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'I Get Mad'
A Last Night With a Longtime Lady Friend: 7/25/21
She hugged him and said, “To lay my head on my strong man feels so good. When you came back I could hardly believe you were real. You weren't just a story I told anymore. You were my savior when you mailed me that check in March when I was out on my ass. Now you're almost gone again and I get mad.”
He hugged her and said, “I Love you and I'll be back next year.”
“Dam you,” she snarled, “I love you more and I'm tired—almost sixty and working seven days a week. You know Emma really loves you—my beautiful little girl. You're the only man that has ever been there emotionally for either one of us—and you're all but out the door...”
Both, long used to sleeping alone, curled up on opposite sides of the bed and dozed off as the window air conditioner hummed.
At five in the morning he sat across from her downstairs, in her oldest brother's “starter” house, where she lived with his widow, Georgia, who was stuck in Baltimore City when her husband passed, consigned to grow old in the little row house she had been told was their first step out of town.
She was tired already, a little hunched, stiff and slow as she painfully put on her compression socks, resting for short moments while rolling one each, resting for a long, wincing moment after completing each.
Then the soft little shoes, each slowly laced with a wheeze and a moan.
She sat and collected herself with her swollen eyes closed, her silver hair pulled back in a bun for work. After a deep breath she sighed, “One more cowboy killer.”
He stepped outside while she smoked a third of a cigarette and thought about what he could only guess. She put out the cancer brand, saved it carefully in paper, and returned it to its place in her worn brown purse.
When she rose up for a hug she said, “Dam you, Poppy—don't you dare walk me down to work. I've gotta do this on my own 11 months out of the year. My coworkers were already asking me if my boyfriend has been in prison. Then when they saw you walk me down, they were like, 'Yeah, Miss *^%$#'s man is out of the joint!' Besides, Georgia wants you to stay and get a ride. You're finally looking too old to fight those young niggs.”
She stepped down gingerly off the porch, shuffled to the gate, closed it behind her, stopped and looked up as if wondering what terrible thing she had done to be marooned here, under this uncaring sky. Then he watched her limp across the street—still slaving away in that goddamned business, in that twice damned city, where they had met some fifteen years past.
He recalled as he watched her so tired and slow, that she had been the strongest-willed woman he ever met. Now, broken by circumstance and age, she had been consigned to fight off black women when she was a girl, then white men when she was a cute young Polish woman. Eventually, as “an Old Pollack Bitch,” she would be fired by three different white grocery outfit owners for standing up for the young black cashiers who didn't want to be pawed and molested on the sales floor or raped in the stockroom by black men who were customers and supervisors.
He mused sadly that the only things she had ever done to affront the gods of this damned world was to care about what was right, stand up for those weaker then her against those far stronger, and to be born the pale shade of Hate... in Hate's very home.
To see her limping slowly up over the far curb in her grocery clerk's uniform hurt when he recalled that she had committed one other unforgivable sin, caring about him.
He sat waiting for his ride on the couch where she spent a half-hour a day getting her work shoes on and off. Then he walked upstairs and found Georgia sitting in her sitting room and thanked her for letting him stay with her housemate.
The big old woman, who lost a daughter and her husband to this evil city, looked up with a smile and said, “My pleasure, Jim. Thanks for all you done, and please be careful. Some of those that love you don't have much else.”
Then, he was gone.
PS:
When leaving town he received this text:
“My small moments with you are very important to me. I'm, proud to know you. Your determination and drive is incredible and of course I love you. Please come back to me.”
-8:15 A.M.
He recalled then, that when you are a heel, the shoe of fault always fits.
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JackmaninovOct 8, 2021

Beautiful vignette
HerzogOct 10, 2021

Great and true writing, kudos.
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