Jackie’s life has not been an easy one. Growing up in the projects on the west side of Chicago is hard, and her life has been harder than most. The decisions she made just to survive were brutal, but they only made her survival all the more difficult to bear.
Life turned Jackie into a crack-smoking predator who hunted her tricks down for money. Her life seemed destined for disaster, but she had no way of knowing that being sent to the state penitentiary would actually save her life.
Once in prison, she worked hard to turn her life around so she might have the hope of a better life on the outside. Now released, she finds everything could come tumbling down around her, thanks to a simple mistake. Frustrated and afraid, she makes another bad decision; she might well turn back into the person she was before her arrest. After all, inside, she had a job, a bed, and three solid meals. Outside, she has fifty bucks and no hope.
Now, the daughters she abandoned years ago may re-enter her lifenot something she wants to see realized. Can she overcome the mistakes of her pastor even avoid the mistakes of her present?
Jackie knows that some of the paths we walk down in life aren’t chosen.
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Something in the Past
By Tyeshia Clinton
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Tyeshia Clinton
All right reserved.
Chapter One3/16/1994 A New Beginning
When the Dwight Correctional Facility released Jackie they gave her fifty dollars and a greyhound bus ticket to Dayton, Ohio. That was all she had to her name. She had nothing to look forward to outside of the prison walls, and she was so scared to leave that she begged the warden to let her stay. She only got paid thirteen dollars a month for doing the job she was assigned to do while she was in Dwight, but she had a roof over her head, three guaranteed meals a day, and no access to crack or heroin. No one sent her any money during her twenty-one month incarceration, but Jackie had game so she knew how to talk the guards and the other inmates out of anything she felt she needed or wanted. Her room was so full of commissary that she was able to leave her cellmate with lots of it when it was time for her to leave the comfort of their cell. Life in jail was a lot easier for Jackie than her life out in the real world was going to be, but she had no choice but to leave. Her sentence was up and the penitentiary barely had enough room to house the inmates who had to be there, so the warden told her she had to go.
When Jackie got arrested she was a crack smoking, heroin snorting, clothes stealing, drug dealing, prostitute; but she had a roof over her head and a car. Her car got repossessed a week after she got arrested, and the house she shared with her mother and her five sisters got foreclosed seven months later. By the time Jackie got out the only people in Illinois who would help her were all on drugs, living in shelters, so they couldn't be any help to her. She would have to go to the halfway house on the Westside of Chicago if she got paroled there, and there was no way she would be able to stay clean on that side of town. If she started back getting high she knew she would be headed back to jail and she was tired of living like that. So she asked her maternal grandmother, Pam, if she could get paroled to her house in Miamisburg, Ohio.
Pam agreed to let Jackie move into her finished basement, but she told her that she wouldn't be allowed upstairs, she had to get into a Narcotics Anonymous program, she had to get a job, and she had to be out of her home in seven months. Pam was so serious about her conditions that she made Jackie sign a contract stating that she would move out before the seven months if she broke any of the rules. Pam wasn't trying to be cruel, but she moved from Chicago to Miamisburg to get away from her only child, Janice, and her lying, thieving, drug abusing children. She stopped them from visiting her when they first started stealing from her. They started breaking into her house and her car after her husband died, so she moved as far away from them as she could. She didn't know anyone in Ohio and that suited her just fine. She didn't want Jackie coming there, but she knew she wouldn't be able to live with herself if something drastic happened to her because she didn't give her a chance.
Jackie was terrified of all of Pam's conditions. She knew that it was going to be hard to get a job because she was a thirty-four year old, ex-felon, who'd never had a legitimate job in her life. She was ready to stop doing hard drugs, but she didn't think that she needed to join any NA program to stop. She had been to a lot of NA meetings and she felt like they were a waste of time. She'd never had her own apartment and she thought it was going to take much longer than seven months to save up for one, but she signed the contract in spite of her fears.
Jackie had an hour long wait for the Greyhound bus so she decided to buy herself a half pint of gin from the liquor store they passed on the way to the station. She knew that she needed to be frugal with her money, but her nerves were shot and she thought the alcohol would calm her down. She gave the two officers who dropped her off five minutes to get out of sight, then left out the station headed in the direction she saw the liquor store in. She was kind of paranoid so it only took her fifteen minutes to walk the two blocks, buy the gin, and walk back to the station. There was a small restaurant inside of the Greyhound Station and she got a big Styrofoam cup, and a lid and a straw for it from out of there. Then she went to the bathroom and poured all of the gin into the cup. The bus heading to Dayton was there by the time Jackie came out of the bathroom and she wanted to kick herself for not buying something to eat. She hadn't eaten anything since the night before and she knew that drinking on an empty stomach was going to have her super drunk; but that didn't stop her from drinking every last drop of the gin during her eight hour trip.
Pam was waiting for Jackie to arrive and she knew she was intoxicated as soon as Jackie stumbled off of the bus. "Jackie, you smell like a bar! Why would you get drunk as soon as you got released? This ain't gon work unless you're serious about changing your life," she said as she hugged Jackie with a look of disgust on her face.
"Granny, I'm just trying to celebrate my freedom. You said I couldn't do no drugs, you ain't say nothing about me having a little drink," Jackie slurred as Pam released her.
"Well you add no drinking to the list of rules I gave you. Is that brown bag all of the luggage you have? What are you wearing, and where is your coat? It's freezing out here!"
"It wasn't that cold earlier. Mama and nem ain't send me no clothes while I was in the joint, and the County sent the clothes I got locked up in to the house when I got shipped out to the penitentiary. My roommate tried to give me some of her clothes, but they were out of style and its bad luck to take anything from somebody with life out of the pen. The guards tried to give me one of them ugly state issued coats, but I told them I was cool. If you think these blue polyester pants, and this white buttoned down shirt look bad you should have seen how I looked with the coat on. This bag got my toiletries, panties, bras, and socks in it. I'll buy me some more clothes when I get a job," said Jackie as they walked to Pam's car.
"Well, at least you bought your own toiletries because I don't like sharing those kinds of items. But you can't go job hunting in that crap. I guess we can go to the flee market and pick you up a few items in the morning. You look real good with that weight on you and yo skin glowing like it is Jackie. Yo hair grew good too. I hope and pray that you truly are ready to change your life, because the path you were heading down before you went to jail only leads to hell," said Pam as they got into her car.
"I know Granny. Thanks for giving me a chance, I'm gon make you proud of me watch," Jackie replied with a huge lopsided smile on her face. Pam's compliments boosted her self esteem. She was 5'7" and barely weighed one hundred pounds before she went to jail, now she weighed a healthy one hundred and fifty and she thought she was thick. She never had bad skin, but it darkened while she was getting high. It went back to the color of butter while she was in jail. The dimples in her cheeks had sunk in when she lost weight, but they looked perfect in her full cheeks. Her teeth weren't perfect, but they were all hers and she had a real pretty smile. She hated the dirty red color of her long, curly hair but she was happy that her ponytail now reached the middle of her back. She didn't arch her eyebrows while she was in jail, but they had a natural arch to them that complimented her Chinese shaped gray eyes. A lot of the women and guards tried to come on to her while she was in jail so she knew she looked good, but she had bigger things on her mind besides her looks at the time.
"I eat dinner everyday at five so I already ate. I put you a plate in the microwave, you can eat after you clean yo self up," said Pam as she pulled into her driveway and they got out of the car.
"Good cause I'm starving! I ain't ate all day."
"You should have bought you something to eat instead of wasting yo money on them spirits! Take yo shoes off when we get in here. This will be the first and last time you'll be entering this house through this door. There's a door that leads to the basement that you can use. I'm not about to be feeding you for long either. I don't like the way you starting out and you ain't gon be here long if you don't do much better than this," said Pam as she let them in, cut on the light, sat down on her couch, and took off her shoes.
"Ok Granny, I understand. Do you have anything for a headache? My head is pounding," said Jackie with a look of defeat on her face. She could see how things were going to be living with her grandmother already. She wished she hadn't drunk that gin as soon as she got off the bus and saw her grandmother's face, and the way she felt confirmed that feeling.
"Now yo head hurt. Jackie you gon have to make some changes quick, fast, and in a hurry or you gon find yo self in the halfway house they got right here in Ohio! I know they got one because they got criminals everywhere! Tomorrow is Thursday so there's all kinds of business you can handle! I want you up by eight," said Pam as she slipped on her slippers, stood up, and walked to her bedroom.
"Ok, Granny," Jackie yelled as she sat on the couch, put her bag on it, and took off her shoes. "Yo house is real nice; you always did keep a pretty house. My feet sinking in this carpet," she said when Pam walked back into the living room. Pam loved decorating and her house was beautiful and immaculate.
"Thanks. I want it to stay nice, that's why I asked your parole officer to drug test you weekly instead of monthly and he agreed. You going to jail if you fail one, cause I told him that you ain't allowed back in my house with drugs in yo system. I felt bad about doing that at first, but I'm glad I let the Lord order my steps on that move now," Pam said as she looked Jackie in her eyes and handed her a gown, housecoat, washcloth, and a dry towel. "There's a new toothbrush and a bottle of aspirins in one of them pockets on that house coat. Gon head and take you a couple after you clean yo self up. You look like you need them. Come on so I can show where the bathroom is."
Jackie didn't know how to respond to that, so she didn't. She knew that Pam didn't want her there, but she didn't think she would be as hard on her as she was being. She started to feel sorry for herself until she remembered what they said in the self sufficiency class she had to take prior to her release. The class was designed to get inmates ready to live back into society, and one of the things the teacher stressed was that they had to take responsibility for their past, present, and future actions. Jackie knew how her grandmother felt about her living with her before she got there, so she should have been prepared for the treatment she was receiving. She decided to follow her rules, avoid her as much as she could, and to try to get up out of there as soon as possible. She started to feel real lonely and sad until her alter-ego Toni showed up to take over. "Don't worry Jackie, I got her old ass. You gon head and chill," she said to Jackie in Jackie's mind as her eyes changed from gray to green and she followed Pam with the brown bag in her hand. People always thought Jackie she was quiet because she held most of the conversations she had with herself in her own mind.
"Toni, don't get us kicked out. You know she all we got," Jackie silently said to Toni. She had to warn her because Pam was her last resort and Toni was very aggressive.
"I'm not; I know how to handle people like her. I just peeped how tired you is. If you don't want my help I'll bounce like I did while you was in Dwight," Toni confidently replied. She knew that Jackie was going to let her take over the situation because Jackie thought that she was smarter and stronger than her.
"It's cool. I'm glad you came back because I'm real tired and I don't feel like being bothered with Pam. She being real mean," Jackie replied before she went as deep into herself as she could and let Toni take completely over.
Pam went into her room after showing Toni where the bathroom was. The first thing Toni did after she closed the door was fill the cup that was on the sink up with water and took four aspirins. Then she took her bar of soap, deodorant, lotion, toothpaste, hair grease, and her comb and brush out of her bag. Jackie felt petty for taking all of her new personals with her when she got released, but Toni was glad that she did after seeing how petty Pam was being. She brushed her teeth, took a shower, washed her hair while she was in the shower, dried off, and lotioned up when she got out. She dried her hair, parted it down the middle, greased the part and edges and put it in two French braids. Then she put on the gown and housecoat, sat her personal items neatly around the sink, put her dirty clothes in the hamper, and left out the bathroom.
Pam came out of her room as soon as she heard Toni come out of the bathroom. "Come on I'll show you to the kitchen. I already warmed yo food up. Its way past my bedtime so you need to hurry up so I can lock the door that leads to the basement. I put an alarm clock down there and set it for nine, I expect you to get up as soon as it goes off. I want you to get up at eight after tomorrow. The only reason I ain't getting you up at eight tomorrow morning is because the stores ain't gon be open that early; and I ain't bout to be walking around with you looking like that. Yo sister, Angel, sent you a package last week; I put it on the let out bed down there. I was kind enough to pull it out and put some clean linen on it for you. I want it and the linen I put on it folded up every morning after you get up. You can sit the linen on the couch after you fold the bed back up in it. I want you up and out of my house by nine every weekday morning and I don't want to hear you coming back in here until after five in the evening. The latest you can re-enter my home is seven because that's my bedtime and I like my whole house to be locked up when I go to sleep," she said as she led Toni into the kitchen and got her plate of fried chicken, sweet potatoes, greens, and macaroni out of the microwave.
"I got you Granny. That food looks and smells delicious. I ain't had none of yo cooking in years," said Toni as she sat down at the table and started eating the food Pam placed in front of her.
"It has been years since I cooked for any of my grandkids. You look just like you used to look when you was little with your hair like that. That's the Jackie I miss and love, I wish she would come back. You was such a beautiful and sweet child with the most mysterious, enchanting eyes. It was always puzzling to me the way they changed colors so fast. They were that beautiful transparent gray color before you took your shower, now they're green with that mischievous twinkle in them. The only thing you can thank me for is that hourglass figure you got from yo mama. The rest of your looks came from yo daddy. But enough traveling down memory lane, we got to deal with the here and now. I love you, but I will put you out if you don't abide by my rules," said Pam as she sat across the table from Toni and watched her eat. Pam was a petite seventy-seven year old, dark skinned woman who looked like Cicely Tyson.
I can't stand this old ass bitch, thought Toni but she held her tongue and ignored the insults. "I'm gon follow yo rules. You said be up by nine, right?" she asked as she took one of the burgundy cloth napkins out of the napkin holder, wiped her mouth with it, and stood up.
Excerpted from Something in the Past by Tyeshia Clinton Copyright © 2011 by Tyeshia Clinton. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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