There I was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ vehicle watching my world of the past four years get farther and farther away. With the back of my hand pressed to the window and my head resting in my hand, I sat there trying not to think about it. I was leaving my beloved Richmond and going to Danville, VA. I tried not to think about the research job, my friends, and definitely not my parents. My one-bedroom apartment full of second-hand furniture was now gone. The only things left were my TV and a heap of clothes piled beside me, I could not help but wonder if these were the only meaningful things I had collected over the past four years. Once I arrived to my parent’s home, I would search for a solution. . I was hoping that the faint music would to carry me to a live club or a romantic scene but instead the station played R&B oldies and gospel that only carried me closer to the house and childhood memories that I did not want to return to. However, I could barely make out the melody being that my parents had begun to talk over the song; I leaned forward and tried to turn up the music from the backseat volume control button. Not being able to turn up the radio foreshadowed the lack of freedom and happiness I would have living in Danville in my parents’ house. “See what I mean?” I mumbled under my breath. “I can’t even turn up the music.” This only foreshadowed the lack of freedom and happiness that I would have while living with my parents. I leaned back pushing and kneading the stiff new leather but still could not find a comfortable position. All that hard work in high school to get a scholarship really did pay off in the end, a new SUV for my parents. I looked out of the window to observe any changes since the last time I took this trip. I began to feel nauseous and short of breath while staring at the bobbing green rolling hills. I pressed the button for the window for some fresh air, but it was a vain attempt. There I was, a twenty-two year old adult, sitting in the back of my parent’s childproof ride. And on top of that this trip never took three and a half hours when I drove.
I was a free spirit among my peers. We went to class, worked part time gigs on campus, and partied when not doing the previous two. I could go as I pleased and take a cab in the middle of the night to the diner with six friends. I could come and go as I pleased. Take a cab in the middle of the night to the diner with six friends if I wanted to. I could have company as often or as late as I wanted. I was living the life of a grown-up.
A few days before I ran around town from the lab on the undergraduate campus to the employment office and finally ended up in the new lab with new computers and about thirty heads typing frantically. I spotted Jahar, whose birth name was Robert Marley. Two months ago he was my fake reggae Rasta love interest, his pink lips stretched wide and his small green eyes squinted to acknowledge my presence. I winked. I could see the cheese eating Wanda a/k/a Brown Mouse waving at me out of the corner of my eye. She grinned softly as if it hurt her to move her facial muscles. The effects of hate on my face wouldn’t be enjoyed since a fake smile sneaked its way from my tight jaws. I had rehearsed in the hot car and sticky walk here exactly what I wanted to say to her, “So, how did everything go? Did you get the apartment?”
“As a matter of fact, no, I didn’t.” I was shocked that my voice and words came out so coldly and to my surprise loudly too, because all foreheads looked up and the clicking of nails on the keyboard ceased.
“Oh, well, what happened?”
“The raise that you promised that you gave me two weeks ago didn’t happen. I just came from Human Resources and no one had any authorization from you for a pay increase.”
Well, umm, see…,” Brown Mouse was trying to explain.
“There’s nothing you can say huh? You lied.”
The rows of faces waited for anxiously to here the reason why because this affected them too. I held the information that they wanted and I was going to give it too. Since they deserved some kind of compensation and I was more than willing to give it to them good while laying Brown Mouse out. All of sudden I became an ambassador for all typing peons. They deserved much more compensation that they were receiving and I was going to gladly rally for them while I gave Brown Mouse a piece of my mind.
“Look, Wanda, I graduated along with a few others in here ad we were promised this significant raise after we graduated.
“Come with me. I can see that you’re upset,” Wanda said. My body shivered involuntary. There was pressure on my tricep and then before I knew it this heifer was pulling me. I jerked my arm from her grasp and went off. “Yes I’m upset! I’m mad as hell! And you better not touch me again!”
“You need to—,” she stammered.
“I need to stay black and die! And I’m tired of wasting my breath on a lying, trifling, so-called woman. I quit!” I yelled and stormed outside. I decided to go out with a bang. I put my folder down on the steps in front of the building and sat down. I dug blindly into the tiny side pocket of my purse and fiddled for the cigarette I had been saving all day. Keys, chapstick, wallet, checkbook, a lifesaver now where was my damn lighter?
“What you looking for?” It was my tall lanky Rasta man, Jahar.
“Hugh.” He sat down closely beside me and lit my cigarette. He pulled out a beanie and lit it for himself.
“So you leaving?”
The roll of my eyes synchronized with the roll of my neck answered him more than any words could ever explain.
“I’m sorry things turned out this way. I was counting on getting that raise too.” He put his head down on his bent knees and looked at me with a blank face.
I nodded and pulled hard on the cigarette.
“You want to get something to eat? We can go to the Jamaican House. It’s on me.”
“Don’t you have to go back in?”
“Ok, then I’ll go.”
I wondered if he’d taken the rest of the day off or quit. What did it matter? I would have gone regardless if he paid or not. The gig was a stupid, tedious job entering survey data entry for AIDS/HIV testers for the State Health Department We would all announce when we got a positive HIV tester. We looked at the demographics and the sexual history and pitied the anonymous person in a silent prayer.
Well, I said a silent prayer for them.