If i should speak, p.20

If I Should Speak, page 20


If I Should Speak

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  “I don’t know what to even say,” Dee’s voice rose, carrying through the house, apparently unaware that her roommate was awake.

  Tamika’s ears perked, Dee’s concerned tone capturing her attention, curiosity enveloping her, her questions from earlier that night filling her head again. Kevin? He had told Dee to call. But why would she be talking to him at this time of night? ...Oh... Tamika stopped herself, mentally scolding herself for making assumptions and delving into that which was none of her business. Her mother had taught her better, and she knew better.

  “It doesn’t matter though,” Dee’s voice complained helplessly, her despair a sharp contrast to her bubbly behavior early that night. Tamika listened again, lying still, wondering if she was wrong, then justifying her eavesdropping by convincing herself that she was simply overhearing, not prying.

  “I don’t even know what to say,” Dee said again, whining, her voice lowering, Tamika now unable to make out everything Dee was saying. “...letter is good but...”

  For several minutes, the words were unintelligible again, but Tamika could tell by the murmurs that something serious was upsetting her roommate.

  “Okay, okay,” Tamika heard Dee agree to something, Dee’s voice becoming clear again. “That’s probably best.”

  There was a long pause.

  “Okay,” Dee said finally, her tone indicating the conversation was ending. “Okay, okay, yeah. Okay.” A pause. “You too,” she said more gently, more compassionately, Tamika’s curiosity now restless with a desire to know. “Bye bye.”

  The house grew quiet, and, ashamed, Tamika pulled the covers over her head, anticipating that Dee would enter the room at any moment, and Tamika did not want her friend to think she was snooping. Tamika heard the sounds of footsteps but none nearing the room. Perhaps Dee was going to stay up all night.

  But why? What could be troubling her that much?

  Tamika shut her eyes, trying to force herself to go back to sleep, but she could not. She was no longer tired. She tossed and turned for sometime, hating herself for being unable to coach herself to sleep. She groaned, adjusting her position for the umpteenth time, becoming frustrated with her sleeplessness. She lay still with her eyes closed, determined to sleep no matter what. Tamika loved sleeping, and she hated it when she was unable to get it. But luckily, she remembered gratefully, the next day would not be a school day.

  About ten minutes had passed when Tamika felt the urge to go the restroom. Initially, she tried to hold it, convincing herself that she could wait until the morning, especially since she was starting to feel tired again, having begun to drift to sleep. But after shutting her eyes and trying to relax, the urge became stronger, almost unbearable, and inside she groaned, as she mentally prepared herself to get up, for she was going to have to relieve herself whether she liked it or not.

  Sighing, she climbed from bed, purposefully letting her feet fall softly on the floor, careful not to make a sound. She walked slowly across the room floor, hoping Dee was not sitting anywhere from which she could see or hear Tamika when she emerged from the room. At the door, she cautiously twisted the handle, grasping the cold metal and carefully turning it so as to make no noise. She tried to remain quiet and calm, but she was barely able to hold her bladder any longer. She opened the door slowly but more quickly than she wanted due to her dire need to relieve herself. From where she stood, she saw no one sitting on the couch, but as she emerged from the room, her and Dee’s gazes met, and Tamika’s jaw dropped slightly, immediately concerned and embarrassed for Dee.

  Dee’s eyes were red, and tears were rushing down her cheeks. She sat on a far end of the couch, hugging her knees, her polished toenails peeping from under the large pajama top that she wore. Dee’s head rose slightly from where her chin sat on her knees, and her eyes grew large with shame. She started to say something to Tamika, to explain, to clarify, but could not.

  Immediately, Tamika rushed to the bathroom, quickening her steps, unsure what to say, to do, her heart now pounding, feeling as if she had violated Dee’s privacy. After using the restroom, Tamika washed her hands, letting the water run on her hands much longer than she needed, her eyes staring at her reflection with uncertainty. What should she do? Wait there for Dee to leave or go to sleep? But she decided against the former, because that would mean she would be in the bathroom for an indefinite amount of time.

  After a few minutes of pondering, Tamika felt her eyelids growing heavy, and she realized she needed sleep. She would have to pass Dee quickly and pretend as if she did not care, she planned. She felt sorry for Dee, ashamed that she had seen Dee in such a fragile predicament. She wanted to hurry back to the room, hoping Dee would think Tamika was too exhausted to remember the eye contact—the tears.

  Taking a deep breath, Tamika opened the bathroom door and exited, intending to avoid eye contact with Dee, but she inadvertently glanced to one side, meeting Dee’s gaze, but this time Dee just looked away, her expression one of nonchalance, no longer caring that Tamika saw. What did it matter? Tamika had no idea what was wrong, and wasn’t it normal for every person to have a bad day?

  Tamika forced a friendly smile as she passed through the hall from the bathroom and returned to her room, her mind racing as she gently closed the door. Dazed, she climbed into bed and settled under the covers staring at the ceiling, doubting she would sleep anytime soon. Seeing Dee crying heightened her curiosity and made her sympathize, although she had no idea what was troubling her friend.

  Tamika blinked and squinted, the sun’s warm rays reaching through the room’s closed blinds, greeting her, informing her that she had slept, although she had not realized it until just then. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, the room too quiet that Saturday morning. Immediately, she thought of Dee, whose bed she noticed was tousled, as it had been the night before, suggesting that Dee had not returned to it since then. Concerned, Tamika climbed from bed and left the room, entering the living room, where she found Dee sleeping on the couch, still sitting up but with her head to one side and her arms dangling pathetically beside her, her palms facing up and her mouth slightly ajar. Tamika glanced away, embarrassed to see Dee in this manner, and walked softly across the floor to the kitchen, trying not to wake her friend.

  In the kitchen, after washing her hands with the dishwashing liquid at the sink, as she had grown accustomed to doing as a child, Tamika began to make breakfast for herself, dishes clanking, although she was trying to avoid the noise. Perhaps she would make French toast, she considered, removing a carton of eggs from the refrigerator, placing it on the counter, then removing a glass bowl from a cabinet. She heard movement in the living room. So Dee was awake now. Tamika felt guilty, thinking she had disturbed her, but she continued to fix the food as if everything was normal.

  “Good morning.”

  She turned to find Dee leaning lazily against the doorway, forcing a smile, her long hair disheveled, sleepiness in her voice and appearance.

  “What are you fixing?” Dee asked, her scratchy voice slowly becoming clear. She walked into the kitchen and peered into the glass bowl, which was empty.

  “French toast, I suppose.” Tamika shrugged, chuckling, removing an egg from the carton and cracking it on the side of the bowl. “That’s all I feel like doing.”

  “Mind if I have some?”

  “If you want,” she offered but warned, “I’m not a great cook.”

  “It doesn’t matter to me,” Dee assured. “I’m just hungry.”

  “Okay,” Tamika warned jokingly.

  Dee patted her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I don’t say what I think.”

  Tamika laughed. “Gee thanks.”

  Dee laughed, now exiting the kitchen.

  The apartment grew quiet again after Dee left the room. Tamika moved about the kitchen thoughtfully, her mind on Dee. She was still curious as to what had been wrong the night before, though her desire to know somewhat waned after seeing Dee at least appearing cheerful.

he dipped a slice of bread in the slimy batter and dropped it in the hot frying pan that had been waiting, the sizzling sound popping and crackling throughout the house and its steam floating in front of Tamika’s face. Mechanically, she took the spatula and teased the sides of the toast, loosening its grip on the hot surface. She dipped another and did the same and repeated this routine until several toasts were done, stacked on a plate next to the stove. After turning off the stove, Tamika carried the glass plate to the small round table that stood in the middle of the kitchen and set the breakfast down, returning to the refrigerator for butter and syrup, which she liked chilled. Then she opened the drawers, removing the necessary silverware, and closed them. Less than a minute later, she was sitting at the table serving herself some French toast.

  A few minutes after Tamika had begun eating, Dee entered, now dressed in a loose, sleeveless summer dress, her hair pulled back in a pony tail and her face bright, no signs of exhaustion or sadness traceable behind her tan skin. She sat down, her cheerful expression still there, making Tamika momentarily wonder if the night before had actually occurred.

  Dee took a bite and smiled, nodding at Tamika. “You’re a good cook.”

  Tamika smiled uncomfortably and shook her head. “You’re just trying to be nice.”

  Dee chuckled. “How’d you know?”

  Tamika laughed, shaking her head, enjoying the moment.

  “No,” Dee said more seriously now, still laughing lightly. “You’re just too hard on yourself.”

  “Maybe,” Tamika considered. “But rightfully so.”

  Dee smiled again, and the kitchen grew silent, the only sounds the clanking of forks against the plates and the occasional suction of the syrup bottle after someone served herself some. They ate in silence for some time, until it became an awkward, polite atmosphere, neither roommate knowing what to say to the other, memories of last night creeping into each one’s mind, threatening the fragile tranquility of the moment.

  “You finish the song?” Dee inquired, a friendly attempt to break the strained mood.

  “Pretty much,” Tamika replied, relieved that they had found something to discuss. “I should be done today.”

  “Really?” Dee’s arched eyebrows rose in anticipation.

  “I hope,” Tamika corrected, laughing.

  “Then let’s do it.”

  “But I haven’t finished.”

  “When you’re done.”

  “Oh, okay. Why not?”

  “Kevin might want to hear it.”

  Kevin. Tamika’s mind returned to the young man she had met. She did not want to discuss him, not now, as it brought back too much confusion in her mind. She did not understand her roommate, her ways, her life, last night the realization having come to her, raising questions in Tamika’s mind concerning Dee. Who were Dee’s friends? Her foes? Who was she? Muslim? Tamika doubted it, the label now appearing more like a family name than a belief system. But strangely, still, she admired Dee.

  Tamika knew Dee must be going through a lot—at least Tamika assumed so. But whatever Dee’s struggles might have been, Tamika did not care. Dee was strong, a fighter, this Tamika could tell, and she liked that in Dee. Everyone had some obstacles in her life, but what made another more impressive than the other was how she dealt with them, tackled them and moved on. And Tamika was impressed with the way Dee was able to go on, strive for her dreams, despite all of the obstructions in her path. Tamika loved the way Dee was easy-going, always one for a good laugh, able to change a sorrowful or tense day into one of cheer and relaxation just by a clever word or remark. And Dee was so kind, Tamika marveled. She had never heard her say a negative word about a soul, ever eager to brush someone’s faults aside, even if the person outwardly scorned her. Why couldn’t Tamika be like that, she wondered about herself? Why couldn’t she put aside ill feeling for someone and focus on something else, something better? How could it be that a person actually did not care, was not fazed or moved, by another’s anger towards, or criticism of, her?

  Tamika was a very observant person, one to notice even the smallest of things, and she had studied Dee intently since they began to talk and go out, and whenever Tamika would bring up a person, Dee made excuses for him or her, constantly looking at the bright side, offering another perspective, one that always resulted in the mention of a positive character trait. Once Tamika had made a comment about Aminah, about how annoying she was, remembering the several occasions in which Aminah was behaving like a pest, nagging Dee, admonishing her for not praying, as if Dee was her child. And although Dee’s displeasure with Aminah’s actions was undeniable, as this was often apparent on her face and in her words, she would not allow Tamika to attack her, having brushed it aside, stating that Aminah was only trying to help her in the way she felt was best. Tamika remembered thinking that if it were she who was being nagged, she would likely have cussed the person out, especially if it was a roommate, with whom she had to live and face the harassment every day. How Dee was able to laugh much of it off and maintain a smile and her composure, even with Aminah, was a mystery to Tamika.

  “Why?” Tamika inquired with a laugh. She appeared to be joking, but she intended to learn as much as she could. The questions were flooding her mind again, and now was likely the only chance she would have to get some answers. “Didn’t he hear enough of me last night?”

  “But he likes your voice,” Dee shared. “He really thinks you could go professional.” She paused and added a moment later, “Seriously.”

  Tamika laughed, the logical response to Dee’s words. “Yeah right.”

  “You underestimate yourself,” Dee told her again sincerely. “You’re good.”

  Inside, Tamika hoped Dee was correct. She wanted nothing else but to fulfill her lifelong dream. She was filling with excitement, anxious to see how far she could go, hoping and praying she could truly make it big. She was determined, and if it meant going to Kevin’s every day, Tamika would go, even if it meant sacrificing her academics. But she could not let Dee know this. She did not want to appear desperate.

  “Kevin’s even thinking of talking to the producer about you.”

  “Really?” Although ecstatic inside, this did not prevent Tamika from putting two and two together, concluding that it must have been Kevin Dee had been speaking to. Kevin had not mentioned any such thing last night, which meant Dee had to have spoken to him after that.

  “Yeah,” Dee nodded. “He might even suggest we team up.”

  “As a duo, a group!” Tamika’s eyes were now wide with hope.

  “That’s what it sounds like.”

  “You don’t mind?”

  “No!” Dee replied emphatically, sucking her teeth and waving her hand. “I don’t care either way. Anyway, it might make us a bit more marketable.”

  Tamika nodded in agreement. “But what would we call ourselves?”

  “Not T.D. for sure!”

  She laughed, agreeing. “I second that!”

  “Then why didn’t you say so last night!”

  Oh, yeah. She laughed harder. “Hey! My career was on the line!”

  “Well, my neck was!”

  “Poor thing,” Tamika commented, referring to Kevin, shaking her head. “T.D.” she repeated.

  The roommates laughed hysterically, thinking of how Kevin must have been serious when he said it.

  “He should stick to recording,” Tamika agreed aloud now.

  Dee nodded emphatically. “You got that right.”

  They calmed themselves a few minutes later, sighing and shaking their heads.

  “But I gotta give it to him,” Tamika commented sincerely. “He’s a natural for music.”

  “That’s true,” Dee agreed. “He’s already written over a hundred songs.”

  “He has!”

  “Yeah, can you believe it?”

  “That’s amazing.”

  “He’s a genius.”

  Tamika was silent momentarily then asked, “So he plans to study mus

  “Now,” Dee replied, her expression more serious. “But he was a double major in math and music as an undergrad.”

  Tamika chuckled. “Strange combination.”

  “I know,” Dee agreed, too chuckling. “But you never know what kind of talents are out there.”

  “So he’s not gonna do math anymore?”

  She shrugged. “He’s gonna see how the music goes and go from there.”

  Tamika nodded. “I see.”

  There was a long pause.

  “Where’s he from?” she inquired.



  “His mother is from Mexico, and his father is Egyptian and White.”

  “Really?” Tamika was surprised. She would have never guessed.

  Dee laughed in agreement. “I know. It’s strange huh?”

  “Yeah, it is.”

  There was brief silence.

  Tamika started to ask about him, but Dee stood before she could.

  “I better get to studying,” Dee said, picking up her sticky plate and carrying it to the sink.

  “Yeah, me too.”

  “But let me know when you finish, okay?”

  “The song?”



  Aminah sat on the couch in her living room studying, a book lying open on her lap. She had just finished praying Duhaa, a voluntary morning prayer that she had grown accustomed to praying since high school. After reading of its immense rewards, she did not want to miss the prayer, so it had become a regular practice for her. There was a time when she would slack, missing the prayer as many times as twice a week, but that was before college. Before Durrah had changed.

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