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" -Bob Dylan I Terrell was hesitant at revealing the truth to his mother. But ten years had pas sed and he felt now was the right time to inform Tracey, to let her know. He glanced over at the clock that dangled on the wall; it swayed back-and-forth beneath the restaurant's "Welcome to China Kitchen" banner.The time read 12:23 p. m. Terrell folded his hands above the table and began twiddling his thumbs; he shif ted around on the bench and sighed each time he glanced toward the front entranc e. Twenty-three minutes passed, and so had his patience. Terrell looked again to ward the front entrance; there was still no sign of Tracey. Last he remembered, it had to have been an anomalous situation for his mother to be late for anything; her entire life had revolved around keeping scheduled app ointments and completing mandatory task- on his set times. She had no choice bac k then. Terrell was confused; he was sure his mother had confirmed their meeting twice a lready- she even texted him a confirmation of the time and place they were to me et. So he concluded that her reason for not being there on time would be an excu se, a big fat lie. They hadn't seen each other in over a decade; they were legally separated by the state, but they never spoke of it. It seemed they both knew why, although each professed to have their own reasons. Nevertheless, when Terrell was 18, he decided to reach out and contact his mothe r; prior to that, he wanted no contact with her. He begged his social worker to move him far away, as far away from his mother as possible. And he got his wish: they relocated Terrell from Philadelphia, PA, to Erie, PA. But today was different, and he looked forward to meeting with his mother. He to ld her over the phone that he was ready to visit back to Philadelphia for a meet ing. Terrell had something he wanted to share with her, something from the past. Terrell thought it'd be a good idea that they burn the memory together, face-toface. He said it would give them both closure. Tracey seemed obliged, not only because she was his mother, but because she also had news to share with her son as well. So they agreed to meet at noon, at Chin a Kitchen, in downtown Philadelphia. But Tracey was running late for some reason unknown to Terrell. He grabbed his cell phone from his suit jacket and dialed his mother's cell numb er. No answer. He texted her a message. No response. After running out of ideas, Terrell turned the volume up on his phone, then sat it on the table. The restaurant seemed rather hot. Terrell was seated near the doubled doors that led into the kitchen. He wondered why the air conditioner had not been turned o n. Outside, the sun roasted people like peanuts, and Terrell felt the same way a s he sat in the restaurant. When sweat beads started to form on the top of his forehead, he grabbed the menu from the table and began fanning his face. The sweat slid down his neck and for med a moist circle around the collar of his shirt. He unbuttoned the top two but tons and slowly fanned his neck with the menu. When that did him no justice, he decided it was time to leave.
II Terrell stood up and adjusted his clothes. He took his cell phone from the table and checked one last time to see if he had any missed calls. None. He tried to call Tracey again, but her cell phone went straight to voicemail, so he closed his phone and got up from the table. He grabbed his suit jacket and b riefcase from the bench and headed for the exit. "Just where do you think you're going young man?" a voice shouted from near the entrance. The voice seemed familiar to Terrell, very similar to the voice he communicated with over the phone, the voice he had remembered from childhood. He knew it had to have been her. He tossed his suit jacket and briefcase back onto the bench an d darted toward the entrance. Tracey, his mother, stood there with a smile on her face and her arms stretched apart like she was singing a solo in a Broadway play, her arms stretched out to her audience for an encore. Terrell tripped over a chair along the way, but didn't fall. He didn't focus on his steps or anything below eye level; he focused only on Tracey. She seemed taller to him and more lively: her once battered face, now had a glow of vibrance; her once shabby appearance, now was one of elegance. Tracey abando ned her old wardrobe of cargo pants and checkered shirts, she wore a light cream summer dress with matching shoes and a hat. Her eyes seemed bright and pulsated with energy. This was not the Tracey that Te rrell had remembered. This was not the victim he had known from the past. This w as someone else, a new Tracey. She seemed happier, more mirthful. More free. But there was much to be happy about, Terrell and his mother hadn't seen one ano ther in over five years; today would be a day of jubilation for them. When he reached his mother, Terrell fell into her arms like a child who had been lost from wandering off in the mall for some time, found by the police, and ret urned to their mother. He felt safety. Security. Tracey closed her eyes, grabbed his head, and placed it close to her bosom. She did this to him when he was a little boy- and he remembered. She always did it b efore she told her son to get under the bed. Terrell seemed to forget everything: he forgot about the time they had spent apa rt, he forgot about being in the restaurant, and he forgot to ask his mother abo ut her tardiness. Rather, he embraced the moment of comfort. Tracey lifted his head and gave him a kiss on the cheek, then Terrell grabbed hi
s mother's bag and led the way to the table. She followed close behind, staring at her son's body like an old relic. Tracey was amazed at how he had grown: his small hands were now huge and man-lik e; his small and frail frame was now replaced by broad-shoulders, and a six-foot three inch frame, and his smooth face was now prickly and covered with hair. Tr acey had felt it when he laid upon her bosom. The suit. Tracey loved that Terrell wore a suit, she liked that it made him seem professional and important. She noticed the faint scent of cologne that kissed her nose when he walked ahead of her. My baby boy has become a man, she thought to herself.
III When they got to the bench, they sat across from one another. Terrell stared and his mother in silence; the uneasiness was broken when Tracey opened her mouth a nd spoke. She placed a small strand of hair behind her ear. "It's so good to see you son. I missed you so much." "I've missed you too mom- and I'm not just talking about over the years, but also the 20 minutes I've been waiting here for you." Terrell laughed, but really wan ted to know his mother's reasons for being late. Tracey joined in on the laughter, but still hadn't given a response. The mirthfu l mood quickly turned into an uneasy one. "So, what took you so long? That's so not you. As far as I can remember, you were never late for anything" Terrell suddenly said. "I'm sorry for being late, but traffic was horrible. I tried to get here as fast as I could- but. . . who cares? I'm just glad that I caught you before you left. " Terrell assumed his mother had taken public transportation. To his recollection, she hated the thought of driving- she didn't even like to be a passenger in cars . "Mom, you drive now?" he asked.
"No." "Oh, so you took a taxi then?" "No," she repeated. There was a brief silence. Terrell was in quandary and his mother had noticed; sh e dropped her head and looked down at the floor. Terrell continued to wait for a n explanation, but she gave none. Tracey lifted her head; the bright table light that dangled above them resonated her face, it was clearer and brighter than Terrell had remembered. He saw no mar ks or bruises; she wore light make-up so scars would have been easy to identify, but he spotted none. Tracey looked Terrell in the eyes and giggled; it sounded almost child-like, one that would come from a little kid who got away with stealing a snack from the co okie jar. "Hey, let's forget about me and focus more on you. How's life at the university s on? I know you have so many stories to share." "It's wonderful. I like the faculty and environment." Terrell didn't giggle, and the tone of his voice indicated to his mother that he was serious. He stared at her and wondered what was going on, why she pretended to be oblivious to the con fusion? "So what's your major?" she asked. "Psychology, I'm learning to understand people, and how to learn their behaviors and patterns." Tracey smiled then dropped her head and looked at the floor; Terrell knew right t hen that she was hiding something from him, just as he had suspected. She lifted her head and immediately masked her emotions- she had been use to tha t from the past. Her smiled seemed fictitious, and small waves of ceases formed on her forehead. "Oh, that's great son! Just imagine, my boy Terrell, a Psychologist!" The Chinese waitress interrupted the conversation and placed another menu on the table in front of Tracey. May I takea your orda now?" a voice asked suddenly. She was dressed in a Qipao, the classic dress for Chinese women.The high-necked, closed-collared dress displayed her loose chest; it fitted her waist like wrapp ing paper and had two long attractive slits up to the thigh on each side. She lo oked elegant, graceful, and refined- far from trashy and slutty. Both, Tracey an d Terrell, couldn't help but to admire the waitress' serene beauty. "Can you give us a few minutes please?" Terrell asked. The waitress smiled; her teeth looked yellow in comparison to the bright white pa int that covered her face. She had bright red lipstick that seemed permanent and nearly airbrushed on. The waitress nodded yes and proceeded to walk away, but T racey stopped her. "We'll take two waters and two gin and tonics please" she said suddenly. The waitress nodded her head and walked away slowly; she took small steps because she wore wooden shoes that were slightly elevated above the floor. They were si milar to high heels, but the square part rested in the middle of the shoe rather than the back, like traditional ones. Terrell looked at his mother quizzically, his eyes widened and his brows shifted upward. "You drink now?" "Are you going to question me about every little thing concerning my life, or am I going to hear about yours? But to answer your question," she continued, "Yes, I do drink occasionally Terrell- I'm grown. I mean. . . I do fit the age require ment, right? And so do you- you're 21 now. So stop interrogating me and share a drink with your mother." "Sorry mom, its just. . . I'm happy. . .You're finally, know, enjoying yourself." "Oh yes," she interjected, "there are a lot of things I'm enjoying now- life for one. So much has changed with me son, I have confidence now. I'm free!" "I'm happy for you mom," but the words "I'm free" echoed in Terrell's mind. He th ought of all the hurt and pain his mother had gone through ten years ago. It seemed such a distant past when her battles with domestic violence were fough t. But Terrell understood that the past was unable to hide the scars and bruises left from battles and war. They were always prevalent, no matter how much they'
ve been treated or bandaged.
IV Terrell reached into his briefcase, pulled out a black-and-white composition boo k, and placed it on the table. He also had flowers for Tracey, they were hidden from her view, on the floor beneath the table. "Mom, I have something I want to share with you. We have never discussed anything about our past, so I think you may have wanted to know for a long time about--" "Oh great, because I have something I would like to share with you too," she int errupted. Tracey reached into her purse and pulled out a white envelope. After o bserving the contents for a brief couple of seconds, she placed it on the table next to the menu. The waitress came back to the table with four drinks: two waters, and two gin an d tonics. She placed a set of the drinks in front of Tracey and the other set in front of Terrell, then she pulled a pad from her waistband. The pen seemed to h ave appeared by magic, she pulled it from between the thickness of her tar-black hair. "Youa ready to a orda now, yes?" she demanded rather than asked, while tapping t he pad with the pen. "Yes," Tracey said immediately. She picked up the menu and browsed the "Lo Mein" section. "I'll take the Beef Lo mein please, and some wonton soup." The waitress scribbled funny symbols on her pad and then turned to Terrell. "I'll have the Beef Lo mein also, but just mixed with shrimp Lo mein please" he said. "Izza that all for youa two?" she asked.
Terrell spoke up for the two of them, "Yes, that'll be all for now, thank you." The waitress walked away with soldier-like precision; she carefully placed one f oot in front of the other, and continued this process until she reached the patr on near the front door. Then her pad slung from her waist like a gun as she took another order. "So," Tracey picked up her drink and continued, "what is it you have to tell me? " "No, you go first" he said, then he grabbed his drink and sipped the cocktail. "Well, if you insist." She took two sips of her drink and then placed it back do wn on the table. She gently placed her right hand on the top of the envelope as if she was handling an ancient artifact, and slide it over to Terrell. "Baby, th is is for you. You deserve it. I know it can't replace the things you've been th rough, but it can help you get on with life now. The bank called a couple of yea rs ago and told me that--" "Awe no mom, I can't accept this. You know I'm not a "gift type-of-person Beside s, If I had known we were exchanging gifts, I would have brought you more than t hese." Terrell reached down under the bench and pulled out the flowers he had bo ught for his mother. He flung the bushel of flowers from beneath the table with such force that some of the petals fell off. Tracey took the flowers and thanked her son. She stared at the various colors of violet, orange, pink, and white; she brought the flowers close to her nose, clo sed her eyes, and smelled deeply. "Thank you so much- they're beautiful!" "No problem mom. Thought I'd surprise you with some, I knew how you loved flower s back then, and I doubt if that has changed." Tracey picked up her cocktail and took a big gulp from it. She slide the envelop e closer to Terrell and then paused before he grabbed it.
V Tracey slide the envelope closer to Terrell and then paused before he grabbed it . "Terrell, I want you to understand that this isn't a "cover-up" gift. There's a lot that we've been through baby, and God must have heard our prayers. Now I k now you don't like. . .Big Mike, but you will never believe that he--"
"Mom, sorry, but I do not want to discuss anything about him at all. I'm glad he 's in prison- it's where he deserves to be for what he did! No disrespect to you , but can we please get back to us? May I open the envelope now?" Tracey sat in silence. She grabbed her drink and finished the rest, then she nod ded her approval for Terrell to open the envelope. She had given up on trying to explain, so she stopped. She knew "Big Mike" was a name that caused pain for bo th, Tracey and her son, but this was good news- at least that's what she thought . Terrell exhaled, he tried to calm his anger and remember that it wasn't his moth er he was angry with. He picked up the envelope and read the writing on the fron t: Bank of the Common People - College Fund for Terrell Stokely. He opened the e nvelope and pulled out a check in the amount of $15,000. Terrell bumped the table with his legs and almost knocked the drinks over; he ha dn't noticed that the composition book fell from the edge of the table, and onto the floor, near his mother's shoe. He was more concerned with the signature he saw on the bottom of the check: Mike Walters, who was also known as "Big Mike". Terrell looked over at his mother with tears in his eyes; her smile immediately faded and turned upside down. "Listen Terrell," she said in a low voice, "I understand that--" "No, you don't mom!" he said sobbing. "I came to visit for a good time, and here we sit, ten years after all that crap, talking and him. And then you give me mo ney from him, and think I'm supposed to be happy about it. No, I won't! I won't even accept it! You keep it!"Terrell tossed the envelope back on the table. Tracey sat silently, staring at her son as if he had transformed into someone un familiar to her. His face had sweated much more than when he arrived at the rest aurant. The waitress walked over to the table with the food; she placed it on the table, smiled, said "enjoy," then walked back into the kitchen. Neither Terrell nor his mother touched their food; they just sat in silence, loo king across the table at one another. Terrell broke the stare and looked at his watch. He placed the check back into the envelope, and slide it back over to his Tracey. He then got up from the table, grabbed his briefcase and suit jacket, a nd walked over to his mother. He bent down and kissed her cheek; she continued t o stare straight ahead, as if he still sat across from her. She knew. "I have to go mom. I love you, and I'll see you later. Sorry if I hurt you, I'll call you." Terrell placed a $50 on the table and headed toward the front door. He never turned back. Tracey sat in silence. She let him walk away without saying a word, like before. She picked up the envelope and ripped it into pieces. As she got up to throw th e shreds into the trash, her foot hit the composition book on the floor. She sat back down, picked up the book, and placed it on the table next to her food. The cover read: My thoughts- for my eyes only! And on the next line: Terrell Sto kley, age 11. Tracey paused before opening the book; she knew she was about to r e-live a stage in her past that she had already buried. Nevertheless, she opened the book up to the first page and began reading.
VI April 12, 1987 Time- 2:15 AM Mood- I don't know. I guess trapped. He just came in. The front door slammed and mom gave me the command. She gave me a flashlight, told me to get under the bed, and then she ran downstairs to him. So here I am waiting under this bed again. For what? I have no idea. I'm still trying to figure that out myself. But I do know that I'm sick of being under here. I've been doing this for five y ears. This has to stop, I'm eleven now! It's not like my arms and legs are getti ng any shorter. The hard wood on this floor hurts my knees, and there's dust under here. Lots of dust. I'm hot and cramped. But I have to stay here until mom comes back up, she says it's for my safety. Mom told me about something called "last call" at the bar, that's when they cut you off from drinks and the bar closes. She said that happens at two in the morn ing. He comes in a little after that. It's normally around the same time every m orning. He performs the same old tired and drunken routine, every single time too. First , he slams the door, and he slams it very loud- it honestly feels like the whole house shakes. Next, there is his loud and stupid blabbering, normally followed by a lot of cur sing. But it always ends with loud screams coming from mom. About 30 minutes later or so, mom goes in the bathroom. It stays silent at first , for about five minutes, then I hear water pouring from the faucet. Mom tries t o turn the water up high so I won't be able to hear her crying. She thinks I can't hear them, but I hear her cries every time- even over the lou d sound of the splashing water. I wonder if she ever hears mine from under this bed. Probably not. Normally when I hear her coming back up the steps, I wipe my face and stop crying. No need in more tears coming from mom's eyes because of me. He causes way more than enough tears to drop from her eyes. Besides, by the time sh e gets to me she's tired and can barely talk- she only mumbles. And she demands that I keep the light off- even my nightlight! Can you believe t hat? But I know why. She doesn't want me to see her face, I call it his punching bag. She tries to hide the bruises, but I see them every time- even through the creepy darkness in my room, and even without a night-light. Sometimes I don't understand my mom. She confuses me. I tell her every time, ove r and over again, we should leave him. I tell her we can run away somewhere far from him. I tell her I saved all my lunch money for two months- almost $80! I te ll her we can catch a train to anywhere, just far from here, from him. The farth er away, the better. But it seems like she never listens to me. I try to convinc e her that this isn't love. That he doesn't love her. Love us. Mom says he has to love us because he moved us out of the shelter and into his h ouse after my real dad left us. She told me we lived in a shelter from when I wa s three to six years old. I can remember some of our time there. It wasn't a per fect place, but it was home. There were so many people. I remember some of them walked around and talked to t
hemselves. Some people cried at night. Some of the people scratched their bodies all the time and twitched their mouths to the side- and they used a lot of salt on their pizzas too. Mom said they were struggling with drug problems, but they just looked crazy to me. Sometimes our belongings were stolen, and sometimes mom got into arguments. But I can't remember one time- not one, when her face had so many different colors a nd marks on it. But mom said she did it for us, me and her, so we can have a better future. Mom hated the shelter and said it was the worst condition for a mother to be in with her child. I didn't seem to mind all. To hell with the future. To be honest, I liked the past better. Don't get me wrong, I like being in this real house and all, but living in the shelter was better. So what if some of our stuff was stolen. And so what if it was scary being around some crazy people- m e and mom still got sleep every night. I was never this scared. The security men kept us safe. Sometimes I wish they were here to keep us safe from him, because I hate this house and I hate him too. Besides, I don't believe mom when she says he loves us. He only wants mom. I don 't think he even loves her though. If he did he wouldn't beat her. Mom loves me and she never shows it to me by smacking and punching me around. But I know for sure he doesn't love me. He never wanted me. He wishes I was left behind at the shelter, and he makes that very clear every time he hits me. He r eminds me that I'm not his son. He shouts it out at me-Terrell you make me sick! You ain't mines anyway, I hate you! I wish your mom never had any kids! You're n othing but baggage! I wish she would've left you at the shelter! I wish she abor ted you! Aborted. I didn't know what that word meant until last year. I learned about it in health class. Mrs. Gradwell, my social studies teacher, showed us a movie on cases that were presented before the Supreme Court. It was called Wade vs. Roe. A woman in the movie yelled at a young girl going into an abortion clinic: That' s murder. How could you want nothing to do with your child? You're just going to kill your child? You devil! The cops took the angry woman away in handcuffs. She still continued to yell tho ugh, even when they placed her in the car and rolled us the windows. It was that woman in the video that taught me the meaning of the word "abortion" . I knew it had something to do with all things considered bad: murder, wanting nothing to do with a child, kill, and devil. So these are all the things that co me to his mind when he says that he wishes mom had aborted me. Wow! When I asked mom what "abort" meant, she said it is a bad word and not worth dis cussing. She told me to never mention the word again and never to look up the me aning. But I hear it every time- even through the sound of his hands when he smacks me in the head like he's playing drums: "I wish she aborted you!" I still hear it, even through the ringing in my ear, that only last for a minute or two- yet I still hear what he says every time: "I wish she aborted you! I know mom didn't want me to know about anything concerning abortions, or the wo rd abort, but it's too late now, I understand now. You know, I could get in big trouble. I really shouldn't be telling you any of t his because mom says, "what goes on in here stays in here", but I know you won't tell anybody because you can't talk. You're almost like God; you listen and nev er tell a soul. So I can tell you all about him, because if I don't tell somebody about living w ith this crazy man, I might just go crazy myself! But first I have to tell you a bout my mom because she bought you for me. My mom's name is Tracey. She told me that you would make me feel better when I w rote in you because-Shhh. I have to go. I heard the faucets turn off. Goodnight. Oh, I will finish t elling you about my mom tomorrow. Gotta go!
VII Tracey closed the book and pushed it to the center of the table; she remembered buying the black and white composition book from Dollar General. One day Terrell gave his mother a required school supply list. Tracey never had m uch money, Big Mike wouldn't allow het to work or apply for welfare. She had to depend on the money he gave her, and the little she made doing small side jobs, like babysitting. But normally Big Mike kept money in his jeans when he left to the bar. When he r eturned and passed out drunk from long nights at the bar, Tracey would take the remaining money from his pants pockets to pay the bills and get needed household things. She always managed to give Terrell a dollar a day for lunch money. During one night when Big Mike wanted to get drunk- which seemed to be all the t ime, he left the house with $250; when he returned, he beat on Tracey, and then passed out in his drunken stupor. Tracey collected $60 that night, and headed to Dollar General with dark shades c overing her eyes the next morning. First she waited for Big Mike to depart for work, and then she ran to the store, hoping she'd return before Terrell had awakened for breakfast. She was in such a hurry that she dropped her shades and stepped on them. Tracey knew they were b roken, so she wasted no time stopping to retrieve them. Rather, she dropped her head and looked down at the ground, hoping no one would notice her face. When Tracey got to the store she lifted her head and rushed to the rack where th e cheap sunglasses were located. She needed a quick replacement pair until she r eturned home. Her fingers slide through the entire selection, and she tried on m any different shades but was still dissatisfied. She knew they were cheap sungla sses from the dollar store, and she was never one to complain, but even the free sunglasses from cereal boxes were better in appearance. One of the attendants noticed Tracey's bruised face and one of her eyes black. T racey put on the shades and retrieved the items from the Terrell's school supply list. She stood in line to purchase her items, the woman pulled her to the side and explained that she herself was once a victim of abuse as well. She gave Tra cey her number and told her it was a good idea for her to buy a diary; the cashi er assured her that writing would calm her emotions. So Tracey ran back up aisle four and grabbed a black and white composition book. She then, bagged her items, thanked the woman at the cash register, and left th e store. Rather than use the book as her personal diary, as recommended, she gav e the book to Terrell, and told him it was a journal to record his thoughts. But that was the past. Tracey rubbed her eyes then grabbed her bowl and tasted a spoonful of her wonton soup. Suddenly, her appetite was gone, it had disappeared away from her like Te rrell when he walked out of the restaurant. Tracey felt alone and guilty. Little drops of tears spotted the page she read. Re-living the experience proved difficult for her, she understood what Terrell had meant. Tracey closed the boo k; she had never seen the book before, and never bothered asking Terrell how he had truly felt about their past abusive episodes. He never told her, and they ne ver discussed it. Terrell only knew about getting under the bed when Big Mike ca me home intoxicated. Tracey tried to ignore the temptation of re-opening the book, but couldn't seem to control the urge. She slid the bowl of Wonton soup away from her and reached for the composition book. Although Tracey didn't want old memories to resurface, she felt compelled to keep reading; it was something like a magnetic attraction that made her feel like she had to continue. So she opened up the journal to where she had left off, and continued reading.
VIII April 13, 1987 Time- 2:13 AM Mood- Same as yesterday, and any other day. Yup, you figured it out, I'm under the bed again. He just came in, and mom ran r ight out of the room and right to him- as usual. She gave me the flashlight, to ld me to grab you, and hide under the bed. She said to block out everything and just write, write, and then write some more. So I guess I can finish telling you about her now. You thought I forgot, didn't you? Well, as I was saying Tracey- that's my mom's name. She would kill me if she kne w I called her that. I always call her mom. But since you don't know her, I have to tell you her name, right? I wish you could see her. She's a pretty woman to be a mother. You know how moms start looking ugly and loose their teeth as they get older? Well, my mom still has a pretty smile. He did knock out one of her teeth, but it's near the back of her mouth, so you can't see it when she smiles- only when she laughs with her h ead back. Her skin color is like those brown cardboard boxes that t.v.'s come in. But, you know how the black writing is written in certain places on the boxes? Well that 's how mom's face is. Even when she tries to cover the bruises with makeup- I st ill see the black marks under all the paint she puts on her face. She never look ed like this before- not until we moved here with him. Mom said we lived in a shelter from when I was three to six years old. She said my real dad walked out one night and never returned. She was stuck with the bill s and the mortgage, but had no job; mom said my dad told her she would never hav e to work. Never. Guess he lied to her. But one good thing she did tell me about my real dad was that he never hit her. She's downstairs screaming now. I hate when she screams because I feel like I ca n do nothing about it. I have to go! I know mom will be mad with me. I know he will hit me again for trying to help h er, but I can't just lay under here and do nothing. Now she's screaming for him to let go of her hair. I have to do something. Gotta go! I'll be right back to update you when mom goes in the bathroom.
IX Tracey picked up a napkin from the table and wiped her eyes. She creased the pag e she was on then closed the book. "Would you. . .a likea anyting elze?" the waitress interrupted in a high voice.
She whipped her pad out, ready to take the order. Tracey was unable to form the words to place another order. She took two deep br eaths and spoke. "Yes, another gin and tonic please, and a shot of Tequila. That should be all, thank you." The waitress walked away and disappeared into the steam-filled kitchen. Tracey rose from the table and looked for the bathroom. Since the waitress had l eft, she asked the patron nearest to her for directions to the ladies room. "Excuse me sir," she said to the man who sat in front of her table, "may you tel l me where the bathroom is in this place?" "Not sure, but it might be over there near that clock," he said, pointing toward the salad bar. "Thank you." "Oh, no problem," the man said, then he turned and continued eating his food. Tracey walked toward the salad bar and spotted the bathroom in a small corner ne ar the clock- just as the man had said. She pushed open the door. Tracey was ama zed at how clean the bathroom had been; it reminded her of the fancy bathrooms y ou'd find in fancy hotels downtown, in most big cities. There was the smell of scented roses when you entered, and the hand soap that la y on the marble sinks emoted the scent of lavender in the air. A small sofa sat against the wall near a "body-length" mirror; there was a tabletop next to the s ofa, it was cluttered with with magazines. The floor was covered in hardwood oak , similar to those on basketball courts in gymnasiums. Tracey was amazed at how elegant a bathroom in a restaurant could be. She walked over to the sink and turned on the faucet. She looked at her reflecti on in the mirror and thought, I can't believe I went through that. I put up with that crap for so many years. And Terrell, my poor baby. He suffered so much. An d I allowed it! The sound of the water seemed to put Tracey into somewhat of a trance, another p ast memory she didn't want to resurface. She thought of the time when Big Mike h ad scarred her face after a strenuous night of drinking. One night Big Mike invited Tracey out to eat and drink with his co-workers. He w orked with a construction company contracted through the city. All the men he wo rked with seemed to be as large, or larger than Big Mike. They ate at a small re staurant named "Timmys", near 30th and Market Street, across from Drexel Univers ity. All was well until Big Mike ordered a round of drinks. He got drunk and uncontro llable; he was asked to leave the restaurant by the manager. He verbally attacke d the manager and the few people that passed them by on the walk to the car. But it was Tracey who suffered both, the verbal and physical attacks inside the car . Big Mike took his frustration out on Tracey; he needed some way to release his a nger, so Tracey became his main target. So he started an argument and slapped he r in the face. Then he grabbed her hair and slammed her head against the back of the headrest. When Tracey screamed, Big Mike assumed she tried to get the attention of someone for help, so he drove off. He hit her continuously until they came to a red lig ht. Tracey glanced over to a driver across from her. She was void of emotion. Th e driver smiled at her and Tracey dropped her head and cried. She desperately ye arned to be the driver in the other car, she wanted to escape. When the light turned green, the beating resumed. Again, Big Mike assumed Tracey had tried to get attention from the driver she glanced over at during the stop at the red light. The driver was a man; Big Mike was outraged, he became wrathfu l and more abusive. He drove with one hand while he clawed at Tracey's face with the other. "Bitch, Imma make sure no man wants ya ugly ass now!" he yelled as he dug into t he flesh of her face. The he pulled the car over near a park and kicked her out. Tracey got up from the curb and watched the car disappear. She had no money or means to get home, so she started walking home. It was 1:30 in the morning; the sun had not risen and the city lights still prov ided light. Tracey walked and continued until she was home at 3:40 a.m.
She had to climb through the window because the back and front doors were locked and Big Mike was passed out drunk. Tracey didn't want to awaken Terrell- who wa s up waiting anyhow, so she climbed through the side window of the house, adding more bruises to the ones already prevalent over her body. When she got through the window, she ran past Big Mike and straight to the bathr oom. She closed the door and locked it. Through the quiet silence of the house, the sound of splashing water could be heard. Shortly after, the sound of cries c ould be heard. That was back then, that was the past. Tracey now listened to the sound of water in a different bathroom, a different s etting, away from that time far gone- ten years gone to be exact. Nevertheless, it bothered her and brought her back to the past memories and battles she had en dured. Tracey turned off the faucet, dried her hands, and left the bathroom. She return ed to her seat and opened the book up. She had to continue reading- even if it m eant she had to endure resurfaced pain.
X April 14, 1987 Time- 2:32 AM Mood- In pain- my wrist hurts I'm under here again, so you know he's home now. Mom told me to get under the be d because some man outside kept yelling mom's name. He barely pronounced it righ t; he shouted "Acie", "Trace", and "Yo". The man sounded drunk, and kept banging on the door. Mom said the man bought him in the house and laid him on the couch. He was drunk as usual, but passed out a
t the bar. The man had to carry him here. At least it's quiet now. No screaming, and definitely no yelling. But mom still told me to get under here- even though he's in a dead sleep, and even though my wrist still hurts. Yeah, that happened yesterday. Mom spent most of the time bandaging my wrist, so I couldn't get back to you last night. She said it was stupid of me to come dow nstairs. I guess she was right. He never finds me under here, so I guess I am so rt of safe like mom said. But yesterday I had to run downstairs. I heard my mom scream for him to let go o f her hair. Then the screams turned to mummers, it sounded like mom was gargling something- like mouthwash. I knew it was blood. I knew he had punched her in the mouth again. He did it bef ore, when she sounded like that last time. Well, I couldn't take it anymore, so I threw you in the corner and ran d ownstairs. I guess it was a bad idea, but it was worth it to me. He grabbed me by the neck then threw me against the wall. Mom tried to p ull his arms away, but he punched her in the mouth and knocked her down. I fell to the floor, and when he turned around, I grabbed the broom handle and smacked him hard across the back of the head. I thought that would have worked, knocked him out cold. It worked in most shows I saw on television, but not on him. He yanked the broom from my hands. He yelled his usual curses and then p unched me in the back- HARD! It felt like life was over for me. I knew what it f elt like for someone to drown and gasp for breath. I did that. He told me to go to my room and then laid across the couch. He wasn't sl eep though, I saw his eyes cracked open. He watched me walk away. He still had t he broom in is hand. I looked down at mom, who was shaking and trying to talk. S he opened up her mouth and blood was everywhere. She yelled at me to run upstair s. But I couldn't. I bent down. I wanted to make sure she was o.k., then I looke d over at him. He smiled and said, whatchugone do? If only he knew what was on my mind. If only my thoughts would have come true. H e must have read my mind somehow though. I don't know how. Before I knew it, he told me to come to him. Mom told me to run. And he shouted at her and said: shut up bitch! I ran at him, I wanted to rip him apart, attack him! I tried to bite him but he threw me to the floor again. Then he stood over me with the broom and gr abbed my left hand. I remember him saying: You wanna givea helpin hand huh? Well we'll see bout dat. Then he raised the broom stick and hammered it down on my wrist. I balled up lik e those little babies inside their mothers, like the ones I saw in class on the abortion video. I cried. I cried loud- it hurt. He walked past me and stepped on my foot. I didn't even have on slippers . My foot hurts too, but not as bad as my wrist. I couldn't move it. Mom tried t o crawl to me, and he kicked her in the stomach. Then he bent down between us an d said we better not call the cops, and mom better not take me to the hospitalor school for a few days. She just shook her head yes. Then he walked out the front door with the broom in his hand. When the f ront door slammed, my mom crawled to me. I didn't know who she was. A big patch of hair was missing near the side of her right ear, and her face was covered in red. I couldn't see her eyes because they were nearly closed shut. She placed he r body over mine and cried. Mom got the strength to get me upstairs. She locked us in the bathroom. She ripped her shirt and wrapped it around my wrist and told me we were sleeping in the bathroom last night. So we slept there on the floor with bath towels as our bed. To be honest, it didn't feel much different than being under my bed. Bu t that was last night. The whole yesterday was a complete disaster, I couldn't wait to tell you about i t today. But that was yesterday. It's quiet now, and mom isn't screaming for the first time. I wish he passes out drunk all the time. Maybe I should shout out t he window to that man to bring him home like this every morning. I like it like
this. Mom is still downstairs. I don't know why, so don't ask me. But my best bet is she's making sure he's sleep. I hate when she treats him like a king. She jumps at his every command like a dog- well he does call her a bitch. I looked that word up, so I know what it means. I just don't understand how-Gotta go, mom's coming up the stairs! See you tomorrow.
XI April 15, 1987 Time- 1:15 AM Mood- Still in pain, angry, ready to call . . . HE'S HERE! Mom practically threw me under the bed. She didn't even tell me to ge t under here this time. She seriously passed me you, laid me on the floor, and s lide me under here like a box of shoes. Then she told me not to move at all! She ran out of the room. But something is wrong. Something feels seriously wrong. For one, it's too early
! Last call wasn't made yet! And I didn't hear mom run downstairs. But I hear hi m. He's up here, and he's close to my room! I may have to stop writing soon. I hear mom tell him that I'm not here, that I stayed with Ms. Patton, our neighb or, so that they could have some alone time together. He doesn't believe her. I hear him coming, I have to stop-That was close. I and to stop writing for a couple of minutes. Good thing he did n't look under here. I held my breath and didn't move. I laid still. Frozen. I h eard him walk out of my room and tell mom to get in their room- but not like tha t. He said- bitch get in the room! Now I hear all types of noises: screams, moans, that same gargling noise again c oming from mom, slaps, and the bed hitting against the wall. Now it's quiet. The weird noises stopped. I hear him leaving now, going downstairs. I know it's him because his feet are h eavy. I remembered the sound of them when he kicked mom yesterday. The front door slammed. I wonder why mom didn't come in here yet. I wonder why I don't hear the bathroom door, or the sound of water from the faucets. But I still hear mom's voice comi ng from the next room. I wonder if she's-Gotta go! I'll be back- don't worry, he left already. --------------He's back! So I had to hurry and run back under here. I'm sorry I left out, but I had to go check on mom. When I got to her door she yelled for me to get away, but it was too late. I saw- I saw everything! She had no clothes on and had handcuffs on her wrist. She was chained to the bed and her face was bloody. She kept yelling for me to get out and go back under t he bed, but it was almost like I couldn't hear her. I couldn't believe what I sa w, so I called them. I know mom will be upset, but I can take this no longer. So I did it, I called them. I can't tell you everything because I know they will be here soon. I stole his c ell phone from the dresser. I still have it here with me. Don't worry, he won't know- he's drunk and probably dozing off to sleep now. But I will tell you one thing: I wish he was dead. Mom said never to wish that o n anyone, but I don't wish it on him. I want it to happen to him. Now would be a perfect time if it were up to me. I hope they shoot him when they get here. I saw some very nasty things. . . I can't get them out of my mind. They were bad . There were pictures, naked pictures. They were wrong! Mom was handcuffed in di fferent ways, in weird positions. In some of the pictures he chocked her, and in some he was behind her pushing her down. I stole one. I know mom will be mad, b ut here it is.I will keep it in you just until they come. I will give them it with this book. I know, I know. I don't want to get rid of y ou either, but I have to show them. Look at my mom in this picture! He's chockin g her and pushing something in her. You could tell she didn't want him to do tha t- look at her face. That's probably why I heard her screaming "No"! That's why she's in the picture pushing him back. This doesn't even look like my mom's face. I hope they feel the same way I do when they see this picture. I know. . . I kno w, I can't bare to look either.But it will over be over soon. They should be here in a hurry. Well, this is it. I love you, but we have to depart- sorry. I have to let them r ead you so they can take him away from here, from us. They need to know. They ha ve to know. Gotta go! Someone's banging on the door right now! I see red and blue lights shi ning through the dark outside. I think it's them.
XII Tracey closed the book and gently ran her fingers over the edges. She remembered . It was a memory that she was unable to forget, one that couldn't disappear eas ily over time. Although the photo wasn't attached in Terrell's book, the cops confiscated the p hoto as evidence, Tracey vividly remembered that night, it seemed a nightmare, a dream she was unable to awaken from. She never felt so low in her life. After using the journal as evidence in court, the precinct returned the book to The Department of Child Services; it was never shown to Tracey. Terrell didn't w ant his mother to see the journal and blame him for Big Mike's arrest. Tracey always wondered how the cops knew she had been abused; she pondered over how the authorities were able to provide specific details from previous incident s, descriptive ones that she was unable to deny. The police squad eventually kicked in the front door, and took Big Mike away. Th ey discovered Tracey in her bedroom naked, and Terrell in his room under the bed with his journal. Tracey never knew how Terrell called the cops- he never told her he called them, so she assumed a neighbor had called them. And she never knew Terrell threw a p icture out the window to the cops and begged them for help. But now, and after r eading the end of the journal, she had discovered a lot about the unknown. Tracey closed the book then called the waitress and asked for a "doggie-bag" to take the unfinished food home. The waitress placed the bill on the table and wal ked away. The total came to $36.97. Tracey paid the bill with the $50 Terrell had left on the table then told the wa itress to keep the tip. She grabbed the ripped envelope and placed it inside the book. Then she gathered her belongings and left the Chinese restaurant with her head held high; not one tear formed in either of her eyes, or fell from the che eks upon her face. Tracey walked three blocks to the nearest post office. She entered the building and looked around, there were few customers there- three to be exact. Tracey reached for a flat rate priority box and put the book with the ripped env elope inside the box and sealed it. Then she stood in line to have the item ship ped. "That'll be $4.75 dear," the old man said from behind the counter. "But I can't send it off witout an ah-dress ya know?" He looked at her and smiled. "Oh, I'm sorry about that. I have so many things on my mind." "Cept for the sender's ah-dress huh?" he joked. Tracey tried to smile, but became irritated with the old man's humor, so she smi rked then turned to search through her purse. She needed a pen and the address. When she found both things, she wrote the address on the package and gave it to the cashier. She turned to leave the store, but the old man stopped her. "Ma'am?" "My name is Tracey," she said, a little irritated. "Well sorry to be in ya bizzaness Tracey, but I feel for ya. Anybody with somebo dy in prizon is always in pain- they never understand that we end up behind bars too. . . just out here. The families end up doin time out here while the inmate doin time in there. They never seem to understand that." Tracey stared at the old man in silence. She gazed into his thick gray beard, an d then back into his grayish eyes. Bit she still said nothing. "Well, you have a nice day. I have to get back to work." The frail old man turne d away from Tracey, dropped his head, and punched the address into the computer: Mike Walters (MN1612) SCI Withers-ford Correctional Facility
Coudersport, PA, 19166-3653