Interested in catching up on Like Shards of Glass excerpts, chapters 1-3? Got you covered.
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Here’s a bit about the book, and a quick link to the (Just Beneath the Surface) reviews: There’s a feeling after reading this book of having been behind the scenes to see something rare and the need to share that new knowledge with women or men who may find themselves in a similar situation. >> Reviews
Like Shards of Glass ‘catch-up’ excerpts:
My eyes wandered the body before me: up, down, side to side. Monroe’s eyes were ovoid, pinched closed at the outer edges like art. The color of honey and copper was her skin. She was not curvy like most of the women who caught my eye; she was nearing rail thin. But her breasts were voluptuous, and teasing me beneath long black hair. Even with minimal make-up, she was the type of woman to drive men insane; mostly because we couldn’t figure out what it was about her. Heads turned when she entered the room; I had even caught my father finding reasons to look at her and ask her meaningless questions, like: “Where did you want this, again? Was this box fragile? Do you want me to take that for you?”
And as we stood in the quiet of her bedroom – the otherworldly garden, I wanted to say something, and fill the silence between us. I told myself to breathe deeply, as I could feel the heat building within me, and at any moment, I would give myself – I was mortified, intimidated. But her eyes lulled me. I wanted inside her mind.
I drank more, took her in, and wanting to remember her just as she was in that moment, confounding and breathtaking, I memorized her. She had changed into a pair of silk pajamas, nearly the same shade as her skin. There was no bra, and although it was a warm August night, I could have sworn she had caught a chill.
She set her drink down on the mahogany dresser, and I exhaled.
Finally, someone had moved.
“Oh! I almost forgot. I want to pay you back.” She reached for her purse. I wanted to stop her. “How’s fifty?”
Fifty what? Fifty for what?
I set my glass down beside hers, and shook my head as she took a fifty dollar bill from her wallet.
“Use it for gas or lunch money.”
“What are you talkin’ about?”
“The boxes and suitcases. I’m not gonna let you just –”
Lunch money? What?
I tilted my head as I spoke. “I wanted to help you.”
“Your parents made you.”
“I’m twenty-three years old; they can’t make me do anything.”
Monroe looked as if she wanted to laugh, but instead of making me feel even more like a child, she stepped closer to me. Her eyes traced over me as she reached for my pocket, opened it, and slid the money inside.
You win – and in which pocket was the letter I had stolen?
“Take it, Dominique.” Her hand lingered in my pocket for a millisecond too long. She stood on her tiptoes. “Just take it.” She pressed cold, cordate lips to my cheek and whispered, “Goodnight, and thank you.”
God, please, give me some wine and a bed, and I could make it to tomorrow.
Force me to sit and smile and listen and be, I would only cower away like demons to light.
“Mom,” Karter whispered. He gestured toward some dinner guest – a man whose name I had forgotten.
Mom. I hated that word.
“Monroe, what do you need, love?” Kat’s slightly parted mouth, and the way she cocked her head told me I had worn out my welcome at the dinner table. I wasn’t eating, could hardly keep up with the conversation, and was probably reaching for my wine far too much.
“What did I miss? I’m so sorry.” I shook my head and looked down at my plate. “So sorry.”
“Sorry why?” Dominique’s eyes seemed to glow as he entered the kitchen. Built like he spent his days and nights in a swimming pool training for the Olympics, his shirt stuck to his chest and abdomen.
Kat’s attention switched to her son, and a layer of tension melted from my shoulders. Her husband, Lonnie, threw up his hand and mumbled hello as he bit into his roll.
“You’re late, baby,” said Kat. “I’ll fix your plate. Will you really sit there sweating like that? Clothes stuck to your body? At the dinner table.”
Dominique responded with a grunt and reached for a roll.
“You heard your mom. Go wash up.”
Another grunt. A sound most young men and boys made when nagged by their parents. Suddenly, I had no control over my eyes, and as they welled with tears, I wondered how I would get through dinner watching them fuss over their son, when my boys …
“He was asking you how much of the city you’ve seen,” Karter whispered.
I could give a damn about this city.
Karter had always been too polite, overly concerned with who was watching and what people thought. Yet lies poured from the mouth of this mannerable boy like lava.
I finished my glass of wine and looked at him as if he spoke a foreign language.
“You need a nap, Mom?” he asked.
“I said, I’ll get his plate. You sit down and relax,” said Lonnie.
The tears came, again. They were a perfect couple, if perfect ever did exist. Lonnie was an average-sized man, with what I imagined was a Goliath-sized heart. He was quiet, and when he spoke, he spoke slowly, as if deep down, he knew that time was far too valuable to waste on impatience or rushing around like ants. A bit scruffy from working long hours at the hospital, Lonnie was quite handsome. Both he and Dominique bore a complexion like agave, identical under bites, which were nearly undetectable, and five o’clock shadows. Kat, a hefty woman who did not look a day over eighteen years old, was a gentle spirit. She spoke in what could be considered a whisper, but nearly every sentence she spoke had some sort of double-meaning.
I watched as Lonnie leaned down and urged his wife to relax. He squeezed her shoulder and told her to let him help her, that she had been on her feet long enough. It had been one month since Carter stole my life. It had been several months since I had been spoken to or touched as delicately as Lonnie touched Kat; the thought of being touched made me ill. I observed them as if I watched a movie, and felt a tremor in my legs. Placing my hands in my lap, I squirmed in my seat. The tremor moved to my hands. My body ached. And without my permission – without my knowledge, a tear fell from my eyes, followed by more tears. I scooted my plate around and pushed my fork off the edge of the table. Moving quickly, before Mr. Mannerable, prince of knavery, could fetch it for me, I leaned down, wiped my tears on the table cloth, and grabbed my fork.
Dominique sat down across from me, disregarding his mother’s request that he change clothes. He peered at me, then averted his eyes. I knew he could see the tears. Again, I was reminded that I was painfully “alive” for all to gawk and point at me.
After clearing my throat, I said, “Excuse me.”
I moved with purpose and walked as if I was late for a business meeting. Once I reached the bedroom, I collapsed at the edge of the bed. Then, using aching, trembling arms and legs, I crawled to my nightstand.
Meds. Wine. Sleep. Meds. Wine. Sleep. Pour pills in hand. Open bottle. Guzzle. Close your eyes. Vanish.
Forget the bed; the floor was fine. I pulled down the comforter and curled up with the bottle of wine. This was the moment when my boys knocked on my door and bothered me about snacks and boredom. Karter would shoo them away and tell them I was sleeping, then turn around and beg me to let him off punishment, so he could go to some silly party. Wasn’t this supposed to be the moment when my decorated hero came and lifted me off of the floor and placed me gently on the bed? Was that not what I deserved? If I am a mother, why am I on the cold, hard floor, drugged, shaking, tired, unable to sleep?
When do my boys call me mom, mommy, momma, and bother me about new shoes? Didn’t I give birth? Aren’t I a mother – a mother of four boys? No? Then who am I? Who am I and why am I here? Somebody make it all stop and tell me why the hell am I still…
Somehow, I had managed to convince myself that I, a liar, destined to rob and hurt people, was destined to hurt girls – people.
Now, although I know I’m not a delinquent, my thoughts are like a typhoon constantly seeking ways to prove that I’m good. And then I stand and I watch myself trying – trying too hard – and I think: Why do you do this? What if you do this so people see the good, because deep down you know – you know you’re not good? And that scares me.
Almost the way it scares me that I don’t remember the days following – following the thing that my father did.
The memories are like watching a video reel where cameras only focused on the ground, shoes, sounds, and if possible, emotion. I can remember beating on a stranger’s front door, but I don’t remember how I got inside. Blood – I remember blood, a bathtub, a beautiful frightened face. Then, I can also remember waking up to wafts of grass, and the rushing water of a creek in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Walking for days, resting only in dark alleys, praying someone would find me and shove a gun down my throat, find no money and end it all for me. More than anything, waking up where my father loved to fish, my hand swollen, numb. It sends me into a certain madness, where I crave more of what happened, yet scold myself for what I pray I didn’t do. I pray I am nothing like my hero.
The last time I spoke to my grandparents, at my brothers’ funeral, they’d let me know that I was a terrible son for not showing face at the memorial, then tearfully told me my father had been cremated, and that his ashes had been left to “live on” at a park. A park? Where children played? The bones and fibers, the spirit of a child killer, a murderer of women, innocent people, at a park? My father …
My dad – my shadow. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on his body, for gluttony was a sign of weakness. In his head, gray mixed with pepper, and at any moment’s notice, he poured wisdom into those who scowled, and to those who listened earnestly. His arms and hands were made to build bridges and break apart castles. Dark circles granted his eyes permission to roam our home beyond the midnight hours. He possessed a voice that explained things and strained itself only when necessary.
My father was a father to all young men in our neighborhood. Whenever he saw fit, he told us how to hold our fists in a fight, to give firm eye contact to authority, to lie to liars, listen to girls, to give our earnings to charity. I’d stared up at him in awe as fatherless boys followed my dad like a pack of wolves, loading up our van, gearing up to go to his favorite fishing spot. Now, I look at his picture with lonely pangs. I get them morning, noon, and at night. It starts with chills, ends with fever, and everything in between is a grating pain in my soul.
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