Rejected: The Story of Maranda

Before Ms. Pink Jacket, there was another young woman I crushed on. And just like Ms. Pink Jacket, I learned a lot through my experiences with her. Heck, you could argue that there'd be no SOTB without today's story. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you "The Story of Maranda." Hopefully, folks closer to her don't get pissed about me telling this story about her.

In the spring of 2003, I was in the second semester of my freshman year at Baltimore City College. I was short, had a Mannie Fresh-style afro, and wore a lot of sweat suits because reasons. I had no idea who Ms. Pink Jacket was, aside from a random light-skinned girl in my graduating class. We didn't really run in the same circles, and I was preoccupied with someone else.


Maranda was a girl in my Freshman English class. She was a slim, freckled, light-skinned girl who wore her hair in reddish-brown micro braids. She had this thing where she smiled with her eyes and mouth. Obviously, in some ways, I was smitten from the jump. I mean, a woman with a warm smile instantly gets my attention, as I believe that she tends to have great, positive energy and I’m all about positive energy. I didn't make an effort to become someone who I wasn't for her. I just made an effort to know her.

On the first day of class, I sat next to Maranda and start talking with her about random crap. She and I were pretty cordial with each other. We were not really friends at the time, but not really unknown to each other. That is, until the day our teacher decided to pair us together for an "award show."

The "Grammar Emmys," I believe it was called, was this project our teacher, Ms. Richardson, decided to have the class undertake. What it meant was that each group of students would get in front of the class, present on a pre-determined grammar topic or novel we’d read, and we’d get more information on the whole thing. But, what does every award show need, aside from awesome presentations? Hosts.

Ms. Richardson thought that it'd be a good idea to have Maranda and I emcee the whole thing, since we were both pretty active in class discussions. So, every few days for about two weeks, Ms. Richardson would set up a time during class for our groups to work out their skits. And every few days for about two weeks, Maranda and I would link up and discuss things.

The first time we did, she and I were talking about how to present the ceremony.

"I think it’d be funny if we made some puns," I said to her, trying to figure out how to keep my mind on my work and not on her behind. For reasons still unknown to me, Maranda then decided to put her legs between mine and lean in when she spoke to me.

"Yeah, that’s a pretty good idea, [Speed]," she said. "But, what if we, in addition to the puns, crack on some of the other groups, like the real Emmy hosts?"

More stunned by her putting her legs between mine, I agreed, and we started writing the script the best that two fourteen-year-olds with limited scriptwriting abilities could. But, as I wrote our jokes, my mind still went back to Maranda.

"Why did she do that," I wondered. "Does she, like, like me or something?"

I brushed off the notion, mainly because it couldn't be true. But, as the days went on, she and I continued to speak about this thing and she continued to do the leg thing and putting her hand on my thigh when she spoke to me. We bonded a bit during those few days, and she saw that I had a skill for writing and twisting words to make new meanings, jokes, and other stuff.

"You’re pretty good at this," she said to me, one day towards the end of our prep. "Maybe you should keep at it." Now, before this day, I'd only heard people who wanted me to sing for them in the hopes of signing me, using me for their whims or whatever compliment my abilities. And that usually ended up pretty crappy. For someone who was one of my peers to compliment me about it was astonishing. It was amazing. I practically floated above the ground for the rest of the day after she told me this.

"Here’s my number," she said, as our five-"bong" bell rang to signal the end of the day. "Call me if you have any other ideas or to, like, prep for the presentation." I called her the next day and we talked through the presentation, nothing really too serious. But, that conversation, in all its effortlessness, was a nice moment to have. I didn't have to worry about impressing anyone, and I didn't have to worry about using my charms (or "charms") to get what I needed.

No ulterior motives, nothing. We were just two people with positive energy helping each other through high school presentations.

When it came time to present our awards show on a Friday before Spring Break 2003, everything went off without a hitch. Maranda and I received the best marks in the class because of the way we bounced off each other. So, it was natural that, in some ways, I'd developed a crush on her. I mean, between her complimenting my skills, our (potentially one-sided, if we're being honest) connection, and more, it seemed kind of like a "duh" moment.

Over the spring break, I just took the time to be a huge nerd and play PS2 games. On the Sunday before we were to return to school, I had a dream. In this dream, Maranda and I were in class with a lot of different people. Some of them were from middle school; some were just made up in my mind; some were just random people from City. One of these people, a taller, big, jock-ish guy and Maranda eventually walked out of class together, as I hung back. It was at that moment I knew that I had to tell Maranda how I felt about her.

So, that Monday, after class was done, I stopped her and told her what I began rehearsing the night before.

"So, ummm, Maranda," I began, still stumbling over myself. "I kind of like you and I think you’re really cute. And I was wondering if you and I could, like, go out or something." I knew it was a shot in the dark, and she'd probably say no, but I figured I had to do it anyway.

And sure enough, Maranda had a boyfriend. However, she and I were able to remain cordial throughout everything. It’s weird that I was more stable with this scenario than the Ms. Pink Jacket thing that was to come. But, it happened that way.

As the years passed, I never lost sight of what Maranda told me about my skills and how I should keep using them. Eventually, I started writing poems, something I hadn't done since elementary school. I had written songs and sang songs, but I never really wrote poems. I could, but just didn't want to. But, once I had enough of them, I started reciting them to instrumentals I’d copped from Soundclick or somewhere, on some spoken word tip. And eventually, with my off-kilter, pre-"no-fi" delivery, I got the ear of a few indie labels--and a few teachers (hi Mr. Miazga and Mr. Holly).

This led to me doing more in music, and eventually, after years of trying to get it right, becoming a relatively successful local artist/online personality. If it weren't for Maranda giving me that encouragement, I probably would've never been able to be the Speed on the Beat I am today.

In 2011, on the cusp of my big coming out party as Speed on the Beat, and the same day I sent True one of the first beats that came to make up the Team DAR discography, I thought to myself, I should probably tell Maranda "thank you for inspiring me." Maranda, who was dealing with cancer by this time, I felt, could use a boost and could use the knowledge of knowing her awesomeness allowed for another person to fulfill a part of their destiny. So, I went on Facebook the afternoon of June 24th, 2011, ready to tell her.

It was then I found out that Maranda had died from complications of her cancer.

I was floored. In 2011, I lost several people, as I'll probably mention a few times again throughout these "Rejected" posts. But, Maranda's death was one that hit me incredibly hard. When I found out about it, I was shocked, I was stunned, I probably shed more tears about that than members of my own family who passed. I don’t know, maybe it was because she and I fell out of touch, but she still played such a vital part in my life. Maybe it was because cancer, that a-hole, claimed another person who I knew. Or maybe it was a combination of many of the incidents that’d happened in 2011. But, the day I found out Maranda died, I cried.

On the day that some of my fellow Knights did a ceremony honoring her, I planned to go to the event. However, after work, Lady Speed's car began to crap out and I couldn't make it. I, to this day, feel crappy as hell about it. I mean, this young woman, this beautiful spirit, she in so many ways helped me, and I couldn't even get the chance to tell her. I couldn't even get the chance to honor her with people who knew her better than I did. I try not to live with regrets, and I try to learn from miscues, but I still regret not letting her know what she meant to me.

You know that people say "give roses while the people who you’ve giving them to can still smell them." I really wish that I could’ve given Maranda her just due before she died.
In 2013, I spoke about Maranda’s influence on me through a freestyle over J. Cole’s "Born Sinner" instrumental, somewhat of a throwback to those early days doing music. The lines in question went something like this:

Rest in piece to Maranda, I don't know if/ This is the realest ish I've ever spat, but I honestly know that/I'm focused thanks to you, and if I didn't say it before/I owe some of my successes to you…

Thank you, Maranda.

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