Sunday, July 09, 2017

Organ Donor

Organ Donor 

            It was already nine o’clock. Regine checked herself in the mirror. She looked just right. The olive colored suit, a Mychael Knight original, complemented her caramel coloring, hazel eyes and honey-colored hair. She was riveting and she knew it. 
”You think I’ll impress Simkins?”
Petite, freckled and bubbly, Jen nodded as she caught the hairbrush Regine flung at her.
“He’s big league, honey, rolling in dough. If I get this case, it’ll be a handsome payday. Noon at Justin’s. You said he’ll find me?”
“He’s seen you on TV. Everybody has since the Laveau case.”
Regine preened one last time, “That was brilliant if I do say so. Guilty bastard walked with probation and community service. Which bag? Coach or Kenneth Cole? Okay Coach - the black one.”
Jen quickly transferred her things.
“You should have seen the DA’s face when the sentence was handed down - priceless.”
“He said he had to attend to some important personal business on Moreland first but he should be there on time.”
  “This is my big opportunity. If only I didn’t have to take care of that lost driver’s license first.”
After that official police warning the previous evening, Regine could not put it off any longer. It would not do to be caught on the wrong side of the law, not to mention the negative press.
“Anais. Now why couldn’t you do this for me, too?”
Jen laughed. “Sorry. I can’t.”
Regine sprayed on some Anais and snatched the keys from Jen’s extended hand on her way out.  Jen would clean up after her as usual. That’s what personal assistants were for.  
“Don’t be late.”  Jen called after her.  “You know how you are!”
The Department of Motor Vehicles, located on South Moreland, one of the seediest parts of Atlanta, and jammed with people, smelled like a cross between a triage ward and a cheap café. Too bad she couldn’t hold her breath for the duration. There was standing room only and the queue inched forward. Regine glanced at her diamond-encrusted Rolex. Almost ten thirty. With a sigh, she pulled out her Kindle to pass the time with Afterburn, a  Zane sizzler.
It was hard to ignore the tall, lanky man of about forty standing next to her wearing a badly-fitting brown polyester suit with sallow skin, and sunken cheeks. His stale tobacco odor assailed her as he edged closer apparently to say something to her. Strike One.  She glared at him and he backed off, but only for a second. She took a deep breath and refocused on Zane. She could feel the creep’s nicotine-laced breath warm and eager against her neck. For some reason he seemed intent on making conversation, however unwelcome. Regine shut him down with a steely stare. But his intense gray eyes and ever-present smile refused to leave her head.
An hour later the queue had barely moved. She would have to call Jen. She rummaged in her bag for her Blackberry Curve but came up empty-handed.  Jen must have forgotten to transfer it.
         “Here, use mine,” Mr. Nicotine offered.
It was either that or, heaven forbid, the outside pay phone. As she accepted the grungy Motorola RAZR, she noticed the grime embedded under his fingernails and concluded he must be an auto mechanic or something equally loathsome.  The first ring brought Jen’s perky greeting. Regine had no time for pointless pleasantries. She cut her short.  
“Call Simkins. Make sure he doesn’t leave.”
With a forced smile and a curt thank you, she returned the phone.
           “Lost your driver’s license, too?” He dared to claim affinity. “It costs less for organ donors, you know.”
             Strike Two. Smoker and cheapskate.  She wondered if he planned to donate a diseased lung just to save a penny.
Just then they called G506.  A smile spread across his face making him look almost handsome.
          “That’s me. See you later.”
          “Not if I can help it.” 
He was answering his phone and missed her vitriol.
Another fifteen minutes went by before she heard her number.  With all paperwork in order, she handed over a Platinum Visa.
          “We don’t accept credit cards. Don’t know who you are; don’t care. Exact change or nothing. Fifteen regular, eight organ donor.”
Regine bristled and fished around in her Bermuda Triangle while Ms. Ghettofabulous, seated behind the window, tossed her weave and drummed her long, painted acrylic nails on the counter.
Regine found a five and three ones -- just enough for organ donation.  When she hesitated, Ms. Ghettofab rolled her eyes. “Next!”  Regine plunked eight dollars down on the counter, “Organ donor endorsement.”  Ms. Ghettofab raised one penciled-in eyebrow and snorted.
              Five minutes later, Prada shielding her light-sensitive eyes, Regine turned her royal blue BMW onto the downtown connector, her thoughts fixed on Lonnie Simkins and lemon trout at Justin’s, P.Diddy’s classy restaurant on Peachtree in Buckhead. She was already behind time. At the 400 exit, she pulled alongside a rusted Taurus hooptie belching thick, gray exhaust fumes. The driver was Organ Donor. Was he following her? Strike Three.  
            She stepped hard on the gas, and cut him off on the merger. Too late she saw the silver Benz approaching at high speed from the Sidney Marcus direction.  Regine swerved to the right but ended up wedged in the ditch, engine sputtering, steam rising, the passenger side jammed against the noise barrier, cars whizzing by. Her door refused to budge.  Her stomach lurched.
            Suddenly, there was Organ Donor again, springing into action with a crowbar in hand, prizing her door open. His strong yet gentle hands lifted her out to safety.  Tearful and weak with relief, she slumped against his shoulder.
“One more coat of paint, and you could have been an organ donor,” he teased, securing her in his passenger seat and fastening her seatbelt.
She had to smile. “You are a godsend.”
“My pleasure, Miss West. Lonnie Simkins at your service.”
“You knew all along?”
“I tried to tell you.”

©KPLewis (KalyPsouL)

Saving Shoes


The alarm sounded, and instantly Tantie Aurelia’s work-worn body jerked into action, though not quite mimicking the alacrity of her long-awake mind. She slipped her feet into the pair of cheap, black, threadbare, house shoes she had picked up at Payless close on seven years ago.
“One of these days I’ll throw them awaym” Marcus had threatened.
“These still good, boy,” she protested, leaning on her left foot to ease the strain on her swollen right knee.  Some day, she thought, I’ll still get that pair of red stilettos I’ve always wanted. The time never seemed right. Red stilettos reminded her of pride-of-place, a sense of comfort, belonging, and rootedness she did not yet feel –- not in this foreign land.

Tantie Aurelia prepared his breakfast then stood watching him negotiate the long driveway and speed down the narrow lane, music blaring, tires screeching.  As she turned, she noticed something sticking out under the half-closed flap of the large cardboard Goodwill box in the garage.  She shuffled over to inspect a hardly-used pair of black Reeboks.  His feet had been growing longer as he got taller. For years she had been saving every pair he outgrew to take home, but so far she had not been able to do so. Muttering her disgust, she retrieved them, hitting the soles together to dust them off. She looked around. She was running out of hiding places.

Shoes had always fascinated her. She loved to visit DSW, if only to feast her eyes. She was the cook at Liz’s Roti House on Covington Highway and did some catering on the side when her health permitted. She made sure Marcus wanted for nothing or felt different from the other kids his age. Even now that he used his pizza delivery earnings to buy his own clothes, shoes, gas, and for pocket change, she still struggled with the other bills, and could buy little for herself.

Aurelia hated to throw things out, especially shoes. Somebody back at home would be glad for them. She wondered if this was the “maid- mentality” the African Americans talked about with such scorn when referring to West Indian immigrants. She didn’t care; her heart lay with those poor relatives at home.
“You know how many of your cousins back home walking ‘bout barefoot?”
 “But they have small feet. Some of these are twelve and thirteen? And besides, how they goin’ wear boots? It ain’t got no winter there.”

In his Papa John’s uniform -- green polo shirt, khakis and cap, Marcus, tall, thin and tattooed, shook his head and flashed the grin he knew never failed to melt her heart. It wasn’t that long ago when she, too, was considered good-looking, but now worries furrowed her brow and she felt much older than her forty-six years.

“Aunty, these shoes too heavy to travel with.  They’re going to Goodwill. Where the box at?”
“Boy, you ain’t learn yet not to put a preposition at the end of a sentence? You too American now? I sure your mother turning over in her grave. Don’t worry ‘bout how I goin’ take them back; I goin’ find a way! And is Tantie, not Aunty.”

The shoes continued to pile up. If only she could save the money for two airline tickets. But then she knew she would also have to have enough to spend lavishly when they got there. West Indian immigrants had kept alive the myth of basking in the lap of luxury in America for so long, she wouldn’t want to shatter it now.

Then the idea hit.  Where was that Caribbean Shipping Service business card she had picked up at Liz’s? Hadn’t she put it in a safe place? She found it wedged between the pages of her Jerusalem Bible.  With trembling fingers, Aurelia dialed the number and asked the woman with the Guyanese accent for information. 

When she hung up, she went to check the Folger’s tin where she kept her savings. She had exactly $1096. If she spent the $180 standard shipping charge, she’d have to replace it before the end of the month when she had to pay $1000 deposit to hold Marcus’ place at Morehouse College before his scholarship kicked in. Aurelia turned over the figures in her mind and decided it was possible. She was about to realize her dream. The shoes were going home, although not with her.

It was after eleven that night when she heard Marcus pull up in her car. She was relieved. She couldn’t sleep when he was out there at nights; delivering pizza was dangerous work.  “Aunty, you can’t hide me from God,” he had said, but it didn’t stop her from worrying. His footsteps paused outside her door,
“Aunty, you awake? I could come in for a sec?” His six foot one, eighteen-year-old frame filled the doorway. “Just reminding you -- the Morehouse deposit is due tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? But I thought you said August thirty-first?”
“No, Aunty.  August first.  Classes start in two weeks.”

Once again, Aurelia watched her dream disappear like soap bubbles.  Strangely this time she felt neither sadness nor disappointment. He was her first priority, she understood that more clearly than ever now, and right here in this America helping him realize his dream was where she belonged.
Next morning she was up early, humming to herself as she fixed breakfast.  On their way back from Morehouse College, they stopped at Goodwill to drop off the box. Marcus grinned broadly as Tantie Aurelia laughingly waved away the tax receipt they offered her.

“One more stop,” she told him.
He raised an eyebrow, put his I-Pod earphones into his ears and reclined in his seat while she drove to DSW at Stone Crest Mall.  Her knee was still in pain; she did not yet have an appropriate occasion for them, nor anything to wear with them, but it didn’t matter. She was buying that pair of red stilettos.


©KP Lewis (Kalypsoul

Super Tuesday: A Resident Alien Reflects

Super Tuesday: A Resident Alien Reflects

Somewhere in the early dawn of well-trodden savannah grass under the bleachers, lying pisteratically inebriated, chugging like Smoky Joe, a superannuated djab malaise sans half the costume sleeps, while strewn all around him are used condoms and discarded cellophane wrappers in rainbow color, evidence of the abandon of Carnival Monday night. Soon it go be the magnificent display of Carnival Tuesday pretty mas competition, for which this little island lives and breathes and daily counts down the jumbie beads in that special calabash calendar; it is the pageantry for which, annually this place welcomes the world. Carnival Tuesday is the highpoint of every native’s year, every year in every native’s every lifetime.

I used to live for this time. I counted my mother’s birthday as exactly ten months and a day after carnival, not exactly three weeks before Christmas, if you get my drift. Life’s watersheds were ranked based on how close to or how far removed from Carnival they were. I had my first major surgery on Carnival Tuesday, right there in the General Hospital across from the Grand Savannah where the competitions were taking place. I forget what year that was but I will always remember it was a Carnival time. Lying in my bed, fresh out of the operating theater, my floating organs jumped in sync to the Despers rhythm section. I even had a few visits from erstwhile masqueraders in full costume, but none from those friends too busy partying to study me.—you know, the usual suspects.

Yet another Carnival Tuesday, playing sailors ashore in a-much-reduced-from-Carnival Monday Burrokeets, I almost massacre another crew member who roll up too close to my husband for my comfort, though to his absolute and way-too-salacious delight. It was another Carnival Tuesday when I got a huge gash in my foot from the loose wires sticking out of the Queen of the Band’s costume. That day I ended up in the same hospital getting sutures. That was when the honey fled the moon in indecent haste and we had our first argument. He left me there and returned to his section; you see, for him, it was either that or suffer a premature end to enjoyment until yet another too-distant next Carnival.

At Carnival time, too, I gave birth to my first and only born, and henceforth did double-duty babysitting the neighborhood children hastily discarded by die-hard masquerading parents for annual birthday celebrations en mi casa. I did not mind; I was at home and could watch it on TV, listen on radio and immerse myself in the excitement that seeps through your every pore, quite in spite of yourself.

So having survived eight years out of costume, I figured I had kicked the habit. I was a fully recovered Carnival addict. So it was not too difficult to survive 13 years of no Carnival or rather, of Carnival Tuesday sitting at my desk or teaching a class about all matters profound having nothing whatsoever to do with Carnival, if indeed such a thing is even possible as a true Trini will argue. All inclusive fetes, Sprangalang and Tommy, Machel, 3Canal, Sugar Aloes and Crazy, Minshall, blue devils, Panorama and Exodus were all submerged memories. I thought about it; read about it; talked about it; but could survive easily away from its presence. You see I was and always will be Trini to de bone; I did not have to do anything to prove that and nothing I did would ever take that away. There was no contest, no trophy or Fedex Cup up for grabs, and I was not trying to pull a Serena. I am Kalypsoul – Carnival is me and I is Carnival—immutable identity-- no stress, no pressure. Trini to de bone.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I suddenly realized that the same Super Tuesday, that has singularly dominated my thoughts, sentiments, anxieties, hopes and dreams, is actually Carnival Tuesday, for which, much to my consternation, I had not spared a thought, so caught up was I in the throes of a highly potent dose of Obamafever. IMMEDIATE RESIDENT ALIEN IDENTITY CRISIS. What manner of thing is this that could dislodge with such impunity the Carnival berthed firmly in every gene of my Trini-born soul? It warrants some analysis.

For many years I resisted the pull of the American dream, existed on the margins of American social, cultural and political life, and saw my job as a divine overseas mission and myself as a mere sojourner, a transient worker in the vineyard following wherever the footsteps of the spirit led. I did not live here; I existed, biding my time until I could return to the land of my birth to live out the rest of my years in the sun and above all, in peace. I lived for the times though, short, few and far between, when I could escape to Caribbean climes, far away from the petty squabbles of Republicans and Democrats. I was a tourist, viewing the lives and loves of the US natives dispassionately or sometimes even with mild amusement, and always from a safe distance. I lived among them but knew for sure I would never be of them. I had a country – fatherland and motherland -- where, under that same silk cotton tree back-a-yard, my navel string was buried. I was here for a short while, as the length of whiles go, and, having a penchant for traveling light, needed not collect additional baggage in transit. But as every seasoned tourist knows, not every souvenir can fit into a suitcase and it is not always possible to answer in the affirmative when asked at the border, “and did you pack this yourself?”

The first inkling that I had excess baggage of unknown origin came a couple years back when, after two fun weeks frolicking in the Caribbean sun, my mind turned inevitably to home – not place of origin, but place of most immediate familiarity, where resided all the accoutrement and sundry other appurtenances vital to my continued existence – job, child, 401Ks, bank accounts, clothes, flash drives, desk top, photo albums, documents, writing portfolio . . . you know. . .stuff. Yes, I yearned for home, and having felt, too, for the very first time the urge to applaud on touchdown at Hartsfield, I shuffled the sentiment to the bottom of the pack and gave it not a second thought. That is, until someone asked me if I would jump at the chance to return home today, if given the option.

For a mere nano-second, I hesitated, but long enough to analyze the significance of the pause. I realized that, after two or three weeks, all the reasons why I left in the first place, would come rushing back, bringing with them that same claustrophobia within which I was buried prior to migration. I had visions of all the things I cannot allow myself to revisit -- except in my dreams, which do have the power to weave a wand of magical erasure and out of nothing create the stuff that dreams are made of.

Just a fleeting moment's lapse, I told myself, as nostalgia for my Caribbean home lurks around every corner. Everything I see, smell, touch, hear and taste or feel either reminds me of, or makes me long for, the sights, sounds, smells, flavors and feel of home. I go somewhere and its déjà vu of home; I just have to open my mouth and I am reminded of home or if I am not, some heavily-accented, loud-mouthed, obnoxious, English-butchering Joe or Joan Public will never fail to remind me with some inane remark like, “Oh you have an accent! Where are you from?” expecting, I guess, a well-rehearsed apology for self and place of origin, topped by a 'GodBlessAmericaLandoftheFreeandHomeoftheBrave' spiel. And for God’s sake, don’t noignorantbody ever refer to the Caribbean as “the islands” in my earshot again! For you it may be your cheap, sun-filled playground where you get your one opportunity to strut your crumpled, faded, green-backed condescension to your little heart’s content -- feel free, but while you are at it, please respect that for me and several million others this is home.

I had told myself I’ll retire as soon as my child graduates from college and head South of the Key West border to the place I call home. But return is easier said than done. There are certain don’t's that come with the concept of return. You see, there are roots and fruits to consider. Funny, but roots are living things that continue to grow deep and strong wherever you stand too long, even where you did not intend to tarry. And even funnier, roots have a way of sprouting branches, subsidiary roots but just as binding. And roots have a way of pulling you back, reining you in just when you think you have escaped. And then, there are the fruits. . binding in one way if you have them, and in an entirely different way if you have not yet been fruitful. Either way, plans of return are smoked.

So you finally understand and acknowledge reluctantly to self that permanence of return can exist only in the realm of imagination. That is when you slowly and tentatively begin to acquire the outward signs of that inward resignation. You buy a house; for the first time you even . . heaven forbid . . .consider citizenship, all the while telling yourself it means nothing, just the upholstery of temporary comfort. . . nothing more.

And then, out of the clear blue, just when I was minding my own business, comes Obamafever. And you find yourself swept off your feet and propelled forward in this Billowing tide, rushing pell-mell toward change. So exciting and empowering, you cannot help but surrender to its power. The force has possessed you so completely that as Super Tuesday rolls around, you do not even give a thought to the Carnival fever sweeping your little nation. You spend Dimanche Gras watching reruns of the presidential debate on MTV and thinking how he (Obama) ‘kilt’ the competition, and e-mailing friends with requests to join the ObamaforChange grassroots group you have just started. J’Ouvert morning you wake up to the strains of Black Eye Peas singing with Obama “Yes we can!”

It is like the 60’s all over again – watching Woodstock or MLK or X on TV, or with your ears peeled to the radio while Eric Williams holds forth in The People's Parliament of Woodford Square and hands over the keys to your nation's future to you -- the schoolchildren. You sense an agency and urgency so profound it defies definition, description and denial. You are shaken to the core by an excitement so tangible you can almost touch it. You know where this is heading and you want to be there with it. Almost in spite of yourself, you have become part of the wave of the future, the movement that has brought hope to America and to the world and has renewed your faith in the power of global change.

In the eyes of many you may be just a spit in the ocean that is America – just as insignificant and just as disdained; you may be just a island goldfish swimming out of time in this vast aquarium; you may be just a resident alien – not yet a US citizen, but somewhere deep within you, it suddenly becomes clear – you are part of a global movement for change that knows no country, no bounds. Carnival and Mardi Gras have become one with Super Tuesday and it does not matter where you originally hailed from because you now belong to the OBAMANATION.

©KPLewis (Kalypsoul)