One – from How To Talk To Crazy People by Donna Kakonge – New Year

I am back to the darkness. The idiotic red carpet is still here in the basement of my mother’s house, a large space I had all to myself as a teenager. Back then I could stand the darkness, but I slept a lot and was always very moody anyway.

The walls of the bedroom are still painted white. A small window, about the size of a picture, meets the ceiling line. The poster of a peacock hangs over the headboard of my old double mattress bed. The large Michael Jackson postcard with the “King of Pop” standing in front of a gold background, which I got at McDonald’s when I was fourteen, hangs to the right of my dresser. Made of white-painted wood, the dresser holds the few clothes that still fit me after I have lost so much weight. Other old clothes hang in the closet like the skeleton my frame has become.

My mother encourages me to eat, but I keep my mouth shut.

I meditate every day in front of my mother’s house. I sit on a small plastic garden chair with a Sony CD Walkman in my hands and headphones, which one of my former bosses at the CBC gave me, over my ears. Listening to Whitney Houston’s “Exhale,” I let out a soft shoop and hum to the music.

I feel a presence beside me and I am riveted back to a state of fear. “What are you doing?” Mom asks as she takes out the garbage. “Meditating,” I spit out.

“Sounds foolish to me.”

On Christmas Eve day, I take public transit downtown to the Omega Bookstore in Yorkville where I purchased my library of New Age books. I buy a smaller version of the Rider-Waite tarot deck that I used with Constance. I make my way back to my mother’s house on the Warden 68 bus and get off at Steeles Avenue. I run, taking a short cut home, and almost slip on some ice, but I catch my balance on a wooden fence.

No one is home. My sister and my mother are out; I don’t know where. I close my basement bedroom door and   take the   tarot   cards out of the bookstore bag. Still wearing my coat, I sit on the bed and open the box. For hours and hours and hours I cast out the cards like runes, desperately turning out different destiny after different destiny. The hairs all over my body unfurl from curled to straight. I stare at the array of Celtic crosses I create. I rarely blink.

“What are you doing?”

My mother’s yell snaps me back to reality. I say nothing. I’m embarrassed. I’m caught at something I know my mother and her Methodist upbringing does not approve of.

She still wears her gloves and coat as she gathers the cards and leaves my room. I follow her outside to the garage where she tosses the tarot cards into a big black garbage can.

On Christmas Day, I refuse to come out of my room. I spend it crying.

On Boxing Day, my Aunt Lillie comes to the house, at my father’s request. I peek out the window and see her in a puffy black coat that hangs past her knees. When she stands in the doorway, her Jheri-curled hair almost reaches the top of the frame. She wears gold earrings. Other than the bright red lipstick on her lips, her flawless dark brown skin is untouched by makeup.

She looks at the pink pajamas I wear and says, “Donna, get dressed into something long. Get ready quickly. The service will start soon.”

Aunt Lillie wants to take me to church. I love my aunt so I agree to go with her. But I hate my mom after she tossed out my tarot cards.

Aunt Lillie drives me to the church. We quietly enter and I see white, black, brown, yellow and red faces all around me—all dressed in their perfect best for the Lord.

I don’t see any stained glass, but I do see a video camera set up beside a small musical band on the minister’s stage. I feel restless as the minister speaks so I get up and roam around the inclining rows of pews. When the band plays, I dance at the back of the church.

Aunt Lillie yells at me to sit down.

After the service, Aunt Lillie takes me to a mid-size room at the back of the stage to see the minister. He is surrounded by members of his flock. Dressed in black with a white collar, the minister places his brown hands on my shoulders. Aunt Lillie gets up close to him and whispers something in his ear that I can’t hear. He nods his head and she backs away.

His sharp black eyes stab into mine. “You are ill, my child?” I nod.

The minister rests his hands on the top of my head. “The devil has taken a hold of you,” he says. “The devil has taken a hold of your mind. The devil has taken a hold of your heart. The devil has taken a hold of your soul. It is demons that enter inside of us that make us ill, especially of the mind.” He takes his hands off my head and opens his arms.


An emotional rocket rips through my core. I tremble and cry.

“Let these demons come out,” he shouts again, then raises his arms above my head. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost—I command the devil to leave your body!”

I shut my mouth to keep from screaming. I push his intrusive arms away and run out of the room. Aunt Lillie chases after me and shouts at me from the front of the church to come back. I look up the street and around the church. I have no idea where I am. I do not know where to go.

Moments later, an ambulance stops and picks me up. In her car, Aunt Lillie follows behind the ambulance to Scarborough Grace Hospital.

I spend New Year’s Day of 1996 inside another cell of four metallic grey walls.

A black couple, visiting their son, beams their smiles at me. “You have so much potential, dear,” they tell me. “This is a shame, an honest shame.”