A Stranger in My Bed (Excerpt)

For eight years and four months she waited for him. They were married for four years when she and her daughter emigrated to America. Her husband couldn’t come with them, for his request was not approved. “Some complications,” the consul had explained. “Some complications.”

Josephine remembered how her heart sank when the consul gave them the news. She remembered staring blankly at the man who wouldn’t grant her husband permission to go to the land where they say milk and honey literally pour down from the sky. She thought she saw the stranger’s green eyes penetrating her flesh before uttering indifferently that her husband was not qualified. The stranger’s skin was pale. So pale that she wondered if he had any blood running in his veins. He said that when her father filed the papers she and Emille were not married; she would have to file for him once she got to America. How her heart throbbed when she heard this!

To think that she must separate from her man so soon, after only a few years of marriage.

She was not used to looking at these kinds of people in the eyes, for they seemed too uppity and too intimidating with all their wealth and yellow skin and supple hair and eyes the color of thirsty grass or even the color of the sky when it’s in its happiest state, but that Friday morning, sitting in a square windowless room, she raised her face and pierced the stem of the man’s eyes with her own, hoping he would read the “shame on you and how could you be so heartless?” message in her eyes and grant her husband the visa. Her three-year-old daughter, Marguerite, clutched her hand and buried her tiny sugar-brown face in her mother’s skirt.

Across from them, her husband cupped his own face with two long, slender hands. When the consul told him that he did not qualify for a visa, he knew it was final, that his wife and daughter would be leaving him behind, that the distance between him and his beloved would be greater than the Haitian waters combined.

So they waited. For what? They didn’t know. The consul poured his attention on a small stack of paper that sat in front of him. Josephine sighed and cut his back with a glare. She thought to beg the man to save her family, but the glacier in his eyes warned her that he was immune to the commoner’s pain. Thus, they remained silent for a while until the consul, the wish-maker, told them that he had other people to see–other dreams to fulfill or to annihilate.

Before he could get to the door, Josephine sprang on her feet and was soon holding the door for him. Their eyes met. She quickly glanced at her husband, as though for confirmation that the disappointment had not completely broken him. Marguerite, sensing that her daddy needed cheering up, climbed on Emille’s lap and hugged his neck. Something snapped inside Josephine, though she wasn’t sure what. She mustered all the hatred in the cancerous corner of her heart until it reflected a mist in her eyes, a mist the color of the sun, sinking below the horizon.
The consul grinned at Josephine, his eyes fidgeting. She simply sprayed her mist on him, let go of the doorknob, leaving him standing by the door.

At home, in their concrete two and a half room house, her mother, Mama Regina, was waiting on her knees. She had been praying to Jesus for the doors of America to open wide for her daughter, her son-in-law and her grandchild. “Nou vini manman,” her daughter said. “We’ve come home.”

Her mother took support from the bed and got up, moaning all the while. She was only forty-eight years old, but poverty and hard work added an extra ten years to her appearance. She and Josephine were part-time cleaning women for two well-to-do mulatto sisters who lived in Grande Ville, about ten miles outside of Port-au-Prince. “Tell me the news,” she said as soon as she sat comfortably in a straw chair, facing her daughter who was still standing by the door, a blank expression in her eyes.

“Well Ma,” she began, swallowing the tears that threatened to drown her. “Ma, it didn’t work out. It didn’t work for him. My Emille will have to stay behind if Marguerite and I decide to go.”

“Oh Jesus!” her mother replied, as though her own pain was greater. “When can he follow you to America?”

“I don’t know. The consul said that I will have to file for him. This could take years.” Realizing the extent of her problem, Josephine began to sob.

“Don’t cry mama,” said Marguerite, her voice, sweet and comforting.

“I’m sorry for worrying you honey,” replied Josephine, her hands caressing her daughter’s face. “It’s just that mommy is so sad today.”

“Why mommy?” When her mommy didn’t reply, she added, “You can have my treat today mama. It will cheer you up, you’ll see.” Knowing her daughter was referring to the coconut cake she always received for dessert, knowing how much her little one must have loved her for offering her her treat brought more tears to Josephine’s eyes.

At last, Marguerite did not know what to do to console her mommy, so she climbed onto the bed, where her mommy had collapsed, took the hem of her dress and attempted to dry her mother’s eyes.

Josephine smiled despite herself. She hugged her daughter tightly and assured her that she was feeling better already. “When daddy comes,” said Marguerite. “He will make you feel all better.”

“I know he will,” said Josephine, wondering where her husband had disappeared to. She thought of looking for him, but knowing Emille, he probably went for a walk to clear his mind a bit. “I know he will. Cherie, why don’t you go in the other room and play. Mommy wants to speak to grandma some more.”

As soon as she walked away, Josephine turned to face her mom and said, “Mommy what am I going to do?”

“Child, may the Lord’s will be done. May the Lord’s will be done.”

That night, she lay in bed long after the full moon had opened its stalking eye. The light was spilled into her room. She studied what seemed like zigzag patterns on the ceiling until her eyes became heavy with sleep. She next focused her attention on her husband whose silhouette gave her a foreign sensation in places which, she imagined, would remain lonely and untouched for a long time. She watched his buttocks, which always reminded her of two ripe coconuts, and wondered if they too would remain untouched should she leave her homeland for that foreign country. She knew the answer was no.

Didn’t her mother always say that men didn’t have the will to remain faithful? Didn’t her own father impregnate a woman within six months of his arrival in America, causing his marriage to her mother to be destroyed? Didn’t Emille confess that he once cheated on a girlfriend when he was a teenager simply because another girl supposedly begged him to make love to her?

After having heard Emille’s confession, Josephine kept repeating to herself that he was just a kid then and because he loved her dearly, he would never betray her this way. Still, a little voice would occasionally whisper that Emille was still that kid in many ways. She let out a deep breath which resonated about the darkness and gave her a dreary feeling. Somehow, she knew that life would never be the same.

January 19th, 2004 by