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Authors: Karen Williams

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BOOK: The People vs. Cashmere
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I nodded.
“And, Cashmere, as much as I don't want to, I have to put you on lockup.”
I nodded again, looking down.
“But I want you to read this to keep your mind clear. You been doing so good. You in a good place, Cashmere. Don't stop that. When your lockup is over, I expect you to be done with the book, and I want you to tell me who your favorite lady in the book was. And if those thoughts come back, Cashmere, I'm gonna need you to pray, and if that don't work, call my name. I'm staying over tonight so, Cashmere, I promise I will come.” She unlocked the door and slid me a book. It had a long title.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enough
By the time my lockup was over, I'd missed breakfast but was able to come for lunch, to listen to some more of Ms. Hope. I had only managed to read half of the book she gave me.
“Ladies, we have to learn to embrace each other and offer support,” she said. “I bet y'all don't think that's possible, huh?”
A lot of us, including me, nodded.
“Ladies, we also have to aspire to do more with our life, have hope that we can get out of the circumstances we in now. Ladies, I'm gonna go around the room, and I want all of you to tell me one thing you want to accomplish.”
One girl said she wanted to go to college, one said to get off drugs, one said to take better care of her kids, one said to get a good job.
The closer it got to me, the faster my heart started to pound in my chest.
My partner said, “I want to be a teacher.”
I took a deep breath, paused, then looked over at Ms. Hope.
She nodded.
So I went, “I—I want to go to cosmetology school and own my own hair salon one day.”
And nobody said anything bad, no one laughed at me. In fact, a few other girls nodded their heads and said they wanted to do the same thing.
Ms. Hope opened her mouth and took a breath as if she was gonna say something else. “Naw, never mind.”
Minors at the same time said, “No, miss. What?”
“Okay.” Her eyes scanned the room. “If you agree to do this, you have to take it seriously.”
We all nodded and waited.
“I want you look across at the person in front of you and—be serious now—tell them, ‘You can do it.'”
After we completed the exercise, Ms. Hope, her eyes shiny, took a deep breath. “Ladies, I don't know if you realized what you just did. Not only did you instill confidence in that minor across from you that they can accomplish something, but you also did something you said you could never do. You unified.”
When we went back down to our rooms, the dumb chick that pushed Ms. Hope was on her door, mean-mugging the hell out of me. She was still on lockup and was the only person that was left out of our activity.
The day that Roxie was taken off of lockup, two more Latina chicks were transferred to our unit. You would have thought Roxie would have forgotten that shit, me whipping her ass, but she didn't. I was outside during field time, shooting hoops, and every time I shot and went to retrieve the ball, her and the other two chicks were huddled in a corner talking, looking at me.
I ignored them. My P.O. said that she had been faxing my daily behavior charts to the judge and that nothing but good were on them. I didn't want anything else bad on there either.
After a little while, I went inside to use the bathroom. I grabbed a seat cover and some tissue and sat down on the toilet to do my business. I noticed my piss was a lot clearer, now that I had been drinking all that water and milk.
I wiped myself, got up, pulled up my pants, and turned to flush the toilet. That's when I felt a sharp blow to the back of my head.
Before I could swing back, someone snatched my ponytail from another direction. “Do some shit now, bitch.” It was Roxie and the other two girls. They all were swinging on me.
I hit back, but six hands to two were no match. They were coming from different directions, but I kept on fighting.
One bitch grabbed me from behind so the other two could go to work on me. I gagged and fell on the floor, where they were kicking me all over—my face, back, thighs—and I couldn't fight back anymore.
“What the fuck is going on?” It was Ms. B. “Lay down flat! Down flat!”
The kicking and punching stopped, and somebody rushed over to me. “Pierce, you okay?”
I moaned as pain pulsated through my body. I spat out some blood.
“On your feet!”
I peeked at the girls rising and stepping out of the bathroom. Then I heard the Ms. B say, “I was taking a shit. Then the next thing I hear is shuffling of feet. Lock them down and call the nurse for Pierce.”
Ms. Clark was helping me as I limped down to my room. A black chick named Reese stared out at me through the slim glass in her window. She asked me, “Pierce, you okay?”
I didn't answer.
Another asked, “Who jumped you?”
I kept walking and glanced down the hall at Ms. Hope. She couldn't leave the status three she was on, but she waved at me. I struggled to wave back.
I sat down on my bed and waited for a nurse. Them bitches fucked me up. I had a big knot on my forehead, my lip was busted, and I was sore in my stomach, legs, and back.
And even though the nurse treated me, I was still in a lot of pain. So I didn't come back up. I slept the pain off. The last words I heard Ms. B say were, “You did good, Pierce.”
Chapter 28
Some shit was going down in the unit. I could feel it. It couldn't have happened at a worse time. We had no supervisor that day, and all the regular staff, except for Ms. Hope, had called off, leaving us with new staff that had never worked East B before. We were in for something because, whenever we had different staff working in our unit, fights got started. To make matters worse, Ms. Hope wasn't unit leader either. She was wearing too many damn hats, 'cause there wasn't enough staff. She was backup and acting as the supervisor.
The unit leader didn't know what the hell she was doing. The three chicks that jumped me pulled some slick shit by all three of them tying sheets around their neck so they looked like they attempted suicide, meaning they would be placed on status three with a staff in front of their door. And the chick named Reese did the same, so she was down the hall with them.
I was on my door when Reese did the shit. Then, as she passed down the hall, she looked at me and gave me a nod. Some other chicks locked down gave her a nod back.
Aww shit
When the unit leader let us up to go in the rec-room, I whispered to her, “Disturbance.” All she said was for me to be quiet. I shook my head. Disturbance was another word for riot.
A girl started humming, “
Meet me in the club, it's going down
Still, the dumb-ass staff didn't get it.
I asked to use the restroom, so I could catch sight of Ms. Hope to warn her. She was gone. I peered down the hallway. None of the staff was regular staff on the status three's.
Down the hall I heard Reese yell, “I want another tray!”
I went back into the rec-room, there was a speaker talking about safe sex. I didn't want to look like a snitch. I couldn't concentrate on the speaker. Every time I looked up a black chick would nod at me.
Two chicks were humming now.
The unit leader stood near me. I was near the door. I mumbled, “Disturbance.” She ignored me again.
The yelling down the hall grew louder. “I want another muthafuckin' tray!”
The humming again.
Someone was bamming down the hall on the window, I think, and yelling, “I want another tray, bitch!”
Humming again.
Three girls asked to use the restroom, and she let them at the same time.
Dumb ass. Where is Ms. Hope? God, where is Ms. Hope?
The yelling and bamming grew louder. “I! Want! A! Tray!”
Ms. Hope slipped back in the unit and took a deep breath. Just then we heard glass shatter. Ms. Hope took off down the hallway, yelling to the unit leader, “Send your girls down!”
The humming started again.
The unit leader had us all get up at the same time. No! No! That's not how you should do it!
As we exited the rec-room, we saw the three girls who went to the bathroom shoot through the office down the hall.
“Stop, ladies! Go to your room,” she yelled.
I watched from the office window as they ran down the hall with the opened doors of the status three's. A window was shattered for sure.
The staff were frozen as Reese joined the three girls who were in the bathroom, and they attacked all the status three girls, the ones who'd attacked me. There were now seven girls in the middle of the hall fighting.
As more girls went down, bumping past me, the staff stood frozen. Ms. Hope did her best to break it up, but she didn't have her pepper spray. Like the other staff, the punk-ass unit leader stood frozen too, while the kids on my side ran wild. The staff ran into the office, leaving Ms. Hope to handle it on her own.
I ran past them down hallway. I felt my heart pumping against my chest so hard, I thought it was gonna pop out. From what I could see, it was now Blacks against the Mexicans.
Ms. Hope was pulling them apart and yelling, “Back up, ladies!”
It became a full-out race riot, and I was punching through girls, I didn't care what color, to get to Ms. Hope. “Ms. Hope, go in the office!” I yelled.
She ignored me or just flat-out didn't hear me.
A girl tried to punch me in my mouth, but I cracked her fast, with my elbow, knocking her down.
Two chicks came after me. I dodged them and saw Ms. Hope push a girl so hard, she slid backwards into the glass from the shattered window. Then my eyes widened at what the girl did next.
“Ms. Hope, watch out!”
The bitch grabbed a thick chunk of the glass and stabbed Ms. Hope in her back with it.
I screamed as Ms. Hope froze. Then blood gushed from her mouth and she fell to the floor. I tried to get to her, but two girls tackled me down.
That's when the back door opened and I heard, “OC warning!”
Then a mist filled the air.
The other girls dropped, started coughing, and covering their face. But I didn't cover up. I was too busy screaming and pointing at Ms. Hope, who was lying in a pool of her own blood.
Ms. Hope died. She was killed in that riot. And now I didn't see a need to get out of the bed, much less run a program. All I did when I woke up was cry, which was why I was placed on status three down the hall again. For a while I refused to eat, bathe, or even leave my room. And my existence was just cool with me.
Until Ms. B came down the fucking hallway and stood in my doorway, a hand on her hip. “Pierce, get yourself up and groom.”
“You know you got court coming up, right?”
“Fuck that! I don't care.”
“What do you care about?”
“Nothing?” She stepped further in the room. “Listen, you been through hell and back, and you mean to tell me that, after all of this shit, you giving up now? What? You gonna stay on status three for the rest of your life? That's some bullshit, Pierce. Ms. Hope instilled enough in you to want more for yourself.”
I blinked. At the mention of
Ms. Hope
, tears slid down my face and rested on my chin.
“You ain't crazy, Pierce, you just angry. That's what depression is—anger turned inward. And after all the things Ms. Hope taught you, you got all that shit out now. What you trying to hold on to now? We all miss her, but we gotta keep going. You wanna shift right back? Don't go so deep that you can't come back this time.” She slapped her hands together and repeated. “Ms. Hope instilled enough in you to want more for yourself.”
More tears came.
“Let me see your arms.” She ran her hands along my hands and arms, and scanned them, I guess, looking for new cuts or scratches. Then she smiled. “Something Ms. Hope said stuck.”
I smiled through the tears.
“Think about what I said.” She walked way.
I lay back on the bed. Ms. Hope's words were in my head like she was standing in front of me.
“Don't become defined by your pain. Ask yourself, ladies, Are you a victim or a survivor?”
As I turned over in the bed, something caught my eye. A book was sticking out of the edge of my bed. I stretched a hand to retrieve it. I grasped the tip, and then it fell out of my hands. I pulled myself closer to the inner edge of the bed, toward the wall, and grabbed it again. It was the book Ms. Hope had given me, the one I'd only half-finished,
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enough
. As I flipped through the pages, something fell out onto my lap. It was a folded up letter.
I took the folds out and was surprised to see Ms. Hope's writing, which was addressed to me.
Cashmere, there are times I don't want to come to work. Y'all girls work the hell out of us sometimes. And when I reach for the phone to call off, you come to mind. Cashmere, you may look up to me, but I look up to you at the same time. I tell myself, if Cashmere can get up, manage a smile, or even a laugh, I can keep going as well. Cashmere, I know you been through a lot, but you gotta keep going. You have made so much progress, and I know things can only get better for you. You been through the fire, and you came out. Girl, you have so many blessings around the corner, you just have to be open to receive them. And now you are. Believe in Him, and know you are truly something special. See ya in the morning, Hope.
I read the letter over and over until it was crinkled up in my hands. Then I leaped out of the bed and yelled, “Ms. B!” scaring the hell out of the staff that was sitting on me.
Ms. B came running down the hallway, her eyes wide. “What? What is it?”
I smiled.
Don't run from the pain, run toward it.
“Fool. I thought you were whipping on my new staff.”
I shook my head. “Naw, it's nothing like that. If Ms. Hope was here, she would kill me.”
“You know she ain't never left, Cashmere.” Ms. B winked.
I got it, what she meant.
“Ms. Hope's spirit is gonna always reside in East B.”
I laughed and felt more tears come, but they weren't bad ones at all. I felt good as hell. “I hope so, 'cause these heiffas need it, just like I needed it.”
If I didn't know any better, I would have sworn Ms. B's eyes had teared up at that moment. Turned out I was right, and tears did drop from her eyes.
“I'll make a deal with you, Ms. B. I'll shower if you give me a pen.”
She placed her hands on her hips. “Normally, I don't make deals with kids, but your ass stinks, so come on.”
She wrapped an arm around my shoulders and walked me to the showers. “Just out of curiosity, Pierce, what do you need a pen for?”
“I want to write the judge. You said I had court, right?”
She nodded.
BOOK: The People vs. Cashmere
7.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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