My Raisin

Harlem
Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


We walk arm-in-arm down a bustling sidewalk, fast and “with a purpose,” as her mother has always said. We have to get going, get started, because this project has been a seed in my mind since I’d turned 19, the same age as my dad was when he began a similar journey. I’d just turned 36. Enough time had been wasted, and it was time to get down to brass tacks.

We turn into a coffee shop that looks forgotten, shitty folk songs overhead that she seems to like but somehow come across as whining to me. Maybe it’s a generational thing, I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. It’s not why we’re here.

The barista comes by the table because we are so engrossed in our work that we haven’t even ordered… and it’s kind of bad form to take up space in a business without paying for it. I look over and order the most expensive thing on the menu. It doesn’t matter what it is, I’ll drink it. I just don’t want to be the douche that orders drip and stays for three hours. She orders drip… not because she *is* that douche, but because it really is her favorite. Overly strong, cream, no sugar. It is a trait we now share, based on the first cup she shared with me. I’d never had anything like it, so far above Folgers that there weren’t even words to describe it.

Me: What are you planning for the offertory?
Her: Nothing so far. What is the text?
Me: It’s Advent I. We’re waitin’ for the baby.
Her: So, basically anything I want?
Me: Should I trust you?
Her: Are we talking about all things, or just this?
Me: Just this. I already know not to trust you with buying your own jeans.

We laugh and decide on something we both like from back in the day at St. Mark’s, before she was in the unenviable position of working for me. I’m a complete Type A control freak when it comes to upholding the title of Senior Pastor, not afraid to pull rank when push comes to shove, because unfortunately, the buck stops with me and I’m not going to take the fall for something that was never my decision in the first place.

Luckily, this is only a problem every minute of every day.

In a weird way, we have grown up together. Sometimes she’s the older one, sometimes I am, but we fumble through life together. She is the Rhoda to my Mary, the Laverne to my Shirley, the Gayle to my Oprah… at work. Outside of work, I am content to let her run me like a shell script (shout out to the nerds… holla). We’re not a married couple, but we bicker like one. It’s the give and take of companionship without the messy hardship of trying to figure out truly difficult issues, like sex, money, and which one of us is eventually going to smother the other one with a pillow and try to collect the insurance. She votes on me. I tend to agree with her on most days.

I really can be an asshole, especially after having worked in several kitchens. She vacillates between annoyance and acceptance at my truly foul mouth. I’m not fit for mixed company, but her dad was in the military. It all comes out in the wash, because I have things that annoy me about her, too. For instance, she likes the shitty protest songs playing overhead.

I give her the outline of my sermon. She hates it, so I know it’s perfect. She’ll forgive me by the time she’s finished getting her choir ready in the morning and we meet for the last minute huddle. There are so many details to running a church that routinely draws 2,000 people a Sunday… not counting the 300 in the choir.

We pray together that this Sunday will be a magnificent tribute to a simple idea. We’re waiting for the baby. The cigars are ready. Clocks are synchronized and phones are on us at all times. Any moment could be THE moment, the one where hope and light and peace breaks into the world…

And we are once again united with the child that will lead us.

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