Free Story: Broken Glass
It’s kind of like when you sit a drinking glass on the edge of the table: You know you shouldn’t because there’s a chance you might accidentally bump it and knock it to the floor and break it into bits that can’t be repaired. You know better. But you tell yourself you’ll be careful. And you keep telling yourself that right up until the moment that you forget to be careful.
That’s what I’m feeling when I open my door this Saturday morning and find Tamara standing on my condo stoop.
She’s smiling at me like a kid who’d just opened up a gift on Christmas and saw that she’d gotten just the present she wanted.
She’s wearing skin-tight Apple Bottom jeans and a buckskin jacket with fringes on the sleeves like Buffalo Bill or somebody. I look over her shoulder and see a taxi pulling out of my parking lot.
I look back at her and raise one eyebrow. I’m already seeing myself loading her into my car and taking her back home or wherever she needs to go. This is going to happen within the next fifteen minutes. That’s my plan.
And then she says, “Hey Aaron, do you know what today is?”
I shrug at her. “No Tam, I don’t. What day is it?”
“It’s my birthday.”
“Oh, okay. Happy birthday, Tam.”
Her smile fades just a little. “You forgot, didn’t you?” Then she pouts, and her lips look just fucking perfect for kissing…if I were so inclined.
I scratch my head. “Yeah, I did. But you know…”
“I mean you forgot what you promised.”
Okay, here’s the thing about me and past relationships: Once they’re over, I move on. I do an emotional mass data dump. That’s how I help myself get past the pain or the anger or whatever it was I was feeling when the breakup happened. So yeah, I’d forgotten about Tam’s birthday and whatever it was I’d promised. So she reminds me.
“You promised that you’d take me to see Red Tails on my birthday.”
Oh yeah. This past summer we saw an early preview for the new flick about the Tuskegee Airmen. Tamara got all excited and made me promise that I’d take her since it was coming out the weekend of her birthday. But that was months ago. That was before the breakup.
Tam walks past me into my crib and steps down into my sunken living room. I turn and watch her ass as she walks. Her jeans are so tight that you couldn’t squeeze a credit card into her back pockets. And her ass is perfect, flaring out from her wasp waist like an upside down heart. The kind of ass that makes a man’s mouth water.
I swallow hard.
This is where I’m thinking about setting that glass down on the edge of the table.
She turns around and smiles at me as she takes off her cowboy jacket. Beneath her tee-shirt her plump breasts bounce free and say hello. I don’t think she’s wearing a bra under her tee-shirt. My heart stutters. My male longing – the beast that rests but never sleeps – watches.
Tam pulls a slip of paper out of her jacket pocket and checks it. “There’s a show at 11:40, 12:50 and another one at 2:50,” she says. “Which one do you wanna see?”
Her skin is smooth and flawless, like honey mixed with cream. I remember she once mentioned getting a tattoo, and I remembered thinking back then that it would be an offense to God to mark up something He’d already made so perfect. Her face is beautiful. The kind of beauty that if immortalized in a painting or photograph a man could spend hours staring at…staring and wondering and longing. And her body…let me just say that the memory of her body would haunt a man until the day he died, even if he lived to be a hundred.
I remember to answer her question. I look at my watch. It’s twenty till ten. “We have time to make the first show,” I say. “I have to work tonight, so we need to get back early.”
Besides having to work, I’m thinking that the sooner I can take her to the movie to fulfill my promise and then get rid of her, the safer I’ll be. That means I’m setting the glass on the edge of the table. Damn, I know better than this.
“Cool,” Tam says. She steps out of the living room and heads back toward my kitchen. “Do you have anything to drink?” She asks this without looking back, so my eyes take the opportunity to drink in her ass again. I follow her, though I don’t need to. She’s been here enough times to know where everything is.
Tam finds a bottle of water in my fridge. I watch her chest rise and fall as she takes a few big swigs.
“God, that’s good,” she says, breathing hard after drinking just like a little kid. “I’m so hot and thirsty.”
I don’t know what to say so I don’t say anything. I’m thinking that nothing good can come of this. Nothing good at all.
Tam is leaning against my refrigerator, smiling at me. She has dimples. I imagine what it would feel like to press my lips into them.
“You know what else today is?” she asks.
She comes across my kitchen to me and offers me the bottle. I take it from her and take a sip.
“Today I’m street legal,” she says.
The water catches in my throat, and I spend the next few seconds in a coughing fit.
I’m thirty-three years old. For two years I was involved with Teresa, a woman four years older than me. We broke up at the end of this past summer because she wanted a man who was willing to commit – a man who wanted to be married – and I wasn’t the one. This girl standing in my kitchen with her beautiful face and plump titties and perfect ass is Teresa’s daughter Tamara.
Today is Tamara’s eighteenth birthday.
The glass is right on the edge of the table.
I tell myself that I won’t forget to be careful.
As we go back to the living room I’m wondering what Tam meant by saying she was “street legal.” Was she telling me that I could get it if I wanted to?
I go to my closet to grab a jacket. I’m going to take this girl to the movies because I promised that I would. Then I’m gonna get rid of her and get ready to go to work tonight. And if I’m lucky, I’ll never see her again.
When I turn around Tam is right there, so close that I bump into her. She throws her arms around my neck. I almost fall back, and end up pressed against the closet door.
Okay, I can fight her off. She can’t weigh more than a buck twenty. But I don’t. Her mouth finds mine. Maybe I have time to react, to not let this happen, but I don’t even try.
Her lips are so soft. So fucking soft. Her tongue is like none I’ve felt before. What is it I taste…innocence?
I want to stop kissing her. But I don’t want to stop kissing her. Her arms are tight around my neck, hugging me close, as if she doesn’t want to ever let me go. It reminds me of the first time she hugged me tight. That was two years ago….
I’d gone to visit Teresa, and had walked into the middle of one of those vicious, tear-filled arguments that can only happen between a mother and a sixteen year-old daughter. I had no intention of getting involved, but Teresa had other ideas.
“Let me tell you what this foolish little hussy was planning to do,” she yelled at me. I wasn’t in the argument, so why was she yelling at me?
Then Tamara yelled, “Why do you have to tell him everything? He’s not my father!”
Okay, that was one of those days when I wished I could rewind the tape and send myself back out the front door in a blur. Just get back in my car and haul ass. But I was there, and Teresa gave me the scoop:
Acting on that seventh sense that God gave only to mothers, Teresa had sneaked and read Tam’s diary. Apparently Tam was “in love” with this boy Jaheem, who was going to turn seventeen in just a couple of days. Jaheem had told Tam that he only wanted one thing for his birthday. And according to this Jaheem punk, Tamara was the one he wished to give it to him. And Tam, thinking she was in love with this punk, agreed. Jaheem’s older cousin had even reserved the motel room for them. So her diary was full of musings of love and visions of how beautiful their first time was going to be.
I didn’t know what Teresa expected me to say or do. Then she told me:
“Aaron, will you please tell this child what teenaged boys are all about?” she said. “Maybe if it comes from a man she’ll believe it.”
Then Teresa stormed out of the living room and left me standing there to deal with a weepy sixteen year-old girl. I didn’t know what the hell was I supposed to do, so I called on the advice my mother always gave me when I was in trouble: When all else fails, try the truth.
So I sat Tamara down and gave it my best shot.
“Look Tam, you’re right. I’m not your father,” I’d said. “But I’m gonna talk to you right now like I am, okay?”
She was sitting on the sofa. She crossed her arms and turned her nose up. But at least she didn’t try to curse me out or run off.
“If you were my daughter Tam, do you know what that would mean?”
Tam didn’t respond. She kept her arms crossed and her nose pointed at the ceiling, so I kept talking. I said, “It would mean that you are the most precious thing to me in the world. You are so precious to me that nothing in this universe is more valuable to me than you are. It means that I would give my life for you without even hesitating. It means that I’d want you to know that out of all the people in the world, no matter how old you were, you could come to me and you could always trust me, and that any advice I’d give you, I’d give you because I love you and want to protect you.”
Tam sniffed and blinked. I figured that she at least was listening to me. I sat down on the sofa next to her.
“Here’s the thing Tam, about sixteen year old boys. And I’m telling you this because I know. When it comes to a girl as pretty as you, they have one thing on their minds, and they will tell you any lie they think will work to get it. They’ll tell you that you’re special. Some will tell you that they love you. They don’t, but they’ll use whatever they’ve got to get what they want. And once they get it, you’ll stop being special to them, if you ever were. And you’ll find out that their words about love were a lie. Then what you’ll be is just another hoochie who gives it up easy. And the boy, he’ll tell his boys about you, and they’ll think they can hit it too, because you’re easy.”
Tam looked at me then and said, “Jaheem isn’t like that. He loves me.”
I almost laughed then. I said, “If he loved you, if he really loved you, he wouldn’t want you to give up your body to him as a birthday present. That dude is gonna have dozens of birthdays if he lives long enough. But trust me, if I was your father he might not live to see the one coming up in a couple of days.”
Tam giggled at that.
“But let me ask you Tam, what are you gonna give him next year, when he turns eighteen, if you’re still even involved with him a year from now? You’ll have already given him the most precious gift you have to give, and you can only give that away once. Does he really deserve it? I don’t think so, Tam. And if you were my daughter, I’d tell you that while no man will ever be good enough for you in my eyes, I’d accept it from the man who was man enough to put a ring on your finger and make you his wife. I’d accept it from the man who loved you so much that he was willing to take you out of my house where I take care of you, and to take you into his own house to take care of you. That’s the man who’d be good enough to receive your gift – not some punk ass kid who only thinks you’re good enough to give it to him because he’s turning seventeen.”
That’s when Tam unfolded her arms and looked at me. Some fresh tears fell from her eyes. Then she threw her arms around me and hugged me tight.
Over her shoulder I saw Teresa standing in the doorway. Her arms were crossed over her chest. Her tears were falling, too. And she was smiling at me.
I always thought that that was the moment at which Teresa decided that I was marrying material. But I think she saw me then as a father for her daughter. Maybe more as a potential father than as a man she wanted to marry because she loved him.
So now I’m remembering how Tam hugged me on that day two years ago. She hugged me like she was a kid, and like I was her father, or at least like someone she trusted to protect her.
And I’m thinking about what I’d told her about that kid Jaheem, about how I said he wasn’t good enough for her. Tamara is a beautiful, sweet kid. There are a lot of dudes who aren’t good enough for her.
I’m on that list.
I tear my lips away from hers. I look down into her eyes. I kiss her on her forehead, just like I’d kiss my own daughter, if I had one. Then I take her by her arms and push her gently away from me.
I’m pushing the glass away from the edge of the table.
It’s much too precious to break.
©November 2007/Updated January 2012