by Kimberly Mercado
LIORA, 20s, is a multi-racial young woman with a soothing southern drawl that evokes innocence.
LIORA sits in a chair on a bare stage.
That night child Jamal kept goin’ on an on about who knows what. I just made sure I looked like I’s listening real good. Frowning real hard like I’s thinkin’ with him. Except, I had a real hard time with that. I didn’t tell ‘im that or nothin’. But what’d he expect? We were in the middle of something else, you know gettin’ it on, and I’ve never been any good at doing more than one thing at once. Besides Jamal wuz never much for talkin’, especially when he’s in the middle of… um…
(Embarrassed) …Grindin’ and poundin’ like boys do. But that night child he kept goin’ on and on while he’s on top of me looking straight at me and what he said… Wait — I wanna make sure I get it right… “Liora, e-ve-ry human… person –” Yeah that’s what he said, “human person… when their life’s gone to crap realize suicide’s right there for one’s taking. Most try to shake their heads straight cause it’s a sin to go against God’s law but then for others, its God calling on ‘em.” And then as he come inside of me, Jamal shouted to the heavens above.
(Imitating Jamal, she shouts) “As God is my witness, I’m no coward.” I couldn’t keep my eyes off him even if I wanted to. Jamal’s hands found themselves around my neck. Grunting like a bull in heat. His dark eyes stared down at me while his sweat kept dripping on my forehead and his hands got tighter and tighter around my neck.
Jamal didn’t know what he’d done till after… he’d ejaculated. It wuz when he stopped shaking from head to toe that he looked down, saw I’s turning into a ghost with my eyes about to pop out. Jamal never felt so bad in his life. He collapsed on top of me and just started… weeping. I’d never seen Jamal like this. Calling out to God like that…
Watching him cry, I could see his shame and he didn’t like that one bit. He back handed me and said, “Who don’t think at one point or another about killin’ themselves?” Never crossed my mind.
(For a beat, she’s lost in thought, then…)
Jamal was good to me. Really. I’ve been with both nice and not so nice boyfriends. He’s one of the nice ones. He’d come and go as he pleased which most girls hate but for me it was a real good thing. When he wuz gone I’d have the bed all to myself and of course, Fat Cat. He weighed at least 15 pounds when I found him strolling across the highway with cars driving 70 miles an hour. I almost ran over him and two other cars almost ran over me. Fat Cat is one lucky bastard — does whatever he wants and nothing ever happens to him. He’ll lie in bed, belly up, making little sleeping sounds. And whenever I can, I’ll lie next to him, stare at the ceiling and let the inside of my head go completely blank. Thinking of nothing is one of my favorite things to do, ain’t it?
Free from question marks and exclamation points. Only ellipses… As easily as a thought comes in, it trails out.
I got an A in grammar. Don’t look at me like that? You think I’m some dumb girl. A slut. An open door for Jamal or any other guy to come in and out of my life and do whatever they want. Honey, you got it all wrong. The thing is I just fall in love a lot and just the same, I fall out of love. I’m no slut and I’m no cheater, either. I got that extra sense that knows when it’s time for me to pack up and go. And I don’t judge when a man does the same. It’s like what Jesus says, “Do it the way you like it done to you…” or “Do onto you what others do…” something like that. That’s why I don’t keep pictures. It hurts less. After a while you forget what they look like. Then you forget their name and finally you forget they were even in your life. They’re in a box you donated to the Salvation Army. It don’t mean they weren’t important. It just means there’s a bigger prize ahead of you.
It was just about a month after Jamal left me without saying goodbye that I’s flipping the channels when I saw him in the news. His face looked right at me, his picture filled up the screen. It was from his driver’s license. I remember I’d made fun of his picture. Told ‘im he looked like a mug shot. Then on the TV it showed Jamal cuffed, like some Hollywood star, he kept covering his face as they rushed him into a police car.
But he was no Hollywood star. They said he was a terrorist. Jamal, a terrorist?
Then the FBI paid me a visit. Saw I didn’t own much stuff. They accused me of a whole bunch of things. They said things like “covert operation” and “sleeper cells.” I’d heard of those words but understanding what they meant, was a whole nother thing. Agent McNeill said I had to be involved. Why else would I’d been with an Arab?
And here I am now. In a jail cell at the women’s penitentiary. Waiting for some lawyer I’ve never met. I’s in solitary confinement for 30 days. They told little ol’ me, Liora James, a janitor working at a mall in Jacksonville, Florida, wuz a terrorist. That I am a terrorist and that I’m dangerous. Thirty days is a long time being all by yourself. So when they said, you, a woman journalist wanted to talk to me… I thought why not.
Jamal was right. Everyone thinks about killing themselves at one point or another. And I figured out when it happens — when you start thinkin’ like you got somethin’ to say yet nobody’ll listen. Finding yourself trapped in someone else’s story where they decide what’s gonna come of you. So you start thinkin’ and thinkin’ and everything that pops in your head somehow finds it’s way back to one idea — one solution.
Being a victim gets old after a while so what’s left?
Just cause I’m thinkin’ about suicide it don’t mean I’m ever gonna act on it. Right?
Fat Cat’s waiting for me. And when I get out, I plan to lay in bed with him. He’ll be belly up, making little sleeping sounds while I stare out at nothing. The inside of my head completely blank.
copyright © 2011 Kimberly Mercado. All rights reserved. _________________________________________________
Kimberly Mercado has written for television, film and the stage. Most recently she wrote for A&E television show Breakout Kings. Now based in Los Angeles, she was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is a graduate of New York University’s MFA writing programme.