- ileana albert
- kelli bickerstaff
The Ordinary Guide
- nephatera dixon
Sweet Kisses, My Love
- deandre garrett
From a Dream to a Nightmare
- darcy gray
All Is Not As It Seems
- daniel greenbaum
- lauren kay
A Different Type of Person
- kenneth manuel
- jessica owen
Corona in the Grass
The Ordinary Guide
“Well, I still think she’s weird,” Karen said. This was just the latest in a series of debates between Karen and Destiny. “DeDe has three kids, and she still manages to hang out. She’s sprung on her baby daddy. I called her five times last week, and she hasn’t called me back once. I invited her to go to The Standard with me and the twins, I invited her to Joe’s video shoot, and I texted her about the girls’ weekend in Miami. She act like all she wanna do is sit up in the house.”
“I don’t know,” Destiny says. “I saw her at the mall one day, and she seemed cool. She was wearing those new Charles David boots, and she looked like she lost a little weight. She cut her hair really low, into one of those girl fades! Maybe she’s just been busy. You should cut her some slack.”
“Whatever,” maintained Karen, “I think she fell off. She used to be the main one tryna get out to the club, and she ain’t never turned down a girls’ weekend anywhere. And how come she deleted her Facebook and MySpace? Girl, I am not trying to gossip, but I’m for real thinkin’ something is goin’ on. Gena thinks she’s on drugs.“
“That would explain the weight loss,” Destiny admits. “And she did seem a little too happy when I saw her in the mall.”
Meanwhile, in a different part of town, Shelly lies in bed with her two children and their father. They are reading; tonight it’s Curious George. After denying them one more story, the two adults leave the room and retreat to the bedroom at the other end of the hallway. Keith puts on a movie. Some stupid comedy. Shelly pulls out her laptop and attempts to concentrate on her math homework. It’s difficult for her to hear her own thoughts over “hahaha, he’s stupid; he shoulda just ran the other way” and “that girl got a big booty!” She laughs sometimes, too. Some of the antics are really funny. Shelly wishes she could talk to Keith about her thoughts on the state of Mexico in relation to the drug cartels. She doesn’t bother because she knows he’ll just make a joke and move on to some other light-hearted topic. Shelly learned a while ago that it is far better to just go with the flow. She remembers how it was when she had decided to release herself from him. It was awful. All of the ignorant females her kids were exposed to, the hurt she would feel when she would drop off her children for “Daddy’s Weekend,” the loneliness…. No, this was better. Everyone is under one roof, and she can keep more control over the influences of her kids. Plus, she found pure joy in knowing where she would go come nightfall.
She discovered the place quite by accident. She was doing her usual meditation routine. Most times it would end in her just falling asleep, but sometimes it would end in the true elevation of enlightenment, and it was these times that kept her excited and yearning for more. So every night, she embarks upon her journey and hopes that it leads somewhere. She has had to practice staying calm, because when she begins to elevate it often feels like she is either rapidly descending or rising; either way it is startling, and that fear stops the transition. But one night she managed to remain real calm and allowed the descent to occur and she reached the entrance of heaven. Yes, heaven is a real place. It is a place that contains the Great Halls of Wisdom constructed of gold. So far, she has only made it a few steps beyond the entrance before panic brings her back to earth. But every night she attempts to reach it. Oh, how she wishes she could bring others; Karen and Destiny would be amazed. The problem, as clearly as she can figure, is that heaven is only reachable if you are willing to leave earth behind.
Karen: “You know, this is the fourth Sunday in a row she hasn’t been to church.”
Destiny: “Girl, please just give it a rest! I am sick and tired of hearin’ you go on and on about Shelly! What are you, her stalker? If she don’t wanna go to church she don’t have to.”
Karen: “Shut up because you know I am right. I am tryna be a good friend to her. Would you rather I just let her continue on the path she’s on? Church used to be such a big part of her life. We used to sit next to each other every Sunday. Now I have to sit next to Patrice, and she’s all super quiet.”
Destiny: “But you not doin' nothin’ but running your mouth! If you really wanna help her, then tell her what’s on your mind and not me.”
Karen: “All right then, I will. Imma call her tonight. We gone get this all straightened out.”
Born and baptized into a Baptist church, Shelly had attended church almost every Sunday for as long as she could remember. She read the Bible on a regular basis, and could pray with the best of them. She was even willing to accept the unbelievable in the name of faith. That’s why she was so shocked the first time she entered heaven, and realized the true pathway by which we get there! Shockingly, it is in direct opposition to everything Shelly had learned throughout her lifetime in the church. In hindsight she understood that the faith she had been taught to embrace is like a shackle binding people to earth. It advocates setting aside intellect, which, ironically, is the vehicle needed for the journey. The pathway to the Great Halls of Wisdom is not some magical journey that happens automatically once one is dead, provided, of course, that person had led a worthy enough life. It is, instead, an intellectual journey. The “self” leaves the body, and through a series of intellectual realizations, is propelled to the Great Halls.
Destiny: “Dede told me you called Shelly. She said she got sort of freaked out. Should I be worried?”
Karen: “Well what?”
Destiny: “Well, what did she say?”
Karen: “I thought you didn’t want me to talk about her anymore.”
Destiny: “Girl, if you don’t…!”
Karen: “Hahaha. Oh, so now I guess it’s okay for me to talk about her? Hahaha. Okay, okay. Well, the convo started out cool. I kept it real light. Then I straight up asked her ‘what’s going on?’ She acted real nonchalant. She said she has just been real busy with the kids bein’ back at school and that she’s been workin’ long hours at work. I was like, all right, cool, that makes sense. But when I asked her about church, things got a little weird.
Destiny: “How so?”
Karen: “She said she just wasn’t into the whole ‘church thing’ anymore. She said she would rather spend her time in meditation. Then, she started talking about death. She was sayin’ something about bein’ prepared for when you die. I don’t even understand what she was talking about, but I find it odd that she would bring up death. One thing’s for sure; I’m gonna stay away from that girl. Whatever she’s going through, she’s gonna have to figure that out on her own.”
Shelly fears her death, but not for the same reason as most. She fears that she will die before her mission is complete. And her mission? Simple. She merely has to teach as many people as she can how to properly free themselves of their bodies. But this is no simple task. She tries to talk about it from time to time with different people, but they are so intertwined with the way they have thought their whole lives that they cannot even begin to grasp the meaning behind her words. Like the other day when she tried to talk to her friend Karen. She tried to tell Karen that you have to be proactive in determining your soul’s destination after birth, but Karen had been unwilling to listen, so she gave up.
Like most of the other truths to which Shelly is privy, she stumbled upon her life’s mission quite by accident. One night she made it back into the entrance of the Halls. She once again was able to see a few figures studying the Halls' literature. That’s when it hit her: Where are all of the people? Generations of people have died! Where are they? Why is this place not brimming with both souls who have died and souls who have reasoned their way here? Then… oh, my God! Oh, my God! And as she exhaled as though she had been punched in the gut, her trip was over. She was immediately hurdled back to earth. And this truth was so overwhelming, she knew not what to do. For, she now understood that just as heaven is a real place one can enter, such is also true of its opposite, hell. And therein lies the mystery of life; we are all souls seeking heaven, but the path has been clouded over.
Thus, there in an average house in the hood, in the mind of a common black girl, the secret will lie. Until, that is, she is able to articulate the lessons she has learned. Until she is able to map the way to heaven, she must remain silent, lest she is beset by the fate of those who have tried before her. She considers this to be her mission in this life. She must attain to possess all of the knowledge she can from the Great Halls, from heaven, so that she can truly “save” others. This ordinary girl must become the guide.
Kelli Bickerstaff is native to Los Angeles. She is the single mother of two children, a six-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl. She has taken classes at West L.A. College toward an Associate's Degree in Real Estate and classes at Cal State Dominguez toward a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy with a specialty in Religion. Although she has a Real Estate Sales license, she is currently working as a Corporate Administrative Assistant for a large engineering company.