Grayfield South

by Piper Davenport

01.

I received your letter. Tonight, at midnight, I will fulfill your request. Of course, the fence outside prevents me from ever reaching you. I wrote a last letter to my parents that won't be sent. They don't visit me. They never understood me quite like you did. I doubt they ever will. We cannot choose them, our families. I think that was my biggest mistake. If I had to do it over again, I would have held you and told you everything would be all right, even if it was the greatest lie of our lives, I still would have told it.

I say to my mother that I am leaving. She asks me where I am going. I am going to get away--To my favorite seat in the corner where I can watch and observe but on this day, it is crowded.

All of the tables are filled except one . . .

So, I ask him if I can sit down next to him. He politely says yes. And those eyes. Those brown eyes. They beg me not to move away. I turn away. Books. Miles and miles, rows and rows of endless books that moves up and down the library walls like a fisherman moving on a dock to catch bait.

I turn back. It does not seem like it is going to happen, and then it does. An open table becomes available, and neither one of us moves. I am stiff and he transforms the image I have of myself. I no longer see the Medusa in front of me. I no longer see the serpents that are spitting venom in my cup, swirling around like a pipe player in paradise.

I turn away again. A painting. In front of me. The serpent's eyes. Art is surrounded by an empty universe of coffee drinkers who ignore its beauty until I bumped into it.

Hi.

Hi.

Isn't it hideous?

No. It's art.

I don't believe art is supposed to be hideous.

Well, I do.

There are no other seats in here. Can I sit here with you?

Sure.

I'm Sterling and you are?

Gray. Grayfield South.

That's an unusual name.

I'll bet you've never met anyone quite like me.

I don't know. Time will tell.

What's in a name, right?

Exactly.

Twelve months later . . .

02.

I got a rough start off in life. I never really knew my father. So, I took all of that aggression and put it into boxing. I kept hoping that if I could make it as a boxer, he might come back. I started off in minor boxing matches, sometimes fighting for my life, other times fighting for enough money for a motel room, a girl and a chicken dinner with a bottle of Hennessey. But no matter how many fights I won or lost, he never came.

The more I expected him, the more I was disappointed and the more I began to lose more fights than I won. So, I quit. Got disillusioned. Took a job in a factory. Married Sunny because she was the emergency room nurse who stitched up my nose after I almost got killed in a shady Twelfth Street match with a German.

I just didn't want to be alone but now I am alone again. We are all alone in some way. My family is full of them"lonely people. We moved to Detroit from Georgia when I was a little boy. The house we lived in was perfect. One family lived up, the other family lived down. We were always surrounded by people but my ma hated it.

She thought our family better than that, above that. She thought her newness made her different. But there ain't no camels on our backs, I overheard one of my uncles say. In other words, we should be so grateful. It was cheaper to pack us all in the house like a deck of cards, one on top of the other. But those people drank and smoked themselves to death before Gray came. By the time she came around, I wasn't close enough to the ones that were left and Sunny's family hated me so they kept their distance.

And then there was Sunny. I never wanted kids. I raised eight brothers and sisters, half of whom were dead by the time I was grown and I wasn't looking for a family. Sunny and I didn't date but two months before she became pregnant and we got married. I wasn't optimistic in those days and she knew that Jack had caused me problems.

I couldn't help it, though. I loved liquor. I even put it in my bathtub like they used to do in the old days and on my wounds and hell, even in my food. It aged me but I didn't care. It made me fight with my wife and pushed her away from me. After Gray was gone, I saw no need to stay there anymore. We had nothing in common. I saw then and understood why my father left. Two fighters don't belong in the same house.

Besides, there were too many fences that needed repairing. I received a letter not too long after that from Sunny. She was getting her tubes tied. Me, I didn't care. Wherever my sperm landed, I didn't plan on being around long enough to find out where it landed.

Jack sent me to jail, where they made me repair the very fences I tried to break from. They said I could mend fences or write letters to Sunny. In jail, I mended wire fences but outside, I mended wooden fences. I liked those better. For one, I could be alone. Two, they didn't tear up my hands. I knew they might need repair at some point and I needed to know that I was going to come back some day to fix them again and again.

03.

I was born to Claudia "Sunny" and Souder South. As a child, I hated being named Grayfield. It was so unusual. But my mother and father were traveling when she was pregnant with me; they were traveling on the highway, coming back to Michigan from Ohio when the car got a flat tire on the road. They pulled off the main road.

My mother saw a beautiful lake behind a fence in the field. She wanted to take a swim and got out of the car. At first, my father thought she was losing it but he said there was such beauty in that field so the story goes. She apparently took all of her clothes off and went swimming in the lake. She swam under the water and when she came up, I was born between her legs, just under the water on a gray, rainy day in a field just south of the highway.

When I was eight years old, I was playing downstairs in the basement of our house. I was having a tea party with my stuffed animals. I could hear my parents upstairs arguing. My mother came downstairs screaming. She had my little brother in her arms. I remember her hair was in a beehive. I remember the Tigers had won the World Series.

Her pink dress was covered with a brown liquor stain. Her red lipstick was smeared across her face and I could not tell the difference between her mouth and the blood and mascara caked on her. She held this brown bundle wrapped in a white blanket. My father was right behind her.

He had her cornered in the basement. I saw him with a bottle of bourbon in his hands. She wanted me to call my grandfather, who was alive at the time but when I headed toward the telephone, my father stopped me. He slapped me across the face so hard that

I was knocked back into my chest. I think that was the day I developed asthma.

She kept telling me the numbers but my father told me not to move so I didn't. The crying was too much for me so I closed my eyes and pretended she was singing. The louder she sang, the happier I felt.

The next day, she was in the kitchen like normal. I had just arrived home from school. The school bus had dropped me off in front of the house. I was in my snowsuit. I wanted to come in, make myself a snack and head outdoors to play. She has a beautiful face like an art teacher. She is making dinner but there are tears running down her face. Then, I realize she usually is not home so early. I ask what's wrong. She says that she is mad at me. Why, I ask her out loud. My mother says because I did not call my grandfather yesterday. I ask her if I can have my snack and she says no. It was then that I realized that there was a part of myself that needed to be free. I walked away from her, hearing her sing. Her voice was not too bad; the song was not too loud. I stopped playing with dolls that day. They reminded me of myself: I screamed at them and they said nothing. I ran off and they didn't chase after me. I threw those dolls away, over our back fence where they laid next to crushed leaves, whose soft dirt slowly decomposed them.

04.

I wrote a letter to you but I will never mail another one because I never heard back from you. I receive dozens of letters from people across the country. I have even received pictures of you, me, Gray, her home and the backyard where it happened. How did it all happen? That's what my friend sitting across from me had asked me. What is her name again?

Her name is Greyfield South. I met her in the city.

Greyfield? What kind of name is that? Where is she from?

She was named after a place. Where she was born. In a field. It's weird but I don't care.

Oh, yeah. What does she look like? Is she pretty? I know she's a brunette, right?

Yeah.

Oh, and what colors are her eyes? Are her eyes blue, gray?

They're brown, or black.

What's wrong with you? You're not acting like yourself.

I'm in love with this girl, she's beautiful, but . . .

But what?

If my parents find out . . .

So, you won't tell.

Right.

But that didn't change things.

I lived in two different worlds. At home, we ate what everyone else ate. I longed for something other than being like everyone else. Everyone had school had predictable names and faces. Mine, the most predictable of them all. Once, I had seen these two people on television kissing. One of them looked like me and the other looked like Gray.

My parents were in the kitchen and my mother turned off the television in disgust. She shook her head but never said anything. In public, she acted the same way. My entire family did. Lies. We were living the American Dream. We drove the nicest cars, we always wore the nicest clothes and yet, we ate dinner in silence.

I told her not to call me. I called her, though. When my mother received the phone bill, I just told her that one of my friends, from one of my classes, lived in the city. She assumed this friend was male and I let her keep that assumption. I moved through my life as restrained and reserved as I was expected.

I knew when Gray told me what she had done that there was no turning back. I had blood on my hands and I wasn't even there. I lived in a near-perfect world where too much was expected of me and now I was colliding with her dysfunctional world. I think we both realized then that we had gone too far. I told one of my buddies, Aaron, a little bit about Gray. He said to leave it alone but I didn't listen. I had previously worked as a camp counselor. I had told my kids that they would never have to worry about trouble and soon, I was sure, they would see my face on television and know that I was wrong.

05.

I look out the window. The snow is falling on the ground. I always seem to reflect the most when there is whiteness in front of me. I am a wanderer of my mind. The only visitor who is brave enough to swim through the vultures is the homeless woman I befriended. She warned me over a cup of tea about all of this but I didn't listen, not then.

His name is Sterling White, and I met him at a coffeehouse.

Sterling? What kind of name is that? Who are his people?

His name is Sterling like my name is Greyfield. It's part of him. It's his story.

Why are you looking at me like that?

Cause I know you, and I know somethin's up. I can feel it. Your

number came up today.

What did my number say?

It said you are playing a game you are going to lose.

Where does this boy live?

He lives on the other side of Eight Mile.

Outside the city?

Yes.

That's not a good sign.

Why?

Because your number came up.

So?

Your number wasn't eight.

I don't care.

Well, care about this. I see something else. (Under the tree where the leaves fall.)

What?

A young woman, she is free, was born in a field. She was born when every ray of the sun extended its arms to welcome her here. She has eyes that feel like the wind, burning down fences across fields until there is nothing left but land.

And?

(More coffee, please. Thank you.)

She thinks her duty as a daughter is to stand behind that fence while her father holds it up. She dare not cross that fence. She doesn't want to know what's on the other side.

What is on the other side?

She goes on the other side and there is a mirror. She stands in front of the mirror. The Medusa image is shattered. The snakes fall on the ground and wither away but she realizes that she will not look at herself. If she sees her face, she will surely turn to stone.

So, what does she do? That I cannot see. That is up to you, my dear.

I have not told anyone what I am feeling inside. When we are born, we are alone. There is no else who is naked except us. Our bodies need the touch of others in order to survive. I should have listened to that woman. She could see the real me. I wanted out of this body that I am in. She said that I had to wait and be patient. I thought I was going to be trapped. I listened to my mother because I didn't love it and I didn't want it.

06.

The other day, my daughter came home and told me that she was going out with this guy. I had warned her before. I told her that it was going to cause a lot of problems. She even brought him home. My wife had all of us take a picture and he looked awkward.

I invited him outside for a beer, my first in many years. The sun was out. We stood up against the fence in the backyard. Below was the creek and beyond that, forest, even in a place like Detroit, wilderness. I invited him to climb over the fence, but he refused . . .

I asked him how often he traveled across Eight Mile. He said not that often, just to see Grey. I see, I said. I tried to be as patient as possible. I tried to remind myself that it was 1984. It's going to be a test, my daughter said. No one will be able to see them. Everyone's eyes will be closed.

You know I could still use help fixing that fence?

No, thanks.

Why not?

Don't know how?

Well, I could teach you.

That's all right.

I have a better idea.

Okay.

Wait here.

I go into my house and return with a baby rabbit. I went to the pet store and bought the animal with the full intention of killing it. I bring him and my gun out of the house and into the backyard where Sterling is sipping on a cup of coffee. The baby rabbit is hopping around its tiny cage but that doesn't stop me from tossing the cage onto the ground. He looks down at the animal and then at the gun in my hand. His flush cheeks turn red with anxiety.

Did you think we only killed each other?

Sir?

When I was your age, I lived down South on a farm.

Interesting.

We hunted all kinds of animals whether we liked them or not but sometimes, they run off.

I had to go after one animal by myself one time.

Did you catch it?

Yes but I had to hop over several fences and travel into unmarked territory in order to do it. But when I found it, I also found a dead dog and I didn't leave it there. I didn't know whose it was but even if I suspected, I wouldn't have just left it there. I buried him right.

So, I'm asking you, son, what would you have done if you were in my position?

I don't think I would have hopped over that fence. I think I would have been too scared.

I think I would have just let things happen.

Yeah, I know. That's what worries me.

07.

The hardest part of this whole ordeal was telling the Judge. But I had to tell them the truth, my truth. I told Gray to bury our secret in her backyard. I am guilty, I say.

And then my mother slapped me and I turn the other cheek. She calls me names, I do nothing. He calls Gray names, I say nothing and then there's that word. I aim towards him, and everything goes black. I wake up in the living room and he's standing over me. Son. The Judge took her side, I think they might be related or something. You are not above anything . . . and I can't listen anymore.

My mother says nothing. But her voice says the same words as my sister: Those eyes that will bring tears to mine. And to Gray: You are not welcome here.

I watch the door slam in her face and her eyes lock. Gray looks at me thereafter strange. She draws a picture of me and mails it to me when I stop seeing her. I am on a blank canvas and my face has no color. The only thing you can see about me is the smoke stacks blowing out of my mouth. I correlate that image with the Medusa image in my mind and then we disappear.

I am standing in front of the Book. Its gold letters are shining on me. I open the book and turn to the right page. Even if I swear I find something to justify what has happened, they can just as easily find something to convict me but I realize that the Judge was wrong. I have broken no law, just my mother's heart. I didn't know but who really does? I am being sent away where I cannot plant any seeds anymore. My father doesn't really say anything. He never really does. I stand in front of him and the words just coming pouring out: Why. Do. You. Allow. This. To. Happen. He looks at me. I look back at him. I am twenty one years old. I did commit a crime. But let me see her. Let me go with her to the cemetery. There will be cameras there. Don't put that kind of pressure on her. It's not her fault.

It's not us. It's how people are. .

You don't understand..

No, we don't understand.

I am leaving.

No, you can't.

Why not?

Because where will you go? Besides, you knew about it.

I am going away from here. Away from the fence that keeps us apart.

What fence?

The one surrounding us.

We can always tear that down.

Can we?

Yes, we can.

I don't think so.

Why not?

Because I can't build a fence by myself. It takes more than two hands to build one.

08.

We are taught by our children to hate them. I hate my son. I've never said that out loud. I guess I was afraid to admit it but it's true. I never liked children, which is why I had three of them. Two boys and a little girl. I didn't like my oldest, Sterling, so I had two more. I thought if I had kept having children, eventually I would like them. I thought after having my two boys that if I just had a girl, things might change but they didn't. After I had our daughter, I told my husband I wasn't having anymore children. But it was too late. The damage had already been done. My children wanted from me things I could not give them. They wanted hugs. The girl child came to me once for a hug but her fingers were dirty so I made her wash her hands. Then, she came back and I asked her what did she have on? She said that she had on a costume. I told her that costumes for people who didn't get enough attention. She still didn't quite understand. Another time, she came to my bedroom and my head was hurting. She had on a princess costume and asked me if she looked pretty. I told her she looked ugly with a smirk on my face and then she stopped asking me questions after that. I had children because I was pregnant and I got married because I was pregnant. I never really thought about anything else. I came from a long line of women who married into wealthy families so when I found out who Sterling was sneaking around with, at first, I was glad that he was not a homosexual but then that was not enough. He had to go and embarrass us. I tried to talk to him but he would not listen to me but I knew he would listen to the Judge. I was young too once. As a young woman living at home with my parents, I was expected not to share my true feelings but I was normal. He was the son of the butler. I came onto him. He tried to push me away as he was studying. I ran my fingers through his coarse, curly hair. I placed his hands on my breasts and I kissed his soft, pretty lips. I let him rub against me but I never let him inside of me. It's like my mother always said: In order to maintain a girl's figure, if you must indulge in greasy, fried foods, always chew, then spit out. I couldn't understand why I was punished with such an indulgent child. All of my children were like that but especially Sterling. I wished he could have come to me so I could have rid of it. I would have buried her secret in the ocean or beneath an oil ridge or even a football field. Years later, this could have been a joke, an ink stain on Sterling's clean, white record. But then he had to go and speak on television. He said he was doing it for them. Now, I have two children left: one boy and one girl. They are so much younger than him they might not even remember him or this incident. We are living off of our savings. The public can be so brutal sometimes. I draw pictures now to help me cope. I read in the newspaper that the girl's father builds fences. So, I drew a picture of a flock of vultures hovering over a forest. There is smoke coming from the forest and you can see a black man building a fence at the end of the forest. I showed the picture to my daughter and asked her how she liked it. She said she didn't. I hadn't yet earned the approval of a five-year-old. I took the canvas outside and dumped it into a garbage can on the side of the house. I lit a match and watched my vision dissolve before my eyes. I went around back and took off all of my clothes. I dived into the pool for a late-night swim. As I swim under water, I see the flash of a bulb through the water. There is someone watching me. I decide in the morning to talk to my husband. I believe I read in that same newspaper that some developers are building a new, gated community.

09.

I thought we were over. I thought she was out of my life. Then, she called me and I could it in the background. I asked what that noise was and she told me. I dropped the phone. I asked when it happened. She said just a few hours ago. I asked what she was going to do with it. I told I wasn't ready. She said that she wasn't either. I panicked. I didn't mean too. It's just I thought of the Judge. He's up for reelection. I thought of the pain I might cause everyone.

So, I drove over there but when I got over there, it was like a bad dream. I didn't see anything; I couldn't hear anything or smell anything, it was like it was over. Like it never happened and I wanted to pretend it did. I thought no one would ever find out. Her parents didn't know. And they wouldn't have been happy anymore. Her father was a former friend of those men in those suits; you know the ones with the bow ties, and the black spectacles and magic carpets.

We thought it was just us. And we hated our lives. I hated living a lie but it evaporated like sugar in my coffee. I didn't ask anything else from her but we grew apart after that. She became nervous, irritable. She said that she was becoming like her parents. Sickly, like her mother and drinking like her father. They seemed normal to me.

Sometimes at night, I'd sneak out of the house. I'd go over to the spot. I even camped there, right in the forest behind her house. She said that her father was building a fence. He never really liked the idea of not having a fence behind the house. She said that I should help him build it but I never really felt comfortable with that.

I never thought anyone would find out. But the family next door to Gray, they bought a dog. Actually, they rescued it from a shelter. A former police dog. Gone blind. But Old Trusty still had his sense of smell. He was drawn to Gray's house from the moment he entered that street.

He kept running into their backyard and digging. They, the neighbors in their weirdness, thought he was trying to dig to China like that old game we used to play as kids. He kept digging and digging. I didn't know about him because I was here"I mean I am here.

Gray is in a place like this now. That's why I got sent here in the first place. She hadn't even gotten her period yet when we first got together. She liked to hang out in those type of places and I just assumed.

The neighbors thought he had run away but he took what he found back to his old home. And then his old owners followed him all the way to her backyard and there was our secret buried in the backyard. Gray had originally intended on throwing it out with the garbage but thought no one would look in the backyard. She was upstairs in her bedroom when it happened. She rocked back and forth in her chair. That kind of secret you should never keep to yourself. But it was our black-and-white secret. Until now.

10.

I tried to raise my daughter to be a good girl. I guess my problem was that I raised her to be too independent. See, I believed what those women's groups told me about girls. But my daughter was different. I could tell from the time that she was a little girl. She used to sit on my lap when she was a little girl and asked me to teach her every word in every book that she could get her hands on. But I had my own problems. My eyesight was failing me and I couldn't steady my hands without them shaking. One night, my baby boy was crying in his crib and I tried to carry him downstairs but I couldn't really see that well. And there was a toy on the top stair and I didn't see it and I slipped and I could feel myself going down and I had a choice: hold onto myself or drop him. It was a split decision and I shouldn't have done it. I let him go. He went flying through the air and landed on his head. She screamed for me and when the police came, he told them that he had dropped the baby. We lost that baby permanently when Souder was in jail. They even took her away from us. They said we were bad people. I thought God was punishing us, especially me because my left side began to hurt, especially when it rained. They brought her back to us but by then, I hated her. I hated her for having me around. I hated her for calling me Mommy. I hated the way my husband drank and then hugged her too much. The way he encouraged her to dress up in those fancy, Disney costumes with the fedora, floppy hats and the feather boas and dance for his drunken friends on Sunday afternoons and wink at them until they bought old tapes of his boxing matches so he'd have extra drinking money, I think maybe I encouraged both of them. I was sheltered as a child so I did the exact opposite with her. I didn't want her to have to think about anything. I think she even told me about it before it happened. She came to me and asked me what I thought about secrets. I asked her what she meant. She asked then what are we supposed to tell and reveal. I told her I then that we hide everything and reveal nothing. I was scared, you see. I found her the previous day in the attic. She was going through my private things. I was worried that she had found out my secret and she did. I don't think she could hear me because she was in the attic and when I found her, I was at the entrance. She had her back to me and I was hidden by the stairs. I had kept it because it was the only way I could cope. I didn't keep all of it, partly because of the smell and partly because I didn't need to. Just the foot. I didn't even keep it in a cooler. Just in a plastic bag. It wasn't even white anymore. It was brown and didn't even look like it had once belonged to somebody. I then confronted her. She tried to put it away but I made her look at it. I knew her secret then. That time I went to the hospital with the belly ache and came out with no stomach was the first secret I kept from her. She asked me why? Because while Souder was out building fences, I learned how to step outside of my world. She asked me if her dad knew about it. Of course not. His way of making it in the world was by building fences. I told her that me keeping that foot was a mistake. It was a vicious cycle. My mother abandoned me because I was too dark. But this foot is white, she said. I know, I said to her but you are my one and only. I told her that I kept the foot in a box. It was my way of protecting myself from a mistake. The same way her dad built that fence after the neighbors' dog found it in the backyard. I told her not to have any secret too close to home but she wouldn't listen. I knew then that we were more like enemies, that we would never truly be close.

11.

Sterling White is dead. I don't think I'll ever fully appreciate that. I never really knew that part of him that could love someone or something else. But once he was gone, there was no way to spin this. I pretend sometimes that he's gone on vacation and he just didn't want to be a part of our lives anymore, which was true. Thank goodness that the public has not punished me.

I remember when he was small, we were coming back from his school on a winter day. It wasn't even evening and we couldn't see outside. The sky was dim and it was raining heavily. Sterling was sitting in the front seat with me. I had turned my head slightly to look at me.

I didn't even see the man. His body crashed into the car and crumbled into a pile on the ground. I had taken a shortcut from the main road. We lived inside of Detroit then. It was pretty much safe in those days. I got out of the car and so did Sterling.

We were both almost in tears as the lifeless body in front of us slowly became more real to us. He took his magic wand and flapped it against the body, not understanding at the age of five what he couldn't really do. I went over to the man and noticed that he was dirtier than he should be; he was homeless.

I could hear a police siren in the distance and my entire career flashed before my eyes. I took an old dog blanket from the trunk and I carefully lifted the man and placed him on by a sidewalk. An old black man in a tweed suit with a guitar in his hand watched us from a rundown house.

That man said that I needed to take the homeless man to the hospital but I wouldn't listen. All I could think about was my desperate need to go into politics. There was all this pressure on me to follow in my father's footsteps. We left that man there.

Sterling kept saying over and over again, we can't leave him there but I left him there. My father was the only person I ever told what happened on that street. He had to hear about all of this in the newspaper, and his first reaction was that I could use this to my advantage. I felt sorry for Sterling but I wasn't about to give up everything I worked for to save him.

He's rotting in a jail cell now. Along with the young lady who did it. I hear her parents are splitting up. I think that's love to me. Her father building fences; her mother taking care of other people's babies. My wife and I have never talked about it. That's not what we do.

I bought her a bracelet. I look away when I smell gin and other men on her breath. I'm sure she's smelled them on mine. I heard my daughter crying the other day. I think it was about this whole ordeal. I bought her a new puppy and she's over it. She's better now.

12.

A girl tried to stab me in the shower with a razor. She called me names. She said that I was a bad person. They say that she is from Africa and that she was circumcised as a little girl. She came here, starving and eats and eats but she can never be full. They say that her stomach will always be empty. I keep to myself. I am a legend, though. I am Grayfield South.

They still show my face on television. I know now that I have disappointed my parents. I haven't seen them once and it's been a year. I know that my father is probably out building fences. I know when he was young, he wanted to be a boxer but I don't know what happened with that. For as long as I can remember, he worked in a factory during the day and came home at night to build fences. On the weekends, he worked, sometimes even when the football game was on.

Some people asked me the question of why I did it but never my parents. I knew in the back of my mind what was wrong with me. I had friends at school but I was bussed to the suburbs, across Eight Mile and everyone knew that I was a city kid. They resented me being there like I was an unwelcome ant at an outdoor food party. I talked to some of them in school but I mainly kept to myself. Outside of school, there was Sterling. He never called from the same phone number twice and for me, I just needed something. Sometimes, it was food, sometimes, it was him. But then, it stopped being about him.

He violated me. He could go on so carefree and I was being left behind. My parents had done the same thing to me. As a child, my father briefly went to jail. He kept being arrested for speeding on the highway, for running red lights and for not paying his parking tickets but he was really arrested for having a bad temper. When he went to jail, it was just me and my mother. I thought there was no mystery to her until I found a human white baby's foot. I knew that she worked as a nurse so I assumed that she had been attached to a child at the hospital where she worked at. But no, she said it belonged here. I asked her where it came from and she said nothing. She refused to answer me.

For quite awhile after that, I woke up sometimes drenched in sweat. I dreamed of funerals that I would never attend. Here, I thought I knew my parents. I was wrong. I knew I wasn't ready when the time came. I pretended like I was in a fantasy world. I heard movement and laughter but I pretended it was coming from some other place. My father would build another backyard fence, this one sturdier and stronger, and then we would move on with our lives. But then an animal, a dog, somehow found his way into our backyard before it was built. Funny, my father always spent his free time building fences for other people, waiting to build ours. I think he also knew about the foot.

My mother worked in a hospital. She worked long hours in a maternity ward. She had requested to be placed there after my baby brother died. It was the only way she could cope. My father told the police that he dropped the baby. I used to think it was because he didn't want her to go to jail but I know now it was because he had found out about that foot. He had asked if she had an affair. My mother had gotten pregnant right after my brother died. When asked if that other baby's father was white, she denied it. But something locked in my father. He had turned his back on the boxing ring and turned to alcohol. She refused to give up that baby's mementos. I didn't understand until I saw the picture taken right after it was born.

The baby's face was the color of an icy blue storm. My mother blamed my father because he refused to name it. Said when Jesus wept, he didn't ask for names. She didn't ask of him anything else when he went to jail.

She said that we were cursed. Even though she had no proof, she believed that the water she swam in, the lake where I was born was contaminated with pollutants that caused our agony. After that, she began to spend less time at home.

By the time my father made it out of jail several years later, they were both changed. My mother was distant until one day, while looking for an old photo album, I happened upon my mother's secret. My father took turns drinking and building fences. I turned to Sterling but even that feeling was temporary.

I called him in a panic that one evening. It all seemed so perfect. Just like his life. I knew he'd know what to do. My father was out mending a broken fence and my mother had called and decided to stay late to care for a sickly newborn. I was alone and scared.

The answer seemed so perfect. It was like it didn't happen. My father did the same thing when he drank. At the end of the drink, he started over and when he was halfway through the bottle, he took the rest and used it as his bathwater.

I thought putting my secret into a trash bag and then digging a hole to dumping it in the backyard would solve everything. I even prayed that night. The next day I was starting over. Of course, it was several days later that I found out that God was a liar.

I began to hunger more. Sometimes for food, sometimes for him. When there wasn't food in the house, I began to eat paper. But then, one night, my mother discovered me eating paper with salt and ketchup. I read somewhere that your mother draws pictures of everything. That was okay but when I found out that was being used against us in the upcoming election, I was upset because no one really cares about me, not even my daddy.

I originally started going to that coffeehouse because I found that foot, which made me sad and my mother said that was the perfect place to meet other depressed people and I met you. Funny, though, that I should find myself in the same place again. I got your letter when I was standing on top of my chair, alone. I pushed the chair away. My neck hurt and I could see my secret in the distance, watching me, waiting for me. For I will always be remembered in that special, wicked way. There is darkness surrounding me. I don't see you and I don't think I ever will. I am truly alone

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