The next morning when Cash awoke he offered to take me to breakfast but I told him we'd have to raincheck that. Enough time had elapsed, and I knew it was time to face Tristan. I kept on the tshirt he'd given me to sleep in, since I hadn't exactly brought a change of clothes. Or any clothes for that matter. I'd told him I didn't usually leave the house clothed in La Perla and a Trenchcoat but, under the circumstances he could surely understand. He just gave me a teasing look, that said whatever you gotta tell yourself.
The ride back to Brooklyn from Cash's place was about an hour, since he lived out in a ritzy neighborhood on Long Island. I wasn't feeling much like talking, since I'd been consumed with thoughts of my impending conversation with Tristan. I looked out the window, watching the trees whiz by, trying to ignore the hollow feeling of anticipation that was plaguing my stomach. Cash was perceptive, as I'd come to realize was part of his personality, as he turned the music up loud enough for me to get lost in my thoughts. I'd settled comfortably in my seat, drinking my Dunkin' Donuts French Vanilla coffee, when I heard Jay Z's "Say Hello" come through the speakers. I drifted off into my own little world and I began to think of my life in terms of Hov's songbook.
Last night I was thinking, this can't be life. But soon after I'd had a moment of clarity. I had 99 Problems, and Tristan was no longer one. It didn't take me long to realize aint no nigga worth all that. That much I know. I was so appalled but it was time to get that dirt off my shoulder. But one thing I did know was that if Tristan told me he was just f*ckin' that girl, he was gon get right back, Jay was gon' write his mouth a check his ass couldn't cash. Snapping back to reality, it was hello brooklyn and I was that much closer to hearing what he had to say for himself. Cash dropped me to my car and told me he was there if I needed him. He said from the brief time we'd spent together he was pretty sure I could hold my own. I was a regular American Gangsta.
As I drove back to Williamsburg, I recalled a time a few years back. I was out at Strokers, a strip club down in ATL, one night with my homie Flipper. I wonder whatever happened to him, by the way? Anyway, as women shimmied and shook their goodies in our faces, we tossed around stories of how we would handle it if we caught our boos cheating. He'd said he would go in guns blazing, in straight wild out mode. Probably beat the shit out of the dude and possibly his chick too for being so damn disrespectful. I countered that I'd come in and look my dude dead in the eye and without words let him know it was over. Like a G. I believe in all of that Sun Tsu appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak shit.
I pulled up to the apartment building, and wondered whether my decision to leave last night was weak or strong. Now was going to be my moment to show just which one it was. I fixed myself up in the rearview mirror and applied some MAC Ruby Woo to my lips. I had to look good when I told him to kick rocks with open toe sandals on. As the elevator opened to the 24th floor, I readied myself for what was to come.
When I walked in the door, Tristan was sitting at the kitchen table. Waiting for me. His head was in his hands, and a bottle of Ciroc sat in arm's reach. No glass. Homeboy was going straight to the head with it. You wouldn't believe it but this negro was listening to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes', "Miss You". He looked like he was only a second from jumping from the ledge, and I was just the woman to push him. When he heard the door close behind me, he looked up, met my eyes and said,
"I'm not interested in sorry. I'm mildly interested in an explanation if for nothing else than curiosity.", I said with the most disgusted tone I could muster.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you.", he mumbled.
"Baby-", he started.
"DON'T call me baby!"
"Ok, I'm sorry. But if I tell you what happened you have to try to keep an open mind. Try to understand why I did what I did."
"Just say what you gotta say."
He took a deep breath and said,
"Okay" he said and took a sip from the bottle. "I'll tell you everything. It's just that if you think you hate me now, you'll really hate me when you know the truth."
I glared at him, signaling him to get on with his story. He took another swig from the Ciroc bottle and said,
"You know how long I've been trying to get on. I've been in the business so long that artists usually seek me out. When I go on tour, most of the time I'm put in charge of the other background singers. Because of that, at the end of gigs promoters usually give me the earnings, and I dole it out accordingly. Everything was all good at first...until I realized the power I possessed being the one in charge of the money. Greed started to get a hold of me and I started shorting the other singers and adding more to my own cut."
I listened in disbelief to his cockamamie story but that caught my attention. "You stole from them?"
"I'm ashamed to admit it, but yeah.", he admitted. "I'm not gonna lie to you Kyla, being here with you in this condo is great but don't you think it hurts me to see you loving your career, making great money, heading out to fancy networking events and dinners? And then I come in here with my little pennies from these shows, and it's supposed to mean something? Well, I know it doesn't and I started to hate myself for it. I started to feel not only jealous of your success but worthless too. I'm a man, and being next to you I feel like a failure."
I looked at him unfazed. "Am I supposed to feel sorry for you? I don't." I didn't know everything I felt but I was sure about still being pissed. "Now I just know you're a thief and a cheater. Spare me the I'm so emasculated by your success song and dance. And what does this have to do with the chick in your phone? The one you were with 'last night'."
He gave me a defeated look and answered, "She's one of the other singers on the tour. One night after one of our shows, she overheard me talking to the tour manager about how much money we were getting for the show. After I gave everybody their money, she pulled me aside and told me I was short. I asked her what she was talking about and she told me what she knew. Not only did she want the rest of her money, but in order for her not to tell the other singers, and the tour manager, she said she wanted something else. Me."
So now he was a hoe too. "So what? You just said ok? I get pimped on the reg?"
"I didn't have a choice. She knew about you. Everybody knows about you, you're my everything Kyla. She threatened to not only tell them, but you too. I thought about all the ways I had already disappointed you, and the thought of you finding out just killed me. She was blackmailing me and at the time, sleeping with her felt like the lesser of two evils. I thought it would just be one time, but once she realized the power she had over me, she got drunk with it. She started playing all of these sick little games, and I didn't know what to do. So I just did whatever she said." Another sip.
"What type of dumb shit is that Tristan?" I asked. Still trying to figure out whether or not he was speaking the truth and how much I really cared. "I'm supposed to believe that. That you were being blackmailed for sex? I mean you cute but not that cute."
"Kyla, I swear to you I'm telling you the truth. A desperate man will do desperate things. The crazy part is, I went through all of that just to keep you from finding out and you found out anyway. It was all for nothing and now that crazy bitch f*cked up my whole life." Another sip.
"No actually you f*cked it up.", I reminded him. "You let greed and lies take you so far that you couldn't come back. So I'ma tell you like this: ya made ya bed now lay in it. We're not gonna do the whole knock down, drag out, dramatic scene. You're gonna pack your shit and you're gonna leave, and I'm gonna go on with my life. I will say that I truly loved you and had you come to me and told me how inadequate you were feeling, we could have worked through it. We could have had it all. But lucky for me, you proved just how inadequate you actually are. I want your things out of my house by the time I come back. And just so you know, I don't hate you. I pity you." With that I turned and headed for the door.
He started to say something else, but I was out of the house so fast that I heard nothing. I hopped in the car and headed to Jeffrey's, in the meatpacking district, to get some retail therapy. I was running around town with just a tshirt on under my coat. I needed to get it together. As I drove, I replayed what Tristan had told me and tried to make sense of it all. I'd never thought of Tristan as weak, but to hear the story as he told it made me question everything I ever knew about him. It also made me question myself, and how perceptive I really was. But there would be plenty of time for that later. As hurt as I was, I've never been one to cry too long over spilled milk. I'd nurse my wounds and move on. I'd had plans for a life with Tristan but plans change and if I was being honest, I'd been having my own reservations about our future. I turned on Jay's On To the Next One, and started to make new plans for my future...without Tristan.
To be continued...