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  • MReid

Black American South

I think of the number of times I've been asked, "How you doing?" and how many times I've lied in response. I think it must be the South in me, what crawls from my throat before my brain can even consider the question. Even if I clamped my mouth shut, I imagine the auto-response squeaking from the corners of my lips, pressed tightly together like I was blowing a trumpet. Sometimes I wish I were a different thing entirely--maybe the person I could have become if I'd made it from Jersey to Oz, my speech clipped, my time for demonstrative pleasantries evaporated. But even if I became that girl, she, like most other Black American folk, would have come through the South. The South would be in her as it is in me.

I imagine what it could be like if we asked "How you doing?" not as passing greeting to dissuade notions of not being raised right, but as legitimate inquiry; if we stopped and stared in each others' eyes and asked the question not to the shell of the body, but to the spirit. What if it was a world where the unloading of burdens was met with acceptance and welcoming instead of reticence and judgment?

I do not often unload my own burdens. Even my vulnerability is controlled. I have had my private moments, but I can't help but look at the memory of them as a kind of weakness, like a rollicking lover in the night morphing to anathema in the broken light of morning. I don't know what kind of person this makes me. I know the idea of control is literally that--just an idea, at best a fantasy, an illusion--but I seek it anyway. I think it must be the South in me, too.

People have had no problem giving their burdens to me, though, and while sometimes it is exhausting, I welcome it and appreciate it and am honored that something in me speaks to a safe space for them. Though I may not always look in the eyes, I am always appealing to Spirit, I like to imagine of myself. I am a safe space. I collect their infidelity, their abortion, their fantasy, their sadness, their depression, their mania, their buoyancy, their hope, their lust, their desire, their boredom, their fear, their rage, their prejudice, their confusion, their hate, their love, their ideas, their words, and pack them tightly inside myself.

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