Friday, November 26, 2010

Me And Miss Charlotte (Tea for Two: One Loving Racist and a Black Girl)

I can remember the first time my eyes set upon the crevices and valleys of Miss Charlotte's face. It was 1996 and I was hanging out in one of Sydney's posh lil areas called Double Bay (or Double Pay as it is cheekily known locally). Double Bay. An area of try-hards as far as I could tell. Littered with "fashionistas" wearing the latest of the lately thing that only those in the know would wear. As of late.

I found myself captivated with Miss. Charlotte. I yearned to know "the reasons why" of her being. I wanted to know how she learned to sip her tea with her lips pursed so delicately. My own tea sipping always ended with wet dribbles down my chin and onto my slightly wrinkled tee shirt.

Intrigue grabbed my spirit and whispered, "Perfectly coiffed, extraordinarily turned out, who/why/how is that lady?"

I could not walk past her table without searching her out. Or could I?

Did you know that sometimes feet have a thought process of their own?

Off I zoomed. Over to her table. I stood. Said bravely "Hello. Ummm, I'm Reggie and I was just wondering who you are? Are you a model or something?"

There. I had introduced myself. I watched her as she watched me. Watching her. A slow smile drew up the corners of her mouth. Silk unfurled out of her mouth, "My name is Charlotte and, no, I am not a model. I am 82 years old. And, darling, that is two years past the cut off age for modelling these days."

The air stopped dead in its tracks.

"Would you like to join me for a cup of tea?" she asked. Head ever so slightly tilted to the side.

Sometimes in life God sends you an angel who won't highlight the silliness that floats out of your mouth.

"Of course. No I meant...were you a model......when you were young....."

"Would you like to join me" she repeated.

I sat. Still.

That was our first meeting. Over the course of the years Miss Charlotte and I spent a gorgeous amount of minutes together. Chatting, sipping tea (she taught me her non dribbling techniques), laughing and shopping. I learned of her years as a youngster growing up in Germany. I was caressed by the chapters of her life spent in America. She was a lover of passion. A world traveller. She reigned before her time. No man ruled over her. She went where she wanted to go and did what she wanted to do. The sky was her very own canvas, playtoy. A woman after my own heart. Selah.

I loved her smile and the twinkling blue stars which floated out of her irises. She was prone to tottering to the left a little bit as she walked. So, we often found ourselves strolling down the streets of Sydney arm in arm. Resting a bit of her weight upon my being. I felt protective.

She and I, Miss Charlotte and me. We enjoyed each other. The sublimeness of good company and friendship. Joy.

But, there was one small issue. A tiny glitch. Perhaps some would refer to it as a problem. I will leave that for you to decide. You see, I learned early on that Miss Charlotte had a habit of saying such things as "Reggie darling even though you are dark black you are very beautiful". And it continued "You have such big fluffy lips." And the dreaded "Your behind is rather large. Round. Very round. Is that common for Negro girls?"


To make matters worse it seemed that in her sunset years Miss Charlotte would often forget that she had already spun me dry with her series of queries and "compliments". My visits to what I quietly nicknamed "The Black Ditch Of Miss Charlotte" left me quizzical. But, I went. Many times. I answered. I responded. Again and again. "Thank you for complimenting my chocolate drop colored skin, Miss Charlotte" Over and over. 'Yes Ma'am my lips are gloriously full." Round and round again. "Yes, black women are world renown to be beautifully curvy, Miss Charlotte."

My mouth's work burned my ear drums. Everytime.

Here is the thing.

I had really grown to love my beautiful friend. I ran head first into the details of her kaleidoscope exploits. I could not get enough of her stories of she-strength. I learned. I breathed in a new slice of existence because of Miss Charlotte.

So, what was I to do?

Sometimes one has to take life for what it is. And what it was...was this: A beautiful woman, loving and kind. That was one hand. And then on the other hand she possessed this, this...thing called prejuidice.

My decision. My choice.

I chose life. Relationship. In spite of.

We met. Together. On common ground. A place of High Tea, Life Journeys, Anticipated Chats, and Afternoon Strolls.

And, yes, more than occasionally we criss crossed and danced around each. At that place.

"Sometime in life we have to hold each other's hand through all the bullshit and just go for the gold."

Miss Charlotte. She taught me that.

Copyright 2010 Regina Y. Evans All Rights Reserved (from the book "Nothing Cool About Ten")

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