She and her mother were sleeping when the doctors said it’s time to push, and Friday January, 15 1993 at 4:34am a baby is born. They call her Destinie. Her mother says she “came out looking,” and she did not cry.
I met Ruthann in the tenth grade. I remember the first day of fifth period AP World History with Mr. Baucom, in a sepia-toned haze. She sat beside me on the left and back one seat, next to the door. For a week I didn’t know her name and was surprised when she knew mine. Then, we seemed like old friends. She played the clarinet, liked Batman and black jeans, and we sat in the corner with Chris and made jokes about how laid back Baucom was, and the incompetency of Mr. Peacock, the band teacher.
One day the conversation was driven by nostalgia for Peter Pan. I had recently watched one of the movies. For about a month after, I would ask her, in my best child English accent “Will you be our mova” as if she were Wendy and I were one of the lost boys. She didn’t mind. And every time, she let out giggles too loud to belong to a child, but too playful not to be, and her mouth would get as wide as the first day I’d made the joke.
She’s sitting in one of those big, plastic, red and yellow playhouses on top of the mulch. Her knees are pressed into her chest, she’s wearing white socks, white shoes with straps, and pink on the bottom that may light up (I forget). Alexandra and the other girls won’t let her play with them on the merry-go-round; this is why she likes playing with boys. Buzzing around her head a bee makes her company, she’s amazed it’s an actual bee and not a wasp, and knows it’s going to sting her, but makes no effort to swat it away. It leaves a tiny red present on her hand and flies away. It hurts, but crying doesn’t cross her mind. She marvels at the wound before she tells the teacher, who cleans her hand and walks her over to play with the other girls.
Ruthann did not return to AP World History after Christmas break was over. I wondered where she was, but didn’t have a way to contact her. Later, she told me she’d moved to a different house and attended Armwood, then Strawberry. We didn’t see each other again until senior year. We had one mutual friend, Danielle, and we spent the months leading up to my departure to New College between our churches, Danielle’s house, Taco Bell, and local parks. I’d bring my guitar, Danielle would sing, I would sing, Ruthann would listen and laugh, and Flyleaf played through the radio.
At the daycare, one of her friends hole-punches her hand—a perfect circle right in the middle. He didn’t mean to, they were just being kids and playing around. How they got the hole-puncher is a mystery. It didn’t hurt at first, then it stung a little and Granny (her great grandmother and one of the teachers) wipes some antiseptic over it and slaps on a band aid.
I don’t remember how much we talked my first year of college, but almost every time I came home, I’d meet-up with Danielle, and Ruthann was always with us.
There’s a ramp to ride the tricycles down. She’s behind the demon-child named Alex, or Christian or Christopher, Brian—or whatever—a freckled face boy with sand colored skin and brown, coarse, brillow hair. He’s taking forever to go down the ramp, on purpose. She bumps the back of his tricycle with hers, and he turns and paints pink tears down her face with his nails.
"she didn’t cry at his funeral."
"I can’t change anything around me, until I change myself."
"you can’t fault others for what they don’t know, only for what they choose not to learn."
"The devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wished for."
Take lines scribbled for each other
Take our words in written verse
Take back the words of hatred first
Take the ink and broken pen
Take the stubby graphite sticks
Take everything except for us
Take all but locking eyes—locking breath
It’s not a new discovery that
With just bodies
We could have made Epic Poetry.
The older I get, the easier it is for me to see what a strange child I was (and probably still am). These are two things that stand out to me: I never became upset over physical pain (getting stung by a bee, my hand hole-punched, this demon-child scratching his nails down my face, etc.), and I was always alone—usually not by choice. When I was stung by the bee I was in preschool, sitting in the playhouse by myself. All the other children were off laughing and enjoying whatever it was they were doing. I remember holding my knees to my chest in one of the four corners and hearing the bee, then seeing it, but not trying very hard to get out of its way; when I felt its sting puncture my skin, I wasn’t surprised. I waited a while before telling the teacher, and examined my wound in nonchalant, passive wonder. If I remember correctly, my thought was, “Oh, a bee stung me.” When I finally made my way to the teacher, she tended to me and asked why I was alone. I probably said something like, I don’t know.
On a separate occasion—same playhouse—the teacher came to me and asked again why I was alone, she’d become hep to my loner tendencies (drat!). I told her that the other girls wouldn’t let me play with them on the merry-go-round, she then proceeded to walk me over to them, and all but force us to play together. FYI, when I actually did play with other children (without either party being forced) it was with boys, they were so much better back then. I was content being in the playhouse with my thoughts, but apparently this meant that I’d have developed a social disorder, although I’m not so convinced that I don’t at least have a mild one at present.
Despite my contentedness being alone, I didn’t want to be alone all the time, most of the time though, which brings me to now: nothing has changed. Physical pain doesn’t bother me much, and I’m still a loner. But, one thing has changed: I don’t want to be alone so much anymore. But another thing still stays: no one wants to play with me, or at least that’s the way it seems. Granted, I am an introvert, but I would enjoy some company. I should be used to being alone by now though, right? I was an only child for sixteen years, didn’t have many friends, no one ever came over, I never went to anyone, never had a boyfriend (okay, I had one, for like a month. But I really wish I hadn’t)…Though I’ve been alone for the majority of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever been completely comfortable with it. Maybe that’s my lesson out of the past few months: learning to be happy with me-ness. I’m genuinely trying, but how come some people don’t have to be alone? Why are some people just naturally surrounded by other people (not that I want to be surrounded, just two or three (I’d be happy with one though))? Why me?
I do not want to walk—
heels paint the ground
with long dogged strokes,
thirty pound sack of books
holds my back,
and leaves bow
to a night wet
I wade asphalt
to the green sedan
with the tape-held window.
In darkness, I do not find the hole
to fit the key—
jabbing and scratching about
too lazy to look down—
but I do not like to move tonight.
I give up and melt
to white—sheet the dark,
and blaze remnants of myself
too ignorant for morning.