Authors: J.J. Murray
“I know,” Angela said. “I love that song.”
“I wrote it when I was sixteen,” Tony said. “It is about Mama.”
“I thought that song was about a man mourning over a woman who left him,” Angela said. “I thought it was a sad love song.”
“I was sad Mama left me,” Tony said.
“But if you wrote it . . .” She grasped his hand. “You’re Art E., aren’t you?”
“Please do not tell anyone, Angela,” Tony said. “My brother Angelo would not like it. He does not want anyone to know.”
Angela looked toward the counter. “Matthew and I both read the book your brother wrote about you. I just finished reading it last week.” She turned to Tony and smiled. “I thought I recognized you.”
Tony blinked. “You recognized me.”
“After reading about you and reading some of the things you’ve said and the way you compose your music,” Angela said, “I feel as if I already know you. It is truly an honor to meet you.”
Matthew bounded around the counter with Angel on his shoulders. He extended his hand to Tony. “I have washed it thoroughly.”
Tony watched his hand crawl up from under the table to grasp Matthew’s hand. “Your hand is big.”
“You have a big hand, too,” Matthew said. He shook Tony’s hand once. “Having a nice conversation?”
“Sit with us,” Angela said.
Matthew sat, unloading Angel into the booth, where she stood and looked over the booth cushion at the front window. “It’s snowing,” she said. “Look, Daddy.”
“It is not supposed to be snowing,” Tony said. “The forecast is wrong. It is only supposed to rain. There was only a twenty-percent chance. It should not be cold enough to snow.”
“They’re only flurries,” Matthew said.
Tony couldn’t take his eyes off Angel. He wanted to write about her in his notebook, but he fought the urge. “She is a snowflake girl,” he whispered.
“You’re right about that,” Angela said. “That child loves snow.”
Tony ripped open his notebook and wrote it down. He closed his notebook.
“Matthew,” Angela said softly, “I’d like you to meet Art E.”
“This . . .” Matthew blinked rapidly. “You’re . . .”
Angela nodded slowly.
Tony opened his notebook to a new page. “I have to write now.”
“Could you say it as you write it, Tony?” Angela asked.
Tony began to write. “‘Snowflake eyes in a snowflake world, a snowflake palace for a snowflake girl . . .’” He put down his pencil. “I will work on it later. It might make a nice Christmas carol.”
songs he’s written while he’s been sitting in this booth, Matthew,” Angela said.
“Amazing,” Matthew said.
“It is not amazing,” Tony said. “The words and the notes come to me floating on the air. I see them when I close my eyes. I see them everywhere.” He nodded for a moment. “I wrote that rhyme when I was ten.” He looked briefly at Angela and Matthew, then focused on little Angel. “I am not amazing. Your family is amazing. I wish . . .” He felt tears forming in his eyes again. “I must go. Angelo is probably worried about me. It is not supposed to be snowing. It is supposed to be in the thirties with a twenty-percent chance of rain. I want to meet Aika. She is moving in today. She is Japanese, but she lives in Brooklyn. Sometimes she does not wear a bra. We will watch the Weather Channel together. I will show her my map of San Francisco.”
Angel smiled at Tony. “Why are you crying?”
“I have never seen anything so beautiful,” Tony said. “Your family is beautiful.”
And I want this,
I want this.
I want a dark brown woman and a snowflake girl.
And Angelo is going to help me find her.
San Francisco, California
t 641 O’Farrell Street, Apartment 7, in Nob Hill, San Francisco, in a seismically retrofitted Edwardian building constructed in 1910, Trina Woods woke up at 6:00 AM the day after Christmas.
She had celebrated without a tree by giving herself underwear and a bra.
Trina brushed her teeth first, then showered and shaved her legs in a claw-foot tub surrounded by a clear shower liner. She put on her aqua-blue scrubs in her bedroom, the largest room in her studio apartment, and pulled up the purple-and-white bedspread on her full-size bed. She applied no makeup, not because she never did but because she didn’t see the point anymore. She slipped into her scuffed, somewhat white, thin-soled Danskos, ignored the hole near the ball of her right footy sock, and slipped sideways into the tiny kitchen. She grabbed her lunch and a Crock-Pot from the refrigerator, turned on the Crock-Pot, and dropped one piece of bread into the toaster. She left the kitchen and rushed past a small dark purple couch, black wood coffee table, and small television on a black TV stand to the closet near the door, where she threw on a flimsy blue Windbreaker with a broken zipper. After returning to the kitchen to butter her toast and eat it in four bites, she left the apartment for her ten-minute hike up Hyde Street to work at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital.
Five hours later she had emptied a dozen bedpans, switched out eight colostomy bags, cleaned up four incidents of projectile vomiting, transported two dozen patients from the emergency room to the operating room, the intensive care unit, X-ray, or a regular bed, and generally did the scut work assigned to her by nursing supervisor Ellen Sprouse, whom Trina nicknamed “ES” for “evil stepmother.”
Trina had already paid her dues. She had learned how not to pee for eight hours at a time and earned several urinary-tract infections along the way. She had done twelve-hour shifts and survived rotating shifts of 6–6 followed by 12–12 followed by 8–8 on consecutive days. She knew a normal workday didn’t end until she had passed off her rotation of patients to the next shift. She had dealt with ninety-year-old men and women who were surprisingly strong and who had the ability to break out of restraints and rip out IVs and gastronomy tubes. She had survived, and because of seniority, she had earned a somewhat normal 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM shift.
Once ES took over three years ago, Trina rarely did “normal” RN work. While Trina continued to work with patients nonstop, she rarely did rounds or supervised LPNs or CNAs as she had done for five years before. She rarely kept charts or supervised the direct care of patients. ES had reduced her to a glorified orderly in a matter of weeks, and Trina often found herself working alongside housekeeping instead of doctors, while being watched by Danica Trumbo and Inez Martinez, whom Trina nicknamed “ES2” for “the evil stepsisters.” Danica and Inez checked along behind her with clipboards and pens but otherwise did nothing strenuous or patient related.
Trina had been an RN longer than they had. She knew more about caring for patients than all three women combined. She had also been passed over for promotion to nursing supervisor in favor of ES.
Trina took a brief thirty-minute “lunch hour” whenever she could and spent it soaking up a little sun at nearby Huntington Park, where she ate her ham and cheese sandwich with a carton of two-percent milk as cable cars trundled past on California Street.
Six hours later, two of them overtime hours spent in the ER mopping up blood and other fluids from exam-room floors, she walked down Hyde Street for home.
She followed this routine five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. She often worked weekends.
In her high-ceilinged, four-hundred-square-foot walk-in closet of an apartment, she ate Crock-Pot beef stew with cheddar Goldfish crackers, rested her weary, aching feet, and waited patiently for the Internet to appear on her ancient Apex netbook.
At thirty-two, Trina did not expect to have this lonely, solitary life. Eleven years ago she had buried Grandma Dee, the woman who raised her after her mother had died when she was ten. Two years ago, she had been Katrina Woods Allen, married to Dr. Robert Allen, who had been finishing his surgical residency at San Francisco General. She had scrimped and saved and worked double-shifts to get Robert through med school at the University of California, San Francisco. She had put off having children until Robert was a full-fledged doctor. She had cosigned his student loans and paid on them as often as she could.
Then Robert discovered “Dr. Too White,” a long-legged, pasty-skinned, redheaded, green-eyed surgical resident who evidently wanted the Mandingo-warrior experience.
The divorce left Trina with almost nothing. She could no longer get credit of any kind and had to pay for most things with cash or a money order. She had a rudimentary cell phone that only made phone calls. She sold her car to pay down a credit card that Robert had run up on expensive clothing because he had to look “better than good if I want to get anywhere in the white world.” She worked ten or more overtime hours a week in the ER to help pay for her “affordable” employee health plan. She had no cable, no satellite, basic DSL, and a nineteen-inch Zenith television with a tiny digital receiver that only picked up local broadcasts. She needed new shoes. She needed a new rain jacket.
She needed a new life.
As she savored her beef stew with her feet propped up on her coffee table, she watched a promo for
Rich Man, Lucky Lady.
. Another so-called “reality” romance show. Who wouldn’t want to marry a rich man? No African American women “win” on those shows anyway. And so few “winners” actually marry the guy, so where’s the romance?
She dreamed of being on a show like
where she could weed men out until she found the right one.
I still have some beauty left. I still get carded, not that I go out much anymore. Maybe I could get on one of those shows.
She surfed to
Web site to find out when the next installment was appearing on television. “Apply now for the fall 2020 show,” it said.
I’d be thirty-six. Terrific.
She analyzed the next bachelorette.
Creamy white complexion. Long, flowing dark hair with blond highlights. “Come hither” blue eyes. Delicate nose. Pouting lips. Everything I don’t have and will never have. But we have something in common, wench. Neither one of us has a man. Ha! I could go out tomorrow and find a man—miracles have been known to happen—but you have to wait at least three months. I wonder how long I will have to wait. I’m a good woman, aren’t I? I should be able to find a good man.
It would be simpler if a good man found me, a man who is honest, faithful, and true, someone I can trust, someone who can hold my hand and not secretly wish it was white....
n a whim, Trina went to the
Rich Man, Lucky Lady
Web site to find out what the rich man wanted.
What she found surprised her.
This man has simple needs.
The rich man desired a woman who was single and wanted children.
So far so good.
He required a woman who was “fiscally responsible with money.”
If you ignore my credit score, I am fiscally responsible. I’m great with money. I put a man through med school on only an RN’s salary.
The rich man sought a woman who was “trustworthy” and had “a good sense of humor.”
I’m trustworthy to a fault. I trusted the man who married me to honor his vows. I used to have a good sense of humor. I blame the man who didn’t honor his vows for my sense of humor’s disappearance.
The rich man wanted a woman who didn’t “use drugs, smoke, or drink alcohol to excess” and was “fit and in good health.”
I can’t afford to have any vices, not that I ever had many, and I am slim and trim from not eating and being run ragged by ES.
I am everything a rich man wants. Lucky me.
She hit the
The deadline for the show was two months ago.
She flipped through the few channels she had available for her television and stopped.
What do you know?
Rich Man, Lucky Lady
is on tonight. Let’s see the women I would have beaten out for the rich man’s affection.
“Good evening,” the tuxedo-wearing host said. “Welcome to
Rich Man, Lucky Lady.
at the equestrian estate of Vincent St. John in the foothills of Boulder, Colorado.”
Hmm. A live show. This could be interesting. No editing to make the romance “real” here. Look at all those windows! They go from the ground to the third floor, so you can probably see the mountains from every room. It must be nice to have money like that. And no neighbors but some horses. That would be so peaceful.
Steam rose from a large in-ground pool as the camera panned the contestants.
Those women are shivering! Why did they put this show on in the dead of winter in Colorado?
The camera zoomed in on several of the women’s ample and surgically reconstructed chests.
Oh, that’s why. Girl, look down. One nipple is going south while the other is pointing north.
“Tonight,” the host continued, “Mr. St. John will begin his quest to find a wife.” He held up a gold heart pendant. “Unlike other programs of this type, our lucky ladies can opt out of the show completely at any time and even before Mr. St. John starts his selection process. Our hopeful future
. St. Johns wear heart pendants like this one. If at any time they want to leave the program, all they have to do is press this button.” He demonstrated by pushing the button for the camera. “At that moment, a contestant will forfeit her chance to marry Mr. St. John, exit the pool area to the mansion, and then leave the mansion forever.”
Why would any of them want to leave the mansion? Shoot, I’d stick around for the view. I don’t have one. Okay. I have a nice view of the traffic on O’Farrell Street.