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Detra’s story

Part 9

“It was magic that night. I didn’t miss any lines, or any beats. I sang seventeen of my favorite love songs: ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,’ Unforgettable,’ ‘Love Look What You’ve Done to Me.’ Toward the end of the show I sang ‘Dance With Me,’ by Orleans. I told the audience that for eight years I’d begged my husband to waltz with me, but he never would. He kept saying that I was too short. When I started to sing, the whole audience got up and danced with me. In that moment I could feel my chains breaking. It might have been the first time in my life I felt completely free. On the night of my performance, I’d been living in New York for just over a year. And a year is a long time to have someone living in your house. Lucas never made me feel like a burden, but I felt like a burden. For months I’d been praying to God: ‘Help me find a way out of here.’ And he answered that prayer. Just not in the way I was expecting. One morning Lucas told me that we needed to talk. He said that Margaret had been offered a job out-of-state, and she was going to take it. He invited me to come with them. I couldn’t bare the thought of starting all over again, in a new place. But most of all I didn’t want to be a burden. So I told him: ‘Thank you. I’m alive because of you, but I’m going to stay.’ When Lucas moved away, I lost the last bubble of protection between me and New York City. Garrison begged me to come live with him in Arkansas. He had an extra room in his apartment. But he was living in the town where I was born, and I just couldn’t do it. I told him: ‘If it gets bad, I’ll come live with you.’ And he said: ‘Mama, a homeless shelter is bad.’ I told him: ‘Not bad enough.’ I checked into a private shelter in Chinatown. There were thirty women in one room with fifteen bunk beds. On the night I was admitted, they made me have my picture taken for a photo ID card. I had to sign a piece of paper– to prove that I was homeless. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. When I put my signature on that line, I felt like I was sealing my doom.”

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