"Do you love him?"
I looked back to see her standing in the doorway. Rays of light streaming pass her, bouncing off the dust floating aimlessly in the room I used as my studio. Her heavy loc's, laced with threads of silver, hung around sturdy shoulders and the dress she wore reminded me that her heritage was never far from her heart. Mama Elliot had come a-visiting.
I turned my attention to the mound of clay, spinning before me on the potters wheel. It was not out of disrespect that I turned my back to the old woman, I just did not want my face to betray me. I wanted to find the right words to answer what appeared to be a simple question.
As I held the clay in both hands, I heard her enter the room and take a seat in the corner of the room. As I dipped my thumbs into the top of the clay, creating a dip that would grow into a bowl, I heard her strike a match. Soon, the scent of Mama Elliot's brand of ganja coiled around me, tickling my sensitive nose.
She did not repeat her question, she did not have to. Plus, it was not the old woman's style to repeat herself unnecessarily.
At last I said, "I don't know if I love him." I knew she would wait until the sun melted into the Caribbean Sea and be born again in the Atlantic Ocean. "I've grown accustom to his face," I said, honestly, to the vase forming beneath my hands.
Her laughter rumbled out of the depths of her like thunder erupting from a stormy sky. "You've been listening to Papa Elliot's music, eh? For a Rasta, he sure love the white man music."
As her laughter subsided, I felt the intensity of her gaze forcing me to look across at her.
"Be truthful, Child," she took a draw on her spliff, half way spent by now. "What you mean you don't know if you love the man?" With each word, a puff of smoke escaped Mama Elliot's lips.
I turned back to the vase, now six inches tall, spinning before me. I took a scrap of paper and made an indentation in the base. All the while contemplating the truth and if I should speak it.
"I care for him a lot but I'm not passionately in love with him." The words of my mind were spoken by my lips.
She snorted in an unbecoming manner.
"Who said anything about being passionately in love with him? What gave you the notion that love had to be passionate?" She exclaimed.
I looked at her and said nothing. Then returned my attention to the vase. This time, making an impression on its bulbous center.
"You think Papa Elliot and I have this passionate love, don't you?" She asked.
"Don't you?" I asked.
It seemed to be that we were speaking only in questions.
"Child, let me set the record straight. Papa Elliot and I love each other. There are times I hate the man, thinking that I should pack up my barley bundle and leave his sorry backside. Then there are times when I love him something fierce, I would drink his bath water if he asked me to, and you know how dutty the man can get."
A snicker escaped my lips before I could suppress it.
"I'm sure he feels the same way 'bout me," the old woman continued. "You see, Child, love is not this blazing inferno meant to devour your heart. Love.. love is the slow burn, the kind that forges steel. You have to keep stoking the fire, baby, to keep it going, to make it worth it."
She took another draw on her spliff, savouring the high. "An inferno dies out as quickly as it is erupts, but the slow burn, that can last forever."
Mama Elliot got to her feet and walked over to me. She stood over me and I looked up to meet her gaze. Our eyes locked, she searched mine, she searched my soul.
"Do you love him?" I knew this was the last time she would ask.
"I... I love him." The words of my heart, spoken by my lips.
Mama Elliot smiled, a knowing smile I knew so well. "I know."
"If you knew, why did you ask?" It was I who was searching her eyes, her soul.
"Because you needed to know, you needed to say it , to hear yourself say it. Now you have to say it to him." She leaned in, pressing her cheek to mine and whispered in my ear. "Nuh worry, he love you, too."
I closed my eyes, tears welling up behind my eyelids, strong emotions bubbling up from within, tugging and pulling at my defenses. The fortified walls crumbling under the weight of my mother's words.
I opened my eyes and she was gone. I looked down at the vase and the wheel slowing down. I had now lost interest in it, deeming it complete as it was. I looked up at the old picture of Mama Elliot hanging on the wall in front of me.
She died ten years ago, diabetes got the best of her. Yet, my mother always came to me when I most needed her, when I needed her guidance.
I got up from my stool and walked over to her picture, reaching out to touch her likeness. "Thank you, Mama."
I heard a noise at the doorway to my little studio. I turned to see him standing there.
"Are you okay, baby? Something told me to check on you," his voice, thick with concern. I knew he saw the tears on my face, glittering in the half light.
I closed the distance between us, I took his hand as I stood before the man I loved. I looked into his eyes, searching them, searching his soul, discovering that Mama Elliot had told the truth.
With a smile, I said, "There is something I have to tell you."
Posted by Kimolisa Mings at 4:00 AM