With a newfound quickness, Deja leapt over the arm of the velvet coach, grabbed Porshe by her braids, and pulled her down to the floor. Unaccustomed to wearing high heels, Porsche easily tumbled, knocking Deja and a fake crystal lamp to the ground with her. Deja scurried and threw herself on top of Porshe’s chest and began slapping her—one hand after the other— Slap! Slap! Slap! Slap!
“What in the fuck, Porshe!” Deja shrieked. Slap! Slap! Slap! Porshe pulled her hands to her face, squeezed her eyes tight. Deja’s eyes were closed tightly too. She just kept swinging her arms, emotion fueling each rotation until eventually Deja rolled off of her and lay on the floor exhausted and breathing heavily. Porshe got up, got the white comforter with the blue flowers off of the floor, tossed it on Deja and walked to their bedroom, without saying a word.
It was the first night since their mom wasn’t home that the girls didn’t sleep in the same room together.
Deja stayed on the dirty, linoleum floor, next to the fallen lamp, behind the purple couch because as each day passed since their mother left, things like where she slept seemed to matter less and less.
The floor was cold and unsparing underneath her when Deja woke up the next morning, but she didn’t move for a long while. She let the night’s events replay in her mind. She and Porsche never even argued much. Momma had always told them, “When you poor, Black and a woman, you got enough to folks to fight to be fightin’ each other.”
But Deja wasn’t fighting Porshe last night; she was fighting their circumstances and the pain of where they had taken them. That linoleum floor was fitting: It too was backbreaking and bitter.
She couldn’t go to school that day. She didn’t get dressed, brush her teeth, or eat anything except for the cold strawberry pop-tarts that she and Porshe shared once Porshe came out of the bedroom. They both sat with crumbs, regret, and shame sprinkled between them watching t.v. until there was a pregnant knock at the door.
As soon as Deja opened the door, their Aunt Pam whisked in as if she had been there yesterday, instead of the almost 2 years since they had last seen her after she and their momma got into a huge fight during a spades game.
“Child, get your aunt sumthin wet befo I pass out. Them damn steps liked to kill me. Whooo-Lawdhavemercy, “ she exclaimed fanning herself with one of the free papers the homeless people gave out. “I’m too damn old for dis shit. That daggone elevator wasn’t workin last time I was here. Damn shame how they do us. Deja, Porshe, ya’ll come here and let me get a closer look at cha. Whoooooo-Lawd, yall done growed!”
Deja and Porshe got wrapped up in the cool, rapid wind that was Aunt Pam. She had a way of feeling like a breath of fresh air while taking your breath away simultaneously.
“Dis place look like a rodeo done took place here. Yo momma would have a fit. Ya’ll start cleaning dis mess up and I’ll start fixing us some decent dinner.”
Deja started to say that there weren’t any real groceries around for her aunt to cook when there was single knock at the door. Aunt Pam opened the door and Benny walked in weighed down with bags of groceries, walking with a wider gate in order to ensure his slouched pants didn’t fall completely down. He walked right in, knowing the layout since all the apartments were essentially the same in Brown, dropped the bags on the kitchen floor, looked at Aunt Pam, and mumbled, “aight, holla at chall in about 2 hours.”
By the time Benny got back, Unit #609 looked and smelled like somebody cared: wafts of cinnamon from sweet potato soufflé, ham and macaroni and cheese floated above faint breeze of Pine Sol. Porshe, Deja and Aunt kdfj were cackling in the kitchen about the time their Uncle Stevie decided to put a Jheri Curl in his hair. Unbeknownst to him, the back half of his hair fell out, while the front half hung down in long, greasy, spiral curls—making Stevie feel young again. No one had the heart to cause him to lose his newfound strut and tell him that he was bald in the back.
Aunt Pam was wiping tears of laughter from her eyes when Benny broke up the fun.
“Whad-up lil’ lady? Heard you ain’t been to school,” he muttered, looking pointedly at Deja, while making his toothpick cha cha back and forth between his teeth on the right side, hands deep in his jean pockets. “Dat ain’t gon work.”
“It’s only been one daggone day,” Deja thought; but she knew better than to say it aloud. She just grabbed some paper napkins and put them on the table.
“See about being dere tomorro. Aight.”
“Okay,” Deja responded averting her eyes down.
Aunt Pam broke the tension. “Ya’ll sit down so we can eat. Benny wait ‘til we tells you bout Stevie and his backwards George Jefferson hairstyle,” and immediately fell into a fit of loud laughter again.
Deja hadn’t felt that full in a long time. It wasn’t the food; it was the gathering—the talking and laughing, catching someone’s eye when you found the same joke funny—the connection. She realized her mom had been gone long before she left; and that she and Porshe had been lonely long before they were alone. Oddly, this realization strengthened her. They could get through t because they had been getting though.
Then she leaned in and grabbed herself a 3rd serving of homemade pound cake.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more