Fana is disconnected. She has few friends. It seems she only writes in her diary when things are going wrong. Could a month hiatus from journal writing mean she has connected with someone?
May 2, 2015
I miss college. There, I wrote it. I didn’t know I missed it until I logged on to stupid Facebook and saw Melanie’s pictures. There she was in New York with Kira, Diana, Euphoria and Marcus hamming it up in all the usual tourist places–Times Square, FAO Schwartz, some random subway, and in front of a flashing Broadway show sign–that screamed, ”I’m living an epic life with my fabulous friends.” Was I in any of the pictures? No, of course not. Those were my college friends, the operative word being, “were.” I can’t help that those friendships were not as ”ride or die” as I thought they were.
After graduation, we had pledged to keep in touch. It was easier for them since they all got jobs within a doable driving distance of each other, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia. I ,on the other hand, had moved back to Atlanta and gotten a teaching job at home. I tried to stay in touch with them, constantly texting, sending direct messages, and reaching out on our shared social media sites. I visited them more often than they visited me. When I got really busy that first year of teaching and couldn’t extend the effort, they just forgot about me.
Why hadn’t I seen this in college? Was I always a 6th wheel? Maybe I was. Chalk it up to being an only child. In my exuberance for interaction with other kids my age, I often come on too strong, taking the initiative in well…everything when it comes to friendships. In high school, I had friends, but they only lasted as long as whatever brought us together…Student Council, Yearbook Staff, Band…whatever I was involved in.
So I miss college. Perhaps my friendships were superficial or tailored made by me. But they were existent. Maybe I don’t miss college as much as I miss having friends.
Arrggh! I stopped and reread what I wrote above and it reads, ’mildly depressed feel sorry for myselfish.’ I’ll stop writing now. I’ve been out of college for almost two years. Get over it, Fana!
May 8, 2015
Fourteen days of school left and the last day cannot come too soon. Most of my 5th graders don’t want to do any work. They are done. Finished. After two grueling weeks of bubbling in multiple choice tests while sitting quietly, they want to break loose. I can’t say I blame them.
Full disclosure. I say I’m ready for summer, but I’m really not ready. After getting used to not getting up at the butt crack of dawn, not having a mound of work to do that grows unaided, I’ll be bored fast. People think Atlanta is a black mecca, the black promised land where you’ll find instant connections with all kinds of black folks. That may be true for some, but not for me. I could make more of an effort. I do sometimes. I joined several MeetUp groups: Singles in Teaching, SistasRead, MyBlackNaturalisBeautful, and BlackProfessionalsConnecting. These efforts were crushed by my talent for creating reasons I shouldn’t go to this or that event. When I couldn’t come up with a reason, a phone call to my mom would do the trick. ”Fana, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Do you know these people? These groups are probably fronts for sex trafficking….” I’d let my dear murder mystery obsessed mother scare me into staying home.
So…aside from three professional development conferences this summer and my trip to Dallas, TX with my Mom for the family reunion, my summer plans are pretty much wake up, walk my dog, watch court shows, read, try not to surf social media (makes me sad), masturbate, nap, visit my mom, return home, bed, repeat. I might throw in a movie here or there.
Maybe I’ll sign up to teach summer school. Easy money.
May 20, 2015
I went to church with my mom yesterday. I really had a great time. I didn’t think I would since I hadn’t been in about 6 months. I knew everyone would shame me on the down low. ”It’s so good to see you, Fana. You are teaching in this state aren’t you?” or ”Fana, you aren’t a CE Chrisitian are you? We are open aside from Christmas and Easter, dear.” I don’t have anything against church. I consider myself a Christian. It’s just that I feel so disconnected at church. My mom encouraged me to join the Singles Ministry, teach in Children’s Church, or sing in the choir, but I don’t, just won’t. I was so overwhelmed with school that first year. I always found a reason to stay home when I first moved back.
I wish I was more like my mom. After my dad died, when I was 3, she poured everything she had into me. She was a postal worker for 25 years until she retired last year. She had a ”guy friend,” Sam, who helped us out, driving us to and fro until my mother bought a reliable car, picking me up from after care…just helping us. I never thought Sam and my mom were more than friends. He never stayed the night. Nothing more than a platonic hug passed between them. But I got the gist of their relationship, that it was a relationship, when they broke up. I overheard part of their argument. ”I’ve waited too damn long and followed all your damn rules! Fana will be graduating from high school! I’m tired of waiting and pretending!” he’d said. I didn’t hear my mother’s response, but after that day, Sam didn’t come around anymore. I was sad at the thought I had something to do with their break up. I tried to talk to my mom about Sam, but she changed the subject, saying it was her business.
My mom is mysterious that way. Now she is dating Brother Thomas Knight from church. I reason because I’m a grown woman now, she feels free to do what she wants. My mom has a lot of friends too, friends from high school, friends from work, friends from church, friends from her salon…she never meets a stranger. I don’t understand it. My mom is not much of a talker either, but she wins friends and influences people. Why the hell didn’t that rub off on me??? I am the opposite of mysterious. When I meet someone new, I launch into a monologue about myself as if I have to get it all out. To my credit, I don’t do that much anymore as I rarely meet new people.
Arggh! I’ve reread this entry and it sucks. When I die, people reading this will think I was pathetic. If I died, who would come to my funeral? My mom for sure and extended family. The extended family will come to support my mom so they don’t count. My principal would come and possibly some of the teachers on my grade level. They like me because I’m helpful. I always volunteer to do the grunt work. Would Melanie, Kira, Diana, Marcus, or Euphoria come? Probably not. They’ll be too busy on a college friends cruise or something. Would Bernard come? He still lives in Atlanta. I know because of Facebook. Probably not. Considering we only dated for a year in high school.
This is too depressing. Maybe I’ll go with my mom to Wednesday Night Prayer meeting.
May 24, 2015
Another Sunday at church. Yippee… No erase the snark. I had a good time…again. Maybe God is spreading some good blessings my way. I have a date tomorrow night!
It’s not a date so much as an outing with colleagues from school. My math coach, Karen is hosting a party to celebrate her new job promotion to an Assistant Principal and she invited me. ”Come on, Fana, some interesting guys will be there. My sister is in charge of the guest list. She knows the coolest people,” she had said.
I accepted without reservation. I really like Karen. She has always been very helpful to me, especially that first year when I felt like I was barely treading water. When I would doubt my pedagogical ability she would encourage me with compliments and general positivity.
Good news, finally! I have a genuine event to go to and on Memorial Day. I’m killing two birds with one stone.
June 30, 2015
I’m mad at myself. I’ve had the most thrilling month and none of it…not one word of it is in my diary. Is my diary only for the depressing moments in my life? I guess so. It shouldn’t be.
Going to Karen’s party changed my life. I met the most amazing person there and we are dating! Her name is Flora. I am giddy so giddy that I can hardly contain myself. That the one I’m dating is a,”she” and that her name is Flora…Fana and Flora?! She is beautiful, a Kearran Giovanni look alike from Major Crimes. She says I look like Gina Ravera from The Closer only with natural hair. We’ve had our share of Detective Amy Sykes meets Detective Irene Daniels role plays.
I’m totally in love with Flora, but no one knows but her friends. Considering my lack of real friends and that I was, until a month ago, heterosexual who can I share this with? My mother has met Flora, but she thinks we are just friends. I feel the need to start a new journal. I need to record my joys. Flora is a joy.
Author’s Note: Trying to get my creative juices flowing to begin a new work in progress.
I’ve been updating my fanfiction lately. I really had no intentions, but every now and then a reader will contact me with an appeal to update. Usually, I can’t resist a request and so I update. Then the writing fever hits me, the characters start bugging me with their dialogue noise and I’m off. I’ve written a couple of original pieces, but there aren’t any readers for those.
Perhaps one day I’ll write a full story without expectation of it being read. The best, most effective way to write is to become addicted to the writing process, when it’s just you, in a room alone, with your laptop and the characters. It’s best to align oneself with the space between your imagination and the paper and not the reader.
I began following this one young author’s blog today. I even bought her book. She reminded me of me when I self-published. Unlike me, she was wooed by a publisher.
Today’s episode of Justice with Judge Mablean has me reflecting on the perils of existing while black. In this episode, the plaintiff, Jerome Mills, sued David Green for emotional distress. According to Mills, he was outside a restaurant phoning his mother to pick him up from a restaurant he’d just patronized. The defendant, Green approached him and began asking for ID. Mills ignored him. Green responded by patting Mills down while repeatedly asking for ID. Mills, now alarmed, asked why. Green threw Mills to the ground. Others come on the scene. Mills was handcuffed. Once the authorities came, Mills was checked out and found to be as he said, “a regular person,” and let go.
This was a textbook case of racial profiling. The defendant Green is a security guard at a strip mall. According to him and in textbook fashion, there had been a rash of robberies in the area. He received reports that a man dressed in a hoodie, baggy pants, and sunglasses was acting suspiciously. Green said he approached Mills from the back and saw him moving around suspiciously.
Jerome Mills is not only a black man. He is blind.
Judge Mablean asked Green an important question. “Why didn’t you identify yourself as a security guard.”
David Green asserted that he wore a uniform so Mills should have complied. At the time he said he didn’t know Mills was not sighted. Mills as a blind man couldn’t see the uniform. Judge Mablean asked why Green didn’t see the cane Mills carried. The cane along with the glasses were telling clues that Mills was blind.
The Judge ruled on behalf of the plaintiff.
Why is this a textbook case? Some “concerned” citizens saw a black man, the most important descriptor for racial profiling, wearing sunglasses, a hoodie, and baggy pants, standing outside a restaurant. They alerted the (obviously) untrained security guard. He was untrained in proper protocol but very trained in the socio-cultural morays of the day, i.e. black=criminal. He approached the presumed black criminal from behind–Green is shorter than Mills and probably unarmed–with demands for compliance. He didn’t care that this was a human being with rights and the privilege of being treated with courtesy. Green thought Mills upon “sight” of his whiteness should have complied without reason. Had Green been armed, he probably would have shot Mills.
Judge Mablean made good points. Without notification, Mills, blind or sighted, didn’t have to comply. Green could have been an assailant she explained. He could have been impersonating a security guard. Green lost his cool at one point saying he wasn’t going to risk going home dead to his two children just to inform Mills he was a security guard. Translation: He had determined that Mills was a criminal on sight, probably armed, and undeserving of rights.
As is custom on these shows, the plaintiff and defendant usually interrupt each other and the judge repeatedly. Judge Mablean admonished Mills for this a number of times during the episode. She did this with Green as well, but not as much. She admonished Mills for having an attitude during the incident as well. She told him he needed to deescalate the situation for his own safety. I didn’t agree with that. There is much data that shows no amount of compliance or “niceness” will stop the law enforcer from using inappropriate force with the presumed black criminal. The racially profiled victim is at the mercy of the law enforcer and their level of fear and aggression.
Had Jerome Mils been white he would have been treated differently. I bet the “concerned” citizens wouldn’t have reported him as suspicious. You are only suspicious if existing while black. If you are existing while black, there is no presumption of innocence or benefit of the doubt. David Green didn’t understand any of the admonitions Judge Mablean gave him about his duty to inform. He saw no problem with his actions. He was afraid, essentially, afraid of the black monster before him. How does one combat that fear in so many who wear badges and carry guns? If it’s not fear, it is outright aggression. Both are equally dangerous.
This is the second episode of this sort of case. There was another case of a white man suing a black employee of the business where he was employed as a security guard. He blamed the employee for causing him to lose his job. The black employee accused the security guard of harassing him as he entered and exited the business to and from work. The black employee accused the security guard of telling racist jokes and subjecting him to daily searches each time he left work. He didn’t do this to any of the other employees who all happened to be white. The black employee audio recorded the security guard and caught the white security guard saying he would do to him what George Zimmerman did to Trayvon Martin. When the black employee sent the recording to the owners, the security guard was fired. Judge Mablean ruled on behalf of the black employee.
I wonder if the producers solicit these cases? I was surprised to see two of this sort.
“Granny, please. Please let me go with you to the dump? I won’t tell Charlie, Wink, and Tater when they get back from the store. I promise. Please, please, please!” Tamarind said, her face contorted as if she were in pain. Both of her hands were clasped together palm to palm with fingers intertwined. Tamarind looked to be in deep supplication to God, but instead this was her extreme begging mode. She was unsure if it was having any affect on her grandmother who was sitting in the well-worn leather recliner bent at the waist tying her black boots. Whenever Tamarind saw her don these scuffed boots, she knew Granny was headed to one place, the dump. They called it the dump, but it was a landfill. It took Granny 20 minutes to get there by foot. In addition to the trash company, anyone with a means to haul their junk could dump it there. Granny treated the dump like an area flea market–her own treasure hunting ground that she visited once a week trolling for treasures amongst the trash. She mostly went alone unless she needed help with some large find. In those cases, her youngest son Dodge would drive Granny up in the truck. Her last big piece was a dark wood chifforobe with both doors hanging on ‘by a thread.’ Now it sat across from Granny’s bed, its doors rehinged and shiny with shellac.
Tamarind’s cousins, Charlie, Wink, and Tater had sneaked away to Nell’s Corner Pantry with Uncle Bill. She knew they had deliberately tricked her uncle into leaving without her. He never would have left her since a trip to Nell’s Corner Pantry was every kid’s dream. The store’s shelves were lined with the usual convenience store wares, but most importantly, there were many buckets of assorted penny candy, all varieties of potato chips, a big freezer of ice cream, and a couple of coolers full of soda.
Tamarind didn’t always get along with her three cousins, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. To Tamarind, it seemed like they were always mad at her with the exception of the first day their parents brought them to spend the summer with Granny. Tamarind would have a bag of toys to share. They’d smile and chum up to her for a while. After they had taken the toys and broken most of them, they found ways to tease and taunt her. She tried her hardest to get them to like her. She didn’t know why they treated her so badly. Was it because she was an only child? Was it because she and her mom lived ‘up the road’ in Atlanta?
They teased her because of the way she spoke. “Tamarind, you ain’t better-er-er than us ’cause you can talk proper-er-er,” they’d say before circling around her, moving their hands like they were revving up a riding a motorcycle.
They teased her because she loved to read. Tamarind often read to her Baby Doll Susan. One afternoon, her girl cousin, Tater, zipped by her on the porch reading to Baby Doll Susan. “That’s so dumb reading to a dead doll, you stupid head,” Tater said, snatching Baby Doll Susan and the book from Tamarind’s hand in one quick swoop.
“Stop it, Tater! Give me Baby Doll Susan,” Tamarind screamed. Charles and Wink came out of nowhere. Tater tossed the book to lanky Charles. Tamarind ran off the porch and flung herself in front of Wink before his chubby hands could catch Baby Doll Susan. She reached for her pink stocking leg. Tater pulled back hard and separated Baby Doll Susan’s head from her body. Beside herself with shock and grief, Tamarind ran inside the house crying. Leaving the three perpetrators sniggling behind her. They had gotten in trouble. Granny made them go to bed early and banned them from getting any rainbow sherbet that night. She’d fixed Baby Doll Susan even though her head never set quite right again.
That incident blew over, but they were still teasing her ever chance they got. She figured they were mad at her today for beating them in the last two games of hide-and-seek, winning dollars from each of them. She had planned to buy her cousins something at the Corner Store with her winnings combined with the money her mother had mailed her. Tamarind wanted a bag of Hot Fries potato chips, a strawberry crunch ice cream bar, a bottle of cherry Budwine, and a bag of penny candy. But now they were gone to the store without her and without paying up. Since it was doubtful for anyone to get back up the road after Uncle Bill returned, Tamarind was out of luck. Her hopes for buying anything that day were dashed.
Tamarind wasn’t a stranger to her share of teasing from her uncles, aunts, and cousins. But it was always done in fun. They were laughing with her and not at her. She pronounced all her syllables because that’s what Mrs. Bledsoe at the afterschool program taught her to do. She loved to read books because her mother had read to her every night. Sometimes her mother would fall asleep in midsentence. During those times, Tamarind would finger flip her mothers lips for fun until she became irritated with the unfinished story. So it became necessary for her to read to her herself if she wanted to get to the end of the book. Her family’s teasing was okay. It made her feel special. They would say things like, “Where is Tamarind…somewhere with her head in a book?” or “Tamarind, come and say your Easter speech for us?” After she recited it, they may have mocked the way she said ‘Calvary’ or ‘resurrection’ and make her perform it again just to hear it. This attention was fun. It made her feel different in a special way.
Charlie, Wink, and Tater were like stair steps in height. Charlie was the tallest and oldest of his siblings. He was 10 years old, the same age as Tamarind. The twins, Wink and Tater, were 8 years old. As an only child, Tamarind relished the summers at Granny’s house, the endless days of playing with her cousins and being in the company of all the family that visited Granny. Tamarind stayed the longest because she insisted and because it gave her mother time to take on an extra job. When it was time to return to their high rise apartment in Atlanta, Tamarind’s mom would take her shopping for new school clothes, supplies, and a new lunchbox.
“Tam Tam, your mama don’t want you going to the dump. Remember that? And why aren’t you with Uncle Bill? He took the others to Nell’s,” said Granny as she finished fastening her boots. She threw her bag over her shoulder. “You should stay here. I’ll try to find you something, baby, okay?”
Tamarind grabbed a bag from a basket by the door. “Come on Granny let me go. They left me on purpose just like they tore off Baby Doll Susan’s head. Please take me to the dump. It’s not fair that they left me–” Tamarind continued her supplication.
“Okay, Tam Tam. Let’s go. You know you can worry the horns off of a Billy goat girl,” Granny said, holding the screen door open for Tamarind who smiled broadly as soon as Granny relented. When her cousins returned from the store to taunt her with their purchases, she wasn’t planning on being there. The one thing better than a trip to Nell’s Corner Pantry was a visit to the dump with Granny.
“Granny, I can’t find anything,” Tamarind said. She circled a small heap of assorted trash, kicking at a torn trash bag whose gushy innards were slipping out. She pinched her nose to staunch the putrid sweet aroma.
“Tam-Tam come from over there!” Granny demanded, shading her eyes from the sun after she straightened at the waist. Tamarind walked over to Granny now wondering why she liked to visit this place. It was a nasty, smelly mess.
The dump sat at the end of a long and wide dirt road with tall grass. Though this was the official landfill for the small town, the roads were not paved. An old sign, “No illegal dumping under penalty of law,” sat at the beginning of the road. It obviously went unheeded because heaps of trash alongside the road. The road gave way to a large bald clearing of red clay where the mounds of trash including old furniture, junk car pieces, clothes, old papers were scattered here and there. In the center of the clearing was a grand mound that served as the real landfill. The trucks would ride upon it and discard the bags of trash over the side of it. Granny never ventured over that edge as it was dangerous. She sifted through what the illegal dumpers left behind. “ s ”
After a few minutes of foraging, Tamarind’s face held a look of disappointment. Granny tapped her shoulder.
“Tam, stop looking so down in the mouth, girl.”
“But Granny…I thought this would be different. It’s just stinky trash.”
“At first that’s all you see, but you have to look deeper. Let me do the lookin’ okay? You are just along to watch anyway,” Granny said with a smile and a squeeze of Tamarind’s shoulder.
“Okay, Granny,” Tamarind said, letting go of some of her hurt. She decided to watch Granny.
“You see I look for bags without any flies swarmin’ round. Then I tap it with my foot and give it a poke with my stick. I may open it if the feeling is right. You can be my eyes, Tam.”
They set off in the direction of a ramshackle wooden desk. Part of it looked burnt, but the side part with the drawer was not. Granny pulled it open and bent to look inside. Tamarind craned her neck in too, but she couldn’t see anything past Granny’s wide back.
“What’s in here?” Granny said, almost to herself. She pulled out a purple velvet bag that was cinched closed with a gold colored rope. Granny tweaked the tassels dangling from the bag. She turned it around, examining the bag. She chuckled and said, “Crown Royal…nobody would leave that out here.”
“What’s Crown Roll?” said Tamarind.
Granny looked down at Tamarind, remembering her presence. “Crown Roy-ul…it’s a grown folks drink that comes in a bag like this.” Granny extended it to Tamarind so she could see the ornate script bearing its name on the outside of the bag. Tamarind reached out and touched the lettering, but Granny pulled it back before she could grasp it.
“What’s in it Granny?” Tamarind said just as a fly lit on her elbow. When Tamarind turned to knock it off a white light danced before her eyes, blinding her for just a second. She blinked her eyes several times.
“Ahh!” she screamed out suddenly at what she saw in the drawer that was still opened as Granny had left it. It was the face of a girl looking back at her. By the time she’d realized it was her own expression peering back at her, the scream had already escaped.
“Tam! Girl, what’s wrong with you?” Granny asked. She grabbed Tamarind’s shoulder with one hand to shield her from the unknown cause of her distress. Tamarind moved from behind Granny and reached into the drawer for object that had startled her. It was a mirror on a white stand. Tamarind reached for it and found it was heavier than it looked. Without a word, Granny reached in and pulled it out and placed it on the top of the desk. The glass mirror was oblong shaped. The metal that held the mirror was ornately designed. It used to be all white, but now the paint was chipped, revealing silver metal beneath in places. The stand the mirror was connected to was about 12 inches in length. The base branched out into three legs that made it sturdy and resistant to toppling. It had the most rust. Tamarind pushed the mirror forward and back watching her reflection and the play of light from the sun’s reflection play across her face.
“It’s an old vanity mirror. You screamed at your own reflection, Tam!” They shared a laugh.
Tamarind couldn’t take her eyes from the mirror. She rubbed her finger along the mirror stand, feeling the smooth and then rough rusty parts, as she admired it. Her eyes settled on her reflection. One lonely drop of sweat appeared on the left side of her face at her hairline just between the start of two cornrows. Tamarind watched it stream down the side of her temple over her brown chubby cheek where it jumped off and landed on the neck of her t-shirt. Tamarind enjoyed watching the sweat’s descent down her face. She turned her head the other way to inspect for more sweat. What appeared there was a silvery metallic like fluid that performed a sort of copy cat path down the other side of her face. Tamarind gasped and bucked her eyes at the sight.
“Tam, girl you have to stop doing that. It’s just you,” Granny said. As soon as Granny spoke the silver liquid turned to sweat.
Tamarind blinked her eyes slowly. “Granny, may I keep the vanity mirror?”
“Hmm, child. You know your mom won’t like it if she knew it came from the dump.” Granny pursed her lips and changed feet.
Tamarind broke away from the mirror’s gaze and looked up at Granny, her eyes now saucers despite the beaming sun. “We can tell her that you gave it to me as-as-as a gift. How about that, Granny, please.” Tamarind hugged Granny around the waist.
“I guess so child. I don’t want you and the others fighting over it though. I can’t have no broken glass and fourteen years of bad luck. Let’s not tell the others that it’s yours until you go home else they’ll be more fighting. The will already be mad that they missed out on coming to the dump with us. So let’s say the mirror is mine until you go home, okay?”
“Okay, Granny, but fourteen years? I though it was seven years of bad luck?
“If it’s your own mirror, the bad luck is seven years. If it belonged to someone else, then it would be fourteen years,” Granny said. She lifted the mirror off the old desk and placed it in her bag.
“We should go now. I don’t want the mirror to break. We’ll have to be satisfied with–” Granny stopped because she realized now that she had not looked into the bag. She pulled the gold drawstring from its knot and opened the bag. With it in the palm of her hand, she slid her hand inside.
“Ouch!” Granny howled in pain. The purple bag fell to the ground. Granny grasped her palm between her fingers. Her shoulders were humped over as she examined her fingers and the blood streaming from them. Tamarind looked from Granny’s hand to the purple bag.
“Something cut you, Granny. It’s so red.” Tamarind was afraid because she had never seen that much blood in real life.
“It’s my damn er…dang fault. I should have looked inside before I slid my hand in. Tam-Tam. Grab a rag from my bag, please.”
Tamarind quickly complied. Granny took the rag and wrapped it around her fingers. “We better get going so I can tend to these cuts,” Granny said peering inside the bag again before walking away. Tamarind couldn’t resist looking inside, but she didn’t touch it the bag. A frightened gasp escaped from her lips a third time when she saw a pile of gold colored miniature snakes slithering around in the bag. Her eyes flashed up to Granny who had turned around.
“Tamarind, there you go again with that. Come on, let’s get home.”
Tamarind gave a quick look back into the bag where she saw assorted shards of glass glistening in the sunlight.
Tamarind sat on a stool staring into the vanity mirror. While Granny worked on mending her fingers with the help of Ms. Lily, Tamarind had pulled it out of the bag and placed it on the bureau in Granny’s bedroom. When they had returned from their adventure at the dump, Ms. Lily had been waiting on the front porch. Ms. Lily was a friend of Granny’s who often stopped by sometimes alone and sometimes with her own grandchildren in tow. They were much nicer to Tamarind than her own cousins.
For 30 minutes, Tamarind had been alone, silently staring at her reflection in the mirror until Charlie, Wink, and Tater rushed into Granny’s bedroom to entice her with their purchases at Nell’s. Each of her cousins held a brown paper bag bursting with their purchases. Their smacking and guzzling hadn’t worked. She simply looked at them with a slight shoulder shrug and turned back to the mirror.
“Why you keep looking at yo’self in that rusty old mirror, Tamarind?” Charlie said before popping a couple of Hot Fries potato chips in his mouth and taking a sip of his cherry Budwine. Tamarind saw his reflection in the mirror. She knew he preferred grape Fanta over cherry Budwine. She was sure he bought it to rub in her face.
“Yeah, Tam. You must think you look pretty or something,” Tater chimed in, the only other girl in the group.
Tamarind swiveled herself around to meet their three sets of gawking glances. This stool was another premium find from the dump. “Granny found it at the dump. That’s where we went after you all left me to go to Nell’s,” Tamarind said before swiveling herself back to face the mirror.
“You lyin’. Granny wouldn’t let none of us go with her to the dump. You just lyin’, lyin’, lyin’,” said Wink before he threw back an open box of Boston Baked Beans.
“I’m not lying. Granny cut her fingers because she stuck her hand in a bag full of snake–um…broken glass. The blood was so red. Ms. Lily is helping her bandage them up,” Tamarind explained. She shrugged her shoulders again, this time adding a head tilt and pursing of her lips before saying, “But I don’t care if you don’t believe me.”
“Get off Granny’s stool and let me look at it, Damn Tam!” Charlie said.
“Yeah, Damn Tam!” Wink and Tater shouted together.
“Damn Tam” was a moniker Tamarind’s cousins had been banned from using earlier in the summer. They had watched a zombie horror movie unbeknownst to Granny. They began luring Tamarind into the back room, an extra room where Granny kept her finds from the dump that had yet to be repurposed. When Tamarind would enter, they’d jump out and scream, “Oh Damn Tam!” to which she’d scream and run out of the room crying.
This time, though, Tamarind looked closer into the mirror and ignored them all. There was silence as her cousins recovered from their shock at her non-response. Perhaps in shock, but definitely in anger, Charlie walked up behind Tamarind, grabbed her shoulder, and pushed her around to face him. It was his intention to push her off the stool, but she grabbed his wrist and squeezed, summoning a strength she didn’t know she had. She stared into his eyes and watched as the pain of her grip lowered him slowly to his knees.
Dumfounded, no one said a word. The only sound was the guttural, painful moans coming from Charlie. Now his arm was twisted awkwardly behind him while he hunched on the floor. Tamarind was standing over him now. Her face was slack and emotionless as she held him still.
Tamarind released his arm and swiveled back around to the mirror at the sound of footsteps coming down the hall. Charlie fell over and grabbed his wrist. Wink rushed to him. Tater ran to the door, “I’m telling Granny on you, Tam!”
“Telling me what?” Granny said from the door, “What’s going on in here?”
“Tamarind squeezed Charlie’s wrist real hard,” said Tater as she ran into Granny. Ms. Lilly was standing behind Granny, but with full access to the scene. Tamarind was crying. Charlie was writhing on the floor in pain with Wink trying to help but not knowing how. Since past was prelude, Granny considered Tamarind first, assuming she was the victim. “Tamarind, what’s going on. Why are you crying?” she asked. Her fingers were bandaged in a way that made it look like she had on mittens. Tamarind’s hand gripped her own shoulder as she cried, “Gr-gr-graaaany, Ch-ch-arlie hurt my shoulder. I think it’s broken.”
“She lyin’ Granny! She hurt Charlie!” said Wink, looking up from Charlie.
“Wink, honey, why don’t you get up so I can help your brother up, okay,” said Ms. Lily. She bent over and tried to help Charlie up by grasping his wrist. He howled in pain.
“I’m sorry, honey. Where does it hurt?” Ms. Lily stood back but made a safety net with her arms in case he needed to use her to lean on. He got up and stood to his feet. Tears began to fall from his eyes. He looked over at Tamarind whose cries grew louder.
“S-s-see, look,” Tamarind pulled the neck of her t-shirt to the side so Granny could see.
“Oh my Jesus, look at this bruise! It’s all red, black and blue. Oh, Lily come look,” Granny said.
“Oh my! This is a bad place. Who did this?” Ms. Lily asked.
Tamarind quieted enough to answer, but with a shaky voice. “I was in Granny’s room looking at the mirror we found at the dump. Charlie, Wink, and Tater came in and started bothering me…”
In that moment, Tamarind accepted three things. She was about to lie. The adults would believe her. She possessed a power beyond anything she could comprehend.
By Myesha Jenkins
A little something I wrote. I have no idea if I’ll continue with it. Probably not.
Originally posted on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension:
“…Don’t worry about it, I will take care of it.”
So read the text message from my teammate Mark when he found out I was in the hospital trying to stop the birth of Augustine (in vain, I might add). And with that little message, I could stop worrying about the 27 kids that rely on me Monday through Friday and start worrying about the baby trying to meet us way too early.
Mark didn’t have to write my sub plans, in fact, he didn’t have to do anything for me, he has his own classroom full of kids to work with, his own plans to write, his own family to take care of. But he did, and he didn’t make a big fuss about it, it was simply what he does, and what we do as a team.
I often wonder about the teachers that shut…
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Because I consider myself, sort of, existing in a liminal space vocationally, I sometimes feel free and unbounded. I am overtaken by the desire to explore knowledge as I encounter it, not for some purpose but simply for the taking. I could act on this impulse concretely when I worked at the public library. While shelving or shelf reading, I’d indulge myself by checking out books on any subject. My inner narrative egged me on: Why not read a history of Marco Polo’s travels and his impact on history? What’s stopping you from reading an entire book about sound? I would check out books to read in my “vicarious free time” absent a vocation. I have all the time in the world, right?
But the piles of books just kept growing, left unread. If I wanted to learn everything absent the one important body of things, is the endeavor a waste of time? If the knowledge I’m gaining is for no purpose other than a filler, then is it really worthy of pursuit? In most cases, no.
In a couple of week’s (hopefully), I’ll have a clearer sense of where I should focus my vocational efforts for next school year. Will I be a Media Clerk? Will I be a teacher? Will I remain a stellar substitute? I will continue to be a copy editor. I will continue writing.
Saturday will be my last day working part-time at the library. The plan was to wait until the summer to resign. I reasoned I would know my fate for next school year by then, whether I’d have my own classroom or remain a Stellar Substitute teacher. The meager library pay would be saved, I thought, as a nice nest egg. As time moved one, the long hours began to wear on me. I worked at the library three nights a week and almost every Saturday. The costs far outweighed the benefits especially since I no longer desired a full-time job at the library. I came to a realization: the classroom was where I wanted to use my talents, where I wanted to serve.
I’ll miss the shelving. Yes, the shelving. Shelving books became a sort of meditation for me. I’ll miss being in such close proximity to all sorts of books I wouldn’t normally see unless I…umm…worked in a library. There are certain co-workers I’ll miss as well. I won’t miss those staff members who seemed to look through me. It was nothing personal. Some people are open and amiable and some are not. That’s life.
Seemingly out of nowhere, my copy editing clients went from 0 to 3 in the span of a week. Working two jobs certainly doesn’t leave space for this type of work! I really enjoy copy editing, well unless, it’s my own work. The reason for my copy editing boon? Word of mouth. I completed a project, and that client referred me to three other people, her students. I imagine I’ll pick up more work work this way. I enjoy the academic work, though I’d love to help fiction writers.
Forward, lo, I march without a clear view of what comes next for me. Will I get my own class next school year? Will I continue as the Stellar Substitute? Considering my desire to remain at my current school–the school is exemplary–I’ll have to wait until a classroom comes open. Attrition rates are understandably low there. It’s a waiting game. I’m an expert at being the new kid on the block, and I don’t want to do that anytime soon. I’m left with waiting, but not really waiting.
I’ve adopted a new outlook on this time. I am where I want to be. I have arrived. I’m not in a holding pattern. Each day, I bring as much presence, energy, and focus to my jobs, whether in the classroom or at my laptop, copyediting. This is not a ploy or a gimmick to tide me over while I wait for something else. I embrace each moment because that’s all I have, the present moment.
A homeroom teacher should never have to waste time taking attendance the old fashioned way: calling out names. There are a plethora of efficient ways for students to do this. A substitute teacher, in most cases, has to do so, although there are covert and efficient ways to do this as well. But if you ever have to call roll and mispronounce a student’s name, everyone but the student will correct you. They will correct you with attitude as if you did it on purpose. The student whose name you butchered won’t say a word.
Why is this? Why do the students think it is their, and not the affected student’s, responsibility to correct you? Why does the name holder sit back like a mouse? I mean it’s his or her name being mispronounced. Perhaps, this is the outgrowth of community at work. The students take responsibility for the student and the proper pronunciation of their name. This fascinates me, how learning communities are formed and their byproducts.