I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night…
He hadn’t expected to be guest of honor at a party this weekend. And what an eclectic bunch these were. Some were relentless in their invasion of his private space. Up close and in your face personal, to the extent that they craved and yet, contrarily, feared contact with him.
Existing while Black. That was him.
Was all that they saw of him only his Blackness? Titillating and yet terrifying them?
He felt like a piece of meat actually, put on display. Which was kinda weird when a lesbian couple sized him up. Dr. Calliope Torres was anything but shy, even to the extent of directly questioning his size. Whereas her partner, Dr. Arizona Robbins, appeared more circumspect. Were they Bi-sexual, he wondered? That could be the only reason for their objectifying gazes. He was polite though. He endured the subtle micro-aggressions from these white suburbanites.
He felt like he’d been invited to the cookout; the white version. Bland, spice-less food, copious amounts of alcohol and the rare sighting of melinated skin so shielded by insipid fashion choices as to almost disappear into the background of white noise.
“No way…,” he whispered to himself. It couldn’t be…April would just die. Wait until he told her. He needed to snap a quick pic…
Damn…the camera on his phone was set to flash and that really tripped him up. How was he to know that it would cause this?
“Get out! Get out, just Get out,” the guy screamed at him. A fellow Black Man, one who shook a fist bump, didn’t get AAVE or street slang and who screamed at him to leave. Also, someone he thought he recognized. It was disconcerting.
The professional consensus of this odd behavior, by the Shepherd-Grey duo of doctors, was: “Seizures creating anxiety, which triggers aggression.”
Well, okay then. This was not his problem. They had a bead on it. He would just ignore the desperate sobs of a confused cry for help. What the hell man?!
He returned to his borrowed room to set his low battery phone to charge. He needed to call April, as soon as he had some bars.
He had to wonder at the Gazebo and the chairs facing it. He hoped to God – simply an expression, he hadn’t adopted a belief system overnight – that no nuptials were planned. He suffered his own version wedding PTSD. He knew the possibility existed that April would have another one of those and he had to learn to deal. For he’d given up the right to object. She was no longer his.
He surprised a lone guest seated in the last row of those chairs, gazebo entrance side. Not exactly alone, he realized. The man had a bodyguard. Or was it a minder? The white cane the burly man held in front of him, hinted at the latter.
“Dr. Mark Sloan,” the guest introduced himself, after the minder alerted him to Jackson’s presence.
“Jackson Avery,” he reciprocated, not feeling the need to rub his credentials in the face of a fellow professional who was so obviously unable to continue his profession.
“I know who you are, Dr. Avery.”
Had he just committed an intellectual faux pas? “Wait…Dr. Mark Sloan, Plastic Surgeon? Pioneer, Genius, Perfectionist. Ultimate Master of Correction. That Mark Sloan?”
“Yes. Modesty prevents me from telling you to go on. However…all that you say is true. But bum hands and a fading eye-sight mean I’ve had to give all that up,” he shrugged philosophically. “I’ve heard a lot about you though, Dr. Avery. They call you the next Mark Sloan,” he laughed. “Do you mind?” he asked, confusing Jackson with the request. “Could I see your hands?” he clarified. And by see he meant feel.
“Oh…oh sure, of course.” He held out his hands to be inspected.
“Perfection. Long tapered fingers. Sure, firm grip. You obviously know how to handle your instruments,” he confidently stated. The seductively sly half smile he sported indicated that he was aware of his risqué double entendre. And he didn’t let go of Jackson’s hands. Continuing to, not unpleasantly, run his fingertips over Jackson’s palms and fingers. He had a soft touch.
“Err-I should be…”
Interrupting his motions to take his leave, Mark Sloan shocked him by grabbing onto his face. He didn’t pull away as he realized this was his way of ‘seeing’ him. “You’re a pretty boy, Avery,” he said before releasing him. “You can go now.”
And Jackson hot-footed it out of there.
“Returning to the scene of the crime,” he sarcastically quipped to himself. Not really, but not for wont of their trying. And so he happened onto another crime. “Why’s my phone unplugged? Who doesn’t want me in contact with the outside world?” Outside World? What the hell? Was the drama catching, he wondered. The paranoia certainly was. “What the fuck Avery? Paranoid much, huh?”
“Allow me to explain,” came a soft-spoken timid voice from the doorway, startling him from the one-man conversation he was having with himself. Not a conversation, exactly, more of a peevish grumbling. “I owe you an apology. How rude of me to have touched your belongings without asking,” housekeeper/maid Margaret continued in her robotic monotone. Add embarrassment to his, not meant to be heard, complaining.
“Nah, it’s cool. I was just confused,” he tried to save face.
“Well I can assure you there was no funny business. I lifted your cellular phone to wipe down the dresser and it accidentally came undone.”
“Rather than meddle with it further, I left it that way. How foolish of me.”
“It’s fine. I won’t snitch.”
“Snitch?” her expression bemused.
“Rat you out,” he explained
She still looked befuddled. “Tattle-tale?” she asked, the uncertainty clearing.
“Yeah…” What was up with all these pseudo-Black folk?! Including this Maggie look-alike.
“Oh, don’t you worry about that. I can assure you I don’t answer to anyone.” Her face beamed but there was just something about those eyes…
“Right. All I know is sometimes if there’s too many white people, I get nervous, you know?”
Her smile disappeared. Then the strangest thing happened. She looked panicked, trying unsuccessfully to get words, and strangely, sobs, out. Something creepy happened next. She laughed, as if so amused by his words while tears streamed unchecked down her cheeks.
“Oh, no. No…” she admonished as if speaking to a recalcitrant child. “No, no, no no no no no no. Aren’t you something. That’s not my experience. Not at all. The Shepherds are so good to us,” she emphasized. “They treat us like family.” And with that she departed.
“Bitch be crazy,” he shook his head.
He had to suck it up and call April. Simply because. And also Harriet.
“Hey…so you won’t believe who I just sorta bumped into? Oh and how’s Harriet doing?”
“Jackson…what? What’s going on? Why are you calling me?” After the barest of pauses, “She’s fine. Down for a nap.” And then, “Who, who did you bump into?” He knew her so well. She was unable to resist her inquisitive impulses.
“Jerek Deter! At least it looked just like him.”
“No! Jeets? The Yankees shortstop who went missing? What’s it been, like three…six…months with no trace of him? I always assumed that he was just laying low, being private you know. Coz of the cheating rumors. And of course the STDs.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about the missing part. True, he Jetere’d many women. Herpes King, I think they called him.” He never would have guessed that watching baseball with April could be such fun. The nonsensical gossip he picked up…truly astounding. Not to mention the amusing pastime of creating nicknames based on said gossip. Some the media beat them to the punchline. “I wonder what he’s doing here. And with that white cougar that looks old enough to be a cougar’s cougar…a double cougar. Wait, I’m sending you the picture I snapped of them. Tell me what you think.”
“Where is here…? Oh wait, never mind. You don’t have to tell me. It’s not like we talk about your comings and goings. Or anything that matters really.”
“April, c’mon, what is this?”
“It’s…this limbo that we’re living…I donno?” he heard the hesitation in her voice.
It prompted him to ask a question he immediately regretted, “Maggie said a thing about a thing you apparently said to Maggie?”
“Yeah. And where are you now? Not here discussing it with me.” He heard her exasperation with him in the huge sigh she released. “I think I need to…”
He had a feeling he knew where this was going, so he quickly interrupted her. “Listen, I have to go. Kiss my baby for me.”
“Jackson…wait…” Clearly frustrated with his dodging.
He hung up on her. It was what they both did well. Avoidance.
Ruminating on April’s words – predominantly the unspoken ones – he still felt the blow of them. He stood at the window. Contemplating love, life and his habit of booking it to avoid confrontation and the pain it inevitably lead to.
Surprisingly, he had a view of the gazebo. He’d thought the distance of it from the house would hide it from view. Which wasn’t the case at all. He got glimpses through the surrounding trees. From his vantage point he was able to tell that some kind of auction was taking place. The Shepherds hadn’t struck him as art aficionados but what did he really know about them? As he watched he was surprised to note that the almost blind Mark Sloan ended up with the winning bid. He couldn’t tell what the piece was or even exactly how much the guy paid. From the reactions and the applause of the other guests, he guessed that it was a hefty sum and an enviable win. Well good for him. What’s to say a sightless guy couldn’t be an appreciative art connoisseur?