Maybe: Iris - I apologize for how I treated you when we broke up and during our relationship.
Yoel let the message sit untouched as if Iris’ number would magically disappear from his phone. However, it didn’t happen. He wasn’t dreaming and he didn’t think that he was crazy enough to be hallucinating.
Maybe: Iris - I apologize for how I treated you when we broke up and during our relationship.
Those words had been all that he thought he wanted to hear for the last six months. A simple apology and acknowledgment that he had been sorely mistreated by someone he had only ever wanted to love and cherish until his dying breath. Instead, his kind heart and pure intentions had been taken for granted. His fingers twitched above his phone screen as he wondered whether to respond or to delete the message. He was just starting to get to know Caché and she was making him happy to be around her.
Seeing Iris’ name pop up made Yoel reflect on everything he had experienced with her. He had to know what he should do…
2002 - 2011
When Yoel was a boy, he saw Iris from time to time at every mass church gathering he and his mother attended. He usually pays no attention to her, noting her as the angry friend of a girl that he actually had a crush but never admits to. Over the years, he gets closer to Iris, befriending her. Before long, the two exchange numbers once Yoel finally gets a cellphone and they talk every so often.
Also during one of the church gatherings, Yoel was —
Yoel and Iris grow close during the summer months as Yoel prepares to leave for his freshman year of college. Iris reveals to Yoel that her mother was told by God that she and Yoel would get married. Out of youthful lust and vigor, Yoel decides that he wants to put a pause on his and Iris’s relationship while he is at college. Iris agrees.
Alone in his dorm room, Yoel gets nowhere in his pursuit of relationships or sex during his freshman year. His mind begins to dip into depressive suicide and the cold of the outside world makes him seek out Iris for warmth. She had moved on though, dating another man. Despite this, she stays on the phone with him the entire night, talking him through his emotions. After this, she and Yoel still talk and see each other at church events.
January - March 2013
Iris leaves with her college program out of the country. True to the adage. “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, the two bond while she’s away. However, Yoel is again distracted by another woman and in March, decides to date another girl in Baltimore, named Destiny.
June 2013 - September 2014
Yoel and Iris speak infrequently and see each other less often until she vents to him about the situation with her boyfriend, an older man that she’s stuck in relationship limbo. Yoel gives her objective advice and she decides to stay with him.
Annoyed at Iris’ constant crying about her boyfriend and remembering what her mother had told him, Yoel plots to be with Iris. He gets invited to her dorm room to hang out. The two do so. In the heat of the moment, the two of them begin to kiss and on the cusp of having sex, Iris tearfully stops Yoel. She takes him home afterward. Later on in the month, Iris breaks off her relationship with her boyfriend.
Yoel catches the bus from his home to Towson to visit Iris at her dorm where she decides to stay rather than go home. A blizzard occurs while he’s there, snowing them in together. Cuddling, passions flare but Iris stops them from going any further. Interested in pursuing her now (with whatever weird savior complex he developed in his formative years), they make their relationship official on Christmas Eve.
Iris is relentlessly bullied by her church peers, who state that she “hopped from musician dick to musician dick” after she stopped dating her ex. Upset at these accusations, Iris distances herself from Yoel in public church spaces. Yoel sees Iris’ ex, Michael at her church, compares himself favorably but still feels inadequate.
February - March 2015
Yoel buys Iris flowers for Valentine’s Day. Two weeks later, goes with her to a busted-ass arcade for her birthday. During the event, one of Iris’ friends mentions her ex contacting them for the location of the party while Yoel stands there. After an awkward look, Iris dismisses the mention of him and carries on as if nothing was said. On the night of Yoel’s mother’s birthday dinner after church, Iris comes along with Yoel. During one of Yoel’s uncle’s stories, he looks down and sees Iris texting her ex. Later that night, Yoel confronts her, asking if she’d ever stop talking to Michael for him. Iris replies flatly, “I don’t know. Probably not.”
Yoel obsessively listens to the Coldplay song, “Warning Sign”.
Iris graduates with her Bachelor’s. Yoel, his mother, and Iris’ mother ride together to the event. Yoel is ecstatic and buys Iris flowers, a card, and an elephant stuffed animal (her favorite animal). After she walks and he loudly celebrates her, the two take pictures and talk with her friends and fellow graduates. Iris and her friends run to the bathroom. Iris leaves her phone with Yoel and he sits, waiting for them to return. Iris’ phone vibrates in his hand and he looks down.
Michael: When you’re done for the day, call me, love.
Yoel unlocks Iris’ password-less phone and enters the thread. Messages span for months, from before their first kiss in November until mere minutes ago.
Iris: My mom is here now.
Michael: Ok. Hey, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to your graduation but I want you to know that I love you so much, baby. And I’m proud of you.
Iris: Thank you, Mike. I love you too ❤️
Yoel’s first instinct is to throw Iris’ phone as far as he can then stomp it into the concrete. However, he decides not to. He locks Iris’s phone, leaving it on the message thread. When Iris returns from the bathroom and takes her phone, she immediately unlocks it. Her face of surprise flashes for a millisecond before shifting into mounting fear. Yoel silently watches as Iris distances herself from her friends so that she can talk to Yoel alone. Yoel, seething in tranquil fury, begins to speak.
“What’s crazy is, I knew you were doing this shit with him still. No matter how many times you said you would do better or try, I couldn’t believe you. But I tried so hard. I let my guard down,” he said. He lifted his fist to her stomach as if he had a knife. “It’s like I kept stabbing you in your stomach and asked you to forgive me when I pulled it out and said, ‘I’ll never do it again. I love you’ as I slid it back in.” He simulated the motion of stabbing, increasing the level of force until he stopped just short of punching her in the stomach.
Yoel’s regret and shame pile onto him as soon as the act is over but the deed is done. Iris is silent as they walk to the car then drive to her graduation party at her aunt’s. During the party, Iris holds Iris’ little cousin and Yoel takes a selfie with the both of them. He apologizes to Iris, promising to never lay hands on her again while she says nothing about her ex. Yoel later imagines that their son would look exactly Iris’ baby cousin.
June - July 2015
Iris shades Yoel on Twitter over an argument the two had, stating he’s childish. Yoel rushes to her house in his mother’s car and demands Iris come outside to talk to him.
When she’s in the car, Yoel makes another speech.
“Are you fucking dumb? Do you know how much shit I’ve forgiven you for and overlooked to stay with your ass for you to get on Twitter and try to embarrass me? How about I embarrass your goofy ass? You fucking a married nigga from your church in his mother’s basement but you want to air me out? Bitch, fuck outta here, yo.”
“You need to go to therapy. Don’t talk to me like that,” Iris replies quietly, her anger simmering as well. Yoel’s heard stories about Iris and her street connections. Her mother’s kindness to the children that grew up with Iris in the community has made some of the block boys very loyal to them. Iris brazenly told a story about one of her exes cheating on her and how she told some men in the community about it and the boy was beaten and robbed later. But, Yoel doesn’t care.
“I’ll talk to you any fucking way I feel. Go crawl back to that nigga you love so much, yo.”
Iris gets out of the car and Yoel speeds off.
Iris texts him but he ignores it.
He absorbs and understands that he broke up with Iris. His mind searches for ways to get vengeance and ways to relinquish the pain in his heart over his rejection. He’s sad but not depressed. Not yet.
Fate reunites him with his ex, Destiny who now has an apartment extremely close to his mother’s house. The two catch up briefly and Destiny invites Yoel over. After giving him a tour, Destiny and Yoel lay on the bed. Old lusts flare and the two have sex. Relieved from his sadness and anxiety, briefly, Yoel recounts to Destiny what Iris did. Unbothered by Yoel’s reveal, Destiny tells Yoel to do whatever he needs to do for himself.
Yoel leaves with the youth group of his church for a national youth event in Tampa. While there, he flirts with multiple young women his age, entertaining several situations but never acting on them. Iris texts him an apology. When Yoel lands back in Baltimore, Iris is there. She takes him home where he drops off his luggage and the two go to watch the fireworks in Columbia. While waiting for the festival to start, they park in the garage, and the two get testy resulting in Yoel fingering Iris in the front seat. He considers the beginning of a turn in their relationship.
Iris also begins teaching Yoel how to drive, letting her drive her car when they’re together.
August - September 2015
Iris officially ceases all contact with Michael, a major victory for Yoel. Yoel also finally gets his own car, making it his duty to pick-up Iris for anything they’re doing. The months go by without a hitch, save for a discussion on sexual reciprocity. Yoel continues to finger and give oral sex to Iris whenever she wants but when he begins to unbuckle his pants for his turn, Iris suddenly comes under conviction and says, “This feels like sin.” This sexual frustration, coupled with the nagging concerns about Iris’ unfaithful and lying past, puts Yoel on edge constantly. Although he takes Iris back, he’s bitter, hurt, and unable to let go. The lack of reciprocity ends on Yoel’s 21st birthday when Yoel and Iris exchange oral sex. However, Iris is immediately regretful and distant afterward. They also see Straight Outta Compton five times in three different theaters because they were in love with the movie.
October - November 2015
Yoel attends the choir musical at Iris’ church, cheering her on. When it’s over, he greets her but again, she’s dismissive towards him in public. Afterward, Yoel and Iris go to his aunt’s house for dinner. Iris receives a message on Facebook Messenger from someone named Patrick. She lets Yoel know that she received a message, shows it to Yoel, then brings the phone back to her face. Yoel waits for the message to get deleted in the reflection of her glasses, but that time never comes.
Tensions again flare between them for weeks heading to the month of November. One day before class, Iris texts Yoel.
Iris: Yoel, would you hate me if I went on a date with Patrick?
Yoel, completely bewildered by the question, calls Iris. After a twenty-minute screaming match, Yoel marches into his classroom and slams his bag down.
They continue debating with each other with Yoel asking if Iris would allow him to go on a date with somebody that hit his DMs. Iris says, “You already fucked somebody else!” and reveals she knew about Yoel leaving her house after one of her friends saw him in that area. Yoel never admits or denies the truth. Regardless, Iris doesn’t press the issue.
Iris helps Yoel complete multiple film projects for his class including a GoPro movie, Sunday Candy, and a short film, Red Velvet, a neo-noir about a woman in red tracking down a man who stole her cake. They venture to the computer lab on campus where Iris straddles Yoel’s lap while he works.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens lands in theaters on December 18, 2015. Yoel doesn’t see it on opening night, instead opting to go with Iris for their one-year anniversary the next week. She says that she enjoyed it, but her level of distance indicates the opposite. Yoel gives Iris a necklace for Christmas and Iris gives Yoel Batman cufflinks. A snowstorm keeps them from seeing each other on New Years’.
The relationship begins to rot, worms and maggots planted in the last year festering now. The distance and absence make neither of the hearts fonder. Yoel sees Iris and walks over to her to hug her. The hug is brief and almost awkward. The two sit in Yoel’s car.
“I didn’t like the way you looked when you saw me,” Iris says.
“What are you talking about?” Yoel replies. “I drove all the way down here on these iced-out streets to see your ass but because I didn’t run over and swing you around, you’re mad?”
“Not mad,” Iris said. Yoel eases in and Iris comes forward to kiss him. There is nothing between them any longer. Not a spark or flicker of life. Iris leans away, tears welling in her eyes. “Just disappointed.”
A week and a half later, Iris attends a work party, wearing a black dress with fishnet sleeves and a skirt to match. Yoel asks her to text him when she’s home safely from the party as she had been drinking. The entire night goes by without a notification. Yoel loses sleep worrying and leaving messages. His calls go straight to voicemail and Yoel assumes the worst.
The next morning, a Sunday at 11:07AM, Iris finally replies to Yoel’s messages.
Iris: Hey, I’m fine. I’m not dead. I decided to stay the night over at Patrick’s house.
Iris: Nothing happened, Yoel. We just ordered food and played Madden.
Yoel: You know what, yo…I hope you got what you wanted.
This is the last time Yoel speaks to Iris.
February - March 2016
Yoel obsesses over Iris and Patrick. After a quick Google search, cross-referenced by Facebook, Yoel had Patrick’s address. This level of obsession fills Yoel with shame. He pens a letter to Iris begging for her to accept him back into her life. He seals it in an envelope with a card and drives to her home to drop it off. He watches her Instagram and Twitter accounts for updates, cringing at every mention of love, loyalty, or. Patrick. He delves into NyQuil chugging for the first time since his freshman year in college. His mother finds him the next morning. Yoel posts sad, depressing statuses on Facebook, tweets Drake lyrics, and posts celebrity relationship pictures with sad captions like, “If only". All of this is an honest cry for help that is unheard by everyone that says they love him. The only solace Yoel truly finds is in writing.
June 25, 2016
Yoel remembered every moment so vividly in the two seconds he took to re-read the message and decide if he was going to respond. He reflected on the good times. The laughter and the crying. He reflected on the bad times. All the screaming and the lying. He wasn’t pure or absent of guilt either, his reflection showed. He’d repressed the memory of even thinking of putting his hands on her. His heart was heavy with the weight of the grief, guilt, anger, and confusion he felt. Why would she text him now? What happened? Yoel’s curiosity was piqued at that question. He had to know more.
He tempered his response…
Yoel: Can’t say I forgive you, but I appreciate the message fr.
Iris: Oh, you just all of a sudden started talking like a Baltimore nigga lol.
Yoel: …what did you text me for?
Iris: To apologize. I was wrong for how I treated you and I think it came back on me in a way I could feel it. Patrick got a girl pregnant before we got together so he just found out that she’s pregnant. He chose to be with her. My mother told me that we should’ve broken it off earlier but I didn’t listen.
Yoel: So it took a nigga leaving you for his actual family for you to realize you were shitty to me?
Iris: Unfortunately, yes.
Yoel: Glad you learned something at least.
Yoel was content to end the conversation there, all but locking his phone with a furious click of his thumb. He wanted to see her face now and look into her eyes to see how sincere this apology that she made was, but how he could determine whether or not she was telling the truth now when she never had before? He hadn’t wanted an apology now.
He could exist not acknowledging her existence, whether past or present and move on in whatever broken mind state he was in. There was some peace in not knowing whether she felt any remorse but there was none in trying to determine whether she was being truthful in her repentance or not. He mulled this, still sitting in his car a mere three blocks away from Iris’.
The engine to his 2001 Avalon ignited and Yoel pulled off, heading to Pratt and then MLK. Then, he went home.