I got up and went to the docks, Blanche went looking for work, the rest of the time we walked and fucked and talked about our lives. Blanche came from poor folks in Memphis, she wanted to hear all about growing up in the Blue Ridge, I said she couldn’t go by what I went through, I read all the time I wasn’t working and I had a kinsman played a bugle while his siblings thought what he played was dance music. She told me my stories were all worth listening to, so I kept talking as long as she lay naked beside me, she had the most beautiful body I had seen yet, I told her, and I was young enough to show her how much she was appreciated. Then we went out to a café to eat and bought some food from the grocery to bring back to the room, where Blanche made sandwiches for tomorrow.
The Mexican kept wanting me to come over to this house he lived in and join the party some night. I told him I had a woman and he said to bring her too. I kept putting him off, I didn’t know anything about the house or the parties, or the people he lived with, not to mention himself. We would go out and have a beer after work and go our separate ways, though he always wanted me to have another, but I was never much of a drinker, I had other ways to spend my time, I told him. But he kept on with the invitations; daily, after a while, until I asked Blanche if she wanted to go, and she demurred, said I could but she would rather stay in the hotel and rest up for the next day. She had found a waitressing job and it wore her to a frazzle. I said I had no need to go to any party, I had one right here, and after we shared what we had we slept soundly.
Then I met Ruby on the wharf. She was walking by and saw me working. Actually, I was taking a break. She came over and gave me a hug and a kiss and told me she was so glad to see me she liked to die when she looked and there I was . . .
A black woman embracing a white man didn’t draw the attention here it did in the mountains, where we had to sneak around to see each other like this, though neither of us were working when we met. Besides, my father’s people came from Africa, but pretty far back so you had to hear it from him since his skin was a light cream hue and he passed without a hitch. He said, J. C., you don’t have to worry, your mama’s as white as snow and I’m the same color with a little earth mixed in . . .
Ruby had told me all about Delia and her daddy. I heard the story too many times to ever forget it, and believe me, I wanted to . . . I didn’t want to believe she had loved another man before me and I hated the story of how he killed her brother and she made him get her with child before he ran away so she could remember him each time she looked at her daughter and think about how something good, someone she would love forever, came of the whole goddam stupid tragedy of her life.
She said, I’m awfully glad to see you, J. C., and after work she came by and I walked her home. I knew I shouldn’t, Blanche would wonder and worry, but Ruby wanted me to see Delia again, it was like old times, the three of us together . . . so I did, and stayed too long.
(26 October 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander