by Yasmeen Mitchell
December had been a too long month. The cheer of Christmas was never my thing, the people caroling as if other people wanted to hear their cat scratches on chalkboard renditions of my ex’s favorite songs. December had been too long remembering her, how she would tell me she loved me in creole.
“Mwen Renmen babe…” as she snuggled me close in the winter breezes of our humble city apartment. Delicately I would stroke her beautiful thick kinks, which wafted in the air and created its own life force. Damn… she shone bright, like what they call it, black girl magic? Magical indeed.
Met her on the path train in Hoboken. Skin the color of the toasted cinnamon my mother put in my oatmeal as a child. Guess you could say the smile she gave, had me feeling nostalgic, but I never had this feeling of home, until it crept into my bloodstream when she introduced herself to me. She was selling insurance, and of course thanks to my premature salt and pepper I looked ten years my senior. She targeted me, I knew, because when she got on I stared too hard, too long. I couldn’t divert my eyes as the heat started to rise to the top of my skull. My freckled cheeks must’ve turned a bright fuchsia hue.
Some people say there is a thing such as love at first sight and I could surely could have called it that. But this was more; this was a reawakening of my spirit. I was in fact looking for a change and hoped the student exchange program would do well. I was only in the U.S for a month as a graduate art student. The only place I had ever seen or heard of was New York at the time. I mistakenly caught the Path as I was trying to find the F train.
Her red bottom flats stepped with a tap on the ugly train floor. Her navy blue pants simply carried her curves. The white blouse and skinny black tie gave me the impression she liked to take risks, her body just seemed relaxed and content in its skin while her hand lie in her pocket confidently. Then she looked over, and I couldn’t look away. Then she walked over, and I couldn’t breathe. Then she introduced herself “Hello, my name is Belle Sanchez…” and I could hear nothing else. Not even the pause she left after her words for me to say anything and not simply stare in awe.
“What’s your name?” Her face looked perplexed making me realize I was fucking it up
“Hello….uhhh…Mateo.” I stammered over my English with the thick French accent and nerves; extending my hand to shake hers.
“France?! Am I right?” she looked eager.
“Yes…I’ve only been here a month, I look like a visitor, I know, you must smell it on me.”
“Your accent, my Uncle has lived in France all my life and his accent is much different than Mother who has never even been.”
“Your uncle?” I was shocked, not that I had never seen black people in France, it was just uncommon where I lived.
“Oui! Et je lui ai appris le français depuis que j’avais six ans » Yes ! And I have been learning French from him since I was six.”
“Hou la la! Il est proche de parfait, mais j’entends quelque chose d’autre dans votre accent … »Wow! It is close to perfect but I hear something else in your accent.”
“I was born in Haiti and spent ten years there before my parents moved to Hoboken. I live in Jersey City now…” she started with a chuckle, but I couldn’t let her believe I was informed so I interjected.
“Excuse me, but I have no idea what or where You are talking about…” voice a little shaky scared she may think I was a fool. But she didn’t instead she asked how long I would be there and if she could show me around sometime. She said although I seemed older, I also seemed like someone who was nice, modern and easy to talk to. I told her that I was thirty although I knew she would laugh. She did but she also said she in fact was three years shy from thirty herself so it didn’t matter.
For the next three weeks, she showed me everything she could. I had been to every part of Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark, and some of the Oranges. Museums, banquets, concerts and even jewelry making classes. We also spent much time in the city, she came to my classes’ once in a while, she even helped write my papers. She was so creative and beautiful, and was able to shock all my senses. She quickly became my Best Friend, then my lover. Her beautiful chocolate pussy oozed and dripped the first time I touched it, Black Girl Magic indeed. And then I was stuck. I should’ve known that maybe she was too good to be true, or maybe that’s what she thought of me too.
After three months, I refused to go back home. I was doing better in school than I ever had, including my years in grade school, I was healthier than I ever had been; she was Vegan and did not allow me to eat meat around or in front of her, so I just quit. I was getting way more conversation than I would have at home about the Universe and the origin of the world. She knew it all, she was Auset, she was even God herself and although I had met her parents and they truly did not agree I knew where I wanted to be. We moved three blocks down from the University, I had officially transferred in November. We were coming up on Christmas which was her favorite holiday. It all seemed so sublime, until she asked me the question that I knew would be coming soon.
“Lè mwen jwenn al kontre manman ou> When do I get to meet your mother”
She had been teaching me Creole for some time so I knew what she said.
“Well, i planned to go back for Christmas, but I don’t want to put you through the holiday travel.” I lied, my mother did not like Black people and I knew it. She honestly liked no one, not even me, but she was especially critical of people of color. My grandparents taught her that way.
“You are lying! I could tell. I won’t be angry just tell me the truth.” She said without even looking at me, how the fuck could she do that? Know exactly when I lied.
“My mother, well. . .she—she’s, not fond of people of color.”
“Well tell me how we are supposed to move forward, if I have no clue where you came from? It doesn’t matter at least if she knows who I am and I know her then we can build together with a clear view. Don’t you see by meeting my parents you saw my challenges, the ones that eventually we would both have to face. I need the same chance, plus I have never been to France, this would give me a chance to visit my Uncle for once.”
Something about this did not seem right. But maybe I would just visit my parents while she visited her Uncle. Maybe I would not tell them I was coming, and when we got to the door they would not be there. Maybe if I had just told her no, then the things to come, would not have, and I wouldn’t be here in this small town on Christmas wishing almost that I was not alive.
The snow happened to be falling when we walked up to my parents cold looking brick house. I had followed my plan. My parents had no clue that I was there, although they had called and I answered. I tried to get her to visit her Uncle but in fact when she got there, he was not. She came back home and ready to leave with me.
My heart was pounding
“Mateo!!!” my father roared. I was a spitting image of him, except his snow-white hair. He Embraced me and turned to Belle. He shook her hand and called her lovely, while letting her in. He looked at me, with a strange type of proud in his eyes, but also searching my face for answers.
We walked to the dining room and mother was in the kitchen, smoking her cigarette and sipping chablis.
“Bonjour Mere> Hello Mother”
As she turned, glass and cigarette in hand, and looked through the large opening between the dining room and kitchen, she locked eyes with Belle. Belle intently locked eyes with her. It’s like they knew each other. The pink in my mother’s’ flesh disappeared, she was now blank like the ghost that she seemed to be looking at.
“Matt, you have the nerve to bring this Black ugly bitch into our home? We have not seen you in forever in this how you greet us? Is this nigger the reason you will not come back home?”
“Mother…” but before I could finish, Belle had walked up to my mother and slapped her so hard the clap ricocheted throughout the house. And when I saw it, I blacked out. My mother was a bitch but she was still my mother. And as I back to the light I saw Belle holding her face, staring at me wildly as my mother yelled for her to leave the premises immediately before she called the police. She did, but with the same confidence I had seen her with on the train that day. She did not scurry, and nor did I after her. I should have… how could I have? The whole night I called her cell. No answer for a whole week. The next week I got home and everything of hers was gone. I went out that night with deep pain anchoring my heart. I knew I had lost her forever.
January, and nothing felt new or fresh, I was dying inside. One Saturday after my usual wallowing I went to a nearby pub and just about doused myself in rum. I cried to the beautiful bartender but she did nothing for me. I left.
As I walked down the street, wobbling, I saw her near the light of our home. Belle! I cried, I ran to her. She hugged me strongly, I needed that. I followed her up the stairs to our apartment, not caring if she saw the despair that was once our home. When we got up the steps she smiled and poured me a drink and that was all I could remember. Except that she said a few words before the black came.
“Ou kwè nan vodou”
The next morning, I was awoken by the sound of screaming coming from the living room. I thought it was her, but surely did not sound like it. Just a familiarity, a nostalgia. As I walked toward the room, I realized it was the television, but still—why did the woman screaming sound so familiar? My heart was racing now, pounding as I tried to hurry. By the time I got to the television, what was clearly a video playing had stopped.
So, I hit play (again), and watched myself in the recording. But what I saw isn’t what I remembered. What I saw made me never want to remember another thing. As I stood there in deep sobbing tears I watched myself tie my own mother to a noose and watched her struggling body hang. This couldn’t be real… right?
I turned to look around at the scene of the crime, my spotless living room, and nothing. I turned off the screams of the living woman, my mother, as she became more unconscious with each struggle. I couldn’t bear to hear that, heart pumping out of control. This can’t be real, can it? I looked around again to make sure I was dreaming, I had to be, right? And then I thought of the look in my eyes on that tape. My pupil was not its usual green hue. It was all black.
Then I remember the last words Belle said before I blacked—
“Do you believe in voodoo?”
Twenty minutes later, I found my mother’s body and the noose in my kitchen, lying next to her, a glass of chablis and a single cigarette.