I don’t know why it was, but around this time, I couldn’t help but reflect on the way things were. And the way things had been. Apollo was older now, for one; though he’d always been your older brother, and something of an authority, he looked the part now too. And little Leolin—he had blended into your group as seamlessly as I could have hoped. Though Apollo felt himself too “old” for such childish things, you, Hari, and Leolin could dance the night away when you got it in your heads to do so. It made the house brighter, I think. Leolin made the house brighter.
Or maybe that was Leo.
Come to think of it, it was probably a combination of both. The cheerful Leolin was a light in my life, but like he had seemed to from the moment I met him, Leo provided me with brightness. He gave me a spring in my step, something that came from the release of all that baggage I’d carried around for so long. I don’t know what he did, exactly, to help me set it down; all I knew was that, when he was around, I didn’t feel like it weighed on me anymore.
With a renewed sense of purpose, I felt like I could engage in my spiritual side again. I’d meditated and done yoga when I was younger, if you remember Janelle. But it was never much for the… deep side of it all. Nothing spiritual. It was all about the weight loss, about the physique.
But after that spa day with Leo, something woke up inside me. There was something I needed to pursue, and for whatever reason it seemed as though I might fight that in engaging in the practice mindfulness.
I probably sound like some hoodoo-voodoo crazy person, don’t I? But it’s true. Just wait until you find something that catches your attention that way. I don’t know what to call it, really. It wasn’t a passion, really—it wasn’t that I was excited about it or dedicated to it or felt that I was especially good at it. It was more of a compulsion. A conviction.
A happy glow at the end of a successful meditation session. A warm flush following a yoga routine.
My renewed flexibility didn’t hurt matters in bed for me either.
And my renewed physique didn’t hurt matters in any other areas of my life either.
It felt good to slip into a dress like that. It wasn’t as revealing I was necessarily used to—I had, for quite a long time, felt like one should flaunt what they’ve got. But I was coming to somewhat of a realization (maybe the yoga was helping) that I was a mother, and that I could look hot as hell without sacrificing all of my class (at least in public).
For some reason, though, it felt a little wasted on a guy like Reginald, and on most of the other people I went out with. It wasn’t like things were bad, necessarily. I just had the sensation that the dress very much wasn’t for them.
Who was it for, then?
I can’t be sure, Janelle. It was a long time ago. But I’m pretty sure I left right after that.
Not because I was angry with Reginald. Hell, guys talked like that to me all the time. They talked to me like that in the shop on a regular basis—in a place where I was the proprietor—to say nothing of in the street and during dates. Reginald was, to be perfectly honest, par for the course, and one of the more charming of those.
No, instead, I was angry at myself. Maybe it was the yoga, or Leolin, or Leo, or something, but again, I couldn’t stop thinking about the way things had been. About the kinds of things I would have done on a date with Reginald, way back when. About the euphoric high I would have had, about the glow of joy and fun I would have experienced.
Instead, with Reginald, I wasn’t repulsed or anything. It was just… meh. It was okay. Nothing great. Nothing special. Nothing fun.
What was wrong with me?
Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me. I know this seems like the same song and dance I’d been through before. “Oh, it’s not fun anymore! Oh, woe is me!”
But this was different. That kind of lack, it was pervasive. It filtered through my whole life, making everything around me seem less. This lack, though—I only noticed it in fleeting bursts. Because, for the most part, I was loving my life. It was only in those moments—habitual moments, on dates or at the shop—that, by comparison to the past, so greatly paled.
I didn’t even change out of the dress.
When had that happened? I’d been running for so long—from memories, from commitment, from my home life—into the arms of whoever happened to catch me first. I hadn’t even noticed when I’d stopped running.
I didn’t know how to face that idea. Had my whole way of living, prior to now, been incorrect? Had I just been fooling myself? I could tell, by the looks on everyone else’s faces, by the snide comments they sometimes threw my way, that my way of life wasn’t the norm, to be sure. But were they right, in that it was actually wrong?
The thought made me nauseous.
Had it been any other time in my life, I would have said, yes, of course I’m fine. Instead, something came over me. Again, Janelle, I blame the yoga.
And you know what? Leo was incredibly understanding. Maybe it’s that alien empathy thing that let him so perfectly understand where I was coming from. It was all him, though—all impressively wise him—that advised me how to cope with it all, though.
Smart and sexy. I got damn lucky, didn’t I. I can only hope that, if you decide to spend your life beside someone, you find someone as good-hearted as Leo. As reluctant as I was to commit to him (and, to be clear, I still wasn’t committed), I was honest enough with myself, at least, to acknowledge that he was a fantastic person. Still is.
In life, I saw my mother in two states, really. Overjoyed, in her moments with Mama. And heartbroken, in every moment she had to live without her. There was no in between.
I liked to think, though, that the moment I discovered that I could play music, too, my mother smiled down on me the same way she looked at Mama. With love. With pride.
Whether or not it was true, the thought, at least, made me smile too.