Journey To The Red Carpet - Chapter 1
Somehow the sunset looked more like the backdrop of an old movie then, an actual sky. Maybe because the colors illuminating overhead seemed more vivid here in California than the grey canvas hovering over the Chicago projects, I mean let's face it Hollywood is the land of overkill and somehow even the sky new it was time for Memory to star in the biggest role she would ever play, her own dramatic life story.
As she drove her Cadillac Escalade down the wide streets of Los Angeles, Memory hoped the picturesque scene ahead was an indication of things to come. Somehow the suburban neighborhoods seemed less urban then she was use to. The Spanish-style homes looked as if they were guarded by the huge trees that lined the streets.
Determined not to look back, or beat herself up about the means to this new beginning Memory whispered to herself "I don't care how I got here, now that I'm here I'll be damned if I'm not going to stay."
Her thoughts took her back to her life in Chicago. As a kid, Memory dreamed of moving from the south side, where people had little chance of stepping outside of the invisible gates that held the projects captive. She always felt like there were boundaries that "kept people in their place." Generations of being beat down left most of the people without a desire to get out. They couldn't see life outside of Chi-town, but Memory could, she knew there was a helluva lot more to life then the prostitutes and drug dealers she saw outside of her bedroom window; a window that faced a phone booth on the corner and a playground across the street.
Memory would take every opportunity she could to sneak out her window and run to the park and play with the other kids, but before she could form any real friendships she would hear that familiar voice "MEMORY, MEMORY, girl you better get yo devil tail back over here before I ring your neck!" and for her mother that was a real threat.
A school teacher that divided her time between work, home and church, the latter was attended by the entire family no less than 6 days a week. Her mother was a sweet woman who held tight to her strict religious beliefs and raised all of her children in a world that was sheltered from the recklessness of street life.
Memory was what people in the south called a redbone, high yellow complexion, light brown hair and a face full of freckles. She would march across the street, hot as fish grease and red as cayenne pepper prepared for battle, "mom I'm tired of being locked up in the house, looking at the same faces every day. How do you expect me to ever get any friends when the only people I see are my brothers who aren't that entertaining, and the kids at church; again not very entertaining?"
Her mother's response never varied "ain't nothin outside this yard but trouble. The devils running rampant in these streets and I'm not gonna let him get a hold of any of mines, so stay your tail from across that street, and watch your mouth you know I don't go for sassiness," and with that the discussion would be over.
Now of course Memory would try to plead her case to her father, but he drove buses during the day and went to law school at night, which left little time to bring her argument to him.
Memory's father was a good provider, and a handsome church going man, but like many men he seemed to find a lot of single women in the church that needed his help with one thing or the other. When he was running some of those so called errands, he would take Memory with him, and of course that was her time to tell him about the unjust rules in their home and her mom's unreasonable restrictions.
"Daddy, do you know mama wouldn't let me play across the street again. Every time I start having fun and gettin to know some of the other kids I hear her voice screamin from across the street. Now how embarrassing is that?" "You've gotta talk to her or I'll never have no friends."
Although he never crossed his wife when it came to disciplining the kids, he always had a way of making Memory feel like he was going to help her.
He would hug her and say "you know your mama loves you and your brothers, so don't go given her a hard time when she's trying to keep you safe. She prays Gods covering over all y'all every day and part of that covering is her watchful eye," and with that he would give her a kiss and the subject would be closed.
Most of these discussions would take place as they drove to the homes of his special friends. If they had kids Memory would play with their children while her dad was taking care of whatever errand that brought them to the house. Little did she know the kissing and hugging she would sometimes catch a glimpse of was her father cheating on her mother. It wasn't until she got older that she realized what was really going on.
Unlike many of the people that lived in the projects, Memory and her family were living better than most. They had a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a basement, across the street from the projects. Memory had her own room, and there is where she struggled between the sanctified life she and her family lived, and the excitement and drama that unfolded night-after-night outside her window.
Although Memory was sheltered she knew something wasn't right about what was happening on the corner. The prostitutes would wave the men over and get them to roll down their windows, "what's up daddy, you want to have some fun?" one of them would say while putting her tits close to the open window "let me see what you workin with, turn around show me somethan." The ladies would bend and turn, each trying to outdo the other, eventually one of them would hop in the car and they would drive off. It never took long for the cars to return. The woman would get out and they would do the same thing all over again with the next car.
Memory was looking out the window and called her brother in her room.
"Look at those women. They don't care about going to hell?"
Her brother gave her that look that he always gave when he thought she was asking a stupid question, "do you think their worried about HELL, they're thinking about the next trick to come along and whose gonna make the money."
"What do they do when they leave? I mean it can't be much since there usually back within a couple minutes."
"See that's why you shouldn't be looking out there, you're too young to understand any of that."
"How the heck am I to young. I know they leave and go somewhere and start kissing. I just don't understand why they have to drive off to do that, and why they get money for it."
"See that shows how dumb you are. They are not kissing, they're doin it!"
"Dang, how slow are you? They're DOIN IT! you know IT!"
"Stop lying, God would get them all if that's what they were doing."
"He will get them, what do you think hell is for?"
Right at that moment Memory's mother was calling for all the kids to get ready to go to church for a shut in. The purpose was to bring the young people together to watch a movie called, "Burning in Hell". Memory didn't know if it was really an appropriate movie for young people to see, but if they wanted to scare the hell out of her, they definitely succeeded. From that day forth she was scared to do anything ungodly. There was no saying bad things, having bad thoughts, or being around anyone that was not an upright Christian. Anyone that she felt wasn't Godly was getting condemned to hell, and she didn't have any problem letting them know.
She would tell them "the devil is gonna ride your back if you don't get right with God!"
This of course led people to believe she was half crazy.
It didn't really matter anyway, Memory didn't have many friends, and those she did have went to church with her, or to the strict Christian School her parents sent her and her siblings to. The problem with that was her lack of social skills. She gained book knowledge, but had no common sense. She didn't even know what a virgin was until her late teens.
The summer of her fifteenth birthday Memory's mother came in her room, with a look off defeat that she wasn't use to.
"Baby, come her mama needs to talk to you. We need to make some changes around here for a little while."
"What kind of changes?" Memory whispered barely loud enough to receive a response.
"You'll have to go stay with my friend Mary for the summer."
Now to Memory that was like a surprise gift at Christmas. She always looked up to her mother's friend and her grand lifestyle, so the thought of staying with her made her want to jump up and pack immediately.
"When am I leaving? Should I start getting packed right now?"
Her mother looked in disbelief, "no you're not leaving for another week, but I thought you would be upset."
"No, I like Mary so I figure it'll be fun. You'll come see me right?"
Memory didn't even care why she had to go. All she knew was Mary had a big house in one of the upper class neighborhoods in Chicago. She knew she would miss her mother, but Mary had an elevator in her house, a maid, a couple different cars, and a whole lot of clothes.
It didn't take her long to fall in love with this new lifestyle. She knew this was how she wanted to live, but eventually her fairytale was cut short.
"Memory I need to speak with you." Mary said as she walked in her temporary room. "You mother called and asked me to take you home this evening."
"Why, I'm not ready to go yet." She knew she should feel guilty about not wanting to leave, but she had grown accustomed to the luxuries Mary's home provided.
"I know, but there are some things going on at home that she needs to talk to you about." Mary insisted.
"Can't she call me and tell me what's going on? Why do I have to go home right now?"
"Look Memory, you're welcome here anytime, but right now there are more important things for your family to deal with."
It was at that moment that Memory knew something was wrong. She immediately started getting her stuff together and rode home in silence.
Everything seemed the same when Memory walked in the door. Her mother was in the kitchen, her brothers were horsing around watching t.v., but she didn't see her father.
"Mama, where's daddy?"
She looked over with that same expression she had when she told me I was going away. "Your daddy's in the bedroom, but I need to talk to you before you go see him."
"Talk to me about what? Did something happen while I was gone?"
"Yes baby, sit down."
Memory couldn't get use to the expression on her mother's face. It was a mixture of sadness and love.
Her mother started explaining. "Your daddy got really sick while you were gone," but before she could say anymore Memory was half way to her parent's room. What she saw was unreal to her. The big strong man that she left just a few months ago was now in bed with an oxygen tank connected to his nose.
Memory had enough since to know that Hollywood finds a way to kill dreams of stardom. Either it snatches your heart out in one swift move, or it slowly squeezes the life out of any hopes of being more than employee of the month at Starbucks, or a waitress at the latest hotspot on Sunset. The city itself is the biggest diva in the world, and has no problem proving daily, just how much of a Bitch she can really be, but Memory never let a bitch stop her before and she wasn't going to start now.
In Memory's mind a successful acting career is created by having the right friends, some hard work, and a whole helluva lot of luck. The problem was the right friends are hard to come by, and that was a lesson she learned quickly. Some friends will be there for you when things get tough, but the others will use you every way they can. In fact they'll use you for everything you've got, and disregard you in the same moment.
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