People often comment on my beauty. “Why aren’t you married?” they ask. “I have a perfect man for you,” some offer. Rumors swirl, and people wonder, and I feel guilty that my parents have to hear all the commentaries, for there are many of those in our stifling community. “Don’t you have your own life to worry about,” I want to say back. But never do.
The commentaries have grown more over the recent years as I’ve aged into what today marks the ripe old years of twenty-three. My parents plan a small celebration for just us three for the evening. What should be a festive evening turns into an argument. “You have to marry,” mama insists. “But do as you please,” she continues, tears streaming down her worried, pale face. For mama, marriage and children are life goals, a woman’s purpose. I don’t fault her for such thinking. That is how she was raised and our norms still today.
“No more,” I reply. I stand from the table and walk out of the house into a warm and pleasant New York City summer night breeze. Little beats summertime evenings in New York. For all my gripes, I’m grateful we live here.
I take the short walk to Eleanor’s home. She used to live on the same block as my family in a similar stately mansion that a great-grandfather built and each generation inherited. Our families are close, and she and I being of the same age, spent much time together over the years, becoming best friends.
Now she lives in a walkup alone and studies at Barnard. She greets me with a big birthday hug. And she can see in my eyes how family dinner went.
She knows me well. “Definitely,” I reply.
We put on our flapper dresses and make our way to our favorite club in Harlem. The place has become our sanctuary of late, a joyous space of free-flowing dance and laughter, away from the many toils and imaginary boundaries that seem to dominate life, where we can be free and be ourselves.
After a festive night, Eleanor and I walk home. We laugh and gossip about the night’s happenings. We hold hands and feel the stillness of life that comes in moments of love.
“I love you,” Eleanor says.
“I love you, too.”
One day we’ll probably both marry men. An arrangement they call it in our case. We’ll love the men and appreciate them, have a happy home, and maybe even children. But that special love that lasts through the years as people grow old will be ours to share, even if we’ll never be able to marry each other.
“Two Hearts Under the Harlem Moon” is a historical fiction short story set in 1920s New York City . While based on real events, the story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.
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