Sunday, July 12, 2009

She had not spoken to Keely in several years, but she thought of Keely now. They met in a grocery store, then ended up training together as prison guards only a couple of months later. Fast friends, they were kindred spirits. Both loved to laugh, had few close friends. When they wanted to have a private conversation, they would speak Spanish. Keely also spoke Creole, the language of her birthplace, Haiti. They would eat at each other's house, each agreeing that Keely was definitely the better cook. The first time Keely visited her house, she unintentionally offended her friend.

"I hate those things," Keely said, pointing at some figures on a shelf above the stove. They were African American figures, bought at an antique store. One was a "mammy" style figure, and another was a little boy, seated, eating watermelon, and the others were salt and pepper shakers. She had studied a little African American history, but she never thought of the glassware as offensive.

"Do you really hate them?"

"Yes. I can't even look at them. They remind me of how it is sometimes."

She walked to the shelf even before the response came to her lips, "I will get rid of them." There was drawer space in the bottom of the hutch. She didn't know whether or not to throw them out. She had read some stories of famous African Americans who collected things. Someone may want them. However, she would not offend her friend for anything. It took less than a minute to make them disappear.

Looking at the pajamas that she had worn in the crazy house made her think of Keely. She could never wear those again. Did not even want to look at them. They reminded her... Folded, they went into the plastic bag with the other clothes she was giving away.

Where is Keely now? she wondered. When Keely had received her papers to become a citizen, Keely reminded her that she promised to drive. Her car was in better condition than Keely's. And it seemed like an awesome experience to get to be a part of something like that. On their way to Louisville, she convinced Keely to stop at a country restaurant in Bowling Green.

"I don't want to go in there. People are prejudiced."

"I eat at these all the time. They're not prejudiced," she explained, "and the food is good."

On the way in, though, the white crowd stared them down, especially the older men. One kept staring even after they got their food. He was behind her, but Keely could see him. She turned and stared at him, with Keely. Jerk, he finally quit.

"I am so sorry," she told Keely on the way out.

"It's not your fault. But I told you so."

"Yes," she admitted, disappointed.

In a few hours, after they found the courthouse, they had checked into the Louisville hotel where Keely had a reservation. Everything was moldy. Keely, in tears, wanted to buy shower shoes.

"You are not going to pay for this. Let's get this refunded to your card and go somewhere else."

"Will they do that?"

"Heck, yes, they will. You're not paying for this." And they didn't. The next hotel was much cleaner. Keely laughed about the refund.

"Thank you for telling that lady how bad it was!"

"Hey, I didn't want to stay there either, ha!"

"You know, some people don't do what they say they will do. I did not think you would drive me here."

"I promised, didn't I?"

"Yes, but a lot of people don't keep their promises."

"I try not to make promises I can't keep."

The next morning, they drove to the courthouse. Keely had brought her papers with her to study. They reviewed the questions one more time while they waited to hear Keely's name to go back for an interview. That took only a few minutes. Within a few more, Keely emerged from behind the door, a huge smile on her face. The next person, an Asian man went back. After his interview, they were sworn in, right there in the lobby, since there were only two that day. She was so proud for Keely, who had talked about this for so long.

Their trip back home seemed shorter, of course. The friendship. It was shorter afterward, also. She had less time for Keely when she began dating her husband, Bill, a mechanic. Keely had needed help on her car. She asked Bill to help Keely, and he did once. But then something else was wrong with it.

"Why doesn't she take it somewhere to have it fixed?" Bill asked her.

"She doesn't have the money. I know what that's like. Can you please do it?" she begged. Bill said he would, but he kept putting it off. She didn't have the heart to blame Bill, so she asked Keely to wait - again. Keely stopped returning her calls after that. She wished she could talk to Keely now.

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