Intense burning covered my back like a bee sting. Yanking the blanket from my face, instantly I turned over to find a huge water bug stuck to my left shoulder. Screaming and running into my mama's room, I fell on the floor trying to scrape that thing off me. When I looked over, I could see it waddling on the thick dirty brown carpet. I picked up one of mama's old scarred up clogs and with all my might, squashed that little bastard in ten pieces. My entire back was burning at this point. I asked mama to take me to the hospital, she just sucked her teeth and puffed on her newport.
"You got money for an ambulance? You just allergic. Go take some benadryl." Barely able to move, I went into the tiny bathroom, opened the cracked mirror caused by a fight with my older sister, Sherry. As soon as I flipped the glass, a multitude of cockroaches poured all over the wall. All I could do was vomit. Sitting next to the bathtub sickened by my own vomit. I tried to clean it up, but the smell of the cleanser made me even more nauseated. An hour later mama came in to use the bathroom.
"Oh my goodness." Her face was knotted like she had been beaten. The smell was horrible, especially since I had been too weak to move for an hour. My hands were swollen, my back felt numb and I couldn't stop shaking.
"Come on, get up. I guess I gotta find a ride to the hospital. Get up!" If I could've gotten up, I would have already. My legs wouldn't move and tears rolled from my eyes. Speaking had become very difficult. Mama didn't even notice.
"What's wrong with you girl?" Sucking her teeth as if I purposely wouldn't move or answer her, she left and got dressed, leaving me on the floor, paralyzed.
Soon as I arrived at the hospital, the nurses rushed me straight into the emergency room. All kinds of tubes were inserted. Blood was taken and mama was making all kinds of excuses as to why I wasn't brought in earlier. It was sad to see her struggle with the lie that she just found me in the bathroom when she woke up. The receptionist asked for a copy of my medicaid card. Since I was rushed back, they didn't bother taking it up front. But the doctor said I would be fine with antibiotics and pain medication. Mama searched for the insurance card and lo and behold, two roaches fell out. The nurses yelped and smashed those bugs right into the floor.
"Do you have a pest problem ma'am?" The doctor asked with a disgusted glare on his wrinkled face.
"I.....I...I'm doing the... the best I can." Mama always stuttered when she was lying or thought she was the victim. Mama never cleaned up and she only made me clean up when someone came to visit. Like it was my fault the house was dirty and full of roaches. She shook her head and pointed her cigarette at me, telling her one friend, Gloria that no man wants a woman that didn't keep a clean house. Guess that's why mama wasn't married. It just seemed like every time someone was around, she was the cleanest person in the world. When we were alone, she barely even talked to me. If she did, it was to bring her some soda. She always said, "I can't wait 'til you turn eighteen. I'm tired of walking to the store." Because of that I dreaded my eighteenth birthday, which was three weeks away. It had never been anything special, just a cookout and that was it. Last year I didn't even get that. Nobody called to say happy birthday or even got me a card. Mama worked, so all I did was sit in the room with a fudge brownie sprinkled with walnuts and sing happy birthday to my damn self. This year I had it all planned. I would have two brownies and at least one candle so I could make a birthday wish.
On Monday I somehow absorbed enough energy to clean my room. Mama had gotten a ride to the laundry mat, but when the ride came, she suddenly didn't feel good. Five loads of clothes I carried, washed, dried and folded. And I only folded because mama gave me money to ask her friend to buy her cigarettes. I knew she was home waiting for that pack of Newport's. Every piece of clothing carefully folded took me four hours to finish. Truth was, Gloria had left and brought the cigarettes while the clothes were drying. At times my mind would idle and I would daydream about being rich and famous. It didn't matter why I was famous. As mama and Gloria sat and talked, Gloria's niece, Shannel knocked on the door. She lived right around the corner from me all this time. Gloria thought we would get along since we were the same age. I invited her into my room now that it was cleaned.
"It smells good in here." She sat on my freshly made bed with her name brand jeans on. Everything Shannel wore was name brand. Even down to her shoes. Her hair was highlighted and moved every time she did. Her lips were smooth and glossy. Mine were chapped because I was severely dehydrated. No matter how much vaseline I put on, my lips would turn white and I would have to wash it all off. Shannel was beautiful and I wanted that popularity. Shannel looked as if she had everything and more.
"So what do you like to do?" Amazing! She spoke proper grammar, like me! Everyone in my family called me stuck up, but Shannel understood and because of that she was my new best friend. I just knew it!
"Well, I would like to meet a guy. I'll be eighteen in two weeks and my last boyfriend cheated on me with a stripper." Shannel laughed then shook her head. Her silky hair followed.
"Really? Your birthday is in two weeks?" Shannel seemed more excited than I was.
Shannel and I went to the mall in her silver Honda Civic and she brought me two outfits and a dinner from the food court. All of the guys were trying to get Shannel's phone number, but she turned them down. I would have given them all my number. If I had one. Even though a Honda Civic wasn't a luxury car, for a seventeen year old, having a brand new car period was luxury to me. The cold A/C felt so nice and the bass from the speakers went all through my body. It was nice having a friend. Shannel and I spent a lot of time together. In fact, we spent everyday together. One night I broke down and told her how bad I wanted to have my own money. Mama was getting unemployment because she was laid off and all she did was buy fast food and cigarettes. Gloria had been giving her rides all of a sudden. She too was laid off and did not collect unemployment. After the money was gone for that month, mama would complain about how she needed this and that, then she would ask the family for money. They talked about her so bad that I cried and prayed I could get a job. Shannel told me that she had a friend that could help me out. He had given her a job awhile back, but I would work late. It didn't matter, before Shannel came along, all I did was daydream about being rich. Shannel made a phone call and I would meet her friend in two hours. Millions of questions filled my mind, but I kept them to myself. I didn't want to annoy my new best friend.
As we rode, I got a little concerned when I stopped seeing houses and only saw trees. Soon we arrived at this two storied all white house with at least ten cars in the yard. Shannel told me to wear the outfit she had brought me. A red low cut tank top with a built in push up bra and an extra small black spandex skirt with wedge heel sandals wasn't really my style, but with the makeup and body spray Shannel also provided, I felt like a million bucks. My experience with men was always bad. My ex said that I was too bony and I needed to get a job. He talked about the house and how dirty it was. When I walked down the street, guys would laugh and call me skeleton. These guys were cool though. The outfit Shannel brought me made me look like I had been cornbread fed. At first glance, we were the only girls there. Then as we maneuvered through the huge house, there were half naked girls getting drunk. Shanel introduced me to Greg. He was shorter than I was only because I was wearing heels. We sat and talked for awhile about everything. Greg always smiled after every sentence. Now I knew how Shannel made her money. She was a prostitute. Greg was sweet and for the first time, I drank liquor. I felt free, liberated and didn't care at that moment. Greg and I went into an empty room. It dawned on me that I was still a virgin when Greg tried to penetrate.
"Oww!!!!" It hurt like hell, but now that Greg found out I was a virgin, he had placed a thousand dollars on the nightstand. Never had I seen a thousand dollars before. It was worth it to me. That wasn't the last time I saw Greg. He called me on my new cellphone and took me to the movies. We had sex a lot and I felt alive.
Then Greg became jealous when other guys would look at me. We moved to a beautiful house in the suburbs. I became very comfortable, since I wasn't allowed to leave until Greg came home. Shannel had abandoned me when she found out how much Greg paid me the first time. She had only gotten a hundred. Every other morning my face was swollen from blood clots and bruises. I was in hell. A beautiful luxurious hell.
Happy birthday to me! Greg cooked dinner for me and brought me a cake. He said he felt bad about the night before when he pushed me down the powder white imported chinchilla carpeted stairs. I had picked it out after Greg closed a multi-million dollar deal with his connect. Afterward, we sat out on his patio and drank wine. Then he snorted a couple of lines of cocaine and threw me over the lawn chair, snatched my panties down and began to roughly thrust himself inside me. The next morning, Greg drove me home to visit my mama. It had been two weeks since I'd seen her. Though it felt like years. As soon as I turned the key in the lock, there was an undeniable odor. Stale smoke. Mama sat on the couch taking quick puffs and outing her cigarettes. Her face was swollen and there was a nasty molded looking rash on her hands and feet.
"Mama you need to go to the hospital?" Flipping open my cellphone, I began dialing 911. Before I could press the send key, Greg blew for me to leave. Mama cleared her throat. Then she began to laugh hysterically.
"You finally got a taste of the real world." Then she fell over, dead. A huge water bug waddling out of her ear.