“I am fourteen years old. My parents are arguing again in the backyard as I watch them from my bedroom window. My father’s black frame is tight. His right arm rises and falls like a karate chop with each word he yells. My mother stands in front of him, chest out, red faced and crying. He must seem threatening to my neighbors – this rigid black man yelling at the top of his lungs at a hysterical white woman. I am worried that they will call the cops on them. I want to bring them inside but I don’t interfere this time. I just watch.
My dad soon comes into my bedroom. He is late for work. He apologizes for the scene. He tells me he feels hopeless and that he can’t do it anymore. I tell him they should just get a divorce. I don’t feel very sad. I don’t cry like I usually do when my parents fight. This time I don’t care. I feel numb.
I recently started high school. Each day I wake up early and get off to school by myself. It takes me about an hour to get to school each day. It’s an agricultural high school. We learn about plants, farm animals and the environment. I really enjoyed the orientation that I had to go to during the summer. I got all A’s and won awards. I was surprised when they called my name for an award the first time but I was embarrassed by the third. I don’t have the same focus that I did back in the summer because now I think I am in love…
He pages my beeper. I have been waiting for it all day. Once I get home from school, I shower, oil my body with coconut oil, slick my curls into a high ponytail, put on new Baby Phat panties I bought from Burlington Coat Factory and dress into a new outfit. I have a job at a gourmet food shop that pays me in cash each week. I spend most of my money on clothes. I have six pairs of Timberland boots in different colors and a fresh pair of air force 1’s in all white and red and white. I am the only girl in my high school to wear a Roc A Wear valor sweat suit. I think all of the girls are jealous of me. I think all of the boys like me. I don’t have many friends.
I call him back. “Yo, meet me on Wayne Ave.”
My heart is racing. I rush to leave my home. I am happy to get away from the heavy, dark space it has become. My father left a month ago. He moved into a new apartment five blocks away. I don’t know where my mom is. She has started a new teaching job and often comes home late and tired. She cries a lot at night.
I walk the four blocks to meet Ali. He is sixteen. He drives a car, has a Nextel, white teeth, light skin and freckles. He isn’t like my last boyfriend. Ali isn’t my friend. We don’t stay up late talking on the phone. I don’t know his mother’s name. We don’t laugh very often. He says I talk funny, like a white girl so I talk less and curse more.
He is the first boy I ever French kiss. We sit on the steps of a church and pass gum between our mouths swapping his Big Red for my Winter Fresh. His tongue is wet and forceful like his hands which squeeze my small breasts and push in between my thighs.
I don’t know what I am doing but I feel grown. I feel like the older girls who have full breasts, big hips, asses and who have had sex.
I meet Ali at a park. Fall is here and the sun is setting earlier. It is nearly dark. My mom flashes into my mind but I push her tired, worried image into the back of my thoughts.
Ali looks over my body and chews loudly on his Big Red. In between the interruption of his Nextel which barks random “Yoooo’s” and “Where you at’s”, he kisses me and touches my hair.
He wants me to go to his cousin’s house down the street. A house I have never been to. I feel nervous but I play it cool and agree. I know why he wants me to go to this random house. He wants to have sex.
I am a virgin and a lot of my friends from middle school have already had sex. They tell me about the way it feels and how many boy’s they have been with. I want to experience it. I like the way my body responds when he kisses me and touches me but my young, fourteen year old self is in conflict.”This is memoir writing. It comes from memory about experiences and moments that make deep impressions and grooves into the woodwork of our lives. For me, writing is an act of healing. It helps me to reflect, remember and release moments that bring me confusion, hurt and shame. Writing helps me to accept myself and all my varied circumstances so that I can forgive others (and most importantly myself) and grow.
I know that there are other young, old, experienced and fresh writers out there with their own stories that have been stagnant in their psyches for so long. It is time to loosen the hardened material and allow the beautiful alchemy of words to unfurl.I have facilitated a Memoir Writing Workshop here in Philadelphia beginning July 7th-21 lead by Maleka Fruean. Every Tuesday for two hours in this short writing workshop, we will explore our memories and our life’s narrative- from the first time we remember feeling fear to the last time we ate cotton candy. We’ll use humor, sadness, and everything in between to begin creating polished non-fiction pieces that read like great stories. We’ll explore our own unique writing voice in the world through in-class writing prompts and exercises, and short assignments to work on at home. This workshop is for women, and for all levels of writers. Our work will be shared and workshopped in a safe and encouraging environment.
Seating for Registration is limited. For more information and to register hit the link. Can’t wait to hear the amazing stories to come!