Black Girl: As Is

Writer. Creator. Shapeshifter.

XI.

As a chunky, nerdy, queer little black girl in backwoods Louisiana, I was always an anomaly.   I was performative and quirky.  I was sensitive and dramatic.  I was what the old folks called "funny". I "beared watchin".  My brother once told me that I was an adopted alien.  I wanted to clutch that lie and wear it like a badge.  It felt so right, so me.  But, I knew I couldn't keep it.  I opened my hand, pointed to the mendacity and demanded he explain why I was my father's spitting image. When he told me my father was adopted from the same planet, I pinned the pretense to my shirt and wore it proudly. I was only a visitor here.  I could get used to this.

I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.
— S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

 

My first suicide attempt was age 8. I can’t remember which member of my family was being an asshole, but I’m pretty sure it was The Lady.  She was a young, overworked Scorpio with short patience and a sharp tongue.   This day I must’ve tested that patience, because she stung me and it hurt.  My childhood bedroom had no doors, so privacy was prohibited.  I remember The Thought coming to join me on my bed.  He whispered, “If you died, they’d be sorry.”  Together we contemplated the best way to accomplish the task. The Thought noticed my purse.  It had a removable strap, so I unclipped the strap and knotted it around my neck. 

We looked around for something to anchor the strap.  If I stood on my bed I could reach the light fixture, but I was afraid I’d break the light bulbs.  The Thought called me a chicken.  I decided that if I tied the strap around the top of bedpost and angled myself just right, I could simply lean forward and choke.  It would be slow but effective.  I knotted one end around the post and the other around my neck. I closed my eyes and leaned forward. "Good Girl" said, The Thought.   Less than 30 seconds later, The Lady walked through my room and spotted me. 

If you don’t stop fucking around and put that strap back on that purse!  I didn’t waste money for you to not take care of your shit.
— The Lady

She kept walking.  I unknotted the strap and put it back on the purse.  I’d reached for vengeance and been handed apathy.  I’d been bruised but now I was hollow. The Lady would later amuse herself by retelling this story to my future lovers.

The next attempt was a couple of years later.  I was being bullied at school and I was lacking in human connection.  My parents worked late and my brother was popular.  My closest friends were food and television.  On one particularly lonely day, The Thought came back for a visit.  "If you died, your family would wish they’d spent more time with you.  If you died, those girls would wish they were nice to you." We decided to slit my wrists.  Perhaps, they weren’t completely wrong about my dramatics.  I’d heard that most people did this in the tub.  I didn't have many examples. This was the 80’s, so they reserved gratuitous violence for white guys. On camera suicides weren’t commonplace and the innawebs didn’t exist.

I went to the kitchen and searched for the sharpest blade.  I settled on the small-serrated knife we used for peeling potatoes.  It was a hot Louisiana day so The Thought and I decided against the bath.  I took the knife to my bed. I took a deep breath and slide the knife across my wrist.  It wasn’t as sharp as I’d hoped, so I had to run it back and forth like a saw.  It hurt, but it wasn’t nearly as bloody as I’d expected.  Maybe there was something about the bath that flushed the blood out.   The Thought suggested I repeat the action on the other side.  I did.  I slide the knife as many times as I could bear it. I lay flat on my bed and added Wet N Wild lipgloss, for dramatic effect.  I closed my eyes and I waited.  I woke up alive, in a dark, silent house.   I’d slit my wrists but I’d slit them on the wrong side.  It’s ok to laugh.  I would if I were you.  I got up, washed them under cold water and poured in peroxide.  I was in bed when my parents arrived, no one noticed the scars.

I've been thinking about truth, perception, denial.  How we carry them in our bodies and our bags.    How they whisper suspicion and hand out rose-colored glasses.  How they speak to us and for us.  I used to be obsessed with time capsules.  The idea of burial and unearthing.  The idea of objects enacting language, of curation subverting time.  As fixated as I was, I never created one.   Try as I might, I couldn't find anything that was reflective of me.   Sometimes, I look around and I can't find anything reflective of me.  But then, I look down at my shirt, put my hand to my chest and hold on to my pin.  I remind myself, I'm only a visitor here.  I can get used to this.  

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