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The Lies We Call Hope

By Andrea Roach

     Her voice, flat and robotic, asked if I’d accept a collect call from an inmate. That recording, a precursory announcement from the county jail, always weaved a knotty web of dread and relief inside of me—relief because communication meant that my Uncle Aaron was okay, or at least alive.

     Talking to him eased my fear of prison, a worry created by the savage imagery depicted on television, the violent acts described by people I knew that had served time “up north,” and the stories I carried from childhood. In my head, life behind bars was a dehumanizing hell akin to slavery. My father served two years in jail in 1976 for domestic violence. After a visit with my mother, white supremacist inmates lit his mattress on fire because his wife was white. And there was the young Avery girl. She was sent to the women’s prison in Framingham, I think for prostitution. Our upstairs neighbor, a woman who was on the cellblock at the time, told my mother, “Those dykes up there grabbed her, they raped her with a broomstick, and then pressed the side of her face against a scalding hot heater.”

     “That’s a damn shame,” said my mother, shaking her head. “She was a pretty girl.”

     I saw the Avery girl, about a decade later. It was the eighties, the era when crack cocaine was devouring the black community. She was standing on a street corner, selling her ass for money or drugs. Her emaciated body swayed as she walked in circles, barely covered with ripped jean shorts and a stretched sleeveless T-shirt that revealed her sagging breasts. Fake hair was weaved into her head, or maybe it was a wig. It was long and crimped and fell down her back, wild. Her eyes looked empty. I knew it was the Avery girl because of the thick shiny scar that marred her cheek.


About the Author

Andrea Roach is a writer of memoir, essays, and creative nonfiction who lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and was a finalist for The Writer’s Room of Boston Fellowship Award. Currently, she is working on personal narrative essays and the third draft of her first book, a memoir, about the blurred lines of love, family, and violence. Her work has also appeared in Blavity.