Another snapshot. Billy’s girlfriend, Shara.
I’m not sure how they met; I can’t believe I forgot to ask him during the months that I was his caregiver. But Billy loved Shara. She was in his blood.
Shara was caramel colored from head to toe, and there was something about her that screamed HOLLYWOOD. When I think of her, so many people come to mind. She dressed like one of the Supremes everyday and had the sassiness of Jackee Harry from 227 or Beyonce’s altar ego, Sasha Fierce. She didn’t look like these women at all and I never saw any talent displayed; still, her persona said, “I’m a whole lotta woman!”
I never heard a nice thing about her. Ever. Shara liked big hair and fast living. She seemed to have a wig that matched every outfit.
“That’s because she doesn’t have any hair,” someone said one day as they discussed her. “I’ve seen her without her wig…she’s bald,” she continued with a wicked laugh.
It seemed like nobody liked her but I think most people were afraid of her and some secretly envied her. She was a free spirit who did many risky things but always seemed to come out on top.
Shara was just one of those people who didn’t intend to get the short end of any stick.
She was what we called a booster back then, which basically meant she was a professional shoplifter. She would take orders, go downtown to some of the finest department stores or boutiques, then come back and sell her goods to the neighborhood.
She had lifted a few things for me before, although I can’t remember what they were.
It was also said that prostitution was her side hustle. I’d hear people saying that when she and my uncle would go to Providence, Rhode Island on “business,” that was the reason.
Sometimes, I would overhear her talking about Providence like she had gone to the Hamptons or something.
She was also skilled with weapons. Shara had been known to cut a few men and women in her time. If you said or did anything she didn’t like, she’d cut you, plain and simple.
Shara was wild and unpredictable, and she made people uncomfortable. She was like a California brush fire, fierce and bellowing. You never knew where she was going to strike next, and if she got to your home, she’d destroy it.
One night, as my uncle and Shara came home from a club around 3 in the morning, a man rung our doorbell to tell my mother the two of them were in the parking lot fighting. Mom said, “The man said, ‘Your brother is out here whipping Shara’s (expletive). I would tell you to come out here and stop him, but Lord knows, she needs it’.”
Nevertheless Billy was madly in love with her. His eyes said it. It was something about the way she purred his name. She would poke out her bottom lip, which was always glossy. It reminded me of butterscotch candy and in this soft baby sounding voice she say “Billy,” which sounded more like “Biddy,” and his face would melt.
I had never seen anybody have that effect on him. He was sprung and everybody knew it.
I loved her because he loved her. No matter what anyone said about her, it never changed my opinion. I had hoped it wasn’t true but I had witnessed so much firsthand, nothing surprised me.
I always wanted to be around her, mainly because she was so girly and fabulous. I was always trying to impress her. One time, we had company at our house. The music was blaring and the kids were running around acting silly and doing all the latest dances. Shara was sitting at our dining room table with the other adults. She was holding her Kool high in the air and nursing her scotch on the rocks. She was talking a mile a minute, which most of the adults would say were lies.
“Shara! Shara! Look at me!” I shouted over Gladys Knight’s version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” blasting from our hifi. I twisted and turned, showing her this new dance called The Boston Monkey.
“Oh, Oh, Oh! Shake it, baby!” she shouted over and over, leaping from the dining room table, hysterically laughing. The more she shouted, the more I pranced around.
Soon I was hysterically laughing, too, feeling triumphant: I had gotten Shara’s full attention.
Everytime I saw her, I’d run up to her, “Hi Shara!” I’d say practically yelling wanting her to hug me. “Hey, Bay!” she’d respond barely touching me and not looking at me. Bay was short for Baby. Shara barely looked at anybody when she talked to them. When you were in her presence, her eyes always darted around like she didn’t trust her surroundings. Her calling me Bay was the only way I could tell she liked me.
Needless to say, Shara wasn’t affectionate.
She had two sons that my uncle was helping her rear. One was a dark skinned, stocky boy who was one of the baddest little boys I’d ever seen. The other was her complexion, sullen and sensitive. The latter one’s eyes looked like he had seen too much. The former one looked like he wanted to see more.
She dressed them to the nines. They looked like the sons of rich folks. On the outside they looked nourished and well cared for.
Their behavior proved they weren’t.
The boys would trail behind her like two rolling suitcases, making just as much noise. They always sounded like there were a lot of folks with them when they’d visit, but it was just be Shara and her sons.
She told someone one time that she didn’t have time to wash their clothes; she would just steal new ones.
Once, Billy and Shara were keeping me for the evening. They had moved in the bottom floor apartment of a three-family house. It was spacious, airy, and tastefully decorated. I was happy for them, and the normalcy seemed to calm the boys.
It seemed like everything was going well. I had hoped they could live like that forever.
“Let’s make brownies!” Shara said during my visit. I thought it was nice that she was home and seemed peaceful. It was a Saturday evening, and the boys seemed excited to have her attention. She reminded me of an actress who had been touring but had taken a few days off with her family.
The whole scenario reminded me of the type of article you see in People magazine of your favorite celeb.
Her wig was understated, her makeup basic. She had on a cute knit top and slacks, dressed just the way an actress would for a pictorial.
She pulled out a frilly pale yellow apron from a drawer in the pantry. Even the apron was chic. It seemed to match the kitchen curtains. The kitchen was complete, well stocked and immaculate. She had purchased everything she thought it should have. To my surprise, Shara looked really domesticated.
We gathered all the ingredients to make the brownies, when all of a sudden, Shara started trembling all over. Her body shook and writhed and, before she collapsed on the floor, Billy caught her.
Carrying her like a bride over a threshold, he kicked the bedroom door open with his foot, placing her on the bed.
I followed him, trying to take in as much as I could with my eyes before he closed the door in my face.
I was scared to death. The boys never turned around or flinched. They actually looked disapointed that we might not be able to make the brownies.
After only a few minutes, Shara and Billy emerged from the bedroom. Shara was slow like a zombie and didn’t look like herself.
“Is Shara okay, Billy?” I asked.
“Yeah, she just had a seizure and I had to give her medicine.” There was a grimness about him. His face looked like he had just lied to me.
“Let’s get an apron for you, Bay,” Shara said, picking up right where we left off. I wanted to tell her it was okay, that we didn’t have to make the brownies; but, somehow I knew, she needed to. She shuffled towards the pantry to retrieve a matching apron. “Here let me tie it” she said, grabbing my shoulder turning me around. Her hands seemed too heavy for her.
After she pulled the ties tight behind me, I felt no movement. I stood there for a second afraid to turn around. Shara had gone into a deep nod; a stupor of sorts, with her eyes closed and mouth parted.
I may have only been seven, but I knew that nod anywhere: Shara was strung out.