Alyssa Crummey

Essay on Dreaming in Cuban

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia is a novel that follows Celia del Pino and her family as they live through the revolution and its aftereffects. Unlike the rest of her family, Celia stays in Cuba, even after everything that has happened, even after her daughter and the rest of her loved ones leave. Lourdes moved to New York with her daughter Pilar and tried to integrate herself as much as she could into the country and their new lives, however Pilar didn’t share the same desires, and in-fact wished to be more in-touch with her Cuban roots and her grandmother. Unlike Lourdes, Celia’s other daughter Felicia holds on to a lot of Cuban practices, and to her roots, especially when it comes to her religious beliefs and things such as Santeria.

Throughout the novel Dreaming in Cuban there were many mentions the religion and practices of Santeria. What is Santeria? It is defined as “a New World religion forged in Cuba but with roots in Roman Catholicism and the Yoruba religious traditions of West Africa.” (Encyclopedia of ARH). The way in which this religion is viewed and practiced has changed a lot since the time it was first introduced in Cuba and areas with high Cuban populations, some of it’s practices have become integrated in many people’s daily lives, and even in the healthcare system in certain areas.

Santeria itself is a branch which was formed in Cuba as a result of slavery, specifically an influx of slaves from Western Africa, and has ties to Yoruba indigenous religion (Calalloo 1). Within this religion, there is a meshing of both catholic and Yoruba beliefs, which make up components of Santeria. An example of this being that many who practice Santeria believe that “saints from the catholic church are also African spirits” (National Geographic Video 00:01:08). This is due to the fact that every catholic saint has certain attributes which were also matched with Yoruba spirits (NGV 00:01:51). The way that this religion is seen, practiced, and how accepted it is, have all shifted over time, most of these changes occurred after the Cuban revolution “After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Santeria began to spread to urban areas of the U.S.A. including Miami, New York, and Boston.” (Forensic science international 1), and it has become a much more common practice nowadays.

Santeria has also been rumored to have had an influence in politics and on politicians, examples of this being how after a conference in Havana in 1928, the president at the time wanted to celebrate with “the Inauguration of a new park, and on the celebration day, a Ceiba tree was planted in the center of the arena” (Religious Symbolism in Cuban Performance 2). The Ceiba tree was also mentioned in Garcia’s novel, on page 55 when Celia goes to Felicia’s friend Herminia who is a Santera for help “Herminia never mentions the ceiba tree, but Celia recognizes the distinct cluster of its leaves among her many herbs.”. Unlike Felicia who was both a believer, as well as someone who practiced and later on became a Santera herself, Celia participated in some practices however she was much more cautious, this is also mentioned on page 55 as well with the quote “Celia is uneasy about all these potions and spells. Herminia is the daughter of a santería priest, and Celia fears that both good and evil may be borne in the same seed. Although Celia dabbles in santería’s harmless superstitions, she cannot bring herself to trust the clandestine rites of the African magic.” Fidel Castro was another political figure who was rumored to have ties with the Santeria religion, one of the main things that caught people’s attention was when Castro gave his first televised speech to the nation, a “white dove landed on his body, and stayed there throughout the oration” (Religious Symbolism in Cuban Performance 9). White doves had been a symbol of the holy spirit and this event caught the attention of many. Although his involvement was never confirmed nor denied. When considering why a politician may want to have ties to religions or practices such as Santeria well, “many in cuba are initiated to stave off death, disease, curses and other supernatural powers” (Cuban Political performance 8). Along with that, there was a lot of conflict when it came to politics in Cuba so many politicians also participated in the religion if they had many enemies and wanted the power of the spirits to help them stay ahead, as well as to “build alliances with communities” (Cuban Political performance 8).

This religion is also known as a “syncretic faith” (Forensic science international 1), which is the same category practices such as “voodoo” are in. Since Santeria is an African derived religion, it is also very oral based, at-least in Cuba. “These types of religions are rich in symbols and knowledge practitioners use colors, ritual objects, movement, music, and esoteric words to represent mythic events” (Cuban Political performance 1). Many different types of objects are used in rituals, and many different animals are used as offerings for the spirits. Although, typically there are “preferred” items and animals, such as “Candles, tobacco, herbs, and substitutional symbols in place of actual objects are also used.” (Forensic science international 1) When it comes to animals, it varies depending on the different “orishas”, including chickens, doves, pigeons and pigs. There were a few examples of this in Dreaming in Cuban the first one being on page 8 during an offering a Santero tells Felicia ““Elleguá wants a goat,” the santero says, his lips barely moving.” Felicia isn’t happy about this, but her friend tells her “You have no choice,” Herminia implores. “You can’t dictate to the gods, Felicia. Elleguá needs fresh blood to do the job right.”.

Goats and their blood are very common offerings for the spirits for Santeria practices. There are many times in which one might need to refill or offer fresh blood for offerings in this religion. One of those times being “If one God is brought into the home the others have to be fed with fresh blood (NGV 00:02:48). They also often times cannot use sick animals due to the idea that if a sick animal is used, it will bring sickness instead of health, so they have to use healthy animals in order to “receive” health (NGV 00:03:29). Another instance where goats were used as an offering during a ceremony in Garcia’s novel is when Felicia was being initiated as a Santera, “The goats to be sacrificed were marched in one by one, arrayed in silks and gold braids. Felicia smeared their eyes, ears, and foreheads with the coconut and pepper she chewed before the babalawo slit their throats. She tasted the goats’ blood and spit it toward the ceiling, then she sampled the blood of many more creatures.” (Cristina Garcia 112). The ways of living differ slightly for those who practice Santeria, after her initiation Felicia “She dressed only in white, and didn’t wear makeup or cut her hair. She never touched the forbidden foods—coconuts, corn, or anything red—and covered the one mirror in her house with a sheet, as she was prohibited from seeing her own image.” (Cristina Garcia 113).

How has Santeria changed? Well….how has it not? Although a lot of the practices are still either the same, or very similar, the question that one should be asking is…how has people’s perception of Santeria changed? It’s become a much more common practice, and people are also much more open about it now, “it is common in Miami to find dead animal offerings on the banks of the Miami River.” (Forensic science international 2) As well as in court rooms for good luck or in hopes of receiving good news. It has become such a popularity that it is even used to attract tourists to certain areas “Today, Santeria is a major tourist attraction. The beach resorts in Varadero hold night shows enacting the dances of the Orishas (afro-Cuban deities), Santeria souvenirs are sold throughout Havana, and foreigners go to Cuba to get initiated.” (Healing practices and revolution in socialist Cuba 10).

Not only is Santeria much more normalized now but it has also integrated itself into the medical system in some areas. “Herbs are essential to Santeria, and it is through herbs that Santeria practices become entangled with state-sponsored ‘green’ medicine and urban agriculture. According to Santeria beliefs, herbs belong to the Orishas, whose personal essence and power grant them their healing powers.” (Healing practices and revolution in socialist Cuba 11). It has become an inclusion in many people’s lives through it’s many different roots and forms.

Originated with slavery, found roots and places in politics, becoming a new religion/practice within itself that many used and continue to use for comfort, security, health and many other things on the daily. This woman in a case study who is a “follower of Santeria, she takes comfort from her spiritual beliefs, tries to maintain a positive attitude, and optimistically cites the phrase ‘when one door closes another opens’”. (David Strug pg 10), similarly to the way that Felicia from Garcia’s novel, and sometimes even Celia, who wasn’t completely a true believer, turned to the religion for comfort as well. It’s found itself into the healthcare system as well. Santeria has become a key portion in quite a lot to such an extent that “Statistically, it is hard to gauge the pronounced popularity of Santería in Cuba, because while 82% of Cubans are officially documented as Catholics, the initiation into Santería, or Regla de Ocha, requires baptism in the Catholic Church. (santeria in Cuba 4). The author of Dreaming in Cuban also brings this up in the end of her story when she is interviewed and asked why she mentions it, she says “Santería was traditionally an unacknowledged and underappreciated aspect of what it meant to be Cuban. Yet the syncretism between the Yoruban religion that the slaves brought to the island and the Catholicism of their masters is, in my opinion, the underpinning of Cuban culture. Every artistic realm—music, theater, literature, etc.—owes a huge debt to Santería and the slaves who practiced it and passed it on, largely secretively, for generations.” (Cristina Garcia 152).

Works Cited

Case, Menoukha. Callaloo, vol. 32, no. 1, 2009, pp. 307–13, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27655128. Accessed 15 Apr. 2022.

Garcia, Cristina. Dreaming in Cuban. Random House Publishing Group, 1993.

Gold, Marina. “Healing Practices and Revolution in Socialist Cuba.” Social Analysis, vol. 58, no. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 42–59. EBSCOhost, https://doi-org.ezproxy.midlandstech.edu/10.3167/sa.2014.580203.

Maha Marouan. “Santería in Cuba: Contested Issues at a Time of Transition.” Transition, no. 125, 2018, pp. 57–70, https://doi.org/10.2979/transition.125.1.09. Accessed 15 Apr. 2022.

Miller, Ivor L. “Religious Symbolism in Cuban Political Performance.” TDR: The Drama Review (MIT Press), vol. 44, no. 2, Summer 2000, pp. 30–55. EBSCOhost, https://doi-org.ezproxy.midlandstech.edu/10.1162/10542040051058690.

Pokines, James T. “A Santería/Palo Mayombe Ritual Cauldron Containing a Human Skull and Multiple Artifacts Recovered in Western Massachusetts, U.S.A.” Forensic Science International, vol. 248, Mar. 2015, pp. e1–7. EBSCOhost, https://doi-org.ezproxy.midlandstech.edu/10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.12.017.

Prothero, Stephen R., and Edward L. Queen, II. “Santería.” Encyclopedia of American Religious History, edited by Prothero II, et al., Facts On File, 4th edition, 2018. Credo Reference, http://ezproxy.midlandstech.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Ffofr%2Fsanteria%2F0%3FinstitutionId%3D2507.

“Santeria.” , directed by Anonymous , produced by National Geographic. , National Geographic, 2013, https://video.alexanderstreet.com/watch/Santeria.

Strug, David L. “An Exploratory Study of How Older Cubans Cope with Difficult Living Conditions.” International Journal of Cuban Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, 2019, pp. 228–46, https://doi.org/10.13169/intejcubastud.11.2.0228.

Melisa Yang

Conversations with an English Apparition

It had begun from his fingers, bereft of the compassion; it had ended with her weeping, forced acceptance,
and a broken goodbye. When she last checked his profile, she found there was no option to message—he had blocked her. She barely remembers the conversation.

Hand above her head, she envisions grasping at the stars and pretends it’s him. He used to wait for her to see the same sky, she recalls—it would appear before her eyes five hours later. She never would admit it, but she felt comforted when he sent pictures of it, blurry, because he had bought his phone for around 300 pounds. She thinks she could tell which stars belonged to which constellation in his photos. She felt obsessive. Disgusting. But, she was only eighteen. And he would be twenty-three in September. They met two years ago. So he might have understood.

“The moon is full tonight,” she thinks she said once. He would have hummed. She pretends he would have reached out in return and would have squeezed her hand gently. In her dreams, his hands are calloused and warm. He is the one who freezes the house.

Summer pardons itself with the haste of a scorned lover. Leaves shrivel on the trees she had taken pictures of to show him. “Look at American nature,” she had said. “Look at how different we are from you.” Please, visit.

She imagined he smiled in his little British way. She imagined he sees his Reading trees and wonders if they would survive in the American heat. He lives near sheep. She had cooed for half and hour over this fact when she was made aware of it months prior. She’s sure he would have thought all of America as depressing as London.

It’s fading memories and heartache, the requirement for the full teengirl experience. She knows souls travel. She will wash her face in the sink and she will see him frowning in the mirror, cold fingertips holding her reflection’s face the way he promised to. He will knock cups from the cabinets. He will flip lightswitches. He will wish she could pray and mean it.

Stop, she will plead. Go back to England. It is screens and screams. Warm and cold pillows. She is an infant again. She always was when he was around. That’s what she liked about him.

“I don’t want to feel guilty for not being with you,” he had said. “I need to set us free.” I have known you since a child, she had replied. She imagines he broke down before his phone. She imagines it was painful when he died. Maybe she hopes it was.

“He also struggles,” says a friend. I know, she wants to say. I can feel his pain from an ocean away. I see him within myself; he is not well. He spooks the dog and cats. He pulls at my bedsheets. He crawls under them and weeps beside me. He holds me and says I am half of him. His fingers pass through me.

But she doesn’t say a word. She pretends the news comforts her.Winter weaves nostalgia into the wind; it is the scent of carrion. It is ashes she asks for at the vet but will never see. She grieves and he is beside her. He holds out his hand. She takes it. I will be anything you wish me to be, he says. As you once sacrified to be for me. I will comfort you the way you have comforted me for a millenia.

She closes her eyes. Maybe she loathes him. The ride home is quiet. It is midnight and the cat carrier is empty. It is dawn and skin feels like it was slipped on. She knows grief all over again. It is her new companion.

Is this how you felt when you found its body in your garden? she wants to ask. She remembers his grief was so overwhelming he had eaten a spoonful of sugar to calm down, given to him by his Nana. She has no Nana to do that for her. He tries to offer her a spoon but he is not strong enough to lift it; his feet don’t even touch the floor.

Slumber in the late season. She is carried by CVS melatonin and a loving touch against her cheek. He lives within her skeleton. Her hand is his. He is an edifice towering above all heaven when he wants to be.

“Let me see you again,” she pleads. He shakes his head. She will only ever be with the ghost left behind.

When she showers, their conversation goes differently. He stayed like she wanted—she changes for the better. They move into a cottage in the English country side. Their children will be named after historial Victorian figures. They both had a love for history. They both learned musicals but don’t have the talent for singing. It’s still fun. She smiles in the mirror. He smiles back. It is a lovely thought, he says. You
were always so creative.

I could draw you from memory, she says in return. I know the molecular compounds that create you as I know the words your mind wants to speak. As I would know how it feels to have your breath against mine.

She thinks he adores this. When it is summer, she enjoys the friends she has made. She is outside, hand raised above her, tracing the half-eaten moon. He sits beside her. Always beside her. It is hot.

“This is nothing,” he had once said. “My room has no heater, you know. You Americans have it lucky.”

And she had rolled her eyes and laughed.

Samson Seals

Invalidated: A Trans Man in the American South

The DMV is one of my least favorite places.

I’m sure this is a sentiment shared by nearly everyone who’s ever been inside one, and just the mention of the place is enough to incite a chorus of groans in a room of American adults. Long lines, uncomfortable chairs in crowded rooms, and seemingly endless wait times with nothing but clicking pens and a dying phone battery to pass the time– It certainly doesn’t sound like a fun-filled experience, to say the least.

However, there is a special kind of terror that is going to the DMV (or really any government building) as a transgender person. The average citizen’s greatest worry at the DMV is likely not that the validity of their identity—of their entire being—is going to come into question. As a trans man, this is something I tend to dwell on every day.

When I walked through the glass doors of the Lexington Department of Motor Vehicles, my palms were drenched it sweat. I tried to take measured breaths as I filled out my paperwork and shuffled through my various documents; birth certificate, proof of address, my out-of-state driver’s license—with a few unordinary but necessary forms, like my proof of name change and a letter from my therapist assuring my identity—ensuring that I had everything I needed to make this process as smooth as possible. When I was called to my assigned window (remarkably quickly, I might add), I gave the nice woman helping me my winningest smile as I handed over my forms and requested my South Carolina Driver’s License. I let the tension ease from my shoulders as she smiled back and began to process the request, but I watched—in what felt like slow motion—as she began to frown as she stared at my birth certificate.

I’m sure you’ve guessed this by now, but the name and the gender on my birth certificate certainly didn’t match those as listed on all my forms or my ID (in the same way that it didn’t match me at all). I watched, nervously biting at my cheeks as she looked back and forth, and back and forth, and finally to me, as I tried to maintain my smile despite her staring at me as if I had sprouted a second head. She stood, politely excusing herself, citing that she needed to “speak with a manager about something” and that it would just be a moment.

I tried to stay calm as I waited, my heart caught in my throat, as I silently poured over every word in each form in my head to ensure I hadn’t missed anything, hadn’t made some unfixable mistake. I refused to let my anxiety get the best of me as I waited at that desk for what felt like centuries, assuring myself that even if something was amiss, it would simply mean I would have to come back another day. Perhaps I had missed a form, or needed an extra proof of address, but it wouldn’t have to be the end of the world. Now of course, while what happened wasn’t the end of life as I know it, it certainly wasn’t something easily fixable—another drop in the bucket of transphobia, another reason to add to the list of why life legally must be difficult for someone like me.

The woman finally, finally returned to her desk after I bit my cheek hard enough to draw blood. I could taste copper on my tongue as I asked her if there were any issues with my paperwork in an octave higher than I care to admit. She smiled sympathetically, informing me that while my name was all fine and good, if I wanted my “preferred” gender reflected on my license, I would need a court order signed by a judge.

I felt my veins run cold. I had gotten a court order before, of course, for the sake of changing my name, but despite the cost (nearly $200, which I didn’t have) and the wait time (sometimes only a few months, if you’re lucky) it wasn’t impossible to do in Washington, where there are certain protections in place for transgender people. South Carolina, predictably, was a very different story. The woman kindly explained to me that in order for them to change my gender marker, I would need to have a letter signed by a surgeon confirming that I had a total sex reassignment surgery, and then go to court—and even then, a judge could still deny me my request. Until then, my main form of identification was going to reflect my assigned gender at birth.

The sounds of the DMV seemed to fade out around me as I stared at my feet, trying desperately to hold back tears. The reality of the situation was settling like a heavy weight on my shoulders; for as long as I lived in this state, every bar, every job, every doctor’s office, every school, every place I had hoped to go in my everyday life would immediately know a very intimate fact about me. With one small letter on a piece of plastic, the state of South Carolina had shattered my idea of living a relatively peaceful existence without anyone ever needing to know that I was different.

I felt large, hot tears rolling down my cheeks. I felt like a fraud—a poor caricature of the man I know myself to be. In a moment’s notice, my self-confidence had shriveled down to almost nothing. I knew that no matter what I did, I would never be acknowledged as a “real man”, at least not by the state. I had been sent back to an 8-year-old version of myself, scolded for stealing my brother’s clothes from his dresser and trying to bury my skirts in my toy box. I wanted to scream, to run outside of the building, wanted to drive to the airport and hop on the first flight back to Washington state.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said, but sometimes I wonder what she was sorry for. Was she sorry for the young man in front of her because he was crying? Because she was the one to deliver the news? Or was she sorry for the system, sorry on behalf of the state that refused to acknowledge or respect someone who had done so much fighting just to be seen? “Thank you,” I said, my voice cracking. It suddenly sounded far too feminine in my ears.

I wiped my eyes as best as I could before they took my picture, but looking at my license, I can see the red rim around my eyes, and my smile looks fake.

I try not to let the “F” on my license bother me. It’s easy not to think about most days, easy to ignore; until I notice my hands shake slightly when I hand it to the cashier at the pharmacy, or when I grip the wheel tighter when a cop passes me on the freeway, never knowing who could be the one to finally lash out, to say something about that odd little “F.”

Someone who’s never experienced something like this may think that it’s trivial. Silly that my “sensitive snowflake soul” could be so bothered by a letter on a piece of plastic. I would implore those people to think about what that little letter means; what would it feel like to have one’s identity brought into question constantly?

I live in fear every day, live in fear of what a room of old southern men is going to decide next about the validity of my existence. This is not a one-of-a-kind experience; trans people are afraidof things every day that other people couldn’t even fathom being afraid of. A cisgender person may dislike using a public restroom, but I would hope that they aren’t expecting to be assaulted in one—and if they are, be afraid of getting help or of calling the police. Unfortunately, this is the reality that trans people across the southern US live in. Feeling safe in public, or at all, is a constitutional right that every single American citizen is entitled to; a right that is being taken away by lawmakers every day.

Alphonso David, the president of the human rights campaign, says that “transgender and nonbinary people are not simply living in a state of emergency; we are living in many states of imminent danger.” This is more than being discriminated against; this is danger of having our rights taken away, losing our medical care, our children, even our lives.

The American southeast is a difficult place to be a transgender person. States like North and South Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and more have been pushing and passing anti-trans legislation full force in the last year. In May, Tennessee passed a law preventing transgender people from using restrooms that align with their identity (David) and other southern states have been quickly attempting to follow suit; and these “bathroom bills” are the least of transgender people’s worries. This has a greater effect than just a marker on a driver’s license or a sign on a public restroom: “While legislators advance these bills to score political points, the consequences for the L.G.B.T.Q. community, and particularly transgender people, are destabilizing and dangerous: These bills are helping to fuel a wave of anti-trans violence” (David).

Many people are influenced by their local lawmaker’s political agendas; I would ask you to instead think about your family, your neighbors, your friends, and your classmates. What would you do if their life were in jeopardy because of who they are—because of something they can’t change about themselves? Is the color of their eyes or their zodiac sign indicative of their worth as a human being—or furthermore—something they deserve to die for? Regardless of your political party, I doubt this sounds acceptable to you. However, “Despite a majority of voters in the United States opposing these types of laws—including a majority of Republican voters—extremist legislators continue advancing measures at a breakneck pace” (David) and it’s up to us to stop it. The transgender community needs your support, and your intervention. It’s time for Americans to become Allies, and fight for what we believe in, fight for what this country stands for: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for every citizen—not just the ones whose identities match their birth certificate.

Works Cited

David, Alphonso. “Why the Latest Republican Assault on L.G.B.T.Q. Rights Is Different.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 June 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/07/opinion/anti-lgbtq-laws-us.html?searchResultPosition=66.

Camryn Dildine

Hometowns

My Grandmother use to tell me when I was younger, you can’t change where you grow up, but you can change who it makes you as a person. Hometowns have always been a sore subject for me, I grew up in the small town of Hopkins but attended school in Columbia. I used to be too embarrassed to tell people I was from Hopkins. Most people barely even knew where it was or had never even heard of it before, but it always made me anxious to tell people about my hometown. Hopkins wasn’t the most glamorous town to live in, it really wasn’t even much of anything, but it was rare to see a real house on the corner or a nice car in the driveway. Most of the people in Hopkins were lower-middle class, hardworking blue-collar families, conservatives, “rednecks”. Growing up in school in Columbia, I was always surrounded by the upper-middle class, and to tell people that I lived in a single wide trailer seemed like the death of me, what would they think of me? What would they say when they realized my life wasn’t as glamorous as I played it out to be?

Most 7-year olds were wishing for the next big toy coming out, or the new Nintendo game being released, but I remember wishing that I had a pretty house to come home to, not a trailer with a rusted old roof on the top or a slanted front porch with the boards caving in. I was ashamed of people coming over to my house, thinking of me as poor or dirty. On the way home from school, riding the bus, I’d sit and listen to the other kids talk about the different houses we made stops by, “My house has a pool just like that”, “My house has two stories, and a garage”, I wanted more than anything to feel like I fit in, I tried so hard to pretend my family was well off.

The education system is subpar in Hopkins, and my parents vowed to do whatever it took for me to attend school in Columbia. I can’t tell you what I remember learning at Southeast Middle school in Hopkins my 6th grade year, but in 7th grade, my parents started paying for me to go to South Carolina Science Academy, a charter school located downtown on Marion Street that taught mandarin and offered scholarships for less than well off kids looking for better education. My final year of middle school, I was promised a spot on the transfer list for Dreher Highschool as a Mandarin Transfer. I remember feeling excited, but nervous. Most of the kids at Dreher came from wealthy families, and the only reason I was there was because I was a “transfer” kid.

You were lucky in my hometown if both of your parents graduated high school, my dad dropped out of school in 11th grade, but my mom wanted to continue to peruse her education as a certified nursing assistant. My mother was in college when they got pregnant with my older sister at 19, she had to drop out of college and she started cleaning houses, and my dad started working construction. In second grade, I remember being asked about my parents’ occupation and freezing up. “My parents are doctors”, “My parents are lawyers’, I wasn’t ashamed of their occupations but it’s rare in Hopkins if you happen to have a 6-figure job, most of the people in this town never graduated high school, or even think about attending college.

My dad worked such long hours that sometimes he wouldn’t come home for close to two days, but he worked hard to give me everything I wanted. I was the only kid on Roberts Road with a trampoline, a full swing set, a tree house and a pink electric scooter. In Hopkins, I felt like the coolest kid in the neighborhood, I could be myself, it made me grateful for the sacrifices made by my parents to ensure that no matter where we came from, I had the experience the nicer things in life.

The first day at Dreher, I felt like the sore thumb that stuck out. I had a thrifted lily Pulitzer dress on, a brand new vera Bradley backpack and knockoff jack roger shoes. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me real jack rogers, so they tried their hardest to help me “play the look”. I remember sitting next to a young girl in my second period English class who took one look at my knock off shoes and laughed. The very thing I had worked so hard to keep a secret, had come out. My heart ached for my parents who worked so hard to give me nice things, just for a rich white girl to pick on the minute she saw them. I wished in that moment, that I was invisible.

I fell into “playing the look” a lot more quickly than I’d like to admit, I stopped telling people I was from Hopkins and instead I told them I was from Columbia. I made sure that when making plans with friends from school I would have my mom drop me off and pick me up, and eventually over time I had completely mastered a new personality, a new “persona”, The Camryn Dreher Highschool knew was a spoiled rich white girl, a “daddy’s money” girl, I was uncomfortable being myself. I had witnessed not only the effects of status at Dreher personally but had witnessed it happen to those who weren’t fortunate enough to hide it from the rest of our peers.

As a child in a predominately poor town, it was hard not to label the people I watched grow up around me. I’ve watched the people I grew up with fall through the cracks of the system. Dropouts, meth heads, thugs. It wracked my brain how people end up in awful situations when they started out with such a promising career. The answer varies, but one thing I was taught growing up in Hopkins was “You can’t choose where you grow up, but you can choose who it shapes you to become. I’ve realized over the years that Hopkins isn’t a bad place to grow up, it’s lead me to meet some of the most amazing people in my life.

When I was at the shy age of 10, while visiting our family creek, I met a small girl by the name of thailer, her skin was golden like the sun, her long brown hair flowed down her back like a river.  She was the first neighborhood friend I ever made in Hopkins. Overtime, she opened up to me and she’s become one of my best friends. Thailer was the first person to encourage me to pursue my lifelong dream of being an attorney, and she’s also helped me through some of the hardest times in my life.

My grandma didn’t grow up in Hopkins, but she’s spent 40 years in this town. She’s known as the Junkman’s wife. She doesn’t come from very much but she’s the happiest she’s ever been living here. She truly has impacted everyone who lives on Roberts Road. She was a true example of not everyone who grows up in a poor community, has to match the stereotypes that follow it.

Every summer, on a cool breezy day my grandma would come over with a bag of snap peas and sit on the front porch swing and tell her life stories growing up in the city of Columbia in the 50s. I always noticed how her hands brought to life, the story of her life. Her hands wrinkled and worn, but full of love and hard work. She reminds me of how different times are now compared to how they were when she was my age. 

The Junkman of Hopkins, that’s what they called him, my grandfather. When he was just shy of 8 years old, he dropped out of school to go to work. He could never read or write, but somehow, he always had a yearning to learn. He was like a tumbleweed, drifting through the wind, desperate to find his calling for the world. He finally found it, taking the broken parts of children’s bicycles and playsets, and putting them back together, just like they once use to be, in a sense, putting back each time, a piece of his own childhood he lost, back together again.

Money isn’t everything, and neither are appearances. Hopkins has its flaws, but the community of Columbia can never outshine the community of Hopkins. Hopkins has arguably seen its darker days, but everyone rallies together because we’re a family here. I can wallow in the fact that a lot of people won’t ever get to experience the love this community has brought me. The town I once hated, was the only place I felt welcomed at the end of every day.

It’s true the saying “everybody knows everybody in a small town”, and sometimes it was incredibly annoying. I remember one night, Thailer and I snuck out and ended up at the Mt. Elon Church playground after midnight. I felt alive, the thrill of just being able to do what I want, and no one knew about it. We watched a singular car pass by, and 10 minutes later our parents were calling us telling us to get home immediately. It was crazy, but in a sense, it made me feel even more loved. In the city of Columbia, I was just another pretty face, but in Hopkins I was Barry and Amy’s daughter and that to me spoke volumes of how close our community was.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t as well known, last year when I hit the darkest place in my life, everyone knew.

You couldn’t mistake the ambulance, the Richland County cop cars, or the firetruck that sped down my driveway with their sirens on. I couldn’t hide the embarrassment or shame I felt when the word spread fast and my dad was haling ass in our driveway, barely putting his car in park, completely devasted and in shock seeing me being wheeled into the back of an ambulance.

A few years ago, if you would have asked me where I was from, I would have told you Columbia. The present day me will tell you that I’m proud to be from Hopkins. My hometown is not perfect by all means, but it taught me to be grateful for everything I have in life, that no one loves and supports you as much as the people in your hometown, and that just because you come from a poor hometown, it doesn’t mean that’s all you’ll ever be. I am the first of a select few in Hopkins to have a high school diploma, pursue a college education, will probably be the first person in Hopkins to obtain a degree in Political science, and the first attorney from Hopkins, but I don’t think I would have made it this far if I wasn’t from Hopkins. Hopkins has a significant impact on my life, it’s shaped my knowledge in breaking the stereotypes of people who have grown up here, it’s given me the opportunity to meet all types of different people with different lifestyles and opinions, and it’s made me a better person. It’s given me the opportunity to make a difference for all of the other Camryns in small towns like mine. Hopkins isn’t much of anything, and you can’t find it on most of the South Carolina State maps but Hopkins is my hometown, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Elle Kuse (Nonfiction)

The South Carolina State Hospital

People think there’s ghosts in the walls and demons in our souls. Places are “haunted” by mad spirits, malicious in nature and driven by spite. Why are these spirits shunned? If they really did exist, are they really to blame for the hauntings of decrepit buildings, the fear struck into your heart as you look upon rotting wood and missing brick and see a shadow of cruelty in the form of a past legend?

Before advances in psychology and medicine, most mental illnesses were seen as punishments from God or just plain immorality. Many people were sent to jail, shunned for their differences, but a “lucky” few were taken care of by their families. For most of history this seemed to be the case, but as Europe developed, the idea of institutions made for housing the

“mentally insane” was normalized. With the concept of asylums for the mentally ill in the 1700s and 1800s becoming more accepted, America also began investing in these institutions. These hospitals had a reputation for being dangerous places (History of Psychiatric Hospitals).

Even those who suffered from mild forms of more common mental illnesses were sometimes sent to these “lunatic asylums”. While early society believed asylums were a form of a hospital to promote recovery, some people admitted to these asylums were mistreated, usually kept still with intense restraints and isolation. There’s many remnants of these mental hospitals around the world. In America, one tends to stick out: Columbia, South Carolina’s historic landmark, The South Carolina State Hospital.

Look past these decrepit walls

These rotting floorboards and empty halls

Spirits lie in wait, you think, but perhaps it’s only legend

Located in Columbia’s Bull Street

District, the former South Carolina Lunatic

Asylum stands abandoned. Now called the

“South Carolina State Hospital”, the historic asylum was founded in 1821, though it’s first patient was only admitted seven years later. Throughout history it’s served as a home for many of the mentally ill, specifically Civil War veterans suffering from PTSD. It’s known for being one of the oldest surviving mental hospitals of its kind, despite it’s decrepit nature.

Like many other abandoned asylums, people have snuck into the building, further putting it to ruin with graffiti. Most of these intruders came to the building to see if it really was haunted, or just to seek thrills. The site was officially abandoned in 2015, but had fallen into disrepair beforehand. During September of 2020, the historical site’s Babcock building caught on fire, causing more damage to the property and even leaving a few firefighters injured. This was the second time the building had caught fire this decade, the most recent incident being in 2018.

Some will say it was the will of past residents haunting the building’s halls. I’d rather think it was a sign from some god trying to burn away the past. Really, there’s no significance to those fires. It’s only nature’s doing, and maybe that’s the best way to go about these things. Trying to pin the occurrences on the supernatural only serves to deepen the stigma associated with those who are mentally ill.

With the Babcock Building almost in ruins, it’s now planned to be renovated into a series of apartments by the Hughes Incorporation, located in Greenville. Construction will be done in 2022 (Abandoned Southeast).

I wonder who, if anyone, will live there. Will they be driven away by the “spirits” that seem to haunt every asylum? Is it that scary to be near the remnants of a hospital for the mentally ill? Does their fear come from the poor treatment of those past patients, or some stigma against the people who lived there?

Perhaps I shouldn’t judge. I wouldn’t want to live there, in truth.

While most asylums have the reputation for being poorly kept and at times abusive, it’s more complicated than it seems on the surface. Images of people being isolated and restrained in straight jackets is only halfway true. Some Asylums were founded under the belief that residents could be cured with rewards for “good” behavior (History of Psychiatric Hospitals). These places were still called madhouses, “lunatic” asylums, and were known for putting patients that had minor illnesses with more intense patients (The History of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). Yet the South Carolina State Hospital, despite helping the state later learn how to make effective and humane decisions when creating new mental institutions, did have a history of patient attacks and suicides, as well as less humane treatments such as electroshock therapy (Buchheit). Still, it’s hard to think about how many families would leave their relatives here without any visits.

So maybe, the real mistreatment those in asylums faced came from society itself, rather than the conditions of the hospitals they were placed in. Who can really say? Even with the scientific and medical breakthroughs that have happened in the modern era, it seems that people who don’t follow the neurological norm are still shunned. They might not be forced into hospitals and kept in restraints, and the mistreatment they face today comes in a different form: pure ignorance. From those with the mildest anxiety disorders to people who suffer from the most painful hallucinations, it seems they still face mistreatment, just as their ancestors did.

It’s hard to imagine what it was like to be there, whether through the eyes of a trespasser, doctor, or patient. In truth, I’d rather not think of something so gloomy. I definitely don’t want to think about being one of the “ghosts”–rather, a memory– that haunts the halls.

Maybe these places are haunted. But not by ghost. Instead, they’re haunted by those who search for malice in tortured spirits, those who jump to conclusions while being ignorant of the truth. Whatever the case, is it not best to move on? To accept change?

Let us learn from the past and accept a brighter future.


Works Cited

Abandoned Southeast. “Babcock Building.” Abandoned Southeast, 14 Sept. 2020, https://abandonedsoutheast.com/2017/12/05/state-hospital-for-the-insane/. Buchheit, William. The South Carolina State Hospital: Stories from Bull Street. The History Press, 2020.

Craft, Susan. “History of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.” Changing Minds, Opening Doors: A South Carolina Perspective on Mental Health Care, 1996, https://scdmh.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/HistoryofSCDMH.pdf.

“Diseases of the Mind: Highlights of American Psychiatry through 1900 – Early Psychiatric Hospitals and Asylums.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 18 Jan. 2017, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/diseases/early.html.

“History of Psychiatric Hospitals.” • Nursing, History, and Health Care • Penn Nursing, https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/nhhc/nurses-institutions-caring/history-of-psychiatric-hospitals/.

Mailonline, Simon Holmes For. “Abandoned South Carolina Lunatic Asylum Where Civil

War Veterans Were Treated for PTSD.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 30 Nov. 2016, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3985462/Inside-South-Carolina-Lunatic-AsylumCivil-War-veterans-treated-PTSD-building-abandoned-left-crumble.html.

McCandless, Peter. “South Carolina Lunatic Asylum / State Hospital.” South Carolina Encyclopedia, University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies, 12 Oct. 2016, https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/south-carolina-lunatic-asylum-state-hospital/.

Staff, WACH. “Columbia Firefighters Battlie Massive Fire at Historic Babcock Building.” WACH, WACH, 13 Sept. 2020, https://wach.com/news/local/firefighters-battling-massive-fire-at-babcock-building. The History of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, http://www.ocdhistory.net/nutshell/asylums.html. “Home.” Hughes Commercial Properties, 15 Mar. 2021, https://www.hughescommercial.com/.

Photos courtesy of Caters News Agency.

Elle Kuse (Fiction)

Guardian Angel

I’ve named him Steven.

It’s what I used to name every stray cat I came across as a child. Wasn’t very creative back then, but I guess that hasn’t changed, ‘cus Steven was the only name that came to mind when the creature started dropping dead mice at my feet each night. I can’t say Steven’s exactly like those other strays, though, considering those dead mice he drops at the edge of my bed are always toothless.

I’ve started sleeping with a face mask on. Just in case Steven gets any ideas about plucking out my incisors, too.

Can’t say he’s made any moves to hurt me yet, though. Sure, sometimes I see him reaching out from under my bed, fingers as thin as needles and nails sharp to match. They make the most wretched noise when he scrapes them across the floor, like nails on chalkboard. Yet the sound seeps through your bones, makes you freeze up, sending a chill of fear down your spine. Every ounce of you shakes and you grit your teeth, a rush of anxiety shooting through you until tears prick at your eyes. Finally you gasp as Steven stops his scraping, and he leaves you an extra rat as an apology.

Well, at least his services are free. Haven’t had to call an exterminator in months.

Steven’s a big fan of rocks, too. Sometimes I find them while walking, those white rocks that feel almost as smooth as marble. I think people have noticed me smiling whenever I pluck one up -found a bag of rocks on my desk the other day, from a coworker. She probably thinks I’m some budding geologist. Really, she just gave Steven a midnight-snack. It’s a little annoying to hear those rocks being crunched at 1:30 A.M., but Steven purrs in a way that reminds me of the other Stevens — y’know, the stray cats I used to feed.

Maybe Steven’s a little more like those cats than I initially gave him credit for. He’s sure as moody as one.

One day, I’m coming home from a bar. Bought some friends a few drinks, but decided to call it a night before I drank anything myself. Still got the smell of alcohol on me, though….

At least, I thought that smell was from me. But another sniff, and–

“Hey there, gorgeous.”

My heart stops, and my eyes go wide. I want to run, but my legs are frozen in place. I feel two sets of eyes on me and a rush of panic.

“Hows ‘bout we buy you an’ther drink, hmm?” One of the men asks.

“…Not interested,” I mutter, reaching into my purse. Fuck, where’s that pepperspray?

“C’mon, don’t be rude,” The second slurs, his laugh making my blood run cold.

I’m about to call out for help, to scream at the top of my lungs until my throat goes bloody raw, but I’m still as a corpse. Everything seems to spin, spin, spin-And suddenly, the world goes cold.

Even I can feel it. This overwhelming dread pressing down on my shoulders, this feeling of eyes pressed against the back of my neck. My breath goes still and my hairs stand on end, I grit my teeth and feel a well of tears sting the corners of my eyes. My vision is a little blurry as I look up at the two men who blocked me, and sure enough, they’re frozen in place too.

This isn’t the same fear as before, though. This… this is something familiar.

I laugh. It’s shaky at first, and my voice cracks a bit. Once again, I can feel the sting of tears in my eyes and a string of tears at my chin. Those two men look to me with terrified eyes, and I can see that look, that pleading glance, that silent question:

Are you the one doing this?”

The world goes silent. The passing cars seem miles away, the buzz of lamp posts go out. Even the stars seem to dim as the wind quiets down, and for a split second, I can’t even hear my heart beating against my chest.

I take a shuddering breath, but the men who almost attacked me are too scared to breathe.

A shadow begins to seep through a crack in the pavement. Like liquid ink, it spreads across the floor, until a web of darkness cakes the ground, forming an outline of a smiling mouth. There’s a crack, a screech, and the pavement rises, flecks of stone crumbling off it and striking the ground. A vile stench, as sickenly sweet as death, comes with it as the Monster is birthed from the earth beneath, a shadowy creature that drips like tar and moves like a snake. I can’t really make out what it looks like, but I can see rows upon rows of stark white teeth contrasted on it’s night-black flesh, and bloodshot eyes decorating it’s skin like freckles. That fear inside me builds up, and I’m sure those bastard men can feel it too, but for once, I know the dread won’t last.

For me, at least.

I’m right, of course. All I need to do is take a breath, calm my nerves, and as soon as the fear has struck, it begins to melt away. The world returns around me, my sanity intact, and I’m alone with the Monster from under my bed.

The men are gone. I don’t care what happened to them.

The Monster looks at me, and for the first time tonight, my fear is replaced by a warm relief. By now I’m crying, but these tears aren’t so fearful….

“Hey, Steven,” I whisper. “Thanks for the help, bud.”

Teeb Al-Rubaiawi

i told the stars about you

“i told the stars about you” she said softly, head bowed to the floor.

“and the response they gave?” he demanded, both only mere 6 feet away from each other. the
wind howled as if it was included in the conversations.

“they said that they knew, for they led me to the maze” she dared to look up and lock with his
eyes, a few specks dancing in them . his eyebrows jumped and he looked back at her, searching

for a reaction
for a weakness
for a place to conquer.

“the stars know nothing” he spat, her eyes hinted a sign of pity and he caught, oh he caught it and held onto it so tightly. he knew at that moment, he no longer had a grip on her, he could not hold her by her neck as he once so proudly did.

“i told the moon about you as well.. she whispered to me words of sorrow.”

“did she weep for you? did she let you hold her cold hand? or did she storm your world, thunder
beating at your heart?” his voice inching closer to shouting, slowly creeping closer and closer to her.

she wished, how she wished that there was warmth in his scent, love and kindness yet her
prayers had always been left unanswered. so she stopped pleading for the sanity she had fought for.

“she did not weep, she did not show a sign of remorse. she only spoke of empty words, yet when told by someone else, they hold the emotion she failed to show.”

and once again he saw that pity, not just dancing in her eyes this time it toyed with her voice.

“i went to the sky for you
i climbed the mountains for you
yet you fail me again
and again, and you expect me to believe the stars?

the ones that had led me to you? you expect me to feel the sadness which the moon had tried
over and over to sell?

my darling my love, i poured my heart out for you, while you drank it and spat it back in my
face. yet you still could never face that you lost the chokehold.

you lost the battle.

dont you see? I won. I won and lost my morality, i lost what i had left of my sanity. all for you,
all because of you. and i truly thank the shining bright stars.”

she laughed, her tender voice laced with emptiness, his eyes stopped dancing around her face, the golden sparkle faded into the night

he wished at that very moment that the moon could save him, that she would help him once
more yet when the blood started dripping down from his heart,

all that was lost was finally found.

Robyn Lockett

The River in My Heart

The Mississippi River is the second largest river In North America; however, if you ever ask me, I’d tell you it’s the biggest river in my heart. Matter of fact it’s the biggest river in my family’s blood stream. Whenever I was a little girl being raised up in New Orleans, I had a beautiful brindle Pitbull that had passed away from heart failure. I still remember the day clear as ever; my dad walks through the door with tears streaming down his face.

Rivers…

“Dad what’s wrong?” I asked

“Rudy… she’s gone” he replied.

“Gone where?”

“Gone to Lake Pontchartrain.”

Rivers…

Every Summer in the third week of July my family drives home to New Orleans and sit at the beachfront at Lake Pontchartrain and eat seafood, sausages, and turkey necks from Lucky Jeans. Today was the first day I’d be going by myself. My brothers currently stationed in Puerto Rico, my dad passed away a year ago, and I’ve only had a mom on the day I was born. It’s silly of me to go by myself, I know; but I miss the smell of freshwater, and the beautiful sting of the sun on my golden back.

As I’m on my way home, I play this old school playlist on Spotify to listen to as I drive. Instantly Regina Belles’ voice drowns out the busy sound of traffic: “when I dream, I dream in color, I want a love, not just a lover”. My grandfather always wanted me to sing this song and upload it on YouTube. I never did, and though I’d like to finally make my grandfather’s wishes come true he’s no longer here to smile at the warmth in my voice. Before I know it, tears are streaming down my face.

Rivers…

“Grandpa want to hear me sing this song I like?” I asked

“Yeah babe” he replied.

I then sung to him “Wait a Minute” by willow smith. He smiles.

“You sound good babe, but I want you to learn this song “Dream in Color” by Regina Belle and sing it for me, the next time I visit. This song will come from your heart, and that is when you’ll sound your best.”

Rivers…

I instantly change the playlist, in attempt to recover from my somber mood. Finally, I decide to play today’s R&B hits. Instantly Ella Mai’s voice dries the tears the tears from my eyes: “I Hope you fall, and you break your heart like you broke mine”. My childhood friend Stella who was like a little sister to me would always sing this song when her sister Sade played it. Me and Stella were very tight, we both had issues with our mothers; we both tried so hard not to turn into our mothers. Stella passed away from an overdoes about a year back, and I can’t help but wish it were me instead. Before I know it, tears are streaming down my face.

Rivers…

Her short curly hair as black as the polluted night sky blows in the wind as the chilly humid riverwalk air hits her skin. However, the light from her dinosaur rainboots create a light show on her black Nike jacket, faded black jeans, and the caramel of her skin that can be seen through the holes on her jeans. Her Caramel thighs and knees would be golden if the sun were to shine on them. The light from her rainboots also reveal the glowing tears that are streaming from her midnight eyes. She’s standing on a little bridge. I want so bad to comfort this little girl but the closer I walk towards her the more she fades. The more she fades into the Mississippi river.

Rivers…

By the time I make it home it’s 3.35 am in the morning. I should probably check in to my room at the hotel, but I feel like I cannot breathe. I drive straight to Lake Pontchartrain. When I make it there, I get of my car and make my way to the steps. I take off my shoes, then my socks, and I sit on the step closest to the water, but not too low; just enough to put my feet in the water. I can hear my dad complaining now, telling me to back up before the current gets too strong. Telling me that if I fall in, no one will be able to save me and that I’d be in the Mississippi River before I know it, that I’d be in the Gulf of Mexico before I know it. I lift my hands up and I hold on to the rail, so I won’t slip away, but I keep my feet in the water. I want to feel close to everything I’ve lost. Before I know it, my mind goes blank, and I am asleep.

Rivers…

I am okay, I am breathing, and I see the light that comes after you’ve been made free. I’m alive.

Rivers…

When I wake up a man is over me, asking me who the president is. I look away from him and to my right I see the water. As bad as I want to go back to the water, I decide not to. I get up and fearlessly and calmly tell the man, “I’m fine, I’ll be heading home now. Thank you for your help”. I’m okay. I can finally breath again, yet my heart is still drowning in the Mississippi river alongside my brothers and sisters.

Odaly Cadeza Solis

Bewitched & Bamboozled

When things are too good to be true, they usually are. That hot sale isn’t getting you that much of a discount, the two dollar bill you have is one the not rare ones, the thirty dollar diamond is probably cubic zirconia.

I rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen to scavenge for breakfast. Roommate Erin comes by and starts making her own. Let me rephrase, breakfast for her and her girlfriend. She and I started dating someone in the same week back in high school. While I’ve broken up with that guy and went out with several more over the years, Erin has stayed loyal and true to her girlfriend, Aya. They’ve been together for over six years now and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little envious at times. While I’m watching Netflix alone, they share showers and tickle fights.

I pull out my oat milk and supposedly fruity loops, pour them into my thrift store bowl, and sit at the bar while Erin makes breakfast. Somewhere between high school and now, the pair became vegetarian. They cook together all the time and make delicious meals. They also love to share what they make – thank you to whatever higher being let that happen.

Today she made rice, eggs, and not-bacon for her beloved, to serve to her in bed of course. Their meal triumphs my cold and lonely bowl of cereal. I ask her, “hey, do you mind if I use your printer?”

“Of course, go ahead. Actually I woke up to the sound of the printer going off, it scared the hell out of me this morning.”

“Oh how lovely for you! If it wasn’t yours, what printed?”

“It’s the resume of some girl, no clue where it’s from.”

“Maybe she connected to the wrong printer?”

“Oh probably, it’s in my room if you wanna see it.”

Naturally, I want to see it. I’m just nosy like that. Of course, I want to know how much experience a peer has. How fluffed up is their resume, or are they truly accomplished?

The first thing I notice is that it’s three pages long. Liza is her name. It’s crazy the amount of information is in this. Full name, phone number, email, even her social medias. She’s crazy accomplished, part of this group and that organization, not to mention a high GPA. She has had jobs that matter, not just a barista or a cashier. The summer before this semester, I spent my time painting houses with my dad. While she was interning at a law firm, I was laying down paper over hardwood floors, painting miles worth of wall molding. I nearly melted away in Charleston’s heat and humidity, and she’s sitting pretty at a desk.

Good reality check for me, I suppose.

Her Instagram. It’s okay if I look. In fact, I should ask. She needs her resume. I mean, it’s already printed out and I don’t need it. I find it right away.

She’s pretty. Very pretty, but that’s not why I’m here. How should I word this…

After I text her, I go about my day. I brush my teeth, not do homework, watch tv, and eventually go to sleep. She didn’t ever message me back so maybe she already got it done.

The next morning, I wake up past noon. My first instinct is to check my phone as soon as I wake up. My screen has a new notification, a message. From Liza!

Deep breath. I can’t open it right now, she sent the text less than an hour ago. Play it cool.

What am I thinking…? It’s not a big deal. I’m just asking if she wants her resume back, not a date. I click and tap the screen to open her message.

My heart skips a beat. No way she’s implying what I think she’s implying. Naaaaaahh.

Not too forward, not making any assumptions. I think that’s safe.

I put my phone down. Did she really say that? Like, that feels pretty clear.

Twenty minutes pass. My phone buzzes.

Well I’ll be damned! She wants to hang out. Bad day for this though, I’ve got class in a bit. Not to mention, but the water is down and I desperately need a shower.

Her reply comes at lighting speed.

Oh she’s cute. I haven’t pulled that thing out since I worked at Barnes and Noble two years ago. It’s not very impressive at all. Damn it, I gotta go update the thing. There’s not much I can do to it besides add a section for her to see. I write in an informal ‘about me’ section. Music I like, the kind of art I make, and whatnot. She passes along her printer information to me and I pray that I’m doing this right.

I don’t know what the hell a CV is, but if she says she liked it then I must’ve done good. Clearly I’m smoother than I thought.

I’ve been asked out and surprised before and it’s a cool feeling, but it’s different coming from a girl. Coming from someone as attractive as she is, that is a very flattering compliment.

We decided to get boba together the next day. When I wake up the next morning, I’m so excited I could pee my pants. I’ve studied her Instagram like I had a test on it the next day. I reviewed her posts, read every comment, and inspected her tagged posts. I sound crazy but, in my defense, there was only six posts total to see.

She picks me up in her car, a Mazda-something; I’d bet money that it’s not more than a year old. Leather interior, back-up camera, and seat warmers, it faintly smells of new car. I guess that smell is stale car now. That’s not clever enough to be a joke, I’m not going to say that. We exchange names and make small talk on the way there. Traffic, the weather, pedestrians, what’s on the radio, the easy stuff.

We park and then it hits it me. My first date with a girl.

I get a good look at her when she gets out of the car. She is very polished. Well put together. She is a young adult. She wore one of those herringbone tweed skirts and a black turtleneck. She looked like she walked straight out a magazine. I opened the door for her and the chime announced our entrance. She’s never had boba; I ordered coconut slush and she got strawberry. We continue with our introductions. She’s from Armenia. The sunshine gleamed off her hair, jet black with a Olaplex healthy shine. She spoke in detail about her future plans. A political social major, she’s deeply invested in the wellbeing of her motherland. She explained to me the ongoing Armenian genocide. I kept attentive eye contact, nodding and responding with “mhmm”s when appropriate. I didn’t understand jackshit about what she was telling me. I had zero clue such a thing was going on, and even less about the growing tensions between Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Armenia. She devoted herself to this knowledge and educating others. What a woman! Although I didn’t really get it, she didn’t make me feel stupid either. Kim Possible ring tone. She’s so cute. “Oh, my boyfriend asked if you wanna have dinner with us!”

Damn.

Damn. Damn. damn.

My heart dropped to the bottom of the sea.

“Oh yeah, that sounds like fun!”

God damn it. Fuck! I thought I studied her Instagram enough. I swear I didn’t see anything. “She asked if I can pick up some stuff at the grocery, wanna come with?” I’m heartbroken. No, I don’t wanna go.

“Yeah, of course!”

I rather decompose in my bed.

We gather our things and go back to her car. One direction CD starts to play. She fumbles, “Oh jeez, I gotta change that”. Goddamn it. She’s so cute. It’s not really my thing, but it’s the kind of music classic-ly sweet girls like. She asks me to play something and I do, it’s Toro y Moi. Something to make me cool and interesting. I wonder if her boyfriend is cool. What if he’s like, way more cool and interesting than me and I’m actually stupid for thinking I had a chance? It’s my fault for thinking she’s even into girls, I need to not make assumptions. We make it to the grocery store. The conversation is light and upbeat. We talk about our majors and talk about our classes. Her boyfriend is making chicken parmesan today. I tell Liza I’ve never had that. “It’s pasta, right?”

She lets out a giggle, a little dainty one. “He’s from here, it’ll be like southern comfort food.”

When we got back to Liza’s place, her boyfriend was outside and ready to greet us. I’m coming into this already not wanting to like him, I need to relax. He seems like a nice person. We exchange introductions, his name is Drew and he’s some kind of art major.

Walking inside their apartment, I meet the roommates. They’re all nice enough, a bit loud, but hey, it’s their place not mine. Drew and Liza start making dinner. I offer to help, but they insist that they got it. I sit down and I don’t really know what do with myself. The conversation as a group staled and the room was instead filled with nonsense bickering.

“That’s not how peel potatoes.”

“Can you stop grabbing me like that?”

“You’re butchering that chicken, ya’kno.”

Do they… even like each other…?

Why am I here..?

Dinner is okay. Whatever we watched was okay. I stayed for too long. Drew’s eyes kept darting between his girlfriend and his game console on the TV and Liza kept ignoring his signals. Instead, she kept talking to me, and our conversation was lively as it was before I found out about it. We talked about what shows we like and the products we use and more nonsense like that. Drew and I shared few words. Neither of us were very interested in the other.

When I finally got him to say more than three words to me at a time, we were discussing his art. He sure likes talking about his art. He shows me some of his figure drawings; they’re all very well done, I can’t lie. He showed off six drawings, and all six are definitely based on Liza. I can feel warmth in my cheeks and I’m embarrassed that I’m blushing at this. Liza brings out a canvas he’s working on now.

“I’m only about half done, but it’s coming out perfectly”

Full color.

Nude.

Oil painting.

Liza.

Drew has painted her face to right below the bust. Now the tips of my ears are warm. I feel a cold sweat go down my spine.

Liza says something, but I couldn’t comprehend what she said. I couldn’t even look her in the eyes, not after seeing the artistic rendition of her boobs.

It’s past 12AM now and I get to weasel my way back home.

“Well guys, it’s getting late and I have a test tomorrow.” Anything to get back home.

We exchange good bye’s and see you later’s. I pray that I don’t have to see Drew later. Liza walks me out the door.

“Sooo, what did you think?”

I don’t know what to think, really. I thought I was here for a date and then you had a boyfriend and then he showed me you naked.

“I had a lot of fun! I hope I get to see you again.” That much isn’t a lie, I do hope we get more time together. Without his presence around hopefully.

She pulls me in for a hug. Damn it, she smells lovely. A tobacco vanilla fragrance that pulled in and left me wanting more.

I finally got to walk home to my apartment, exhausted of small talk and pleasantries. Three flights of stairs later, I flop on my bed and curl up in my blankets. The allure of a pretty girl entranced me into spending my time with awkward couple with problems. I was eager to forget my evening.

NyJelah Corley

SugahVille

Denise Marks was driving approximately fifty-eight miles per hour down the road. She was going to meet her best friend, Alicia, whom attended a college in New Orleans, Louisiana. Denise attended a university in Charleston, South Carolina and had an internship near by her school. Denise was majoring in Writing and for her final project she had to write a horror screenplay. Denise could write anything but, horror and science fiction just weren’t genres she cared to dabble in. Since Denise felt the stress becoming an enormous weight, she decided to take the weekend off and spend it with her best friend. Despite her internship, Denise was still a broke college student and couldn’t afford to fly. This resulted into Denise having to drive to New Orleans. Denise was driving through Georgia when suddenly her phone lost service.

“Dang it.” Denise hit her wheel.

None the less, Denise carried on down the road and disconnected her aux cord. She turned the radio on and snapped her free hand to the beat of Outkast’s ‘ATLiens. Pretty soon Denise arrived to a crossroad. She couldn’t remember if this was apart of her directions or not but it was clear she became lost. Denise wiped her eyes when she thought she saw a figure direct her to the right side of the cross roads. And then another dark figure seemed to direct her towards the same passage way. Denise put her left signal on and prepared to turn left onto the concrete path but, something just came over her. Denise turned right even though her left signal was on. Even though the right passage way was a dirt road, Denise saw big and bright city lights. Denise wondered how one path was concrete and the other was a dirt road. None the less, she continued on.

Denise had been driving for an hour and a half and still hadn’t reached the big bright lights nor any turns to turn off on. She would have turned around but, the road seemed to have caved in and she only had enough room for her car to keep forward. Denise went to change the radio but absolutely no gospel station would catch the air waves. She wouldn’t admit it out loud to anyone but, Denise was shaky and a bit scared. Finally, Denise reached a road where she could turn off. Denise wasted no time turning off and came to a road filled with gravel. Denise didn’t press brakes or do any motion to stop the car. Unwillingly, Denise’s car cut off.

“What the hell man?” she mumbled.

Denise got out and checked her tires. They were all good. She popped her hood next. Nothing seemed out of place, even though all she knew was how to put oil in. Denise got back in her car and checked her phone. Still no service. Denise closed her eyes and silently prayed her car would start. When she opened her eyes, she saw a black crow sitting on a tree branch eating the head of a snake. But that’s not what spooked Denise. It was the fact that the bird was staring right into her brown eyes. Denise started her car and everything seemed to be normal. The car started to move. Denise wasn’t pressing the gas. She slammed her foot on the brakes. Her brakes wasn’t working. Denise tried to open her door once she saw the car quickly moving towards the lake. The doors wouldn’t open. The windows wouldn’t bust either when Denise wrapped her hand in her cardigan and tried to bust the window.

BOOM!

Denise’s car crashed into the lake and she went through the windshield. Her head was bleeding and she was being dragged down quickly to the bottom of the lake. The bright city lights she once saw driving, were approaching quickly as she neared the bottom of the lake. Denise’s body lost consciousness but her spirit traveled toward the bright city lights and landed in SugahVille. SugahVille was a small town that housed many poor ethnic groups in the early 1900’s. It was a town built off love, strength, pride, and worship. And because of those things, that’s why the town failed. It went from a city of paradise to something like the city of Sodom. And only two men caused the destruction of that whole town.

“And I’ll see ya’ bright and early Sunday mo’rning David. I hear pastor pose’ to blow the roof off with his message. Tell the Missus I asked ‘bout her.” Mrs. Peterson smiled.

The July sun beat down on the dark skin older woman. Sweat trickled down the older lady’s forehead, due to the store being as hot inside as it was outside. The wooden door was open for air to come in but, it was no good. The only job the screen door had was keeping flies out. And it wasn’t doing for very good job thus far. Mrs. Peterson waved as she walked out.

David smiled and waved but, mentally he wondered how Mr. Peterson handled Mrs. Peterson. Mrs. Peterson was a very heavy woman and was almost twice the size of Mr. Peterson. Now David understood why Mr. Peterson went to work, home, gave his whole check to Mrs. Peterson to put up, and only stayed out with the fellows for an hour and a half. Mrs. Peterson played no games about her family and home life. Mr. Peterson wore the pants, but Mrs. Peterson was the boss.

David owned the conventional store in SugahVille. He was also the mayor since he helped build up SugahVille. The people thought he was the most fit since he had helped established divine law of order for SugahVille as well. David was married to Sarah and they shared a daughter, Mary. A girl walked in the store that David had never seen.

“Can I help ya’?” David asked.

“Where am I?” the girl questioned.

“SugahVille.”

“Where?”

“SugahVille, Georgia.” David explained.

The girl looked over herself and then around the store. David wasn’t sure if something was wrong with the girl, but he walked around the counter and up to her.

“Is it something wrong Miss.?”

“What year is it?”

“Is ya’ okay Darlin’? It’s 1927 in SugahVille, Georgia and everywhere else in the states.”

David was going to ask another question but, something caught his eye. It was a man on a horse so shiny, the stallion looked to be gold. The man riding the horse had his jet black hair waved all over and his light skin tone didn’t even tan in the bright sun. He had pearly white teeth that he flashed in his grin.

“Lawd, all mighty. Look at that high yellow man. Great day in the mow’ning he sure look good. Who ya’ reckin’ he coming to see?” Betty Mae whispered to Fannie.

“Yes, Lord. Betty Mae you might can’t see but, you did good that time. My first two husbands was high red…and crazy.” Fannie replied.

The two elder women sat at David’s store everyday gossiping about whatever under the Georgia sun. The man pulled his horse to David’s store and sitting behind him on the horse was a woman. She was tall and had long black curly hair going down her back. Her dress was modest but still left her cleavage for anyone’s imagination. She was very beautiful.

“Ya’ reckin’ that’s his wife or lover?” Betty Mae asked Fannie.

“My associate, assistant, anything I need her to be pertaining to my business. No disrespectful harm ladies. What I meant was, she works with me and I am a record recorder. This here,” the man pointed at the woman, “is Hunee.”

“And your name suh’?” Betty Mae asked.

“Walter.”

“Fannie, let’s get hell from here. These two high yellows carry bad temptations. We ain’t got to go home, but to hell with this here.”

The two elder women got their belongings and hurriedly left David’s store porch, and down the steps.

“Well, Walter, nice to meet ya’. What can I do fore’ a big time record recorder like ya’self?”

“It’s more like what can I do for you.”

David was like an open book to Walter. Walter was a man who knew everyone’s desires and pleasures. He just needed permission to come into your life and take over.

“What do ya’ mean?” David questioned.

“I’m just a old fiend passing through, hoping to make somebody’s dream true.”

“You got a slick silver tongue young man. Sounds like you can sell water to a fish, and honey to a bee.”

“Well,” Walter laughed, “let’s start with your poison. I can provide it.”

“Oh no, I don’t have any.”

“Drink?” Walter offered.

“No, suh.”

“Smoke?” Walter raised his eyebrow.

“Bad lungs as a baby.” David explained.

“Women?”

David thought for a quick moment. And Walter had caught that.

“God’s gift to the world and love em’ but, I’m married with a daughter.”

“Well-”

Walter was cut off by the harmonizing sound coming from a harmonica. Walter saw emotions run through David’s eyes. Jealousy and anger.

“Excuse me,” David lightly smiled. David turned around scolded the group of young men that were playing checkers and listening to music being made.

“Jimmy Lee, take that harmonica and play it else where. I done told you that a million times. Nobody want to hear that fuss. And I don’t want it on my stoop today, tomorrow, or never.” David fussed. “And you best be leaving Mary alone after church too.”

“Don’t like my music, fine. But Mr. Marshall, I do like your daughter. Miss. Mary is a very smart and kind young lady. And Mrs. Sarah done approved for me to come to dinner Sunday.” Jimmy Lee replied.

“Well, it’s for certain I know two things. One, you ain’t coming to dinner Sunday and two, you better be unliking Mary. Mary ain’t gonna’ waste no time with a no count having musician like yourself. Ain’t got a pot to pee in, nor a winda’ to throw it out of. Never mind what my wife say, this is what I say.” David walked away leaving Jimmy Lee heartbroken.

Walter had figured David’s angle. The man had a poison alright.

“Sorry ‘bout my hospitality.” David, again, excused himself.

“No problem. Tell ya’ what, how about dinner tonight and finishing up this conversation? I’ve got to find a boarding house near by for Hunee and I.”

“None sense. Naturally, we done exchanged names and ain’t strangers no more. You’re my neighbor and I’m inviting my neighbor to my house for a nice and hot home cook meal. Your assistant too.” David said, pointing to Hunee.

“We’re there. And very much obliged.” Walter said, mounting the horse where Hunee was still stationed.

David smiled because he thought he gained some friends. Walter smirked because he just caught a victim. The girl who didn’t know the year nor the place had also vanished.

Dinner was over at 7:30 that night and David couldn’t have been happier. Sarah, his wife, hadn’t stopped nagging him about the feeling she caught from Walter and Hunee. Hunee was sitting on the porch rocking in the rocking chair David made. David made sure Mary was in her bedroom and sleep before confronting Sarah about her invitation to Jimmy Lee to Sunday’s dinner. Sarah noted her liking for Jimmy Lee as a match for Mary. However, David’s word was law. Jimmy Lee wasn’t coming over for Sunday dinner.

“Dog-on-it Sarah, if the boy had to come over then why did it have to be Sunday when you cooking my roast? You know how I feel about my roast. And that Jimmy Lee ain’t worth having some of my roast.” David explained, before walking out to the porch where Hunee and Walter were.

Sarah told David to take Hunee with Walter outside because she wouldn’t stand for that woman to be anywhere near her kitchen. Walter and David were talking on the other side of the porch man to man. Walter was smoking a cigar, while David nursed a glass of Sarah’s ice tea.

“You’ve got an hellva’ woman David. That Sarah is something sent straight from above.”

David was sure about that but, Sarah had a temper. She was patient and very level headed but, it was certain things that ticked her off. She didn’t mind visitors but, Walter and Hunee weren’t any company Sarah wanted.

“Oh, she’s something.”

Walter laughed and continued.

“That daughter of yours too. Mary. She takes right after her Momma.”

“Lucky for them both.” David nodded his head.

“So, have you always wanted to be domestic?” Walter questioned.

“Now I love my family and you pose’ to take care of your family by the sweat of your eyebrow. And I do that and take care this town. I don’t think it’s nothing domestic about that.”

“Touché David. No harm meant. It’s just, you are taking care of everyone else and I wonder who is taking care of David? What are David’s dreams? I know you hate music.” Walter laughed.

“Actually, no, I love music and passionate about it. But that Jimmy Lee just ticks my clock. The boys good but…he is a cocky sucker.”

“So you do like music?” Walter laughed.

“Love it. Never been good at it though. But how I wished I was. Before owning the store and being mayor of SugahVille, it was my dream and desire to be a blues singer.” David dreamily said.

“Tonight is your lucky night. I’m willing to make that true.”

“Oh no, I don’t chase that dream anymore Walter. Gave all that up to do what I do now.”

“I applaud you David. Because no one in SugahVille would do the same for you, as you did for them. Respectfully, may I say neither would Mary nor Sarah. It’s not to late to look out for you and your dreams. I’ll give you a hit record and make your name last through generations. In return I will need anything I ask for from you, if you just shake my hand and give your word. Just trust me.”

Up close David took a long good stare at Walter. As Walter rode in SugahVille, he looked untouchable. But now, up close, in the dawn of night coming he didn’t. During the night, Walter seemed to have aged rapidly. He didn’t look to tall as he did earlier either. His wrinkled face didn’t drip in sweat. This was the hottest SugahVille had ever been and still no sweat dripped from Walter’s old pores. His face now seemed like he carried thousands of years in only a few hours. What the big question was however, how wasn’t Walter sweating. He had to be used to this kind of burning heat.

David knew he should have consulted Sarah but, Walter was right. He was making sacrifices daily and no one else did. He had to look out for himself. But the good was on one shoulder and the bad was stationed on the other. Walter sensed this, and smiled.

“Think about it. If you all will have me, I’ll be back tomorrow for dinner.”

“Like hell.” Sarah mumbled, from the kitchen.

David nodded and Walter and Hunee hitched their horse. While traveling to their next destination, Walter looked back at Hunee and smiled.

“Sweetheart, why don’t you start convincing David into a partnership with me. I know he’ll be happy to talk to you. And I’ll be happy to talk to his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Mary.” Walter smiled.

“Understood.” Hunee nodded.

Three and a half weeks. That’s all it took for David to be convinced by Hunee. Three and a half weeks was all it took for David to cheat on Sarah with Hunee. Three and a half weeks was all it took against Sarah’s wishes, for David to shake Walter’s hand. Contracts and all that jazz wasn’t necessary. David had verbally gave himself to Walter’s demands when he agreed to Walter’s terms. Three and a half weeks was all it took for Walter to start taking from David.

Walter had a series of things he wanted and the first, he asked for was David to take a drink of alcohol with him. To celebrate their partnership. The next day, he asked David to smoke a cigarette and cigar with him to discuss what would happen in their partnership. The day after that, Walter asked David for a penny. Then he asked for a dime. Next, Walter asked for a quarter. It didn’t stop there. Walter, each day needed something new. A dollar, three dollars, five dollars, ten dollars, twenty dollars, fifty dollars, and one hundred dollars. Each day, the price increased. David didn’t have this kind of money, Sarah didn’t have this kind of money, nor anyone David knew. More time passed.

“This business takes money David.” Walter explained.

“But it’s money I don’t have.”

“Of course you do. Listen David, I’m just the middle man here and listen, I’m not even making money myself. Tell you what, how about giving me the store? That should cover the money trouble a while.” Walter explained.

David’s store meant a lot to him. It was the heart of SugahVille. It was how David took care of his family.

“It’s just a small bump in our road on the way to paradise David.” Walter said. “Remember your dream. Don’t give up on it.”

David gave Walter the key.

“The store is yours.”

Walter raised prices in the store and hardly no one could afford anything. He taxed packages that came in the mail, and there was no credit given anymore. When David asked Walter for the store back, Walter said no.

“You can’t go back on your word. I haven’t went back on my word and told Sarah about you and Hunee. Plus, you already signed it over to me. Remember it’s only a small sacrifice for your dream, and to help the people of SugahVille. You’ll be the hero. They will serve you one day.”

Sarah was furious but, David assured her this was best. Walter asked for more things and David granted it to him. So much that, David and his family barely had a home. Almost everything in it, Walter took.

“If you want me to save your family David, I’ll need something. Apart from my daily fee. Now, it’s not my fault you can’t handle your finances nor assets any better David. So, I can only feel so sorry for you. Hey, Hunee and I have only been here two months and still we maintain. To keep you in shelter and food in your family’s stomach. I’ll need Mary’s hand in marriage. She seems to be a well rounded girl with the attention of every suitor in SugahVille. Now it may not be much I can do for Sarah and you, but at least your Mary will be taken care of. I’ll see that Sarah and you are surviving though.” Walter smiled.

When David told Sarah, Sarah immediately disapproved. Once again, David granted Walter wish. Mary wed to Walter. Mary went from being happy everyday, to crying everyday. Walter still collected something from his father-in-law, David, everyday.

The people of SugahVille demanded a private meeting with their mayor and excluded Hunee and Walter, saying they were long term visitors.

“You ain’t nothing to worry about. Haven’t I, David, slayed any ‘Walter’s’ that came our way? Any problems we have had have been taken care of by me. Don’t worry about SugahVille, Walter, or Hunee.” David assured.

“But we ain’t seen ya’ in a month of Sunday’s in church to talk to ya’, and the store is so expensive. And that be our lively hood.” Mrs. Peterson explained.

Everyone nodded and agreed. David just shook his head and assured the people of SugahVille they had nothing to worry about.

It was the next day and what Walter asked for shocked David. David had given up everything he loved and still he had no record nor was a star. That’s why he couldn’t understand why Walter would ask for something like this. Walter asked for David’s wife. He asked for David’s wife, Sarah, to serve him. David couldn’t believe Walter’s request and the way he was treating his daughter, Mary. Mary cried daily about her unhappy marriage to Walter. Walter was very unfaithful through his marriage to Mary. Mary was so depressed until she stayed in her bedroom looking at the pealing white wall. All she did was cry and no one could make her come out of the state she was in. David told Walter no, he couldn’t grant this.

“Thing is, in this arrangement David you can’t say no. If you do then I’m afraid our business ends here and I can’t return anything.” Walter said, turning away.

“But I would hate for Sarah to find out about you and Hunee, David.” Walter smirked, turning around.

In light of that, Sarah was Walter’s servant. She cooked and cleaned for Walter’s household and did whatever he asked at the store. Walter lusted after Sarah, but Sarah was a married and faithful woman. Walter didn’t care though. He kept his promise and wouldn’t enter Sarah’s life unless she invited him in. The next day Walter’s greed grew, if to David seemed impossible. But again, David was proved wrong.

“I got a plan for SugahVille. It could be built up into one of the biggest cities in the States. And don’t cha’ know that here, SugahVille could be the folk blues music capital? In fact, I’m already turning the back storage room in the store into a place to cut the records. Hell, maybe a place for the radio. And you David, you could be the first to do it. To make this happen, I’m gonna’ need something. I’m gonna’ need two things actually. I need your position as mayor over SugahVille, and I need that gold pocket watch.” Walter smiled.

“I’ve gotta’ draw the line. Now this is it, Walter. You got my money, wife, daughter, store, my land, my house, my animals, my-”

“Well David, our business is concluded then if you can’t follow my request.” Walter said, walking away.

Three days passed by and Jimmy Lee was a star. He had records everywhere and people sung his songs all over. No one, especially David, had seen or heard from Hunee, Walter, nor Jimmy Lee. But David’s jealously was at an all time high. He bashed Jimmy Lee but, Jimmy Lee had become successful. Mary was still in her state of just crying and looking at the pealing white wall. Sarah didn’t smile anymore and was depressed. But David didn’t see this. He wanted Walter to come back and make him bigger than Jimmy Lee. And so, when Walter arrived back, David handed his treasured authentic gold pocket watch and position of mayor to Walter. The gold pocket watch was a gift of appreciation from the people of SugahVille, Sarah, and Mary. Everyone chipped in to buy it for David.

The day after that, Walter asked David for two more things. David had nothing else to give. Everything that meant something to him was gone. Everything he once owned was now all Walter’s.

“I want your soul and word to be mine and you do as I say. You spread my message through your music. Just like Jimmy Lee had been doing.”

“And I’ll be bigger than Jimmy Lee?”

“The biggest.” Walter agreed.

To Walter, it seemed silly that David, thirty-three, was jealous of a nineteen year old Jimmy Lee. But Walter didn’t care as long as David gave him what he wanted.

“Okay.” David agreed. “What happened to ole’ Jimmy Lee? He ain’t never came back ‘round here.” David asked.

“He was found dead after he didn’t want to continue singing my songs and spreading my message. He gave me everything he had and had no family, so he just roaming around by the grave yard next to the crossroads.” Walter said, leaving.

David was confused because, Walter just said Jimmy Lee was dead. How could it be, David wondered?

Later that night Walter came and got David. Walter and David moved some old instruments David owned into Walter’s horse and wagon. Walter then took them to Jimmy Lee’s old shack by the SugahVille grave yard that was by the crossroads. Walter’s light toned complexion seemed to turn a midnight dark complexion almost instantly. He was unrecognizable. Walter tuned David’s guitar, harmonica, and piano.

While David was recording Walter songs about hell hounds on his heels, Walter sold SugahVille to himself and all the evil wonders. His first order was tearing down the church. The people couldn’t do anything about it. Mrs. Peterson fell dead when she saw this happen. Her body shriveled up and people were distraught. The people who didn’t want to move stayed and fought for SugahVille to remain their town. They wanted to over throw Walter as mayor but, they didn’t have the physical will power. Walter turned SugahVille into a town of broken promises and sin. It was a place of gambling, sex, illegal alcohol, and much more corrupt and evil things.

Walter lied to David. He only had one popular song. A song about hell hounds coming to collect souls on the heels of men. David gave up everything and everyone he loved. He did things he swore he wouldn’t do, just to have his dream achieved. He now seen Walter as a liar and tricked him out of everything. Against his wishes, Walter forced David to have a drink of alcohol with him. Walter got David drunk and David went walking down a back road, when he started to feel funny. Unknowingly to David, Walter poisoned David’s alcohol. David staggered around before falling dead onto the dirt road. David’s spirit couldn’t be laid to rest until he found out who murdered him. He was in what the elder people of SugahVille called the in between. David’s spirit roamed all over before he found that Walter had murdered him and cheated him in their deal.

But it was to late when David found out. It was nothing he could do. He was damned. His, family, him, and the people of SugahVille. SugahVille was now a thriving town of sin under a big man made lake.

A man made lake was built not far from the crossroads that would effect many lives passing through what use to be SugahVille. Many people even after the year 1927, people like Denise Marks, continued to be haunted and never found. Graves were dug up and people were killed for not giving up their land. SugahVille was buried deep at the very surface of the lake. And all the bright city lights that looked so pretty and appealing were actually lost souls waiting to trap a new soul that came across the lake. It was the lake of death. Spirits roamed the town that was buried at the bottom. Souls were haunted and never laid to rest. Because of David’s greed, which he lied and told himself was selflessness. He turned a town of love and laughter, into a damned city of lost souls. It was nothing anyone could do in SugahVille. Meanwhile, Hunee and Walter’s damned and lost souls of their own, roamed to the next town for the immoral years that came, searching for their next victims.

Away from the haunted lake and crossroads, there was a special news report. News of a missing young woman named Denise Marks was lost and reported missing. Alicia was scared and searched desperately for Denise. She had made up her mind, she would trace every last step she knew Denise made from message updates. But Alicia had no idea her best friend was dead and her spirit was roaming a haunted dead ghost town, located in a damned lake. The lost young woman in David’s store who didn’t know the time or place was Denise Marks. But Denise had all the time in the world to start getting acquainted with all the spirits of the infamously damned SugahVille and the lake of the cursed.