From the day she was born, Aniese had been a great disappointment to her mother, primarily because she was white. Aniese’s mother was white too but her boyfriend, at the time of her daughter’s birth, had been black. Not black like a Starbucks latte but real black, black like a double espresso black, and Aniese should have been a cute, coffee-coloured little kid with curly black ringlets and big eyes as round as silver dollar pancakes and the colour of Aunt Jemima’s Syrup. But she wasn’t. Aniese was as white as the driven snow that had fallen on the December night that she was born, in the state of Vermont, with hair the colour of straw and eyes as blue as the flat sky of a Norfolk summer’s day. Because as it turned out Norfolk was where her real dad came from.
Stella Siedleman, Aniese’s mom, had been a budding actress and one of the founder members of Happy Daze, a passionate group of avant-garde actors based in Cidergate, Vermont in the late 60’s and early 70’s. She wore long flowing dresses and kohl rimmed eyes and was dedicated to her art and a number of her fellow actors. But in 1969 she became particularly enamoured with a young black actor from New York who’d joined the happy band of players. Six months later she found out she was with child and she was delighted. To be having a baby outside of wedlock was, to her, quite wonderful. To be having a baby of mixed race was the ultimate badge of cool and if it gave her mother a coronary then all well and good. After all she might just as well have been in league with the anti-Christ for all the love and understanding Mr and Mrs Siedleman had shown her since she had dropped out of college.
Had Aniese turned out to be the daughter of the aspiring, young Lenny Levine (who although he never really made it big did get to be a series regular on the Cosby Show) then maybe everything might have turned out different. But it was no good crying over spilt sperm. Aniese was in fact the daughter of Dave Veral, an inept musician and one time roadie from England who’d enjoyed the pleasures of Stella, and several other young ladies, whilst on a tour across America with a band whose name no one could remember. The conception had taken place in the Astoria hotel in Manhattan during one of the few parties that Stella had attended that lived up to the era. There had been sex and drugs and rock and roll and Stella had arrived with Lenny and several other friends during a brief sojourn to the big city. No one could remember who it was who knew about the party.
There had been a fight over Lenny’s keen appraisal of one of the other guests who was wearing nothing more than body paint and Stella had walked out. It was in the elevator that she’d met Dave Veral who was staying in the same hotel but on a different floor, and was on his way home after the gig. He had been planning to have his own little party with one of the many girls who frequented the backstage environs. However, he had failed to locate any willing partner and was delighted when the beautiful, nubile, waif with the kohl-rimmed eyes fell into the lift she hoped was going down but was in fact travelling up. Four floors later Dave had persuaded Stella to join him for a little R&R and the course of history, Aniese’s history, was changed forever.
Nine months later Aniese made her grand entrance, centre stage, to the dulcet tones of Bob Dylan. It was immediately apparent to Stella’s close friend and community midwife, Dale, (who’d flown in especially from California to preside over the birth) that even in the gloom of the many handmade candles, which Lenny and his best friend Marvin had so carefully placed around the bedroom, that things were not quite right. And in the full glare of the electric light bulb, unsheathed from its tie-die scarf, Lenny knew that this baby girl was nothing to do with him.
Poor Stella, torn between the joy of mother hood and the shock of the birth, wept as she took the baby to her breast while Lenny retreated to the safety of a bottle of Jack Daniels and the first of many spliffs. Dale sat and wept with her while they pondered the mystery of Aniese. Lenny had known all about the date that was Dave for in those enlightened times love was still considered free and fairly easy. But it had never dawned on either of them that their bundle of joy was anything but the progeny of them. Stella had never been good at numbers but it was no good trying to remember dates now and anyway in the orange glow of the lamp, now draped once more, she had already fallen in love.
But that was all a long time ago, thirty-two years had slipped by since then at what seemed to Aniese to be an alarming rate. In fact as she sat in the Polish dinner on the corner of Avenue A sipping her third refill of coffee she felt the movement of time was almost palpable. Why when you wanted something to happen, she wondered, did time refuse to move and yet when you were late for work, for example, the minutes moved with the speed of light.Being late for work had become part of Aniese’s occupation. She hated her job, she hated her apartment she hated her boyfriend. Today Aniese Siedleman hated everything especially her mother. If she’d been born Aniese Levine then maybe when Lenny had left Vermont he’d have taken them all with him to California, instead of disappearing in the dead of night with Dale the midwife. Maybe she’d have grown up in a sunny suburb of Los Angeles with her dad on TV every week instead of in a commune, a log cabin with out electricity, a Tee-Pee, a selection of hotels that have never been featured in any tourist guide and finally a cold-water walk up in downtown Manhattan where she’d slept in a loft bed above the refrigerator in the kitchen. Oh happy daze.