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Detra’s story

Part 13

“The first thing I did when I got a real paycheck was hire a real estate broker. I told him that I only had one requirement. He said: ‘Not in New York. Not at your price point.’ But I told him: ‘I’m a praying woman.’ Sure enough he called the very next day. He said: ‘You’re not going to believe this. But I found a place in Harlem.’ We went to see it that very night. It was a one-bedroom, right around the corner from a cigar shop. I walked straight into the living room, took out my tape measure, and measured the walls. 14 feet exactly, just big enough for my sectional. And I knew I was home. Lucas was so proud of me. And Garrison bought me a second charm for my bracelet. It was a little house, with ‘Home Sweet Home’ written on it. But my other children still weren’t speaking to me. After I moved in, I went on Facebook and printed out their photos. I put them all over the apartment. Because I wanted to feel like they were still part of my life. Their birthdays were always tough for me. So were the holidays. I’d never lived alone before, so I was dreading my first Christmas in the new apartment. I made sure to plan out my entire day: I was going to read all morning, cook some salmon for lunch, then crawl into bed at 4 PM to watch the Christmas Prince on Netflix. The plan was going great. When I finished my reading, I was so proud of myself. I thought: ‘I’m almost through Christmas Day.’ Then I looked at the clock and it was only 10:15 in the morning. And I lost it. I just lost it. I went through my whole apartment, and took down all the pictures of my children. I stuffed them in a drawer. I couldn’t face them. I felt like a horrible mother, and a hypocrite. For all those years I’d gone from church to church, teaching about marriage and motherhood. I told everyone: ‘Put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.’ But that isn’t what I’d done. I moved to New York and put myself first. And now I had five kids that wouldn’t talk to me. The old feelings of guilt and shame started washing over me. I let myself go for a few minutes, but then I pulled myself back up. Jab with the left. Jab with the left. Cross with the right, and fuck that shit.”

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