Before the Fire

“You really don’t have to talk about this”

Let me… just let me do this Jack… I need to say this as much as I think you need to hear it…

I only wanted ten dollars that night… I had started feeling the ‘crawlies’... and the cold. I just needed to fucking shoot up.
$10. Two blowjobs… or a quick bendover in the alley would take care of it…

I still remember the snowstorm that night…nobody was passing by… or cumming through… not even the ones who gave me the money just to shut the fuck up.

You were the only one who’d come by my end in 3 hours…I reached out… frantically grabbing and trying to pull your fly down
'What you want sugar… lemme give it to you… '

6ft 3, black-as-night niggah broke down and started crying like a newborn

Now trickin’ I done had all kinds of reactions… grunts… screams… singing… slaps… one of my best paying customers JJ Rest his soul used to play Andrea Boccelli and strangle me and shit to get off…
Being on the streets for over 29 years I done seen everything the world seen fit to show me… but I never seen no grown-ass man bawling cos of some aging pussy.

‘Walk on bitch-ass niggah’ I'd screamed… ‘Get the fuck outta here’
I didn’t even know how to deal with the shit… I just wanted $10 to pass by Reggies real quick before he ran out of merch and them loud-ass tears were working my last nerve… scaring customers and shit.

Was fitting to cut a niggah…started reaching for my swiss

CECE!
CLARA JOHNSON!

I was so shocked it dropped… don’t nobody out in the streets know my government name… at that point I’d almost forgotten it my damn self.

I looked… really looked and for the first time in 29 years I was sober…

…The nose that had never quite gone back to normal after that fist fight when we were teenagers… those jumbo ears… them pink lips still the same…JACK!
Jack motherfuckin’ Roberts!!!

I’m not sure if it was me you cried for or your ex-wife, Nina… but something shriveled up inside me and died that night…

I looked into your eyes and saw a tired, dried-up, cracked-out street whore… Me. A caricature of the woman I once was.

It’s been 18 months since that night on Serenity… and… and…

“Clara it’s obvious this is very painful for you. It’s fine… you don’t have to…”

Jack please don’t interrupt. I’ve practiced this speech a million times… just let me get it out…

Right now my sky is still dark. Sometimes it feels like there are no stars to guide me… but I’m figuring it out. I’ve learnt to just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving… and so far I’m finding my way. I’ve started to believe in who I am… in what I can do… and for the first time in a long time, I feel strong enough to take a risk.

Jack… I love you

“Clara… I”

“Don’t say anything… just please let me finish”

It’s been almost 30 years… but I love you Jack. I loved you before you grew chest hair… before you were charming and strong and beautiful. I loved you before you wrote your first speech… back when you were nervous in front of a crowd.

I know that even now as you look at me you probably still see the toothless, whoring crone you saw that night on Serenity… I know that I have made such a mess of my life that my very presence probably repulses you…

But I want you to remember me before the tricks and the drugs(the ones I took to sleep… and the other ones I took cos I had to wake up).
Remember, Jack, and remind me.
Remind me how it was before life turned my brown eyes cold and black… back when I laughed with my eyes. Remind me of hours together when we didn’t talk cos the words got in the way of our harmony…
Remind me when I was Cece not Clara.

Remember what you once told me… that its not when we’re at our best that we should be loved the most… but when we’re down and don’t even know how to love ourselves…
Love me now Jack…

I have fought while others love. I have screamed while others laugh. I have starved while others eat. I have stared into the abyss… and seen it stare right back at me…
There is no one who demands my company… no place that would be empty without me…

Love me now Jack…

I know there’s a chance that there’s already somebody else… that you’ve found a simpler woman who does your laundry and prepares your dinner at 6pm and never nags and wants the billion children that neither Nina, nor I ever wanted. Maybe this is too late and you already have the joint bank account and the title… your fairytale…

But in case you haven’t Jack… I want you to know that I am here hanging on a limb hoping you’ll be there at the bottom when I fall.

I know that mine is not an innocent love… a book of blank pages waiting to be filled. It’s the shades and shadows of words already written. It is not the dream we have underneath the stars but the familiar body we reach out for when we wake… the known face, the comforting smile. It’s not the fantasy of mystery… but who is and what is.

You’ve made some mistakes… and I’ve lived a mistake. It’s the living we’ve already done that makes us rich for ourselves.

I’m still angry and bitchy and violent… the streets have left their residue. I still get the itch and sometimes wake up sweating… craving a needle… a pill… a drink… but I’m fighting- harder than I ever have in my life.

I had to move away from 14th street to find serenity.

Now I listen to Jazz and iron my jeans. I eat pickle sandwiches and pork rolls. I hate cranberries and spiders. I read Shakespeare and volunteer at the HNBC every Wednesday.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… I’ve muddled the first 47 years of my life. I want to spend the next 47 making things right... with you.

Lets find our rhythm once more… our rhythm of friendship and history… before our daughter Kayadunza… before Nina… BEFORE the fire.

57 Comments:

  1. TaureanMinx said...
    Am I...
    Naijadude said...
    Yes I am 2nd... :D
    Naijadude said...
    Intriguing indeed... I wonder where all this will end up at!!

    Nice job, my jolene!!
    TaureanMinx said...
    Can I suggest you make the daughter one of the characters from before? Just a suggestion of course.
    Shubby Doo said...
    Top 5!

    Loving the style each writer brings to the table...are these individual stories that just interconnect? i really do hope that there is a ‘story arc’ to 14th & Serenity...I think it needs it cos I’m really not sure where we are headed anymore.

    Nice to find out more about Cee Cee. Good job
    theicequeen said...
    luvin it!..but wheres it all headed? curiousity is gettin the better of me...
    NigerianDramaQueen said...
    Top 10 works!
    Mommy said...
    I'm...a bit confused here. Let me go read again.
    NigerianDramaQueen said...
    *I could have seen this a 100miles away, and still know you wrote it.
    *"I have fought while others love. I have screamed while others laugh. I have starved while others eat. I have stared into the abyss… and seen it stare right back at me"-Love, love, love that.
    *Kayadunza?!! Babes only you can come up with names like Macbeth Palagutsa and Kayadunza...
    *I think it should have been the other way round: Cece is more befitting for who she is, Clara for who she was.
    *As always, you have written like I like to read! I was not dissappointed.
    ablackjamesbond said...
    NDQ took the words right out of my mouth.

    Overwhelmed, u have not disappointed. Loved the way you humanized Clara.

    This is a story i had written in my mind a million times over... i see pple, destitutes, beggers on the street and i try to imagine the stories behind their situation.

    Who they were before and who they can become.

    Nice, absolutely loved it.
    Smaragd said...
    I second and third NDQ and Black 007.

    ur style is very different and i thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    Clara's hope and feelings are touching, got me thinking what i would do if i were in Jack's shoes...hmmm. and Kayadunza? babe, u r smoking!

    I have to say that i am duly intimidated by this blog! u guys rock!

    somebody remove this word verification b4 i break my PC! PLEASE!
    Jarrai said...
    Off the hook....didn't expect this twist either....great job.xxx
    Mz. Dee said...
    I rily feel lyk crying..rily heartfelt.
    bumight said...
    i like the way you gave clara a personality. twas beautiful!


    see, I knew you could do it! who's next?
    Patrice said...
    Your voice is strong and passionate.

    If Carlang were to think that Jack should start climbing his beanstalk and never look down, I would agree.
    smc said...
    Hmmmmm... Will be back
    QMoney said...
    i was suppose to be 3rd NOT 15th but am still doing good!
    Am jus catching up.........
    hello everyone!!
    OluwaDee said...
    Kayadunza, what a name.
    N.I.M.M.O said...
    I fourth and fifth NDQ, Black007 and smaragd.

    Finally, Clara has a human face. A body and feelings too.

    Can I even suggest that you guys are taking this thing too far? With every installment Fourteenth is becoming more and more alive.

    Overwhelmed NB just took it to another level!

    Now we are panting and waiting.

    Who's next?
    N.I.M.M.O said...
    What?!

    I was 15th just now, just now. What happened?
    QMoney said...
    Men,this is gangster!!!
    waoh,waoh,waoh!!!
    SMC said...
    I may be a lone voice in the sea of praises, but I do not particularly like this one.
    Ms. Catwalq said...
    see, it turned out great....
    naijalines said...
    So Clara is human afterall. Can there be anything b/w her and Jack after all these years?
    Queen of My Castle said...
    Wow! I am quite impressed and left in a state of awe.
    Naapali said...
    I am in the NDQ, Bond-dudu, Smaragd and NIMMO camp.

    I thank you for humanizing Clara. But Kayadunza?
    Jaycee said...
    ONB wow.....the end was the CLIMAX of this story...you introduced something that was never there before...the UNMENTIONED DAUGHTER...KAYADUNZA...that's genius!!! Lollll...

    I liked this line: "I know that mine is not an innocent love… a book of blank pages waiting to be filled. It’s the shades and shadows of words already written. It is not the dream we have underneath the stars but the familiar body we reach out for when we wake… the known face, the comforting smile. It’s not the fantasy of mystery… but who is and what is."

    Good job people...although I haven't fully connected the dots, I'm merely enjoying being entranced by the choice of words, as the stories get intertwined...lol
    Jaycee said...
    And yeah ONB...u wrote in ur own style and voice...the ONB way...loll...

    I see everyone is happy that Clara has been HUMANIZED...:)
    stranger said...
    not fair....i was supposed to be commenter #2...silly internet went off on me....anyways, OWNB i applaud your will to write after our last chat...but am still scratching my head at this story...maybe i will figure it during dinner...kisses.
    guerreiranigeriana said...
    ...naapali said what i was going to say...beautiful...well done...
    femme fatale said...
    wow!! nice job as usual

    you write really well, got me lost in the story and feeling for Clara...nice job again
    NigerianDramaQueen said...
    *Okay im about to be a bit razzzzzz up in here,
    *But im hoping one of the upcoming writers will infuse some 9ja style into their writing. Some broken english, Nigerian scenery-something.
    *Allied did the whole Yoruba joint on 'Scorned' and I loved it-im hoping someone else does...
    C Girl said...
    SMC, you're not alone.

    I didn't like it... It didn't help that those HTML tags ran all the way through it, at least on my PC it did...

    I think it's the weakest link so far but there are others to come after so let's wait and see...
    Pink-satin said...
    34th!!1let me go read!
    Toluwa Lase said...
    Kayadunza?

    Lets see who uses her next!

    Am happy to see Clara come alive...
    Yessie said...
    so all of a sudden, there's a child by Clara and Jack
    u writers on this blog are just too much..
    keep it up:)
    uNWrItten* said...
    ONB!!!! U ARE THE BOMB DIGGIDY!!! LOL..
    nuff said :)
    Shubby Doo said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Shubby Doo said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Shubby Doo said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Shubby Doo said...
    I’m just going to wade in with some more things now...this is the most heartfelt episode of 14th and serenity...if you want people to connect with something it needs that...clara had been the connecting factor in nearly all the stories...we’ve all noticed her…or rather what other characters thought of her...you let us inside...she is the mythical bird that dies in flames of 14th street and is reborn from the ashes into serenity...what you penned here is ‘heart’.

    My other awards so far:
    Best Start – Allied ‘Scorned’ – starting the tale with a woman destroying a Nigerian man’s BMW...priceless!

    Best Ending – Catwalq ‘Once Upon A Time (part 1)’ – let me say it again… wow! the imagery in the last line is so powerful...how you managed to deliver that so well...so simply...still amazed by it now

    Best Original Story – Carlang ‘Once Upon A Time (part too)’ – your ability to throw folkoirc characters into the seemingly sinister world of 14th & serenity was a breath of fresh air...for this reason it reminded me of pan’s labyrinth – I like what you did at the end...very clever…fairy tales have an happy ending but your tale did not…you brought me screaming back to the real world with the realisation that 14th & serenity is not a fairly tale

    Most Relevant Story (in 2days world) – Ah-2 2 ‘Hypocrisy’ – by focusing on the father you actually brought the ‘word’ itself to life (pardon the pun!)

    Best Drama – Boorish Male ‘A Dish Best Served Hot!!!’...speechless!
    Anonymous said...
    this one is overdone by overwhelmed. nice try but so far the weakest link. But nice try anyway.
    LG said...
    wow!!!! so well-written,
    i absolutely luv ur play of words!!!
    ONB rocks!!!!
    Mamalicious said...
    niceeeeeeeeeeeeeee
    omidanbellafricaine said...
    Nice work all of you oh but abeg can we actually see some character development in your stories or something each post is beginning to read like a pornesque pulp fiction kinda thing....
    Aijay said...
    Awww Clara...
    I actually found this touching.
    Good job ONB, it was a good read.
    SMC said...
    If we could request encores, I'd ask for a second installment from ALLIED, ATUTU and CARLANG. And maybe, just maybe Catwalq for that fabulous last line. Any hope of an encore guys?
    Naijaxpress said...
    I knew it. Overwhlmed blew us away as usual. She wrote from Clara's perspective...interesting. I remember suggesting it on these walls - not that I am taking any credit ooohh !!! So Clara has a child and she is 47 years old. I imagine the huge bill that Jack used to clean Clara up so that they could share the same bed... It most have been astronomical. All in all a very interesting angle. Oya Jaja, make we see your own.
    Favoured Girl said...
    Great writing Overwhelmed, I'll love to see how the story continues.
    Afrobabe said...
    This is the whole line in the whole of 14th and serenity...

    "I know that mine is not an innocent love… a book of blank pages waiting to be filled. It’s the shades and shadows of words already written. "

    Kind of touches a nerve...
    Sasuke said...
    People dey write for this blogville oh!una wan wound person ni?

    Beautiful, classy and impeccable
    Smaragd said...
    as i already mentioned at Naapali's, I am guessing that the young girl who ran into the priest in Atutu's story is Kayadunza (the name's growing on me sef)...

    today is 5th, what's up with the next installation O ye of excellent penmanship?
    Smaragd said...
    and thanx for removing the word verification, my PC and I are grateful.
    Smaragd said...
    afro dearie, care to share?
    Afrobabe said...
    Not sharing nada Smaragd !!!!
    Parakeet said...
    Hmm...see begging. Who's gonna beg me like dat? I wonder what will happen in the end. Great writing too, ver imaginative and clearly woven words.
    exschoolnerd said...
    how come evrybody's got a twist to their story...u just never see it coming....lol @ kayadunza...props to u girlie..i thoroughly enjoyed this.

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