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Lack of Discipline

A story from New Domangue

By Lucas Díaz-MedinaPublished about a year ago 18 min read
Lack of Discipline
Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

“Constance LeBlanc? Follow me, please.”

I don’t know how this lady get to know my name because I don’t tell it to her, but I follow her anyway until she tell me to sit and wait for the doctor. Mama tell me many times that I’m not to tell strangers my name, but the people at the hospital back there know my name, and then the men in the ambulance know it, and now this new lady know it, so I guess these people know me somehow.

Now, this small room I’m waiting in is nothing like my room, which is always full of trash and flying cockroaches. This room so bright and full of pretty pictures. I know my babies sure would love to sit in here and not back in my room. I miss my babies, and I’m so far away from them now that I can’t even hear their little crying.

“Hello, Constance, I’m Dr. Wiltz. I’ll be your new doctor while you stay with us in New Orleans. Okay?”

I nod to the new lady doctor that it fine with me, but that I don’t know about where New Orleans is.

“Well, it’s too far to walk, if you’re thinking of going back to New Domangue. Are you comfortable, Constance?”

I tell her that I am, but that I really want to know if my babies are doing all right, because if they not, then I’m going to have to go home to take care of them.

“I’m sure they’re fine, Constance,” she say to me. “I want to talk to you for a while.” She smile real nice, and I think maybe I want to talk her, too. But I don’t say nothing about it. I just tell her that it okay with me. Then she ask me about my age. I tell her I don’t know nothing about that because nobody tell me. Mama don’t tell me nothing about my age, but I know a whole lot about how dumb I am because she don’t ever come in my room without telling me that. The lady doctor tell me that this not my room and that I am fifteen years old.

“Do you understand?” she say to me. “You are fifteen years old because you were born in 1985, which was fifteen years ago. Do you understand, Constance?”

I nod that I do, even though I don’t know what she mean by talking about 1985. All I know, this not my room. I know that. And I know I got to go home before night come because my babies going to miss me soon. They might be crying right now. If I don’t get back to them they might never stop crying, then Mama might go in the room and hit them. I won’t mind so much if she do, so long she don’t make them hurt too much. Nothing but a good beating sometimes shut them up good.

The lady doctor tell me that if I never run through Mama’s window she never might meet me, and that she glad to meet me. I tell her that I am glad to meet her, too, but that I got to get home to my babies. If night come and nobody come to take me to my babies I might jump out the window again and run home fast as I can, but I don’t tell the lady doctor this because she already tell me that it not safe to do those kind of things. But it don’t matter none to me. Even if they not real babies, I got to take care of them.

One day I want to take care of a real baby. Jack about to tell me how to get one before Mama come busting the door on us.

“Tell me about that, Constance, about Jack and the babies,” the lady doctor say.

Jack all lies. He hitting and yelling, too, just like Mama, but mostly he all lies. Jack say he going to tell me about where babies come from, but he don’t, and now he not going to ever tell me because the nice man back at the other hospital say that Jack going to jail for what he done.

That nice man back at the hospital say that I should be more angry at Jack for what he done. He nothing like Jack. When I come in the hospital door he seen me and come walking up to me and look at the cuts I got all up and down my arms. He ask me about the cuts and I tell him and put my arms out to him so he can see all the cuts. Then he start talking to me real nice, and he start to ask me how I got the cuts, so I start to tell him about my babies and about Mama, and about Jack and how he going to tell me where I can get me a real baby before Mama kick me out the house.

The nice man ask me if I know why Mama kick me out, but I tell him I don’t know why Mama kick me out. He think I might really know because he ask me the same question a lot of times before he finally stop. I tell him I don’t know. That last night when Mama out late by herself she come home yelling at me and Jack. Then she throw me out. She all red in the face and she call me a bitch, whore, dumb-ass-with-no-brain-slut, and some other things I don’t much like. Then the nice man ask me why she call me those ugly names and I tell him she always call me those ugly names, except she usually not so mad about it. So then the nice man want to know how come Mama so angry this time and I tell him about Jack.

“What did you tell him about Jack?” the lady doctor ask me.

I tell him how Jack going to tell me how to get a real baby and maybe Mama don’t want for Jack to tell me.

So then the nice man ask me what Jack and I doing when Mama come home, and I tell him I let Jack get on top of me, because Jack say if I let him get on top of me then he going to tell me how I can get my own real baby. Then the nice man ask me if I know Jack’s age, but I tell him I don’t know nothing about Jack’s age. So the nice man tell me to tell him more, to tell him everything about what happen before Mama come home and about what happen after that and about how I got these cuts on my arms. But before I start to tell him, he ask me if I feel all right to talk about it, especially about Jack getting on top of me. I tell him I don’t mind that. It don’t bother me.

So, like I tell him, I don’t mind Jack none. Jack all right when he not hitting and yelling. He all lies, but he all right, too. He don’t come in my room none because he know my babies too little and real afraid of people. But this time he come in.

“Can you tell me what you told him?” the lady doctor ask me, and I tell her, sure, I can tell her what I tell the nice man.

I’m in my room like always, up in a corner taking care of my three babies. They got dirty clothes and they complaining about that, so I try to make them happy by rocking them in my arm. Soon as night fall top of my window I hear Mama yelling at Jack about something, then one of my babies start to cry so I hit her a few times real hard so she stop that crying. The tip of my fingers hurt when I finish on her, but she don’t start again. Then I try hearing some more, but it get all quiet. All I hear for a long time is maybe a car passing outside, but then I hear Mama and Jack yelling again.

“What’d you do that for?” I hear Jack say.

“You bastard son-of-a-bitch! You screwing someone else!”

“Calm down, damn it. You got it all wrong, woman.”

“Wrong, my ass. Get the hell away from me!”

Then I hear footsteps all over the house like they going to break the wood floors. Then I hear them go outside. Mama yell at him some more, and then everything gets quiet again. Then I hear the door slam and some footsteps come to my door lots of times, then go away, then come back, then go away again. Then the footsteps come back to my door and then there’s knocking and the door open a little and I hear Jack’s voice.

“Constance? You in there? I want to talk to you,” he say.

I stay up in my corner looking at him, thinking he might come in and hurt my babies, because I could see his face don’t look right. He look around for my babies, but he don’t find them because I move to the darkest, faraway corner. Then he talk again.

“Jesus, girl. Ain’t you got no light in here? Where the hell are you? I know you here.”

Then he open up the door all the way. Some light from the hallway come in the room with him. He start walking in with his hand out front of him like this man rolled up in some toilet paper I saw on TV one time. He keep walking like that ’til he see me, then he come up to me and touch my head, then he get on his knees and touch my babies and I scream at him because I don’t want them bothered.

“Hell, Constance,” he say. “These is just dolls. They not real babies. Don’t you know they not real babies? Real babies ain’t made of plastic.”

I tell him that they my babies.

“Yeah, sure, Constance,” he say to me. “Look, I could help you get a real baby.”

When he say that I tell him he better tell me where I could get my own real baby. So he say he promise to tell me if I let him get on top of me without no pants on. Them boys where I live always doing that to me when Mama send me to the store, only they don’t ever ask me could they get on top of me, they just do it. So I tell Jack all right. Then he say that I have to take off my panties, and I tell him all right. Them boys never ask me nice like that. They make me all upset because they always tearing my panties off and then Mama gets to yelling at me about it.

If Jack hurry up, maybe I could get me a real baby before Mama come back. I tell Jack this and he just laughing.

After Jack go inside my private, I get a funny feeling, and I want him to hurry up. I try to move away from him, but he tell me to stop that because if I don’t stay still he won’t tell me where I can get a real baby. He tell me that getting inside my private is one way how I could get a real baby. I don’t understand what he mean, so I let him keep going.

Then Mama come home. I don’t know she home because I don’t hear her footsteps coming in the house, I just know she inside when I see her face all angry behind Jack.

“You no-good, New Orleans son-of-a-bitch. You think because you from the big city you can come down here and take advantage like this,” she say, and she keep yelling and hitting on Jack and throwing things at him, and he run out the room. Then Mama come back and grab me and pick me up. She yelling and hitting on me and throwing things and calling me names. She throw me to my corner, and then she leave for a long time. I hear her fight with Jack, and I listen ’til I fall asleep. Next time I open my eyes Mama’s hand pulling me up by my hair. Her eyes all angry and red and she saying things to me.

“Get up. Get up, you dumb slut,” she say. “You’re leaving my house tonight. Your damned check ain’t worth this misery. Here, put some clothes on,” she say, and she leave my room and then come back and throw me out.

The man at the hospital ask me if I get the cuts on my arms from Mama beating me up, but I tell him nah, that’s not how I get the cuts. I get the cuts the next day, because after I get tired walking round and round the street in a big circle round Mama’s house and away from Mama’s house and round her house again, I go and sit in front of the door to watch the sky turn orange and then into a real pretty blue, and that’s when my stomach start talking to me. When my stomach start to talk to me I beat on the door a few times, but don’t nobody open it. So I sit on the front and watch the sun get higher and higher ’til I forget about my stomach talking, but then I feel like I got to use the bathroom, and so I beat on the door some more. I beat the door and I kick the door, but it don’t open so I go over to the window next to it and throw myself in it. Mama come to me yelling, and she start hitting me and pushing me and calling me names. Then she start to taking the glass out my arms and telling me I need to go to the hospital. She give me my medical card and say I could get the hospital to stop the hurt in my arms so I come walking to the hospital.

“Why did you want a real baby?” the lady doctor ask me.

I tell her that I always want a real baby to play with and take care of.

“Constance, you don’t understand what you’re talking about,” she say. “A real baby is hard work. You have to feed it, bathe it, put clothes on it, and you can’t ever quit from taking care of it.”

I say to her that I know how to do all that because I done it with my babies.

“And what will you do with this real baby if you don’t want it one day?”

I say to her that I could just put it in a corner somewhere in my room or that I could throw it away, especially if it a real mean and bad baby. I could just throw it away and get me a good one.

“You can’t do that with a real baby, Constance. A real baby is not a toy,” the lady doctor say. “A real baby is not like your dolls. A real baby is another human being.”

I tell the lady doctor that what she say don’t make no sense to me.

“Why, Constance? What is it you don’t understand?”

She look real nice, and I want to say something about Mama and me, but I don’t know what to say. I start to think about this girl I see in a movie one time who get real mad with her mama and who say so right there on the TV, but I still don’t know what to say to the lady doctor. I just want to go back home, because if I don’t go back them roaches going to get all over my babies’ faces. They going to crawl up and down their bodies like they do me. I don’t mind them none, but my babies sure scared of them. They especially don’t like the kind that fly up into high corners where you can’t see them and then fly down and land on you.

“Constance, I need to tell you something very important,” the lady doctor say to me.

I tell her it okay because I don’t think I got anything to say.

“You are very, very far from your house right now. New Domangue Midtown Medical Center sent you to live here for a little while because you might get hurt in your mother’s house again. Do you understand? Your mother might go to jail, too. Do you understand?”

I don’t want nobody going to no jail. Jack and Mama all right, even if they both hitting and yelling. I ask her if Mama really going to jail, and the lady doctor say yes. Mama all right. Sometimes Mama start hollering things don’t make no sense to me, and I think she going to come in my room and hit me, but she don’t. Sometimes Mama fight all night with Jack, and I hear their footsteps up and down the house. They just hitting and yelling, but they all right. I don’t want nobody going to no jail. Jail is a bad place.

“Constance,” the lady doctor say, “when people hurt other people they go to jail.”

I tell her that jail a bad place.

“Yes, that’s right,” she say. “Jail is a bad place where people go when they do bad things. Do you understand?”

I tell her that Mama ain’t done nothing bad. It just my lack of discipline make her do things so I can act better. I tell her I do the same things with my babies.

“Constance, if you had a real baby and you hit it like your mama hits you, you would go to jail.”

I don’t want to go to no jail. I tell the lady doctor that I don’t want to go to no jail.

“Then you have to remember,” she say, “that when you hurt someone, you go to jail.”

Nobody ever say this before. My mama hit me lots and she never go to jail. I tell the lady doctor this and she look at me with nice eyes.

“That’s because nobody knew. But now we know. That’s why you’re not with your mama anymore.”

I tell the lady doctor that I just want to get out of here. I want to go back home because this place full of strange people. I don’t like it here none. My babies missing me and I need to go home and feed them because they might be hungry. If I don’t feed them they going to cry, and Mama going to smack them. I smack them when they forget their disciplining, like Mama say I sometimes do. So it all right because I know when Mama smacking me it fix the lack of discipline she say I got, and so it for my own good, and don’t nobody do nothing for my own good like Mama do.

“It doesn’t matter,” the lady doctor say. “Nobody should hurt you. Nobody should get on top of you naked if you don’t want to. Do you understand?”

I tell her that I didn’t let those boys get on top of me, but Jack asked, and I told him it was all right. I ask her if Jack going to jail. She tell me Jack going to jail for getting on top of me naked. I don’t understand this. Jack all right. He don’t do nothing bad to me but maybe hit me sometimes, just like I do my babies. He say it for my own good, and I know it true because that’s what I say to my babies when they acting bad. Jack don’t bother me none, he all right.

“He hurt you because he hit you and he got on top of you naked,” the lady doctor say.

She tell me this again. Jail is a bad place, I say, and the lady doctor say yes, yes, because they hurt me they have to go to jail.

I ask the doctor if she go to jail if she hurt me.

“Yes, I will,” she say.

I ask the doctor if I will go to jail if hit my babies.

“If you hit a real baby, a real, live baby that was yours, yes. You will go to jail.”

I don’t want to go to jail. Jail is a bad place. So I ask the lady doctor how I can fix my babies when they crying and they got a lack of discipline. I don’t want to hit them and go to jail. I just want them to be quiet. And I don’t want Mama and Jack hitting me or those boys jumping on me cause it don’t feel good and I don’t like it. Next time, if they start to hurt me, I’m going to tell them that they going to jail. I miss my babies.

Short Story

About the Creator

Lucas Díaz-Medina

I'm a Dominican immigrant living in the New Orleans area since the 70s. A father of two, I've been a service worker, war medic, ER tech, pro fundraiser, nonprofit leader, city bureaucrat, and now a PhD'd person, but always a writer.

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