Thursday, August 07, 2008

Like the award


When my friend and I moved to Harlem in the winter of 2001, we quickly became local curiosities. The only white girls for miles, we were often approached by women, their protective hands reaching out to clasp our arms, and always with the same concerned question:

"Honey, are you lost?"

After climbing the five flights of stairs to our apartment, we enjoyed recounting our day's adventures:

"So I could tell some guys were walking behind me, and they were kind of snickering, and then I hear 'Yo, yo, this ain't no Sweet Valley High!'"

As I made my way up the hill to our apartment one glorious New York spring evening, I passed a man standing on the corner. He smiled as I passed, flipping a waist-length dreadlock over his shoulder.

"Yo!"

I turned around.

"Yo! You the new girl in the 'hood?"

"Yup, I'm the new girl."

"I'm Tyrone. What's your name, new girl?"

"Emmie."

"Emmy? Like the award?"

"Uh huh. Like the award."

A slow, sly grin.

"Well, Emmy, you'll always be a winna ta me!"

Grinning ear to ear, he bowed slightly, his gold chains swaying.

"Thanks, Tyrone!"

Ten minutes later, I was making dinner when someone knocked at our door. As I let in my roommate's friend, I introduced myself.

"Hi, I'm Emmie, I don't think we've met."

Pause.

"Wait - you're Emmie?"

"Uh huh, why?"

Laughing, she explained:

"I stopped at that little deli across the street right before I came here, and this guy with dreads just like, burst in and yelled 'I met her! I met the white girl!' And then someone said 'What's her name?' And he said 'Emmy! Like the award!'"

The next day, a Saturday, I was slowly making my way down the hill with my laundry when I heard a shout from the building ahead.

"Hey Emmy! Yo! Emmy!"

I looked up to see a man I'd never met leaning out of a window three stories up.

"Yo! You'll always be a winna, Emmy!"

Two guys across the street joined in:

"Yeah, Emmy! You're a winner! Yo! Emmy!"

"Thanks, guys!"

As I folded my clothes later that night to the strong beat of hip-hop from the apartment below, sudden applause erupted from the street where some guys were listening to a game.

Amidst my laundry, I took a little bow. Thank you, Harlem. You'll always be a winner to me.

14 comments:

Emily said...

Very cute story.

AzĂșcar said...

A great New York tale for a Fall day.

More posts, Emmie, more! Your public demands it.

christopher clark said...

You are always a winner, Emmy. Sometimes I wish my name was Tony for the same reasons. My friend Ben named his son Oscar. Did you and Tyrone ever go out or kiss? The whole thing sounds so romantic.

Emmie said...

Chris,

It WAS romantic. I'm so glad you picked up on that. I've been worried that people weren't going to catch on to the more subtle literary devices used in my blog.

Jer said...

Awesome story!

Anonymous said...

Alex,
You've got to write the "Scully, Scully, Scully!" story.
Chris

EmmieAlex said...

Dearest Chris,
I believe I shall.
I miss you somethin' terrible. Thank you for stopping by my blog.
Will you bring french bread next time?

Emily said...

How did you get the comments to transfer?!

This is the post that made me love you. I'm glad I commented, even though I remember that it was an intimidating exercise for me. And such a clever comment I left!

Jannah said...

OK just when I thought I could catch up to you in blogging glory while you "took a break"
now you are in re-runs?
Glory Hog!!!
You are the Seinfeld of the blogging world.

Emmie said...

Emily,
I wondered if that first comment was from you! (I changed the date on the post and clicked "Publish", and the comments automatically came with it. Who knew?)

Jannah,
I am in re-runs without commercials. I am a sporadic, inexpensive DVD boxed set.

TnD said...

I love re-runs, only I hadn't read this post before. I love it and loved knowing you in your Harlem days.

Geo said...

Just plain terrific.

Lobbie said...

Hey! I don't even remember how I found your blog, but I read this post originally and fell in love with you in that platonic-blog kind of way. My other favorite entry is on the old-school advice on how to be a good wife. I was laughing so hard I woke up my husband.

Look forward to more!

Laurel

Jane @ What About Mom? said...

Hey, I know there were at least two other white girls in Harlem -- until maybe right before then? Do you know Mimi (she left for New Jersey around then) and I moved to The Bronx in Dec 2000, I think.

Did you attend the Harlem Branch? In the little old JW shed? Good times.

(Found your blog through Azucar tweeting abt your funny ziploc post.)