A loud crash woke me out of my sleep.
Lord, what is it now?
First, I thought I was dreaming. Then I heard the sound of glass shattering, so I didn't have time to try to figure it out. I needed to be up and ready for whatever was going down, or about to go down. I pressed the button on my alarm clock, which sounded in that moment, and jumped from my bed to see where the noise was coming from. I heard the scream again. My heart pounding, I picked up the flat iron on our dresser, just in case someone was hurting Mama. Since Daddy wasn't here to defend her, I would have to.
I couldn't wait for Desiree, but still I quickly tried to wake her. “Desiree, get up,” I whispered as I slipped out the door and charged into the living room, yelling as I ran, “Muthafucka!”
But there was no one hurting Mama. She was the only one in the room. I paused my run and looked at the broken glass scattered all over the floor near her feet. Her shoulders were shaking, and her back was to me. She had the phone to her ear.
A weird pain came into my chest. “Mama,” I said quietly. I sidestepped some of the glass and tapped her gently on her shoulder.
She didn't budge. “I'll be there!” she yelled into the phone. Then she turned around to face me, her face streaked with tears and snot. She was breathing hard and sniffing. She looked at me and slammed the phone into the wall.
“Mama! What is it?”
“Cashmere, Desmond was in an accident, and he's in the hospital. And it's serious.”
Mama's crying was fucking driving me crazy and putting my nerves on edge as we drove to the hospital. I was crying too, but not like her. My crying was silent. And it was pissing me off too. So each time I felt a tear drop, I scratched it off my face. My sister pissed me off too, 'cause she was way too calm about the situation. She wasn't doing shit, except snoring on the back seat.
The nerve of that bitch.
But then again I think I was just trying to make myself angry, just build up anger so there was no room anywhere in me for pain, 'cause, truth be told, we didn't know what to expect as we made our way to the Kaiser Hospital.
“Cashmere,” Mama said in a hoarse voice and parked the car. “Wake your sister up.”
“Desiree, get up.” When she didn't budge, I reached over and punched her in the arm. “Wake up!”
She woke with a start. “Bitch!”
I ignored her and jumped out the front seat and closed the door behind me. I glanced at Mama. Her hands were shaking as she puffed on a cigarette. She ground it out with her shoe.
Desiree hopped out of the backseat and followed behind us as we walked to the hospital entrance and went directly to the lobby to the reception area. The farther we walked in the hospital, the more fearful I got. I was biting on my lip so hard, it started bleeding.
We stood at the reception booth waiting for the receptionist to acknowledge us. When she didn't, Mama said quietly, “I'm here to see my husband.”
She looked at Mama before staring at a list. “Well, let's see. There's no
on my list of patients on the pop sheet,” she replied sarcastically.
“Bitch!” I fired, “you betta check yourself, talking to my mom like that!”
“My sister said
, 'cause that's what you are,” Desiree said, calmly rolling her neck in a half-circle. “Now read that chart, fat ass, and tell us what fucking room he's in or get fucked up!”
We stepped to her, both our fists were balled up.
She turned red and took a step back.
Mama grabbed our shirts gently and pulled us back. “Move, girls. His name is Desmond Pierce,” she said softly.
“Room 113,” the receptionist said stiffly, as Desiree and I continued to glare at her.
“You lucky my husband is sick, else I'd mop this muthafucka with your shiny-ass face. Come on, girls.”
Wasn't shit could prepare us for what we saw, or that shit the doctor told us about Daddy when we stepped into his room.
He shook Mama's hand. “I'm Doctor Polanski. Ma'am, there's really no easy way to say this. Desmond fell asleep at the wheel of his truck, and it flipped over on the ramp. Right now all I can say is, your husband is paralyzed in every sense of the word. He can't move or talk, ma'am. I believe he is also in shock.”
“Oh dear Lord, no!”
My hands went numb, a sob stuck in my throat, and my head was clammy and sweaty. I had no strength in me to cry when he said that shit. Mama couldn't stop moaning, and Desiree couldn't stop cursing. With each step to Daddy's room, my heart was slowing down. I thought I was going to pass out.
Then suddenly Mama did, and me and Desiree had to catch her before she hit the floor.
“Mama, wake up,” I sobbed. “Wake up!”
Desiree had a cold washcloth on Mama's head. Her eyelids fluttered the way Daddy's did earlier when Mama woke him up on the couch. Then they came into focus, and she started crying again, as did me and Desiree.
I cleared my throat. “Ma, we gotta go see him. We got to go see Daddy.”
Desiree reached for her mother's arm and helped her to her feet in the lobby just outside Desmond's room.
“I can't see him like that.”
Desiree snapped, “Come on, Mama, we have to. And he might not be as fucking bad as they saying.”
I rubbed Mama's back and suppressed a new sob that wanted to break loose.
Daddy looked like a vegetable, plain and simple, like he was on somebody's damn plate. It was hard as hell to look at him like that in that bed, attached to all those damn tubes. Yeah, it was hard to stomach. Was he better off this way or dead?
Mama took steps back and covered her face with her hand, shouting in a muffled voice, “Dear Lord, no! No!”
I wrapped my arms around her, and we both cried again. I tried to reach out to Desiree, but she shrugged my hand off her shoulders, ran to a corner, and bawled. Then my anger got the best of me. Mama's hug wasn't helping, so I pulled myself away, ran to the window, and punched out the glass till my hand was cut and wouldn't stop bleeding. Yep, this was the start of the end of things.
Daddy never made any progress. Oh, he could see us hear us, but he couldn't do shit else. No talking, moving, responding, nothing. Just seeing and hearing. Poor Daddy. Poor Daddy. Of all people, why did this shit have to happen to him?
Despite all the visits nurses made to our home to show us how to work the equipment, Mama had a hard-ass time when he finally came home. Her cigarette intake had increased from half a pack a day to one and a half packs a day. Every time you turned around, she had a cigarette in her fucking hand. Shit, we'd probably all die of cancer, thanks to her.
A lot of things changed after Daddy's accident. For starters, Mama stopped wearing makeup, and getting her nails and feet done. She wore house robes all day and looked sleepy all of the time. She stopped doing the house chores, leaving me to do them, since Desiree's lazy punk ass, sure as hell, wasn't going to do any of them. All she did was run the street.
Mama stopped cooking the meals that made Daddy fall in love with her and stay his ass home all the time. Instead of pot roast, red potatoes, string beans, lasagna, salad, grilled salmon and rice pilaf, it was now frozen burritos, cup of noodles and shit. Or I broke down and cooked something. But that was usually a waste of food and time, because Mama didn't bother eating, and Desiree would get home late and crash.
Sometimes I had to stay home from school to care for Daddy because mama wouldn't make it out their bed. Before I left for school, I always checked with her to see if she was gonna get up and tend to him. Usually, she wouldn't budge, making me throw my backpack down and tend to Daddy.
Today was no different. She was lying across her bed in the same gown she'd worn the day before. I cleared my throat as I stood in the doorway, but she didn't respond. I knocked softly on the door. Nothing.
“Humph?” She rolled over and squinted her eyes at me.
“Do you need me to stay home with Daddy, or do you got it?”
“Ahh. Shit.” She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and gave me a sad smile.
I twisted my lips to the side and waited.
“Every time I go to sleep, I wake up just knowing this shit is a nightmare. Then it takes something like what you just said to remind me that it ain't.”
I sat down next to her on the bed and glanced at Daddy, whose eyes were closed.
“We are gonna get through this, Mama, if we can't get through anything.”
She gave me a weird look. “Shit! Cash, ain't nothing to get through. This is it. This is our life now, baby.”
“Naw, the doctor said there is always a chance that Daddy will fully recover.”
She chuckled. “You sweet. But I ain't gonna waste time in hope. Such a hopeless, bottomless thought. But you go ahead, sweetheart. Hold on to your hope, since I'm taking all your strength from you.”
I massaged the inside of my right hand with my thumb. “Daddy gonna . . .” I stopped myself, before she could say more, and her negative thoughts rub off on me.
“Thank you for all your help, Cashmere. Why the fuck can't Desiree be like you? Huh? Why? Damn! The Lord can be so cruel.” Mama stood up and scratched her dry, flaky scalp.
“But I'll tell you whatâIf that bitch think she's gonna sleep all gotdamn day just 'cause she was doing the devil knows what, she got me fucked up.”
I rose from the bed too. “All right, Mama, I'll see you later this afternoon.”
I stopped by me and Desiree's room on my way to school to check on her. She was snoring loudly, her mouth open. She didn't bother to change her clothes or wipe the makeup off her face.
“Desiree.” I raised my voice and kicked at her leg. “Wake up!”
“What? Damn?” She rolled her body the other way.
“School, dumb ass. Whatchu think?”
“Fuck school. They can't school a boss like me.”
I pierced her with a look. “Dig a hole.”
“Bury yourself. Mama gonna get in that ass, best believe.”
She sucked her teeth at me, and I shook my head and headed out for school.
I heard the shouting even before I made it to my front door. I rushed up the steps to my house and entered it quickly to find Mama and Desiree going at it, arguing. I watched silently.
“You don't run me. I do what I want to do.”
“Really, muthafucka? I run everything in this bitch, got it?”
“Shit. All you ever ran was Daddy.”
Mama rushed up to Desiree so their faces were inches apart. “What the fuck you say, little girl?”
Desiree swallowed like she was forcing herself to shut up.
Mama smirked. “Yeah, bitch, you bad, but you ain't bad like me. And you think 'cause you passing your pussy around that you a big girl. Shiiit! You ain't. And don't bring up shit about your father, unless you ready for the truth.”
Desiree's cheeks popped out with air. First she turned to walk away, which made me sigh with relief, but then she stopped and faced Mama again. “And what's the truth, Mama?”
Mama tossed her hand to me. “Shut up, Cash.”
“Just say what you gotta say, Mama,” Desiree whispered, her eyes narrowed.
I held my face in my hands, and Mama said nothing.
“The truth is, Mama, if Daddy ain't had to make that extra dough to buy all that dumb shit for you, this shit wouldn't have happened.”
Mama's eyes watered. “Bitch!” She tapped Desiree in the forehead. “If it's anybody's fault, then know that it's yours. He was stressed about finding out his princess ain't shit but a ho that can take it up the pussy and mouth at the same time, so if it's anybody's faultâ”
“Move your fingers, Maâ”
I yelled, “Desiree! Don't do it.”
Before I could step between them Desiree swung at Mama and struck her in the face, snapping her head back.
“Oh, hell no.” Mama said.
Then they went toe to toe. While Desiree could scrap for sure, Mama was fucking her ass up, drilling her in the face with her fist. Mama dragged her by her hair and slammed her into the wall. When Desiree fell to the floor, Mama was on her again.
I rushed over and tried to pull her off.
“Get off of me, Cash. I'm your mother and you do as I say.”