Just stumbled on this short story I wrote a while ago and thought I’d share it. No explanation needed, it speaks for itself…I think.
Evening turned to night and night to morning. I still hadn’t managed to fall asleep. The sun rose, its rays peering through the skylight which hung above the foot of my bed. In the distance I heard the sound of wheelie bins shuffling along the pavements and the whistles of the rubbish men as they carted off two weeks’ worth of trash. Mothers greeted one another and children cried as they were dropped off at the nursery a few doors away. I heard my neighbour‘s door slam and the thud of her feet as they hit the stairs. Her washing machine began to spin and I closed my eyes and let the vibrations that shook the entire floor, rock me to sleep.
I dreamt about him; his pale translucent skin, the deep husky tone of his voice, the warmth of his smile, the kindness in his charcoal grey eyes that mirrored the tenderness of his heart. A heart that once was mine. I saw his lips move. It’s too complicated they said, my family are dead set against us. They aren’t racist, just traditional. They don’t believe in interracial relationships and much as I love you, I can’t turn my back on my family.
I called out as he made to walk away. I asked him why he’d let me waste the last five years of my life if he knew he could never marry me. I’d met his family many times; mother, father, siblings, grandparents, nieces and nephews. They were always nice, never showed their disapproval. Was it something I said? Did? They like you his lips said, think you’re a wonderful girl. If you weren’t black, you would have been perfect. They think marriages are trying at the best of times without embracing avoidable complications…and I see their point.
How does my being black complicate things? I went to one of the best independent boarding schools in the country as did both my parents. In that very school was where we first met. We both graduated with first class degrees from Oxford. Mine in Economics and his in Politics. At 29, I’m the youngest partner at the leading consulting firm I work for and rake in an impressive salary. He is a high flying trader in a global investment bank. Our families go to the same church and are members of the same clubs. What’s so different about us?!
I asked if he’d know his family’s position all along and saw the guilt in his eyes. He said he’d hoped they would come around in time. I begged him to reconsider, reminded him of the promises we’d made to each other. Didn’t he realise how much I loved him?! I could see he was torn but I was one person, they were legion. Without so much as forming a fist, he’d given up on us.
I woke up sobbing. Dragging myself out of bed I knelt before the full length mirror that stood upright against my bedroom wall. Not for the first time in my life, I hated being black. Growing up, all the girls around me had long silky locks of hair but mine resembled a forest of barbed wire. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I begged my mother to perm my hair but she said I had to wait till I turned 18. I cried until she came up with a satisfactory alternative. She let me have my hair in single plaits so it was long like everyone else’s. Then there was the hip era. All the other girls were rake thin but I had hips and a well rounded bum. “You’re curvy not fat,” mum said when I complained about being overweight. I went on my first diet when I was twelve.
Seventeen years later, I am a willowy size six. My hair is permed and I always have my 18inch Brazilian hair extensions expertly sewn to tracks woven into my hair. My academic and corporate pedigrees are the envy of many. I’ve done everything I can to become the person I’ve always wanted to be and thought I’d succeeded…until now. I scowled at my flawless chocolate brown skin. It was the only thing that stood between me and total acceptance. Stripping off my pyjamas, I slowly made my way to the bathroom where I scrubbed away at my skin till it began to bleed.