I've always been a bit nomadic. I was an AT&T brat, like the army, but without the clout. I was in seventh grade when I first got the news that we'd be relocating to Memphis. While I had no great affinity for my hometown, it was the only home I'd ever known. This is where I learned to swallow fear and liberate love. If you hold your hand over your heart, no one will touch your heart and no one will hold your hand. If your heart is untouched and your hand is unheld, you are untouchable, you are free.
I settled into Memphis fairly quickly. Our apartment complex had a pool and the church had cute boys. I got to be Miss Marijuana in the drug pageant and lip sync Whomp! There It Is in my Cross Colours for Pride Club. I had my first interracial relationship. It lasted all of 5th period. After I'd circled yes on his note and he'd moved seats, he realized that he couldn't take me to any dances or movies because his parents wouldn't approve. I can't remember if that was after the incident where the white lady called my mom a nigger bitch and pushed her down, but I think it was before the incident where the white girl called my friend a monkey and I learned how to frighten piss out of a person.
One thing that I never quite settled into was being behind. I'd always been an honor roll student. Exceptional, they said. Extraordinary, they said. Wise. But when I got to Memphis, I was years behind the curve. You see, in my elementary school, they sat the smart kids in the back. They didn't have funding for extra classes and specialized teaching aids. They would put us in the back with worksheets "dittos" and have us work amongst ourselves.
Occasionally, if they had a lot to work on with the other students, they would send us out to recess. I was concerned that I might be falling behind, but when I got to middle school none of it posed a problem. Though, I'd moved from a 90% Black population to a 90% White population, I was just as exceptional as I'd always been. When I got to Memphis, I migrated from exceptional to fair. This would not do. These White folks could act smarter than me, but I'd be damned if they would BE smarter than me. I realized this is where I learned to cloak my inadequacies with comfort. If you make them feel good, they won't notice you're an idiot. If you can make them see themselves, they'll never come looking for you.
After Memphis, came New Orleans. Good ole, good time NOLA. Except, not really. The violence was so pervasive that we were required to wear mesh or clear backpacks. We wore ID badges around our necks so that we'd be easily identified if shit popped off. The books were dilapidated and the teachers were tattered. The system was broken. Back to the back of the class. The cliques were tight and I couldn't edge my way in. I spent most days sleeping off my depression on the couch. This is where I learned to leave my body and snuff my spirit. If you agree with them, it won't matter if you're listening. If you keep one foot in front of the other, perhaps you'll stub your toe...then you'll feel something.
NOLA gave way to Dallas and it was there I found a happy medium.
To be continued....