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---   J O H N   E D G A R   W I D E M A N  

     Kap-plow. Crack. Bloom. Pow-pow... Boom. Boom. Boom.
     We got Ďem. We got Ďem. Theyís down. Both of Ďem. Dumb niggers running like they could outrun bullets.
     Damn. They sure a mess laying there, ainít they. Got Ďem both good.
     Lookit the ass on this one. Looks like a womanís ass.
     This oneís got a big, fat nigger butt on him, too, and long nappy hair like a girl.
     Oh, shit, man. This ass too fine for a man. Shit. I think we shot us a woman. And goddamn. Sheís still groaning and gurgling. Shit.
     Groaning. Your sure itís a bitch. Kick Ďer over and see.
     Donít need to turn her over. Female, alright. And she ainít dead yet.
     Well, what you waiting for, boy. Flip the bitch. Yank down them drawers. Cop us some pussy while the hoís still warm.
     Man, sheís fucked up. Groaning.
     Whatís wrong with you, fool. Why you standing there staring and looking dumb. She be gone in a minute. Címon. Turn the bitch over. Uh. Uh. Get the other damned sneaker. Now pull, boy. Pull them jeans clean off.
     Owhee. Lookee what we got here. Some sure nuff chocolate roundeye. Yessirree. Woolly wench, ainít she. But sheís fine, alright. Long, skinny legs. Owwhee. There you go standing looking dumb again. Guess you donít mind cold pontang. Like mine hot. Gíwan now. Move out the way, now, boy. You riding sloppy seconds on this one.

*     *     *     *     *

     And thatís how the story started of what white boys did to my baby. To my love. Now youíd think from what youíve seen so far, Iíd be mad at them, the white guys. The hunters who came upon us innocently macking in a meadow and shots rang out we took off running like startled deer for the trees. Weird thing is, though, Iím madder at her than at them. She says none of them raped her. None even tried. Says nobody ever got rough with her. So itís nobodyís fault but hers for giving it up. Why should I be mad at white guys. Every time she got down with one of them she was doing what she chose to do. In a way. Or so she says.
     Maybe we better go back to the beginning. Back before the scene above that always makes me unhappy, makes me, if truth be told, cry. Back before the woodland slaughter. The barking rifles and slobbering Deliverance goons.
     She was born Jill Jones as in Jack and Jill. As if her name was her fate she curtsied and churched and niced her way into the light skin Jack and Jill social set. A prize Jill in spite of a little extra dark in her velvet skin. No, my Jillís not light and bright nor possesses blow hair, you know, as in blowing in the wind in the backseat of a sky blue drop top Chevy blow blown blowing past, waving bye-bye all pearly teeth and blue eyes to match the carís color and tanned and blonde hair blowing on the way to the beach. Not her. The beach presented problems for my Jillís grade of hair. It would sneak home before she did if she dunked her sweet cinnamon donut body in the sea. So scarves, so various experimental cuts, wigs, chemical aids, prayers and cute hats. Owwhee. Her pale girl friends shouted once when oh god her hair drenched in a sudden shower became a nappy storm all over her head. Sheíd wished for a nest of coiling, hissing vipers atop her skull, wished for Medusaís glare instantly turning to stone the silly, wide-eyed looks, the innocent, knife-edged questions, nervous titters, the pity, the stage whispered asides: Did you see Jill. Wow. What happened to her hair. Talk about a bad hair day. Wow. Are you okay, Jill.
     In a story I read recently, author had to be a sister cause the hair business runs all through the piece like it does in sistersí stories, good hair, bad hair, poster girl hair, heads destined never to grace nobodyís billboard. Lord, girl. Whatís happened to your hair. Nappy. Kinky. Turban it. Bald it. Dread it. Braid. Twist. Cornrow. Afreakanize. Turn the tables. Make them eat the labels. All thatís fine and good. In fact itís finer, more delicate hair than theirs, scientifically confirmed Jill declared once. Finer follicles. More flexible. Hollow or curved or something she said, combing it out, the first of many hours preparing it for work the next week. The reason why I couldnít sleep over that Sunday night. I hate doing it, I look a wreck, she said. Why would I want you here the whole time gawking, spying. Hours to twist it. Iíll see you next weekend, okay. And I yearned to grab a big handful of the soft, cottoncandy aura, the shield sheíd raised. More hair than I would have ever guessed she owned. A beautiful cloud of unknowing. And I wanted my nose in it. My fingers and toes. Would drink it. Or wade in it. Baby, ohhh, baby. So beautiful. Brown and comely. Ethiopís star dusted daughter. Hair the mysterious and fine-stranded texture of perfumed night. Let me touch it. Wash it. Towel it dry. Kiss it. Let me lie on its fluffy pillow. Slobber in it while we sleep. I should have begged for a fistful, for one long, lithesome reed of it. She could have easily spared either. Pounds of fine spun Egyptian cotton crowning her regal forehead. Framing her dark eyes, her African lips and nose and cheekbones rendered Somali style, full, delicate, chiseled. Oh yes, Iím forgetting to finish telling about the story and writer I was intrigued by, the scene in which the main character allows her wayward white husband to play with her hair, indulging him the usually forbidden pleasure on the first night of a weekend theyíve stolen from their children and real lives to attempt to repair a fatal rent in the marriage cloth, the wife going to the max, letting his white hands muck about in the hair his people had set afire and left burning atop her skull for centuries, fire and smoke, skanky, nasty ruins smouldering sometimes when sheíd rake her fingers through its thickness, the ash, the grease, the evil words and acid rain would sear her flesh, paint black moons under her nails, recall the burning, smelly curling iron, branding iron, her body still chained, writhing, a witch dancing in the kindling naps, the dry, straw pyre heaped at her feet sheís trying to stomp out, combing, straightening, chopping, kicking back at the flames consuming her. Black sheep, black sheep, have you any wool. Yes sir, yes sir. Iím the Queen of Sheba holding a whole head full. Girl what happened to your hair. What you do to yourself, girl. She knows better but lies with her head on her husbandís lap, dreaming of a different life she knows, even as she settles her cheek against his thigh, even as she submits to his curious, loving strokes and rubs and fingering and quiet awe and perhaps even rapture like a blonde, glassy-eyed, tummyful Gerber babyfood baby sucking its thumb, she knows theyíve lost their chance and this last desperate 48 hours or so wonít alter a thousand years of failing, failing but she allows him to play on anyway in her soft acres of hair, her woolly mammoth bush, girl, untouched, natural like Allah or Buddha borned me with girl ainít nothing but a party up there if she let me, Iíd dig in, too, spelunk, deep sea dive, strum the thinner, rounder, hollower, whatever strands like a lute and chant their praises.
     Like the dying marriage I read about in the story, it was not to be. It in this instance being the project I imagined in my nappy head of saving Jill from herself, of salvaging from the ruins and handing her on a plate my own strayed, lost and found head, the head returning home from its long wilderness of chasing what I couldnít have, shouldnít have, didnít need, blonde white girls and brown black girls who tried their best to make me forget what they were or werenít, I forget which way it was supposed to go, we were all confused back then, werenít we baby we all needed to be counseled, hipped, have certain matters -- fears, inadequacies, lies, paradoxes -- lobotomized as I hoped to do for you with my funny valentine talking head on a plate I presented as a heart felt gift after youíd danced naked for me to a slowdrag Coltrane blues and Iíd nearly died I was so happy. So I presented you my head -- whatís a little talking head between friends -- in my solitude, my gratitude, baby, I said I love you just as you are, as youíve always been, you are perfect who you are, brown and kinky-headed, tender-headed just like my preachy head on a dish I wish was a silver platter, babe. As if words could restore peace, as if I could extinguish a fire burning for centuries and simultaneously with shout and chant rekindle what had waned between us. Let me touch it. Kiss it. Bundle it in a spirit bundle and weigh its incalculable wealth on the scientific scale I hold in my hands, my battered body parts, barely functioning on auto-pilot, Sweet, cause you stole my heart and blew my mind, but hereís whatís left of my head, the wide nose, thick lips plastered on it, nose wide open for you, babe. Please, please, please, donít go, girl, donít take my love away, just one more chorus. Encore the part of your dance where you sorta collapse or rather get down, down, loosen everything you own, giving it up, giving it all up and sinking, flowing down slinky to the floor onto your back and elbow, then roll, coil, twist like the sacred python rubbing earthís rich, life giving juices into your gloriously colored, speckled skin, the part like one strand of hair bonding, braiding, with others till your dance thickens and rises again like Nefertitiís snake-twined crown from her bronze forehead.
     It didnít work, did it. You didnít dance for me again. Damage too deep to be undone by words, wishes. Jill never had a chance, either. Even though she excelled exactly in those areas where everybody expected not to see her represented, didnít count on her being present, let alone deserving of praise. She was outstanding at math. Blew tuba in the all-city orchestra. Captain of the county champ, undefeated debating team of her 93% white suburban high school. She said she aspired to become an astronaut. Took flying lessons. As skilled at aeronautics as aerobics. Earned an AAU Junior Olympicís bronze medal swimming the 1500 meters, in spite of denser bones and less buoyancy than her pale opponents, in spite of banks of fast twitch muscles and minimal slow twitch, she overcame the biological burdens of African descent predisposing her to sprints and attention deficits and poor me to quick starts, rapid acceleration, early burn-out, premature ejaculation some whispered when they werenít dissing my slower, reptilian brainís brawn, its domination of my mental activity, rendering me sluggish and thuggish, intent they said on one and only one thing, my one track mind chasing beasty, fleshy pleasure, you know, what Jillís mom meant where she proclaimed again and again, Boys are nasty (read black boys). Boys are only after one thing. What others, higher up than mom on the image-making chain, meant when they lynched Emmett Till.
     But to return to Jill, because this is her story not mine, her early, unsettling successes destined her not to shed her skin, leopards canít change their spots, but to sink deeper into the miring clay of other peopleís perceptions in which she played the unavoidable role of exception to the rule. Exceptionally as she performed everything she wasnít spozed to, she couldnít alter the rule. Found herself adrift, stranded on a raft, the stony, floating island of her gifts, her achievements, her exceptional status. Jillís teenage heart saddened, began to harden. No way, no room, nobody else could fit on the raft.
     This lonely feast moveable and followed her to the best schools. Girlís schools, a womenís college because you canít trust nasty boys. No point placing yourself at risk. Your pussy in harmís way. Because thatís how boys see you. Black booty. Thatís what the crackers (because itís all white boys or almost all in the best schools) think of you. A walk on the dark, wild side. Your allegedly weak morals and naturally lascivious inclinations what they see in spite of or maybe because you display time and time again just the opposite of what they expect, what their science predicts, what youíre learning about yourself in the best schools.
     Let me digress a moment. Our lives, Jillís and mine, parallel each other in numerous particulars. So I know whereof I speak. In a way. But there are important differences, too. Differences sheís quick to point out, when I presume to know too much about her. As I often do. Anyway, for simplicityís sake and because itís kind of cute and wicked to sustain the Jack and Jill bourgey riff, letís call me Jack. Jack attending one of the best schools on a hoop scholarship and hereís one difference already, Jackís vita more predictable than Jillís in a way, more classic pulling himself up by his bootstraps from the slough of the ghetto black Horatio Alger thing, a jock who could read and ace exams and submit without too much fuss to microscopic examination within the glass cage immuring him. Jack, the first of his penniless family, maybe his race to achieve this or that, the first lonely September of his matriculation at an Ivy university, dressed up and in the company of his white future teammates, mostly poor boys themselves also on scholarship, gunfighters all with mile wide chips on their shoulders Donít Tread on Me sauntered coolly in a mixer at College Hall. Turns out what was being mixed was Jackís brown body with approximately 600 white bodies. No contest. He ducked out after three minutes. Belly flopped down on the bed in his dorm room. K.O.íed by the avalanche of whiteness at the threshold of College Hall he had crossed only to save face, his black one that perhaps his teammates hadnít noticed was black till that moment at the entranceómixing.
     Ironically, since arriving on campus, heíd been praying to be seen for what he was, just another frosh boll weevil looking for a home. Then all the boys and girls saw himóMy God, Jack. What happened to your hairóand the shit got worse after that.
     Enough of my story. Jill doubtless endured similar and more. And different, too, she reminds me every chance she gets. It wasnít always about race, she says. Which to me means she meant she made certain decisions, tailored her vita to include stuff that in a way set her apart, but ideally, if the strategy worked, if she performed well, these choices, choices of some stuff, by the way, she really liked, would also ensconce her firmly in the larger life of the institution -- read white life or colorblind life -- the larger life in turn graced, integrated, equal-opportunitied by her presence. Race, then, in a way would disappear. In my jealous view a strategy that also doomed her to hang with white boys. Giving in to any nasty boy, black or white, of course, would be breaking a rule, going against the grain of how Jillíd been raised to respect herself and carry herself and protect herself, but wouldnít she be tempted to consider that dalliance with a boy not black, if not entirely kosher, wouldnít it be a bit more like being different, like earning her wings as herself, an individual, being her own person, on her own terms, one more sign she was not who she was spozed to be. Her choice of lovers a breaking away, breaking expectations, breaking new ground like long distance swimming, excelling in calculus, etc. Mixing into the larger life. Race disappearing.
     Woe is me. Do you see why itís not them Iím angry with. We know them. Their biology, their culture, their crimes on record. As indelible as our records they steal and play and play and play over and over again. We know what they think of us and know what they do to us when they psyche themselves into ignoring -- for profit or pleasure (do they really distinguish) -- their protestant or catholic belief systems, their hard won judeo-christian moral and ethical principles. How they work us, smother us, integrate us, use us, kill us. What they say about our bodies and hair.
     We know this. So why fuss. Why feign surprise when they invite us in for a cup of tea and the rest happens. Why whine after we permit them to enter our heads, our beds. Whose race disappears. Who had one.
     What would it mean then, to know what I know and not act on it. Not do to them as they do to me and mine. Would my restraint, my turning another cheek, one of my big round butt cheeks, for instance, mean Iíd transcended racism. Freed myself of its coils. The deep self-destruct of raceís grasp.
     I donít think so.
     So there we were one day, a beautiful sunny June day, sitting in a grassy meadow where weíd hiked after driving far from the ugly city. Just the two of us talking, exchanging stories, cooing, speculating on our miraculous survival, the possibility of Jack and Jill withering away, melting down, and the two of us getting it on in new terms, shit weíd invent as we ploughed along, after first burying the hatchet, the nasty past, the hate suspicion jealousy anger at what had transpired to turn us both into so much less than we desired to be, turned us into antagonists in some evil script writerís dumb show, in the perverse theaters of our minds conditioned by unlove of self and each other weíd learned in the best schools, a lesson and discipline passed on to us as the sole means of making it, getting ahead, getting along, surviving, entering the mainstream, transcending race, you know what Iím saying. Rapping in the grass, busy regretting and redefining ourselves, and I admit, yes, maybe I was also hoping maybe Jill might be turned on by our prospects, the lovely summer day, our isolation, our positive vibe, our escape to this primal, sylvan sort of green garden and weíd hug and Iíd weave wildflowers into her nappy crown, and eventually, though it wasnít the only thing on my mind, braid flowers like in Lady Chatterleyís Lover into the cashmere thicket between her chocolate thighs, get down finally to our personal, intimate short-comings and long-comings, exploring what we might offer each other, do for one another once weíd moulted, once weíd discarded if we could the silly skins of Jack and Jill and rebaptized ourselves in Zionís cool, clear, crisp waters, our spirits hungering, loving the chance for a new day like that dawn Coltrane promised in his solos or hard pressed Malcolm preached near the end before they wasted him . . .      Kap-plow. Crack. Bloom. Pow. Pow. Boom. Boom. Boom.

     Forgive me father for telling tales in Babylonís tongue, stories full of Babylonís lies, stories slaying us as surely as we die in Babylonís stories.
     Let the curtain descend. The phoenix rise. Let me scoop up the bloody bodies sprawled on the grass. Itís only ketchup. Itís only my green jealousy and red anger.
     Let me blow a whistle and start the scene again. All the players on their feet, whole, cleansed of crimson wounds and burns. Let their eyes be clear, expectant.
     And you, love. Forgive the jolt of seeing us undone by my unkind imaginings. Forgive me.
     Forgive yourself. Letís start again. Letís begin. Letís run.

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published in association with the |
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