Our Skin

 

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I’m engaged to James, an older and extremely handsome man. We met at a party thrown by a couple of Yale students. I was there alone but he was with a date but by the end of the night, we both knew we wanted to be together. When I left to get a taxi, he followed me. He offered to give me a ride home but I declined. I didn’t think his date would appreciate that. I know I wouldn’t have if I were in her place. He asked for my number which I gave to him and then, he held the door open as I got into the back of the cab. He stood there as we drove away. I waved.

He called me the following day and we went out for dinner. After several fun and romantic dates, he proposed. Before he popped the question, I had taken him home to meet my family. They were impressed with him, although initially, they were surprised that he was an older man and Asian. My parents don’t have a problem with interracial relationships, although, I have a feeling that they might not have been so receptive if James were white. And this is most likely due to the recent incidents of African American men being killed by white civilians. Just recently we learned of the senseless death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

We saw the news that Seattle where my older brother, Lionel lives, was under curfew because of protests. My mother called him to find out what was going on and when she learned that he had been among the protesters, she scolded him but he told her that as a black man, he had to be a part of the outrage against what the police officer did to another human being. “Make sure you don’t get arrested,” she warned him. As soon as she hung up the phone, she began complaining to my father and me. “Why did he have to move to the US? If he didn’t want to stay here in London, there are other cities in England he could have moved to like Liverpool or Newcastle or Manchester. And what is he thinking joining in those protests? Does he want to end up like that man Floyd? The boy will be the death of me.”

I thought it best not to mention to her that James and I had joined thousands of demonstrators on Sunday in Trafalgar Square for a “Kneel for Floyd” protest. Lionel was right. Evil thrives when good men do nothing. Racism was evil and something had to be done about it.

When James and I announced our engagement, my parents were fine with it, especially mother because it would mean Lionel leaving Seattle for a while and be with his family. He flew into London yesterday but is staying with his girlfriend Angie with our cousin, Patti. “I don’t see why he should be staying with her instead of here with us,” my mother complained. “I went to a lot of trouble to fix up his old room.”

“Mom, he’s staying with Patti because you won’t let Angie stay here too.”

“I don’t want them sharing a bed.”

“Mom, they live together which means they sleep together.”

My mother’s chest swelled in indignation. “Well, they’re not going to be sleeping together under this roof.”

I didn’t say anything else but I knew that she wouldn’t let the matter rest. Poor Lionel. No wonder he packed up and moved to Seattle. There he could live as he pleased without having our mother constantly watching over his shoulder.

On the night before the wedding, my mother came to my room as I was getting ready for bed because she had to have one of those talks with me. “One of the requirements of being a wife, a good wife, is knowing how to please your husband in bed. Getting married is the first step, but the trick is staying married and keeping your husband happy and satisfied so that he doesn’t stray.”

I sat there on the bed and wondered if my grandmother had these talks with her when she was my age. I wish she would leave so that I could say my prayers and go to bed. I tried to hide my irritation as best as I could.

“Have you and he had sex as yet?”

“No!”

“Good! Nowadays too many people don’t want to wait until they’re married before they jump into bed.”

I wonder what she would say if she knew that even though we didn’t have intercourse, we engaged in other activities. As my mind drifted to last night when we were in his penthouse, lying on the sofa, kissing while soft Jazz played in the background, the room suddenly felt very warm. Flustered, I got up from the bed and walked over to the window. I opened it so that some fresh air would come in.

“James is an older man which means that he’s very experienced in the bedroom so it’s very important that you know what you’re doing, especially on your honeymoon.”

“Mom! It’s getting late and I need to have a good night’s rest. I want to look amazing on the biggest day of my life.”

My mother got up from the bed and came over to me. She kissed me on the cheek. “All right, get your beauty rest.”

“Good night, Mom.”

“Good night, Tessa.” She went to the door and opened it. In the doorway, she paused, turned around and asked, “Is any of James’ family coming to the wedding?”

“Yes, his parents and his sister.”

“Did he tell them that you’re black?”

“Yes, Mom, he did.”

“And they’re still coming to the wedding. That’s good. Well, goodnight. See you bright and early in the morning.” She went out and closed the door quietly behind her.

I closed the window and turned off the bedside lamp. As I got in between the covers, I thought to myself that this was the last time I was going to be sleeping in this bed. Tomorrow night I will be on my honeymoon in Bora Bora. I was so excited and nervous that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink.

My wedding day arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I was so excited that I could hardly contain myself. Everything went without a hitch. Soon, I was walking down the aisle on my father’s arm, beaming. When I saw James standing at the altar in his tuxedo, my heart melted. We exchanged our own written vows, in tears and after we were pronounced husband and wife, we kissed. It was heavenly.

The reception was a blast. I met James’ parents and his sister, Esther. They hugged and kissed me. I introduced them to my family. It was truly a wonderful night, one that neither James nor I would ever forget. It was midnight when James carried me across the threshold of his London penthouse which was now my new home. He took me straight to the bedroom where we hurriedly got undressed and then, we were under the covers.

Our first time was amazing and afterwards, we fell asleep in each other’s arms. The next day we had lunch with his parents and mine. A couple days after his parents returned to Beijing and Esther to New York, James and I flew to Bora Bora for our honeymoon.

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Meeting and falling in love with James has taught me that although our skin may not match, we match where it matters–in our hearts. We have encountered racism from time to time but we don’t let it bother us. We love each other and that’s all that matters. And the whole George Floyd experience has taught me that “You don’t fight racism with racism, the best way to fight racism is with solidarity.”

Sources: Travel US News; Evening Standard; Cool N Smart

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