A young girl coming into her own identity
CALL ME MAGGIE
Arthella Mary Magdalene Engels is such a queer name. Believe me, you would agree if you had to live with it like I do. Colette is my best friend and she's cool, just like her name, and sure of who she is. Destiny made her pretty too with long slender legs, silky bronze skin, large clear brown eyes, and puckered red lips. Eventually, according to her, after we graduate this year she'll use those gifts she was blessed with to become the next Xavier Hollander no matter what people think – and I believe her.
Forever, I will remember the day she smiled at me in PE and said, "Hey new girl, wanna smoke a joint?" God only knows where it came from but I summoned a cocky, streetwise voice I didn't even recognize and said "Yeah, you got some?" Her gym locker door hung open and she reached in and pulled out a sandwich baggie with something in it that looked like dried grass. Instantly I made the connection – So that's why they call it grass - and felt kind of dumb that I didn't know this before.
June of that year marked fourteen years that I'd been on earth, much of which was spent in a church pew at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Kaleb Engels, my father, was the pastor there and while he didn't mind if I called him Kaleb, I demanded that he called me Maggie. Like any teenage girl I just wanted to appear cool and self-assured like Colette.
My mama had died giving birth to me and Kaleb was so distraught that he needed something to give him hope, and that was me. Now looking back I remember him telling me all the time that he expected me to be a remarkable woman like my namesake, Mary Magdalene. Obviously he'd forgotten that according to some historians Mary Magdalene was a less than virtuous woman before fate handed her a place in history at the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Pesty little details that don't quite square with Kaleb are still ignored by my doting father. Quixotic is a good word for him; forever the dreaming optimist. Reasonably so, when he asked me the day I met Colette if that was "reefers" he smelled when I got in from school, and I told him I'd walked past someone burning trash he just said, "Oh" and retreated to his office.
Somehow, as I stood before him paranoid that he'd notice my bloodshot eyes, I'd summoned Colette's warnings from the drug-induced fog in my head: Go straight to your room, don't start giggling, and don't raid the refrigerator. Thanks to her experienced guidance I managed to hold in a snicker when Kaleb said "reefers." Unbeknownst to him, however, I did scuttle a ton of food into my room past the closed door of his office as he worked on his sermon. Veal parmigiana from the day before had been good hot but I found it to be just as good cold when you're high and don't wanna get busted spacing out in front of the microwave.
When summer came around that year, Collette and I spent countless hours hovered over a ragged copy of The Happy Hooker; Xavier Hollander's account of her glamorous life as a high-priced call girl. Young though we were, we both agreed then and now that it's a woman's prerogative to do what she wants with her own body. Zero tolerance though is what Kaleb would have if I ever told him how I felt about that; because Kaleb only sees what he wants to see in the world and in me.