Me in 8 Scenes
cast of characters
mainly there’s Nada (nay-duh)—my mother, mommie, the crazy beauty, the one whose house the neighbors are afraid of even though she no longer lives there, having gone to prison and having even died. still, i bet they cross the street when they pass. i know they still do. there’s wild bill who loved her more than my daddy her lover or hubs #2 or #3 or #4. it’s complicated isn’t sufficient. it’s jacked and exhausting is. there’s debbie, the oldest who saw everything. my bookend. then comes michele, then comes dennis—who tried to return me for a boy. then mia my roommate and then me the baby. there’s the grands from him, willie and margaret, the former a delight the latter plain mean and the grands from her, pops and mama (who when pops died wore his war boots as if she was marching to meet him again in heaven) and there were the flocks of cousins who would hide and seek unspeakable things with us and then there’s my first hubs who i admit i may have broke but more than likely he already came that way and my joy, my girl (snickerdoodle, Una La Nadia, Snicks) my baby, my only and i could go on and on… my nadia jordan full of grace overflowing from heaven and my last and only hubs the red capped brit, my viking hobbit that makes no sense other than to prove what i’ve said for years God laughs at his own sense of black humor.
from the top
Once upon a time, a long time ago, when women were women and there was great hope for more and more, Nada was born—10 fingers, 10 toes, brown smile, Mama & Pop, sister and brother—and, a hillbilly house, once upon a time. A long time ago, when women needed men and men wanted at least one and a home and there was pitter and there was patter of lil’ feet—5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 all in a row—Mama & Pop doted and preened for a brown baby, shiny and lucky like the copper pot on the stove—sister and brother, hillbilly house, more and more. Once upon a time, a long time ago, when women had babies and prams on the front porch and aprons stitched with starch and common was good, there was static on the radio and jars filled with war and soldiers were stars, the shelves were tucked with jelly and jams, the paper and milk bottles rested at the front door, and faucets were separate (but equally good) and Nada was small without her nice figure or opinions or red pack of Mores, all curls and hair bows when there was no you and there was no me. Once upon a time, Nada was born—10 fingers, 10 toes, brown smile, Mama & Pop, sister and brother—and, a hillbilly house, once upon a time, a long time ago, when there was every reason to hope.
there’s no better way to tell you this: i was born Illegitimate Baby Girl. when billy, my mommie Nada’s husband, found out that i was not his little lamb, that this one was not his, he did what any self-respecting man back then would do, he signed the birth certificate all the while pleading the fifth and then went off and drank a fifth and then a forty and came home to his little ole house on east 151st street on the corner of gutter and gut-wrenching. he went back to his four other descendants and her and her belly swelling with his shame. he went back to the regular day-to-day punching the clock and so on and so forth punching the clock and coming home hoping to catch that fox with his hen. and when he did he did what any proud rooster would do—he hit her above the belt so as to not punish—me—the baby but that hen needed to learn some respect and so help him god! he wiped that smirk off her face smudging it with the bottom of his boot until her two front teeth protruded from that upper lip of hers so smart, so sexy and oh how he loved it. he kicked and he kicked until her two front teeth waved like a proverbial white flag.
we are 3
goodnight tea kettle and celestial teas, goodnight orange room and tumbled white sheets, goodnight brass bed, and linoleum, goodnight front porch, and the white wicker chairs, goodnight screen door, yes to you, “goodnight,” goodnight nobody saw—shhhhh—“turn out the lights!” goodnight blinds and all the eyes shut behind. goodnight sirens and red and blue lights. goodnight curtains and the quiet beneath the bed. goodnight closets and down the stairs. goodnight skillets and pots and pans, goodnight police officers, goodnight ambulance. goodnight garden and goodnight little house, goodnight children, goodnight! lights out! goodnight Barbie, goodnight “sweet dreams”. goodnight food stamps and government cheese. goodnight big brother and your little toy gun. goodnight cigarettes and snapdragons. goodnight oven. goodnight weed. goodnight beer bottles, goodnight oak tree. goodnight mommie and the voices in your head. good night daddy, goodnight lawn chairs. goodnight stars, goodnight prayers, goodnight streetlights everywhere.
teacher said, “Draw a picture of your family.” so, I begin. let’s see… there’s Mommie and Daddy up, up, up and out of the chimney and Debbie, Michele, Dennis and Mia doing the robot to Soul Train on the black and white screen and there’s Earth, Wind and Fire singing, and Grandma’s pruning outside “Off! Off with their heads!” and the cousins will come slam in! and grandpa comes home just when it’s getting good… and when I’m just about done that blond boy raises his hand and says, “But, she’s using up all the brown and black crayons!” and, inside i scream, “So what!!! So what if I am!”
teacher says, “Write a story about what you ate for thanksgiving.” so, I begin. let’s see… turkey and ham and oyster dressing and cornbread stuffing and potato rolls and string beans with ham hock and greens and chitt’lins and macaroni and cheese and potato salad and gravy and cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes with pecans, crushed pineapple and marshmallows and 7-up cake and sweet potato pies and as I read that little blond boy does it again, “eeewww what’s chitt’lins. she called a ham a hock…” and nobody stops him and now i feel so very sorry for him cause later when he touches my hair again and says, “eeewwww it feels like wire,” and when he calls me “hey, Hershey” again, i am going to take my jump rope and tie him to the chair. and that’s exactly what i did. i took the rope and lassoed that little cowboy to a chair, calmly and even gently, when teacher wasn’t looking.
In the house, we resided too. Our windows too glowed with light. Our front porch too was sun-licked and the breeze tickled our roof too. The manna didn’t miss us. Each morning, our lawn was covered with dew. The birds gave the call to worship to us every single day too, and we bowed to listen, to plead, to pray. We believed too. The daylilies opened wide for us—as wide as yours did for you. The leaves on the trees waved to us as well as to you. Yes, he hit her and yes, they smoked and their eyes drifted shut. Yes, they drank. We heard them scream then cry too. The sirens rang and we, the lil’ ones, hid beneath the bed where the stars still winked and flirted with us from the sky. It was alright that some nights, the monsters escaped from their closets. They never noticed the unattended joy sticking to them like dust bunnies and settling like night fairies on us, singing us into the same dawn as you.
the formative 15
The Well-meaning Critics told me that He was a Sovereign God. He could do anything and in fact, He did. To me, if He was a Sovereign God, then you mean to tell me that all was well... the weed, this mother, no father, this black skin? To me, it meant that He could of given me white skin, June Cleaver as mother, Ward as my father, pressed pj’s, Lucky Charms & Cookie Crisp, Saturday morning cartoons. But, He gave me Nada dressed in a faux pink, teddy bear fur robe, taking center stage in my heart, projecting in the spotlight, “You weren’t supposed to be here.” Those critics said, “He works all things for the good.” And why didn’t they say so from the start? From then on, I was a worker ant carrying every good thing that ever happened to me to the deepest storage vault I can find and saving it up for the winter. Even though the good was a little tough to find, still I scurried and scurried. A long recess one day. My sister and I watching Beach Blanket Bingo and Shirley Temple marathons on Saturdays. Madonna on American Bandstand. McDonald’s for no reason that we can see. A sleepover at Bernice’s with Cookie Crisp cereal. Strawberry pie and mashed potatoes at Kentucky Fried Chicken after church. The first time I rode my bike with no hands. Barbie under the Christmas tree. Girl Scouts. Pizza parties and salt water taffy. little specks. nothing sustaining and winter was coming. Until… he kissed me in the dark with my back pressed against the back of Shelly’s garage and my every thought rising, rising, mingling with the stars. I was 15. He was 14 and kissed me like men kiss women. Like how Superfly kisses his girl in the bathtub. Like how Nick kisses Alex after he takes her to dinner in Flashdance. It deserved a soundtrack. This was good. Into the vault. “He works all things for the good…” Good is a very dependent word like love or hurt, or God. It depends on who says it. What is good? He works all things for what kind of good? I didn’t know. I filled in the blank. For years and years, I continued to fill in the blank.
20s 30s in no particular order
I’ve learned that it’s better to pretend you're someone else and get the hair extensions so boys will think you have good hair and even the white boys will tell you you’re pretty (for a black girl) and that you look like Whitney Houston (but the black boys know you don’t) and college is a good place to find a husband because no matter what the cost you cannot go back home and finally this boy likes you so you better hold on all the way to chicago and you better get him to say I do even if he never asked, “will you?” too late for him! you tricked him and he is yours! but you learn that he can’t save you from your mama and when mama does the unthinkable and this time there’s no getting around it she’s going away for 8 to 25 years? your precious baby girl sleeping in your arms suckling your breast can’t change that either and now looking back I see that i should’ve told my husband he was mine and only mine not anyone else’s and yes it mattered if it was only dinner, just coffee, a couple of drinks or watching a movie or just business or work but I didn’t and so… lights out, goodnight! He’s gone.
he is sleep and she is sleep. the dog sleeps. the cat sleeps. the pictures rest. the books lean. the kettle waits and My Mine wakes me with a whisper and says, “come to the sunrise. we have waited out the darkness. come and see the light. come be with me.” so, i do without the fear of shadows i’ve grown so accustomed to the dark and it’s way of seeming because i have learned that it has no heart to be any real thing. i heard Him whisper and everything that is past, everything that is present, everything that is to come refrains in me “come light, my peace, my strength, my way, my truth, my life, my joy, my love, my all.” He hears the silence singing in me and i go sit in the Light and listen.