How We Met by Frederick K. Foote, Jr.
How We Met by Frederick K. Foote, Jr.
“Now, check this out. I don’t mean no disrespect. I say this with love. My baby got some long ass feet. I mean, her back be against the kitchen wall and feet be halfway across the hall.”
“I heard that, Mathias. There are parts of your anatomy that are worthy of discussion, but you don’t hear me talking on the phone about them to strangers. Do you?”
“Babe, this ain’t no stranger. It’s my nephew—”
“You know, you don’t want me to get started.”
“Okay, okay. I feel you, babe. I do.”
“Whew! Ruston, we can talk now – she’s in the kitchen. So, as I was saying, she’s a long steppin’ mama.
You saw her wedding pictures. Most guys never look at her feet. She got bumpers front and rear that keep your eyes lit up, set your imagination in gear, and give your libido a fuel-injected boost.
And her lips, eyes, and that smile make a blind man see the light. She is so fine.
So, I hear what you thinkin’. I do. You wonder how I got so lucky. Well, man, I saw the whole package – includin’ her feet.”
When I first met her, at the Club, I told her the truth. “I ain’t got much money, and my ride’s so old it’s almost an antique. I don’t live in the best part of town. I never went to college, and my credit ratin’ is in the negative.
All I got is my word. I’m tellin’ you right now. I’ll never lie to you. I’ll be your partner through thick and thin. To hell and back again.”
And she said, “Really, you’ll never lie to me? Did I hear you right?”
“As right as rain. And as good as the gospel.”
“Okay, so, look at me and tell me what you would change about me if you could change anything about me.”
“Shit! That’s easy. I wouldn’t change a damn thing about you. Never. But I would change something about me.”
“Oh, what would that be?”
“I would make my feet as long as yours.”
“Why would you do that?”
“So, we be in step for the rest of our lives.”
“Negro, you are so corny. You, you are too much. Get on out of here.”
“Okay, but I’m goin’ to the doctor right now and see how much it cost to get my feet stretched.”
We been laughing together for three kids and twenty years. You know what I’m talkin’ about.
Well, you asked me to tell you how I met my wife. Now, the only reason I’m telling you this nephew is to help you get that PhD. I mean, it’s about time somebody study how black people get hooked up. You going to keep it anonymous, right?
Nephew, you need to talk to your cousin, Baltimore. Man, that Negro got a story to tell. Let me get you his number right quick.
Ruston? Harold said you would be calling. He said you were completing your dissertation in sociology at UC Berkeley. Is that correct?
Well, I’m glad to be of assistance. My undergraduate major was also sociology at UCLA. How can I help you?
This is an old story for me. I must have told it over a thousand times. In 1963, I was stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.
One May morning. I was leaving an enjoyable breakfast with my girlfriend and her family in base housing. As I was walking back to the base, I saw this tiny, elderly black woman carrying two heavy looking grocery bags.
She reminded me of my grandmother, who raised me. We didn’t own a car and made the walk from town with our groceries many, many times. I jogged up to her and said, “Hey, let me give you a hand with those.”
She slowly turned her head toward me, as if it was painful to move her neck.
She stepped right up to me. Her face inches from mine. Her grayish skin was in folds under her eyes and chin. Her eyes were a hazy cataract blue.
She was about five-two and couldn’t have weighed a hundred pounds.
“Boy, you ain’t no snatch-and-run man, is you? The kind that snatch a woman’s good stuff and run away with it. Never to be seen again.”
She winked at me.
I smiled back at her. I assured her that her good stuff was in trustworthy hands with me.
She laughed and patted me on my chest twice.
The bags weighed about twenty pounds each. I was amazed that she could have carried them so far from the nearest store.
“You sure that ain’t gonna’ be too much for you?”
I gave her my super confident smile. “Not at all. Lead the way.”
The day started to warm up. The humidity must have been about ninety percent.
My assumption was that the frail-looking woman lived in base housing. However, she led me several blocks pass base housing.
After the first block, my shirt was soaking wet.
After the third block, my arms felt like they were being pulled from my shoulder sockets.
We walked until the sidewalk ended.
We walked until there were no more homes or buildings, just thick foliage and forest along the road.
We walked on the narrow shoulder of a two-lane road for what must have been a mile.
I was too short of breath to ask her how much longer.
Finally, I had to stop. My sweat was blinding me. My arms and hands were numb.
I closed my eyes for a second.
When I opened them, she had disappeared.
No way. People don’t just disappear.
I examined the ground in front of me and found a diminutive footprint headed into a small stand of stunted trees. I stepped past the trees. There she was moving briskly up a slope dotted with Dogwood and Maple trees.
It took the last of my energy and resolve to follow her to the top of the slope.
There was a gray, clapboard cabin that looked like a slave cabin. On the porch were two rocking chairs and a small table. The furniture looked handmade about a hundred years ago.
I staggered to and collapsed into a rocking chair. I think I might have fainted from exhaustion and dehydration.
She shook my shoulder until I woke up. She served me well water in a battered silver dipper – the best tasting and most welcome drink I have had in my life.
She sat beside me. Asked me about my family.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up in my bed in the barracks. The alarm was ringing at six o’clock, but I didn’t know if it was morning or night.
I didn’t, and don’t to this day know how I got back to my room. I have no memory of how I returned home.
My friends and I went to try and find her cabin at least five times, all in vain.
Three years later, I had been out of the service for two years. I was back home in Oakland, California, on the verge of graduating from a community college. I was at a huge swap meet, garage sale, street vendor event when I was drawn to a badly mauled silver dipper.
I raced to the table and snatched up the utensil only to find another hand clutching the other end.
The woman contesting my find was cinnamon brown, full of delightful curves, beguiling eyes, and a solid grip.
That woman is my wife of fifty-three years.
We repeated our vows on our fiftieth anniversary.
In front of our kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. My wife addressed the multitude and said, “When I first met this man, I asked him if he would steal my love and run away, and I would never see him again. He said he was trustworthy, and he’s still here.”
She patted me on the chest twice, winked at me, and kissed me.
The audience gave her a standing ovation. They had heard my story ad nauseam. They believed my spouse was joking, and the joke was on me.
However, the way she held her head and moved during our renewal celebration was precisely as the old woman had moved.
And then there’s the silver dipper. It is sacred to both of us. We used it as part of our first marriage ceremony and the renewal.
I don’t know what happened to me that day at McGuire. And I’m not sure what the relationship is between my wife and the old woman. I do believe there is a relationship. However, I’m happier than I have any right to be. I’m going to preserve that happiness as long as I can. Some questions are better left unanswered.
Thank you for listening, Ruston, and good luck with your paper.
Copyright Frederick K. Foote, Jr. 2020