Sometimes memories are not completely clear. They exist in a gauzy, nebulous cloud that grows in density and expands in size with the debris of new information and experiences. Some memories simply do not hold enough poignant mass to not splinter and break apart until they are forgotten or dissolve into the white noise our lives exist against. However, others burn brightly through the haze, giving off a brilliant light fueled by the intense emotions experienced during that occurrence.
There was a long time of great turbulence and conflict for my family and me when we lived on 79th and Hillside in East Oakland. There seemed to be an air of hostility that saturated the environment. Even when we were not directly involved in the violence, someone we knew was, and if not them, then those who lived around us.
Constant fist fights, beatings, stabbings and shootings felt so common place that as a child that is what “normal” was for me. Looking back I frequently feel bad for my older siblings because they had to constantly wade through turmoil on nearly a daily basis. However, I realize tears for the past are wasted.
My two brothers found themselves running afoul of one particular group of local troublemakers who were used to bullying the surrounding neighborhoods. So, when they attempted to do the same to my second-oldest brothers, the would-be aggressor found himself on the end of sweet chin music, promptly followed by a stomping-good sonata, that left him embarrassed and indignant.
Of course this led to him gathering his side. Such resulted in my brothers having to do the same. A string of violent encounters eventually accumulated to the very brazen act of our home being on the receiving end of numerous rounds one night. We were forced to dive to the floor as bullets tore their way through the plaster of our walls, and shattered more than one window. No one was hurt. But as if to truly bring home just how terrible the entire event was, we later found a bullet hole directly through my youngest sister’s crib.
A line had been crossed that night. Up until that point the incidents were numerous skirmishes fought with fists. Now, like almost every conflict ever fought by us hairless, psychotic primates on this planet, it was just going to escalate further.
Perhaps they felt embolden by the earlier strike. Three young men from the opposing side confronted my second-oldest brother one early evening as he stood on the corner outside our home. It was only him and I at the time. I recall it was the sort of overcast day that makes the entire sky one shade of gray.
As they argued and threatened one another, I recall being frightened the three would attack him at once. I was 12 at most and I was no fighter. Not in the sense that I had not been taught how to take care of myself but in the sense that I just did not like fighting. But in my fear I grabbed a metal bat and watched from the front porch. I was uncertain to what I could do but despite the panic I felt, I knew I would have to try to do something if they started fighting.
The arguing only grew more volatile. An intense garble of sharp, loud words coming out as dares, threats and swears. Both young men inched closer as if they were waiting for some sign of fear or weakness but my brother stood his ground. I have no doubt if he backed down, if even a little, such would have emboldened them, and all three would have been on him before you could say “emergency room”.
Just when it was at its worst. Just when I knew things were about to get extremely ugly, I heard the familiar sounds of a swiftly approaching engine. It was my older cousin’s Cutlass. It was a modified, sleek and aggressive vehicle that announced itself a block away with the constantly growling engine.
Apparently he was coming for a visit but caught sight of what was transpiring, causing him to floor-it from down the street. The sight of his car filled me with such a sense of relief. I knew without a doubt he would help. Close to the house my cousin recklessly drove up onto the sidewalk, slammed on his breaks, and jumped out of the car.
“What the fuck is going on here?” He demanded angrily as he walked from around the vehicle.
“Fuck you, nigga. Nobody is scared of you.” The lead instigator, a tall skinny kid, announced boldly as he stepped ahead of his two friends. “You can have some too if you want it.”
“Is that right?” My cousin suddenly produced a handgun. After so much shooting it would seem he was taking no chances. One of the young men instantly took his chances bolting, leaving his two friends to whatever fate was about to lay upon them.
“I don’t have anything! I don’t have anything!” The instigator yelled fearfully with his hands at his sides.
“That’s your stupid ass fault!” My cousin strode past my brother as he switched his aim between both young men. “You thought you would come over here and just beat the shit out of my cousin with two of your boys?”
“No-- come on. I told you-- I told you I’m not carrying!” The instigator replied as he took a step back.
“Get the fuck out of here before I give you what he’s about to get!” My cousin smacked the second guy across the head with his weapon so hard he stumbled right holding his jaw with a cry of pain. He instantly followed orders and fled.
“Come on, man-- fuck. It doesn’t have to go down like this.” The instigator half pleaded and reasoned. “I will go--”
“Did I ask you a fucking question?” My cousin suddenly pressed the gun to the side of his head as he partially turned away.
There are levels of fear. The horror film “jump scare”. The sudden appearance of a large spider on one’s lap. The strong possibility of failing an essential task. Waiting for the results of a test concerning an unplanned pregnancy. The threat of losing a job. I have witnessed or experienced these and many other fears life has to throw at us struggling mortals. However, all of the above, and most other fears, all pale in comparison to the vast shadow cast by the towering horror that comes from the sudden realization one is about to die. It is one thing to understand the inevitable expiration date of mortality, opposed to abruptly seeing death swooping in.
I can still clearly recall the way the instigator lowered his head, and slouched his shoulders. The expression on his face was at once defeated, petrified and almost ill. This young man believed he was about to die quite violently.
In his growing desperation the instigator attempted to begin slowly slinking away. My cousin was having none of that. As if to firmly reiterate his point he pressed the gun more firmly against the young man’s skull, causing him to first flinch and then immediately freeze.
“Funny, now you suddenly don’t have shit to say?” My cousin demanded.
“I’m sorry!” The instigator mumbled submissively with his eyes closed.
“Fuck your sorry.” My cousin stated and pressed the gun against his head once more, and for a moment it seemed his legs would give out as he partially ducked down.
“It’s cool! I’m leaving!” The instigator pleaded.
“Why shouldn’t I just blast you right now?” My cousin swiftly inquired. “Why the fuck shouldn’t I just blow your head off right here?”
“Don’t.” The instigator whimpered. “Don’t. I’ll go. I’ll leave. Just-- fuck-- don’t.”
“And let you come back later?” My cousin replied with what appeared to be some serious consideration. “No. You will just come back later with some of your people to hurt my family. It would be fuckin stupid to let you leave. I’m getting rid of you right now.”
“I won’t! I won’t!” The instigator pleaded more loudly and raised both arms in surrender. He attempted to take another step away. “I swear! Don’t. Don’t. I won’t ever come back!”
“Shut fuck up!” My cousin smacked him across the head with his gun causing the young man to slouch further with a groan of pain. “If ever see you again, anywhere, I don’t give shit where,” He angrily pushed the gun against the back of his skull once more. “I’ll blast you. Do you hear me? If I ever catch you again I won't hesitate to blow your head off!”
“I won’t! I won’t! Just-- just don’t. I’ll leave.” The instigator desperately explained once more as he trembled more visibly.
“Good. Now get the fuck out of here.” My cousin ordered before letting him take a couple more steps, then kicking him in the ass, causing the young man to stumble forward. He took a few tentative steps as if he was in disbelief, or feared my cousin would change his mind. When it became clear he was truly free, he began hurrying away. I wonder what was going through his mind after having come so close to dying.
“I’m so sick of these muthafuckas.” My brother said angrily as he watched the instigator hurrying off.
“They’re just a bunch of goddamn cowards.” My cousin stated as he put his gun away. “Don’t start shit you can’t finish. If I was scandalous I could have killed him and his boys.”
“Yeah.” My brother admitted thoughtfully. “But it’s good you didn’t. Not because I give a damn about any of them, but because none of those assholes are worth that.”
“Yeah. I know.” My cousin laughed as he began calming down. “All this shit is so stupid.”
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s in East Oakland, I did not hear or know of much music outside of R&B, Rap, Motown, and Gospel. I knew other music existed. It was a genre called, “White Music”, and I heard very little if ever any. The most Rock I came close to was Run-DMC's and Aerosmith's “Walk this Way”.
For me the soundtrack of the late 80's to early 90's was composed of artists and groups like NWA, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B & Rakim, Prince, MC Lyte, Too Short, Slick Rick, Das EFX, TLC, EPMD, Kid n Play, Heavy D, Keith Sweat, Jodeci, En Vogue, and Boys 2 Men.
This is not to claim I lived in a complete genre-depervation tank of some sort. Sometimes, while flipping through the channels with my older siblings, we would occasionally pause at MTV (when Yo MTV Raps were not playing) or VH1. Back then those rock, alternative and grunge performers/bands all seemed all at once curious and alien. It was much like catching glimpses into an entirely different world that seemed so far, far away from my own.
There are three rock videos I still remember having a really vivid impression on me the first time I saw them by coincidence. The first was, “You Could Be Mine” by Gun & Roses, had clips of the Terminator 2 film in it. I recall thinking it was pretty cool and humorous that the Terminator actually encountered the band at the end of the concert just as they were leaving the stadium.
The second was “Creep” by Stone Temple Pilots. My second-oldest brother and I sitting on the couch one afternoon. Somehow we caught the song as it was beginning and decided not to change the channel. I recall feeling it sounded like an extremely sad song. When we heard the line, “Everybody run! Bobby's got a gun”, my brother started laughing as he said, “Yeah. That's a damned good reason to start running.”
The third that left the most lasting, and powerful impression was “Sober” by Tool. I was 12 or 13, sitting on the floor in the living room with both my older brothers. They were waiting for “Yo MTV Raps” to begin, so they begrudgingly left the channel there because it was about 10 minutes to go. The video, with its bizarre, stop animation, and dark, seething music began, instantly catching our attention.
“What in hell is this?” My oldest brother inquired curiously.
“I don't know.” The second-oldest replied. “But it looks pretty fuckin crazy.”
I remember instantly being both fascinated and puzzled by “Sober”. I loved the imagery, that raw sound, and just the power it seemed to have. I use to draw monsters all the time so the actual video ignited my imagination to no end. I wanted to know who the faceless man was, what sort of world he lived in, why was there flesh moving through a pipe in the wall, and perhaps most of all, what the hell was in that box he kept peaking into? I occasionally checked MTV from time to time in hopes of seeing that video again, but I would not see such again until years later.
Once, while walking home from my 5th grade class, I came across CD lying on the sidewalk. Cassettes were still mostly my realm of experiences back then, so finding a random CD was strange in itself. So, I picked it up, of course, and if I recall correctly, it read “Whitesnake”. What a strange name. Was there a rapper or R&B group named “Whitesnake”?
I was so puzzled by the title and CD, that I brought it home to my second-oldest brother with all the urgency of an archeologist accidentally discovering alien technology. I found him in his bedroom, and handed the album to him while explaining where I found it.
“I think its rock...or metal...or some shit.” He said while casually looking it over. “Want to see what's on it?” He asked with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation.
I eagerly agreed as he placed the CD on the tray, and then pushed play. Almost immediately such a terrible, unfamiliar noise came from those speakers. To this day I am not completely certain if the CD was perhaps scratched, or if that particular band was just that horrible. Either way we threw it in the trash.
Friday, February 28, 2014
When people die, those around them usually and sometimes perhaps unintentionally, raise their immortal memory to the status of a saint through veneration and praise. I will not do that with Ray. But this is not out of maliciousness or criticism. No, to pretend he was perfect would detract from the man like attempting to paint a portrait of intricate light and shadows with only one color.
Ray was not a saint. Not even by a long shot. He was a troubled soul burdened by a sordid past. He frequently enjoyed hard liquor, loved gambling, vanity and money. But like many things in our world he was a dichotomy of conflicting attributes. He was also charitable, kind, quick to laugh, and a hard worker.
Despite a nature mired in the various hedonistic pleasures of the world, Ray was desperately in love with a woman that many would call a “godly woman” who was independent, compassionate and frequented church regularly.
Ray’s love was requited and it made him shine in the way true love has a way of doing. However, this possible relationship was hampered by two mistresses that kept them apart. Sisters known as partying and gambling. The faith of this woman forbade her from indulging in such so she refused to join him. It also warned her about as much associating with those who enjoyed such vices.
However, through it all, she could see Ray's good heart. So, like the inspiration for many love songs, poems and tragedies, she decided she would offer him a chance through waiting for his change. Right or wrong, Ray wanted to be with her, and vowed to transform his life. This would prove a herculean task for a soul who so enjoyed the caress of the night life.
It is the little things I remember most about him. Those miniscule details that somehow sum up the entirety of who he was. He was the type of guy who strummed his fingers along the steering wheel of his car while listening to old Motown performers from his youth like Teddy Pendergrass, James Brown, the O’Jays, and Marvin Gaye. It was as if those winds of nostalgia caught the bright sails of his soul and aided in helping him drift happily along from one destination to the next throughout his day to day life.
At the most random of times, Ray had this way of telling odd stories that left the listeners puzzled and asking, “Why on earth is he telling me this? And what does it have to do with what is happening right now?” Yet, at least they were always at once odd and funny.
Not all his stories invoked laugh or smiles. Ray was also a man haunted by sins and ghosts of the past. He was a soul scarred by the hardships of inner city life, and the horrors of the Vietnam War. On more tragic occasions these terrible ghosts howled through the corridors of his schizophrenic mind, feeling him with paranoid warnings of enemies from the past seeking to enter his present. On most occasions Ray was medicated, productive and happy. Then on rare falls he would sink into the chaotic madness threatening to take him. The very same kind that claimed the life of his sister.
A memory I still hold dear to this day happened when 15. Ray invited me to help him paint a carport he was being paid to repair. I doubt he needed the help as he could do those sort of jobs with his eyes closed. I think he just figured a teenage kid needed to keep money on him in order to meet the teenage girls. At least that is how he explained it.
After the job was completed he gave me nearly a hundred dollars, then offered to take a couple of friends and me to the mall when he overheard us talking about it. I can still recall how big, bright and crisp the sky was on that late autumn afternoon as we drove along with the windows down. There are some days that truly make it feel good to be alive. That was one of them for me.
All these years later I can still pick up the scent of his favorite cologne, “Night Flight”, if I am wading through a crowd, or instantly remember his favorite Motown songs if I catch them playing by chance.
I was told Ray passed away. It is said a heart-attack was the catalyst that lead to his exit from this world. I accept and understand he has died. Yet, on occasions, I like to think he is not dead. Death is too simple and bland for a guy like him.
No, Ray is in one of those fancy suits he loved so much, with his hair combed to perfection, and his shoes polished to a spite shine only those old military vets can accomplish. He is cruising along in his car down a moonlit highway towards some sort of celestial casino, Motown turned up on his speakers, and his fingers strumming the steering wheel. He heads off into the night with a smile and a prayer taught to him by that woman he loved, leaving behind all those ghosts that kept him away from her.
God speed, Ray
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
“Questo è quello corretto? Hai capito adesso?”
"Est-ce la langue que vous parlez?"
“Er dette bedre? Nei?”
“Genügt dieses? Kümmern Sie nie sich. Die Antwort ist ganz über Ihrem Gesicht.”
“Как насчет этой?”
Φαίνεται ότι είσαι ένας απ' τους λίγους που μπορούν να με ακούσουν. Όμως, ποια είναι η δική σου γλώσσα;"
Now do you understand me? Ah. From that glint of recognition in your eyes I can see this is the gibberish you are familiar with.
It has been such a long, long time since I have last attempted to communicate with one of you-- several generations now to be exact. While it is not difficult to learn it is vexing having to recall which supposed ‘language’ is understood or grunted by each so-called tribe of otherwise identical primates.
What am I? Trying to explain such in any of your languages-- if there was ever such a thing among your kind-- would be complicated, inarticulate and troublesome at best. I am just one of the many who watches from the outside. I can see even that mere notion makes you uncomfortable. Now, try not to concern yourself too much with our presence. Rest assured in the fact that your kind is in no way the perpetual purveyors of some sort of voyeuristic source of entertainment. Little happens in this ridiculously bright and simple little world that ever draws our interests.
No, we barely acknowledge your collective existence-- at least not until you die.
That light. The one that so much of your kind have mentioned time and time again after nearly tittering off that impossibly thin precipice between life and death. Do you know what that is? Of course you do not. Your race barely understands anything. But it is not your fault that you are so ignorant and blind. Your myopic view of existence is after all atavistic. A clever ape is still just an ape no matter how many pretty things it learns to tinker with.
But let us return to the topic.
That light is one of the “higher powers”-- for a lack of better ways of describing such to you-- offering a beacon and guidance towards your next destination. “Providence” some of you may say. What comes of each of you after that? I could care less and never felt inclined to inquiry any further.
But you know what? It is not a certainty. Sometimes, and far more frequently I might add with a seemingly inappropriate amount of glee, that light is occasionally absent when one of you expire. For whatever reasons, perhaps because of some number of offenses committed against your fellow apes, you are simply not deemed worthy. So, after breathing your last, you are left there in the inky shadow of the earth.
And so vulnerable.
But definitely not alone.
You see, that warm glow is far more than just a lantern to illuminate your path. It is also there to protect you. But protect you from what? Why from me of course. From all of us. That light signifies that your primate soul is to be allowed safe passage.
Without that signal we are waiting there to greet you. And greet you we shall. Once that flesh and bone vase cracks open, when it finally tips over to spill the soul keeping it from turning to fetid meat, all the rules are gone and the barriers between us no longer exist.
What happens next? That is what you are dreading to ask but your bestial nature lends itself readily to an instinctual curiosity. You do not want to know. You just need to know.
Do not fear. You are not condemned to some Hell. Not directly anyway. Without safe passages it simply means your precious, delicate, eternal soul is-- let’s say-- “up for grabs” and there are always a great number of “takers” waiting to stake such a claim.
Oh yes. It is exactly as it sounds.
While a majority of my siblings and I harbor no outright animosity against one another we all also want what we want. I could try and paint a far less grim and horrific scene with a choice of eloquent words or euphemisms but there is nothing poetic about what happens when that time finally does arrive. There are so, so many of us there in the dark-- but often only one of you. None us want to leave empty handed and sharing is never in the equation.
Unlike many of the others I relish that part almost as much as winning-- almost. You would not understand what there is to love about such an event. The thrill and excitement of it all is palpable. The way the silence stretches on despite so many of us gathering to glide, slither and skitter the outer edges in anticipation. Circling and waiting anxiously to see if that beacon will ignite. As those tense first moments build with nothing but that primate soul either sobbing in dejection or calling out blindly in confusion-- we all realize at once nothing will speak up for them.
Then comes that initial frenzy. The ensuing chaos that quickly becomes a vicious tug-of-war. The constant stealing that immediately goes back and forth with the many roars of indignations and disappointment resulting from having the prize snatched from their grasps.
Sometimes I enjoy being a part of the fray the moment it ensues. It is rapture to be there reminding the youngest among us of their place, pitting myself against my rivals, and occasionally tasting the immense pleasure of bruising the egos of one of the eldest. On other occasions I remain at the edges. Just patiently watching and waiting for that perfect moment to swoop in and snatch that soul away for myself.
Then what? You want to know what comes next once one of us emerge the victor, spiriting away your screaming, pleading, insubstantial essence. We all have our individual needs and desires you will play a most unfortunate role in. But why spoil the surprise? All you need to know is no matter which of us win your kind will lose.
Why would I tell you this?
Perhaps now you believe I have made some mistake by revealing myself. But what repercussions do I truly have to fear? You pose no real threat. None of your kind can inflict any harm upon me. I begrudgingly admit you apes are adept at destroying things but none of you are that good. Not yet at least.
No. That is not it. Now I see. You think knowledge is power. You believe by having divulged the truth of my existence something will change. Your faith in your kind is-- touching.
The beautiful truth is most of you cannot change. You apes suffer from inability to escape what you are. And there are so many of you who are already too far gone. It is much, much too late for that. Simply resign yourselves to the cold and inescapable truth. You have done nothing to earn the favor of protection.
Now, do not despair. Why waste what little time you have mired in sorrow? I suggest you enjoy your life now. Indulge in your every hedonistic whim no matter how callous, perverse or selfish they may seem. Because it is not a matter of “if” as much as “when” that shell finally gives out or is broken you will only have the memories of those better times to keep you warm-- at least when you are not screaming, and screaming in your head.
We have communicated enough. You should go now. Time is ticking away. There is so much pleasure to be had and taken.
Have a good life.
Who am I?
There is that question again. Not to worry. You will find that out soon enough. After all, I will be there waiting in the dark.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Sometimes there is terrible pain for no rhyme or reason. No vicious gods to blame. No bloody hands to curse. It is tragedy brought into fruition by a conspiracy of sheer chance. An unfortunate turn of events that may begin with nothing more than a single step off a curb, encountering an unassuming stranger, entering a certain building, or deciding to choose one exit over another. All made a formal invitation to the end by the incalculable odds of two wrongs made of time and place.
When death and misfortune darken our doorsteps, we want to ask and know “why?” Out of all the teeming billions, all over this world we are burning, why us? Why must it be one of the very few that we love so much? Perhaps there is no reason. Would it make any of us feel better if any reason was ever given? Could a definitive answer make it hurt less?
Sometimes our hearts are unjustly broken for nothing more than committing the crime of love, and at others we are the hooded executioners punishing those who dared fall for us. Brothers may betray you, friends can fail you, and you can even disappoint yourself. While drowning in the depths of that beautiful grief, when we are at our most isolated, and so desperate that it would seem a blessing to be any other person anywhere else but you, the answers we see reveals more about us then it does about the rest of the world.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Hello everyone. When I wrote "Nightmare's Paradise", I made a sort of profile for each character in hopes of making each organic beings caught within the story, opposed forced props made only to move the story forward. Perhaps you may find this useful for your own writing, or are just a reader who would like to know a bit more about one of the main characters. Either, please enjoy. Also, be aware this profile does have some SPOILER ALERT.
Thank you all for reading.
Soriya Ellis Heng
Occupation at time of Death: A “Cleaner” for several different criminal organizations, and finally a bodyguard for a Triad family.
Theme Song: Fever Ray, “If I had a Heart” or Roky Erickson, “Burn the Flames”
Likes: Pillar and Teacup candles, dragon’s blood and sandalwood incense, black lipstick and nail polish, old Motown songs, Creed Clearwater Revival, Kansas, black and white Noirs, most of Shakespeare’s tragedies and two of his comedies, The way light looks coming through an Aquarium, The smell of Pizza Parlors, Williams Defoe’s the Plague Years, A Black Cup of Coffee in the morning, Godzilla Films, Summer Evenings, The feel of new sheets, Children (Only watching them play from a distance), Dogs, 60’s and 70’s Rock, Shooting Ranges, Charity, Horror Books and Novels, Especially Zombie films.
Dislike: Romance films, Rap, Operas, Cats, Bars, Laziness, Impatience, Cowardice, Liars, Un-professionalism, Hesitation, Cops, Authority, Politicians, Pastors, Religious conversations, Birthday Parties, Licking Envelopes, Cultural traditions (She considers them the crutches of the weak, lost and those with identity problems), Black Liquorices, Those she consider idiots or fools, remakes of old movies, Surprises, New Car Smell, Pink (Both singer and color), Pop songs, Excuses, Liquor Stores, Oprah, Fox News, People that have conversations on their cell phones in public.
Personality: Ellis walks with her back straight, looks everyone in the eyes when speaking to them, gives an opinion even when it is not wanted, and could not give less of a damn what others think of her. There is a subtle swagger to her demeanor that is not immediately apparent through her air of cynical professionalism, but becomes more noticeable the longer an individual knows her.
Ellis is often condescending at best and antagonistic at worst. When dealing with new people she quickly, and often accurately, makes assessment based on her initial observations. She has a habit of rarely ever calling a majority of individuals by their first name. If she has a more favorable opinion she refers to them by their last name. When it is less favorable she normally uses derisive nicknames based off of some particular quality she finds especially disagreeable.
Violence begets violence. After having learned so many poisonous lessons as a child and young adult, Ellis is not above physical violence as a form of communication when she feels it will get her point across. Her mannerism is callous, unapologetic, guarded and suspicious. She rarely get-along with other women, and most friends, or associates throughout her life have been men.
Cunning, extremely observant, and naturally suspicious, Ellis is a difficult individual to deceive or lie to. While she smiles frequently it is a humorless sort of expression that rarely reaches her hard dark eyes. Such accompanies her gallows’ humor, and the wry attitude of a woman that fearlessly realize she will one day in a gunfight.
History: On a night where the rains fell in torrents, Barbara Heng went into labor in the back seat of a taxi during a frantic ride towards the local hospital. The Driver, Ellis Mackey, helped the young, distraught mother-to-be in delivering the child. Out of sheer gratitude Barbara named her daughter, Soriya Ellis Heng.
Ellis never knew who her father was, and if her mother had any sort of family she never discussed or mentioned them. Matters were further complicated by Barbara’s undiagnosed Bi-Polar disorder and near fanaticism concerning her catholic faith. Some of Ellis’ earliest memories are of her mother waking her in the middle of the night during some of her more depressive episodes, and having the young girl pray with her for hours at a time in hopes of saving her daughter’s soul.
Barbara naturally became a fixture down at the local parish and as a result Ellis spent nearly 7 days a week there with her mother. While Barbara was considered a very attractive woman, she was also noticeably distant, stoic, and perhaps what some would describe as “frigid”. This did not keep many of the men, including many husbands, from occasionally stealing less than innocent glances at her.
Ellis did not play with the other children much. She instead chose to play make-believe on her own. One of favorite fantasies was pretending she was a spy on secret missions to learn enemy plans. The young girl would sneak around church, eavesdropping on the various adult conversations without ever being discovered. Sometimes she overheard some of the women speaking nastily about her mother out of jealousy of having caught their husband’s lustful gazes.
On a regular basis Ellis watched these women smile in her mother’s face, compliment her, embrace her as a friend, but then stab her in the back. This taught her from a very young age to be suspicious and trust no one.
Life outside of church and home was also very difficult for Ellis. Her mother was fortunate enough to find a two bedroom apartment in a quiet, prosperous Japanese-American community, but this also had its drawbacks. Many people in their neighborhood looked down on the Cambodian mother and child. Imitating the racist attitudes of their parents, a large group of children constantly picked on Ellis at school, calling her racist names, telling her she was dirty, and ate dogs for dinner.
In the 6th grade Ellis could take no more of the constant torment, and her bottled-up anger led to the first of many fist fights. Even when her tormentors outnumbered, or were bigger than herself, she no longer held her anger in check. Ellis went home with a lot of bloody noses and black-eyes, but never bowed. One event at school nearly had the young girl expelled. From 1st to 7th grade, the biggest ringleader of Ellis torment was a girl named, June Fuma. Waiting until she could catch Fuma alone in the hallway, without her normal gaggle of giggling friends, Ellis beat and stomped the girl until her screams drew teachers out to intervene.
A increasingly difficult and home life fed her growing rebellious attitude, and hanging around a rough crowd slowly formed a rift between mother and daughter. After a particularly volatile argument she left home at the age of 17. Ellis was arrested shortly after for assault, vehicle theft and resisting arrest. This and many previous collisions with the law resulted in her being treated as an adult, and sent to a woman’s correctional facility.
Incarceration was difficult for the still inexperienced Ellis. She was assaulted several times and had to fight constantly to protect herself. If she had not come to the attention of a fellow prisoner, Hinapouri Lima, there is a good chance she may have been killed by the Aryans she had run afoul. Lima was a respected and feared lifer also nicknamed “Pain Maker” due to her extremely violent nature when provoked or disrespected.
Ellis fell in with Lima’s group. To prove herself worthy of such protection and benefits, she committed her first murder with an improvised knife. The woman had informed on one of Lima’s associates nearly two months earlier, and it was decided she would pay with her life. With the more questionable guards of the facility paid to look the other way, Ellis found the woman during work detail, and after a brief fight, she stabbed her to death. Though she would never admit such, Ellis continues to have occasional nightmares about that first kill. That first conscience, and willing decision to commit murder left a dark mark on her soul.
She spent five long years in that prison and the experience, with the added mentoring, harden her. Lima had strong criminal ties outside the prison and made sure Ellis was put in contact with one such organization when she was released. Danny “Smiling” Deshi, a member of the local Triads, taught Ellis everything she needed to know, and she learned all too well.
Ellis eventually returned home and reconciled with her estranged mother at the age of 27. One of her most cherished memories is the first time she brought her elderly mother, who absolutely loved coffee, to a Starbucks for the first time. She smiles a little when recalling how surprised and happy her mother was to see so many different types of coffees on the menu. Ellis stood by patiently as it took her nearly 15 minutes to decide what she should try. She keeps the picture from that day in her wallet. Ellis mother never discovered what she did for a living. Barbara’s last words to her daughter were, “Life was only good after you were born.”
If Ellis ever had any number of people in her life that she sincerely considered friends, it would have been both Danny and Lima. She often returned to the prison her old mentor was still incarcerated in order to visit and ensure she had money on her books.
It hit Ellis particularly hard when Lima was killed one day during a prison yard brawl. Four years later it was suspected that Danny was moving to turn state’s evidence. To prove her loyalty, and to be spared a gruesome death, Ellis was sent to kill him. She did so regretfully. Both deaths further jaded, and embittered her for the rest of her life.
Monday, August 19, 2013
So, I hung with two different groups of kids growing up. The second group, down the block and around the corner, was Victor, Jermaine, Mohammed, and his brother Ali (I could not make that one up), Rory, Charles, Domo, Ty, I and a few others. We all hung out around this 2 story apartment complex where we conducted all our games, experiments, and other ill-advised ideas.
One game in particular, which I would like to inform you fair ladies and gents, I was and still am the extremely proud inventor of, was this version of “Hide & Seek” called “Jason”, as in the homicidal, undead, murder-machine from the Friday the 13th films.
It had all the same basic rules of the original game but we successfully incorporated an old Jason Voorhees mask, and plastic meat cleaver I had left over from Halloween. The person who was “It”, had to wear the mask and use the meat cleaver to “kill” the runners before they could reach the safety of the front porch. Any time someone was tagged with the cleaver, they had to scream like they had been killed. I imagine the adults of the neighborhood absolutely loved and appreciated our theatric death cries.
Did I forget to mention we only played this game during the evenings? We did this because we wanted our game to have the same sophisticated atmosphere of the movies.
So this one time, Jermaine’s older brother, Shawn, who was obviously bored out of his mind, came out to watch a couple of rounds of “Jason”. He thought it was pretty funny. Imagine our awed shock when he offered to join in. But he would only do so if he could play the killer. We all eagerly agreed. Looking back, I do not think it ever remotely dawned on any of us that Shawn was bigger, faster, stronger, coincidentally wearing all black, and could most likely swing a pretty mean pretend meat cleaver. The follies of youth.
Perhaps because he was in a particularly magnanimous mood, Shawn decided to extend the normal 10 second count to 20 seconds. Then the game began in all its creepy glory on that clear summer night.
It was not long at all before we all heard the first “victim’s” scream. After hearing a second and third victim, I crept from behind the bushes in hopes of reaching the safety zone. When I heard running, I quickly ducked and rolled under a nearby car. After watching Shawn creep by, I carefully crawled from under the car, hurried through a neighboring yard, and finally reached the apartment building’s backyard. I was surprised to find a few of the other kids already hiding there.
There were two ways in and out of that backyard. To the left was a tall wooden fence with a missing plank that afforded us a hole big enough to escape through. To the right, between the apartment and fence, was a straightaway leading to a gate. 5 out of 9 of us remained trapped back there. It was silent and we had no idea where Jason was lurking.
“Did anyone see him?” One of the kids asked.
“No.” Replied another nervously.
“We should just make a break for it!” A third chimed in.
“But which way?” The first asked.
So, we all stood back there, watching both potential exits and weighing our options. The choice was made for us when Jason suddenly came barreling down the straightaway at us with his cleaver ready.
“Oh shit!” One of the boys yelled before we all rushed for the hole in the fence. Unfortunately, one of the “heavier” boys attempted to go through the hole first and promptly clogged our impromptu exit. With a mixture of laughter and nervous screams we began trying to push him through.
“We’re all going to die, you fat bastard!” One of the boys yelled while laughing.
Jermaine and I exchanged a look. Like the plan was agreed upon on some telepathic level, we jumped at the same time, grabbed a top of the fence, and struggled over it just as Jason arrived and began killing everyone.
In true horror movie fashion we ran for safety without looking back.