Lead Me Gently Home

Chapter 8 (Part I)

"Smart Woman - Dumb Choices"


(From Danisha's Journals)

I poured myself another shot of rum, as my mind filled with memories, both good and bad. It was close to sunset, when I received a message from Fern. She told me she decided to stay the night at Chateau d'Arcy, since Fern didn't like to travel after dark.

I also received a message from Claude. He said he had been detained on some minor official business. "I shall be there soon, my love", read the closing lines.

How sweet...He's always been so good to me...Unlike 'other' people...

I downed another shot, lit a cigarette, then began to recall, once more, a decision that nearly cost me my life.

++++++++

"Danisha, you're pretty, talented, accomplished -- Why can't you attract a good man?" I told myself this over and over, and always I'd end up dumping some man for some unexplained reason. It was Momma who explained it all to me. She told me it didn't matter whether I held three college degrees, or was active in my church. It didn't matter whether I attended all the 'in' social functions, and belonged to most of the 'in' social groups.

As expected of a woman of my station in life, I was active in The Links, AKA (Alpha Kappa Alpha), kept busy with church activities, and volunteered with Girl Scouts and my neighborhood association. I think that was what Momma meant; that most men were intimidated by me, for those very reasons.

Intimidated? Scared? Of me? Because I'm active in my community? That's silly!

I tried to laugh it off, but Momma explained that she had to dump an old boyfriend because of the same reasons. Although my mother was born into the working class, and had to do day-work, just to earn money for college, she was highly intelligent. She loved to read, and wrote the most wonderful stories.
I asked my mother for advice when another man left me because I was too 'sadiddy' -- He said I had a tendency to put on airs. So what if I speak in Standard English, attend high-profile social functions, I felt I shouldn't have to apologize.

"So Momma? What made your old boyfriend to dump you?"

"He was afraid of becoming 'Mr. Geraldine Reynolds'; back then, most Black men had a tough enough time proving themselves to the rest of the world."

"Momma, how did you know Daddy was the right man?"

"When I met your Daddy, I knew right away, 'Here's a man who's needs a strong woman to see him through the dark times, as well as the good times'. Your father was - is - respectful of my mind, my spirit. He's not ashamed of an intelligent woman; that's why he wanted you girls to strive for excellence."

"Momma, that's why so many men leave me -- They're either afraid of, or don't respect, me."

Momma smiled and reassured me that, "When that special man comes along, you'll know. That's all I can tell you."

++++++++

Out of desperation, I met Brandon Cole Bell.

Did I say, 'out of desperation'? Let me back up a little.

A few weeks before I met BC, I had attended a wedding for one of my numerous cousins. Then my Uncle Jim had to open his mouth, again, and ask, "When?" "When the right man comes along", was my usual response.
But I couldn't keep kidding myself. I was a professional, upwardly-mobile Black woman. I was also past thirty. Many men who possessed equal education and status, were already married, or carried so much emotional baggage I couldn't bring myself to play wife, and mother, to a grown man.

I also got tired of the "Woe is me 'cause..." spiel; I hated all that wallowing in self-pity, as well as the permanent chip on the shoulder.
It was odd, that the best male friends I had were gay; no way was I going to try to change them!

So, I just accepted the fact that I might never marry. In the meantime, I'd look out for that special man Momma said would come along. Whether or not marriage was in our future, I believed in long-term relationships.

"After all, if he loves me like he says he does, if he treats me with respect and honesty, then, that's all that matters." bad I didn't take my own advice when I met BC.

++++++++

I met BC Bell during the September before I met Claude Frollo. I had secured a long-term position at Arlington High five years following my student teaching. I was so happy to be back in "The Home of the Golden Knights"; and, Iáwas thrilled to be reunited with Fern, as well as having the honor with working under Arlington's fine prinicipal, Jackie Greenwood. I had taught middle school the previous five years, and I was anxious to get out of that, what I had since dubbed, "Hormone-injected madness".

As part of my ongoing professional development, I decided to teach a GED class. Nothing gave me more satisfaction than to help those who dropped out of school, for whatever reasons, to earn their high school diploma.
Besides, I needed the extra money because I was in the process of buying a house. I was renting an apartment near Downtown; and, although I loved living Downtown, I wanted my own house.

Brandon Cole Bell was one of my students. We seemed to click right away, but I always had this deep-seated feeling all was not right with him. I'll admit that I found BC charming and handsome, in a rough-around-the-edges way. I imagined he was intrigued by what he called my "fancy-woman ways".

I'll never forget that last week of class, when BC finally asked me out for coffee. Of course, I politely refused -- Teachers should never become overly familiar with their students. BC laughed when I told him this.

"It's not like I'm some 14-year-old freshmen! It's just a cup of coffee, baby."

An innocent cup of coffee. That, and some innocent conversation, gradually led to a close friendship. Who knew the devastating consequences that lied ahead.

++++++++

BC and I grew closer with each passing day; yet, I knew very little about him. He wouldn't divulge much about himself, or his family, even though I told him much about mine. He told me he lived with his grandmother. "Just me and Grandma, living in a little house out in Haughville", was all he told me.

Just before BC took, and passed, his GED test, I got hold of BC's school file. His social worker, and his parole officier filled me in on the rest. What I saw and read was not pleasant; BC's childhood, and mine, were worlds apart.

He was born in Gary to a seventeen-year-old beauty who had to drop out of school to care for her newborn son. BC's father was a twenty-year old street hood, who met a violent end three years after BC's birth -- He was shot to death during a crap game. After that, BC's mom took up with another thug who regularly beat her and BC. He lived with BC's mom, while she struggled to provide for herself and her son. Yet, she allowed this fool to live in her home rent-free, eat her food, and generally freeload off this young woman's kindness.
BC's social worker told me that, "Iris was a nice woman, according to her friends and neighbors, but she had this habit of gravitating towards unsavory types." Apparently Iris Bell never complained about her station in life; she seemed to accept the fact that her new "love" battered her nearly every night, and that he used her son as a punching bag.
Although no one knows the particulars, Iris Bell's long flight from herself ended one hot August night. That's when she came home from work, and found her boyfriend, along with several of his unsavory buddies, sprawled out on the front porch, all of them stoned-drunk. They had been smoking pot, and drinking gin-laced lemonade.

And where was BC? In the bedroom, playing with matches.

Iris freaked. She trusted this man to watch her child, who was only six at the time. Her child could've started a major fire, while this man, and his friends, decided to have a party. According to BC's parole officer, Iris was savagely beaten, then stabbed to death by this boyfriend - out of retaliation. The boyfriend ended up in Michigan City, currently serving a 275-year prison term for murder. "No way", BC's parole officier told me, "that this man was going to sit on Death Row for years on end. The judge made sure he'd never see light-of-day, nor milk the system with endless appeals."

BC was sent to Indianapolis to live with his grandmother, Iris's father's mother. At first, Joannie Bell wanted nothing to do with her illegitimate grandson, but he was family, and she was the only relative willing to care for him. It wouldn't be long before Joannie's worst fears were proven right.
BC stayed in and out of trouble. There were the multiple suspensions from school, for minor infractions at first, then the behavior grew worse. Joannie Bell remembered the time when she was called to get her grandson -- He had been suspended again, and put on home-bound detention for bringing a knife to school. BC had intended to use this weapon on another kid just because this child "looked at me funny". BC was in fourth grade at the time.
Throughout his entire school life, there were the constant suspensions, the expulsions, the forced transfers. Finally, BC dropped out of school altogether at the age of fifteen. That's when the real trouble started. According to Joannie, BC's brushes with the law were numerous: He served jail time for a variety of petty offenses.

By the time Iámet BC, he had been recently paroled from prison where he was serving part of a twenty-year term for armed robbery and assault. I never knew the full truth behind that charge until after that fateful night in March.

Now you know why I never told my parents the whole story about BC, but I had a feeling they could "read" him when I introduced him to my family. The look in Daddy's eyes said it all.

"I did not raise my daughters to take up with no-count street thugs!"

I'd always strived for my father's approval and love. So why did I choose to shut out his sage advice? He told me repeatedly to "Leave this man alone, Danisha. He'll cause you nothing but pain."

I finally learned -- the hard way....

To Chapter 8(II)

ęCopyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.


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