It was like time had stood still while I was away. Almost everything in Detroit seemed the same. Tia Karina and Tio Jaime’s house had barely changed, though they had aged, of course. My old neighborhood was as run-down as I remembered it – same scene of boarded-up shops and fenced-in lots strewn with empty brown bottles.
The crime rate, too, was unchanged.
“This place is kind of depressing,” said Lindsay, who tended to walk around the city with her nose wrinkled, as though the air were too dirty to breathe. I don’t know, maybe it is.
Even my old stomping grounds, the basketball court, was still there. I couldn’t resist jumping in to shoot some hoops. I found out pretty quickly that I was rusty.
I even ran into a couple of guys I’d gone to high school with. “Well, well, if it isn’t The Mexican,” said one dude, as we pounded fists. “Speak some African at me, brother.” I laughed, and said a few things in Oromo. (I didn’t bother to remind them that my dad was from Colombia, not Mexico).
Lindsay was unhappy. “Your uncle smells like mothballs,” she complained one day. “Your aunt keeps trying to teach me how to cook, but I don’t like her kind of food,” she said the next, almost in tears.
She kept asking when we were going to move out and get a place of our own. “When one of us has a job,” I said.
“Then get a job,” she said through clenched teeth.
It’s not like I wasn’t trying. But no one was hiring. Even the guys I played basketball with were mostly out of work. Tio Jaime stepped in to help by telling everyone he knew what a great handyman I was. Soon, the calls began trickling in, and I began making house calls, my box of tools in hand. Even though I was trained at fixing cars, I learned quickly how to repair everything from washing machines to toasters to television sets. It didn’t make much money, but it was better than nothing at all.
I had hoped that we could at last start setting aside money toward getting our own place, but next thing we knew, Lindsay was pregnant. Months later, little Mikey was born.
Know what? Babies are expensive. No matter how much I worked, it seemed that all our money was drained away by diapers and clothes and a zillion other things Lindsay insisted we needed for a baby.
Less than two years after Mikey was born, Baby Dylan joined the family, too.
Don’t take me wrong – I was overjoyed to become a dad. The boys were like sunlight and laughter in a household that had been strained and tense for too long. But I wished I was able to provide for them better.
Then one day, our lives were shaken up in a very unexpected way. “There’s someone you have to meet,” said Lindsay, bundling Dylan into a stroller. “Come on. He said he’d meet us at the park.”
“Who is it?” I asked. But Lindsay was already headed out the door. I scooped up Mikey, loaded him into a stroller, and followed Lindsay to the “park,” which was still nothing more than a large cemented-over lot in the middle of our neighborhood. It annoyed me more than ever, now that I had kids of my own, that the city hadn’t even managed to build a simple sandbox.
But I forgot all about that after Lindsay introduced me to some guy I’d never seen before. He had carrot-colored hair and a beard that needed to be taken down a notch or two. “Hi, I’m Leon,” I told him, extending a free hand to shake. He looked at me through narrowed eyes and did not take my hand.
“Um…Leon,” said Lindsay, “I would like for you to meet Jason McDougal. My husband.”
Yes, Tadi. My wife was married to another man.
Your incensed friend,