I think if I’d be seen by Mister Fredricks right now, I’d receive 29 lashes. Any slave caught with any sort of weapon would be strung up and whipped in front of the entire plantation. According to him, the current and updated Slave code is more humane than how it was when slavery was first in the U.S because it didn’t call for as many lashes. Back then I’d receive 40, but 29 was a nice number. The most I ever received in one sitting was 20. I called the police pigs in front of Mister Fredricks face. He and the 4 other police officers at the table didn’t like that much. They did enjoy watching my nude, adolescent body shedding more blood than a slaughter house. I wasn’t mad though, I knew what I said, and I meant it.
Right now, I’m on my way to work. My 12-guage is strapped tightly to my back as I climb through a small tunnel that will lead me to a card game. I’m being paid to kill 3 men that owe one of my clients a lot of money. Hopefully the moneys on the table, I could use a mango afterwards. About one hundred feet until, bingo. I find the ladder up to the small club. I crack the door to see what the scene looks like outside. Two large guards, no one else? I climb through the hole at the top of the stairs that leads me to a hallway where I see the guards. A kitchen to my right, I grab a tray with two glasses on it and make my way toward the men. Yes, I’m poisoning them. As they take my gesture, and fall face forward, I take a deep breath and go for the handle. It smells like cabbage. As I enter, a stranger, I black out. Coming back to my conscience, I grab what looks like a shit ton of jewelry and couple thousand dollars and head for the door. Leaving the bar, it doesn’t look like anyone was phased or disturbed. Working as a hitman in this city was easier than being a girl scout.
This used to be Miami, Florida. Now it was the place without a name. The whole country was a nameless place after the uprising. Each part of what used to be America returned to its old roots. Slavery was back in the south, the west was a post-apocalyptic desert, the northeast took up old Amish traditions, and everywhere else was just everywhere else. It’s been 25 years since. I’m 19ish, I made it here when I was around 16. I burned down my plantation and freed everyone on it. I lost my family in the run away. They went west, I went south unknowingly. When you leave a terrible place, you only look forward.
I walk toward the white building, a door being opened by a man in a white tank top. Walking up the stairs of the building I hear screaming and loud music. Turning to my left, I see a small boy in a white suit playing with a puppy. He points the opposite way and I’m turned into a narrow hallway. I hate coming here during the afternoon because that little boy looks like an angel. He's always here and I can't tell if he's real or just one of my demons enabling my vice. I knock on a door with the number 59 on it. A man in a ski mask answers. The room is pitch black with one sofa and a fire place. There is a woman in a throne like chair turned toward the fire place, her name is Lady Charmian. There is a younger looking girl who she is on all fours. She’s resting her feet upon her back, it must almost be the weekend. Her back still turned to me, I say lowly "It smelled like cabbage in that place"
Lady Charmian sinisterly smiles turning toward me "So you went a little crazy?"
This wasn’t the first time this has happened "I went a little crazy" I respond.
I pull out a bag of bloody jewelry and the money and hand it to Lady Charmian. She removes her feet from the girls back and stands. We walk over to a small table in the corner of the room that is illuminated when she stands up. She places the items on the table and faces me.
" You can have this money to do what you please on my behalf, other than that, I have something that might stain your dress a bit" Lady Charmian says to me.
"It's a stolen piece, no sweat off my back. I'd like to see what you have"
She reaches under the table and hands me a large envelope. I look up to the her and she gives me a nod.
I tell her confidently "I think I'm going further this time, northwest for my own good. Do you know anyone who could use me?"
She pauses for a second, then tells me "I know two men with eyes of serpents. They are twins but they work separately. You can tell them your business with me and if they question I have no problem vouching. Are you sure you're ready for what may be ahead when you've been here years now?"
She knows that I’m hesitant, but she’s right. I’ve yet to go back north where the demons await. I give her an honest answer " Thank you and yes. At this point I'm willing to die trying. I think I could suffice for a bit before finding work."
I felt doubt on her face but her words said other, “I don't doubt your ability. Down the stairs there is a garage."
She signaled the guard and he handed her a copper key with a crown on the top
Lady Charmian continued to me "Well wishes for you and whatever you're in search of. Be careful of the hunters to the north of here. It is desolate and wide open. Do what you do best."
She hands the key to me and nods her goodbye as the guard opens the door back to the hallway.
As I walked down the hallway I was just in, the little boy and the dog are gone. Down the stairs and in front of the building, I find the garage where a dune buggy with large wheels is parked. I opened the back compartment and see gasoline, and two large assault rifles in a long duffle bag. My excitement brings me into the vehicle and starts the buggy. A loud roar comes from within. Before I take off, I notice a Santeria proverb Lady Charmian used to always say to me, “El hombre desaprueba lo que no puede realizar”. She told me to remember it in hopes of finally finding my true happiness. I back out of the garage and head down the beach front road. My new adventure started now.
You know what’s confusing? The way that I became the way that I am wasn’t through some rebellion. It was me fighting for my life and trying to use common sense in a world where that has no jurisdiction. My mind often wonders what would have happened if I didn’t burn down that awful place. I think of them every day, laughing, tormenting, beating the shit out of me and the others. I used to feel like some sort of bad karma was to come but I’m starting not to feel so bad. I think about that day all the time.
A large plantation is shown filled with hundreds of guests. They are all white and wearing all white. On the farm grounds was me and momma, daddy and Sterling, my brother staring at the large house. A handful of white men with confederate tattoos drunkenly stumble to the slave grounds and find themselves in front of me and my family
white guy 1: Now this is living. A whole farm full of n*ggers who thought they got out of this a couple hundred years ago.
white guy 2: Jokes on you. I guess natural selection was right the first time
white guy 3: or should I say white the first time
(still to this day, that’s the worst joke I’ve ever heard. The first white guy walked over to me)
white guy 1: yes, yes, who do we have here? you got a name girl, gon’ and speak it
I quietly answered “Patience”
white guy 3: what’d she say?
white guy 1: now who picks such a self-righteous name like that? see that’s how y’all ended up here. thought you’d get creative with all those liberals and look where it got you.
(He grabbed me by the back of the head and brought me closer to his face. I felt my face remain calm, this was nothing new to new. The man smelt like alcohol and cabbage)
white guy 1: you real pretty Patience. do you know what pretty is?
(I remained quiet as I stared into the man’s eyes deeply. One of the other white men went over to my mother and grabbed her by the throat. I saw father go to fight back but he was quickly beaten down by 3 other white males. My brother and other men try to help when they were faced with guns by the men. There is a whistle heard from behind. It was him, Mister Fredricks.)
Fredricks: Y’all havin fun? There’s a whole party inside.
white guy 1: well I was just admiring your pretty possessions. this one seems real special
Fredricks: Patience is a real special one. Bring her up if you’d like
I knew then and there that every last abuse would be worth it for this very moment.
The white man gave me a very lustful but malicious glance. I’ll admit it, as hard as I tried to fight it, I couldn’t help but cower as I got dragged closer to the house. I knew my family behind me was watching intently, fear also striking them. Fredricks pointed to an outhouse. I remember quickly being thrown on top of a counter and fondled uncomfortably. The outhouse was filled with gasoline canisters. As I was mounted by this man he breathlessly spoke to me
white guy 1: well looks like I got me a crowbaby of my own
I black out a lot of what happened after. One second, I was covered in gasoline standing in front of the house. the large house set ablaze surrounded by the slaves including P’s family, guests in peril as they scream. My last memory of that awful place was Fredricks staring directly into my eyes through a window as his house and everyone inside burn.
I’m no Harriet Tubman or anything but damn, I think I did pretty good for 13-year old slave girl.
When born into oppression, many try to figure out why. What could have been done in a past life to have had led to their current situation or what have you. Once you figure out that the world is evil you stop wondering “why you” but rather fight or flight. we chose fight. and now I’m alone.
As I drove up the empty road, I was faced with a large billboard, “Crow Territory” in large red letters. I figured I’d be close to Alabama by now. After escaping Louisiana, it was a culture shock to see what the outside world had turned into with my own eyes. Everyone heard and shared stories, but none of them came close to the real terrors.
I’m approaching a toll that requires me to provide different forms of identification. I have none. The dangers in this are that I could be arrested as a runaway, which is only half true. I look to the lefts and rights of the toll. I see armored cars, large dogs, and at least 25 white males. Looking a little bit closer, I see the separate entrances, one for whites and the other for negroes. I pull over to the side, not being able to tell if I’m in the view of the men at the toll. I look behind me to check the long duffle bag that was packed in the back seat. I find a few books, excessive amounts of ammunition and bingo a folder. Lady Charmian had supplied me with a vendor license that says I’m selling spices in Virginia, she really thought this through. I take a deep breath and drive back onto the road towards the toll. I pull up to the colored section and the car is approached by a large white man with a beard.
“Where you headed?” he asks sternly while I hand him the I.D. and vendor license.
“Virginia” I responded, my heart pounding. I try to stop myself from overthinking.
The man continues to look at my identifications. Slave codes ramble through my mind as I feel myself in danger.
“Why is there blood on my cotton? 10 lashes for all.” Fredricks announces from his horse.
The man stares at me and hands me my identification papers.
“You’ll wanna take the 10 to the 16, the signs are torn down, but that’s northeast toward Virginia.” he says looking at me.
“Thank you.” I say quietly as I grab the papers from him, I wonder where that man was during the uprising. He could’ve called me any name in the book, but instead stayed cordial.
I don’t think I’ve had this much time to think in a while. In old Miami, there was so much noise, I couldn’t help but think at a million miles a second. I continued down the lonely road that read Montgomery 50 miles north. I think of the burning down of this sad state after the uprising. I think of all of the horrible things black people faced in this sad state. I become sad. My father was born in Montgomery. He used to tell my brother and I all of the fights fought for us to walk down the street comfortably. He told stories of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcom X, Angela Davis. Although he was born way after them, he knew what they meant to all of us, or at least what they should mean to all of us.
The sky is dimming. I see the stars begin to show in the Alabama twilight. I think of nights like this before the uprising. We used to camp at my grandparents house. After eating, brother and I would go out on the roof and look at the sky. The area was secluded, with nothing but trees around. It would be a silent night, just us and our surroundings. When I think about life back on the plantation, I remember how I longed for those moments again.
I never thought I’d make it to my grandparents house again. I pulled on to the hundredth of thousands of dark Alabama roads, hidden by the poplar trees Billie Holiday sang about. You’d think after 13 or 14 years, I’d forget somewhere that looked so familiar to everywhere else. Even before capture, this was the most familiar place to me. As I pulled up to the driveway, I looked at the place I spent every summer and almost every holiday. My heart grew warm but heavy knowing that the loves of my life weren’t waiting for me inside. I locked the buggy and grabbed the duffle from inside. I was surprised to see that the house was still in the shape I saw it in last. I never thought I’d feel safe anywhere again after the uprising. Even after escaping, I always felt karma creeping closely behind. The struggle narrative of the African-American wasn’t a thing for every black person, but it definitely wasn’t a myth either. As I lifted the door mat and saw the key with the sunflower on it, my shoulders dropped in relief, these sacred grounds were really the same. I walked into the house and reached for the light next to the door. Darkness, nonetheless. I grabbed the flashlight from my bag and turned to my right. The candle opry from my great-aunt Josephine was still in tip-top shape. I chuckled to myself, remembering her and my grandma’s back and forth relationship. Typical sisters.
As I found and lit the other candles, memoirs of my life illuminated the rooms. I never put it into perspective that I may have never been able to see this place or any of these things again. I think about a lot of our history like that. Hearing about slavery and then going through it really fucks you up in the head. We’ve heard the nightmares, trauma, and lived through the after effects. It feels like I’m still enslaved in my thoughts with all of the things I remember like hours ago.
I make it upstairs to the room I remember so often. The faded pink walls and my American Girl Addy doll on the bed ignite an influx of feelings as tears roll down my tired cheeks. I lay down on the dusty twin bed as I exhale. Have you ever just needed to cry? I mean I cried plenty of times on the plantation, but those were reflexes. These tears feel like they’re long overdue. Like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Being here now, in this place so special, brought on a comfort I haven’t experienced in years. My shoulders relax as I finally realize that I may get more than 45 minutes of sleep. More tears fall as I realize that now it’s just me and my thoughts alone. This isn’t over. It had only just begun.