Valaida Snow

Bobby, tell the man what he wants to hear. Tell him lies, tell him secrets, tell him stories. Tell him about the time I became Clara Jackson, the maid. Do you remember those stories, Bobby? The ones I told you, when I was getting stronger. The days after I finally escaped that hell on earth. Tell him, Bobby. Don’t spare the truth. This reporter’s not after the garbage of limos and monkeys and orchids. He wants the dirt. Give it to him – if you dare. Spill my life upon the table where you rest your hand, tapping ashes off your cigarette. Share my secrets with the world. Tell him, Bobby, about the time I came face to face with the boy I saved from being killed in the camp. But he was a man when I saw him next. Mistah Cohen. He was my boss, Bobby. Remember? And I never knew who he used to be until that day at Christmastime. He told me his story, Bobby. Now tell him mine. Those words, I saw them in my mind. The memories that I had buried for so long rose up until they were in my throat and I could taste them, Bobby. Tell him. About the story Mistah Cohen told me when I was his maid. When I was Clara Jackson. When I was in hiding. The distance we needed to keep working together for so long kept me from realizing it before. He, my boss, was once the little white boy I saved in the camp. I never told him, Bobby. I never told him that I, Clara Jackson, was really Valaida Snow, performer of black magic. Black dance, black song. Tell him, Bobby, how I regret not giving him the truth he so longed for. But you could give the world my story now. Tell him. Nobody knew about my days as Clara Jackson. Nobody noticed when I left the scene. But you know my secrets, Bobby. Mistah Cohen knew secrets, too. But I couldn’t ask. Oh how I longed to whisper my true name around him. Valaida…Valaida. To see how he would react. But I couldn’t shatter the distance we needed. Bobby, with your smoky veil, sitting in the closed-in room, not even realizing that I haunt you. Just as Mistah Cohen haunts my mind. Tell him, Bobby, tell him all my stories. And when you are done, leave him wanting more. Just keep one secret to yourself, Bobby. Like I have for almost thirty years. I was Clara Jackson before you knew me. And here I am now, dead, Missus Valaida Snow. The legend; the maid. Mistah Cohen, if you hear my story, remember that day in the camp. See my face along side yours. See me, Valaida Snow, shielding you from death. Feel my body against yours once more. And forgive me for hiding the truth for so long. Bobby, tell him what you will, but do not spare this one truth. Let him know who I really was; who I really am. I am Valaida. I am Clara. I am the black angel who fell from the sky to save poor Mistah Cohen. Tell him, Bobby, that I am your black angel now.

~ c.p.grisold

© 1995