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Where the Lord's Wind Blows
Feb 7, 1963
Lord, I write this diary to you.
I want to be a writer when I grow up. I told Momma that and she asked if I had a story. I looked at her funny so she would know that she was talking crazy. ‘Darlin, don’t you look at me like that,’ she said. ‘Every good writer has a story.’ When I asked what my story was she told me to write to the Lord about it. She said you Lord know everything. And no one disagrees with my Momma when she talks ‘bout religion.
Feb 8, 1963
Bessie came home today crying. I know ‘cause I can hear her. Mamas now stepping lightly towards her as to not wake the landlord below. “shush shush child. It’s OK mamas here. What happened?” Bessie choked something out between her hiccups and tears. I couldn’t understand it, but Lord I think you gave mothers some sort of super hearing ‘cause my mama knew exactly what Bessie was saying. “He broke up with you?” Oh baby, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Mama reached for Bessie’s pale shaking hands. But Bessie don’t like to be touched anymore. She grabbed her hands back and ran off staring at them, and the tears on her face rolling off and landing on the open palms. Like she was trying to stop rain. This was strange to watch ‘cause she was the type of person who always moved so fast that I imagine the rain had never touched her.
February 9, 1963
I saw the colored man at the corner again. There were two grown boys around him poking and prodding, pulling at his shirt, like he was the dog that always hung around the Hallman’s Grocery. When they saw me they laughed, called the corner man the n word and left.
I said that word once and my momma slapped me. She’d never done that before. I felt like I should have slapped those men. But I didn’t Lord, I didn’t.
The man on the corner looked at me and I realized for the first time that his eyes were blue. Like mine. I stared for a moment and began to walk away. As I trudged through the slush towards my school he called out to me. ‘How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?’ ?I said, how was I supposed to know? He didn’t respond. Have you asked your mother? He laughed.
February 10, 1963
Teacher told us today we have to write a poem, and recite it to the class. This is bad news. First off, my poems are always awful; second I’ll be the laughing stock of the whole class. I can already tell this won’t be good. Sometimes lord I wish that I could disappear, like the morning fog. I heard once that San Francisco has lots of fog. Maybe that’s what my poem should be on … maybe.
Feb 11, 1963
Bessie still hasn’t gotten out of our room. When I went in our room tonight she was lying on her bed in her underwear. Her hair sprawled over the pillow and her make-up all washed off. She looked like one of your angels, Lord, only she was the type that had fallen. Her lips kept muttering something along the line of if we only had a telephone he would call. I asked her who he was. She cried.
I asked Momma why Bessie was so sad. She took me on her lap (I don’t like when she does this but I didn’t say anything). She said, “You know in your Saturday morning cartoons Tom the cat dresses up as different things in order to catch Jerry? Jerry doesn’t fall for it, but I think Bessie did.”
I went back up to our room and laid next to Bessie. She turned to me and asked if I remembered Daddy. I said no, because it was true. I do, she said, and then rolled back over. I didn’t try to touch her.
February 12, 1963
It’s president Lincoln’s and my Daddy’s birthday today. We read about Lincoln in school. He was the 16th president and fought to get rid of slavery. I think he will be my favorite president. But Lord I can’t help wondering if supposedly so many people fought against slavery, why are colored people treated so bad now? Tomorrow I’ll ask Momma.
Sometimes I like to think that since they share the same birthdays my father was somehow related to President Lincoln. I like that thought. I don’t remember him at all though. He died when I was two. People come up to me and say how sorry they are that he ‘passed on’. But truthfully, well, I didn’t really know him. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be sad and scarred that I don’t have a dad. I like living with girls. I don’t feel scared at night. Mamas strong. Both inside and out.
February 13, 1963
Johnny told me today that president Lincoln had slaves. I don’t believe him. Johnny is a slippery guy. Kinda like a giant toad. I hate toads.
February 14, 1963
Today I dressed in pink for Valentines Day. Mama said I looked grown up. Henry at school said I looked like a rose. Today was a good day. Like the one’s I see on television. Nothing could go wrong. I wish it could stay like this forever.
On the way home from school I saw the corner man again. He asked me another question and strummed a guitar with only four strings. How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand? I like these questions. I told him Lord, what I had read in the bible about Noah’s ark and the doves that returned with the twigs. What if they hadn’t returned? he asked. I crossed my arms at him and said “But they did, sir.” He smiled at me, a slice of the moon in his mouth. I took out the pink lollipop the teacher had given us in class and gave it to him. Happy Valentine’s Day, I said.
February 15, 1963
Teacher reminded us about the poem. It’s due next week. I hate how things creep up behind you until wham! They squish you flat. Like when the anvil intended for the Roadrunner falls back on Wiley Coyote. He survives, just sees stars for a while.
February 16, 1963
I still haven’t written my poem.
February 17, 1963
Bessie is OK now. I know this because as I write she is singing in the shower. Not as loud as she used to, but that will come in time Momma said, that will come in time. Mamas a quiet gal. She didn’t used to be. She was a wild woman, that’s what Aunt Cece says. She says Momma danced to music. In fact, Momma was said to be the best dancer in the county. But we don’t even have a record player, I said. Times change, honey bun. Times change, sighed Auntie.
Lord you know my Momma’s strong. She pulls it together. Every birthday she makes sure I got a present. Bessie and me both. I love her lord, more than chocolate donuts, or rhubarb pie. And she loves me.
February 18, 1963
I know what momma and Aunt Cece have been whispering about. I was a spy. They said that there gunna put colored people in the school Aunt Cece teaches at. I didn’t see such a big deal, until I asked teacher about it. She exploded like the teakettle on the stove when Momma don’t get to it fast enough. She yelled insulting words about colored people. The quiet women puffed out her chest like a singing robin but when she sang her song was of hate. I put my head down and noticed for the first time the smooth linoleum floor. Teacher’s tantrum lasted for a whole five minutes but it felt like fifty. I was too frightened to do anything but nod Lord. So I kinda sat there like a bobble head doll. Up, and down, and up, and down. Throughout the day she had a new ferocity. We are all children of God I wanted to tell her. But I didn’t.
February 19, 1963
How many years can some people exist, before they're allowed to be free? The corner man asked as I walked by. I didn’t have an answer so I pretended I didn’t hear him and kept walking.
February 20, 1963
Today I decided I liked the number eight. It just sounded good in my mouth. Not like the bowl of oatmeal that is number three. I hate three. I hope I never live to be thirty-three. I don’t know what I would say if anyone were ever to ask for my real age. Maybe, I’d say I just forgot. I think people would believe me.
I tried to write my poem about the number eight but I just couldn’t. Instead I just watched the snow fall. There’s something strange about your snow, Lord. The way it covers everything, it almost erases the world below its fingertips. I look out the window at where the footprints I had made earlier lead up to my doorstep. It was like I had never been there. But I know I had, Lord. The truth was just hidden under the surface colored like my Momma’s white Sunday shoes.
February 21, 1963
I went for a walk in the newly fallen snow. I saw the man at the corner and I sat down across the street from him. He was shivering ‘cause he didn’t have a coat. People walked to and fro on the street leaving their tracks in your snow lord. He saw me looking at him and lifted his palms up; even from across the street I could see that they were purple. Those blue eyes held my gaze. How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn't see?
February 22, 1963
I walked to school with Aunt Cece today. There were people with signs all around the high school. Scattered over benches and ruined lawn. Close together as one. It reminded me of the ocean. Ever swaying, loud and sometimes frightening. Like the ocean it would suck you in and spit you out dizzy and confused, with water clogging your ears. Except in this ocean outside the high school, it wasn’t water your ears would be full of. These people spit bullets, sending them whizzing through the air, directed towards an open heart or a hungry brain. If I said any of those words I would have suds in my mouth for weeks. Where were their mothers to scold them? Aunt Cece just shook her head.
February 23, 1963
I don’t know what to do. It was just after the sun set when all the noise started. I looked out my window and down the street a hundred or so people were standing with their picket signs in one hand and their torches and flashlights in the other. They swarmed together like a fog, red, but maybe not. I wasn’t able to see individual faces, because of that I was not able to distinguish the human from the animals.
Momma locked all the doors and Aunt Cece came over with a scarf on her head. They talked in hushed tones. Then momma told me to go to bed with Bessie. I pretended too but hid around the corner to see what was going to happen. And then my Momma, stepping lightly in her white leather shoes, my Momma, Lord, who don’t dance no more or take seconds from the dinner table, reached under the refrigerator and brought something gleaming into the kitchen light. Now if anyone comes and tries to mess with you for teaching black kids, we’ll be prepared. I gulped and ran up to my room, jumping in bed with Bessie, she held my head in the crook of her arm. We stared at the ceiling in the dark room, light from the outside making monster’s outlines on the white washed walls. What happens when Wiley Coyote finally catches the Roadrunner? I asked. The world will end, was her reply. I couldn’t tell if she was joking.
February 24, 1963
The man was not at the corner today, Lord. His guitar was though, all the strings cut. I picked it up and out of its hollow center came a pink lollipop wrapper that fluttered to the ground. I grabbed it when I noticed some writing on the back. The answer my friend lies in you and me, it said.
I noticed a new snowfall had covered any tracks from the night before.
February 25, 1985
I wrote a poem. Teacher will not like it. But I didn’t write it for teacher. It’s for me. I have not shown mama in fear that she would disapprove. Sometimes I can’t tell if she really thinks everyone is equal or if she is just to tired to come up with an opinion.
February 26, 1963
The people outside the school had made more signs today. I couldn’t understand the big words but what I could make-out, lord, made me blush. We’re supposed to write what we believe. I know some kids are gonna try to write about how there should be no school. But they don’t fool me. I wrote something from my heart. Tomorrow we have to read our poems. Bessie said my poem was controversial. Bessie likes big words. She told me that many people would disagree, ‘cause they don’t like things out of the ordinary, and the ordinary for them is the color of you and me. The answer lies in you and me, I pictured the man and wondered where he had gone. I like exotic, I said. Good word, exotic, she sighed, good word.
February 26, 1963
Lord I was nervous; Bessie told me nervousness came from extra energy. I ran around the block, but it didn’t help. I thought of teacher’s reaction all the way to school. When I walked past the high school and saw the protesters something inside of me changed. It was the feeling that Jerry gets when he’s outsmarted Tom.
I saw the man on another corner, so I asked him why he had moved. I’m blowin’ in the wind, child. He smiled his moon smile. Blowin’ in the wind.
I marched into the classroom ready for whatever was to happen. I watched as my friends read their poems, attached with a tidy caboose of applause. Sally, Johnny, Sarah, Tom, I patiently waited my turn. Madeline, Brandon, Henry, Will, Me. I stood up and walked to the center of the room. I stared at my class. I’d known them for many years. What would they think? Who would they tell? But I knew you were with me Lord, stepping lightly beside me like Mama. So I planted my feet on the floor and spoke.