RED DIRT & BARBECUE BLUES

I wasn’t forced to have sex at 12, then again at 13, or make it recreational after experiencing a “great” time at 15. He was 26 and did things to me that made my body react maturely, resembling a woman well into her thirties. I was trapped. No one lured me. I gave of myself to anyone who made the pulse between my legs thump.

I welcomed those trysts; the madness I confused with love found itself entangled in that thump. Or so I thought. Truth is I’ve never known love.

I am American born. Raised in a city that represents freedom and opportunity yet, I have never been free. I’ve been shackled since birth into a life I didn’t ask for. A life written for someone else maybe, but not me. I’m supposed to be the daughter of a wealthy business man; a self-made success who rose from the trenches. I’m supposed to be the daughter of a pristine socialite, whose family treated her as the princess she never was and trained to her to be everything she should with honor and grace. I was supposed to be well versed in classical music and fine china. I was supposed to have grown up privileged with carousel rides at birthdays, attractive, well-groomed ponies and a spoon in my mouth so silver it would have made most ancient civilizations envious. But instead, I have dreams. The problem is, I’ve always dreamed of being free; with no real solid plan on how to get there.

Jeremiah 29:1(NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

Growing up in a household where parties and hangovers laced with red Kool-Aid had become standard practice, I learned early how to massage feelings of disregard. Most nights, after being sent to our rooms, my siblings and I hid on the foyer steps. We were careful to be quiet and eager to witness the excitement going on downstairs. The adults knew how to party.  Cool, cat daddy styled men and pretty women that reminded me of those who stood in line attempting to get in Studio 54, smoked, drank, injected and snorted things unrecognizable to our innocent minds. We were ignored. They remained interested in forgetting their sorrows. This was the common approach to life for working class African-Americans in the 70’s. Stay above water. Get high to forget your struggle to stay above water. No ponies, no fine china or classical music.  Fictional happiness.

I found ways to occupy time, and on the shabby streets of suburbia NY, that wasn’t hard to do. I operated lemonade stands in the summer, started collecting aluminum cans, which could be traded in for money during the spring. If I could just make enough to buy a train ticket to somewhere far, only then would I be free. Wandering along paths mostly traveled by drunkards on their way to get wasted or buy cigarettes; I began collecting a small fortune.

The money was good for a budding six-year-old but; I hurriedly spent it on ice cream and five cent candy. Dreams of my get away became distant and I soon lost interest in tracking around for used aluminum or operating wooden stands. With paper and pen I began to create ways of escape from the dysfunction that is typically called family.  I listened to music and wrote. I began to form lyrics in tune with instrumentals. It was a beloved pastime. A favorite soundtrack of mine belonged to the movie “Mo Better Blues”.

Man I had the blues. I was thirteen. I often traveled by the sweet echoes of soulful horns, sashaying into Harlem, right in the middle of Lenox Ave anytime I heard their cadences. Man I had the blues. I was bound to make it as a famous songwriter and then the family came to me one winter day and stated unsympathetically, “We’re moving to North Carolina”.  Devastated and convinced my life was in ruins, I bawled uncontrollably at these plans to move down south. Red dirt and barbecue……Blues.

By the time we settled in Raleigh, I was evolving from wide-eyed innocence into a hormonal raged teenager. I found a new hobby called sex. My body became entranced by hands of countless middle-aged suitors longing to grab hold of my youth. Night after night I squandered away isolated feelings into lustful encounters. I don’t know their names. I barely remember their faces. I remember emotions. Lonely often befriended my presence and I wasn’t interested in entertaining her anymore.

Psalm 94:19 (NIV) when anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Drifting farther and farther away from the freedom I so badly wanted to own, I contemplated. It had been two years since I picked up a pen. I wrote.

“Fears of a man never hidden, trying to rid itself of what’s forbidden Seven deadly sins got him in a choke hold, can’t breathe, can’t sleep Ring finger on heaven’s door, won’t let him in Married to the world, already got her bid in”

Married to the world, that’s what it felt like to me, not being able to escape, imprisoned in my skin. I thought back to days of my childhood where dreams remained crushed by weekly house parties and hung-over mornings. A permanent etch in time. I was angry at my parents. They could have done more. I deserved more and since it wasn’t coming fast enough, I decided to take it.

My targets were those with six figure incomes, family oriented, extravagant houses with luxurious landscapes. I would accept nothing less. Nightly plots gave way to blueprints of my freedom. I was nineteen when I learned how to hack into bank accounts and wire funds, without a trace. By the time unsuspecting victims realized what happened; if they realized what happened, it was either too late to report, or they didn’t want to be bothered with the headache. I got away.

Lonely disappeared for good … I had a newly found love.