My friend Sherry called me one day to tell me she had had a dream. She talked on and on about it.
She was standing at the top of a red velvet staircase. The air was tense and she knew an important decision was going to be decided by her, which was whether to go down this staircase or turn away from it.
She just knew this dream was very important. What did the universe or whoever want?
I think I know now.
Trembling on the edge of sixteen, she had to decide whether she would cling to the values of her grandparents who had raised her or strike out on her own and be unconventional. (She chose to be unconventional, eventually.) What was odd was her striking innocence when it came to knowing that the person she was befriending or agreeing to date was a bad person, she was abused again and again by people. Her first husband beat her, wanted an open marriage, and turned out to be gay in the end.
Sherry often told me that that was all you could expect from people.
Her assumption was that all people were bad, this is the way it is.
Poverty itself will bring you in contact with a great many bad people and she was sent out into the world without even a dollar to call her own, nearly starved to death before she finally found that waitressing paid well. The waitressing she did became the death of her because everyone went out drinking after work, blowing all the money they had just spend the evening making. She found living with her abusive husband easier to bear when she drank and she became an alcoholic. She was so proud the day she called me and told me she had managed to beat him up instead. She was working hard and he was not so she was able to beat him up, his muscles had turned to jelly on a steady diet of beer and Cheetos. She was happy. Then she divorced him, got the car and kept it in his name and then didn't make a single payment so to ruin his credit.
When her grandparents adopted her, they told the judge they would take care of her. What they did was make her into a household slave who cooked all the meals and cleaned the house and picked up their poodle's poop and then telling her that her mother was a slut and she had bad blood, just like her.
All of this is so sad that sometimes I feel like if I cried about it I would never stop, like some crazy looney and then pull all of my hair out. She was my friend, in fact the only person who would be my friend in elementary school. I was one of those girls nobody talked to, an outcast who they would pretend smelled bad. (In fact, I bathed twice a day, convinced that I did in fact, smell)
If I could go back in time I would tell her that never mind the red velvet staircase and never mind those people who tell you who you are.
You can be anyone you want to be.