Forgiven, but not Forgotten: 1907

Sarah Joseph, guest writer

“Wait, what’s wrong? Why are y’all so qui-” the contraction’s power took my breath away.
“AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!” I cried out from the excruciating pain.
“Seems like there’s some complications with the baby,” my midwife, Sahameanah, informed me.
“Whatever it is, FIX IT NOW!”
“Easier said than done, Arabella. The baby is in the wrong position for delivery.”
“Make it easier done than said! Here’s an idea: Do your job and TURN THE BABY AROUND!”
“Yes, ma’am.” As she turns the baby around, I feel every movement in my severely sensitive tummy.
“He’s in position now. One final push and you’ll be done with this ordeal,” encouraged Sahameanah.
“AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” When I felt the feet slide out, I embraced the comfort of my pillow.
“Congratulations, Miss Arabella, you have a baby boy.”
“Jamil,” I whispered to my bundle of joy. “Your name will be Jamil because you are indeed the most handsome baby boy.”
As I glanced down at the perfect baby nursing in my arms, tears rolled down my cheeks. Curly, onyx hair dusted his round head. Three, tiny angel’s kisses formed a triangle on his nose. His auriferous skin contained some pale undertones. The heart-shape of his mouth was colored with a brownish-pink hue. Long, curly eyelashes protected his jade green eyes, speckled with tiny flecks of gold, so much like his father’s. A fresh wave of agony brought tears to my eyes as I remember the last time I held my beloved Jazren.
Lub-dub-lub-dub! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! I tried in vain to race against time. How ironic! I was competing against an all-out winner. It is hated by the procrastinators. It is loved by the organizers. It holds the regrets of the elders. It holds the fears of the inexperienced. When I saw the towering building of Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation, I ran the last block. Before I entered the building, I patted my “long narrow champagne color skirt patterned with embroideries and my single-breasted waistcoat” (Gjenvick).
“Good morning, Miss Arabella! I see you’re running late,” Mrs. Smith, my father’s secretary, sourly greeted. The unspoken word again echoed across the gleaming hardwood floor.
“You know me, Mrs. Smith! Always tardy, never ready!”
“Your father is in his office.” I pulled out my handkerchief from my coat pocket and hurriedly wiped the sweat off my brows. It would look bad if the boss’s daughter was not only tardy, but also sweaty. With nerves grating on my brain, I knocked on my father’s door.
“Come in,” replied the soft-spoken British voice. Even though my father was built like a bodyguard, he had the voice of an angel. Nonetheless, he displayed power and authority.
“Good morning, Daddy, Sir! I am prepared for duty,” I joked, hoping that he would excuse my tardy. I glanced at the Gilbert clock on his organized desk. 11:37 A.M. I was supposed to have arrived at eight o’clock sharp.
“Once again, Arabella, you exclude yourself from time’s boundaries. Before you start today, I need you to give Jazren, my new employee, a tour. You would’ve known that if you had bothered to respect the schedule.”
“I apologize, Daddy. I will be more than happy to be this gentleman’s guide.”
“By the way, he’s a little different!”
I inwardly cringed. I’m not the biggest fan of change to say the least. After all, I’m the girl who eats Toasties Corn Flake Cereals every single morning. He can’t be too different, I assured myself. But boy, was I wrong. Not only did my dad employ a COLORED man in our company, add in his scarred face, and I almost had a heart attack. Half of his face was a perfectly smooth chocolate mixture adorned with jade green eyes. The other half was a mixture of an angry-looking scar that formed a crisscross pattern. The skin underneath the eye sagged like an elderly’s aged skin. Bulging muscles strained underneath his hole-filled costume. If it weren’t for the scar and his skin color, he could easily have been the most handsome man I’ve ever met.
“I know you ain’t be wanting me around. Most people be tryin’ not to stare, but I be seein’ your dirty look. I’m gonna make you not be giving me dirty looks one day. If you wanna know, you just gotta ask.” Jazren said.
Yeah, right. I highly doubt that anyone could erase twenty-two years of Mama’s racist teachings. My face burned with humiliation. Daddy would be very disappointed in me if he thought I was making our new employee self-conscious.
“Not my business,” I replied starchily. I couldn’t wait to leave this awkward conservation, thus the reason why the tour ended abruptly. I hurried back to my office, which seemed way too far for comfort. I dropped myself on my rolling chair and breathed out a huge sigh of relief. In Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation, I’m not only co-owner, but also the engineer. Daddy realized my efficiency when it comes to numbers. Ever since I was little, he has been grooming me for this prestigious position. My job is to find the dimensions of a project and the needed materials. The New Year’s Eve Committee in Central Park has put in an order for a huge ball that will be dropped at the start of the new year. This project will determine the company’s future. If we succeed, the company will be flooded with business from this year forward. When I look down my rough sketch of the ball, the ball looked odd; unfortunately, I couldn’t put my fingers on it.
Opening my office the next day, I noticed a gorgeous Cherry Parfait rose Cherry: “white edged with red” on my scattered desk (Beaulieu). A letter was attached to my blooming flower. When I unroll the letter, I discovered a command: Meet me in the coffee room, Sweetheart. Rushing to the coffee room, anger washed over me when I discovered Jazren holding my design of the ball. Once again, the angry marks engraved on his face were very noticeable.
“You’ve got five seconds to explain yourself, Mister!”
“Chill. You always this rude to new employees or just the colored ones?” The question was posed more like a statement. “I ain’t be stealing your ideas. Looks like there’s trouble with your calculations. It ain’t right. You gonna need more lightbulbs” That’s it. That’s the problem. He figured out the solution to a problem that I’ve struggled with for weeks. When I gave him a hug, it came more as a surprise to me than him. Even with all those layers of muscles, Jazren’s body felt like a comfy teddy bear. I quickly broke the embrace and rushed out the door with my sketches.
“You’re welcome for the flowers!” he chuckled just as the door slam. This is gonna get awkward real fast if you don’t keep your distance; He isn’t the man for you, I advised myself. I couldn’t help but feel rebellious against my own advice. After I showed my finalized plans to Daddy, he gathered the builders together for a quick pep talk.
“Ok, Team. We’ve got thirty days to produce the first New year’s Eve Ball Drop! It seems like we’re crunching on time, but if we work together, we’ll get it done. It will be perfect because we have the perfect team!” Cheers and applauses bursted in the room. One by one, the builders left the room until only me and Jazren were left.
“Shouldn’t you be rushing out the door?” I snapped.
“Go out with me.” The request echoed through the empty, too confining room.
“Look, you seem like a pretty decent guy and one day you will make a gal an amazing husband, but she’s not gonna be me.”
“Why not?”
“Wh-wh-why not! Are you freaking insane? First and foremost, we aren’t exactly the same color and you don’t see biracial couples walking around New York. Mama wouldn’t approve. And let’s not forget my disdain for you.”
“You don’t hate me. You just hate my skin color and my scars. Can’t do anything about either so I’m gonna make you fall in love with the real me, not your idea of me. You do owe me for fixing your mistakes. Don’t think your daddy would approve of such mistakes. So . . . ”
“That is so unfair. You can’t blackmail me. I’m your boss! And you wouldn’t dare!”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
“Fine. One date. I will not fall in love with you.” Once again, I was so wrong. I decided that I will set aside Mama’s racist teachings for the afternoon, and give him the benefit of the doubt. When Jazren brought me to Central Park for our picnic date of chicken salad, cornbread, and scones, little butterflies were entrapped in the snare of my tummy. While we ate, he told me the tragic story of his scars.
“On my way to work at a mine, I accidentally bumped into a white lady. The lady’s husband was upset and ordered some Ku Klux Klan members to take care of me. As the members beat me, one of them had the cruel idea of using coal as punishment, scarring my face for life.”
I demanded to know who the attackers were. Unfortunately, he refused to tell me; instead, he just gave me his lopsided grin that did wonders to my heart. That smile was the scissors that cut a way through my resentment for him.
After our date, my relationship with Jazren grew like a blooming flower. Everyday was an adventure with him. We attended George Cohan’s musical “Talk of the Town.” We prayed for the families of the Pennsylvania miners who died from the worst coal mine explosions in American history. We were at the boxing match where Eugene Corri became the first referee. We applauded for King Gustaf V of Sweden when he ascended to the Swedish throne. We listened to Eugene H. Farrar’s harmonious voice for the first time on the radio. We waved our goodbyes to the U.S. Battle Fleet who took a round-the-world cruise (Historical). Before I could blink, I found myself standing in front of a judge promising to love Jazren forever. Mama did not approve of our marriage, but I was done letting her dictate my life.
The day has arrived. December 31, 1907. Our 700-lb. masterpiece , “made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs,” stood proudly on a pole as thousands of New Yorkers anxiously waited for its descent (NYE). Jazren and I stood side by side, glowing with pride, as we listen to Daddy introducing this new tradition. My beautifully scarred husband will make a fantastic father, I thought as I rub my cantaloupe-shaped tummy. When the ball drop, I will tell him.
“20, 19, 18 . . . ” And the countdown begin.
“Jazren, I’ve got something to tell you.” I wrapped my arms around him for comfort.
“10, 9, 8 . . . ”
“What is it, Love?” He shouted above the crowd.
“I’m preg-” Jazren falls to the ground in a puddle of his blood.
I wiped my tears and promised Jamil my everlasting protection. As he continues to nurse, Mama enters the room. Before I could even blink, Mama snatches Jamil away.
“Arabella, he needs to go,” Mama explained.
“Let me guess, just like Jazren needed to go.” Mama’s face reddened. “Yes, Mama, I know you were the woman that got his face scarred. But that wasn’t enough for you, right. You just had to get rid of him forever. I’ve forgiven you, Mama. But, if you get rid of Jamil, you will be forgiven and forgotten.” Mama hesitated. She turned around and walked out of my life forever.
“NOOOOOOOO, not my baby!” I sobbed, as my heart broke in two.
Works Cited
Beaulieu, David. “Types of Roses.” The Spruce, 19 June 2017. Web. 9 February 2018.
Gjenvick, Paul K. “Vintage Fashions-1908.” GG Archives. Web. 9 February 2018.
“Historical Events in 1907.” n.d. Web. 12 February 2018.
“NYE History & Times Square Ball.” Times Square NYC, 1 February1970. Web. 9 February 2018.
“British Girl Names.” Baby Names by Nameberry the Naming Experts. n.d. Web. 9 February 2018.
Chalmers, David M. Hooded Americanism: the History of the Ku Klux Klan. Duke Univ. Press, 2007. Print. 12 February 2018.
“History of Gilbert Clock.” History Gilbert Clock Co. Web. 10 February 2018.
Jeffrey. “All Breakfast All The Time.” 15 August 2010. Web. 9 February 2018