Moment of Clarity  

By Mary Enoch Elizabeth Baxter

“Yall got weed?” Kiki pulled a miniature dime bag of Acapulco gold marijuana from her  purse, a Philly Blunt cigar and snarled “Roll up!” Even though we were what some  people would deem “frenemies”, we always managed to agree on one thing, getting high!  As I used my thumbnails to create tiny incisions into the brown leafed cigar, I heard a  familiar husky voice echo from behind, “Can I smoke wit you?”  

After dumping the tobacco filled contents onto the canvas of playground’s floor, I  squinted my eyes, tightened my cheekbones and sarcastically murmured, “Can you?”  Before Mike Mike could retort, KiKi thirstily replied, “Sure Mike Mike, you know you  can have what ever you want”, as she licked her lips seductively and smirked. His eyes lit  up like a Broadway musical and he quickly shifted his attention from me to her. “Is that  right?” He smiled revealing two rows of butterscotch coated teeth. “C’mon give me a  hug then” he said approaching her petite 5’4” frame with his arms extended expecting a  tight and intimate embrace.  

As I stepped over the rust stained bleachers near the basketball court searching for  a spot to smoke, I realized why Kiki and me could never get along. She was a hoe.  Although most of my friends didn’t model after the Virgin Mary, Kiki was always  throwing herself at the nearest guy that gave her the slightest tinge of attention. It had  always annoyed me and I felt disgusted by it. After shaking my head in disbelief at the  conversation stirring in my mind, I slipped my index and thumb fingers into the 5th pocket of my cream colored Levi jeans and pulled out a Cherry Red Bic. 

 “Time to spark up”, I said in a gleeful cheer as I flicked the lighter twice and  watched as the blue flame smother the tip of the stogie. The first two puffs were long and  deep. I allowed the smoke to encase my lungs until they tingled and I erupted gagging.  “This some good shit” I said laughing uncontrollably as I passed the blunt to Kiki. At that  very moment, I inhaled all of the sweet & savory joys of pubescent life while exhaling all  the bullshit of adulthood.  

The evening before, I was entrenched in a heated debate with my mother.  Smoking weed always seemed to open my brains reasoning faculties and quell the  anxieties of the harsh reality many people called life. “Frankie Rizzo, South 9th Street”,  she screeched in a thunderous and demonic pitch. “Them Niggas can’t get away from  Frankie, you should have kept ya fuckin mouth shut, Mary!” My body instantly tensed as  heat enveloped my belly. I stood puzzled and frozen solid. “What are you talking about?”  I pierced my eyes, shook my head than quickly said, “Never mind”. “Don’t talk back,  right is right and wrong is wrong Bitch” she said in a robotic monotone. Despite the fact  that Frank Rizzo had been dead for over 14 years I couldn’t help but respond. I was sick  and tired of always being the focal character in some insidious plot inside of her  fragmented mind. “Whatever mom,” I shouted as I darted down the steps and plowed  through the front door.  

The argument was absolutely nobody’s fault but yet it had happened and I was  sent out into the four winds of North Philadelphia. Although my mother had been  diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic two decades before I was born, I could never adapt to those manic episodes. The ones where I was her targeted nemesis and christened  every “Black Bitch” under the Sun.” Her words softly stinging my ears like peroxide over  a fresh cut until they bubbled over and I was simply numb.  

While in this heightened state of trance, she often accused me of crimes that I  wouldn’t even fathom committing. One day, while tossing out our beloved belongings  from our 2nd floor apartment window, I could recall vividly the wild eyed stare she’d gave  me if I attempted to sway her to abort the mission. Thelma’s short dense 5’5” frame  intimidated me even though I was taller. Her tirades constantly made me feel frightened,  minuscule and abandoned. The way her hair stood straight up in an almost tribal Afro  only highlighted her primal nature and thwarted any thoughts of challenging her.  Sometimes I would just let my thoughts drift and pretend that there was a home of  normalcy waiting for me somewhere on this planet. However, I would never know this  place.  

“Why you always in ya head when we tryna get a buzz?!” Kiki sneered angrily. I  took a deep breath, grimaced and whimpered slowly “Shut thee fuck up”, then all three of  us simultaneously burst into laughter. That’s what we loved about getting high, you  couldn’t hold onto judgments for too long because everything was always so comical,  especially insults.  

After we finished the last of the weed, we decided to go chill at the apex of the  block where we had all grown up together. Although Mike Mike didn’t seem thrilled with  this idea, he still tagged along because he wanted to get laid. Positioning themselves on the steps of the abandoned corner house, he sat in between Kiki’s legs while she eagerly  played in his matted, untamed hair. I was bored. Mike Mike was cool but he wasn’t a fan  of soap and water, his stench irritated the hell out of me. He reeked of dirty hoagies!  

While trying to ignore Kiki and Mike Mike’s grotesque make out session, I paced  from one corner to corner, trying to determine how I was going to get my next fix.  Reality was setting in again and I wanted to smoke. I was homeless, jobless and had  absolutely no more money. If it had been the 1st of the month, things would have been  different because my mother always gave me $100 when she received her SSI check.  Sadly, it was the end of the month and she wasn’t the most generous and loving at the  moment. So asking her wasn’t even on the menu.  

Suddenly, as I walked fervently back across the street towards my “Frenemies”  my vision honed in on a yellow tinged screwdriver peeking from the steering wheel of a  rusted tan Chrysler Sundance. The late 80’s model had obviously been vacated by its  previous occupants and was ready for new ownership. A scene from the recently released  urban saga “New Jersey Drive” crept into my mind’s eye and I was left captivated.  “Jackpot!” I thought to myself as I moved closer to the vehicle to get a more accurate  gaze. I knew a chop shop close by that would give me the necessary funds to indulge in  my favorite coveted past time. “Kiki, Mike Mike,” I yelled as I shuffled towards the  driver side door and flung it open. “Yall, Tryna Blow All Week?!” Mike Mike bungeed  from the steps and opened the passenger door and slammed it shut. “C’mon on Ki” he smiled wildly. Kiki stood up, gazed inside the car and reluctantly said, “Imma wait here  until yall come back…”  

My right hand clasped around the makeshift key that was the screwdriver and I  began to anxiously twist. I pulled, pushed and turned until I heard the engine roar. Firmly  placing my left hand on the steering column I used my free hand to thrust the car out of  park and into drive. In one jolt we sprang forth and our joyride was over just as quickly  as it began. The car bolted across the intersection crashing into the bumper of a nearby parked car.  

The impact and angle of the collision flipped the vehicle instantly and we landed  on the driver’s side. My left arm and the car’s side window became one. The intense  burning sensation coupled with unparalleled terror as Mike Mike tried in vain to open the  passenger side door to no avail. We were trapped. Screaming and pounding on to the  windshield we attempted to break free but there was not enough room to strike any  penetrating blows.  

Hollow footsteps charging from the distance thumped closer as a slightly  recognizable face hunched over and gawked inside car. “Kick the windshield open  Daryl!” Mike Mike shrieked in a panic. Daryl the neighborhood crackhead swiftly  launched his oil soiled steel toed Timberland boots in the air and with four swift kicks the  automobiles front window came crashing forward. As we shielded our faces from the  shattering glass, our eyes met and we both let out a long sigh of relief. It was almost over. 

Darryl grabbed my good arm and helped me out of the driver’s seat. At first, I was  hesitant to look at the damage my bright idea had caused so I closed my eyelids, inhaled  slowly, then opened them to look down. “Fuck!!” I screamed out as I scowled over my  injuries. Glass shards ranging in size from chunks to microscopic glitter decorated my  hand, wrist and forearm. The sun had inevitably set on my summer.  

Lowering my eyes further, I noticed my cream colored Levi’s were glazed in ruby red candy caned streaks of blood. While sirens began to serenade in the background, I  started to panic again. Kiki looked at me in terror and tentatively asked, “Are you okay?”  Initially my eyes were slow to meet hers because in that instance I knew she was smarter  than me. I had looked down on her for making unsavory decisions in her love life but she  was clever enough not to get inside of that death trap with me. I was ashamed.  

As we marched into the opposite direction of the cop cars, I promptly curved the  corner. Holding my right hand over my left I sped up the pace. “I need to go to the fucking hospital,” I said examining the carnage on my arm. Before Kiki could speak, a paddy wagon hopped the curb, two officers leaped out and at the point I knew I was caught.  

The policemen drove me to the nearest hospital but I passed out on the way. When I came to, my right wrist was handcuffed to the bed and I was still in excruciating pain.  Unsure of my age at the time I was cuffed as a precaution but once they learned that I wasn’t even a teenager I was taken to St. Christopher’s Hospital for children. Largely  because of my height and weight, some people always thought I was older than 11. 

Standing at 5’6” and 140 lbs., I was more often than not, assumed to be a fully grown  adult.  

The following morning, I woke up disoriented, dehydrated and still in immense pain. I tried to focus my eyes as they anxiously wandered around the spacious hospital  suite but the medication used to sedate me the night before left me too sluggish and  lethargic to fully distinguish where I was. Disney characters danced methodically across  the walls and for a split second I felt incredibly cheerful and optimistic. After doctors  removed all of the large fragments of glass from my arm during surgery, I was warned  that I would still need an additional procedure later to eliminate the remaining shards. My  aunts, uncles and cousins all visited me during my brief stay but none of them felt  comfortable enough to take me in. After all, this was not my first run in with the law nor  did they exemplify any of the qualities needed to support and nurture a troubled young  child. Deep within the recesses of my mind I understood their reasoning and didn’t  challenge their decision. After all, I was out of control and no one wanted the aftermath  of my erratic behavior on his or her conscious. So ultimately, the option to return to their  households were null and void.  

On discharge day, my mother and I met with a social worker from The Department of Human Services. Originally, the meeting was scheduled to discuss a home plan as well as additional initiatives to help quell the turbulence within our residence.  Although, I had my heart set on returning to live with mother, that brief moment of fantasy met its tragic end once I came to the realization that she was simply not mentally, physically or emotionally equipped to raise a child on her own. I loved my mother enough to filter my initial needs and consider the gravity of outcomes that would surely  precipitate if I stayed in her care.  

While at the meeting, Ms. Harris introduced herself nonchalantly and read off her talking points like a telemarketer agitated on a cold call. Her voice monotone and bleak left me wondering if I had came to the correct resolution. My mother stood with her  shoulder nestled on the wall, catty cornered towards the table where the social worker and I sat. She spent the entire time preoccupied with the aesthetics of the room, shifting her weight from one foot to the next and rarely making any eye contact with anyone.  “Ms. Baxter, do you feel comfortable with the initial treatment plan?” Ms. Harris asked mechanically. Almost anticipating my mother’s response she raised her a pen signaling  her to provide a signature as she began to reach for her coat. Before my mother could  balance herself upright from the wall and motion towards the vanilla coated folder that  lay dormant on the cherry wood stained conference table, I spoke. Inhaling slowly  through my nostrils then exhaling methodically through parched lips, I calmly expressed my disdain and requested to be placed as a ward of the state.  

My mother stood emotionless for a few minutes while no one responded. Tears slowly seeped down her stoic face after our eyes briefly met. In that moment, I felt the mass leave my body as I floated toward the ceiling. Ms. Harris sat stunned and  reluctantly asked if I was sure. As I circled the landscape from above, I eventually came to, lowered my eyes and hesitantly said, “Yes.”