Thursday, June 01, 2006

as we wind on down the road

Please pardon the lack of posting lately. I've been away in NYC for the Memorial Day weekend. It was fun, and I'll post pictures and info about it later.

For now, here's a couple excerpts from the book I finished reading before the trip, A Lesson Before Dying:

"Please listen to me, because I would not lie to you now. I speak from my heart. You have the chance of being bigger than anyone who has ever lived on that plantation or come from this little town. You can do it if you try. You have seen how Mr. Farrell makes a slingshot handle. He starts with just a little piece of rough wood – any little piece of scrap wood – then he starts cutting. Cutting and cutting and cutting, then shaving. Shaves it down clean and smooth till it's not what it was before, but something new and pretty. You know what I'm talking about, because you have seen him do it. You had one that he made from a piece of scrap wood. Yes, yes – I saw you with it. And it came from a piece of old wood that he found in the year somewhere. And that's all we are, Jefferson, all of us on this earth, a piece of drifting wood, until we – each one of us, individually – decide to become something else. I am still that piece of drifting wood, and those out there are no better. But you can be better. Because we need you to be and want you to be. Me, your godmother, the children, all the rest of them in the quarter. Do you understand what I'm saying to you, Jefferson? Do you?"

He looked at me with great pain. He may not have understood, but something was touched, something deep down in him – because he was still crying.

I cry, not from reaching any conclusion by reasoning, but because, lowly as I am, I am still part of the whole. Is that what he was thinking as he looked at me crying?

"Come on," I said. "Let's have some gumbo."

And we went back to the table.

"And suppose he ask you if you believe in heaven? Then what?"

"I hope he doesn't, Reverend."

"Suppose he do."

"I hope he doesn't."

"You couldn't say yes?"

"No, Reverend, I couldn't say yes. I couldn't lie to him at this moment. I will never tell him another lie, no matter what."

"Not for her sake?"

"No, sir."

The minister nodded his bald head and grunted to himself. His dark-brown eyes in that tired, weary face continued to stare back at me.

"You think you educated, but you not. You think you the only person ever had to lie? You think I never had to lie?"

"I don't know, Reverend."

"Yes, you know. You know, all right. That's why you look down on me, because you know I lie. At wakes, at funerals, at weddings – yes, I lie. I lie at wakes and funerals to relieve pain. 'Cause reading, writing, and 'rithmetic is not enough. You think that's all they sent you to school for? They sent you to school to relieve pain, to relieve hurt – and if you have to lie to do that, then you lie. You lie and you lie and you lie. When you tell yourself you feeling good when you sick, you lying. You tell them that 'cause they have pain too, and you don't want to add yours – and you lie. She's been lying every day of her life, your aunt in there. That's how you got through that university – cheating herself here, cheating herself there, but always telling you she's all right. I've seen her hands bleed from picking cotton. I've seen the blisters from the hoe and the cane knife. At that church, crying on her knees. You ever looked at the scabs on her knees, boy? Course you never. 'Cause she never wanted you to see it. And that's the difference between me and you, boy; that make me the educated one, and you the gump. I know my people. I know what they gone through. I know they done cheated themself, lied to themself – hoping that one they all love and trust can come back and help relieve the pain."


posted by Jennifer at 6/01/2006 09:31:00 AM

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