Call It Dreamin' 7 minute read

Deja VI – Lies and Tricks


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continued from Deja V

Deja’s face felt tight from her mask of water and salt. She knew that by now her tears and snot had formed white trails down her face, tracing a map of pain. She was angry that she accidently had left her classmates postcards of her life’s journey. She wanted to pass through Hamilton Elementary—this part of her journey—like she was on sand, leaving no footprints. But with water, footprints in the sand make an impression. And Deja’s tears today had made an impression.


“Is something wrong, Deja?” Mr. Jackson, the school counselor asked from the other side of his metal desk. Thankfully, when Ms. Marshall couldn’t get Deja to talk, she ushered Deja, one hand softly on her back, to Mr. Jackson’s office, so she didn’t have to face her classmates when they came in from recess.


Deja considered Mr. Jackson’s question. She had learned since attending Hamilton that besides speaking proper English, there were differences in the way White people and Black people talked. Perhaps because Black folks were used to budgeting everything—including their words; or maybe because people in the hood didn’t have time for foolishness—Black folks didn’t mince words. Had she had the same breakdown at home, the question would’ve been something akin to “What in the hell is wrong with you, girl?” But White people always built up to the main question, with softer question such as, “Is something wrong, Deja?”


For a minute, Deja almost giggled, imagining Porsche, her mom and she laughing at possible comebacks, “No, Mr. Jackson. Nothing is wrong. I just go ape-shit crazy and start crying in the middle of class all the time.” But as quickly as she almost giggled, she felt sad again with the realization that her mother wouldn’t be home for her to laugh with later.


So, she looked at Mr. Jackson, bit her lip, and came up with the best lie she could. “Well, our class was talking about the History project and I realized that I really don’t have the materials I need to do my part. I don’t want to let my group down.”


Mr. Jackson’s face went from red to a light yellow. This was a problem that he could handle; he could be a hero today. He took on a serious, yet compassionate face that made Deja wonder if he had to practice that when he was learning to be a counselor. He opened his office door and let Deja know that he would be right back, softly closing the door behind him.


Deja looked around at his orderly office, until her eyes settled on the pictures flashing across the screen of his computer: pictures of him, his two girls and wife throughout the years. What would this man understand about her problems, Deja thought? At just that moment Mr. Jackson walked in with a grocery bag filled with office supplies and rolled poster board. Deja did her best to look relieved. If only scissors and glue were the answers to her problems.


She took the bag, gave Mr. Jackson a quick hug, and made her way down the halls of Hamilton before the rest of the kids got out of school. The huge clock over the front doors of the school warned that she had only 3 minutes to the next bus run, so she ran as quickly as she could—backpack and grocery bag hitting against her body in a rhythmic beat as she ran down the familiar streets, making it just in time.

Deja slid into the empty 3rd seat and looked around at her bus mates. “Always check out your surroundings,” momma said. Deja noted that although she normally got on the bus a little later and these were technically different people, everybody was the same: tired, colorful, some hopeful; some hopeless.


By the time Deja made it to unit #603, she felt as tired as some of the ladies she saw on the bus who took off their shoes, as soon as, they got on the bus and rubbed them back and forth over the grooved metal flaps on the floor (the poor-woman’s massage). And from the lifeless look in Porsche’s eyes, she wasn’t alone. Porsche stood by the stove stirring boxes of macaroni and cheese mixed with canned chili with the wooden spoon that their mom had used to cook for them and to spank them for as long as they could remember.   Heck, there were times that momma would pull the spoon out of whatever she was cooking, hit one of them upside the head, and then go back to cooking. Funny how you miss even the bad stuff when you miss a person.


“How’d it go with SNAP?” Deja asked while taking off her coat.


“They talkin’ bout could be 6 daggone weeks,” Porsche responded. Howinthehell do they expect people to make it 6 weeks without buying food if they lose dey EBT card?”


Deja thought about the money Benny gave her–$250. There is no way that would last them 6 weeks, considering they had to pay their part of the rent still. She went over grabbed two bowls and ladled out Porsche’s concoction. The two girls sat in front of the TV and watched a rerun of Modern Family, while they silently ate dinner. Afterwards, both girls did their homework and watched Martin reruns until they fell asleep—together again on the couch.


At first Deja worked the rapid tapping in her dream, but then she quickly realized that someone was frantically knocking at the door. Deja stumbled over to the door and peeked out the peep hole and saw the top of Porsche’s head. At first, she was confused, wasn’t Porcshe on the couch asleep with her, but she looked over her shoulder quickly, saw the white comforter with blue flowers on it crumpled on the ground and frantically opened the door. “What in the hell, she exclaimed,” as she came face to face with a Porsche whom she barely recognized.


Hot pink lip stick coated her full lips; their mother’s best earrings swung from her ears; poorly applied eye make-up made her look either abused or like an addict. In their mom’s heels she stood like deer stands for the first time. Deja closed the door and screamed, “What in the hell, Porsche? What in the hell?’’


Porshe didn’t move.


Deja’s voice went up an octave. “What in the hell were you doing?”


“We need money, Deja. You the smart one. I ain’t going nowhere anyway. It’s no big deal. It’s just sex,” she shrugged. “You wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t forgotten my key. Now go back to sleep, you got school in a couple hours,” Porsche said, as she walked past Deja and dropped a wad of bills on the table in front of the velvet purple couch.


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Read more: Deja VII

My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more


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