Miss Sonya lived up the street from us when I was a little girl. Everyone talked about how pretty she was. She was young and exotic. Part of her heritage was Native American. She had dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, uncommon beauty and a jealous husband. I was only nine or ten-years-old and completely captivated by her. She was one of my early standards for beauty. I had fair skin, freckles, and I cooked like a lobster in the sun. I longed for flawless, dark skin like Miss Sonya’s.
I’ve heard the story about one particular Saturday afternoon. After a day of downtown shopping, she was returning home on the City bus. That’s what ladies did back then on the occasional Saturday. They got all dressed up and caught the City bus at Mr. Harris’ store and went downtown to shop for half a day. They returned home in late afternoon in time to prepare dinner for their husbands and children.
The rumor goes that on the bus trip home a man started talking about her. Loud enough for all to hear, he posed questions about her ethnicity. I’m told that she confronted him. It’s hard for me to imagine her standing up to him. She had a quiet nature and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her. This was the 1950s in the South, and I’m positive this was a nasty situation and potentially dangerous.
She lived in a tiny house that was dwarfed by tall shade trees. In those long, humid summers, sometimes she would escape the oppressive heat of the house and sit on her front step. I used to visit her there. She had a little boy and a possessive husband. I think she enjoyed the company of a little girl.
I can still see the two of us sitting there on her shaded front step in the heat of a summer afternoon in the late 1950s. We must have made quite an odd couple – the awkward, freckle-faced, auburn-haired girl and the graceful, dark beauty. We talked about stuff – stuff that girls should know. She once told me never to give all of myself to a boy. She told me boys would come and go but a girl really needed a good girlfriend to tell everything to.
Miss Sonya and her handsome husband eventually divorced, but it was years later and after having another child – a girl. I heard that she later remarried and moved away.
Her little house is gone now. Her daughter built a large, air conditioned house on the property where it used to be. It has a huge porch that stretches across the front. No one ever sits on it. Every time I pass it, in my mind’s eye, I see Miss Sonya sitting on the front step of her tiny cracker box house, trying to escape the still and airless interior, restlessly waiting and hoping for an errant breeze.
I haven’t seen you in several decades, Miss Sonya. You must be in your mid to late seventies now. I’ve heard you’re still very beautiful. Thinking of you tonight and hoping you have a good girlfriend to tell it all to.