My aunt has two cats, Tiger and Red. It may be that husband and I will stand to inherit one or both of them after
my aunt dies if no one else steps forward for them. Tiger is older. Red is younger. Both are female. Both are
overweight. But this is not really about Tiger and Red, or even about cats.
His name was Red. He had no other. He had a red curly fro and green eyes and coffee-color skin. He was chunky.
He has a sidekick whose name was Slim. Slim was very very dark and very slender. I can still see Red in his tan
shorts and a sleeveless tanktop that read, "Good ass is hard to find." And Slim in blue jean shorts that went down
to his knees and a red tee shirt that had no motto.
I was nineteen, naive and a virgin. Shirley was my party buddy from work. We were both working in a mall
restaurant. I was assigned to the pizza station. Shirley was to train me. I was there for the summer. Shirley
was on welfare and not reporting her income. I had dreams unfulfilled. Shirley had a kid. She was not naive in
the least. She was poor and doing the best she knew how. It was with Shirley that I sprinkled marijuana on some
of the pizza slices, heated them up, and sold them to unsuspecting customers. It was through Shirley that I learned
how different my life was from the lives of those who were stuck.
Shirley and I decided to sell reefer in the city. We met Red and Slim in Brandeis Park. We'd gone there in my
daddy's car to sell reefer. We took Shirley's preschool-aged daughter with us. Shirley didn't ever have a sitter.
Years later, I would be left to wonder what became of her daughter. I hope she escaped her mother's world. That is
something I may never know.
Brandeis Park was small, several blocks off of Broadway and Central Park. Brandeis Park had trees and benches.
The park was full of pushers and gang bangers. I didn't know that. I was a stupid white girl with too many dreams
and not enough reality. My dad would have given me any money I asked for. I was not there out of financial
necessity. I was attending college. I hardly studied and I was getting 4.0s in almost all of my classes. I was an
addict even then. I suspected but didn't know that for sure. It was summer vacation. I had a future for the taking.
I didn't know what I had so through the years I threw it away. What I did that summer was an indication that all
was not right with me. And so this stupid white girl and her worldly friend met two guys in the park.
Shirley and I got to be-- friends isn't quite the right word, associates-- with Red and Slim. Red [and sometimes
Slim] took us to the local Steak n Brew restaurant for steaks and brew. Red always paid. He wouldn't take a dime.
Shirley and I would dig in. I'd been to fancier restaurants but I forgot that when we went out to dinner with Red.
Red played the big shot with his wad of bills and I let it be so. I was deaf to any warning bells going off in my
head. I was afraid of getting busted, of daddy finding out where I was taking his car. Not of anything else.
One Saturday afternoon there was a raid on the park. I didn't know that many of the people selling were packing
heroin. I didn't know the nickname of Brandeis Park-- heroin alley. I didn't know about the pimps and prostitutes
either. Two huge blue buses pulled up along the side street and a ton of cops busted out of them. We stuffed the
marijuana joints we'd been hawking down the lining of Shirley's little girl's box of crackers. Red, Slim, Shirley,
her child, and I headed for the little bar across the busy street. The little bar was in the middle of the block.
We watched the action over our drinks. I think I was drinking something fruity. After the buses left, we went back
to the park. A woman came up to Red crying. "They took my man away." There were still customers waiting for our
Shirley had warned me never to go to Red's apartment without her. I didn't fully comprehend her warning. I was a
stupid white girl, playing at the game of grown-ups and ill-equipped for life on the streets. I knew nothing.
I went into the city alone one Friday. I met up with Red. "The dasheki is at my apartment," he told me. I went
with him. We walked the ten blocks to his rooming house. A man behind a wooden split door nodded as Red and I
Down the hallway to the left was Red's room. It was a disgusting room. The paint was old and greasy. A mattress
to the right against the wall shared with the hallway. One window to the left. I ran out of the door naked but
Red pulled me back in. If the man behind the wooden split door heard my scream, he ignored it.
Red raped me. I thought he was going to kill me. This was not the promised, "I will get you a nice apartment in
the City" guy. This was a man who was hell-bent on taking from me something that wasn't his to take. With "You're
gonna miss my lovin'..." playing from his cheap boombox in the background. I don't remember coming the first time.
"Two more times," he told me. I faked them.
Afterwards sitting on the bed, Red apologized. Said he had to do it. Said he didn't think he would ever see me
again and he was sorry for that. Insisted upon walking me to my car because the streets were dangerous. Gave me
the dasheki though.
I drove home numb and became hysterical later. I woke my dad up finally. "I been fucked," I kept yelling. Finally
he asked me, "Where were you tonight?" The story came out through my hot tears. The next day, he sent me and my
step-mother shopping. I never could talk to her. Too bad now I think. She knew some things my dad didn't.
My dad had contacted his lawyer and was advised that pressing charges would do no good because of the dealing. A
rapist got away with it that time. Did he ever get caught? How many other women? I never found out and never went
looking for the information. With my photogenic memory of places, I know I can find the rooming house, Brandeis
Park, and Red [if he is still around the area there] if I choose to go looking. I don't choose so today. What will
I say to him? Shall I tell him I'm sorry that I held a resentment towards him in good A.A. fashion and beg his
forgiveness? Ask him how he's been, if he ever went to prison, got religion, got recovery? Tell him to fuck off?
When things calmed down a bit, my dad would start in on me over breakfast. "About what you did this summer..." I
learned to sleep late. He endorsed the movie, "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." I was horrified when I did see the movie
years later. School started up again and I went to the library. It was in the stacks that I discovered research
that told me that 50% of families blame the victim for the rape. My dad was blaming me for being raped by a black
guy. He didn't want me to have black friends. I kept my black friends. I knew that rape was not about color or
sex. It was about power. I wasn't able to bring myself to see a gynocologist until a year and half after the rape.
She offered me legal uppers. I left shaken and bitching about the drug-pushing doctors. I didn't know that my
addiction was robbing me of my free will. It would be several more years until I was freed. And years before I
could take on the mantle of my own power.
I think I may have tried to put on Red's dasheki but found myself unable to wear it. Who could wear a gift like
that? Years later, I found the Take Back the Night marches in Albany and defiantly walked through the streets
at night with other survivors of rape, sexual abuse, incest. I became more than a statistic, more than my history.
It was a struggle. I fought violently for the right to be. And today I am.
Within the current menagerie, there is one red kitten. He is ever curious, bold, and sure of who he is. Husband
would have wanted to name him "George" after all the red cats in his family. I wanted him to be his own cat. I
listened to his sould and named him Twinkle. With the twinkling of stars comes a wish and a promise and maybe even
riches. If we do inherit my aunt's cats, Red will become Ruby. Ruby for the richness of living, of being able to
love in spite of trauma, for the warrior that I have become.
sapphoq on life