H O W A R D   U N I V E R S I T Y

Faces & Voices 5
An Anthology
of Verse and Prose

the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

E. R. B

Faces & Voices 4


The Crossroads
By Tiffany C. Norwood

      They stood together in the narrow storefront doorway, the crippled umbrella providing inadequate shelter against the slanting rain, together, yet from the rigid posture of their bodies, and the way in which they avoided looking at each other, miles apart.
      "So, you've decided?" he asked, his eyes directed to the nearby playground where a group of youngsters, barechested in the rain, was engaged in a noisy basketball game.
      "I've decided." she answered, the words barely audible, her chin thrust forward aggressively.
      "Yeah. Right. So, what about me? Don't I have a say in any of this?" Now she turned to face him, her large hazel eyes fixed on his piercing emerald ones. She opened her mouth to answer, and as she struggled to find words that would satisfy the both of them, she began to flashback to the events that had led them to this point…
      Three years prior, Imani and Tamir had met in their sophomore English Literature class. They had seen each other around school before, but their paths never crossed until that fateful day. Their relationship had begun as simply as any other, sharing disgruntled comments regarding the upcoming group presentation.
      "How does Ms. Noble expect us to act out a scene from A Raisin in the Sun if we don't have any girls in our group?
      "I don't know," Imani sighed, "the same way we're supposed to do it with no guys, I guess."
      "Well, I personally think it's impossible."
      "Maybe it's not impossible, but I wonder if she would let us merge our groups and present two scenes instead of one."
      "Yeah, that's a thought. How about we discuss it on the phone tonight and present the idea to her tomorrow?"
      "OK, I'll call you when I get in from cheerleading practice. Here's a pen and paper, write your number down, please."
      Neither Imani nor Tamir ever imagined that a simple group project would be the event to spark their destiny.
Over a period of several months their talks evolved from short chat about school work and school activities to wee hours of the morning conversations about life, relationships, religion, or anything else that came to mind. Soon their schoolmates began to speculate that Imani and Tamir were dating. Perhaps the speculation would have been accepted more gracefully had it been true. Contrary to popular belief, Imani and Tamir were just friends.
      One day, Tamir was outside waiting for Imani to get out of class. As the clock chimed 3:30, Tamir turned and gave his full attention to the door from which Imani usually exited. At 3:32 Imani burst angrily out of the door.
      "Do you know what someone asked me today?" she interrogated Tamir pointedly.
      "No, I don't,” Tamir answered, "but whatever it is has you quite upset."
      "This girl in math class asked me if I had kissed you yet! YET! We don't even go together. People in this school need to mind their own business.”
      "Yeah, they do, but don't even worry about them. As long as we understand our relationship, no one else has to.” Tamir responded as he wrapped his muscular, caramel arms around her bantam shoulders, engulfing her in a bear hug.
      "I guess." Imani replied, still unsure.
      Later on that evening, as Imani tried to concentrate on her Geometry homework, her thoughts continuously drifted to Tamir. After all, he was good looking, robust, a sweetheart and she had enjoyed the way his athletically built frame felt against her petite body as he comforted her earlier this afternoon. Additionally, Imani enjoyed the amount of time she and Tamir spent together. More often than not, they were planning a trip to the mall, movies, a concert, or a play. Slowly Imani began to realize that her feelings for Tamir had developed beyond that of a friendship. Imani was still pondering this metamorphosis when she was jolted from her daydream by the incessant ringing of the telephone.
      "Hi, May I speak to Imani?"
      "Hey Imani, this is Tamir."
      "Oh hey T., what's up?"
      "Nothing much, I was just thinking about you so I decided to call and see what you were doing.”
      "That's funny, I was just thinking about you too."
      "Oh really? What were you thinking about me?"
      "I can't tell you, that's a secret."
      "A secret? That's not fair but I'll deal with it."
      "You'll have to."
      "Listen, I was wondering if you, um, had a minute, I have something I want you to, uh, listen to."
      "Sure Tamir, you're my friend, I'll always have time for you."
      "OK. Well, here it is."
      Imani listened as the soft, sensual lyrics to “My Everything” by Next passed through the receiver. Certain phrases like "Wanna be your love supreme, without you I'm not complete…" and "You complete my world, you're my everything" made Imani question what exactly Tamir was trying to tell her. As the final chorus of the song decrescendos and faded to a close, Imani said, "Tamir, that's a beautiful song. Why did you play it for me?"
      "Well," Tamir answered, "I really like this girl and I wanted to play that song to let her know how I feel about her."
      "Oh." Imani responded dejectedly as she recalled the feelings she had discovered for Tamir only moments earlier. "Who is she?"
      "She's…it's…her name is…well Imani, she's you, I mean you're her, I mean… I don't know what I mean except that I like you, a lot, and I've liked you for a while. I just thought I should tell you, finally. What I'm really trying to say, uh, ask is, um, will you be my girlfriend?
      Flattered and flabbergasted, Imani was temporarily speechless. Just as she regained her poise and uttered "Tamir" the phone beeped, signaling a call on the other line. "Hold on." Imani mumbled, as she clumsily pushed the flash button, wondering who could possibly be calling.
      "Hi Imani?”
      "Yes?" Imani replied impatiently.”
      "This is Joan, from your mother's job. Is she in?"
      "No, she isn't. May I take a message?"
      “No, thank you, I'll call her later."
      "OK, goodbye."
      Hurriedly Imani pushed the flash button again hoping that Tamir hadn't grown impatient and hung up.
      "Hello? Tamir?"
      "Yes, I'm here."
      "Oh good. I'm sorry I took so long, I was afraid you had hung up."
      "I'd never hang up on you Imani. I've waited six months to tell you how I felt about you, I could wait a few more minutes while you take care of business.
      "Awww, Tamir, you're so sweet."
      "I aim to please, especially you. But I was wondering if you could please me by answering my question?"
      "I'm pretty sure of my answer, but can I let you know tomorrow?"
      "Take as long as you need to, I'll wait."
      "Thank you, Tamir. Sometimes I don't know what I would do without you."
      "You don't have to worry about that though, you don't have to do without me. Now, go and think about what I asked you. I'll see you in school tomorrow."
      "Good night Tamir."
      "Good night Imani, sweet dreams."
      That next day, Imani graciously accepted Tamir's invitation to become his one and only. From the day she said yes, those were words she never regretted.
      Imani continued to think, reminiscing about the different events that she and Tamir had attended together. There was the sophomore social, which also happened to be the night of Imani's sixteenth birthday. Imani still remembered how pleased she was when Tamir showed up on her doorstep with sixteen white roses (her favorite flower) and a box of Fannie May Pixies (her favorite candy). The night only got better as they were chosen "Classiest Couple" of the evening. Tamir capped off the evening with a candlelit dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Imani thought that their relationship would begin to deteriorate after that. She had figured that the evening was the best they would ever have, especially since she had heard that couples experience their best dates in the very beginning of their relationship. However, Tamir was determined to break that stereotype and eventually he proved Imani wrong. A prime example was junior prom.
      In the past, Tamir had not been a very materialistic person, but he wanted to make prom night extra special. He remembered that Imani was running for prom queen and he wanted to do something to encourage her. Imani recalled her delighted surprise as she opened the door the afternoon of her junior prom. Since her send-off party had already begun, Imani expected to see more guests beyond the marble-tone glass windows of the front door. Instead, there stood a uniformed courier, telegram in hand.
      "Are you Imani Evans?"
      "Yes," Imani said as she laughed. Tamir had addressed the telegram as though they were married, something they often joked about.
      Imani scribbled her signature on the courier's clipboard and excitedly snatched the telegram from him. After unintentionally slamming the door behind him, Imani ripped open the telegram. Instead of finding a long note, as was customary of Tamir, there were just two sentences on the seemingly large piece of paper. It read: No matter who is chosen prom queen, you will always be my queen. I love you. Tamir. Tears had formed in Imani's eyes as she read the words. Simple as they were, they meant the world to her.
      Later on that evening Tamir arrived in a silver stretch limousine, one that was identical in color, to Imani's dress. For months they had searched for a vehicle that color, but to no avail. Imani was enthralled that Tamir had continued to search, even after she had given up. After the prom, where Imani was awarded the title and crowned prom queen, Tamir took her for a horse drawn carriage ride around the downtown Chicago area. They had finished the evening with dinner at Shaw's Crab House, a restaurant that specialized in exquisite seafood cuisine.
      The most current event that Imani and Tamir would share was to take place today, on the date of their second year anniversary. Both Imani and Tamir wanted that day to be extra special, especially since it could have been the last time they were with each other, as a couple. Imani and Tamir were both high school seniors getting ready to attend college in the fall. They had shared each other's excitement and as they learned what institutions they had been accepted into. Imani had been accepted at Howard, Duke, North Carolina A & T, and Stanford while Tamir had been accepted into North Carolina A & T, FAMU, and Tennessee State. Because Tamir was an athlete, he had had to commit to an institution in early February in the observance of "signing day." His final choice was North Carolina A & T. Imani, however, remained undecided.
      Today, the day of their two-year anniversary, Imani had promised to give Tamir her decision. She had not one, but two choices to make: where she would attend school and whether or not she and Tamir would sever their relationship.
      Now, they stood together in the narrow storefront doorway of Tamir's apartment building, the crippled umbrella providing inadequate shelter against the slanting rain. They stood together, yet from the rigid posture of their bodies, and the way in which they avoided looking at each other, miles apart.
"So, you've decided?" he asked, his eyes directed to the nearby playground where a group of youngsters, barechested in the rain, was engaged in a noisy basketball game.
      "I've decided" she answered, the words barely audible, her chin thrust forward aggressively.
      "Yeah. Right. So, what about me? Don't I have a say in any of this?" Now she turned to face him her large hazel eyes fixed on his piercing emerald ones. She opened her mouth to answer, and as she struggled to find words that would satisfy the both of them, Imani focused on Tamir's face, her eyes overflowing with tears. Only now did she fully understand how much she and Tamir had been through together.
      "Tamir," Imani began, "I love you, and I don't want to hurt you or leave you, but I've decided to go to Duke. However, I don't think…"
      Tamir turned away, not wanting to hear the rest of Imani's explanation. He felt as if he had just lost his best friend, and in some ways he had. Tamir could not believe that after all they had been through, Imani had decided not to attend college with him. As he considered what to do or say, Imani tapped him.
      "Tamir, please listen to me," she pleaded.
      Tamir turned and faced Imani, still not wanting to hear what she had to say.
      "Tamir? Did you hear what else I said? We're not going to break up, Duke is just a few hours from A & T. I'll come visit you as often as I can. I love you Tamir, and I'll never let you go, but you know that Duke is a better school for me."
      Taken aback, his once saddened eyes now shone like first magnitude stars. Tamir could not believe what he was hearing. He would not lose the love of his life to college and circumstances. Tamir was elated. He swept Imani up in his arms and kissed her passionately, "I knew you wouldn't leave me," he said, "but you scared me for a minute."
      Imani smiled at him, content and confident that she had made the right decision. Suddenly Imani noticed that the rain had begun to slacken and the sun was struggling to come out. As she marveled at the change in the weather, and how it paralleled the change in her spirit, she heard Tamir's voice say, "Close your eyes."
      Confused, but delighted Imani did as she was told. She heard Tamir fumbling around with something and then she heard his voice again. 
      "Open them."
      Imani opened her eyes and saw a box in Tamir's hand; it bore a striking resemblance to that of a jeweler's ring box. Dumbfounded, she looked to Tamir for an explanation.
      He said, "Imani, I love you, and I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. In this box is a promise ring, and it means that if you say yes, we'll unite as one when we complete our education."
      Imani still didn't understand she continued to look at Tamir, puzzling over the situation.
      "Imani, all I'm asking is, after college, Will you marry me?"

© 2001 Tiffany C. Norwood

© 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)
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