“Yo, D, answer the door please?”
Even with his head stuck beneath the kitchen sink, Jerel could hear the doorbell, how Daron could be in the living room, and not hear it was beyond him. Daron’s “help” didn’t last long. He bought in a few boxes and directed the delivery guys on where to put the couch. But he placed the TV on a few of those boxes, then sat on the couch and has been playing 2K for the last three hours. In the meantime, Dre put his bedroom set together and was now working to fix a leak that mysteriously developed.
Jerel rested the wrench on his chest and wondered how he landed in this situation? How did he go from his beautiful home with Tyena to fixing the sink in a one-bedroom apartment in just a few days? He doesn’t even remember what started the fight, but he knows the words that ended it, “If you don’t want kids, we can’t be together.”
He regretted it as soon as he said it, well, at least the way he said it. It was a conversation that was a long time coming, but his anger jumped the gun and now he found himself without his woman, his fiancée. Three years down the drain. Now he found himself face-to-face with a drain. The irony wasn’t lost on him.
Moments later, he looked around the tiny kitchen and made notes of things he needed. Everything happened so quickly, he took the first apartment he looked at and didn’t have a real plan once he occupied it. There were no dishes, no pots, no pans, no food. Pretty much all he had was the couch, TV, bed, his clothes, and PS4. And whatever fit in the box that sat on the stove. The grumbling in his stomach told him it was time to consider lunch.
“Bruh, you want pizza or wings?”
Daron looked up from the game long enough for Jerel to see the answer in his face.
“Pizza and wings. Anything else?”
“Yo, get all flats and some jalapeno poppers.”
“I’m not getting all flats. Who was at the door?”
“Nobody was at the door?”
“Nobody was at the door.”
“Then who rang the bell three times?”
“I don’t know who rang the bell, when I opened the door, it was just a box.”
“I put it on the stove.”
“When were you going to tell me?”
“I just did.”
Jerel started to reply but decided against wasting his time. Instead, he retrieved the box from the kitchen and examined it. When he saw it the first time, he didn’t think it was something he brought with him, but the last few days were such a blur, that he couldn’t be sure.
There was the first fight, then the second, then the one that officially broke him and Tyena up. He spent two nights at a Marriott and one night with Daron after retrieving his things from the house at an agreed-upon time. She packed his clothes, a few mementos she thought he would want to keep, his video game, and one of the four televisions in the house.
The look on Daron’s face when they entered the house and saw his life with her reduced to a pile next to the staircase added to the embarrassment of the entire situation. This was the same friend that told him he was moving too fast with the engagement and cautioned him against moving into her house. Now, everything he warned him about was true.
Reading his name on the box answered any question he had in his mind. Tyena rang the bell and left the box. Her handwriting was unmistakable. The next question was answered before asked. He left his forwarding address with her for his mail. The embarrassment returned when he realized that she knew he was now calling roughly 800 square feet home.
He couldn’t find a reason to open the box, but also couldn’t find a reason not to open the box. The thick layer of tape made it hard to get open, particularly when you don’t have a knife or scissors. He finally grabbed his keys, stabbed the box, and ripped it open.
There were no words to describe the contents, no emotions to explain what he felt as he looked at himself repeatedly. There were smiles, loving stares, and obvious kisses. But it was only him. He stared at the pictures and remembered the moments in which they were snapped: that first vacation in Miami, Shamira’s wedding, the day he moved in. All of it seemed so far away from where that kitchen he stood in.
“Yo, you really quiet in here, what’s up?”
Jerel looked at Deron but didn’t say a word. Instead, he handed the box to him.
“Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Why is she like this? Dude, she cut your head out of all of yall pictures.”
“I know what she did.”
“I’m just saying, that’s some crazy shit!”
The crazy shit. It was attractive in the beginning but wore Jerel out as the relationship went on. There were some really wild arguments after many of the pictures sitting in the box. Really wild make-up sex followed those two. The relationship was unhealthy. He wouldn’t label it toxic, but it was definitely unhealthy.
His pride reduced their issues to the children debate, but over the last few days, he’d realized he wanted too much from Tyena. He wanted marriage and kids, she wanted trips to Tulum and tequila shots on Tuesday. They couldn’t find the balance and it pushed him over the edge. His entire life had been structured with timelines and benchmarks. He’d hit all of them except the next one carried in his mind: marriage by 28 and a father before 30.
The first six months were a whirlwind. They spent nearly every night together, went to Miami, then Vegas. He proposed in Punta Cana. They celebrated in Tulum. There never seemed to be a dull moment with Tyena. But the truth was, Jerel needed those dull moments. He needed to breathe, to listen, to be heard, to be still. On the contrary, Tyena lived for the moment and the night. She wasn’t interested in slowing down. Not yet. He never asked but suspected she only accepted his proposal because her best friend Shamira got married the previous month. They had a huge blowup that night because she got too drunk and too friendly on the dance floor with a groomsman.
He bought the ring that Monday.
Now he was staring at it. Beneath the cutouts of his head, sat the engagement ring she wore for over two years. A wedding date was never set. Rarely talked about. The engagement seemed to be just another thing to Tyena, while Jerel fought himself to stay in the relationship. It was obvious they were heading in opposite directions, but his plans, his pride, his ego wouldn’t allow him to walk away.
“Yo, Rel, did you order the pizza and shit?”
He put the ring in the box, closed it, and that chapter of his life.