Gina left her husband for another man, but what she didn't know was that this man was just as destructive.
I read books over peoples' shoulders. It started as a way to just get some reading in when I knew I didn't have time to do it at home. I would peer past the shoulders of people on the subway or the bus—sometimes even in the break room at work—and try to make sense of the few snippets that I catch. Most people don't notice, and those who do don't seem to mind. If anything, they almost seem satisfied that someone might be that interested in what they're reading.
Today it's a middle-aged man sitting in the middle of the bus. I'm lucky enough to catch him sitting in an aisle seat so that I could stand almost directly behind him. Oddly enough, he's reading a trashy romance novel, complete with cowboy lover and a hint of danger. He doesn't seem to care what people might think of him though, seeing as how he isn't trying to conceal the cover with his hands (yes, I've seen this) or shying away from the people next to him.
She met him in a cafe, of all places. He had a rugged look to him, his bronze skin glowing in the morning light. He ordered a coffee, black, and sat down at a nearby table. She looked him over: dashing bolero, denim button-up, and a chest that seemed to burst through his clothes. He's wearing scuffed cowboy boots.
I mentioned that this habit started by not having enough time to read at home. This is due largely to having to take care of my two kids; cooking and cleaning were never my forte, despite my mother's attempts to convince me that "it's a woman's duty to keep up with the household work." I'm sure she didn't say it like that, like she's quoting some etiquette manual, but that's often how it feels when I'm burning yet another lasagna or trying to figure out a better way to clean those dirty edges near the bottom of my toilet.
I do love my kids, as much as is possible, anyhow. Two girls, Sandrah and Karoline. He was the one who insisted on the spelling even though I'm still sure that they'll come to hate it in the end. That's him in a nutshell though: he seems unique until you dig a little further and see how shallow the pit really is.
Gina started to squirm in her seat. She wanted to talk to this new man, this stranger who didn't need sugar or milk. Something about his simplicity, his to-the-point way of talking to the cashier. It was hard to ignore. She decided to go over and talk to him, despite her ex-husband's voice ringing in her head not to.
When he told me about Karoline, I nearly cracked. I debated leaving the house, lighting it on fire, walking into the path of the seven fifteen bus. But I couldn't leave Sandrah. Which is ironic, in it's own way.
Karoline's mother was a different one this time. I'm not sure if this makes it better or not. I'm not even sure what her mother's name was. I want it to be something like Cinnamon or Duchess or Yoplait or whatever they call themselves when they don't want their parents googling them.
He told me three weeks before she was born that we were having another child.
Gina walked over to his table and sat down, trying to hide her nervousness. She set her chai in front of her and looked him straight in the eye.
"Hi. Gina," she said, gesturing to herself.
"John," he replied, one eyebrow raised.
"How's the coffee," she said, less of a question than an invitation.
By the end of the conversation, they had plans to go to dinner. Her heart pounded relentlessly in her chest as she left the cafe to go to work.
My friends tell me to forget him, to take the girls and run, to not even allow him his weekend visits. Most of all, they tell me to never tell them who their mothers are. Treat them like your own, they say. This is confusing because they are my own.
We got divorced after Karoline was born. It was easy actually. Our state is pretty clear on adultery laws. I was given full custody with total control over when he can see them.
When he does see them, my heart breaks. He hugs them, asks them about school, about their friends. He treats them with respect, disciplining them. I could at least hate him unconditionally if tried to play the "fun" parent, but it's never that easy.
They leave the restaurant and start to make their way back to Gina's downtown apartment. He leads them through the alley behind the restaurant. Gina avoids this alley most times, due largely to the fact that the streetlight has been out for the past few years. But she doesn't feel afraid now, not with John walking confidently at her side.
They pass a dumpster and, without warning, he pushes her against it. He starts to kiss her passionately on her lips, her neck, down her chest. She can feel her forehead burning as his hands move up and down her sides. Her body curves upwards and she lets out a moa—
The bus stops with a jerk. I throw the paperback out a nearby window and get off, back straight, fighting the urge to cry.