I can appreciate the simplicity of childhood. The simple pleasures childhood offers. A time in life so simple, it is often taken for granted. Until today, it is what I was led to believe by my parents and society. I did not know I was in for a rude awakening.
“Today’s beautiful, right?” I asked over my shoulder, holding Topaz’s hand, leading her over fallen crushed leaves from the tall redwood and oak trees that filled the park.
Nodding in agreement, she kept in step behind me, through the path of picnic tables along the way past the play structures. I was looking for some privacy.
It was time for us to have the talk. The talk that would prove to be both enlightening and gravely serious I suspect. The talk about our past. How we came to be who we are.
Topaz finally seemed open to the idea, so I jumped at the chance. I did not want her changing her mind or coming up with excuses, it was time. We needed to lay our cards on the table, no matter how much it might hurt.
By now, she has to know I am in her corner and will stand by her, no matter what. We have been together a little over six months. If I have not left by now, chances are I will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
The way I see it, she has to do something so unforgivable for me to give up on us, but I doubt she will ever do anything to hurt me or anything bad enough to make me want to leave her.
She has secrets. Sure.
Secrets she holds close to the vest. As most would, I know I do.
Secrets she will not share without me giving up my secrets too. As it should be.
It has been said that “Fair exchange ain’t no robbery.” I know I have to give to get.
I am glad the weather is nice. Outside the cool breeze of the gargantuan trees; the city is smoldering from the heat of a hot summer’s day. This part of the park is where all the family picnics are held on the weekends, especially if you want to avoid the hoards of people at the swimming pool on the other side of the park.
Even though it is the middle of the week, I can still smell distant bar-b-ques, and the sounds of happy children playing somewhere near. Besides the family near the play structures we passed earlier, we were alone and out of earshot. The serenity of the park is what we need to get through this…
Whatever we are about to share with each other will either be an awakening or a complete disaster, or both. Either way, we will leave this park understanding more about each other. But most of all, I want us to leave here closer than we were when we arrived.
Not too far from the play structures sat a single cedarwood picnic table nestled between the trees, which block out the sun and its relentless brightness and blazing heat.
The park’s shade is deceptive and hiding the truth of what awaits us outside. I welcome the deceit; hidden away among the trees. I am grateful for the coolness of the park and the privacy it now offers us. Tucked safely in our little hide-a-away, I start my story about my life and family issues, softening the details about moms and pops.
I got quite a ways into my family history when…
It dawns on me that this is about the time most girls show noticeable discomfort. Looking as though they need to escape, running for the hills, but not Topaz Marie Giles. She shows no sign of unease. In my gut, I know she is different.
My attention drifts off, checking our surroundings. When I return my attention to Topaz, I watch with childish amusement how the breeze gently plays with loose strands of her straight brown-ish shoulder-length hair, and how the light streaking through the trees made her beautiful topaz-brown eyes light up with sparkling golden irises. Despite the current mood, I cannot help but acknowledge how beautiful she is in this light.
Easily distracted by her beauty, I have to force myself to refocus my attention on the matters at hand and continue.
I remember how girls soon cut-out when I tell them my mother is the Oakland Police Department’s Chief of Police, or that my father is one of the most revered criminal attorneys in Alameda County. At first, they seem to chill. Then they stop calling me altogether.
I do not blame them. My parents are a microscope; a microscope I do not wish on anybody. Not to mention, they think they know best about who is appropriate for me to date.
I can only hope Topaz does not feel like most girls do after hearing this, realizing what it means to date someone like me. She hardly looks like the type to back down from any challenge.
As I talk, my heart beating fast and hard, I am sure she can see my vibrating pulse through my thin white T-shirt. The more I talk, the more the knot grows in the pit of my belly.
I try to reign in my rapidly escaping emotions, which threaten to betray me, exposing all I think and feel. This is some heavy shit. More than I predicted.
“I can see this is hard for you,” Topaz said, as I struggle with my words. The tension caused me to inhale the cool air deeply.
“It-It’s just my family stuff tends to put most girls off,” – inhaling too much air – “and I’m afraid it will do the same to you,” pushing out all the excess air, truly hoping that I am right about her, that she is different from the others.
“Just keep it real with me and I’ll keep it real with you.”
“I-I can do that…” I sputter out.
“Then you have nothing to worry about.”
Honesty is not the problem, it is my unbearable jitters which I am sure she notices but remains attentive as I continue talking.
I tell her how I feel money creates more problems than it solves in my life. How I have had my fair share of mishaps with the law and gotten the occasional fine, that my parents always take care of, keeping my record clean.
Well, except for that one stint in juvie. They decided to let me stew in lock up for a couple of days to teach me a lesson. Putting an end to my rebellious stage, but having my juvenile record sealed soon after.
Money solves so many problems but it can never replace the feeling of being loved. I know my parents love me and will do anything for me. It is just easier for them to throw money at whatever problems exist.
Money might not buy happiness, but it sure helps with my parent’s with their selective memories.
I am too embarrassed to admit to Topaz that I did not date much or how she is my first girlfriend in two years. My second real girlfriend, overall.
I have had the occasional one-night stand that did not amount to anything, except sexual gratification that left me emotionally empty. I was convinced there was nothing more to be had after my only other serious girlfriend broke my heart.
She moved away with her family to Atlanta for her father’s music career. When she left, I swear I will never fall in love again. That is, until Topaz, I have kept that promise with the assistance of my string of one-nighters.
Since I met Topaz, I feel closer to her than anyone. She listens to me. She gives me her honest opinion on most things, but there are things she avoids talking about, which I now understand.
“So, you’re a bit of a loner, I take it?” she asks, interrupting my train of thought.
“Yeah. I guess…” I offer, “I’m not much of a ladies man,” smiling at her response, associating me being a loner to my lack of girlfriends.
Comparing her to the girls I knew, Topaz is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. The first time I saw her in that small pizza joint inside the New Housewives Market that had recently relocated from West Oakland, I knew I would fall for her. Something about the way she moved made me stop in my tracks and just watch her gracefully tossing pizza dough in the air.
Interrupting my admiration, she yelled over to me, “Hang on a sec… I gotta throw this pie in the oven,” she said as I wandered over to the register to wait patiently to place my order.
While placing the pizza in the oven, she yelled over her shoulder, asking for my order.
“I’ll have a slice of –”
“Pep,” she interrupted.
I nod yes, as she joins me at the register to ring me up.
A chill still runs throughout my body when I think about the day of our initial encounter, I remember that day like it happened yesterday. Meeting her changed my life forever.
No more rose-colored glasses for me, distorting my world view. Topaz opened my eyes. I am seeing the world up close and very personal. The reality of the situation is I have never dealt with any girl that has been through so much at such a young age.
I feel like my life story and my family history are already pushing the boundaries on how much a person is willing to accept about another person, and adding to the list all the deeply personal questions I ask her about sex. Like, how old she was when she lost her virginity, or what she liked about sex. I did not understand why she shut down, but I do now. I have definitely tested the delicate balance between us.
I began to lose control of my emotions so I turn away to look at the park surrounding us. I cannot let her see the tears that linger, clinging desperately to my lashes, fighting for the opportunity to run freely down my cheeks.
It takes a few moments to formulate a coherent sentence because nothing I have ever heard before has touched me so deeply. I cannot think of the right words to say. The tears I hold back close my throat, trapping all sound deep inside; no words; not even a peep can escape.
Nothing in my past can even come close to what she has survived.
I share with her the story of my stint in juvie. The couple of days I was there left a life-long impression on me, stopping all my future thoughts of errant behavior.
She shared with me the first time she was sexually assaulted.
It takes all my strength not to sit there with my mouth gaped open, to control my facial expressions as she talks. I did not think I am doing that good of a job, but she continues whether she notices it or not.
Honestly, her first absolutely trumps my first. I was fourteen when I went to juvie, and she was about five years old when she was first assaulted.
I did not think anyone’s life could be so bad for so long, and they do not end up completely insane. The fact she has survived all these horrific events, shows me her unwavering strength, which makes me love her that much more.
I am starting to see her, the real Topaz, and the clearer the picture becomes, the more I understand. I understand why she is so guarded and so unnaturally tough.
There this unforeseen battle storming deep inside her. The façade she displays in public and her true self are constantly at odds with one another.
I finally get it, she is broken.
She feels responsible for what happened to her, that she somehow brought all this on herself.
What a battle to face every day? To feel like you’re the blame for the sick thoughts and actions of men.
“Whaddaya so deep in thought about?” she asked. Her body tense.
I do not know what to say so I settle on, “How strong you are” – I replied, casting my eyes to the ground – “I’m in awe of your strength and your beauty,” out the corner of my eye, I see her face flush, embarrassed by my comment. She is my strong unbreakable gem, my rock.
How can I tell her that I feel responsible for what happened to her? I know I was not there, but if I had been, I would have protected her.
I can see the inner turmoil her demons create, forcing her to protect herself at all costs. I do not want her to think I pity her, but I have to ask myself how can anyone live through so much and be so strong? My poor-poor baby. She is so much stronger than I can ever be. Despite all she has endured, she is still willing to give us a try.
I lift my head from my unfocused spot on the ground, trying desperately to mask my lack of confidence. I want her to know that she is okay; that she is not to blame. She has to know I will always be in her corner, loving and protecting her.
Do I love her? Am I falling in love with her? These questions will have to wait.
Right now, I need to be present and focused. I do not want Topaz to feel like I have changed my mind about being with her, especially after she shared such deep and personal details about her life.
If she did not cut tracks and run for the hills after hearing about my life and family, there is no way I will do that to her. She needs me and I need her.
Taking her hand in mine, I kiss her knuckles. Pouring all my heart into that one simple gesture. Topaz sighs deeply, slumping back against the picnic table as she finishes the last accounts of her past.
When she finishes, we are exhausted from the emotional exchange we shared. At that very moment, despite my depleted emotional strength, I know all I need to know…
I love her. I am in love with her.
Author Notes: Hello to all my coming-of-age enthusiasts. Thank you for stopping by and giving this book a read. I am deep in the heart of revisions.
Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions. It is your comments and suggestions that will help make this a spectacular book in the end.
Please continue to practice social distancing to stay safe and healthy.
Peace and blessings – CV Davis
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