July 21,2002

The Worst of Two Worlds

by Nefertiti Tyehemba


It was four years ago since Malik stepped off the blue front steps he walked up to now. The orange of the setting sun shone against the clean white one-story home, giving it a surprising glow. His time at Carleton College changed him. Malik wasn’t the wild pubescent high school senior yearning for every party and every girl. He rubbed the baldness of his head like a player feeling out his ball.

Malik’s towering figure still resembled his father’s. As he walked calmly with his head high and his shoulders upright; the twinkling fireflies began to bustle about at the call of the night air. His fingers jingled around in his pocket for his key and then finally grasping it, he pushed it into the lock.The solid hard wooden door opened easily from the help of the evening breeze blowing with a purpose. “I see you reached here safe,” said Malik’s father. Vernon Wilson held the distinct features of the Wilson family—the copper toned brownish complexion resembling the cinnamon swirl in buns, the defined cheekbones that carried a sense of pride in their demeanor and the dignified slightly protruding lips.

“Traffic wasn’t too bad. I’m glad I reached here before nightfall,” said Malik.This section of Maryland wasn’t known for “police chasers” but a black man seen driving in a white area meant trouble anyhow. Especially since Malik was driving an expensive car like the BMW he purchased last year. He didn’t want to take any chances.

“Did you sleep with her?” Mr. Wilson asked pointedly. Malik knew that he spoke of Jane, the girl he wrote about in his letters to Mother.“You thought because you only addressed the letters to your mother, I wouldn’t know," said Mr. Wilson.“Why does it have to come down to this? Hasn’t our race suffered enough?” Malik said, shading his eyes from the shining presence of the sun.“Because of people like you we’ll never rise.” Mr. Wilson’s gaze did not relent in its glare. “Do those other black college boys sleep with them, too?” Mr. Wilson questioned “Why does it matter to you?” asked Malik.

“I want to know if I’m the only father who now can’t walk with his head high.”“I’m one of the ten black guys at that school. ONE of ten. And there are less females, many of whom leave because they can’t take the pressure of this kind of isolation,” said Malik. “You know, I spent so much time teaching you children to respect yourselves and love who you are. We even sent you to that afro-centric program your brothers went to. Maybe I thought that if your mother and I were drilling it in at home, those diligent educators, Mama Bea and Baba Kofi, would be sure to give ya’ll the message and teach you something about your history.”

“What did that stuff have to do with anything?” Malik thought pensively.“I thought maybe those programs would give you some pride in yourself,” said Mr. Wilson. “Dad, she was just like any other girl. She didn’t do me no harm, her being white and all.” Malik pressed his hand to his manly chest, driving it against his body with his might. “Look at me, I’m still Malik.”“Well. Boy, you did her harm. Cause I swear to you that her father is taking his gun out now, wondering which nigger he should kill first.” Their eyes took hold of each other’s and like instinct, tears rolled down Malik’s face. Mr. Wilson tried to hold back but his tears fell slowly down his tight face.  

Across town, Jane Richardson and her father walked together down a pebble-paved street. Mr. Richardson clasped his daughter’s hand. The numerous trees shaded the two as their pale feet crunched on old leaves sounding like the cackling laughter of old women.“So, honey, tell me about this young man you’ve been talking about.” His phone chats while Jane was at Carleton left this guy seeming a little mysterious. “Well, Dad, I just want to come right out with it, he’s black.” She blurted out quickly.

Mr. Richardson stopped a moment as if he missed his daughter’s starkly clear words. “Had you ever dated a black girl?” asked Jane.

Mr. Richardson didn’t mention how his friends dragged him along in the girls’ locker room to peep on the little black girls dressing behind towels. “Well, no, honey, but I had some black friends. I was friends with fellas on my football team,” said Mr. Richardson.“I thought you might like to know that I’m thinking of marrying him,” Jane said. Two chipmunks chased each other by a near tree; the lighter one was fast on the other’s tail. “What?!”

Mr. Richardson said in a stupefied tone. He thought he knew his daughter well but was this what their relationship had come to? What would his beer buddies say when they found out his daughter was with a nigger. Jane continued. “I mean, everything just glows about him. The way he bops into a party with his navy blue Yankees cap cocked to one side, his scarf tied tightly underneath. Then he gives off the sexiest smile that lights up the whole place. Sometimes he has his chic Fubu glasses and when he wears them, he looks so intellectual and fine. But the best thing is seeing his black arms wrapped around my white body.”Mr. Richardson cleared his voice.

“Jane, although you are not my little girl anymore, you are still young to me and I have to try to protect you.”He spoke deliberately and seriously, his face stiffening with each word.

“I don’t want to see you set this life your imagining in stone because I know it will backfire, and you will regret having the feelings you do now. You know I care about you and will do anything for you.”Jane looked closely at her father as if taking in his admonition. Her pale blue eyes seemed to match her father’s perfectly.“Daddy, Malik and I can make a life together. He can protect me.”
She thought about the last time she was in Malik’s arms. How warm and comforting it felt as his brown muscular arms held her.
Mr. Richardson did not say another word. He knew what he had to do to save his daughter.  
© Copyright HarlemLive® 2002 All Rights Reserved


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