photo by JKSTEWART
THE SHARECROPPER’S DAUGHTER
It all started around when I was around 16. You see prior to then from ages 7-11 I pissed in the bed and my most salient feature was my relationship with my mother. But once she died, once she died I really became invisible. It seemed I existed in a fog. I was a non entity. I was still unaware of my maleness and definitely had not learn yet that I was considered “Black. So being “cool” had never been factored in my social interactions with others. But even within the comforts of home, I was never the favored child. The one summoned to recite bible verses, jokes or to “cut loose” doing the latest dance before amusing adults. Instead I would be that reserved child; the one peeping around the corner sure to maintain a safe distance-terrified of being “next”. I was just that plain. Nothing unique except the embarrassment of knowing that I pissed in the bed. I had no sports ability to speak of. I had poor coordinating skills and was clumsy in both manner of walk and social interaction.
Fate had found a way to further deprive me of being a guy with any chance to shine when my mother died. I came to be a teenager before I knew I was no longer an adolescent. In those turbulent years of the 1970’s, I lived with my sister, my nephew’s mother. I was to become further regulated to the shadows. But then our entire family was forced into a kind of shadowy existence. It was in 1975 that we caused white flight by moving into an all white neighborhood. Nonetheless he was the first to develop male friends with those White Italian-Americans those simply White families trying to move away and the one wealthy Asians family who remained. He was the one who had his step dad build a basketball court in our backyard. And of course he was the first who could dunk. I marveled at him for his prowess and his cunning. Everyone did. Especially the girls.
When I reached age 14, I went out for football. While my nephew could have excelled at it, he was more into being the cool leader of the renegade pack than being a member of organized sports team. He demonstrated his athlete prowess in neighborhood pickup games. I was often among the last to be chosen in such matches. Each time I was determined to improve my standing among the horde by “holding on to the ball if it fell into my hands. It was no use. I was as uncoordinated as I was bookish. Such a gladiator my nephew was. In those abandoned fields of our mixed neighborhood, he was often hosted up by those on the winning team. When I went out for the Junior High school football, I was on the first “cut list” and never touched a football again expect for in those neighborhood “pick up” games. For awhile, I did excel in running. I ran for the winter cross country team of our mixed Jr. High school. Thinking it was cool to be able to run long distances in cold air, I did not realized running was a white boys endeavor. Only coaches came to watch runners. They were look for future track and fields stars. There was the occasional white girls who came to watch white guys cross the finish line at. No one in my family ever came to watch me run. My nephew had all tough guy attributes for my age group. I would by default become the “smart one”. Many years later I would squander that prized position. I traded it for fools gold. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I always stood in the shadows of those I admired. Peeping around doorway, corners and walls hoping no one asked me to step up to the stage of life and dance or say anything funny. No matter where fate took me, I liked to visit the spaces caused by curiosity. Better suited for the woods where no bleachers with cheering fans await. Such untreated hedges between property lines and dirt pathways leading off into others backyards would pull me; and there I would go. I would befriend other odd ball kids and lived among others outside my family: The librarian, the shop owner, the cool gas station attended whose hair smelled of a greasy formula like bad guys looked on television. They all seemed to cherish teaching me things. I would not know of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman until their upcoming title matches became the school chatter. General Pershing of the first world war and General Douglas MacArthur of the second were my private idols. They, as much as my grade school teachers and the older women who smelled of womanhood held my mind and caused my first wet dreams. I was fond of older women and as I recalled they took a fancy to me. I had this one aunt who was still in her party years, She had girlfriends and if I was left there by my mom, they would allow me to sit and watch them get dressed. They’d gossip while listening to James Brown and Joe Tex all the while drinking from those small glasses. The odor of liquor, beer and cigarettes in a tavern still brings back those memories. A tavern. I was allowed to stay as long I busied myself and did not stare. They said, I was cute. I would smile and forget about others. The tough guys who always waited for me in darkened allies. To this day I am most comfortable with the gaze of a woman who seems destined to teach me. Guys who could see much quicker than me, would become envious of that and I would eventually pay dearly. But that is getting ahead of myself.
About the idols, those historic figurative military Generals, like the white neighbors and my family structures were always temporary. One after another they would become buried as I time went on and I moved from one home to another. I would move from city to city as relatives (in the face of my mother’s death) tried to keep me and my siblings together. Tried though they did, I still was isolated and still read a lot. No matter where we moves it was always on the edge of this or that place. A new suburb where woods marked the end of the development. We were forever the pioneers. And I was always the rambler. When we ventured south, tall pines trees standing upon pine needle covered floors beckoned me and that is where I was sure to go. One time while walking through some woods I came upon a box, It smelled of decay. Inside was the remains of a dog, its skeletal remains were starting to show. Its fangs I can see now as I type, they were visible and maggots where in it the hole where its stomach should have been. I stared at it. As sure as I grew to become more like a broken sentence to myself than a complete novel, I never knew if others knew of that dog. I would come to gather upon factoid of not much use to anyone my age. Much less, adults who tried to break me. Even now, I like to consume information. It is satisfies me yet I hate being the one who has to process information that I am told to leave alone.
Later in life I became a collector of books. I had disappointed many a teacher and old women who had thought so highly of me. I seemed destined to replace my wet bed sheets with hardheadedness. The best I have been able to do was to become a collector of things. Yet I still fear the worse. Instead of learning how to make a living, I came to love paper, words, ideas and pictures. I did not amount to much because I did adopt the“how to do” skills they tried to teach me. I skimmed over the seriousness of matters and lost on the necessary skills to improve myself. There is something about the texture of things that I embrace. The touch the smell of things held close. And although while I matriculated, I would ask questions a plenty, I did not know other than to roam to and fro what I wanted to do with my life. Perhaps the wetness of my soiled mattresses intensified my awareness and my stagnation. To wake and find I had “done it again” was a sure way to know I was still me; still stuck in the same old rut. As problematic as that was, I learned to humble myself. I knew I existed because I did not like myself for my bad habits. This became my crutch. I could not tell others of my problems. I could not criticize others and I carried my secrete around. I came to despise others for awhile until I learned of transference.
Despite my current willingness to share my story through my writings, I remain one who can recoils and exist comfortably in my head. This all at the expense of communicating with others. I move forward and then backwards year after year. I fall in and out of love, yet I ask question hoping to distance myself from myself only to wake and find, I had done it again. Still me, still in denial of something. This inability to connect, I reason, must have stated somewhere. I am not sure because even for me my past is shrouded in shadows. A tender boy such as I was had to fabricate somethings to shield himself from these internal feelings of inadequacy. Being unsure of myself I created invisible friends. In the same way I imagined GOD to be. My invisible friends were no special hindrance to me copping mechanism. I did alright with others in reality. but for may a year, I did not have a self image to rely on when I was alone. Mirrors played back to me a guy who I was but not the who I felt to be. In retrospect, I wonder if others my age felt likewise. Ah, let me back up…I’m getting ahead of myself again.
I did not step out of the shadows of my past and into the lime light of sexuality until I moved away from my hometown and into the sun drenched light of a southern backwards town of Mississippi. It was there that I became the star, Later around this time I discovered that I dressed “different”and talked “white”. Only then did I become a stud destined in my own mine to sleep with all the virgins I could find. Girls in the south had an aroma I had not discovered. They wore prettier panties and often did not understand my fascination with pubic hair. Being tossed from pillar to post offered me then and still to this day, new friends. No old one held me responsible for past transgressions. No one ever knew of my past. No girls in that sleepy southern town could attest to my middle school behavior where I wrote protested my rights to have what I wanted.
I had long before that time discovered sex. I had long before that time come to find that I loved the pubic hair of girls like an alcoholic loves wine. Back then (I was only in the fifth grade) other than wet dreams, hair was a sure sign of one’s maturity. I had sense began to practice writing poetry and with it relished making a name for myself . It was only a matter of time before I rushed to exorcize my persuasiveness on girls. I practice on those close to me by convincing them to show me their private parts. Being the tactile person, I long to caress the peach fuss as one would a hamster. That was in the State of Georgia immediately after I had lost my mother to her untimely death. I suppose this was where God began to exit my innermost life. I had been ripped from my anchor of a stable family and left to my own devices. He this GOD was rapidly receding from dwelling in me. Because God I figured (this guy with a white beard and all his angels with white wings) had allowed my little self to wet the bed and then took my mother…my only protector. I guess that is why I clung to older women once I learned that they, like my deceased mother had that special ability to make me feel complete. But girls then were different. They were mysterious and loving even in their old ages,
Girls are not mysterious now. They are like me grown in older into a world of illusory crap dumped on us since child hood to make us robots of currency. I stopped wetting the bed after I moved away from my nephew. I have lost some of my yearning to compete with others like him, and nothing seems to satisfy me more than new journeys. Even now pubic hair has little joy for me. It is considered non- hygienic to have any more atop a woman mound than Adolph Hitler had a mustache. Guys and women alike seem even more robotic even in their quests to fit in with the norm like we Blacks yearned to fit in with the white neighborhood we moved into. And white flight has become the Exodus of American business. They left and created catch phrases to motivate us. Phrases like BUY AMERICAN are false when little is made in American. Those businesses lifted the AMERICAN DREAM on their false shoulders just like the winning teams did my nephew back then. More and more cites like Detroit are like the abandoned fields we played upon. Women who marveled at winners now have reached a certain parity with men. But I must stop and go back, I’m getting ahead of myself.