into a pile.
I cut my finger on a long, thin shard. Blood trickled down my arm. “Crap!” I ran to the bathroom before it dripped onto my plush, off-white carpet.
I ran water over my finger until its red tinge ran clear, then wrapped it in toilet paper. That would have to do for now. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My eyes were puffy, nose red and my short bob was flying everywhere. I looked like a crazy woman.
The doorbell rang. I splashed my face with cold water, blew my nose and tried to smooth my hair down. The doorbell rang again. “I’m coming, doggone it!”
My feeble attempt at fixing my face was lost on Trina. When I opened the door, she gasped. “Oh my God, what happened to you?”
The look of concern on her face was too much for me. I burst into tears again.
“Monnie, what is it?” Trina led me into the den and sat me down on the couch. She stared at the broken glass, picture frames and picture fragments. “What happened in here? Did you and Kevin get in a fight?”
I nodded, still crying.
She must have noticed the blood soaking through the tissue on my finger. “Oh my God. What did he do to you? Did Kevin hurt you?”
I shook my head, still crying.
“What happened?” Trina got up and walked into the kitchen. I could hear her rummaging through the cabinets and running water. She came back with a wet dishtowel and a glass of water. She unwrapped my finger and wrapped it in the wet cloth and gave me the water to drink. She went to the bathroom and came back with a roll of toilet paper and handed me a wad to wipe my face. She rubbed my back and waited for me to stop crying.
I finally looked up at her. “I…Kevin… I…” I shook my head and took a deep breath. I rolled off some more tissue and blew my nose. I looked at the floor.
“Monnie, this is me. Your girl. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”
I had to just spit it out. “I walked in on Kevin and Trey this afternoon.”
“What do you mean?”
“I walked in on them in my bed.”
Trina’s eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean?”
“What do you mean what do I mean? I walked in on my husband…” I sucked in a deep breath, “…screwing another man.”
Her mouth flew open and her eyes bugged out. “What do you mean?”
“Trina, I can’t say it any clearer than that. Unless you want the graphic version.”
She held up her hand as if to say “no thank you.” She stood up and began pacing the den. Every few seconds, she would turn back to me with her mouth wide open, her eyes asking if I said what she thought I said. Each time she did, I nodded. She’d open her mouth like she was about to say something then close it, then open it again and close it, until finally she put her hands on her hips. “What do you mean?”
I rolled my eyes. “Should I say it in French?”
“Sorry, but you gotta give me a minute with this one.” She frowned as if she was trying to solve the most difficult Calculus problem. “So you’re telling me Kevin was…he and Trey were…Kevin is…oh, my…”
I started crying again. Her saying it – or not being able to say it – seemed to make it more real.
Trina pulled herself out of her stupor and came over to hug me. “Oh, Monnie, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to–”
“I’m not asking you to fix this, Trina. You don’t have to say anything. Just…help me not to lose it.” I sobbed in her arms. “You coulda never told me Kevin was…I never expected…”
“Shhh, I know. Me either. He doesn’t seem…I mean nothing about him is…” Trina shook her head and grimaced as if an image just registered in her brain. “Oh, boy, this is…”
We both sat there shaking our heads for a few minutes.
She chuckled. “So you kicked his tail, huh?”
Leave it to Trina to make me laugh at a time like this. “Girl, I had to call on the Lord to keep from killing both of them. I lost control.”
“Y’all was tearing up the den?”
“No, the bedroom. I did all this after they left.”
“Umm.” She looked around at the mess again. “Remind me to never piss you off.” We both laughed, then I started to cry.
“Oh, Monnie. I’m sorry, girl.” She held me until I stopped crying. “Come on. Let’s pack you a bag. You’re going with me.”
I looked around room. “What about this?”
“Let him clean it up. That is, if he’s stupid enough to come back.”