Essay Encountering

The Connection

She follows my footsteps in the luxurious boutique. I turn and face her unexpectedly. Her porcelain, pink skin blushes, shows she’s uncomfortable with people of color. Her fingers interlace tightly in front of her silk white blouse under a black cardigan, her weight shifts from leg to leg in a chic A-line black skirt. She fumbles the words, “Let me know, if you need any help.”

All of my front white teeth flash a vibrant smile. “Thank you,” I say with a burgundy red lipstick on my lips. “The snow is nice here. We have none where I’m from,” I comment on the icy whiteness, looking out the decorated storefront window, with frosted blue and silver snowflakes in all four corners. “Oh yes, it’s beautiful. Where are you from?” she questions with a slow exhale. My surprisingly heavy accent echoes, “I’m from Haiti.” She responds “Haiti?” Her shoulders suddenly slouch backwards, her black right heel extends to the corner of the room, both arms come undone like a pretzel pulled apart by a child. There’s a sudden understanding between us. Both of our bodies become open to receive similar and different languages from each other.

“What a beautiful store! You even carry cashmere socks!” I hand her the soft pair. “They will make a great gift for you or someone else,” she says, her ocean blue eyes shine under the modern crystals of a chandelier light. She walks behind the ivory marble counter, folds the socks in soft, sky blue tissue paper, puts them in a glossy white box, and pulls silver strings to tie it all up neatly.

Margret’s name tag carved in black is now visible to me for the first time on her white blouse, and also the beautiful gap between her two top front teeth. She hands me the adorned box. I take out my red wallet from my purse. “Please enjoy them as a gift from me,” she insists. “I think Haitians are the most courageous people in the world,” a tear runs down her blushing cheek. “Thank you. Thank you, Margret,” I sniffle, wiping the tears welling up from my eyes.

She walks from behind the counter towards me with arms wide open. We embrace. Our wet cheeks meet. I smell strawberries in her straight blonde hair down to her mid back. We stand in the middle of the boutique, two strangers holding each other for a silent moment.

About Jerrice Baptiste

Jerrice J. Baptiste has authored eight books. She has performed her poetry at numerous venues including the Woodstock Library’s Writers in the Mountains series in association with other noted female authors and poets in the Hudson Valley, NY. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Breathe Free Press; Pivot Literature; African Diaspora Earthcare Coalition Climate & Resilience-building: Women’s History; Crucible; IthacaLit; Autism Parenting Magazine; Spadina Literary Review; The Write Launch; Burningword Literary Journal; So Spoke The Earth: Anthology of Women Writers of Haitian Descent; African Voices; Shambhala Times; Hudson Valley Riverine Anthology. Her poetry in Haitian Creole & collaborative songwriting is featured on the Grammy award-winning album: Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, released by Spare the Rock Records LLC.

Read more