The Roots

by Tameko L. Barnette

Iím almost there. I can feel it, Yafia thought. She continued to dig deeper into the soil of her mind searching for the roots. The roots. The solutions hid from her. They built themselves up to arouse Yafiaís emotions, but when she reached out they disappeared without a trace forcing her to keep on digging. Her mind pleaded for the rest her heart wouldnít allow to take full effect.

She swallowed a second shot of vodka. It was only ten oí clock in the morning. Yafia glanced at the pile of bills lying on the kitchen table. Some new. Some one month past due. Some two months past due. She watched the caller ID on her telephone carefully making sure not to answer calls that came from 800 numbers or "out of location" numbers.

The past two months for Yafia were filled with interviewing, testing, and application submitting. The responses from potential employers echoed consistently throughout the day. "Iím sorry, but weíve filled the position already." "We donít need anyone right now, but weíll keep your application on file for ninety days just in case." "Weíre sorry, Ms. Tyree. Youíre overqualified for this particular position."

Maybe I should sell Avon or Mary Kay cosmetics, Yafia thought. One second later, she rebuked the idea knowing that the profits from selling cosmetics wouldnít be enough to pay all of her expenses every month. After ten years with the same employee, she found herself in the same position as many others in her area. She fell victim to the evil, demonic spirit called downsizing. She had received a disrespectful two weeks notice of her unfortunate loss of employment.

Her pride wouldnít allow her to work for Burger King, McDonaldís, or KFC. She left those employment days back in her teen years.

Another shot of vodka called to her. Yafia answered the call without hesitation. Finally, Yafia decided to grab the entire fifth of vodka and headed towards the bedroom hiding herself underneath the blankets.

* * *

Three spirits had a meeting about Yafia as they hovered over the bed staring at her drunken, limp body as she slept off the bottle of vodka.

"Which one of us should help her?", her grandmother asked.

"I donít know. From where Iím sitting it looks like she needs all of us," her father said.

"No, I donít think that would be a good idea. It would be too overwhelming for her to deal with all three of us. You do remember weíre dead, donít you?", her mother said.

"Yes, I know that weíre dead, Olivia. Even in death you manage to get on my nerves, woman."

"Watch your mouth, Nelson. Iím the one who did the actual raising of our daughter."

"Both of you need to be quiet. Weíre here for Yafia. Now shut up!"

Olivia and Nelson said in unison, "Yes, maíam."

"Well, which one of us should help her? I know that all of us could do it. But sheíll only be able to handle one of us at a time," Olivia explained.

"Mama Rose, what do you think we should do about helping Yafia?", Nelson kept his eyes on his daughter watching her sleep.

"Well...I should go help her, Nelson," Mama Roseís voice was silky smooth unlike her living days of twenty-five years of smoking cigarettes and the occasional cigar.

"Nelson?! Mama Rose, are you crazy? Nelson didnít have that much of a relationship with her when he was alive. There is no way she would be able to listen to anything he has to say while heís dead."

"Olivia, shut up! I know what Iím doing. And besides, itís not my decision about Nelson helping Yafia. You got a problem with the decision you need to go to the Creator."

"Mama Rose, I canít believe Iím about to say this out loud, but I agree with Olivia on this one. Why would the Creator want me to do this knowing that Yafia and I werenít very close? I wouldíve bet everything that He wouldíve chosen you or Olivia. Not me."

"She needs you, Nelson. Now, go ahead. Your daughter is in pain."

"All right. All right. Iím going, Mama Rose."

Olivia and Mama Rose hugged Nelson as he lowered himself to the floor of Yafiaís bedroom.

He began to materialize in human form. He heard Olivia sniffing and sobbing as they disappeared into their spiritual realms. He turned towards Yafiaís full-length mirror that stood in a corner of the bedroom.

His muscular medium frame looked the same way it did upon his untimely death at the age of 40 due to gunshot wounds to the heart and head during a poker game with some so-called friends, who were angry about his winnings on that tragic evening. Yafia was only 10 years old when he died.

No scars. No scratches. No gunshot wounds. His biscuit brown skin was flawless. His mustache and goatee were trimmed and shaped to perfection as they were during his living days. Suddenly, he turned around to Yafia, who was lying face up with an empty vodka bottle in one hand and a damp Kleenex in the other hand. She slept hard.

Sheís so beautiful, Nelson thought. Her cinnamon brown skin reminded him of Olivia and how she looked at Yafiaís tender age of twenty-eight. He noticed she had his almond-shaped, brown-colored eyes. Her face possessed the same bone structure as his face. He wanted to caress her cheek. Yet, he hesitated not wanting to disturb her sleep. He knew she needed to be sober and in her right mind to accept his transition from spirit form to human form. He quietly made his way towards the living room of Yafiaís apartment.

* * *

Nelson admired the odd looking, abstract artwork that adorned Yafiaís living room. He noticed how the smooth textured earthtone colors in the pictures on the wall matched the furniture. He laughed as he admired the zigzag-shaped lamps strategically placed on the end tables on either side of the sofa. She likes the same kind of stuff her mother was into back in the day, he thought. Tears found their way to his eyes as he stared at the pictures of Olivia, Mama Rose, and himself with Yafi a during the more happier times of her childhood. The tenth birthday picture. The first time with Santa Claus picture. The family reunion picture. The numerous elementary school pictures.

Each with their own frame placed on a shelf Yafia purchased especially for the pictures. Nelson picked up the only picture with just him and his daughter. She was five years old seated on his lap with she and Nelson cheek to cheek. I shouldíve spent more time with her. I thought I had all the time in the world to be with her. I guess I learned differently. No oneís promised tomorrow, Nelson cried quietly.

He spent only a few moments in the kitchen thumbing through the enormous amount of bills on the table. He ran his fingers across the envelopes that were stained with Yafiaís tears. On a whim, he decided to appear to Yafia in the spirit form first. After her initial shock, he thought it would be best to materialize. Sheís in a lot of pain. I just canít appear in human form all of a sudden. Sheís already unstable right now. Iíll sleep here tonight in spirit though. Maybe that will help her f ind peace in her sleep.

Nelson laid his body on the floor in front of the sofa in spirit. A mixed feeling of extreme anticipation and fear of rejection flowed through him like a volt of electricity.

* * *

The next morning Nelson smelled turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee from Yafiaís kitchen. He sat his eluminating body onto the sofa watching his daughter cook herself some breakfast. The phone rang startling Nelson, yet he could hear the conversation.


"Hey Yafia! Itís Malachi. How you doing this morning?"

"Donít talk to me like everythingís okay, Malachi. Where the hell were you last night? I waited for you. You said you were going to be here to spend some time with me. And as usual, you werenít here. I donít know why I keep messing with you."

"Thatís a good statement. Why are you messing with me? Itís obvious I donít make you happy."

Yafia held the receiver to her ear in shock. Yeah, why am I still with him? She opened her mouth to speak then changed her mind. She settled on hanging up the phone without saying goodbye. Malachi called back, but Yafia let the answering machine take the call.

"Yafia, I donít know whatís going on in your life right now, but you canít continue to take that out on me. First, you tell me that you need some time and space to get your life together. Then, you get mad at me because Iím not there for you. What do you want from me? What do you want out of life, girl? When you figure all of that out give me a call."

Yafia sat down at the kitchen table with her breakfast in front of her. She took a small bite of turkey bacon and scooped a forkful of scrambled eggs into her mouth. Suddenly, she felt her stomach turning flips. She covered her mouth with her hand and ran frantically to the bathroom. Turkey bacon and eggs didnít mix well with a stomach full of vodka. She grabbed a washcloth and submerged it in a sink full of cold water. She squeezed the excess water from the cloth folding it into a rectangle sh ape and held it on her forehead as she walked to the living room. She sat on the sofa next to Nelson.

He remained in spirit form. So she couldnít see him, but she was getting a strange feeling that there was someone else in the room with her. Quickly, she dismissed that idea thinking it to be insane and a result of her hangover and loneliness. Nelson wrapped his arms around Yafia hugging her tightly. "Get off me!"

Nelson was stunned that she could feel him considering that he wasnít in human form. He hugged her again just to see if she could actually feel him there. "I said get off me! My grandma told me about you spirits. Iím not in the mood. Leave me alone. And Iím not afraid of you either. I heard you all talking about me last night. I donít need any help from any of you."

Nelson was shocked, yet saddened by her dismissal of him. "Please Yafia, you do need help. Thatís why Iím here for you."

"Who are you anyway? Your voice sounds familiar, but I canít place it."

"Itís me, Yafia. Itís Nelson. Your father."

"Oh, dear God in Heaven. Why me?"

"Because you need me right now. Let me help you."

"No! Go away! And besides, I donít any help. My life is just fine."

"Oh really? Is that why you drank an entire fifth of vodka last night?"

"It worked for you years ago, didnít it?"

Nelson couldnít hold back the tears any longer. He had to admit to himself that she was right. He would often turn to alcohol, drugs, and gambling to escape the responsbilities that faced him many years ago. "Yes Yafia, I made some mistakes. But thatís why Iím here for you right now. I want to make sure you donít make the same mistakes."

"Well, I donít need your damn help. Now, get out of my apartment and donít come back!"

Nelson lowered his head and vanished into his spiritual realm for guidance. Yafia went to the kitchen grabbing another fifth of vodka. She started drinking as she walked back to her bedroom.

* * *

Malachi Ellis sat in front of his computer staring at the blank screen on one of his many word processing programs wanting to write a poem. His writerís block had been going strong for two months straight. And as if that wasnít bad enough, the one woman in the world that he loved more than anything was going through problems that surpassed his writerís block and he didnít know what to do to help her.

He typed a few words, then deleted them angrily. He grabbed a pen and a notebook scribbling more words, then tearing up the paper they were written on in disgust. "Damn! Whatís wrong with me? All these feelings I have inside and for the first time in my life I canít express myself," he said out loud, his voice echoing throughout his less-is-more decorated apartment.

Malachi bought only the necessities for his apartment. An old living room suite purchased from a family that lived next door to his parents. A regular-looking wood card table with four wood chairs. Nothing fancy. Nothing extravagant. Nothing special. Simply useful and needed. And besides, he couldnít afford anything expensive with a full-time gig as a professor at a junior college teaching creative writing and english composition. With a four-year degree from Stevia University named after th e city where its located, Malachi believed that somehow it would help boost his writing career.

He was dead wrong. After hearing about so many new writers, who had either no or very little college education, he realized writing was a profession that had to be enjoyed and learned over the course oneís life. Writers would be learners as well as teachers all their lives. Malachi understood that there would never be a time where he could honestly say that heís got it all figured out when it came to his writing aspirations.

However, the one element in his life he thought he had figured out turned on him in a matter of minutes on the phone. The element formerly known as his girlfriend, Yafia Tyree, who was drowning in a sea of pain that went deeper than Malachi would ever understand or be able to relate to on any level.

Maybe I should just leave her alone for awhile. Yeah! I think that would be the best thing I could do for her at this point in our relationship, Malachi thought.

"Thatís not a good idea, Malachi. Yafia needs your love now more than ever," a melodic baritone voice filled his apartment with powerful vibrations.

Malachi stood up suddenly at his desk in the living room looking around behind him. His eyes were as wide as dinner plates. His hands were trembling out of control. His knees were getting weak forcing him to sit down again. His skintone went from caramel-colored to cream-colored upon hearing the voice that shook his entire apartment.

"She need to know that you love her, Malachi. Why are you here? You should be there with her right now. Go!!!"

Nelson wasnít trying to scare the young man. But he figured what better way to get the job done. Nelson realized in his spiritual realm that Yafia and Malachi were destined to be together. Thatís all Nelson needed to know. Now it was clear on who really had to help Yafia.

Malachi started to write a poem. All of a sudden, he had beautiful words pouring from his heart to the notebook paper. He grabbed his jacket and keys racing against time for Yafiaís apartment.

* * *

As Malachi and Yafia sat in the living room, silence overflowed through every square inch of the apartment. Having slept off her drunkenness, Yafia was alert yet she wasnít in the mood for conversation. "Yafia, I got something for you," Malachi spoke softly changing his sitting position on the sofa to face her.

"But I...," Malachi placed his fingers over Yafiaís mouth before she had a chance to finish her statement which was obviously something rude. "Just listen to this, okay," he assured her.

* * *

Yafia laughed hysterically at the story Malachi had told her about the loud voice shaking his entire apartment. "Whatís so funny?"

"Youíre afraid of the spirits?!"

Malachi gazed at Yafia with a look of confusion. He couldnít understand how she could be so accepting of something so weird. So strange. And especially something so crazy. "But thatís not all I have to share with you, Yafia. I need you to listen closely. It might be just what you need to hear right now."

"What are you talking about now, Malachi?"

"Just listen, baby," he held her close with one hand while he held the poem in his free hand.

I saw you there one day

digging and digging

Searching for answers

solutions to problems

that haunt you

I saw you there one day

crying and crying

Drowning your spirit

looking for an escape

from the madness

I saw you there one day

dying and dying

Pulling the plug

on your life

to ease the pain

I see you there today

I pulled you up from the soil

together weíll find the roots

Yafia sobbed softly as Malachi caressed her face. She wrapped her arms around him tightly. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear.

As they held one another, Yafia noticed Mama Rose, Olivia, and Nelson looking on. Mama Rose mouthed the words "I love you" and went away. Olivia cried and waved goodbye to her daughter. Nelson blew a kiss to her with tears in his eyes.

Yafia smiled and winked her eye at them as they drifted away until called upon again. She nestled her face into Malachiís chest. "Thank you."

The End

The Roots by Tameko L. Barnette

© Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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