The Aftermath Part 2: Leeds vs Leeds
The Aftermath Part 2: Leeds vs Leeds
“Come in, Raymond,” Apollonia gestured me inside. Reagan and Kennedey told me that their mother looked the same and they were right. Apollonia is one beautiful woman, there’s no denying that, but I’m not here for that; I must stay strong.
Apollonia turned around, facing me. “You received my message,” she stated. I nodded my head, once. “Yes, I did.” “May I offer you anything to drink?” she asked. I held up my hand, no. “Fine.” An awkward silence fell upon us. Apollonia looked down at her feet for a brief moment. I didn’t get the feeling either one of us wanted to be here; I’ve never been more uncomfortable in my life. I’m seeing my wife for the first time in ten years after she walked out on us. This isn’t just some normal any day conversation. This is Apollonia ; the woman I married fresh out of college. She constantly accused me of destroying her dreams and nearly ruined our daughters. I keep checking myself to make sure this is real.
I feel so many different things right now. Resentment, curiosity, pain, agitation; a lot. I wasn’t prepared to feel as if my heart was breaking all over again. I told myself on the way over here, I can do this; I won’t sink back to that Sunday morning Apollonia left. That’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. As long as it’s been, I’m not truly over it. Maybe I am angry, but not so much for what she did to me, but what she did to Reagan and Kennedey and then coming here unannounced like it’s okay. The least she could’ve done was talk to me first. I can’t stop her from making contact with our kids, but she chose a sorry and selfish way to reappear on the scene and back into our lives again.
“Thank you for coming.” said Apollonia. I’m not sure if I ever heard her say “thank you” in the entire time we were married, but I’m not so easily swayed. “Let’s cut straight to the chase Apollonia, why are you here? Why after ten years, are you showing your face again? Is it money you want? Are you dying and wanting to redeem yourself?” I fired off one question after another. Apollonia gave me a blank stare. I know my questions had hit a mark by the way she furrowed her brow. “I guess I can understand why you would ask me such things, Raymond,” she replied.
“So, are you going to answer me or not?” I asked. “With the exception of wondering why I’m here, I don’t think your other questions are very relevant,” answered Apollonia, continuing to stare. She blinked twice, seemingly unfazed by my interrogation. “I hope you didn’t come here to start off like this. You see, you sought us out, you came back into our lives; I have every right to ask you anything I want,” I asserted. Apollonia flipped her hair and cocked her head to one side. “Look, I know things aren’t good between us, I get that. You should know, however, that I came back for my children. I don’t want to get into a thing with you. I know I’m wrong on many levels; I don’t need you to remind me.” She was on the defense, but I didn’t care if she felt like I’m attacking her. Apollonia had very few rights in this situation.
“Like it or not, Apollonia; Reagan and Kennedey are my kids as far as they’re concerned. You may have given birth to them and performed the bare minimum of child rearing, but I raised them. I was a coach, cheerleader, counselor, friend, and dad all rolled into one. This isn’t Miami ten years ago; you aren’t calling any shots. Now, you tell me why you’re here and your true motives. If you think you’re going to lie to me, know that I can spot your bullshit. You came from wherever you were, dropped a bombshell on us and turned our childrens’ lives upside down. Reagan and Kennedey were doing fine, great, actually. So, I want to know if the possibility of sacrificing their peace of mind and happiness is in vain,” I demanded.
“Well, you seem to know better than me why I’m in Isla Paradiso. How about, you’re the man; you controlled me for twenty-five years, why don’t you tell me for what other reason I came to see Reagan and Kennedey?” countered Apollonia. “Do you really want to start off with insulting me while asking for my help?” I asked. “I don’t recall me asking you for help, Raymond” she replied, rolling her eyes. The tension in the air was getting pretty thick. I don’t think either one of us intended for the conversation to go this far left. “Actually, you did; when you asked me to come here tonight,” I argued.
Apollonia held up her hands. “Okay, fine, Raymond. You got your way. Why don’t you tell me exactly what you think of me; everything you’ve wanted to say for ten years. Yes, I know I wasn’t a great wife or mother. I’ve beaten myself up every single day for the past ten years about what I did. No amount of scolding or reprimand you can give me can make me feel any worse than I already do, but you’re making this about us, when all I want to do is have a relationship with my daughters,” said Apollonia.
I shook my head. “That’s where you’re wrong. This is about us, this is about our marriage; like it or not, our family is directly connected to that. You can’t come into town and expect to have it all one way. You want to deal with one thing and forget about the other; it doesn’t work like that, Apollonia. You are not getting off that fast. You’re going to tell me what I want to hear and you’re going to listen to everything that’s been building up within me, not for ten years, but twenty-five years. You are not controlling this situation, I am, me!” I avowed. Apollonia folded her arms across her chest and pursed her lips, astonished at my sudden outburst.
“Fine. There is no big conspiracy, here. I simply want to see my daughters, I want a relationship with them. I want to meet my only grandchild. You know, I took their baby books when I left. I wanted to see them when I wanted. It wasn’t easy for me to look at their pictures without feeling an immense amount of shame and guilt,” confessed Apollonia. So, that’s why I couldn’t find Reagan and Kennedey’s baby books, their mother had them all along. She acted as if she wanted me to be sympathetic, but I couldn’t, not completely.
“What do you want me to say, Apollonia? That it’s okay that you left us simply because you missed out on being a dancer? You’re not the only one who had dreams, you know. I wanted to play in the NFL, that was my dream. A dream I worked toward since I was eleven years old and then in a blink of an eye, it was ripped away from me. I didn’t go and blame others for that. I didn’t take out my frustrations on my loved ones! You used to tell me that you would never have gotten married, had you not been pregnant, fine. I wouldn’t have gotten married at such a young age if I wasn’t about to become a father. We both made sacrifices. I didn’t see either one of my daughters as the reason my life didn’t go as planned. I was a grown man, I knew there was a possibility you’d get pregnant. I knew of the possibility I could get injured and never play pro ball, but I didn’t beat myself up because those things happened. My children are the best things that ever happened to me. Maybe you never viewed them that way, but I saw our family as a blessing,” I proclaimed.
“Okay, yes, blame me again for making you miserable, Raymond! If I didn’t give a damn, why did I stay all those years?” asked Apollonia, throwing her hands up in frustration. “I never said you didn’t give a damn. A hit dog will holler, Apollonia. Don’t put words in my mouth because you’re afraid of the truth!” I accused. “Don’t ever tell me I don’t care, Raymond! You assume to know me so well; you don’t know what was in my heart then and you don’t know what’s in my heart now!”
“Just stop it, Apollonia; I’m not the bad guy here; I’m not the one who walked out on my family and spent the first fifteen years of my marriage hating everyone and everything. You are not doing this, I’m not going to let you twist this around!” I said, through gritted teeth.
“How am I twisting anything around? Because you’re in your feelings and want to take your anger out on me. You’re mad because I came to see my girls and not you! Newsflash, Raymond; I’m going to see my children, regardless of what you want. Whether I have your support or not, it won’t stop me from doing what I must!” shouted Apollonia, dusting her hands off. I’ve seen my wife twist things around in the past. I can’t say for certain how much she’s changed. The fact that she’s wanting to be part of Reagan and Kennedey’s lives tells me a lot, but she’s also displaying some classic Apollonia behavior.
“I’m not stopping you from doing anything; I never have; so don’t play that card with me, it won’t work this time,” I replied. Apollonia loudly scoffed. “Are you serious, you’ve never stopped me from doing anything? Please! I couldn’t see my Nani because of you, anytime I expressed interest in taking a dance class or opening a studio, you denied me! It was your money and you ran the world! I always had to get permission to buy anything that didn’t come from the damn grocery store! You liked having me stuck in the damn house as your little Susie homemaker!” she shouted. The angrier Apollonia got, the thicker her accent became.
“That is straight bull! I regulated what we spent because you loved to burn through money we didn’t have! Like the time you wasted fifteen hundred dollars on a damn purse when that money could’ve been used for the house or car! Hell yeah, I wanted you to check with me after that! Don’t blame me for not seeing Giselle, either. I told you time and again we didn’t have money for a plane ticket to Trinidad. The truth is, I did put away money for that a few different times, but either I had to get the car fixed or get a new water heater, or one of the kids needed something. Those things were necessities. I wanted to give you everything you wanted, Apollonia; I wanted to give our children everything they wanted, but I didn’t have the money!” I shouted back.
“Funny how the money you supposedly saved for a ticket always had to be spent on something else; yet I managed to save enough on my own. Unfortunately, by the time I had the money Nani Giselle had passed away! Don’t deny that you wanted me at home to wait on you hand and foot. It made you feel like a real man to have a the little woman in the kitchen cooking and cleaning for your ass! You had to prove to everyone you were this big strong black man because of the piece of shit father you had growing up! You were so concerned about breaking that stereotype of a trifling black father, you overlooked anything that mattered to me. I know the girls needed things, I know we had bills, but you never gave my dreams any real consideration!” cried Apollonia.
“There it is! There you go equating my duties as a husband and father to my masculinity. Let me tell you something, what I had to do as a provider was never about stroking some male ego or trying to prove I was nothing like my father. This is what you do, what you’ve always done, attempting to rip my manhood away; emasculating me. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. I’m not sorry for taking care of my family the best way I knew how. Did I make mistakes? I’m sure I did, but I tried my best!” I argued.
“Typical of me? Well, it’s typical of you to relate your manhood to your damn penis!” yelled Apollonia. I shook my head. “That’s not what I meant or what that even means! You tried to deny me what it means to be a man and a father. You belittled my job; I never made enough money for you; you degraded me in front of people; and so many other things I can’t even think of right now! Not to mention using sex as a weapon to get your way. You had the control when it came to that and used it to get what you wanted. You denied me and denied affection toward our kids. We were all at your mercy!” I yelled back. “Don’t even try to mix in our kids when this is about our marriage! I never said I was the perfect wife or mother. I made mistakes, but so did you, Raymond!”
“Fine, you want to talk about our marriage? Let’s talk about our marriage, the one you never gave a fair shot. I admit we didn’t enter into it under the easiest circumstances, but at least I tried, Apollonia. I loved you and wanted to make it work,” I said. “Maybe I would have put in an effort if I didn’t have a husband who constantly dismissed my dreams the same as my father. Its a wonder you two weren’t closer, you had so much in common! Look, I don’t want to do this with you; I didn’t come here for this. I came for my daughters.”
“Wouldn’t that just be perfect, for you to come and claim Reagan and Kennedey simply because you’re ready? You were the real spoiled child in our house, always putting your needs ahead of our kids. You left me to bear it all; the good, bad, and ugly. Yes, there were good times, but you could never see that because of the bad times. Let’s be real; you left long before you ran out on us, Apollonia. You did the very basic when it came to being a mother and I’m not even sure if I can call that a real marriage what we had. I gave and gave, but it was never enough; never enough for you. I loved you, but you treated me like I was nothing, like I was beneath you,” I said, briefly stopping to catch my breath.
“Now you swoop down cause havoc in everyone’s life. I can’t figure out if your coming is good or bad. Like I said before, Reagan and Kennedey were doing so well, then you think you can rightfully claim your place and play mommy again just because things didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Like we’re all supposed to embrace you as if the last ten years didn’t happen; as if you didn’t take every opportunity to remind us how miserable you were back then and you hated your life. Why should I care, Apollonia? Why should Reagan and Kennedey care? Don’t say it’s because you’re their mother, you better come with something a whole lot better than that,” I concluded.
Apollonia looked as if she were contemplating what to say next. “After ten years of living a sad miserable existence, I wanted my family back. You think it was easy for me to just up and leave? No, I figured it was the best thing for all. I wasn’t exactly mother of the year. I lost out on my dreams at a very young age and thought maybe there was a chance for me to realize it; I had to try. The girls were in high school already, you and I were constantly fighting; it was no way to live. I love Reagan and Kennedey, okay? I do. It’s not easy for me to be here. I came from some hole in the wall apartment in Flatbush all the way to Isla Paradiso. I failed alright? I didn’t make it in New York. I lived in a roach infested dump in The Bronx and slang drinks to make ends meet. I was turned down at nearly every audition. I hated myself and what my life had become. I only want a chance to be a mother again, that is why I’m coming to you,” she confessed. I had no idea where she went and now to hear she’s been in New York, blew me away. To think Reagan and Kennedey have been in New York on different occasions, especially Reagan
“I’m sorry it took you leaving to realize you loved your children. Now you want me to convince Reagan and Kennedey to forgive you. Well, that’s not up to me; I can’t tell them how to feel. I love them and I’ll do anything to protect my our children and granddaughter even if that means protecting them from you. I won’t let you hurt them again, Apollonia; I refuse to,” I replied. I felt a semblance of sympathy, but I didn’t want Apollonia to think for one second that she could get over.
Apollonia looked at me for a very long time. Her lip began to quiver and tears sprang to her eyes. Reagan and Kennedey said they were shocked at seeing their mother become so emotional the other night; that they never saw her cry before. Well, I had. She cried a lot when she was pregnant with Reagan and at times after she gave birth to Kennedey, but it wasn’t openly because Apollonia viewed crying as a weakness, which it is not. The fact that she’s doing it now, maybe she doesn’t feel that way any longer.
“I don’t understand why I’m this way. All my life I wanted to be greater than my family; I never wanted to be ordinary. There was a part of me that hated how basic my family was. I remember thinking not even Trinidad was good enough for me. I struggled for years to set myself apart from everyone. I had all these dreams, but my parents never took me seriously. They put my brother on a pedestal and told me to be more like him, like everyone else, but I always knew I was different. I never felt really normal being in that family. I always felt like an outsider.
I wanted to be a famous dancer very badly. I had this need to succeed to prove my family wrong when they said I wouldn’t make it. Then when I got pregnant, I saw all my dreams fade away. I hated that it seemed I became like my sisters. It was wrong of me to blame my children; they didn’t ask to be here. I chose to lay down with you, Raymond; you didn’t make me. I became depressed when I was carrying Reagan and as the years went on, I got worse. I didn’t try to get help because I didn’t acknowledge there was a problem. I grew up in a time when things like depression and mental problems were considered taboo. It meant you were crazy if you went around thinking about ending your life,” Apollonia paused, looking up at me. My eyes grew big at her confession. I knew she was sad at times, but Apollonia never told me she thought about taking her own life.
I wasn’t prepared for what Apollonia had to say next. She described to me all the intense feelings of loneliness and failure she felt when our kids were young. Apollonia admitted she didn’t feel part of our family because she didn’t know to communicate with Reagan and Kennedey; that she was jealous of our relationship. She wasn’t maternal and she didn’t know how to react to Reagan and Kennedey’s expressions of love when they were little. Apollonia didn’t grow up in a house where feelings were openly shared and she wasn’t warm and fuzzy. She didn’t know how to show real love.
The depression consumed Apollonia and she only focused on her misery. She didn’t want to take responsibility for her life so it was easier to blame me and view our children with resentment. After not making it in New York she admitted to how severe the depression became and that one night she overdosed on pain medication and vodka, leading to an inpatient stay in a mental health hospital. I found myself tearing up as well. I couldn’t believe she’d gone through that all these years and how she nearly ended her life.
I admit, I’ve never dealt with mental illness myself and I can’t wrap my mind around why someone would want to take their own life, but I know things must be beyond bad and seemingly hopeless for anyone to consider that. I never thought Apollonia would be one of those people want to do it.
“I’m not even sure if I actively thought, by taking those pills would kill me that night. I didn’t even say to myself, I’m going to die tonight. I only prayed that I not wake up. I was at the end of my rope. I didn’t want to acknowledge my problems even after I left the hospital. I viewed my depression and other problems as a weakness. I hit a low point and I figured I needed to get back on my feet and things would be okay. I’m the last person I thought would ever go through that and even now I still can’t believe that was me sometimes. I’m getting good help for it now and I’ve made a lot of progress. And like I told my doctor, I can’t fully heal unless I make things right with my children. They can’t heal either. I’m afraid now that you’ll think I’m crazy because I see a doctor. I don’t want this to scare you. I know you don’t know anything about my life back in New York. I function well, whatever that means; I don’t have delusions or thoughts of hurting myself anymore. I only want to be happy and live a good life,” said Apollonia.
I shook my head. “I don’t think that, Apollonia. I’m just shocked right now,” I admitted. “Well, it is shocking. This isn’t something easy for me to talk about. I’m thankful for whatever reason I didn’t stay asleep that night, because if I did, I wouldn’t know how wonderful my children turned out to be and I wouldn’t know about Marseille,” sighed Apollonia, as she thought back to the awful experiences in New York. She told me about Maurice the man she lived with but says wasn’t a relationship. I felt sick to my stomach hearing how abusive he was to her. Apollonia said she always fought him back anytime he laid his hands on her. Regardless if she fought back, that make it okay for him to touch her. It’s not easy for me to stand here as man and hear that a pathetic piece of shit abused my wife and the mother of my children.
Apollonia admitted she had followed the girls via social media all these years and kept up with them online. She followed what happened after Ra$hin abused Reagan to me having my heart attack. Apollonia pretty much did the same as me when Reagan and Kennedey became involved with Jaylen and Micah, respectively. She never wanted to take out her anger on me or our girls, but she didn’t know how to control herself at times. No, all of these things Apollonia told me she went through didn’t erase what she did, but it gave me further insight into why she acted the way she did at times.
“I don’t want to do this, Apollonia, I don’t. I can’t hate you and I don’t want to be mad anymore. I’ll never be okay with what you did or excuse it, but I’ll have to find a way to move on from it. I’m sorry you had to grow through that and I’m sorry our family especially our girls had to go through what we did. It’s not fair, you didn’t deserve to feel that way, you didn’t deserve to be depressed and suffer for years. Just like I didn’t deserve to be treated like that by you. Reagan and Kennedey didn’t deserve to grow up in a house with constant fighting. We owed them more than that. I admit, there were wrongs committed by me. I feel like I should have known you needed help.”
“Even if you knew I needed help, I wouldn’t have made it easy for you to get me any. I made mistakes, so did you, but overall you were a good husband and a better father. I felt jealous because I thought Reagan and Kennedey loved you more. Thank you for admitting you bared some responsibility too,” said Apollonia.
I nodded my head as a show of understanding. I don’t know where we go from here and its not something I need to figure out in this very moment, I thought as I walked back out into the night. I can see that Apollonia is hurting. Us yelling and screaming at each other won’t help anything. The blowup we had tonight was over ten years in the making.
Not everything is forgotten and not everything is forgiven. I truly hope Apollonia’s changed. She is right, I can’t stop her from trying to reconnect with Reagan and Kennedey, but I don’t believe she is here to cause them any harm. It’s up to them if they want a relationship with their mother. I can’t stop Apollonia from reaching out to them. I can only be there for my children when they need me.