Soul’s Work

By Serafina Angeles

In the beginning…there was darkness.

Frantically packing, thinking about getting the hell out of Jersey, it dawned on me that it had been a few rough days. I asked myself if there was anything left for me here. Feeling suffocated, as if my very life-force was being drained I thought, “I’ll die if I keep on like this,” then exhaled.
Pulling my shoes from the small faux-wood closet, I suddenly heard a noise that snapped into reality. Startled, I shot a glance at the clock on the tiny white microwave above the small kitchen cabinet, “No, it’s not time for Mami to get home yet.” God, how I hated this place, I hated that Mami lived cramped up in her apartment. It was bad enough that she used to live alone in this place, but to all of a sudden have two other people move in with you, was close to unbearable. But she always said she didn’t mind.
“You and your sister are my children and I will gladly sacrifice anything,” she said matter-of-factly.
Well, I didn’t like it one bit. I hated having to ask to move in with her. I was ashamed that I couldn’t take care of her. Nobody should have to sacrifice anything. It didn’t matter anyway. No one in the family listened to what I had to say, I didn’t think she’d start to now. I tried many times to tell her, but she just wouldn’t hear of it.
I packed the rest of my things. There wasn’t much since I sold or gave away most of it since I wanted nothing to do with the old life, “Huh, who am I kidding, what life?” For a while, I did think I was hot shit living there — on top of the world. Boy, I was delusional.

I remember the day I met him. I would’ve never considered dating someone like that (let alone be living with him) and yet, he played to my senses. That was the day I called a friend to ask if she had knew anyone I could buy powder from. That would’ve been the start of my new thing, cocaine. It became like a best friend to me and I couldn’t get enough of it. Unwittingly, the guy I was about to date liked it.
I had called the guy one day, after my friend referred him to me (I made sure to let him know she had done so), and I received such service. He had told me he would come and deliver it right to my door. I waited down the stairs of mom’s apartment for him all dressed up. That night, I had a date. I was ready for a-night-out wearing my new lavender, V-necked dress. I kept poking my head out the door and was anxiously looking for the guy to arrive from down-the-block. After a minute, I realized I didn’t know what this dude looked like. Next door, at the connecting building, I saw someone staring at me; looking in my general direction.
“Hello,” I said, “Are you Richard?” He stared at me for a while; as if he was considering, whether or not, he should answer.
“Yeah,” he answered in a strong even tone, “You must be Josie.” He walked over to me and stepped into the foyer.
“My god. ?Quien es tu dueno? Y si no tienes dueno, quiero ser! You look like an angel. What part of heaven did you fall from?” He grabbed my hand and pulled me closer.
“Please don’t,” I said as I pushed his hand gently away. “I am waiting for my date.”
“I’m sorry if I offended you. I didn’t mean to. Anyway, le’s get down to business. How much do you need?” He pulled a small packet from his jacket.
“I’ll need a hundred, but I didn’t think you would get here so quickly. I don’t have the money on me. If you don’t mind following me really quick, up the block to the ATM, I’ll get the money for you,” I said.
“You know, I sort of have peeps waiting for me in my ride. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t y’a hit-me-up tomorrow and I’ll swing by and pick up the flow you owe me?” he asked, looking deeply into my eyes.
“Sure. Wow! You would trust me like that?” I gasped.
“Listen. I have nothing to worry about. I know where you live. I have your phone number. It’s not like I can’t get to you. Is that cool?” he smiled.
“Alright, I’ll be home around 6:30 p.m. tomorrow. I’ll call you then,” I reached over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. He blushed.
I never thought of a drug-dealer as someone sweet and gentle. At the time, he wasn’t exactly the type of guy I had figured him to be. But, he knew exactly what he was doing. Richard had let me slide until the next day so he could see me again, to convince me to go on a date with him. And when we did meet, he was relentless, gentle and sweet. I had only given in to his persistence out of sheer exhaustion. The day I met him for dinner I almost cancelled, but I had already given him my word and felt I couldn’t get out of it.
Richard was a perfect gentleman. When he arrived, he held the car door open for me. A simple courtesy that many men nowadays forget that makes me feel like a woman. As I passed him to enter the car, my eyes skimmed his figure quickly. He was dressed in black slacks and an off-white button down dressy Guayabera. I could see his well-kept physique ripple through his clothing. The sleeves of his shirt hugged his large biceps tightly. And if that wasn’t enough to get my senses reeling, I caught a whiff of his cologne. The smell of musk, mingled with a tinge of sweetness, only added to his charming allure.
“You look beautiful mi angelita,” he rasped in a low voice as his green eyes looked deeply into my eyes.
My body trembled with excitement as I felt his eyes burrow deeply into mine. That night, I had thought he was taking me out to a nightclub, but he surprised me, “I want to have you all to myself. I’m taking you somewhere special.”
I had no idea what he was thinking, but when I compared him the other men I had dated, who had taken me to Houlahan’s, Red Lobster or just to see a movie, it sounded a lot better. I was shocked when we pulled up to one of the fanciest restaurants in East Jersey. I walked on air as I entered the double doors. It no longer mattered that he was a drugdealer. How could I? Richard put a lot of thought into where he was taking me, which proved to me that he was seriously interested.
Later, as we were seated, I asked Richard why he had brought me there. He told me he had never told anyone he used to be a busboy there. He wanted to show me somewhere special, so he thought of this place. For someone who was very low on self-esteem, and had gotten used to being treated as secondary by men, I felt as if I had hit the jackpot. Of course, it all started to snowball form there.
I had spent almost every day after that night with Richard. We were in bliss. I had someone that put me on a pedestal and he had a trophy that let him. I was his “mujer.” It was not until six months later that I found out that his ex-girlfriend of three years was pregnant with his child. By then, it did not matter. We were already living together.
My coke problem didn’t go away. I kept getting more and more delusional as time had passed. I had easy access to the stuff, so it wasn’t difficult. I lied to Richard and told him I was not using, but every time he left me alone I was shoving more of his product up my nose. I learned a lot from him. He was street smart, though I wasn’t. He taught me to look past people’s stations in life, to really look beneath and see the person. He taught me how it really is on the street, not the stuff I watched half the time on television. There was a special code that you lived by when you hustled on the streets. For one, you never snitched. You didn’t take anything from anyone that didn’t deserve it. And, most importantly, you remained loyal to the group. In Richard’s mind, he was never given the chance to live his life differently. I kind of understood him, since that’s exactly how I had felt for most of my life. We both wanted to escape towards something better. It was a dream we both had known from the outset, would never have worked out. Though I think, our lives had crossed for a good reason, yet we both intrinsically knew that we never had a chance.
The day his ex-girlfriend gave birth, I moved out. I did not want to be in the midst of the war that would surely come between us had I chosen to stay. I may not have been too street smart, but I knew myself, and my insecurities, enough to foretell that she would never leave him alone as father of her child. I never understood why the fuck women had babies just to trap a guy. Who do you they think they are hurting? Do they imagine love as bringing a newborn into the world into that type of situation? I was hurt about what had happened, but I was more hurt that that baby would not have a snowballs chance in hell.
Back and forth it went on between Richard and me. It even went as far as me begging him to listen to me; to be with me. If that wasn’t enough to drive me mad, my manager at work tricked me into resigning my position at the company I was working at for the past year. I had fucking flipped. It was all too much pressure for me.
I called Richard to tell him, but he screamed at me. He said my job was the only good thing I had going for me. That’s when I realized he didn’t want me anymore. It was as if he was waiting for someone to pull him out of his abyss, the world he had lived in all his life. He had sunk all of his hopes and dreams of making a better life for himself onto me. I was his winning ticket. A trophy for winning the race – the human race. But I was in shock. I couldn’t think straight. It felt as if my very soul had been pierced. I felt all this emotion inside of me and all I could do was sit and cry.

Feeling pained and destitute, I didn’t go home that day. Instead, I went to the local liquor store and bought a bottle of Courvoisier. Afterwards, I rented a motel room and sat in it with all the lights turned off. On the bed I sat, drinking, snorting and bawling like a two-year-old hoping death would come.
Later on I found out that Mami, my best friend and my sister were looking for me. They couldn’t find me. And Mami did something I thought she’d never do — she called the cops. My best friend alerted me to their search, while I was in the hotel. She and I had briefly talked on the phone it in between sobs. When I did finally decided to go home, a police officer was waiting for me outside. I really didn’t know what to expect at that point, but everyone was concerned that I’d be okay. They were worried that I was going to try to hurt myself. I almost did.
All of this doesn’t matter anymore. What matters to me now is this moment – right now. That night, after everyone was looking for me, I realized that I couldn’t give up. I came close though. That’s a feeling I never want to experience again. I just wish that they’d understand that they were the reason I want to get away in the first place. I can’t keep disappointing them. So I packed. I wanted a new beginning. I was hoping a change, going somewhere different, would help reawaken my soul.

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