In between munching chips and drinking cola, Kylisha found herself opening up to Gene like a flower in the springtime. She told him things she’d never shared with anyone else. Things she’d been carrying around inside for so long. Too long.
Kylisha talked about her childhood and how both of her parents were now dead. About how miserable she was growing up in her grandparents’ oppressing household and about how disappointed they’ve been with her ever since she flunked out of college.
“Tonight my grandmother came all the way out here just to let me know yet another way I’d disappointed her,” Kylisha continued.
Gene lowered the handful of popcorn from his mouth. “What is she so disappointed about now? You’re holding down a steady job, you don’t have any kids out of wedlock, and you’re one of the most competent people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Kylisha found herself misty-eyed by his compliments. They sounded so sincere and none of them had anything to do with her looks. That last fact alone was refreshing and gave her another glimpse of the man behind the playboy mask.
Blinking her tears away, Kylisha took another sip of cola and forced the liquid down her tight throat. She needed it open in order to respond to Gene’s previous statements.
“My grandmother was disappointed with me this time because I missed a few services at our home church,” Kylisha said when she was able to speak again. “She doesn’t seem to care that I’m still getting spiritually fed every week, just at another house of worship.”
“Bomber.” Gene frowned. “My grandmother would’ve been glad I was going anywhere where Jesus’ name was lifted up.”
Kylisha smiled and nodded. She’d met Gene’s grandmother and found her to be very open-minded and amenable. “I used to have a grandmother like yours on my mother’s side, but she died a long time ago.” Kylisha took a deep breath and blew out any lingering frustration. “The one you met tonight was my father’s mother. I try to be grateful for her, but sometimes it’s really hard to see her as a blessing.”
“I can imagine.” Gene chuckled and nudged her playfully to speed up the recovery time. “Tell me more about your mother’s people.”
Kylisha willingly obliged him, ready to change the subject as well. She began by discussing one of her male cousins and how she actually got her CDL license as a result of a dare from him.
“The cousin I’m referring to goes by the name of Keon Zellars. It ought to be Keon Zealot for how fanatical he is about truck driving,” Kylisha continued. “I mean, he really loves his job.”
“I can understand that. I love my job, too,” Gene replied, pausing long enough between handfuls of popcorn to talk.
Kylisha gave him a warm smile. “I can tell you love your job. And you’re very good at it, too.”
“Thanks.” Gene’s smile had never been wider…or more genuine.
“You’re welcome.” Then she got back to her story. “Anyway, I found out how devoted Keon was to his profession when I visited him and his wife on their farm the summer I graduated from high school.”
“Wait a minute. They lived on an actual farm?”
“Yeah. Cows and everything.”
“Wow. I don’t think I know anybody that lives on an actual farm.” Gene looked impressed. “Where was this farm? Georgia? South Carolina? Texas?”
“South Carolina. Now are you going to let me finish my story or what?” Kylisha gave him a mock look of irritation.
Gene laughed. “By all means, bossy woman.” Sated with food, yet still hunger for conversation, he put the popcorn bag aside and reached into his jacket pocket for a handy wet wipe.
Kylisha rolled her eyes upwards, causing Gene to laugh again. She couldn’t help but laugh, too. She also couldn’t help noticing how hygienic he was as he wiped his large hands free of all popcorn residue.
“Anyway,” Kylisha continued, finally returning to her story. “The whole time I was there, Keon kept talking about that big rig of his. How only a real man could drive one of those things.” She smiled at that memory. “When I reminded him that there were plenty of female truck drivers, too, he basically deemed them all tomboys or…worse.” Her cheeks deepened in color when she said ‘worse’.
“I see.” Gene laughed at the fact that she couldn’t even say the word lesbian. How strict was her upbringing?
“Well, I told Keon that I wasn’t a tomboy or attracted to other women and that I could still probably drive that rig of his. That’s when he challenged me to do so. Before the summer was up, I not only learned to drive his eighteen-wheeler, I also learned to drive everything else on that farm, including tractors, backhoes, and forklifts.” Kylisha chuckled. “When I eventually took the driver’s test I passed it just like that,” she added with a sassy snap of her fingers.
A smiling Gene stared at her in wonder. A flicker of desire flared in his eyes at her animated display, but he quickly extinguished it. Now was not the time for that. They were having too much good, clean fun to spoil it with uncontrollable passion.
“What else happened on that farm?” Gene asked after clearing his throat and regaining his composure. “What else did you learn up in Carolina?”
Kylisha’s eyes instantly clouded with pain. The conversation suddenly turned very serious. “Well, I learned a few things that weren’t so pleasant about my family. Things that my grandparents deliberately withheld from me, particularly the fact that my father was very unfaithful to my mother during their marriage. That as a result of his constant infidelities, he eventually contracted the AIDs virus and then unknowingly passed it on to…”
“…to your mother,” Gene finished for Kylisha as she nearly choked on a sob.
All she could do was nod as the air around them became saturated with stifling grief.
© 2006 by Suprina Frazier
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