Sunday, January 30, 2011

As quiet as it is kept, three

For first two installments click 1 and 2.

Ramona is particular about the pronunciation of her last name. Moreover, she is selective in educating coworkers and the umpteen late bloomers she has met in Atlanta’s social settings. Not every moron who mistakes her for a slender Mexican gets details of her mixed heritage. Atlanta is a city with a deeply historic eighty-twenty percent cultural more that recalls segregation. On a given evening, nightclubs hosting at least eighty percent African-American clientele will balance out with twenty percent Caucasian clientele; flip numbers, race, and the same is true. It is boring, and Ramona’s cosmopolitan nature struggles to stay afloat. In her view, the so-called ‘Little Apple’ she relocated to must grow in leaps to the multiculturalism of her tri-state New York-New Jersey-Connecticut stomping grounds.

Fortunately, the workforce has provided some solace; because when she felt the stirring recognition of a fellow multiculti’s sensibility, she latched on and sought to nurture a friendship immediately. And truthfully, the melodious lilt in Amani’s voice first captured her attention; her polished accent boosted her interest.

“My name is Amani Njama, and I am from Kenya. So pleased to meet you.”

“Hi, I’m Ramona Lai. That is l-e-i, as they say in Hawaii, where my dad is from. My mom is Puerto Rican, but I was born in New York, baby! Njama, the ‘N’ is silent, right?” Ramona’s knowledge and sensitivity seals the deal.

Today they sit facing each other, tucked in a corner dark-leather booth with wainscot paneling. Earlier, when they wound their way between tables in T.G.I. Friday’s dim-lit confines, they elicited appreciative glances from diners hunkered down for a palatable meal. Now, as they scoop potato soup from saucy bread bowls, Amani notices that she is further along in her meal.

“What’s wrong Ramona? You are not eating.” She asks as she tears off some bread, and moisturizes it in the soup before putting it in her mouth.

“Oh, nothing,” Ramona’s wistful demeanor belies her anxiety.

“Are you really busy today? I have some down time, if you need assistance,” Amani offers.

“No, it’s not work.” Since Ramona assumed her new position as executive assistant to the managing partner, the nature of her job has become administrative rather than research oriented; she can complete tasks with her eyes closed, such is her efficiency and hard work.

“It is just a personal issue I have to deal with. No one can help. I have to live with it.” Amani does not want to rush to conclusions; but surely, Ramona’s problem relates to the prescription they picked up today; surely, the hurtful office rumors are not true; surely, Ramona will confide in her eventually.

“And going forward, I have to make better decisions.” Ramona’s recipe for change fuels Amani’s curiosity. “Well, if you ever want to talk about it, I am here for you,” Amani, now scraping the bottom of the bread bowl, is more than a little worried for Ramona; but she opts for her Don’t Ask, Don’t Pursue policy that has yielded unsolicited information successfully in the past.

“We better get back to the office,” Ramona says and pays for their lunch. “Do you have an outfit for the holiday party?” She waits for an answer, a hint of anticipation in her voice.

“No, I was going to ask you if you could come with me tomorrow afternoon, to the mall, to pick something out.” Amani’s mind was still hungry for the details of Ramona’s problem. Maybe she could find the underlying cause of it before the office holiday party next weekend.

“Sure, Danny will be with his daddy tomorrow.”


“We’ve arrived at a good time,” Ramona observed as they walked into the ballroom. “We can pick good seats,” and she led the way to the table closest to the DJ’s set up, right next to the patch of wood flooring cleared for dancing. They were first at their table, ten other tables were scattered around the room. They both wore black: Ramona’s mini-dress accentuated her shapely legs; Amani’s black knitted midi dress featured a plunging peek-a-boo neckline; for the greater part of the evening, they provided the scene with much needed eye candy.

“I’m glad they decided to hire a DJ this year,” Amani commented. “Maybe after the attorneys leave, the staff can really get down to some good music. I brought a CD with a variety of African dance beats.” Amani had every intention of showing off her skills on the dance floor.

“I heard last year’s party was boring, the band, horrible” Ramona started.

“It was, but after a few attorneys got drunk, it got interesting,” Amani responded, “Tina (she is no longer with the firm) started some trouble. She danced continuously with another attorney’s date, at least five songs, and totally ignored her partner. Tina put moves on that girl, gliding up and down, twirling around and around her, seduction was her motive, it was obvious; pretty soon, we could tell that Ruthie, her partner was irritated.”

“Whoa!” Ramona giggled, “So what happened next?”

“Isn’t that Pete that just walked in? He is walking towards us, god, I hope he does not sit at our table.” Amani crossed her fingers.


Mingi Love,
Mama Shujaa.

Copyright © Mama Shujaa 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

As quiet as it is kept, two

“Big plans this weekend, Larry?” She forced herself out of her reverie with a rote question void of sincerity, and prepared herself for his legendary preview of a football viewing booze filled weekend.

“Sure do,” he said boastfully, “unlike you, Amani, I have plans. Matter of fact, you are welcome to join me and my boys at our get-together; bring your own beer!”

“Thanks for the invitation, but I have stuff to do.” She preferred her mind-numbing chores to potentially tedious hours with her amply endowed cube-mate Larry and his bruisers; and their mouths, vessels of slipshod utterances passing from one to the other like an award winning ping pong competition.

“You guys have fun,” she said merrily, returning to her cubicle, certain she would be regaled with the events of the weekend the following Monday. In the meantime, Ramona, the new secretary was on her mind. And the ‘idiot’ attorney Pete, who by chance walked by her cubicle at the exact moment he crossed her mind.

He appeared less impressive after Larry’s remarks, annoying even as he heralded her in his usual manner.

“Amani, Amani, Amani,” he said, nearly shouting. She met his proclamation with her habitual smile, more crooked at the corners today.

Ever since she had told him the meaning of her Kiswahili name, he had taken to propounding its significance around the office, or so it seemed, proclaiming it now as if the good news had finally come to man.

“Peace, Peace, Peace,” he said it three times. And after Larry's awful hints of the fruition of a hanky panky scandal in the office, maybe he was not such a fool after all. Maybe the gods moved him this morning, in this invocation of peace.

"Good morning Pete," Amani's eyes lingered on him this morning, as she tried to piece together how the story could have come about, the two together, Ramona and Pete?

Pete, whose toes pointed outward when he walked, and who cracked his knuckles sporadically through out the day, as if he moonlighted as a pianist after work, drafted legal documents with National Public Radio playing in the background, every day.

Ramona, a leggy fair-skinned brown bird from Newark, with long black hair that rested comfortably on her shoulders, and a slow-moving figure eight for a body that could tie anyone's imagination, man or woman to pleasant thoughts, or more, had moved to Atlanta just over a year ago.

“To be closer to my baby’s daddy,” she had shared the tidbit freely with Amani. “So he can see his kid more often.”

Just yesterday, she and Ramona had gone out to lunch. And even though it was not the lunch date they had agreed upon a week earlier, she had enjoyed it nonetheless.

“Something has come up, Amani. Do you mind running a couple of errands with me?” She had asked her after they were ensconced in her new Audi R8 sports car.

“Sure, no problem, we can stop at a drive-through on the way back,” Amani responded from the supreme comfort of a leather seat.

"We'll go to T.G.I.Friday's tomorrow," Ramona said as they dropped off her prescription at the pharmacy and picked up her dry cleaning. Amani welcomed every opportunity to get to know Ramona Lai.


Sorry dear readers, I lost of track of time.

Mingi Love,
Mama Shujaa.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

As quiet as it is kept

She hastened the clatter of her fingers on the keyboard. Like most people, she detested eavesdroppers. Yet, given the cloistered confines of their workspace, who could fault her for learning of his dreadful connections?

"You are not a materialistic person," she overheard his affirmation to the caller, and she angled her head further towards the cubicle partition, fingers arrested mid-air. His unusual positive message was a sharp contrast to his habitual excuse-filled avoidance of tasks-at-hand, petulant complaints and nagging criticism of office policies.

"But, what you need to do is put your foot on his back and kick him to the concrete, that's what you need to do," he continued.

Her memory of the rumor-mongering lesson she learned as a teen was as fresh as the dewdrops on the banana leaves in Bibi’s* plantation. Nobody would ever finger her as feeder of the office beast.

"If that doesn't work, we'll wait and see," he continued, "you know they are going to earn every penny of their salary now," he snickered, "it's going to get nasty." He rarely used his library voice, and this morning was no exception. It is no wonder; her curiosity peaked in spite of her old-fashioned ethic and Bibi’s favorite proverb, sikio hailali na njaa.**

“Okay, talk to you later.” He ended the call and, after what seemed like a lifetime, her nimbly executed Ctrl+P command set off the rhythmic whir of her printer, spitting two blank pages; her camouflage tactic, albeit delayed.

“Thank god it’s Friday, right?” she called over the wall. Then, without invitation, she got up and glided into his cubicle.

“Yes indeed,” he responded as his eyes traversed her jean-clad pear shape; every business setting needs dress-down Friday eye candy. "Nice boots," he added.

“You know that fool of an attorney that is head-over-heels over that new secretary?” He began smoothly with the current affairs.

"What do you mean?” the blank look belied her knowledge.

“Where have you been sweetie? I don’t even know how he practices law, he is such an idiot,” he said.

“It’s about to go down up in here,” he continued in a voice wrapped in such gleeful venom, she suffered an immediate allergic reaction. A heat rose up her neck and flooded her cheeks leaving tracks the size of hives. Yet, she stood immobile, unable to remove herself to her cubicle, intrigued by the certainty in his voice.

Just yesterday she and the new secretary had gone out to lunch.

A short short intro to my new series. I will post the next, longer segment of As quiet as it is kept on Sunday, January 16th. Supposed secrets of every day life.

*Bibi = grandmother
** sikio hailali na njaa = an ear does not go to bed hungry, there is always plenty of gossip; a Kiswahili proverb.

Mingi Love,
Mama Shujaa.

Copyright © Mama Shujaa 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On This Day of Resolve

On this day, I resolve to increase the quality, balance the thinking, report the strengths, resolve the weaknesses. Ah-ha!

On this day, I resolve to build on the harvest of 2010. Match its yields ounce for ounce, without sacrificing the depths of growth. Eh-he!

On this day, I resolve to love and create with abandon my mistresspieces of passion. Build on the learning richesses of mwaka jana [last year]. Ah-ha!

I resolve to tune out anxiety-ridden chitchat and tune in to uber-positive resources. Awaken the Utu upya [self renewal]. Eh-he!

On this day of resolve, I fuel the free spirit, increase the trust in instinct, speak it and prepare for that next giant step. Oh-ho!

Kweli on this day of resolve, I continue with more of the same; armed with escalated increments of ushujaa. [courage]. Eh-he!

Thank you for sharing my resolve on this day and on days to come. Ah-ha!

Heri ya Mwaka Mpya, Happy New Year!

Mingi love,

Mama Shujaa.