Table of Contents
I went to the church fellowship dinner after service on Sunday. Guarding the food from behind the steam table was Mable, Polly, & Dot. The three elderly women reached for gloves as they prepared to serve food.
“Fix your wig, Polly. It’s crooked, honey” said Dot.
“Can’t be any more crooked than that furniture that’s filling your mouth,” replied Pauline.
“If you two don’t stop, I’m gonna sit you down and get these young girls to help me,” said Mable.
“Hmmph, is that a threat girl? Dot asked. “Should’ve asked them in the first place, my feet are on fire.”
The women served everyone, sat down to eat, and we all went home.
Tuesday night is Bingo night at the church. It was my night to volunteer. Dot and Polly passed out cards and chips. Mable was the bingo caller. She put the card, bigger than her head, right up to her face. Squinting through her glasses she yelled,
“ I-60!…I -60!”
Everyone looked at their cards, then their neighbors’, everyone was hoping to see someone put a chip down. I went over behind her and looked a little closer. The card read “N-34”. There were no winners. I put the pieces to the game away, said goodbye, and we all went home.
She had always been attracted to him. She kept it professional and friendly at first. Then he came to her, told her how beautiful she was. How smart she was. He made her feel like a woman. She’d never intended for it to go this far. But well, things changed. Her husband had been approved for a new house, the house she always wanted. Things were looking up and she’d become hopeful again. She didn’t really want to leave her husband. Fifteen years of hard work and dedication. She just wanted attention. She wasn’t getting that from him. She never knew it’d come to this.
“We have to break it off.”
“No Sharon. No. I love you. You love me. That’s that.”
“I’ve decided to try to work it out with my husband.”
“He wasn’t your husband two nights ago. What happened in two nights Shar? What do you think I can just turn my feelings for you off? I can’t just turn everything we’ve been through in two years off just like that?”
“We’ve been approved for a house.”
“Wait, what? A house? When did you apply for a house? You applied for a house? With him? Let’s go to the room . This is our job. People are beginning to walk by.”
“Ok, I’ll meet you at the room in 5 minutes. “
“Motel 6 Sharon, Room 15…. In case you forgot.”
“I didn’t forget.”
“We spent so much time here throughout the last couple of years.”
“Every time has been even more special than the time before.”
“Then why are you breaking it off with me?”
“Darryl, what is that? Is that a…”
“Gun, Sharon, it’s a gun.”
“What are you thinking?”
“What am I thinking? What are you thinking? Two years, TWO years…and just like that it’s over.”
“Watch that gun Darryl!”
“DON’T…. DON’T you tell me…”
“You, you shot me.”
“Oh God, Sharon…Oh Baby, I’m so sorry.”
“YOU SHOT ME!”
“Shhhh, okay, alright. I just…my finger slipped. I’m gonna take you to the hospital. I’ll explain everything. It’ll be okay, I’m so sorry.”
“ You won’t take me anywhere. You just shot me. I can’t believe this. You hear that? Do you?! Sirens. What were you thinking? I have a reputation. I can’t have my name out there like this.”
“You played with my mind. You messed with my heart. I gave it to you and you completely tore it apart.”
“You told me you were leaving him.”
“They’re asking us to come out, Darryl. Come on, let’s go. I’ll tell them it was an accident and this can be over. They aren’t leaving, They have the whole place surrounded. Darryl, please, I’m going to bleed to death. It’s been 9 hours. Please.”
“Alright…. you need to see a doctor. Come on let me help you.”
“I love you Darryl. With all my heart.”
“I’M BRINGING HER OUT! DON’T SHOOT! DON’T SHOOT!”
“I love you Sharon and I can’t live without you.”
It’s My Life
My parents didn’t know what they wanted. One minute they want me to go to the bed at the crack of dawn, the next minute they want me to get married to a 37-year old man. I heard them talking. My father, mother, and uncle were sitting outside discussing my marriage.
I am Na’eem. I live in Dakar, Senegal Africa. It is Senegalese culture for parents to marry their daughters to older men for money. This allows the family to get money and the older man to have someone bear his children, work, and keep the home.
You want to know what I think about our culture? I think it’s fixed so that men can run all over women, tell them what to do, and feel like they’re these big shots. You want to know what else I think? I think they’re scared of women. My mother can run circles around my father. She knows it. Never shows it though. Really makes me mad sometimes that she doesn’t speak up. Look at her just sitting there.
“He’s going to pay well. “ My uncle says to my parents. “I don’t think we’ll get more than that.”
“Very well,” said my father. “She’ll be 16 in two weeks.”
My mother just sat there and said nothing. She’s so weak. I can’t even tell you what happened after that. I went to bed so angry I could barely sleep.
I didn’t have much to say at breakfast so I hurried to finish and went to find Dalia.
Dalia’s been my best friend for as long as I remember. We went to school together until we were 12. Now both of us are being trained for marriage. Laundry, making garments to sell, cleaning, cooking and working the field all day. That’s what women in Senegal do.
“I’m leaving.” I told Dalia.
“Girl, you crazy. No way you’re gonna get out of here without someone knowing it.”
“You’re right. I am crazy. I’m not marrying an old man. There’s a name for that you know.”
“It’s to help the family. You ought to want to help your family Na’eem.”
“Help? Wake up Dalia! Get your head out of the clouds. I can help by getting an education. By having my own business in fashion. The Independence Day Celebration is soon, I’ll leave then. Besides, I’m too cool for marriage. “
“Na’eem, you know it isn’t safe outside of the village.”
“Oh Dalia, you always worry. Believe girl. It’s getting dark. Meet you here tomorrow.”
“Fine.” She replied.
That night I waited until everyone was asleep and began putting my things in a bag. I didn’t pack many clothes. Food. What will I do with food? I snuck to the kitchen to packed as many mangoes, peanuts and dates I could fit in the bag. I’ll need a flashlight and a knife. Father’s hunting knife. When I finished packing, I hid the bag and stayed awake trying to come up with a plan. The next morning my mother noticed how tired I was. She pulled on my eyelids.
“What is with you girl? Why so weary?”
“I may be coming down with a sickness.” I said as I sniffled.
“Girl, who you think you foolin?” my mom said.
My heart started beating so fast I thought she’d see it coming out of my chest. I swallowed real hard and began to pull on my shirt.
“Ma’am?” I said.
“It was those beans wasn’t it?” she said. “You’re father had me plugging my nose half the night. I could hardly breathe. Whooo child. They sure gave him the toots. Don’t be trying to fool me girl, you had the toots too didn’t you? Up all night, no?”
“Yes ma’am.” I replied.
“Go on in there and get you a little extra rest today. The Independence Day parade is coming tomorrow and we have to be ready to set up the garment booth.
I went to my room but my nerves kept me awake. I guess eventually I dozed off because I just remember feeling someone shaking me.
“Na’eem…what on earth are you doing sleeping? I was waiting for you.” Dalia said. “Wake up girl, I have to talk to you.”
“Okay, okay, I’m up.”
“Good because I thought about it long and hard last night. I’m going to help you.”
The day of the parade I told my mom I needed to go back to the house. I hugged her tight that day knowing I’d never see her again. I went to get my bag and met Dalia. She took me to a private trail. One she walked along with her father. The trail led to a small boat.
“You knew the boat would be here? How did you…”
“He’s going to take you across the waters to an island. I’ve heard of a place, it takes 3 days to get there. But Na’eem….”
“It’s okay! I’ll figure it out. Thank you Dalia! I owe you my life. I’m going to miss you so much.”
I gave Dalia a hug and got on the boat. There were two other women sitting there.
“Out here is no place for a young girl.” one of the women said.
“I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“I know your kind.” said the other woman. “You’re a run away.”
I bowed my head.
“Look up girl. Don’t you ever hang your head, they’ll eat you alive out here if you do that.”
The next few days the women taught me many things. Finally we came to the island. I looked back as I was walking off and noticed the women weren’t moving.
“You aren’t coming?” I asked.
“Oh no, our journey does not end here. You’ll be fine, girl. Do what we say and you’ll be fine. “
I was nervous but knew there was no turning back. As I began walking into the trees I noticed two men walking towards me. One man grabbed my hand. Do what they say. I thought.
“Take me all you want. I have the virus.”
He snatched his hand away and walked off with the other man. I stood there trying hard not to show how afraid I was as they walked away. Watching them walk away I noticed the sun was setting. It grew darker out and I was able to see the North Star. I continued to walk through the night.
“You never want to sleep out at night.” my father would tell me. “If you ever get caught by night, follow that star and keep walking.”
I continued through the trees stopping only to use the bathroom. Near daybreak I stopped again. Is that music? I quickly pulled up my pants and began walking. It became louder and I began to run towards it. Through a small pond and a trail of trees, I was right there. I separated some tree limbs and saw fifteen women and girls sitting around a fire. They extended their hands toward me. I began to look around. Did someone tell them I was coming? They began to hum softly as I walked closer. A woman grabbed my hand.
“We are like you.” She said. “We are here to help.”
Like me? What am I like? I thought.
“You have run to keep from being married.”
“How did you know?” I asked.
She smiled and held my hand tighter.
“You are safe here.”
There were 8 other girls other than me. The women were runaways who received their education and return to this island to help girls like me.
So many things I learned there, how to be an independent woman, to use the internet to buy and sell products. We were able to get materials, food, and supplies shipped to us. I knew this is where I was meant to be.
Every time I earned money I sent some to my parents. I could not tell them where I was but I always wrote them a letter to know I was ok.
One night as I was getting ready for bed, one of the women came to me.
“You must make peace with your parents. Then you must find a way to give back to those less fortunate than we are. “
I wasn’t ready to go home to face my parents but I knew it was time. I said goodbye to the women and my friends then took the journey back home.
My mother stood in field she’d worked in for so many years. I watched her from afar off as she wiped the sweat off her brow. She turned her head quickly as if she knew I was there. I often wonder if she felt my presence. I dropped my things and ran to her. She held her arms open waiting for me to come to her. Her embrace was one I had missed so much.
“I’m so proud of you my dear Na’eem.” she whispered.
Have you ever watched elderly people at a church dinner? Ever heard of children being sold by their own parents for money? What about those stories you hear about a man killing himself because he didn't want to live without the woman he loves? Ever wondered what was said during their last conversation? In this book you will find stories that will make you laugh and others that will bring you to tears.