FLIPPING THE PAGES OF HER SECRET
(This is a work of fiction; any semblance between the characters, places, and incidents to real persons, places and incidents is the product of the author’s imagination)
Chapter 1: Writing the journal of the innocents
Jefferson is one of the former homeless folks who are now lucky to be housed by
I am a mother of three lovely children. My Creative Dave who used to mimic the faces I made when I said, “Don’t do that.” Feisty Shekira who liked to choose her clothes even as a baby; she would scream at the color she didn’t want. My loving Leroy knows my mood by looking into my eyes; comforts me with a hug. Having my children with me was a lot of joy, but now, I am a very unhappy woman and I know that I’m going to die.
I lost Shekira and Dave to Kansas State Adoption Agency in 1990 when they were just two and it was all my fault. I was on meth or what they call methamphetamine. I did not take it all the time, so I was still able to take care of my children sometimes, I think. I don’t really remember everything, so maybe I did not take care of them as the State said. I do remember a lot of the things that put me in that state of hopelessness and neglect of my children and myself. I was… I was, yes, I was an ADDICT. I was addicted to meth. I’m okay now, I’m free; but not quite. I have AIDS.
I have AIDS and it hurts so bad not to know where Leroy and Shekira are, how they are doing, their birthdays, how they feel about me or the world. It hurts because I don’t know how they are being treated, if they are ridiculed because of me. Do they suffer? It hurts that I’m not able to protect them, comfort them, and have a chance to make up for what I’ve done to them. I keep wondering; do they hate me for making it possible for strangers to take them, for not being there for them and not protecting them? It hurts so badly, but these tears cannot help me. This is why I have decided to write my story.
I don’t know who
will want to read the story of an addict, felon, prostitute, runaway child,
ungrateful child, and thief, or who would want to read about a woman who had
unprotected sex with multiple sex partners, a woman who traded sex for money or
dope under the authority of a man who hated her? Nevertheless, I feel this urge
to tell my story before I die. Maybe I should just recount the story for me. I
believe it is important for me to say “I’m sorry” to the innocents. I want to
apologize to my children and also to the girlfriends and wives of men that I
slept with. They are all innocent. They
did not participate in my sex; they are just victims of my sex, and the sex was
due to dope. My middle name, Nwanne, is a Nigerian name that I got from a book
of African names. It means “mother’s child.” I took it because it connects me
to the innocents. We are all from the same mother – that woman whose remains
were found in
writes in the library of Catholic Charities on
Lamar is in front of the bathroom mirror. He brushes his black hair and admires its perfect texture and slant, but he ruffles the front part to give the style a rugged look. He applies cortisone cream on the acne around his ears. He brushes his side burns and nods in affirmation of his good looks. He believes that his popularity with women and men is due to his great looks.
“Dalesha went wild at my rugged masculinity.” He muses and puffs out his chest. What he does not know is that Dalesha is more attracted to his unusual experiences than his looks. Her quest for the unfamiliar has recently attracted her to a Nigerian student. He was a member of the group of Wichita State College students who spoke at her high school.
“We could’ve made a good pair; Dalesha and I. But I had to ditch her when she started peeping at my business. Don’t want anybody to call the cops on me.” He chuckles. The laughter quickly turns to a frown when he notices that grey hairs have appeared again on his side burns.
“Junior wants me to dye my hair, but I hate dyes. Old people dye their hair and I’m only twenty eight.” He clips off the grey hairs as his six feet two and two hundred pounds size gazes at him from the mirror. He blames his incarceration for the grey hairs. His frown deepens as he recalls the event of his first arrest.
Robert, his childhood buddy, had just bought his first automobile, a 1979 Cadillac. It was fourteen years old, but it was Rob’s first car and he worked hard as a steward in The Marguerite to save for it. Lamar used the Cadillac to drop Rob off at The Marguerite, and was on his way to his girlfriend when it happened. He did not realize that he was driving thirty seven that was over the maximum of thirty five miles per hour on North Market when a police officer flagged him down. He didn’t think that he did any wrong, “except that I’m black,” he thought and raised his hands to indicate that he had no weapon.
He got a ticket for resisting arrest.
“Officer, I didn’t do nothing.” His hands were still up.
“Yes, you did.”
“I got him.” The officer talked on his phone.
“I don’t want to go to jail.”
“Let the judge decide that.”
“Don’t do this to me, man. I didn’t do nothing.” Lamar thought about his girlfriend who said that she would never have anything to do with an ex-convict. His mother, Sussie Ann, liked her for saying that and made him promise to stay out of trouble; and he had always stayed out of trouble.
Another officer drove in.
“What did I do?” Lamar said when he saw the hand cuffs.
That incident took place about ten years ago but Lamar relives it as if it just happened yesterday. He sees tears drop from the eyes of his image on the mirror. He is no longer plucking grey hairs, just standing there, looking at the image with drooped shoulders, hating the incident but at the same time powerless to stop his mind from recalling it.
Lamar was in
“Hey pretty girl.”
“Don’t touch me!” Lamar kicked the inmate.
“Hey, cool it man.”
“Let him alone. He’s not ready.”
“Not ready for what?” Lamar put down his plate.
“Hey, don’t have an attitude with me boy. Nobody talks to Ol Josh that way.”
“What you gonna do, ol’ man?” Lamar was very angry about everything. He was angry at the police officer, angry at himself for not spitting at the officer who booked him falsely, angry that his dad had not come to bail him out. He was angry at his girlfriend for hating ex-convicts, angry at not being in school, angry at the food for being tasteless. He pushed his plate and looked at the inmates. He believed that he did not belong with the hoodlums around him and again wondered why his father had not come to get him out.
“It’s unlike my dad!” He thought, and felt someone rub his back. It was Ol Josh. He had left his table and moved to Lamar’s table.
“Remove your fucking hands from me!” Lamar shoved Josh.
“Let him be. He’s mine.” Someone shouted from another table.
Lamar got up.
“Sit down, Lil Miss.” Josh pulled him down to the chair. That was it. With all he was going through, he didn’t need anybody to call him names. He released all his anger on the blow that he gave to Josh. A fight broke out. Before the guards could come, Lamar had a blind eye. Josh had cut him with a fork. As blood blinded him, Lamar picked a chair and crashed it on Josh’s head.
Looking at the
mirror now and recalling that incident, his ear begins to itch. The acne behind
his ears is spreading to the neck and it itches like mad. Lamar touches the
scar on his left eye and smiles as he remembers that fight with Josh eleven
years ago. The outcome was that he and Josh became very close in prison. They
became business partners and he is still involved in that business now with the
help of Josh Junior whom he takes care of “as a father.” He smiles at the thought
of Josh Junior. The telephone rings. He believes that it must be Josh Junior.
He usually calls after school. It takes him only ten minutes to drive from
their house (actually the house that he inherited from his parents) to
“I’m calling from Kansas State Cares. May I talk to Lamar-.”
“This is he.”
“We think that you have been exposed to a disease, so we want you to come for test.” A female voice said.
“We are calling from Kansas Cares. We think that you’ve been exposed to the disease, so we want you to come for test. Please, bring your ID with you for identification.” The same female voice said.
He thinks that maybe it’s a recorded message.
“Are you there sir?” This voice is definitely male.
“Can I help you?” Lamar says.
“I can help you. We think that you are probably exposed to a serious disease.”
“We want you to
come as soon as possible to Kansas State Cares located on the northwest corner
“Is this a study or something?”
“Your name was given to us as a possible carrier.”
“Who gave you my name?”
“I’m not allowed to divulge that information.”
“Go to hell!” Lamar shouts and drops the phone. The blotches on his neck itch and he scratches them with vengeance. They hurt. He flops on the couch and turns on the television.
“The wind is thirty five miles. Pretty cold out there folks. Grab your coats.” He barely hears this conclusion of the weather report.
The telephone rings.
“May I talk to-.” Another male voice.
“This is he. What’s up?”
“I’m from Kansas Cares-.”
“You want me to come for a test. Who gave you my name?” Lamar said. His voice is real loud.
“Your name was given by someone who tested positive for HIV.”
“Say what?” Lamar scratches the blotches so hard. They bleed, but he’s not aware of it. He looks at the television without seeing anything. He does not hang up this time, but hears the communication in bits and pieces.
“It is my duty to inform you … your duty to come and be tested … the address is-”
Lamar is scared as his mind recalls all his sex partners. Josh Junior and Scott are very healthy. “If I have something, it must be from Scott’s wife. She sleeps around. Slut. Don’t know why Scott puts up with her. He lives in her house. So what? If it is true that I have HIV, I’ll kill her.” He throws the remote control at the screen and gets up from the couch. He kicks the side table and the telephone crashes on the floor. He feels so hot. He sweats, just from rage. He opens the door and early spring air rushes in. It is very cold, but he goes outside without his coat. He leans on the wall looking at the sky and listening to the sound of vehicles on the K-96 highway that crosses his neighborhood. He does not realize that he has been outside for a long time until he sees Junior walking in with his back pack.
“You should have called.” Lamar says.
“The phone was busy.” Junior walks into the house. Lamar can tell from the tone of his voice that he is sulking, but he is more worried about the boy’s health that his mood.
“What will I do if he has AIDS?” Lamar shivers, still looking in the direction of Josh Junior who has banged the door. Lamar turns his gaze to the yard that used to be green when his parents were alive. Their yard was special in the neighborhood. His father, Langston, was a landscaper and his mother, Sussie Ann, was a homemaker who grew and sold flowers during the spring. Lamar loved to help Sussie Ann water the plants. He learnt the skills of lawn-keeping from his father, but they all expected him to go to college. His father used to take him to watch games at Wichita State College. He recalls how they participated in the Out-reach program of the college during which Professors explained entry requirements to graduating High School seniors and their parents.
“You will have all the opportunities I never had,” his father often told him.
Shivering outside and fearing to go inside, he wonders why he has forgotten all these dreams and why he has not kept the yard perfect like his father did. There are no flowers or plants to remind anybody of his mother’s occupation or the former beauty of the yard. The grass is dry from the winter weather and the wildness of the grassy patches indicates lack of care.
*Unmindful of the noise of K-96 highway, Lamar feels alone leaning on the decaying house that his parents worked so hard to build, and thinks about his lost dream. Meanwhile, Jabulani is still in the library of Catholic Charities. She is no longer writing, but reading over what she has written of her story.*
I was a happy
child growing up in Boley,
everybody knew everybody. We were mostly blacks, Indians as they were called
then, and few whites. We were the same; all poor, but I didn’t know it then.
The town was made up of mostly farmers, who went to work in farms owned by
other people outside the area. Some people worked at the barbeque company but
they also did farm work. I never even imagined how life was in other places;
thought that life was the same in the whole world as it was in our town. I now
know that Boley was a small town, compared to cities like
I still want to go to heaven. Even though I have committed many crimes in my thirty years of life, I still desire forgiveness from God and from my children wherever they are. I was good sometime in my life. My mother thought that I was a very good girl. But my life changed when I was in 5th grade, when I began to hang out with Janet and the Rainbow Dudes’ gang. The boys in our group were dudes and girls were dudeens.
There was a bad cough going around at school. They called it whooping cough and my mother did not want me to catch it. She took me with her to the city. I thought that the city was where you went to work or something not where people lived, until my mother took me to the city. It was my first time of riding in a vehicle. I was all excited. I glued my eyes on the bus window looking at the houses. The houses were bigger than the houses in my town. Some of them were so tall and huge, I didn’t know what they were until my mother said they were buildings. I was excited to see kids my age doing a very fascinating game.
“What are they doing mom?”
“Practicing cheer leading.”
“A kind of dance they perform to cheer footballers.”
The house where
my mother worked at was in
Doreen.” My mother said as she unlocked the door. My name was Doreen then. I
changed it in prison when I read about
“Dore-en!” My mother held the door for me, but I stood by the door. I was afraid to walk on the floor. It looked like a picture and it had beautiful designs. The ceiling looked like ice with light bulbs sitting on icy lanterns. My mother took my hand and began to show me the house. She told me to lie on the bed.
“I can?” I said.
“Sure.” Mom said.
I climbed on top of the bed and spread my hands and began to pray. I slept on that beautiful bed. I woke up when she was pulling me out of the bed. I opened my eyes and again saw the fascinating crystal ceiling. I began to cry. My mother also cried. I didn’t know why she cried, but I knew why I cried. The preacher used to say that heaven was where you went when you died, but never told us that heaven was also in this world. Mine were tears of joy and happiness that my mother gave me that treat. I stretched out and hugged my mother. She took my hand and drew me close to her.
“Doreen Mae, why do you think I brought you here?”
“I skipped school because of the cough and Aunt Mae wasn’t home to keep an eye on me because she went to the city.”
“She could have stayed home if I told her. You know she won’t leave any opportunity to stay with you because she loves you a lot. She could have gone to the city any other time.” Mom smiled. You could tell that she was proud of me. I smiled and waited to hear why she brought me to the place.
“I could also have let you stay by yourself. You are becoming a big girl and I know that if I tell you not to go near the school area, you will obey and not go there to play with other kids and catch the cough.”
“Why did you bring me here?” I said.
“I wanted you to see another life. This is a life that I dream for you. This is why I work two jobs to save money for your education. Never forget that.”
“Mom. I want this life more than anything. The house, ceiling, floor, garden; everything.” I began to cry again.
Mom wiped my tears and hers. She held my hand as we left the house.
“You will have good education. Good job. You are a very good child. You deserve the best.”
“Thanks, Mom.” I gave her a hug. I was eleven then.
I always told my mother everything, but Janet said that it was silly.
“You have to learn to be an adult and act like one. Adults don’t tell people all their stuff.” Janet said.
“Mom likes me to tell her everything.” I said.
“But she doesn’t tell you everything.”
“Yes she does.” I said.
“Who is your Aunt’s husband and where is he?” Janet said. They must have talked about that man who was never mentioned in our family gatherings. I cast my eyes down. I did not have an answer. I never asked my aunt about it. I was happy with my family which consisted of mom and dad, Aunt Mae whom I was named after, and Uncle JD who visited during the Memorial Day weekend for the rodeo. He also came for Christmas and Thanksgiving with Aunt Cherry and their two kids.
was on the southern border of our town. There were shrubs everywhere except on
the side where the
“My head aches when people smoke cigarette around me.” She said.
“Don’t be a sissy. This is not cigarette,” Dave said.
“She’s a sissy sissy.” We began to laugh.
“She’s a chicken.” We laughed so hard.
“I want to go to the bathroom. I’m going to the bathroom.” Trinice took off. She walked across the field and did not come back. I did not want to be called a sissy and a chicken. I wanted to belong to our popular group.
I thought that it would get on my throat like when I sniffed Uncle JD’s tobacco pipe, but it did not. It was kind of mellow and… and…it felt so calm, so good. I sniffed again. By the time we passed it round a couple of times; we were all laughing and feeling so good with ourselves. Nothing mattered - the teachers, the school, my mother getting mad at me for not bringing my home work.
“Where did you get it?” Gerry said.
“When my dad came for rodeo and stayed back to do yard work, I used to see him sniff and get high. One day I sniffed it too and kind of liked it.” Dave said.
“He let you sniff it,” I said.
“He didn’t know that I sniffed it. Whenever he was high I would also take some of the stuff and hide it.”
“Where did he get it from?” Gerry said.
“You ask some dumb questions, man.” Dave slapped him on the thigh.
He pushed Dave’s hands off.
“You get mad so easy.” I said.
“What d’you want to do?” Dave said.
Gerry was silent.
“ Don’t tell your dad. We don’t want any teacher looking into our business.” Dave said to Gerry.
“We don’t want any mom and dad looking into our business?” Janet was still high and laughing. Gerry was mad. You could tell because his face turned red.
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.” Dave threw his hand on Gerry’s shoulder.
“Recess is over. I think we should go back to the class.” Gerry said and shrugged off Dave’s hand. Nobody paid him any attention. We didn’t even notice when he left. We were interested in Dave telling us about his dad and the cool meth.
“My mom kicked my dad for letting me sniff some. I hated her for the way she treated my dad. She would yell at him and call him ‘Ol’ good for nothing.’ My dad never once yelled back. He would smile and feel cool. But my mom, she can’t be happy. She likes to work work work. Never has time for fun. That’s what my dad said and it’s true. My mom is also wicked. She said to my dad, ‘Go back to prison where you belong.”
“That’s nasty,” I said.
“Gross,” Janet said.
We did not bother to go back to class. We were too happy. The teachers did not bother us. I guess they were too busy keeping the other kids from heckling each other. From where we were sitting on the ground, we could see what was going on in the classes through the large windows that were open. Some of them didn’t even have doors. The kids kind of enjoyed heckling. Boy, how we loved to give our teachers a hard time. Miss Ann managed our class and oversaw the 4th grade as well. Whenever she left our class to go to the 4th grade, the boys would whistle and mimic her. She had big buttocks, big tummy, and big breasts. Did I know that I would get to look like her and that it would put me in so much trouble with men?
I could not live my life without dope. I did not understand then how it took control of my life and made me forget my life, and live only to support my addiction. I lived to get high on it and when the feeling began to fade, I would crave another dose. Dope took complete control of my life. I sniffed and smoked. I even injected and shared needles. I have read a lot about how it took me over. It gave me energy and sexual prowess, but it destroyed the natural “happy” agent that God put in my brain. It replaced the natural with its own artificial high-powered “high.” When its effect wore off, and because it destroyed my brain’s capacity to produce the natural happiness, I needed more dope, meth, cocaine, ice, crystal or whatever to be happy and high. I wish that we learnt about it then at school.
I would pretend to do my homework with Dave, but all we did was sniff and fool around. Other kids came too. But then, we used up all the supplies.
“Do something,” I said to Dave.
“Let’s find your dad.”
“He’s in the city.”
“We can find him. I know the city. I’ve been there with my mom.”
Dave began to search his mother’s stuff looking for his dad’s address.
I cried a lot
and would snap at my mother. She called Aunt Mae who said that on Sunday, they
would talk to Miss Ann, but I did not wait till Sunday. My mom was coming back from work when Old Mr.
Tinkle told her that there was a rumor going on at school about kids taking
drugs and that I was one of the kids. I was inside the house, but did not wait
to know my mother’s reaction. I did not want to be there when she told my dad
about it. I could not face their disappointment. I also needed dope, so I
sneaked out through the back and went to Dave. I was trembling. I needed a
smoke. We did not think about it, but we ran off. He had the address of the
house where his father lived in
reading and wipes her eyes to push back the tears that are forming. If only she
didn’t urge Dave to run away with her. If only she didn’t sniff the crystal
once. If only she told her mother the truth. At this point, her hands tremble
and her eyes dilate, but she succeeds in holding back the tears. The computer
clock indicates that it is almost four.
She folds her hands across her chest and leans back on the chair. She
has come a long way from the girl of Boley,
“Hey. Beautiful lady. Do you go out?” The driver says.
“Go out to where?” Jabu says pretending not to know what the man wants.
“How so?” Jabu seems to be enjoying the attention. She leans on the car.
“And you smell so good too.” The driver says.
“You want sex?” Jabu looks into his blue eyes through his large spectacles.
“I have AIDS.” She says. The man does not flinch.
“That’s an old trick. Come on. Jump in.” He leans to unlock the passenger door for her.
“I am born again,” Jabu says.
“I am born again. I want to save the innocents.” Jabu walks away feeling good about her action.
*The man does not drive off. He remains in his convertible watching “the sexiest butt,” as he thinks of Jabu, “gyrate in front of me.” While he waits in his car on Broadway, John Obio, the college student from Nigeria, is entering his car unaware that he fits the profile of Jabulani’s innocents.*
John Obio is
connected to Dalesha, a young high school student that sees Lamar. It is
exactly four thirty as he drives out of the Wichita State College parking and
makes it to
“One of them
might see my car parked on the street, and you never know how it might get to
“Step out, sir.”
“Hey, brother.” John says. The officer ignores him.
“Did you realize that you almost caused an accident now?” The officer says.
“How could I have caused an accident when there was no car near me?”
“I slowed down when you turned left instead of going right as you indicated.”
“I never wanted to go right.”
“You are free to contest the ticket and explain to the Judge in court.” The officer writes a ticket.
“I’ve never had a ticket in my life.”
“There is always a first time. Drive carefully.” The officer gives him the ticket.
“Bloody fool!” John mutters opening his car.
“What did you say?”
“I wasn’t talking to you.” John says.
“Did you call me a fool?”
“Are you a fool?”
“Don’t have an attitude with me.”
*As John drives
west to Hillside, Lamar is driving south on
Jabulani enters the parking lot of the Inter Faith Apartment complex where she lives. She sees a boy standing by the roadside and instinctively knows what he is up to. She walks up to the boy.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“What’s your name?”
“Joosh.” Jabu says it the way the boy said it. It sounds familiar.
“Where you live?”
“You got dope?”
“I want to tell you how dope ruined my life.” Jabu says.
Somebody whistles from across the street. The boy runs.
Lamar is in his car watching the boy deliver stuff to clients.
Jabulani is agitated about her encounter with the boy.
“That boy is not more than fifteen or sixteen. He is an innocent,” she says. She feels frustrated about not being able to talk to the boy about his bad choice.
“Someone is leading that boy in the wrong direction.” She sniffs and tries to check the tears as she opens the door of her apartment.
“My twins are older than that boy. Is somebody leading them astray also?” She flops on the floor weeping. There is nobody to console her. She yearns for her mother. She always yearns for her mother in moments like this but has never had the courage to go back to Boley. She is afraid of what she will learn, what she will see, and how they will judge her. She has never heard any news of Boley and doesn’t even know whether she knows the correct name of where she comes from.
“That is what dope did to my brain. I mix up names.’ She says hugging herself.
I know that there was a Josh in my life, but I don’t know where. David. Yes! When we did not find Dave’s father, we found Josh who said that Dave’s dad was in prison but that he would take care of David as his own son.
*Sitting on the floor, not bothering to put on the TV or music, but looking into space, Jabulani continues to “write my story in my head, before they disappear into the abyss created by dope.” Jabu remembers how Josh used to send her out to earn money for him. He was her pimp and he was cruel. He only loved himself, but David thought that he loved him.
He used to call Dave ‘Lil Miss.’*
*Josh kicked Jabu out of the house when he discovered that she was pregnant. She was lucky that the State took her and gave her a place. When she saw the twins, she knew that Dave was their father.*
“Dave was the only white man that I slept with on a regular basis. And I was kind of happy that Dave was their father.”
“But he died of a heart attack before I could tell him about our babies. It was all due to dope. It sent him to the grave. I shed tears for Dave, my friend and only home-boy from my past. I wept for my fatherless children. Did I know then that meth was not yet done with me?”
“My loving babies.” Jabu picks one of the dolls on the couch and hugs it, still looking into space.
title: "Flipping the pages ..." by Chinyere Okafor
Last update: November 24, 2009
Web page by C. G. Okafor
Chinyere G. Okafor