Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?

This is a follow on to http://laloba.com/so-whaddya-got/ – It will mean more if you read that one first …

Thursday He got past my defenses (and not just the caller ID)

So, two days later, working away, phone rings, not a number I know, but could be a client, so I answer, thinking nothing of  it.

That voice, there’s that voice.  And that country delivery that I recognize from a lifetime ago.

I talk, he talks, some light stuff, how are you, what a beautiful daughter we have, it’s been two lifetimes since we were together.

I’m a little pleased that he’s calling from another number …. I didn’t answer when I saw his name the first time, didn’t return the call, so he’s trying another way to get in touch with me.  I’m pleased he called again. And unhappy with myself for taking that satisfaction.

I’m moving through the conversation unsure of myself, unsure that I want it to continue, not knowing how to end it, when I realize he feels so familiar.

And hearing his voice feels so good.

And the things he’s saying are so respectful, so caring, so NOT 17.

I know we’re not teenagers anymore, but I can’t help feeling like I’m fifteen all over again and scared.  Invigorated, intrigued, a thousand different emotions pulling at me at once but the one that screams to be paid attention to is that one that is the 15 year-old-girl I haven’t known in forever.

Of course he told me he’s sorry.   And that he knows he can never make it up to me. He tells me several times that her life seems to have been very good, and that it turned out for the best, it seems.

It may have turned out for the best for her, I say.  It probably was.  But it wasn’t the best for me.

I don’t intend to let him off the hook that easily. It was the not knowing that she had a great life, not knowing that she was okay, not knowing was the hardest part.  If I couldn’t take care of her, at least knowing she was doing well would have made it bearable.


Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful? Jun23


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“We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.” Omar Nelson Bradley

© 2002 TGregory and Laloba Press

Nightblooming Cereus

It is night on this desert, the sands no longer crisp white as in the sun, but hued in shadow and light from the moon. The stars are bright and endless, the moon a cresent shining among them.

Night bloomers fill the air with a delicious scent and a cool wind caresses my face.

I want to walk, no glide, over the whole expanse. I can see the horizon from where I stand and I want to know every inch, every detail before the sun changes everything.

There is an emmense cube that beckons, it is crystalline and glitters in what moonlight there is. It is made of my fantasy and it holds the answers I desire. It sits on edge, on its corner, and at first glance appears to be of a diamond shape, its iridescence incredibly beautiful against the night sky. And then as I approach it, I discover its shape, the cube, each side more beautiful than the last, an endless delight of beauty and fantasy.

I must climb a ladder to enter the cube. It is red and simple. Rounded pieces of wood with steps to climb. No handholds, no guard rail. It is high, but not frighteningly so. Thirty rungs.

There is a white, winged horse approaching. He walks slowly, so as not to frighten me. He is willing to take me through the night sky and back. He knows me and my mind, and my will. He is one with me. No saddle or brIdle, I know his mind, I don’t need physical restraints.

As I mount the horse we see a storm in the distance. We’ve smelled the rain on the wind moving southward, and look in that direction instinctively. Thunder far away like the drumbeat of the Gods, lightening slashing the sky. A fireworks display for the two of us.

We breathe deeply, the scent of the rain, for it doesn’t come often in the desert. And notice that the lightening is refracted by the cube. The crystals it is made of sparkle and beckon as the lightening jumps from ground to sky.

The ladder appears now as a respite, should we need it, an avenue to the interior of the cube. Not just a novelty now, perhaps we’ll want to escape the storm.

The night-bloomers stir, as if in anticipation of a long awaited drink. Their white blossoms magnified against the dark sky and almost electric in the flashes of light. They are everywhere, hundereds of elegant, tall-stemmed blooms with their exotic fragrance. I want to wear them in my hair, braid them in the horses mane. I want to bathe in a pool of rainwater with the night-bloomers floating there.

ajay possibilities, circa 1994



Back when there was a lot of conversation about the murders of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, I tried to imagine how and why someone would frame OJ Simpson. Here’s one of the three possibilities I came up with.


A tall black man scales the fence to a Brentwood estate and crosses the driveway in front of a limo parked outside the gates. He takes in the car and driver, wondering if he’ll have to go back for the driver later. For sure he’ll get the tag number on the way out, but at this distance, he probably won’t be identified.

Five days before, a well-known Black athlete half lay/half sat in a rumpled bed and watched a nude woman dress. Black lace french-cut panties, sheer black stockings with stretch lace to hold them up at thigh.  A black satin wonder bra.

“Whore,” he said softly.

“You love it!,” she said.

“You like Black, huh? Black underwear?  Black men?”

“You know I do!” She was stepping into stiletto heels and then decided to climb astride him on the bed.

“And you like white.” She whispered, now nose-to-nose with him. “The whiter the better.  Gotta be all over white for you. True blondes have more fun!”

He wanted her then, once more before his lunch date with Nicki.

“Nicki!” he said, pushing the woman from him and getting out of bed. Muttering, “I  gotta get out of here,” he hurried out of the room.

“Hey, what is this?” She fought to regain her composure after being pushed out of his bed. And out of his thoughts. “And who is Nicki, you bastard?”

“My wife,” he said from the bathroom. She heard water from shower then the bathroom door opened. “My ex-wife.” The door closed abruptly.

The woman pulled on a black lace sheath, checked her hair and face in the mirror, picked up a handbag and opened the motel room door. “Screw you, baby,” she said over her shoulder, looking up and down the walkway before leaving the room and walking to her car. She had backed into the space to protect her tag, and she stayed aware of who was around until she was almost home, checking her mirrors frequently, making a few extra turns.

“Where is Pete?” she said aloud, disappointed. She’d given him enough hints. Why wasn’t he following her? Didn’t he love her anymore?

Earlier that same day, Pete Flag had looked over the hallway of the hotel carefully. The service door to the heating and plumbing was four feet away. “All clear in the zone,” he said quietly, as if someone was listening.  After years of walking point in the jungle it was natural to him. He backed into a small alcove and looked at his watch. Shouldn’t be long now, that old geezer comes in here every day. Probably needs a nap before lunch.

His mind wandered as he waited calmly for the hotel maintenance man to show.

Why did Phyllis decide to do this one? All those times she played around, it never went this far. Mebbe she’s not really doin him. Mebbe, but what else would they be doin’ in that room? This is the third time this week!

He felt a rush of adrenaline as the maintenance man came down the corridor. Alright, easy now, it ain’t like Nam.  Nobody’s waiting to off ya.

The older man took a key from a huge ring and opened the door. Pete took two quick, quiet steps forward, raising his hand and a large blackjack as he moved. In a swift set of motions, Pete hit the man on the neck, and then caught him under his arms as he began to fall. Pete was big enough to old the old man up with one arm and finish opening the door with the other. Kneeling for the tool bag the man had carried, he grunted softly, as he rose with the man and the bag. He looked up and down the hallway once more before moving through the doorway and closing the door with his foot. The whole thing had taken less than 15 seconds.

Haven’t lost it, he thought.

“Sorry old-timer,” he said, propping the limp form against a wall. “Sam, it says there on your shirt. Had to see what Phyllis is up to, Sam.”

He looked around the small space and smiled. All those TV talk shows had paid off. It was just like they’d said. A corridor between rows of rooms, heating and plumbing access to every room.  Now to find the room they’d gone into. Walking slowly he noticed the room numbers at even intervals along both sides of the hall. Too easy.  like getting the room number had been too easy.  Walking into the lobby behind Phyllis and the man, as if Flag was going to get a room. “Here’s your usual, sir. Four thirty-six.”

He had used his own name!  No decency. No decency at all. Using his own name.

“Four thirty-six.” The words were loud in the silence and he wondered if the people in the rooms could hear him from here.

A quick check of the heating duct told him he was not going to fit into it for this surveillance. A small door exposed the plumbing to the bathroom. No good. Leaning his cheek against the wall, he gently caressed it with his hand, as if it were Phyllis. He imagined she would be in there now.  With him.

He wanted her badly. It was always like this. Knowing another man wanted her always made her desirable. But this didn’t feel right. She never went this far before.  Going to a hotel room. That guy was a star. He wouldn’t keep coming back if she wasn’t putting out for him.

He felt a small hole in the sheet rock, and it startled him out of his reverie. Having touched it, he leaned down to look at it and then through it.

“You pervert,” he said to the still-quiet old man heaped against the wall. “You’ve been watchin’ him with my woman!”

Turning back to the hole someone had made behind the mirror in room 436,he watched Phyllis. He felt the stir of desire again and dismissed it. Phyllis had gone too far this time. It only turned him on when men wanted her. No-one was supposed to really have her. He watched through the service man’s peephole until his neck ached from the angle.

Static crackled from the radio the man wore on his belt and then a voice, “Sam, Sam, dammit, come in. Got a leak in 336 again. Sam?”

The man stirred and got Pete’s attention. He had to get out of here before anyone saw him. That old codger was going to have a headache and they might even call the cops.

Pete opened the door and checked the hallway quickly before entering it.  He moved quietly down the carpeted hallway and then through an exit.

In and out quietly, just like they taught us in Nam.  The desk clerk had seen his face, but the hat had hidden his forehead and eyes, so he wasn’t concerned.

Walking through the parking lot and across the street with the light, he saw Phyllis turning right at the end of the next block. She’d be on the lookout for him, but he dismissed those thoughts. No more sex. She is dirty now.  Dead.  She’s dead to me now.

He was in the apartment when she got there, having driven the old Ford straight home. Phyllis was confused because normally he’d catch up with her on the street and follow her home. He should have jumped out of his car and jerked open her door . . .

Instead of being jealous and fighting with her like he was supposed to, he was in his stupid mercenary closet, brooding.


The hasp was hanging open, and the door ajar. She hadn’t seen the inside of the closet under the stairs since he’d taken it over. It hadn’t been much use to her. When Pete had moved in he’d taken out the Christmas decorations and boxes of old Victoria’s Secret catalogs and piled them up in the middle of the living room.

“I need space. Get rid of that stuff.”

While he’d installed the hasp to padlock the door, she’d carried the boxes to the dumpster. It saddened her  a little to think of not being able to do Christmas, but that was just one day out of the year. She had Pete every day. Well, almost every day.

She looked into the small space in amazement. He must have done all this while she was waiting tables in Beverly Hills. Soldier of Fortune and Private Mercenary magazines were stacked in untidy heaps around the floor. Jungle cammies hung on hooks in the wall.  Boots on the floor beneath them.

A door sat on cement blocks to make a desk against the one-full wall: a messy collection of clippings, papers, and other junk. A map of the world, covered with colored stick pins hung above it. A lamp, the shade tilted, lit the cramped space.

“Pete, honey?” she said again. He was kneeling over an open Army footlocker pushed back into the stairs. He didn’t bother to look up.

His mind moving in and out of reality, Pete Flag spent the better part of a week trailing the man. Each day his resolve seemed to deepen and his plan become clearer. After following the guy to his ex-wife’s house, he knew he had a method to punish, and protection from exposure.

Some days his anger seemed to overwhelm and he longed for combat. It was so much easier then. Kill or be killed.  Great stress reliever.  But the memories would merge with his feelings about Phyllis and he would find himself agitated. Not thinking clearly. Not planning. Then he’d have to work to maintain control and stay in the present.

After asking Phyllis for the man’s address, he’d ignored her. For a day or two she begged, cajoled, and cried. They’d been in bed when she zapped the television off with the remote and playfully pushed the notebook he was holding.

“Come on, Pete, let’s make up. I miss you so. . . Pete!”

He turned to her as if seeing her for the first time. She was pale, like ivory, and her hair like spun gold. Deep blue eyes implored him. Suddenly, she seemed alien to him. He remembered the women of his youth. Rich, full colored Black women.  Proud of their race.  Proud of themselves. They didn’t beg men for anything.

Phyllis was as empty-headed as she was beautiful, but she was a creature who lived by animal instincts. Pete’s look frightened her. His strength, his reputation as a war hero, were no longer appealing. The danger in them was a viable presence in the room.

She moved quietly away from him. Looking from his eyes to those enormous hands she tried not to shudder. She was suddenly grateful to be alive.

Phyllis needn’t have worried. She hardly existed to Flag since he’d pronounced her dead in his mind.  The man was who he wanted to kill, but as he sat studying the sketches he’d made of the Brentwood estate and the townhouse where his family lived, Flag realized he didn’t want to kill the man. He wanted to punish him. His death wouldn’t be fitting. With that settled, it wasn’t a great stretch to decide to kill the ex-wife. She’d be dead, just as Phyllis was dead to him.

Framing the man for the murder would be the coup de grace.  Only he pronounced it ‘coupe’, as in car and grace, as in Kelly, as they had in Nam. If it looked like the man had killed her . . . if I set it up so that the police got him that would be the coupe de grace.

On Sunday night, he picked a window well concealed by shrubs. Kneeling, he opened a small tool bag and pulled on surgical gloves. Using a pen-sized flashlight he looked carefully along the frame of the window. Spotting the alarm wire, he took a battery-operated power drill from the bag. Penlight between his teeth, he drilled a quarter-inch hole through the frame and fished out the wire. He spliced it, sufficient to raise the window. He grinned around the light clenched in his teeth, dropped his tools back in the bag and slung it over one arm.

Climbing through the window, Flag dropped to the floor and took a few seconds to get his bearings. Seeing the stairs he took them in twos, quietly, like a big cat. Checking each room, he came to the one where his enemy lay sleeping and pulled the blade he’d smuggled out of Viet Nam from his belt.

He put the blade against the hollow in the man’s throat and said, “Wakeup, sleeping beauty. Your world just fell apart.”

The man started awake, wide-eyed at the man in his face.

“What are you doin’ here? What do you want?”

“I’m doin the talkin’, notice?”

He nodded.

“Now I’m going to tell you what I’m doing here. I’m here to tell you that life as you know it has ceased to exist. And, if you ever tell anyone I was here, I’ll get your kids too.”

“My  kids!” The man started to sit up but the pressure on his throat frightened him back into the pillow.

“Don’t move, big guy. Close your eyes now and go back to sleep. We’re even now. No need to take it any further.”

He did as he was told — at least he feigned sleep. He could barely discern the intruder’s muffled footsteps as he left the room.

Flag left through the window he’d entered, reconnecting the security alarm wires and plugging the hole he’d drilled in the frame of the window. Reaching into the tool bag he’d left outside, he removed a bloody leather glove that matched the one he’d left by the woman’s body. As he crossed the lawn to go back over the fence, he dropped it near the car he’d watched the man drive for the last week.

“Here’s to ya, big guy.”

Up in the Country, 3

Previous — Next

“You should write about this.”  My 84-year old mother gestures broadly and speaks in a voice weakened by months of illness and hospitalization.

“Write about this what?” I ask.

“This whole … experience.”

“You mean with you?”  I have to laugh.  I’ve been trying to write my mother out of my life for the last 40 years.  This particular experience was a trip to buy new hearing aids and I’ve loaded her in the car with her wheelchair in the trunk and a burly nephew in the back seat. Snow is predicted, but I was desperate to turn the tv down to a mere 3 or 4 decibals.  We’re in a suburb of Atlanta, so I really felt I was ahead of the weather when I left to make the 15 min trip to town.

That was an hour and a half ago and we are now thoroughly in the grip of what comes to be known as Snowpocalypse 2014.

The problem with snow in Georgia is people crowd the streets to buy ‘snow groceries’ or some other thing they can’t live without for 24 hours, but no one has thought to buy a set of chains or snow tires since they got their “I survived the Blizzard” t-shirts, circa 2011.

The people crowding the roads are driving no faster than 2.5 mph and sliding sideways into ditches every mile or so. And I’ve got at least another 8 or 10 miles to go …

I had not spoken to my mother in several years when my brother told me she was having surgery last July.  I hoped she’d go into the surgery with a good outlook if she knew I planned to be there when she woke up.  I had intended to see her in recovery, make a few hospital visits, and fade away again.

I’m sorry to say, she may have birthed me, but beyond that the mom gene didn’t really kick in for her.  Not with me at least.  We had a rocky 16 years or so, then I was out of her house and on my own.  I’ve spent years pretending we had a mother-daughter relationship and I modeled my own mothering on the things I needed and never got from her.

I guess I learned what love is from her mother, with whom I lived til I was five.  And, if my own mother wasn’t controlled by what other people think of her, she probably would have left me there forever.  Now I think it might have been better for all of us if she had.

Instead, she brought me to Atlanta to a stepfather who resented my existence and who she tried to please by emulating his hateful treatment of me.  They were not much nicer to the two sons they had, but did treat his namesake, Albert, Jr., like a little prince when they weren’t disabusing him for some slight failure.

After years of therapy I came to understand that what I’d come to recognize as mother love was, in fact, abuse.  And at 35 had come into my own enough to get her out of my life. It lasted a few years and I was blissfully happy; like childbirth the memories faded.  And so it went, I’d let her back in my life, she’d go back to her nasty habits and I’d cut her off again for my own mental heath.

Her surgery last summer went badly.  She had a stroke sometime during the days after, developed pneumonia and went on a ventilator in a drug-induced coma for 10 days.  The doctors called us in for a family conference, my brothers and I, and told us she need a tracheostomy for the vent so they could take her off the drugs.

I didn’t want her to have any more surgery – they’d harmed her so much with the first they were keeping her in a coma and now they wanted to do more. It seemed they’d gone from care giving to torture.  When the doctor asked if she had a living will, or had named someone to make decisions when she couldn’t, the answer was no. No one.

Ditto, to the question abut a husband to make decisions.  Nope.

“So who’s the oldest child here?” the doctor looked at the three of us.

“I know Albert looks like the oldest, but it’s me.” Not really kidding, but hardly appropriate.

According to her doctor, the law in Georgia designates that the oldest child will make decisions for a parent when they are incapacitated. The doctor stopped talking to my brothers (and by the looks on their faces I could see they were as surprised as I was) and concentrated on me.

Suddenly I wasn’t the prodigal daughter, soon to disappear again.  I was in charge.

I should have gone with my instincts and walked out then. The only thing that kept me there was the thought of what I was teaching my own children through my actions.

So I became her voice 8 months ago with no clue how enmeshed we would become while we tried to keep her alive.





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