It seems no matter how fast I run, the pen finds me…
I drowned once although both on account of lies told, not in an Emmet Till already dead with barbed wire tied to his neck attached to a large fan way. It was more like in the way of how food manufacturers mix plastic with kernels of rice, in a “little here a little there” way. The cost savings add up and the full stomach doesn’t notice the lies swallowed.
I, a celestial being in a small town, knew I was different but had yet to realize the beauty in being rare. I gravitated towards the smalltown mentality, familiarity, charm, and the comfort of knowing today will most likely be like yesterday and tomorrow like today. That knowledge served as security like the plastic cover on the great room furniture. The furniture that will never be touched until removed at the estate sale after your grandmother’s death. The comfort covered over me like Deet 30 repelling me from feeling, no sweat from taking a risk or goosebumps from connecting with my higher self, just numb.
Instead of breaking free from the chrysalis and eating the remains in preparation for flight…I shrunk.
As opposed to flight, I couldn’t even crawl… I rolled up the last of my self-worth into quarters, found someone to be the dryer to the once strong but now delicate material that had become the fiber of my being. Subconsciously I put all my quarters in the emptiness of the societal laundromat and shrunk. I stopped thinking aloud as my goals were viewed as lofty dreams. Slowly but effectively while washing away that which was soil for my growth but seen only as dirt from my rough road traveled, I began to drown.
It was the cry of my child that silenced the ticking of this world’s imposed clock. A celestial being should never trust man’s time. The shock of the rushing fluids flowing out of my human form awakened that tiny piece of me that somehow remained. Remained, only to find we, she and I were drowning. I couldn’t panic, flopping and flailing would’ve just pushed me deeper and drifted me out of view.
We made it to shore. Something now tells me my mother, who transitioned before served as our lighthouse. Finally able to take in a breath on the shore but never resting as I for damn sure couldn’t stay. I deserved so much more than “just enough”… I drowned once, I sank, I fought, I inhaled then I left.
After that experience, ending the relationship, and giving birth to the love of my life, I became an avid swimmer. I rode high tides, took in the beauty of the corals but never touched, and avoided sharks. Yet no one warned me about the dangers of burning out in the sun while trying to be a lifeguard for all. I had no idea about the quicksand of grief and how you can grain by grain fall into a space unseen by anyone.
I burned alive once not at all in the way of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner who far from home were abducted by order of this land’s law, tortured and burned. Yet I burned not for freedom or to amplify black voices but to gain the vote and attention of the white gaze. That gaze had a grip, it crippled my creativity and restricted my voice keeping my pitch high and pleasing while pushing my true self low. I wanted white approval, to gain what was denied to me at birth by my grandfather somehow meant I mattered. I thinned my frame, I unseasoned my dress. I shrank my curls and fried any remaining unruly ones with formaldehyde. Inhaling the toxic fumes until my breath became short all while performing in the sun. Their applause didn’t lessen the pain as my lungs started to burn. My raw red skin that had long betrayed my melanin started to become sensitive to the touch of their microaggressions. As I ran for shade, I began to sink into the grief of losing so many celestial souls. Medgar became Malcolm who became Fred which won’t stop at Breonna. The sinking feels like being in an hourglass no matter the time our blood is always in season. Unlike the flame of self-hate that fried my hair, I began to feel a burning in my heart. The red notes of anger blending with the blue of love for all things us. I burned alive once, I scorched, I bled, I cried, I exhaled and refused to perish. I burned once but in the way of the Pheonix.
I put the pen down…it was heavy and although I wanted to be like Toni and write to us, I felt as though I was writing for us to them. I ran and hid near the blue light of the television. Very seldom does sitting in front of the tv require thought. That is until… a dear friend of mine like dear friends often do, told me there was something I must see. That must-see was a retelling of a story I never read, Lovecraft Country.
Lovecraft Country’s Hippolyta pulled me out of the shadows, while the hazy blue light hid my tears. A woman named after a mythological god, queen of the amazons, her presence undeniable even among a amazing cast of stars. From the first episode, I knew there were layers to her beyond the titles of wife, mother, aunt, or anything else she lovingly responded to. When George Freedman dreamed it wasn’t of her. I watched him dance with Dora Freedman and thought only of Hippolyta. I thought of how many of her dreams she sacrificed for a man who would never dream of her. How many of us have been awakened from our dreams by men, with trivial wants who never cared how we slept? I felt the coolness of the planetarium floor as Hippolyta lay with her young daughter looking at the star she found and named only for the credit to be given to a white woman. How many of us had our stars taken and have watched the stars disappear from our daughter’s eyes? I cringed as she was lied to by a nephew that doesn’t possess a fraction of her intellect. How many of us have had to play dumb or dim our light for fear of blinding those around us?
The writers allowed us to watch her shrink. It was predictable yet hurtful. In 2020 it whispered “Stay in your place, gal.” as if no time had passed since 1920. It begged the question are we only here to shrink?
And then as if it were the final abdominal push that would force out the water from the drowning, we took a breath, and we saw Hippolyta. So fitting that it was episode 7 as 7 symbolizes completion. Through “I Am” we got to see who “We Are”. As black women, we are given every task, every battle, every child to nourish, man to heal, and white tear to wipe. Through our strength, we were given this country to build, through our Eve-like wombs we were given their bastards to breed, when not bred by us through our abundant breasts we were given their offspring to feed.
The receivers may have change but the giving never stopped. We still give so much of ourselves, pouring love into everything we do all while we shrink. We make tearing pieces of ourselves to cover the holes in everyone else look like a work of art. We have made a craft out of loving the country that hates us.
We were never given our space, our dreams, our “I AM.”
We have worked, fed, nurtured, educated, drowned, burned, and shrunk. Like Hippolyta, I think it’s now time to dance, fight, create, love, and explore the beauty that is us…