Umbrella for the Sunshine

by Angela Souza

We were like night and day. Literally. My best friend Sarai and I, that is. Her thick body starkly contrasted my taut, thin one. My hair was curly and past shoulder length; hers was short and stubbornly limp (it refused to hold a style for longer than a day's length of time). Her skin was a fair, beige hue while mine was more of a deep, russet tone. Despite our superficial differences, Sarai and I were as thick as thieves and had been that way since we were twelve-year-olds.

Now we're all grown up. And as usual, I'm sitting in Sarai's living room waiting for her to finish last minute primping so that we can head out to the Hargrave Street Fair on 34th and Covington.

"Jamillah, give me two minutes!" she yells downstairs from her bedroom. That'll be another fifteen or twenty minutes, I think and roll my eyes.

"Alright girl - whatever you say!" I respond to her. Leaning back, I decide to get comfy in the armchair. Just as I do, Sarai bolts down the stairs with a smirk on her face.

"You didn't believe me, did you? I'm not always exceptionally late," she smiles and winks at me. I can't help but laugh. "I guess you're right," I reply. "I was poised to take a nap, knowing you!" We laugh together and head for the front door. Sarai suddenly stops and jerks around, running into her family room.

"I forgot one thing! Give me just a sec!" she yells. Tapping my foot, I lean against the door. She reappears with a large, polka dot umbrella in hand. Questioningly, I raise my hands in confusion and scrunch my eyebrows.

"Um, as far as I can tell, there won't be a shred of rain for you to worry about today, Rai." Shrugging me off, she replies, "Oh, girl, you're so silly. This isn't for any rain! That sun is seriously beaming today, and I just cannot stand to get any darker." She says this with such vehemence that it startles me.

Hurriedly, we head out the door, bulky umbrella in tow. As we drive off in Sarai's car, the loud sounds of Jill Scott on the radio, busy traffic, and buzzing neighborhoods are mere background noise to me. I can only focus on my best friend's words… I just cannot stand to get any darker.

Looking down at my deep and dark skin, I suddenly feel like I'm sitting next to a stranger. I think about our similar yet distinct upbringings. When I was more concerned about book clubs and sports, she was keeping busy at cotillions and Jack and Jill meetings. I counted it a success when I finished another Octavia Butler series; she was thrilled when another suitor took her out on a date. When I had a crush on her handsome, high-yellow older brother, she consoled me by saying, "You're just a little different than what he's used to. Plus, you're one of my closest girlfriends; that would just be too weird."

As I sit in the car, I wonder just what kind of different I am. And I'm fairly certain that the difference is skin deep.

"Are you going to continue daydreaming, or are you ready to hit this fair?" Sarai jokes and looks at me sideways. I snap out of it and give her an awkward smile. "Let's go!" I answer, and we both hop out of the car. The bright sunlight hits us, and she pulls out her umbrella. As she does, I make sure to slide underneath it with her, and we walk toward the fair.

Photo: Shutterstock

Angela Souza is passionate about the healing ability of storytelling through writing. She exercises this passion through her own writings, which include poetry, essays, and a marriage blog that offers advice to newlyweds. You can find more of her work at Love Notes by Jazzymae Photography. Angela is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. She received her B.A. in Sociology and Religious Studies from Case Western Reserve University in 2010. She resides there with her two beautiful sons, Noah and Ezra, and husband Omari.