Surprisingly, “Black Tickets” has humor as well as pathos, the main source of humor being the first-person point of view. The narrator’s style reflects his ambivalent feelings and lack of responsibility: It combines a jaunty, reminiscing tone with street talk and rich metaphors. His ability to reel off memorable phrases—probably unusual among drug dealers—suggests that he might have been a poet. Occasionally this style is overdone, however, as when the narrator describes the many varieties of blackness that flow from Jamaica or his equally numerous “sick vomits in bathrooms of restaurants, theaters, gas stations, train depots.” Most “vomits” are “sick” and it seems unnecessary to specify the places, as well as a description of the “head on the bowl,” the “intimate stains of countless patrons,” and so forth.
Possibly these colorful details are symbolic because the story is heavily laden with symbols that underline the sleazy lives of the characters—from the Obelisk Theater (all the world’s a porno stage, so to speak) to the rats to the radiating meanings of “black tickets.” By the time Jamaica’s braids are mentioned, the reader might be too saturated with symbols to care. The overdone symbols, like the overdone style, show the talented young author’s tendency to go to excess (“Black Tickets” is the title story of her first major collection). After reading this story, however, few people will want to rush out to buy black tickets.