Authors: Treasure E. Blue
Keyshia and Clyde
James W. Sellers
To one of ALLAH's black angels who came on the planet earth with a wonderful and beautiful spirit and who shared it with whomever he came in contact. One of the best examples of a black father that one could have. You are truly missed, but will never be forgotten, for I know you will live in our minds and our hearts. May ALLAH bless your soul, black manâwe love you dearly.
Keyshia and Clyde
Get ready to die, was the thought that ran through Keyshia Simmons's mind as she stared into the smeared, tiny bathroom mirror in the federal courthouse building in lower Manhattan. Suddenly, she lost it again and ran to the nearest toilet stall, where she fell to her knees and threw up violently. It took a few minutes to regain her composure and get back on her feet. Time was running out. Unsteadily, she walked to the sink, cupped a handful of water, and splashed it over her face and into her mouth, the cool water soothing her skin. Life, that day, had new meaning, a new zest, a new zeal. But Keyshia knew it would only be short-lived.
The beginning of the end was near, and Keyshia knew it. She took a breath, looked down, and rubbed her growing stomach. As her pitiful life flashed before her eyes, she grew angry. But as suddenly as the anger came, it disappeared when she thought about the last years of her life with her man, Clyde Barker. Just moments earlier, she'd sat no farther than ten feet away from him in the courtroom as she awaited his fateâtheir fate. She loved Clyde more than life itself, because he told her she was beautiful when she couldn't find beauty in herself. She loved him because he taught her how to love herself when she never knew how. She loved him because through him, she now knew what true love really was and what it felt like to be loved and be needed. They'd made a promise that they would die together, and today that's exactly what would happen.
Using her sleeve, she wiped the remaining perspiration and water from her puffy eyes and forehead, exhaled deeply, and repeated, only this time out loud:
“Get ready to die.”
The courtroom was outside the bathroom door, a hundred yards away. Once again, and for the hundredth time, it seemed, she tapped both weapons, fully loaded nine millimeters, which she had strapped securely on either side of her ribs. The only things that could keep her from reuniting with her man were three court officers, three guns, and opportunity. The odds didn't matter today. What did matter was to get her man out or die trying! The twelve jurors, one judge, and half a chance didn't offer favorable odds. So she was ready.
Keyshia glanced at her watchâtime was up, and suddenly she felt dizzy. She used the sink to brace herself. She took a deep, deep breath and pausedâshe had to clear everything out of her mind for the mission at hand. She began to think optimistically; if things worked out, she and Clyde could slip out of the courtroom and be lost in all the panic that was sure to come. They might be able to pull it off. However, she knew it was more likely that she would go out down and dirty. So be it.
Life wasn't worth living that much anyway. She touched her stomach once again and smiled as she thought about what could have been. But Keyshia stopped such thinking because she had to be strong. Strong enough for both of them. She closed her eyes again and proceeded to will herself into combat mode, the will of survival, the art of war. Instinctively, her chest began to heave, pulse began to surge, teeth began to grind, nose began to flare, palms began to sweat, and then, there it wasâa burst of adrenaline raced through her bloodstream. She let go of the porcelain sink and stormed out the bathroom door. She was ready. Ready to die!
Someone was going to die today. Clyde Barker was that someone as he sat sullenly at the defendant's table awaiting his fate. Though he'd known from the very beginning that he hadn't a chance in hell, he could not help but hope it wouldn't go down this way.
Get ready to die! he thought.
The twelve jurors whisked by in single file without looking in his direction. This was not a good sign. Reading body language was a necessity in the world of Clyde Barker, because 90 percent of things he did in those streets was not said, it was almost a given. When he robbed drug dealers in their drug spots, the black gloves, ski mask, and shotgun spoke for itself.
Run that shit!
When he kidnapped a dealer's family member, they looked only for the ransom note, the time, and the place to drop off the loot. See, nothing else needed to be said.
Run that shit!
But now, Clyde's world was about to come to an abrupt end, as the shoe was now on the other foot.
Where was Keyshia?
Clyde thought back to the very first time he'd seen her beautiful face months ago when he pickpocketed her walletâshe couldn't stand his ass. But as fate had it, when love calls, love calls. There's nothing you can do. You can duck and hide, but there's no escaping it; when love comes knocking on your door, you got to let it in. Well, Keyshia didn't only knock, she kicked down the whole fucking door, and he loved the shit out of her for that.
“Has the jury reached a verdict?” asked the judge as he sat imposingly upon his bench.
“Yes, Your Honor, we have,” stated the jury's forewoman. An overwhelming fear washed over Clyde at that moment. Not fear of being found guilty, but fear of his plan dissolving before his eyes. Where was Keyshia? He turned and eyed the door again, causing the burly court officer who stood behind him to turn and look at the door also. Be cool, Clyde thought as he tried to make it look as if he were looking toward his two family members in the benches behind him. His palms began to sweat as he questioned the letter that he'd sent her.
My Beloved Aihsyek
As you know, my trial date is scheduled for February 23, at the Federal Court Building on 40 Centre Street. I spoke to my lawyer and he feels I have a very good chance of beating this. I feel the same way. I know you are happy for me. I'm ready to live a brand-new life shortly after that and we can live together forever and ever, just like we talked about many, many times before. There should be only three charges that stand in my way, but I'm only worried about two of them. You should give yourself about three hours' worth of time in case it is crowded. You may have to sit in the back. I want you to bring two cigars, not the cheap ones, so we can celebrate on our way out the door. Do you remember Mike? He said he can get us some of the best champagne to celebrate with, plus he will keep it on ice for us. Damn, I can hardly wait to be in your arms again. I'll write you plenty more as the days pass, so until then be well.
P.S. As soon as we hear those sweet words “Not Guilty,” we going to celebrate like it's the Fourth of July.
Decoded, the letter read like this:
My Beloved Keyshia
As you know, my trial date is scheduled for February 23, at the Federal Court Building on 40 Centre St. I spoke to my lawyer and he feels I'm going to blow trial and be found guilty on all charges, never to see the light of day again. I know this news is fucking you up. I don't want to ever live without you either. That's why I made up my mind, I'm not going out like a chump, so if you are down with the way we talked about, “in a rage making front page,” we go out together. Only three court officers should be there at sentencing, I'll handle the one closest to me, you take the other two out. As long as you come fully loaded, we could take 'em with no problem. Make sure you sit right in front, and use two high-caliber weapons, brand-new so we know they won't jam. Get in touch with Spanish Mike, he could get the guns smuggled in for you, and you can trust him. I can't wait to see you in heaven so we can be together forever in each other's arms. This will be my last contact with you, so be well. I think it adds to the drama and very smart. I prefer it to stay.
P.S. As soon as you hear the word “Guilty” it's on and blazing. Set it off!
Suddenly, the door to the courtroom opened, and there Keyshia was. A smile spread across Clyde's face as he watched his girl, his woman, his world, enter the courtroom. He could read her mind just by the expression she had on her face. She was ready, and he knew it.
“Have the jurors come to a unanimous decision?”
“Yes, Your Honor, we have.”
Clyde did not hear the proceedings because his attention was on his baby. He was enthralled by her beautiful face and tunnel vision set in. He always knew it, but he realized even more so now, how fortunate he was to have found and known what true love felt like in his brief lifetime. Love was something that remained ever so elusive since his mother was taken away from him when he was little. In a short period, this beautiful woman gave him a lifetime of love.
A tear fell from his eye. He couldn't help but chuckle at how chunky his woman was getting. She must be stuffing herself because she misses me, he thought. He loved the way her boots clicked with each determined step that she took on the marble floor. She seemed to glide toward the front of the courtroom.
The jury forewoman stood to give the verdict, but Clyde was fixated on Keyshia. He hadn't seen Keyshia in the nearly eight months since his arrest, and he missed her.
Then Clyde's head tilted like a curious K-9 as he noticed how wide her hips had gotten. As she got closer, he noticed how big her normally small breasts had grown.
He watched her rub her stomachâher hard, protruding stomach, wide and round. He frowned slightly. Keyshia was so close now that he could see the red in her eyes, the flaring of her nostrils, and the grinding of her jaw. Clyde blinked rapidly, and then it finally began to register. Oh shit, is Keyshia pregnant? Body language.
“In the case of federal bank robbery, what has the jury found?”
Clyde watched in horror as Keyshia reached inside her blazer jacket with both hands. He froze.
“We find the defendant, Clyde Barker . . .”
Oh, shit, he thought.
Clyde rose to his feet and yelled, “No!” but he was too late.
The last word that could be heard throughout the room was “Nine!” Then the entire courtroom erupted into pandemonium!
“Keyshia, get your lazy black ass up and start making breakfast for the boys before I come in there and get you up myself,” yelled Keyshia's aunt Ninny. It was five-thirty in the morning, and sixteen-year-old Keyshia barely moved off the couch where she slept. She knew from years of experience that her aunt's warning was only an idle threatâfor nowâand that she had at least twenty-five more minutes before her aunt would come into the living room to make good on her promise; so she stayed just where she was. Keyshia had lived with her aunt Ninny for almost five years and was more than used to all her aunt's threats, intimidation, swearing, and plain old evilness. Ever since Keyshia had come up to New York from Charleston, South Carolina, at the age of twelve, Aunt Ninny had seemed to despise her.
Keyshia was exceptionally skinny and dark skinned, with the kind of short, close-cropped hair that black folks were taught to despise. Her facial features were strongâkeen and sharpâand her country accent, the way she dressed, and her out-of-place behaviors caused her to be ridiculed by her classmates the moment she was asked to introduce herself in class. Keyshia had long accepted that she was “different” and adapted to the loneliness of being an outcast. She was born poor and fatherless to a mother who bore baby after baby, six in all, in an effort to find acceptance in her small life. Keyshia became only a number, a number that was forced to vie for attention and survive on her own wit or starve in the interim. But it wasn't only because Keyshia's mother had a hard time raising her children that Keyshia was sent up north to live with her aunt Ninny. It was also that Keyshia had got into “a situation.” When a situation happened in the South, it was something that was not to be discussed. It was only to be dealt with, no questions asked. The Simmons household in the South needed relief from that situation, and the best way to handle it was to get rid of it.
When her uncle Polk, who had lived in New York for over fifty years, did the family duty of picking Keyshia up from the Greyhound, Aunt Ninny's eyes seemed to light up with excitement at the arrival of her sister's firstborn child. Keyshia stood wide-eyed and awkward as she held all her meager belongings in a pillowcase. Her aunt graciously whisked her in and said, “Come give your auntie Ninny a hug,” as she squeezed Keyshia lovingly in her arms. She told her two boys, Eric and Andrew, to come and give their cousin a hug and a kiss. They did.
Afterward, she helped Keyshia take off her matted and too-small sweater. “Welcome to your new home, baby.” As Ninny inspected the plaits in her niece's hair, she frowned and said, “First thing Auntie gonna do is take you to Wilma's on a Hundred Twenty-fifth Street and get that head of yours done.”
Uncle Polk was in his seventies and was the first member of the Simmons family to move to New York back in the fifties. Settling in Harlem, he rented a small room and went out looking for work. Not long after he arrived, he landed a doorman's job at the premier Waldorf-Astoria in the heart of the city and became a permanent fixture at the hotel for the next forty years. He was good-natured and a very well-to-do black man for his time. He put his four kids through college and became the pillar of the Simmons family. Over the years, he became sort of a sponsor to the rest of the family, who wanted to move out of the dreaded South and find solace in the promised land, the big city, New York. He would pay the way for each and every family member to New York, find them a place to stay, and help them along until they got a job and were on their feet. The only thing he asked in return was that they help out any family who wanted to come up north just as he had helped them. His niece Ninny was one such that he'd helped to settle in New York. It was time for her to return the favor.
“Uncle Polk, take off your coat and let me heat you up some dinner.”
He smiled and said, “No, I can't. Doris is waiting right now for me to pick her up from church, and you know not to keep ole Doris waitin' too long.”
Ninny chuckled and agreed, “Yeah, I know how Auntie Doris gets when she waitin' too long; she liable to cuss you out soon as ya see her.” They laughed as they walked to the door.
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot.” Polk reached in his coat pocket and pulled out an envelope and handed it to her. “Just a li'l something ta help you out with some expenses.”
“Oh, Uncle Polk, you ain't hafta do that.”
“Child, please, it's my pleasure. We family gots to stick together.” She nodded and walked him to the door. “I'll drop by at the end of the month,” he assured Ninny, “and drop you off something again.” Polk beamed down at Keyshia and said, “You in good hands now, you with family, li'l girl.” He kissed Ninny one last time and was on his way.
Aunt Ninny hollered good-bye again and closed the door behind her. She turned around and walked up to Keyshia slowly. She inspected her from head to toe, then suddenly, out of nowhere, she slapped Keyshia across her face, causing the girl to spin around and fall to the floor.
“You black little heifer, how dare your black ass fuck my home up.” Keyshia was speechless. “I want yo' li'l black ass to know right now, you gonna earn ya keep to stay here.” Ninny scowled at her niece and yelled, “Bitch, when I talk to you I want you to answer me, do you understand?”
Keyshia, still holding her jaw, nodded as if her life depended on it.
Ninny yelled at her two boys, ages six and eight, and said, “I want both of y'all to go to the bathroom and wipe y'all face off and then change ya clothes. Y'all done hugged and kissed this black dirty heifer, and I don't want her spreading what she got ta y'all.”
She turned her attention back to Keyshia and threatened, “And if you even think about opening your filthy little legs to any of my boys and offering them some of that stinkin' pussy of yours, I'm gonna make you wish ya funky little ass was never born. Now try me.”
She stared Keyshia down and spewed, “I don't know why I agreed to let yo' black ass come up here. Yo' damn mother ain't shit! And don't think for a second you gonna be just lying 'round here to eat, sleep, and shit. No, ya black ass is gonna do some work 'round here!” Ninny stared down at her frightened niece with cold, sullen eyes and shouted, “Now pick up that funky bag of yours and let me show you where you be sleeping.”
Keyshia followed her aunt and watched her open up a closet door near the living room. “Put your shit in there, 'cause this is where you will be sleeping, too.”
Even though Aunt Ninny was just as dark as, if not darker than, Keyshia, she hated Keyshia's Negroid composition with a passion. Aunt Ninny was in her late thirties and did everything in her power to separate herself from her country Negro persona. She forced the country southern accent that she had out of existence and had Keyshia straighten her hair every single night with the hot comb before getting her hair relaxed with chemicals that burned holes in her scalp. She used skin-bleaching cream without fail until her skin pigmentation turned her a ghastly faded color. She even went so far as to pick her male impregnators by design. Only the lightest of light black men with soft straight or curly hair were worthy to mate with her in order to spare her children from a lifetime of ridicule, mockery, and persecution. And she adored her two boys because of their physical attributes.
Aunt Ninny made good on her promise over the years and made Keyshia a virtual slave. Keyshia did the bulk of the cooking, cleaning, and washing in the household. Her two cousins made it known to Keyshia that she wasn't shit. They would purposely fuck up the house and make her clean it. Once, one of the brothers ordered, “Hey, black bitch, come clean this leak up on the floor.”
Keyshia came with the mop and asked, “Where is the leak?” Her cousins smiled and pulled out their penises and peed right there on the floor in front of her. Keyshia couldn't stand their arrogant little asses.
The early years at her aunt's were the worst because she was always lonely, scared, and nervous. But she grew to accept her position in life. Over the years, she learned how to hurt and manipulate them all, including her dreaded auntie. If things got too hectic around the house or the beatings became too much, she would fake sickness, as if she were about to die. Because Keyshia's body was riddled with whip marks and iron burns and appeared malnourished, her aunt dreaded taking her to the hospitalâshe feared her abuse of her niece would be exposed. Besides, over the years she developed a dependency on Keyshia and at that point couldn't function without her. In a matter of days following Keyshia's “illness,” the whole house would turn upside down. The apartment would be a wreck, and the boys would complain that they were starving. In no time at all, they would take care of her by bringing her chicken noodle soup and waiting on her hand and foot as she recovered from the mysterious illness that had her bedridden. These were the moments Keyshia really enjoyed. The only other times she was happy was when she was alone and could watch television or put on DVDs and watch movies for hours on end. Her favorite movie was
The Color Purple
because she felt exactly like Celie, the character played by Whoopi Goldberg. Keyshia cried each and every time she saw the movie. She felt Celie's pain, her hardship, and her quest for freedom. Keyshia also felt she was ugly, helpless, and torn from her family down south and that nobody from there would come rescue her. She also loved the movie
Set It Off,
which starred Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and Vivica A. Fox. She loved the way the girls took control of their lives and went all out to get what they wanted by force. Keyshia would act and repeat everything the girls said while she watched them. I could never be so confident, she thought. Keyshia would get so caught up, so lost in the movie, that she would forget where she was at times. Whenever she acted out their parts, she spoke almost properly and just like the characters on-screen.