The Door to Nowhere Challenge
Writing for a Challenge
Have you ever written for a challenge?
Was the Challenge a Challenge?
Was It Only Yesterday?
I was always glad that we lived on the top floor. Except in the summer. Then the smell from the overflowing trash bin kept me inside, and I couldn't look at the sky.
I knew there was a world above me; constellations, planets, comets, and sometimes in April and October, I would watch for a shooting star. I never saw one.
My teacher said that the lights from the city blocked our view.
But I felt safe up there. I called it my roost. We learned about birds that perched in school, and I just liked the way that word felt when I said it. And sometimes, a bird did sit on the railing. Course, it flew away if I came out.
But if I looked down, nothing blocked that view. There was one light that shined through my bedroom window. The curtains didn't meet and that light was so bright. I would cover my head except in the summer when it was hot. Momma called them flood lights. I thought that was a funny way to describe them.
A bunch of the boys used to throw rocks at the lights, and sometimes, they shattered them. It would be months before a city truck came by to fix them. I never understood the fun in throwing rocks at the only source of security in that deserted alleyway.
Maybe I put too much faith in light. Carney got raped in that lot the year I turned twelve. I might have done something, but I was inside because it was the hot summer.
Momma's new boyfriend bought us a floor fan. It was on sale because it was dented. That meant that the blades made a noise each time it hit that place, so it was noisy and Momma said it drove her nuts.
Momma's boyfriend didn't like his TV time disturbed, so the volume was always up because of the fan. With his drinking, Momma yelled at him a lot, too.
I felt bad I didn't hear Carney crying or calling to someone for help. Three months after they found her; the city put protective metal covers on the street lights.
Afterward, the school brought in some people called counselors to talk to the girls. They thought we might be traumatized. I learned how to spell that word and was glad, because now I had a name for how I felt.
Those counselors must have asked our teachers if there were any of us who might need more counseling than the rest. I got picked.
I talked to a woman named, June. She smelled like flowers; not like the skunk-weed in the alley, but like the smell from the florist shop that used to be on our block. When that door opened, it was clean and earthy, and sweet, and just a jumble of smells; but all of them good.
I went to the shop once; I must have been about seven. I knew Mother's Day was coming so I collected all the bottles from the alleyway. I made sure the men were gone. They sat on the stair that belonged to the building behind mine.
I was afraid of them; they were loud, and Momma said to stay away from them, but they had something I could trade in at the store.
I didn't want Momma to know, so I used our metal ladder and when I'd get an armful, I'd take them to my roost. I got four bags of bottles and took them to the store.
I got $1.78 and was so proud.
The florist wasn't friendly at first. Momma always said that when someone comes in a room, you're supposed to say, "Hello." He didn't.
So, I thought maybe that was just our rule. I asked him if I could buy some flowers for my Momma. I told him I had $1.78 and asked him which flowers smelled the best because that was the one I wanted.
He smiled at me then. He said that there were so many aromatic flowers in the world. I asked him what that word meant because I'd never heard it before.
Then he wrote it down for me. I thought that was really nice. He said that Jasmine, Wisteria, Lily of the Valley, Gardenia and another funny word, Frangipani, were the flowers that smelled the most and the best. I got real excited at all those choices, but he didn't have them.
But he had a rose. In fact, he said that he had more than one kind of rose. I asked him if any of them were red; my Momma liked red.
He had four kinds of roses in red. He called them, "Bailey Red," "American Beauty," "Dame de Coeur" and one really funny one, a "Chrysler Imperial." I thought he was making fun of me for, not knowing about flowers, so I told him that I knew a Chrysler was a car. I'd seen a commercial on TV.
He got serious and said he wasn't making fun of me and that he could tell I was a smart girl.
He went into the back of the shop and told me to wait right there. He was gone a long time, and I knew I ought to get home. I almost left, but then he came out with what he called a bouquet. It was as tall as the brown bags I used to carry the bottles.
There were green leaves and a ribbon around the stems. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Before I took it, I got my money from my pocket. It was all crumbled, and I dropped some coins on the floor. One rolled under the counter, and I started to crawl and get it, but he told me to keep the money and just give the flowers to my Momma.
I thanked him because that is what you do when someone is nice.
I miss him. He got robbed and shot so he moved, and the shop closed. No one ever opened it again. Sometimes when I walk by the shop, I think I can smell the roses through the broken windows, but probably not.
Beyond the Door to Nowhere
I'm no longer that little girl. But it is through her eyes that I write today. She found a way out. All those words that people shared with her. She wrote them in a notebook and practiced writing them.
She got a library card and spent hours marveling at the books. No one ever asked her to leave. She didn't need to be told to be quiet and behave; she valued the books too much to do them harm. Instead of succumbing to the streets, she studied. Her roost became her salvation. She could find an answer to any question up there as long as she had a book.
I went back home today; yet another funeral. The roost is there, but it sags. Some of the rungs are missing, so it's not safe or useful anymore.
The alleyway clearly defines which gang controls it. The men are gone from the stairs - dead in gang wars, bad drug deals or prison.
I started crying, for all the little girls and boys who will never get out. They might not ever know that they are traumatized, or that there are funny sounding fragrant flowers in the world, or see a shooting star, only hear the shots fired on a Saturday night.
© 2015 Marilyn L Davis