Stereotypes: Part Two
Read the previous part here!
Trigger Warnings: Stereotypes, Racism, Drug References
Matt walked over to her body and kneeled down beside it. He noticed the rise and fall of her chest. Thank God, she was still breathing. He thought of calling an ambulance, but he’d heard on the news that there were no available beds in either of the five hospitals scattered about the city. COVID numbers were increasing daily, and if they didn’t already have it, they’d expose themselves going into these modern-day war zones.
Making a decision, he scooped her up from the floor. Going back into her bedroom, he laid Crista on the bed. Removing the mask from her face, he noticed her thick, pink lips with small, brown burn marks, no doubt from smoking pot. He remembered when he used to smoke pot. If he was honest, he could use some now.
He thought of leaving her there to sleep it off. But that would be a horrible way to wake up alone in bed, not knowing how you got there.
Deciding to stay, Matt went into the kitchen to make a cup of the instant coffee he’d seen on the countertop. Filling the teapot with water, he tried to turn the stove on. It didn’t work. She hadn’t lied about that either. Or the cold; she hadn’t lied about the cold. He went over to the thermostat to take a look. 51 degrees inside the house and it felt colder than that.
“Forget this,” he said to himself. “I’ll send someone to look at it.” He straightened his dark brown cowboy hat and walked out the door. Being outside angered him more, as he was now certain that the temperature outside was warmer than it was inside. How in the hell was that possible?
Matt pondered his escape. He could leave. He could escape this pathetic life and go back to his warm, energy efficient home and make himself a cup of coffee if he wanted to. But this woman and her children, they lived here. They couldn’t escape. Not to mention that she was renting this house from him. It was ultimately his house that was wreaking havoc on the lives of others and now on him. Matt snatched off his hat and threw it in the truck. Taking out his phone, he made several phone calls. “I don’t care what it takes, I want this house functional by the end of the day.”
Matt went back inside, taking blankets from the other beds and covering Crista with them, who was by this time shivering uncontrollably. Looking around the room, he noticed a small vision board behind the computer desk. The blue sticky notes revealed her thoughts, her goals.
Develop a brand.
Open online store.
Execute marketing scheme.
Own your destiny.
What had happened to her to make her think that she didn’t already own her destiny? Her life was hers, to do with what she willed. This was America, land of the free. But this woman didn’t seem so free.
On the dresser was a small collection of DVDs. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogies. It’s A Wonderful Life and Harvey with James Stewart. Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, the old versions with Charlton Heston. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. These were movies his mom used to watch when he was a kid. He hadn’t seen them in years.
He looked over at her lying on the bed like she hadn’t slept in days. He’d always heard and observed that Black women were strong. Yet, this one seemed tired. Humanly, womanly, tired and down on her luck. He’d never been down on his luck before. He didn’t understand. But if he was truly a Christian, he had to have empathy. Matt had to try and understand so that he could help.
Crista heard Elizabeth Taylor doing her best Southern Accent, “He likes me. The way he looks me up n’ down, over. He still got an eye for girls.”
Paul Newman’s deep, calm, soothing voice cut in. “That kinda talk is disgustin’.”
“…I think it’s mighty fine that old fella knockin’ on the doorstep of death, still take in my shape with what I consider deserved appreciation.”
Crista opened her eyes fully, jumping to sit straight up in bed. “It’s ok,” Matt said. “It’s ok.”
“You fainted, and I put you in bed. Let you sleep a while.” Crista looked at him with one eyebrow raised in suspicion.
“Fainted?” She chuckled. “I don’t faint.”
“Well, you do now,” said Matt sternly but jokingly. Crista silently paid attention to how her body felt. Trying to measure any signs of trauma. He was a man after all, a man used to getting what he wanted, she was sure of that. Unable to notice anything different, she looked to see if her clothes were still on. They were; even her boots were on.
“I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t do that to you. To anyone.”
He couldn’t help but defend himself from the silent accusation. “I made coffee,” he tilted his head towards the nightstand. “It should still be warm.” Crista picked up the mug, sniffed it first, and then took a sip.
“It’s warm in here,” she almost shouted.
“Mm-hum,” Matt swallowed down the pocket of liquid in his throat. “I called a guy I know who’s really good. He didn’t repair it completely, but it’ll do until I get up the money to replace the whole unit.” He took another gulp of coffee. “We got the breakers fixed too, so you don’t have to worry about losing power anymore.”
Crista looked down into her cup, forcing back tears of joy.
“Listen,” Matt said quietly. “I’m gonna be honest. When we bought these properties from the previous company, we inherited a lot of issues. I’m pretty sure that we dropped the ball on this house. But I want to do everything I can to get it up and running. That includes getting you a new heating unit as soon as I can.” Crista nodded, unsure of what to think about him and his promises to do the right thing.
“Crista,” he called her name. “Is that right? That’s how you pronounce your name?” She looked up and to meet his gaze and nodded her head. “I promise you…we’re gonna fix this.”
Elizabeth Taylor made a proclamation. “You know what I feel like. I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof!”
“Then jump…” Matt wanted to ask Crista to trust him, to jump like Paul Newman had demanded of Elizabeth Taylor. The pandemic had taken all of her money and all of his self-respect. What did they have to lose?
“Jump where? Into what?” shouted Elizabeth Taylor.
“Choose a lover,” Paul Newman said coldly. Crista wanted to choose Matt and learn to trust someone, anyone. But he was White, and she was Black. There were too many stereotypes, boundaries, lines to cross in this world.
She’d have to settle for getting the job done, and he’d have to settle for being shut-in by himself with a bottle of whiskey.