Everything white is good. They don’t teach you that shit in school. Growing up in a predominantly black neighbourhood, this thing begins to darken your consciousness at an early age, the reality colouring the rest of your sad life… White is good. Everything white– – light, peace, virginity, Michael Jackson, America, the clouds, angels, Heaven, God… cocaine.
I was five when I learnt how good this white powder was. It was the only thing that made Ma happy. She would hurry out of the house very early every morning, in a frantic rush, raincoat over her worn nightdress, and come back hours later, floating, calm as a stream. She would spread the coke on the kitchen table in a beautiful sea of white into which she would plunge her face. When she came up for air, her eyes would be swimming with tears and her lips brimming with a liquid smile that usually spilled into bubbly laughter all over the kitchen floor. You would think she was mad; I knew she was just happy— so happy that she would gather me into her hard chest, kissing me on the lips like a lover. I would be happy too– – until her white peace began fading into dusk and the the dark clouds returned over our heads…
I used to wish that one day I’d become so rich and buy Ma an island
where this white shit was the sand, so that she’ d be happy forever, and there’d be plenty of sunshine, to keep our dark clouds away, too.
I was sixteen, and Al Pacino was Tony Montana. Every kid in the ‘hood wanted to be Scarface. I had become rich, Hollwood-rich. Cocaine had flooded the ghetto, and I was buying as much as I was selling– – to keep Ma happy. And she was always happy…
Then she began to talk about marriage and having children. Shit. See, there were no men in this ‘hood; only gangstas and pimps and ex-cons , drug dealers and fiends, and such— no real men, like the men where we came from; the men in Ma’s stories, who were marriageable, who were there for their families… I knew it was time to
return home, to clean Ma up some.
‘Ma, we should go back to Nigeria.’
She was sitting up in bed, naked, on a beach of white powder, with Marlboro stubs as shells. It was snowing outside.
‘I ain’t going back down to that hell.’
‘That hell is home, Ma.’
‘Not mine. This mah own home.’
‘Ma, it ain’t . You came from somewhere
‘Fuck that! What did that somewhere ever give me or do for me- jack shit!
Look what this place has given us; a fuckin’ palace! Right in the heart of Queens!’
‘We can take it all with us, Ma. You were born there, you know— ‘
‘And I’d rather die like a dog here in this heaven than go live like a king in that shit hole!’
The next morning was December 25.
They found her under one of those Christmas trees in the street, in her nightdress and raincoat, half-buried in the snow. She had overdosed, the autopsy report said. It called her Jane Doe. My mother, Ma, another black crackhead for the statistics.
She must be happy wherever she is now, happy forever, on an island
where the sand is white, and the sun warm.
It was an unusually cold winter that year, and lonely too. The whole city was blanketed in snow… Everything white.