I been coming up out myself for a while now. Six is the earliest I can recall. That seems to be the age when so much happened. When too much happened for me to remain within myself. So I left. Got the fuck up out my mind and body. Established different selves for different situations. Different faces for different folks. It got me through. Most times. It’s exhausting. All times.
What I did was not pioneering. Black women been expressing ourselves through multiple selves since people started handing us weight too heavy to carry. We got different words for it. Coping. Compartmentalizing. Masking. Alter egos. Pushing through. Getting shit done. Mental health professionals got other words. Disassociation. Amnesia. Multiple personalities. Whatever you call it, sometimes you got to come up out yourself to help yourself. To save yourself.
Somewhere along the way I started gathering my selves. A merging of sorts. A re-membering. I want to know them. Appreciate the things they’ve done for me. For us. Not unlike Bruce Banner, I just want to better control who makes an appearance and when. To call my selves forth at will. For a long time I did that by staying angry. I got a lot to be mad about.
But the anger ain’t serving me no more. I’ve been forced to recognize and reconcile the comorbid emotions that almost always accompany anger. Sadness. Disappointment. Fear. Helplessness. Betrayal. Distrust. Insecurity. Vulnerability.
And I had to be willing to share those things just as willingly as I shared the anger.
A few months ago, I lost my mind. Purging is how I’m gon get it back.
Because I am determined to not live the rest of my life in this cage. Even if it’s a very beautiful one to anyone on the outside looking in.
For years I was hesitant to put out this project because I felt like it wasn’t finished. Couldn’t be finished. Every time I picked it up, it was different. I was different. I needed to release it in a way that allowed the story to evolve with me. In a way that doesn’t confine me to a conclusion that does not exist. In a way that made space for the non-linear process of remembering all the things I spent so long trying to forget. I needed to put it out exactly the way it comes to me.
Chapter 1 Verse 1
There was only room for so much pain and momma already had a whole lot of it. So I wrapped my own stuff up real tight and made off for the back porch. Down the wooden stairs with the worn gray paint where you could see through to the brown on some parts. Hard right turn, few more stairs, this time concrete. Hard left at the alcove. Through the hall and past the laundry room with the sink, single bare bulb and silver ball string. Way back in the corner near the bedroom with concrete walls and sometimes colored light bulbs depending on which auntie/uncle was sleeping down there. Under the bar where no light would shine so wasn’t no chances of even shadows finding what I held. Beneath the blackness. I buried it. Inhaled deeply. Waited just long enough for my eyes to adapt to the darkness. Made my way back out and never said a word to momma about all the monsters I passed on the way down. Never mentioned what I’d hidden so deep even I wouldn’t find it for decades.
I went back to get my shit
But when I got down there
Digging is excruciating.
Excavating is breaking work.
And when you find what you went looking for, everything is in pieces. Only you ain’t got no choice but to put it all back together. To re-cognize your mind and all those things that broke your body and bent your spirit so bad you wish you’d simply succumbed to it if only to stop feeling at all.
Sometimes I remember the shit I buried. Almost always when I ain’t trying to. But remembering when you ain’t ready to conjure the spirits buried in the memories feels like an assault upon one’s own self.
There is no chronology to the remembering of things I worked so hard to forget. Sometimes there is rhyme. Rarely is there reason. It all just comes in pieces. Sudden. Fleeting.
Chapter 1 Verse 2
Chapter 1 Verse 3
She making Bea cry.
She don’t even need to talk to Bea.
We can answer whatever questions she got.
Have I cried for the little girl inside me?
What the fuck is she even asking?
I got this.
Asking shit that don’t make no sense.
We shouldn’t even fucking be here.
She still crying so I don’t see how you got it.
Get her the fuck out my face.
Just make sure Bea good.
“I’ve lost you.”
Chapter 1 Verse 4
I had to choke back the spit that filled my mouth all of a sudden. That was not what the fuck we rehearsed. Why the hell did Shannon think that was a good reason to offer up for missing curfew? We had plenty of excuses she could have used. Car broke down…got lost…got jumped…couldn’t find a working payphone to check in. The appropriate excuse was based on how late we was. Me being pregnant was not the one we agreed on. We wasn’t even that late. My auntie Ernestine didn’t bother to blink.
“Well, I guess she needs to make a doctor’s appointment.”
I thought she meant a prenatal checkup. It ain’t take too much more thinking to realize that like everybody else, my auntie just figured that at my age, an abortion was my best option. I was scared of that shit though. I had heard the whispers about my grandma Lois. Didn’t know what they was saying when I was little but I figured out what happened from piecing together the conversations. “Back alley,” “abortion” and “hemorrhaged” finally made sense. Enough sense to scare the hell out of me. I wasn’t getting up on that table. So I guess I was having a baby. At 14.