I hated babies so why did I end up acting like one, I'll never know. It's all Billie's fault. I shouldn't have
allowed myself to get involved with her mess. Hell, I had my own messes to straighten out but I thought
everything would be okay but it wasn't...I had grown up on the other side of Eight Mile Road. A vast distant
world of clay faces with upside-down smiles every time they saw this city on the news, my mother one of
them. I would become the same kind of woman as my mother . She grew up on the edge of the city:
Warrendale, a neighborhood where people like me didn’t really exist at that time, not yet and when
we did, we were ignored. In fact, that’s what my grandmother said to her when she told her about me. 
It was a vicious cycle that my mother had started when she found out that she was pregnant by a
man that I never met. But my mother thought she was doing me a favor by not telling me about
how the other half lives, my other half. She said that I didn’t need to know about them. They didn’t
exist. The ones walking through, driving through, passing through were just visitors. Even their
homes were just temporary; Grandma said that we couldn’t exist that way. But she was wrong.
Growing up, the voice inside me said: “Why don’t I look like you?” 
Momma’s reply, a sad little voice said, “The better to see your pretty eyes, my dear.”  That was
my first important memory of my life with Momma. I remember when she read a letter. It was from
across Eight Mile Road. The name I could not pronounce. It was long, at least ten letters. She had
been approved for “special housing.” It all started because of what happened on this one particular
 night. She came home that night to a darkened house and panicked when her ride dropped her
off in front of Grandma’s home. She thought that the house was empty until she saw a pair of
green eyes looking beneath a white plastic shade with just enough pity to know that I was hiding.
Momma came upstairs and took me in her arms.
“Where is everyone?” she asked but I had no answer.
Grandma did not want me-I was a reminder of a way of life she was being forced to leave behind
and I got her in trouble. She had moved as close to Telegraph Road as possible but she just
couldn’t afford to move onto the other side, which was outside of Detroit, not yet. She was a
widow; a woman left alone with wandering souls to keep her company and pay her rent. The
neighborhood association president suggested that she sell her house or worse yet, join
hands with the Henry Ford president and make bullshit promises and just give up but then
what? She was too proud to join in her words “the bottom of the run,” that worked in the
auto factories.
“Having to share dirty gloves and probably the same bathroom, the same toilet with factory
workers? Jesus Christ! Maybe with other Polish factory workers but that’s probably it. Oh, I
don’t know if I could!” Said the same woman who dropped food on the ground, picked it back
up with her weathered-looking hands, and kissed it up to the sky. 
Wearing gloves was a part of the changing world, and even people like us had dirty hands
anywhere we went. So Grandma stayed home. Momma drove a bus for awhile but then they
wanted her to go to certain neighborhoods and she wouldn’t. She stayed home.
   One night, Momma came home to find Grandma gone and me alone. When she found me
in the dark, and Grandma had left me to fend for myself—Momma blamed herself. I was
playing a game with them though. I was hiding in the closet and I refused to say anything,
not a word until Grandma came looking for me. But she never came. She called my name
once from the stairs, called my name twice and asked where Momma kept her secret stash
of money. I said nothing back. I wasn’t going to help Grandma out. She called my name a
third time and then I heard the door slam. I knew her legs wouldn’t have made it up the
stairs without help. I could have gone to her, maybe I should have but I knew that Grandma
was sick. She had been that way since before I was born, before Momma was born. I was fine
by myself. I just went into Grandma’s room to play dress-up.  My eyes peeked out into their
 bedroom through a little hole I made in the wall. Some days I would eat ketchup sandwiches
and hide in her closet. Grandma had food but she didn’t always share it. When there was not
ketchup and bread to eat, I dug my fingernails into the wall and carved out the word ‘die.’ On
the outside of the house, it looked like we were doing all right but we barely belonged in that
neighborhood. On days when we couldn’t even afford ketchup, I just ate paper. I did so
because I was hungry, I was always hungry, and I wanted to peek at Grandma doing nasty
things with that man from Hamtramck. I hid behind that door, any door that hid me from public
view. Only went near the window at nighttime when no one could see me. Momma left me alone
a lot then. Another time, I saw a dirty glove around that man’s hand and he was shaking it
violently against himself with his fist attached to his leg. A black-and-white picture in his
hand was of a woman and a man naked, the picture was facing me and I could see their
body parts. A part of me felt like crying and the other part of me felt like giggling. I remember
throwing up a little spit into his beat-up leather shoes. Grandma’s boyfriend only wore those
shoes when he wore one of his costumes. On that day, everyone dressed up like different
people, sometimes animals or even monsters. On that day, I got to eat all the candy in the
world and actually belonged to my changing world. Everyone looked kind of funny, even me.
I could hide behind my mask and the only thing people could see were my green eyes. They
did not know who I was and for that night, I didn’t either. I remained behind the door,
eventually falling asleep in there. When I woke, they were in bed. Grandma asked him
if he knew where I was. 
“I don’t know,” he said.
Then, she looked towards the closet where I was hiding. A funny little thing happens to
 my eyes when I am sad. They change colors from green to blue. But Grandma doesn’t
care. Oh, yeah, then I remember, she doesn’t see me in that way. I’m not really her
    Her mouth opened like a complete yawn. Her eyes narrowed and I thought she saw
 me. I thought I saw her smile turn into a frown. But she licked her lips and went back
to knitting. Later, when I left the room, I thought I saw one of her eyes open. That one
eye of hers always stayed open. It doesn’t go to sleep. Momma has an eye like that but I
 don’t. I guess you could say that it skipped a generation. There are a lot of things that
Momma has that I don’t.  
When Momma came home and found me in the darkened house by myself—she said
nothing except, “I’m sorry.” She did not even look at me when she said this. Her face
scanned the wall up above my head. A light came on in my bedroom and I saw
everything in our room was gone. 
“Where did you put my belongings?”
“In a place—a new home with your very own bedroom,” she said. I did not understand. 
“Momma, why are we moving?”
She had sat down in front of the television and cried. I asked her again. She said that
it was because she did not understand the world anymore. She wanted us to move far
away—she had already crossed so many other lines but
this was the most important. We were moving this time but not with Grandma. It was one
thing to leave her alone but it wasn’t right for her to leave me alone. That’s what Momma
said the day we moved into our new place.  
I was told to go straight home after school. To sit by myself in an empty apartment with
no one around while Momma lost herself for long hours with the dirt she puts on her face
dreaming of dead faces and the dirty leftover food she eats at work, food leftover from
other people’s plates. She will not have to buy groceries or leave the house again and
look for a job. No, sir. Not with that kind of luck. On her off days, I kind of like how she
stays home and talks to the wall sometimes. She stays in bed all day talking to family
members that don’t exist. Me, I am still required to set two places at the dining room table,
one place for me and one for Momma. That was before I met my new bestest friend. I met
her on a Tuesday. The very next day, I was staring out the window at this little girl walking
home from school with a group of other kids. They were in a big circle—all different ages,
sizes. I watched them toss a big, red ball back and forth and then I was outside. I was looking
back at the empty apartment; I was eating a can of sardines with two dirty fingers. I knew I
wasn’t supposed to be out but I longed to be outdoors.  I saw the children playing a game.
They were kicking a ball around. I longed to be one of them, normal. One of the little girls
was about my height and was also looking over at me. She noticed the green of my eyes.
She tugged on her bracelet and shook it for me. It was also green. Someone called her
name and she turned around. I wanted to point to her but a delivery truck sped by,
ruining her perfect day with muddy puddle water. I wanted to laugh and hug her at the
same time. I found out later that her name was Billie.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Each day for me in those days was the same. I was to wake Momma up when the
sunlight streamed into her bedroom. She would leave for work a few minutes after that,
and I was to go outside and start playing until the other kids came out. 
    The corner store was only a few blocks away, the baseball field was even
farther and the park was very far away and that summer, I would be ten years old. By
 the time school almost started, I was one of the gang but I had to prove myself. I had t
o be the lookout while they went in and stole candy. When
they come out, we headed up there to the park to eat our special treats. I would wait
outside, according to Billie. It was easier for everyone but especially for me to remain
 invisible. A cop car stopped us before we began our journey, us being me, Billie, and
the other kids. He stared at me.
“What are you doin’ in this neighborhood, little gal?” He asked. Everyone else stopped
walking and stared at their shoes. Even the trees along Eight Mile Road and Nine Mile
Road will be quiet. We wouldn’t hear anything until we were closer to the city, which
started at Eight Mile Road. Billie spoke for the group: “She’s with me. Her mother
works with mine.” 
He nodded his head and continued to stare at me. “Just make sure that she gets home
before dark,” he shouted out his car window as his police cruiser turned the corner.
Billie gave him the finger to claps and applause from the other children. Despite
everyone’s lack of understanding, I was welcome solely because Billie wanted me to be.