Friday, July 12, 2013

A Hurting Thing...

I used to think my mother and her girlfriends and my grandmothers were kind of crazy. They were all very emotional to begin with but some days in particular they would talk about how all the "hormones" were making it more difficult to be calm. And sure enough on those days they were the loudest, meanest, most tearful. Or they might be prone to attacks of extreme kindness and compassion.

I would see them holding each other in tight embraces as one sobbed and another patted her back. Praying prayers over each other's heads. Any news that came thru on days like this be it personally affecting or some distant event in the newspaper could cause them to behave intensely. "Why are you crying Mommy?"...."Because the Lord is so good!!" she would wail frighteningly. I determined that if this was God's goodness that I surely wanted to know nothing of it.

"Nanny why are you rocking? Why are you crying?" worry and fear and concern. Is it me? Was I being bad? "I"m sorry! I"m sorry! Don't cry!!"

"Ah Lord lord lord!! It's not you baby!' wrapping me up in a tight embrace and stroking me lovingly. "It's not you. It's not you. Lord lord lord..."' she'd wail.

In the hair salon the women would be moved to "testify". Standing in the middle of the hair shop, hands raised, shouting so loudly that I'd look on in fear, eyes wide open. "Ooohhhh LORD!!! I caint STAND it!!" they'd declare.

They looked like CRAZY women, calling on the Lord. Down at 15th Street where the women were harder, coarser they might call out with all manner of profanities. "And then this muthafucka tole ME...ME...I BEEN helping this ungrateful ass ....disrespectful...shameless ....That was a HURTING thing!!"

I remember that phrase so well: That was a HURTING thing. But sometimes it is a thing that defies explanation as well

And sometimes there was softer hurt. Quiet hurt that issued no sound. Just a silent woman trapped in an awful memory, reliving a terrible dream, sitting rocking herself in a corner as heedless tears fell down and down and down.

Every so often I'll catch myself behaving in this manner, feel the rush of those hormones which only act as a trigger causing one to feel hurt, pain or even joy that much more intensely. I'll raise my hand as I tell my mother a story of something that has touched me, for good or ill. I'll have that queer sensation of observing myself outside my body while acting as myself at the sametime. And I'll know that I too am a grown woman at last when I finally behave in that very manner I swore would never seize me.

That intensity of pain and pleasure that is so inexplicable, so frightening and foreign to anyone else but a woman -- a black woman. I rarely see this kind of violent emotion in white women. Always in a brown woman, a black woman I encounter it. I do not know why. I still do not understand these emotional squalls I simply allow them to pass through knowing as I do that there is no way to control them. Much like an orgasm it builds and builds and explodes. Often it comes up on you with the same provocation as does the orgasm wherein you find yourself curled up in your lover's arms and sobbing at the same time.

"What? What is it?! Did I hurt you? Why are you crying?" he says with palpable fear and worry in his eyes. Because he only means to provoke a shared joy and you have slipped away from him without his understanding.

"No baby it's not you" you say softly, reassuringly. Stroking the fear from him "It's not you. YOU didn't hurt me..." 

But he  wouldn't, couldn't understand. Or perhaps he would, if only you could sort the emotions into words. 

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