By Courtney M. Dunn
“Hey lady, this is the last stop!” the train operator yelled as they
approached the end of the line. “Oh no!” Mae, thought, “I missed my
stop!” It had been the end of another long day for Mae Walker. Though she was
only nineteen years old she appeared wise beyond her years. She had to
simultaneously go to school while working two jobs to help support her three
younger siblings. Her mom was too sick to work and her dad was nowhere to be
found. She had an especially tough day at work that Friday night and when she
left at 12:00a.m. she found herself more exhausted than usual. “How am I
supposed to get home now?” she pondered. She gathered her belongings—an old,
worn pea coat and her shabby, feeble purse—and headed out of the subway
station in search of some mode of transportation home. After standing at the bus
stop for over 30 minutes, she looked down at her watch. “2:00a.m.! How am I
supposed to get home now?”
Just then, she saw a cab coming in her direction. She reached in her tattered
bag for her wallet, but upon opening the wallet all that she saw were two gum
wrappers and four old bus transfers. Seeing how distressed Mae was, the cab
driver pulled up to see if he could be of some assistance. “You look
distraught. Need some help?” he asked. “Well, I am stranded out here with no
money and the buses have stopped running,” answered Mae. “So how about you
hop in and I’ll just say that this ride was on me,” replied the cab driver.
Hesitant at first, Mae realized that he might have been her only opportunity to
get home that night, so she accepted.
On the ride home, Mae and the cab driver (she later found out that his name was
Jeremy Jones) engaged in meaningful conversation. They had a lot in common and
soon took a liking to each other. When they reached her house, Mae was very
grateful and asked Jeremy how she could ever repay him. After a moment of
silence, Jeremy had an idea. “You could repay me by gracing me with your
presence tomorrow night for dinner.” Excited that he asked her out and glad
that she had tomorrow off, she agreed, but what was she going to wear?
All Saturday she pondered what she would wear. When the time came for her date,
she studied the contents of the small closet. Really, there was not much from
which to choose. She owned only one dress that would be appropriate for her
date; the short-sleeved, navy blue Harlena item with white trim around the
collar and hemline. She clearly remembered the day she bought it, a whole
paycheck blown. Sixty-five dollars just for a homecoming dress.
That was two years ago and she had not dared repeat the extravagance; in fact,
it was the last dress she had bought in over two years. The garment was now a
little frayed, but she had done a nice tough-up job with needle and thread. She
slipped it over her head and stood before the cracked mirror critically
surveying herself. A strand of fake pearls, a long-ago birthday gift from a
former admirer encircled her long neck.
“Well, Mae” she said to her reflection. “This is about the best you can
do, so, girl-child, go out there and knock ‘em dead.”
Courtney M. Dunn
© 2001 Howard University.
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse and Prose, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2001. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
HOWARD UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES, 500 Howard Place, NW, Washington, DC 20059. Phone (202) 806-7234.