Micheline Bérnard always loved Lionel Desormeaux. Their parents were friends though that bonhomie had not quite carried on to the children.
Micheline and Lionel went to primary and secondary school together, had known each other all their lives—when Lionel looked upon Micheline he was always overcome with the vague feeling he had seen her somewhere before while she was overcome with the precise knowledge that he was the man of her dreams.
In truth, everyone loved Lionel Desormeaux. He was tall and brown with high cheekbones and full lips. His body was perfectly muscled and after a long day of swimming in the ocean, he would emerge from the salty water, glistening.
Micheline would sit in a cabana, invisible. She would lick her lips and she would stare. She would think, “Look at me, Lionel,” but he never did.
When Lionel walked, there was an air about him. He moved slowly but with deliberate steps and sometimes, when he walked, people swore they could hear the bass of a deep drum. His mother, who loved her only boy more than any other, always told him, “Lionel, you are the son of L’Ouverture.”
He believed her. He believed everything his mother ever told him. Lionel always told his friends, “My father freed our people. I am his greatest son.” In Port-au-Prince, there were too many women. Micheline knew competition for Lionel’s attention was fierce. She was attractive, petite. She wore her thick hair in a sensible bun.
On weekends, she would let that hair down and when she walked by, men would shout, “Quelle belle paire de jambes,” what beautiful legs, and Micheline would savor the thrilling taste of their attention. Most Friday nights, Micheline and her friends would gather at Oasis, a popular nightclub on the edge of the Bel Air slum. She drank fruity drinks and smoked French cigarettes and wore skirts revealing just the right amount of leg.
Lionel was always surrounded by a mob of adoring women. He let them buy him rum and Cokes and always sat at the center of the room wearing his pressed linen slacks and dark tee shirts that showed off his perfect, chiseled arms.
At the end of the night, he would select one woman to take home, bed her thoroughly, and wish her well the following morning. The stone path to his front door was lined with the tears and soiled panties of the women Lionel had sexed then scorned.
On her birthday, Micheline decided she would be the woman Lionel took home. She wore a bright sundress, strapless. She dabbed perfume everywhere she wanted to feel Lionel’s lips. She wore high heels so high her brother had to help her into the nightclub.
When Lionel arrived to hold court, Micheline made sure she was closest. She smiled widely and angled her shoulders just so and leaned in so he could see everything he wanted to see within her ample cleavage. At the end of the night, Lionel nodded in her direction. He said, “Tonight you will know the affections of L’Ouverture’s greatest son.”
There is No “E” in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You Or We by Roxane Gay - Guernica