Tuesday, January 24, 2006

life of buddy don, chapter 144: a hauntin questchun

durin the sprang quarter of 1983 bof me n emily wuz busiern we had ever memberd bein. to this day the hole thang is a big blur with a few hi points that i wont never fergit.

the sprang weather with its warmin temperchurs n cool breezes n trees a'buddin n flowers a'bloomin seemed to stoke up her restless deesire fer sum kinda add ventchur. thang wuz, as far as i could tell, she wuz wontin the kinda add ventchur marrd women dont generly git to have. ifn i hadnt known no better, i mite coulda thought she wuz havin her midlife crisis. or mayhap twuz only a case of sprang fever.

corse, a lotta that had to do with her grad student countsler, a feller name of carroll brightman. taint fair, but i never warmed up to mr brightman much. i had bad memries of whut had happend whenever i cried at wurk n gut locked up in the oak ridge mentull hospitull n wurser memries of whut i had dun seen eli go thru with his illness. twernt atall fair, but i jes dint bleeve in talk therpy.

corse it coulda jes been plane jealousy on my part on a counta it dint take long ere emily had her a crush on carroll brightman, not to whar she wonted to sleep with im or nuthin, but to whar she wonted to tease im n see ifn she could git im to brake his perfesshunull manner. i knew thangs wuz a'gittin outta hand whenever she ast me did i thank she wuz dressd ok fer her countslin sesshun, witch she wuz a'wearin blue jeans n earth shoes lack she always dun but she had a verr thin n sprizingly sexy blouse on top ... with no bra on! now when ye see a woman that wears her underwired bra to bed mos nites, ye know sumthin is up ifn she wonts to go sumwhar with no bra on. did she wont me to reack? to show i wuz jealous? i caint tell, but she wuz laffin whenever she seen me turn a lil red in the face on a counta how i could see clear thru her blouse. i sed she wuz a grown woman n could deecide her ownself how to dress but that it hurt to see her a'wearin sumthin sexy fer a feller she wudnt marrd to when she made such a big point of not wearin sumthin sexy fer the feller she wuz.

'ye thank i should change?' she ast me n i tole her i figgerd she should save the blouse fer next time we wuz sparkin. 'twood be nice with a lil skirt n mayhap sum stockins n such,' i sed but she jes tole me to dream on, that she wudnt no doll fer me to dress up,. i wonted to ast why wudnt she? why couldnt she dress up jes fer me thataway, but i let it go n tole her i wood not be atall happy ifn she left the apartment dressed in such skimpy cloze. that made her happy sum kinda way so she tuck off the shirt n putt on her underwire bra n flannel uniform.

thang is, whutever wuz a'gone on with her wontin to tease that feller, thar weekly sesshuns wuz a'causin her to thank that she wudnt the kinda person she truly wonted to be. she wonted to be strong but felt lack a pushover. she tole me she wuz feelin morn she could feel, that sumtimes she felt lack a presshur cooker a'boilin with rage that she couldnt let out, that she feard she jes mite eggsplode n deestroy everthang she had wurked so hard to achieve, in short, that she jes dint know how to eggspress her anger.

ye mite could be thankin she wuz mad at me n i give her plenty of reason lack inny man wood, but whut wuz bothern her more wuz how she felt lack a pushover, that she couldnt say whut she really wonted to say, couldnt stop frum bein pushed around. i knew lots of that had to be a refleckshun of how she dint lack to go out to the farm but went innyway, dint lack a lotta thangs we had to do but she dun em deespite wontin to stay home n read.

but she finely pegged her frustrayshuns to never havin had her opportunty to greeve rite fer whut had happend the year she left home. twuz the kinda thang i had herd her rattle off a minny a time: thar had been a fire in thar home that deestroyed near everthang her fambly had. thar had been her boyfriend duke, witch they wuz thick as thieves fer the last cuple years befor she went away to collidge n he had im a mental brakedown jes befor she left, witch fer sum reason she felt guilty fer leavin even ifn duke dint never git outta that hospitull on a counta how severe his trubles wuz n turnt out he had been badly abused by his daddy whenever he wuz a lil boy. corse thay wuz her partns deevorce on top of everythang else.

but she hadnt never dealt with it, she sed, n twuz lack a world of hurtin that had to git felt n it made her mad to have to go thru all that. she bleeved that ifn sumhow she could deal with the pane of that one year, she wood be a freer n happier person.

i hate to add mitt it but i dint have no faith in all that. i figgerd she had dun gut thru that hard year n dun it by applyin herself to her wurk n skoolin. she had dun gut near strate a's as a undergraduwait n wuz a'doon purty much the same thang as a grad stoodent. tords the end of the quarter she won a Hilton E. Smith skolarship, witch that meant she wuz one of the best grad stoodents at the universty. the award cum with $500 cash dollars n she had dun made a plan fer it, witch she wonted to go to san francisco cum december sos she could attend the amurkin histry associayshun meetin, witch milly had dun cummited to goin with her. i figgerd she orta be happy bout how she wuz a'doon but she couldnt be happy while thay wuz sum mizry to be teased outta hard times she had dun made it thru.

on tuther hand i bleeve in faith n ifn emily had true faith in the graduwait stoodent name of carroll brightman then chantses wuz good she wood make progress on her trubles. but i couldnt quite keep my pinions bout talk therpy to myself n that led to a few fuss n fites. odd thang wuz how she insisted i be honest with her but it made her mad ifn i stated pinions she dint lack. but i tole her this other truth, that i luved her n that i figgerd we wood cum thru the hole thang together.

i wunder to this verr day ifn i wuz trine to cunvints her or cunvints my ownself. but i will git into that a lil later.

as fer me, i had a grate quarter. i had dun picked out the best stoodents frum my grammar classes to make a super comp 101 class. twuz one of the best i ever had n i knew them stoodents wuz larnin. thay wuz also them furst two perduckshuns of the skool of hard knox theatricull players. i had writ a lil play at the reequest of miz stokes, witch she wonted a lil transishun bit to take her stoodents from one opry aria to a nuthern. then once i had it dun i cunvintsed em twudnt wurth doin. i gut involved in the faculty meetins n gut to be a reglar part of kc. fack is, it lef to my gittin the gratest honor of my life up till then. heres whut happend.

i dun splaind how once ever week the collidge had em a meetin name of cuntemporairy issues, witch everbidy calld it cuntemp. twood happen ever thursdy in the auditorium of the colston center, a grate theeater space with seatin fer 1,100, moren a nuff fer ever stoodent n teacher n add ministrayter n innybidy else on that campus. they wood have em speakers n frum that i gut to meet lots of famus folks such as nikki giovanni n jesse jackson n vernon jordan n a minny a nuthern. twuz at a cuntemp whar we dun our perduckshun of Profile in Black America, as we cum to call it. the skool presdint wood speak now n agin. they mite show films of how thangs wuz in south africa or have madrigull sangers in or who knows whut. i dint attend everone of em, but i wood go as often as not, witch thay wuz a passel of perfessers n add ministrayters that dint never attend.

innywho, thay cum a windsdy mornin in that comp 101 class i tole ye bout bein so good when janine tooks calld me over to her desk n sed she had sumthin she had to say to me. i tole her i wuz a'lisnin, witch she sed she couldnt say it thar. so i ast her whut should we do? she tole me to read whut she had jes writ: 'It is imperative that you attend Contemporary Issues tomorrow.' then she ast me did i understand. i tole her i could read. then she pointed to the wurd 'imperative,' witch twuz one we had larnt her furst quarter. i deefined it to proov i knew whut it meant n she sed that wuz whut she had hoped it meant.

that nex day my offus wuz full of stoodents, witch thats how thangs generly wuz. cassandra wuz on her throne n holdin court, jokin with me by sayin i deeserved everthang i wuz a'gone git. twuz a grate joy to me how my stoodents lacked to use wurds we had larnt in grammar class n nobidy lacked to play it moren cassandra. she sed i wuz a'gone git a 'commendation' that i had earned by my 'exemplary' pedagogy. 'pedagogy?' i ast on a counta that wudnt one of the wurds we had larnt. she laffed n sed she could larn vocabulary on her own, witch that made me feel grate.

finely twuz time to go. cassandra n sharon n janine n a reglar posse of otherns insisted i sit with em rite down frunt. so i dun it n the program cummenced.

thangs gut off to a whizbang start with a cuple seniors i dint hardly know gittin up to attack the add ministrayshun. twernt lack the add ministrayshun couldnt use sum strate talk. the presdint, a preacher name of revernd forrest, had a bad habit of astin the stoodents to do thangs they woodnt never do, lack to save water he eggsplained how he wonted em to take thar showers: (1) git wet, (2) turn off the water n soap up n wash cumpletely and then (3) turn the water back on n rinse off. but the speakers dint make no points lack that. they jes called the add ministrayshun silly without givin a sangle eggzample n fack is, it turnt into a name-callin sesshun.

taint lack it wuz a'fallin on deaf ears. thar wurds wuz rangin thru the audients, witch they wuz a'talkin back by sayin thangs lack 'i know that's right' or 'well!' or "unh huh!' thay wuz the tipicull hoots n hollers n scatterd applause. they wuz catcalls n outrite screamin bout the visitayshun pallsies at Beveridge, witch that wuz thonly all womens dorm or even thonly dorm with inny women in it, period. then they cumplaind bout the food n bout havin a new dean of stoodents ever year n the deterioratin infrustruckshur n more thangs that idont member now.

them stoodents wuz mad n they wuz lettin it out, mayhap the way emily wished she could do. twuz a lil amazin to me. i half to add mitt i wudnt too impressd by whut the stoodents wuz sayin on a counta i figgerd they wuz pintin out the rite thangs but they dint have no argument to make bout it beyond saying thangs lack 'the dorm visitation policy at Beveridge is just silly' or 'four deans in four years is just silly.' silly wuz a big wurd that year, witch twernt one we had ever cuverd in inny vocabulary lesson n i wuz thankin how i hoped my stoodents woodnt git up n make charges without specifick eggzamples. but i figgerd the reason them stoodents wonted to make shore i wood attend cuntemp that day wuz to hear them stoodents standin up fer tharself even ifn i dint thank much of how they wuz a'doon it. but that wernt why they wonted me thar, as i wuz bout to find out.

finely william wilson gut up to a chorus of will-ee, will-ee. but they shut rite up whenever he eggspressed his disappointment in whut he had herd that day. that led to boos n laffter n such but he stuck it out n sed he understood the frustrayshun n he felt it his ownself. but he dint thank callin names dun innythang positive. he pointed out that sayin sumthin is silly dont proov tiz n ifn thay is a reason fer sayin it, then the reason should be stated.

then he sed that the best way to make thangs better is not to tear down whut ye dont agree with but to reeward whut they figgerd wuz good, witch that led to a everbidy a'talkin at once n it got verr loud till willy will sed he wonted to announc the stoodents awards to teachers that wuz best in thar respective subjecks, at lease accordin to the stoodents. sumbidy hollerd out, 'who else matters?' n willy sed he knew that wuz rite.

then he announced each subjeck n who had won. evertime he announced a nuther award the perfesser wood cum up on the stage to po-lite applause. i gut to thankin i wuz lackly to win fer english on a counta thay wudnt but two or three of us, accordin to how ye cut it (wuz them speshul ed folks that cum thar to teach stoodents how to read english teachers?).

innywho, i figgerd i wood win n finely they called english. lack i sed i figgerd i mite win but i hadnt eggzpeckted how them students wood respond. the instunt my name wuz announced they jumped to thar feet n started chantin 'dun-can, dun-can, dun-can.' i could feel myself blushin lack nobidys bizness as i stood feelin very nervous with my colleegs. i could barly bleeve whut wuz a'happenin n even felt lack i mite faint. but the applause n chants jes kep on till finely willy will ast fer em to sit down n be quite. it tuck em by sprize n they all gut quite long a nuff fer rufus boudreaus voice to be herd sayin, 'well!' everbidy laffed n sat down. willy started talkin fer a bit n then sed he wuz a'gone give the award fer most outstandin teacher at kc. the audients went wild fer a bit n whenever he calmed em back down n menchuned the skool of hard knox theatricull players n then the choir gittin a scrip, i knew twuz a'gone be me that won. shore a nuff i did.

them stoodents wuz on thar feet n clappin n screamin n chantin thar 'dun-cans' till i dint hardly know whut to do, but willy cum n tuck my elbow n led me to the podium. he give me a plaque n shuck my hand n sed i had deeserved it. i felt sumthin ticklin my face n real eyesed i wuz crine. then i herd the stoodents a'callin fer a speech. i stood thar smilin lack a moron n blushin lack a virgin in a horehouse n dint have even a wurd i knew to say, just gigantick feelins that i hardly knew how to hold inside, as ifn i had the same problem emily had cumplaint of, feelin moren i could feel.

sum wood later say i wuz milkin the applause fer all twuz wurth, witch i caint say i wudnt, jes that i dint have no idee whut to say. but i knew i had to say sumthin, so i leant ford n wuz as sprized as innybidy to hear whut i sed, startin with a joke. i hadnt perpared nuthin to say, but once them wurds started cummin, they woodnt quit till i wuz dun. i cum home afterds n writ down as best i could member it how it had gone:
'One of the difficult things about being white (laughter) is that when you're embarrassed or touched, everybody knows it because you turn red.

'When I was told by several of my students that I should attend this day's contemporary issues, and when I heard the early speakers 'dogging out' the administration (more laughter, more applause), I assumed my presence was desired so that I could hear the students standing up for themselves and taking a real and active interest in their college. And I am very excited by what I heard today. I am pleased and proud of the students for becoming active and vocal. But I must admit I would have hoped the activism could have been a little more productive and effective than name-calling.

'I can certainly undersand the impulse, even the need, to criticize those whose performance we find lacking. I am reminded very much of myself when I was younger. I, too, found much wrong with this world, my parents, this country, and my place in it. I, too, criticized and protested in my own feeble way. I fought hard, too. I dropped out of high school – it was 'silly.' And I ran away from my 'silly' parents. And I ignored everyone's 'silly' advice and got married at the age of eighteen.

'Before you know it, I was a raging, angry, ineffective young nobody, flipping burgers for a living and getting nowhere. All my protest and anger did nothing but make my situation worse than it had been.

'After years of spinning my wheels in such fruitless activitiy and rage and after I'd suffered enormously, I had an accident, an automobile accident that could easily have killed me.

'When I crawled out of that wreck, I realized for the first time that, try as I may, I could only be sure of changing one person: myself. And when I began working on that person, the world began to get a little better.

'Much is still wrong with it, as we all know only too well, but we can't cause it to change by calling it 'silly.' We all have logs in our eyes. We all fall short of perfection.

'Let us begin by changing ourselves, each of us. And if we do, KC will become an even more wonderful place than it already is.'
i held up that plaque n waved it round to the crowd n let em cheer fer a spell.
'It is already one of the world's most wonderful places to me. This is the most outstanding moment of my life, and I am very grateful to you all. Thank you.'
as i dun writ, my lil speech wuz tuck purty well by them stoodents. i dont know whar it cum frum, eggzackly, but it dint seem to anger the stoodents nor the administrayshun. corse, me bein a white teacher n gittin that award did cause a lotta antagonism fer me amung the faculty on a counta thay wuz a good number that dint know me frum adam till i won that award.

afterds my offus wuz filld with stoodents. lots of talk n lookin at my plaque n such till sharon n cassandra n janine sed they wonted to take me to lunch to celebrate even ifn i ended up drivin n payin fer our feast at mack donalds.

after that i had becum a big player on the kc campus n wuz eggspeckted at sartin places such as ever cuntemp or even on the stage whenever a seeleckshun of faculty n add ministrayshun wuz leadin innythang. i member clearly sangin along with revernd forrest on a song that went 'Reach out and touch somebody's hand, make KC a better place if you can.' i wuz putt on the awards committee fer graduwayshun n invited to hep out with recrootin n such.

fack is, i felt downrite deepressed whenever the quarter wuz over. i wuz verr happy bout how thangs had gone at wurk. even emily wuz happy, speshly since thay woodnt be no more questchun bout whuther i wuz offishully full time. i had dun earnd that much.

but i couldnt feel rite bout thangs, witch mayhap thats jes a human way. but mayhap it has to do with a questchun that wuz a'hauntin me, a questchun a verr purty, verr lite-skinned stoodent name of gale blazemore ast me: 'Mr. D, you said winning that award was the most outstanding moment of your life. What about when you and Mrs. D got married?'

1 comment:

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