NIGHTTIME DEATH IN HARLEM: A VAMPIRES TALE
" I didn’t expect anything to change; but it did! A stranger comes into your life and everything you are is drastically altered. One day your one thing, and the next, your something else. I just didn’t think I’d have to die in the process."
Quote from "Devon Qunten": Nosferatu
I HAD LEFT MY HOUSE EARLY. Mama was sprawled out on the living room couch like some suffocated fish, buried in a deep sleep. One arm was flailed out over the couches’ edge, the other flapped over her stomach. It seemed as if she was peeling away right in front of me. Her skin was so cracked, you know, like skin peeling back from a shriveled peach. She was hardily clothed, except for a natty, brown gown stained ash white by prescription pills she had swallowed down earlier that day. Its case rocking over a square, glass coffee table inches from the couch. Now was when she was the most…tame.
Her eyes zig-zagged behind a set of blotched purple and red lids. She began to murmur some inaudible words. I walked slowly towards the table; (this was customary to walk lightly around her). On the table's surface was an ashtray, overflowing with cigarette buds spilling well past the ash tray’s edge.
"Make sure you clean the house, you worthless kid! And don't forget to dump the ashtray! That's something you always forget.”
Everything she had ever said to me was spat out as a slew of commands! As if I was some dog she kept on a leash, only to do tricks for her amusement. This was a daily routine.
Sometimes, I wondered if she was even my real mother at all!
12: 48 P.M. I was running late! My advance English lit class began at 1:15, and it was a minimum of a 20-minute ride to Columbia University! I had a full workload, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to blow a literary scholarship for a dirty ashtray and a mom that couldn't care less about me.
My home sits right off of 129th and Lenox Ave, Harlem USA. This place something at one time. Any history book, (the ones that matter anyway) will tell you. Black and white phones conical a time of gin joints and zoot suits. Everyone wore suits, even to the grocery stores or to play their numbers, each suit tailors pristine enough that you could cut butter on a summer day with the crease, at least that was what my father told me before…well…before he left. He used to show me pictures of him when he met my mother in those same suits, looking as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He said this place…boy, it was made of cold, hard cash!!! It was the central hub of the Black Renaissance. Now, new people swarmed in every day looking nothing like me, and the gold-lined streets people said this place to be are now littered soapboxes of addicts and worn-down brownstones and empty lots. Death made its way here quick, and, whether you looked for it or not, seemed to bear its teeth and dig in!
The streets were clogged, 12.00 P.M. Rush hour! I pushed on, dodging through the pedestrians. I almost bumped into an addict begging for change but managed to dip out of his way last minute and catch the light to cross over to Delancey just as it began to flick green. I moved on beyond the leather shop; zipped past the Apollo Theater and high-tailed my way to the 8th Ave and Lenox. I proceeded down the steps to the turn style, fished in my pocket for my unlimited metro card, and swiped it through. The red light clicked to a bright, green “GO,” as I made my way through the metal bar divide.
In no time flat, I was on the train station platform. I stopped and caught my breath, cracking out a full cough as I sucked back one too many sudden breaths. After some time, I managed to catch it though. As for the train platform, much like the streets of Harlem, it was clotted with people, from college kids to corporate men, filling their time with casual conversations, waiting for the 8th Ave train to rush to a grinding stop.
That is when I turned. My breath caught in my throat. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.
She had sandy, shoulder-length hair, with golden highlights that fell lightly just an inch length past her jaw and curled just under her chin. She had bright, blood red, teardrop earrings, as a scarlet red, misty, liquid swirled within them like a thick fog rolling in over a riverbank. She was beautiful..., what my father would call worldly and what my mother would call seasoned. I could not tell the type of crystal the earrings were. I have never seen something like that before; and I’ve seen my fair share of customized, expensive jewelry. It reminded me of the kind you see in museum cases; in the Egyptian cases specifically, old, ancient, or the kind you saw hanging around Elizabeth Taylor’s neck in the old-time classic Cleopatra movie; except hers seemed much more…I don’t know, refined is as good of a word as any I suppose. I knew that Columbia English class would work for something. Sure. And her skin, God, her skin seemed to glow as if it has an orange spotlight on it, in a way that made her look more…I don’t know, alive...I would say. I knew, by the grayish, white streak running through each side of her hair that she was older than
I was, at least by 8 years. The exact amount I did not know.
But the eyes…the eyes were what drew me. They were like nothing I had ever seen before. The retinas were a ruby red, red, almost identical to the color of her earrings, but with a slight tint of gold that would only show when the platform train lights flashed over them.
Her gaze wandered towards the mouth of the train tunnel. Darkness filled the winding tracking lights.
I could hardly turn away.
She turned to me and smiled. My heart speeds up, thumping as if it was going to burst out of my chest. Columbia or not, I didn't have a whole lot of experience with older women. Sure, I’ve been with girls, but this was different. A woman was a whole other league. Most knew what they wanted and weren’t skittish about getting it or letting you know they knew what they wanted. Al least that’s the impression I always got. What do I do? Shit! She’s looking right at me. Her eyes still dead pinned in on me. Her smile widened!
“What was I to do? Turn away? If I do that, I may never see her again. But If I keep staring, I end up looking like a dope! Either way, I had to do something.”
“Do not be afraid. You have no reason to look away." But that’s crazy. "Where did these thoughts come from? Where…" I could hear the train approaching. "My dear, my life spring? So much...wanting in you.”
The train shot by like cannon fire. The lights from inside of it flickered, washing her in and out of view. Maybe I am imagining her? She turned away…pulling her gaze from mine.
The train slowed down and came to a screeching stop. Bing! The train bell sounded, followed by a, “please, clear the doors and let the passengers off.” The doors opened as what seemed a mob of people rushed off, elbowing their way through the pack of passengers standing open the train platform. I looked down, towards the edge of it, but she was gone, but not a single trace of her remained.
As the last of the passengers made their way off the train, passengers rushed on. Naturally, I followed behind the pack and boarded the train. The doors closed. The train did a sharp, sudden jerk as it rattled in and pulled from the station. I could only think of her, and those blood, red eyes, eyes I could not and would not ever forget.