There is one story I want to tell. A story that documents the transformation one undergoes when constantly subjected to the pressure of pain. But it isn’t one story. It can’t possibly be. At times, pain is so carefully interwoven into the fabric of one’s life it is impossible to pick the strands of hurt away from the textile of survival.
So, because it is easier, because time is too short to enumerate the endless slices of pain, here is a moment:
The thunderous crackle of the plane roared yet managed to stay hidden beneath the glint of waning sunlight and sheaths of clouds. A child ran by and up short cement stairs, nesting at the top. He wore a green tee shirt with khaki shorts and sneakers- flat sneakers with tattered parts. He played today, the way I did play. For childhood is full of those things — hopscotch courts imperfectly drawn with the remainders of whittled white chalk; brown skin and shining eyes that only closed when it was your turn to count to ten and find those other sweating, wriggling bodies hiding in bushes. And closed soon after the street lights came on and mothers waited anxiously at the screen doors for their tired, dirty, bruised children. Missing tooth smiles would fade and the pleading would begin for just one more hour scouring the block, thirty more minutes to race bikes up and down the block, fifteen minutes to just sit on the porch with the other kids and eat candy. Those candy cigarettes with confectioners sugar smoke. Just wanting desperately for a few more short minutes to play and feel the humidity of city summers. To know what the darkness of the night was. To feel the power of knowing just that.
But we were always defeated. There were showers to take and dinners to eat and cool beds to sleep in before waking up the next morning and running off to the YMCA for camp. But camp was never much like playing with the brown skinned boys and girls from the block. Camp didn’t have the adventure of racing bicycles and getting a bag full of Swedish fish and Super Bubble gum from the corner store we weren’t allowed to go to. Then, every night seemed like a new rapturous adventure and only the setting sun — that went away sooner and sooner with each passing day — could stop that from happening.
So to keep ourselves in motion, to keep the summer from waning, we sat with liter soda bottles and Mentos and told our parents we were performing experiments, of a scientific type, to remake the volcanoes most of us would never live to see. And we captured fireflies in our hands and whispered our secrets to them in hopes the insects would carry our wishes to God. We stalled and told our parents we just needed to see the moon and the stars because we didn’t know if our dreams were recreating reality honestly. For in the summer we were creases of sunlight. We were raw energy. We were the universe. We were beautiful.