Letters from Promise to her best friend Lakeisha Ann written from the insane asylum Rust Hills.
Dear LaKeisha Ann:
I feel as if I’ve been in a valley of silence for a long time. Yesterday morning I found myself lying in the palm of a gigantic hand and being lifted up. I saw myself rising up to meet a brown skinny girl who had wings. The girl had a face like my dead brother Jonathan’s. I realized then I was going to meet myself. I heard myself thinking. The voices in my head were loud as the engines of one hundred roaring buses. Pictures tumbled in front of my eyes. You were in one of the pictures--black and skinny limbed.I’m in some kind of a Hospital. I’m sure you read the papers and saw my pictures all covered with red. The red is supposed to be blood. But I was cooking that day the picture was taken, so I’m sure the “blood” is food coloring.
I think I have missed two years. My tongue is so thick it fills my mouth and blocks my speech. I see nothing but shadows. I’m a bird in a cage and am very aware of the cage. You should see some of the other birds here who are oblivious to the cage. They walk in circles until the attendants herd them to the dinner hall. After dinner, the birds walk some more. They’re in constant motion until they’re strapped to their cots at night. Even then, some of them move their legs as if walking until they finally fall asleep.
Evidently, I was not a walker. I was a sitter. My ass is as flat as a chair. Dr. Bacon the psychiatrist here told me that nothing reached me. Not the ice baths, electric shocks, nothing. What woke me up was some man’s fingers up my snatch. Those fingers traveled through my womb and tugged at my vocal cords. The fingers propped open my eyes. Someone inside me screamed for two solid days at monsters.
Child, the visions were something else. A small boy in a gold suit lay in a casket. His head was bashed in. Blood gushed like a spring from his ear. Headless singers in blood red robes swayed back and forth as if caught in a spell. A man with legs thin as broomsticks slept in the middle of a big bed. His penis was erect and large as a long barrelled pistol. A white woman offered me strawberries from her breasts. I bit into one and it was rotten and bitter. But yet I yearned for more. I was lured by the redness. And then there were buses. They were driven by drivers who bled from holes in their temples. They drove toward me at high speeds as if they were trying to crush me. But the buses went through me as if I were air. The woman inside me screamed as if death was coming at her. And there was not a Christ anywhere to save me. Not a christ anywhere to save me from this torment. But I’m so much better now.
Please come and visit me. They say this place is called Rust Hills. The trees are orange and red. The grass is green as seaweed. I’m sure from an airplane, this place looks like a nice salad. It’s in a valley. I can see cows beyond the fence. The cows have more life than the zombies inside the fence. The staff has stamped their motto everywhere: “Confront and cure.” “Confront and cure” on the walls, on the dishes, on the bottom of your glass after you’ve drank your milk.
A man did come and see me yesterday. He called himself my husband. He acted as if he hadn’t seen me in a hundred years. He grabbed my hands and kissed them all over. I guess my silence had locked him out too. I offered him myself. But he said no.
Now what kind of husband is that? I’m standing on the table with my gown hiked over my ass and he says no. But maybe I didn’t smell very good as a wife. However the man with the far reaching fingers didn’t mind my smell.
Dr. Bacon, the woman who runs this place thought it would be good for me to write you. They want me to remember things--go back in time and come up to the day I was found covered with the red stuff. What can you do? I don’t know. I heard that you do have an education now. Perhaps the plan is to surround me with an educated triad--you, Dr. Bacon, and the man who calls himself my husband.
I hope I have your correct address. If and when you do come, don’t take the bus. The belly of the bus like the belly of the whale, is full of rot. As women and as my friend we’ll smell bad together if we have to.
PS. Bring my child too.
Why do I keep seeing our son as a corpse? His head lies on a tiny satin pillow. Why is he wearing a hat? I’m ready for answers. Am I not a good Mother?
Dear LaKeisha Ann:
Oh, child! Green, green, green. At first the scheme of things here was all blue. Then I assume voices revealed to Dr. Bacon that green is better for a nuthouse. So now everything in this place is green, green like the puke that ran out of Jonathan when he died. I don’t blame you for not coming to visit. You couldn’t find me anyway. My green gown blends me in with the puke colored walls. And the puke colored walls blend in with the green vegetable mush they feed us here. All of this green dissolves into green shit we shit into the green water in the green toilets. Then the green flies dance in this effluence.So you see, girl, you cannot see me because I’m blended in to the green. But if you see a green fly crawling on your pink silk curtains, don’t kill it. You see it might be carrying parts of me on it’s feet. And I’m not ready to die yet.
Dear Lakeisha Ann:
Hey, girl, what are you doing right now? Listen at me sounding as if we are on the telephone. I just got through watching some kind of political debate on the TV. What a way to spend a Friday night--watching a man and a woman both with as much personality as biscuits talking about how they would ensure world peace. Neither one of them mentioned lobotomy or castration. Well that’s my proposal--"docilize" the masses. After the debate, the host came on and said the usual spiel, “We would like to take this opportunity . . .” and the word “opportunity leaped out at me. I began to think about it. And it seems to me that the pursuit of opportunity is what rules the world. Civilizations have rose up, died, and gone to hell in the pursuit of the opportunity to grab land, wenches, or both.A woman meets a man and sees opportunity for a movie and a cheap bottle of perfume. (He sees a quick fuck.)If you’re real lucky, your “opportunity” might set you up with a million in mutual funds, a multi-layered house on River Oaks Boulevard, and platinum charge cards.
If you’re a simple woman, then a chicken dinner and twenty dollars is enough opportunity for you.
Opportunity. All a little girl wanted was the opportunity to go to AstroWorld. She relied on a man to drive her. She did not want to be made afraid of the rain.
The rain. Lord have mercy. She did not want the rain to make her bash her doll into the side of a silver bus. All she wanted to do was go to AstroWorld.
PS. Pray for me and kiss those grand babies.
Dear LaKeisha Ann:
I’m bored. I dream of nothing but body parts: Nancy’s leg, my drooping breasts, other women’s breasts. I wish we didn’t have these open showers. Our bodies are so ugly. The school girls we once knew are nestled in fat. Stomachs stick out. Backs are hunched. All that we have left from our girl days are our fingernails. You dab a little red on the tips and polish them until they look like a ruby crowns. They’re there when needed to scratch an itch or keep time to a rhythm when you feel groovy. Suddenly one day you look at your finger and there’s this ugly gray tumor growing underneath to your finger’s ruby crown. In fact it’s pushing the crown away and taking over the whole head of the finger. The finger takes over your whole train of thought. It’s a new baby. You poke it, suck it, wrap it in pure white gauze. Your finger becomes a mystic man in a turban. You ask it questions like why is a baboons ass like the rainbow. Then ol’ Doc gets involved with you and your finger. Here comes his needle. You hold your breath. Your lungs tighten like drums. You scream like it’s the first time you got fucked. Here comes, through a whole in your finger, nine months of yellow corruption, black thoughts of murder and suicide, and some littlechild with his head bashed in. When you’re drained you feel good. You hum a little tune and stroke the Doc’s latex hands. You look at your finger turbanned and mystical and healing. You fall in love with it all over again.
PS congrats on your third grandchild.
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