i’m eleven years old and learning what it means to be white, to be black.
in the school bathroom, my friends have formed a small group to one side of the sink and i stand apart from them, a mirror reflecting it all.
they’d passed me a note and told me to come in here and now we’re here. i’m being told to stop hanging around. they tell me that i’m not welcome as a friend and that they don’t like me.
one of the girls watches with arms folded and i can tell she feels a little sorry. everyone else does not.
when i went to school in detroit i wished to have black skin. there was no other way, it seemed, to be accepted. the white attempts at changing voice cadence and altering fashion always pointed louder to the difference.
at least, it seemed to me.
i stand on my porch and my neighbors on both sides are black. we’re all grown up now. i look out the front window past the sheer white curtains, through the green leaves of the magnolia and i feel eleven years old again.
i hated to feel when i was young.
but here i am, back in the city, back in the same situation.
or am i?
i pray quiet. “why lord? why do i still live here?”
it’s not physical location i’m praying about. they say addiction stunts emotional growth to about the age when the substance began to be abused.
maybe the same is true for pain?
if i wasn’t moving into the city, if my god’s one rule wasn’t to love my neighbors, then i could stay eleven in this racism, this point of pain, until some kind soul gently closes the lid of my casket down for me.
but that’s not what god has.
i walked back to my desk and caught the eye of the one girl that gave me the note, the one that i’d thought of as my best friend and used every ounce of emotional energy i had not to cry.
do. not. cry.
maybe we start there, lord?
maybe i start by crying. start with the pain instead of denying feeling? i wonder if i even can. i feel sorry for that young girl, i suppose, and when i remember that she is me, maybe then i will grow up to twelve, thirteen?
because that girl was me.
i’m not eleven years old anymore and rejected by my peers. will grieving and feeling and prayer take us up out of those old moments and into the present day? could i eventually be thirty six instead of waiting, always hoping, until heart is sick, for a kind word that never comes?
god isn’t in a hurry.
time is an object at his disposal for his purposes. there’s no need to wrap it all up with a bow in thirty minutes.
there is only this wading into cold water.
at first, all of my senses tell me to get out…but i can decide no.
no, i will remain.
then the temperature gradually changes into the only thing that can refresh this thirty some year old soul that needs it. i need so much the new, planted by streams and life like a well-watered garden.
i’ll stay, lord. i will stay in the waters.
edited post from the archives