Mama shuffles the tarot cards hand-over-hand fast, so fast they appear to blur, three times in a row. Afterwards she cuts, then reverses the deck by spinning it counterclockwise 180 degrees. Picking up the deck with her left hand, Mama balls her right hand into a tight fist and raps the deck delivering three loud whacks. Taking a long slow drag from a Cohiba®, careful not to inhale, Mama blows a huge plume of smoke from the crown of my head down to the center of my chest.
Shuffle and cut,” she instructs with more authority than intended, followed by, “and make sure to ask the Orishas to shift your energy, child.”
Mama is not my birth mother, she is my ninety-five-year-old paternal grandmother, and this is jelly-time. I bring Mama home from Grace Residential Care, the local assisted living facility, every weekend on a pass. We spend the weekend doing a lot of girly things: styling our braided hair; polishing our nails; filling one another in on family gossip; enjoying one another’s company. I make it a point to sneak Mama a cigar and a beer, sometimes two, mainly because my Daddy thinks a woman Mama’s age should give up vices, but also because I want Mama to be happy and to enjoy our time together.
We call our weekends jelly-time because my mother gets, as Mama says, right haute and jealous because Mama’s only granddaughter (me) takes time to make Mama feel special and spoiled. Shuffling the tarot deck, riffle style, like a blackjack dealer, with my eyes closed, slowly breathing in-and-out, centering myself, silently repeating “shift,” willing my energy to subtly sweep and release toxic residue. I open my eyes, smile, and gently shove the deck towards Mama as she takes another long drag from her cigar.
Mindful that Mama considers tarot readings serious consultation as valuable as psychotherapy, I decide to make the most of her insight and wisdom by proclaiming, “Mama, it’s been ages since you have given me an intuitive read.”
Smiling slyly and nodding affirmatively, Mama takes another drag from the Cohiba® then says, “Cynja, my child, I am thinking the same thing. But instead of limiting ourselves, lets also read the tea leaves from the hibiscus we drank earlier this afternoon. No use in wasting what the good Lord has bestowed upon thee.”
Laughing my agreement, I stand and nearly run to the kitchen, snatch the infuser filled with wet tea leaves from its resting spot on the countertop, and dart back into the living room.
Before I can plot down gracefully into my seat Mama asks, “Cynja, what is purpose of ancestral alters?”
Staring, not because I am at a loss for words, but because I do not recognize the sternness accompanying Mama’s words. I carefully respond, “To demonstrate an invitation to our departed loved ones to influence our family, provide blessing, and protection.”
Nodding approval Mama takes a drag from the Cohiba® making its tip glow like neon dock lighting and follows with, “Do you fully recognize the intimate relationship you must maintain?”
A single tear snakes its way down my left cheek and into the crevices of my mouth, its salt stings as much as Mama’s words. As I focus on the subdued importance of our conversation, I quietly mouth, “Yes, ma’am.”
Shushing me Mama continues with, “Then make sure you continue to respect me properly when you immortalize me on my altar. Keep it neat, keep it clean. Make sure my soul shines when it reaches its new spiritual plain.”
Mama’s words do not shock, not in a medicinal sense, after all I am not experiencing trauma. Rather, Mama’s words are disquieting, foretelling, yet not prophetic. Mama’s forcing me to accept an inevitable reality: we all begin the process of dying the minute we take our first breath.
As disconsolation raises her boney hand to knock on my consciousness, Mama roughly pushes her back, deep into the corner of my mental boxing ring.
“Dry your eyes child, I am not gone yet,” she says while grabbing my chin. Pulling me in close, Mama kisses errant tears away as obnoxious, police-style rapping on my patio door steal the tenderness.
Shifting easily from loving grandmother into fierce lioness Mama squints her eyes, purses her lips and calmly says, “I bet money that is your nosey-ass Daddy coming by to ruin our moments! I wish you would tell him that what we do over our weekends is not his business,” while busily snuffing her cigar and hiding its evidence.
Mama is correct, it’s my Daddy, her son Tousi, given name Toussaint Dessalines Mason, in honor of both Haitian Revolutionaries.
Mama chides, “Should have named him Timmy. Seventy-years-old and refusing to declare himself independent of me.”
Smirking more than chuckling, and patting Mama’s delicately frail and elderly arm, I turn and briskly walk to towards the patio doors because Daddy is impatient and just may break them down.
“What are you two Obeah women conjuring up,” Daddy says as a form of hello.
Immediately defensive Mama counters with, “Obeah women do not conjure. Obeah women heal the spirit, make justice, commune with the ancestors, empower. Obeah is positive individual action.”
Not to be out done Daddy struts towards Mama, stoops to meet her piercing gaze and asks, “You okay today, Mama,” while hugging her neck.
Sensing that his display of affection is shifting Mama back toward the more graceful version of herself, Daddy takes the opportunity and adds, “And anyways, you’re my Obeah women, and I love you. I love you both to death,” as he kisses Mama playfully on both cheeks.
“Shoo fly, shoo,” Mama teases while pulling Daddy in close, and nuzzling the back of his head to share a kunik. Mama inhales Daddy’s scent deeply, affectionately as if she is transporting back to the minute of his birth. The intimacy of this moment hangs as their foreheads press together.
Clearing her throat Mama slowly releases her grip and softly says, “Jah, thank you for my boy, now a man. Bless him in my presence, bless him in my absence.”
Straightening his back and rising to his full height, Daddy towers over Mama. Pinching her cheeks he says in a mock Jamaican accent, “Florine Mason! Obeah ‘oman, hush de foolishness! T’aint no room in heaven, and de devil scare conjure ‘oman take over!”
Swatting Daddy’s left leg with a cupped right hand producing sound far louder than her delivery, Mama laughs until she has tears streaming down her face. Shaking her head as if to imply that Daddy is too much, she follows with, “Now Tousi, your Mama cannot live forever. Not on Gods’ green earth, but I certainly should within your heart.”
Pushing her chair backwards, Mama slowly stands and hugs Daddy long and tight. Taking him by the arm she waltzes him to the same patio doors he recently entered, and sweetly says, “Now, take your nosey-ass home. You have cut far enough into jelly-time.”
Luckily, Daddy knows Mama is joking and does not intend to offend. Yet, he replaces his toothy smile with pouty lips long enough for me to peck his cheek while adding, “We love you, Daddy. I will call you later.”
With a hand gesture resembling a wavy salute Daddy responds, “Good on you both that I love me too,” as he turns to presumably take his ass home as his Mama firmly instructed him to.
Shortly after shutting the patio door, but right as I am turning around to rejoin Mama, my cell phone chimes using the very telling Dear Mama ringtone.
Scanning the dining room table and overlooking the Bic® cigarette lighter, fumbling with the remains of her Cohiba®, Mama voices her annoyance bluntly with “Cynja, you know that is a scandal and a damn shame, while pointing impatiently at my cellphone.
Flicking the lighter, priming the cigar she continues, “If your Daddy is not dropping by unannounced like he is the King of Fooloop, your mother’s haute ass is calling on the phone.”
Frowning she takes a quick puff from her cigar and ends with, “I bet you do not see or hear from either one of them if I am not here.”
Mama has a valid point. During the week, my parents are consumed with empty nesting and rarely initiate contact or communication. But I have a different reason for not wanting to talk in depth with my mother, and for allowing Mama to ask Daddy to leave. I am not keeping a secret per se, my confidant is Mama. And contrary to what I had assumed, she agrees: a man who cheats and denies the baby he sired while cheating, is a man unworthy of kissing the bottom of my bare feet. However, I disagree with Mama’s position that I should keep Trevor’s ring, although I honestly amused each time, I recall her referring to him as a sorry-assed bastard.
Mama pulls me back into our conversation by stating, “She will continue to call. You may as well get it over with.”
Obliging I answer, “Hi Mami. How are you?”
Shaking her head Mama mumbles, “Nosey and jealous. How about you?” loud enough for me to bulge my eyes in surprise and stifle a chuckle.
“Your Daddy says you are contributing to your grandmother’s delinquency and misbehavior,” is my mother’s accusatory response.
I pause because I know she means well. But I honestly do not enjoy my mother vying against my grandmother for my attention. The pause is pregnant allowing my mother opportunity to redirect with, “Cynja, honey, I don’t intend any harm. I really do not. I just called to say hello.”
Realizing a need to lead with compassion, I respond, “Hello beautiful best friend forever. What is new with you?”
After several minutes of small talk, mainly prying questions about Trevor, my mother rushes me off the phone by announcing, “Well, my husband is home. Enjoy your evening!”
It does not escape me that during our entire conversation, my mother never asked about her mother-in-law; not her emotional wellbeing, or her physical wellbeing. It also does not escape me that she also did not suggest the extension of any pleasantries. The concern is obviously etched on my face; admittedly, I struggle with connecting invisible dots. More importantly, I have never understood the rife between my mother and my grandmother. I simply wish both would stop the madness, while also secretly admiring Daddy’s ability to navigate Mama: the strong, dignified undercurrent moving offshore, and my mother: the effortless wave approaching the shore.
I realize Mama has been gazing at me fixedly, obtrusively, and at the same time benevolently as she advises, “Told you she’s jealous.”
Laughing hysterically, I reply, “Mama,” in a shame on you tone totally void of the level sarcasm necessary to scold or rebuke.
Sharing laughter is always satisfying, but sharing a laugh with Mama, especially one ripe with honesty, somehow strengthens our emotional proximity. Ceasing the moment, I softy state, “Mama, you occupy space within the nearest tier of my heart.”
Witty as ever and with sass in her tone Mama replies, “Cynja, it’s called intergenerational solidarity. It is not a mystery, and your parents’ unhealthy obsession with what you and I do during jelly-time, now honey child, that is nosiness plain and simple. Not cause for concern.”
Knowing Mama’s version of tenderness and wanting to make the most of it I add, “Mama, I have to tell them at some point. Don’t I?”
Leveling her slightly milky, aged eyes and raising the pointer finger of her right-hand Mama takes a beat so long its best described as a hiatus. Clearing her throat, she primes her Cohiba® making the burning end glow orange, then takes a few quick puffs producing a thin ethereal trail of smoke.
Sweetly with the jurisdiction of a matriarch Mama patiently responds, “Cynja baby, you are an educated, professional woman. You do not have a chicken, less alone a child. You don’t have to tell anyone you don’t want, and you will not marry a misogynistic mule.”
With this I rush toward Mama, grab, and hug her with so much force a small yelp involuntarily escapes her throat.
Kissing her eyelids lovingly, I subconsciously say, “Oh, how I love you,” loud enough for Mama to chime in, “I love me some you too, now grab me another beer before one or the other nosey asses interrupts again.”
I slowly stroll to the kitchen, wash my hands, run water into the teakettle, light and adjust the flame on the nearest burner. After placing the kettle on the flame, I open the fridge and grab Mama’s beer. Walking back toward the dining room, I run my finger through the leaves of a peace lily stirring up dust particles, then watch as it dances through the air like pixie dust.
After retracing my steps, the short distance back to the dining area, I find Mama with her eyes closed, silently mouthing what must be a petition to her Orisha’s, and in a state of calm exceeding meditation. Turning I retreat to the kitchen, affording Mama space and privacy to commune with her spirit.
I busy myself quietly searching the cupboard for a white cup with a wide rim suitable for reading tea leaves. Mama’s sigh indicates that she is intuitively open, prepared to delivery whatever messages being conveyed. The kettle releases a blast of steam, and a clear sharp shrill.
As I lower the flame Mama chastises, “Use an oven mitt, Cynja. Don’t forget my beer, and a saucer.”
“Yes ma’am,” I respond as I secretly flex and extend the steam singed fingers of my left hand.
Like an inattentive waitress, I make multiple trips back-and-forth between the kitchen and the dining room. After my third lap Mama chuckles and says, “Cynja, honey. The cards and leaves have things to say. Stop lollygagging!”
I do not attempt to defend. I am insincerely wasting time. I am not afraid of what the card or leaves will reveal. I simply know that Mama will not sprinkle sugar if circumstances dictate a need to shovel shit. I also know better than to protest. Instead, like a runway model at fashion week, I strut towards Mama, tickling her right ear as I pass, and slip into my seat gracefully like a dancer: knees straight, heels together, toes pointed out forming the letter ‘v.’
“Alright baby, start at the top, nice and slow. Focus your intentions. Get clear. We have time,” Mama says. I observe carefully while she unlatches the ball-shape tea strainer. After dumping wet leaves into the teacup, Mama pours hot water over forcing them to unfurl, separate, and float slowly.
Placing the saucer over the cup and humming a meaningless, soothing tune, Mama announces, “We have, oh about five minutes. That is enough time for me to visit the ladies, and for you to remove Trevor the scoundrel from your intentions.”
Mama rises gracefully, catlike, and using small, measured steps walks into my bedroom to use my personal, and as she likes to describe it, more feminine bathroom before I open my mouth to deny her claim. Sitting at the dining table staring at my hands, I feel a pang of sorry; the same pang has been lurking to the left of my consciousness since the day I learned of Trevor’s lovechild.
Closing my eyes, I take an audible deep breath, and resume silent meditation. This time instead of willing my energy to shift, I mentally repeat, “Get behind me,” just as Jesus must have when tempted after fasting forty days and nights. Opening my eyes, I stifle a scream when I see Mama sitting across from me smiling broadly.
Nodding affirmatively, Mama says, “That is right, will the universe to help you accept that you can do bad by yourself, Cynja.”
Pointing at the Cohiba®, I say to “cleanse me Mama,” while bowing my head exposing the crown.
Grabbing and lifting my face with loving hands, forcing me to meet her gaze Mama responds, “You are my child, you are cleansed, whole, complete and well. Now, your heart is a little bruised, but love on yourself and it will heal.”
Smiling to acknowledge Mama’s sage advice, I open my mouth to respond as she cuts me off with, “Now enough of feeling as if you are the only woman in the world who dodged a bullet. Let’s read.”
Mama briefly looks me over as if making certain I have not disappeared. Nodding sternly, secretly conveying impatience for matters of the hear, Mama’s left hand turns the teacup 270 degrees, a three-quarter rotation, until the handle is pointing outward towards me, specifically towards my heart.
Removing the saucer, she commands “concentrate,” then pours most of the contents of the teacup into a small bowl placed on the table for that purpose.
“Ready?” she asks without waiting for a response while quickly swirling the teacup counterclockwise by its base with her left hand.
Placing the saucer on top she skillfully flips the teacup, inverting it. Mama gives me a sly wink, as she slowly inhales and exhales plumes of cinnamon and patchouli scented smoke. Mama gingerly lifts the teacup, again by its base with her left hand, allowing extra liquid to ooze out and onto the saucer.
“The art of reading tea leaves is called tasseography. It spans across nations and includes reading coffee grounds and wine sediments,” she slowly enunciates.
Pausing to inhale, and exhale ethereal o-shaped clouds of smoke, Mama quizzingly adds, “What is the lesson, Cynja?”
Careful not to imply cluelessness evenly remotely, I am deferential as I softly reply, “Everything on earth is essential and contains more than an ounce of God’s magic.” Mama’s favorite mantra.
Smiling her pride as she turns the teacup upright, Mama glances over at me quickly while placing it upright on the table. Leaning forward to closely inspects, Mama quietly analyzes the rim, sides, and bottom as she raises and lowers her left eyebrow suspiciously before clearing her throat. Lifting the delicate pinky finger of her veiny left hand Mama says, “The arrow on the rim points to the lynx on the side, and in reverse the arrow points to the capital B and lowercase t on the bottom of the teacup.”
Staring with doe eyes, big and moist with tears, I ploddingly interpret, “Pay attention to present and immediate happenings.”
Swooping in like a hawk Mama interrupts with, “present and immediate happening involving Trevor Banes. And a lynx is an opportunistic predator –a wild animal. Not a domestic cat, but a solitary, sneaky wild animal.”
Lowering her voice a few octaves to mezzo-soprano she adds, “You deserve better. However, do suit yourself. Don’t cry to me as you learn that Trevor has more than one stray litter.”
I do not reply because I cannot refute truth. More importantly, I know Mama; she has spoken on her behalf of powerful, sacred forces. I also do not reply because I am in the moment, and in this moment my sole purpose is to receive healing, wise advice. Instead I coyly smile to display my pleasure in jelly-time, and nod my head like a dog firmly affixed to a car dashboard.
Pointing at the tarot deck resting, undisturbed on the table, Mama takes another deep drag from the Cohiba® then says, “The cards have a lot to say, too.”
I find my voice as I am sliding the deck across the table to Mama. Breathing deep from my belly, I place my hands directly on top of Mama’s, folding hers into mine, carefully rubbing as if absorbing softness.
Choking back cleansing tears, calmly stating, “Mama, you are right. I deserve much better,” rising to kiss the back of her hands and draw both to my forehead in the fashion of a Somalian demonstrating respect and admiration.
Like her son, my Daddy, Mama leaps at an opportunity to add comedy to an intimate moment and casually states, “Cynja, you derive from Ashanti warriors. Don’t be rude, maintain eye contact when venerating your elders.”
I laugh in agreement, long and hard, so hard my face aches.
Taking a swig of beer, Mama clears her throat and says, “The days are growing shorter, Cynja.”
Pointing at herself she adds, “My time of sunset advances a little each day. And, you do not hear me complaining, because I’m blessed beyond my seventy biblical years.”
Opening my mouth to reply, Mama interrupts sternly with, “Thank, Jah, just the same if my days end before one hundred twenty years.”
A sense of knowing beyond magical attunement immediately transpires from Mama and settles over me.
“No tears,” Mama commands as she wipes my eyes lovingly. “I said, no tears my child. You believe that I will always be with you even when I become an ancestor,” Mama says in a scolding tone.
Forcing a smile I respond, “Yes, ma’am when you’re an ancestor you will live through me.”
“Mmm hmm,” Mama teases between puffs on her dwindling Cohiba®, and an unblinking gaze. Shaking her head as if reaffirming earlier admonishments regarding tears, Mama fans the tarot deck flat into a perfect circle on the surface of the table.
“Pen and paper,” she instructively adds.
Nodding, I raise a steno pad and pen to prove that I am more on the ball than I emotively feel.
Sensing my trepidation, Mama warmly adds, “Don’t worry, Cynja. You have never known your Mama to read Hollywood, even reversals.”
By Hollywood, Mama intends negative prophesies, and she is correct. Mama believes upheaval occurs regardless of tarot; tarot empowers one to intentionally grow and evolve through tough times; and that there is not anything negative associated with tarot.
“Mama, I will be back,” I announce as segue to go to the bathroom to release a few of the tears I have been forbidden to cry.
Standing far enough away not to be heard, I am subdued when I see Mama’s aura in my periphery. An inch or two and totally encompassing, it is vibrant shades of amethyst, indigo and emerald radiating in thin pulsating layers.
“Mama. Wow, Mama! Your aura, its beautiful,” I whisper as if a spell has been cast.
“Cynja baby, everyone emits and is surrounded by energy,” Mama casually responds.
“But I’ve never seen your energy before,” I interrupt as I slowly walk into the dining area and reclaim my seat.
Taking a final slow drag from her Cohiba®, releasing a huge trail of hazy smoke, Mama looks deep into my eyes, so deep my soul is stirring.
A moment later she replies, “I want you to see my emotional and spiritual wellbeing, to know that I am at peace. I want you to see, because soon enough you will only be able to feel my energy.”
Before I can fully register the comment Mama adds, “Now run back to your bedroom to squeeze out your little tears. I will be here waiting, me and the cards,” while tapping on the table impatiently.
Chuckling because Mama speaks from truth I reply, “No ma’am. I am ready.”
Mama gracefully pulls nine cards, careful to keep each face down. Slides each across the table and forms a square consisting of three rows each with three cards. Gathering the remaining cards into a neat pile she flexes the deck, and attempts to pull one card from the top, but pulls two.
Pausing, she proclaims, “a jumper,” pulls one additional card from the bottom, then slides all three underneath the square forming what looks like a trunk if the square were a tree.
Flipping each card nimbly, Mama clears her throat and says, “this is an intuitive read. No questions, guidance only.”
Grabbing my pen, I quickly scribe in floral handwriting, my own version of calligraphy: Hierophant, Ace of Swords, Judgement, Ace of Wands, The Hermit, Queen of Cups, Three of Swords, Seven of Pentacles, and Two of Wands; all while mentally attempting to interpret each card.
Shaking the pointer finger of her left hand in a scolding manner Mama says, “Don’t think about basic card meanings. Look closely, use your third eye, that is how to intuitively read. Now start again.”
Sighing deeply, I intently study each card while blinking often, as if each blink of either eye will magically force grant understanding without need for conscious reasoning.
Finishing her beer with a long gulp, Mama points to the first set of three cards and says, “Focus on the energy of all of your relationships; recognize when and where you are being called to rise, to obtain a higher level of internal transformation; and do not resist new experiences and starts.”
Scribbling furiously, taking notes, I glace upward long enough for Mama to ask, “does that resonate with you, Cynja?”
Nodding affirmatively, I take a moment to consider her guidance, but before I can, Mama moves on to the second row of cards.
Pointing she says, “go within, seek and commune with your true self; sensitivity is an asset -remember that, protect your best self; learn what is of value to you including the true value of your life; and do not allow past hurts to reside in your future.”
Recognizing Mama in her zone, I announce before she can inquire, “that resonates.”
Moving quickly to the third and final row, Mama clears her throat more to underscore than to disturb and charges forward with, “Be patient, Cynja. Be okay working through the process; seek to control how you use your resources; do not waste energy on what and who you cannot control; and befriend your oversoul -the highest version of yourself, because those attributes will help you heal.
I do not realize that I have stopped writing because Mama has stopped talking until she softly adds, “Did you get all of that?”
Nodding affirmatively, and slowly, because Mama’s words are reverberating in drips like an IV administers dosages of medication into patients’ veins.
“There is more,” Mama says while pointing at the remaining cards facing downwards on the table, “Your shadow cards detail the underlying energy at play, and the jumper is a push card. It informs and adds clarification to your reading.”
Pausing, tapping the table with a long-manicured fingernail, Mama looks quizzically as if she expects me to interrupt. She adds, “Dr. and Mrs. Trevor Banes has a nice ring to it, and I suspect being a doctors’ wife could provide fulfillment and happiness. But the cards will not let you forget that Dr. Banes carries karmic burdens.”
I want to interject, to assure Mama that my decision to break off the engagement is solid, but as I open my mouth, Mama shushes me as she flips the remaining three cards.
Staring at me intently, Mama lowers her eyes, glances at the cards then back up at me and says, “The Empress; Five of Cups; and The Fool.”
A silence full of potential hangs as I grasp at her words, and for my own.
Bored by my speechlessness Mama user her voice like a gavel as she boldly states, “Cynja … hear this well. Do not waste your life living for others. Give yourself permission to be more than what you believe you are worth, and … be open, willing, and ready to take whatever risks align with who you are at your core. Live, and live passionately, Cynja.”
Standing upright to her full five feet, Mama looks me over lovingly and finishes with, “I am tired, Cynja. Clean our mess and call your Daddy as you promised. I am going to bed.”
Turning to look at the clock, noticing that its 7:15pm -early in evening, I turn back to protest. But Mama has already left me alone to clean, check in with Daddy, and to stew over my reading.
Sitting at the dining table alone studying the tarot cards and my frantic notes, I fight a sudden urge to call Trevor to release several paragraphs of profanity. Instead, I slowly rise, walk to my fireplace, retrieve my cellphone from the mantle and dial Daddy’s number. Three rings later Daddy answers with, “What kind of voodoo are you up to, Cynja?”
“Daddy, its voodou and I am up to nothing except I really need to speak to you and Mami, too. Can you put me on speaker?”
Daddy is feisty, just like his mother, and it does not offend as he immediately replies, “Do I need to load my shotgun,” mainly because I am not pregnant and in need of forced nuptials.
“Daddy,” I scold as if he is a child, but the smile in my voice blows my cover. In response, he laughs long and hard from his gut.
Breathing deeply to build resolve and to steady my fraying nerves, I barely hear Daddy shouting, “Trish-aaaa,” as he beckons my mother from wherever to join our conversation.
Winded due to exasperation not running, my mother’s soprano rings clear as she states, “Tousi, you know that I love you, but all this yelling gets on my last nerve.”
“Ahh woman, your daughter is on the line with something ‘portant to say,” Daddy replies in his best impersonation of an inflated, non-minority Southerner.
“Put the speaker on,” is my mothers’ retort because gossip, good, bad, or indifferent, must be clearly heard to be repeated as to near to truthfully as possible.
Sensing that I have their undivided attention, I clear my throat and start, “Good evening, Parents. Good to know you both are well.”
One heartbeat later isn’t long enough for courage to rear her head, forcing to charge forward with, “I love you both, and I always will, but you both deserve to hear this from me.”
My mother interrupts with as much disappointment as she can muster, “You eloped! Oh, honey. I wanted different for you, but as long as you are happy.”
My father follows with, “Thanks for doing it on the cheap baby girl, big weddings are a waste of time, energy and money.”
Knowing my window of opportunity is rapidly closing I blurt out, “I actually called to tell you both that there will be no wedding, because there is no longer an engagement. Goodnight.”
I stare at the phone long enough to hear my mother yell, “CYNJA, STOP ALL THIS CHILDISHNESS,” and rapidly press end. Flipping the phone over, filling its’ weight, I am more than certain that I want and need to think and clean in peace.
After scrubbing the kitchen beyond white glove clean, I empty Mama’s ashtray, but decide to leave evidence of our readings displayed on the table. I keep myself busy watering and surgically pruning dead leaves from houseplants scattering throughout almost every room of my tidy condominium. Walking slowly back to the kitchen, I return the watering can to its resting spot. Pausing to stare out the window at nothing, I am suddenly emotionally exhausted. Frowning, I shake my head negatively, but that does nothing to quell or taper anger as it slowly roils, turning up sediment and the dregs of red flags which have always flown freely around Trevor.
An audible sigh escaping my throat, echoes through my condominium, and silences my ego just she tunes her lips to utter, “I told you so,” in her whiney, nasally Brooklyn accent.
Longing for serenity, I extinguish the interior lighting and walk out onto the patio, breathe in crisp, early fall air, and slightly lean my head to the right inviting the ancestors to whisper sweetly into my left ear. Standing stoically, listening to halting staccato male katydid courtship songs, and watching scores of fireflies’ flash like strobe lights at a disco, the weight of my dead relationship slowly leaks from my eyes. Truth and wellbeing settle over me as I walk back inside, close and lock the patio doors.
Strolling toward my bedroom, I peek in on Mama and am surprised to learn that she is awake lying-in bed, watching a Spanish-language soap opera, and giggling at whatever antics the characters are involved in.
“I wondered if you were going to pine the night away on the patio,” Mama says.
Before I can confirm or deny she adds, “Here, this is for you. Don’t read it until after you drop me off at home tomorrow.”
Extending my right hand to accept a denim blue envelope with Cynja written in Mama’s impeccable handwriting neatly across its full width.
“Mama, you are home,” I respond before attempts to deny, while raising my left hand to sign “quiet coyote.”
After a brief pause, I add, “Young lady, I am not asking for permission. I am telling you that you are home,” using as polite a tone as I can muster.
Backing out of the room, I smile as Mama quips, “Well now, I guess now is not a suitable time to tell you I mistook a wolf for a lynx when I read those tea leaves.”
“Goodnight, Mama, I love you,” I laugh as I turn and walk down a small strip hallway decorated with abstracts of everyday people making offerings to the Orisha’s.
Normally, I would pause before Oshun the Orisha of beauty, sexuality, and wealth to pay her a moment of deference, but not tonight. Tonight, I pause before Esu the Orisha of inner energy and power, and for the first time I notice he is characterized as a young man, wearing a blue, white, and red taqiyah, standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking a lush green valley, just like the tarot card Fool.
I do not pay deference to Esu, I also do not read Mama’s letter because there is no need. Mama is home with me. Jelly-time will not end soon; the cards and leaves have tasked me to rise; and I am being the Fool – a protagonist blindly taking the first step on the rest of life’s journey.
Dondi Dancy is a career Paralegal and founder/facilitator of a virtual book club, who writes short stories and prose poetry to remain grounded and aware of all that is beautiful in the world. Her portfolio includes: an Open Mic Poetry Showcase with Sacred Grounds (January 2022); the short story, “Driving Home” (Rigorous Literary Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 4, January 2022); the poem “Conceptual Beauty” (Brown Sugar Literary Magazine, Spring 2021); and a brief poetry collection titled “Joy is My Superpower” (SF-Write Now Talking to Strangers Anthology, December 2021).