I was going to write about the clothes in my closet that don’t fit anymore and how I’m trying to get back to being the woman who wore them – both in size and in mind, but…
Of course before I could start writing I had to check Facebook first! He was sitting next to one of my oldest friends, smiling at the camera. My heart froze up in my chest and my stomach dropped. Everything in me wanted to reach through that screen and somehow make him feel as horrible and alone as he made me feel for years.
I won’t use names here – I doubt that he will ever read this, but I just think it’s wrong, so we will call him DM.
I can’t remember exactly how we met. Thankfully I’ve blocked out a lot of high school and he was the worst of it. I do remember that he was in my Theatre class. He hated me. He hated me from the minute we met. I’m not quite sure why. I was your average teenager – self obsessed and dramatic, convinced that every thing that happened to me was life altering. I was a theatre dork and was in a lot of advanced classes, but I don’t think that’s what it was.
My father is a Black man from South Carolina, my mother… is a little more complicated. My maternal grandmother is White and my maternal grandfather is Cape Verdean. She looks White and I have light skin and curly hair. I have always, always been extremely proud of all of my family roots. My last name comes from a family who enslaved my great-grandfather. In college I had a sociology class where we were seated alphabetically by last name – I ended up just in front of a blond girl with my same last name. THAT led to some interesting discussions in class!
In high school – in the 90’s in South Carolina – you had to choose. What are you? Is a question I got asked all the time. People assumed I was trying to be White because I loved Shakespeare. They didn’t care that I also love to read about the history of the African nations. Or that one of my travel dreams was to go to Cape Verde and meet my family. They didn’t care to hear about the struggles of my grandparents or of my parents for that matter. It was a very Black and White world.
Of course – this was high school, nuances were not celebrated.
Back to DM. He not only swore that I was trying to be White, but that I hated all Black people. He verbally attacked me in class and out. He generally made my life more of a living hell than high school already is. He did all of this in front of a boy that I had that first – all consuming/sweaty palm/stuttering/can’t think straight crush on. K was GORGEOUS. He was on the basketball team, he was popular and he would never have looked at me twice – except, you know – I was the girl having a screaming fight with DM and crying before class.
DM is pretty dark skinned. At the time he was overweight. He may or may not be gay – I don’t know. Looking back I can see that him lashing out at me could have been for a million reasons and none of them might have had anything to do with ME. Everyone lives in their own private world – all we get are glimpses into each other’s deepest recesses. There is a part of me that looks back over the years and almost sees a glimmer of light shining into his soul – illuminating his pain as he lashed out at me.
Most of me only remembers the tears, the humiliation, the frustration of never feeling wholly human. If you get asked WHAT you are enough times, if you get told that you are trying to be someTHING that you’re not, if you get told that no one wants you anyway you will eventually believe that you are an IT and not a person. You will become disposable and lost.
I don’t know any Black person in this country who isn’t scarred in some way. Deep in our ‘closets’ we all have something lurking. There is the first time someone called you Nigger and the last time eyes tracked you while you shopped. We all have similar stories and we each have our singular stories. I know that mine are less gruesome than my parents and I pray to God that my son’s will be less painful than mine.
I pray, too, that one day I will come across a picture of DM and not want to run and hide and cry or turn and hit and kick and fight. I pray that I will be able to forgive him. For now though I will close the door and move on with my day.
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