11.7.05

And time yet for a hundred indecisions/And for a hundred visions and revisions

Alright, fine. Here's the excerpt from the story, which is titled Singin' Aretha.



I’ve always believed that the highest form of blasphemy was white girls who try to sing Aretha.

Notice I use the word “try.” I’ve never met a white girl capable of singing like a black woman—be the black woman in question Aretha or some random member of a church choir.

I grew up in Detroit. Well, not IN Detroit, per-se, but within a mile or so of the actual city limits, and even there white people are most definitely in the minority. Most of my friends from home are black; most of the people at my school were black. Growing up so close to black culture definitely influenced me, and I’ve been told that I was born with the wrong skin color. The mind and soul of a black woman trapped in a white girl’s body.

So coming here to Covenant College was a big change for me. Mostly white and most definitely NOT urban, or “ghetto,” or whatever people want to call it. I spent most of the first month or so in my dorm room doing homework or reading. I’m not used to blending in with the crowd—I’m usually the lone white girl. Here it’s a whole lot harder to pick me out at a distance.

But like I said before, I’ve always found it offensive when white girls try to sing black.

Then I met Lia.

I’m not altogether sure when we met, other than some point before Thanksgiving my freshman year. Nor am I sure why we started hanging out, but we ended up spending a lot of time together; and for whatever bizarre reason, by the end of that semester we were pretty much inseparable.

Lia’s about as different from me as somebody could be—it seemed like it at first, anyway. I’m a short brunette with a middling build, and she’s a tall stick-thin blonde. I’m an English major, and she’s a—this is disgusting, by the way—accounting major! I grew up as “the blackest white girl in D-Town,” as somebody put it, and she’s, well, she’s from what I like to call Suburbia Hell. No, not the dysfunctional Desperate Housewives suburbia; I mean the average, run-of-the-mill subdivided community. The closest she’s ever been to a ghetto is me. Like a lot of white people, black culture fascinates her, but she’s never seen it first hand, so she’s always full of questions, asking about their take on Eminem (laughable) to church (very important) and everything in between. When she’s not pelting me with questions about life in Detroit, we sit in either her room or mine eating chips and salsa and drinking Welch’s fake wine from Wal-Mart while talking about politics, the economy, and wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting Covenant populace. By Christmas break I thought I knew her pretty well, that nothing she could do would surprise me. I was so wrong.

A week or so into spring semester we went on a midnight Wal-Mart run and nothing good was playing on the pre-set radio stations of the car we borrowed, so we were shifting through the frequencies trying to find something inoffensive—that is, not country—to listen to. We come across a random oldies’ station in the middle of playing Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock’n’Roll, and I start to sit back, glad to have finally found something decent to listen to. My good mood didn’t last for long, though, because Lia started singing along and almost gave me a heart attack.

I know what you’re thinking—she’s a pretty good singer, actually. She’s had a couple years of choral music and about six months of opera lessons and can carry a tune pretty well. I hadn’t actually heard her sing before; she’d hum occasionally to whatever music was playing and sing along in church, but that was it. Most of the stuff she liked to listen to was either classical, bagpipes, or heavy metal, and none of that’s really stuff to sing along with, anyway.

No, what scared me was the fact that she—the skinny blonde white girl—sounded like Aretha Franklin’s little sister.

Have you ever heard a white woman sing? A lot of them have power. A lot of them have presence. A lot of them are obviously having fun and just singing their hearts out. None of them have all three. None. That’s the realm of the black women (although not all black women can do it, either). But here Lia was, singing like a Motown pro. Let me tell you, it’s a very good thing I wasn’t driving, because we probably would have run off the road at that point.

I shut off the radio and started yelling at her, demanding where she had learned to sound like that and why the hell hadn’t she told me she could sing like Aretha? She pulled the car over to the side of the road and calmly told me to shut up. I sat there, gaping like a fish, as she proceeded to berate me for yelling at the driver, especially at night; for turning off the radio; and for freaking out over nothing. She then said that if her singing offended me so much—she knew my stance on white women trying to sing black—she wouldn’t do it again in my presence. Then she got back on the road and proceeded to Wal-Mart. I was still gaping.

1 comment:

brainwave64 said...

Ah yes, it is good to see an old, familiar favorite. :-) An excellent first post, Two, if I do say so myself.