Funny enough, that was the year I got mugged on my way to school. This village girl got instructions every weekend from the parents: don’t go anywhere alone, don’t do this…don’t do that…the usual parental requests to follow rules and obey. Village girl was in the city, and emboldened by her survival all these months, walked in the bright sunshine that said it was nearly noon. Through the little corner streets and down a bright alley and directly into the main street across which stood the big campus, I walked. But standing between me and the sweet embrace of knowledge and safety was a young man, with hazel, almond shaped eyes. He was on bike, wearing sneakers, nice jeans and a clean polo shirt. He looked decent, presentable.
He asked me for two dollars. I smiled like an idiot and said, sorry, I don’t have money on me. I didn’t. I only had one class, and then it was back home for some TV. He looked at me and said, “Okay.” Then his hand shot out and yanked my gold chain clean off my neck. I was so shocked I couldn’t even make a sound. By the time it registered in my mind, he had already hit the curve of Princess Margaret Drive and heading down Landivar. I stood still, hugging my books to my chest, wondering what to do.
Then I started walking calmly; I got on campus, went to class, sat down and studied. When class was over, I headed back to the house. I refused to go down the alley, even though there was nothing that could be taken from me any more. Instead, I went through the street, like I had been instructed. I got home and called my parents to tell them that I’d lost my necklace, and my father’s pendant.
I was in so much trouble. I thought of lying - thought of saying that in fact, I had been on the street and not just popping out of an alley. But I had been raised to tell the truth, and the palpable anger that radiated from the phone to my ear - striking fear into my pounding heart - ensured that I would in fact, tell the truth. I was in even more trouble.
When my boarding mother got home, I was also in trouble with her. She was not at all sympathetic. In fact, the only people who sympathized with me were my roommates. They all walked the alleys, but they were probably glad it had happened to me and not them.
It took a long time before I could feel comfortable walking the alley again. I hardly went anywhere alone, preferring to stay locked in than to head out. Towards the end of that first year, I eventually ventured out, testing out the waters alone again. By the time I was in my final year of school, I had walked all over the city, braver than ever, nearly carefree.
I even shared a cab with an actual crackhead/dealer. In my defense, I had no clue. By then, finances had changed at home, and with the parents’ divorce, I was pretty much left to my own devices. I was living in a shack with paper thin walls, rats eating out our provisions if left out for more than an hour. I paid for most of the rent with my part-time job at an internet café that was really a front for some serious gambling in a private room. I served drinks to some of the biggest names in the country, was hurled abuse by people whose daddy’s companies pay for nearly half of the southern region’s population. All for a measly few bucks that paid for my rent and perhaps, if I was lucky, some greasy two dollar fried chicken.
So, yes, the crack dealer. The rental units were divided into ten rooms. The first room was taken up by a crazy looking guy who was full of pent-up energy, crazy eyes and skinny beyond belief. The room next to his was mine, and a nice enough guy stayed in the other one after mine. There was a weird woman who worked for Dario’s meat pies (yummy!) down from nice guy’s room. She lived with her man in that tiny room. There were a few other people who were mere shadows, footsteps in the night.
One day, with no plans other than to go spend some of the measly allowance that finally came through from my dad, I called a taxi to pick me up. Hell-bent on enjoying Daddy’s money a bit, I got ready and sat on the crumbling top step waiting for my ride. Crazy Guy came over and started talking to me. In my defense, he did sound sensible that day, and I just thought he was a bit loopy, perhaps a drunk. (See, education via books is NOTHING compared to street education!) One thing led to another, and next thing I know, when my cab pulled up, he jumped up and decided he would share it with me. He chose to ride shotgun.
Not caring much about it, and thinking we were headed the same direction, I agreed. When the car started heading in an unfamiliar path, opposite of the shops I so wanted to be in, I began to worry just a tiny bit. Crazy Guy tried to reassure me, saying he only had to go visit a friend and pick up some food from them, then he would head out to the shops as well. The cab driver didn’t seem too sure of himself either, but he kept driving. He gave me reassuring looks in his rearview mirror, and feeling a bit better, I decided not to fuss.
Yes. I am an idiot. I realize that now. Really, I think this story is just to share that Tia Chocolate has made some seriously not-so-smart decisions.
The drive took about twenty minutes; I swear I even napped. (I-D-I-O-T). When the car finally slowed to a stop, Crazy Guy jumped out and invited me to go meet his friends. The yard was huge, and there was a big tree right in the front, with draping branches that dragged on the ground. The shack ahead looked unkempt, but there was some smoke coming from what I assumed was a kitchen. The cab driver insisted that he would wait for us – I bet he hadn’t gotten paid yet – so I got out and followed Crazy Guy to the house. (I-D-I-…you get the picture…)
Inside was a bit dark, and there were three men and one woman. There were rocks on the table that looked like limestone chips. They kept putting them in mounds while I stood at the entrance of the home, feeling like I was in an entirely different dimension. Crazy Guy kept insisting that I come into the house completely, to get away from the door, but something made me insist on staying at the doorway. The mounds were put in bags, and the bags were packed into a knapsack. The smell inside the house was like nothing I had ever smelled – the heat from the stove, where a couple large pots bubbled away, it was suffocating. I slowly backed away, and walked back to the car. I got in my seat, and quietly sat and waited for him to get back in.
He came out with the full knapsack, waving goodbye to his friends. He got in the car, and turned to look at me from his seat. “I want you to hold this for me. Just put it in the locker when you get home.” He was handing me the knapsack, which contained lots of the little stones I had seen on the table. He said it would be fine, that I could just carry the bag with me while I shopped. He had to go see a friend somewhere else, but to please take the bag. I refused, perhaps the most sensible thing I did that day. I insisted that I would not be responsible, that I could forget it somewhere, and I didn’t want to do that. Something must have clicked with him, because he took my refusal seriously, and he stopped insisting.
He got off somewhere at a junction, and after paying the cab driver, he took off down a dirt road.
The driver turned to me, and with a frown on his face, and just a little bit angry, said to me, “Young lady, that man just took us to a crack house. Yu di get out da di bus stop.”
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