I have a fetish for little old black ladies. Not a sexual fetish, mind you. I just like to be in their presence. I like to listen to their stories. I want to pick them up and pinch bits of them.
There is a woman who comes to The Saint (the bar I toil at a whole four hours a week). She's in her seventies. She's very wee. She has that New-Orleans-black accent that I cannot get enough of. And when she introduces herself, she says, "Just call me Grandma, honay — everyone does." Charmed!
Because I'm predisposed to adore little old black ladies, and because I cannot picture a time better spent that sitting at one's knee listening to stories, it took me a little while longer than usual to admit to myself that something was not … quite … right … with this one.
The first night I met her, a month or so ago, the bar wasn't busy, so I happily settled myself down in front of her to listen enrap't to her tales. She was displaced by Katrina. Lived in West Virginia. Only moved back this spring. All well and good, but something was nagging at me that I would not admit to the forefront of my mind: her stories were … dull. No, she's not dull, I argued with myself. She's a little old black lady telling me stories of how the storm affected her. There's no way to make this story dull!
She left eventually, after her one High Life, and I was disconcerted to not find that the exchange had been as satisfying as I would have expected.
The next week she came in while I was in the weeds, asked for a glass of water, and wanted to talk my ear off. I listened as much as I could, but I was too busy, and made apologies, "I'm sorry, Grandma. I'll be right back. Hold on, honey."
Last night she came in. "Hi, Grandma," I greeted her with a smile that felt fake. "High Life?"
"That'd be wonderful, honay."
She sipped her beer and began a pointless rambling about some cousin in Minnesota or some sister in Iowa or some bullshit — I wasn't in any way interested, and though I tried to sit through the narrative to get to the point of it, we never arrived at any. I wandered off, a little hurt and confused that the embodiment of my fetish was not Doing It for me any more.
Then, she voiced this opinion: "Oh honay. You been puttin' on weight, you! Looks like you ain't missed no meals. Where dey feedin' you at? Mississippi?"
"Wow. Grandma. Fuck you."
"Naw, honay. It look good on you."
"Okay. Still though. Seriously. Fuck you, okay?"
Eventually she bid me farewell.
"Okay, Grandma. Thanks for coming by. $2, please."
"Oh honay. I don't gots no money. I thought you done bought this for me!"
"Okay. Whatever. Have a good night," I said, walking away, legitimately annoyed now.
Jon, my barback, came in at 10:00. I asked him, "So what's up with Grandma?"
He snickered. "Yah. Grandma. I dunno. You gotta make up your own mind about her."
"What does that mean?" I asked him, and related tonight's little miscommunication issue.
"Yah, that's Grandma. I dunno. Some people put up with her. Some don't. "You know she's a crackhead, right?"
(Blink. Blink.) "Oh god dammit!"
"Yah. She's 86'd from the Half Moon [the bar on the next block] on one girl's shift because, and I quote, 'They caught me givin' earl sex in the terlet."
(Blink. Blink.) "Who's 'Earl'?"
"No. Earl sex. Sex administered early. For crack, presumably."
"Earlier than what?"
"No, early. Like, sex in your earl cavity."
"Oh my god."
The rest of the night was a blur. Jon and I were laughing too hard till my shift ended. As soon as we'd stop, one of us would say something to crack the other up again.
"I hope she takes her teefs out before she gives earl sex."
"In the terlet?"
And we're off again.
The moral of this story is that even the little old black ladies whose stories do not, by some weird misfortune, entrance me, that's no reason not to like them. They're going to end up being amusing one way or another.