by Jeanarre M. Davis
"Try summa this here suga pie, I know you'll like it," Mama Rose said trying to convince Lilly to eat the squash she prepared with dinner.
"Ugh mama," Lilly said frowning her face up. "That's nasty."
"Now how you know it's nasty if you ain't never had none?"
"Cause if it wasn't nasty I woulda had some by now."
"Gal, you quit givin' your mama a hard time and eat what she made for you." Nana Doris said. "You just better thank the Lord that you got food and a family. Some folks ain't got it like you... humph, some don't even got one let lone the other."
Lilly turned up her nose. "Okay." She raised the fork to her mouth and ate some of the yellow mess. It wasn't bad, in fact she actually found it to her liking, but she would never let on that she enjoyed it or any other vegetable.
"May," Doris said entering into a conversation Lilly knew was for her mother and grandmother only. "Why ain't you tell me about Charlie?"
"What you mean mama?"
"Bout how he actin'. I would have believed it if I hadn't see if wit my own eyes."
"I told you he was acting different."
"Chile that ain't different, it's just wrong is what it is. The way he dressing up wearing scarves and thangs."
"Mama I told you Charles sat me down and told me bout himself."
"Well tell him to retell it. He need the Lord. He was practically raised in Chapel Baptist, and now all of y'all go but him. Hmph, that why he acting the way he is. Likin' mens and all that."
Lilly got up and put her plate in the sink. She knew the only way she could keep listing is if she were working, so she plugged the drain and turned the hot water on to start the dishes.
"He's happy mama."
"I know, he sweet, got suga in his tank, and on the wrong side of the fence too."
"Mama do you think I ain't talk to him? I just realized that's the way he gon be and I accept him."
"That's my grandbaby and I accept him too, but my goodness. Well...at least he pretty..."
"What? I saw you talking to Sister Engle Sunday."
"Yeah. She was tellin' me about the problems she's been havin'. Did you know her husband's thinkin' about divorcin' her?"
"Gal please. Ain't no such thang. She just want to start rippling' water. Don't you go belivin' her foolishness. She ain't doin' nothin' but hopin' to get eyes on her, but if you want to know who's husband is thinkin' of leavin, it's Lizzie Bells. He wouldn't be taking so long to make up his mind if he knew she was sneakin' round with Mr. Cole."
"Mama how you know?" Rose leaned forward and hushed her voice in case Lilly was listening.
"Chile walls talk and house maids too."
"Mama I thought you said you wasn't goin' to keep listening to gossip."
"I said I wasn't gon' to start it, but if I can hear it, Imma listen."
May shook her head. "You terrible mama. Talkin' about people like that."
"As long as I'm on this earth, I'll talk up who I please, and when the Lord takes me, I'll talk about who I'm with.
And that's just what nana did. She acted just the way she pleased until her passing day. Mama didn't take it too well. She still isn't doing so good, and that isn't saying much. Nearly fifteen Years have passed, and every year on that anniversary, mama stays locked up inside the house. She don't talk to nobody, she don't answer the phone, she just don't do nothin'. I go over there to check on her; she's doin' alright if Precious Lord, the song mama sang at the funeral, is playin'. .
"Charlie you got a phone call."
"Who was it?" He asked looking up from behind the paper he was reading.
"I didn't get a name."
"Lilly, all I ask you to do is when you answer the phone and it's for me, just take a correct message. That could have been your future bother-in-law, but I'll never know now because you didn't get a name."
"No what's sorry is what's in your head."
"I know... I know it's unbeweaveable."
"No it's unbelievable, as in I can't believe you would put that crap in yo head. You should go where I go steda walkin' around looking like a bag of jelly beans."
"I like it."
"At least pick a natural color. Blue or green or hot pink ain't cute boo."
"I'm expressing myself."
"Well express yo self like you got some sense."
He went back to reading to avoid seeing me roll my eyes at him. What is and isn't on my head never hurt him none.
Charlie was always on me, but it was in a playful manner. He just wanted me to be my best and look my most fabulous doing it, but I never wanted to buy into looks that much. I did like to get dressed up and a new hair do every other blue moon, but that was it.
I never saw anything wrong about himóbesides the obvious, which wasn't wrong at all; just too different to some folks, and I don't think I could imagine him any other way.
I lived with Charlie in his "old history" house that he inherited from Uncle Ricky who was just as fabulous as he was. Charlie never charged me rent or ordered me to do anything but find who I wanted to be. I tried. In fact, I'm still trying. I applied to twenty colleges, got accepted to fifteen, attended five and don't have a single degree to show for it. I have a certificate in office administration, childcare, clerical/data work, pharmacy technician, and even a real estate license. Every member of my family isn't surprised when I tack on a new one, but they will be shocked when I actually follow anything through. Finding a career is boring and the idea of actually having one is even more so.
I had a job, and that was just what it was. I worked Monday through Friday from six in the morning until two as a cashier at a coffee shop. I didn't take a class or earn a certificate for it so that meant that I made a scratch above minimum wage; they had to give me something for my education. I gave Charlie and mama some money here and there, and the rest I attempted to save. It wasn't' working out that great since I dumped checks into my 1979 Toyota Corolla that got me around.
Three more years passed until I decided it was time for me to be on my own. It was nothing personal to Charlie, it was just my time, and there's just nothing like have a place all your own. I found a two bedroom apartment equal distance between both Charlie and Mama. I set out for a one bedroom and found it in my building for $350 including utilities, but the day before I was to sign the lease, a two bedroom opened up for twenty-five dollars extra. I figured it was worth the extra money for another room.
A promotion to manager at the coffee shop eventually came. The extra work didn't bother me much; some days I actually liked it. I didn't do too much. Time went by and I let it. There were dates on occasion, but nothing or no one special, but in '95, I went through a whirlwind.
Everything that day, week, month even was routine. Well in hindsight, the hallway was especially quiet and a little chilly for three days straight. There wasn't a television blasting the lottery or NBA playoffs. I put the key in the door and went inside, flicking on the light as usual. There were messages from Charlie, my gal pal Pam, and JD Byrider telling me I was thirty dollars short on my latest payment (no surprise there). I put the untouched catfish meal, that I no longer wanted for dinner, in the refrigerator meaning for it to be tomorrows lunch. The last thing that I remember was turning on my bedroom light.
I'm not sure who called the ambulance, (maybe they from a guilty conscience I suppose) but I'm thankful they did. Eight doctors stressed to me that it was a miracle I lived after flat lining on the table, and an even bigger miracle I can still function right. I'd like to forget about it, but I never will; and that's not because of the fist size wound on the right side of my head where the bullet hit, it's because of what came from it.
If there weren't' some young teens robbing my apartment for chump change and a thirteen inch color television and got scared when I caught them in my bedroom I probably would have kept working letting time go by. But thanks to them (THANK YOU!) After I finished physical therapy, something in me woke up and I wanted to do good. I researched grants and sought sponsors for Lilly's Home.
A nonprofit place for people who's purpose is lost or overlooked. A warm environment to help everyone from the homeless to abused to dropouts to disabled. We take care of the babies, children who suffer from mental and physical disadvantages, or as some call them, "trash babies."
There are over one hundred Lilly's Homes and we are growing all over the nation. I always understood the saying you get out of life what you put into it, but I never knew what life was till I became a miracle.