I’m a medical student.
Graduation’s around the corner and I have three things to my name: a beat-up Honda Civic named Matilda, a loan that’ll cost me a kidney to repay, and a woman who’ll probably be the death of me. I met her in 6th grade. The raven hair she now wears in a poofy halo was imprisoned in two long, braids back then. Her creamy, chocolate eyes mesmerized me.
Yep, lil’ mama had me moonstruck.
She was pretty as a penny but had a brain on her too. My reign of terror as the class genius ended the day she walked in the door. When I went to bed that night, I knew I had to wife her up, or shut her down.
In my mind, there was no other way.
By the time we entered our junior year, things changed. I wasn’t terrible. Still made the top ten, but Mia held on to first place. If it were anyone else, I’d be on the warpath. But something about that girl made me okay with the way things were.
Besides, I had other things to worry about.
I was fifteen when I came home to a note taped to a sandwich on the kitchen counter. Raising me had cost her a career, it said. Sick of being a housewife, she decided I could live without her. I guess Dad didn’t mean shit to her either, because she never came back. He took it the hardest. He stopped talking much, then refused to eat more than a few bites a day. I tried to get him to swallow anything of substance, but it was no use. Somehow, he showed up to work on schedule for a year.
Eventually, he stopped doing that too.
Paulo couldn’t keep him on the payroll. But he’d been a family friend for years, so rather than fire Dad, he had HR process it as a layoff. He’d get employment insurance. Best he could do, he said. I was grateful, but the check barely covered the mortgage. I tried getting a job at the local grocery, but they weren’t taking on any more students. I shimmied down poles at countless bachelorette parties, and my grades slipped right on down with me. It came to that.
We lost the house anyway.
Cramped into a tiny apartment, covering the bills became easier, but Dad only got sicker. He died two months before graduation. His death drove the last nail in the coffin of my glory days. No longer the model student, I became little more than “Mia’s boyfriend.” I loved her, so I swallowed the few scraps of pride I had left and tried to be happy for her. I summoned all the resolve I had left and pulled up my grades enough to get back into the top ten. After graduation, we applied to the same medical schools. She got a letter in a matter of days, while I scraped through with the last batch of recruits.
Still made it, though. That was four years ago. Now, we’re weeks away from walking out of this place to begin our residencies as Doctors’ Marcus and Mia Whitman. Assuming she says yes. I haven’t popped the question yet.
I glance at my wrist. 7:49 p.m.
I feel like I’m forgetting something.
I remember that first day of school, my long curly hair imprisoned in two neat braids. Ma tied two navy blue ribbons on each end. I hated them, being 11, going on 21. But, she made me wear the things anyway. Said no daughter of her was gonna be ‘fast’ in her house. Maybe she wasn’t paying attention, or just didn’t have the time to notice, but boys were the last thing on my mind. No man could give me what I wanted. That’s what I thought.
Then, I met Marcus.
One look at his smug ass face and I knew it. The boy was mine. Sliding into my chair, I twirled the end of my braid around my finger. His eyes burned into the back of my head. I could feel them. Right where I wanted them.
Well, that was a long time ago.
Ma never loved life back in Trinidad. We struggled like everyone else, but we were happy. All of us, except her. Like all her young girlfriends, she dreamed of leaving school and going abroad to chase the American dream. But, she ended up with my sister instead. I soon followed. She never complained out loud, mind you. But I still knew. She didn’t want my sister.
She didn’t want me.
After Pa died, she sold everything and booked flights to New York City for all of us. She had a sister in Brooklyn who promised to take us in until she could find work in the big city. But Ma hadn’t grown up worrying about things like prejudice. Months passed, and the only work she could find was as cleaning woman or a nanny.
I watched her cry herself to sleep night after night, cursing God for not letting her get a good job like they all said she would.
We never made it out of the projects.
Sipping a margarita, I watch the clock on the wall. I don’t hear much of the chatter around me. Rapping my nails against the glass, I shift in my seat.
Where is he?
Slipping off the bar stool, I spot the hostess. A slender gal. No ass, but tits for days. I check my own reflection in the glass doors before I tap her on the shoulder.
“Hey,” I smile, grazing her arm. “I’m looking for Marcus Whitman.”