Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Childhood (Alix)


The sun was always strong in summertime. It came down from the sky heavy with moisture, putting tan on our backs like a painter wills his canvas ochre. Skin would peel and flake or just dry out until the thunder came to shake it off. Summertime was languid with renewal and surrender: molting in the sticky heat of our ancestors, recast in the climate that forged us deep within the kiln of the african diaspora.

Summer was an overwhelmingly pleasant season, even when we had to keep water bottles strapped to our sticky hips and moist towels under our caps. Our winters were cold in an intentionally malicious way. It was always personal, the way the snow occluded windows and buried cars: a white blanket from heaven, as if God didn’t want to look at us anymore. The sun would shrink in the sky, shriveling like a grape left too long on the vine. Maybe it was tired, too, and needed some time of its own.

During the cold months, people stayed in their houses and said very little to each other. It was as if the snow had snipped the phone lines out of spite, filling the space between our mouths and ears with impenetrable white. Winter, in our minds, didn’t want us to be happy at all. Our words lay burning in our lungs as our hearts went into hibernation. They fed our loneliness, sucking at us from the inside, pulling at our muscles and skin until the shells that surrounded them were wasted and pale.

When spring came we were Israelites reaching the promised land. Finally could the yoke of sorrow be cast off; finally were we free from ice’s enslavement. The rain would come hard and drown our jubilation but still we rejoiced. It cleansed each person of winter’s sad dust, built up in thick layers as the snow swallowed us whole. Almost inevitably, we would lose electricity and tree branches and the occasional pet, but even calamities were gifts in springtime. When the storms broke, the sun would come back after its long abandonment, accepting us as its children again.

In summertime, you looked at me from your pool chair and smiled behind your sunglasses. You told me I had an old soul and I misunderstood. I have skin baked blond by a thousand summer suns and hands cut from the same snow drifts that broke my spirit. I have words thawing deep in my stomach that may never be heard or listened to, and a pride that bursts like heat lightening in springtime. I have lived each second of my parents' and grandparents' lives in their wrinkles and cataracts. I know that winter always comes, and always leaves hair grey. My bones are as old as the universe: billions of atoms from the beginning of time dancing through eons to pause in ivory, but my soul is renewed with each sunrise.

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