THE HAUNTED CARNIVAL
WITH FRED SIEGEL
Smoky was the hour when they blew into town.
Cranky was the man, Walter, when he appeared at the cab stand.
“Do you have any oxtails?” he asked as he moonwalked like Michael Jackson.
Melissa, the angry, off-duty clown, watched Walter with amusement.
Walter shook his ass and asked her did she want some popcorn?
“I love popcorn” said Melissa, and she shook her ass right back.
And they shook their asses happily ever after!
WITH BRENDA BAILEY, NORMAN CAIN, + LAUREN LOWE
I learned how to dress up from Paulette’s Barbies.
My brother learned from the older cool guys.
Crinoline slips are my favorite with white ankle socks.
We’ve all got distinct flavor or style.
Don’t do no good if you don’t wash up!
Tuesday, January 17, 2017.
I had a hard time at spelling so I came up with this way to remember how to spell them correctly. THERAPIST, the rapist—that way I was sure to spell it right.
The funny part about it was after I had to go see one, it felt like I spelled it!
I am 11 and my grandmother is in a nursing home because she had lost her eyesight and her leg due to stepping on a rusty nail coming home from work one day. My brother and sister are of the partying age and don’t want to be bothered with me so they send me to E.P.P.I. ( Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute) which was across the street when the weekend came so they could go party.
Ok, tell me what brought you in today?
I notice that he has gray hair and a smile—the kind that cha-chings like a deposited coin.
Now I don’t know what to say.
I sit down.
Can I tell him of these people I have that’s called family and the things that they are doing to me?
Will he help me? I wrench my hands. I can tell he’s not ready for this. I begin to tell my story, but I see that he is getting aroused.
So how old were you when this started to happen? (Prying/Delving deeper into my life).
Because he doesn’t believe me.
Sweat is beading on my forehead. I tell how I am getting beat during the week and fucked on the weekends. Trying to get down to what is really ailing me, but you look bored because now you’re looking at your watch!?
It’s like the first time you tell on uncomprehending ears.
After you have told others and they can’t believe that this is happening to a child.
The hurtful part is to have someone there who knows and won’t intervene on your behalf.
You have peeled every layer of protection I thought I had from me, whether it was a holey broken umbrella or a trash bag, it was mine. I am naked. I have nothing to protect me from the elements.
Oh, I’m sorry, but your time is up!
WHAT? Can I at least put my clothes back on?
You have to go, I have another patient waiting to come in.
So you pick up your clothes and get out, naked to the world. Not knowing whether to keep going or stop to put them on.
Later, you are so angry that you don’t realize that you have been walking around for a week with your ass out!
So you keep the appointment.
When you come to yourself, you find yourself sitting in his office with your clothes in your lap.
But what you have failed to realize is that while you were walking around unprotected, you became a “Dirt magnet!”
So those things that THE RAPIST stripped off of you — that was your protection like an invisible cloak — are no longer working so you start attracting things like old potato chip bags, chewed gum, leaves, used bandages, and old cigarette butts, which you pick off while he acts like he doesn’t see that you now have new things on you and asks, So where were we?
AUNT HAZEL’S STEAK AND NOODLES
Your ingredients are:
2 packs of Ramen Noodles
The packet of seasoning that come with the noodles
And a Steak
Salt and pepper
Now the 1st thing you do is, “Get up and go to the market.”
Don’t draw attention to yourself by walking too briskly, pace yourself.
Scope your surrounding as you enter the meat section.
Look around inconspicuously and shove the steak down your pants so it doesn’t fall out.
And then walk out briskly.
When you get home put on the water on for the noodles.
Take the steak out your pants and cut it into cubes.
Then coat them in the bread crumbs.
Sauté the onions and take them out.
Fry steak in the same pan.
Mix together at the first sound of a siren.
Eat up fast, ‘cause they are coming for you!
At least you got your good “Last meal” on the street because you are going to jail!!!
MARRIAGE AND HUSBANDS: AN EXCERPT
But let’s get back to Momma’s funeral.
So as I walked up on her, I could see that they put that fucking dress from out the back of the closet on her and her hair was GONE. They gave her a short curly bush! This American Indian was lying there with an African hair do! I know she was hot. I could hear her saying “I’m NOT no nigger like y’all.” This was one of her constant rants. Yeah, I know, I jump around a lot! “You just hold on and try to keep up with a chick!” It is amazing how the mind is so accurate in remembering shit from the past but forgets shit that happened yesterday. I just stood there pondering, clutching her sleeve.
I wondered what they were going to do to me next. I thought of the lies I told her on where the money came from and what I had to do to get it. She knew, she groomed me for the Game. So spiritually I took everything, all the lies and the reasons to lie and put them in her coffin with her! Hell, it was her shit and I was giving it back. “Take this with you!” My dad had to come get me. He had to pry my fingers from her sleeve. This was my first black out and I wasn’t even on drugs at the time! People would have blackouts from drinking or drugs. But it has been known to happen to people under complete duress where they black out from the trauma.
All I remember is sitting in the limo and the two songs that came on the radio: “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan and “Better Days” by Dianne Reeves. This was my insight into what they had planned for me. These songs let me know that I was going to go through some rough times, but I was going to make it.
I walked around like this for months in this state of confusion. I was fucked up—I would walk all the way up to Woolston Avenue to the cemetery. When I’d get there I’d just lay there and cry and dig. I must have done that for at least three months.
TWENTY FIVE SENTENCE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
1. Being abandoned.
2. Growing up abused by grandmother and family.
3. Overcompensating for siblings lost.
4. Being loved.
5. Burying first husband.
6. Burying idea of second husband.
7. Cutting family ties.
8. Not being Anne Johnson.
9. Living on my own.
10. Getting sober again.
11. Looking for Mesha.
12. Loss of Mesha.
13. Receiving Ferd.
14. Play with Ferd.
15. Feeling alone.
16. Waiting for Fridays.
17. Tried to deny I was aware.
18. Tried to hold 9 year relationship together alone.
19. Found myself still losing my Identity.
20. Went back to church.
21. Started class at Drexel.
22. Found out I can still dream.
23. Found out some people never change.
24. Found out I can make it on my own.
25. Walking in who GOD made me to be.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
It is 3:10 & I’ve just gotten finished watching the mother of all movies, Imitation of Life. I fell in love with this movie the 1st time I saw it and waited for it to come on every year since. So when I watched it—color and black & white—it was in hopes that my little girl would do better. But I’m Annie Johnson & she’s Sarah Jane. I found that out today. Really, I been knew it. I was still hoping that it would change. I wonder if because I didn’t get her like others got babies it had something to do with her disposition. I walked around in a state of confusion even after she got here under a curtain of mockery. Her father & I NEVER had sex. I let him put it in between my legs while we were standing up. He never penetrated me. Which also made me the joke of every family gathering. “So where did he put it?”
I sat up all night trying to give birth. Me & Miss Chunky. A nurse came by with magazines so I bought a Playgirl. Since I didn’t have no dick & I’m having his baby I thought I might as well find out what dick looks like. I’d dreamed of Marvin Gaye. I looked up & my cousin Moe was coming in my room with a case of formula & Pampers & he told me, “From now on, that pussy is mines” & he walked out. I was 13 & it was Mother’s Day. It didn’t take her long before she turned on me too. I thought if I breastfed her it would bring her close; she would chew my nipples until they cracked & look up at me & smile. But I still had to nurse her. She would expose me in front of people or throw her bottle to not be weaned. Her 1st words to me were, “I don’t like you!”
Because I was young & inexperienced & also because children don’t come with instructional manual, I fumbled. Sometimes when she'd do mean things to me, I’d let her have it. But then I’d remember that I chose her cause Momma wanted me to get rid of her. Sometimes I wonder how far would I have gotten without her. I tried my best. Back then black folks as well as society frowned on a woman/girl who had a baby out of wedlock and they would send you down south & when you came back it would be your sibling or they would take your baby & that’s what my grandmother by the help of Mildred & my sister did. I tried to give her things to secure our bond but that’s all I did. I gave her things.
By 17 they had all fucked me real good. I’m sorry, I’m jumping ahead of myself. So my cousin made me his. We met when I was 11 & he set out to get me. My dad took me & the 1 born before me to Auntie Dean’s house where they were giving a party. When we saw each other, our eyes locked for 28 yrs. This was the introduction to incest. He groomed me til I got pregnant. He was allowed to spend the night. Momma would say, “As long as you’re with Moe, you’ll be alright.” My baby was 6 months & walking. She was getting out of the way. That’s what people say your baby’s doing when you’ve got another one coming. I was 3 month pregnant again.
We wanted that baby. I’d sit in between his legs while he rubbed my belly. I got some pants from Chunky to hide it but I was showing. 1 night over Lucy’s I started spotting. I was losing his baby I worked so hard to get. My white jump suit was red in the back. I rushed down the hill just fast enough to drop it in the toilet. I stood there looking. My baby was in the toilet. I got in the bed. I thought it was over. 6 months later I doubled over in the street & was rushed to Temple for a DNC. That’s when I found out he gave me an infection on top of his baby. That’s why the baby didn’t make it. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t have any more children, cause I gave my womb to my cousin.
He tried to be a good dad, so much so that on a bus excursion to Asbury Park or someplace, she kept calling him daddy in front of everybody. He was family. He would always be there. This batch I come from took pride in saying, “We keep it in the family.” From his mother & her sister to us, a hot mess. A generational curse. This was the start of my Stockholm syndrome. This is when the captive falls in love with captor. So I’ve been in love with my abusers all my life. This must stop! It took me up til now to realize my grandmom turned me out.
So back to 17. I met this guy. He worked as the maintenance man where I lived. He had curly hair like my cousin but he was white. My grandmother went off. “I didn’t tell you to get a white boy!” She said to find someone who was nice to me, she didn’t say what color. What are we supposed to do, go back to the reservation? I should have known better. I thought they were better than black men because they kept their word. But this is not about dicks; that’s the other book.
This is about my Sarah Jane. So momma would let me out for a few hours. She’d say, “It don’t take nobody all day to do nothing!” I call it “The James Brown.” Can we hit it & quit it? Can we hit it & quit it? Let me count it off: 1, 2, 3, 4. Get up! You should be done. That’s what momma thought: “It’s a shame for a woman to be out all night & ain’t got no cigarette money, so if you go out with a man all night he’d better give you some money!” That’s how I got introduced to the game by my grandma. The only thing that made her mad was I came back with more than she ever did. I remember when I turned my 1st trick & gave her the money, she stopped complaining. It was the 1st time I got rest.
Back to Danyell. Children need to be kept away from adult business. They don’t know the things we as mothers have to do to keep a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, clothes on their back, shoes on their feet & a pencil in their hand. I gave her everything. 2 karat diamonds in her ears & those big chains that RUN-DMC used to wear. She had them 7 years before they came out. I let her go out & they’d strip her by time she come back. I bought them with my case money. I had a good old trick named Artie. No matter what I’d spend, he’d give me $500. We would go to Ponzio’s in Brooklawn, NJ every night for dinner. We went with Riccobene, Philip Tasty Lou Batone. She was so pretty. They called this yellow baby their doll. They would throw her back & forth across the table while she laughed.
I EXIST because I see me when you won’t;
In memory of all you tried to kill:
In spite of your desire to snuff me out.
I must; because you want me gone.
I EXIST because someone should have stood up
for me & spoken out against you long ago.
After being lied on & to; after you tried to make
me look like a fool in front of everybody
w/ my help from protesting; “See, I told you”
I EXIST after you lied & said “You loved me, stripped me, fucked me, gutted me & stole from me.” You even tried to put me on. You hater!
You pillaged my village!
I EXIST to stop you from
ever doing this again. To repair the damage you caused.
I EXIST because you want not me, but from me & when you finished, I can go away. I EXIST because you were not strong enough to fight them off.
Because of your darkness
For loves sake in spite of you.
BEFORE I DIE
I saw you that day you came out in that lovely ensemble in black. You were phenomenal! Where do you get your clothes? Who is your stylist? You look mahvelous! You made that? No you didn’t! Girl, I’m gonna have to get you to make me something too! Girl, you are bad! Where do you come up with all this stuff? I always thought you was crazy. You crazy! Not that kind, but I heard you have a book coming out soon. You go there and you’re not afraid to go there.
CHANDA RICE I am Cinderella living this new life GOD gave me as I trust him in each step. I am an overcomer. Chanda Cherise Corley Rice is known as Muffy. She was born in 1961 on the train from New York to Philadelphia and was raised in North Philly by her maternal grandmother. She is a resident of Mantua.