D’Anthony was sitting at the back of bus riding home from the plastic factory where he just spend the last 16 hours working a double shift. Thank god for my mother he thought, she is so supportive of Laisha, his 6-year-old daughter. His mother is 78 years and lives in senior housing which is close to Laisha’s school, close enough for her to walk after school. “Grammy” would play tea party, braid her hair and make her supper almost every night. Despite the rules in the public housing complex, Laisaha would sleep over if D’Anthony has to work a double shift at the factory. D’Anthony would ride the bus to which left off 3 blocks from his mothers little one bedroom high-rise. He and his daughter rented a small one room apartment, 4 blocks away from his mothers public housing.
After a mile walk from the factory to the bus stop, his thoughts wandered as the bus pasted the mansions on lake drive. He imagined what life was like in those homes. How it would feel to sit next to the fireplace, warm, full and watching football on his large screen T.V. All the homes were decorated with red and green lights illuminating the tall birch and pine trees that lined a driveway that seemed as long as city block. You could almost smell cookies baking in the oven, hear the crackle of the fire and see the twinkle of the tree lights in the 24 foot window panes. Everyday he thought to himself that he would one day own his own home, maybe not on lake drive but it would be his own.
Exhausted from his shift he wondered how he would pay rent this month given that it was soon to be the first of the month. He already received a shut off notice for the electricity and was behind a month’s rent. His landlord said he would be evicted on the fifteenth if he did not have enough money to pay rent. D’Anthony was distressed by the thought of Christmas coming at the end of the month and he has no way to pay rent or give presents to anyone including his daughter. Tonight, he passed his mother’s apartment and went directly to his own place.
Tired from the long day and dominated by his fear that there was no way out of this situation he stopped a the corner of 13th and Hadley. Flashes of his past ran through his mind. He knew that stopping there would lead to nothing good. “I should go, I should go, I should go home as the words wound in his head. There he stood shivering with his head down waiting for a car to pull up. As the black car approached, the window rolled down, to shadow a business suit, white shirt and wool charcoal coat motioning D’Anthony to get in as he did with trepidation. His heart raced in the darkness as the car sped off toward an alley separating abandoned industrial buildings.
As the car dropped him in front of his apartment, D’Anthony stepped out, with $40 dollars in his pocket as he felt the shame and the pained memory of his past with each step. He thought of nothing but making his way to the fourth floor of his apartment building as he had for years in his past. He jumped two steps at a time up the staircase, to reach apartment 431. Every floor was its own experience. People sitting in the hallway, smoking whatever could be rolled in a paper. Forty ounce beer cans were crashed all over the sticky floor. Dried blood smeared on the banister and plaster was crumbling all around him as he made his way up the staircase. Children screamed while running wildly throughout the halls wearing rag diapers carrying bottles filled with red and orange drink. The fourth floor was the worst of all in the apartment. Most tenants avoided the fourth floor and went up the fire escape. Needles, cookers, newspapers were all over the hallway. It was unclear whether the landlord ever went to the fourth floor.
D’Anthony reached the fourth floor of the apartment building.
The door was open. The room was filled with smoke. The smell of urine soaked rotting wood, mixed with rank stench of body, filled his nostrils. That familiar scent made him uncontrollably want more. Half naked users were all over the apartment. In every room there were junkies, with bands around their arms, needles, spoons and burners. It was hard to count the people. D’Anthony’s heart was racing as he experienced the familiar scene including the sweet smells of apple jack and herb while others were chasing the dragon.
In panic he ran from room to room, desperately searching for the exit. He ran toward the window, threw it open climbed onto the fire escape and jumped up the stairs to the 5th floor of his apartment building. As he ran down the hallway to his apartment his thoughts were jumbled repeating the words: idiot, stupid, lazy, dumb, retard, asshole, bitch, ugly moron. The words his father used when he would come home drunk, D’Anthony heard the bedroom door slam and his delirious father unbuckle his belt.
He laid on his bed hearing the beat of his heart echo in his one room apartment he shared with his daughter Liasha.
“Liasha”, he whispered as he panted, “My sweet girl, what’s wrong with me?”
He closed his eyes while repeatedly cried, “Faith, faith, faith D’Anthony you have to keep faith.”
As he drifted to sleep, he remembered his mother’s voice saying the words,
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you cannot see the whole staircase.”
We must keep faith and tomorrow will bring us favor.