“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”~ Sir Walter Scott
“Damn – damn – damn!” I exhaled, hanging up the phone in frustration.
Leaning back hard in my desk chair, I loosened up my tie and began to rub the smooth surface of my bald head. My mind was busily at work in search of a way around my newest obstacle. I sat there rolling up my sleeves and pulling my shirt away from my body over and over again, in an effort to release some of the steam. My office was located in a building called the First Trust Bank building. Unfortunately, mid-day foot traffic always held up the elevators from everyone going to lunch around the same time, so the seven flights of stairs I just sprinted had me sweltering.
It was the last few days of July and the heat in New Orleans was unbearable, just as everything else about my life seemed to be of late.
Recently, I was experiencing more than my share of working twice as hard at resolving if not one thing, than two or three more things. Especially with the way the past soon to be year of my life had multiplied into hurdle after hurdle of adversity, seemingly every time I blinked.
Eleven months ago, I experienced what one would describe as a hellifying pinnacle of change; that was unfortunately self-induced due to a very bad decision I made.
My name is Mikel Barabino, and I am a thirty-five-year-old lead accounting executive with one of the largest and oldest family-owned accounting firms in New Orleans, Louisiana – Bourgeois, Bennett & Duplexis. I graduated from Tulane University magna cum laude, with a master’s in the very field that had employed me since graduation. I was one of three students that Bourgeois, Bennett & Duplexis offered positions to within their firm, immediately after commencement, and I was the only Black one. Despite the fact that they are an Ivy League firm, being in the minority had never bothered me. And more importantly, the firm has been so good to me over the past ten years, that I’ve never had a reason to consider venturing elsewhere.
But almost a year ago, the sound and confident business mind I am so well known for, faltered in judgment and tripped me into a financial pitfall. I mistakenly made an investment on a surplus of blighted houses, which jeopardized the majority of the savings and escrow accumulated between me and my wife, Troi Lynn. I messed up. Not only did my misguided business investment cause me to lose almost every penny we had, but more importantly, I almost lost the only Love I’ve ever known in my life. All because I didn’t consult with her about the plans I made with our assets.
How could I have done such a thing? So often I asked myself that question over and over again. There were so many long hours of work I had to put in at my job now, in an effort to trouble shoot my life. A life I struggled to make free of the labyrinth it was so intensely confined within.
Troi Lynn was my Queen. She was the Bonnie to my Clyde, the Cleopatra to my Mark Antony, and the ruler of the other side of all my livelihood and dreams. What -in the hell - was I thinking? I said out loud to myself again, sitting there in my office.
Ever since I’ve known my wife, she has been the cornerstone to everything I am, and everything I was destined to become. Troi stuck by me when I was balancing a juggling act with playing ball at Tulane, and studying for my Bachelors. She held me down hard and had my back even more so, when she worked double shifts at the hospital and Walgreens as a pharmacist. There was so very much my baby did for me, in an effort to help make ends meet when I was busy studying for my masters.
My Queen never complained to me, and she never questioned me until I jeopardized my integrity with her by losing all of our money. The reality was that I betrayed her trust. Whereas I thought I was making a solid decision, that would have made us loads of money later on down the line; in Troi Lynn’s mind, all of my silent plans were merely a badly camouflaged surprise. And she was right.
It was then when I experienced a side of my Queen that I never knew existed, and rightfully so. As sorry as I was about how our entire lifestyle now survived on a budget as thin as air, there was not a breath of room left for me to screw up with her again.
That 99-degree day in July, as I sat at my desk in frustration about what to do concerning my newest dilemma; I revisited the reality of how the happiness, peacefulness and bliss of my marriage had become obsolete.
Our eleven-year marriage anniversary rapidly approached, and I had every intention of surprising Troi with a seven-day trip to Negril Jamaica. There was so much stress and distance between us lately because of how tight things were. Everything we had was so financially displaced, that enjoying things like having fun and relaxing were now forlorn and extinct to us; and even worse, our affections towards one another and our sex life was non-existent. The truth was, I missed my wife in every possible way and I had to do something – anything to get us back on the right track.
August 17th marked our eleventh-year anniversary, and I needed to hurry up and book the dates with the travel agent before the seasonal rates increased to three times more than what I could afford. The fact that I was short on ends and running out of time, was stressing me into a stronger sense of urgency about my marital mayhem.
I reviewed my calendar once more before calling the travel agent back. I needed to confirm if there was any possible way I could have just a few more days on paying for the trip. Then suddenly I realized a possible window of opportunity.
“Hey, it’s Mikel Barabino again,” I said when the travel agent answered, “I just wanted to let you know something finally came up and I’ll be able to charge the full payment to you for the trip by the close of business day tomorrow. Is that okay?” I asked. “Good – good I’ll see you on tomorrow then, and thank you again for working with me on this. It will really mean a lot to my wife. Thanks, good-bye.”
It just so happened, that Friday I was scheduled for a contract renewal with a client I’d been servicing at the firm for the past five years. Mr. Mertelle was by far considered one of the most lucrative patrons of Bourgeois, Bennett & Duplexis, and he only wanted me to personally handle all of his business. Luckily, the contract renewal that was scheduled also meant a $12,000 lagniappe bonus that I was in dire need of. Granted that Troi and I were indeed making our ends meet, our budget left absolutely no room for us to do anything that we enjoyed.
Fortunately, Mr. Mertelle was a stickler for punctuality and effectiveness when it came to how he handled his affairs; so on the strength of that alone, I was confident that the $12,000 was a guaranteed reward for me. And since meeting with him was at the end of the week, I decided to execute the possible window of opportunity I’d discovered right before confirming the travel arrangements. What I’d planned to do was force balance another account on the books for a few days. That way, I could secure the funds needed to pay the travel agent for our anniversary trip.
Yes, I realized I just pursued an action that was professionally unethical, but I knew it was a sure thing. I would have never contemplated tampering with company assets in the past, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and hell – the edginess between my wife and I confirmed that fact in more ways than one.
With each passing moment, the restlessness between me and Troi had me feeling like I was in a lose – lose situation with her, despite how hard I knew she was trying to work things out with me. Everything in my heart told me the trip to Jamaica would give us a little reprieve. Being able to get away from the daily stress and financial burdens of our lives, could only help to resuscitate our marriage. At least that’s what I hoped for.
So the next day I extracted the funds, force balanced the account, and visited the travel agent during my lunch break to make the payment. Though the decision I made was not the best, I rationalized myself into finding solace in the actions I had taken. After it was all said and done, I zoned into focusing on that Friday’s meeting with Mr. Mertelle, and how pleased my baby would be with my gift to her.
Troi and I lived in the heart of uptown New Orleans, in an area called the Garden District. As I cruised down St. Charles Avenue, in what seemed to be a rabbit and the hare like race between my Ashton Martin and one of the avenue street cars, my thoughts drifted heavily back to my day’s activities. How in the world did I ever let my life get to the point where I felt a need to make such unprincipled decisions? Then a counter thought entered my mind, reassuring me and confirming how none of it mattered anyway, because what was done was done. And I had to admit, I felt as if a little weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I actually considered telling Troi about the trip out of anticipation, but ultimately decided to keep everything to myself as a surprise.
When I walked in, the house was completely quiet. Troi’s BMW was parked in the drive, but from the silence that greeted me at the door, I thought otherwise. And the fact that I didn’t smell anything validated that she had not cooked or brought anything home. I had been so consumed with my own thoughts that I’d forgotten to call and ask if she wanted me to pick something up. Then I decided that maybe her mom or one of her girlfriends picked her up, and if so, I hoped she was relaxing and getting her mind off of things. Yet when I walked down the hallway, every thought in my mind came to a screeching halt. The door to our master bedroom suite was locked, and there was a note addressed to me taped onto it just above the door knob.
This may not be the best way for us to work things out, but this is what I need from you right now. I need space. This past year has been very trying and tiring, and the past few months more stressful than ever. Baby please understand that this is not about Love – because I DO Love you (for better or for worse). But sometimes Love is not enough. Right now I need space and time away from you so I can deal with some of this on my own, and gain a better perspective on what has become of us and what it’s doing to me.
I’ve put many of your things in the guest bedroom for now.
We will talk later...
“Damn,” I sighed, leaning my forehead against what was once my bedroom door.
I stood there for a moment as a wave of anxiety and heat crept over me. I could hear the television on in the room, and wondered what my wife was doing at that very moment. My heart was on fire as if it was about to explode right out of my chest. My Troi was slipping away from me. She was slipping away, and the harsh reality of the catastrophe that I had created began to overwhelm me again.
As I walked down the hallway to the guest suite, it felt as if time mocked me and choked me all at once. The numbers on what was supposed to be the perpetual clock of my marriage were falling away, one by one through my fingers. In that instance, I knew the measures I had taken earlier that day to secure the trip to Jamaica were well worth it. Now all I had to do was get us there.
“Hey man! How’ve you been? How was your vacation?” I asked my best buddy and coworker, who I bumped into on the elevator to work the next morning.
Robert Mackie joined the firm about three years after I did, and we had been friends ever since. There was an immediate connection between us. Over the years he and I served at Bourgeois, Bennett & Duplexis, the two of us worked on many projects together on and off the clock.
“Awww Mike,” replied Robert, “man St. Croix Island was wonderful, and the jazz festival I went to down there was an unexpected treat.”
“Oh! There was a jazz fest going on?” I asked as we exited the elevator and walked down the hallway to our offices.
“Man was there ever? That’s what made me stay an extra two days Mike. Phillip Bailey and Earth, Wind & Fire performed and there was no way I was going to miss out on that!”
Robert followed me into my office. As I sat down and began checking the hand written messages my receptionist had left on the desk, one of them was attached to the front page of the daily Times Picayune newspaper. Then suddenly, all of the air in my body disappeared as if someone was punching me in the stomach over and over again.
“Mike?” Robert asked out of concern from witnessing the instant drainage of color from my face. “Man what’s wrong? Are you alright? What is it?”
But all I could do was lean back in my chair and grab a hold of my head with my hands in disbelief. Robert walked around the desk and picked up the front page of the newspaper to read it himself.
“Whoa…” he exhaled as he realized what had caused the drastic reaction that turned my dark brown complexion into a dull gray one. As Robert read the head line of the paper out loud, I sat there with his voice echoing in my ears and began to have an outer body experience, “BERTRAND MERTELLE ARRESTED FOR TAX EVASION & RACKATEERING. Mikel, man this is bad.”
My desk phone rang loudly, jolting us both out of our moment of disbelief. Caller i.d. read that it was the senior partner of the firm calling me, and at that point I knew why.
“Good morning Jim,” I answered, “yeaaa... you’re right. It was a good morning until I read the front page of the newspaper.”
Robert walked back around the desk and sat down as he continued reading the article on how my client of five years had been caught up in a web of illegal activities. Apparently, Mertelle had been part of an ongoing investigation for almost a year and a half.
“Um-hm. Okay Jim,” I responded, continuing my conversation with the senior partner of the firm, “yes, ten o’clock is fine with me. I’ll bring you all of the hard copies of the files I have archived on Mertelle from over the years. See you then.”
I motioned for Robert to shut my office door after hanging up the phone, “I don’t believe this – this…. this is amazing. Man what am I gonna do?”
“What do you mean what are you gonna do?” Robert asked, “The guy is just your client Mike, it’s not like you had anything to do with why he was arrested.”
“Robert you don’t understand, I -”
“Dude, what is there to understand? The district attorney will be summonsing any and every file the firm has on Mertelle, and other than that – that’s it.”
“Noooooo Rob, that’s not it,” I said as a wave of nausea struck me like lightening.
I stood up and began to pace the floor in front of my office window, trying to walk off the sick feeling that was gripping the hell out of me. It was almost 8:30a.m. I looked out of that window thinking to myself, how blue the sky was and how promising the beauty of the day looked. As the conception of yet another impossibility seized me, I was amazed how in the blink of an eye, fate could twist one’s reality into hell no matter how beautiful the day looked. And Troi, my thoughts drifted off to how she left the house an hour earlier that morning, just so she would not have to see me.
“Okay man,” said Robert, “why am I beginning to get the feeling there is something you’re not telling me?”
“Because there is something I’m not telling you,” I replied sitting back down at my desk.
“And what’s that?” Robert asked.
“Tomorrow I was supposed to meet with Mertelle at one o’clock for him to renew his contract with the firm, which would have secured a $12,000 bonus for me.”
“I know – right?”
“Man you need that money right now because of how tight things have been on you this past year, and how tight things have been with you and Troi.”
“Exactly,” I agreed, “But it’s worse than that Rob.”
“How so?” he asked as he leaned forward resting his elbows on my desk.
I whispered, “I was so sure about Mertelle that I paid for a fourteen-day anniversary trip to Negril Jamaica for me and Troi. Man you have no idea how badly things have gotten between me and my wife Rob. Everyday I’m losing a piece of her – I can feel it.”
“Okay, so you’ll have to figure out another way to work around the problems the two of you are having Mike. It’s not the end of the world man; just get your money back,” he said, “simple as that.”
“No, it’s not as simple as that Rob,” I went on to explain, “the trip is non-refundable due to how late it is in the season and how the rates are about to change.”
“Damn,” sighed Robert.
“But there’s more,” I added as my stomach began to reel with stress.
“Yes,” I answered, still whispering.
“What?” Robert asked, whispering in return.
“Because I was so sure about Mertelle’s contract renewal with the firm that was supposed to take place on tomorrow, this past Tuesday I force balanced an account to secure the funds I needed to pay for the trip and - ”
“What?!” Robert exclaimed, “Man are you crazy?!”
“Shhhhh,” I whispered placing a finger over my lips motioning for Robert to be quiet. “Keep your voice down Rob.”
“What in the hell is wrong with you Mikel?” he whispered at me harshly, “You must be desperate as hell because there is no way you should have ever considered doing such a thing.”
“Look, I know it wasn’t right,” I agreed regretfully, “but I was going to put it right back as soon as I received my bonus and -”
“And now you can’t,” Robert interrupted, cutting me off, “because Mertelle is in jail.”
The two of us sat there in silence for a moment sharing the same stressful expression of concern.
Robert had proven himself to be one of the best friends I’d ever had, and he knew how vexed I was over what I’d just shared with him. That was one of the reasons he and I were so close, because the level of compassion he felt for people he considered his friends. As far as he was concerned, if I had a problem then he had one too.
“Man, Mike if I had it you’d have it but I just came back from this vacation,”
“I know man – I know,” I said, waving a hand at my boy, urging him not to internalize my issue any further.
“And I just paid all three of my daughter’s tuition up at Xavier Prep, and Robert Junior’s at St. Aug for the rest of the year too so -”
“Stop explaining Rob, this is not your problem its mine,” I said, seemingly more to myself than to him.
Once again, I had successfully made a bad decision based upon good intentions, and it was going to cost me dearly. Tampering with company assets would definitely get me fired, possibly even some jail time; and at the rate Troi was slipping away from me, I would lose her for sure this time.
Robert stood up and said, “I have an idea about how you can get the money.”
“You do?” I asked surprised.
“Yea, but I don’t want to tell you now, I’ll tell you later,” he explained.
“What are you doing after work today?” he asked.
I paused for a moment, and reflected deeply on how the past months, and how it felt as if I had been walking alone inside of my marriage. With all of my heart, I wished passionately to fix all that I had broken, but every damn thing I touched or tried was failing me.
“Nothing Rob,” I answered, “What’s up?”
“Let’s walk down to the Whiskey Blue at the W Hotel and have a few. I’ll run everything by you then.”
“Okay,” I replied, “cool.”
The rest of the day was unlike any other day I had ever experienced. I couldn’t believe it, but that day was worse than the dreadful day when I discovered how I‘d lost all of the money my wife and I had worked so hard to save.
On top of that, Troi Lynn wasn’t answering any of my calls. I even sent her several text messages; but she never responded; and the locator app we shared listed her cell as offline. With the actions I took in reaching out to my wife that continued to go un-acknowledged, I felt a crack fault within my heart. But what could I do? The shattering of my peace of mind was my own doing. It was my own doing, and I hoped like hell that whatever Robert had to discuss with me would be a resolution to my newly found issue. Especially with how the end of the day, had surpassed an entirely different level of hell that I never knew existed.
Not only was it bad enough that Mertelle was arrested, vanquishing with him the $12,000 I was supposed to receive for his contract renewal. Before I left the office, an urgent inner office memo notification arrived. A directive was made instructing everyone to cross their T’s and dot their I’s on all account records, due to an expedited suspense date on fiscal year close-out, because the firm was scheduled for a federal audit on August 7th. That was next Friday. Seven days from that very moment, I had to make sure the money I force balanced from the account I hacked was back in place, or my life would suffer yet another hellifying pinnacle of change.
After Robert and I were on our second round of Johnny Walker blue on the rocks, the words my boy spoke to me concerning his idea for making the money back that I so desperately needed to salvage my life, almost knocked me out of my seat. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“A flick?” I replied to Robert in complete dismay, “this is your brilliant idea? For me to make a porno flick in order to earn the money I need?”
“Yea man,” he replied very matter-o-factly, as he took another sip of scotch and ordered another round for both of us.
“But -” I started to say.
“But hell Mike,” Robert said cutting me off, “you’re in a jam man. Not only with Troi, but with your job and possibly your freedom at this point. Especially now that time has been sliced on you with this federal audit coming up next week. Man you need fast money, and believe me when I tell you that shooting a flick is the fastest money around.”
“But I’m married Robert,” I argued, “I LOVE my wife and I have NEVER cheated on her before, man I can’t -”
“Look Mike,” Robert said cutting me off again, “if you don’t do something, not soon but right now, you risk losing everything anyway.”
On that note, I took a long hard sip of scotch myself. It was gratefully serving its purpose of helping to soothe my nerves. I had been completely undone and out of sorts, since I sat down at the horror awaiting me at my desk that morning. Once again, I painted myself into a corner with seemingly no way out. The pros and cons of my situation were relentlessly inevitable. On one hand, I could indeed opt to tell the truth and endure the consequences of the demise of my marriage, my job and possibly even my freedom. And on the other hand, I could go through with Robert’s idea, and possibly save face in the end, only to burn in hell later.
What did I have to lose?
“Okay,” I said, “so if I do this, how in the hell do I go about it? I mean, evidently you must know someone or something.”
“It just so happens my dear brotha’, that I do,” Robert replied, “and he’s walking through the door right now.”
Rob had it all figured out. He proved to me how all of the years he and I had been friends, that he indeed knew me well enough to calculate the decision I would ultimately make.
The man who had just walked into the bar was Robert’s cousin. His name was Pharaoh, and he’d been in the business of making porn for almost 15 years. As soon as we drove up to his crib I understood why. He was sitting on at least 10 acres of land and 9,000 square feet of beautiful Victorian property out in Old Metairie, which was a suburb area on the outskirts of New Orleans. Robert had already informed his cousin that I needed to make some money as soon as possible, so he arranged for us to meet immediately.
As soon as Robert and I finished our third round, we hopped into Pharaoh’s Range Rover and drove out to his estate where he conducted a formal interview of me and casted me on the spot. Because he had so much land, there were five sets he had built to shoot his flicks on premises.
It turned out that Pharaoh was beginning a new series of scenes he was scheduled to begin shooting next Tuesday. He explained to me how he wanted to begin shooting sooner, but the women he selected for the scenes would not be available until then. As I sat there, my thoughts tightly embraced the Queen in my life that I truly felt was leaving me. I looked at my phone for at least the twentieth time that evening and Troi had not returned any of my messages. Did I even need to be where I was – doing what I was about to do? Was it even going to make a difference if she wasn’t going to be around?
The three of us sat for a while talking, and the more I listened to Pharaoh as he educated Robert and I on the protocols of his business, a very important question came to mind. My face – there was no way I could afford to have my face seen doing what I was about to attempt.
“I have a question Pharaoh,” I said leaning forward in one of the chase lounges facing the leather sectional he and Robert were sitting on across from me.
“I’m listening man,” Pharaoh replied.
“How will my identity be protected throughout this process?” I asked.
“Oh yea,” Robert agreed, “We can’t have my boy’s face seen like that cousin, that would ruin his life for sure.”
“Thanks baby,” Pharaoh said to one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen who suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
She brought out a tray of finger foods for us and a fresh round of drinks. The woman had to at least be a mixture of Brazilian, Asian and Indian and Black. Damn – she was flawless. Pharaoh started laughing as he watched how Rob and I were gazing at her.
“Close your mouths guys,” Pharaoh chuckled, “I know my baby’s beautiful.”
“Your baby?” Robert asked in surprise, “So you finally settled on being with one woman? Now that’s alright.”
“Yea Rob,” Pharaoh admitted, “being in this business desensitizes a man at some point, and one day I realized I needed a Woman with some substance. Her name is Kyrielle Duble’, and we’ve been together for almost five years now Robert. My Queen is about to graduate from Loyola with her second PhD in history.”
Robert and I shot each other a look with raised eyebrows and started laughing out loud. Gaining such a humanizing perspective on Pharaoh actually relaxed me more about the business I was going to be doing with him.
“Now back to business guys, and the issue at hand concerning Mikel’s face,” Pharaoh explained assuredly, “that’s not going to be a problem at all. The key to indemnifying one’s identity for safe keeping in this business is all about editing, angles and lighting.”
“Okay,” Robert and I replied in unison.
Then Pharaoh continued, “So your integrity will be protected Mikel, and copies of the scenes reviewed by you before they’re published.”
“Cool,” I said.
Pharaoh went on, “You can just call me the Heidi Plume of porno in the south. I’m a stickler for secrecy, unless the individual in question wants to be seen. True enough, I’m in the marketing of sex, but man you have no idea how many politicians and quote un-quote, respectable figures in our society I have on my books – all because of some fantasy they have. But you, you’re in a bind and that I understand. These other people who are basically just curious and disloyal to their mates, all they want to do is see themselves in action. They are the ones who need help.”
On the way home that night, there was one hell of a conversation going on inside of my head – there was so very much for me to think about. Yet still in all, I couldn’t believe that I agreed to do such a thing, and my mind and my nerves were beyond rattled and on edge like crazy.
It was pretty late when I made it in, and Troi was already asleep. To my surprise she left me a plate of food in the microwave as she used to do many months ago before I ruined both of our lives. Maybe my baby did still Love me? Though I was appreciative of her gesture of feeding me, my appetite was just about as absent as I was. I was so consumed with what I was about to do in the next few days, a numbness was upon me that I could not shake.
That evening I wrote Troi Lynn a very long letter. Maybe it was all of the Johnny Walker I drank, or maybe it was just a combination of everything that was finally coming to a head on me from the past year. I sat there writing to my baby like I had never written to her before. As every emotion inside of me flowed deeply through my body into that pen, and onto that paper, I realized how I had never felt so low before.
I prayed and prayed that if God helped me to get out of the mess I was in, He would see a brand-new side of my life, FOREVER.
Granted that I made some bad decisions in my efforts to surprise my wife, I had never lied to her before. The history between Troi and I went back so far, there was no room and no reasons for lies. She had always been the only woman I ever wanted, and the thought of touching someone else and them touching me made me think heavily about leaving. Maybe that’s what I was supposed to do – give up and just leave. Maybe Troi would be better off without me; because at the rate I was going, she damn sure wasn’t better off with me.
I finished the letter to my wife expressing all of my Love for her, as well as all of my fears about losing her. What else was there for me to do but bare my soul, considering what I was about to do. So I slipped it under the door that she kept locked between us, and forced myself to get some sleep.
Before I knew it, Tuesday had arrived. I made it a point to leave Troi a note at home that morning before I left for work about having to work late. My excuse to her for my tardiness was how the firm was preparing for an annual federal audit that Friday, which would cause me to be later than usual getting home. Lie number one. Damn.
Right when I pulled up at Pharaohs, Troi called me on my cell. I was so zoned out on what the rest of my evening was going to be like, the call actually startled me.
“Troi?” I said.
“Hey baby, how are you?” she asked.
“I’m – I’m okay,” I replied, “what about you?”
For a moment there was a brief pause – I could hear her breathing on the line. Then a wave of anxiety hit me hard.
Was this it? Was she about to tell me we were done?
“I read your letter… and I wanted to apologize for not taking the time to sit and talk with you yet about every-”
Long exhale… breathe Mikel… brrrr---eathe…
“It’s – it’s okay Troi,” I interjected, “I understand baby. I messed up,” I said.
“Yesssss – yes baby you DID,” she agreed emphatically, “and in a very big way. But if anything, there are three things I know for sure regardless of what has happened.”
I swallowed hard and said to her, “And what is that my wife?”
“What I know for sure my husband,” she answered, “is that I am STILL IN LOVE with you more than ever, that there is NO WAY IN HELL you are going to lose me, and when you tell me you are going to fix something and make it right – YOU ALWAYS DO.”
I had so many emotions coursing through my heart, my mind and my spirit at that moment, I didn’t know what to do. After not hearing my wife’s voice for almost a week with us being in the same house had driven me more than I realized. And for her to call, of all times for her to finally call me at the very moment I was about walk to the edge of a point of no return, was one hell of a sign for me.
“Look, I know you’re working hard over there,” she said, “Do your thing baby and I’ll see you when you get home.”
“Okay,” I replied.
“And the door won’t be locked.”
I smiled as if she could see me through the phone and said okay again.
“I Love you Mikel.”
“And I Love you more bae,” I responded.
I sat in my car for a while before walking into Pharaoh’s house. My nerves had been so on edge throughout the day that I left to get there about an hour early I needed time to down a few shots and clear my thoughts before validating my ticket to hell.
Despite the conversation I just had with my wife, like she said – I had to fix it. And as far as I could see; with the corner I painted myself into, and the extremely short turn-a-round time I had for replacing the $12,000, going through with what I came there to do was a significant step towards resolving everything.
Armed with a fifth of Johnny Walker to numb my insides, I took my position on the set that evening for the first two scenes, and governed myself accordingly. The entire time I was in cadence and copulation with the stranger who assumed one position after another with me; I kept telling myself over and over in my mind - You only have to do this for just this one night, and that’s it. Everything will be over soon. Luckily between the scotch and the Coca-Coca bottle shaped five-foot ten Brazilian Amazon selected to play my partner in crime, my nature more than rose to the occasion. As soon as I mastered the art of envisioning my wife’s face on her body, I was in rare form. Four hours and seven cuts later, my sins were complete. At least that’s what I thought.
I was sitting quietly in a daze of infidelity and deceit when I heard Pharaoh knock on the door to the dressing room, “Hey man, may I come in?”
“Sure,” I responded.
“Just wanted to commend you on a job well done Mikel,” he said walking towards me counting out the hard cold cash I just earned.
As I turned to reach for my money, he held it back for a moment and said, “Before I give you this, just in case you’re interested I have a bit of a proposition for you.”
“And what’s that?” I asked, bending over to tie my shoes.
“I didn’t realize how um… well-endowed you are Mr. Barabino,” Pharaoh said laughing, “I know you only planned on doing this for one night Mike, but I have to tell you man - there is a lot of money to be made in this industry by men of your stature with a tool the size of yours.”
“Is that so?” I said flatly, screaming silently in my mind how I wished he would just give me my damn money so I could leave.
Since I didn’t respond to Pharaoh’s last statement, he asked, “Well, are you interested in just how much more money you can make?”
Finally he handed over what was mine.
“Okay,” I said, “I’m listening, how much?”
“If you’ll shoot… let’s see... another seven scenes for me, I’ll add another 12 G’s to the twelve you just made.”
I started laughing. Was he serious? He could not have been serious.
“Seriously man,” Pharaoh said, “all jokes aside, it’s just that easy. $24,000 in three days isn’t bad.”
“Three days?” I asked, “So I’d have to come back tomorrow and Thursday?”
“Yep,” he answered, “tomorrow there will be a different actress for you to shoot with, and then two more and a pool scene on Thursday.”
I sat there in even more of a daze as ever at the opportunities that had just slapped me across the face – money – tax free money. Never in my life did I ever want to get caught up with such a thing again. It was costing me way too much for what I could never put a price on, my wife and my soul.
“So are you down or what?” Pharaoh asked, jolting me out of the deep thought I’d drifted into.
“Yea,” I replied, “I’m down. I’ll be here both days. Same time?”
“Same time,” he answered.
And the same time it was. I showed up for the next two days, did my thing again – and again – and again and a-damn-gin, made the fastest money I ever made in my life, and never looked back.
I thanked Robert for the opportunity he saved me with that quickly resolved my problems. From that moment on, he and I never spoke of what I did concerning the porno’s I made, nor the funds I force balanced. Even though my body was heavily on display, my identity was safe as Pharaoh assured me that it would be, and thanks to the finances I earned from my moon lighting adventure, everything fell into place. I was able to put the money back into the account unnoticed; I was able to get ahead on some of the bills and start saving again which gave Troi and I some badly needed room to breathe, and my anniversary trip went over beautifully with my Queen.
In no time, another year had almost passed and Troi and I were back on track and happier than ever. The affection was restored between us, the loving was back and we were growing and communicating more than ever before. Everything at my job was better than ever, and one of the eldest investors on the board advocated for me to become a full partner. The blessings in my life were in full swing.
All of my hard work paid off, and the times of feeling trapped and caught up now seemed like such a long time ago. I vowed never to make any more decisions without my wife, no matter how promising they seemed. From that moment forward, I promised Troi that I would not just view our relationship as a marriage and her as my wife; but that I would also view our marriage as a business and her as my business partner.
Our twelfth-year anniversary was approaching and once again I wanted to do something nice for my baby. This time I decided to do my best to get home before her every day the week of our anniversary, so I could have something special set up for her at the house.
Day three of my mission to please, I arrived home to discover a brown legal sized envelope in the mail addressed to me. It was from Troi Lynn’s half-brother – Daniel. What in the hell did he want? Daniel and I never saw eye to eye because he never believed that I was good enough for his sister. In fact, the last time I saw him, he’d provoked me so disrespectfully at our home, I practically beat the hell out of him.
Three years ago, Troi Lynn had thrown me a surprise birthday party. Daniel had too much to drink, and began speaking his mind about things he should have really kept to himself. When he became too aggressive and toxic, I was forced to put my hands on him. Troi was very upset about everything, but she knew her brother was wrong. It was as if he would go completely out of his way to disrespect me, and ever since then we never spoke of Daniel much.
The more I thought about what happened, the more I detested thinking about him, and threw the envelope into the trash without opening it. I had a lot to do with preparing the surprise I planned for my wife that evening. Things were unbelievably electrifying between us of late. I mean so electrifying that Troi dropped by my office that day around noon, and locked my office door behind her as soon as she walked in. Before I knew it, we were having one another for lunch on my desk and…
Wait… Someone was blowing my cell phone up with back-to-back messages. It vibrated off of the counter and onto the kitchen floor. I had eight text messages from…. Daniel? How in the hell did he get my number? Every last one of them read:
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY BROTHER-IN-LAW. DID YOU OPEN YOUR MAIL?
What? What in the hell? Did I open my mail?
The envelope I just threw away? I reached into the trash can for it, and inside was a compact disc that read PLAY ME. I went into the study, popped the disc into the computer, and was immediately blown away at what I saw. It was me. It was me in one of the porno flicks I made the year before. My cell phone never stopped vibrating with text messages as I stood there in awe, watching a version of myself I hoped to never see again. As the air around me became deathly still, my cell went from vibrating to ringing.
“Hello?” I answered, my eyes still glued to the computer monitor.
“Are you watching it?” the voice on the phone asked laughing. It was my brother-in-law.
How in the hell could he have known it was me? The scenes were so well edited it was impossible to see my face.
“What in the hell do you want Daniel?” I demanded, snatching the disc out of the computer and breaking it into several pieces.
“Baby I’m home!” Troi had just made it in as she yelled out to me, “Where are you?!”
“What in the hell do I want brother-in-law?” Daniel asked mockingly.
I could hear Troi’s heels clicking down the hallway towards the study as she headed in my direction.
“That’s what the hell I just said,” I replied heatedly as my blood began to boil.
My wife walked into the room and hugged me tightly around the waist, “Hey my baby,” she said standing on her tip toes to kiss me on the lips as I kissed her back, “How was the rest of your day today?” she asked.
“I want you,” my brother-in-law sneered pridefully, “or I’m gonna tell Troi EVERYTHING…”