Sunday, June 26, 2016

Flashback, or, So Glad We Made It!

The following article was originally written September 29, 2005. This is a revised version.


I was reading a book yesterday as I waited for the bus. The main character, a blonde Georgia peach, had just broken up with her fiancé.

While she was out fundraising, he had been cheating on her with a newly hired co-worker: someone Ms. Georgia Peach considered to be loud, scandalously dressed and improperly made up. Someone who although she hadn’t all the advantages in the world, still spoke her mind and was comfortable with her sexuality. In fact, this woman was someone she had never dared to be.

O … K.

That’s the point where Ms. Georgia Peach got me. That’s the point where we connected. I thought of my best friend in high school, Denise. She didn’t have much in the way of material things, but darn if she didn’t have some smarts, some great dimples and some sex appeal. Whoooooa!

In fact that’s how we met…
It was my junior year in high school. About to pass the ladies’ room, I decided to use it then instead of later. As I swung the door open and entered, I saw four African American girls, of average height, surrounding a petite girl, who appeared to be listening defiantly as the tallest and prettiest girl took center stage; neck circulating and finger pointing as she spewed her venom,

"I don’t know what he sees in you anyway, with your ugly, ball-headed, fast self!"

I paused, as I debated whether to continue any further, cause these folks looked kinda busy, but then Ms. Pretty said, "When we get through with you, you’re gonna think twice before messing with anybody’s boyfriend," then to her "crew" she instructed, "Hold her!"

Now you’d think with the odds at four to one, Denise would use those smarts of hers to talk the situation down? Nah … that made waaaay too much sense. Ms Thing was reading them left, right and center, setting the record straight with a pithy, "Girl please, I ain’t want your ugly wannabe-a-player-but-he-can’t-hang, boyfriend, he’s the one panting behind me like a dog! Ask my gurl here."

As though choreographed, all six heads swiveled to look behind me, I’d probably have kept on looking for her gurl, but the silence kinda clued me in that I might just be the "gurl" to which she referred. So summoning all my "down" speak, I put on my "cool" face, turned around and said, "Yeah, his simple behind always in our way, talking ‘bout, 'can I buy you and your gurl lunch?'"

By that time, I’d walked over to stand beside Denise; how was I to know that this boy that I’d never seen, mind you, had never offered to buy Ms. Pretty lunch or either of her crew, at that? It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

En masse, the crew began closing in on us, but their main focus was Denise.
Then, I, with courage I’d never exhibited before or thereafter, stood firm and said in my most disparagingly adult voice, "Four to one, that’s hardly fair odds, and though I hate fighting, if y’all wanna do this, y’all gonna have to go through me first."

At five-six and solid, I guess I must have presented a convincingly scary picture, because the crew backed down and backed out of the bathroom vowing to catch Denise when her "bodyguard" wasn’t around.

Do you think Denise’s mouth was quiet? Noooooo, she was on her tiptoes peeking over my shoulder shouting, "Bring it on!" That is, until I leveled a look at her that brought a half sheepish look to her face.

"I’m sorry," she said. "I didn’t mean to get you involved, but that’s all I could think of at the moment."

"It’s alright," I said, as I wondered to myself, Did she know the guy had a girlfriend? Did things really go down the way she said? She does have a reputation. But heck, even if she was dead wrong, Ms Pretty shoulda handled it herself, instead of tryna pull a black-mama-beatdown!

Out loud I said, "Look, I’ve seen you around my way. If you want, you can ride my bus for awhile and I’ll meet you between classes to make sure there’s no trouble?"

Although she shrugged her shoulders and said, “It’s up to you." I could sense her relief.

She became the first inductee into my "Caribbean-Club"

I later learned that behind the facade of a perfectly made up face, a sassy mouth, an incredible sense of style, and a quick brain (she was a junior in High School at fifteen), lay the broken remains of little girl who wanted to be a doctor when she grew up, but was being molested by her much older brother, with whom she lived.

My older brother and mother were befuddled at the quick growth in our friend ship. They didn’t see what we could have in common. She was outgoing and bubbly and I was painfully shy. They also were a bit suspicious at the way she was able to come and go as she pleased. Nor could they understand why I invited her to so many sleepovers.

It made perfect sense to Denise and me: she dealt with abuse; I dealt with guilt and constant thoughts of suicide (symptoms of what I now know as bipolar disorder or manic depression). Neither of us came from touchy feely, express yourselves families but even as opposites, we found a commonality: a meeting place at the point of our need. The need to tell someone.

My mother and brother warned me about my association with her, because of her reputation of being fast. They thought her behavior was of her own choosing, they didn’t realize it was just the symptom of a deeper problem, a cry for help, if you will. However, it was not my story to tell, so I listened, I cried, I ranted, I urged her to speak out--I even offered to go with her but her fear and distrust held more sway.

Suddenly, her popularity with the opposite sex and her earthy sex appeal, were no longer sources of envy for me. Though I must confess that I still did envy her outspokenness and the fact that she didn’t lose her optimism in the face of all she endured.

When I encountered a similar situation a year later, after moving to New York and moving in with my dad, (against the advice of my older sister), I better understood, her urge not to tell. I still don’t know how she managed her sunny disposition or held on to her dreams. Unless she resorted to a panacea of some sort, like I eventually did.

When what we’re taught as little girls is our most prized possession is taken away by force not by a stranger, but by a blood relative or someone in a position of trust, what have we to lose? What boundaries are left to be broken? Who do we trust?

Throughout the rest of our teenage years: our graduation from high school, my subsequent move to New York, her enrollment in college, my year-long sabbatical. Through it all, Denise and I trusted each other with many a secret.

We lost touch and reunited several times in our twenties and then communication ceased in our early thirties. I’d realized but was unwilling to admit that we'd become different people, each living with the fallout of abuse in our own way.

I felt saddened and hurt that she’d not left a forwarding address or a listed phone number. For a few years afterward, I fluctuated between rabid attempts to locate her and ice cold self affirmations that she brought too much drama anyhow, but she was never really far from my mind.

A few years later, I read an email entitled "reason, season or lifetime". Its premise is that people come into our lives for different time frames, sometimes it's for a reason, other times a season and others for a lifetime. Once we realize which they fall into, we’re more able to let them go when they’ve served their purpose and it is time to move on.

I finally realized that Denise and I were each other's season--the season of teenage angst. We'd helped each other make it through and past our teenage years, the time frame when everything is bigger, everything is larger and some never fight hard enough to stay around as the suicide statistics show.

Even though I miss her still I’m so glad we made it!


Copyright © 2005-2016 Dee S. White.


theothermichelle said...

I really liked your post. I just scanned it at first and next thing I was completely drawn into your story about Dyan & her bodyguard.

Great writing!

Dee said...

Hi Michelle,

Thanks, glad you enjoyed my "letting go" story.

Lisa notes... said...

I so agree with you---people come into and out of our lives for a reason. They may not all stay forever, but once we've been connected, that connection itself is forever. Lessons are learned and memories are made. Thanks for sharing this story about Denise. Y'all both are much braver than I ever could be! ha.

D.S. White said...

Hi Lisa, you never know how brave or you are or can be until presented with the unimagined. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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