The Journey Begins – part 1
By Cezanne Rema
“It’s not going to work! Come on, seriously, you don’t really believe this is going to work, do you? And of all people you think it’s going to work on me?” I laughed so hard, I nearly fell over. “Okay, okay,” I threw my hands up and relented, “fine!” I closed my eyes and inhaled as deeply as I could. With my eyes still closed, I slowly exhaled and counted to five in my head:
When I opened my eyes, I could only see the night sky. It was filled with twinkling stars and a brightly lit, full moon.
MY MOTHER SNATCHED the pencil from my left hand and shoved it into my right hand. “K – E – L – I – S, that’s your new name, baby-girl. We’re American now,” she smiled graciously.
I was five years old when my world had been turned upside down.
“But I like my name!”
“Baby, stop giving your mother a hard time.” my father interjected.
“Daddy, can my new name be S – A – N – A?” I couldn’t read just yet and had honestly never heard either of my parents actually say, “Sana”, but I was drawn to the letters tattooed across my father’s heart.
“No!” my mother shouted in Chinese.
“Okay, okay,” said my father as he covered his head to protect himself from my mother’s blows. “Kelis it is!”
My mother stormed away and it was just my dad and I. He smiled at me and said, “Do as your mother says,” he paused to make sure my mother wasn’t come back, before he whispered, “Ming-Ming” and winked at me.
My birth name was Tianming Wu. My mother and I were born in Yilan, Taiwan. My dad was born in New York; Harlem I believe. He’s black, we’re not. My first time ever laying eyes on him was at the airport when we first came here. I’m not his biological child; in fact I don’t think he has any “biological” kids.
Kelis Wu Combs
My dad insisted that I have his last name; my mother insisted on ‘Wu’ as a reminder of my heritage. Kelis… Well what can I say; my parents were young and loved the singer. As a young kid, my mother allowed me to have a pink streak in my hair. Pretty much every time the singer changed her hair color, my streak would follow suit.
At 19 years old, I can’t say that I’m your typical teenager. I major in Human Evolutionary Biology, which pretty much means I will have a bachelor’s degree while I work in the local drugstore before I can start a career within my field. As far as I know, my parents don’t have any siblings, so all of my “cousins” are really the offspring of my parents’ close friends.
“WYD?” I rolled my eyes as I pulled out my phone and read the text message.
“Not tonight,” I whispered and put my phone back into my bag. I wasn’t in the mood for boring conversation or even worse, a horny, boring guy.
I stood in front of my mirror, studying my reflection. My hair was short again; no streaks, just stick-straight, black hair, that fell just below my ears. This time around my lash extensions appeared more natural; too bad I can’t say the same for my breasts. My frame called for a full B, but I went with a full C. At 18 years old, I didn’t care to fit in. And let’s be honest, what were you expecting of a Taiwanese American girl, named Kelis?
THE FOUR WALLS FELT like they were closing in on me. I needed some fresh air and food… hell good company would be welcomed.
“Are you expecting any other guests tonight,” the waiter questioned, as he filled my glass with sparkling water.
“No, it’s just me. I’m dining alone, thank you.” I smiled and continued to read the menu, even though I had it memorized.
As the waiter rambled off the specials for the evening, I noticed a woman staring at me. She smiled when our eyes connected; I nodded to acknowledge her glance.
“Do you need more time to decide?”
“Ah, no, sorry. I will have the squirrel fish, scallion pancake and rice.”
As the waiter scurried away, I noticed the owner had come out to make his usual rounds to greet the guests. However I also noticed my dad hurry out the door.
“When did he get here? And why didn’t he come over? That’s weird.” I thought to myself.
The women’s voice quickly brought me back to reality. “Oh, um, yes, I’m sorry,” before I could continue, she interrupted:
“Your hands,” she extended out both of her hands, palms up, “may I see your hands? Please roll your sleeves up as well.”
I looked around, wondering if anyone was witnessing this. Of course not, it’s just me. I put my glass down, dried my fingers with the napkin on my lap, and placed my hands into hers. She rubbed the top of my hands with her thumbs, carefully rubbing each of my fingers and then my wrists.
She looked up and motioned for another woman to come to the table.
The other woman was carrying a tray with two bowls, a white towel, and a small box. When she reached my table, she asked for my hands as well. However she used both of her hands to hold one of my hands.
The women started whispering to each other and then looked at me.
“We have a gift for you. It’s for protection and has to stay with you forever. It’s delicate, so you must take special care of it and never take it off.”
Before I could even answer, the women began to clean my hands and wrists with lemon water. One woman patted my hands dry; as the other woman applied a warm oil them.
“Place your hands here,” the women said in unison, motioning to the padded mat on the table.
“I don’t understand, what’s going on? What is this?”
One of the women picked up my left hand and forced a bracelet on it, as the other whispered something with her eyes closed.
“If it breaks, don’t keep the pieces, either return it to water or bury it.”
“It’s beautiful,” I said lifting my wrist to inspect the bracelet more closely, “thank you, but I don’t get it, what is this? And why me?”
“It is jade, never take it off. It will protect you and provide you with energy, good energy.” The women smiled and quickly left my table before the waiter made it over with my food.
“Enjoy,” the waiter instructed as he appeared to simultaneously place the bowl of rice on the table and dart off.
“How’s everything, my favorite customer?”
“Great, thank you.” The owner had finally made his way to my table. He sat in the empty seat across from me, as if he had planned to join me for dinner.
“Your father, Mr. Combs, he’s a good man. Very special guy, they don’t come like that anymore.”
“He truly is a great person, thank you. I will tell him you asked about him.”
“Has he told you about me?”
“No, I’m sorry. Was he supposed to relay a message?” What the hell is up with this guy?
“Really?” As he leaned forward, I could see his eye twitch. “Not a word?”
“Um, no, I’m sorry. Maybe he will when I get in tonight.” Damn and I thought guys my age were creepy.
“That’s fine. I will fill you in myself.”
Before he could say another word, the women returned.
“You have a call, sir.”
“It was a pleasure speaking with you,” he smiled and then headed towards the back of the restaurant.
WHEN I GOT HOME I debated if I should call my parents and fill them in my crazy night. Would they even believe it? And would my dad explain why he left the restaurant in such a hurry? At any rate, it was late and I wasn’t fully sure I believed what happened.
Yeah, it can wait… until tomorrow. As soon I settled down into my bed, I heard my cellphone buzz.
“Can I come over?”
“Please? I know things didn’t end well the last time but I swear, it will this time. Just try it.”
“Not tonight, please.”
“It can work and will, you just have to be willing to try.”
“It’s not going to work! Come on, seriously, you don’t really believe this is going to work, do you? And of all people you think it’s going to work on me?” I laughed so hard, I nearly fell over.
“Okay, okay,” I threw my hands up and relented, “fine!” I closed my eyes and inhaled as deeply as I could. With my eyes still closed, I slowly exhaled and counted to five in my head:
When I opened my eyes, I could only see the night sky. It was filled with twinkling stars and a brightly lit, full moon. I sat up confused, how did I end up here? I quickly jumped to my feet and looked out; nothing but water for as far as I could see.