[sommaire-chapitres livre=2 affiche_infos=true]
Continuation of Last Dance
Liza used loved to hear and see John and Desiree interact with one another. In the early years, watching John as a father only deepened Liza’s love for him. He attentively listened to Desiree even before she could barely form a sentence. Their matching amber colored, with flecks of green, eyes would connect and he would listen intently on whatever she had to say: from stories about her favorite doll, Ruby, to the middle school politics. John would lean in close to her and give her the same attention he would one of his seriously ill patients.
Liza grabbed the opened bottle of Pinot Noir that was on the counter and poured herself an Olivia Pope-sized glass Now, if she was honest, and she had only recently been able to admit this to herself—she was jealous.. Thinking that she could be jealous of her own daughter made Liza question her sanity. Suddenly she was that woman that she used to shake her head at and ridicule when she was watching Oprah. She had to wonder how she got to this place emotionally.
Growing up, if Liza’s mom wasn’t at work, she was at church trying to pray Liza’s alcoholic father’s sins away. Liza and her younger sister survived on Spaghetti-O’s, PBS T.V. and monthly visits from Grandma Dee. Liza’s mother wasn’t bad; she was just completely consumed by her love of a man who wasn’t available to love anything more than liquor.
Dissimilarly, John’s eyes were like the flashing vacancy sign at the crappy motel on the corner of Monsett and Hawthorne across town: they spoke to availability. With Labrador retriever eagerness, his eyes said, “I’m so happy to meet you. Let’s be forever friends” the first time they met in the school library one October day. Liza, with her curly ringlets tied in messy knot on top of her head, wearing blue sweats and no make-up had walked up to a table that he was sitting at and dumped a large load of books down while simultaneously and breathlessly asking, “Can I sit here.”
She slid into one of the wood chairs before even waiting for an answer and opened up one of the large, musty books to the Table of Contents to see if it would help her with her project. She immediately forgot that someone else was actually sitting there until she heard a beautiful, baritone voice say, “Let me guess: Dr. Florence’s African American Politics Final?”
Liza looked up and there he was, there those eyes were—available.
When he saw her, all he wanted to know was if she was available. She was what he and his frat brothers called a “flower”—a natural beauty, no enhancements necessary. And she wasn’t even aware of it. She moved as if on a mission, oblivious to her beauty, which made her all the more lovely.
She smiled, “So, you’ve survived Dr. Florence? I picked the right desk-mate. Do tell—how in the heck did you do it? That woman is nuts!”
They spent the rest of that evening working on her freshman year paper. The next night they had their first date. That night she became his woman—his LeeLee.
Just as they got through her Freshman Politics class together, in the beginning, they approached everything in life as a team. Their wedding was a “Do It Yourself” event before “DIY” or “Martha Stewart” was popular. LeeLee’s Grandmother added embellishments to a white dress that she found in J.C. Penny. LeeLee’s friends made decorations out of tissue paper and John’s med-school buddies hung Christmas lights in John’s uncle’s backyard.
Under those lights, Liza and John walked hand-in-hand, as John’s boom box played “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker. They didn’t write their vows, but fumbled through whatever John’s uncle, a minister at a small church, guided them to say. And then ended with the longest, most inappropriate kiss possibly ever witnessed at a wedding. It was perfect. For the reception, everybody bought dishes—piling the picnic tables with homemade potato salad, fried chicken, BBQ ribs, corn on the cob and baked beans. And then later danced into the night—ending with Grandma Dee rocking down the middle of the soul train line to Earth Wind and Fire’s, “September.”
Their lives continued with the same simplicity as their wedding. They didn’t have any money, so a date night consisted of cheap wine and a serious game of 2-man spades or Rummy; long walks around the city where listening to whatever street artist was performing; and an occasional movie where LeeLee would sneak in homemade snacks to save money. They were happy.
But, they did dream about when things would get easier once John finished his residency and Liza finished graduate school. John looked forward to taking care of LeeLee—to buy her a nice place and to at least buy her some new clothes. Saturday mornings, she woke up to clean their apartment in the same blue sweats that he met her in—without complaint.
She didn’t want to complain. John was a good, hardworking, man, who was pleased by the simple things in life: a warm hug and a hot meal—and maybe that was the problem.
Things were rough when they first got married. They were madly in love, but like her momma used to say, when Liza used to cry about her working so much, “Love don’t pay the rent.” Liza often found herself, with her stomach in knots, in the middle of the grocery store line adding and recalculating the items in her cart to ensure that she had not overspent the few dollars left in their checking account.
Most of her friends and their husbands went straight to the workforce after college instead of going to graduate school, so it was tough always having to sit at home on the weekends when her girlfriends got to go to concerts and weekend getaways. Oddly, John seemed to be happy even though they were so poor, but she figured that he was just trying to put on a brave face since he was the man of the house.
It was a relief when they both got out of school and started making some money. Not only could they afford to move, get a car and some new clothes, but finally Liza could afford to join some of the prestigious organizations that signaled to her and to the world that she had made it. She and John were no longer so isolated –no longer did it have to be just the two of them, Cold Duck, and a deck of cards.
Liza took another sip of her Pinot Noir, a lovely 2010 from the Russian River, started cutting the red onion for the Greek Salad she planned on making for dinner, and felt her shoulders tighten slightly as she heard John and Desiree burst into a fit of laughter.
Just this past weekend, at the Links Benefit, Judge Foster had made a joke in a crowd of important people and John refused to even crack a smile. Sometimes Liza felt that John took pleasure in embarrassing her.
Desiree cracked up at his impression of Judge Foster at Saturday’s dance. With a pillow stuffed in the front of his scrubs to make himself look as fat as possible and wearing Desiree’s wig from when she was Prince for Halloween a couple of years ago, John sermonized in his most hauty-Thurston Howell voice, “So, I was trying to pick-up Diane’s mink from coat check and the attendant had the nerve to give me someone’s fox fur – a fox fur! Can you imagine! I told her, honey, a fox can’t even afford to live in the same woods as a mink!”
John and Desiree cracked up at his impression, but LeeLee had actually laughed at the ridiculous joke that night. John remembers thinking, “What has happened to my wife?”
“John! Desiree! Dinner!, “ Liza beckoned upstairs.
She immediately hears John coming downstairs, and Desiree sliding down the banister (which absolutely drove Liza crazy as she just got the staircase redone. Not to mention, Desiree could actually get hurt, but of course, John refuses to parent or take her side).
“Set the table please, Desiree,” Liza says.
I’ve got it,” says John as he opens the silverware drawer.
Liza throws him a quick look out of the corner of her eye.
“Smells delicious, honey,” John says as Liza places the serving dishes on the table. Desiree pours herself a tall glass of milk and sits in her regular seat. John and Liza take their places at the table, the smells of Chicken Parmamsian fills the air and John Coltrane plays softly in the background. On cue—because it’s something they have done every night for years—they grab hands, bow their heads, and Desiree says the grace, “Dear God, Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for today. Thank you for this food. Please continue to watch over this family—to keep us happy, healthy and whole. Amen.”
[sommaire-chapitres livre=2 affiche_infos=true]