Enough to Love-Chapter 1

by Karmen Love

Traffic-Chapter 1

I tapped my manicured nail hard against the steering wheel. I hate traffic. For the last few weeks or so, all this construction getting closer and closer to my front door has made maneuvering through traffic an obstacle course. I really hate traffic. I hate this shit right here. Traffic lined up forever and when you finally get to the source, youíre pissed cause thereís an accident-but itís on the other side of the highway. Or when youíre driving behind someone and thereís about an inch between you and the next car up ahead and someone decides to cut you off cause they think thereís enough room for them to squeeze in. And people become amazingly courageous when they flip you off and call you a bitch inside all that glass and metal of their damn SUV. They are braver than when they are walking down the hallways of their office, disregarding my right to drive to work without risking my life everyday. These people really make me sick.

I tried leaving my apartment early for my appointment and as usual, I was running late which put me in a really funky mood. You know, like feeling everything is bout to go wrong and ainít a damn thing you can do about it but go along for the ride. That damn dog my girlfriend Traci gave me set me back just long enough to put me smack dab in the heart of the early morning rush hour. Sheba is a white and black-specked terrier and sheís cute and all, but when I picked up my briefcase and purse from the kitchen table this morning, that heifer jumped up and knocked over my glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. I had filled the glass all the way up to the top, too and hadnít even taken a sip. The juice splashed all over my new Donna Karan suit and left a stain the size of Texas on the beige skirt just below the right hip. I bit my lip to keep from screaming at the dog and from crying. The suit was regularly priced at $600, but when I was shopping down town last week, I caught the suit on sale for half-price. When I tried it on, the suit molded my size ten frame perfectly. I ran to the closet and yanked the black Chanel suit that I wear to interviews and funerals from my packed closet cursing Sheba as I changed my hose and shoes. My old suit was the last thing that I wanted to wear today. For one thing, it was too damn hot to wear black. When I checked the temperature this morning at six, it was already 72 degrees. Now I was going to melt in this hot ass suit. I have only had the dog a little over 6 months and flip flop between loving and hating my 25th birthday gift. I wonder how Traci would feel if I dropped the dog off on her steps. Knowing my smart-ass friend, she would call me an Indian giver I thought as I grabbed my attachť case and purse and then stumbled my way out the door.

My knuckles turned white gripping the steering wheel to refrain from totting the horn of my new 2001 Jeep Cherokee. I love my Jeep! I really canít afford the payments, but I ainít even gonna worry bout it. The salesman couldnít get my payments any lower cause the interest rate was already so high and I was gonna be making payments for the next 5 years. But like momma always says, ďYou only live once!Ē Shoot, if I donít live now, I may end up old, ugly and poor. People just donít take enough chances.

I leaned to the right to see why I still wasnít moving. I took a deep breath to calm myself. Patience is my constant struggle. I pray that God will give me more patience, but he ainít answered my prayer yet. From where I was sitting, I had a clear view of the problem. There was an accident about 20 feet ahead. It looked like a small blue foreign car had rear-ended a black Miata. I knew the culprit was the construction. The construction had been underway on Featherton Lane for just over a month and I knew it had been responsible for over ten wrecks in the area cause I keep getting caught in them. Featherton Lane is a two-lane thoroughfare connecting Georgia Avenue and Hampton Way. Even though the road is barely two miles long, there is constant traffic from all these condo and apartment complexes lined up and down the street. All packed in together on top of one another. And if you ainít looking out for the pedestrians strolling through traffic like they got bumpers taped to their ass, itís these big ass wide potholes left by these big ass dump trucks that most people ainít able to avoid in time. For what itís all worth, the workers will be responsible for building a new condominium complex, Cedar Grove Condominiums, covering over 2000 acres of undeveloped landscape. Just what I need: more traffic. I swear it already feels like I spend at least half my day in my truck. But I heard the condos are supposed to be really nice. Shit, I hope I can move in one myself.

I could make out the intersection of Featherton and Hampton just up ahead. I needed to make a right onto Hampton to reach Highway 30, which would lead me to my appointment with Mr. Jeffries. I glanced down at my new black Movado watch that I also picked up last weekend-even though it wasnít on sale. The silver one I charged on my Capitol One card last month really doesnít work with my business clothes. It was just too casual. I was 20 minutes away from my appointment with Mr. Jeffries and had exactly 20 minutes to get there. My stomach bubbled up and I had to roll down the windows to escape the smell of the poot that seeped out. I could hear the soft whine of the police cruiser en route to the accident scene. If I did not make a move, I would be caught in this hell for another hour. I snatched the gearshift in reverse, backed up a couple of inches, and whipped the Jeep over the edge of the road. I sped past the accident leaving a cloud of brown dust trailing behind me. I could have never done that in the 99 Nissan Altima I traded in for my jeep, I thought, just as the police cruiser reached the accident and I was turning right onto Hampton.

I let out a long sigh, relieved, I checked my watch again hoping that I wouldnít be held up further in the morning traffic on Highway 10. For September, the weather was windy as usual in my hometown of Natini, CA. The winds had blown over trashcans all up and down my street. Just this morning, I put my overturned can into the garage as I was leaving. I eased down the front windows of the Jeep enough to feel a soft breeze tousle my hair across my neck. The sun warmed my left forearm as I sped onto the entrance ramp to Highway 10. I immediately moved my arm out of the sun. I use sun block on it every morning to keep it from getting too black in this hot ass sun. I even carry a bottle in my glove box. If I didnít, Iíd end up with one bronze arm and one honey one, which I preferred, for the rest of the summer. Iíd be surprised if I didnít considering it happened every year of my life since Iíve been driving.

I glanced at the traffic around me and briefly made eye contact with a young Latina woman no more than 20 driving a red convertible BMW with the top down with her long black hair flowing in the strong wind. I sped up and merged dangerously into the fast lane. I looked back at her in the rearview mirror and the view was like a scene from a big budget Hollywood picture. Her candy apple red car was leaving the beautiful mountain scene in the distance. Iím a get me one of those I thought as I ran my hand through my own hair and flipped down the mirror on my visor to see if the pimple that was on my right cheek this morning was noticeable. I used some concealer on it, but it looked humongous if I tilted my head to the left just so. Now if the pimple was closer to my ear, I could have used my hair to cover it, but it was positioned directly in the middle of my cheek, so there was no way I could hide the big ugly spot.

I decided to valet park at the Sea Side Hilton when I arrive just in time for my meeting with Mr. Jeffries. I rushed into the building avoiding the departing travelers that were checking out and stepped into the mirrored elevator that would take me to the 6th floor. Even though I saw a pale, white man looking as hurried as I felt rushing towards the elevator, I jabbed 6 several times then held down the close button until the doors whisked shut. I canít feel guilty today, I thought as I peeked out at him through the closing doors, cause he just looked like he was gonna take all damn day.

In the elevator, I was alone. I took a deep breath, counted to 10, and let the air seep slowly back out of my mouth. I still couldnít relax. Excitement filled me up like a balloon. I planned for this meeting for two weeks straight and want everything to be perfect. The sound of my bags dropping onto the floor of the elevator made a soft thud. I checked my face for any imperfections, and I was surprised that with all of the rush of the morning, my makeup was still flawless. I reached in my purse for a napkin to dab the sweat from my upper lip. My thick shoulder length hair laid in place on my shoulders. I ran my left hand through it to make it appear even fuller. I had been tempted on numerous occasions to cut the long hair that Iíd had since childhood, and even when all of my college friends opted to cut their locks for the Halle Berry look of the early nineties, I kept my damn hair. Shit, men love it! Shoot, I know a niggah likes nothing more then a light skinned chick with good hair. And we mustnít forget a big booty. From the time I was in kindergarten, with long braids hanging down my back, I have always known men love long flowing hair. So I keep it.

Lately brothers been telling me that Iím exotic looking. Exotic? I ainít nothing but black. I donít even claim the Cherokee Indian blood of my grandmother on my mommaís side. Shit, who am I fooling? Itís just because my eyes are wide and look like bottomless pools of brown liquid. My nose is long and strong, but my own favorite feature is my full lips. My top and bottom lips are equal in size, wet like slices of peaches placed neatly on my face, shiny with a creamy coat of expensive tangerine dipped lipstick.

I also wear a heavy layer of foundation and powder, a mask to camouflage my pimple scarred skin, blotchy and uneven. My creamy layer of skin bruises easily, darkens as an angry scrape or deepens into a coffee colored moon. A burn brands me, a reminder of my clumsiness. When I was a teenager, I brushed my teeth and washed my face with my head down in shame, disgusted to see the mass of imperfections, pretending they did not exist. The taunting and teasing of them bad ass neighborhood boys and pretty girls at school made my uneven, blemished skin the shame I try to forget. They called me pimple face, bumpy girl, zebra or just plain ugly. Those words kept me from feeling good about myself. I didnít learn how to love myself cause when I looked in the mirror I was reminded of the way I looked to everyone else. No amount of cocoa butter or fade cream changed my skinís appearance. My grandmother even suggested that I use a little of my own pee to clear up the blemishes, an old wives tale that I tried late at night when no one was awake and I was alone with my shame. Momma had insurance, but lower middle class black families didnít know nothing about going to a dermatologist. But Iíve kept my twice a year appointment with Dr. Miscado since I was 22.

By the time I was thirteen though, Traci had taught me to mix foundation perfectly, foundation that gave me a grown up look, foundation that soiled my collars and left cocoa brown smudges on my schoolwork. I used the foundation as a mask, my burden and my peerís envy. Now I have mirrors all over my house. In the kitchen above the stove, across from my bed, next to the front door, and I even have one directly in front of the toilet. Itís not so much that I am vain as it is Iím held hostage in the past, to see whatís behind me, where Iíve been, and those that have come before me. I wonít let myself forget the past, the little girl I used to be. How life doesnít always go as planned. My mirrors make me think someone might be listening.

The ding of the elevator startled me and returned my thoughts to the meeting. I grabbed my bags and headed out of the elevator in search of suite 611. I went to the left, and as I walked down the long corridor, the suite number came into focus. When I reached the double doors of the suite, I took one extra moment to calm myself, said a silent prayer and lightly tapped on the door.

Enough to Love-Chapter 1 by Karmen Love

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