“I can see it now.”
“See what, Mama?” Hasina questioned.
“Yeah! See what!?” Imani said.
I smiled at both of my girls. “All of this.” They both cuddled under the baby blue blankets, as I dimmed the light to a dull brightness.
We were poor.
After my mother lost her job, we lost everything. Lost our house, lost hope. My father left us a few years before, so my mom was alone. Our apartment wasn’t big to start with. My brother Obi and I shared a bed and my mother slept on our couch. Obi’s name means heart and he had the biggest place in my heart. At the time, I was 13, and he was 6. I took him everywhere I went. After we got the letter that my mother got fired, she knew that unless she got a new job before the month's end, we couldn’t afford to stay in our apartment. She spent hours and hours looking for homeless shelters that would take us in, but every single one of them was full of people just like us. Nowhere to go. After. all, it was New York City.
My mother sat us down in our apartment. Little did I know that would be the last night I would sleep there. She held me and Obi’s hand, her voice was trembling. “Guys..” she said, trying to sound okay. She wasn’t good at hiding it, both of us could sense that something was wrong. “So you know that mama lost her job right?” she said, her voice shaking. Obi and I nodded our heads while looking at the beige carpet below us. “We can’t afford to live here,” she said so fast, with her eyes shut.
I gasped. A million thoughts were running through my head, I still remember that feeling. My mother started to cry and the energy in the room collapsed. I remember that exact moment. I was biting my lip so I didn’t start sobbing as well.
Two months later, we were physically stable, but mentaly exhausted. We slept in the Cortlandt Alley, which was by Pier 25. We all hated it, but what choice did we have?
One thing you should know about me when I was a child. I loved to dance. Throughout this whole journey of being homeless, having no education, I danced through all of my problems. Obi had a guitar my father gave him when he was little and he learned how to play songs on it. I moved to the strumming beat on Obi’s guitar and used his navy “New York Yankees” hat to collect tips.
I danced like no one was watching.
Apparently, people loved us. Some days, we had a whole crowd and Obi’s hat was overflowing with green bills and shiny coins. Other days, people just shuffled around us and didn’t notice.
New people stopped by and watched us everyday, all different faces. After a few days I noticed this same boy, about my age, stop by. I think this was the fifth time I saw him. He looked at me dancing like I was a precious gem or something.
One day, after Obi and I finished a song, he came over and looked me in my eyes. I glared into his blue eyes as he said, “You’re really pretty.”
I was shocked. No one had ever called me pretty other than my mother. I didn’t think that my brown skin, dark braided hair, and hazel eyes would count as beautiful.
“Th-th-thank you.” He nodded his head and smiled at me. He had dark skin and curly brown hair.
“Oh, I'm Jay ” he said awkwardly.
Obi’s music filled the awkward silence between us and after a second he asked, “Wanna dance?”
It was amazing; he was amazing.
“Wait did you say Jay?” Hasina questioned.
“That’s dad’s name!!” Imani exclaimed.
I smiled a sly smile and looked out the window into the dark night.
He came back everyday to dance with me. We just…somehow worked together. Just two kids and four beat up running shoes, but it was like magic. We got more and more tips and it was more fun dancing with someone than doing it alone.
“But mommm…” Imani whined. “I still don’t get it. What can you see now?”
I took a breath and started.
Being homeless sucked, trust me. None of it made sense at the time. However, now, when I look into both of your eyes, I can see that there is a reason for everything, and it all worked out in the end.
They both looked at me in awe.
And, we fell in love.
Hasina and Imani both started giggling.
He came back every day for months. We hung out for hours, just walking around the big city talking about pretty much anything. Our pasts and future, but the present was amazing. It was the first time in a long time where I had someone to talk to. Someone to have fun with.
My mother found a job, and she made enough money to get us a small apartment. I gave her all of my tips and surprisingly, it made a difference. The tips added up to $2,000 for four months.
My mother told me that all relationships start with friendship.
After four years growing from strangers to best friends, we started dating.
He left for college, but I didn’t give up.
I heard the bedroom door creak open.
“Daddy!!” Imani shouted.
“What are you girls still doing up?!” He said with a smile.
“Mama is telling us the story of how you met!” Hasina spoke.
He looked at me and sat down on the bed.
“Your mother was the most beautiful girl I ever met.” He complemented. “There are a million people dancing in the streets of the city, but no one like her.” He turned and looked at me. “The prettiest girl, too.”
“I get it now!” Hasina and Imani said.
“It all ended up perfect.” Jay whispered as he kissed both of our girls on their foreheads. He turned out the light.