It was a Thursday morning. By then I was married to a Mexican beauty named Melina. I had met Melina at one of the colleges I had been teaching. I will not write which college for the protection of the privacy of Melina, which is not her real name. Melina was five feet nine inches tall; her long hair was kohl black, and it plunged over her shoulders. She had sweet, soft lips; slender eyebrows; and sharp dark eyes decorated with long black lashes. Her joyous personality and soothing, sexy voice could make any man fall for her. I did. I do not know, however, whether that was love or lust. I had no understanding of the difference at the time.
I had earned my bachelor’s degree in journalism and my master’s degree in English. I had been teaching as a part-time faculty member at many colleges and universities, including Long Beach College, Golden West College, Rancho San Diego College (which is now Santa Ana College), and the California State University campuses of Fullerton and Dominguez Hills.
I was happy and content with my life then, but on that Thursday morning, I suffered a severe urinary-tract infection. I had been suffering from urinary-tract infections so often that doctors were puzzled yet prescribed antibiotics for me. This time, I saw a new young Vietnamese doctor who practically saved my life.
Dr. Sigel, the Vietnamese physician, looked at my medical chart, studied it for a while, and told me he was not happy with the persistent occurrences of urinary-tract infections. He referred me to a bladder specialist. I have forgotten the name of the specialist, but he was brilliant. He conducted a cystoscopy procedure and went through my penis into my bladder. I remember how painful that was. As he was inside the bladder looking around, he said, “Hmm! Ah! You have cancer, my friend.”
The words did not register because of the pain I was experiencing. He pulled the catheter out and explained to me that I had a tumor on the edge of the right side of the bladder. I had to go for surgery immediately.
Two days later, I was at the hospital having the tumor removed from my bladder. I stayed a couple of days at the hospital and left home with a catheter that I wore for two weeks. I had to be off work for a few months. I learned that the tumor was grade three and was rather serious.
I went to the City of Hope for chemotherapy, which was, at the time, a very new therapy for bladder cancer called BCG. Every Friday morning, I drove from my apartment in Belmont Shore to the City of Hope for my treatment.
As I have always done, and continue to do, I smiled at the divine comedy and what life often threw at me. I was never sad, worried, or afraid. To me, it was just part of the divine comedy of the life we all live. And to test me further, the divine comedy wanted to see how far I would stretch the line between fiction and reality. I discovered that my then wife, Melina, was having a longtime affair with her boss. I must admit that I was devastated; I was astonished and unable to tell whether I was living a fictional event or a real one. Evidently, her affair was not fiction. Or perhaps it was; who knows? Life at its very core is a fictional divine comedy.
This is what happened: Melina used to go to work at six in the morning. That day, I opened my eyes at the moment she was stuffing sexy underwear into her purse; I was surprised but did not say anything. When she came back that night, she was wearing a different dress than the one she had had on that morning. I asked her why. She said that the dress had gotten dirty and she had had to change. I never questioned where she got the clean dress from, but I knew it was hers. I opened the closet to see the dirty dress; it was spotted or splashed with what I believed was semen. When I confronted her, she swore it was milk for her baby—she had a young child who was not mine.
My training as a prosecutor and my journalistic talents went into full gear, and the interrogation started. Before long, Melina admitted that indeed she had had sex with her boss, but she said he had raped her. And here is her exact story: “He pushed me onto a couch, lifted my dress up, turned my underwear to the left, and inserted his erect penis into my vagina, but just before ejaculation, he pulled out and ejaculated on my face and dress.”
As I believe in law and order, I called the police. Two officers arrived within ten minutes. A male police officer spoke with me about various topics, and a female officer took Melina into the bedroom—to this day, I do not know what Melina told her. Both police officers gave us numbers for victims of crimes and said they would be in touch.
Believing Melina had been the victim of a horrendous crime, I was very compassionate toward her. It was not the best of times. It was a time of no lucidity; it was a divine comedy of fiction and nonfiction alike.
I, Alexandre Akpors, was still receiving chemotherapy at the City of Hope Hospital under the supervision of the great scientist, Dr. Robert Kawatchi. For readers who do not know what BCG is, it is live tuberculosis bacteria inserted into the bladder to burn the inner wall and the cancerous cells with it. It is terribly painful. Not to divert from the subject, but the divine comedy offers a reason for the existence of fast-food restaurants such as In-N-Out Burger and McDonald’s; it is to help people like me who are receiving BCG chemotherapy. I could not wait until I reached my home to pee, so I always stopped at the In-N-Out restaurant at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Second Street to get rid of the burning substance in my bladder. Isn’t that in itself foreboding?
On a Wednesday morning, my phone rang. It was Mr. De Salvo. He introduced himself as a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department and asked if I could meet him in his office. I agreed, got ready, and drove to the LAPD in downtown Los Angeles. No words can describe how ugly and uncivilized East Los Angeles is, but this is not our concern now. I arrived at the station, introduced myself, and was led to a small room. Inside were two quite overweight men, who introduced themselves by name as detectives.
“Please sit down, and make yourself comfortable. Do you want a cup of coffee?”
I accepted. They ordered coffee for me and told me I could smoke if I wanted to do so. I did. I slowly pulled out my pack of Dunhill cigarettes, took one, and placed the box on the desk; then I lit my cigarette, quite calmly, actually. I felt as though the detectives, disturbed by what they were about to tell me, were surprised at my calm and quiet.
“We are afraid we have some news that might be displeasing to you. We visited the person your wife accused of raping her, and we found that she actually lives with him. Her clothes are there, the neighbors know her, and they often have parties there. We are so very sorry to tell you this, but your wife is indeed living with Juan on a regular basis, and we do not know how she could be living with you too at the same time.”
I felt that the detectives were expecting me to faint, collapse, get angry, or react violently; they seemed quite amazed and looked at each other when I smiled, took a puff of my cigarette, and offered my appreciation for their work. They kept apologizing, and I kept asking them not to. To me, the incident was nothing but the divine comedy at work. What could be more divinely comical than what had happened? Had I crossed the fine line between fiction and reality? I did not think so. Had I stretched the elastic line between fiction and nonfiction in either direction? I did not think so. It is up to you, my dear reader, to decide whether this is fiction. I know it sounds so fictional, but it is just life in its clearest, most divine, and comical state.
Now, that my wife had been so deceptive was most perplexing and bewildering. My wife had always been so jealous if I even talked with a woman. She was so protective of me that I could never have imagined she would be with another man. How could that have been possible? I do not know; it is divine comedy indeed. I drove home safely with no incidents.
I, Alexandre Akpors, had already hired a famous female attorney, an attorney I knew. She had always been known to fight for women in situations where women were forced to do things they did not want to. I did not know what Melina wanted. I sent her to the attorney, who was able to settle Melina’s phony rape case for a few hundred thousand dollars.
I filed for a divorce and left the apartment. I did not want any of this immoral money Melina had received. At that point, I was face-to-face with the darkness, waiting for whatever would happen next. I stayed with my ex-wife for a couple of days. Soon after, I found what would become home for twenty-some years: 301 Bay Shore Boulevard in Belmont Shore. In this beautiful one-bedroom apartment on the bay, I would lead the most exciting life, and the divine comedy and I would become very close friends.
It might or might not be important to mention that Melina took me to court, asking for money. Her famous female attorney got her two hundred thousand dollars, with which Melina bought an apartment building. Because her divorce lawyer was a shark, and I was spending a lot on my lawyer and court expenses, I decided to agree on what Melina wanted, which was about forty thousand dollars. Soon after the court judgment, I filed for bankruptcy. Melina lost a great deal, since she had her apartment building under lien for her lawyer, who was shrewd and knew where I was going.
The divine comedy and I continued playing the game of life. At the apartment in Belmont Shore, although I was still receiving chemotherapy because my bladder cancer returned twice, I had parties and gatherings. The apartment was like an intellectual hub: people would come and go, serving themselves food and drinks, while I had a great time enjoying the comedy of life depicted in my friends’ lives, as well as mine.