Ramona is particular about the pronunciation of her last name. Moreover, she is selective in educating coworkers and the umpteen late bloomers she has met in Atlanta’s social settings. Not every moron who mistakes her for a slender Mexican gets details of her mixed heritage. Atlanta is a city with a deeply historic eighty-twenty percent cultural more that recalls segregation. On a given evening, nightclubs hosting at least eighty percent African-American clientele will balance out with twenty percent Caucasian clientele; flip numbers, race, and the same is true. It is boring, and Ramona’s cosmopolitan nature struggles to stay afloat. In her view, the so-called ‘Little Apple’ she relocated to must grow in leaps to the multiculturalism of her tri-state New York-New Jersey-Connecticut stomping grounds.
Fortunately, the workforce has provided some solace; because when she felt the stirring recognition of a fellow multiculti’s sensibility, she latched on and sought to nurture a friendship immediately. And truthfully, the melodious lilt in Amani’s voice first captured her attention; her polished accent boosted her interest.
“My name is Amani Njama, and I am from Kenya. So pleased to meet you.”
“Hi, I’m Ramona Lai. That is l-e-i, as they say in Hawaii, where my dad is from. My mom is Puerto Rican, but I was born in New York, baby! Njama, the ‘N’ is silent, right?” Ramona’s knowledge and sensitivity seals the deal.
Today they sit facing each other, tucked in a corner dark-leather booth with wainscot paneling. Earlier, when they wound their way between tables in T.G.I. Friday’s dim-lit confines, they elicited appreciative glances from diners hunkered down for a palatable meal. Now, as they scoop potato soup from saucy bread bowls, Amani notices that she is further along in her meal.
“What’s wrong Ramona? You are not eating.” She asks as she tears off some bread, and moisturizes it in the soup before putting it in her mouth.
“Oh, nothing,” Ramona’s wistful demeanor belies her anxiety.
“Are you really busy today? I have some down time, if you need assistance,” Amani offers.
“No, it’s not work.” Since Ramona assumed her new position as executive assistant to the managing partner, the nature of her job has become administrative rather than research oriented; she can complete tasks with her eyes closed, such is her efficiency and hard work.
“It is just a personal issue I have to deal with. No one can help. I have to live with it.” Amani does not want to rush to conclusions; but surely, Ramona’s problem relates to the prescription they picked up today; surely, the hurtful office rumors are not true; surely, Ramona will confide in her eventually.
“And going forward, I have to make better decisions.” Ramona’s recipe for change fuels Amani’s curiosity. “Well, if you ever want to talk about it, I am here for you,” Amani, now scraping the bottom of the bread bowl, is more than a little worried for Ramona; but she opts for her Don’t Ask, Don’t Pursue policy that has yielded unsolicited information successfully in the past.
“We better get back to the office,” Ramona says and pays for their lunch. “Do you have an outfit for the holiday party?” She waits for an answer, a hint of anticipation in her voice.
“No, I was going to ask you if you could come with me tomorrow afternoon, to the mall, to pick something out.” Amani’s mind was still hungry for the details of Ramona’s problem. Maybe she could find the underlying cause of it before the office holiday party next weekend.
“Sure, Danny will be with his daddy tomorrow.”
“We’ve arrived at a good time,” Ramona observed as they walked into the ballroom. “We can pick good seats,” and she led the way to the table closest to the DJ’s set up, right next to the patch of wood flooring cleared for dancing. They were first at their table, ten other tables were scattered around the room. They both wore black: Ramona’s mini-dress accentuated her shapely legs; Amani’s black knitted midi dress featured a plunging peek-a-boo neckline; for the greater part of the evening, they provided the scene with much needed eye candy.
“I’m glad they decided to hire a DJ this year,” Amani commented. “Maybe after the attorneys leave, the staff can really get down to some good music. I brought a CD with a variety of African dance beats.” Amani had every intention of showing off her skills on the dance floor.
“I heard last year’s party was boring, the band, horrible” Ramona started.
“It was, but after a few attorneys got drunk, it got interesting,” Amani responded, “Tina (she is no longer with the firm) started some trouble. She danced continuously with another attorney’s date, at least five songs, and totally ignored her partner. Tina put moves on that girl, gliding up and down, twirling around and around her, seduction was her motive, it was obvious; pretty soon, we could tell that Ruthie, her partner was irritated.”
“Whoa!” Ramona giggled, “So what happened next?”
“Isn’t that Pete that just walked in? He is walking towards us, god, I hope he does not sit at our table.” Amani crossed her fingers.
Copyright © Mama Shujaa 2011. All Rights Reserved.