When I am Gone

                                                    By Omari Jackson
    “What are you doing now?”  The question did not come as a surprise to me, for the authorities in Ghana had made their position clear: all Liberian refugees must be out of the country by a certain date. The date was what I could not accept since I felt that I also belonged here.
   “Tom, Tom,” my shrill voice echoed, and I felt my own voice coming, from, as if it was from a distance, “there is the likelihood that we’ve no choice as refugees…” my voice trailed off, and to be exact, my voice failed me.
   I had lived at Buduburam for the last eighteen years, and hence I could argue that I was almost a citizen, or to put it mildly, I was a resident, who deserved the comfort and treatment like the locals. But then in Africa, this poor continent that many of us preferred to describe as, “a continent with all the natural resources untapped,” unless one was prepared to suffer downright human indignity, there was no need to insist that there was any right needed to enjoy.
   “What then are you preparing to do?” Tom’s persistent question probed my conscience and it was clear that I had to make up my mind to either leave Ghana before the deadline ended.
    Mind you, I had lived here for many more years, a situation I found myself informing my friend, Tom.
   “Tom, just in case they send me home by force,” I continued in my attempt to make some sense to my friend, “will you look after my interest in Ghana?” I had acquired some properties that I was not prepared to let them be trampled on by some future users of the Camp.
   “Let me see,” my friend said, his two hands outspread before me, “you have two houses, one near Area B, and the other near Area G, right?”
   “Yes and…”
   “I know about him, your son,” Tom interrupted me, and revealed my third property in Ghana. See, I had managed to build myself two mud houses and had born a child with a Ghanaian lady. My son, Kwame, named because he was born on Saturday, was to honor my wife; since she insisted that in the Ghanaian tradition, names march the days children are born.
   “Oh my son, Kwame…” my voice choked, wondering if I would leave him here in Ghana, or take him with me. He was now twelve years old. My friend looked at me for several seconds before I sensed that he was reading my thoughts.
   “Let me answer your question,” Tom, after lifting his right hand to hold my shoulder, said, “I will make sure that nothing of yours get destroyed, when you’re gone.”
    A faint smile came on my face as I nodded in agreement.
   Tom fumbled something in his breast pocket. Then his face registered what I considered as anguish, for he was a Ghanaian through his father and a Liberian through his mother. Now since he spoke the Fanti dialect so well, there could be no argument that he was not part of those of us who had been threatened by the Hon. Kwamena Bartels, Minister of Interior, to leave this land, formerly known as Gold Coast.
  “Will Gina go with you?” Tom wanted to know.
   “Well, with the news that Ghanaians in Liberia may not be happy about the situation, I don’t think she will be glad to go with me.”
  “But aren’t you taking her with you as your wife?”
   “We discussed it last night but she would not accept the fact that she would be fine, in Monrovia.”
   “Then you’ve a problem,” he said.
   “I sure do, but anyway I must return to Liberia and for good this time.”
    The early morning sun swept across Buduburam, and there were many Liberians, looking like zombies, for the decision by the Ghana Government had destroyed their spirits, since they had not expected the result of the peaceful-demonstration to turn out to be like this.
   “Heh, Sam, you going too?”
    I did not want to answer Janet, a neighbor, whose husband died the second day of the demonstration, leaving her with five children, the youngest three years old. The late Samson was a friend, and I felt I could not turn my back on his wife, since he was gone.
   “Yes, I am.”
    Several children raced after each other, and once in a while vehicles using the Awutu-Breku highway would toot their horns.
    I mentioned earlier I would be returning to Monrovia for good, yes, I had been going back and forth; doing what I thought was business. I would buy some “Fanti Lappa” and take it to Liberia and after selling them, or rather after crediting them, I would return empty handed to Ghana.
    I thought I was doing a fine business, till I did not have any more money to continue with it. The last time I went to Liberia, most of those I credited with the goods had woeful stories to tell me.
   That taught me how to do business, in the future.
    I wanted to sell my two houses at the Camp, and leave, but no one wanted to buy them. And since I did not have a registration card as a refugee, I was afraid that I could be arrested, and sent home against my will.
   Trying to avoid any humiliation, I decided to get my things ready, and whether I got any money or not, find my way out of Buduburam in particular, and Ghana in general for good.
    My heart ached inside me as I thought about the fortunes of Africa.
    When oh, when, would we understand that Africa is for all Africans? By now, I could not hold back my tears. My eyes misted with them, and the thought of leaving Ghana came back to haunt me. Another difficulty I thought of was the sense of hopelessness I had witnessed in Liberia during my failed business trips. There were former colleagues who were still struggling to find any kind of job, to be able to earn a living; and there were still others who seemed to have given up any hope that the future for Liberia could be bubbling with gold and honey.
   I then reminded myself that Liberia was no Israel, and the promise for a better future was by men and not by God. With such a forecast, I knew I had to return, even if it was on the orders of Hon. Kwamena Bartels, or someone else.
  “I am going, Tom,” my own voice surprised me. “One day, I’ll be back.” With that statement, I was reminded of what the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor said, the day he decided to go into exile. A frown on my face registered my disappointment and I wanted to take my words back. My fear was that since Taylor did not have the freedom to return to Liberia, I might not have the chance to return to Ghana.
  “I’m going home by Kwamena Bartel’s order, I am.”
   That was all I could say, though it was in the morning, I fell into a deep slumber, and in a dream I arrived in Monrovia to be received by some family members and friends.

   “Welcome Home, welcome home,” they said, as if in a chorus.
  Though I was no Martin Luther King Jr, I heard myself shout: “Free at last, free at last, thank  God I’m free at last,” but then something jerked on my side, and I heard my friend Tom, asking, “what freedom are you talking about, here in Ghana?”
   “Oh,” I stuttered sheepishly, “So I was dreaming?”
  “Yes,” my friend Tom added, as a consolation, “and you spoke about freedom.”
   “Well,” I said, “I shall return someday.” Though I had the hope that God could make any unfortunate situation fortunate, I could not overcome the sense of let down, as a result of the perennial silence from the Monrovia Government, the United Nations and Liberian embassy staff in Accra. The consequent agony I had seen, since our women decided to do something about the disappointing situation we have had, brought it home to me that we were just alone in the battle. Suddenly bitterness mixed in my mouth. It was then that in my mind’s eye, I could hear a Liberian musician, I could not remember which of them, his lyric drumming in my ears, “Tomorrow I am going home, tomorrow I am going home, tomorrow I am going home, tomorrow I am going home.”
“Yes, I’m thinking about tomorrow, when I am gone,” I said.

 

I Can Only Imagine

By Omari Jackson

  She knew I was serious when I said, “You taking this thing for a joke, huh?”

  She held her breath for a few seconds and said, “I’m not, why?”

 “Why did you ask me?”

She said, “I didn’t hear you.”

I waited for her answer to sink into my brain, held the phone to my left ear, and listened to her soft breathing. It had been several days now since we came to know each other, and we were having fun.

I said, “You know I cannot say I miss you, right?”

“Why can’t you?”

“Because,” I said, “I don’t know you.”

I heard a sound of dissatisfaction in her voice. I was not trying to hurt Jeanice, for it was a fact that I did not know her, neither did she.

I heard her voice on the telephone line, and it was apparent that she wanted to say something. I held my breath, ready for her but she did not.

“You know I’m telling the truth, right?”

Her voice came in low and soft. It was like a hissing sound under a heavy rainfall.

She said, “I think you’re right.”

“You think?”

She said, “We never talked about our dislikes and likes.”

I said, “I already know what you like.”

“You do?”

“Yes,” I said, “and I can name them.”

“Ok.”

An echo came on the line and I thought the line was dead.

I said, “Are you there?”

Jeanice’s soft voice came on the line, to reassure me that she was still around.

“I’m here.”

I said, “Being human you deserve to be loved, and I don’t need you to tell me.”

“Ok,” she said, “what else?”

“Before I continue,” I said, “let me say that I can only imagine you.”

She said, “What do you mean?”

“Remember I said I cannot say I miss you,” I repeated, “because I don’t know you.”

“You’re right,” she said.”

I said, “I can miss hearing your voice.”

“Yes,” she said, “and I can miss hearing yours, too.”

“I’ve seen your picture,” I said, “and therefore I can only imagine you.”

“Oh,” she said, “but I didn’t hear what you said from the beginning.”

I said, “Hello sweetheart was what I said.”

“Ok lover-boy,” she said, “and that was why I asked about what you said.”

I was smiling from my end. Like all things in life, distant relationships were some of the enduring ones. Internet had made it easy for easy communication. The element of having romantic relations with someone on the opposite end of the world was becoming fashionable, and it was my first time into it.

I said, “As I was saying about you…”

“Yes,” Jeanice said.

“I know you’ve value, meaning you mean a lot to me.”

“Yes,” she said.

“A man needs to cheer you up.”

“Ok,” she said.

I said, “You need to be surprised.”

She laughed.

She might have felt the truth of what I said, because I had surprised her with a wonderful gift, when she had not asked me for it. The discussion was heating up, but then she made a request.

She said, “I’ve a signal that my battery is dying.”

I knew then that it was time to end the discussion. She had told me about the frequent rains in her town, Monrovia, and it was clearly the reason sometimes the phone-networks would interrupt in our frequent discussions. As we said goodbye to each other, I could only imagine her.

                                                                                            The End

Reassuring Honey P (Rose)

By Omari Jackson

     It was difficult the day I saw her image, and as I gazed at her picture, my heart’s beat increased and I felt the world would not be the same again for me.

    I said, “Honey…” and lost my capacity to continue. Her voice was calm, and full of life, when she said, “I mean it,” and tears came down my eyes.

    Her message, sent to me on facebook, said, “I’m a very weak woman,” and I could hear the echoes of her anguish of tears.

   I said, “You’re worried for no reason, Honey P.”

 She said, “I was afraid of losing you.”

  I said, “What happened?”

  She said, “I just don’t know.”

My hand shook at the thought of her anguish, and I blamed myself for that. For starters, Honey P told me that love was in her heart for me.

 At the time I said, “Honey P, isn’t love a dangerous animal?”

  She said, “Sometimes my heart would want to break.”

“Why?” I said, “Haven’t I told you, you’re the greatest thing to ever happen to me?
She laughed.

  Then she said, “I was so afraid.”

   I said, “Afraid of what, Honey P?”

She could not reply and I could hear her breathing, so hard.

  I said, “Is honey not sweeter than even sugar?”

  She said, “It is, honey do you believe that?”

Her question hit me on my face, and I laughed at that one. It was apparent that her reaction was due to the accidental removal of my facebook content that made it difficult for her to access it. I did not realize it at first and so when I was able to understand the reason of her agony, I rushed to my facebook account to fix the damage.

   Having repaired the cause of her anxiety and reassuring her of my undying love, I said, “Honey P, you are reaching an unfortunate conclusion.”

  She said, “How could I not reach such a conclusion?”

  I said, “You realize I did not mean it?”

She said, “I am so weak now.”

I said, “Huh?”

She said, “Yes.”

I could no longer allow the woman of my dream to shed unnecessary tears for me, and I had to move in to assure her of my undying love.

I said, “Give some meaning to your tears, Honey.”

She said, “Am I losing you?”

I said, “No, honey.”

She said, “You can say that again.”

With that reply, I assured Honey P of my growing confidence in her. Our love was in its infancy, and we were yet to make it official. The thought of meeting her the very first time was building up in my lanky frame of body. For truly speaking, Honey P was an angel, and her pictures proved that to me.

I said, “Honey P, you’re an angel.”

She could no longer control her tears, and she said so.

“I’m trying to be.”

I said, “Honey P, you’re already my angel.”

She said, “Thank you, love.”

I said, “Remember there is no one but you.”

She said, “I’m confident now.”

It was enough for me, as a smile came on my face.

I said, “Enjoy your day, Honey P.”

She said, “So long and take care of yourself.”

Though we were writing to each other, it was like we were sitting face to face. My heart jumped with gladness, and as I signed off from my facebook account, I was reassured of Honey P’s faith in our enduring friendship. With the thought of Honey P in my heart, I slumped on the couch, and before long I was dreaming, meeting Honey P again in memory lane.

 

 

 

 

Yearning for Vanessa

 

By Omari Jackson

Vanessa Brown’s eyes met mine and the message seemed clear to me, and I responded in kind. A smile came across my face, and I turned to look at her.

She said, “Hi,” and smiled.

“Are you a Liberian?” I said, shaking my head.

“My mother is a Liberian,” she said, “and my dad is a Ghanaian.”

“Good,” I said, “have you been to Liberia before?”

She said, “No.”

I knew she was one of the children born in the United States, and had not had the chance or opportunity to visit the countries where their parents originated.

Vanessa’s voice was soft, and her eyes were delicate and curious.

“Can you give me a number?”

She said, “Yes…” but did not finish the sentence.

I nodded my head, and I could not hide the excitement that was building in me. It was not that I had not seen Vanessa until that time. The truth was it was the very first time that I was taking the time to chat with her and to at least come to know her.

All the time I had seen her, she appeared to be a wonderful young woman of great promise, for she was so young, and the promise was too clear for me to see. She seemed in her early twenties. Her body was athletic, meaning she had been keeping eyes on her weight. She had on a nice pairs of jeans, which complemented the blouse she wore.

It was clear she was a woman of fashion, though she was now working for NCR, whose Suwannee location, I had been assigned and where we were checking each other’s up.

I said, “What’s your name,” and turned to look away, for her smile was like a magnet, which I could not ignore.

 “Vanessa,” she said, and smiled again.

“I need you to call me.” I was becoming fond of her, a secret admirer, the reason being that my spirit was taking her and loving her. It was like meeting a friend for the first time and a part of you suggesting there should be some personal contact.

She said something which I did not hear, and I went closer to her to hear it.

I said, “What did you say?” straining to hear her.

“I don’t have a phone,” her soft voice breaking the silence in my brain.

Which was strange but I did not voice it up to her.

I said, “Why?”

She smiled, and I could read a sense of unhappiness in her face. Nonetheless I probed on and staring her in the face, I heard her soft voice penetrating my brain.

“I owed a lot on my phone and so until I pay it,” she said, “I may not be able to call you.”

I said, “How much are you talking about?”

“It’s big,” she said.

I kept my focus on her face, as we walked towards her area of assignment.

“How much is it?”

She said, “It’s like two hundred dollars.”

She was given me this message two days after I had hoped to hear from her, but did not.

“I see,” I said.

She said, “That’s why I could not call you.”

I said, “You don’t make any effort to call me, for I can raise the money in two weeks for you.”

After some seconds she said, “Ok I’ll try.”

It took a couple of days, and when we met, she stressed on the phone problem again.

“Do you have a facebook account?” trying to find another medium to communicate with her till the phone problem was solved.

She said, “Yes.” She turned around, and I walked alongside her.

I said, “Can you give it to me?” She rolled her eyes, and I could see a smile on her face.

 “Ok,” she said, and smiled her usual smile again, swinging her hands back and forth.

What I was learning from Vanessa was that anytime she smiled, her beauty would enhance her image, and my heart would go out to her. It was a strange feeling, and the idea that I always wanted to see her became more pressing.

I was no kid and therefore I could handle any situation of that nature. However, that I would always want to see Vanessa was what excited me.

Though I could not get her facebook information, a social network, I consoled myself, saying, “She would be back here tomorrow.” That assurance kept me sane, as I waited for the next day to come. But why was I too much to know about Vanessa? What was happening to me? I could not find an answer to satisfy my questions.

It was just that I liked her and therefore I had to make the extra effort to get to know her a little better.

But suppose she continued to indicate that she had no way of calling me on the phone, though I already gave her my number?

Then of course I could explore the avenue to provide her with some assistance. Was that the best way to begin a friendship with such an incredible, but charming woman? I examined the issue but I could not come out with a reasonable answer.  But that did not stop me, and did not lessen my desire to see and speak with Vanessa Brown again.

So on the third day when I saw her, I was elated, and shouted at her as she walked along with a couple of her workmates.

 I said, “Hi Vanessa,” and my voice was so high that she heard me and turned, and with a smile on her face, indicated with her hand that she would come near me soon.

“I didn’t get the facebook account as you promised,” I said, with a smile. I was following her example, and it was a good thing.

Vanessa smiled, and explained she did not see me the previous day, which was the truth.

I said, “Can you give it to me today?”

 She agreed, and said she would see me later.

And lo and behold, before she left that evening, she returned with the facebook information, and though I was far away from my station, she lifted her hand, and when I nodded, she placed the piece of paper on the computer I had been working with.

Few minutes later, when I held the piece of paper in my hand, I saw her “email address” and smiling at it, I placed it in my trouser pocket, with firm satisfaction.

Though Vanessa was out of my sight, I could still hear her soft voice in my ears. This was a wonderful experience.

The End

Reasonable Motive

By Omari Jackson

Caroline’s eyes filled with tears, as she wrung her hands.

“This is difficult,” she said, as she flung her right hand about herself. “Did you see all these, Benarda?” Benarda‘s eyes stared her as if in disbelief.

She said, “I was there, this is not something someone told me,” and hesitated for her response to sink into her friend, then said, “It was like a movie, you know.”

Caroline could not agree to that. Her unwillingness to accept the events that led to the death of Holman did not surprise her.

For Holman was the father of her three children and though during their eight years of marriage, Holman never treated her like the woman she was.

True, he was what Benarda described as a compulsive liar at heart, but Caroline did not, or she failed to accept that her former husband was what he had been described.

But now that it seemed he was dead by his own actions, Caroline, deep down her heart, could not agree that her patience in enduring the years of suffering under Holman had been paid.

She remembered the early stages of their married, how sweet and remarkable Holman was. It was then that she heard the voice of her friend, as if from afar.

“It was difficult at first,” she said, her eyes wide as she hung on the chair, “but when I went closer, it was clear that he was the one.”

Caroline said, “Where was Napoleon?”

“I did not see him at first,” Benarda said, “not until the police came.”

“You mean,” Caroline said, “both were dead already?”

“The police now think so.”

Caroline said, “So what did they say happened?”

“Officer Mark was one of the first to be on the scene,” Benarda said, “and he told me later that he believed the two men committed suicide.”

Caroline listened and waited for some seconds before she mustered courage to say, “Why did they kill themselves? Why?”

Benarda said, “You know our wedding anniversary was on Thursday, and Napoleon told me we needed to celebrate it.”

Caroline remembered the third anniversary of her wedding, and how she had visited several places, including the historic Martin Luther King Jr, center in downtown Atlanta. Like a movie reel, she could see Holman holding fast to her hands and with her eyes aglow with joy, moved leisurely down the main street to the center.

Holman said, “Can you believe our marriage has reached three wonderful years?”

She laughed at the way he said it, before saying, “I’m glad to get you as a husband.”

Holman said, “When you bowed before the altar and declared to the world that you would be my wife, I knew I was the happiest man on earth.”

But the thought of Holman’s declaration of his love for her was mixed with his violent behavior, two weeks’ later.

With tears now in her eyes, she now remembered  the dramatic change that came over Holman, and how that led to more violent behavior.

Coming out of her day-dream, Caroline said, “Sometimes I don’t understand how what seems to be a perfect relationship becomes so violent?”

Benarda said, “You know Napoleon was one of the sweetest men I could have but then see what happened? There was nothing I could do to help him…”

Caroline could agree to that.

How long did it take Holman to become a monster? Two weeks? It happened two weeks after their third anniversary but she condoned his behavior till the eighth year of their relationship. Did she have any reason for that?

Benarda broke her thoughts: “At least you have three beautiful children out of your marriage.” Caroline could hear the sadness in Bernadetta’s voice, and moved closer to comfort her.

Both women sat at the 345 Classic Apartments where Caroline had been staying for the last two years since her marriage to Holman ended. Though she had had the occasion to call the police, reporting that someone like her former husband was stalking her, she never encountered him.

In their last encounter, Holman’s violent assault sent her to the Gwinnet Medical Center, and she was in surgery for three days. It was after that experience she realized she could not save Holman, and she was better living alone than being with him.

Napoleon, yes, sweet Napoleon as Benarda described him, was a man whose descent into violence against her friend had come as a surprise. Caroline could not believe that Napoleon’s friendship with her Holman changed the former so much.

She heard about their drinking binges, and she had had the occasion to advice both men, but it seemed to have fallen on death ears. But if it was true that both men had committed suicide, what could or was the motivating factor to that? Searching her mind, she could not find any reasonable motive. The police could come up with a theory of what might have happened to the two men.

She was thinking about what she would tell her three children about their father. Suppose they ask her, whether their father was a good man, what would she tell them? It might depend on what kind of good her children would want to know.

She was a good mother, caring for her children’s needs. She could not remember a time in her life when she had to demand to know about her own father. True, her father was always there, safe the period he had to leave from their small town, somewhere in Colombia to come to the United States.

A smile came across her face.

Then Benarda said, “We need to take courage,” and smiled, gazing at her friend.

Caroline said, “I know,” lifting her face to meet her friend’s gaze. The morning weather felt warm, and she believed what the weather people had been saying in the TV the other night.

Caroline said, “Sometimes it is just difficult with the children but all the same I’m glad they bring me some joy and comfort.”

“I know,” her friend said, and laughed.

True, Caroline was now in a relationship, she did not know if she was ready any time soon, to rush the man to the altar. Sometimes the idea of marriage made her cringe, but she knew she would need to marry in her life someday. Though she would not allow any man to treat her like Holman did, she was now prepared to play a meaningful role, and be a woman of her own.

As the door squeaked open, she knew it was time to get breakfast for her children.

The End

SHE IS GONE

By Omari Jackson

      The icy weather held Georgia captive, and for the first time in many years, Atlanta felt the pangs of the winter cold. But no one thought it would be her final moments in life, despite the truth that there is a time to be born and to die.

     “How did it happen?”

      The voice boomed from behind me. I whirled around; a young woman of about twenty three was standing there, her face serious and wanting to know how Elizabeth’s death had come. I could not figure out where I had known her, but true Elizabeth had been pronounced dead when she was rushed to the local hospital, the night before.

     “I wish I know,” I said, with a weak smile.

      The young woman held her head high, and though it was a little dark in my apartment I could see worry on her face.

      “Do you believe that she is dead?”

     “I don’t know what to believe,” I said, “but it has been reported in the media and those who had gone there brought the news that she was dead.”

     “Did you know her personally?”

     “Not exactly,” I said, grinning bitterly in the face that seemed to change at every speech, “I know friends who knew her, and she was a sweet young woman.”

      “Oh,” she said, as if she was no longer interested in the discussion, “they say that about all of them.”

       “What did you say?”

        My voice was louder now, but I could not feel the presence of anyone in the room. It was then that I began to have a fit.

       My body shook, involuntarily, and my hands danced by my side. Who was I talking to?

        I sauntered toward the corner of the room, and checked around and there was no one in there.

       I began to talk to myself.

      Anyone here? Was I going mad or something? I was talking to someone a while ago but who was that?

     Fear held me captive. My two-bedroom apartment was becoming a nightmare for me. Then I began to get the picture somehow clearer.

      A Liberian woman was reported to have been struck down, along with an American woman, when they stopped their cars to check a fender-bender, and another woman had driven straight through the women, killing them both.

      The story on the news had unnerved me, and I was wondering how could that tragedy have been prevented, and then boom, someone, a woman, had responded and we had chatted for a while.

      I initially thought it was a dream or that I was standing somewhere outside and there were people familiar with the case, and therefore I was sharing my opinion on the story, but did not realize that I was alone in the room and someone had come to join in the dialogue.

     “This is weird,” I told myself, and by now my body had adjusted to the fear, and my hands were no longer dancing by my side.

 

      The noise startled me.

       “Who is that?” I shouted, and moved towards the door. I had been living alone in this apartment for the last two years, and it was the first time that I was becoming openly afraid to remain here alone.

        A voice said, “Huh?”

       “Huh what?” I said, nearing the location now, my heart fluttering in my chest. Questions came to my mind, and I wondered if someone was playing some tricks on me. I did not know the young woman who had been reported dead, and considering the nature of her death, I was in sympathy with her.

     Accidental death is one of the most unfortunate ones in places where every day trip is made by a car. But from her story, she was apparently coming from work or something and when the fender bender occurred, she wanted to make sure that there was nothing wrong with the car.

     My residence in Lawrenceville neared one of the local grave sites, and though there were always fresh-painted graves, I never saw anyone burying relatives there.

    On several occasions, I wondered about the future of mankind, and had reassured myself that since in death there is no conscious existence, it sounds reasonable that the dead will be concealed till the resurrection promised in Scripture.

   The idea of a resurrection has always comforted me, and also by knowing what is also written in Scripture that whether we live or die, everything is to His (Jesus’) glory, and therefore I have a comfortable understanding of death and its mystery.

     But then why could such a belief? It was clear that someone had been in the room with me, but who was she?

     Having searched all the corners that I thought someone could hide to scare me, and finding no one, I rushed to the center table and grabbed the Holy Bible, and held it in my hands, like a mother cuddling an only child, after a tragedy.

     “The Lord is my Sheppard,” I sang, “and I shall not want.”

      Like a riddle, my tongue rattled the famous Psalm 23, and in a few seconds, I had regained some reassurance of God’s grace, deep in thought.

     I could not help, but felt appreciative of God’s wonderful comfort for the living, realizing that no matter what the situation would be, God would be our only protector.

     The mystery of life is fraught with uncertainties, and it is only in the Scripture that some understanding is gleaned from the curse of it. Salvation was becoming clearer to me now, for after all our hard work, if death would smother everything, and there is an apparent hopelessness, then why was man described as the glory of Devine Creation?

     I could not imagine the shock when the death of the young Liberian sister was announced to the family, somewhere in Atlanta, and as I gazed at the distance, watching and imagining it, I shuddered at the thought, but I regained the comfort that is promised for those who wait on the Lord.

      Personally, I had been waiting on the Lord; the day violence broke out in Liberia and smothered the living and the beast.

      In my most difficult moments, I had sought refuge and sang the song, Amazing Grace, and when the goings seemed tough, I would hide behind the song, “Hear Me Dear Lord, For the Days Are Wicked,” and these had comforted me!

      Now with the death of a young Liberian sister, I was awakening to the reality of sorrow. And what was more, the recent tragic earthquake in poor Haiti, where close to two hundred thousand were buried alive, gave me much to think about.

     “We should always remember the only condition that is inevitable,” I said it aloud, “for in the end, which comes unexpected, we would meet mankind’s enemy to complete the circle of our existence.”

       I may never be able to know who engaged me in the conversation, but one thing I was finally certain about was my determination to face the certainty and the uncertainty of life head-on. For the Scripture has also assured that there is no hatred, work or devising in the grave, where the living finally end up in death.

       “I know she is gone,” I mused, “may God’s undeserved kindness remember her forever.”

                                                                       The End

Copyright

    2010

 

The Day He Saw Her

                               By Omari Jackson

    James could not admit that he was fast losing himself. He was twenty two, and for the last three weeks, he had found it hard to even sleep and eat. Why? It was the simple question that had come into his mind, since the beginning of the three weeks.

   Sitting under a shade, he held a book between his hands, and frantically searched in between to see something. What did he want, really? He appeared confused, and on several occasions, he put the book down on a table beside him and looked into the heavens. He was searching for an answer, and that answer was not in the house of God.

   “Hmm…” His breath was long and hard. He was about one hundred and forty pounds, and his hands were rather long. His face was coarse, and it was said that he looked like his father. But who should he resemble? Sony was not the type to argue when others decide to make him the subject of their gossip. He was not the one to even challenge others when they spoke badly about him.

   He was not the kind also to fight back in any way, which did not mean he was some kind of a coward.

   Now his heart was completely empty, and had been empty the day he came to know Dorian Gray, the beautiful eighteen year old, who lived a block away from his residence in his Arizona quarters.

   He was taking the situation very hard, and for all he knew he might find life more attractive if Ms. Gray did not agree to share her love with him.

   He had heard about people, some his age that had committed suicide when the love they had anticipated failed to respond to the dictates of their hearts, and had wondered how that could be. To die for love could be a noble thing to do in fiction, he knew, but in reality should be in the hands of God. His determination was to win Ms. Gray’s heart by telling her how he felt about her.

   And when the opportunity came to him three days ago, he had told her, despite the difficulty he had felt from the beginning:

   “I cannot explain this, Ms. Gray.” He had begun the confession with a little difficulty, his voice losing its vitality, and his hands shaking. He held his hands as if he was playing with his belt to keep them steady. “I must confess my love for you.”

   There was a giggle, as if of derision from the young woman, as both sat under the very shade of the tree they were occupying. Initially she had feigned angry, and had twisted her mouth like any little girl would.

   Then she laughed, and turned her face away from him.

   “Do you mean it?”

    It was not a question to Sony, for he had meant it the moment he set his eyes on her, one Sunday after church, and he had said it all. Looking around him, he realized the opportunity for him to re-emphasize and spill what had been in his heart for several days, until then had presented itself.

   “To demand whether I mean it,” he said, a smile curling up on the corner of his mouth, “is like asking me if I am sound in mind.” He waited a couple of seconds, to hear her speak.

     Then she spoke, and laughed a little louder, before she said again, “Give me sometime to think about your request.”

    What seemed like cold bumps had descended upon him, and in a daring move, he thrust his hands to hold her, which she did not withdraw.

     That day was like day of blessing for him.

      Afterwards they had walked together, holding hands, and after he had come out of what seemed like some confusion in his mind, the young woman told him, she was not sure she understood what was happening.

    “I have observed you in our community here,” she told James Sony, “You’re different and you appear to be a serious kind of guy.”

     “I appreciate your comment,” he had also told her, grinning from ear to ear.

     “But,” she continued, and James pricked his ears to hear what was coming, “I feel we are different, since you come from Africa and….”

     “But we’re the same, and I love you to death.” James’ open retort had held what he considered a kind of fascination for her, for she had looked into his eyes, and seeing the fire in there, had remarked, “I’m not sure my parents will agree for us to become what you just told me.”

     She had walked on hurriedly and before James knew what was happening, she was gone.

    Now as he considered that experience, he could only sit and wait, hoping that someday, some power from above would come down and direct his actions. The thought about a young African girl, who had recently come to their neighborhood, now came to his rescue. She was young, and beautiful, too!

    He remembered the first time they met somewhere, also at the church. Her face radiated some innocence, and she had smiled at him. He now wondered why he failed to read the meaning on her lips. That Sunday, she had simply said, “Hi, I’m Mickey.” Now he remembered the sweet aroma that had emanated from her, and he wanted to ask himself how he could have failed to understand her.

   Now that Ms. Gray had reminded him that he was an African, he decided to take some interest in those of his kind, maybe he could find a companion, to give him the kind of happiness that he had always wanted.

   He felt bitter, but not angry, for love was meant to bring happiness.

   Standing up, he looked into the heavens again, and instead of questioning himself, he understood the truth that he must go for his kind, the very people that would not remind him of where he had come from.

   There was a smile at the corner of his mouth, as he picked the book on the table beside him. He walked leisurely and crossed the road, feeling a sense of peace in his heart. He would not worry anymore, no matter what.

   The reason, he now admitted with all his heart, saying, and “love is made to be celebrated and enjoyed to the end.”

Tears Of Innocence

                         By Omari Jackson

    Amanda Jones’s eyes filled with tears as she turned the situation in her mind. How in the world did it turn out to be that way? How could Killen not realize the misunderstanding in their relationship?

   Relationship? The thought only made her feel uncomfortable, but then why not. It had begun as a mere friendship, a church brother. He had indicated his interest in her, which was true. But then Amanda realized she had never made her position clearer to him, and now it had come to a point where her relationship she had been building in the United States seemed to be now brought into question.

   Anger continued to well up in her, but then she realized she must deal with it, step by step. Nonetheless, her bleeding heart was not making the situation easier for her. But then, what else could she do? She had discussed the situation with a couple of friends, and all had considered the situation from a perspective that now made sense to Amanda.

   But then, what could be responsible?

   Her cell phone jingled to life, and placing the receiver to ears, muttered, as if she was feeling some pain in her gut.

   “Hello.” She could not believe her own voice, shrinking, and she gave a deep breath after that, when the voice at the other end sounded as if it was mocking at her with a low “High.” She wanted to scream; it was the second time he was calling. The sound of his voice appeared to torment her, telling her she was guilty as charged.

   In Omro’s earlier call from the United States, she had lifted her right hand and wiped a tear that was threatening to fall from her eyes; he wanted to know about the man who had left the strange message, on his phone, requesting, and begging him to discontinue his relationship with Amanda.

   “You can continue to help her in the story writing,” he quoted Killen, “but letters of love and things like you should stop, for God’s sake.” He even claimed when he called on Killen later, he had again pleaded with him, and revealed how much he loved Amanda.

   “I’m a man like yourself,” Omro had quoted Killen, “how can you treat me like that?”

   Now Omro was on the line and his voice was mocking at her; and it was clear to Amanda that the man she had proclaimed to the world to be in love, had believed a stranger like Killen, and was now questioning her motive. He wanted to also know why Killen was holding him responsible for what seemed to be the end of their relationship.

   “He explained too much about me,” the voice said, with halting indifference, “I’m not sure I know what is happening here.”

   Her voice had failed to put up an effective defense the first time. And it was like that the second time. Her eyes then stared at the empty wall in her apartment in this French city of Lyons, and she knew she must say something otherwise he would accept her silence as her guilt and weakness, and it would confirm his fear that something fishy had been going on, all the time she was professing her love to him.

   Turning her face in gradual movement to her right, her eyes settled on the alarm clock on her center table, and as the second hand moved with its tick, tick, tick noise, her heart synchronized with the movement of the clock and her eyes watched the time-maker with ease. How she envied the alarm clock, and how she wished she could change the current situation to suit it.

   “You need to trust me,” she finally found her voice, declaring in all its hollowness, “at least you must trust me, for I know the man to be a liar, for though he wanted me, I never agreed and did not make a commitment to him.”

   Omro’s voice had shot back with some fierceness, declaring, “How come the man could call me with information that should be between us?” That was what she found distasting; for she had confided in Killen to indicate her openness to a man she loved, with all her heart. But now he had used it as a means to her undoing, it was a test of her faith!

   But whether she realized it or not, she began to sniff, believing that as sincere as she was to him, tears of sincerity could be able to prove her innocence, and now unable to find her defense, tears came to her assistance, in apparent defense of innocence. But did he believe her? It was a question she was not prepared to answer.

   “There is no need for that,” Omro said, apparently in shock in regret, “all I want to know is how come this man insists he is in love with you and…” His voice trailed off, and that gave Amanda some relief to examine the situation carefully.

    But she knew she must speak and somehow clear her name.

She said, “I have no desire to cheat if that‘s what you’re thinking about.”

   “Why then,” he said, “should this man be so involved in your business, even telling me what you told him while he was on a trip to London?”

   There was an element in his argument that seemed to make sense, but she knew had no basis of fact. She reasoned along the lines of her fiancée that no one who would show a legitimate concern in your affairs, if there was nothing concrete going on between you both. “But the truth is there’s nothing going on here,” she thought. She wished she could demand him to place every confidence in her, for there were some men, as far she was concerned, who would stop at nothing to hurt someone they had been unable to win their love. And this was what was happening here!

   “I blame myself for that,” she said later as a consolation, judging from the reasonable manner her fiancée was handling the situation so far. She had hoped for a show of support from him, she said, “here I am in my room sleeping, but someone is claiming I’m his beloved; does it make any sense?” The answer might not have taken Omro by surprise, and she might have realized that he had too much understanding of such things in life to be worried about it. It could be a situation of some magnitude but from his reactions, he seemed to take it very well, despite her violent reaction at the moment.

   Amanda’s present case was having a telling effect on her, all because she had long come to realize the danger some people had on others. In all her life, men had always been her friends, since in her own experience women always involved in gossip. She never liked that. However, the men she had befriended had always had the courage to make advances on her. And it was similar in this case.

  This situation had worried her but she had not considered it as something to discourage until Killen had shown what a brute she could be. All she wanted with him was to remain a platonic friend, not anything romantic.

   Now she was learning about the dangers of allowing herself too much in the affairs of men. She could not admit, in any shade or color, that she had done anything wrong, just that she trusted some men too much, and it was a lesson learned the hard way.

   But Killen’s bravery to call her fiancée from France to the United States was something that told her volumes about what a love-struck victim could do to advance an objective they might have known was long lost.

   It was a betrayal of her trust, in which she was responsible for its occurrence, and now she must know better.

2

     Amanda Jones realized the magnitude of the situation and it was apparent that she had expected the worst. Seven months ago she had come in contact with Omro, and from their discussions they seemed to have been made for each other.

   That was why she had not stopped expressing her heartfelt gratitude to a relationship that she had considered worthy of sacrificing for. And she had always told Omro about it. Consider, even a day before the unfortunate phone call, she had sent him an email message:

 “My darling,

  I don’t mean to play with your feelings, or emotions, for I am sincere in my declaration that I am in love from the bottom of my heart. It may sound odd that as a woman I am acting a little bit strange, but as you may realize what I said to you about my past but unsuccessful relationships, I am not careful to love the person my heart has accepted as the darling in my life. Having I told you you’re a special person? Having I confided in you you’re the love of my life?

    Hence I am sure you will, and if you can put all my confessions together, you will know that I am speaking the truth from the bottom of my heart. I may have done something wrong to someone but I am not going to say it may be because of that I have had some hard experiences with the other sex, for I am a human and I must fight my own battle to fit in what society wants me, and what I want for myself.

    If, and here I must insist on your right to consider that, if you can find in all my confessions a way to love me more that I had imagined, please Omro do it with all your heart. I say this because I will never consider any idea to hurt you, like what you have already endured in a previous relationship that I am aware of. Till our love blossoms to the end of completion, give me cause to smile, for your love is more than anything I have ever experienced.

    Forever love

  Amanda”

    Now that she thought about her message to him, a smile came to the corner of her mouth, and out of the gloom she found a way to have some hope. And his reaction? She was still hopeful when she pulled out an email message, and turned to read the reply she had received a day after she had written the above communication, and which was sent to him.

“Darling Amanda,

  The wonders of love are strange in many places but I am sure you have heard it being said that when the heart decides, there can be no turning back. I made the above statement to mean that your love, your caring and your constant reminders have all convinced me of your sincerity in this relationship.

   It’s true, when you said I have been holding up my feelings, and not wanting to release them, for fear of being hurt again. I already told you about my recent relationship and how I had hoped for the best, but it turned out that the young woman involved was more of a viper than a lover. I am not in anyway trying to condemn her, since I know that vengeance is the Lord’s and I will wait patiently till the Lord carries out His work, for I know that the Lord’s patience is rather long that unless one repents and correct a wrong done, vengeance may come in the end, but slowly. I am not bothered at all of the Lord’s patience for I am aware that maybe that relationship was a testing ground and now see what I am having from you.

  I am not saying I am a perfect creature, for I’m a son of Adam with all the foolishness that come with our own imperfections and that’s why I think we should be more careful in our expectations so that whenever you come to know the kind of person I am, you may, to some extent, find yourself not discouraged in any way.

  I am sure of your sincerity and hence I am glad that you are the kind of person you are and I appreciate your sense of direction, but then why can I not be that? As far as love is concerned, please rest assured that I have it for you, and so please give me the chance to end here, while thinking of you every day.

  May the God of heaven bless your heart to continue to understand the wonders of love.

  Ever yours,

Omro”

     She had read his letter over and over again, and she felt he had also read her letter several times. Now that she was thinking about this, and remembering someone who she described as a secret admirer, and who was so love-struck that he could get her fiancée’s phone number and communicated negative news about her, was, she thought, an attempt by the devil to destroy what had been built in seven months.

     Since the phone had ended abruptly, she could not feel that her fiancée was satisfied with her explanation. Now the day was far spent, and darkness had enshrouded the city of Lyons, and therefore she could not go out to get a phone card to call him back, she would do that the next morning, and maybe she could find out his final decision. She could not even imagine that Omro would call off their relationship, but again she knew men enough to imagine what they would do in such a circumstance.

   The room temperature was normal but she was feeling chilly. She knew it was due to the anxiety on the current situation. Resting her head on her bed, she stared moodily in the ceiling. “What do you have for me?” her heart kept asking the ceiling, and her breathing became hard. “Am I having a fit, and if not then what is happening to me?” There were lots of questions on her mind, but she could not find any possible answer to them.

   It had been four hours now since their conversation ended abruptly, and he had not called back. She had not been able to close her eyes to have any sleep. It was pure torture, and she would as well deal with it. There was a part of her that was refusing to accept that Killen had messed up her life for now.

   “I’ll not let him destroy me,” she assured herself, but could not prevent the flood of tears to her rescue. “This is the time to fight back.”

3

      The meeting was brief but her friends did not play it lightly. Diane was twenty five, with a light on her face. She looked athletic and very understanding when she heard the story, and what Killen had done up to this time. Jocelyn, though barely twenty three, was filled with anger, and her only request was for Amanda to seek redress at the local police station.

   “People like that,” she said, seething with anger, “deserve to be punished.”

   “I’ve thought about it,” Amanda said with emphasis, now that her friends were rallying to her support, “I never felt humiliated in all my life.”

   “Have you told him the truth?” said Jocelyn, with her head up, “your fiancée should be a nice one to make sense of the current fiasco.”

    Amanda did not respond with any swiftness, and simply regarded her friends, who all relaxed in her room watching an African Movie. Her mind centered on the movie and wondered if what was happening to her could not be made into a similar movie.

     It could be an interesting thing to watch since she felt there could be a lesson there. What would be the story? “A love-struck man invades his secret admirer’s privacy and turns her fiancée against her, only to discover that their love is love-everlasting?” She laughed at the idea. Now her mind returned to her friends, and said, “I managed to speak with my fiancée but his reaction was somehow mature but I don’t know.”

     “Did he say anything at all?” Diane said, with outstretched hands, “I mean was he angry?”

     “Well,” Jocelyn said, “we can speak with him if you want us?”

Amanda moved towards the center table, munching on pop-corn, and then said, “There is no need for that, I think I can deal with him.”

     “You should be careful,” Diane, her plump body which was filled in the chair, said, “I wish it were to happen to me so that I can send some of these bumps to the police.”

     “Me, too,” Jocelyn said, “there should be no force in this thing, and I think you should tell him so that he can understand what he has done.”

     “From what my fiancée said,” Amanda said, her eyes moving from one friend to another, “he feels I should take it easy so I will take it lightly for now.”

      Amanda could deal with the situation as her fiancée had told her to, but what was his final position on their relationship? He did not say because his phone call had gone dead last night, and he had not called, which did not mean that he had ended their relationship.

     Usually they had called each other during the night hours, which would be morning hours in France, and late in Atlanta in the United States. She was waiting to call him and then at the time she would know what was happening to their union.

     She had of course felt some uneasiness at the thought of finding out from her fiancée if he was done with the situation and how, for she informed him with all sincerity that she was not involved in anything that could cause their relationship to end in disappointment. But did he believe her? Though he did not indicate the status of their relationship, just some reassurances and questions, Amanda felt it would be good that she left it just like that till she called again.

     Now her friends had joined in her defense, and she felt good inside. The African movie had run its course, but she had not seen any of it, and could not remember any of the scenes. She was a normal person, right?

     At the end of her friends’ visit, they all assured her of their support and reminded her that they would be willing to speak with her fiancée, about her innocence if the need arose.

      “I really thank you for all your support,” she told them, before they left her, to moan over her misfortune.

4

      A soft intonation of profound sorrow had gained control of Amanda Jones and there was nothing much to do to regain her composure. Difficult as it seemed, she would make the best use of her situation.

    She remembered several years ago, when she was moved by the affections of her ex-husband, and which propelled her into marriage. She was then at the tender age of nineteen, and initially the man had dotted on her, calling her ‘sweetie and darling.’

    It was a romantic period of life, and she did not know that a man who claimed you were a golden egg could turn around swiftly and brand you as an undesirable. In the beginning love was in her eyes, and the man had shown it to her.

   Amanda thought she was on top of the world till her first child was born, and the rest belonged to history. Now, remembering these thoughts made her think twice about her affairs with men. It had been three days now since her secret admirer had sent devastating information to her fiancée in the United States, and she had been afraid that that message, though untrue, could send her current relationship crashing to the ground.

    Though the relationship had survived into its third day, she still feared the worst. Her fiancée, Omro had not open up, and like his fashion, had kept his cool, only urging her to live with her experience.

    “But these men,” she said to herself in her apartment house, overlooking the seine river in beautiful Lyons, “they are a strange kind of beings.” She could relate to that. It was true her present predicament was as a result of one man’s determination to see her suffer, and then what had her lovely fiancée done in all this?

    He had normally asked questions, of which she did not have any problem with. Just that she had wanted him to share more concern, and even being bold to tell the other man to shut up and have a life.

   Wiping tears from her face, she resettled herself on the sofa and turned on the tv set. The news, which was one of her major interests, had no appeal to her anymore. Food had become sour, tasteless, and her appetite for food had deserted her.

    She sauntered towards the bathroom, and at the large mirror on the wall, stared at her image. “This is me,” she thought, “why am I suffering because of love?” She did not have any answer for it but then she remembered her earlier resolve not to allow the current situation to swallow her, and then she combed her hair with her hands, and straightened herself up.

    Now she was seeing Amanda Jones in the mirror. Though her eyes had lost their vitality in her face, as a result of the three days of tears, she could admit her eyes were however like those of angels. They sat proportionately in their sockets, and her hair dangled on her shoulders. Her lips were red and the eye lashes slept at their natural borders.

She consoled herself, “What good man will not love these?”   

Why should a woman of such natural beauty moan when others were having peaceful sleep every night?

     Then she thought about Tom, the ex-husband who never was. She had simply loved for love, and after her son was born, Tom had gone ahead and had had two more children that he brought home for her to raise. For several nights afterwards, after Tom got a job at a funeral home, he would stay away from the family, and she would cry with her children. Didn’t she survive that humiliation?

   “Since I survived that one,” she said, with apparent triumph in her voice, “I will, with the Lord’s help, survive anything.”

    With that promise she was prepared now to face her demons, and ready to live a life of promise.

5

     A solemn glee possessed her mind when the text message came. She could not believe her luck, but it was true. The strangeness of the message did not surprise her, for she had known of her innocence and God had proven her right to the end.

    “As far as I am concerned you’re history, and I have a wife that I cherish so much. What am I doing with you, Bitch….”

     She could not believe her luck. True, he was calling her names and had painfully called her a ‘bitch,’ but as far as she was concerned his violent reaction had indicated that he was a man in need of redemption. Killen had been going to the same church with her, and now he was cussing her, and saying all kinds of things about her.

    What happened to the Christian unity? Had she not seen this man in church, crying out his heart out to Christ? What happened to his sense of Christian unity? She was obviously angry at his action, when she read the text message, but now she was feeling sorry for him, and then she remembered the admonition in Scripture that when a brother or sister is suffering or is sick, elders must come together and offer prayers, and with the oil, the God of heaven may return what was missing and the brother or sister would be well again.

   Now that’s what she considered the current situation. Of course, Killen had sent a second text message and the message was also unfavorable to her. As a Christian she would consider the insults as refuse on the account of the Christ, whose sacrifice had redeemed mankind from the bondage of sickness and death.

    The night was cold, but she was not feeling it. She sensed some inner excitement, for she had received the evidence that could clear her bad name, since men being the queer type of people, they are not often prepared to accept a woman’s declaration of innocence as a fact.

   Though the time was far spent, she was feeling rather better. Her mind was filled with what she would say to her fiancée, and then she decided to forward the messages to him in the United States.

    That’s exactly what she did.

    For her, she would remain committed to her service to God, and continue to pray for those whose human weakness makes them behave as if there is no way to get help.

    Beneath the cold glare of the desolate night she could hear the voice of her fiancée. And this time there was no mockery in it.

  “Did you send me those messages?”

  She listened for a while before answering, “I did simply forward them to you.”

  “Oh,” he said, “why did he send such messages?”

  “I wish I know,” she said, “I told you he was planning to destroy me and thank God it did not work.”

   “I think he needs help.”

  “What help?”

   “This is a man that goes to the same church with you. This is the man, who should be treating others as he wants to be treated, and yet he has gone over his head and doing quite the opposite and this is where I don’t understand.”

   “I sent him a response,” she said, “thanking him for the text messages that stand as a memorial to clear my name and honor.”

   “This is strange,” he said, “I believe he has a distorted view of a relationship, for it is not a wise thing to do to insult another because you repulsed his advances. This is pure insane.”

   “I thank God that I am vindicated,” she said, “I feel honored and excited.”

   Her reaction did not elicit the kind of excitement that she had anticipated but she was filled with a sense of vindication. His voice was now louder, and it appeared to her that he received the reaction with a firm belief of her innocence.

   Though he was not saying it, and she could not detect it from his voice, she was more than glad that he did not have any negative opinion about her and what she was doing in France. It gave her a sense of elation, and contentment.

    A tumult of vehement feeling held her attention as she watched in amazement on how far the situation had gone. The whole episode did not seem to her something deserving, but since Killen had exposed his irresponsible behavior, she could live and deal with it.

   Now there could be no time rather than now for her to find a way to rejoice, if rejoicing was something she needed to do. But, had not the past couple of hours provided too much stress for her? Did she not find the entire situation distasteful? Should she not realize the unfair nature of the affair?

   She wished she could put the experience behind her, and even behind him. But, doing so would mean something else.

    Then a tumultuous rush of sensations filled her mind and she watched herself, and thought about things that were not necessarily to be considered.

     “At least I’m doing fine,” she said to herself, and moved towards the large mirror in the room. She gazed at her shadow, her herself, and attempted a weak smile.

     “I will not let this destroy my happiness,” she said, “whatever the outcome is I know my innocence.” The consolation did her some good, for in the next moment, she felt some peace within herself.

      “At least,” she said, throwing her head back, and gazing at her action in the mirror, “I’m doing fine.” By now the time was far spent and feeling exhausted, decided to let the world alone to chase its own burdens.

     The radio on her center table hummed audibly and she moved closer and tuned it a little louder. She did not forget that her room-mate, across to the other part of the room, slept soundly.

     “What a day,” she said, her spirit reawakening, and her heart filling with ecstasy, “what a day!”

       It had surprised her that she had allowed the situation with Killen to control her emotions, but what else could she have done?

       “I’ll not let it,” she said, her eyes weary, with sleep. She did not know what happened afterwards, for true it was that her soul was willing, but the body sadly was weak.

6

    Though waking up after a couple of hours, she felt a vague and wistful melancholy and her heart appeared broken. It could be nothing, but the adrenaline flush was great that she could only feel her heart thumping. This could not be happening, she thought.

  Then she saw the situation clear now.

  It was the morning after the final confession, and she seemed to be on the top of her world, and grimacing, she moved towards her apartment house, and when her eyes fell on the recliner, she found herself smiling, but could not determine the cause.

   So when her cell phone shrilled to life, she could understand her expectation and she was ready. Instantly, she scooped it with the effectiveness of a soldier at war.

   “Hello,” she could hear his voice in elation, and her voice, answer, broke off.

   “Hello,” she managed to say at last, “is everything clear now?” Her question echoed back at her, and she could hear her own breath rising up and down, like she had been running a hundred yards to pick up the phone.

   “Yes,” was the answer from the other end, “I knew the truth all along but I was making sure that nothing surprised me in the end.”

     “But at least,” she said, “you could have shown me some solidarity.” Her request even surprised her, and she decided not to pursue that angle since it was apparent that the evidence had vindicated her.

    “I know from a fact,” her fiancée continued, “that whatever happened, you allowed it to happen.”

    “I may have,” she countered, “but you should put some trust in me to the very end.”

    “But,” he said, “that’s exactly what I did.” That answer held her breath in check and she uttered a deep breath of satisfaction. She could deal with that, and then she heard him say:

    “I trust in your sincerity, “Amanda, and therefore I will be meeting you with a promise…”

    “A promise?” she interrupted him, “you’re kidding, right?”

     Then he said, “Wait a minute.”

     She waited on the line in what seemed like an eternity, before she heard his voice, “I will always love you, Amanda.” The echo of his voice brought tears to her eyes, as she responded, “And never shall I deceive you in anyway.”

      Her palpitating heart felt at home when her fiancée said, “I’ll be seeing you in France.”

The phone went dead, and while wondering the meaning of his abrupt end, her cell phone came to life again, and when she turned to check it, the text message read: “My flight will be arriving on Tuesday morning.” The calendar on her wall indicated he would be arriving in seventy two hours.

      She mopped the tears of joy from her face, and her radiant smile filled her with gladness. In the end, it was a victory she had fought hard to win. The dream of her fiancée’s visit held her with awe, and expectation, for shedding tears of her innocence was the best thing that ever happened to her.

                                                           THE END

The Missing Bra

      By Omari Jackson

   Adriana Kabaso imagined she was doing enough sacrifice for herself. Standing at five-three or five-five, her one hundred and sixteen body lay on her bed, as the early morning cold seeped through an open window.

    Sleep was good for her, but she knew she had not been fair to her body.

    Now she wished she could sleep all day, for her desires had sometimes overruled her sense of realism. And in those instances, she had exchanged the time to sleep for partying, and she had known it was having a toll on her but she was not prepared to make changes in her life style.

   It was on a Monday of the week, the beginning of her struggle in Atlanta. Night was long past, and she knew the call would come and she would be struggling to open her eyes. So when it came, she was right about it.

   Her right hand moved across the middle of the bed. Plucking the cell-phone, she answered, her reaction showcasing her difficulty in waking up:

    “Hello.”

    The voice said the second time, “We’re coming, are you ready?”

 She wanted to yell into the mouth-piece, but something urged her to hold on. She then turned to look at the time on the phone and it told her:

    06:49A.M and it was time for work.

   “Are you ready, we are coming,” the voice again, and feeling like she had been beaten the night before, Kabaso said, “I’m getting ready…,” then saying, “I wish today is a holiday,” and turned the phone off.

   Moving away from the bed, Kabaso stumbled over a chair, and she cursed: “Who the hell put this chair here?” and walked on, feeling the switch on the wall, and turning the light on.

   She knew her friends would be arriving any minute, and she would have to force herself into the car, and stumbled into the back seat for the ride.

   She had been living at the Collins Apartment for several months. How many months? She did not want to be bothered with that. All she knew she was living here, and that was what counted.

   The Collins Apartment fronted the giant Department Store, and as she told a friend the other, “This is where I always walk about,” and she read some envy on the friend’s reaction. That was when the friend, Tonia, said, “Sometimes some people are lucky where they live,” and her reaction was somber, asking her, “Tonia, you’re not jealous of me, huh?”

   Tonia said, “How could I, huh?”

   “But your question means something is not right with me.”

    “You better stop that, girlie.”

    “Just look across from my apartment,” pointing her finger towards the department store Kabaso said, “and I know you don’t have such a thing in your area.”

    Tonia’s eyes brightened up, when she said, “I’ll be darned if I’m envious.”

    The conversation ended abruptly, when Kabaso said, “I know you’re unhappy with me whenever I am successful, and from now on I’ll be careful with you.”

     That was a week ago!

     Now she stared at the empty wardrobe and she thought about her recent uneasiness. Though she made it clear, she still could not get it out of her mind, especially when she said to all who had ears the other day on their ride home, that she would check herself up to make sure that she was not expecting.

   “Expecting what?” one of the men in the car said.

    Kabaso said, “I don’t want to feel sleepy and all that vomiting since there is an occasion coming and I don’t want to miss out.”

    Everyone in the car laughed, including the two men, especially when one of them said, “You surely checked yourself up, huh?’ and she simply laughed. After all what do men know about such things? she asked herself, and laughed.

   Now she must get ready for the ride. She shrugged into her usual jeans and grabbed a blouse from her center table. One thing about her, and this had been confirmed by any of the men who would take the trouble to pay her some attention; she was slicked in her jeans, and whenever she walked, it was said she slithered like a snake.

   The other day when she stood in the mirror and pretended she was walking back and forth in the room, the contours of her shape made her to look wonderful.

    “Oh these men,” she said, “I see why they will not leave me alone.” But did she enjoy such attention from them? A question she had not found it easy to answer. Maybe one day she might find the answer. But then she knew that such attention from “men” had been the undoing of many a promising woman. She could think of many stories about young women whose future lost the fires that were burning in there. She would not allow that to create any upset for her.

    Now the time ticked away.

   “Time to go,” she said, and swung her right hand to the closet to grab a bra, the one that fit her tightly and neatly. The one that would demand the attention of those men who would not leave the female sex alone. Yes, the one that…”What am I saying?” she wished she knew.

   “Since the men want to see,” she told herself, “they must be ready, lol.”

     But then, it seemed something was going wrong. The closet full of bra and other personal items was empty.

   “Where are my bras?” asking as if she left them with someone. Though there was Janet, her cousin and sister living in the apartment with her but she kept to herself Kabaso could not even imagine asking her about them.

   As if a door was suddenly left ajar into some world unseen before, she felt the rush of an inner energy surging through her. It could mean nothing but she did not like it. But when she felt a queer, uncomfortable perplexity began to invade her mind, she could no longer remain in her position. She must begin to act, now.

   She moved from one corner of the room to another, stumbling over chairs and tables, seething with anger.

   “Who could do this to me?” a question that was perhaps a chance inquiry into her actions. She knew she had not been practically consistent with the dream she had always wanted.

   But then, she always consoled herself that there was always a tomorrow and she would derive comfort from her own actions.

  Then her mind centered on the missing items: Who would want such personal stuff and for what reason?

  Back in Africa she heard how such personal items were the most effective effort if an enemy wanted you dead. Those personal items would be used in a ritual, and at least she could remember once, how a girl turned crazy when her personal items were reportedly used in a juju or black magic ritual.

     But, she said, “this is not Africa, but then where are my bras?” She glanced at the empty space where the bras stood, just yesterday, and what about the other items? She felt a chill and her stomach began to pinch her. It reminded her the period she was at the hospital to have her daughter. Hmmm…that pain! Then bitterness crept into her face.

    In all these happenings, she had one consolation: which was the fact that she was not involved in any multiple relationships, a situation that could force someone to harm her, as she knew the story back in Africa.

     It was after such self-examination the other day that she almost ran out of her job at NCR at its Suwannee location. What happened was spooky but now that she thought about it, she could only laugh. What happened was, she heard someone call her name.

   “Adriana, Adriana.” Then her cheeks furrowed by strong purpose and feeling. It was like death itself. The moment of action. That was when she endeavored to smile away her chagrin.

    It was now around 04:00pm, the very time she was leaving for home. At the time the weather had completed a drizzle and she was just coming towards the break-room when she heard someone call her name but when she turned to look and respond to the call, there was no one in sight.

    “Nobody is behind this door,” she said, as she made a desperate attempt to what she considered a prank, “and therefore who could be calling my name?” Her head dropped into her hands like a storm-broken flower. There was no answer, and that was strange!

     She was not particularly a weakling, and therefore she felt she must find who was apparently playing games with her name.

    She remembered that day, and still thought about it.

      Presently she must proceed to work, without the bra, to send those nosy men confused. There would be another day and another time, and wherever they were, she would find them.

    The knock at the door brought her back to the present. For the last several minutes she failed to locate any of the bras, and though it worried her to death, there was nothing she could do.

  Grabbing whatever she had left, she stormed out of the room, and entering the car dropped herself on the backseat.

   She did not even realize it till several minutes later.

   “Oh my cell phone.”

   “What happened to it?” someone asked.

   “I left it home,” Kabaso said. But she was glad that at least she had gained a measure of her self and was now on her way to work. It would not be an easy experience, but she knew life had always not been easy. “Since I made it the other day,” she said, “I’m going to make it today, too.”

   She was a strong-willed woman, oh a strong mother, she corrected herself, and wished her only daughter, for now, would emulate her example when she was a grown-up woman. As the car hummed along, she allowed her body to fall back, and then closed her eyes. In her mind’s eye, she could hear a song, a favorite one, in its droning melody in her ears.

    Few minutes later, she went into deep sleep, which her friends in the car noticed. But for her, nothing mattered anymore.

A Dollar For His Birthday

         By Omari Jackson

      Thadd knew the time was different. He was born twenty four years ago, and none of the last twenty three years gave him any sense of hope. He could blame someone, like a parent or a brother, but why would he? That he had failed to find any answer to such a pressing question did not make him feel as if he was not wanted.

    Transitioning from twenty three to twenty four, made him feel like a new man. And his mother had always told him he was born to win.

   “Win what?” he asked her, with a careful appraising eye, “what about my elder brother, heh?”

     His mother’s eyes brightened up, when she said, “You were born in this country,” meaning in the United States, “and that should give you a chance at life.” Thadd had heard that before. Was that statement true? He loved his mother, for she had always been there for him. So, then, how could it mean that being born in the United States was something he should consider a blessing?

    It only made sense to him when he considered the country of his parents, Haiti, just across the United States in the Caribbean.

   “Haiti is another country, right?”

   His mother said, a motherly feeling in her eyes, “Yes, but things are always not what they should be.”

  Thadd did not know what to make out of the conversation. He had always believed that his mother would not tell him any story that had lies in it. But he also knew his father had added his voice to it, and had even said, at a discussion, “I wish I were born in the US.” That statement had fascinated him, and now that he was thinking about it, he wished to God things could become clearer to him.

    In the local community in the Atlanta where the family resided, Thadd had struggled to live. The thought of struggling to live had always challenged him. The first of the many struggles began in New York. He was a little younger then.

    He was visiting his older brother, and for some strange reasons, a party there turned into a violent confrontation, and he could not stand aside and see his brother being disrespected.

     And what did he do?

     The melee sent many of the attendees scattering about, and Thadd had ventured outside to face any of those who wanted to engage in a fight.

     That night the summer weather had turned chilly, and he felt wonderful, just before the commotion.

     Thadd had come out, and faced one of the enemies. It turned into a hand to hand combat, and he felt confident that he could take care of himself.

      The thought that he was born to win came into his mind and he smiled to himself as he went after the opponent. The melee was deepening and though the police could come into the situation with negative consequences, Thadd was not thinking about that for now.

     The first blow from the enemy swung to his direction, and Thadd allowed the force to swing across him, and by that action the enemy’s face came closer to his position.

     Like some action scenes in a movie, a karate movie, Jacky Chan, Thadd instinctively swung his right hand which engaged the other’s head, as the enemy jolted and sprawled on the ground.

     Thadd could not remember where he had gained that strength for the fight. He could be a boxer, like the legendary Mike Tyson, and if that became possible he could fight for money…

     Just then, he felt a crash against his forehead, and he tasted his own blood, and at the same time, he lost his balance. Unaware of what had happened, for he could not feel any pain, he managed to get to his feet and went after the one who had crashed his head with a bottle.

    Initially he was dazed, but the fury of his reaction gained control over his feelings, as several of the people rushed here and there, and Thadd was on the enemy, swinging him here and there.

   As blood poured out of his head, Thadd kept the pace and rendered the enemy defenseless, especially when he heard his brother’s voice, crying out, “You hurt my brother, you hurt my brother…” several times.

    That incident was several years ago.

    Now Thadd was a man of himself. He knew several of his friends who were languishing in jails, and those who had been shot, and felt lucky to be alive.

    He remembered his mother’s admonition that he was born to win, and he could find some meaning in it.

    Now, his twenty forth birthday was arriving, and he was planning to enjoy it to the full.

   Lately, he had gained acceptance into the heart of a young woman of twenty four, and though she had a child from a previous relationship, Thadd had always told her, “I love you to death,” and he had wondered what exactly his statement meant.

   Not that he was not sure of what he always told her, for deep down his heart, he had never loved any woman like he loved her. This did not mean that things had always been excellent, between them.

   His own disappointment was that the young woman he loved so much had had the occasion to beat on him.

    “I will never stretch my hand against you,” he told her whenever he was assaulted, “I’m fighting hard to become a loveable man, with a sense of responsibility, as a father…I regret that you don’t understand this.”

    On several occasions, he threatened to leave her, and they were such moments that the young woman would take comfort in tears, and begged him, not to abandon her, and that she would change for the better.

   Thadd would tell her, “I’m aware that you’ve had such experience in the past, but I’m not the one who treated you bad and so why beat on me?” Personally, Thadd’s determination was not to pay back violence with violence, especially with someone he loved so much. But then what could make her to stop beating on him? He had toiled with the idea, and in fact many of his friends had suggested he must choke her and abandon her, which he had refused.

   On the positive side, the young woman in his life cared about him. The current job at NCR was because of her effort and the current car he was using was also because of her effort. He just realized that the young woman was fighting her past demons, and hence his decision not to leave her.

    He had decided to work with her, and maybe victory could crown his effort, and they could live together happily ever after.

   This morning, the blazing blue sky poured down torrents of light, as he fitted the strap on his sneakers. The time read 07:28AM, and with a smile on his lips, Thadd made his way towards the location the McDonald Team at the NCR assembled for their early morning meetings.

   With his two hands in his front pocket, Thadd felt better and very excited. What was interesting to him was that because it was his natal day, he had completed his dressing that morning with a flying tie, which marched his faded blue jeans.

    He knew there would ripples of laughter, but it was his day, and he must as well enjoy it.

     Eyes watched him as he approached his team leader, Jimmy Pope, and the rest of the gang for the morning review of security instructions before the day’s work.

    Laughter giggled towards him, but a radiant look came over his face, like a sudden burst of sunshine on a cloudy day. The day before, he had informed a number of them that his natal day was coming, and he would celebrate it with thanksgiving.

   As the giggle exploded, Thadd felt a gush of entrancing melody, when he announced to all, “This is my birthday,” and the gang applauded.

   Thadd endeavored to smile away the excitement, hoping that the road he had traveled so far was the sure road to his personal success. He would take the weekend off, and enjoy Friday and Saturday with his family.

    It was then, the young woman, a member of his team, directed her right hand to him.

    Thadd said, “What is it?”

    She said, “A dollar for your birthday.” A flush of emotions, mixed with laughter, surged through him. He was a man, and would not allow tears any chance, and therefore he did not allow it.

    “Thank you,” he told her. “I’ll not forget this.”

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