“We want to leave early so that we can get in for free. So can you be ready by 9?”
“If I take a nap. I’m exhausted. I haven’t had time to sleep yet.”
“Well you know you have to go with us Minah. It’s your last night here. I haven’t seen you since graduation and now you’re flying off to Paris... I can’t even talk about it or I’ll start crying.”
“Okay. Okay. I’ll go but have to start my nap now. It’s already 6 what time are you calling?”
“Okay, I’ll call you at 8.”
“That’s cool, I have to shave my legs so yeah, that’s cool. Eight o’clock.”
“I’m so happy you’re going.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll see you later.”
Minah laid down with Miles Davis asking “So What” on his trumpet. She dozed off with visions of the Seine flowing through her mind, then the phone rang.
“What time is it? “
“Five after 8. I just finished cleaning up and I’m about to take my shower. We should be over there in about 1/2 hour. I’ll call first.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to you in a little while.”
Minah got up and turned on her light. The room was bare. Everything was packed except for some pictures she wanted to carry with her and her traveling clothes. She picked up a stack of pictures and started flipping through them. She stopped on a picture of herself with her “big brother”. Though they weren’t related by blood, they spoke everyday until she left for school. She hadn’t spoken to him in two years. Two years? Has it been that long Blueboy? She missed him, he always wanted to go to Paris. But pain kept her pride from giving in to fits of sentimental fancy. She’d accepted his flaky behavior as part of his character, but after that Christmas she couldn’t stand being stood up by him one more time.
The final straw had been her missing a party she’d planned because of him. Her car was being ravaged by the unnaturally cold Chicago winter. It was quite naturally cold for her, but her car was Japanese and still not used to the weather. So who else to call but her brother who only lived a few blocks away. She knew she was taking a chance, but she figured, Hey, we’re adults now and made the mistake, yet again, of depending on him. He called and told her he was on his way and she woke up the next morning in her bad-assed boots and a mini-dress in the recliner by the door. He called the next morning with some excuse she’d already heard and she hung up on him. He called periodically but she never spoke to him. She didn’t trust him. She had a couple of boyfriends who tried the same game. She had no tolerance for it and they got the same treatment. When they asked why she was “trippin’ so hard” she’d just say she had her reasons. She flipped to a picture of herself as a child standing in front of the window smiling and holding a little suitcase.
“Minah, sweetie, is your bag packed to go to your Dad’s?”
“Yes, I even put little Minah in there.”
She points to a brown yarn doll wearing a yellow sundress and black toe-shoes. “We’re dressed alike today, only I don’t’ have a bonnet and she doesn’t have on gloves.”
“Well you have a little while before your dad gets here. Do you want to watch some TV?”
“No thank you. I’d like to sit in the window and see him pull up so he can see I’m ready. We’re going to see the Muppet Movie and we can’t be late.”
“Okay baby.” her mother said and gave her a kiss on the cheek. As she did she stroked Minah’s cheek and looked lovingly at her daughter. She looked so much like her father it sometimes scared her. Please let him come this time. One of the few good things she believed about her ex-husband was that he loved Minah. Yet she knows he loved her when they were married but that didn’t stop him from disappointing her. She hoped he wouldn’t have the same relationship with Minah. As she walked back into the den, she looked at her daughter so little and vulnerable, then at the clock. He was already 20 minutes late.
Minah comes back to the present and puts the pictures down. On the top of the stack is the picture of her as that child. Ironic, she laughs to herself, as she pulls out a similar dress to wear on her last hurrah. As she jumps in the shower she throws in her favorite Jimi Hendrix CD and together they declare “there must be some kinda way outta here” as All Along the Watchtower begins reverberating through her empty apartment.
About ten “there must be some kinda way outta here”’s later she’s dressed and waited for her friends. She puts her wrap, purse and shoes by the door and sits in her living room smoking a cigarette and looking through more pictures. She runs across another one from the same day except it’s with her and her mother at Fun Town, the now defunct amusement part that was Chicago’s equivalent to Coney Island. She remembers waiting in that window for hours waiting on her father and running for the door every time a car started down her quiet street. She sat there until the phone rang and her mother came out of the den and told her that her dad wouldn’t be able to make it today and that he would come and take her out tomorrow. As soon as her mother finished telling her, Minah started crying. Her Mommy came and picked her up hugging her tightly to her.
“It’s not that bad Sweetie,” her mother said in that soothing Mommy voice. “You’ll see him tomorrow and you two will have a great time, you’ll see.”
“But why didn’t he come today? He promised,” she said through her tears. “What’s wrong with me? I look pretty today, don’t I ? Tomorrow I might not look as pretty. He promised. Why doesn’t he keep his promises?”
“Oh Baby,” her mother said with tears now in her eyes that she fought to keep out of her voice. “You look pretty as always and you’ll look just as pretty tomorrow. This isn’t your fault. You know your daddy loves you it’s just... well... it’s just that sometimes the things you may think are important he might not feel the same way about. And that’s not his fault. Now I’m not saying he should break his promises, that’s not right, you just have to make sure you tell him, or anybody else, how this makes you feel. Okay?”
“I guess so,” she said feeling better and not really understanding why.
But she understood why now. She couldn’t, then or now, cut her father off. But anyone else who pulled the same act got the boot. She sometimes explained why, and like with Blueboy, explained over and over again how she felt, other times it was just not worth her breath. She said in the beginning of all of her relationships if you can’t make it or are gong to be late, just call and tell her what’s going on. No big whoop. Just a thin quarter.
At 9:45 she slid on the jeans and tee-shirt she was going to wear tomorrow. She taped up the last of her boxes and started a book. Her friends called at 10:30 explaining but she didn’t answer. She was on the other line talking to her father. She wanted to see what time he was coming to pick her up for the airport in the morning- before she packed her phone.