Smoky skies signal ensuing rains. I’m not sure that if it was intuition or just realistic calculations. But I knew this day was looming. Mama knew she could not manage all this by herself. She never worked a full day in her life that my memory recalls. Maybe you can count all the times Tee Tee Step had to work the night shift and paid Mama to keep my cousin Jennifer. But it seemed more like Mama’s place to do so. She was going to be here keeping house anyway while daddy was out working, or whatever it was he did when he breezed out the door on those many early mornings. Me and Brian use to make candy wagers. Whoever came closest to Daddy’s arrival time without going over wins. Most times we both lost. We were under the false belief that daddies came home every night right before dinner. That’s how it happened on TV. Well, I guess those were white, middle class television families. We were far from that. But, somehow they maintained. Well, somehow Mama was able to keep this place afloat with the bare minimums Daddy provided. Even now, I am not exactly sure how Daddy earned money. But, he made it a point to keep Mama from working. She often times found herself sneaking around town baking cakes and cleaning houses for those people who live in the big houses way past downtown. There was no real need to sneak. Daddy left for days and weeks at a time. She never said it, but I’m almost positive that cakes and cleaning were the only reasons me and my brother had any concept of Christmas or Birthdays. I still don’t quite get it. It seemed the longer Daddy was gone the less money he had. As much as his presence altered her serenity, she seemed most relieved when he came home at night after a days work. This was when he contributed most, financially anyway.
I realized something was different about this departure. Mama did too. Daddy came into our rooms while we were still sleeping and kissed our foreheads, the aroma of fermented liquids lingered in the room a while after his departure. I woke just long enough to see Mama stare Daddy straight in the eyes for what seemed like eternity. Daddy couldn’t return the glare. He preferred the ambiance of the wall as opposed to the woman whose silent stare was stripping him of every ounce of manhood he so desperately cleaved to. Mama didn’t speak a word and said so much. I rolled over and tucked myself deep under the covers. He will be back.
Days turned to weeks and weeks to a month. The first time I asked Mama when she thought my Daddy would be home was the first time I heard her drop the f-bomb. “I don’t give a fuck when he decides to come back here,” she said while washing dishes with a furiousness I had never witnessed. She paused for a second. Turned as if she wanted to look at me to apologize and recanted with, “Baby I don’t know when he will be back. But, we will be just fine,” she assured me.