For Malaika

9 Aug

I still remember my very first day of high school as if it were yesterday…  I entered the large glass doors of the old brick building and took in a deep breath.  A brand new student in a new school, let alone a new country (Germany), I was desperately trying not to show how much I was shaking on the inside.  As dozens of students and teachers sped past me on their way to lockers and classrooms I was able to inconspicuously gaze into the palm of my left hand, where I held my folded up class schedule, for about the fifth time that morning.  “Honors English” it read and I raised my head up to walk down the three center stairs into the foyer and cross over the giant tiled Indian seal covering the center of the floor.  I continued down the hall to my left in pursuit of room “102” and, as it turned out, the first door I came to on the left side of that hallway said “English” in large yellow paper letters on it as it was being pulled closed by a meager curly brown haired boy with thick-rimmed glasses.  “Wait” I shouted as I wedged myself in through the small opening he allowed.  Suddenly, I was face to face with twenty strangers seated at wooden desks looking up from their spiral notebooks.  An unquestionably shy person by nature, I know that I instantly turned about three shades of red.  But, lowering my head and mumbling “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  Excuse me,” I began to fumble my way to an empty seat in the back of the room while the teacher rose from her seat to begin the lecture.

Well, the worst thing happened next.  It only took me about two minutes of listening before I realized that somehow I was in the wrong classroom.  It must have been something about the way she kept referring to us having read “The Crucible” last year.  I quietly leaned toward my neighbor on the right and whispered my question of fear.  Upon his answer of mistaken location followed by a small chuckle, I again blushed in embarassment.  Somehow amidst all of my anxiety, I clumsily gathered up my things and headed back toward the door mumbling again with my head hung in shame.  I hurried out the door and once outside, I looked back at the wall to see that the actual room number was “002.”

“What?!  Who numbers classrooms that way?!”  I exclaimed as I spun on my heels to journey back toward the foyer and the larger staircase.  Climbing that set of stairs seemed endless as I knew that the first classroom at the top of the landing would be the correct one.  But, at this point, I would now be at least ten minutes late and what draws more attention than being a new student in a new school but being a tardy new student in a new school!  “Here we go” I breathed to myself as I grasped the doorknob for “102” and resolved myself once again to the impending humiliation.

“How nice of you to join us!” the middle aged spikey-haired blonde teacher exclaimed upon my entry.  All eyes zeroed in on me, raising my fear level through the roof.  With my heart beating vigorously in my chest, I quickly scanned the room and found that the only two open desks were on either side of a skinny light skinned African American girl wearing a headgear.  No one was seeming to want to associate with her and I wasn’t sure why but I was left with no other seating choice.  As I trudged in her direction, I was met with giggles, whispers and judging glances from around the room.  I couldn’t wait to take my seat and slump down in an attempt to have my presence forgotten in time.  But, my moment of peace was short lived as the girl eagerly turned to me and brightly said “Hi.  My name is Malaika!  Wanna be study partners?”  And, in that one moment, with her bright smile and welcoming charm, I knew that things were going to be okay for me here.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this girl who everyone else kept distance from as a result of her quirkiness, would become one of my best friends.  Of course we were as different as humanly possible; with me being a blonde sporty pop music loving Caucasian and her being a lanky uncoordinated Metallica loving African American.  We were such an unlikely pair of friends but somehow it worked.  From bonding over boys and intimacy to sleepovers and school studies, we became pretty much inseperable.  Of course, over the span of four years of high school, a friendship can have its ups and downs but we were always there for each other, one way or another.

Then, in the spring of our senior year, Malaika’s family moved back to Colorado and we lost connection over distance.  I went through some of my lonliest times during that period following and didn’t know who to turn to.  But, it was only a short time before we were reunited again when she enlisted in the military and was stationed here at Fort Meade that following December.  At the time, my parents were at the beginning of a divorce and with me being the oldest of three kids, I was taking the situation the hardest.  So, I was ecstatic to have my friend come back into my life at the time when I most needed her.  We resumed our status just where we left off and I counted myself as lucky.  We went on for months moving on through life with me in college and her in the military and boyfriend trials and family issues.  Everything was great again, until the day I received a devastating phone call, that is…

I was driving to Orlando, Florida when my cell phone rang and one of my other friends was calling to tell me that Malaika had been killed in a car accident just outside of the Fort that day.  In that life altering moment, I froze with no understanding of how to proceed.  I prayed that this were a prank call but it unfortunately wasn’t.  The surrounding days, weeks and months were depressing but I went on as best I could because I knew that was what she would want for me.  Now, eleven years after her accident, I have gone on and made more friends through the years but I still think of her often.  And, even though Malaika Ebony King came into and out of my life with equal speed, I will never forget the meaningfulness of our wonderful friendship.  She was truly an individual like no other I have ever met.

This post is dedicated to Malaika Ebony King as she would be 30 years old this week.  She was supportive of me and my writing ambitions and I know that she would be proud of my accomplishments today.  Rest in peace, dear friend.  You are missed and thought of often. 

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24 Responses to “For Malaika”

  1. CHARLES SHAFFER August 10, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    This is the best of yours that I have read. I have tears in my eyes and it has been a VERY long time since that has happened. Thank you.
    Granpa

  2. Kevin August 10, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    I agree. I believe that was the best story yet. I definitely was not expecting the death of your friend. She seemed like a great person. I could also feel your fears walking into a new school situation. Very good story!

  3. Pat Coover August 10, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    Wow what a touching story – very well written!

  4. trininista August 10, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    wow. How beautiful. I think your friend would be smiling from above reading this heartfelt tribute. They never leave us. (hugs)

  5. Karrie Ringelstetter August 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    A beautiful, well written, moving article. Jen you have real talent!

  6. April August 11, 2011 at 4:18 am #

    What a touching story-you made me cry. I totally relate in some ways. I was also a military brat. I am sorry this ended so sadly, but what a blessing to have a friend like that even for a short time. Thanks for stopping by on my SITS day, by the way.

  7. Margaret Almon August 11, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    What a wonderful tribute to your friend. She was a blessing in your life.

  8. Mike August 13, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Your writing is so very eloquent and with such a penchant for detail. That was an absolutely wonderful passage in tribute to Malaika, Jenny. I, myself, cannot believe that it’s been 11 years since the accident. I only knew her for a few months, but she had a big impact on my life. She was a wonderful friend and will never be forgotten by those who got to know and love her.

  9. Karin Browne August 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    OMG – Jenny ??? I just google Malaika’s name just to see if something pops up. And look what did. I can not tell you how much I appreciate your tribute to my daughter. I miss her so much and it is a real comfort that her friends have not forgotten. Thank you so very much. No doubt, she would love it too !!!
    If you can spare a minute, I”d love to hear from you. Lots of happening – I live in VA now.
    e-mail is makili3@yahoo.com

    Karin Browne (Malaika’s mother)

    • clint krueger August 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

      Thank you Jenny for you remembrance and your love for writing. I have searched for many years, searching for a way to contact Malaika’s mother. For this I am for ever in you power.

      She was a person of the light. Empowered in a sense. Born of two different worlds, very often conflicted. She was abandoned when I met her. Lost between parents and so called boyfriends.

      I saw in her a beauty of person. Simple (may I say humble), yet intelligent and strong willed. She was my forever, and I thought she felt the same.

      The day she was killed was the two days after we shared a warm Fourth of July together. We were leaving post through a north gate. I remember seeing the lights flashing before she asked me something I do not remember. She was hit on the diver’s side.

      I gained consciousnesses with her on my lap and me with my arms around her. I remember her face from time to time. A paramedic told me to not touch and I fell unconscious again. The hardest time after that was waiting in a Baltimore ER for doctor to tell me she died.

      I cried at her full military funeral. I continued to live my life. I think of her often, too. But I know, for God is in Heaven, she watches over the ones she loves. With her Opa besides and all my ancestors and hers. Der Herr Godt nimbt, der Herr Godt gibt.

      .

      • stickynotequeen August 22, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

        Clint,
        I am so glad you found my blog and appreciated my tribute to Malaika. She was a truly special person who touched many lives and I miss her everyday too.
        I know that you went through a lot having been in the accident and I can’t imagine how hard that was to deal with. I hope you are in a great place in life now and that you will keep in touch with me.

        -Jenny

      • Karin Browne August 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

        Hi Jenny, this is Malaika’s mom. I just saw your answer to Clint. I’ve been looking for him all those years. Please, would you give him my e-mail address ? I live in VA now with my daughters. I would absolutely love to hear from you and him. The last time I saw you all was at the funeral but I think of you often. Please get in touch through e-mail makili3@yahoo.com (or fb …)

      • Karin Browne August 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

        Clint, I hope you get this. I’ve been searching for you, too. Difficult for a while, but I live in VA now with my daughters. Much has happened and I’d love to hear from you.
        Hugs from Malaika’s mom (Karin Browne)

  10. stickynotequeen August 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Thank you so much everyone for your responses to my story, It feels good to have touched you all by my story of how I met one of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had! I think she is smiling down from Heaven today!

    • Karin (King) Browne October 8, 2011 at 4:17 am #

      I just wanted to thank you again for remembering my daughter. From time to time I still hear from some of her friends and I’m glad to see that even though she is gone, she has not been forgotten. (Doug is in Iraq again, Caty lives in the windy city, Katika is in Utah …)

      • Tara @ secretsofamomaholic.com February 23, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

        I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter. One of my best friends lost her daughter as well and it is truly the greatest loss and challenge a mom can face in life. She was lucky to be friends with someone that loved her to write of her in this way.

      • Karin (King) Browne February 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

        Thank you so much. Not a day goes buy where I don’t miss this beautiful, intelligent girl with so much promise for a full life ahead of her.

  11. treasurebunny February 23, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    How dreadful.

  12. MARIE COLE February 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Beautifully said….

  13. Joanne February 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    That is a wonderful and sad story. You are also a Marylander? I live in Baltimore county. My husband is in the military and deployed right now but his mission will be over soon.

    • stickynotequeen February 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

      Thank you for the nice comment. Yes, I live in Glen Burnie, Maryland. I guess we are not that far from one another! Thanks for visiting! Congrats on your husband coming back soon!

  14. Laura February 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    I have had 2 of my best friends being killed in a car accident, so I understand what you went through. This was a great tribute to her.

    Happy SITS Day!

  15. Tara @ secretsofamomaholic.com February 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    Amazing homage to your friend. She is smiling from above as each and every one of us reads this beautiful tribute to her. Your writing is truly inspirational- thank you for sharing.

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  1. Ultimate Blog Party 2012! « stickynotequeen - April 16, 2012

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