reaking up is hard, but starting over after a major breakup can be even harder. Joel tried to rebound and get back on the dating scene. He let his best friends Greg and Dave talk him into going back to Club One, the same nightclub where he met Renee. Joel had known Greg and Dave since elementary school. They went to the same church and played sports together from recreation leagues, AAU to high school. Joel respected Greg and Dave's opinions even though he knew they were professional bullshitters. Greg was a bus driver for the Mass Transit Administration and Dave was a Baltimore city policeman, which meant these two worked closely with the public and met women all day long. They were single and planned to stay single. On the other hand, Joel was a serial monogamist looking for love and a decent relationship.
Whenever Joel went to Club One he was traumatized because all he could see was haunting images of Renee everywhere he looked. It was so bad that he could even smell her scent flowing through the air. The last time he went to the club he left without telling Greg and Dave. They were so busy mackin' that hours had gone by before they even noticed.
Two-and-a-half years is a long time to be with one person, and in that time Renee had become a major part of Joel's life. In a way, she was part of him. It had only been a little over a month since Renee walked out of his life. Not being able to hear her voice was strange and not seeing her was even stranger.
Joel's job was really the only thing keeping him going and now that the school year was coming to an end he wasn't sure where to direct his attention.
Occasionally he experienced difficult days and this was one of them. He sat at his desk in an empty classroom, missing Renee and writing a poetic piece from his random and free-flowing thoughts. Joel wondered if Renee would have understood him better if she could have read his thoughts.
Open your eyes ... really open them. Free your heart and mind for a minute. My eyes are open ... I can see and feel the beauty within you. Can I speak to your mind? I'd like your heart to listen too. I hope you feel me on this. If I could take a beautiful journey into your mind, would you allow me inside? What would I find? Would I find the real you, the one I fell in love with? Would I find myself? And if I found myself would I like your perception of me? What I'm really asking is, if I could see myself through your eyes, would I like what I saw? Would I recognize my image or would I appear as a distorted picture of the man I used to be? Could you still see me if I were invisible? Did you really see me when I was in your presence? Would you know me now? If I ceased to exist would my image still linger in your mind? If I couldn't speak could you still hear my voice? Can you hear me now? Do you ever speak to me in your mind and if so, what do I say? If your heart spoke to me could I decipher the message? Would I wanna hear what it had to say and would it still speak the language I once loved to hear? Can you see and hear me now? Do you ever dream of me? Ever have daydreams ... wet dreams or any kind of dreams about us? Whatever makes you smile. Can you smile for me? Are you smiling on the inside right now? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and hold your pillow, wishing it was me? If your pillow could talk what would it say? Would it tell me of the times it was soaked with your tears and how it soothed your pain and gently caressed your head in my absence? Can I speak to your body? Does it miss me? Can you still feel me, like I still feel you? Can you really hear me or should I bring my lips a little closer? Do you think I still know every inch of you? I'm still talking to your body. I miss your hips, your sexy dips and all of your lips. Damn, can I make you smile on the inside and come on the outside? Can I take a journey inside you? Submerge deep within your soul ... a soul like no other I've ever known. Are you afraid? Can I go there? I wanna take you there and together we can drown in intimate emotions. I wanna feel you. I want you to feel me. I'll cry ... you'll cry and together we can stand the pain, share the pleasure, and face any fears. As we stand here at the threshold of fantasy and reality, can I take that journey, that journey inside you? But before we do anything, can you please tell me where we went wrong?
Someone knocked at Joel's classroom door. He looked through the door's tiny glass window and saw Mrs. Betty Kelly, the school's stiff and often uptight principal staring at him. Because she was always busy and extremely task oriented, Joel feared that she had something for him to do. Mrs. Kelly was traditional in every sense, from her clothes to her demeanor. If they made a television reality show about her life it would be called,
Lifestyle of a Prudish Principal
. She was really sweet, but unfortunately her job as principal automatically made her unpopular and the natural enemy of everybody in the school.
The students and some of the faculty at Mary E. Rodman Elementary referred to her as Smelly Kelly because of the unmistakable odor of her cheap perfume, Burly Betty because she was morbidly obese and Funeral Face because of her thick layers of dull makeup. Someone needed to come up with a name for her wicked synthetic auburn wig.
Joel wasn't in the mood for talking at all. He took a deep breath and put on a fake smile. “Come in.”
As soon as the door opened Mrs. Kelly's scent rushed inside, filling the air before she even stepped one foot inside of Joel's classroom, making him sneeze.
Mrs. Kelly gave Joel a rare smile that made him expect to see her makeup crack. “Hi, Mr. Davis. God bless you.”
“You must have some type of seasonal allergy.”
Joel played it off and said, “I don't know. Guess it's just something in the air.”
“Could be, you never know.” She paused and said, “In case you're wondering, I just stopped by to thank you for another successful school year. You already know you're one of my favorite teachers and you never cease to amaze me.”
Joel was surprised. Mrs. Kelly's words relaxed him a bit. He was about to pour on the bullshit and spread it nice and thick. “You're definitely my favorite principal. I wouldn't be able to do half of the things I do around here without you.”
Mrs. Kelly deliberately took a seat right next to Joel's desk. “Awwww, thank you. Our fifth graders really looked like distinguished young ladies and gentlemen during today's closing ceremony. Didn't you think so?”
Joel always got distracted, focusing on her dull makeup and drawn-on eyebrows when they were face-to-face. Catching himself he said, “Yeah, they really did look distinguished. Michael Stevenson's speech was outstanding. I had to take a minute to explain to him what it meant when people said he was articulate and spoke eloquently. He didn't know whether people liked him or were criticizing him.”
“That's cute. Good thing you told him what those words meant. I'm surprised he didn't snap and go upside somebody's head first. His mother must have medicated his little behind a couple of times this morning.”
Joel almost liked this side of Mrs. Kelly. He laughed and said, “Check you out making jokes. I don't know about the medication part. All I know is that Michael made me real proud up there today. He didn't even seem nervous.”
“That's because you worked extra hard with that young man and everyone is extremely pleased with his progress. I already called Mrs. Winston at West Baltimore Middle and told her to keep a close eye on Michael for us.”
Joel thought to himself,
That poor little boy was marked for life
. He hated the fact that Michael would never be able to escape his troubled past and get the fresh start he deserved. Most of the time Joel's colleagues meant well, but they had a tendency to do more damage than good to their students' reputations.
Joel said, “I'm sure he'll do just fine over there.”
“He certainly will.” Mrs. Kelly looked at her watch and asked, “What are you still doing hanging around here?”
“I'm just about to get outta here. I was putting the final touches on something I was writing.”
“Honey, work is over. You better enjoy this temporary freedom while you can.”
Joel laughed and said, “Yes, ma'am.”
“So, what do you and your girlfriend have planned for the summer?”
A solemn expression covered Joel's face and there was little he could do to hide it. “Nothing special.” He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Probably nothing at all. I dunno. What about yourself?”
“My husband and I are heading out to California in a couple of weeks to visit our oldest daughter and her family.”
“Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going home.” Mrs. Kelly stood and said, “Give me a big hug.” As he stood, she put her arms around him and said, “As always, it's been a real pleasure working with you. You're such a positive role model for all of our students, but especially for our young men. Hard to believe you've been here for three years already.”
“I know.” Joel struggled to get his breath back as their hug ended. “It's been a real pleasure working here and I'll continue to do my best.” He was blown away by Mrs. Kelly's kindness. “Have a great summer. Don't forget to send me a postcard from Cali.”
“I'll do that, and pick out a nice refrigerator magnet for you too.”
Joel managed a smile. “Thanks.”
Mrs. Kelly was about to exit the room, then suddenly turned around and asked, “Mr. Davis, I mean, Joel. Something is bothering me. I don't mean to get in your business, but are you okay? You seem really sad.”
Joel put on another smile and said, “I'm fine.”
“I've been part of this faculty for twenty-one years now and I've seen it all. I can tell when someone is having relationship problems. If that's the case and you need someone to talk to or someone to just listen, I'm here for you.”
“I appreciate it, but I'm fine.”
“You can talk to me openly without having to worry about other people around here knowing your business or gossiping about you. Whatever you say to me stays with me ... I promise. It bothers me seeing you like this. You're like a son to me.”
Mrs. Kelly seemed so sincere, compassionate and genuinely concerned that she quickly put Joel at ease.
“I usually don't discuss any of my business at work. But since you put it like that, Renee and I broke up a little over a month ago. What gave me away?”
“The sadness in your eyes. It looked like your mind had drifted off somewhere else when I mentioned something about your girlfriend.”
“Like I said before, I usually don't discuss my business at work, so please don't repeat any of this because I'm really a private type of person.”
“So am I. I'll respect your privacy, okay?”
“You just better keep your head up.” Within seconds Mrs. Kelly's face lit up with excitement. “Let me tell you something.”
“An angel just whispered something in my ear.”
Joel laughed. “What did it say?”
Mrs. Kelly couldn't stop smiling. “This is such a blessing. The angel said, hold on and don't you worry 'cause help is on the way.”
Joel hunched his shoulders and said, “Wonder what that means.”
“I know exactly what that means. Is it all right if I share what we just discussed with one other person?”
He looked at Mrs. Kelly like she had lost her mind. “Who?”
“My niece. She's right around the corner in my office, dying to meet an attractive professional young man like you. I know the two of you would make a lovely couple.”
He felt lightheaded and disoriented. He looked at Mrs. Kelly and thought,
He struggled as he asked, “Your ... niece ... meet ... me?”
Joel instantly imagined someone younger who closely resembled Mrs. Kelly, with a face covered with dried pancake batter-lookin' makeup, topped off with a synthetic auburn wig and the same cheap overpowering fragrance.
Mrs. Kelly grabbed him by the arm and pulled. “C'mon.”
“Where are we going?”
“We're going to meet my niece.”
Like a fool Joel yelled, “Noooo!”
“You're coming with me.”
Mrs. Kelly actually pulled, pushed and nearly dragged Joel's five-eleven, one hundred ninety pound frame down the hall with her five-three, three hundred twenty-five pound self.
Mrs. Kelly asked, “Do I have to drag you around the corner too? You know I will.”
Joel was laughing so hard that he cried. “All right. Hold up a minute. I'll do this if you give me time to get myself together. We both look real crazy right now. I've never seen you act like this before, but I like it. You've got me cracking up. I had no idea you were this wild or so strong.”