My Momma Said...
by Arethia Hornsby
"Will you please shut up? You tell me your Crumbs Theory every time I see a man that I like! I get so sick of you saying… my momma said if you only eat crumbs, you’d never know what a real meal taste like." She mimicked me with a quick toss of her thick long black hair. She has the most beautiful hair of anybody I know.
I calmly finished applying my lip liner and then carefully applied my raspberry brown lipstick smoothly over my full lips. Looking at my reflection in the ladies-room mirror, I smiled. Damn I looked good! My short bleached blond haircut accented my face and makes me look younger than my 35years. I had followed her into the ladies room and was determined to have my say.
"Tee, if you are going to quote my momma, quote her correctly," I said sweetly. "If all you EVER eat are crumb, then you’ll never know what a real meal taste like. The key, my sistah, is EVER eat. ALL YOU EVER EAT ARE CRUMBS."
I swirled around in the rattan chair to face my best friend in the world, Tamika Tobbins. Tee Tee to me and only me would she allow to be called that. "It sounds like you saying pee-pee, it sounds like you calling me pee pee," she would whine when we were kids. "I am not. I’m saying your initials," I explained.
She still never liked it. Oh well. She had been Tee Tee to me for over 30 years; she would always be Tee Tee.
Looking her up and down, I shook my head, and sighed. " What, what you huffing about now Linda, what? What, what is it?" Tamika, was as she called herself, a "Big Girl".
She was about a size 22, but wore clothes that only a smaller woman should wear. Plus she wore them tight. Her short red leather skirt was riding up her ample butt, exposing dimpled (she called them dimpled- I called them rolls of fat) thighs. The black lacy top she had on showed pillows of breast, praying for a release from the corset like blouse. The mesh net of the blouse showed more dimples (rolls) around her arms, and waist. The red leather high-heel boots she had on I liked; now they were bad. My girl always wore some bad shoes. The rest of her gear…well.
She has a pretty face with large brown eyes and what white people called a "pert nose". Plus she has all that long gorgeous hair that I secretly envied. Gold was everywhere on her body. On her ears hung about six pair of hoop earring, and on her neck about ten gold chains. Her arms had bangles galore. There were rings on almost every finger and an anklet on her right leg. She even has a gold crown on one of her teeth!
"Well, what Linda," she asked again, " why are you staring at me like I’m some kind of a freak?" She posed the question like she really wanted me to answer. " I like what I got on."
"I could care less care if you don’t", she announced to me with pride ringing in her voice. "The brother I was dancing with, you are not going to believe! He said he liked my out-fit, and that red was his favorite color".
Tee sounded breathless. I guess from all that dancing. She spoke into the mirror, avoiding my eyes.
"But Linda, Linda, that's not the best part. That's not the best part!" She was so excited she was glowing. She swung her hair from side to side, as she studied her reflection. She had the strangest look on her face, like she was in shock.
Another sistah entered the ladies-room, and did a double take at Tee before hurrying into the stall. Tee Tee didn’t catch the woman’s look. She definitely would have called her out.
"Girl, Linda, you’re not going to believe this! The brother said he likes a sistah with something to hold on to, with some meat on her bones, not a snake pack. "
She threw the last remark in my direction with a smile. If I weighed over 100 pound it was because I was on my period and was bloated. I had been "small" all my life. I got so tired of people telling me " you’re so skinny. I wish I could be skinny like you". I always put them in their place. One I’m not skinny, I’m small. Two, calling me skinny is no compliment! If I call a fat sistah fat, she would be ready to fight. So why folks think they can call me skinny? Tee Tee, on the other hand, took pleasure in being a "Big Girl".
We had the strangest relationship .We were like night and day, left and right- up and down. She was large. I was small. She had long hair. I had short hair. I was fair and she was a deep dark brown. She was tall. I was short. She was flashy. I was conservative. But it didn’t just stop on the outside difference. We were different on the inside also. Tee Tee would give you the shirt off her back (I wish she would take the one she had on tonight off her back. It was too tight). Me, I tend to be less giving, more cautious. But Tee Tee, she had a heart of gold. She picked up stray animals all the time and tried to nurse them back to health. Her specialty was stray dogs. Men that is. That was the problem. Well that was one of Tee Tee's problems. She was a pushover for a man. Any old piece of a man could win Tee's heart!
Crumbs, that’s all she ever settled for. Sometimes crumbs off another woman’s table. Garbage that some woman had threw out. Then here comes Tee, picking them out the trashcan talking about " he COULD be a good man if…."You can fill in the blanks with just about anything with Tee Tee's men. "If he could just get a job, get a car, get an apartment, get clean (drug free) get dry (alcohol free) or sometimes just get FREE! (Released from prison)
Tee Tee and I was in my favorite Friday night hot spot, Fargos, doing some lightweight drinking. Payday was not until next Thursday, so we could not really let loose, and get our drink on! I had been sipping my Absolute and cranberry with a twist of lime to give it that little kick, when she spotted this tired looking brother beside the pool table.
"Linda, I think the brother over there in the corner is checking me out," as she leaned over to tell me- her breast almost spilled into my drink.
"Will you watch your damn boobs," I mumbled .I had only taken one sip of the drink, and did not want her to push it into my lap! I had on my brand new Anne Klein suit that had cost me almost two paychecks. I was looking very sophisticated. Most of the women in here were designer down, from their clothes to their perfume. The club held the cream of the crop of young black professionals. Everybody was in his or her "dress to impress " best.
The place was packed as usual, with all the "Playas and the Haters". Tee Tee was a "Hater". She hated Fargos. She said it was phony, and to siddity for her taste. Tee Tee likes the "Chitterling Circuit" when it came to clubs. I called them "dives" she called them "down". Like I said, we are different. But she’s my girl, different or not! I had to drag Tee Tee here from the law firm we both worked for, Frost & Lenders. She was in the mailroom and I was a receptionist .I was in night school for accounting, determined to move "up and out." Tee Tee was content.
"All I do is deliver mail twice a day for $11.00 an hour, I’m ok with that" she would brag. But back to the problem at hand. The tired brother that she was trying for a love connection.
"Linda" Tee nudged me again; I slid my drink to my other side, just to be safe.
"He’s looking at me," she squealed, talking loud to be heard over the pumping sounds of DJ SLAM. She grabbed my arm and squeezed. "Check him out Linda."
"Will you chill?" I hissed, "He looks like he ain’t got a dime".
I had seen the brother she was talking about when we first walked in here. He had looked at me, and then zoomed in on Tee Tee who was busy complaining about the $10.00 cover charge. He probably could tell she was in the rescue business and he sure looked like he needed to be rescued.
He had on some tired looking jeans- no name brand at all, with some tired looking gym shoes, and again no name brand. Not like the rest of the brothers in the house. They were clean from their fresh fades to their feet and looked like they could care less about talking to a woman. They just wanted to be seen. The brothers sure were not going to buy no drink That’s a fact. As a matter of fact, they wanted you to buy them one! It still was my favorite spot. It was classy.
"Linda, Linda," Tee exclaimed," he’s smiling at me. Look, look". As I turned to look, she screamed over the loud music, "Not now, don’t look now!"
"Look, do you want me to look or not?" I snapped.
Jerking my head around to the left, I saw the tired brother grinning from ear to ear in our direction, grinning at Tee Tee!
"If he’s all in your grid like that, why don’t he come over and say something like, Hello, can I buy you ladies a drink". My voice was dripping with sarcasm. The brother looked like he couldn’t buy a can of pop, much less two drinks!
"Linda, I can buy my own drinks…" Tee Tee snapped back. She took a small sip of her beer. " That’s your problem", I replied before she could finish. "You always supply what’s needed. You don’t ever get a man that can supply his needs, much less your needs."
"Girl, like I was saying," Tee Tee did a neck roll that would make any ghetto queen proud, " I don’t need a man to buy my drinks. I want a man to love me for me. I can take care of myself."
I stared at her like she had lost her mind. A woman who has a personal relationship with half the check-cashing places in the city said this. You know the places I'm talking about. "We will hold your personal check until payday" loan sharks, which will keep you in a hole forever. Thank God, I had severed my relationship with them!
I turned my attention away from Tee with a shrug of my shoulders that said "What Ever". I was admiring a tall, fair- skinned brother in an Armani suit that was fitting his broad shoulders perfectly! He was fine from the wavy light brown hair; to the Ballys on his feet .He had the most beautiful smile, which he was displaying to a giddy waitress. I kept trying to subtly make eye contact with him, to no avail.
"Look at you, tying to get that conceited looking boy-toy, to Look at You! Girl all he’s been looking at all night is his reflection on these mirrored walls. He’s not on you! These Negros are fake. Like I keep saying, all of them, the men and the women, all of them are wannabes. Acting like they’re all that. They’re living from paycheck to paycheck just like us!" She was on a roll so I was glad to see the waitress make her way to our table. I did not want to hear what she was talking about at all.
It was the same waitress that has been smiled upon by " Mr. Gorgeous". Bet he got that drink free, I thought. " Did you ladies want to freshen up your drinks", she purred, knowing we had been sipping the same drink for the last hour. " No," I replied,
"I don’t want another one right now, thank you". I shook the ice cubes to let her know I still had something in my glass.
"At these prices, I can’t afford another one" TeeTee said rolling her eyes at me. The barmaid just smiled and moved to another table. This from Miss. "I can take care of myself", pocketbooks.
"TeeTee," I moaned," we are not in REDS where all the drinks are $2.00."
"I wish we were," she said with an attitude. "Then we could buy more then one drink all night, and the men would talk to us, ask us to dance, and I’d be having fun!"
She leaned forward, and pushed her chair back. "Forget this, I’m going over to that brother and ask him to dance," she announced with a shake of her long hair. "Don’t you dare, -Tee Tee come back here!"
But I was too late. For a "Big Girl" she moved fast. She was up and across the floor in a blink. I saw her step up to the brother and speak. What ever she said, he must have liked, ‘cause next thing I see, they’re up on the dance floor, and both of them are grinning from ear to ear at each other! Well, guess what – they stayed on the dance floor for about three jams, while I sat there jamming in my seat.
When they stopped dancing, they moved over to the side of the bar where he had been standing near, talking like they knew each other from way back! She attracts them like flies. Negro hasn’t bought her a drink yet and she grinning like she got a prize. She got crumbs as usual.
All she ever eats are crumbs. TeeTee will never find a real man, I thought sadly. With her pretty face, big heart, sweet personality, and beautiful hair, she was always going to get stuck with the "crumbs".
I saw him hand her a business card and smiled. No the tired brother isn’t carrying a business card. I laughed! Hey anybody can get cards free from the Internet, no big deal. I had business cards. Had them designed and printed up real sharp. That was part of the scene here, exchanging business cards. He had his arm around her waist and was brushing her hair out of her eyes with his fingertips. She looked up at him and smiled. Brother was tall. I'll give him that. She said something that made him laugh. He dropped his arm from around her waist and Tee started walking away. She made another comment to him over her shoulder and he laughed again. He was watching her walk like he liked what he saw! Tee Tee glided to the ladies-room, as if she was floating on a cloud.
Dear God, I moaned, what was my girl getting into now.
I got up and pressed my way through the crowd toward the brother, with a mission.
I had to save her.
Walking up to the brother, my sexiest smile was in place. "Hello, how are you?" Friendliness was oozing from me. He looked down at me and smiled. He had beautiful white even teeth. Well, at least he's familiar with the dentist, ran through my mind. That's a positive.
"Hello, to you. I'm good. Thank you for asking". His speech was very slow, as if he thought of each word before he spoke. Oh my God, TeeTee got a retard this time, replaced the good thought about his teeth!
"You and my girl were dancing up a storm", I smiled again, my face almost cracking from the effort.
"Yes," he said very slowly. "She is quite a dancer. I haven't enjoyed myself like that in a long time". He had a wistful look on his face."That felt good. I need to do that more often. Oh, I'm sorry," he slapped his forehead with the open palm of his hand.
"My name is Beauford Laudy the 111," with that said he extended his right hand to me. It was too late. I had spit my drink out with the Beauford. Forget the third!
He quickly snatched a handkerchief out of his back pocket and offered it to me."Are you alright?"
His voice was full of concern. He was patting me on the back, as if I was a baby he was trying to burp. I was reeling for real now. A handkerchief. The tired brother. no, Beauford Laudy III carried a handkerchief in his back pocket! This was too much. I wanted to laugh until I exploded! This was rich, WHO carries a handkerchief in their back pocket? He had stopped patting my back and was leaning over me." Did your drink go down the wrong pipe?" He had soft brown eyes and a wide generous mouth. His skin was smooth, the color of rich and deep chocolate. Beauford’s haircut was just plain-no style, with traces of gray around the temples. I'd say about early forties. He was a stout man. But he looked very toned, like he worked out.
I sat my now empty glass down on the side of the pool table. "Could you buy us a drink?" I asked sweetly. "I know with all that dancing you and my girl did, she's thirsty."
I had folded my arms across my chest and leaned back to look him in the eyes as I spoke. My body language said I dare you to say NO. Beauford got the funniest look on his face.
"I'm sorry, what's your name?" He asked.
"Linda," I replied, extending my hand, "Linda McEnroy. I'm with Frost and Lenders."
"Oh really," he answered, shaking my hand with a firm grip. I grinned to myself, I could tell he didn't have a clue who Frost and Lenders.
"Well Linda, umm, I 'd love to buy you lovely ladies a drink, … but umm, I really did not mean to come in here tonight."
That I already knew, I was thinking, with this smile still plastered on my face, as I stared at him. " But... I left my wallet…"
"No problem". I cut him off before he could finish his lame lie. " I’m sure Tee Tee will buy You a drink when she comes back". I spoke with as much venom in my voice as I could muster. His eyes open wide at that remark and he started to reply, but I was already walking away, headed to the ladies room.
I pushed the door open with a vengeance and looked for Tee Tee. A woman was standing in line for the next available stall. She quickly looked at me when I busted in the room looking around wildly for Tee. The ladies room was nice. It had a small love seat in one corner and a vanity table that ran the length on the room. There were rattan chairs at the vanity table that was pink, with pink cushions in them. A full-length mirror stood in the other corner of the room to make sure a sistah was looking good when she walked back out the door. Tee was in the full-length mirror dabbing her face with a wet paper towel. Tee turned when she saw me. She was glowing.
"Linda did you see us jamming? That brother sure can dance. Did you see us?" She was sweating profusely and her chest was heaving, but she looked so happy. Dancing was her thing. She loved to dance.
"How in the hell could I miss you, TeeTee" I replied sourly. The two women sitting at the far end of the vanity stopped talking. They looked at Tee then looked at each other and laughed. Their expression quickly changed when Tee Tee turned to look at them.
"Did somebody make a joke and I didn't get it", she spoke to the room in general, staring at the two black Barbies."Yeah, "I echoed. "Did somebody make a joke?"
I looked at Tee with a puzzled look. I could diss my girl- but nobody else better not think about it! Plus like I said, TeeTee was a "Big Girl" who was from the hood. She was a push over for a man- but a sistah she would get with in a heartbeat! The two Barbies fluffed up their hair, glanced at us, got up and left. Tee Tee busted out laughing.
"I think you scared them," she said with a big smile on her face. "Me?" "You scared them Tee, not me," I smiled back at my girl.
"Yeah," I said sheepishly, " I saw you jamming. I was being a smart-mouth". I sat down in one of the rattan chairs vacated by the Barbies. I took out my lip-liner stalling for time to say what I wanted. I could not let her go off on a tangent with another loser. I had to try to talk to her.
"Linda, I really like him, He is soooo nice. He’s…" she sounded so excited. I had to be blunt.
"Tee", I said calmly cutting her off, " he's nothing."
" He's not about anything. I asked him to buy us some drinks, and he couldn't." I started putting on my lip-liner.
She cut me off, sitting down in the chair beside me. Her eyes were wide with anticipation. "Yeah I know, he left his wallet…"
"TeeTee,"I was losing my calm tone, and getting upset. "I don't care where he left his wallet. When he got it I bet he doesn’t have a damn thing in it."
I was getting pissed. Why does she always fall so soon? Why she gets her hopes up so quickly? I wanted to just shake her. Crumbs, here she go again, getting all excited about some tired brother that has NOTHING to offer her. I felt tears gathering in the corner of my eyes.
Dear God, I silently prayed, please help me. I get so tired of seeing her hurt. Please God, open her eyes to what she really is, a Queen. Please let her stop being a fool for somebody trying to use her.
Don’t let her keep getting crumbs. Please don’t let her keep getting crumbs, I prayed, with all my might.
My voice was choking up." Tamika, please, please listen to me, just this one time, please. I love you girl and I'm tired of seeing you hurt. "
I grabbed her hands in mine. She was looking at me with a strange look."I know you do, "she said slowly. "Linda I know that. You my best friend in the world. You’ve been with me throughout everything''. She was holding my hands. Looking at me, waiting for me to speak.
I swallow the lump in my throat. "Ain't you tired of tired men Tee," I whispered. "Remember Marcus?" How could she forget? She had to have the police remove him from her apartment. She slowly shook her head yes, her eyes never leaving my face. I was holding her hands for dear life. "He lived in your apartment, ate your food, drove your car, and even stole money from you. He beat you, cheated on you, and had you scared to go home after work. I HAD TO MAKE YOU PUT HIM OUT!" My voice was a horse whisper.
"He was a artist. I was trying to help him find himself, "she muttered, dropping her eyes to the floor. She let go of my hands and leaned back in the chair. I took her hands back in mine.
"God wants the best for you Tee. You are a fine Black Queen and you deserve the best. God wants you to have the best and only the best." My voice was getting stronger with each word I spoke to her. "You should have a man that has something to offer you, that respects you and completes you/
You have so much to give, stop throwing away our pearls to swine. All you ever get are crumbs…my momma said if all you ever eat …Tee Tee shot out the chair like she had a stick of dynamite up her butt!
She went back to the mirror, and stared at her reflection."Will you please shut up! I get so sick of you telling me about your momma's crumb theory."
Her voice was trembling. "But it's the truth Tee". My confidence was returning. I was determined to let her know how dumb she was being. I didn't care how mad she got.
"My momma made me understand that early in life Tee. Don't settle
for just any old thing. Don't let life gives you the crumbs… my momma…
"I'll ask you again Linda. Please shut up about your momma". Her chest was heaving with each word she spoke as if she was in pain.
"Your momma said, don't eat crumbs," there was a meanest in her voice I had never heard before. I stared at her like I was looking at a stranger, somebody I had never seen before. A woman came out of a stall and glanced at Tee, then looked at me through the mirror over the sink as she washed her hands. She took her time drying them. Then she slowly walked out the room.
"Tee. I'm not trying to bust your bubble about this guy, I'm trying to help you with some good advise from my momma…"
"Shut up about your momma Linda." She was screaming! Then she started laughing! She was laughing so hard that tears were running down her face. She was still staring at her reflection in the full-length mirror.
"Your precious Momma, and her crumbs theory." She turned around slowly and faced me. I heard a toilet flush. The door to a stall flung open. A thin white girl came out staring at the floor and almost ran out the room. She didn't wash her hand, I thought, how nasty.
My heart was double beating in my chest and I had the feeling that I should get up now and leave. But I could not move. I sat there starting at this strange woman, glaring at me with disgust written all on her face.
"Your Momma sure didn't buy her theory she was always shoving down your throat, my friend." Tee was looking at me like we were two enemies standing on the street. She was blinking her eyes real fast.
"I choke every damn time you tell me that sh**. I sat back as if she had slapped me! Tamika Never Cussed, NEVER.
"Your Momma didn't mind CRUMBS Linda, 'cause she was eating crumbs off MY MOMMA’S TABLE. She was F**K*** MY DADDY. So crumbs weren't so bad back then!"
She had big sloppy tears streaming down her face, converging around her mouth. Tee walked over to the vanity, her legs were wobbing. She grabbed hold of the edge of the table. Me I had nothing to hold on to. I felt like she had kicked me with her high-heel boots in my stomach and I was reeling. I bent over in pain and heard a strange sound escape my lips. The room was spinning.
"Yeah Linda, Your pretty, Miss Educated, High Yellow, Prissy, Momma - I don't Like Dark- Skinned Black Folks- Momma, I caught giving my Big, Black, Mandingo, Gold -Tooth, Uneducated, Ghetto Daddy-some head!"
Her voice keep getting higher and louder with each word, until she was screeching. The look in her eyes was wild and frightening. There was spit running down the side of her mouth, and beads of perspiration stood out on her forehead.
"I caught them;" Tee was panting like she had been running. "I was 10 years old and I caught your momma going down on my daddy. They never knew I saw them, and I never told MY MOMMA."
"So now what do you think about your momma's theory now Linda. What you think now?"
I had wrapped my arms around my body to protect myself from another blow. There was a sound coming up from my soul that was like no sound I had ever heard. The room keep spinning, and I could not take my eyes off Tamika. Sometimes it seemed like there were three of her, then four, then five, then one again. She was gripping the edge of the table so hard; I heard one of her nails pop off. I still could not take my eyes off Tee. Her whole body was trembling.
"So what you think Linda, huh, huh, you always got something to say."
She was leaning over me now, her voice lowered. "Oh before you answer," her voiced dropped even lower. She was so close I could smell the beer on her breath. Our eyes were locked. I was holding myself for dear life. I felt a tremor in my legs and the right one started shaking.
"That tired brother I was dancing with, the one You said ain't about nothing".
Tee flopped sat down in the chair next to me, like her legs could no longer support her weight. I think I heard people enter the room, I was not sure.
"The tired brother", she continued, Beauford… his name is Beauford… he's only in here 'cause his PORSCHE is next-door at Goodyear, getting new tires. He left his wallet by accident in the glove compartment". Her breathing was no longer ragged, but even. Her eyes were no longer wild. They looked dreamy. I could not take my eyes off her. I was frozen.
"He's taking me out to breakfast when we leave here in about," she looked at her watch, "in about ten minuets."
"His PORSCHE should be ready then. We're going over to Mannie's, that real expensive restaurant on the East Side of town. You know the one we drive by and wish we could afford to go in".
She chucked as she leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs, making her skirt hike up, exposing more of her plump thighs. "Linda I read the letters sometime that come through the mail-room. So when he told me his name, I immediately knew who he was." She stood back up. The toilet flushed and a sistah came out of a stall, slowly walking to the sink.
Tee fished around in her purse to find her wallet. "Here Linda." She pulled out a bill, then laid it on the vanity table." Buy yourself another drink, on me."
Reaching in her purse again, she pulled out a small white card laying it on top of the money. I had not moved or utter a word the whole time Tee had been talking. I couldn't. My tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth.
"Linda I still love you," her voice was like soft caresses that she was breathing on an open wound. "I’ll always love you, you know that. But I guess that had to come out one day, I'm sorry it came out like that." She started to walk out the room, and then stopped with her hand on the doorknob. She spoke without turning around. "My momma thought your mom was her friend Linda."
She thought the sun rose and set in your mother. She thought she was such a lady. I never told her, never. She never knew. It would have killed her. I never told her. Her voice sounded so strong. She straighten her back, squaring her shoulders.
Tameka turned and faced me with a smile. "Let me share something my Momma always told me Linda. She took a deep breath.
"My Momma said …You should never judge a book by its cover, at least read the jacket."
Tameka then tossed her hair, opened the door, and switched out the room. The sistah that had been in the mirror at the sink, finally washed her hands and dried them. She then turned to me. "Are you OK?" she asked quietly. I shook my head yes; my arms were still tightly wrapped around my body. The woman walked out the room, pity all in her face.
I then carefully unwrapped my arms and stood up. I stood there for a moment. My mind in turmoil, thoughts racing through my head, colliding with each other, and then exploding. Tears, which had refused to be released while Tameka was talking, now poured down my face. I wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my suit, streaking make-up all over the creamy white raw silk material.
I never thought she knew about my momma and her daddy. I knew. I had always known. My momma had told me.
She had told me when she started drilling her crumbs theory in my head. All these years, Tameka knew. And had still been my best friend. All these years she knew. It was like a song that keeps repeating itself in my head. "All these years, she knew."
There was a feeling of weightlessness in my spirit. A feeling of relief flooded my mind. I picked up the twenty and the small white card she had placed face down. I turned it over and read it. I then sat back down.
On the card was "Judge Beauford Laudy 111." I smiled weakly as I tucked the card and money in my jacket pocket. A judge, Tameka has caught the eye of a judge She deserves it." Tameka got a judge." I said aloud, "My Girl is in for a Banquet! That's my Girl," I said through my tears. I heard a toilet flush, and then heard somebody said. "My momma always said 'It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.'" The stall door opened and a short, dark-skinned woman waddled out that must have weighted about three hundred pounds! She looked me up and down then slowly walked to the sink. She proceeded to wash her hands, humming some nameless tune, shaking her big butt in time to her own music.