Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something in the Milk Ain't Clean

I am so surprised at how people use profanity these days  The first time I heard someone cussing on the radio, I thought I was being punk'd.  Don't get me wrong, I can sling a "bitch" with the best of them.

But profanity is used so much these days that it's loosing its impact.  When I was growing up the worse thing somebody could call you was a motherfucker or a son of bitch.  Those were fighting words.  You were talking about somebodies mama.  That was an automatic fight.  Hell, you "had" to fight, it was imperative that you protect your mothers honor.   I remember people saying: "a hit dog don't holler"- which meant someone had caught you in lie or "something in the milk ain't clean" which meant  the situation was suspicious or wrong..
It was a long time before I became able to protect my mother.  Back then I was trying to be invisible.  I needed someone to protect me.  That " something in the milk ain't clean" was what my childhood was like.

My mother was a troubled woman and the only way she could escape her life was to get falling down drunk.  During those times she forgot she had a child.  I can remember her leaving on a Friday night and shutting me up in our one room.  We lived in what was called a boarding house, one room  either connected to other ones in a big house or a single room in a shotgun house.
There were times I would be so afraid  she would never come back.  I would be in the room all day by myself and then night would come....and I would be in the dark by myself.  We didn't have electricity.  We had a kerosene lamp and a wood stove.  I would be so afraid.  It seemed as if the darkness was so thick, it took on a shape and personality. I would find it hard to breathe, my pulse  beating so hard in my ears that I knew whatever was in the dark with me in that room, could hear it and would come for me.

I 'd get so hungry that I would wedge myself in the window, always looking for her and hoping that when she got back  home she would be sober and I would get a hot meal.  Sometimes when she came back, she wouldn't  be alone.  She'd have company.  Some nameless man who she would take to her bed.  I remember being on the floor and hearing grunts and moans, smelling liquor and trying to be as invisible as possible.  I prayed the man would either leave or he would be the  first one to pass out and not her.  Sometimes they both would pass out and when she woke up, she'd be halfway sober and remember me and she'd make the man leave.  Other times, I wouldn't be as lucky and I would be on my own with a stranger.  These men didn't see a toddler .  They only saw another female body to be touched and fondled.  I wasn't  old enough to be in school, yet I was old enough to attract their attention. Something in the milk wasn't clean.

I knew about fucking  at an early age.   The adults in my life, never felt that they had to shield me from it.  Although I was exposed to the act at an early age, I was green as grass as I grew up. I did my best to block the memories out. No one  ever took the time to explain to me about the birds and bees, I was just threatened with what would happen to me if I opened my legs. These threats were not necessary because I equated sex with something nasty, smelly and feared.   I got my first  period when I was 10 and it nearly scared me to death. I thought I was dying. I had no one to hug  me or try to calm my fears. The white folks had taken me away from my mother by then.   I was just given some torn up some  rags and told to put them in my panties.  The milk wasn't clean.

There were times when I was wedged in that window, that the liquor lady, Ms. Alberta or her husband Mr. Nap, would come out of their house, at the top of the hill and call me and tell me to come up there and eat.  My mother got most of her liquor from their shot house.  I learned how to pour a fifty cent shot before I was in first grade.  If one of them told me to come out of the house, it was okay.  I wouldn't get punished and I would get fed.  She was the woman that I remembered hanging out the clothes with my momma .  My first memory.  During those time I thought she and Mr. Nap were my saviors.  How could I know that these two people would put scars on my psyche that would be with me for the rest of my life. Both of them  would make my mother seem like Glenda the Good Witch.  There would come a time in future....when it was too late...that my mother would try to protect me from them.  Too little, too late.

My mother wasn't intentionally cruel.  She was just an alcoholic who drank to forget and when she forgot, she forgot everything...even her child.  Nothing went on during her watch, when she was sober.  But she would always drink and she would  always forget about me.  Once,  when she couldn't afford her moonshine.  She became so desperate, that she mixed sugar with rubbing alcohol and drank it.  She got so sick.  And she stayed sick for a long time.  But I was happy.  At that age it never crossed my mind that she could die.  All I knew was she wasn't drunk and I was safe.  The milk would be clean for awhile.

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