I took some time off because my schedule tends to get pretty busy around Father’s Day. Once that passed, I was mentally and spiritually preparing myself for my return to Virginia for the first time in over three years.
In spite of declaring that I would never return, I always knew deep down that I would. I planned to going there in September; but I got let go from my 9-5 gig and was back in survival mode. Around January I told myself that I would drive to the Commonwealth State once the weather got warm. Saturday was my first free Saturday in months and I knew I would be pretty busy the rest of summer. The way that things seem to be working out also suggested that this was the perfect time. My life is changing, I’ll be thirty in a few months, and I needed a reminder of where I’ve been to put my future and present into proper context.
I left Saturday morning a little after 1 AM. I packed Cydney up and I was in Newport News a little after 10. The first thing I did was call my big brother Barry and say “Holy shit, I’m back in Virginia.” I talked to him a lot during those hellish three weeks. We conversed as I drove around to all of the places I would be on the phone with him stressed out until my fingertips were numb. I saw that the Starbucks I spent hours at looking for jobs had closed down and relocated down the street. I took a picture of my apartment at Newport Commons down the street from Christopher Newport University, thought about all of the nights I laid on that green couch in silence smoking weed, and thinking to myself “I’m doing this for my family.” I passed the graveyard that gave me chills because I knew one day I would be burying Timile. Barry kept things in perspective and assured me that it took a lot to be doing this. He said whoever dates my daughter is going to have really big shoes to fill because of how I take care of my little girl. That meant a lot. I have thought that from time to time; but hearing it from someone else meant a lot to me. I felt validated.
Cydney and I stopped to get breakfast in Hampton. We then stopped by Timile’s godmother and Cydney’s namesake in Chesapeake. Something in me said I should give Timile’s mother a call and let her know I was in town. I sent a text saying that Cydney and I were driving by and I wanted to know if they were home. A part of me was wishing that she doesn’t respond but I would have been disappointed had I been in Virginia and not seen them.
I ventured back into Hampton. I didn’t have chills. The hair on my body stood up but then feeling was a warm sensation. I felt like I was confronting a lot of proverbial demons. I said even if I ever went back to Virginia I would never go back to that dark house where I last saw Timile. On the way there I was replaying that November 18th night. Timile’s father telling me I can’t take Cydney to New York for a couple of weeks because they don’t know if I’m her father. Having the cops called on me as Timile’s mother yelled to her stepmother “He’s taking the baby!” Leaving the house so enraged that I tripped over Timile’s feeding tube and walking down the street where the police that were called to the house told me my parents were looking for me. My parents telling me I needed to stay indoors when I really needed to walk around by myself and their reasoning being that if Timile died that night I better believe her parents would have a case on me for killing her.
I got to the house and the first thing I saw was Timile’s car she had named Fiona. It still had the Spelman College decals on it and that made me feel a way. I rang the bell and put on my best face like I was happy to see them. Cydney was jovial to see her grandparents and the feeling was mutual. They asked if I wanted to have a seat. I was sitting in the same spot next to the chase lounge where I was last holding Cydney and Timile smiled in a way that I just knew she was going to die soon and that look was one in which she could go in peace. Seeing me take care of our daughter was something that always made her proud.
Timile’s parents had toys that she was saving for her daughter since she was a child all lined up in her old room. I have a jeep so I was able to take a lot of it. They said I could take more on my next trip; but in my head I was thinking “Yall gonna have to ship this shit because I’m never coming back here.” They talked about spending Christmas as a family in California and I nodded saying “That’s a possibility,” knowing damn well I wasn’t doing that, either. Before I left Timile’s mother said “Don’t take so long to return.” It was genuine. However, I got sick of hearing her say some fairly rediculous shit the hour I was there. I acknowledged her sincerity and said “Okay.” I took pictures of Cydney and them and then we left.
It was time to do what the whole trip was about: finally visiting Timile’s grave. I got there around 5 PM. The goundskeepers were being lazy because they were about to get off. I pleaded with two of them saying that I just drove down from New York for my daughter to see her mother. They said they had just got off and there was one more person there until six. I knocked on the door and he heard me yelling in his thick southern dialect “I’m taking a shit can you wait?!” I waited for forty-five minutes then saw he left around the back.
Cydney was excited about being there. All day she had been saying “I’m going to go see my mommy and where she’s buried!” She told everyone we visited that day, she lives in the clouds and on the moon but her body is in the ground because she’s sick. Her understanding of things is beyond uncanny to only be four. She’s been here before.
Because she was so excited to be there I called Timile’s mother to ask if they knew where she was buried. She said she didn’t know the plot number because they hadn’t been back since the funeral because it was too painful. “Maybe we can all go the next time you visit.” She continued to talk but I didn’t hear a word she said. I snapped.
I said “Remember, I didn’t have the fun of seeing a burial.” She responded “Woah, let’s not bring that up. We have been getting along and whamp whamp whamp.” I say that because she began to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me. She was still talking. I took my phone away from my ear and almost hung up on her. But I put it back up in time to say “Okay,” and something along the lines of we can go the next time I’m in town.
I was enraged because I was them reminded that I wasn’t allowed a proper goodbye or the chance to grieve who I thought was the love of my life. Not being able to do that has left a darkness inside of me. I was kind of cynical before this happened; but I have had very little to no trust in anyone except Cydney ever since. Nonetheless, I am thankful for that experience because I wouldn’t have been on this path as a writer or many of the other blessings that have come from it. God has a perfect plan and this had to happen for the greater good. That has been the thing that has given me peace since I last left the Hampton courthouse May of 2012.
Cydney was temporarily disappointed but she gets over things quickly. She was hungry so we went to Waffle House. She wolfed it down saying it tasted like waffle cake. Being worked up had upset me to the point in which I couldn’t drive back to DC which was my plan. One of Timile’s high school friends met us up there and we talked for a little bit. I told her I was never coming back to Hampton and she told me I had to at least one more time for all of her other classmates that would love to see Cydney as an extension of Timile.
I headed back to Chesapeake. Timile’s godmother said she would watch Cydney as I slept. I was staggering because by then I had been awake since 4 AM Friday morning, went to work, slept for an hour, drove, and had an emotional day. She woke me up at 2 AM and I was back on the road by 2:20. I had peace. I was able to leave everything that had happened to me with the Seven Cities literally in my rear view mirror.
I was back at my house by 9:35 AM. I feel like a different person. My home feels much different. While I didn’t see Timile’s actual grave I was at the cemetery. That was enough because all that’s there is just a body. It further cemented how I felt and that the memories are the most second most important thing.
Cydney’s happiness is number one. She was happy we went. I think she feels more connected to her mother. She was nine months when she passed away, so all of her memories that she talks about are figments of her imagination. Cydney’s grandmother gave her a rest in peace shirt with Timile’s picture on it. I thought that shit was so ghetto and I know Timile would have felt the same way. However, Cydney liked it a lot. All she wanted to do was wear it. When we got home she demanded that she put it on herself and went to sleep with it on. I had taken it off that night so that she may not pee in it in her sleep. I woke her up this morning for her Moving Up Ceremony and the first thing she asked about was her shirt with her mom on it. She wanted to fold it up and put it in a drawer and she did just that.
We left and this morning I watched her recite poems, sing, and dance as she was celebrating going into Pre-K in September. Tomorrow can finally begin for the both of us.
Closure isn’t a good word for our experience. I have moved on in many ways. I have dated, loved, been in love, broken up, made new friends, taken on a new career and so much more. I left Virginia three days before my twenty-sixth birthday the father of an infant, with $4 to my name, unanswered questions, and no idea what was next. In that time I have literally transformed myself into another person. I cut my hair, lost seventy pounds of fat and fifty in muscle, a personality that Meyers-Briggs was once ENTP was now ENTJ, and so much more. I returned to Virginia a grown ass man. I am incredibly hard on myself; but being reminded of where I came from will allow me to give myself-and those that I love-some slack.