by Askia Farrell
the woes of she
there’s a fat girl staring’
but she turns away as quickly
doesn’t want to be so bold
they talk to her so cold
she thinks I’ll be the same
so she looks away in shame
there’s a fat girl staring
with many years of pain
unimagined in a million lifetimes
afraid to crack a smile
to go that extra mile
she’ll never be anything so say her peers
there’s a fat girl staring
she’ll never get a guy like me
it’s a lie I’ll make her see
but then i tell myself i’m taken
and the thought is soon forsaken
and until i reach my station she’ll just stare.
Once upon a time, Jason and Tina had a bright, promising future. They once told their friends that everywhere they went, they were guided by the colors of the rainbow. Bright orange, indigo and yellow hues led their every footstep. Their lives together and future looked so bright, in fact, that they named their German Shepherd Roy G. Biv for the colors of the spectrum. They were so lovey-dovey that at times they’d really get on their friends’ nerves. But something happened on the way to ‘til death do us part’. Somehow, whoever was at the wheel at the time drove off the road leading to eternity.
The singles scene wasn’t doing it for Jason. He was really slow getting back into the swing of things after his six-year marriage to Tina ended in divorce. Where did the single women hang out now? What were they talking about? Interested in? He wasn’t used to being alone and didn’t enjoy it at all. Even before he was married, there was always someone. Now at 33, he was lonely for the first time in his life…and starting over.
"What color is your parachute?" the Human Resources psychologist asked Jason during their Friday afternoon session.
"What color is my parachute?" he repeated. He thought about it for a second before responding. "Black. And it’s made out of a material that’s interwoven with steel and I’m floating around in the middle of a lightening storm."
The psychologist wrinkled his brow and looked at him with concern. He didn’t say anything, then started scribbling something down on his notepad.
Since being a bachelor again, Jason had all of two dates. Two dates in six weeks.
The first one was a blind date. Literally. She was a sister of his co-worker Jeff. He showed Jason a picture and she looked like a fine candidate. In the picture, she was leaning against a tree and wearing a pretty spring dress. Jeff explained he took that shot of her recently at a family picnic. Great! Jason thought, until he picked her up from her Manhattan apartment and saw her walking stick. The date kind of went down hill after that. He’d wanted to take her to the movies, but….
The second date was with someone he met at the supermarket. She came by his apartment later that evening for drinks and to watch the Knicks playoff game. Her unconstrained waterfall of bullshit eventually took its toll. He was about to offer her a dollar just to shut up. She knew every one of the Knicks, Patrick, Latrell, Larry.
"…he likes to be called Sir Lawrence in bed," – "Charlie Ward is a closet freak…, you know coach Van Gundy? I call him Jeff, but he says the funniest things. Last week at dinner…," etc.
She even "knew" the players from the Indiana Pacers, Chris Mullen, Mark Jackson, Coach Bird.
"Have you ever had a hot lunch?" she asked him during the game.
"A hot lunch? Can’t say I know what that is."
"Would you like one?"
"What is a hot lunch?" he asked as she started rubbing his crotch. Maybe the game could wait. She saddled up really close to him and whispered seductively into his ear.
"That’s when I’m riding your hard cock and then right before you cum, I take you out of me and shit on your chest."
He looked at her long and hard to make sure she wasn’t joking before he kicked her out.
Jason’s friend Donna from Howard University called him on Saturday afternoon. He had tried to sex her once back in school and ended up in the platonic friend zone. She was instrumental in helping him ward off his impending nervous breakdown.
"What are you doing tonight?" she asked him.
"Before or after we have sex?" he asked back.
"Aw, c’mon Donny. Not even a mercy fuck? It’s been a long time for me. Have mercy."
"That’s not what your hand told me. And behave, Anthony’s here. He’s in the bathroom."
"Oh. Tell him I didn’t say hello." He hated her boyfriend Anthony.
"Will do. So…what’s up for later then?"
"Nothing. I have tickets for tomorrow’s game, but I’m in for the night."
"Cool. The sorors are throwing a little something for the athletes participating in the Special Olympics at a community center in Queens. Why don’t you swing with me?"
"Sounds wonderful. What ever will I wear?" he asked sarcastically.
"Yeah, you’re right. You sound like you have a much better evening planned."
"Point taken. What time should I be ready?"
"I’ll pick you up at six."
The community center smelled like a wonderful combination of turkey franks and sickness. He couldn’t believe what his Saturday nights had come to. He said hello to Donna’s sorority sisters – none of them remotely attractive – and exchanged other pleasantries. They were in the kitchen fixing hot dogs, pouring soda, and making dip for the chips and pretzels. He kept scheming and dreaming up ways to get Donna to leave this place and come home with him, but he knew it was a lost cause. She was in love with this rich prick that lived in her building and she wouldn’t even try to hear Jason. What a waste, he thought.
The athletes that were to be participating in the event were in tow, just a few had family members there, but most of them were from a home so their "attendants" were with them. The head of the facility, they called her Ms. Romano ("Ms. Romano, may I go to the bathroom", "Ms. Romano, may I have some more chips", "Ms. Romano…") was there to make sure they had fun, but not too much. She looked like she could crack a whip when she had to. Some of them were in wheelchairs or walked with braces, but most of them just looked mentally ill. Some wore adult diapers and would involuntarily take a shit on themselves; some just stood in a corner and stared; others were just dancing away to whatever was playing on the little boom box that sat on a table with a crude looking table cloth. This one guy, though, had this incredibly small head with two huge buckteeth protruding from his face. He looked like a character from the cartoon strip "The Far Side". It was unbelievable to see. His teeth looked like they were bigger than his whole head! How could someone’s head be that small? Jason wondered. He felt Donna nudge him.
"Don’t stare," and she walked back into the kitchen. The whole scene was reminiscent of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest."
The music stopped momentarily, but no one seemed to notice. Most – girls with girls, girls with guys, guys with guys, and those by themselves – just kept dancing anyway. And although it was approaching summer, they all seemed to be dressed in cardigans, corduroy pants and heavy jackets as if there was a winter storm watch in effect. It was very Twilight Zone-ish.
This Black woman, or girl – it was really hard to tell their ages - approached Jason and asked if he would like to dance. She was somewhat pudgy and looked like she probably had Down’s Syndrome. He declined gracefully explaining that the music had stopped. She looked dejected and ran away. He felt horrible. To avoid future altercations, he decided that he’d man the boom box and play DJ since it seemed someone had deserted their post. He flipped through the CDs that were around. Not a bad selection at all, he thought. Some Teddy, Biggie (who bought Biggie?), Luther, Anita Baker, Parliament, but he stopped when he noticed Prince’s "Sign o’ the Times". He knew exactly what he’d play first.
"That’s my favorite album," someone said behind him. He turned to look.
"Yeah, I haven’t heard this in a while. It brings back some memories," he said. She was just slightly overweight, brown-skinned, with a very cute face, high cheekbones, big expressive brown eyes, and a warm inviting smile. Her name was June.
"I’m a huge fan of Prince. Excuse me, The Artist, but I haven’t played this one in a long time. Were you about to put it on?" June asked Jason.
"Yeah, I was about to. I was just trying to figure out which song to play."
"Oh, I was about to get some chips and a soda. Can I bring you anything?"
He thought for a second. "Yeah, let me get a fruit cocktail, I ain’t too hungry."
June laughed. "Sounds like a real man to me. Kinda cute. Wanna take a bath?"
"Dorothy Parker," he exclaimed. She winked and sauntered off to the kitchen for her chips and soda.
"Why haven’t I seen you here before now?" Jason asked June as she was munching away on the chips and licking her fingers. She must be really hungry, he thought. "Did you just get here?"
"No, I was here when you and your girlfriend got here. I was in the bathroom helping someone who had a little accident."
"Oh. That’s not my girlfriend, by the way. That’s just my friend Donna. We’ve been friends for a long time. So, what’s your deal? How long have you been working with people like this?
"People like what?" she asked.
"You know…the afflicted. I’m sorry if I seem a bit crude, but I don’t know what these…"
"All they really need is love and that’s all I have to give them. Someone to talk to, someone to listen. They’re people just like you and me, Jason. Some of them are just slower than others. Some were severely beaten when they were children, some have Downs Syndrome, some have MS, some just weren’t held by their parents when they were babies. Can you imagine that?"
"I apologize." He answered. "It’s refreshing to see someone so passionate about their work though. How long have you been working with them?
"I’ve been with this organization for six years now. And they’ve been the best six years of my life. These people make me feel alive again and I thank God every day just for life."
Wow! That put things into perspective for Jason. Here he was worried about this and that. Insignificant things, sweating the small stuff. He realized that he hadn’t been grateful for much lately. Since the divorce, he’d just been walking around seeing how rotten the world was, and what was wrong with everything.
There was something about June. She had a spacey type of innocence that was very different yet surprisingly attractive. Jason watched her interact with the "patients". She embodied patience and love and treated everyone as if they were the most important person in the world. She seemed to be much more calm and soothing then the other attendants. Especially that Ms. Romano woman, aka Nurse Cratchet. They all seemed to fear her.
Jason played CD after CD. When he played "Atomic Dog" by George Clinton, he was trying to figure if the majority of them were dancing to the rhythm of the music or to the words of the song. It was very hard to tell.
He and June talked about this and that. Where they’ve been. Where they wanted to go. They mad a promise that they wouldn’t go to Egypt without each other. That would be their trip of a lifetime. Jason suggested a Nile River cruise. He promised he would research different packages on the internet the next day. His standards had been too high, he felt. Here was this wonderful girl full of spirit and life that he would have just walked by on the street and wouldn’t have looked at twice. Such a blessed soul. According to June, everyone was equal in her eyes. Jason. Her. The guy with the incredibly small head. Everyone.
"What’s this strange relationship?" Jason asked her.
"That’s another song off that album I really like."
"No, really," he stammered. "I haven’t felt this way in a long while."
"Well, stick around a bit. It could be whatever you –"
"June, come along now!" Ms. Romano barked to her.
June jumped to her feet. "Yes Ms. Romano."
"You have a very busy day ahead of you tomorrow," Ms. Romano continued. "Your parents are coming to visit so you must get your rest tonight."
She took June, Jason’s love, by the hand and led her out of the room. The party was clearly over. Everyone was putting on their jackets, being rounded up by the attendants and heading out. Jason didn’t even notice the music had stopped.
"Say good-bye to the nice man," Ms. Romano ordered June.
She turned around and waved to Jason. He searched her eyes for just a hint of the person he’d fallen in love with the last 60 minutes.
"Bye-bye," June said before heading through the door.