" 50 yr old woman that came in my shop one day " by Lawanda Tibbs
It was the late 80's. I loved D.C., but it wasn’t the safest place to be anymore.
I had a small beauty shop on Capitol Hill, next to the Pennsylvania Avenue
subway. Great location, very convenient for my clients, but also equally
as convenient for robbers. 3 of the large beauty shops had already been
robbed and I didn’t want to be next. My shop was tiny and I was the
only one there, so I had to be extra careful.
For all of the reasons above, I was exclusive. Clients had to be referred
and schedule an appointment before coming to my shop. I was very strict;
clients had to be on time and I never had anyone hanging around my
shop gossiping! The moment a client walked in, they sat in the chair, got
their hair done and left. When I finished one person, I’d clean up, sterilize
my utensils and be ready for the next client.
My door was always locked. During summer months, I had the glass door
open and the wrought iron, screened security door, was always locked.
One day, when a scheduled client didn’t show up, I was about to call
someone on the waiting list. Just as I got up, a woman opened the door,
came in and sat in the chair.
I was quite surprised. I was absolutely certain I had locked the wrought
iron door after the last person left.
Anyway, she spoke to me as if she knew me and I asked her if she had
an appointment. She said no, she just took a chance that I’d have an
opening. She wasn’t referred by anyone, but she knew about me, what
I charged and she had washed her hair before coming over. Ok.....
Ordinarily I would have told her that I had a client coming in, so I
couldn’t do her hair unless she made an appointment. But I didn‘t say
that. Instead, I just started doing her hair. Believe me, I had never done
that before and never did it after her.
For the next 45 minutes, that lady told me a story that I will never forgot.
She was 50 years old, jazzy, very attractive and she had a hard time
sitting still. Here's what she told me;
“ When I was 15, my mother told me my brother was coming to live
with us for a while. I begged her not to let him stay with us, but she
wouldn’t listen. He was 25 and getting out of prison for the second
time. He did 5 years for assaulting a police officer, when he got caught
robbing a store.”
“What was he in for the first time?”, I asked.
“Oh, he did 1 year for punching his boss. His boss caught him stealing
supplies from the ware house he worked at.
Mom said he couldn’t get out unless he had a place to live and a job.
So she got him a job cleaning office buildings at night and he’d stay with
us til he saved up for his own place.”
Regardless of what her mother said, she had a bad feeling in the pit of
her stomach. A couple days later, he got out and her mother brought him
home. He tried to hug her, but she pulled away. The feeling in her stomach
grew worse after seeing him.
Her mother worked mornings, she was in 10th grade, so her brother had
the house to himself during the day. Not wanting to be alone with him when
she came in from school, she would call to make sure her mother was home.
If she wasn‘t, the girl would wait at a friend’s house or go to the mall.
Several months later, everything was going well. Her brother worked every
night, went to counseling and reported to his parole officer. He didn’t use
drugs or even smoke cigarettes. He seemed to be getting his life together
and helped his mother pay bills each month.
“I figured I was scared at first cause he’d been in prison. I ain’t know what
to expect. But he did right so I started trusting him. We’d talk sometimes.
When mom saw us talking, she was happy we was getting along.
Just before my 16th birthday, I stayed home from school one day cause
I had cramps real bad. My period came on that morning and I was sick as
a dog! Mom gave me a couple of sleeping pills to relax me, I sat in a tub
of warm water to ease the cramps, then took a cool shower afterwards.
By the time I got out of the shower, I was ready to go back to sleep.
I had a towel wrapped around my head and my large robe on. I called
for mom to tell her I was going back to bed, when my brother came in
the hallway and said she had left for work already.
I got to my bedroom door when my brother grabbed me.
He swung me around. It startled me and I asked him what the hell was
wrong with him! He had the worse look on his face and in his eyes, like
he was crazy or something. I yanked away from him and that’s when he
hit me. He punched me right in my face. He hit me so hard I fell backwards,
hit my head so hard I saw stars!
He got on top of me, pulled my robe apart and raped me.”
“Oh my God honey! Lord Jesus!” was all I could say as she continued.
“See, I was a virgin and it hurt so bad all I could do was scream. He keep
hitting me in my face, telling me to shut the fuck up or he’d kill me.
I've spent the past 35 years, wishing he had killed me right then and there!
It would’ve been better than living with what he did to me!
I couldn’t stop screaming so he kept hitting me and raping me until I
When I came too, I was being lifted on a table under some blinding lights.”
“I found out that I was still passed out in the hallway, bleeding pretty bad,
when mom came home. She called the police and ambulance and I was
taken to the hospital. My brother wasn’t home, so my mother thought
someone had broke in and raped me.
At the hospital, the doctor told mom they had to take specimen from me
for the rape. If they caught the one who did it, they could compare his
sperm with what they took from me. The worse news was that they
had to operate on me. Since I was a virgin and my brother violently
raped me, I was torn up inside. They said I might not have children if
they didn’t correct the damage.
I still wasn’t able to have kids no way. When I came out of surgery,
I woke up in so much pain! Mom was there and she had them give me
something for the pain. I guess I passed out cause mom said I didn’t
wake up again until the next day.
She asked me what happened. I told her what my brother did to me!
She shook her head saying, No, No, he wouldn’t do nothing like that!!
Then she told me I better not tell the police. She said to tell ‘em a man broke
in and did that to me.
Then my mother looked at me with a nasty look on her face. She asked me
why I was walking around half naked in front of my brother! “You know
he had been in prison! What was you doing, trying to tempt him?”
The moment she said that, I threw up. I kept throwing up until my throat
was hurting. The nurses came in, told mom to leave and put something
in the IV tube. I don’t remember anything after that.
A week later, mom took me home. She said she told the police a man
broke in and for me to keep my mouth shut!
Here I was sick, I just had a complete hysterecotmy because of what my
own brother did to me and she talking to me like that! My mother had
never talked to me like that before. We was close, but after that, she acted
like she hated my guts.
My brother hadn’t been home since he raped me. She said he called her
a few times and said I was lying on him. But he was scared to come home
cause he’d go back to prison if I told anyone else. Mom had told him they
took a rape sample from me, so if I told that he did it, he'd be tested and go
back to prison for violating his parole, plus time for raping me. If he was
innocent, he had nothing to fear and Mom knew that, but her mind was all
messed up. All they could think about was each other, not what they were
doing to me. Before long, without even knowing it, I stopped caring about me too.
When I got better, I started running the streets. Drinking, using drugs, being
with men and women. I moved out, traveled around a lot and didn’t see my
mother again until her funeral. She died when I was 28.
I went back home for the funeral. At the grave, someone hunched me
and said look up there. I looked up the hill and there was my brother,
leaning against a tree. That filthy creep didn’t have the decency to face me.
At the house, my aunts said mom had told them what he did to me.
But she loved her son and still blamed me cause she never saw him again.
Mom left everything to me; the house, her bank account, and a rental
property she got after I left. My aunts say it was her way of making up
for how she treated me.
Nothing on earth could make up for the way she treated me! For what
my brother did to me! I sold the houses, antique furniture, everything!
I didn't want nothing from her. With the money, I bought my home and
a corner store on MLK in S.E.. I still own the store, but I rent it out to
some Koreans. “
“Hon, I am so sorry that happened to you! You're doing right by telling
people. That’s the way to heal from it. Get it out of you and give it back
to your brother and to your mother!”
“Let me tell you, I really suffered when I was on the streets though.
I did everything; I was hooking, using, selling drugs, shit....I did everything!
I didn’t feel nothing and I didn’t think about nothing. I just wanted to die,
but I was scared to kill myself, you know. "
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t.”
I finished doing her hair. She was so happy with the results. She paid me,
gave me a big hug, walked out of my shop and out of my life.
I never saw or heard from her again. I didn't get her name, phone number
or address. That was also very odd. I had the names and numbers of all
my clients, even the ones who didn’t come anymore.
All I knew was that she owned a corner store on MLK, and had Asians
renting it. It was impossible to find out that way because almost every
corner store in D.C., was run by Asians.
What she told me, still haunts me to this day. I believe we were supposed to meet
and I'm suppose to tell her story. There is no such thing as coincidences.