Working with my sisters to ready the yellow canopy and set up the tables, my stomach was tied in knots. I wanted very badly to have my relatives believe my life was normal. I suppose I assumed that because I lived on the south side, they couldn't see my day to day life and had no idea what kinds of things were going on. I wanted to preserve this illusion that was probably much more mine then theirs.
My cousin arrived with the beautiful three-tiered cake she had made and set it on the white tablecloth. As nicely dressed people began to arrive, Wilson still hadn't shown up. I welcomed my family's neighbors, friends and relatives and accepted their brightly wrapped gifts with a smile. Everything looked beautiful.
"Wilson will be here soon," I told everyone.
But while I smiled, I was in pain, unable to keep my mind off of what I knew was happening in my home.
Wilson showed up an hour later, very drunk. Elaine, arriving in her own car, carried the chili and, followed by her children, went on down to the party. Mickey smiled encouragement to me. Wilson stumbled out and went on down to the gathering. His four older children followed. Joy was wearing the pink dress and bonnet I'd bought her the Easter before. Dale was drunk too, but saw my shame and refused to get out of the van. I picked up Tammy's baby girl, the one Tammy had said she'd named for me, and took Dale's family down to introduce them. I was unable to even look in Wilson's direction.
Suddenly Wilson grabbed me and pulled me over to dance around the canopy.
"This is a traditional wedding dance," he told me, slurring his speech as he stumbled along.
I could feel my face burn hot as everyone watched. When he finally let me go, I hurried into the house, humiliated. Eventually, Wilson and his crew left. A few of the guests came into the house to say good-bye. Others just left.
Bobby took Mickey, Andrew and me home. No one was there when we arrived, but beer cans littered the floor and their contents stained the living room rug. The empty boxes they came in were stacked five feet high in the kitchen corner and Burger King wrappers littered the stairs.
I looked around; initially more exhausted and dejected than angry. Bobby waited a few minutes, not saying much of anything.
"Look," said Mickey, "Wilson's pulling up."
I looked out the storm door. Wilson was trying to parallel park in front. He had a group in the van with him. Wilson looked up and saw me in the door. He quickly turned his wheel toward the street and drove away. Now I felt the disgust and anger - at myself just as much as him.
"Fine then. The reception is done, and I’ll be d----- if most of them are going to stay another night."
Bobby left and I started cleaning. Soon Elaine came for her belongings. I had no problem with her. She had tried to help with the day and had planned on driving back that night anyway. But Dorothy was with her.
"I paid $12 for the chili's hamburger," Dorothy demanded, "Pay me back."
"I didn't ask you to spend your money."
"Give me the $12 or I'm taking Mickey back with me."
I paid her and Dorothy climbed into Elaine's car and left.
Misty, Dale and Tammy stayed. I didn't mind Dale and Tammy, but I didn't want to take care of Misty anymore. Wilson wasn't there and I didn't want him coming back, so she might as well go too. I was through taking care of his problems.
"Where's those clothes you took? I'm tired of you owning into my stuff!"
"I didn't take your d--- clothes!"
"Get out and don't f------ come back!"
She ran to the phone and called her mom. After speaking to her quickly, she hung up and came back.
"My ma's coming to get me and when she gets here, she's going to kick your a--."
"Let her come."
Dale, Tammy, and Mickey sat quietly in the living room and said nothing. After Misty threw some things into a bag, she stood at the door and waited for her ride. As I stood at the top of the landing, Misty looked up at me and swore,
"You dumb, f------ b----."
"Least I finished school," I said as I turned and walked into my room.
Misty's mother pulled up in front and honked. Misty grabbed her bag and left.