It was surreal to hear Shara’s name come out of Deana’s mouth, when I asked how she met Billy. I knew she knew of her. Who didn’t?
Once, I was on an online message board and one of the subjects was North End Landmarks. There, listed among historical monuments and turning points in the city’s history, was Shara’s full name. She was the only person listed. I tried to email the original poster of the message but he didn’t reply. Was he a victim of her wrath? Or someone who tried to love her?
After what seemed like an eternity, I told Deana yes, I did remember Shara. And this is the story she told:
I was living in an apartment not far from here. Billy and Shara lived upstairs and Shara’s cousin Robin lived downstairs. Robin and I were really cool and I used to hang out at her place quite a bit. One day she said, ‘Shara don’t be treatin’ her man right. He’s a good man too. I’mma hook ya’ll up.’ So that’s how it all started. Me and Billy used to meet up at Robin’s place, mostly to talk. Not long after we started seeing each other, I decided to move and I asked him if he would come with me. He said yeah. I was really scared of Shara, but I didn’t let her know it. ‘Cause, girl, she is really crazy…you heard what she did to that one man, right?
I could not believe my good fortune I was finally going to find out more about Shara and “what she did to that one man.” That became a catchphrase that you’d hear sprinkled in adult conversation. It would always be followed by a grimace or a head shake. His name and how he encountered her wrath was a mystery to everyone.
“Well, what did she do to him?” I asked casually as we headed toward the highway ramp. I had hoped that Deana didn’t noticed how perked up my ears were or that I was starting to drive faster than usual. Billy had bought Deana her dream car, an olive green Volvo sedan. It was her pride and joy. Aside from Billy, I was the only other person she had ever let drive it.
Girrrll! She lured him into the hallway of an apartment house near Cabbage St. He owed her some money, right? Once he got inside there, he said he wasn’t going to give her nothing, right? She pulled a big piece of wood off the stair case…girl it had the nails in it and everything and beat him half to death. To this day, he’s still messed up.
I wondered if he was the original poster of the message board.
Anyway, one night we were inside of our apartment, right? We had moved down to Sands. Somebody was knocking on the door, right? I looked through the peephole and it was Shara! I was so scared, right? I told Billy he had better get her away from outside my door…’cause you know I’m scared of her but I won’t let her know it.
Deana’s comments about how afraid she was of Shara would always be followed by a nervous chuckle. I couldn’t imagine Deana being afraid of anyone; however, with this, she convinced me.
“I been knowing Shara since I was a little girl. Billy went outside there and I heard her tell him to come home with her and he said, ‘Nah this is where I’m at now.” Girl, then it sounded like they was fightin’, right? And Billy came back in the house and said Shara had cut him on his face. Girl, blood was everywhere!
I remember several times wondering about the deep gash on the side of Billy’s nose. I never asked how he got it. It had this crisscross look, like a carving. It looked deliberate.
Deana said Shara called the police and told them something about Billy having warrants and he got arrested. Shara ended up leaving before the police got there, and they never saw her again.
“I had just got my income taxes, right?” Deana said still nervously laughing at Shara’s rage. ” I didn’t hesitate to go downtown and get Billy out of jail.”
Billy told Deana that night he was convinced he would be with her forever.
My mind couldn’t help but drift while Deana was talking. I could see Shara in my daydream heading towards Albany Avenue alone in the dark. It was the street where Miss Mabel’s church and the Rockabye bar were located. The avenue where folks poured out their sorrows in one way or another. I know what she did was terrible but at that moment, I really felt sorry for her. I don’t think she meant to hurt Billy when she cut him.
I believe she just wanted to leave her mark, an insignia that said, Remember, you loved me first.
Deana reminded me again that she remembered Shara while growing up and how the tales of her always frightened her. Each time she mentioned her name, she’d scan the outside of the car, like she expected Shara to jump in front of it.
She told me she knew a girl who knew Shara’s whole family. Deana said that woman told her a story of alleged abuse that Shara experienced as a child. It was said that the acts were only directed towards her. I won’t record the details of the abuse, but after hearing it, I was certain I had discovered the root of her rage.
“You know she had those other two kids, right?” Deana continued as we pulled into her driveway. It was a known fact that Shara had another set of children at a very early age who were given to some else to raise. Deana said the woman told her that it was rumored that Shara’s father, Mr. Neil, was also the father of the children.
I felt a twinge of sickness in the pit of my stomach. Hearing the news was almost too much to bear. I couldn’t help but think back to the expression on the faces of her family members when anyone mentioned her name. Now I realize, it was a look of pity and shame.
“Guess that’s how she got that way,” Deana said, shrugging her shoulders as we headed towards the front door.
I tried to share the story with Deana about how Shara had asked me to attend church with her when I was a child. As with everyone else her reaction showed indifference.
I thought about how pristine Shara’s childhood home was. I could imagine them scrubbing and cleaning hoping the secret stain would be washed away.
But like grape juice splashed on clean white linen, it was be next to impossible to remove by human effort.
I thought of times I’d watched her attempt to reach for normal. That day I understood, if these accusations were true, nothing in her foundation could ever support that stand.
For several days, the flames of Shara’s rage kept coming to me. Sometimes fire purifies; sometimes it damages.
Please stay with us for the conclusion, Grapevine, Part 3.