I looked down on her and listened to her deep breathing as she slept. Lord Almighty how in the world had I let this happen? I was a married man and I loved my wife, I truly did, and yet here I was with another woman and a married one at that. I know that I started what led us to this point, but this had never been my intention. But I wasn't sorry. As my eyes followed the line of her breast, the curve leading to her hip and then feasted on that tight little ass I was not sorry at all.
Lativa was a roaring pain in the ass. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, liked working with her. There were a lot of hard workers in our division and what they all worked hardest at was seeing that they didn't get paired with her on assignments and projects. Not that Lativa was ugly or stupid because she wasn't. She was good looking, hard working and very smart and projects that had Lativa's involvement were invariably successful. Nobody wanted to work with Lativa because she was black and had an attitude. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the black part that made people avoid her, it was the Black With Attitude. You couldn't be in Lativa's presence for more than five minutes without hearing about the white oppression of the black man. How the white man had his foot on the neck of the black man and was holding him down. How those few who had pulled themselves up had done so in the face of fierce white resistance. Point to Colin Powell or Condolesa Rice and she would sneer and say that they were tokens; they were allowed to be there to make blacks think that progress was being made.
One day when I was working with her she got started and I cut her off and told her that it wasn't the white man to blame for what had been done to blacks, it was her own black ancestors back in Africa.
"It was blacks Lativa that herded other blacks down to the beaches and sold them to the white men who came on ships. Whites didn't go into the interior and capture people and enslave them; it was their own black brothers who sold them into slavery. And when the white man wasn't there they sold to other black tribes or to who ever was willing to buy."
"That doesn't matter. It is what has happened since that matters. Ever since the black man was freed from his chains the white man has done everything in his power to keep the black man from achieving any sort of parity in this country."
"Bullshit Lativa, you are here. If there had been a foot holding you down you would be cleaning a hotel room somewhere instead of being here."
But it didn't matter what you said to her, what argument you put forth, you were wrong. The white man oppressed the black man and would continue to do so until the blacks had finally had enough and rose up.
I tried everything I could think of to get out of it, but nothing worked and I ended up on a project with Lativa. It started out about like I expected. "We can have conference room C to work out of," I said, "Why don't you make a list of what we need and I'll go to Engineering and pull the customers specs."
"About what I expected from a white man. Nigger ain't smart enough to go talk to the engineers so I'll do it and she can go round up paper and pencils."
I'd had enough of her shit and I wasn't looking forward to any more of it during the two weeks we would be together on the project so I said, "If that's the way you see it okay, it works for me. Go fetch us what we will need and while you are at it get me a cup of coffee, cream, no sugar, and see if you can find me a donut. Get a broom and a dust pan while you're at it and you can clean the room when we are done for the day."
I walked away from her and headed for Engineering. When I got back to the conference room Lativa had most of what we would need sitting on the conference room table. There was also a cup of steaming hot coffee sitting there.
"What can I do for the massah now?"
I slid a pad of paper over to her, "I've had enough of your shit Lativa. I'm not happy at being stuck here working with you, but I'll do what I can to make the best of it. Write down on that pad what you want me to do as far as this project is concerned. I'll do the stepping and fetching and you can be the master. You are in charge lady and from here on all you will get out of me is "Yes Mistress" and "Please don't beat me."
She stared at me for several seconds and then said, "You don't like me much, do you?"
"I don't know you well enough to decide whether or not I can like you as a person, but I definitely do not like your constant anti-white attitude."
She sat down and started writing on a legal pad and after a minute she looked up at me, "Aren't you going to drink your coffee?"
"What? Do I really look that stupid to you? Do you think that I would trust you not to spit in it?"
I saw from her eyes that I'd scored a hit and that's how our two weeks together started.
Three days into the project she said, "You aren't helping."
"What? I'm doing everything that you tell me to do."
"But you aren't giving me any input."
"Why would I do that? I've listened to you for over a year now and I've finally figured it out. I know what you want so I'm giving it to you."
"Yep. Oppressive white man gonna change his ways. Got to let the black lady run free. No boot on her neck, no holding her down or holding her back. No sir, this white boy will do the stepping and fetching for his black mistress and let her shine in the dazzling light of her accomplishments."
"Stop clowning around. You know that it will take both of us to get this done on time."
"Alls I know mistress is that you have finally convinced me that the white man is the oppressor. I'm white, ergo, I'm an oppressor. I have seen the error of my ways. To redress the balance I am now subservient to your wishes. I shall now lie down on the floor so you can wipe your feet on me."
"So what you are saying is that you are setting me up to fail."
"Don't be stupid Lativa. We were both assigned to the project and if you fail then by extension I fail."
"You are willing to deliberately let the project fail to teach the nigger that it doesn't pay to try and climb too high?"
"It always comes back to that, doesn't it? It's always the white mans fault. If you succeed it is in spite of him and if you fail it is because of him. God, but it must be nice to be born with a built in excuse for everything."
The rest of the two weeks we spent on the project was more of the same. Ask her to do something and get "The day of the slave is over" and if you went ahead and did it yourself you got, "See what I mean? You just don't think that this black girl is smart enough to do anything, do you?"
How we managed to complete the project on time I'll never know, but finish it we did. We submitted it for review and I went home tickled to death that Lativa and I were done working together. It was good that I had a great weekend because if I'd gotten the news following a bad weekend I'd probably have killed myself. Dave, my boss, called me into his office first thing Monday morning and I saw that Lativa was there also.
"Halverson and Thornton reviewed your project over the weekend. As far as they are concerned, you nailed it - no revisions are necessary - but Halverson has had a death in the family and he will be gone for a week. It is going to fall on you two to go to St. Louis and make the presentation. By the way, that was some of the best work to ever come out of this division. Halverson wants to pair you permanently."
Over my dead body I thought as I mentally started to work on my resume and made a list of who I could send it to. I don't know what Lativa was thinking, but the way she was looking at me made me nervous.
"You need to be in St. Louis Thursday so I suggest you fly in on Wednesday and get a good nights sleep. You'll have to stay over Thursday night in case the boys at McDouglas have any last minute questions for you on Friday. Halverson's secretary is making all the arrangements so stop and see her before you go home tonight."
I spent the rest of Monday reviewing the material. Tuesday I stopped by Lativa's cubicle to discuss the presentation which was a big mistake. If I suggested we do A she would say no and that B would be better. An hour of that and I got up and told her to just go ahead and do it any way she wanted and I'd just watch and I walked off and left her. Wednesday I got to the airport and found that Marge had gotten us First Class tickets and that Lativa and I would be sitting together so I did something that quite possibly no air traveler in aviation history has ever done. Instead of seeking an upgrade I took a downgrade. When we got on the airplane I pulled a flight attendant aside.
"I saw a young Marine get on and I noticed that he had a Purple Heart. I'd like to do something nice for him. Tell him that the airline has a policy of upgrading servicemen whenever possible and give him my seat and I'll take his."
"That's awfully nice of you."
"Hey, nothing is too good for our boys in uniform."
And no, I didn't feel guilty about doing that to him. He had a Purple Heart - he was battle tested - and besides, for putting up with Lativa he got free drinks all the way to St. Louis.
Lativa held it in until we got in the cab and then she jumped me. "Why in the hell did you do that to me? I was planning on talking to you about the presentation."
"We had all day yesterday to talk about the presentation and you didn't want to hear a word that I had to say so why would I want to waste any more of my time on the subject?"
"Oh sure, just go ahead and dump the full load on the black girl. If it goes bad don't want no shit to hit Whitey."
"All right Lativa, truth time. I changed seats because I'm tired of spending my time with a racist bitch. I'm sick and tired of your constant racist bullshit and so I got as far away from you as I could."
"I am not a racist!"
"Oh yes you are, and what's more you are the worst kind - the kind that won't admit it. I may not agree with the whites down south who are always preaching hate against the blacks, but at least they have the guts to do it out in the open. You scream the same racist shit against whites, but then claim you aren't a racist and I say that's bullshit."
"I am not a racist!"
"I suppose you are going to tell me that you don't discriminate against whites?"
"Ever date one in high school? College? Ever have a social lunch or have dinner with a white person? Ever hang with any when you were in school?"
"Well, no I haven't, but..."
"No buts Lativa. Ever have anything to do with whites that you weren't forced into, like having to work with them? I'll answer that one for you. No, you never have, and why? It is because you are prejudiced against whites! And when you are prejudiced what are you? You're a bigot and what are bigots? Bigots are racists. You are proven, by every word that comes out of your mouth, to be a bigot where whites are concerned. You are a racist Lativa whether you admit it or not."
"I am not damn you, I am not!"
"We could play "am too, are not" for the rest of the trip and it would get us nowhere Lativa, so let's just drop the subject" and I turned and looked out my window for the rest of the trip to the hotel. After we had checked in and had gone to our rooms I called down and ordered room service for dinner. I did not want to go down to the restaurant and have Lativa come in, see me and join me. After I had eaten I settled back with a book that I'd brought along for a quiet evening. Not to be. The phone rang and it was Lativa.
"We need to talk about what we are going to do tomorrow."
"No we don't Lativa. You give the presentation and I'll sit there and smile and back your play and then we will go home and I'll start my job search."