By Cindy Wiggins Tapia

“I’d like to meet the man I’d change my whole life for,” was once my sarcastic mantra… little did I know…

My hearing went south in 1986, and I moved into Mama’s apartment on Garner St. It was one of those over-and-under duplex jobs. Hers was in the bottom unit. She didn’t drink or pitch fits for two years. We shopped at the Buford Community Thrift Shop and Gwinnett Place Mall, ate at Puckett’s and Shoney’s, and watched all the Nerd movies. Then, she started drinking again, and everything slid downhill like a slo-mo slalom.  My tuxedo cat Blueberry bit her every chance he got.

She retired from Lovable in 1990, and the apartment turned into a flophouse. Drunks tried to crawl into bed with me. A creature refused food and Tylenol because she thought we were trying to poison her. Mama let strangers off the street stay overnight.  When she wanted to ask a homeless Cowboy person to move in, I squished it proper. She bought a case of beer every day. It was party hearty most nights. Hey there, this brew’s for you! Give me a toke why doncha! Three white lines in the bathroom. A Meth pipe on the kitchen table. Xanax, Zoloft, Lortabs, sleeping pills, a heroin shoot-up show and tell, and the beat pounded on.

My white tank of a 1976 Delta 88 Olds needed rewiring, and a wheel was damaged, but I couldn’t afford the repairs, much less the cost of living by myself. I was trapped on Garner between High and Jones Street—If you can dig it. To save my sanity, I wrote poetry and fiction, sketched portraits, did crafts, visited the Damn Yankees next door, and prayed for rescue.

And one night my little brown knight in tarnished armor rode in on a pair of black kicks…

A Hispanic family of men and their 20,000 boarders lived in the apartment upstairs. They loved Mama because she fed them when they would have starved during the rainy seasons that kept them off their construction jobs. Some often came down to talk with her. I fell in love with one of them.

Wednesday before Thanksgiving 1999, I was standing at the deli in Kroger. when a guy I’d seen around walked over with his chicken and tried to cook something up. I stuck my nose up at him—not because he was Mexican—but because that’s how I treated all strange men. And they usually ran. He didn’t.

Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there’s a time to love. That Wednesday was not the right time. Thanksgiving Night was the beginning. When he and his hat hair walked around Mama’s kitchen chair, our eyes met, and something fell into place. It was as if we had known each other since time immemorial.

He pulled out a chair and sat as close to me as he could without sitting in my lap. We couldn’t communicate orally because his Spanish accent was too thick on his lips. So, we scribbled sweet nothings on scrap paper.  

The next time he came bearing a pen and a spiral notebook.

His name was Nabo Tapia Adame, and he was a keeper, right? To steal a wise word from Judy Born Brackett, Uuuuuh…

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