The change came last night. It was bitterly cold and tonight it’s a warm welcoming breeze. Calm and beautiful. I’m thinking, I love the way it feels against my skin. My father always said I got darker when the change came, my dark brown skin turned darker like the chocolate chips I love so much. Today, I felt especially energetic, practicing my new song gave me a feeling of a whole new me. I admit, I did take a few hours before the club to rest my vocals. I felt strong today and not like the skinny weak little girl that I used to be, with my collar bones protruding out.
Walking into the courtyard, I could see many things I haven’t seen before. So many times I’ve entered the courtyard and it always appeared business as usual. But today, everything seemed different. Old man Mac wasn’t sitting on the steps leading up to the Circle restaurant. He was usually sipping on some hot liquor, savoring every sip. Instead he was engaged in a heated conversation with his wife about his spending habits. She was, to me, a private person; so to see her out in public arguing with old man Mac was incredible. She must be furious with him, I thought. He was one step out of their home, I’m sure.
But that wasn’t the only unusual thing I saw. There was the tigress, which was a small version of a tiger or what some called “big fat cat”. It was engaged in a vicious fight with another. One pink, the other purple; furiously going against one another. They were ripping each other to pieces, with the purple tigress breaking the pink one’s neck, leaving it dangling to its death. It was a horrid thing to see. The young passersby watched with excitement, but dared not intervene; afraid that the tigress would turn on them. They took pictures of the mangled dead pink tigress. I threw a stone at the purple one, steering it away from the scene of the crime. These horrible tigress would wander away from their natural habitat into the city where they rummaged through the garbage and fought to the death over scraps thrown on the street. It was an extreme act to engage in for scraps and I thought their effort would be better used in sharing and finding their way back home.
Yet, there was calm amongst the stormy events that was taking place. There was love. Walking downstairs into the alley to the club, there were two madly in love couple kissing as if wishing they had a room to go to. I called it mad love. The kind of love you don’t want to stop and the constant yearning for one another. It’s the craving that makes it mad. Love that had no time to rest, to take a moment and breathe and to see one another. Sometimes I wonder do they even know, truly, how they look like. Do they know that one of them fail to brush their teeth, clean their clothes, and had that awful love smell that walked with them everywhere they went. Yuck!
I said it was calm in a breezy night, but I’m going to take that back. Mad, uncontrollable love is indeed stormy. Maybe it’s the energy I needed, to give a great performance. I needed a bit of storm instead of the delicate breeze to give me my new found energy.
As usual, the club was full. Walking in there, I could feel their eyes staring at me. My smile was warm and welcoming. It was better than saying hello to everyone and it got me through the crowd faster. I nodded with recognition to the regulars and gleamed at the new guests. They studied me with admiration. I’m sure they’ve already engaged in conversation of my performances and was expecting another great one.
There in the center of the room, sat a lone man at his table. He grinned and I gleamed back. A newbie. He was dressed in jeans and a blue t-shirt; probably just coming from work to unwind. I glanced around for his girl, but saw no indication that anyone came with him. His head fell to the attention of his tablet he had brought with him, no longer needing to recognize me. I suppose he was drenched with work and was splitting his time with some fun. I often wonder how that was, splitting time with business and pleasure.
My father never wanted me to work and he made sure of it. Yet, I had to do something for fun and that’s singing. I went to school for the arts and learned to sing better than I ever did, while developing my other artistic skills. The day I got my degree was the day I saw something more than pride in my father. I had somehow achieved something he thought I would never achieve. It was just a feeling in me and I was glad to make him feel that way. My granddaddy was speechless and grinned the entire day as I paraded around the house showing my degree. June was evil that day and rolled her eyes excessively, muttering to herself. I’ve even managed to get a smile out of my mother, Christina, as she brushed her hair.
Hair, “do you want this one?” My assistant was showing me a bag that had a newly purchased wig she wanted me to wear.
“No, stop. Just bring it to the dressing room. I don’t do this out here, you know that!” I pushed her away as I continued to head to the back. There were a group of friends in a booth in the corner getting loud. They were being touchy feely as the young were often that. I gleamed. They were newbies too. One of the girls in the group slapped a guy in his face and kissed him afterwards, laughing. A playful disagreement, I guess. He kissed back while holding her tight. As I walked passed them, I couldn’t help turning my head to glance at the girl’s hand circling around his waist and reaching into his back pocket. She was a sly one for sure.
I slammed my dressing room door closed. It was a closet space, but it was mine. My assistant had already laid out everything. I rolled my eyes at her, the way June taught me to do; so it was done very well. She frowned.
“I was just trying to show you. It’s real pretty see.” She motioned me to look at the wig. It was interesting. Red wasn’t my normal color, but this red was subtle yet made a statement of passion and mystery. Yet, it wasn’t what I was feeling. I was overwhelmed with excitement from the stormy environment that led me to my closet and I wanted to stay in line with that.
“What else?” I said, putting the wig aside. I needed something with energy and excitement, not mystery. I have to say I was getting tired of the wigs, but they were part of the costume for the day. Most performers that I knew wouldn’t call it costume, but that’s what they were to me. They were my different personas to please the demanding audience and they wanted more excitement tonight. I got up to peruse the dresses on the rack and saw one that fit the night, but none of the wigs were complementary.
“What do you think you can do for my hair? I’m thinking of no wig today. They won’t go with this dress.” I slipped into the dress as I waited for her response.
“I think you’re right. None of the wigs would go. Where did you get that dress from?” she smiled with a puzzled look.
“Where did I get it from? Did you forget you’re myassistant? I didn’t pick out this dress. Didn’t you?” She must be joking. It appears she doesn’t want to claim this dress. I admit it was kind of risqué, but I liked it.
She laughed, “I didn’t think you would like it.”
I sat down as she fiddled with my hair. We settled with a conservative hair style that balanced out the risqué dress. I needed a moment and asked her to leave. It’s what I do before the stage. She would leave while I wait for her knock that they were ready.
I sat in silence, examining my outfit and my smile and my yearning need for my father to be here. My hair was the same color as his and my reflection reminded me of him. He had been proud of my degree and here I am performing at a club, racking in the audience. I wonder if one day he would come and sit in the audience, I would sing to him for helping me achieve my goals and getting me this far. But he had never came, for I had never invited him. I can only dream he was sitting in the shadows of the club watching me quietly in secret, but he said he won’t ever come if I worked at a club like this. He wouldn’t like seeing me on stage, wearing the outfits I wore and engaging with the audience the way I did. But I was grown now and I had the right to be free and to be me. Isn’t it what he had always taught me?
I could remember granddaddy singing to me. He would start out humming a beat, because I loved beats. I would dance first, then attempt to sing with him. He said I couldn’t hear how I truly sound because of my head. Granddaddy always teased me that I was mixed up there and one day I will sort it all out and get it together again. With his training I was able to learn the tunes, the tones, the highs and the lows, as he had put it. It was fun because he would change the beats and I would catch up with my dancing and singing. At the end he would laugh and June would grin, right after she rolled her eyes. She was so jealous, because I knew I was getting better and better and better.
The knock came at my door and a thump came at my heart. I wish daddy was here, I thought. I twirled the curls at the end of my hair with my fingers. Then went to perform.
The excitement from the audience made me gleam. The business man at the center table had giving me his full attention and the active booth in the corner was completely drunk. They were all well-wishers waiting for my energetic performance. I gave them the performance they craved with eye opening vocals and theatrics that they loved to be shocked with; making them blush and cheer. Reaching the audience and getting eye contact with someone who wanted to blend in, is what most great performers do. The audience followed me where my eyes and thoughts went in the room, and they felt my energy fill them and pull them towards me; drawing them even closer in engagement. They were with me even after I left the stage, with some still lingering on as if they were me.
A Silent Song
I thanked the audience with a bow and headed down the hallway to my dressing room. My assistant handed me a glass of water.
“You were amazing!” She grinned. “But you already know that.”
“Not really.” I said after drinking the entire glass. She took it and walked behind me as the next performer was heading to the stage. The hallway was crowded today, with fans lingering for pictures. I smiled as they took snapshots, while the security prevented them from getting too close. I grabbed my assistant’s hand in fear she would get lost in the crowd. I turned to look at her and saw that she continued to grin. Suddenly a guy bumped into my shoulder, not paying attention to where he was going.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to.” He said. “You were great out there! You look great!” He reached out to touch me, but ended up pulling my curls. The security moved him along. I backed away from him, scared. I felt completely exposed when my hair moved away from my face. My heart jumped. I pulled my assistant harder, managing to get into my dressing room and locking the door, with a security guard standing outside.
“Are you okay?” My assistant saw my face. I was nearly in tears and didn’t understand why. Tonight, was like any other night with crowds in the hallway between performances. I didn’t know what to say, until I spoke.
“I’m okay. Just shaken up a little over that guy.” I muttered.
“That’s because you’re used to wearing your wig. He didn’t touch your wig. It was actually your hair. It feels personal, but don’t worry it’s not. You were great and you look great.” Her comforting words seemed so far away and distant. I felt alone in the room and wanted to tell her to leave, but I didn’t want to be alone either. I was truly scared. I just don’t understand why.
My assistant continued to speak, but I was hearing nothing. My eyes were teary as she got a tissue and started to remove my makeup. Then I remembered.
My misshapen head. Granddaddy had spoken to daddy about my head. I was a little girl then and he didn’t want me to go to school with such a misshapen head. He had feared I would be teased and bring shame to the family name, but daddy wanted me to have friends and be like the regular girls. I was too young to understand, but now I do.
I had fought many fights with granddaddy over just about everything; blaming him for everything bad that happened to me. He would fight back teaching me everything he could. It is now that I realized that he had decided to change his life and stay with me to watch me, and to prevent what happened to me from happening again. My uncles were not able to protect me and granddaddy knew that no one dared messed with him. My father took his place as king and learned everything he could, while granddaddy stayed with me.
They still do not know why the people took me and why they opened me up to take a piece of my brain. It was a cruel thing to do to a toddler. My head was misshapen for a while after that, trying to heal itself. I didn’t realize it then, that I had to wear a helmet to shape my head during the healing process. I never realized it, because granddaddy was always speaking to me in secret and Cherrie couldn’t hear. She never did like granddaddy and granddaddy never liked her. She was unworthy for a king’s wife.
The guy must have known about my head. Why would he grab my curls? Why would he try to touch my head? Maybe he was working for the people who took me. Or maybe he was making fun of it. It didn’t look misshapen, but people have a way of being nice to who they pitied. Was it still misshapen? Did the missing piece they took grew back? Was I normal again?
These questions came and went with the song my granddaddy used to sing to me. I could hear him now, but my assistant interrupted.
“Jennifer, I’ll get you some water. Don’t worry, that guy is long gone. I can walk home with you if you want.” I felt her pity in her voice. The tears were flowing. I patted them down with my tissue and nodded yes for the water.
The mirror was my only truth. If my head was still misshapen, I would know it. I would see everything.
But I saw nothing. There were no signs of me being taken. There was no evidence of parts of my whole being removed. There was just me looking back at me. I sang softly the words of the song my granddaddy taught me. So softly, for it was in secret with my granddaddy.
A brand new life, is with you
People come and go
But no one knows
What’s inside of you
Your beautiful eyes
All of you
Is still with you
For daddy loves you