By Cindy Wiggins Tapia
My heart was full of love, and my gray matter was about a quart low.
I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. Cried. Sashayed around in full makeup, Thrift-Shop slacks, split skirts, short shorts, and spike heels. Picked out a red underwire bra and matching drawers and told the clerk I had a boyfriend. Ran up to Kathy Davis Burnette in People’s Bank & Trust and told her. I announced it at Pete Wallis’s viewing at Flanigan’s. They all probably thought I was a loon. My family snickered behind my back.
Nabo came down with a case of Budweiser almost every night. I had vowed never to date a drankin’ man, but I assured myself that he wasn’t likely to turn into a tosspot at the ripe old age of thirty-six. We courted in the kitchen with Mama and her crazies sitting at the head of the table. She told him he should be out dancing instead of sitting there with me. She carried on about how skinny he was and built him five ham sandwiches and insisted he eat every crumb. She gave him her soapbox harrumph about how she wasn’t a racist and another about how much she loved Jesus while she sat there and drank like a fish and flirted with him about how if she was thirty years younger—woo wee!
“I don’t see what he sees in me,” I said one night after he left.
“I don’t either,” she said.
She was terrified I’d shack up with him and those 20,000 men upstairs, and she’d have to pay the rent and utilities by herself. But she finally settled down. She started leaving us alone in the kitchen. People would come in to get a beer out of the fridge and leave fanning their faces though we never carried on, even alone, like we needed to get a room.
Our relationship—for me—was far from the fairytale-love story others perceived.
Nabo had to have heard the fits Mama pitched at me, but he never once came down to see if I was all right, nor did he mention them when we were together. He rented a little pink house on Lawson Street behind West Buford Baptist Church, and I visited him three or four times a week. He spoke of getting a housemate but refused to let me move in with him. He didn’t want me to find out he had another girlfriend in Braselton, but I already knew because he let it slip in the thermostat aisle at Home Depot.
He didn’t have a driver’s license. I offered to take him to Lawrenceville to take the test. He confessed to being an illegal immigrant. That cloud and its eventual consequences shadow my life to this day. I finally rummaged up a few brain cells and almost broke up with him for fear of being hauled off to Reidsville for sleeping with a Tijuana-border jumper. All these years later, despite all the hell, I went through with him, I can honestly say I made the right decision to stand by him. He did after all eventually get me away from Mama, and for a few weeks, that shadow was rimmed with the magical thrill of the baby growing in my womb.