Soul Snatching Strangers

Tight jeans and a crop top? Nah.
Dress with thigh socks? Nah.
Ripped jeans and a denim shirt? Yeah, why not.
Jasmine got ready to go to a kick back. She wasn’t really in the mood to go but she promised her friend Nikki that she would be there. She took her time getting ready, settling on a simple outfit. She finally hit the road and stopped by the liquor store to buy a bottle of Ciroc. Can’t go empty handed, she thought. She wasn’t even in a mood to drink. When she got to the kickback, she realized it was more of a party. She spotted her friend Stacy right away.
“Hey girl,” they embraced each other. “I thought it was only going to be a few of us.”
“Yeah, me too.” This was perfect for Jasmine though. She could slip out in an hour and no one would notice. She just wanted to go home and lay in bed and watch a movie. Despite her gloomy mood, she tried her best to socialize. After an hour and a half she told Stacy and Nikki goodbye and left the house. As she was walking to her car she heard someone yelling.
“Hey…Hey…Hey!” She looked all around and didn’t see anyone.
“Up here!” A deep voice called out to her. Jasmine looked up to find a man sitting on the roof.
“Are you okay?” She yelled up at him.
“Yeah. I just dropped my keys. Can you bring them up to me please?”
Jasmine found the keys on the grass and went back inside to find Nikki.
“Nikki, how do i get to the roof?”
“The roof? I don’t know. It’s not my house,” She was drunk.
“Up there I think?” She pointed upwards. Duh, Jasmine thought. “The third room to the right.” Jasmine followed Nikki’s instructions but of course was misled. After a few minutes, she figured it out on her own.
“Hey, I have your keys,” she said out the window.
“Thank you. Do you want to join me?”
“No I need to get home.”
“Come on, just for a few minutes. It’s refreshing.”
Jasmine debated it in her mind. She really wanted to go home and just mellow in the comfort of her home.
“It’ll clear your mind,” the man said. That was all Jasmine needed to hear. She took her time getting her body out of the window. The man tried his best to assist her. After time she was finally able to sit herself down on the roof. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of heights.”
“No, It’s just been a rough week.”
“I hear you. Manny,” he introduced himself.
“Jasmine.” She finally opened her eyes, “The weather is perfect.”
“Yeah it is,” he took a swig from his small bottle of Crown Royal.
Jasmine observed him. He looked solemn. He had taken his work shoes off and loosened his tie. He reeked of alcohol.
“You weren’t going to jump were you?” Jasmine asked.
“Oh God no.”
“Okay good. I like your socks by the way.” They were checkered yellow, grey and white.
“Thank you. My wife got it for me.” Jasmine looked at his ring finger. And there it was- his wedding band.
“You look as stressed as I feel. Why not go home to your wife?”
“Sometimes its better to be alone or to talk to a stranger,” he shrugged. He passed her an unopened small bottle of crown royal.
“Thank you.”
They sat on the roof for a few minutes enjoying the silence and freedom nature was providing.
Jasmine looked up at the sky. “Do you believe in God?”
“Most days. But today isn’t one of them,” he said with a straight face.
“What do you believe in today?”
He raised up his bottle and sipped from it, “Alcohol.”
“What are you running from?”
“Everything,” he said. “Where were you in a rush to go?”
Jasmine took a sip of her drink, “Nowhere.”
More silence. But it was a comfortable silence.
“Where did you meet your wife?” Jasmine asked after awhile.
“At my little brother’s basketball game. She was there for her little brother. I approached her, took her out a few times, we hit it off, and i knew i wanted her to be my wife.” He smiled for the first time, reminiscing.
“That’s sweet,”
“Yeah. Everything was going perfectly. We met each other’s families, I asked her father for his blessing, I proposed a year and a half after we met, and then we got married a year later.”
“How was the wedding?”
“Lit!” He shook his head smiling. “She’s Liberian so the wedding had to be.”
“How are y’all doing now?” Jasmine asked and his smile faded.
“We were excited to start a family together. We agreed on four kids. Hopefully all boys. We tried and tried and tried. She kept having miscarriages.”
He looked off into space and then continued, “She got sadder and sadder with each miscarriage. Cried herself to sleep almost every night. She didn’t want me to hold her and wouldn’t talk to me. She was depressed and I didn’t know what to do or how to be there for her. She wouldn’t let me be there for her.” His voice cracked with a mixture of anger and sadness.”So i called her mom and sisters to come spend the weekend with her.”
“Did that soothe her?” Jasmine asked and took a swig from her bottle.
“A little bit.”
“So no more trying? Are y’all going to adopt?”
“Well we were in the process of adopting when we found out she was pregnant again. We tried not to get our hopes up. But she made it to the second trimester, that never happened before. We tried not to be excited but it was hard not to. We held off on adopting someone else’s baby.”
He looked off into space again. At this point Jasmine realized he was more so talking to himself, out loud.
“We allowed ourselves to be happy for once and to think of our future with the baby.” Manny paused as if recalling all that had happened. “The crib I had put together from the first pregnancy was still in the room we painted yellow, so almost every night we went in there and my wife would sit in the rocking chair I had built and we would take turns reading to her belly.” He smiled sadly. 
Tears welled up in Jasmine’s eyes. She had a feeling the story was going to get worse.
“But then we found out that the baby had a life threatening disease. He wasn’t going to live.”
The tears finally released themselves from Jasmine’s eyes while Manny tried extremely hard to compose himself.
“My wife cried more than she ever had before. She kept saying what kind of God would punish her like this? What kind of God would get her hopes high like this, bringing the baby to almost full term, giving her the gender she wanted….just to take it away?” Manny’s memory of his wife breaking down and crying in the middle of their living room, pounding his chest invaded all his senses. All the sudden, he could hear her cries and agony and screams. He could feel her fists and tears and her heart pounding. All he tasted was bitterness. He could see his wife looking so helpless and knowing there was nothing he could do. His own heart ached. Manny couldn’t handle the memories invading his head anymore. He cried, right there in front of Jasmine.
“What kind of God would be so cruel?” He whimpered. Jasmine put her arms around him.
“I’ve been trying to hold it together for the both of us for so long. Trying to be her light, to give her peace and bring joy back to her heart and our life. But she’s been in the dark for so long that she doesn’t see I need some light too!” He sobbed. “I’m suffering too.”
Jasmine rubbed his back. After a few minutes, Manny pulled back and wiped his eyes.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cry on you like that. Or to tell you my life story.”
“You don’t have to apologize for expressing your pain.”
“I’m not use to it. I was raised to believe tears from a man was a weakness.”
“It’s not. Tears from a human is normal. At times necessary and expected.”
“Not for me and my brothers.”
“The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”
Manny took a sip from his bottle again. “The day we found out the baby wasn’t going to live more than a few weeks, is the day I started to believe in alcohol.”
Jasmine kept quiet.
“So that’s how my wife and I are doing,” he laughed sarcastically. “I stay out later after work because my spirit can’t take the darkness the house holds anymore. Now my wife is asking me if i’m cheating.” He smirked.
Jasmine looked at him questioningly. And Manny stared her in the eyes.
“I have never cheated on my wife and i never will. It’s for better, for worse, in sickness, and in health.” He smirked again and looked out into the sky.
“I thought about leaving her though,” he said quietly. “I haven’t told anyone that.” He looked at her.
“Your secret is safe with me.”
“I can never cheat on her. I love her too much for that. But I don’t know how to make her happy anymore and I’m tired of feeling worthless.”
There was more silence between them. After awhile Manny spoke up.
“Tell me something. I think I’ve talked enough.”
“How about a funny story? I think you could use a laugh.”
“Okay.”
“I think I saw a ghost when i was younger. My cousin and I.”
“What?”
“My cousin and I were washing dishes. It was really late, our moms woke us up to do the dishes because we knew better than to leave it over night.”
“Black moms will wake you up at 3am to do your chore just to teach you a lesson. My mom was good for that.”
“Right. Set their alarms just to be petty,” they laughed.
“Okay, go on with your story.”
“We heard something, turned around, and saw a shadow. It was really weird. And it moved!”
“So someone was up,” Manny justified it.
“No. We were the only ones up. And it wasn’t just a shadow. It was the shape of a bunny!”
“What?!” Manny exploded with laughter and Jasmine joined.
“I know it sounds silly but i’m telling you it was the shape of a bunny. It had the ears, and the eyes were black. It wasn’t a nice bunny ghost.”
“Oh God stop,” Manny laughed harder.
“I’m serious!” She pushed him jokingly. “I can call my cousin for you right now and she’ll confirm that-“
“That ya’ll ate Trix that night and was tired and dreaming about the bunny on the Trix box.”
“Omg. Shut up!” She pushed him again.
“Trix are for kids, you silly rabbit!” He mimicked the commercial.
“I knew I shouldn’t have told that story.”
“Wow, that was a good laugh. Thanks.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Jasmine laughed. “I’ve never told anyone that story.”
“Cause you sound crazy?”
“Yeah, actually, It does sound crazy after you say it out loud.” She bust out laughing.
“Its all good. Just you and I here.”
“Tell me a story about your childhood.”
“I don’t really have a story. I just got beat a lot,” he laughed
“How is that funny?”
“It wasn’t then. It’s hilarious now. I remember one time my brothers and I were cracking jokes in church.”
“In church? Yeah, you wanted a beating.”
“My older brother had said something and we couldn’t contain our laughter. My mother kicked us out of the church and followed us out. We knew we were going to get it bad.”
“Did she beat y’all?”
“Sure did! She told each of us to take off our belts and she beat us with our individual belts.”
“Oh my God!” Jasmine laughed.
“Then the pastor’s wife walked past and gave an approval nod.”
“What?! She was suppose to stop it!”
“Not in a black church. Then my mom told us to go back in and not embarrass her again. I couldn’t even sit properly. My ass was in pain.” He laughed along with her. “Beatings were hilarious to my brothers and I. We always got in trouble together. We would laugh when one was getting punished like the other wasn’t next.”
“Your poor mom, dealing with knuckleheads.”
“Poor mom? Poor us! I still got scars,” He laughed.
After the laughter subsided Jasmine asked him a question.
“Can you do me a favor?”
“Whats that?”
“I have a feeling you’re not going to give up on your wife. Which is great.” He nodded his head, “but don’t give up on God.”
He was about to say something but Jasmine cut him off.
“No, hear me out. I’m not going to quote scriptures at you. But I do think you need to start talking to God again. I know it’s hard, I’ve had my share of falling outs with God. But you not talking to anyone about your troubles isn’t healthy. Your wife doesn’t hear you right now and I may never see you again so you have to talk to someone. Take baby steps you know? God wants to hear from you.”
Manny smiled, “You have a beautiful soul.”
“Thank you. You have a loving spirit. Love God again.”
“Who do you love? Besides God.”
“My family, friends-“
“No. Who do you love and share your beautiful soul with.”
“My family, and friends. And apparently strangers,” She nudged him. “I leave pieces of me with everyone I meet. The good pieces.”
“And the bad pieces?”
Jasmine looked sorrowfully away from him.
“They follow me to my house. To my bed.” She laughed to herself. “That’s where I was in a rush to go.”
“You’re comfortable with your broken pieces.”
“Yeah, but they also make me feel trapped,” she looked at him
He took his hand into hers, “Break free.”
They sat on the roof way after the party was over exchanging stories.There was comfort in knowing there was no judgement coming from the other. Manny bared his soul to a stranger. Jasmine shared things she has never told anyone. Who knew talking to strangers could make you feel so alive? Soon enough they left the roof that housed their secrets.

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