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Authors: Karen Williams

The People vs. Cashmere (19 page)

BOOK: The People vs. Cashmere
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Chapter 26
After what seemed like damn near forever but was only a few months, the psychologist bitch and the short-ass supervisor Ms. B came down the hallway to my room. They interrupted Ms. Hope from her daily quote of the day. I couldn't even remember the first half of it because, as soon as she asked me if I wanted to hear it, I tuned her ass right out.
Ms. B said, “Pierce, you coming back to the world? It's a fucked-up one, but you still gotta live in it like the rest of us, baby.”
I laughed but, really, was considering what she said.
“What the hell! Did you ladies see that?” Ms. B looked from Ms. Hope to the psych. She smiled wide. “Pierce laughed. All we been getting from her is, ‘Fuck you! I'm not doing shit! Fuck you, bitch! I'll kill y'all!' ”
I laughed again and shook my head. “Was I that bad?”
Ms. Hope was shuffling her stack of poems.
“But we took into consideration the fact that you was coming down from drugs, and plus, you got issues, baby girl, issues your little ass needs to get out.”
I didn't smile at that.
The psych bitch spoke in a soft voice. “Pierce, I talked to Ms. Hope and the Ms. B, and they feel you have been conditioned and fit to run your own program now. And a decent one. You've been on this side for almost six months. How do you feel about being moved to a status one?”
My first reaction was to tell her to kiss my ass, but I had to think. What would that do? Lead me right back to lockup.
Ms. Hope said, “Cashmere, she's talking to you.”
Who asked your poem-reading, won't-shut-the-fuck-up-soI-can-sleep ass, fake-ass Maya Angelou?
“Hello, Cashmere. You going deaf?”
I took a deep breath. That smart-ass Ms. B sure could talk some shit for someone the size of an elf. “I can't say that I'm ready. Really, I'm in a place where I've never been before. All I can say is, if nobody fucks with me, I won't fuck with them.”
Ms. B narrowed her eyes at me then turned to Ms. Hope. “What do you think? You been sitting on her for a minute?”
If I didn't know, how in the hell was Maya Angelou's impersonator going to know?
Ms. Hope studied my face, as if in serious concentration.
Boo, bitch.
I frowned and stared at the wall. Why was I having so much trouble locking eyes with Ms. Hope?
“Yes, I think Cashmere is ready to be a status one.”
I was knocked out on meds when my seventeenth birthday passed on by. Now I was in a regular program like everybody else. All the bitches now wanted to be cool with me, which was nowhere near what I expected, so I ate in that rec-room (where we ate our meals, went to school, and did programs) surrounded by all of them. My eyes kept scanning the room, and none of them seemed to be tripping off of me.
Ms. Hope surprised me by coming into the rec-room and relieving Ms. Clark of being the unit leader, the person responsible for all the minors in the unit. They tell you when to enter a room, exit a room, when to eat, talk, and shit. It was synonymous with a babysitter, if you were to ask me. They also talked to us about different topics, and every day they gave us a “word of the day.” We were supposed to shut up while we ate, so they could do their lecture. Then they told us about their expectations of us. Which meant no gang-banging, fighting, fucking, disrespect to minors or staff, and to go to school and get your schoolwork done.
Since I had been on the other side, I had yet to really run a program, let alone a good one. And even though two years had passed, I was yet to be sentenced, 'cause I had pissed off the judge so much.
“Okay, ladies, I'll be the unit leader this week.”
Oh shit. Now I'd have to be up and hear that shit she talk?
Somebody mumbled, “Awww shit! Not this new-booty bitch.”
Now if Ms. Hope had heard the comment, she pretended she didn't.
We ate our lousy breakfast while she talked.
“Ladies, your word of the day is
. Pretty much, the word speaks for itself. It means to do something different, modifications, rearranging. Ladies, something that I'm gonna propose to you every day is to think about the word and know that, despite what you have done in the past, you can make a change, whether it be the way you see things, changing your attitudes, behavior, lifestyle. At any given moment, you can change it. Any second that goes by is the opportunity. You just gotta take it. But keep in mind that seconds become minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and the moment to make a change passes you by.
“Now I brought a poem in for you, ladies. It's by Maya Angelou. Keep in mind, ladies, that some of you don't want to hear this, some of you do, and some of you don't know what you wanna hear. So I ask that, if you don't want to hear it, you sit quietly and keep your opinion to yourself, or you could sway the one confused about what they wanna hear to feel the way you feel.”
Why the fuck am I not surprised? Maya Angelou had a stalker for sure
She surprised me because her voice was powerful. She read it like she was on a stage and not in front of some juvenile inmates. It was so loud that I had a hard time tuning her ass out like all the times before. And I also noticed that through all her talking I had barely touched my food.
Why was I so damn eager to step back into the rec-room when the food tasted like shit? Reason was, I wanted to hear some more of what Ms. Hope had to say, now that I wasn't drugged out on meds.
“Ladies, I think we have a lot of issues between us as females. But those issues stem from one thing in particular. How we see ourselves. Chances are that if you are not happy with who you are, you're not gonna be happy, period. And you are more likely to pick on somebody else. The reason being, ladies, is that if you can find flaws in other people, it forces you to take the attention off yourself, and you don't have to acknowledge your issues. But what you have to understand is that type of thing is self-destructive. So if you are constantly putting others down, chances are, ladies, you need to stop and check yourself. Ladies, know that self-esteem is connected to so much. How we feel about ourselves, why we make some of the choices we make, deal with the people we deal with. Why we sell our bodies, engage in drugs, be around people that are no damn good for us. But, ladies, what it takes to get out of this is changing the way you think . . . your logic, your reasoning.”
I bit into my banana and chewed quickly.
“Confidence and self-esteem are vital to your livelihood. And I think there are a lot of women in here that need to work on those two areas, but again, it's about your logic and your reasoning. I brought another poem in I'm sure a few of you have heard. It is pretty popular. It's called ‘Phenomenal Woman'. I listened intently as she read the poem to us.
When she finished, she said, “Now, ladies, I'm not going to go over the whole poem line for line. We don't have time. But think about this first stanza. ‘Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size.' She is saying she is not perfect. But yet and still women wonder what it is about her. It's her confidence. How she sees herself as a powerful woman and the women see it also. And the men trying to find her ‘mystery.' It's her embracing herself. It's in her conscience, ladies. She has a certain ‘umph' about her strut.” Her head high in the air, Ms. Hope switched around the room, making us laugh.
“And the men see that umph and they want some of that. And then, ladies, the line in the next stanza that says ‘Now you understand just why my head's not bowed. I don't shout or jump about or have to talk real loud.' She's proud of herself. She can be who she is and still be appealing. Ladies, before we go back down, I wanna show you something. It's a triangle I came up with.” She drew a triangle on the board with a marker “I call it the levels of steps to self-confidence. The first step is understanding. Ladies, understand that no one is perfect.” She drew a line in the triangle. As perfect as we think Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, or Jessica Simpson are, ladies, they don't see themselves as perfect. Nobody is. That's the logic no one is perfect. Now here is where your reasoning comes in, ladies. Ask yourself, If no one is perfect, why in the hell would I be? Ladies, once you get there, you have mastered the first step. Now the next step is acceptance.” She drew another line. “Here, once you passed the understanding stage, you start to accept yourself for what and how you are. Then you start waking up and being happy with the person you see in the mirror.” She drew another line. “That is where you boost your self-esteem and you now, ladies, have self-confidence. And remember this—Once you realize this, you realize what your worth is, and no one can ever say or do anything to change how you see yourself. And what you ladies are gonna realize is that your worth is a lot higher than you think. It's at a level that not fifty of them fools on them tracks can measure up to. Ladies, you can't put a price on it because, ladies, your worth is priceless.” She turned and looked directly at me.
I closed my eyes and tried my best not to let any tears drop.
Chapter 27
The next morning I ate my food quickly so I didn't have to look up and down. I didn't want to miss nothing.
Ms. Hope began, “Ladies, last night when I was at home, I was trying to think of something I could bring in. I didn't want to burn you out on poems. I thought about all the things you ladies have shared with me. All lot of you have been raped, molested, abused physically or mentally, robbed, and sadly maybe all of these things happened to you. So, ladies, when we say move forward, don't think we're being insensitive to what you've been through. I'm not. We are all victims at one point. We all start out as victims, but it's better to be a survivor. A survivor is someone who was once a victim like you and through time and healing was able to move forward. Ladies, if you are doing drugs or in here because of what has happened to you, chances are that you are still a victim, because what you are doing is defining yourself by your pain. I don't know about y'all, but I wanna be a survivor, so I can pull somebody else up with me. So again as I thought about you ladies last night, all the sad stories I heard, it reminded me of one thing: baggage. So I brought in this song by Erykah Badu, it's called Baglady.”
She lost me there, but once I kept listening, it made sense.
“Ladies, ‘Bag Lady' is a metaphor for baggage, issues, all this weight on this lady's shoulders. ‘Bag lady, bag lady, you gon' miss your bus.' Ladies, the writer of this song is saying the baggage or issues is holding the lady up. ‘You can't hurry up 'cause you got too much stuff,' meaning that this baggage she is carrying is slowing up her progress. The line, ‘I guess nobody ever told you all you must hold on to is you'—If you don't have anyone else, know that you'll always have you. Ladies, we talk about steps all the time, and the first step is facing your demons. Ladies, a lot of you engage in drug use to forget the issues you have, but when your high comes down, you still have those issues, or you self-destruct, sell your body, your soul. Ladies, I know why you hate being in that room on lockup.” She raised her voice as she scanned our faces. “Ladies, you get in that room and you have nothing but time, time to think about choices you made or the thing that happened to you. Then you start cutting, to avoid that mental pain, I know. But, ladies, all you doing when you engage in stuff like that is, again, prolonging your progress.”
My eyes watered. The room was quiet.
“Jay-Z has this really powerful line in one of his songs. He said, ‘Don't run from the pain, run toward it; things can be explained what caused it.' Ladies, it takes you facing it, getting it out. You need to cry, cry! If you need to scream, scream! If you need to beat the wall, beat the wall! But you have to grieve. You have to hurt, ladies, so that you can move to the next step. And the next step is being strong enough to let go so that you can move forward, 'cause if you don't, what you find is that you in the same spot. Ladies, tap into that strength you never thought you had, but first you gotta handle the unfinished business of what's going on in here.” Ms. Hope tapped her chest.
Before I knew it, I broke down crying. Me! I cried like I hadn't cried in a while. Cried over Mama, Daddy, losing my sister, being raped, selling my body. I screamed as I fell out of my chair and hit the ground with my fist.
Ms. Hope helped me to my feet, and we walked out of the rec-room. I continued to sob.
“Ms. Hope.”
“Yes, Cashmere?”
I rubbed my snotty nose and followed her to my room. “I wanna see the psychologist.”
“I'll put in a request for you.”
I sniffed again. “Ms. Hope.”
“Yes, Cashmere?”
“Thank you.”
I continued my crying and screaming till I couldn't cry or scream any more. Once I was done, I lay on my bed shivering, yet feeling like my strength was really being restored.
I heard Ms. B yell, “What's wrong with Pierce?”
Ms. Hope said, “Nothing. She's grieving . . . finally.”
I never thought it was possible to love a woman more than I loved Mama, but I loved Ms. Hope just as much. She always had these stories to tell us. I always went to bed thinking of the stuff she said and woke up wanting to hear more. And it seemed like everyone else did. They didn't start on shit on her watch because they admired and respected her so much. Sometimes even staff would come in the rec-room and listen to what she had to say.
She had us all laughing today, telling us this crazy story. “Ladies, we got to stop hating on one another.”
I smiled as I looked at Ms. Hope trying to get hip.
“It causes so much animosity. And awkwardness. Ladies, one day I went on this date with this handsome guy to this play.”
She was sitting next to Ms. Rino.
“And, ladies, we were able to find our seats and once we did, I was to sit next to a black girl who looked like she was the same age as me. As soon as she saw me, she shifted her body the other way and turned her head, and not once during the play or during the break did she turn back around because she was sitting next to me. Anyhow, there was a part in the play where the singer said turn to your neighbors and give her a big hug, so I turned to her and she wouldn't look at me. So, ladies, I”—she scooted next to Ms. Rino and hugged her—“threw my hands around her, and you know what she did?”
“What?” a few minors asked.
“She laughed and hugged me right back. Ladies, sometimes it has to start with us. Imagine, if you picked a different person every day and said something nice to them, what good that would do. When you see another minor who is homesick, stressed about their court date, or just came back from court, just a nod or telling them it's gonna be okay will do. We gotta start looking out for each other, and we gotta show each other more love.”
When Ms. Hope was sending us down to our room, I reached out and hugged her tight, like I didn't want to let her go.
She just laughed and hugged me right back. “Cashmere, you so silly.”
I had made a lot of progress. I didn't get into fights or disrespect staff anymore. I also learned from Ms. Hope how to get out what was in my head, and once I was able to do this, I no longer felt the need to scratch or cut myself.
I took every opportunity to help Ms. Hope and jumped at the chance of being her helper. Most girls liked being the helper because you got extra food and stuff from staff, and mostly because it kept them out of their room. I liked it because it allowed me to spend more time down the hall with Ms. Hope. Helpers were picked by how many points they earned. We had a Latina chick named Roxie, who was fired as helper because she'd gang banged the night before.
“Huh?” I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and shielded the light from my face. I was surprised as hell to see Ms. B and Ms. Hope at my door.
“Ms. Hope wants to make you a helper. Don't start no shit, or I'll kick your cute little ass.”
I laughed. “Yes, Ms. B.”
Like I said before, Ms. B talked a whole lot of shit for somebody so short, but mostly she was bullshitting. She had a good heart.
The job wasn't too bad either. It was just a whole lot of cleaning.
It was hallway clean-up time. Which was what we did every day after the girls had breakfast—mop, sweep, and wipe down every room. Ms. Hope would open one door, and I would sweep out the room. The fun part about hallway clean-up was listening to music while we cleaned up.
While I pushed the trash out the room, I asked her, “Ms. Hope, how you get so wise at such a young age?”
She laughed. “You think I'm wise?”
I grabbed the mop and rubbed it on the floor of the room till the dirt came up. “Yeah.”
She closed the door back.
“You know how many times I heard ‘Bag Lady.' I never thought about it the way you made us think about it. And a lot of stuff you say is so deep.” I smiled. “You know, before, I couldn't wait for you to shut up.”
“What?” She poked me in my back playfully.
I laughed too. “I used to. Now I don't want you to ever stop talking. I could listen to you all day. The shi—”
She pierced me with a look, interrupting me.
“Sorry—stuff you say is like therapy for me.”
She smiled. “That feels good hearing that from you, Cashmere. It really does.”
We stared at each other for a minute. Then she said, “Now, come on, Miss Leader. You can't be lazy.”
“Okay.” I went to the other room and started cleaning on that one.
Another thing I was good at in the unit was doing hair. Staff would bring us fake hair and gel, and I would braid hair on my downtime. It made time go by fast as hell in there. That and crazy-ass Ms. B recommending I study for the exit exam so I could graduate from high school.
My hair styling in the unit became so profitable, I ended up braiding staff's hair. They always treated me to some ice ceam or a burger or some candy as payment. Which was cool with me. But I still had my craving for chocolate pound cake and strawberry shortcake on my time of the month.
Ms. Hope was writing a report outside the rec-room while I braided Frankie's hair, a quiet, black girl. I was doing some French braids that had a tight little swirl design. Ms. Hope said, “Cashmere, you getting better and better at them braids.”
I smiled as I parted a section of Frankie's hair. “I can do you too, Ms. Hope. I braid a little tight though.”
She smiled and stared at Frankie. “She killing you, Frankie?”
Frankie chuckled. “No, Miss.”
Ms. Hope placed her chin underneath her hands and studied. “You still want to do hair for a living, Cashmere?”
I shrugged and started on a new braid. “I use to. Naw, I still do, but I don't think I'll ever get out of here.”
“Why wouldn't you?”
“Ms. Hope.” I finished the braid. “Do you know what I'm here for?”
“I know. I also know by the person you have come to be that it wasn't intentional. And you still have a chance to make something out of your life like anybody else. Why you can't?”
I didn't have an answer for her. I never thought about it in that way.
“Cashmere, don't ever think you can't do what you dream of doing. I can't continue to have all the hope for you. You got to have some for yourself.”
I nodded.
“Keep doing good and don't stop believing in what you can accomplish.” She rose and patted me on my back.
I grabbed her hand and kissed it. She called me silly again, and walked into the rec-room.
When all the other girls were in school, it was my time to study for the exit exams. So when the other students were in class, I would sit outside the rec-room with Ms. Hope and study, while she did her paperwork.
Ms. B's crazy ass was in the office dancing to Tupac. Ain't that some shit? What did her old ass know about Tupac?
Instead of studying, I was tapping on the table with my pencil to the beat of the Tupac song playing, “Hail Mary.”
“Cashmere, you out here to study, not to goof off,” Ms. Hope said sternly.
“Yes, ma'am.” I went back to the book and worked on a tough problem.
Out of nowhere, there was a commotion in the rec-room. Me and Ms. Hope heard yelling and looked up at the same time and saw a book fly. Ms. Hope jumped from her seat.
I watched through the glass windows as a teacher pointed and yelled at another minor, Roxie. “I want her out!”
Roxie yelled, “Fuck you, muthafucka!”
“Let's go, Roxie,” Ms. Hope said.
Roxie walked out of the rec-room slowly, and Ms. Hope followed after her. I stared at Roxie as she paused a few feet from me. Ms. Hope placed a hand on her back and guided her down the hall.
She jerked back and pushed Ms. Hope. “Bitch, don't fucking touch me!”
Then I was up. I jumped from the chair, pushed Ms. Hope back, and fired on the girl. I got her in the cheek. “Bitch, don't you ever touch Ms. Hope!”
I drilled her face like it was a beanbag before Ms. B and Ms. Clark pulled me off of her ass and dragged me to my room.
While Ms. Hope tended to Roxie, I yelled, “Let me go. She shouldn't have touched Ms. Hope!”
Neither responded.
They locked me in my room, and I stayed on my door staring out the glass.
A few moments later, Ms. Hope was on my door. I smiled at her, but she didn't return my smile. I hadn't kept my part of the bargain not to get into any shit.
“I'm sorry, Ms. Hope. I just couldn't let her sit up there and try to hurt you.”
“Honey, I appreciate you looking out for me, but you can't fight your way out of everything.”
BOOK: The People vs. Cashmere
2.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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