When I was young, my father tell me that people can be hard to love sometimes because they make mistakes. So, I tell my friend Reuben that my dream is to love a woman unconditionally – because if despite her mistakes I can still do that, she is a great woman and we are into something real.
My fiancé lived in downtown L.A for some time, a place where dreams are meant to come true – she believe that with her whole heart. That’s where I first met her. But on the phone one day she tell me that she moving back to Chicago, and she taking her L.A spirit with her. She say it’s okay because dreams come true there too; so that’s where we live since I fly over to be with her. She tell me to come to Chicago for better life, and now she keep saying she wanna spend the rest of her life here, but I don’t see it too possible. Where we live, streets are dangerous and the rich never float by.
But here in Chicago we run our lounge together and we live upstairs. We listen to music all night long. ‘It’s different to life in Cape Verde.’ she say. ‘Not better, just different.’
I don’t say no – I tell her, ‘I will give anything to watch you sing and dance in a red dress every night, for the rest of my life.’ And that’s what I get to see. But sometimes the dress is blue or green. She have a beautiful voice. And every morning, she sing:
I got something on my back that I need to get off baby,
The world’s been nuts.
Just the other day I had to reprimand a grown up.
Who am I to act this way?
But sugar, I’m the boss lady.
Busy handling, and managing…
In Cape Verde everyone around me speak more Portuguese – we hardly touch English. So, I ask her ‘What you mean by rep-ri-man?’ and she tell me “tell-off.” I nod my head. And soon, it nod to the sound of her beautiful voice. She say the song is Can’t Wait by Jill Scott. I don’t know the woman. But I get the bass guitar and learn to play the chorus and bridge:
But oh… when I get next to you baby,
Ain’t nobody gonna be there for me and you
I can’t wait baby
Can’t wait to be loved by you…
Jazz Lounge is successful. That’s what she name it – Jazz Lounge. She tell me it’s quirky. I don’t know what she really mean by that but I take it. She get up and coming artist to perform every night and sometimes she sing herself in the red, blue or green dress. Sometimes I play the bass guitar behind her.
But she wear the dresses less as her stomach begin to swell. Her hips move out and her face puff up – she no longer fit the dresses.
I remember when she tell me – it was in a morning full of sunshine, white sheets on the bed shining like her smile. She hold up a pregnancy test to my face saying ‘Look what you’ve done to me!’ But in a very happy way. She begin to laugh so I laugh too. I grab her and pull her into the bed. We don’t get up for three hours! She tell me she’s two months gone and didn’t even know.
And, that was only two months after I land in Chicago. I guess the first night is the one that did the job; she was looking sweet. Her eyes shine when she pick me up at MDW and see that I have on my gold chain. It was a present she gave to me when I ask her to marry me. She tell me that the rock on her finger feel so good, she have to get me something to show the world that I belong to her too. That’s what the chain represent. On the clasp she have a picture of Cape Verde engraved, to remind me of home she say.
But three months until the baby is to come, she sit me down to talk. I wonder what she could wanna talk about – she looking all serious. ‘What’s wrong, baby?’ I ask. ‘Jazz Lounge is doing good and I have my taxi job on the side – it pays me very well. What’s wrong?’ She start to reprimand me – tell me that I need to “pull my emotional weight”.
‘Since getting pregnant, I don’t feel beautiful and you’ve even said it to me less.’ She say she need affection; she hunger for it. And the hunger sit inside like pregnancy, she wanna deliver soon. I say to her it’s heart-breaking to hear that. I didn’t know. I was gonna say more but noise and shouting coming up from Jazz Lounge stop me. See, we were upstairs and guests were down. I race down the stairs, tell her to wait in the bedroom in case of danger. I love her too much to get hurt.
When I get downstairs I see a man in black, standing by the bar. He have a mask on his face and gun in his hand, and fear seeps into my body and soul. I ask what he want with my hands in the air. I say ‘Tell me what you want, and I will give it to you. Just don’t harm anybody.’ He tell me to empty the till of all the cash and fill up the bag he chuck in my direction. I obey orders and say ‘Stay calm.’ to the guests laying down on the floor, and frozen with hands up.
I walk to the till behind the bar all types of calm, hoping I don’t have to die because of a selfish man. $150 I empty from the till. Not too much anyway, but still something. That could buy my baby’s diapers. But just as I zip up the bag and drop it over the bar, my fiancé come creeping down the stairs, calling my name.
‘Don’t move.’ The gunman say to me. But my heart jump several beats. And the beats take my feet with them because before I know it, I jump over the bar towards her saying ‘Baby, go back! This man is dangerous!’ I guess she come down because of the silence after the screaming – I guess she was scared for me.
Then, the man take off his mask and stare her dead in the eye. And she stay frozen, looking right back. I stand in front of my fiancé and say to the man ‘Stay back. This is my fiancé, and she pregnant.’ His finger move to the trigger and he keep staring into her eyes.
‘That’s my baby.’ He say, he suddenly breathless.
I step forward. ‘Come again?’ My fiancé grab my arm and try to pull me back.
‘Jacob.’ She talking to the man. I wonder, why did he say that’s his baby and why does she know his name?
I try to not expect the worst and I ask her, ‘You know this man? ‘I don’t look back as she begin to cry and Jacob begin to laugh.
‘Brother. That’s my baby. And if she won’t tell you, I will. Ask your fiancé where she was the night before you came to town.’ She start pleading him to stop from behind me but he carry on. ‘She came knocking on my door, telling me she thought that she was just late that month, but then she’d found out that she was pregnant that same morning!’ He gesturing with the gun and guests start to stir. Now my fiancé trying to get past me but I hold her back. I shake just a bit.
Then, he say ‘She broke things off with me because her “fiancé was coming; she loves him more and he’ll be a better father than me.” Then she said I’ll never see the baby. So if you’re mad enough, you’ll raise it. Just know the baby’s not yours.’
My ears are hot and I want him to leave. My fiancé is wailing in the background saying ‘Jacob please!’, and my rage throw me to the man, I wanna go for his neck. He point the gun downward then step forward and say ‘I gave you one instruction. Don’t move.’
My fiancé leap back and scream as he pull the trigger. The bullet go straight into my thigh. She scream some more when I holler and collapse, and pain shoot down my leg like wildfire. Frantic, he bend to grab the money bag next to me and yank my gold chain from my neck. Through my pain I hear him say ‘She took something from me so I’m taking something from her.’ He back out of Jazz Lounge, gun pointing at us all.
My fiancé kneel down to me scream-crying, and guests rush over to us to see. I can’t say much through the pain, but I tell her it will be okay. ‘Call an ambulance!’ She scream. I let my eyes close but she tell me to keep them open to show I’m really okay. I rest my head on her swollen belly and she say ‘I’m so sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry. It didn’t mean anything, I should have told you, but I didn’t want you to leave me. You take so much care of me that it feels like nothing went wrong. Forget what I said about affection, I was being ungrateful. You’re all I want…’
She cry more tears and say more words as I pass out, everything fade to black.
And, she cry more when they remove the bullet from my thigh, and even more when I am able to walk again. She cry when I say I forgive her and she cry when the baby girl is born. And I know she will cry on our wedding day. She thank me for forgiving her. She say there’s no one for me but her and she buy me another gold chain.
You see, I tell you before: she have the L.A spirit, and L.A is a place where dreams are meant to come true. She rub off on me.