Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Firsts: Twootles vs Uncle Charlie

(To break me out of my occasional writer’s block, I’m creating a series of posts called Firsts. This is where I’ll explore various Firsts in my life. In today’s Firsts, I’ll talk about my first death)

I learned about death through a parakeet and my uncle. I grieved the passing of one, and was morbidly fascinated with that of another. I’ll explain.

Up until I was 9, I lived in my grandmother’s house with her, my mother and my aunt. I never thought about the benefits of an all-girl household until Uncle Charlie moved in and changed everything. Uncle Charlie was grandmom’s brother and he was the oldest person I ever saw. He was everything I thought about old people – bald, wrinkled, gray – wrapped up in a pair of dingy white pajamas. His health was failing, so he came to live with us. He took over grandmom’s room and she slept elsewhere, if she even slept at all. All I remember is her spending every waking minute taking care of him.

Well, I couldn’t stand Uncle Charlie. Before he came, grandmom’s moth-scented bedroom was my personal haven. It was where I went to watch Three’s Company, while everyone else watched Sanford and Son. It was where I toyed with her dentures and, because I just started to read and barely had any books of my own, I’d read her collection of Our Daily Breads.

Uncle Charlie turned her room into a hospital, with his medicine bottles everywhere. He never smiled, never spoke. He was satisfied just to lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. A few times, I tickled his feet and he didn’t budge. Then I heard him whisper to grandmom what I’d been doing and that he’d smack me if I ever did that again. I was banished from the room, forced to listen to his hacking coughs and vomit from outside a closed door. That was just fine by me. But I missed Three’s Company.

Eventually, Uncle Charlie died, right there in grandmom’s bed. I don’t know who was more upset, my grandmom – this was one of the few times I remember her crying – or my aunt, who became a screaming fit after discovering his body. I didn’t know much about death then, but I was morbidly curious. My older cousin, aka My Tormentor, once told me that dead people had worms coming out of their noses. He also said that once you die, your arms and legs stretch out so long that you become a giant. I tried to sneak a peak of his body, but nobody would let that happen. And my aunt, scared to her core, never went inside grandmom’s bedroom again. (With the exception of the times my mom tried to push her in)

Fast forward a year or two and my dad bought me a parakeet, which I named Twootles. It was the typical Your Mom and I Are Finished And Getting You A Pet Will Really Piss Her Off So Here You Go gift, but I loved Twootles anyway. The pet store people told me he was a parakeet, but he was light yellow and everyone always asked if he were a canary. I was determined to teach him to talk, so I’d spend evenings next to the cage enunciating “hello.” He tried, but he just didn’t get it.

Twootles started getting sick. He’d ruffle his feathers and march back and forth on his bar like a crazy bird. Then one day, I lifted the towel off of his cage and found Twootles on the bottom. He was on his back, tiny clawed feet in the air, sprawled out on the funny papers that held his excrement.

Oh, I screamed and screamed. Hot tears fell from my face and I screamed at the injustice of it all. Mom comforted me as best she could, but that was a distant memory when I ran into my older cousin, aka The Tormentor. He pointed at me and screamed – “THAT’S WHY YOUR BIRD KICKED THE BUCKET!” – and my grieving process started all over again.

I became depressed. My schoolwork started to suffer. When my teacher asked me what was wrong, I told her about Twootles. She sent me to the priest, who told me that when animals and people die, there’s something beautiful inside them that starts to grow. Or something like that. I don’t remember what he said, but I do know they cheered me up. Later, my mom told me she contacted the pet store and learned that Twootles had a breathing problem. Because we had his cage by the window, that aggravated it, leading to his death.

Eventually, I got over it. But for years, whenever we drove past that pet shop, I’d scream that they were liars and thieves. I can hold a grudge, so I kept this up for years. Even now that the store is closed down and another business is in its place, I have to catch myself from raising my fist and shouting about my injustice.

Photo from http://www.parakeets.net/PARAKEET-YELLOW.jpg

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Spin (**The Devil want me as is/But God/He want more)

1. This weekend was too busy to even recap

2. Let’s just say I got my hair done

3. Went to an 80s party, where I was ooohed and aahhhed in my one-shouldered, waist-tied New Edition tshirt, leggings and scrunchie on my wrist

4. Then I got my hair done again

5. I also went to a friend’s church for a singles ministry she started. That was actually a lot of fun

6. And then I got my hair done again

7. At this point, you might be wondering why I was getting my hair done three different times (and I’m still not done!!) in such a short period of time. More on that later.

Until then… have a good week everybody!

(**Lyrics from The Roots’ ‘Walk Alone’)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

For Colored Girls Who Considered Janet's Cough When The Credits Started To Roll

I mentioned previously that I saw For Colored Girls. And rather than join into the neverending debate about all things Tyler Perry, I thought I’d talk about one of the parts that stuck with me. Janet Jackson plays a woman with a … dare I say it??? ….. FOINE as all get out husband. Her character is a cold, wealthy careerwoman. Her husband also has a successful career, but it pales in comparison to the prestige and money of his wife’s. Oh, and by the way, her husband is on the Down Low, or gay, has sex with men, etc. This is later addressed by a cough, a low point in the movie.

The scenario had me thinking back to the past. There was a dude I was once involved in that I believe si gay. When our paths first crossed, we were volunteering for a similar organization. My immediate thoughts of him were -- “He’s cute. It’s a shame he’s gay.” I don’t know what it was … maybe the vibe he emitted or the slightly high tilt in his voice …. But something knocked at my conscience’s door. I didn’t listen.

Fast forward some time and that initial thought was erased. He asked me out, and I was on the moon. He held my hand and I had to tame my heartbeat. He kissed me and I danced a jig. (I did it later and privately, of course) Then he kissed me again. And again. And again. And again. And soon, I began to think: Well hell, is kissing all we’re gonna do?

I addressed all of this with him, and he said he was just waiting for the right time. He wanted things to happen naturally. I said I understood, but still I wondered. What’s more natural than the fact that I’ve slept beside you? But whatever, I put it out of my mind. For awhile, it was nice to be with someone who only wanted one thing. My nose was wide open. He could do no wrong.

We went out pretty regularly – dinners, plays, outdoor festivals, etc. There was a time I was at his parents’ house for a cookout and his childhood friend, D, showed up. I was eager to meet D, because I heard so much about him. But when dude introudced me to D, he did so rather reluctantly. I remember thinking – “awww, that’s sweet, he doesn’t want D to interrupt our time together.” Looking back, I think I may have been the interrupter.

Things ended and I was pretty broken up about it. But I moved on, cause ain’t nobody gonna walk away with all my stuff. (Again, a For Colored Girls reference) Once, after he became a distant memory, I had lunch with a friend who started a new job, the same place Dude worked. Without knowing much of our history, she told me she suspected he was gay. I changed the subject.

After I saw For Colored Girls, I wondered about Dude. I wondered if everything was alright in his world, and if he had gotten comfortable enough to live his life as a gay man. I found him online, and saw that he is still identifying himself as a heterosexual. Well, maybe he is. But the truth is for him to know, and for some other woman to find out.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Spin (** “A (writer) is somebody who has got to be out of his or her mind”)

1. I’d apologize for not posting in awhile, but that would give the impression that it won’t happen again

2. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t promise that

3. The next few weeks will be pretty busy, including an 80s party, a writer’s workshop and turning in my thesis (guess which of these activities I’ll enjoy the least??)

4. I got to see a free screening of For Colored Girls, where I remain riveted by Janet Jackson’s cough (insider for anyone who’s seen it)

5. The movie had some powerful parts and inspired me to read the book

6. I’m continuing to make revisions to my novel in progress. There’s a character that I really love, that really cracks me up

7. Too bad I’m gonna have to kill her.

Have a good week everybody

**Quote from Sonia Sanchez. She actually said “A poet is somebody who has got to be out out of his or her mind”