I had seen nothing like West Adams before. It was a place littered with beautiful homes that gave the environment a picturesque look. West Adams was nothing like where I lived back in Memphis. In fact, the whole of Los Angeles was nothing like Memphis.
It seemed like here in Los Angeles, everybody was going somewhere.
Brisk footsteps of young men, teenage girls, middle-aged couples holding hands and children running freely on the sidewalk amazed me. One of the pointers told me the University of South California was not too far off.
It was three days after Mr Green announced to me about Mandy that I found myself in West Adams, South side of Los Angeles. The city was agog with life as mostly Latinos and Africans like myself could be seen in this part of the country. It was here I got to know that there were blacks who lived good lives and rode big cars, and spoke with white men.
These were the rich black folk that God cared about, I thought.
It hadn’t been a problem convincing Mr Green that I needed to go to Los Angeles in order to find my brother. I told him I had heard my brother was here and was finding it hard surviving. I hated the fact that I lied to Mr Green, but I couldn’t possibly tell him that I was going after my two-timing uncle, plus the fact that I wanted to elicit emotion from him in a bid to get some money to aid my quest.
My efforts weren’t a waste. He folded twenty dollars into my hand.
He kept lamenting that he’ll have no one to look after Mandy and that perhaps he will ask her to remain in Pittsburgh after all. I felt pity for him, but I was more concerned about finding my uncle.
At least Father had instructed me to.
Convincing Nina, though, was harder. I couldn’t possibly tell her I was going to find Benrnie, so I told her instead that I had a friend over there who wanted to offer me a good job.
‘What kinda job, Chap?’ she had asked casually as she chewed on a bread roll for breakfast that morning.
‘I dunno Nina. He says it’s something I can do, though. He says I’ll get to work with rich black folk and they’ll treat me well.’
Nina’s eyes widened ‘But Mr Green treats you well’
I cleared my throat ‘About that, please don’t let Mr Green know. I told him I was going to LA for something else, so don’t…don’t tell him about the job’
‘What did you tell him?’ I knew she would want to know
I sighed ‘I told him I was going to see Bernie’
I was surprised she didn’t question my rationale for using that excuse.
‘How long are you going to be away?’ she asked, now chewing on the edge of her tea mug
‘You’re leaving me like Father did, right?’ the next question came out of her mouth before I could answer the first.
It hit me hard.
‘Nina, I would never leave you. I won’t’ the words came out, bland and vapid. Even I knew they were empty.
She was still sitting and I was standing.
‘You’re not gonna be here for Christmas.’ I didn’t know if that was a statement or a question. I decided to answer.
‘I’ll try to be’
‘How long are you gonna be in LA?’
‘How long Chap?’ her words now cut into me like sharp metallic thrusts of a seared knife
‘I’m a big girl now. I’d be fine.’ She stood up, avoiding looking at me.
She walked past me ‘Keep the keys with the nurse on your way out. I’m off to work’
Something was building up in my throat; a lump. I couldn’t let Nina go this way. I wanted to move, yet some unfamiliar force of vertigo held me to the ground.
This was my sister that I had vowed to protect after she was raped at the tender age of eleven. This was my sister that I would kill for. What was I doing now?
Maybe it was best I left this way. Anything more and I would be sobbing all over her, maybe even slavering, begging her to understand, and eventually telling her the truth. Maybe the sadness that hung in the air now was sibylline of the joy that will greet us when we get Uncle Terry to pay for everything. Maybe the togetherness was what we had to give up in order for me to find Bradford, and deal with him once and for all.
She didn’t need to know all that now. Besides she still had Father, at least once a week.
Bernie on the other hand was constantly on the move. Recently, our knowledge of his whereabouts was almost little to nothing. At the time, for over a year, we had had no idea of his whereabouts.
‘Nina, I’m sorry.’ I whispered to myself then I realised I was crying. I left without saying goodbye to Nina.
The train ride had been the longest ride of my life; not just because it took us a full day and six hours but also because of the somewhat melancholy vein that had settled on me after the Nina confrontation. I thought about it throughout the ride.
We made stops at New Orleans, Houston and Tucson before we got into LA. I had only little money on me, most of which I was saving for my final destination so I did not purchase much on the journey. I particularly found an Egyptian dish called molokhia or something of the sort. It was a kind of soup with chicken and Egyptian greens. I liked it, and I had gotten it for a really cheap price. So I stuffed a good number of plates with me, along with some bread, which I ate throughout the journey.
I realised West Adams was something akin to a market place, where everything was in constant motion. I was to meet my friend at Figueroa which lay to the east of West Adams.
Hanson was someone I had worked with during the period before I met Mr Green at one of the diners. Somehow, he had moved up to Los Angeles, and since we had exchanged stories when we worked together about how we came to America, I had told him about Uncle Terry and he had told me something similar, a story I could not recall a few years later. Now he wanted to help me get justice, and boy was I willing.
I headed for the subway. I was going to Figueroa.