Lorraine, he beats me.” I state, barely raising my voice above a whisper as I lower my head in shame.
“What do you mean he beats you? The man slaps you one time and you think you are Tina Turner!” She harrumphs as she looks at me with disdain.
“It wasn’t a little slap!” I snap as I snatch off my Gucci shades, and pull my hair up out of my face. My left eye is black and blue and there is a purple bruise that runs down my caramel colored skin hidden by my long hair. I had tried to cover it with makeup, but my experience in the makeup department is limited.
“Child that ain’t nothing, it’s your fault anyway!” She said angrily as she pulled my hair from my face.
“How is it my fault?” I nearly scream as I look at her like she had suddenly sprouted a second head.
“You don’t treat that man right. He gives you everything a woman could ask for and what does he get in return? Nothing! Every time I turn around, you and that Storey girl are off somewhere shopping. I tell you all the time, Rain cook that man something, keep his house clean. Have some babies for him. But noooo. You would rather hang out than make your man happy and now that he done hit your ass one time, you talking about a divorce. I would have killed to own my own home at nineteen years old. I never see you in a car older than a year old and your clothes are made by people, whose name even you can hardly pronounce! You must be on that shit.” She says barely containing her anger.
“I didn’t ask for none of it. Then again, I didn’t really have a choice did I?” I question her.
“With all the things that you have, how could you be unhappy? Do you know how many girls out there would die for just one damn day in your shoes?” she asks.
“Yeah, one day in my shoes and they probably would die!” I answered angrily.
“You talking nonsense!” she replied dismissively.
I just look at her in amazement. Just because he seems to give me the world don’t mean shit! Hell, I deserve everything I get from that son of a bitch and probably more. Of course, she wouldn’t see it that way. She has always seen an angel when she looks at him. From the first day I met him, she has been kissing his ass. Hell, she acts like I am talking about divorcing her ass. I guess in a sense I would be. She knows that if I even thought of divorcing Entebbe, her monthly allowance would stop before the words had even left my mouth good. I wonder what she would do if, I asked him to stop it, just out of spite? I know that he only tolerates her because she is the cause of him and I being together, and he don’t give a damn about her just like he don’t give a damn about me.
I don’t know why I decided to bring her my business. I can never do anything right by her. I have never been able to and that hasn’t changed in the five years that it has been since I left her house. Although my sense of pride has kept my mouth shut for the last five years, there ain’t no way in hell she hasn’t seen my pain. Granted, I spend more time in Plant City with the Johnson’s, but she is my mother! I know that Mama Johnson wants to ask me about my bruises. Every time I show up with bruises, no matter how hard I try to conceal them, her hugs are a little longer on those days. Sometimes, I catch her wiping tears when she thinks that I am not looking. When I see this, it hurts so much, I always vow that I will hide them a lot better next time, but she still knows when I am hiding something, even without her having to come right out and ask me. Like I said though, the only person important to Lorraine Jenkins is, and always has been Lorraine Jenkins. I guess you always hope that someone will wake up and smell the damn coffee. If she hadn’t been my mother, my life would have been so different.
All the choices I made, I made thinking of her. Most of them were the dumbest that I have ever made, but I made them for her none the less. You know what? This time, I am thinking of me. Rainbow Sunshine Jenkins-Wooten. Yes, my mother was a hippy. That’s the only thing I can think of when I hear or see my name. She must have been really high on May 29, 1978.
Sometimes I wonder what my father could have seen in her. Where she is vulgar and rude, he is calm and classy. I assume that one of the main things that attracted him to her was her looks. I have to admit, she is a stunning woman. Lorraine stands about 5’2 and has my color, only a little lighter. She has long hair that is naturally auburn with light brown highlights. Looking at pictures of when she was younger, I can tell she also had a body to die for. Unfortunately, in between her drinking and giving birth to me, nothing is as it were. I inherited my father’s eyes in a sense. Where his eyes are hazel, mine are a smoky grey. I also received my mother’s body frame and hair color and length. I am not sure where I got my height. My dad is only about 5’6, although when I was smaller, he seemed like a true giant.
Looking back over my life, there is one decision I will regret making for the rest of my life. I made the decision to put my mother first and it has cost me dearly. It almost cost me my best friend, my youth and childhood and it most definitely almost cost me my life. I was only fourteen when I made this decision. I know now that I couldn’t have known better if I had tried. I had always been an obedient child, so although I knew that it couldn’t be right, I decided to make sure that my mother could continue as she had been doing since my birth, being a whore.
Today, the buck stops here. I don’t care how people look at me. I don’t care if I lose the lifestyle I have grown accustomed to. I don’t even care if I have nothing left but my name. Fuck it! I really don’t give a damn. It’s time for me to be happy. And fuck her. If she can’t swim, keep her black ass out of the water, because from this day forward I am thinking of only me. I don’t know what the defining factor was because I have been saying the same thing for years now, but I think it was her stupid comment that it was all my fault that Entebbe beats me. What woman deserves such treatment? Hell, my dad never put his hands on her and honestly, if he had I would have still hailed him my hero!
“So what, you gonna sit there and ignore me? You can’t come up with a single plausible defense to this bullshit, so don’t even try.” She says as she waits impatiently for me to answer a question that I don’t even remember. I rack my brain, and can’t remember anything except her telling me how lucky I am to be the victim of spousal abuse.
“Huh?” I ask as I give myself a small mental shake in my effort to concentrate on her. The sun is kicking my ass though. Although my right eye is fine, the effort to see with just one is taxing. My head feels like I have had nothing to drink except Hennessey, straight with no chaser. My throat feels so dry and it feels as if rocks are in sitting in the bottom of my stomach.
“See, this is what I am talking about. If you are so inattentive to me, what must you be putting that poor man through?” she questions, pinning me underneath her icy glare. I remember how as a child, I dreaded that look with a passion. Whenever I was treated with it, I would damn near become a mute. That is how afraid I was of Lorraine and disappointing her. Right now though, all I can think is, ‘what the fuck was I going through to think that she would understand?’
“Let me ask you something. Since you all in the mood to talk and shit, when you talked me into marrying Entebbe, was your life really in danger, or were you only trying to find the easiest solution to get rid of me? By the way, how much was my life really worth? How much did you get for me?” I asked sadly. She just stared at me like I was boo-boo the damn fool.
Just like I said, if it wasn’t for her ass, I might be at someone’s college dorm right now cramming for finals. I might be about to graduate. I might have more friends than the ones I grew up with and my girl Linda. Although I left so long ago, it still feels like I am still stuck in the same year and time. But no, here I am, a few days until my nineteenth birthday and wife to a man I still hardly know even after five years of marriage. The most that I can tell you about him is the things Lorraine told me when she convinced me to go. I know that he is eleven years older than me, and he is wealthy. Ain’t that a bitch? A woman before I got my first period and I still haven’t had an orgasm! I jump up from my seat with a big grin on my face and laughing internally as she flinches like I am about to jump on her ass.
“Hey Rain, before you leave let me have a dime. You know I got you.” she requests. I reach into my pocket and throw her a dime sack as I feel sorrow threaten to overcome me.
“Don’t worry about it. This one is on me.” I tell her.
I grab my purse from the floor of her porch and walk slowly to my truck, ignoring her ass as if I am in a daze. I climb into my Lincoln Navigator and close the door, shutting off her ranting and effectively shutting her out of my life. I sit there for a moment looking at her and shaking my head at the pitiful sight in front of me. She looks like a complete sad case to me suddenly. I never noticed how down trodden she looked. My eyes are slowly opening up and I am finally seeing things as they actually are instead of through the rosy shades that I have forced myself to wear in order to cope with my existence. Sometimes, I get sad thinking about all the pain that I suffered. I wonder how my life could be so war torn, but I am still surviving. Then I think of something that I remember learning in church when I was a little girl.
Pastor King used to stand in the pulpit and ask the congregation to reflect on their lives. Everyone would grow silent and attempt to look within themselves. During these times, it wasn’t a hard task, because my pain was still live and in living color. Then he would say, “I know that some of you have faced things that no one else in this room could ever dream of facing, but I am here to tell you, don’t give in. The storm doesn’t last always. The sun has to shine sometimes. Remember, no matter what anyone else tells you, God has said in his word; I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will never put more on you than you can bear. So brothers and sisters, when things seem like they are never going to get any better, and when it feels as if you can not go another step, you are stronger than you thought, because the God in you is stronger than any struggle that you may have to face.” After that, he would call the choir up to sing and they would sing one of my favorite songs, ‘Something Inside So Strong.’ I smile for the first time in a long time and pull away leaving her in a cloud of dust. I am not being mean, I am just tired. I finally realize what my mother meant when she would say as I was growing up, ‘Ain’t no shame in my game.’
Riding down I-4, I take in the world as if it’s my very first time seeing it. Well, maybe it is. I don’t remember the sky ever being this blue. I make the trip from Lakeland to Plant City almost on a daily basis and I have never seen that field of flowers to my left. I damn sure have never noticed the cows grazing in that field either. I begin to reminisce on my life. As always, my memories begin on my fifth birthday. Until that age, I honestly thought I was a princess. I had a mommy, daddy and grandpa, and I lived in a house. Most of the people I knew lived in the projects and only had one parent.
I had a couple friends on my street, but my best friend lived on the other side of town. I know now what they mean when they say that if you have never known stormy weather, you can’t appreciate the sun. But at that time, I had only known summer. Never in my young mind would I have thought that your life could change in an instant. You could wake up one day and nothing would be familiar. You could wake up one day and be something that you surely weren’t the day before. I remember the day that changed my life like it was yesterday; maybe because I look back on it so often.
I woke up with a smile as I did on every other morning. This day was extra special though. The sun was shining on my face as I watched the Rainbow Bright curtains blowing gently in the breeze. I was happy because today was my fifth birthday and I would finally be considered a big girl. Gone were the days of me being treated like a little kid. I would also have a few more responsibilities, but at five years old, I wanted them, heck, I needed them. Today, my grandpa was taking me to Lowry Park Zoo, and then when my daddy came home from work, we were all going out to dinner. I didn’t even think of my mother. I would not allow her to spoil my day. She had an uncanny way of doing this even when she didn’t realize it. My grandpa and I were going to the zoo alone and when we went to dinner he and my father would both be there to take my mothers attention away from me. They served as a buffer between my mother and me from the first day I could remember. Even by this age I had learned to tolerate my mother rather than love her.
It was her fault really. Since she had not shown me love, I didn’t know how to give it to her. Without a doubt I love my grandpa and my daddy, but they are different. I can’t help it, my mother is a whore; A down right, fuck anything that moves whore. Be it a man, or woman it doesn’t matter. As long as they could afford to buy her a drink or two, they had a place between her legs. I didn’t understand what being a whore meant and I didn’t even know that the word existed, but on this day, the word, its meaning and a prime example was shown to me in stark reality.
Anyway, back to matter at hand. I climbed out of my bed, slipped my feet into my Strawberry Shortcake slippers, and went to my window. I pulled the curtains back and lifted the window up another notch. I made my bed the best that I could, brushed my teeth like a good little girl and finally made my way to the kitchen. I primly sat at the table after giving my grandpa a kiss and telling him what I wanted for breakfast. I don’t know why we went through this same routine when I requested the same thing every morning. I had a glass of orange juice and a bowl of my favorite cereal, cornflakes with fresh blueberries. Some-times I would ask for toast with grape jelly too, but more often than not I would just have the cereal. I guess something can be said for repetition, to give off the semblance of normalcy.
Grandpa went over the agenda for the day carefully constructing it so that I wouldn’t have to spend a moment with my mother until dinner. He also made sure that he wouldn’t be too tired from our outing to enjoy the nice dinner that was planned at his favorite restaurant, ‘The Sizzler.’ He always protected me, even when I didn’t know that I needed protecting. I am not gonna lie and say that my mother abused me. Well, not physically anyway. I had never received a spanking, and verbal abuse didn’t really fit into the meaning of abuse during the early eighties. Whenever she yelled at me, grandpa or daddy knew how to draw the heat unto them to save me the scalding words dripping from her lips. I was excited that I would be going to the zoo with grandpa, but the main event for me would be dinner. My daddy worked so many long hours at the mine that the only time I was able to share dinner with him was on the weekends. It was Wednesday no less, so I knew what a special treat I would be getting. Although my daddy always pretended that he forgot my birthday, he always got me just what I wanted.
After eating breakfast, I went into the living room to watch the Smurfs to pass the time away. I hadn’t seen my mother, but this was not unusual. She never made an appearance until late afternoon. By then she would be drunk. She went to bed drunk, woke up drunk, and drank throughout the day. Growing up I thought my mother was gonna die before I became a woman for all the time she spent in her bedroom “Sick.” My mother is what is known as a functioning alcoholic. Most times she is very mean when she is loaded, but I have learned that silence is definitely a virtue in my household. As long as I am silent when in and around the vicinity of my home, I can usually escape her notice. I watched a couple episodes, but I couldn’t keep still long enough to watch He-Man so I went to put on some play clothes to go out into the yard.
After the tenth time running into the house to check the time, my grandpa finally told me to go get dressed. I was so excited; about going to the zoo, but mostly because, soon after we came home from the zoo, daddy would be home. Grandpa and I spent the morning at the zoo looking at the animals and taking a train ride around the park. My favorite part of the ride was the gorilla habitat that they had. I loved to see the mama gorilla taking care of the babies. The way that they walked on their knuckles was the funniest thing that I had ever seen. It seemed as if they were watching me as much as I was watching them, as if they found me as fascinating as I found them. I had been to the zoo too many times to count, so in my young mind, I believed that the gorillas knew me from all the other little kids. We ate lunch at one of the picnic tables that surrounded the duck pond and he bought me cotton candy. On the ride home, to grandpa’s delight I could hardly keep my eyes open. When we got home, he put me down for a nap then took his special seat in front of the television to watch Godzilla.
Waking from my nap, I looked at my clock and realized that soon my daddy would be home. I went into my bathroom with my bubble bath and ran a little tub of water; I was a big girl now after all! I grabbed my Barbie and Ken dolls and placed them into the tub. I grabbed my Baby Oops Oops, placed them on the floor of the bathroom with my Raggedy Ann doll, and got in the tub. As I played in the tub with my dolls I sang the happy birthday song under my breath. I knew that since I didn’t hear my name being called my mother was most likely still asleep. After a while, I climbed out, dried my dolls and myself, and put on my robe.
I went into my room and pulled out my new birthday outfit. It was a white shirt with yellow daisy’s and a pair of yellow shorts. I pulled on my lace socks with the yellow flowers and my brand spanking new pair of shoes. I took the comb and brush and stood in my mirror on the chair from the vanity table in my room. I parted my hair down the middle the best I could and put a ponytail on each side. I tied a yellow and white ribbon on both and deemed myself ready.
I walked silently past my sleeping grandpa and took a seat on the front porch. Although grandpa took great joy in taking me places, I could be very tiring for an old man. I sat there swatting mosquitoes and swinging my legs back and forth. I watched the neighbors passing in their cars as I anxiously waited to see my daddy’s black Cadillac. It was like my body was humming, the anticipation was so strong. After a while, I went inside to look at the clock. Time really moves slowly for a five year old. It felt as if I had been outside for ages waiting, when in reality it had only been a few minutes. I went back outside to wait some more. I carefully watched my shoes dusting off the tiniest fleck of dirt. This was my first pair of white shoes and I was determined to keep them clean.
After what seemed like another eternity, I went back inside to get something to drink. I giggled as I passed grandpa who chose that moment to let out a small fart and snore simultaneously. I pulled a chair up to the counter to get a cup out of the cabinet. Since I was turning five today, I felt that entitled me to drink out of a glass rather than my plastic kiddy cup. I jumped down and carefully placed my glass on the floor. I pushed the chair back underneath the table and turned back to the refrigerator. I opened the door, put an apple on the table, grabbed the container of lemonade, and held the door open with my foot. After pouring my drink, I carefully put the container back and shut the door.
I turned and took a small bite of my apple and picked up the glass carefully. Before I could take a drink, I dropped my glass, being frightened by the door slamming. For a moment as I looked at the shattered glass on the floor, I debated whether I should clean it first or run to my daddy, then clean it. My excitement at seeing my daddy won out and I ran out to the living room. I was just in time to see and hear my daddy slam out of the house. My grandpa jumped up and looked towards the door. For a reason unknown, I became afraid. Probably because my daddy had never came into the house and left without saying at least one word to me, and I had never heard him slam a door in our house. That was Lorraine’s territory.
I rushed to the door and pushed my way out. Skidding to the edge of the steps, I called my daddy’s name. He looked up at me while putting the car into reverse. The look on his face broke my heart into a million pieces. I could barely see the tears on his face through the tears in mine. I screamed my dad’s name as the car began to back out of the driveway. He never said a word. He just closed his eyes briefly and quickly left the house. I don’t know how long I stood there waiting for him to come back.
That is the first time I remember saying a prayer that didn’t precede me closing my eyes for the night. ‘Please God, let my daddy come back.’ I sank down and watched as my tears dropped onto my thighs. When the roaring left my ears and my tears were just a mere drip off my chin, I realized that my mother and grandfather were yelling at each other. When their words register in my brain, I began to pray that I would go deaf so that I could avoid the things coming from the woman who brought me into the world.
“Lorraine, how could you?” my grandpa yelled.
“What do you mean? No one told the bastard to come home early.” she laughed.
“I don’t care if he never left the house or wasn’t due home until New Years, how could you sleep with that man in your husbands bed?” He asked angrily.
“Because I can! I get more action with someone else than he ever gives me. I can count on my fingers how many times he has touched me since I had Rain. I have needs damnit!” She slurred, well on her way to being drunk.
“Speaking of needs, what about the needs of your daughter? You know that John loves that girl; and to do this on her birthday? What in hell were you thinking?” Grandpa thundered as I watched the neighbors start to gather in our yard.
“Oh, damn! Fuck her. She is the reason I am in this mess. Rain this and Rain that! She has everything she could ask for, but she only whines and gets on my damn nerves. Don’t nobody give a damn about me! If he loves her so much why did he leave her? He should have taken her with him, shit. I should have had an abortion, but noooo! You begged me, talking about how wrong that would be. And don’t you think for one second I don’t know why that fool decided to marry me. I waited and waited and all he could say was how he wasn’t ready, then I got pregnant and all of a sudden, he was ready? Fuck that! Besides, I am a grown ass woman and I can do as I damn well please!” she screeched.
“Maybe you don’t give a damn, but I do, so lower your voice. Not only is your daughter sitting on the front porch hearing every damn word you are saying, the neighbors are coming into the yard being nosey. Even if you aren’t embarrassed for yourself, show some modesty for her and even the man you were laid up with!”
“Shit! For who Davy? He is his own man. Ain’t no mutha-fucking shame in my game. Hell, if he is so embarrassed, maybe he should have stayed his ass at home. I didn’t beg him to come over here today, just like I don’t beg him to come any other day. He is the one that needs to be worrying about his wife, not me. Ain’t no shame in my game!” She laughed coming as far as the screen door to leer at the neighbors.
“Why you trying to mess up that man’s home? His wife is right out there. You talking all that shit, but if that woman comes up in here and kick your ass, I am getting a front row seat!” he mocked as he came to lead me back into the house.
“Who Sheila? That bitch ain’t crazy! I done beat that hoe ass one time and she don’t want no more of this!” She laughed. Mrs. Sheila just looked at my mom with pure hate. I swear, if she had lasers for eyes, my mother would have been turned into a pile of ashes on the spot.
My grandpa steered me through the house as my mom continued to make lewd comments about what she had been doing in her bedroom. He took me out to the backyard and tried to interest me in his garden. As he droned on about the different flowers and vegetables that he had growing, all I could think of were Lorraine’s hurtful words. What the heck was an abortional? What did she mean; ‘Ain’t no shame in my game?’ What game was she playing? If this really was a game that she was playing, then I sure didn’t get the rules. What kind of game would make her hurt my daddy and make him cry? It would be years until I figured that out.
That night I cried myself to sleep. My daddy didn’t come back before my bedtime so I figured that I wouldn’t see him again. Once my grandpa read me a story and tucked me in, I closed my eyes until he left my room. Then I let the tears fall. I wanted to show grandpa that I could be strong. The pain that I saw in his eyes for me, hurt almost as bad as the thought of my daddy never coming back. Every time I thought about the look on his face and the possibility that I wouldn’t see him again, my chest began to hurt and it felt as if I was incapable of taking another breath. I don’t know when I fell asleep exactly, but it was a restless sleep.
I began to dream horrible dreams in which my daddy left and then we would hear a horrific crash. My grandpa and I would join the neighbors who all would begin to run to the sound. It seemed like the more I ran, the farther back I would be. I called out to grandpa, but he kept running because he couldn’t hear me. Before I could make it up the hill, I would jerk awake. I would sit up in my bed and wonder at the tears that are dripping down my face, because the dream by then would be fading fast.
I felt him before I saw him; I can’t tell you if it was my dream or his presence that woke me from my sleep. I just remember something told me to open my eyes. When I did, I saw my daddy sitting on the edge of the bed watching me. Before I could utter a sound, he placed his forefinger to his lips. I jumped up and rushed into his arms. Silently I cried as he whispered that everything would be all right and patted my back. I never wanted my daddy to let me go. I just knew that once he did I would lose him forever.
“Don’t cry my Sunshine. You know that daddy loves you.” he kept repeating.
“Don’t leave me daddy. I promise that I will be a good girl.” I whimpered.
“You have always been a good girl. I am not leaving because of you. I am leaving for you.” he stated.
“What do you mean for me? You can’t leave me daddy. I will just die!” I cried.
“I have to leave, so that I will not go crazy. I may not be living with you anymore, but I will always be here when you need me the most. I promise. Every morning when you open your beautiful gray eyes and before you close them at night I will be here.”
“Take me with you daddy. I can clean up. I know how to make my own bed and I even know how to wash the dishes.” I pleaded desperately.
“It will be alright. Trust me Sunshine.” he whispered as tears created a river down his face. I buried my face into his neck and held on tighter.
“You trust me don’t you Sunshine?” he asked.
“Yes, daddy, just don’t leave me.” I said as I cried harder.
“Just trust me baby and I will never lie to you okay?” he asked.
“Yes.” I cried as my heart broke into a million pieces when the realization hit that he was leaving me. I had never hated another person until the night I began to hate my mother. It was her fault. If only. Sometime later, I fell asleep as my daddy sang ‘Summertime’ to me. Sure enough when I woke up the next morning, my daddy was sitting there with a smile on his face. My father kept his promise to me until the morning after my thirteenth birthday. My grandpa had died three months earlier. I didn’t find out until later that by then drugs had consumed my daddy. Another thing I blamed my mother for. I guess in the end, he couldn’t put up with her without a buffer, even for my sake.