The Purple Crayon

“Your mother cut me.”

These were words I didn’t understand coming out of my aunt’s mouth. The plastic covering on my grandparent’s couch stuck to my skin as I reached up to get a better look. Her outstretched hand was holding bloody green pieces of glass.


It was the same glass Ma tried to give me and my cousins earlier. I thought she was playing and pretending it was money. It didn’t make sense for my mother to cut her best friend. That summer, I graduated from DeWitt Head Start’s kindergarten class of ‘79. I even knew what my aunt was holding wasn’t money.  I wondered if Ma thought she was like Harold in Harold and the Purple Crayon. Maybe she needed money, so she had made herself some.

Harold and the Purple Crayon was one of my favorites that Ma read to me.

I could hear her voice reading to me, even then, as I adjusted myself on her shoulder to better see the white pages and purple lines the little boy drew, “One evening after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.”

“Ma how old is Harold?”

“I don’t know. Maybe four.”

She continued.

“There wasn’t a moon, but Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight.”

I forgot it was a book and joined Harold as he reached up on his tippy-toes to the empty white sky and created his crescent moon. The shape was familiar. I looked up towards Ma. There was the familiar crescent shape on her left chin. It was a keloid in a lighter shade of cocoa than the rest of her face.

“Ma, how’d you get that boo-boo?”

“Your father. He cut me with a broken bottle.”

I scrunched up my face.

“Why would he do that?”

“He didn’t want a baby. He didn’t want me to have you.”

It was her way—honest, free of cadence. I didn’t know at the time, but  it was her preparing me early for life.


As I was now standing in my grandparent’s living room, I repeated to my aunt, “Why would she do that?” “I don’t know. She really thinks its money.” My aunt’s face said, wounded. It was everything I could not understand or express. But what I could feel was the sinking feeling in my own heart.

I heard the blare of sirens. It was different. It was familiar to hear sirens on the Lower East Side. What was different about it was that it was getting closer. What was different about it was that it stopped in front of the Gompers housing projects. Everything seemed to be happening quickly. I didn’t realize that the ambulance was for Ma until I saw the men in uniforms leading her out of my grandparents’ front door. The chimes on the door cried out for me because I didn’t know how to. I was looking out the window in the living room, but it felt as if I was on the street with our neighbors, hearing them whispering to each other and sometimes loudly wondering, “What the hell happened this time on Pitt Street?”

“Isn’t that one of the Herrings?”

What was different was that my mother was being led into an ambulance.

It was autumn. It was Pitt Street. It was decided. I would be staying with my grandparents.

*Excerpt from Raining Sunshine. Continue to read in Promethean spring 2017.