Monday, October 3, 2011
My name is Ken, just like the doll, Barbie’s boyfriend. Except I’m a girl. My whole name is Ken Kim Easton. I’m named after my daddy, Kenneth Leon Johnson, Jr.
Aunt Millie says my name is stupid. And if my mama hadn’t been so crazy about that boy (meaning my daddy), I might’ve at least had a decent name. If nothing else.
She said when a gum-smacking nurse laid me on Mama’s chest and asked, “So, sweetie, whatcha gonna call her?”
Mama smiled and foolishly said, “Ken. Just like her daddy.”
Aunt Millie grunted. “Ken? That ain’t no name for a girl.”
Mama sucked on her teeth then mumbled something rude.
“Why can’t you call her Kim?” Aunt Millie asked. “Now that’s a pretty name for a girl.”
But Mama just rolled her eyes at Aunt Millie then smiled up at the nurse. “Her name is Ken. Ken Kim.” Then she stopped smiling at the nurse and locked her eyes on Aunt Millie. “That’s capital K, lower-case e, lower-case n. Space. Capital K, lower-case i, lower-case m. First name Ken. Middle name Kim.”
Mama looked back at the nurse, all smiles again, and said, “Make sure you put it like that on the birth certificate. Please.”
Aunt Millie’s face soured. “Now that’s a real stupid name,” she hissed. Then she stormed out of that hospital room and didn’t say two words to my mama again until I was almost six months old.
But that’s the story about the day I was born and how I got my name.
The real story I need to tell you is about the day I died and about the strange thing that happened to me on my way to heaven.
Friday, May 13th
Clark-Cooke Middle School
My best friend Danielle frowns and yanks her lip gloss from my hand.
“Where were you when God was giving out lips?” she asks.
But before I can answer, she takes a tissue from her purse and starts scrubbing my lips like a crazy woman. “You got lip gloss everywhere, girl,” she shakes her head and says. “I swear you got the thinnest lips I ever saw.”
I lean forward and let her fix my lips. “I don’t get to practice all the time like you do,” I mumble.
We go through this every morning. I put on lip gloss, and Danielle wipes it back off. That’s because I have no idea what I’m doing, since Mama never lets me wear makeup. She says eleven is too young for makeup, because it might draw attention from the wrong people. She really means boys.
“But I’ll be in seventh grade in two weeks,” I had tried to convince her just that morning. “Everybody wears makeup in seventh grade.”
She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at me. “I didn’t give birth to everybody, Ken Kim Easton,” she said. “I only gave birth to you. So I don’t care what everybody else does. And yes, school will be out in two weeks, but you won’t be in seventh grade until August. And you won’t be twelve until November. So the answer is still no.”
She cut me off. “You need to wait till you’re seventeen anyway.”
“Girl, don’t start with me about what your friends can do,” she said.
I shook my head and walked away.
“See? That’s what I get for letting you start school too early,” she called after me. “I should’ve held you back like Aunt Millie told me to.”
I spun around and just stared at her. Since when did you start listening to Aunt Millie? I wanted to ask. But, of course, I didn’t. I knew my place. So I politely turned myself back around and went on to the kitchen and ate my lumpy oatmeal.
I should’ve known she’d give me that long lecture and remind me that I’m almost a year younger than most of the kids in my class, especially Danielle. Danielle’s mama has been letting her wear makeup since fifth grade, since the day she turned eleven. She’s cool like that. My mama, I’m sorry to say, has been around Aunt Millie too long.
And those old-fashioned ways have rubbed off on her.
Aunt Millie says makeup is pure evil. Straight from the devil. So I just might be seventeen before Mama lets me wear any. That’s why every morning I meet up with Danielle and her second best friend B. J. and put on some of Danielle’s makeup.
Since Danielle is glossing my lips, B. J. has to throw in her two-cents. She hates being ignored. So she smiles a mean smile and says, “She was probably off somewhere looking for a doughnut. And by the time she looked up, God had run out of lip-making material.”
Now that was stupid. I don’t even like doughnuts. She always says the dumbest things. So I say something smart back to her. “I might’ve been in the same place you were when he was giving out cute faces,” I say.
But before I can pat myself on the back for roasting her, B. J. plants her hands on her hips and looks me up and down. I know she’s found something to crack on me when that ugly smile pops up again. She pops her gum real loud then nods and says, “I see you came around twice when he was giving out chins though.”
Then she just cracks up, like her jokes are so funny.
“Whatever,” I say. And that’s the best I can do. B. J. might be uglier than a catfish, but she’s finer than two foxes. And she knows it. So she never misses her chance to remind me that I’m “pleasantly plump.”
As Aunt Millie likes to call me.
B. J. is short for Betty Jean. She’s named after her grandma, and she looks like her, too. And I don’t mean she has her features. I mean B.
J. has an old woman’s face, but without wrinkles. It’s hard to explain. But trust me. She looks like an old woman — an old woman with Beyonce’s body.
“There,” Danielle says and turns me to face the mirror. “Perfect.”
I nod and smile. Danielle has the magic touch.
B. J. frowns at me in the mirror but doesn’t say anything.
“You look good, Ken Kim,” Danielle assures me.
B. J. smirks.
“Whatever,” I mumble.
B. J. leans back and gives me that look again. She crosses her arms over her perfect chest and sneers. “Maybe you can get some of that fat sucked out of them cheeks and injected into them paper-thin lips,” she says, cracking up again. And it doesn’t even bother her that she’s the only one laughing.
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