From episode 9
"First floor kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The basement, built on a hill overlooked the woods, it had one bedroom, a bathroom, an outdoor porch; the whole of it ultimately inhabited by my brothers, also had a door that led to an unfinished portion of untamed earth and darkness, a perfect spot for ghosts and murderers."
No longer able to ride our bikes we had to be driven miles away to a local pool.
Due a societal unwillingness to share with black people public pools were scarce.
This new home was a trap.
From that house, standing in the front window, late August, up and down the lifeless street heat rose from the baking asphalt in waves. Anxious the first time catching the bus to school, I sat near the front having no desire to make contact with the hungry eyes of the regulars, certain my height was a source of laughter.
The first year in the new school was sheer hell not only because I was being sexually assaulted by boys in my class, I also knew nothing about English grammar and, expected to know the parts of speech in order to diagram a sentence, I felt only shame. And math, the words that lead to formulas had no meaning. Really, when you hear, "it's Greek to me", it really is mumbo jumbo. Realistically speaking, I've an eighth grade education.
At lunchtime, rather than eating, I used to call home to my mom. I couldn't tell her what was really happening, she laughed when I hinted about the sexual molestation and I never confided in her until many, many years later .
Feeling no control over my overly-hot, menstruating, well developed body and no idea how to help myself, I was lost and turned to strangers for comfort. In particular two black women, one a school janitor whose name I don't recall. She was kind to me, I'd see her in the restroom or between classes, her presence a sunny anchor. Another, a counsellor whose office I haunted, never speaking the whole truth but using her office as a refuge. She wore Chiara, a sugary sweet perfume I adored then and later wore.
The shame goes further back.
Our Ohio Baptist church offered melodica lessons. A melodica is a free-reed aerophone, a hybrid-keyboard instrument that produces sound using keys and blowing wind. (Blowing wind.) In the crowded class we were broken up into groups of four or five and after instruction, each group would play the lesson. I had no idea what was going but adjusted as the illiterate do and blew into the mouthpiece though not really pressing the keys. Called out by a classmate I was humiliated, "You're not playing!!" It was true. After attending a few of these gruesome classes I asked my mother to stop, too embarrassed to explain why.
That feeling, describing it now, is sickening. I feel safe in saying I'm a bit retarded, using the word as it suggests, re-tarded, delayed growth.
I am different kind of learner. In my late twenties after failing out of essentially everything, I finally went to school for what interested me, i.e. design, art, fashion, creating. I observed my process at work. During a drawing session our class was assigned to recreate simple objects, a jar, a can, etc. While the teacher was describing the process, having already finished the objects, I advanced to the perspective of the room, walls, a sink, a chair. Seeing this the instructor moved me into a side room where he asked me to continue working solo, the result being a decently scaled sketch of the room and objects in it. Reentering the classroom I listened as he explained the concept behind drawing and watched as my classmates struggled. What came naturally to me, for them, was a formula, enacted bit by bit, generating wobbly results.
In time, at my own pace, reading books, I have been able to teach myself some of the formulas of drawing. Later when learning fabric draping, not a skill many achieve, I insisted the instructor stop placing pins and show me how: I needed to touch the pins and fabric for it to make sense. It is by seeing and doing, that I learn. You might as well talk to a balloon than offer me an explanation, I can't hear you. It's one of the reasons I've never mastered photography though I've taken many classes and only recently with an iPhone camera can I experiment and see how the process works.
To be continued.
It makes sense to me now why I love to walk and not rely on cars.
I don't want to live anywhere that requires a car.
You can't walk away. You can't change your circumstances, especially when you are a child. You are powerless to move.
And why I love pools. Pools were my first freedom, to dive, explore, play, a timeless joy.
Biking is freedom. Walking is freedom. Swimming is freedom. Having physical agency is not just life-giving, it's freedom.