Mambo Yatande Daho Sanped
The Undercover of Darkness (Excerpt)
The Undercover of Darkness
Sadness stirred in my heart as I closed the front door for the last time and placed the key under the mat for the bank representative to collect. It was Friday February 10, 2006. Severe thunderstorm had caused major damage and delayed entrance to the state of Arizona via the main bridge. It had been over an hour since I last moved from the same spot; it felt as though the car was literally shackled to the asphalt. The traffic was bumper to bumper. My destination was Auntie Nellie’s mansion.
Gazing at my three children in the rear-view mirror, it pained me to see the sadness on their faces. I could see they were already missing their friends in Norwalk, Connecticut, and things were beginning to look tough for them. Six year-old Alex and nine year-old Alison didn’t really cause me much concern, since in the short term, I could easily provide them reassurance and gradually I would keep them preoccupy in after-school activities. As for thirteen year-old Ian, what worse could anyone do to a teenage boy than separate him from his peers? Then again, I had no other choice. The damage was already done. Starting over was not a choice, I had to shape up this bumpy life of mine. I had to strike out in a new direction. With great hope, I felt things would fall back into place.
I had stood by my husband for three long years as he battled prostate cancer, and I still lost him in the end. Then my life began changing after his departure. I relapsed into a manic episode, which caused me to spend extensive time in rehabilitative care. I've been battling bipolar II since I was a little girl, including repetitive episodes of depression, mania, and hypo-mania. I could never keep away future relapses, and because of that, I had been little to nobody in my circle of friends. However, when my husband died, I had Linda, my childhood friend, who took care of my children while I was busy going insane.
As the commotion continued to escalate, I began to experience greater difficulties from the company I had been working for over ten years as their Chief Marketing Technology Officer. My focus was marketing printed catalogs. My career took a sudden twist when the new college graduates began to appear around the company. They were young, tight-butted, firm-cheeked technology wizards with new competitive ideas. They would take a pay cut just to work and gain experience in the field. Unlike an old frog like me, with a substantial salary, I didn't have any sympathy for my employer on businesses' expenses and travel. I wouldn't settle for the cheapest rental car or hotel room. Not to mention my excessive absenteeism due to my husband's medical conditions. My service didn’t seem to be validated; my boss was constantly picking on me. I was getting written up for any little thing. I became a kind of senior employee nuisance. In the end, I was given a severance package.
I found myself deeper in the gutter when I couldn’t manage to pay the second loan I had taken out on the house, and so I faced foreclosure. Losing that house was one of the hardest pills to swallow. Throughout my life I had known no other place but the inside of that house. It was the house I grew up in as an only child and later inherited from my parents when I wed my husband, Michael. The loss of my only home was a big cause of the load of fear that started creeping into me. Nonetheless, I couldn't stop thanking Aunt Nellie, my late husband's aunt, for taking in me and the kids.
The cars were starting to move at a faster rate. For some unexplainable reason, suddenly my right foot felt numb with an ongoing muscle spasm on the plantar area. It felt as if my foot had gone to sleep. I couldn’t drive my big old caravan for anything. So I set the car on break until I could recuperate the full feeling of my foot.
“What is it, mom?” Ian asked with concern.
“My right foot feels weird,” I said quietly.
“Are you okay, mommy?” Alex and Alison asked at once.
“I guess I am” I said, huffing out a sigh.
The cars behind me were beginning to blow their horns, one after another; their sounds echoed as if they were part of a big circus. My manic nature was going off the scale, to the point that my foot had gotten even worse. I reached for a PRN Seroquel tablet from my duffel bag, and shoved it down my throat followed by half a bottle of water. All of the sudden, I developed the urge to tickle. I could hear every beat of my heart, and I could see each breath I exhaled. I set my right foot down on the car platform, and I rested on my head on the windowpane. I could see from the side mirror that the cars behind me were beginning to break the lane they formed. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t see any possible drive-by hostility that might be directed my way.
Just when the feeling of numbness and the spasm stopped, I was able to move my right foot again. I then heard a siren wailing. It was a police officer. He signaled for me to pull the car over to the side of the road.
“Aw, now what? We'll never get out of here!” Ian said with frustration.
“Enough Ian, I don’t want to hear this right now!” I said with a groan.
“But, Mom, I'm n-," said Ian, trying to explain.
“Enough! I don't want to hear a pip from you,” I added.
“I'm not saying any-" said Ian being interrupted.
“Ian, for once try to be positive,” I yelled.
As I followed the officer's order, he stepped out of the car and walked towards me. Although I was tired and upset, I couldn’t help but notice his ravishing look. He had nice-looking mulatto skin and was very well built. He looked very distinguished in his uniform. He appeared to be late forties or early fifties. He bent down to my window and asked nicely, “Anything I can help you with ma-am?” I was fixated by his eyes and then looked quickly at his name tag, which read “Officer Josh Reynolds, Tombstone, Arizona”.
“No,” I said quietly.
“License and registration please,” he said, as his eyes scanned the children in the back-seat.
“Here they are officer.” He extended his hand and reached for the documents. He barely looked at them and handed them back to me.
“Why did you stop in the middle of the highway?” He asked kindly.
“My right foot was numb, officer, so I couldn’t move it. That’s why,” I said, staring blankly.
“So I see you are coming from Connecticut,” he pursed his lips and continued “Are you feeling any better now?” He asked with concern. “Yeah, yes officer, I am.”
He stared at me. “Bonise, you are certainly coming from afar. How far more do you have to go?”
I suddenly begin to gag as I try to answer him. For a second I feel my late husband’s presence. My heart begins to fluctuate with this unknown feeling; I realize it's because only Michael called me by that name.
“I'm heading to Gleeson, Arizona just a few miles away officer, not much,” I said as we looked into each other’s eyes for a moment.
“All right, you take care of yourself and the children,” He turned around and walked away.
For some reason, his way of walking reminded me of someone I knew, and a very strange feeling washed over me that I hadn't felt for quite some time. Before the officer got into the car he turned around and looked at me one last time and waved. I timidly wiggled my fingers, for no good reason. I bit my lips and cautiously drove off.
“That cop seems like a nice man, mom,” Ian said.
“Yup, he certainly is, hopefully everybody in this town will be as nice as him.”
“Mom, are we there yet?” Alison asked. I looked at her reflection in the rear-view mirror.
“We are almost there sweetie; we’ll be there in just a few minutes.” Right then, Alex repeated the same question. “I’m tired mommy, are we there yet?” I tilted my head back and said, “All right already, we’ll be there in just a few minutes.”
As we entered Broadway Road in Gleeson Arizona, it was apparent that the town was rundown. On both sides of the street, the electrical poles were chipped. The wires were hanging down, waving in the winds. The businesses were unbelievably slow, and most were empty. Everything seemed dead. Endless potholes were causing my car to shift from left to right and it came to the point that I felt I was losing control of the steering. As strange as it may sound, even the Vultures weren’t flying as they should have been. They were really flying at low speeds. Knowing these types of birds always fly at high altitudes, I got an uneasy feeling, because at one time this town was lively and happy according to my dear late mother-in-law, Joanie. She was born and raised in this town, and each time she would tell one of her childhood stories, happiness would illuminate her face. Now, this town had very few activities going on, and all government buildings had been transferred to other towns due to very low population.
As we turned onto Davis Rd, where Aunt Nellie lived - out of nowhere, the shadow of what looked like a dog spun in front of the windshield, and for a quick second my vision turned pitch black. Quickly, I slammed on the breaks, my heart was pounding. I stepped out of the car, looking around the road and even checking underneath the car to see what had jumped towards us. But there was nothing to be found. For a second, I was completely bewildered. I felt this unexpected chill over my face, and tear drops were beginning to drip out of my eyes. The hair on my arms stood up. There was definitely something strange in the air, but I couldn't pinpoint anything. Quickly, I ran back into the car.
“Did we hit something, Mom?” Alison asked with a scared look on her face.
“Nothing that I can see,” I answered, but in my head, I was trying to process what had just happened.
I started driving at a snail's pace. I couldn't help but notice so many distressed looking areas. Among them was a huge parking lot filled with many cars, ranging from very old to more recent models, but filth and growing weeds wove through them, and it was apparent they had been left there for a while. There were people standing on the side street. They were mostly women, ranging from young adults to elderly.
“Mom, why are these people staring at us so funny?” Ian asked, looking worried.
“Jeez, Ian, I don’t know, could it be that they are just friendly people?”
“No, Mom, that's not the look of friendly people,” Ian said, sounding angry.
“How are friendly people supposed to look?” I asked.
“They look creepy, Mommy,” Alison added.
“You see Mom? Even Alison feels the same way!” Ian said, sounding convinced.
“Who's creepy, Mommy?” Alex asked, naively.
Even though I tried to calm the kids' fear, I couldn't help but agree with Ian and Alison. I, too, had noticed how pedestrians and even people passing in their cars were giving us scowling expressions. It didn’t really bother me too much at that point, because I knew we would be safe at Aunt Nellie’s house.
When we finally arrived, I pulled into the drive-way, taking another glance at the neighborhood as I got out of the car. All of the houses seemed uncared for- especially Aunt Nellie's mansion. The facade had been ruined by age and rain, yet I could imagine its pre- neglected state. All of a sudden, this mixed feeling hit me. But then again, it was just the beginning of a drastic change, and I would simply have to adjust myself.
As I knocked at the front door, a middle-age man came to the front entrance. He had the sternest look on his face, and the rarest amber color eyes that seemed to stare right through me. His rigid body stood upright, tall and slim, and it wasn't hard to identify him as the Butler. His gray and white hair matched perfectly with his white long-sleeved costume, buttoned Lycra shirt with attached black satin vest, black bow tie, black Lycra pants, and white gloves. “How can I help you, Madam?” he asked in a heavy, controlled voice.
Before having the chance to respond, Aunt Nellie suddenly appeared looking very beautiful. For sixty years old, she looked nothing like her age. She was winkle free, unlike me - I was forty-six years old and already had wrinkles and laugh lines on my face. Aunt Nellie stretched her arms wide and then wrapped them around my neck. For a minute it felt as though she was strangling me. She was amazingly joyful to see me and the kids. I, on the other hand, was very relieved to see the children smiling for a change. Nevertheless, I didn’t know how long they were going to stay that way, but I came to understand that if it's a fresh start, I ought to allow myself a degree of real happiness.