The final days with the Rajwanis ended similarly to how they began. Ravi would search out Annabelle to find an item he’d “misplaced”, and she’d quietly walk him to where he’d left it on the floor in his bedroom. Anitha would command her to wash a pot she was preparing to cook dinner with while she looked out of the window until it was done, and little Serena would throw violent fits until she got her way or something close to it. There was one small change though: Annabelle no longer cared.
Ravi sensed the change in her, and seemed as though he wanted to make an effort to connect.
“I’ve taken the trash out, Annabelle, so you don’t have to this morning,” he said sheepishly.
“Why…well thank you, Ravi!” she said with genuine surprised pleasure.
Not to be undone, Anitha scurried upstairs to put back an ironing board she’d had sitting in the hall way since the night before. She looked expectedly at Annabelle and Ravi, like a puppy expecting praise or a treat for having pooped on the newspaper for the first time. Neither said a word in response and went about their day.
That night, after the sun had gone down and the house was still, Annabelle got a book and a bowl, as had become her custom. Anitha came searching her out in her moment of peace, as had become her custom.
“What are you reading?” she asked, standing in the doorway regarding Annabelle intently.
“The Help,” she replied.
“Oh! Did you see the movie?”
“Yeah. I liked it.”
“I didn’t like it at all,” Anitha sniffed.
“Why not?” Annabelle was moderately curious.
“I just think they could have made it more humorous,” Anitha said disapprovingly.
“Well…those were serious times,” replied Annabelle. “And to make it anymore humorous would have made it the ‘Amos & Andy’ show.”
The remark was missed to Anitha.
“Also, I don’t think it was realistic at all.”
Now Annabelle was completely curious.
“Well, I just think that they could have depicted Minnie as feistier. They really toned her character down for the movie, and I don’t think it was an accurate depiction of – you know – the typical Black woman from the South with an attitude.”
Annabelle stopped spooning her food into her mouth and folded her hands onto her lap. She stared long and hard at the woman standing in front of her, who had the audacity to speak so disparagingly about her race AND her sex. She took a deep breath before she answered.
“Well, Anitha. Not all Black women are like Minnie,” she reasoned. “Minnie is a stereotype, and you can’t paint all Black women with such a broad brush.”
“Well, yes, I know THAT,” retorted Anitha. “I mean, you have Michelle Obama, but she is in the minority, when it comes to Black women. There are more Black women like Minnie than there are Michelle Obama.”
Annabelle held Anitha’s gaze, hoping her eyes conveyed the disbelief and contempt she felt for the woman at that moment. She took her hands from her lap and folded them behind her head. As if sensing that she had backed herself into a corner, Anitha set out to prove her point with irrefutable data.
“I see you’re looking at me like ‘Oh, whatever’, but I lived in Tennessee before I got here,” Anitha reasoned. “I used to live near a lot of struggling Black women in low income housing, and I know that most of them are just like Minnie!”
“Anitha. Those women, as you said, were from lower incomes…and probably had a poor education. Any manners that they did or did not have were as a result of poverty – not a reflection on their RACE. There are poor White, Hispanic – whatever – who are just as gauche. There are all types of women between Michelle Obama and Minnie. Don’t discount them.”
Anitha seemed unconvinced. Perhaps in an effort to further offend Annabelle, or perhaps in an effort to strengthen her argument, she gave further evidence to prove the paltry worth of the entire Black race.
“As you know, I am an attending physician at the facility I work in. As much attitude as Black women have, I’d much rather work with them than Black men.”
Annabelle was silent, waiting for her to continue.
“Because Black men are just lazy! You can’t imagine how much time I have to spend picking up after them. At least Black women pick up after themselves. The Black male physicians at my facility? They think they can just wink at the nurses and they will clean up their mess. It’s amazing!”
Oh? You mean like I have to clean you and your physician husband’s shit?
Anitha seemed flustered that Annabelle would not respond. Her hands were still firmly nestled behind her back.
“You must be thinking ‘Oh, whatever’,” she repeated, “but it’s true!”
“Well, Anitha,” she finally responded, “I cannot debate your experience. I wasn’t there, so I can’t comment either way.”
Anitha prattled on as usual for a few more minutes until she got tired of hearing herself talk and left Annabelle to her meal. When Annabelle called to relay this story to me, I was as SHOCKED as you no doubt are at this moment, Reader. Tell me you don’t want to give Anitha a dirty slap, palm open!
Back to the story.
Emancipation day came on Sunday morning. Annabelle gathered her things and prepared to leave. She sought out Serena to say her goodbyes.
“Serena,” she said sweetly. “I’m leaving now. I know you’ll grow up to be a really good girl someday. Take care of yourself, okay?”
She meant her words. A part of her felt utter sympathy for the child. It wasn’t her fault she’d been born to idiot parents, and deep down, she was a good kid.
“Goodbye Ms. Annabelle. I’ll miss you.”
Would she really? Who knew?
Ravi had gone out of town and Anitha was upstairs in her bedroom. She did not bid Annabelle farewell, and that was fine by her. I pulled up in my car to collect my friend, who looked like she’d been through Hell and back again. She laughed uncontrollably before settling into a pensive silence. I patted my friend on the back.
“Come on, Annabelle,” I said. “Let’s get you home!”
And home she came.
The end…and screw you, Anitha!