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The Roaring Twenties
It was an inclement day in the heart of New York. Shadows of pedestrians flashed at every intersection with each jalopy that passed. Now that cars had become popular thanks to Henry Ford, there weren’t many families without one, which encouraged travel. Many gas stations, restaurants, and cabins arose in New York City. The automobile became the symbol of individual freedom and independence: it changed American life. Especially the Model T. Ford.
Many people around town would say that it isn’t a safe place to be. Everybody is somewhat numb from the repealed law of prohibition. Prohibition was a total ban on alcoholic drinks. Whether it be selling or producing, it was illegal. This “total ban” on alcohol caused rage within the city, and encouraged bootleggers. These smugglers would cross the border to other countries with alcoholic drinks. They felt it was unfair for Congress to pass the Eighteenth Amendment. Every town in New York City had its speakeasies, which are illegal taverns that served alcohol: and yes, I will admit that I have been to these places. The law was proved impossible to enforce. Therefore, Congress passed the Twenty-first Amendment which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, leaving the control of alcohol in the hands of the states. Many people still feel uneasy about living in this area.
Other people would disagree. Good things were in store for the city. Great things. Unexplainable things. As a woman, I understand how the other women in this town are feeling. Due to the Nineteenth Amendment, us, American women, voted in their very first presidential election in 1920. Before this Amendment was passed, I, along with many other women, felt out of the mix. It wasn’t fair. Men were never better than women, they will never be better than women. Since this Amendment was ratified, I finally feel like an American, like a real person. Although I was not one of the women fighting for the right to vote, I am thankful for those that did. You changed my life, along with many other women. This is my story...
I was on my way to the Cotton Club on September 17th, 1925 to meet my husband, Robert. Robert and I had met in the year of 1915. Robert had abused me since we first started seeing each other, and of course I had not told anybody, but that is only because I loved him. I loved him because although he was known as a bimbo, he had a kind side to him. Robert had always loved to doll me up and take me out to clubs and speakeasies. Robert bought me orchids. He loved me because I let him take control. I was a Dumb Dora.
He had told me he wanted to take me to the club to celebrate his raise that he received at his new job as a local newspaper reporter. I agreed. I wanted to have somewhat of a fun time before...before...
It was a dreary night outside. Gusty, with a slight chill that ran down my backbone.
Lord! I had forgotten my coverup. I took a deep breath. “Please try to have fun, please!” I thought to myself. I was nervous. I was nervous because I knew what was coming after we danced the night away. He was going to hurt me. He knew he had complete control over me. He had my feelings locked up in a box, and I let him keep them locked. I loved him.
The wind blew, and I felt the raindrops begin to fall. The mist landed on my face, making my makeup run down my rosy red cheeks. Where was Robert? I sat down on the cold, wet park bench and waited.
Hours must have passed. Staring out into the uplifting fog, I hadn’t noticed that I had been shivering. I stood and started to make my way back to the apartment when thought after thought appeared in my mind: what if Robert came here and I was gone? He would hurt me twice as hard as usual. I stopped when I realized that Robert had just arrived in a newly made Model T. Ford. I stumbled forward, towards the car.
“Congratulations! When you said raise I didn’t think it was going to be this big! Where on earth have you been, Robert? I’ve been freezing just like an ice cube on that bench over there,” I tried to act casual. I didn’t want to anger him.
“Nowhere you need to know about. It’s none of your business! Let’s go,” Robert took my hand and squeezed it hard. So hard that it hurt. I tried to relax.
We made our way to the Cotton Club and attempted to find a parking spot. Packed, as usual. Now that jazz had become the next big thing at the club, there wasn’t a soul in town that hadn’t been here. I stepped out of the flashy, new car and stood next to my husband. We plodded along, hand in hand, and came to a halt at the front door. Two police officers stood, Winchesters in their hands. Robert continued before me and opened the door. We stumbled inside.
The first thing that I noticed was the blasting of music. The music that makes you want to dance, makes you want to be able to play the moving tune: jazz. I felt my body start to move and I couldn’t control myself. As Robert and I walked onto the dance floor, I could just make out the two African American faces of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. My heart dropped to my toes. I had always wanted to see them perform. They were the leading jazz performers at the time. I couldn’t help but smile.
Robert saw that I was gawking at them, and he grabbed me around the waist. Before I knew it, I was dancing and my head was spinning. Feeling ill, I told Robert that I needed to sit down. He gave me the most disgusted look I had ever seen, but we continued dancing. I don’t remember what took place after that.
Until I awoke in the morning.
A ray of sun bled through the window panes, nearly blinding me as I opened my tired eyes. My abused, tired eyes. Attempting to roll out of bed, I felt a substantial amount of pain. I stood up, and fell back onto my bed. Pain. Excruciating pain.
All I could do was cry.
Finally standing, I made my way to the bathroom. Glancing by the sink, I saw an item lying on the counter. I limped over to the shiny, glass object.
I thought to myself, “Robert had bought me a mirror? One of the newest products of the decade? What a babe.” Just then, a knock on my door caught me off guard. The mirror fell to the solid ground and smashed. “Uh, swell,” I said as I walked to the door. It swung open before I could get a hand on the door handle. My best friend, Elizabeth, stepped inside.
“Morgan, I have to tell you something, and you’re going to want to listen,” she said. Elizabeth was out of breath. I offered her a drink, took her coat, and led her to the kitchen.
“Okay, I’m listening. Take a deep breath, Liz. Breathe,” I tried to relax her. The room became calm and quiet, apart from her heavy breathing.
“It’s Robert, Morgan. He was in town this earlier this morning. I saw him with another woman. Hugging, kissing her, like...like she was you! I assure you that he is seeing this woman. I overheard them talking and he was calling her baby and she was calling him daddy. She is a hoofer, I’ve seen her down at the Cotton Club. But she dresses like a flapper. You have to believe me.”
“Baloney! You don’t know oodles. Do me a favor and dry up!” I was being like this because I didn’t want to go down that road with her. I didn’t want to be forced to tell Elizabeth the truth, the truth meaning that Robert isn’t who he appears to be. I wanted her to beat it.
“You are not being honest with yourself. Morgan, you have been acting like a whole different person around me now. What is going on?”
“N-nothing,” I tried to make my voice solid, but it started shaking, and it wouldn’t stop.
“Speak the truth or I will go to the police. What did Robert do to you?” She was intensely concerned. She was my best friend. I had to tell her.
“I love Robert, but he is not the man that he seems to be. He dolls me up the way he wishes, and he takes me out. We make love, and then he beats me. I never seem to remember though. When I awake in the morning, I find bruises and cuts. But Robert is nowhere to be found until later that night,” when I managed to say this, tears fell from my deceived eyes. I fell into Elizabeth’s arms. Feeling the warmth of the touch of her hands, I felt comforted, safe, and secure. I felt love.
Very unlike the relationship I had with Robert.
“Everything will be okay. Just listen to me: you need to go to the police. You have to tell them about Robert, even though you love him. He is cheating on you, and he abuses you. You do not deserve that!” Elizabeth stood. Seriousness fell over her face. She helped me up.
I felt helpless; used. I ran into our bedroom and retrieved my non-ritzy coverup. I sprinted out the door and headed to the police office. Elizabeth told me she would stay at my house as long as I’d be gone. It was a good thing she had a shiv, because if Robert came home, it would come in great use. Even though I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing, I felt as if I was betraying Robert. I thought about it...
He had betrayed me.
I wanted to kill Robert. Picturing it my head, the feelings of ever loving him disappeared. I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t myself. Trying to concentrate and bring myself back into the current world, I hadn’t realized that I was lying on the ground, outside. In fetal position, I touched my face gently. It was wet.
Was I crying?
I had no idea how much time had passed since I first had sat, but suddenly, my breath was taken away. Somebody had picked me up. Somebody strong, muscular. I couldn’t see a thing, so I relied on another one of my senses. Pushing my face into the chest of this unknown person, I sniffed. A warm, sweet smell drifted into my nostrils as I brushed my cold, wet nose against the rough chest of Robert.
The next thing I knew, I was home. I was in my bed. The air was frigid, and the atmosphere of the room felt wrong. I could feel that something had gone wrong. Glancing out my bedroom window, I saw that the sky was still a very dark blue. Standing, I attempted to swallow my fears and proceed to the door.
I made my way into the front room. As I took my first step into this room, something made a noise. It was the radio Robert had purchased a few years ago. All of a sudden, memories flooded my mind. Everyone had wanted a radio. It was a new invention that attracted an increasing amount of interest to both wealthy, and non-wealthy people. Robert and I had always listened to the radio. It was always right before...
Before we made love.
I brought myself back to reality. Excessively loud, the sound frightened me, and I stepped into a corner. The room was silent, but to me, it sounded like tens of thousands of airplanes about to take flight. My vision was blurry, my head was pounding, and it felt as if my heart was going to drop to my toes. I brought my hand up to my head. I had broken into a deep sweat. Suddenly, Robert walked into the room, holding another person. I closed my eyes and listened to her soft voice. She pleaded to him to let her go.
“I’ll do anything! Please,” the girl began to cry. It was Elizabeth. My best friend.
I began to cry.
I wanted to help her. I wanted to take her away from all harm to a peaceful place with no violence. I wish I was strong, but I was not. I was nothing compared to Robert. He was going to do what he wanted, no matter if anything or anyone got in his way. I was beyond afraid. Continuing to watch Robert beat my best friend, I prayed in my mind for her to be safe. She did not deserve this. I tried to remember how I had gotten home earlier. I was on my way to the police station. Then the thought came to my mind: Robert had brought me home. He knew where I was going. Ab-so-lute-ly, he did! But why hadn’t he killed me?
Elizabeth bellowed as Robert slapped her face. He started to undress her. This was when I got slightly uneasy with the situation. Jealously appeared in my head, but was swept away by the thoughts of Robert being with another woman. He cheated me, why should I be jealous of this?
After all of her clothes were strewn across the floor, Robert raped her. Repeatedly. I watched the entire scene.
“Stupid girl,” I thought to myself, “stupid, stupid girl I am.”
Robert laid her on the floor, taking in his accomplishment. Another girl to check off his list. He dressed himself and took a shiv out of his pocket. I closed my eyes, but I heard the shiv go through Elizabeth’s body continuously. She was dead, and I hadn’t done anything to stop it.
Stupid, stupid girl.
After Robert was finished, he walked out the front door, slamming it behind him. I fell to the ground and sobbed helplessly. My husband had just killed my best friend.
I sprinted straight to the police, crying as I walked through the front door. All eyes set on me, I was confronted by a tall man. He was in his forties, dark hair and brown eyes.
“Ma’am, what is the problem here?” his voice soothed me. I told him everything that had just happened, and within minutes we were all back at my house, standing over Elizabeth. Her body was wrapped by a nurse while investigators searched the house.
The tall man approached me, “I have arranged for you to stay at my house for the night, if that’s all right with you? It would be a-a-a safe place for you to be. You know? A place where you can relax and gather your thoughts.” The man seemed nervous. I tried to comfort him.
“I would love that, sir. Thank you for all of your help. I wouldn’t have known where to go, who to turn to if you weren’t there. I really should be getting to sleep, though. If that is all right with you, sir?” I smiled at the nice man. He seemed to understand that I was comfortable talking to him. Smiling back, he took my hand and helped me into the passenger seat of his new Model T. Ford. He drove us to his house, silent the entire ride.
That night was a night I tried to forget, but it still hasn’t escaped my mind. I had fallen asleep in the guest room. It was after midnight when I heard the window open. Somebody climbed through. The first thing that they did was lock the door to the room. This person then silently walked over to where I was lying in the bed. My eyes were closed, but I was awake. I didn’t want to open them, afraid that I already knew who this person was. He extended his arm and touched my face.
Alarmed, I lifted my head and stared at him. The feelings came back. I loved him.
“Morgan, I want to love you,” Robert whispered into my ear. He looked at me, then brushed a piece of hair out of my face. I wanted to love him too.
“Kiss me,” I told him. And he did. He kissed me with as much passion as he did on our wedding day. It felt good, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I liked this feeling. I didn’t want it to go away. I pulled away from him to catch my breath, but everything changed when he slapped me. Back came the true feelings I had for him. Pure hatred. He did not love me. All he wanted was to rape me. Now that I had pulled away from his grasp, he wanted to hurt me.
“How dare you?” he asked. Saliva had sprinkled onto my face. I reached to wipe it away, but he grabbed my hand. He took out a 303 Savage rifle. That was his plan.
He was going to kill me, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
The tall man knocked on the door, “Is everything all right in there?”
“Tell him everything is fine. Do it, or I’ll kill you right here, right now,” said Robert.
“Is everything all right? Morgan? Do I need to break down this door?”
“Help me!” is all I could choke out before Robert grabbed me around the neck. We wrestled to the ground. It was a wonder that he hadn’t killed me yet. I didn’t know that I was this strong. I was holding him back.
The door broke open as the tall man stepped inside with a 30-30 Winchester rifle. As the lights were turned on, Robert was gone.
His Savage lay on the ground.
I awoke in the morning at the police station. Lord, I never know what goes on and how I travel this way and that throughout the day! My stomach rumbled. I was hungry.
The tall man had noticed that I awoke, and walked over with his head down. Something was wrong. I was too hungry to ask, and so I asked him if there was any food for me to eat.
“Yes, come with me,” he said miserably. I had to ask him why he was so upset.
After I eat.
The man took a pack of frozen food out of the refrigerator. Frozen food was a new invention. It was invented last year by Clarence Birdseye. A new way to preserve food took the interest in many people.
“Dick, what is the problem? Level with me,” I finally asked him.
“Robert, your husband, has run away. We have evidence that he took drugs and alcohol with him. Somebody had mentioned a woman traveling with him. Apparently they are traveling by foot,” he said in a dull tone.
“Where is he on his way to?”
“To meet his friend, Al Capone. Have you ever heard of him?” The man looked at me with question in his expression.
“Only bad things. Are those things true?”
“Very true, I’m afraid.”
“Is there a search party?” I squeaked.
“Yes, they will depart this evening.”
“No. I want you to stop them. I don’t want a search party. I want to do this myself. Please...” I begged. I felt like a child, but I didn’t care. I was going to kill Robert.
“Ma’am, that’s not a very smart idea. You may want t---”
“I’m not rethinking anything, sir. I have made my decision. Call off the search party or I will,” my voice was threatening. He knew I was serious.
“All right. I will go tell the police. Morgan, be careful. Don’t kill him. You will go to jail if you do. I’m serious.”
The man turned away from me and walked up to the front desk. I heard people talking, but I couldn’t pay attention. I walked out the door.
The door slipped open. As I stepped inside, darkness surrounded me. I looked at my arms. Goosebumps. I headed to our bedroom. Our bedroom. I looked around the area. I looked at the ground, the walls, the ceilings. As I entered the bathroom, I caught myself off guard.
“Ah!” I fell to the hard ground. Looking at my foot, I saw that blood was trickling down my heel. I had stepped on glass. The mirror.
I picked up the pieces one at a time as the memories flashed back into my mind. I looked at the back of a piece of glass. I could barely make out one name, written in black ink.
Zora Neale Hurston.
The singer and writer? My mind was filled with twisted thoughts of Robert and her. Robert had always listened to her music and was always reading her novels. It was no surprise that he was cheating with her.
I went into the front room and retrieved Robert’s shiv. His number one murder weapon. I walked out the door and walked into the forest.
I was going to find him.
I was going to kill him.
I sauntered through the dense wood, dodging trees here and there. My legs started to ache. I looked up to the sky. The trees seemed to be getting taller and taller. Hours may have passed. I did not feel like myself. I did not feel alive.
Was I alive?
My legs felt like twigs, and they gave in. I fell to the solid ground. My head was spinning like a tornado as all of my thoughts flew through my head. My concentration level was at 0.
I awoke in the forest under a starlit sky. Grasping reality, I sat up. I felt around in my pockets and pulled out Robert’s shiv. I suddenly remembered why I was here. I was going to become a criminal for murdering a criminal. Was it worth it?
My heart started pounding. In my head, it sounded like an earthquake. I had to pay attention. Something startled me. Someone was there. I became alert.
The sound came from behind me. I couldn’t move. One small shift of my body could turn into a war with whatever was lurking.
But I knew what was lurking. It was Robert. I could smell him, taste him. I smiled.
Leaves crinkled. He was getting closer. I would only have one chance. I couldn’t miss it. The wind picked up as rivers of sweat fell down my face. I couldn’t feel my body. It was like it was frozen in place.
Frozen in time.
He was there. He was standing in front of me, but he did not see me. He didn’t see the attack, and he couldn’t feel the attack. Robert had taken his last breath before I murdered him.
I murdered my husband.
But he murdered my best friend.
I didn’t know what to do next. Robert was dead on the ground. All evidence pointed to me. I knew this would happen, but I never thought about what I would do after I killed him. My whole body shook with guilt. I slowly walked away from the scene, but that walk soon turned into a run.
Eight-thousand, five-hundred and seventy-two trees.
I counted as I ran. None of the people that I ran by knew what I had done. I still couldn’t concentrate. I had this feeling of happiness in my heart. It was the pleasure. I loved killing Robert. I took pride in it, and I liked how it made me feel. A feeling of sadness was also embedded in my heart. I was upset that I would never get to see him again. I felt as if I still had a love for my husband. My mind wouldn’t take in the fact that I had just killed my husband.
I opened the front door of the police station.
“I did it. I killed him,” my voice was dull; dead. Why wasn’t I dead? I squeezed the shiv in my hand. Pools of blood were drawn and dripped to the floor.
The tall man ran over to me. His expression was shocked. I don’t think he could believe any of this was happening. The rest of the police officers and investigators surrounded me. Everyone was gasping. I could hear myself breathing. I stepped backwards into the arms of an officer. I was done. My life was over.
I awoke in a concealed room. The walls, the ceilings, the grounds...they were concrete. It was silent and the atmosphere sent a chill down my backbone. I was in jail. I realized why I was here.
I was a murderer.
I was a criminal.
I murdered my husband.