Equinox Oral Histories #2


As part of Daniel Nester’s English 251: Interviews and Oral History class, students took trips down to Equinox, a community services center in downtown Albany, New York, to interview some teenagers and young adults who take part in their Youth Outreach Program. Here are four oral histories from that project:

Even though Angela Berry strikes me as rather shy, she talked to several young people at Equinox when we first visited there to talk up our project. After two of her interview subjects fell through, she spoke with Kameishia, a soft-spoken young woman who works at Equinox.

“I was 18 in my senior year of school when my oldest sister—also known as my best friend—died.”

An Interview with Kameishia R., Age 20

As told to Angela Berry

She had cancer, and it just so happened that she passed out in the bathroom getting ready for prom. My family brought her to the hospital, but they could not do anything for her there.

That took a toll on my life, so I basically dropped out of school. That was my blood sister, my father’s daughter, so for that to happen to me, I just kinda stayed in a shell, stayed to myself, stayed in my room. Didn’t want to be bothered by anybody. I went to school with her every day. I was always with her. It took so much away from my life itself that now I’m just sitting here, 20 years old, trying to get my head together and focus and do things that I know she would do.

I have about eight or nine brothers and sisters including her, four brothers and four sisters. But there’s this lady, who when we were younger, came around and said my dad had a son with her. Everybody talks about him, but I don’t really know. I’ve never met him. My father makes decisions that basically make him look childish. We love him, but we don’t like him. My sister would always get mad at my father and we’d say, “We’re going to find him (other brother) and we’re going to meet him and we’re going to hang out with him every day!” That was one of our dream goals. My father would tell us that that wasn’t his son, but I don’t know. I was like, “Why don’t you get a DNA test to disprove it?” Technically, he would be the firstborn son and I’m right in the middle.

My sister and I distanced ourselves from our brothers and sisters and our father. We just more or less would be around each other and our moms. She was always at my mom’s house and would call my mom “mom”; I was always at her mom’s house and would call her mom, “mom,” and we’d stay the night. Her house was like my second home. We had the same likes and dislikes; we never really fought. I’d be mad and she would try to make me laugh. It was truly indeed a best friend even though she was my sister.

I know I can’t just sit around and not do anything with my life. That’s not what she would have wanted. Especially since she actually graduated from high school even though she could not walk the stage. She had enough credits to graduate. We never discussed what she wanted to do, but she was great at doing hair. She could write people’s names in their hair; braid their names in their hair; do hearts in people’s hair; put curls in people’s hair. She did everything.

I work at Equinox as a peer educator and teach people about Aids, HIV, STD’s, safer sex supplies, healthy and unhealthy relationships. But I’m waiting to hear from Hudson Valley [Community College] about the GED course and college credit courses they have there. Eventually I want to transfer to Schenectady Community College and become a chef. I really like cooking. That was something I shared with my sister. She always knew that that’s what I wanted to do.

I took culinary arts classes the last two years when I was at Albany High School and would design plates for the special luncheons they would have there. I love designing plates. It’s so fun! I used to write my name on them and put the cake on top so my boss couldn’t see. He would come right to the back if he’d see that the plate looked different and would be like, “What did you do?” And I’d be like, “What are you talking about?” He’d be like, “For some reason, I think you wrote your name on that plate.” I’d be like, “No, not at all!” But yeah, ha, ha.

When I accomplish this and become a chef, I’m going to think that it’s me doing it for her. It’s going to be a remembrance. She knew that that’s what I like to do and was happy with everything I did.

If I could have just five minutes with my sister, and only five minutes, I would not… Honestly, I wouldn’t take it. I’ve never been greedy with things. I’ve always been the type of person that would just take one thing and be grateful for that one thing. I would just take one minute out of that five just to tell her that I’m glad we never really had bad times and we never left off on bad terms.

And I’d give her one big hug and a kiss and that would be it. Because that’s my sister and my best friend and I loved her.

Daniel Nester is the author of How to Be Inappropriate (Soft Skull Press 2009). His first two books, God Save My Queen (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and God Save My Queen II (2004), are collections on his obsession with the rock band Queen. He co-edits We Who Are About To Die, lives in upstate New York, and teaches writing at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. More from this author →