Days Like This
always rained on days like this and when it stopped the pigeons
huddled around the puddles. I heard the church bells ring and
leaned around the edge of the pew. Everyone gathered together,
walking in one by one. Everyone was stunningly dressed to impress
in all black. But there was nothing stunning about their faces.
Heads were down and everyone who slowly passed seemed sad.
My chest started to tighten. I sat
up straight and leaned back in my seat, placing my hand over my
heart and closed my eyes, squeezing them as tight as I could.
My mind faded in and out, but my vision was clear. All I could
see was my dad sitting in the passenger seat of the car while
my mom drove, and me in the back seat. He focused toward the stereo
and placed his hand on the nob, turning the music up as loud as
he could. He began to nod his head to the beat as he always did
when this song came on. I followed along with him, nodding my
head up and down just exactly as he did. My dad looked back at
me and smiled. His smile always reminded me of the Jokers.
His pearly white teeth his long beautiful braids. I smiled back
as we looked into each others eyes, mouthing the words to
his favorite Tupac song:
Baby dont cry,
You got keep your head up
Even when the road is hard
Never give up.
Never give up. From that very moment,
a day that I thought was going to be good seemed sad. I opened
my eyes looking straight at the casket that sat a couple of feet
When everyone was finally seated, a
priest stood at the pulpit and spoke. I wasnt paying him
any mind because I barely understood anything he talked about.
I just stared down at the obituary that had been passed out to
everyone, trying my hardest to sound out the words on the paper.
My eyes got tired and I became frustrated, tossing and turning
in my seat.
My mother stood up, holding the obituary
in her hands and began to speak. Her hair was bone straight and
she had on a pretty long black dress that hugged her coke bottle
shape. As the words came out of her mouth, tears began to drizzle
down her face and her voice choked; and then there were no more
words, but only pain painted over her face.
I stood up and walked past my mother
to the end of the casket. On top of the caskets bottom lid,
was a bouquet of flowers that I thought were very pretty. I pulled
out a rose, that was purple, my favorite color. Then, shifting
over to the open side of casket, I looked down before me to see
He was dressed in a suit, something
I never had known him to wear. His braids seemed to be the way
they always were, but his skin was so dark, darker than I had
ever seen it before. I placed my right hand on top of where his
hand rested. He didnt move, flinch or open his eyes. Instead,
my hand rested there to feel how cold and hard he was. I felt
death, and in that moment I realized this might be the last time
I would get to see my father ever again.
With my hand still on my fathers,
I lifted my left hand, raising it up to the casket, making it
visible. I put my hand on his breast pocket. Good bye, Daddy,
I said. I turned around to a room full of tears looking at me.
My mother walked over to me, towering above. As she wiped the
tears from her eyes, she kneeled down to my level, pulled me to
her, chest to chest, and wrapped her arms around me. She spoke
softly, whispering in my ear, Everything is going to be
okay. Mommy got you.
leaned back on the leather seat and turned my head to look out
the window. I could barely see the outside world. The rainstorm
came down so strong everything was a blur. I placed my hands on
the back of the seat in front of me and pulled my body up. I poked
my head up and stared through the front bus window trying to see
where we were. I felt like I was under water with my eyes open.
The windshield wipers rocked back and forth and my eyes followed.
The bus jerked, knocking me onto my butt. I hit my head against
the back of the leather chair. A girl sitting across from me stood
up and laughed. She always wore her hair in two ponytails, and
always sat in the same place. The bus driver turned around to
let her know it was her stop. The young girl bent over to pick
up her pink Dora backpack and skipped all the way to the front
and off the bus. Although I couldnt see outside I knew my
stop was next because I always got off after her.
I placed my hand between my legs, grabbed
my bag, put it on my lap, and unzipped the sides. I scrambled
through it trying to find my hat, but it wasnt there. I
left it at school in my cubby once again. The bus driver turned
around and signaled to me to let me know it was now my turn to
get off. I got up and grabbed my backpack, ran to the front of
the bus and down the stairs but stopped on the very last step.
I tilted my head downward and saw how the street was filled with
deep water. I was so excited. I closed my eyes and jumped of the
bus onto the curb.
splash from all the water soaked my pants. The rush from all the
water filled my sneakers and my feet were under water. The wind
was so strong it knocked me to the ground and the rain smacked
against my face. I could still hear the engine form the bus behind
me. Still sitting on the ground I turned my head and watched the
doors close, and the bus drive off. My clothes were completely
drenched. I stood up and looked around to see where my mother
was. I saw a lady coming towards me with a pretty pink umbrella.
The lady didnt stop and she walked past me not even looking
at me and then I definitely knew it wasnt my mom.
I decided to wait for her under a nearby
tree. Maybe she was running a little late today. The force from
the rainstorm was wild and I could barely keep my balance. I wrapped
both my arms around the tree holding it tight to keep from falling
over. The beating of the rain against my face was too much to
bear. So I turned around with my back facing the tree and slid
down with my knees at my chest. I put my face down to my knees
and wrapped my arms around my head to stop the rain from hitting
my face. I waited for a while and listened to the sound of the
rain, the boom of the thunder, and the whistle of the wind, but
not once did I hear my mother call my name.
Once the thunder stopped and the winds
slowed down I came out from under the tree and started to head
home. I knew my way home from here. I was going to take all the
shortcuts that my mother and I took when she picked me up from
the bus stop. She probably just overslept. I couldnt wait
to get home. I was soaked from head to toe and freezing. I took
the pathways through the townhouses.
Being in the rain was kind of fun.
I jumped and splashed till I got to my Clubhouse where my friends
and I always played. We tied a rope to a tree we would swing on
and then roll down the hill. I ran and jumped onto the rope swinging
back and forth then I let go and slid down the muddy hill. When
I got to the bottom I lay there and closed my eyes making mud
angels, listening to the water around me rush like I was in a
stream. I sat up and started rubbing the orange mud all over my
body and face making a facial and mud cakes.
It began to get dark and the heavy
rain, wind, and thunder started again. It frightened me and then
I realized it was time to keep heading home. My mother was probably
worried sick about me. I stood up quickly and ran down the path
behind some townhouses than across the parking lot to where my
house was. My moms car was outside, so I knew she had to
be home. As I ran, the wind pushed me so hard I felt like I was
walking on air. When I got to the door I knocked repeatedly, knocking
as hard as I could, screaming at the top of my lungs Ma,
Ma, Ma, Ma but nobody answered. Then I rushed to the window
next to the door and tried to pull it open. It was always open
but this time it was locked which was weird.
I began to cry worried where my mother
could be and scared for her. What if she was dead? Theres
no way she would leave me like this. I ran over to where her car
was and noticed the door was unlocked. I was relieved that I had
some type of shelter. I climbed into the front seat and slammed
the door. I sat back and placed my hand on the lever below the
seat to adjust it up to the steering wheel. I began to honk the
horn. Maybe my mother was sleeping and once she heard the loud
honk of the horn it would awaken her. But nothing worked. Instead
I just lay there waiting for someone to come rescue me. It was
so cold that when I breathed in and out I could see white smoke
coming out of my mouth and my teeth chattered. I got up and climbed
in the back seat where I could lay down better and rocked back
and forth holding myself until I slowly fell asleep.
OH MY GAWD a loud voice cried. I jumped up, recognizing
the voice that came from outside the car. I saw my mother standing
in the rain with and umbrella. I jumped up and into her arms.
Im so sorry, Meilla, I
was trine to come back in time to get you but stupid Dana had
to drop off a rental and wouldnt drop me home.
Dana was my uncle on my dads
side, but was now my mothers boyfriend. Even though he was
my uncle, I hated him. Even though he took care of me and my mother,
I still hated him. He was the reason why we lived in Stone Mountain
Georgia with no family. All I had was her, and for a moment I
thought I had lost her too.
school year was over, but that didnt change anything. The
only difference was I didnt have to start my days early,
and Id get to play with the other kids on the block longer.
My mother never called me in, so when most of the other kids
parents called them in Id still be outside playing with
my other friends whose mother never cared how late they stayed
When the sun set I would hide in a
cave that was in a small forest. The forest was at the end of
my neighborhood in the center of the two rows of town houses.
The trees were tall and kudzu vines wound around them twisting
together to shape into a cave. At the opening there were poison
ivy vines that I was careful to never touch. Malachi, Heather,
Elizabeth, Daren and I would all enter the cave and sit in a circle
in the dirt to play Duck, Duck Goose until the bats came out.
I would stare up at the purple sky
watching the hundreds of bats in the air. I knew they werent
birds; birds had a glide to their flap while bats flapped their
wings up and down really fast to stay in the air. The bats were
small, and all black, and their wings had multiple curves on each
side that looked like upside-down Us. Heather was one of
the oldest girls. She told us how if the bats get in our hair
that it would get tangled, and our parents would have to cut them
out of our hair. We all made sure we were in the cave before they
came out because no one wanted bats in their hair.
One night when the sky darkened and
all the bats disappeared, car turned onto our street. It wasnt
the car the loud music pouring out its open windows that caught
our attention. As the care rolled down the street its head lights
blinded my vision. The closer it got the more intense the light
became. I raised my hands to cover my face and block out the light.
The car turned in front of the town house three doors away. Heather
and Daren looked at each other and then jumped up, first one,
then the other. Heathers eyes popped out of her head and
she signaled to Daren to come on. Daren squatted down in front
of me and hugged me good bye, then ran after Heather who was already
approaching the car.
A light skinned woman got out of the
car. Her hair was long and she had on all black. Her clothes fit
her like her skin and she had on red heels to match her red lipstick.
That was Daren and Heathers mom. She was beautiful. Get
the fuck in the house! How many times do I have to tell yall
to not leave this house! she yelled.
Daren and Heathers mother was never home. She would occasionally
come by the house to drop off groceries, but Daren and Heather
were supposed to come straight home after school and not come
out. Daren told me that they couldnt even answer the door
for anyone. They had to make it look like nobody was home because
they werent supposed to be home alone. Every so often their
mother would come home and they would be outside, playing. Their
mother would scream for them to get in the house and they would
I could tell that night that Daren was getting beat first. I could
hear him screaming and crying for her to stop all the way from
where I was sitting outside. Elizabeth and Malachi just stood
there laughing at what we were hearing, but I felt bad. I really
liked Daren and Heather and didnt think they deserved that.
Plus, Daren was my boyfriend and I wanted him to spend more time
playing outside with me.
My stomach started to growl, so I told
Malachi and Elizabeth I would be at their house a little later.
My mother found us a place in Stone Mountain Georgia. It was the
nicest place we had ever lived, so far. The apartment had an upstairs
and a downstairs. Upstairs were my room and my mothers and
in both of our rooms were full walk-in bathrooms. Then downstairs
there was a half-bathroom, a huge kitchen, and a nice size living
room. My mother decorated the apartment nicely, too compared the
ones we lived in back home in Boston.
I could smell my moms cooking as I approached the house
steps. Barbeque pork chops, cabbage and yellow rice. My favorite.
I stepped in the house and my uncle Dana was sitting on the couch
smoking a blunt. He turned his head to focus toward me down the
hall. He smiled at me and continued to smoke his blunt.
Meilla, is that you? my mother said.
Yes, Ma. Im home.
I walked into the kitchen and sat down
at the table watching my mother prepare two plates. Id been
outside all day playing. I couldnt wait to eat.
Meilla. These plates are for me and Dana. Youre going
to have to start pouring your own juice and making your own plate
of food. Okay, Mamas?
Why cant Dana make his own plate of food? Why couldnt
you make my plate, too?
Youre a big girl. You have to start doing things for
yourself. I cant keep babying you and Dana is my man.
My mother was right. It was time for
me to start doing things on my own, but I hated the fact that
she did things for Dana, too. I couldnt believe she was
really with my uncle because he betrayed my father by messing
with my mother and he betrayed my dad. He betrayed me too and
I hated him for that. He got in between everything and now that
he was with my mom, a lot of things started to change between
me and her. Just like he slowly took my mother away from my father,
he was starting to slowly take her away from me, too.
I made my own plate of food and sat on the counter in the kitchen
watching my mother and Dana eat and watch TV. And gaze into each
others eyes. I remember when my mother used to look at me
like that, but since Dana had been around, she hadnt really
My kitchen had an opening where I could
see into the living room, I just sat on the counter watching TV.
From the kitchen. I didnt want to be anywhere near my mother
or uncle. The thought of them disgusted me.
After a while, my mother got up and collected their plates and
walked to the kitchen. Dana got up and followed right behind her
with his eyes glued to her backside. My mother walked over to
the sink next to where I was sitting and put the plates in the
sink. Dana, who was still behind her, grabbed her from behind
and started to kiss my mothers neck, I hopped off the counter
and ran out of the kitchen in disgust, all the way to the living
room and jumped on the couch face first. I lifted my head up to
see my mother and Dana still in the kitchen by the sink, kissing.
As I dropped my head back down to hide my face, I noticed something
on the coffee table in front of me. I sat straight up on the couch
and then slid forward on my knees with my chest against the coffee
table. I noticed an all-black gun sitting on the coffee table
like the ones I was used to seeing on TV. I glanced back up to
look to see if my mother and Dana were still kissing at the sink,
but they were not. I stood up and walked closer to the opening
where I could see into the kitchen to see where they were and
if the coast was clear. My mother and Dana had stepped deeper
into the kitchen and were holding a conversation. I knew from
where they were that they couldnt see the coffee table or
the couch, so I ran back to the coffee table and grabbed the gun.
The gun was bigger than my two hands
and was heavier than I expected it to be. It dropped out of my
hands hitting the floor and making a loud crash. I turned around
to see if my mother had heard the noise and was startled, but
I could tell from the on-going conversation neither one of them
heard a thing. I kneeled down on one knee to pick the gun back
up. I examined it, flipping it around to one side and the other
and I pointed it toward the wall with my finger on the trigger.
I felt in control and with this gun the world was at my feet.
I closed my eyes and imagined pulling the trigger, making a loud
noise and the whole neighborhood would hear it and probably call
the police. The police would come and know that the gun belonged
to Dana and probably take him away. With him gone, things would
go back to their old ways and my mom wouldnt be mad at me.
Nobody ever told me not to ever touch a gun even though I knew
I was not supposed to.
I lifted my arms higher in the air
with my finger still on the trigger. Nothing happened. Nothing
came out. Maybe I didnt push hard enough. This time I put
two fingers on the trigger with my arms still high in the air
and pressed down as hard as I could and still, nothing. I guess
this stupid gun it broken, I thought. I placed it back onto the
table and ran into the kitchen to check the time on the stove.
The clock read 10:00 and when I walked in; my mom and Dana were
sitting at the kitchen table still talking.
Ma, I said.
Yes, Jahmeilla, she said.
Im going over Malachi and Elizabeths house to
Okay. Well net time you see me having a conversation, say
Meilla. Dont come back in this house too late. Have
Malachi and Elizabeth walk you back.
All right, Ma!
Malachi and Elizabeth lived in house a couple of streets down
from me on the opposite side of the street. They also lived in
a town house like mine. When I arrived, Malachi and Elizabeth
were already outside in front of their house playing.
Hey guys. Was sup?
It took you long enough, punk, Malachi said.
Yeah, I know.
Want to play up on the roof tonight? Elizabeth said.
Yeah! Lets go!
The three of us all ran into the house and up the stairs to where
Malachi and Elizabeth slept. I was the last to walk in and Elizabeth
closed the door behind me and locked it. Malachi ran over to the
window and was just about to open the door when we heard a loud
Who is it? Elizabeth said.
Open this damn door, girl!
Elizabeth unlocked the door and opened it.
What I tell yall about locking this damn door and
what I tell yall about bringing company over without asking
me first. Hi Jahmeilla. How you doin?
Heather and Malachis mother was
a heavyset woman. Her hair was thick at the roots and straight
at the ends. She was a tall dark skinned lady and she wore her
clothes baggy. She was sloppy; the house was always a mess. She
never did anything and she always wore the same red t-shirt every
Hey. Im fine, I said.
Do yah mama knows youre over here at this time of
Yeah, I asked her if I could stay the night if thats
okay with you, I lied. I knew she wasnt going to call
my mother and ask her anyways, and I didnt want to go home.
Yeah, Jahmeilla. Youre always welcome. Yall
have fun and dont lock this door now.
When the coast was clear, Elizabeth closed the door and locked
it. She knew, just like I knew, her mother wasnt coming
back to check up on us.
Malachi opened the window and climbed
on the roof. Me and Elizabeth grabbed some pillows and a blanket
off the bed and headed out the window right after. We laid the
blanket out and placed our pillows on top. We looked up into the
black beautiful sky and counted the stars until we all fell asleep.
kneeled down on one knee with my hands on the concrete and my
head down admiring the new all-white Nikes my mom just bought
me. Timothy, who was a little bit on the chunky side, was next
to me in the same position, waiting for his little brother, Tyrus
to get to the end of the parking lot so we could get things started.
Timothy used to be the best at everything they played around here
till I came around. So he was always competing with me. We raced
every day and I always dusted him, but today was special. He bet
his sparkling yellow see-through yoyo, and I had bet my favorite
candy bar, Snickers: winner takes all.
Tyrus finally got to the end of the
parking lot and I looked over at Timothy and gave him a smirk,
letting him know what was about to go down. By the time I looked
back up, Tyrus screamed, Go! And I peeled off, looking ahead with
my head held high. My legs moved rapidly and stretched out so
long, it was like I was leaping down the parking lot, my arms
shifting up and down, moving as fast as my legs.
Timothy wasnt next to me or in front of me. As I ran, I
twisted my upper body around to look back while I still moved
at the same pace to see that Timothy was far behind me, and slowing
down like he was about to give up. I smirked at him again, getting
closer to the finish-line. I could hear the neighborhood kids
tease Timothy, who was bent over now, with his hands on his knees,
gasping for air. I walked to him to claim my prize Timothy looked
up at me, with fire in his eyes. He stood up straight with his
fist balled. His eyes were beet red and his face started to shiver.
You just got beat by a girl! Malachi said.
Meilla always wins. You cant beat her, Timothy,
I held my hand out in front of me,
smiling and proud. Timothys chest pumped in and out and
I could hear the deep breathes he took. I watched as he gradually
began to open his hand. But there wasnt a sparkly yoyo inside
it. Instead, Timothy shifted his hand far away from his body,
swung it around and open-hand smacked me in my ear.
Aaaaah! I said, closing me eyes
and grabbing the side of my face, covering my ear with my hands.
My ear was burning and started to ring. Then I saw that to the
left of me on the sidewalk was a pile of sticks. I ran to the
curb, picked up a stick from the top of the pile, ran back and
hit Timothy in the face with it and then hit him again and again.
Timothy screeched and screamed for me to stop but I couldnt
hear him. My eyes were burning and I could no longer see him curled
up on the ground. I felt the snap when the stick broke, but that
didnt stop me. It only made me more enraged. I only stopped
hitting him when I got tired.
telling my mother, Timothy said, as he stood to his feet.
Timothys face was all scratched
up by the stick and he had welts all over his arms and legs. He
ran toward his house. I ran towards mine. I entered my house and
ran upstairs to find my mother, who was in her room with Dana.
She was lying on her back while Dana was resting his head on her
stomach. She was stroking his head, gently. They were talking,
about what I have no idea. I told her what had happened
and showed her my ear that was still red from the smack.
Then we heard the doorbell. My mother, Dana and I went downstairs.
My mom stood on her tippy toes to look out the peephole, then
opened the door to Timothy and his mother. Timothys mother
was short, dark-skinned with a cute short haircut, but she was
fat, just like Timothy.
Look at what your damn daughter did to my son.
Thats what he gets, my mother said. He
should have never put his hands on my daughter, bitch! My
mother moved closer in on Timothys mother.
My mother had always been a fighter, whether I was there or not.
Shed throw down in a heartbeat, and then would keep it moving.
And by the look of her body language, I knew something was about
to go down. Dana stepped in between the two, laughing.
Dyka. Get in the house. This is over, Dana said.
We all went in and Dana slammed the door in Timothys mothers
Meilla. Dont play with that lil boy no more,
I knew going outside again that day
wasnt an option, so I went into my room and played for the
rest of the night with my crazy kitten Jasni until my mother opened
my door. She told me she was going to be gone for a couple of
days because she was working her airplane job and Dana was going
to watch me. My mom hadnt worked a day in her life and I
knew she didnt have to work on any airplane job. I had never
been left alone with Dana before and wasnt too happy about
spending a couple of days under his supervision.
The next morning, lying in my bed, I woke up to the smell of bacon.
Dana was in the kitchen at the stove, cooking.
Ma! I said.
already left. Its just us. You hungry? Dana said.
Maybe, I replied.
Well, theres bacon and eggs and these pancakes are
almost done. After you eat if you decide to eat
get dressed. We got to go, he said.
Nah. I ma stay here.
Your mother said not to leave you in the house alone, so
youre rolling with me until she gets back.
I couldnt believe my mother left
without saying good bye. Then she had the nerve to leave me with
Dana. After I was finished eating, I went back upstairs to get
dressed. I brushed my hair into a neat ponytail on top of my head.
I had so much hair my puff was bigger than my head. I put on my
favorite all-white dress with ruffles at the ends. I loved that
dress because it came up high above my knees. Then I slipped on
my brown Mary-Kate and Ashley cowboy boots.
Meilla when youre ready, Im waiting down here,
I sat on my bed then lay back staring
at the cracks on the ceiling. My mind told my body not to move,
giving me that early morning feel of not wanting to get up. I
really didnt even want to be or even go anywhere with Dana,
but I had to. Dana was already waiting. I could tell because the
smell of his strong cologne lingered up the stairs. I followed
it down to where he was.
He had on a brown leather jacket with
the leather pants to match real leather with some alligator
shoes. He wore a gold watch and a couple rings on his fingers
and chains around his neck. Dana was a fly guy with a lot of money.
He was a big time drug dealer and in the trafficking drug business.
He was also a pimp. He used females as mules, and even though
I didnt know it for a fact, I think he used my mother from
time to time as his mule to. At least thats what I overheard
my grandmother say one time, who despised him. My mother was probably
out there now trafficking drugs on a plane and I had to spend
the day with Dana.
Dana opened the front seat car door and stepped to the side. I
placed my hand on the rear door handle to get in the back seat.
You want to drive?
I got in the driver seat instead, and Dana got in the passenger.
He reached his hand over me to move the seat up close enough so
I could reach the pedals.
Your right foot, the one closest to me is the gas. Thats
how you move the car. The bigger pedal is the break. Thats
how you stop the car.
I placed my hand on the wheel and looked forward. I could see,
but barely. Dana leaned across me to pop the trunk and got out
to get two yellow-page phone books for me to sit on.
Now put your foot on the brake and hold it
He shifted the gear to the D which he explained was short for
Now put your foot on the gas lightly, keep your eyes straight
and hands on the wheel
I tapped the gas with the tip of my boot and the car started to
move straight out of the parking space. Then Dana helped me turn
the wheel to the left onto the street. I slowly made my way all
the way to the top of the street.
I looked down at the pedal and pushed down hard and fast on the
brake making the car and the both of us jerk back. Dana laughed.
Then I couldnt help but laugh too.
Okay we got to go. Get in the front seat and put your seatbelt
on and dont tell your mother I let you drive or get in the
I smiled and jumped out the car into the front. I took a deep
breath in, then exhaled loudly. Dana looked up and smiled at my
sigh of relief.
My body rested in the tilted back seat
as drool poured from my mouth. I could feel the car stop but was
too tired to respond. Probably another run Dana had to make, I
I opened my eyes and sat up looked over at Dana and wiped the
drool off my face.
The thought of food made my tummy roar.
Oaky lets go we gon get you something to eat in here
We walked up to the town houses that were sort of similar to mine,
just different coloring. Dana fumbled through his pants pocket
trying to find the key. When we walked in, I saw a light-skinned
woman with long hair, skinny and tall. She had on slippers and
black skin-tight leggings with a tight wife beater tank top. The
woman came running up to Dana, and wrapped her arms around his
shoulders and he wrapped his arms around her waist. There was
something real awkward about this woman and Dana, but I couldnt
really tell. Maybe she was one of his prostitutes, or maybe she
was just a friend. The key to the door, the hug, something wasnt
right, and I was going to keep my eyes open to what was going
Whos this? the woman said
Thats my niece, Jahmeilla Dana said
Hi Jahmeilla. Nice to meet you. Im Anna. She so cute!
Shes hungry. Make her something. Dana said
How about spaghetti? Do you like spaghetti?
Yup I replied.
Anna went back into the kitchen to
start preparing me food and Dana showed me to the living room
before he went back into the kitchen. I already knew where it
was. The house was exactly like mine except it was a one-bedroom
apartment with no upstairs and down stairs. The apartment was
at all one level. I sat back on the couch and flicked through
the channels. Annas house was spotless and she had nice
things. The setup of her house was real nice, nicer than at my
Anna soon came in with a pencil and
paper and sat with me and taught me how to draw faces of cats,
dogs, and rabbits. She was a nice woman but I felt something funny
inside about this situation. The smell of the boiling pasta spread
throughout the house tickling my noise and making my stomach growl
even louder. From the smell I knew it was almost time to eat and
I was past due for my next meal.
I gobbled down my food I turned the TV down to see if I could
hear a conversation going on between Anna and Dana, trying to
get the drop on what was going on. Then I looked up into the kitchen
area and I saw Anna and Dana kissing. I looked down, back at my
plate so that neither of them could see that I saw what just happened.
By the time I looked back at them they werent kissing anymore,
and everything after seemed normal, so I knew Dana hadnt
seen me looking. I just couldnt wait till my mother came
back, so I could tell her all about it.
My First Love
Like the common bum I think of
but I am burnt, even by the hot stream of its juices.
I am eighteen.
Marie Barnus Eighteen
I only made about $600 a month via
work study and I was considered a ghost to the creditors which
in some cases is worse than having bad credit. So I went to a
shifty dealership. Morton Street Cars. The electrical sign was
dingy when lit. There was one line of flags along the fence that
encircled the cars. When the wind blew you could hear the blue,
red and yellow flags snap. There were potholes in the tar-spotted
The owner knew my family, but that
meant nothing. I was the youngest of four. I had two sisters and
one brother. Most people didnt know that my mother had an
eighteen year-old daughter. People like my uncle from California
who would send Christmas cards every year with money in them for
everyone but me. I asked my mother why, and she just said, Juney
sent your money in my card.
I didnt know how to use the transit
system, so my father picked me up from school. On our way home
wed pass Morton Street cars and thats where I spied
the two-door Celica. It was a stick and it had low mileage. It
was old, old as dirt. 1989, but I thought of it as vintage.
It was summer. One of those summer
days where theres sun and breeze but all you can feel is
the hot, hot searing sun. It was as if a spotlight from the sun
shone especially bright on the Celicas grey exterior that
was coated lightly with yellow dust, pollen left over from spring.
It had not been one of the cars placed out front. I didnt
see any price on a sticker, so I went into the office. I introduced
myself simply as Ms. Reynolds, not Pat Robersons daughter,
and asked for the keys. I was told by the receptionist to have
a seat and wait for the owner.
I decided to stand. The vinyl chairs
were old office chairs ranging in color from green, brown, and
the color of worn. They were cracked in different places and looked
as though they were waiting to bite my bare legs. The office smelled
funny too, like a mixture of motor oil and flea market. The lighting
was dim and the window could not look any brighter even if you
Jean, the owner was short and stubby,
dressed in brown twill slacks and a long-sleeved button-up with
a tie, way too hot for this weather. When I asked for the keys
to the Celica, he hesitated. Its a stick, he
Hows the clutch? I asked him, hoping this would
give him the impression that I drove a stick, but in reality I
only knew about the clutch because my mother had burnt it out
in the Ford Bronco. Id always be forced into the back that
was made for cargo, but reserved for me, the youngest. It was
always cold and hard or hot and hard. Blankets failed to keep
me padded or warm and I always scraped my knee on the harsh grey
rug or the scratchy grey plastic that was worn and well-used,
a result of one of my mothers latest projects around the
house. There was never enough air; even in the winter. Never enough
The owner still hesitated, so I offered to get the keys with him.
The door stuck. The car had not been
opened for a long time, but I noticed the tread of the front left
tire sitting in a puddle but still able to hold a quarter. I could
at least remember what I heard and watched my father do when he
fixed on other peoples cars. I asked him to teach me, but
he preferred to teach my brother who could have cared less. So
I had watched from a distance. Same with my purchase. My father,
I had decided could watch from a distance or not at all.
I popped open the door and out came
even more heat. I stood there and waited. Its hot!
I said. I waited another moment. I smelled a familiar smell of
old and time. The Celica had cloth and leather seats. Even more
perfect! I hadnt expected leather and cloth. Now I could
really call it vintage and believe it. I got into the car and
realized I needed Jean, the pudgy poorly dressed owner to help
me start the car. But instead I sat, the seat burning my thighs.
I wished I wouldve listened to my father when he had told
me, Put on some clothes!
I knew how to start from neutral, I thought. So I tried pressing
the gas and clutch simultaneously. Nothing. I tried again, adjusting
the dusty stick. It jumped. Jean? I called out. He
was with a customer. Jean! Hi. Im waiting and I need
your help. Thanks! He called for someone to come move the
car for a test drive. I couldnt do it. I got nervous. What
if he didnt let me buy it? I couldnt even start the
car! What if he thought I was a waste of time. I didnt even
know the price yet and I only had $915 and the rest was for the
insurance and the rest was for the registration. Just look confident,
I told myself.
I went back to the car, as if to prepare
to start it again; it simply jumped. I noticed I had no real trunk
space and in my excitement I didnt look-over the car. Okay.
I got this, I thought. You know a bit about cars. So I did a 360.
I made sure all the power stuff worked, power doors, power windows,
power locks. Sunroof-check. Was he sure this thing was an 89?
There was a lot of power in here. Both doors opened and closed
without a squeak. Tires looked almost brand new, has oil and fluids
at level, just dusty and needed cleaning.
Jean sent over his mechanic. He was
wearing a grey-blue outfit that had a name on it, but by the look
of his features, it was not his. He was young, early thirties,
brown mocha skin and jet black hair. He was what most would consider
attractive. He came to sit in my Celica with his greasy grey-blue
and now black-brown uniform and right before he plopped down in
my car, I asked if he could put something in the seat to sit on.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. I got in too and he said, Okay.
Lets go, in a thick Latino accent. I sat there, hating
that the smell of grease that was wafting bout in my car. I tried
to start it again and another time. Finally, I asked the mechanic
if he could do the test drive for me. You should drive the
car to get the feel of it, he said.
Ill feel it while you drive, I said.
When he drove us back onto the lot,
I was beyond excited. The Celica was sporty, fast, powerful, yet
fragile. But when I heard the price, my heart sank. $2,900.00.
Bartering and name-dropping got me nowhere. Now I was stuck with
a broken heart and a 1994 Hyundai Excel 2-door. Lets check
power windows. No, manual. Power locks. No, manual. Power steering?
No. No power anything! How could this be? The love of my life
was right there looking at me, asking me why arent you taking
me home? Why are you looking at that inferior thing? The Celica
was just waiting for me, nobody else. Just me!
It had been the greatest and quickest first love affair ever.
It Started With Cricket
My mother is a mixed breed of Native
American, Italian and Caucasian. Shes white skinned with
green eyes and blonde hair. My father is African-American. My
siblings and I are a mix of hues. My brother, light brown and
dirty blonde hair, green eyes that change color depending on the
outfit hes wearing. My sister is brown, dark brown thin
hair and brown eyes. My eldest sister has a different father,
Leroy, my mothers first husband. Leroy was one-hundred percent
Native American. He was black as coal with long wavy hair that
fell below his waste. My eldest sister was dark until she bleached
herself and her hair was dark and beautiful. My mother, father
and siblings have similar features: keen noses and thin lips.
And that leaves me, the youngest: light-skinned, brown eyes, full
lips and a black nose, brown hair that was long and very very
My mother didnt know what to
do with my nappy hair. So my sister would spend painstaking
hours parting and braiding my lovely locks into box braids, then
placing strings of beads in my hair, all white, finishing the
ends with a clear bead and a rubber band. I learned then, that
pain really was beauty. My mother would always fuss about my hair,
and say how she didnt know where this nappy mess came
from. And how she wished she could cut all that mess
off. Shed make me wear hats in malls and stores for
hours on end. It was hot under there.
I couldnt figure out why my hair
was such a problem. Id look at it in the mirror and it looked
okay to me. But it wasnt just me and my hair, it was everything
black. At the age of four or five, I knew there was something
wrong with the way my family looked at the world.
At home it started with hair, and on
the television, when there were black people. My mother would
say they looked or acted niggerish. I couldnt
have black dolls because they had big lips and noses. When I saw
them, I didnt see me, but related to them because of the
familiar terms my mother used to describe them, Look at
those ole ugly dolls with their nappy hair and big lips.
So I decided that I would launch a campaign against my mother.
I would ask for every black doll regardless of whether I liked
it or not and I was not going to play with any white dolls ever
again. It was a risky decision seeing that Christmas was right
around the corner.
I decided to start small by holding onto a Raggedy Ann-like doll
in Woolworths. I picked up the black one who was an exact match
to the white one with the exception of color. I held onto that
doll for all the hours we were there. My mother said, No.
I cried. She said, Get the white one. I cried. She
asked. Why do you want that black thing? I cried.
We left the store, African-American doll in tote. Every time my
mother went to the store she brought back little toys, dolls,
rabbits [yes, live rabbits]. Whenever shed bring me a white
doll I refused to play with it or even take it out of the box.
This was very frustrating for my mother. She called me ungrateful
and would go on name calling about the black dolls I did want.
It didnt bother me. I just continued rebelling.
And then I saw it. The toy of all toys, doll of all dolls. Cricket!
Not only did Cricket come with her own directors chair with
her name on it, she was interactive. She read to you! Oh my goodness!
This was amazing! I had to have her! When they aired the commercial,
I ran to get my mother as fast as my four or five year-old body
could have carried me. Cricket! Cricket! Ive got to
have Cricket! My mother acknowledged me and not the commercial,
so there I was, trying to tell her how much I wanted this doll
and she thought it was just another doll. Every time the commercial
aired, I would rush into my mothers room to show her. Finally,
one night we were all watching TV in her room when the commercial
for Cricket aired. She said Oh. I see why you have been
having a fit, she said. Yes! She agreed that Cricket was
as awesome as I thought. I want the black one! I yelped
out and to my surprise she said, okay. I just knew it would be
the best Christmas/Birthday ever because my birthday was on the
So the hunt was on for Cricket, the
interactive book-reading-directors-chair doll in black.
Not bad. This was the 1990s, the closest thing to Cricket
was Teddy Ruxpin, but unlike him, Crickets mouth,when she
read to you, looked and moved like a humans. The doll was
about two-hundred dollars. I only knew because I remembered my
mother complained about not finding any Cricket dolls anywhere
and how she thought they were overpriced everywhere. Well,
Nuddy, she said to me, I dont know if well
find that doll before Christmas. Thats the fourth place
I sat in the back seat of my mothers
Chrysler New Yorker, still smelling of French fries from McDonalds.
I was squished between my brother and older sister. My eldest
sister was in front in the passenger seat. I just remember feeling
smaller than everybody else. Not only was I the youngest, but
I wouldnt have my new friend to sit and read with. I had
my days planned out with Cricket. Nights in a pillow fort with
the rabbits, stealing Teddy Ruxpin from my brother for tea with
the girls only to be told that all of the hunting for her
was done? About halfway down the road from Ames, I started balling
uncontrollably. Life as I knew it was over. My mother looked at
me and told me it was okay. If I didnt get her for Christmas,
I could get her in the summer. I cried louder. My sister and brother
who sat in the back with me were annoyed, but Shawn rubbed my
leg and said shed check at Bradlees again where she
My mother must have felt horrible because
we went to Dedham Mall to Woolworths and she asked if I
wanted anything. We went to the toy aisle. I was still sobbing.
It was snowing and Woolworths delivery truck was late. Some
lady came and asked a few questions and there were people around
her. My mother left me in the cart with Shawn, my eldest sister
and spoke to the cashier. She hurried back and told my sister
to wait there; she only went a few steps away, and there it was,
a Tiffany blue colored box. It was big! I couldnt see the
pictures yet. The associate pointed to my sister with the shift
of his eyes. My mother and he headed back to us from the associate.
It was like a drug drop or something
illegal. There it was! Cricket! My mother was holding Cricket!
The box was old, but it smelled like new. I didnt say anything.
My mother asked, Now are you happy? with a smile.
I turned the box over and she was
Mommy! I wanted the black one.
My mother took the doll and put it in the carriage.
Mommy! I wanted the black one!
The associate looked at my mother. My mother looked at the associate.
Ask him, Mommy. Ask him! I want the black one.
My mother looked frustrated. She asked. Now this was what I dont
remember. I could have sworn he brought out a black one, but I
dont remember. I dont want that one. It
was just before Christmas and Id gotten the doll I wanted
but she was the wrong color. Of course she played the same cassettes
and sat in the same directors chair and yes, she moved her
lips with the same motion as any other colored Cricket doll. But
she wasnt black.
I hated her, not because she was white,
but because she wasnt black. She had bleached blond hair.
I had black hair. Her hair was manageable. Mine wasnt, [according
to my mother]. She had blue eyes. Mine were brown. She looked
more like my mother than she did me.
Wasnt it a toys job to
relate to the child in some way shape or form? For instance, Ninja
Turtles: theyre turtles, but they practice Martial Arts.
What child has not practiced Karate and played dress-up by tying
his or her moms stockings around his head? See? Relatable.
Yes, I read books and so did Cricket, but that was it.
All those weeks before Christmas, I
hoped that my mother would realize that Cricket wasnt simply
the wrong color doll; she was so much more than that. By purchasing
the white Cricket, my mother wasnt just ignoring my request,
she was dismissing my campaign, and she was yet again, rejecting
me. My mother seemed to have hated everything about me: my hair,
my eyes, my nose, and my lips. She rejected me by association
with my likeness to the dolls I wanted but that she didnt
want me to have.
If not for my strong will, I would
have succumbed to her rejection, but I fought, even at such a
young age, and I rebelled. Looking back, I can only thank God
for the family he gave me. My mother may never know what she created
in me, but I will always be grateful for the rejection that I
suffered because it has forged the person that I am today. It
shaped me by showing me what diversity was not. In my adulthood,
Im a person of acceptance and non-judgment. I can appreciate
all shades of beauty in any and every race. I tell my children
that they are to value themselves and that diversity in every
spectrum should be invited and appreciated. I dont call
my childrens hair bad with the implication that
their hair is bad, nor have I taught them terms like pretty
for a dark-skinned girl, as if beauty plays tag with a select
few dark-skinned women and even men. Ive taught and am still
teaching my children beauty comes in all sizes, hues and textures.
On Christmas day, there she was, propped
up in her directors chair, waiting with her book in her
hand Cricket, the white one. I left her in the living room,
sitting by herself.
Too heavy to lift
So many, they lay
side by side,
connected in some way.
Resembling a life I portray,
a pattern on display.
So hard to hide
no matter the disguise.
Its cold out
but not too cold for snow.
Im wrapped in a blanket,
my feet in plush
I like the sounds.
The crunch of compacting
snow as slow and cautious
cars trudge by.
No one can see me
standing on the 2nd story porch.
remembering snow days at home
with my brother.
How he threw me in
when I was wearing only jeans and a t-shirt.
My thoughts keep me warm.
I hear stillness.
A most precious sound.
Close the door.
Im not ready yet.
Close the door.
Im not ready.
a short story in progress
Beautiful Friday morning, the sun is
shining, the birds are chirping. A woman passes by pushing a stroller.
Baby crying, Shhh love, Mommys right here.
Ugh, How I hate the mornings.
The streets are busy, bumper to bumper traffic. I feel like Ive
been walking forever. My feet are killing. I think Im lost.
Whats new? I never did know my way around.
I begin to sweat. It drips off my forehead. Finally, 1007 Myrtle
St. Its a tall red brick building. I swing the glass doors
open, aggravated. Theres a silver dial pad on the left.
I type 1515. It starts to ring. A deep voice answers, Who
is it? I'm hit by relief. Its me. He buzzes
me in. I catch the door.
The carpet is black and linty. I push up on the elevator.
In the lobby theres a wall made of glass. When I look in
it I think, Damn! Im a mess. Ive been up for days.
I fix my hair a little. The elevator doors open. It stinks like
old people. Floor 5, the hallway smells like chicken and a different
welcome mat is in front of each apartment door.
I wipe the sweat off my forehead and rub my arms to warm myself
up. Door number 509, Knock, knock, knock. Its open.
I walk in past the kitchen right into the parlor. There he is
sitting in his nice leather couch with his foot on the glass table,
watching music videos on his huge HD flat screen. Whats
Damn its smoky in here. I laugh. I light up
a Newport and sit. I throw him some cash like always.
He asks, Same as usual?
Yup! I head to the bathroom.
When are you going to cut the shit out?
I laugh and say, The same day you do. In that moment
I realized I have no intention of stopping. I am in love with
the quick fix.
Now I feel so much better, invincible. Now all my guilt is washed
away. I dont have to hear that little voice telling me to
get clean and go home. I'm going to be up for another week! Im
ready to party! As my phone rings, I dig in my MK purse to find
it! Damn thing wont stop ringing. Whats up Coco?
I didnt think you were going to answer. Are you on
Yes. Lets make this money!
I hail a cab. Take me to 10 Alston
Street. The cab pulls up to the curb and I see Coco on the
porch already smoking a Newport.
I pay the driver.
I walk up the brick stairs. Coco puts out her cigarette and opens
So did Chico stop by yet? I ask.
Na, I been waiting for your ass.
I laugh as we walk up to the 3rd floor. We walk down the hall.
I see her neighbors kids running back in forth playing tag.
One almost runs me down! I look at Coco and smile.
The apartment smells like jasmine incense. I love it! We walk
down the narrow hall. There are pictures of butterflies on the
wall. They are beautiful. The hall leads to the parlor. I remember
painting the walls light purple when she first moved in. The parlor
has a nice flat screen with a surround sound. We used to watch
movies on it all the time. Now we dont have the time for
movies anymore. The kitchen is off to the side. Marble floors,
black granite counters. We both sit at the glass kitchen table.
I go back into the parlor to turn on some music. Moses by Future.
Call Chico and see where hes at, Coco says.
Hey, are you close by?
Are you at the spot miss lady?
Ok Im on my way now.
While we wait me and Coco jam out to some music. Knock, Knock,
Knock. I peep through the peep hole and there he is looking fly
as hell. Chico is Puerto Rican and he has long braids. His gear
is always on point.
Whats up Ma?
Nothing, come in.
We all sit at the kitchen table. He pulls out his stash.
Damn C, that shit smells strong. It was white as snow
and sparkly like glitter.
He chuckles. I got some knew shit, fish scale. Im
going to let yall try it.
Me and Coco look at each other. Ok! we say. He scoops
some powder with a piece of Newport box in a dollar bill for us
and we split it up. Once we are done, we are flying. Eyes huge
and my heart races like I ran a marathon. We pick up some of that,
let Chico bag up at the house and we bag our shit up too.
It starts to getdark . After Chico leaves, we take showers and
get fly. The night is when we make most of our money. We flipp
molly and coke all night to the college kids at the clubs.
The fast money is what we love. It is how we live.
Unfortunately it is also how I got caught up in the dope game.
by Yamiley M.
He calls through the night
The monster underneath my bed
Ill make all your dreams come true
Just come play with me, he says.
Grab my hand and promise me
That youll always be mine,
And Ill give you youre every need
Until the end of time.
Ill bring the fairies out to
Then well fly with the birds.
Ill never leave, just follow me
And listen to my words.
I backed away until he grabbed my
And pulled me close
And then he said, You act as if
Im trying to take your soul.
I looked at him with trusting eyes
To see what I could see.
I thought that I saw something strange
But I just let it be.
I let him pull me off my bed,
And gently to the floor.
To my surprise beneath my bed
I saw a little door.
Excuse me Mr. Monster,
But this doors too small for me!
He said, It fits just anyone,
If only they believe.
I crawled into the tiny space
And was blinded by the sight,
Unsure whether to jump for joy
Or give into to my fright.
I looked around this wonderland
Confused by what I saw
A dog riding on a lion
With fins instead of paws.
When I saw a merry-go-round
A smile came to my face.
We both took off running
Into a full-on race.
I got there first and on the horses
I tried my best to jump.
But when the monster got there,
He still had to help me up.
After showing me the ropes
He fastened in my feet.
I had the ride of my life
Which after, I was beat!
I sat a while to catch my breath
Then tried to get back down.
I saw I couldnt move my feet
So I began to frown.
I looked over at monster,
Searching for his help
But monster only stared at me
While smiling to himself.
Monster, help me out of here.
I think Im stuck! I cried.
By then I saw his face had changed
He looked at me and sighed.
I screamed, Hey, I dont
like this game
No, I dont want to play.
He smirked at me and then replied,
Well, you are going to stay.
You silly little human child.
Dont you get it one bit?
I know youre stuck, I put you there,
And now youre part of it!
Now, I try to scream for help
But I cant make a sound.
Forever stuck in statue form
On his merry-go-round.
The Essence of My Melody
When I was a little girl I wanted to
be famous. I wanted to travel the world as a performing artist
showing the world who I could be and what I loved. As far back
as I can remember I loved to sing and dance. Something about hearing
the melody of the music with its instruments in tune made my feet
want to jump around like I had ants in my pants. When it came
to doing the Running Man, I could out run anyone in any competition.
Was it hearing the sweet words of Can You Stand the Rain
from one of my favorite boy band groups that had me melting just
like an M&M in the palm of my hand even on the coldest winter
day? I would sing along with the song like I belonged right alongside
Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige or Janet Jackson at their next
concert. Maybe it was the combination of song and dance. One could
not exist without the other. Music fed my soul and without it
my world would be madness.
Screaming in my house was routine.
Sometimes the screaming would be accompanied by my formal name
interchanged with that of farm animals. I noticed it happened
more when the house was filled with strangers, men and women of
all shapes, colors, and sizes. I could smell their stale cigarettes
and the cheap perfume and cologne, so strong it reeked as if they
bathed in it. Sometimes the strange people undressed me with the
bedroom eyes of someone elses lover, someone who smelled
like cheap whiskey and urine. I would name him Chester the
Molester because in my eyes thats the name he was
making for himself. Id listen to the sounds of playing cards
being slapped on the table while someone else debated whether
or not their opponent reneged. It created a picture in my mind
of just how this fight was going to be different from the ones
before, all because they were fighting over money. A white powdery
substance was all over the kitchen counter and on a plate with
rolled up one-dollar bills alongside it. A Tupperware container
filled with a green plant substance accompanied the plate, both
of them set out like hors doeuvres. Someone would be passed
out on couch while two others were making out on another couch
moving to the rhythm of a Marvin Cease song. This was my world.
Music was my escape. It expressed the
emotions and feelings that I couldnt express, describe,
and sometimes understand. I tried to imagine why the artists chose
to write or sing their song. Were they hurting just much as me?
Had they been through the same pain that I was experiencing? Did
they know that somewhere in the distance was another soul, a little
girl named Josey, who also knew music as an outlet? Maybe all
artists know that their work has a profound and universal impact.
It was the one thing that made me feel safe; like I could strap
on an armor of headphones to my favorite portable Disc Man, insert
my favorite artist of choice for theme music and navigate through
the battlefield of my household filled with confusion, indifference,
Years have gone by and I have yet to
make an album or become a recording artist. I never became the
next Fly Girl rendition from In Living Color. As John
Lennon said, Life happens while we are busy making other
plans. I lost sight of my dreams and aspirations to become
the next Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, but Ive never
lost my belief in the power and profundity of music. Music taught
me how to look within to find the strength and resilience of the
Bengal Tiger, to face adversity at all times. It also taught me
to metamorphose like a butterfly, changing and growing every single
day to a newer freedom. Music was and always will be an instrument
of Love in my life.
Give back to me my face in the mirror
Change your wayz from riding on my desire.
The way I walk is meant for me.
Find your own way to sway in these streets.
Mi hairstyle is wild. I rocked it
Choose yours; stop mimicking me.
A stars profile shines skin
Love springs from beneath mi feet.
To the crown above mi head
I hold up high as I walk on by.
Every day I shout victory, victory,
glory for mi.
This is the real mi no time for fake
Life has enough challenges so let me breathe.
Cant erase mi color off of
For you this is true; dont blame my shame.
Its all in the game.
The Cocaine Confessional
I cook my coke in holy water. You can ask Jesus.
Therefore, the first rock I smoke is the cleanest.
Fiends become followers as communion is passed out.
Funny how church is their new favorite crack house.
Donations are welcome to stay for the feast
As they bow to the altar and pray for a piece.
And when the priest throws rocks at their feet?
A true sign of God or the mark of the beast?
Thousands of years after creation of life,
the symbol of the cross is replaced by the pipe.
The Bible becomes nothing more than a book,
The Ten Commandments instruct you on how cocaine is cooked.
Father and Sisters are high, come join their club.
Even the altar boys will sell you a dub.
Now religion is a thing of the past.
Our backs turned to God in return for a blast.
a short story
The shimmering lights of the upcoming
Tobin Bridge flickered softly across the windshield. On the two-lane
blacktop, Dennis handled the Mustang with an expertise that Kelli
admired, but he drove too fast.
Youll get us killed,
My mother has rules about being late for dinner. Dennis
Being late is better than being dead for dinner.
Youve never met my mom, she has rules.
So do the Boston Police.
Dennis laughed, Sometimes you sound just like her.
Bracing herself as Dennis took a curve
too fast, Kelli said, Well one of us has to be a responsible
They had left New Hampshire to take a four-day break from classes
at the University of New Hampshire where, in the spring, they
would earn masters degrees in Psychology. Dennis hadnt
been delayed in his education by the need to earn his tuition
and living expenses, but Kelli had spent the last ten years attending
classes part-time while working full-time as a waitress. First,
in a Fridays, then in a 99, and most recently, in an upscale
restaurant with white tablecloths and cloth napkins and fresh
flowers on the tables and customers who routinely tipped 25 to
30%. The visit to Dennis house in Boston would be the closest
thing to a vacation that shed had in a decade.
You think your Mom and Dad will like me? Kelli asked.
Of course theyll like you. You know what I worry about?
Dennis asked as they raced toward the top of an incline.
Apparently not death.
You. I worry about you. Dennis said. He glanced at
Kelli and his expression was uncharacteristically serious.
I can take care of myself, Kelli assured him.
I dont doubt that. I know you too well to doubt that.
But life isnt just about taking care of yourself, keeping
your head down, getting by. Life is about living.
Wow. Thats deep, Kelli said sarcastically.
Deeper than you think, Dennis said. The Mustang sped
along, but ahead of them was an older model Buick, cruising well
below the speed limit. Dennis cut their speed by more than half,
and they pulled behind the other car. Kelli could see the round-shouldered
driver was a white haired, elderly man. They were in a no passing
zone. The road rose and fell, turned left and right, rose again,
and they could not see far ahead. Dennis switched on the high
beams, hoping to encourage the driver of the Buick either to increase
his speed or to ease over where the lane widened to let them pass.
Take your own advice, relax. Kelli said.
Id hate to be late for dinner, Dennis said.
From everything youve said about her, I dont
think your moms the type to beat us with wire coat hangers.
No, my moms the best.
So relax, Kelli said.
Ahead of them the old man in the Buick
checked his rearview mirror. The white hair in the headlight beams,
the angle of the mans head, and the mere suggestion of his
eyes reflected in the mirror, suddenly gave Kelli a powerful sense
of deja-vu. For a moment she didnt understand why a chill
came over her, but then she was cast back in memory to an incident
that she had long tried unsuccessfully to forget, another twilight,
over twenty years ago, on some lonely highway.
Oh Jesus, she said.
Dennis glanced at her, Whats wrong?
Kelli closed her eyes.
Kelli, youre as white as a ghost. What is it?
A long time ago
when I was just a little girl, maybe
seven or eight years old
on some lonely highway, two narrow
lanes, so damn empty and lonely
Kelli had been with
her mother and Jimmy Guns, they called him, a Boston drug dealer
and gun runner with whom they had lived now and then, for a month
or two at a time during her childhood. They had been on a business
trip and had been returning to Boston in Jimmys vintage
red Cadillac. It was one of those models with massive tailfins
and with what seemed to be five tons of chrome grillwork. He was
driving fast on the straight highway, at times, exceeding a hundred
miles an hour. They hadnt encountered another car for almost
fifteen minutes before they roared up behind an elderly couple
in a tan Mercedes.
The woman was driving. She was bird
like, close cropped silver hair and at least seventy- five. She
was doing forty miles an hour. Jimmy could have pulled around
the Mercedes, they were in a passing zone and no traffic was in
sight for miles on the dead flat highway. But he was high
on something, Kelli told Dennis, eyes still closed, watching
the memory with growing dread as it played like a movie on a screen
behind her eyes. He was most of the time high on something.
Maybe it was cocaine that day. I dont know. I dont
remember. He was drinking too. Both of them were drinking, him
and my mother. They had a cooler full of ice, bottles of juice
and vodka. The lady in the Mercedes was driving real slow and
that drove Jimmy crazy. He wasnt being rational. What did
it matter to him? He couldve pulled around her. But the
sight of her driving so slowly on the wide-open highway infuriated
him. Drugs and booze, thats all. He was so irrational when
he was angry red faced, arteries throbbing in his neck,
jaw muscles bulging. No one could get angry quite as totally Jimmy
His rage excited my mother. Always
excited her. So she teased him, encouraged him. I was in the back
seat, hanging on tight, pleading with her to stop, but she kept
at him. For a while Jimmy had hung close behind the other car,
blowing his horn at the elderly couple trying to force them to
go faster. A few times Jimmy had nudged the rear bumper of the
Mercedes with the front bumper of the Cadillac, metal kissing
metal with a squeal. Eventually the old woman got rattled and
began to swerve erratically, afraid to go faster but too frightened
of him to pull off the road and let him pass by. Of course,
said Kelli, he wouldnt have gone past and just left
her alone. By then he was too psychotic. He would have stopped
when she stopped. It still wouldve ended badly.
Jimmy pulled up alongside the Mercedes
a few times, driving in the wrong lane, shouting and shaking his
fist at the white-haired couple, who at first tried to ignore
him, then stared back wide-eyed and fearful. Each time, rather
than drive by and leave them in his dust he had dropped behind
again to play tag with their rear bumper. To Jimmy in his drug
fever and alcoholic haze, this harassment was deadly serious business
with an importance that could never be understood by someone clean
and sober. To Kellis mother it was all a game, an adventure
and it was she who, in her search for excitement said, Why
dont we give her a driving test?
Jimmy said, Test? I dont need to give the old bitch
a test to see she cant drive for shit. This time as
Jimmy pulled beside the Mercedes its matching speed.
I mean see if she can keep it
on the road. Make it a challenge for her.
To Dennis Kelli recalled, There was a canal parallel to
the road, one of those drainage channels you see along some highways.
Not deep but deep enough. Jimmy used the Cadillac to crowd the
Mercedes onto the shoulder of the road. The woman shouldve
crowded him back, forced him the other way. She shouldve
put the pedal to the floor and got the hell out of there. The
Mercedes couldve outrun the Cadillac, no problem. But she
was old scared and had never encountered someone like this before.
I think she was just disbelieving, so unable to understand the
kind of people she was up against, unable to grasp how far theyd
go, even though she and her husband had done nothing to them.
Jimmy forced her off the road and the
Mercedes rolled into the canal.
Jimmy stopped, shifted the Cadillac into reverse and backed up
to where the Mercedes was swiftly sinking. He and Kellis
mother had gotten out of the car to watch. Kellis mother
insisted that she watch too. Come on you little chicken.
You dont wanna miss this, baby. This is one to remember!
the passenger side of the Mercedes was flat against the muddy
bottom of the canal while the driver side was revealed to them
as they stood on the embankment in the humid evening air. They
were being bitten by hordes of mosquitoes but were hardly aware
of them; they were mesmerized by the sight as they stood gazing
through the drivers side window down below them.
It was twilight, Kelli
told Dennis, putting into words the images behind her closed eyes.
So the headlights were still on. Still on, even after the
Mercedes sank, and there were lights inside the car. They had
air-conditioning so all the windows were up and neither the windshield
nor the windows had shattered when the car rolled over. We could
see inside because the windows were only a few inches under the
water. There was no sign of the husband. Maybe he was knocked
unconscious when they rolled. But the old woman
. Her face
was at the window. The car was flooded, but there was a big bubble
of air against the inside of the glass and she pressed her face
into it, so she could breathe. We stood there looking at her.
Jimmy couldve helped. Mother couldve helped, but they
just watched. The old woman couldnt seem to get the window
open and the door mustve been jammed. Or maybe she was just
too scared or too weak.
Kelli had tried to pull away but her
mother had held her, speaking urgently to her, the whispered words
on a wind of breath sour with vodka and orange juice. Were
different from other people baby. No rules apply to us. Youll
never understand what freedom is if you dont watch this.
Kelli closed her eyes, but she had still been able to hear the
old woman screaming into the big air bubble inside the submerged
car. Muffled screaming. Then gradually the screaming faded
finally stopped, Kelli told Dennis. When I opened
my eyes twilight had gone and night had come. There was still
light in the Mercedes and the womans face was still pressed
against the window but the breeze had risen, rippling the water
in the canal and her features were a blur. I knew she and her
husband were dead. I started to cry and Jimmy didnt like
that. He threatened to drag me into the canal, open the door to
the Mercedes and shove me inside with the dead people. My mother
made me drink some orange juice with vodka. I was only seven!
The rest of the way back to Boston, I lay on the backseat dizzy
from the vodka, half drunk and a little sick. I was still crying
but quietly, so I wouldnt make Jimmy angry, until I fell
In Dennis mustang the only sounds
were the soft rumbling of the engine and the singing of the tires
on the blacktop. Kelli finally opened her eyes and came back from
the memory of that long ago humid twilight on a lonely highway.
The old man in the Buick was no longer in front of them. They
were not driving as fast as before and evidently he had gotten
far ahead of them. Dennis said softly Dear God. Kelli
was shaking. She plucked a few Kleenex from the console box between
the seats, blew her nose, and wiped her eyes. Over the past two
years, she had shared part of her childhood with Dennis, but every
new revelation and there was still much to reveal
was as difficult as the one before it. When she spoke of the past,
she always burned with shame, as though she had been as guilty
as her mother, as if every criminal act and spell of madness could
be blamed on her, though she had been only a helpless child trapped
in the insanity of others.
Will you ever see her again? Dennis asked.
Recollection had left Kelli numb with horror. I dont
Would you want to?
Kelli hesitated. Her hands were curled into fists, the damp Kleenex
wadded in the right one. Maybe.
For Gods sake, why?
To ask her why. To try to understand. To settle some things.
But, maybe not.
Do you even know where she is?
No. But it wouldnt surprise me if she were in jail.
Or dead. You cant live like that and hope to grow old.
They drove off the exit ramp into the
city. Eventually, Kelli said I can still see her standing
in the steamy darkness on the banks of that canal, greasy with
sweat, her hair hanging damp and all tangled, covered with mosquito
bites, eyes bleary from vodka. Dennis, even then she was still
the most beautiful woman youd ever seen. She was always
so beautiful, so perfect on the outside, like someone out of a
dream, like an angel
but she was never half as beautiful
as when she was excited, when thered been violence. I can
see her standing there, only visible because of the greenish glow
from the headlights of the Mercedes rising through the murky canal
water, so ravishing in that green light, glorious, like a goddess
from another world.
Gradually Kellis trembling subsided. The heat of shame faded
from her face, but slowly. She was immeasurably grateful for Dennis
concern and support. Until him, Kelli had lived secretly with
her past, unable to speak of it to anyone. Now, having unburdened
herself of another hateful, corrupting memory, she couldnt
begin to put her gratitude into words.
Its okay. Dennis said, as if reading Kellis
mind. They rode in silence. They were late for dinner.
Can Anybody Else Say
by Angeliea Brown
Can anybody else say they yearned
Can anybody else say they still look
for mothers comfort and hugs?
Feeling not fit for this world of
To keep looking when theres nothing
Can anybody else say that they
gave their all just to be set up
for a major fall?
Can anybody say that they
put up your pride to say you were
hungry with tears in your eyes
just for them to look at you with
shriveled lips and sighs, evil grins
with plotting eyes.
Willing to do what it takes
to make ends meet.
In your mind doesnt matter
as long as your children eat.
Can anybody else say you would
have done anything for him, yet
instead he had it out for you
in the end.
Can anybody else say they looked
death in the eyes, except this
time you were willing to
fight, thinking did it matter
now that youre in cell 9?
Can anybody else say?
Life of Leaves
by Kim D.
If lines on a human hand can tell
a persons life,
what do the lines say on a leaf?
Could they tell where it came from or where
it has been?
Perhaps it could tell about its roots or how it got
Maybe they could tell us from which tree it
fell and how long it has been
lying on the ground.
Im sure they could also tell us how much longer
it has left
before its no longer moist and dries
up before the winter heads in
and on the leaf
there are no more lines.
Now this guy comes along, sweeps me
off my feet on words and promises, alone. When the mask was removed
and I revealed my true self, he told me how he loved my eyes,
the color of my hair. He uttered sweet nothings in
my ear that he was infatuated with the scent of my perfume. When
I walked, he loved the motion of my hips. He caressed my arm and
said he loved my touch and that he wanted to be the only one touching
He held me in his arms and as I embraced his embrace; it was promising
to the touch, inviting with the feel, warm with the passion and
believable with every stroke.
I made love to him in the dark in an
old empty shack on an old bed that was left behind by the family
that had lived there nine years ago. In the midst of all, I could
hear the winds and the hay blew with the wind that brushed lightly
up against the window panes and the old wooden doors. Light rain
drops tapped on the roof, coinciding with lustful moans that came
along with the trusting which pleasured me so much from this man
who had made me feel so loved and needed a half hour prior to
the events that were now taking place in this seclusion.
by S. Estrada
I touch the softness of the red and
black velvet curtain and peer through the slight opening and watch
the snow fill the parking lot outside the cheap hotel room window.
For all the clanking and banging coming from the radiator, you
would think itd be hot as Hawaii in this room, but its
not. All its doing is working my last nerve.
I see the reflection of my glossy eyes in the glass and gently
close the curtain. With a shaky hand, leaning on the window frame,
I bow my head and let the heavy tears that have filled my eyes
spill down my cheeks. I feel the hot rush of embarrassment and
shame run up from my stomach to my chest like a flame hit by lighter
fluid. I feel weak, like I can no longer stand, so I pull out
the squeaky wood and cloth chair and balance myself on the little
round cherry wood table and drop into the chair like the lifeless
person I feel like and begin to cry. Not one of those loud hysterical
cries. No, this cry has traveled from so deep within, through
layers of shields and protective walls, that by the time it reaches
the surface, all that comes out is a quiet squeaky moan left by
a loves end.
Holding my head in my hands, I rock
back and forth as memories of first moments flash through my mind
like little mini movies. I can still remember the first look my
lover gave me that sent the feeling of fluttering butterflies
through me and tickled my womanhood. The first gentle, touching
caress which felt so foreign because I never felt that safe or
wanted before the first spat over the toilet seat that ended quickly
and quietly complete with a kiss and an apology.
My lips quiver as I sniffle and inhale
long and deep, trying to regain some sense of control. I grip
both hands on the armrests alongside me and push myself out of
the chair and walk towards the mirror and sink. As I walk by the
t.v. I click it on and hear some reporter talking about a murder-suicide
in some small town I never heard of. I let out a sigh of sadness
because of what happened and relief that it wasnt me. Wonder
what set him off, I say quietly to myself, turning the knob
for the hot water and placing a round rubber stopper in the sink.
I close my eyes and let the heat vapors cloud around my face and
My mind drifts back to the lesson I
was still trying to learn from the discipline, as
my lover calls it, and to thoughts of him holding me still by
the back of my head, my curls were wrapped around his fingers
so tight that I thought hed pull them out by the roots.
His fist smashed so hard into my jaw that I spat out little pieces
of broken teeth that stabbed my tongue with a sharpness that made
me wonder if I had taken my razor out of my mouth when I came
in from hustling. I remember trying to pull forward and shake
my head from side to side to free myself from the hold he had
on me. I felt paralyzed from the look of hate in his eyes. Sweat
outlining his face as he placed it nose to nose with mine, yelling
his favorite, You dirty bitch! line at me.
My knees buckled under me. I brought
my palms together in a prayer position, intertwined my fingers,
laid my thumb flat against my index finger and with all my strength,
I swung my hands upwards into his face, hoping it would explode.
Ripping his hands out of my hair, he swung me loose sending me
with my arms raised crashing into the dresser with a loud crack.
Stumbling backwards into the wall with his hands over his face,
he yelled, You maggot bitch! The echo of his voice
startled me and reminded me that I was alive and I still needed
to get away. I pressed at my throbbing side, hoping my ribs werent
broken, leaned forward and sprinted towards the door. I grabbed
the doorknob yanked at it, then almost felt defeated when I realized
that I was trapped by the chain. I slammed the door shut, and
with lightning speed, I slid the chain out, praying it wouldnt
get stuck at the end, and swung the door open so hard I sent it
slamming accidentally, but with some satisfaction on his fingers
before he could reach me to snatch me back into the room
Suddenly, I feel my feet are wet and
open my eyes and realize the water is overflowing from the sink.
I turn the knob and shut it off, wave the vapors away from my
face and wipe the fog off the mirror. I can hardly recognize myself
through the puffiness. I take a deep breath to get up enough courage
to wash off the cover-up I put on my face to hide what Ive
become. This isnt the first time Ive been here alone
crying in some cheap hotel room wondering how to stay away after
a date with some fat guy named John of course, who
was kind enough to leave me the room after he was done doing his
I can still recall how relieved I was
when I caught the date after putting on the cover-up, lipstick
and eyeliner I stole from Walgreens, to fix my face, to
look as normal as possible. I waved him down, winking and blowing
a kiss, and as his car passed by I looked over my shoulder, trembling,
praying, I could get in the car safely, without my so-called man
getting to me first.
Now, I am here with my shaking hand
washing my face, staring at my new bruises, begging myself not
to go back there, this time.
Author, Peggy Rambach, runs creative writing workshops in community education settings for the Healing Arts in health care, correctional facilities, ESL programs and immigrant support centers as well as offering assistance with lesson plans in professional development presentations for middle and high school teachers. She teaches memoir writing in medical schools as part of the curriculum in Narrative Medicine and Medical Humanities. Ms. Rambach is conveniently located for teachers, students and participants from throughout New England including the Vermont (VT) cities of Bennington, Burlington and Montpelier, the Maine (ME) cities of Portland, Gardener, Kennebunkport and York, the New Hampshire (NH) cities of Portsmouth, Concord, Manchester, Dover, Nashua and Rochester, the Massachusetts (MA) cities of Boston, Newburyport, Amherst, North Hampton, Salem, Beverly, Lawrence, Lowell, Haverhill, Gloucester, Plymouth, New Bedford, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Marblehead, Rockport, Hyannis, and Falmouth, the Rhode Island (RI) cities of Providence and Newport and the Connecticut (CT) cities of New Haven and Hartford.