NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 55

BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 53 The contrasts of my youth caught up to simpler, nicer work at Stella’s. The first ease with work I have ever had got the pretend-liberal bug to bite me. I had a bright, insane idea: to make a difference in the lives of others! Teenage girls, specifically — so they would never have to be like me and lie about anything at all in their lives. By night, I am an aspiring social worker in my fourth year of an extended evening Masters in Social Work program at University of Chicago. The program is three years, by the way. My husband — he’s funny, he’s good-looking, he’s a good egg, he’s blown our savings several times over on his ever-changing businesses not to mention “music” career — argued we could not afford it. He was correct. Marlon now moonlights as a catch-all “Computer Guy” and website specialist; his business sense is so sad he winds up rarely paid, just best friendly with any of his “clients.” By day, I work. By night, I study and schmooze. By weekends, I clean and shop. Once upon a time by mornings, until he and I stopped broaching it, I checked negative pregnancy tests. We already had the names: Marlon, Jr. for a boy, Pamela for a girl. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Thus my high school wish came to be a reporter, committed to a Northwestern bachelor’s in strict journalism: to know the truth, expose the truth and shame tall tales into hiding. I took up a journalism major to walk on the safe side: to make sure I mastered the art of the headline, could package the human feature with a twist, could cage my ideas in a proper word count. But I had little else in technique to pile on top of the tuition and the training — not a photographer’s eye, not a poet’s ear, not a missionary’s heart, not an anthropologist’s guts. This lack of talent sent me back home to Indiana. My failure to stand out turned me into a Corporate/ Customer Communications Manager for the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana: long perm, boxy mud-brown jacket, Joan and David pumps, copper nametag and all. I walked around the town where I grew up and I cringed when I ran into old, familiar faces — those who knew me better than my oblivious husband Marlon — less as the up-and-coming Chicago Sun-Times intern and more as the loony chick who lied a lot. 25 years after I last saw her and three years ago, I ran into Stella (drunk) at the Horseshoe Casino. She slurred: “How your old crazy Daddy doing?” I told her he was okay. To that, she slurred: “Come on and work for me.” My boss hollered at me that day, just because I asked him if all the casino secondhand smoke might be affecting my chances of conceiving. I quit that night. I showed up at Stella’s the next day instead. Thus I am now a content florist in Indiana, with palms and wrists full of thorn bites, with thighs firmed from all the stooping, with a predictable dollar bus ride, to a shop my father’s old girlfriend lets me work in. I used to think the scents of thistle and begonias and tulips and roses might make my husband remember the days when he first met me in uptown Chicago. Then, he couldn’t pass a street flower vendor without bringing me a few of their drippy stems from plastic buckets. The lush petals would just be opening up, predicting my last first kiss and our sleepless nights and my tender inner thighs over the next few days. Months marched on with little to no changes in my home. The only changes I’ve noticed are in my body and my mind. I don’t like them too much. 53 He finally met Stella, a fellow meter reader whom he had started with at Nipsco. I was ten. Stella quickly left the utilities job (“Them folks racist”) to start learning flowers. She cooked better dinners than I ever had in my life and, for a few years, shared my father’s bedroom tight next to mine. He apologized to me in advance for any noise they might make. He sat me down to say his wife had been gone as long as I had been born. He said it was the sugar. All this was okay with me. I preferred salty things anyway. I had figured out he was lying anyway. I have not seen Pam Grier on a television since. 3/29/15 11:41 AM