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Mama's Boyfriends

'I write because there is a voice within me that will not be still' Sylvia Plath



"Let him be a man," was Morris's mantra.

And when he said it, I stuck my chest out from the backseat of his car and grinned with pride. Even though I was only nine or ten years old. But my mother was very uneasy. After all, this was the same person who just started waiting outside of the men's restroom at the mall in lieu of taking me into the women's with her.

He was taking us out to get carryout and then would take us back to his place to watch movies. The problem was that my mom wanted barbecue rib tips and I wanted a hamburger and fries. But in Morris' world, that wasn't a problem. We could do both. So he gave me money to go in and buy my own food. And I was as proud as a NBC peacock.

"Tell 'em what you want and give them the money."

"Okay," I said joyfully.

What I didn't know then, that I know now, was that Morris had his car positioned just so. A police detective, he had a clear view of me. But also, he had his gun underneath the seat. And basically, he told my mom that If anybody came near me or tried to take my money, he had something for them.

Thinking about it now, some 40 odd years later, I can't help but to smile. Because I remember being quite fond of him. And I could imagine him being my dad, but for whatever reason, it wasn't meant to be. Just like I felt a bit of an ache in my heart about 15 years later, when I heard that he had allegedly committed suicide.

When you hear about such misfortune, it makes you wonder if there was something you could have done to prevent it. Would Morris still be alive if he had stayed in our life? I don't know. I think mom may have said that the suicide theory was fishy; that Morris may have had a slight drug problem as well.

I don't know ...

I guess I'm not supposed to know ...

All I know for sure was how he treated me and how I felt being around him. And the smile that he used to put on my mother's face. Such as the time that our television went out and she didn't have the money to repair it.

Morris wanted to watch the basketball game. So we jumped in the car and went to ... I don't know ... KMART, MONTGOMERY WARD, SEARS ... Some store that doesn't exist anymore ... And he bought her a brand new one. And I can distinctly remember him saying, "You're my woman and you need a tv".

Yeah ... You log that stuff away and you tend to use that kind of stuff to shape your own life; pattern the way you treat the folks that come along later on your life's journey.


Wagner and Riggs

That one time when mom was dating two different guys at the same time ...

There was Wagner that lived upstairs on the third floor of our apartment complex in a suburb of Chicago. A tall, lanky dude who rode a ten speed bike to and from, played bass guitar, wore faded bell bottom jeans and listened to Jazz.

In the other corner was Riggs, who lived in the city, had his own car and was well groomed like a 70s Soul singer. I think that he may have been a fireman.

I liked them both. And obviously, so did my mom.

Riggs and my mom always played Backgammon with soft music playing in the background. That was their thing. But I think that he was used to beating her every time. Little did he know that she and Wagner played as well. And Wagner had been more of a teacher than a competitor.

Riggs could tell the difference. And he wanted to know who taught her to play Backgammon so well. He wanted to play that person. But perhaps he didn't realize that the person was a male and that he lived so close.

Mom invited Wagner downstairs.

I think he thought that they were going to have some special time together, by the way his jaw dropped a bit when he entered the apartment.

Years later, my mom downplayed it all. Said that there was no competition over her dating both of them. However, I remember distinctly how she rotated sitting next to each one at the bar/counter that separated the kitchen from the living room. And I guess this gave the impression that she was no respecter of persons.

I remember this.

Red wine flowing. Cheese cubes and crackers. GROVER WASHINGTON JR.'s smooth Jazz playing in the background. Me standing as she went from sitting on a bar stool next to one and then the other. I guess there was nothing on tv. Or maybe I was again wondering which candidate would be my future dad ... In the end, neither.

A couple of rounds and then the guys shook hands and Wagner went back upstairs to his apartment.

The next day, he took the bus to Evergreen Plaza mall to buy me a dirt bike and brought it to me; trying to stake his claim I suppose. But when all was said in done, he didn't realize that his days were numbered. Mom said that Wagner -- who was divorced -- smoked marijuana. Even around his own kids. And she didn't want that type of behavior around me ... I have no clue what happened to Riggs.

© 2022 LaZeric Freeman

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