I wanted to get a closer look at the quote. I walked over to the wall where the poster hung to ease my mesmerizing spirit. How was Dugie able to get his poster in here? And since when did he start calling himself "Lord?" I thought to myself. Everyone from my neighborhood knew who Dugie was. Practically everyone in New York City knew who Dugie was. But what I didn't know was when he started publicly advertising that he was a drug dealer. My eyes swam to the bottom of the poster written in small fonts: "Jeremiah 29:11," it read. Since when did Dugie start writing in codes? I always thought he was unintelligent. But I guess he was smart after all. I stopped my train of thought as I felt blood gushing to the back of my head in an angle prepared for the truth. In a deep gasp, I spoke to myself, what if one of my roommates is working for Dugie? Or worse, what if they know my mom? And better yet, what if they know me?
To the general population, Dugie was known as a major drug dealer. But to me, he was known as my mom's pacifier. He started dating my mom nine months ago and that is when I started to disregard everything that had to do with optimism, hope, happiness—life. Before Dugie, I would come home to a well prepared dinner and a caring "How was school today, sweetie?" from my mother. But after Hurricane Dugie hit, the devastation was too grand to tell. I would come home to empty pots and pans and an unconcerned "Have a sniff of this!" from my mother. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother and she means everything to me, but I find it hard to continue loving her when she chose Dugie over me; when she kicked me out of her house with only the rags I call clothes and the air I breathe to survive on. Our mother-daughter relationship is incurable. As a matter of fact, it is a decomposed matter with parasites feeding on it. Her and I are the decay, Dugie is the the parasite feeding on the remains.
Suddenly, in walks a slim, tall girl with an afrocentric hairstyle. I always wondered how girls styled their hair like that. I guess it came naturally for her. She was fair-skinned but a bit darker than me. I was hesitant to say hello, in as much as I was reluctant. Nonetheless, she seemed like she was in a hurry. She raced past me as if my existence was not present. In my mind, I replayed the scenario: "Uhh hello? What am I? Dead? Don't you know how to say hello? There's clearly a figure standing here.”
In actuality, this is how it really happened,
"Umm, hi. I'm Naomi," I said as sweet as possible.
She still paid me no attention.
"What's your name?" I insisted. Nothing.
She was moreover concerned about finding something. What is wrong with this girl? I thought. And then it hit me. It hit me like an arrow meeting it's target—she's probably working for Dugie. My eyes widened as I walked over to my bed, which was horizontal from hers. She was still rummaging through her suitcase, which she managed to pull from underneath her bed. And then it hit her. It hit her like an arrow meeting it's target. Maybe the same arrow that struck me a moment ago.
"I'm so sorry! Oh my gosh! I didn't see you there," she said.
Was she clueless or talkative? That's a little harsh. I released a smile, followed by, "It's okay. You seemed a little busy. I could tell."
"Yeah, I'm looking for my birth certificate. My case manager needs to update my file," as she looked down at the huge blob of clothing and documents she scattered everywhere.
"Yeah we are only allowed to live here for thirty days. In the meantime, each resident is assigned a case manager that will help you with your case and develop a plan to help you transition from Covenant House."
"Hmm, I didn't know that," I answered.
"I'm Melanie, by the way," with her right hand extended towards me. I took the gesture and shook her hand.
"Aww, that's a pretty name."
"Thank you! I was named after my grandmother," I added.
She released a small smile, "That's nice."
I was wrong about this one. She was very friendly. My attention went back to the poster and its quote. I walked over to it once more.
"So, Melanie, is this your poster?"
"Yeah, it's one of my favorite out of the many," she replied.
I couldn't control the commotion that was taking place in my head. Processing the fact that Dugie may have written this poster, and now getting the confirmation that he may have indeed written it, is mind-baffling. Someone shoot me. Anyone.
My voice quivered, "Is there a chance that you may, umm, know who wrote and published this poster personally?" I asked.
She peered through her things and made her way towards the poster. With one close glance, while touching the poster, she answered, "To be honest, I don't. But I can tell you who I got it from. His name is Mason. We met at a Youth Fellowship."
There had to be another alternative to this. The thought ran from my brain and straight out of my mouth.
"DUGIE'S REAL NAME IS MASON?" I quickly realized what I said. I was taken aback. I was stunned. She seemed confused by my statement.
"Who's Dugie?" she asked.
"A drug dealer," with grief, I tried to hide the resentment, "Someone I'm trying to get away from."
She expressed genuine confusion, "I don't know who that is. But wait, do you think that person you mentioned published this poster?"
She laughed. She laughed so hard that I wanted to join in, too, forgetting that this was a serious situation. Instead, I raised a brow.
"Why are you laughing?" I asked.
"Hun, this poster is not an advertisement by a drug dealer. It's a scripture from the bible."
Subconsciously, I let go of the breath I was holding. It was dinner time and the other girls and I had gathered at the table. With Melanie sitting next to me, I couldn't help but ponder on this "Bible" she mentioned earlier; the way she laughed as if I was delusional hinted at something peculiar. What was the meaning of the code: Jeremiah 29:11? I lowered my head towards my lap while I fidgeted with my fingers. At this point, eye contact was the last thing I needed.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, ladies. My mom asked me to drop off this casserole for you all. She intended to drop it off herself, but she was running late for work," the voice said.
And who was this Mason guy she mentioned? My head was still lowered, playing twenty one questions with myself.
I lifted my head from interrogating my mind.
Simultaneously, his gaze met mine. And all I could hear afterwards was "Hi Mason!"