This book is untitled. I've heard it was bad luck to name a book before you publish/finish it because you'll never finish. Also a book's name has to sum up and sale the book in less than 4/5 words, with that how can you sum up a book that isn't summed up. Using three sums in a sentence - that's why I need an editor.
Leave Richmond-Chapter 1
There I was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ vehicle watching my world of the past four years get farther and farther away. With the back of my hand pressed to the window and my head resting in my hand, I sat there trying not to think about it. I was leaving my beloved Richmond and going to Danville, VA. I tried not to think about the research job, my friends, and definitely not my parents. All of my furniture was gone; a whole one-bedroom apartment full of second hand furniture was gone. When I looked at my TV and a heap of clothes piled behind me I couldn’t help but wonder if these were the only meaningful things I had collected over the past four years. I tried not to think of where I was being taken from or where I was being taken. So, I was determined to just sit there for over three hours and wait until I got to my parents. Once there I would then search for a solution. I was hoping that the faint music would to carry me to a live club or a romantic scene. The station played R&B oldies and gospel that only carried me closer to the house and childhood that I was about to visit in less than three hours. Any music would still be able to take my mind off the present and the unknown unplanned for future. But I could barely make out the melody being the volume was almost inaudible. I leaned forward and tried to turn the music up from the second row passengers’ volume control button. Nothing happened. Not being able to turn up the radio foreshadowed the lack of freedom and happiness I would have living in Danville in my parents’ house. I leaned back pushing and kneading the stiff new leather and still couldn’t find a comfortable position. All that hard work in high school to get a scholarship really did work off in the end, a new SUV for my parents. I looked out the window to recall any changes since the last time I took the same trip. Staring at the bobbing green rolling hills made me nauseous and my breath became short. I tried pressing the button for the window for fresh air but I did it vain, absolutely nothing happened. There I was, a twenty-two year old adult, sitting in the back of my parents’ child proof ride. I was unable to crank the music up, roll the windows down, let my hair blow in the wind, and enjoy myself like everyone else my age did. And on top of that this trip never took three and a half hours when I drove.
Coming home from college was an evil sinister wake up call. I was a free spirit among my peers. We went to class, worked part time gigs on campus, and partied when not doing the previous two. I could go as I pleased and take a cab in the middle of the night to the diner with six friends. I could have company as often and late as I wanted. It was my apartment and I could walk around nude, leave the bed unmade, sit my bare tail on the couch, and not flush the toilet. Most importantly, I could leave a ball of lint on the counter and it would be there when I came back for it. I knew if I left a little corner of juice in the bottle it would be there waiting for me to drink it right out of the container. I was living the life of a grown-up.
But the experience of an adult life came to a whiplash halt on the last day of the apartment lease. After running around town from the lab on the undergraduate campus to the employment office on the medical campus further downtown, I ended up in the newer lab full of brand spanking new computers and the backs of thirty heads in neat rows little typing frantically. One was Jahar, whose birth name was Robert Marley. Two months ago he was my practicing reggae rasta love interest, his pink lips stretched wide making his small green eyes squint to acknowledge my presence. I winked. And out of the corner of my eye I could see the cheese eating Brown Mouse waving at me. She grinned softly as if it hurt her to move her facial muscles. The look I gave her should have diminished her into a heap of clothes that even goodwill would reject. The effects of hate on my face wouldn’t be enjoyed since a fake smile sneaked its way from my tight jaws. I had practiced in the hot car and sticky walk exactly what I wanted to say. “So, how did you everything go? Did you get the apartment?”
“As a matter of fact, no, I didn’t.” My voice and words came out so coldly and to my surprise loudly, because all foreheads looked up and the clicking of nails on the keyboard ceased.
“Oh, well, what happened?”
“The raise that you promised that you gave me two weeks ago never was. I just came from human resources and the payroll office and no one had any authorization from you nor any one else to increase my pay.”
“There’s nothing you can say. You lied.”
The rows of faces waited for anxiously to here the reason why because this affected them too. I held the information that they wanted and I was going to give it too. And since they deserved some kind of compensation and I was more than willing to give it to them good while laying Brown Mouse out. Right then I was going to be the voice of all the typing peons.
“Look, Wanda, I graduated along with a few others in here. And we were supposed to get this big, significant raise after we graduated that you kept talking about. And as far as I have heard not one of us has received this magical raise. And when I went down to HR and payroll they both said that they no one sent them any paper work from this lab concerning raises. So, in short you lied.”
“Come with me. I can see that you’re upset.” My body shivered involuntary to what my mind had to figure out. There was pressure on my tricep and then my entire arm pushed forward without any effort from me. She was not only touching me but this heifer was pulling me. I jerked my arm from her grasp and went off. “Yes I’m upset. I’m mad as hell. And you better not touch me again.”
“You need to—
“I need to stay black and die, understand. And I’m tired of wasting my breath on a lying, trifling so-called woman as you. Therefore, I quit,” and stormed outside. If I was going out I was going out with a bang. I put my folder down on the steps in front of the building and had a seat. With the little purse in my lap I dug blindly into the tiny side pocket and felt for the one cigarette I had been saving all day. I placed that in the fold of my shirt and then went into the abyss of my purse to find the lighter. Keys, chapstick, wallet, checkbook, a lifesaver.
“What you looking for?” It was my tall lanky rasta man.
“Hugh.” He sat down closely beside me and lit my cigarette. He pulled out a beenie and lit it.
“So you leaving?”
The roll of my eyes synchronized with the roll of my neck answered him more than any words could ever explain.
“I’m sorry things turned out this way. I was counting on getting that raise too.” He put his head down on his bent knees and looked at me with a blank face.
I nodded and pulled hard on the cigarette.
“You want to get something to eat? We can go to the Jamaican House, it’s on me.”
“Don’t you have to go back in?”
“Ok, then I’ll go.”
I wanted to know if he had taken the rest of the day off or quit, but to find out didn’t matter anyway, so I left it at that. I would have gone regardless if he paid or not. And that gig, it was a stupid tedious job entering survey data entry for AIDS/HIV testers for the state health department. It really sucked. We would all announce when we got one. We looked at the demographics and pitied the person in a silent prayer. Well, I said a silent prayer for them.
I gave away all the furniture to goodwill and left Richmond in the summer. Sure I could have stayed with my current boyfriend a hopelessly romantic drunk who was 15 years my senior. But before taking my chances with that I decided to return to my birthplace. With dusk settling on the town, it looked exactly as it did when I left hoping to never return. Danville was based on Dan River running from east to west that provided energy for the fabric mill to the west and RJ Reynolds to the left. But RJR was smarter than I was fled the city leaving shells of brick plants and warehouses and a useless covered bridge crossing the river. Along with those two companies were Goodyear, Corning, and the hospital to apply for employment. I was not about to mail resume in to any of them. I did not want to work on an assembly line and then be humiliated by being corrected by classmates that I never saw in my advanced or AP classes. A long time ago I promised myself that I would not waste four years of my life to come back to Danville, live with my parents, and work at a sweat shop factory as if it was a career with a desk and office with a view of the sky and a tree.
My parents’ house was sandwiched between a boarded house to the left and an occupied dilapidated house to the right. At least the house to the left didn’t have a string of Christmas lights still up, big wheels and bikes in the walkway, and a jacked up car parked out front. I felt sorry for my parents. Their house was and had always been misplaced in the most raggedy neighborhood in the entire city. I felt sorry for my parents. The yard wasn’t as green as it was the last time I was home. I guess they had water restrictions too, but by far it was the greenest on the whole block. It was the only yard with grass come to think of it. The front door had been painted brick red to stand out from the green three story exterior, green hanging spider and fern and potted elephant plants, and white pillars and spools that made up the front porch. Despite the renovation my parents had done to their house it was still plain in original structure compared to the two houses beside it. Those other houses had more character and were occupied long before I came along by to doctors, lawyers, and other prominent white citizens of Danville. These houses had their traditional white washed wood siding. Big grand houses, with stained glass framing the front door, tin roofs, and round corners on the top floors. They had decorative spools hanging from their gutters, and octagon windows in the attic, walkways and yards were bordered with stones, lattice to cover the foundation, and big purple blooming bushes. One even had a huge magnolia tree in the front yard. The entire neighborhood was carefully designed to have perfect blocks with sidewalks with a narrow strip of grass before finally getting to the curb, not sidewalk less curvy streets and cul-de-sacs of newer communities. The owners of our houses ran to the Pines or Groves or Parks and turned most of the houses into duplexes when integration occurred. Then abandoned completely when renters failed to pay and owners failed to repair. Some stayed and died in the pretty homes and sold to the highest bidder by their relatives. They were all once beautiful houses of vestibules, foyers, formal living rooms/dining rooms, high ceilings, plaster walls, and hardwood floors, fireplaces everywhere, two kitchens, large bedrooms, and bathrooms with porcelain tubs and basins. That was when the trolley tracks tons beneath the black tar were in use.
Once inside the house, I transported everything past the living room, parents room, and up a steep flight lined with my mother’s painting. Not one picture shifted as I stumbled carrying everything I had all at once up to my room. I stared at the white that covered my pretty lavender walls as a child. The textured berber carpet was once purple. I hid myself and my few belongings in the transformed guest room that was mine as a child. I took a seat at the foot of the twin bed closest to the window facing the street and looked out watching the headlights of a few cars pass by. The previous night ran across my thought and I knew I should call Latisha and Zeal, who I left in Richmond. From my room I walked into the little den and to the hallway and peeked over the banister to see movement from my parents. In the bathroom, I pulled back the cocoa beaded shower curtain and liners and stuffed them in to the towel rack on the wall. The running water was just right on the inside of my arm so I sat on the side of the footed tub watching the bubbles multiply. Sitting in the tub, my body felt heavy. It was time to get out once the water got cold. I tried to pamper myself as much as I could and finally let the gown fall slowly over my body and settle lightly on my shoulders. The size of the bed strikes me as being smaller than I had remembered as I pulled back the pink white pin striped spread and white sheets. With the sheets over my head I silently prayed that I wouldn’t fall out. From the sloshing sound of the passing cars I knew it had began to rain. On my back I lay there in the bed thinking about Zeal and the night before.