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The cool interior of the small café was furnished with four mismatched tables—two to the right and two to the left of a curved wooden counter. At each table were four equally mismatched chairs. Occupying three of those chairs at the nearest of the tables to my left were three old men.
They tried not to show their interests were instantly aroused by an unfamiliar face entering their domain. However, I knew I would continue to be mentioned in the old men’s groups around town for at least a few days, if not more. “This young thang from up north come in to Pam’s the other day. Come to find out, the sheriff had sent her down there while he figured out what to do about her colored friend who he had locked up at the jail.” Or something like that.
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At the same moment, I found the damn registration behind the last page in the manual. I quickly passed it to my flustered friend.
“Here they are,” she almost stuttered as she handed her license and the registration out of the driver door window.
Again, the policeman didn’t take them. “I said, get out of the car, girl!”
“Okay, sorry.” Salisha’s voice trembled. Then she opened the door with her left hand and, for some reason, handed me her license and the registration I had just given her. I took them.
Once out of the car, she stood then turned around when directed by the positively peeved patrolman. After slowly looking her over, front and back, he said, now looking at her back, “License and registration.”
Realizing her stupid mistake, Salisha started to lean back in to retrieve the requested documents I held in my extended hand. I still had my seatbelt connected.
“Stay out of the car!” the officer practically shouted as he grabbed and pushed her to the left, away from the open door.
I think Salisha tried to turn to face him. At any rate, he grabbed her arm, and with a twist, she was suddenly on the ground with his knee on her back. As the officer proceeded to cuff my buddy, I shouted, “I’ve got them. Here, I’ve got her license and registration!”
“Stay in the car! Stay in the car!” His low, threatening voice left no doubt we had crossed some line.
I stayed where I was, still holding the requested items toward the open driver’s door. He lifted Salisha to a vertical position and walked her to the patrol car where he put her in the back seat behind a grill that separated those in front from whoever was unlucky enough to be in the rear seat.
Sitting at the rear of the class, a six-foot-tall Adonis with beautiful, wavy chestnut hair and muscular shoulders did his best to appear bored—probably a football player. However, he could have easily been in the movies with his clear tan complexion and his captivating smile. I needed to get to know this boy! Salisha and I had never been to school with boys who were beyond the ninth grade. This junior was almost a man! After the third day of classes, I told my best friend I had to get to know Ralph—a name I studiously learned from the teacher taking attendance. Salisha agreed that he and I would make a super couple and that she would obviously help me land the catch of my lifetime. Thus, began flip-flopping roles in our relationship. I believe guys would have called that taking turns being the wingman.
The bright and inviting waiting room had pale-green walls that smelled of disinfectant. On one side, opposite the chair-lined walls, a small counter awaited us.
“May I help you?” The receptionist appeared to be in her mid-twenties. She acted as if this were the most normal thing around. For me, it was the most daring thing I had ever done. I am sure that it was for Salisha too.
The receptionist chatted with us as if we had dropped by to get our teeth cleaned. My hands were sweating; my upper lip followed suit; and my stomach did unfamiliar maneuvers. At the same time, I became aware that my toes were bent in my tennis shoes as if to hold on to the floor (or a slippery slope). I think we filled out some paperwork. My mind was speeding and ricocheting like the little metal balls in a pinball machine.
“Which of you would like to see the doctor first?”
A tall young man appeared next to our table. He couldn’t have been younger than nineteen, and it looked like there was another man his age right behind him. From the first man’s slight smile came a slow drawl that was difficult to follow at first. He had the drawl of my mother’s family from East Texas rather than the soft Mid-South accent Salisha and I had grown to enjoy.
“Would you, ladies, mind if my friend and I joined y’all? I asked him a question rather than answering his.
“Where are you two from?”
The second man answered, “We’re Navy. He’s from Texas, and I’m from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mind if we sit down with you?”
I looked at Salisha as she looked back at me. Of course, we wanted them to sit down! My mind heated up as I searched for the answer that would not show our eagerness but would ensure they did sit with us.
“Sure, why not?” Salisha answered, and the men sat down.