By Omari Jackson
Caroline’s eyes filled with tears, as she wrung her hands.
“This is difficult,” she said, as she flung her right hand about herself. “Did you see all these, Benarda?” Benarda‘s eyes stared her as if in disbelief.
She said, “I was there, this is not something someone told me,” and hesitated for her response to sink into her friend, then said, “It was like a movie, you know.”
Caroline could not agree to that. Her unwillingness to accept the events that led to the death of Holman did not surprise her.
For Holman was the father of her three children and though during their eight years of marriage, Holman never treated her like the woman she was.
True, he was what Benarda described as a compulsive liar at heart, but Caroline did not, or she failed to accept that her former husband was what he had been described.
But now that it seemed he was dead by his own actions, Caroline, deep down her heart, could not agree that her patience in enduring the years of suffering under Holman had been paid.
She remembered the early stages of their married, how sweet and remarkable Holman was. It was then that she heard the voice of her friend, as if from afar.
“It was difficult at first,” she said, her eyes wide as she hung on the chair, “but when I went closer, it was clear that he was the one.”
Caroline said, “Where was Napoleon?”
“I did not see him at first,” Benarda said, “not until the police came.”
“You mean,” Caroline said, “both were dead already?”
“The police now think so.”
Caroline said, “So what did they say happened?”
“Officer Mark was one of the first to be on the scene,” Benarda said, “and he told me later that he believed the two men committed suicide.”
Caroline listened and waited for some seconds before she mustered courage to say, “Why did they kill themselves? Why?”
Benarda said, “You know our wedding anniversary was on Thursday, and Napoleon told me we needed to celebrate it.”
Caroline remembered the third anniversary of her wedding, and how she had visited several places, including the historic Martin Luther King Jr, center in downtown Atlanta. Like a movie reel, she could see Holman holding fast to her hands and with her eyes aglow with joy, moved leisurely down the main street to the center.
Holman said, “Can you believe our marriage has reached three wonderful years?”
She laughed at the way he said it, before saying, “I’m glad to get you as a husband.”
Holman said, “When you bowed before the altar and declared to the world that you would be my wife, I knew I was the happiest man on earth.”
But the thought of Holman’s declaration of his love for her was mixed with his violent behavior, two weeks’ later.
With tears now in her eyes, she now remembered the dramatic change that came over Holman, and how that led to more violent behavior.
Coming out of her day-dream, Caroline said, “Sometimes I don’t understand how what seems to be a perfect relationship becomes so violent?”
Benarda said, “You know Napoleon was one of the sweetest men I could have but then see what happened? There was nothing I could do to help him…”
Caroline could agree to that.
How long did it take Holman to become a monster? Two weeks? It happened two weeks after their third anniversary but she condoned his behavior till the eighth year of their relationship. Did she have any reason for that?
Benarda broke her thoughts: “At least you have three beautiful children out of your marriage.” Caroline could hear the sadness in Bernadetta’s voice, and moved closer to comfort her.
Both women sat at the 345 Classic Apartments where Caroline had been staying for the last two years since her marriage to Holman ended. Though she had had the occasion to call the police, reporting that someone like her former husband was stalking her, she never encountered him.
In their last encounter, Holman’s violent assault sent her to the Gwinnet Medical Center, and she was in surgery for three days. It was after that experience she realized she could not save Holman, and she was better living alone than being with him.
Napoleon, yes, sweet Napoleon as Benarda described him, was a man whose descent into violence against her friend had come as a surprise. Caroline could not believe that Napoleon’s friendship with her Holman changed the former so much.
She heard about their drinking binges, and she had had the occasion to advice both men, but it seemed to have fallen on death ears. But if it was true that both men had committed suicide, what could or was the motivating factor to that? Searching her mind, she could not find any reasonable motive. The police could come up with a theory of what might have happened to the two men.
She was thinking about what she would tell her three children about their father. Suppose they ask her, whether their father was a good man, what would she tell them? It might depend on what kind of good her children would want to know.
She was a good mother, caring for her children’s needs. She could not remember a time in her life when she had to demand to know about her own father. True, her father was always there, safe the period he had to leave from their small town, somewhere in Colombia to come to the United States.
A smile came across her face.
Then Benarda said, “We need to take courage,” and smiled, gazing at her friend.
Caroline said, “I know,” lifting her face to meet her friend’s gaze. The morning weather felt warm, and she believed what the weather people had been saying in the TV the other night.
Caroline said, “Sometimes it is just difficult with the children but all the same I’m glad they bring me some joy and comfort.”
“I know,” her friend said, and laughed.
True, Caroline was now in a relationship, she did not know if she was ready any time soon, to rush the man to the altar. Sometimes the idea of marriage made her cringe, but she knew she would need to marry in her life someday. Though she would not allow any man to treat her like Holman did, she was now prepared to play a meaningful role, and be a woman of her own.
As the door squeaked open, she knew it was time to get breakfast for her children.