The Introduction

The Introduction

A Story by R J Fuller
"

Have we met somewhere before?

"
"Nalitra Bennett," the voice called out. 
The lovely young woman with long, dark braids made her way through the chairs. If one was occupied, she offered up the obligatory, "excuse me" but most of the seats in her row were empty. She walked around the assembly to bring herself to the woman standing at the entry way. 
"This way, Nalitra," the woman said with a faint smile and Nalitra followed. They entered a small cubicle where Nalitra took the seat facing the desk and the woman sat on the other side. She began typing as she looked at the screen, glancing back to the folder before her, then back to the screen. 
Nalitra sat calmly and patiently. She wanted to get this done. She inhaled, contemplating getting out her phone and checking for messages, but decided that would be inconsiderate toward this woman trying to help her. 
As if sensing her impatience, the woman quietly spoke up without looking away from the screen, "one . . . moment." 
Nalitra sat still, barely moving. She looked around the cubicle at plants on the desk, pictures, frames, note pads. She found herself staring at the woman's nails, all glossy and pink. Flashy, Nalitra thought to herself. She looked down at her own lavender speckled nails, shiny and pristine. She thought about asking the woman where she got her nails done. 
Without looking, Nalitra ran her thumb on her other hand across her nails and felt the unevenness of the nail on one finger. She now glanced down at the nail, all pretty like the others, but she hadn't been able to get it tended to with all this running around going on. She had to get submitted for whatever was required of her to advance her position in life. She had to become one with the system to take better care of Lonnie. She inhaled again. 
"Were you issued a Y2U form?" the woman asked, now looking at Nalitra from behind her bifocals. 
"No, ma'm," Nalitra answered. "The guy at the authorization office told me I didn't need a Y2U if I was applying as a single parent." 
The woman looked back to the computer and moved the mouse without saying a word. Nalitra hoped this didn't interfere with what she was trying to do and that she wasn't being sent on a wild goose chase. She looked at the woman again with her pink nails, bracelets, turquoise earrings. Nalitra looked down a bit then back to see her eye shadow, styled hair. She allowed her eyes to move along the woman's desk toward a picture of two children. A professional woman, Nalitra thought to herself. And what does she have to show for her life? Lonnie was about it. Lonnie was all she had at the moment, but she was hoping to do better. 
She cast her eyes further down and felt the uneven nail on her hand. She didn't look at it. 
"Who? Tell me who is lookin' at my man?" 
"That one in the green dress, baby," the woman in the slinky, high-cut number said, pointing at the designated attire that was moving away from them. 
"Hey!" Nalitra yelled after her. "Hey! Hey!"
The woman finally stopped and looked at her. Nalitra approached her. 
"Were you lookin' at my man?" Nalitra bellowed. She'd had a few. 
"What do I need your man for, honey? I got my own waiting for me." 
"You need to get to your man and leave mine alone!" 
"I'm not interested in anything you have, baby."
There was laughter from the woman who pointed her out. 
"Don't let me catch you lookin' at my man!" 
"Honey, nobody wants your man," the woman said a bit more sternly. 
Nalitra let her arm fly. She struck the woman, feeling her own bracelet pinch back at her wrist, but hit the woman at the same time she grabbed a handful of hair. With her other hand, Nalitra got some volleys from the other side, but the woman was quick. She was immediately punching back with one hand and holding onto Nalitra's arm that held her hair. Nalitra pulled at the hair to see if it gave way. The woman hollered in pain. 
"Go, 'litra! Go, baby!" the other woman yelled while laughing. Others were laughing and cheering as well. As it turned out, another fight between about  three women broke out across the street, with two guys and another woman trying to break them up. A horn was honked as someone was trying to get through the parking lot, followed by yelling and swearing from those in the way. 
But all Nalitra was concerned with was fighting this woman. Maybe a part of her was seeing Lejon and she was striking him for leaving her with Lonnie. Left her for a woman like this, no doubt. 
And a part of her may have been angry at her own parents for her childhood. And maybe she was lashing out for that little boy who laughed at her in second grade when she spilled milk down the front of her dress. Nalitra was just lashing out. 
The other woman finally rose up against Nalitra holding her hair and began punching back. Nalitra fell back, but steadied herself with the handful of weave, until both women tumbled off the sidewalk and Nalitra fell first onto the rough road beneath her. She hit the surface hard, feeling hard turf and a few rocks poke into her back and arm. The other woman came down on top of her, still swinging, since Nalitra still had her hair, but now Nalitra was on the defensive and began punching back. 
The cold road was wet beneath Nalitra as she felt the dirty water soaking into her dress. Well, she probably wouldn't be wearing this outfit anymore. She was trying so hard to look nice for Castillo. She didn't even know where he was now. 
Nalitra tried rolling the woman off of her, but the other woman would have none of that. She was delivering this fight to Nalitra. She pushed Nalitra's face sideways into the rough road and muddy water. Nalitra pushed back, grabbing a handful of fabric. Amazingly, Nalitra still had both shoes on from falling off the sidewalk, but now one gave way and came off her foot. She felt a strange piercing in her back from where she hit the road. 
"Girl, you crazy," the other woman laughed. Nalitra wondered why the woman wasn't doing anything to help, since they seemed to be friends earlier. And where was Castillo? 
Nalitra rolled the woman onto the road and for whatever reason, now she let go of the hair. The injury to her back, wherever it was had caused her to. She was hurting and couldn't support herself over this other woman and hit her at the same time. She swung as best she could, but the punches weren't connecting. She actually punched the road one time and that didn't feel good. 
Still the woman screamed and next thing Nalitra knew, a pair of strong hands were grabbing her around the waist and hauling her off the other woman. About time, she thought. About time Castillo came to her rescue. She was wondering where he was. 
But the hands barely supported her to get the other woman free, then dropped Nalitra down to the road. She landed on rough surface and dampness and turned to see who it was. The fellow was helping the other woman to her feet. 
Nalitra watched him practically pull her up, then wrap an arm around her and lead her away. If she made the slightest protest, he wasn't allowing her to leave. 
"Get my shoe," the other woman said with sobs. Her man reached down and grabbed up the pink pump that had likewise come off her foot, as Nalitra lost her own shoe. 
Nalitra struggled to her feet while the friend came closer, laughing hysterically. "Girl, I tell you what!" she yelled. 
"Where's my other shoe?" Nalitra asked, stepping in the wet soot of the road as water ran down her back and arms once she was staggering upright. She looked around for the white heeled shoe, but saw it nowhere. 
"Nalitra, she spun you over and that shoe came off and sailed down the gulley," the other woman laughed. Nalitra had just met this woman tonight, but now she was already tired of her. 
"Where's Castillo? Where's the guy I was with?"
"Oh, him? He left about ten minutes ago. Forget him. Come on. Let's go back inside and see who else, . . . " the woman began, but Nalitra pushed her away and began walking away. 
"Where ya goin'? Don't go away mad, baby," the woman called out, but Nalitra continued on into the darkness, alone, wet, missing a shoe, exhausted. She pushed some wet strands of hair out of her face to see better. She was a spectacle and nobody noticed her. She walked off into the silent night. 
Now she looked at that broken nail, the uneven nail. She made repairs to her nails after that, several of them broken and bleeding, but she didn't get this short one straightened out yet. She took a deep breath and felt no more pain in her back as she recalled that night. 
"What about your authorization document?" the woman at the desk asked. Nalitra looked at her, somewhat startled and said, "yes ma'm," as she began sorting through her purse to find it. She retrieved what the woman had asked for and passed it over to her with a friendly smile. The woman took the paper and examined it. 
"This should only take a minute," the woman said quietly. 
"I'm in no hurry," Nalitra said laughing. The woman smiled as well. She passed the authorization document back to Nalitra, and Nalitra promptly folded it back up to put in her purse. She reached down to slide the paper in her small purse and upon doing so, looked at her sandaled feet. The scratches did seem to be healing up rather nicely. From falling all into that road. She leaned back and kicked her foot up on her crossed leg to see the faint injuries, then dropped her foot back down. As she did so and having not removed her gaze from the direction, she was able to spy the tip of the shoe from beneath the desk. The pink shoe. 
Nalitra looked at the shoe in better lighting than that night, when it was dark and she was tired, as well as a bit drunk, but now the shoe was barely peering beneath the desk. She remembered the shoe as the man leaned over to pick it up, never letting go of his woman; the woman she had just finished fighting with. It's a good thing all the superfricial cuts and that back wound Nalitra had received that night were all sufficiently healed up, because suddenly, she couldn't feel anything. Her hands were becoming ice cold. 
Reluctantly, now somewhat nervously, Nalitra looked to the woman behind the desk. Nothing about her seemed familiar from that night. Nalitra couldn't remember a thing about her, other than holding her hair. This woman's hair was somewhat short. Perhaps as tho it needed to be recut after some damage? She pulled that woman's hair so tight. 
She looked back to the items on the desk, namely, the photographs. There was two children and a man. Was that the man who hauled Nalitra off of her that night, and cast her aside? Again, she couldn't tell. Why couldn't she tell. She looked to the woman again and just watched her for a sign, all the while for any sign that it was the same woman. It was dark. Such a dark night. 
"Nalitra?" the woman spoke. 
Somewhat startled, Nalitra looked to her, "Ma'm?" she asked. 
"Do you have your exclusion verification?"
Nalitra stared at her, then replied, "yes, I got that," as she hauled the purse up to search its contents. Keys and items tinkered about in the small compartment, then Nalitra pulled out a small card and handed it to the woman. She didn't know her name. Nalitra didn't know this woman's name. Not that it would have mattered. She didn't know the woman's name from that night that she fought with. Did the man say it? Did the man call out to her? What did he say as he picked her up, as he retrieved her shoe? Nalitra couldn't recall if he did, if he said anything to his little woman who just got into this scrap. 
Nalitra looked down to that pink shoe again and tried to see if it was in any way similar to the shoes she never saw up close, the shoe she hardly noticed, the shoe that was so important to that other woman to possess once more, when Nalitra couldn't get hers back out of the sewer. Her shoe was gone. And so was Castillo. 
Nalitra looked up again. The woman sat staring at her, saying nothing. Nalitra managed a smile. 
"Ma'm?" 
"You need to register with central finances at the security department, . . . . " the woman said, pointing at the name of the department and address on the paper with a pencil lead. She paused, waiting for Nalitra to acknowledge. "Do you understand?" 
"Yes, ma'm," Nalitra answered. She suddenly felt there was some intolerance in the woman. Did she recognize Nalitra from the other night as well? 
"And once you've seen central fi, you'll need to get clearance from social offices to proceed any further," she said, handing the form to Nalitra and returning her exclusion verification card. 
"I got to head to central finances?" Nalitra said as she stood. 
"Mm-hm, then they should send you to social office, unless they tell you otherwise," she said rather stern. She didn't seem to be taking her eyes off of Nalitra. 
"Okay," Nalitra said, managing a smile, then turned away and pulled her mouth in to let the smile go. She looked at the form, then stood before she left the cubicle. 
That other woman, Nalitra thought to herself. The woman who pointed out the woman in green as hitting on Castillo. That woman she didn't know until that night. She met her at the club. Nalitra couldn't recall her name, but Nalitra told the woman her name, obviously. 
"Go, 'litra! Go, baby! Nalitra, she spun you over and that shoe came off and sailed down the gulley!"  She kept calling out Nalitra's name. Over and over. Surely the other woman she fought with heard it. She must have. Hollering her name, 'litra! Nalitra!
"Nalitra?"
"Ma'm?" Nalitra said quietly as she turned back. 
"Good luck," the woman offered without a smile of any kind, just a steady gaze. 
"Thank you," Nalitra said, smiling as she departed. 
She didn't know if it was the woman she fought with or not. She had no way of knowing for certain. She made her way back to the waiting room and out the door into the sunshine.  

© 2020 R J Fuller


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Added on October 23, 2020
Last Updated on October 23, 2020
Tags: black woman, African-American, society, difficulties