The Professor Ch. 09byearlkrementz©
A NOTE TO OUR READERS: Thank you for your kindnesses toward our story. It has been a challenge to relive this. It may take a while to get all of this written out but we will. Drop me an email if you have questions. Several of you have and your encouragement is just that. Thank you all.
I woke up at 5:30 and ran five miles and came in to take a shower. My older brother Harold was up and moving around when I came into the house through the garage door. He had a smirk on his face as I walked to the sink to fill a glass with water, "Good morning Hal," I smiled to him.
"What's this I hear that you're dating a 'n----r'?"
I set the glass on the counter and walked over to him and quietly asked him, "Have you prayed this morning?"
I kicked him in the balls and he went to his knees like a hundred pound sack of rice with a groan, "If you ever make a desultory remark about Dr. Wright again in my presence or behind my back, I won't warn you -- I will rip your heart out and hand it to you while it's still beating," I grabbed his hair and yanked his head back, "do you understand me?"
He groaned something unintelligible.
"I asked you a question," I pressed him hard twisting his hair causing his neck to wrench to the left.
He hoarsely whispered, "Y-y-y-es."
I shoved him backwards on the floor where I left him there writhing in pain, "And one more thing I'd better not hear that you're being disrespectful to Dad now that he's sick because I won't give you a chance to make it to your 22nd birthday -- I'll take you out. Do you hear me?"
He nodded just as Dad walked in, "What's happened here Steven?"
"Hal used the n-word sir and I kicked him in the balls and told him not to disrespect Dr. Wright -- ever or I'd rip his heart out and hand it to him while it was still beating," I answered Dad. "I'm sorry for doing this in your home Dad but I'm not sorry for what I did. He deserves a whole lot more."
Dad looked at Hal and pointed his finger at him and hoarsely whispered, "Get your sorry ass up and out of my house. You'll not disrespect your brother or his girlfriend ever. Do you understand me?" Dad had clammy sweat all over him as I took his arm and sat him down in a chair at the kitchen table.
"Where are your pills Dad?" I asked him.
He pointed to the table near his recliner, "Right there Son," he barely whispered his directions. I picked up the bottles and gave him the dose listed and filled a glass with some water for him. The coffee was about done perking and I would pour us a cup in a few minutes.
By now Hal was standing up, bent over with his hands on his knees and he finally straightened up as I assumed a subak position (from Tae Kwon Do) to defend myself. He waved me off -- he'd had enough. I walked away and went to get showered. I met my younger brother in our bedroom he had apparently seen me drop our older brother and he chose the path of non-violence rather than display his stupidity. I was in no mood for their asinine behaviors. "Good morning George," I smiled to him and all he could say was, "Morning." I grudgingly grinned, "Yep it's morning."
I showered and got dressed in a navy pinstripe suit, white shirt and red club tie. I went to the kitchen to have breakfast with Dad and Mom. Mom was puttering around with eggs, sausage and toast. I went over and kissed her, "Good morning Mom."
"Good morning Son," she smiled, "I really like Phylissia. We're going to do some sewing together." She suddenly got quiet, "Steven I know I've said some pretty hateful things about blacks I just want you to know that Daddy and I support you and Phylissia. She's welcome here anytime Son. We both see how important she is to you and how attentive she is to us -- it's like we've known her all of our lives. Are you two going to church this morning?"
"Thank you Momma. I was worried about what you might say to her. You tend to use the n-word when you talk about black folk so thank you for being so kind to Phylissia. And yes we're going to her church this morning." I hugged her just to make sure she knew how much I appreciated it.
We ate breakfast and talked a bit more. She said she was worried about my brothers and their ugly mouths. I told her I wasn't worried about that any longer. Even though she wanted to know why not she let it go. I excused myself from the table to finish getting ready. I came back into the kitchen and kissed Mom and Dad as I was leaving to meet Lissia for church. I needed a slow drive this morning to calm myself down. I had essentially answered ugly with ugly with my brothers and that is a hard thing to carry into church. I made the choice to do what I did so it is my responsibility. I knew it would be a long while before my brothers would come around to my personal beliefs -- if ever. I rode with the windows down and kept my speed under the 75 mph speed limit. I was going to be early to meet Lissia but I don't think she'll mind too much. As I turned up her street I could see another car pulling into her driveway -- it looked like Evie's car. I breathed out a long breath not wanting to ramp up conversation with her again. She interjects herself into life situations rather easily -- Lissia says she's nosey -- she is -- I just don't care for that behavior but she is Lissia's best friend and I will respect that. I pulled into the driveway behind Evie's car just as Lissia opened the door to Evie. Evie turned around and Lissia stepped onto the porch with her -- she was smiling...well they both were...that was a hopeful sign.
I took a deep breath and got out of the car and pulled my suit jacket on, "Good morning!"
Lissia came down the walk to meet me, "Hi baby. Don't you look good...ummmh."
I hugged her close and kissed her slowly -- I didn't care who saw us, "Hi sweet baby. How'd you sleep?"
As we parted our hug we held our arms around each other and walked to the porch where Evie was standing with her mouth hanging open, "Close your mouth girl you're gonna catch some flies."
"I got to get me one of those sweet men," she teased, "you're looking fine Steven...mighty fine. Girl I'm gonna freshen up -- don't start without me..." she cackled.
"Thank you ladies, I'm a thorn between two roses," I winked at Lissia.
"Sweet talking man," Lissia smiled back to me. "I slept okay. It would have been better if you were here," she whispered as I held my hand to her face and lightly kissed her lips. Her breathing quickened, "Steven I need to say something to you can you come with me a minute?" She took me by the hand to the kitchen and turned quickly to face me. She was as innocent as a child standing before me -- the little girl from church. She stammered out her words, "Steven I don't want you to say anything just yet but I need to say this okay baby?" She had me worried. She slid her hands around my neck and stood closely, "Steven I know this is quick but you need to know that I am falling in love with you."
Her words took my breath away, "Wow! Lissia my heart is about to explode. I thought it was just me...I mean...oh my gosh." My face flushed and my ears were ringing like I'd had too much salt. My heart was pounding -- all I knew to do was hug her.
"Oh sweet baby," she whispered through her tearful, soft sobs, "I was so worried last night after I told you everything...I just...well...I didn't know what you'd think."
We were both crying like ten year olds, "I worried about you all the way home. I was still so angry I had to drive slowly so I wouldn't get a ticket. I finally got calmed down by the time I got home, but Lissia my heart was broken for that little girl on her baptism day. Your life story is now part of me and no one else. Dad was sleeping in the den in the air conditioning so he could breathe -- he woke up and we talked for a bit. He and Mom support our relationship and he said he's never seen Momma acting so generous -- he's in shock but happy."
"How was he doing this morning?" Lissia asked.
"Just okay. His color is changing a little every day," I confessed my hurt and she held me tightly stroking my hair and face. "Lissia I have to tell you I'm a little scared -- I mean I've never been in love before and we're so real, so fast...please don't let me make a mistake with us? Okay? I'm a real rookie at this..."
She put her forefinger on my lips, "Sweet Steven we'll take this slowly and get it right. Neither one of us needs to be hurt -- ever...okay?"
I nodded, "Okay." We kissed and it was one of those mind-blowing over-the-top kisses that makes you break into a sweat. We pulled back a bit and smiled to each other her eyes were dilated, her nostrils were flared and a little sweat had popped out on her upper lip. "You are so beautiful. What are you doing after church?" I smiled.
"We're having lunch right here...is that okay? Just the two of us," she kissed my lips quickly.
Neither one of us saw Evie standing there and we both turned around to go to the living room and she was standing there at the kitchen door crying. Lissia went to her, "Oh child why are you crying?"
Evie was blubbering, "I just love being around you two -- you don't even know you're black and white do you. Steven do you know that Phyl is a colored girl?"
I laughed, "Now you tell me after I've fallen in love with her."
Lissia turned around to face me...her upper teeth holding onto her bottom lip...tears formed again on her eyelids and then quickly streaked down her beautiful brown face. Her words tumbled out in a fast whisper, "Oh Steven. Don't play with me."
I opened my arms to her and she came quickly to me, "It's good baby...it really is...we'll take this a little bit at a time. We'll get this right." I looked up to see Evie sniffling and wiping her eyes she waved her hand at us and went to the wing chair in the living room and sat down.
"Steven I know I rushed you like a bum on the corner but I am flabbergasted at how I feel baby...I...I...I" she stopped and looked at me and rested her forehead on my chest, "Okay." Her innocence was returning in little bits of trust -- we had to go very slowly and I needed to make sure Evie understood that too.
We went into the living room and sat down for a chat with Evie. She was getting her legs back under her, "Steven you have cast some kind of spell on that girl. Can you work some magic on me?"
I laughed, "One woman is all I can handle if that," I confessed. They both laughed at me and Lissia snuggled up to me, "You can handle me any time," she whispered ever so softly.
Evie smiled and patted her chest near her throat, "My babies y'all are breaking my heart."
We talked about school; the Army; some politics; how the war in Vietnam was heating up and finally bigotry. Racism is an attitude of racial superiority of one race over another and they both made that very clear to me whereas bigotry is when a person acts prejudicially toward another because of a physical attribute such as race or gender. Evie predicted correctly that folks would get the distinction between those two terms wrong. Lissia wondered aloud why it was that folks cannot get along without trying to get an advantage on someone else. We agreed that humans are naturally competitive and they both decided that men are competitive because of our genetic predisposition that is we try hard to win the female that we want against all the other challengers so we can procreate with that one female. So I innocently said, "But isn't it the female who ultimately decides which male is going to be the father of the children." That caused a firestorm that eventually ended with both of the ladies admitting that was 100% their choice that they let us chase them until they were ready for us to catch them.
Lissia look at me and blushed, "Except in my case I took my panties off and waved 'em at you," we all started laughing hysterically.
There was a lull in our conversation so I asked for some help, "I need y'all to help me this morning when we go to church. I've been to a funeral in an all black church but never a Sunday-go-to-meeting service. I don't want to embarrass either one of you one because I care about what your neighbors think of you; and two because I don't want to insult anyone and lastly I don't want to do anything that will make folks think badly of my parents."
Evie got up and sat next to me on my left side and took my left arm; Lissia sat up tightened her arms around my right arm, "I have to watch the women at church that they don't try and steal you away," Lissia voice and demeanor had changed dramatically since last night -- I almost didn't recognize her she was so endearing.
Evie noticed it too, "Phyl girl you got it bad so I'm gonna have to help you watch over this sweet man-child," she patted my arm, "don't worry Steven you just kept behaving like you been doing and you'll be okay."
"She's right baby, your gentle ways will win a lot of folk over but you know there'll be a few," she allowed.
"Yeah like a few in my house," I admitted.
I could feel Lissia's hands tighten on my arm, "What happened Steven?"
"My older brother Hal made a comment to me this morning so I dropped him and made him apologize. Dad came in and saw him cringing in pain on the floor and he wanted to know what happened. So I told and he told my brother to leave his home," I told it all.
There was dead silence in the living room then Lissia, "How is your Dad handling it?"
I nodded and turned to face her, taking her sweet face in my hands, "He said that he and Mom love us that Mom has never been more excited. Mom said she couldn't wait for the two of you to start sewing together," my revelation stunned both women into complete silence.
Lissia blanched, "Are you sure?"
I nodded, "Yes sweet baby I am. I wouldn't kid you."
Lissia breathed out heavily, "My God...who would have thought this?"
Evie just shook her head, "Could this really happen? I mean we're not that far from Jim Crow."
Lissia broke the spell, "We need to head over to church you two," she got us up. We drove my car with Evie in the back seat and Lissia in the front with me. We drove quickly to the New Macedonia Baptist Church about three blocks north on Heights Boulevard. The original had burned to the ground in a suspicious fire in 1956 conveniently around the time of the Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education. There were sufficient parking places and we were 15 minutes early.
Evie let us know we were way too early, "Lissia you got to get back to CP time girl there're no school bells ringing here."
Lissia and I held hands. She was conservatively dressed in a dark blue linen suit, small round hat and dark blue gloves. She had a little perfume on and dark high heels with stockings -- she was dressed like a true Southern woman on Sunday morning. We drew some serious eyeballing as we walked up the front walk. Fortunately her pastor, the Reverend Doctor Alvin Spinney met us at the steps, "Dr. Wright and Dr. Marshal it is so good to see you fine ladies this morning praise God! And who do you have with you this morning?" He sounded very reverent and officious.
Lissia introduced me, "This is Steven Edwards Dr. Spinney. Steven and I have been dating and he agreed to come to church with me this morning."
"My, my, my Mr. (with great emphasis on mister) Edwards with so many young, eligible black men here at church our own Dr. Wright decides to date a white man. That's most egalitarian of you," his condescension was scathing. Lissia's fingers were squeezing the feeling out of mine.
I extended my hand to him, "Dr. Spinney it is indeed a pleasure to meet you. I've heard many wonderful things about your preaching sir. I don't know much about being egalitarian, what I know is that God created us man and woman for each other I don't remember Him saying anything about precisely which woman I am permitted to see or date or even marry sir. No man, white or black has the right to judge us for whom we date or love or marry sir. God told us to love one another as he loves us."
"Please forgive me Mister Edwards I guess I need to learn my place," he looked down his bespectacled nose with a nasty grin on his face.
"Dr. Spinney there's enough hatred and bad acting in this world to last three lifetimes -- I'm deeply shocked that God hasn't destroyed this mess for the last time ridding the faithful of the hateful," I stared at him with a gentle smile -- never giving him a chance to point out that I was being a 'smart-assed white boy' as I would be called behind my back soon enough.
He nodded his head and extended his hand, "I'm sorry Mr. Edwards. I should be showing you hospitality not hostility. Will you forgive me? I understand now why Dr. Wright has found you so appealing -- your courage is befitting a man 20 years your senior and your calmness in the face of my impoliteness is a case in point. Please come in and welcome," he was trying to protect his flock but he was right he was rude, inhospitable and hostile.
I hadn't looked at Lissia until we started to go up the steps and then I saw the horror on her face -- she looked as though she wanted to jack-slap her preacher. That was the Lissia I met a couple of days ago -- this could be real fun. It was very apparent I would be the only white person in the sanctuary this morning but I didn't care. We found a pew and I had a bulletin and was handed a funeral parlor fan from Wembley Brothers Mortuary and Crematorium. One side had Jesus knocking on the door and the other had the words and music to "Precious Lord."
When worship started it started with a clash, flash and bang and everyone was on their feet. We sang and prayers were offered, there was more singing and there was this wonderful dialogue with the preacher that I had not experienced. Dr. Spinney got around to calling out for the visitors to stand and of course there were very few other than me -- I was the meat offering saved for last. He explained to the congregation who I was and that was met with a lot of 'uh-huh's' and 'no she didn't' and other things that were somewhat unintelligible -- the upshot of which was I would be talked to after worship by a lot of folk who just wanted to lay eyes on me. Lissia held my arm with both of her glove hands, "Steven my darling man I'm right here," while Evie patted my thigh at little too far up the thigh for my comfort. Lissia saw her and slapped her hand and she just impishly grinned and shook while she grinned.
The service lasted about two hours with folk coming in and out of the service the whole time. Dr. Spinney was expectorating and sweating. He had what appeared to be a checkered table cloth that he had cut down to napkin size to mop his sweating face. He finally had enough and just sat down to a chorus of 'amens' and I don't know if it was enjoined because everyone had be talked to death or they were truly saying so be it. When he sat down the scrawny worship leader hopped up and started gesticulating and dancing around leading the hymn of invitation -- we sang that hymn plus eight choruses waiting for someone to go forward. Finally Evie went forward saying, "Someone's got to stop this nonsense," she grinned and took off running and screaming toward the altar where she was met by three deacons who helped save her from herself. It did bring the service to an abrupt conclusion when she told them she had been dealing with the devil at the University and she needed our prayers. That woman was quite an actress and Lissia just about had a myocardial infarction watching her performance.
After church everyone had to come over and shake my hand and pat my back. I got kissed by no fewer than thirty women one of them had snuff on her breath and more than a few smelled like they'd been in the mince pie. Lissia smiled and watched me endure the acceptance greetings and the 'y'all come agains'. I asked her later if they were sincere. We walked to the car and Evie told us she had after church plans with Deacon Roswell so he'd bring her over later to get her car. Lissia rolled her eyes, "that girl is gonna get knocked up -- you just wait and see."