It’s the late 80s.
I’ve been on the streets for a year.
17 and verbally vicious.
My words were my weapons of emotional violence in a world where my fragile female body made me easy prey.
He was older. Softer.
More artist than thug.
He loved me.
One of the ways I use to “get money” was working at strip clubs.
I would make myself useful by picking up the wet one-dollar bills. That way the “dancers” didn’t have to bend over. Bending over made the dancers vulnerable to surprise deliveries from the back in order to pick up the money.
I would hang outside and clock the cars.
Mercedes with expired tags.
Lexus with out-of-state license plates.
Toyota with mismatching rims.
A man’s car tells you how he tips.
I would then tell the dancers which men had nice cars so the could pay extra attention to him.
At the end of the night, I would get a cut from the dancers for my help.
It was easy work.
I was gifted at reading people.
But sometimes I missed…
The artist was a bartender who took to me.
He gave me food, his coat, and a place to stay.
He was older than me.
“I don’t have money to give you but I can pay you in other ways…”
He laughed, “You’re cute but underage. You jail bait. I would rather stay out of prison, if that’s alright with you.”
I liked him.
He looked after me.
He was a good man.
He started to tell me what I could and could not do.
I felt controlled.
It got worse.
One Saturday night when the club was closing we got into a heated argument.
I was going to get in a REALY nice car with a guy who was dressed like a banker and who was nice to me at the club.
My artist signaled me to come talk to him by the club doors and pleaded with me to NOT get in the car.
“Don’t get in that car.”
“He’s evil. It’s in his eyes.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“No I’m not. I’m looking out for you.”
I was young.
“Why,” I sneered at him. I wanted to hurt him for trying to control me. “So you can rape me in my sleep? Or maybe you’re a child molester who’s just trying to butter me up so you can pimp me out.”
He was so stunned by my verbal venom he stepped back. I leaned in. I had been trained in emotional violence my entire life. I knew how to hurt with words.
I got it from my momma.
It was a family trait.
It helped keep me alive on the streets.
I looked at him with disdain, purposefully malicious.
“Is that it? You won’t fuck me but you will pass me around to your “mens” who are into young pussy? Huh? Is that it?”
He was shocked by my viciousness.
All he had ever done was shown me kindness. The hurt in his eyes let me know I had checked him.
I had won.
Like a flame from the fire on a gas stove, I watched the light go out of his eyes.
He turned and quickly walked away.
I felt triumph.
I quickly walked back to the car.
I was so excited such a rich Man wanted me.
Of ALL the pretty women in the club he wanted me.
I felt special.
When I got to the passenger side of the car happy and ready for the good life, the Banker backhanded me across the face.
I tasted blood in my mouth.
I fell to the ground from the force of the blow.
He started to kick me.
I went fetal to weather the rage.
“I am not a target for those sluts on the pole!” He yelled as he kicked me in my stomach. “I saw you see me drive up and I watched you point me out. You little piece of shit!”
He spat on me as he walked around to the driver’s seat of his nice car and drove away.
I laid their, on the cold and cracked asphalt of the strip club parking lot.
I checked to see if anything was broken.
This wasn’t my first beat down.
In truth it could have been a lot worse.
If my Artist hadn’t slowed me down from getting in the car it WOULD have been worse.
(Beat downs are ALWAYS worse in confined spaces.)
It hurt too much to move.
So I just laid there praying to God the Banker did not drive back and run me over out of sheer spite.
A couple of the dancers found me and took me back to their place.
They let me stay until my body healed. Once I could walk without too much pain, I went to see my Artist to apologize.
I went to his shabby apartment and knocked.
I knocked hard.
Still no answer.
I banged and screamed.
The resident heroin addict, who had to slap himself to stay awake, peeked out from under the steps and said, “They took Charles to the hospital.”
My blood turned cold. I got scared.
“Why? What happened?”
Mr. Heroin, slapped himself four times and then said, “last Saturday night he tried to kill himself.”
My mouth went dry.
I went back to the dancer’s spot and called all the hospitals in Baltimore until I found him.
I went to visit.
He had slit his wrists.
When I came into his room, he looked at me, his lips trembled, and he start to cry.
“I am not a rapist. I never put a hand on you. I tried to protect you. I fed you. I did my best to take care of you. How could you think of me like that? I love you. I love you. I love you.”
I ran to him and rocked him while he cried.
I climbed into his hospital bed with him and cradled him in my arms while we wept.
I cried and whispered to him how sorry I was and he was right; all he ever did was take care of me.
I stayed with him in the hospital until they moved him to the mental ward. I sat with him every day. They gave him pills to take and he was released.
I stayed with him while he mended.
I went with him to his therapy sessions and sat outside until he finished.
I bathed him and made sure he took his meds so he didn’t fall into depression.
I cleaned his apartment and made sure he ate.
It took time for him to heal but he did.
And I listened.
I listen to his dreams.
I listen to his secrets.
The secrets Black Men are never allowed to tell.
I slept naked in bed with him just so he could get warm.
“I was ten when it happened. It was my uncle. He made me… I didn’t want to… Then he…he…”
I hugged him with my body, heart, and soul.
“I would never rape you. I can’t. I’ve never been able to…I can’t get it up… All I can see is my Uncle…”
My Artist buried his face in my neck and cried.
I cried with him.
I understood what he could not say.
I kissed both of his wrists and showed him my scars.
Beautifully thin and artistic slits that look like keloid ribbons decorated my wrist akin to African markings from our Ancestors.
His tear-filled eyes opened-wide.
I could see him.
For the first time.
He kissed me.
Out bodies wake up.
I got moist.
He got hard.
We cried together.
By: Dr. Venus Opal Reese