Phony Gold

    This is a piece of what shall become a lengthier whole. The language and characterizations below reflect the times, places, and people.

    Were the Debutante a proper mother throughout the 1970s into 80s, our family would’ve suffered milder disruption. Surely being present in her daughter Boopy’s life, instructing the girl, might’ve made the child impervious to Dim.

    While I blame Richard for his premature avoidable 1990 demise, Boopy was the one who pulled down our home in 2005. She performed this by marrying Dim, a rancid example of puerile white trash. Then she let him willingly lead her disastrously astray. Who could’ve foreseen their nuptial the lowlight of 1993?

     Had Junior, heir to Richard’s spare, not succumbed to emphysema in 1999 our family presence in Quarropas does not dissolve. It would’ve helped us had he taken a woman better than the Debutante as his bride. That alone should’ve improved the likelihood of his leaving a worthwhile successor.

     The Debutante didn’t necessarily need to remain Junior’s wife. Even from afar some maternal instinct alone ought’ve sufficed for her to guide Boopy and deflect catastrophe.

     Wife? Nope! Mother? Pah!

     The Debutante set herself on a narrower personal course. Hers excluded any familial obligations. The sacrifices she committed benefited herself. Put bluntly, subjectively, her marriage of rebellious intent and the unwanted unloved child from it were disposable.

    Much like buying a hot dog off a street cart; then after chowing down the red hot tossing its wrapper into a sidewalk garbage can. If the wrapper lands inside the bin, wonderful. If not, a street sweeper might come along and collect the refuse. Or wind could funnel the paper into a sewer grate. Or perhaps a strong enough downpour might disintegrate it.

    So what.

    She considered her marriage and child soiled wrappers.

    I doubt the Debutante ever loved Junior. No way he fit her true type.

    First, the obvious. Junior was too dark complexioned. Recalling the Debutante’s own family and dearest friends, one constant: all were Anglo offshoots. (Spanish has a marvelous word for this state. Guero.) They were also quite vain regarding their naturally straight hair. Or as they called those manes “good hair.”

    Didn’t they prize those locks and strands almost more than their ability to tan? No naps and peas to pull combs through for that bunch. No wasting money on relaxers either. Just the common experience of smooth raking from scalp to ends. The only kinks to be worked out maybe resulted after shampooing and before conditioning.

    Second, the Debutante was accustomed to beaux who feinted assailing convention. “Passing,” or, aided by the right light, “nearly passing,” emboldened a lot of otherwise yellow bellies.

    They knew their fairer skins and strong Causasoid features favored them. These fortunate also claimed these traits aroused less antipathy from mainstream society. Thus camouflaged they spoke of ingratiating themselves and agitating the system from within. Surreptitiously as they openly plotted, their subterfuges invariably shed the proclaimed goals of the greater good for personal advancement.

    Third, Junior and the Debutante occupied different castes. While general society then still grouped blacks in one nebulous pool, too many of the disregarded happily established layers putting us in our proper places.

     In 1966 when the merger started congealing, economically and educationally who wouldn’t have admitted we were outside the Debutante’s sphere? Her family had generational advantages and prospered from them. Not just crowding historical black colleges, they entered with legs up as legacies. Until discrimination’s worst ramparts crumbled, a lucky candidate might’ve filled that exotic niche at a known name university.

     From these launching pads they attained what counted as higher echelon positions. No sanitation men among this bunch. If a profession catering to their segregated brethren didn’t materialize, they sought and found civil service sinecure; perches from which they ruled with seigniorial hauteur.

     Nothing more magisterial than small people in smaller jobs.

     On the other hand, we represented Industrial Age field hands. At least to them. Of course neither father nor his eldest brother Waymon, Junior’s father, would ever have denigrated themselves as such. Working hard, being capable providers, living honestly, made them and theirs just as worthy. Minus the high and mighty aspect.

     I do remember the Debutante’s parents looking down on us, particularly my elders. All that black must’ve reminded them we each bloomed from the same stalk. Perhaps it was seeing Waymon and Junior then becoming aware their daughter desired to regress. After a fashion.

     If Waymon realized he was being tolerated, he never let on. Not obtuse, he’d endured far worse indignities in the Jim Crow South. The Debutante’s people might’ve hinted at their distaste, however they’d never see him as subhuman enough to dangle off a stout tree branch.

     And should Waymon have gleaned his prospective in-laws’ evaluation of him, he possessed the strength to look past those slights. Connection with these people should benefit his son. A good parent, Waymon readily sacrificed dignity for his children.

     Somehow I’ve no doubt the Debutante’s parents wouldn’t have made the same swap. Moreover, from Waymon’s likely view, Junior had a lifetime of the Debutante in his future. His boy had struck a mother lode.

     Although a faithful husband, Waymon wasn’t blind. That Junior the plodder, the grind, (a veritable Fuzzy Thurston at Quarropas High, he’d impressed enough to receive a college football scholarship) stood at the head of the line for one tall, loose-limbed, sassy, honey-hued beauty more than astounded Waymon – it displaced Richard as his unacknowledged though overtly favorite son.
      Junior, 1958.

    Junior’s lassoing the Deburante likely reminded Waymon of his own pursuit and conquest of Camille, his sons’ mother. Another black man saving one more yellow girl from some meek high-toned fellow conflicted about his origins certainly uplifted the race.

    I wonder whether this brief and abrupt switch of affections the mechanism which began Richard’s spiral. Despite being the pair’s younger, he’d been his father’s No. 1 Son all his life. Now at the crest of manhood he was being relegated to his rightful subordinate spot.

    Would this have been enough to suddenly question and recalibrate everything? If so, did he resort to drugs for answers?

     Family dynamics are fragile – and explosive.

     Doubtless that total black immersion had been the Debutante’s ultimate goal in 1966. Challenge and shock were more likely it. She needed feeding both precocious appetites. Junior was beyond her normal stringent parameters.

     Junior was polite. He lacked subversion. Maybe at one time she even appreciated his honesty, his fidelity. He was modest, not humble. In contrast to the Debutante, Junior truly was the white to her black.

    Hadn’t she seen Junior as an instrument? High-spirited, the Debutante hastened to escape the parental yoke. Today that reason, how she pursued it, seem laughable. Yet in the mid-60s independence seeking, unbridled women hadn’t taken to the streets. That assertiveness still incubated in a lot of soon-to-be emancipated minds. Until liberation, only a husband might’ve provided respite. Or at least a different kind of confinement.

    Wouldn’t it have been more fortuitous for us all had she chosen a mate from her own circle? With that poor sap she would’ve known what to expect, demand, and the extent each were prepared to go. However, easily bored as she proved herself, I surmise the Debutante craved an “exotic.”

    Junior was thoroughly domesticated. He was more buttoned down than the Van Heusen and Arrow shirt men combined.

     Again, though, in the 60s corporate culture, black at that, he stood out by not standing out. Meant as a compliment, colleagues often forgot he wasn’t white.

    High backhanded praise indeed!

    The Debutante gauged this prospect from invisible proximity. While he scrambled up the company ladder’s lowest rungs, she performed anonymously as one of the few beige faces in the secretarial pool. Naturally they were paired.

    She noticed both his self-possession as well as his self-effacement. She’d only known vain men whose confidence fluttered with breezy remarks.

    Unused to them as she was, the Debutante found his alien qualities attractive.

    Best of all, most noted of all, Junior was black. Not some euphemism shade, but matched against her skin lawn jockey dark.

    She sought a declarative gesture which would be taken as courageous defiance. Or abnegation of all she was to have been. If her luck held, the move might also lead into a new kind of freedom.

    Marrying Junior would rebuff her parents. And by extension her caste. By his side she would refute who they wished her to be.

    She didn’t lure Junior through false pretenses. She merely left her story’s urgent portion untold.

    The Debutante learned early that becoming her own woman required intrigue. As well as an amorality disguised by love.

    Her priest officiated over a divergently cast wedding. Somberness and resignation weighed the bride’s side. Joyful anticipation lightened the groom’s pews.

    The newlywed’s initial lives ran true to form. She called the shots. The Debutante erected their public schedule and created their apartment minus input from her husband.

    Much to his slowly rising chagrin, they led a hectic social life. Married, they mingled more than they had while dating. Throughout the honeymoon year, there were few long stretches of quiet evenings at home.

    At first, Junior accommodated her, hoping she’d eventually settle into routine. For a while the Debutante mollified Junior through his ego: she wanted to show him off. She probably meant “exhibit.” Her friends started intruding upon then fairly eliminating his own.

    Unaccustomed to this adulation, Junior let himself be gulled. Did he compare his delayed attention to Richard’s?

    For a time the grandiosity she induced bested Junior. He became starry-eyed. Soon enough, though, he regained his natural equilibrium.

    One can only imagine how that restoration disappointed the Debutante.

    Naturally through decorating she vanquished whatever vestiges remained of his bachelorhood. However, rather than emasculating Junior with furnishings fit for the fey and twee, the Debutante gave their apartment a truly then-current motif.

    Mind, this occurred during the late 60s. After the decade’s upheavals, Black Power and all its manifestations ran roughshod over good taste.

    Why, upon first impressions the neighbors might’ve believed Mau-Mau’s resided next door.

    The Debutante liberally spread kente cloth – including the curtains. Portraits of Malcolm and radical black movement voluptuaries vied with family snapshots, their wedding pictures, and later those featuring the infant Boopy.

    West African carvings, or more likely carvings by an American descended from West Africans, caught dust on shelves.

    Beyond the common ebony representative  African bust, its features elongated and exaggerated through thyroid eyes, ship stern nose, kayak lips bisecting the lower face, as well the usual iconic Black Power clenched fist, the Debutante also bought a balled fist with its middle finger rigidly extended. This had to have been her purchase – no way Junior ever would’ve had enough cheek.

    As I’ve grown older, I always look back on that last item with greater amusement and appreciation.

    In case the point got lost in subtlety, the latest, most virulent black nationalist literature crowded their bookshelves. Decades later, sanity somewhat regained, those books are now regarded as furious screeds from a confrontational era. Taken cumulatively, each tome ended with the same denouement: “Whatever we’ve done wrong, it’s always the white man’s fault!”

    Including all those muddled pages of agitprop?

    One must wonder if their Jesus icon, a Son of God bearing distinctly Middle Eastern features rather than the usual Nordic sheen, mitigated any of the above.

    Briefly, the Debutante bought into others’ oppression. Or at least she lived vicariously through others’ misfortunes.

    Tough when it counted most she failed saving any benevolence for her own daughter.

    What particularly distressed the adolescent-into-early teen me, something amiss I sensed more than ascertained (and never properly solved satisfactorily until after graduating university) was the Debutante’s liberal usage of “nigger.” Her merry repetitions surely never lent her street cred. At least not on our street.

   When I could decipher the word’s myriad shadings (a tricky epithet, decoding “nigger” entails who’s speaking, to whom, where, the occasion), I thought she sought provocation. Several years later and a lot more worldly, I decided the Debutante sprayed it to show she was down with us.

   That she belonged. With us niggers.

   Before she married Junior, had her vocabulary included one of American English’s most incendiary words? I’m guessing her comfort with and voicing it among us perceived-to-be downtrodden came through Richard Pryor album routines.

   Needless to repeat, having wed Junior the Debutante’s cotillion privileges were immediately revoked. Forever. Maybe such exile was sufficient to induce Tourette’s-like expulsions of rotten words in strings of angry phrases.

    And she did suffer exile. Or shunning.

    While her marriage solidified, the Debutante’s family edged farther and farther away. By the day Boopy dropped in 1969, the Debutante’s kin existed on a rumored periphery. They barely came close enough to comfort their daughter after her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage.

    So went the explanation. The one concerning her first pregnancy.

    Again I must confess how sadly rewarding it is to have previously guarded information now available for release since many of the main actors and actresses have exited the stage. With those of value gone, there’s no one to protect any longer. Earlier admissions might’ve demanded informants to defend themselves. Between wondering why it hadn’t been admitted before and why admit it now there are no winners and no suitable answers. People then close enough to events illuminated the dark. Afterwards they counted on the listener’s discretion before letting certain light bleed.

    So before Boopy the Debutante lost a fetus. The circumstances behind its loss were murky. Conveniently Junior traveled on business when the mishap transpired. Let that stay there.

    Junior had no reason to doubt the situation. When he and his wife had trouble conceiving afterwards, he understood how they might require a fortunate confluence. Meaning he bought the Debutante’s explanation hook, line and sinker why they remained a couple and not a family after almost two years of wedlock.

    He wasn’t impotent. She wasn’t barren. The timing just wasn’t right yet.

    The Debutante’s double-talk might’ve kept them childless years longer if by dumb luck Junior hadn’t been searching their apartment for some missing sundry. He chanced upon her cache of birth control pills instead.

    I can’t imagine how he confronted his wife. Junior wasn’t a thunderous screamer like Waymon. Nobody was. Fact is I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing Junior angry. I mean vacate the premises because an explosion is imminent angry. Certainly with evidence in hand he mustn’t construct an elaborate prosecution. Deliberate a man as Junior was, he finally must’ve recognize coincidences as being too great. How insistent were the suspicions he laid upon her?

    Although abortions were illegal and difficult to schedule until 1973, women with means eased around such impediments. The Debutante had money.

     Junior had always been an up-and-up fellow. Intrigues sat beyond him. His mind aligned with ledger columns, not any chicaneries swirling within human hearts.

     His father’s son, Junior could be stubbornly literal. Now he took a leap, deduced she had aborted their first child. His having absolute proof, whatever denials from the Debutante, irrelevant. Instinct informed him about the first. Interdicting pills in hand confirmed she attempted blunting any future conception.  

     Did he deliver her an ultimatum? Large as he loomed, he never came across as intimidating. Yet he wouldn’t have debated this with her. Trappings aside, theirs was not a modern marriage. At heart, Junior was a very conventional husband of that time. He conformed to the usual roles. In every manner.

     None other than the participants know how Junior persuaded the Debutante to fulfill her obligation to them. Nobody ever suspected Junior capable of menace. But maybe when pushed … he absolutely frightened her.

     Up until that minute I bet the Debutante believed she held him securely leashed, much like the trainers of elephants or the big cats. Those circus acts only make news when that docile beast reverts, forgetting or ignoring the prod, the whip or the chair.

     What beliefs crashed in the Debutante’s mind when Junior became, ah, “unmanageable”? He still retained much of his football playing bulk then. Did his shoulders bow, arms bulge, eyes narrow, and face contort into black terror? Did the placid negro she married disappear? Who or what replaced him? Was it that monster she had often likely joked about among her yellow-complexioned associates? The dark, bestial, sweaty one they swore would never get them to submit to the roughest of demands.

     The one whom each believed she’d never willingly yield.

     Shortly after Junior’s discovery the Debutante swelled again with child. Boopy.

     While it amuses me to envision Junior transforming into some caricature of sexually unhinged black bulk, I hope however he achieved it made the Debutante regret each and every day of the nine months necessary for Boopy’s gestation.

     Which did the Debutante find worse, humiliation after her subterfuge had been uncovered or the procreative pain Junior inflicted?

      Smart as the Debutante was she ought have known better. How could she have expected any different response should he have discovered her ruse? Propagation of the line is an imperative. It’s genetically encoded, survival through continuance.

      Reason alone will never subvert our most human of goals.

      Over 30 years later we few survivors suspect the Debutante probably aborted the fetus which would’ve matured with good sense. The fetus she truncated may’ve been the one who would’ve reciprocated the love he or she received from Junior, Waymon, Camille, my own father, each of whom stepped up for Boopy when the Debutante stepped out of her life. In turn that child, possessing self-respect and sufficient self-worth, should’ve and ought’ve maintained our lineage in Quarropas.

    Instead, the Debutante gave birth to and abandoned what became an ingrate. Boopy. The malformed organ for Dim.


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