1. when you walk into your church as an 8 year old understudy in a play about slavery where the kid that your understudying gets his eyes gouged out in the play and comes up to you after church when everybody has left and you are small and wearing patent leather shoes and little lace socks and a poncho that was crocheted by your mema and a dress with at blue top part and a tie in the back and he looks at you and smiles at you and asks if you want to have sex with him but you do not know exactly what sex is but you say no anyway but he’s a big 13 year old. a big 13 year old man. and you know that if you run you’ll be punished for running around the church and if you scream you’ll be punished for yelling in the lord’s house because the Jennings family just does not do that and because god doesn’t like ugly and you know that, little girl. and anyway he has put his dirty sock in your mouth because he knows that even though you would be punished for yelling in the lord’s house and that god does not like ugly you might scream anyway. and you have to be careful not to bleed on your church clothes. and you don’t remember what standing up felt like after, thank the lord. and you don’t remember how long it was before he got off of you, praise jesus. and he didn’t make you promise not to tell anyone anyway, hallelujah, praise him. a mother to the motherless and a father to me.
well when you walk out of that church, falling into a black hole seems less farfetched and getting into a plane crash seems more likely than living till the age of 13,15,17,20 and a it seems only right that you may be mauled by a bear eaten by a lion scooped up in your pool by a shark or a whale that you couldn’t see through the chlorinated water or be eaten by piranhas in the bathtub that were cleverly obscured by sweet smelling bubbles that grandma dumped in so that you could be clean on the lords day before Sunday school, let the church say amen. i mean who doesn’t worry about monsters in their closet at 19 years old or strangers waiting under their bed as they sleep ready to stab through the mattress at a moment’s notice? is it not somewhat likely that i may be walking down the dirt path behind mema’s house and be sucked into a whirlwind that i later find out is the rapture and meet jesus tonight, hallelujah praise him?
2. Ms. Ruby is the glue. She is my entire childhood, only midtoned person I knew from home. She is an event, an archetype; teacher, auntie, neighbor lady. Well manicured hands stretch four year old thighs, adult enough to touch, child enough to hurt, a sadists dream. As soon as I thought I was just grown enough, just grown enough to like it for myself, just grown enough to understand why and how and when people touch each other like that, just when it became an act that I could perform every Sunday on my knees with an old ladies pussy that smelled like moth balls and musk she would pick my thinking self up and cradle me. call me her baby. her little baby thing. outside her grandkids would have birthday parties, my family would have barbecues throughout sweltering summer nights laughing in each others company and smoking menthol cigarettes. I was inside, quietly swallowing old lady cum, deep as wine with mucus in it. she did not happen to me, she lives in all of my stories. every summer of childhood, every first kiss, first fuck, school dance, she lives. she moved, went home as i left for college, her house is for sale.
3. a strange thing happens to me when i envision myself scheduling a routine pap smear. routine, it should be routine, somebody told me i need it. for the health of my vagina, just my vagina not me. i can see myself, adorned in with the same stomping boots, a little longer in the tooth and with softer leather, that i did when this routine was started two years ago. the brisk brushed iron door know mirrors the ice block that makes its way to womb when i think of what will happen next, what did happen next.
all of me, every part at least, wishes that i had walked backwards, recoiled from the ice block doorknob and walked home backwards. every part of me wishes that instead of the office having a window into a waiting room full of worried, sweaty women it would have instead contained a mirage forecasting my impending rape. instead, me and legs walked in to the waiting room full of worried, sweaty women and picked up a clipboard with my last name on it. legs and the other parts of me settled quietly into a chair closest to where the counter was. once the silence assured me of my safety i told arms and fingers to fill out the form the black receptionist gave me. Johnson, Cyree. age: 17 .gender: dyke. sexual orientation: dyke. reason for coming/concerns: questions about safer sex/ std testing. race: black.
when the doctor greeted me, his blackness let me slip into a warm dark comfort. tall african man, face wavy with age and shiny and dark. i followed him to the room with the paper slip and leather bench stealing the pen that arms and fingers wrote with. the clipboard with me on it was in his hands until he left it on the table without so much as a glance.
feet hung heavily in metal stirrups, the examination began without questions or conversation. ashy knuckled, gloveless hands pumping in the tight, sticky pink mass. My vagina became something unfamiliar and completely unattached , a family secret, a cracked vase, sharp points and jagged edges everywhere, burnt bread, an unworthy friend.
sometimes my brain gets stuck on things, not unlike a balloon on a tree. not pictures, just words. when i smell vintage clothes, my nose picks up the odor of menthol cigarettes. when i see a kid have a birthday surrounded by plastic furniture with loving relatives all around i dare not eat cake, why would i, it would only taste like cum and cheap box red wine. every teacher, auntie and grandma seems a predator with arms long enough to hold, but also choke. my vagina stays clenched, cracked, burnt. lovers see the broken bits and make the pieces into necklaces that they give to other women, never thinking i may need them back. they push the tight, sticky pink mass and are revolted, no matter how much perfume i wear, it’s not a secret it’s the whole story. people see me and at once, see raymond, ms. ruby, the doctor. people see me and make polite conversation but ultimately turn away. lovers, always lovers, use the cracked vase secret to cut away at me, to jab at me. lovers. they ask me to keep secrets where they are ms. ruby, countless times, cigarettes waft through the window.