Posts Tagged ‘utopia’

Jade Image

“Jade, I done told you to get up out of that chair and go to the store,” said Mama way beyond mad and holding in her hand an empty container of baby formula. She stood there with disbelief in her 50 year old eyes, as I continued clipping photos from a travel magazine I had retrieved from the “free bin” at the library while enjoying my chocolate snack pudding cup. I was getting slow at jumping to her beck and call. I was tired.
“Hey, a girl gotta live her life don’t she?” I said under my breath. I loved traveling the world and eating in exotic foreign restaurants. Even if it was through extensive scrap booking and fanciful daydreams. I didn’t aspire to be the next Cover Girl, but I was big, black, beautiful and nothing was gonna keep me from going to the furthest corners of the world.
“This child can’t wait one more minute for you to finish with that foolishness girl. You really need to grow up!” Mama breathed fire. “By your age I already had three mouths to feed.” With a whimpering and hungry baby hung on her hip she was a little worn. But, Mama was rarely happy anymore anyway. The days of happiness and fun ended when mama saved my six month old niece, Aleeya, from foster care.
“I told you I’m going,” I said in the retaliatory tone that came so willingly from my tongue lately. For all the work I was doing I never felt less appreciated. Run to the store, heat a bottle, change a diaper, mow the lawn, do the dishes, respond to the crying child at three o’clock in the morning; on-and-on it went. Without looking up I knew I was one step away from a serious tongue lashing. The electricity in the air was thick and if her breathing was any indication of just how close I was to doom I thought better of saying what was on my mind, “You wanted the baby. How about you go?”
“I’m sorry,” I said instead, with my eyes averted so she couldn’t see just how disgusted I was feeling. I sat the scissors down and used my fingers to clean the bottom of the pudding cup, then licked my fingers clean. I reached for my tattered hand-me-down flats that were laying next to my chair. While slipping on my shoes I asked, “How much money is in the account?”
“The check came Boo,” she said wild-eyed, in disbelief. “You think I’m going to send you to the store with no money in the account?” Her lips were quivering and she was perspiring, “And leave that funky mood in the streets before you get back.” Aleeya started to wail. I grabbed my jacket and purse and left without looking back.
As I walked down the numerous steps of our old Victorian rental, each individual step rendered an account of its age with creaks and groans beneath mv feet. I was thankful that almost everything was within walking distance in this lame town. Mama and I didn’t drive. It was all about walking. The only bus that came through this town was the one that took people to utopia.
I reached into my purse, pulled out my iPod, and put the buds in my ears. The distraction of some funky music was a staple in my life. As I walked along I thought about how much life had changed over the past few months. My 13 year-old niece had given birth to Aleeya, and lost her to the authorities. When Mama caught wind of the situation she had jumped into action. “No great-grandchild of mine is going to be raised by strangers,” she vowed. To some degree I think Mama was trying to make up for what she hadn’t done for her children. For years she had played slave to drugs and alcohol. My oldest sister had once told me, “You got it good. Mama ain’t who she used to be.” I was by far the youngest sibling, and maybe I didn’t endure what they had, but I knew without a doubt that this was not the good life my sister alluded to.
Only one block to go. I was almost there. The smell of Burger King french fries invaded my nostrils. I wanted so badly to stop and get some, but decided not to since I hadn’t asked first. As I approached the market I knew it would be a feat to walk past the magazine rack at the entrance and not stop to look at the latest edition of Travel and Leisure, so I planned my venture into the store carefully. I couldn’t stop anywhere with a starving child singing the blues back at the house. As I entered I took a deep breath and purposefully looked in the opposite direction. Then I exhaled and headed to the formula.
The check-out lane was unusually long. It made me think about just how unlikely it would be for Mama to smile when I walked back through the door with the liquid gold. I would give anything for one of her smiles. I glanced to the front of the lane. “Dang!” I must have said out loud, as the guy in front of me turned around with a curious look on his face. There at the front of the lane was an old woman writing out a check for her purchase. People still write checks? I thought to myself. The story of my life.
At last. The checker scanned the formula as I consecutively slid the debit card, and then said with a less than sincere smile, “Your balance due is $1.99.” It took me a second to realize she was asking me for money. Surprised, I stood there for second not sure what to do. I started rummaging through the bottom of my purse for change, knowing there wasn’t any more than a handful of pennies.
Feeling humiliated I stammered, “Le-le-let me see what I can find.” I placed five pennies and one nickel on the counter and continued to search, hoping for a miracle. I felt like fainting.
“You still owe $1.89,” she said with raised eyebrows.
“Are you sure there isn’t more money on the card?” I asked mortified.
“Slide it again,” she said in a bored tone.
A male voice behind me said, “Here. I got it.” And he placed two, one dollar bills on the counter.
I turned around, “Thank you sir.” He was a handsome old man with a gray beard and ponytail. I wanted to cry in appreciation of his kindness.
“It’s okay,” he said kindly. “You better go feed your baby.”
I said thank you again, and almost ran from the store. I didn’t have a baby. Thank God.

As I approached the house I could hear Aleeya howling at the top of her lungs. The front door and screen were wide open. I ran up the steps and into the house. “Mama?” I called out. Aleeya was in her crib with tear-drenched eyes. I picked her up and headed to the kitchen to make a bottle. I called out again, “Mama, I’m back!”

Sitting on the kitchen table was a hypodermic needle and a small crumpled, empty brown paper bag.

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