**Unedited and subject to change**
I sat impatiently across from the psychologist who had been sent in to speak to me and determine if I am competent enough to stand trial in a few weeks and smirked while puffing on a Newport as I watched her vigorously write notes on the legal pad she’d removed from her briefcase.
I silently analyzed the white woman sitting in front of me. Her nervous demeanor, rosy cheeks, black wide-rimmed glasses, and that cheap wool plaid suit she has on makes her the most unlikeliest person to choose to work in a maximum security prison, treating murderers, sexual predators, and white collar criminals for a living.
“So, are we gonna do this or what, Doc? You’ve been writing on that pad for five minutes now, and I’ve got things to do,” I said.
She looked up at me and pushed her glasses higher up on her nose before she spoke. “Exactly what kinds of things am I keeping you from doing, Ms. Robinson?” she asked as a kind, yet slightly condescending smile spread across her face.
Touché, bitch, I thought as I caught the obvious sarcasm in her statement and smirked again. Maybe this nerdy-looking white girl- Dr. Beverly Grayson, her name tag read- isn’t as timid and mousy as I pegged her to be.
“Oh, you know- I’m on kitchen duty so I don’t think the other ladies will appreciate me leaving my share of the work for them to do; I definitely don’t want to miss the one hour they give us to go outside in the actual sunlight and fresh air; and I’d prefer to get the daily sexual abuse I’ve gotten from C.O. Monroe over sooner rather than later. Lord knows I hate when he pulls me out of my cell in the middle of the night while I’m trying to get my beauty rest to give him his routine oral transaction before his shift ends at 6 a.m. and he goes home to his naïve wife and kids. So yeah, I’m booked…and I’ve got more important things to do than sit here and watch you fidgeting with your glasses and writing on that notepad.”
I laughed out loud when Dr. Grayson’s eyes widened in horror after I finished answering her question.
“Is that really happening to you in here?”
“Well, in case you haven’t noticed, this is prison, not Disneyland. If you think what I just said is shocking, you really wouldn’t be able to handle the other stories I could tell you, that’s for sure.”
She nervously cleared her throat and scribbled something else on her notepad before looking up at me again. “So, where do you want to start, Ms. Robinson?”
“No need to be so formal…you can call me Desiree; and you’re the professional, so you tell me. I’ve never talked to a head doctor before, so this is kind of new to me.”
“Okay, then; I’ll ask questions and you answer them.”
“Cool. So, what’s your first question?”
“Where were you raised? Did you grow up with both parents?”
I reached for my cancer stick and took a couple of puffs before I laughed and shook my head. “Come on, Doc; that’s not what you really wanna ask me. You want to know the juicy stuff…like what in the world would drive an eighteen year old girl to murder four men, right?”
Dr. Grayson cleared her throat again and looked down at her notes briefly, then back up at me again. “Well, yes; we’ll get to that…eventually. I thought you might want to discuss some of your history first, so I can get a better understanding of what led you to…do what you did.”
I smirked and rolled my eyes at the fact that she appeared to be reluctant and uncomfortable with saying the word, murder. I shrugged my shoulders. “Like I said, you’re the professional.”
“Okay, then. Where were you raised? Did you grow up with both parents?” she asked again.
I sighed heavily, ready to get this over with. “I was born and raised in Athens, Georgia. And no, I didn’t grow up with both parents in my life. As a matter of fact, neither one of my parents wanted me. My biological sperm donor dipped out the moment my mama said she was pregnant, and my mama found another drug dealer to occupy her time soon after I was born, so she dropped me off at my grandma’s house one night- along with a couple of trash bags full of my clothes- and she chunked me the deuces, too.”
“So, it was just you and your grandmother, then?”
“Yep, and Grandpa Lewis…until he died.”
“How did he die?”
“Two thugs decided to rob him one night as he came out of a gas station. All he had on him was ten bucks and the pack of squares he’d just bought; so they took that before they shot him and left him on the sidewalk to bleed and die slowly.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Dr. Grayson mumbled.
“Yeah, me too.”
“So, what was your relationship like with your grandparents?”
I smiled as distant memories of my grandpa flooded my mind. “Grandpa Lewis was cool as hell. He always had some funny story to tell us. Most of the time he was lying his ass off, but they were still funny stories. Like the time he told me that he taught Michael Jackson how to do the moonwalk. Then, he said he could have married Dorothy Dandridge, but my grandma got pregnant on purpose so that he would stay with her. He was a real character, but he was real smart too. The kindest man you could ever know and he would give anybody his last dime if they needed it,” I said, trying to avoid tearing up as I talked about the only man who’d ever shown me real love.
“Sounds like you were very fond of him. What about your grandmother; what was your relationship like with her?”
The smile instantly dropped from my face at the mention of my Grandma Alice. Unlike my grandpa, there is absolutely no love lost between me and Grandma Alice. I don’t have very many fond memories of that woman. She made my life hell almost from day one. I shrugged as I realized that Dr. Grayson was waiting for me to answer her question.
“There’s not a whole lot to say about her. She raised me from birth and she was the only mother I’ve ever known.”
“But, the two of you didn’t get along,” Dr. Grayson said as both a question and a statement.
“Hell no! I hated that woman and she hated me…right up until the day she died.”
“Why do you think she hated you?”
“Because she told me she did,” I said, matter-of-factly.
“Why don’t we talk about what happened between the two of you that caused her to say she hated the grandchild that she raised.”
“My grandma was just a hateful, miserable woman. I could have gone to college and managed to become the first Black female president of the United States and that still wouldn’t have made her proud of me. Nothing I ever did was good enough for her.”
“You obviously have built up anger and hostility towards your grandmother. Did you two ever have a good relationship? Was it just normal arguments that mothers and daughters have about things like curfews and boyfriends, or were there deeper issues between the two of you?”
I reached for my box of cigarettes, took one out, lit it, and took several puffs before I answered. “My grandma was a Jehovah’s Witness…one of those real religious, Bible-thumping types of people. They don’t believe in doing anything remotely fun or exciting, let them tell it. I hated going to that church, but grandma was one of those ‘as-long-as-you-live-in-my-house-you-do-what-I-say’ type of people, so I had no choice but to attend. I hated all those phony ass, so-called Christians. They like to walk around with their Bibles and literature and look down their noses at everybody else, but the people in that congregation are some of the most crooked, conniving, phoniest people I’ve ever had to be around, my grandma included. We had many arguments over the fact that I didn’t want to go there, nor did I pretend to like being forced to go.”
“Okay, so you didn’t share her religious beliefs. What else did you two argue about?”
“She wanted to control my life. She and my grandpa only had one child- a daughter named Marilyn. Marilyn was her pride and joy. She could do no wrong in grandma’s eyes. Even when Marilyn would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to go lay up with older men and not return for days at a time, grandma still put her on a pedestal and worshiped the ground she walked on. Even when Marilyn popped up pregnant at the age of thirteen, Grandma Alice still loved her to death. She let Marilyn get away with any and everything, until she ran off with this older man she’d been messing around with in the middle of the night and never came back home. After her golden child left, I really caught hell.”
“Grandma was mad and upset at the world after that. She took all of her anger and frustration that she had built up for Marilyn out on me. I wasn’t allowed to have any kind of a social life. I couldn’t have friends over, I couldn’t go anywhere, other than to church. I used to sit in my room and dream of the day that I graduated from high school and got the hell out of her house. At first, I tried so hard to please her. I was always on the honor roll, I got an after-school job when I turned sixteen and made my own money, so I wouldn’t have ask her and Grandpa Lewis for much, and as hard as it was, I tried to remain a virgin until after I graduated. All of my friends around me were proudly having sex and losing their virginity, but I was determined to wait. I think Grandma thought that if she let me out of the house, I would end up like Marilyn and get knocked up and run off with some man, so she felt like she had to keep a tight leash around my neck.”
“So, it sounds like you were a good kid.”
“I tried to be…I really did. It was hard though, not giving in to peer pressure. There were a couple of boys I wouldn’t have minded giving it up to, but I really wanted to make grandma happy. I realize now that nothing I did was ever going to make her happy, all because I didn’t want to be like her and be a Jehovah’s Witness.”
“So, you honestly believe that’s the reason why she didn’t like you?”
“I know it is. Well, that’s not the only reason, but it’s part of it. I remember when I first went to her and told her that I wanted to get a job after school. The first thing she said was, “No; an after-school job will take away from you going to the Kingdom Hall…,’ That’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses call church. They don’t call it church, they say the Kingdom Hall. I begged her to let me get a job but at first, she wouldn’t budge on her stance. Then, I think she realized that if I had a job, that would mean more money coming into the house, or rather, into her hands. My grandma was a real money-hungry type of woman. She would do anything to get money. She even let some strange man move into Marilyn’s room after she ran away so that he could pay her rent. I think she eventually realized that me having a job would mean more money in her pocket, so she let me get the job…and made me pay her rent every two weeks when I got paid. I became her tenant, not her child anymore. And no matter how many or how few hours I worked, she had her hand out and wanted her cut every pay day, or she was going off on me. I remember her telling me, “If going to work is more important to you than going to the Kingdom Hall, fine…that’s your soul that’s gonna burn come judgment day; but if you’re going to work and stay here, you got to pay me.”
“But in spite of all of that, you still tried to make her proud of you?!”
“Yes…I tried to. I went to school everyday, then work immediately after. I wasn’t having sex, I was a straight A and B student. What parent wouldn’t be happy about that? I’ll tell you who wasn’t…mine. She resented the hell out of me for not wanting to follow in her footsteps and be baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. After I stopped going altogether, she became real distant and even more mean to me for no reason. I could never go to her and talk to her about boys or things that most teenagers go through…she didn’t want to hear it. If I even mentioned anything about boys or having sex before marriage, she’d get to rantin’ and ravin’ about how ‘the Bible says it’s a sin to engage in pre-marital sex.’ Anything I wanted to do, she acted like it meant that I’d be banished to hell forever. When I got my feelings hurt and my heart broken for the first time by a guy I really liked, all she had to say was, “That’s what you get for choosing not to serve the Lord. You should have got one of the good, Christian boys from the Kingdom Hall and not those old heathens that be cheesin’ and grinning’ up in your fast ass face…then you wouldn’t have to worry about it.” No matter how many times I told her that I hadn’t even lost my virginity yet, she never believed me. And when I got raped, she felt no pity for me and blamed me for it. “That’s what happens to sinners, she told me.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that. So, let’s talk about the rape, since that’s the reason why we’re both here.”
“Grandpa Lewis had died and it was just me and her. I had a hard time dealing with his death. I became depressed and I cried a lot, because I missed him so much. He was a stern man, but he was never as strict and hateful to me as grandma was. She really started her psycho-christian babble after he died. Grandpa Lewis wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness like she was. Had she met him after she became a member, she wouldn’t have been allowed to marry him, because her religion only permits members to marry other members. But she and Grandpa Lewis were already married before she began going there. She used to always try to persuade him to go with her, but he only went a few times. After he died, she said he was going to hell because he didn’t serve the Lord. My grandpa wasn’t a religious man. He prayed and believed in God, but he wasn’t one to attend church every Sunday. She always hated that about him.”
“So, there was animosity between your grandparents too, then?”
“Sometimes. Grandpa would often tell her to ease up on me a little bit…stop breathing down my neck so much and let me just be a teenager and enjoy life. She hated that he rarely ever took her side whenever she was going off on me for whatever reason. When he died, and I didn’t have him there to stick up for me anymore, she really became difficult to live with. I was only six months shy of gradation at that point, so I tried to just stay out of her way by working as much as possible and spending as much time away from home as I could until then. The night that I was raped, I had just gotten off work and was walking home.”
“Before you start, I need to turn the recorder on. Your statement can be used in court.”
I shrugged. “Whatever.”
I waited until after she placed a small digital recorder on the table and pressed the record button before I continued to talk.
“Okay, you may continue.”
“So, I had just gotten off work and was walking home,” I said, picking up where I’d left off. “I remember regretting not wearing a jacket with a hood on it, because it started to rain as soon as I walked out of the restaurant. I only lived a few blocks from the fast food restaurant where I worked and I usually walked home unless the weather was real bad, then grandma came and picked me up. I hadn’t made it far when a car pulled up beside me. I recognized the boys in the car as three of my classmates. They asked me if I wanted a ride. I said no at first. Grandma Alice had always preached to me to never accept rides from men or boys, and I’d always heeded her warning. But just as I was about to say, “No, thanks,” lightning flashed across the sky, followed by a loud boom of thunder, then it started pouring down raining. I wasn’t trying to walk home in the rain, so I got in the back seat of the car.”
“So, did they take you straight home?”
“If they had, we wouldn’t be sitting here, Doc. No, they didn’t take me straight home. They convinced me to go to this house party that they were on their way to. At first, I told them I couldn’t go. Grandma would have killed me if I’d gone to a party rather than straight home after work. They started teasing me, calling me a goody-too-shoes- something that I absolutely hated. Because I was one of the few virgins left at school and I rarely ever got in trouble or did anything remotely fun, most of my classmates thought I acted stuck-up or like I was better than them. For once, I wanted to prove that I wasn’t stuck up…that I wasn’t the Ms. Goody-Too-Shoes everybody thought I was, so I told them I’d go to the party with them. Biggest mistake of my life.”
I paused before I continued talking, as I thought back to that night…the night that changed my life forever…