Sunday, August 31, 2008


Jenna’s lamp lit her face with an antique parchment glow as her fingers drifted on the keyboard, tracing a line through her past. I was content to witness her patient search from the doorway of the room I built last year. Still in her genealogy trance, she said, “Mason, I’m black.” Her angelic lisp reshaped my name.

The house was quiet. I said, “You have black ancestors?”

“Uh huh.” She avoided saying, “Yesth,” except to rouse my adoration.

“You like that, don’t you.”

She smiled. “I’m thrilled. I have never been interesting. I found Ezzie on my matriarchal line; she was from the Turner plantation in Georgia--she was property. But now I have to find her parents.”

“Maybe the plantation has records?”

I worked until 9:00 at night on Friday. Jenna met me at the door, clenching me, saying, “They wrote. After three months. Ezzie was born in Haiti. To Erzulie and Petro. The Turner heirs have the dates. Ezzie was illegally taken after the Haitian Revolution.”

I lifted her off her feet. “Jenna peels another layer of the onion,” I said, as always.
When she kissed me I saw she was crying. I asked, “You feel close to her?”

“I’m elated that I found her, but then it came home to me; she must have lived such pain. Without the Latham Bible, she would still be lost to me--do any others love her?”

“I know you’ll find them all.” She let me wipe a tear.

“I put it all online--can’t face responses, yet. Such pain.”

On Sunday we played chess, the force that brought us together in college, watching water stream down the window and rain fill the street. Jenna played black, we laughed about that. We did not expect the knock at the door.

He was small and bald and black as any man I’d seen. His smile was joyous; his eyes, glittering stars. “Mason and Jenna Owen?” he asked.

“How can we help you?” I said; Jenna stood behind.

“I am Lucien Boucher,” he said. “I am Jenna’s cousin.”

The reality of ancestry dazed me. It had all been so abstract. Jenna stepped beside me, arms wavered toward embrace, then back. Lucien Boucher enfolded her; “So beautiful,” she said. My stomach turned with unease, as my wife hugged this stranger.

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