I watched my girls dance, and though I didn’t join them, they did make me smile. They danced that whole song, argued about who won, played it again, danced-off again, and then dragged themselves to their rooms. Didn’t these chicks remember how old we were now? Didn’t they know that there were probably more days behind us than in front of us?
“We only have about thirty minutes,” Simone sang out from her room. “I asked the bellman to come up at ten forty-five.”
I waited until my friends were all in their rooms and then, with a sigh, I pushed myself up and cleared off the table. Of course, I didn’t have to do that, but I needed something to do with my hands,and these thoughts kept playing in my mind.
“You’re here in search of something more.”
I poured a fresh glass of orange juice, then returned to where I’d been sitting. I went back to just sitting, just thinking, just wondering, just deciding.
When the doorbell to the suite rang, I was still sitting in the same spot.
“I got it,” Roxie shouted and she rushed from her bedroom, dragging her suitcase behind her. She set it against the wall before she opened the door. As the bellman wheeled the cart into the suite, she said, “All good things must come to an end. Come on in.”
“Hello, ladies. I’m here for your luggage,” he said.
Roxie pointed to her black Gucci baggage, then Simone came out of her room, followed last by Nichelle.
After he placed all the bags onto the rack, the bellman turned to me. “Ma’am, do you have your luggage?”
That was when all three of my friends turned to me. Their expressions told me that they had just noticed—I was still in the same place, wearing the same thing, no luggage in sight.
“Aja, what are you doing?” Roxie asked. “Why are you still sitting there?”
“I’m enjoying this glass of orange juice,” I said.
Simone glanced at her watch. “Um, can you either get that juice to go or finish up before we miss the plane?”
It took me a few moments to find my words. I was searching for something. Then it dawned on me. I wouldn’t find it if I got on that plane. “I’m not going,” I said as the realization swept over me.
“I have a million and one things to do when I get back,” Simone continued, as if she hadn’t heard me. “So the last thing I want to do is miss our flight. I also don’t want to be running through the airport.”
But while she jabbered on, Roxie and Nichelle had heard me clearly. I knew they had—it was all in their stares.
“What did you just say?” Nichelle asked.
Before I could answer her, Roxie jumped in with, “Girl,you need to stop playin’.”
Now, I spoke up and repeated my words.“I said, I’m not going.”
A silence fell over the room.
“I’m sorry.” Roxie blinked a couple of times as if that would help her understand my words better. “What do you mean you’re not going?”
I set the glass on the table and sat up erect. “I’m not going back.” My words were stronger this time and I actually smiled. “I’m going to stay in the DR.”
The bellman turned his glance from me to the others as if he not only did not want to get in the middle of thisbut he had other guests to help, other tips to receive.
“Um, here you go.” Roxie handed him a twenty. “Can you make sure our bags get on the right SUV? Our driver is waiting in a black Tahoe.” She glanced over at me. “We’ll help our friend bring her bags down.”
He nodded, then exited the room.
Roxie turned back to me. “Okay, I have no idea what’s going on, but you need to go in there and get your bag because it’s time to go.”
She spoke to me in her no-nonsense tone as if she were my mother. So I folded my arms and spoke back to her with conviction. “I don’t know how many other ways to say this. . . I mean, if I could speak another language, I would repeat it several ways. But I’m. Not. Going.”
“You’re not going home?” Simone asked as if she were just understanding my words.
“Right, I’m going to stay here.” Just voicing that caused a sense of peace to sweep over me.
“We’ve been here four days,” Nichelle said. “That’s not enough for you? So how long are you going to stay? And don’t you have to get back to work?”
I shrugged. “Yes, I have to get back to work,and maybe forever. Maybe I’ll stay down here forever.”
“Girl, don’t be ridiculous,” Roxie said.
“Yeah, I know we had a good time and all, but you can’t just stay on the island throwing back shots. Our reservation is up today,” Nichelle said.
“I’m going to call down now and extend it. And if they can’t give me this suite, that’s okay. I don’t need all this room anyway. I’ll move to another room.”
“Okay,” Roxie said, sliding in the seat across from me. “Tell me what’s going on. Why are you trying to stay in the DR? You’re not ready to go home?”
I sighed. “No, it’s not that. It’s just that. . . remember that old lady?”
Roxie frowned. “What old lady?”
“Oh no,” Nichelle said before I could further explain. “She’s talking about the lady I just told you about. The one with the rocks and the painting.”
“Yeah, well, she talked to me.”
“She’s creepy and crazy,” Nichelle said. “You let that old quack get in your head?”
“It’s not that.” I shook my head. “Look, even you, Roxie, kept asking me what was wrong.”
“Remember when we were at the club the other night?” I said. “You kept asking me what was wrong. I knew then, but I didn’t know how to say it. But I know it for sure now.”
“You know it because of the old lady?” Simone asked.
I nodded. “She told me that I wasn’t walking in my purpose.”
“Oh, Lawd,” Simone and Nichelle sang together, though Roxie just kept her eyes focused on me.
“She asked me if I was happy. And if I had answered her truthfully, I would’ve told her that I wasn’t happy.”
“You’re not happy about what?” Simone asked.
“I’m not happy about anything. Because Charles made the choice not to have a lot of guy friends, outside of work, it’s like I’m his everything,and sometimes it’s just too much.”
“Wow, you’re bothered because your man wants to be with you instead of run the streets?” Simone asked.
I exhaled my exasperation. “My life just doesn’t feel like my own. I feel like I’m suffocating under the weight of all those I love.”
“Shoot, aren’t we all?” Simone said. “That’s what happens when you grow up. But what are we supposed to do about that? Go back to when we ran the streets?”
“No. I’m too old for that,” I said. “But there’s got to be more to life than this. I mean, does the fact that we become wives and mothers mean that our dreams have to be put on the backburner? Or die altogether?”
“I don’t understand. Charles supports your dreams,” Roxie said. “Remember, he bought your first painting.”
“In 1999,” I replied. That had been one of the things that had made me fall in love with Charles. When we dated, he took such interest in my passion. He’d been the anonymous donor who had paid $500 for my very first painting. He’d won my heart—then put my painting in a closet, told me that all he wanted now was for me to be his wife and bear his kids. And that’s exactly what I did.
I was ready to take my paintings out of the closet.
“Girl, you’re tripping, for real,” Nichelle said. “You still paint.”
“But not like I want,” I said. “I was going to the ‘New Year, New You’ conference because I know there’s more to life and I’m just trying to figure out what that is,” I said. “I wanted to get the kick-start to open my own gallery,and it’s like that dream was derailed because of my family.”
“So is this about you missing the conference?” Roxie said. “You’re still mad about that?”
“It’s deeper than that,” I replied.
“Maybe if you teach some painting classes, you’ll feel better, since that’s what you love,” Roxie said.
“Ooh, go paint some nude men.” Nichelle waved her hand in the air and I was sure she was about to break out into a dance again.
Simone giggled. “I bet that would make you happy.”
Roxie cut her eyes at Simone and Nichelle before she turned back to me. “Aja, you don’t go visit another country and just up and decide to stay there.”
I stood and started pacing the length of the dining table where just an hour ago, we’d been laughing and reminiscing about our trip. I didn’t expect my girls to agree with my decision, but I at least thought they’d understand. “Look, I just have to stay so that I can figure some things out.”
“Aja, this isn’t making any sense,” Roxie said. “You can’t figure out what’s going on in your own home, in your own bed with your own husband?”
Before I could say a word, Nichelle sang out, “Ooohhh! I know what this is about.” There was a glare in her eyes, but a smile on her lips when she pointed her finger at me. “You ain’t fooling anyone.”
All three of us frowned at Nichelle.
She said, “You slipped out and hooked up with some DRcutie, didn’t you?” She nodded. “Uh-uh. That’s where you went this morning. And it was probably that guy you were dancing with at the club all night. The one that looked like MarcAnthony. What did you do? Did you sneak out and go to his place?” She bobbed her head again. “Yeah, that’s what happened. He rocked your groove and now you’re ready to change your name to Stella.”
Now Roxie wasn’t the only one to roll her eyes at Nichelle. “No one has rocked my groove, whatever that means. I didn’t even get that guy’s name or number.”
“Well, you should have,” Simone said. “He was super-fine.”
“No. She shouldn’t have,” Roxie said. She kept her eyes on me. “Because she has a husband who loves her like her life depends on it.”
“And,” I continued, ignoring Roxie, “I would never make a decision like this over some guy.”
“But,Aja—” Roxie began.
I interrupted her. “I just need some quiet time to get my head together. Maybe it took turning forty-five to make me realize that I need something more.” I popped back down in my seat.
“We’re all forty-five,” Roxie said.
“Speak for yourself,” Nichelle said. “I’m thirty-five. Aging backward. And it’s all because of shots.”
“Okay, Benjamin Button,” Simone said. “And by the way, I’m forty-four, don’t make me any older,” she added.
“Whatever,” Roxie said. “The point is, that’s why we came on vacation. To get rejuvenated.”
I stared into the faces of my friends. “Have any of you ever stopped to think, what if there’s more to life than what we’re doing?”
Roxie stood, circled around the table, then bent down in front of me. She took my hands. “Sweetie, I know we all get bored sometimes, but look at your life. You have a good life. No, let me correct that. You have an amazing life. With a husband and children who love you. Think about what Charles did for you for your birthday. We’re all here because of him. He’s wonderful.”
I snatched my hands away from her grasp. “I know! Charles is so wonderful. He’s Denzel, Idris,and George Clooney rolled up into one.”
“No, Clooney cheated on his wife,” Simone said. “We don’t want him to be Clooney.”
“That’s not the point,” I huffed. “I know how perfect my life is. The perfect husband, the perfect kids, the perfect everything. Well, what’s not perfect is me.That’s what I discovered on this trip. All is well on the home front, except with me.”
“Do you know how many women would love to trade places with you?” Simone said, her mood completely shifting as my words settled in. There was such sadness in her voice,and I knew where that came from. And if I was in a different place, I would have stopped this conversation and hugged her. And prayed for her,because I knew her divorce was breaking her heart. She continued, “So many women would love to have a husband who adores them the way Charles adores you.”
“That’s part of the problem,” I said, almost wishing we could focus on Simone’s problems and not mine. “Everyone acts like I should be so grateful to have Charles. I love him dearly, but he’s just as lucky to have me as I am to have him.”
“Honey, no one is saying that you should be grateful. It’s just hard to understand what you’re feeling because of what you do have in your life,” Roxie said.
“And this isn’t making sense to us,” Nichelle added.
“I get that. Because I don’t completely understand it myself. If I did, I’d be able to explain it better to you.” I sighed. “All I know is I need to stay and figure it all out.”
The way my girls looked at me, then at each other, I knew that they heard me. Finally. Thank God.
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