Another hypothesis: should Washingtonians go on here, struggling as they do, people might begin to reflect, about preventable miseries, out loud.
Gyra took Dansel’s hand as they walked on, and she started singing:
“Went a long ways North to make my old-nag education worth its ride.
Found out, Fall and Spring, everywoman else’s taught-animal had a bigger stride.
So I beat her hard, until I could make her go!
Somewhere after Firstyear, I left her dying in the snow.
Bartered my fears and mother’s old three-dollar-bill,(1)
for at least a tow.
‘Till I could find my way…
I felt so ashamed I left Old Girl barely alive,
During my summers I used to hide,
beneath the Mason-Dixon line. (2)
Still got a summons from the Juror’s up in old Massachusetts, (3)
sayin’ they were comin’ to collect me.
(Cause they figured, I was theirs)
Still got a letter-back from my Congresswoman down in the old Federal District,
sayin’ she couldn’t protect me.
(Cause she figured, she wasn’t even her own)
Though I was born in George Washington’s own hospital, here in DC.
Nobody, but nobody, wants to adopt old, big-eyed, me.
Gunshots call out deep down here—and I’m supposed to ignore,
That it’s my own city burning, like Daddy said it did before. (4)
And then on holy Sundays,
TVs move on and say,
at least the Redskins won’t really lose.
When we’ve all, already lost, but that’s not in the news.
You see, I’m a woman who’s not supposed to be here.
I live in a city,
when you’re grown,
They ask you if you’re really from here?
(They ask you why you didn’t get put under here?)
(They ask why you haven’t fled from here?)
(They ask you where are all your friends, from here?)
DC nativity is not some cute coincidence, I say.
They always sound so surprised.
(They’re always so polite, about being surprised.)
(They don’t want to hear you talking about why it’s no surprise.)
(Only your Old Girl knows why you couldn’t shoot her in the snow, and that it’s no surprise.)”
After, Gyra said to her friend Dansel Darrons, “I came up with that thing, back in 2010.”
“I know you did, Gyra.” Said he.
“But it’s still true today—”
“I know that too.” He sighed again.
“Do you think it’s just black people who can’t really be from here after a certain age, considering? I got asked that two years ago by somebody before my Daddy and the Cannoneers founded New Uniontown… but there’s Vietnamese people in DC, and there are Latinos living in DC, and Haitians, and white folks and Ethiopians and all kinds of other people too—In fact, it was an Ethiopian cab driver who asked me that the last time, you know, but does everybody from here get asked that by everybody else–wouldn’t that be weird? All of us ‘not supposed to be here’ and not knowing why not? Maybe we’re more asking each other, why people say we’re not supposed to be here? Well, except for the government folks across the Beltway Line, the part that goes through downtown. Everyone across the nation assumes they’re supposed to be here. Or, maybe DC folks should start asking one another why it is we can’t be from here and do well too. It’s like, as soon as you start to do well—”
Well? Dansel was well-past irritated, and he felt for sure it wasn’t all Gyra’s fault. “Look. You’re just going to have to go up and ask different people to their faces, I guess. Now, can you leave it alone? Gyra, you can’t keep worrying like this all of the time. How come you never got any medicine, for what you have?”
“Cause I don’t know what it is I have. Just like we didn’t know what Momma had until she died from it a year later. People shoot into a crowd and then she dies from it, when she wasn’t even hit, a whole year later.” She clutched at her stomach, as if newly pained.
Dansel squeezed his friend’s hand and pulled her along. He wouldn’t let Gyra stop walking. “You have some kind of anxiety, maybe. We’ll fix it once we get home.”
“Maybe before? Why should we wait? That’s not good to wait, when you could be fixing something. My life could be better right now and you don’t even know it.”
Dansel tossed his head back and shouldered the rifle on its strap, higher over his shoulder. Where they were right then in Northeast, was cold and desolate. Without knowing why, they were both going downhill, past boarded up old stores and row-house stoops. They could already see the Anacostia River and, soon, they were going to descend far enough to know the whole shoreline and enjoy more of it. No matter where a person is, it seems, there’s a human desire to see some bold natural thing like a river, to know how it really dares to be there, and ‘what exactly is it churning beneath the gray wash?’ Fish—real-live fish? Hopefully, not garbage.
Though they could already smell it and they knew better, the land had opened itself up, it wanted them to come in, and the spirit needed to go near water and be by there. To be thrilled, and then drink, in its own way. Gyra and Dansel lightened, sensing that soon, they would be able to rest, near the humbled river.
“…is that why you were wanting to ride a horse in your song, Miss Gyra? Because you lost your other one in the snow?” Dansel tried on a smile.
|It really was a HIDEOUS dress…|
Gyra stopped her baby-voice. “Heh, maybe. But it was just a silly song, Dansel. I don’t even know how to ride a horse. City girls just look at all those statues around, and wish. So, I guess I was hoping, a little. Hey, there’s smoke comin’ from the chimney of that shack down by the river there—if there’s someone really home, and they aren’t crazy like us, maybe we can finally stop and ask directions? Even if they aren’t driving directions, when the car’s gone and all shot-up, but at the least, we can find out a safer way to walk back.”
It seemed like a good idea. But Dansel didn’t want things to go so well between them, in that moment. So, he reminded Gyra that her dress was still a hideous shade of Jaw-break Blue.
(1) Once, rather than have her spend the last of her change: a lucky $3 bill, a kindly teller let my Mom take us four girls on a paddle-boat ride on the Potomac River, at a discount by that much. Fond DC memory.
(2) Washington, DC is beneath the Mason-Dixon line. Slaves were once bought and sold, right on the National Mall. Now, at least for me, walking down there is empowering.
(3) Years ago, I really did get a jury duty summons from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts claiming that, as a student, I was a permanent resident of Mass. required to serve (I even fell short of the time period they stipulated students must live in the state to qualify as jurors, and the letter was also mailed to my DC home address, during summer break—I’m sure other, non-Washingtonian students faced similar predicaments, but it was odd, nonetheless). When I cc’d my Congresswoman on the complaint letter, her office really did write me back, stating that it was not in her power to protect me from any perceived abuse of protocol. They then went on to explain all the other things a DC Congressperson is not able to do. Either my functional misunderstanding about the role of Congresspeople is a crime—when I never had the advantage of being fully represented, or getting such a disempowering letter signed by the local pseudo-representative of my hometown was tragic for me at that age.
(4) In the 1960’s back before I existed, my father was finishing up his thesis in the university lab, and looked up from his work to see a great deal of the city burning. Some parts of Washington, DC, are only just now recovering after the MLK riots. Which is the real origin of that wonderful Target store finally come to Columbia Heights, by the way.
Seriously, it’s a nice store and it was about time! Let’s all shop there some more and visit the local businesses too!
1 The Red and Gold Reserve :: 2 Authentic Agitation :: 3 Bringing the Old Girl to Water :: 4 Message from a World of Fear, Insanity :: 5 No such thing as transitional musak after the Apocalypse :: 6 Fate and Basketball :: 7 Party in Mount Pleasant