Wednesday, December 08, 2004
A visit with Zenobia
Every once in a while characters come back to me and remind me that they still live within me. Still waiting to breathe on pages that others can see. Still waiting for the light to be shined on their journey, which in the case of this special woman is a very spiritual one. Zenobia lives, loves and breathes within the pages of my novel, "Until Again." I'd like to revisit her for a moment and share this with anyone watching... Check it out...
Once I lost my balance, I surrendered completely. I surrendered to the pounding inside my heart. I gave in cause my legs couldn't move another inch. Not even the terror running through my soul could return me to my feet. I surrendered and then God come take me. I'se grateful cause I didn't have to feel the pain that come next. I didn't have to feel Rupert, ripping away at my clothes or the piercing of a blade, cutting away at my flesh.
Rupert was angry. He felt cheated. God come take me before Rupert have a chance to feel like a man. He ain't have a chance to see me fight and scream inside his arms, one last time. God cheat him from forcing my legs open and using his manhood to feel a sense of pride cause he overpower a colored woman.
I'se so grateful to God and then for a moment, I stands over my body and I cry. I think about my life. I seen my life from childhood till now, flash before my eyes. I smile cause I was a beautiful child and eventually, I became a strong woman. Not even Rupert who pound his fist into my lifeless body, over and over could remove the beauty of what I remember. He can't harm my soul. He can't touch my spirit. Nothing he do, pain me no more, not even inside my heart. Only thing I feels is pity for that man.
I watch as his anger turn to tears and his pride turn to shame. I feel sorry for him cause I know that once he walk away from my body, he only return to who he is. His hatred will remain. I know because God show me. He allow me to see what become of a life that hold on to anger and never forgive. Then he show me a life that hold on to love no matter how they forced to live. He take me from that dreary day where my lifeless body lay tortured in the woods. He lift me above the clouds and I feel free. The sunlight warm my soul. I couldn't stop myself from smiling if I tried.
Then I seen more clouds. They began to part right in front of me and I seen a woman, sitting in a room by herself with her head down. She look like she praying. Her skin so dark and wrinkled, especially around her hands. No matter, she still looked beautiful. She smile the closer I get and she become familiar to me. It's my sister, Eula Mae. She look up but I dont think she see me. She act like somebody in the room but ain't nobody there except her. I hears her start to speak. Eula's voice sound so dry like it pains her to get the words out but she did and I'se listen…
She say "Zenobia, are you there? I sho hopes you can hear me…Sis, I tries my best to take care of Atoya. She a beautiful young woman now. You be proud of what she become. She headstrong, yes she is. It's like she done take a little bit from both of us. You know. Like when we was young. Me so stubborn and you so beautiful and smart. She got all that in her. I believe she gonna be alright too. I pray she dont have to go through none of what we went through. I hurt bad since we separated, sis. I hurt bad cause I couldn't be around to protect you like I promise mama. I keep on hurt'n for a long time till I seen Atoya and listen as Neala read the letter you send me. I know then how strong you become and I dont worry as much.
I'se tired now, Zenobia. You might not recognize me no more. I'm old. I been through a lots. I can't hardly see nothing. They done everything they could to me to keep me from running away. Everything… There were times when I wished theys just kill me but I guess they figure I'se be in a better place if'n they did that. Is it better, Zenobia? I dont know why I feel you up there, somewhere but I just do. I feels it inside. All I can do is just pray you alright and live out the rest of my life till God say it's time. I'se tired and lonely but I'se happy cause my heart is full. Can't nobody take that away from me. If you there, Zenobia, I just want you to know that I loves you and I'm doing just fine. Yes, lord, Ima be just fine..."
After Eula stop talking, she disappear right before me. The room she sit in turn to dust and the sunlight blind my eyes. I want to feel sad. I want to cry but I can't. I feel warm. I feel like this freedom start my life all over again, somehow. I need to find what was taken from me while I was alive. I need to find Cudie before I can allow myself to truly rest. I know I'm at the mercy of God but next to him, the strongest kind of love I ever did receive, come from Cudie. Ain't a day go by that I don't remember his smile. Cudie go through a lot just to be with me. He suffer the worse kind of pain from all his beat'ns.
I remember one time when he come to me all excited and carrying some kind of sack in his hand. He tell me we gonna have us a picnic out in the fields. All he bring was some biscuits, one for him and one for me. I'se laugh at him but at the same time, I'se feel as though my heart grow fonder of that man.
Once me and Cudie get to the fields, he take the biscuits out of the sack and hand me one. Right away he bites into his biscuit, which didn't appear to be fresh at all. I was used to fresh bread in the morning, being that I stayed in the main house. Still, I just smiles at Cudie look'n so proud of himself like he done real good.
Cudie get to his knees and he say, "Zenobia, this ain't much but I'se want to do what make you happy. I'se walk forever if I have to, just to see you smile. It ain't much I spose…"
"It mean a lot to me Cudie…" I tells him before he convince himself that he ain't done enough for me.
I remember Cudie's excitement so well that day. I had a time just try'n to keep him from talk'n so much. Then I tells him to lie down, against me. He shy about it at first to the point where I had to pull him down. Cudie one of the strongest colored men around but when I touches him, his body go limp.
Cudie lay against me with his upper back, resting against my inner thighs. I wiped his forehead and he look up at me. He try to smile but I notice him grit his teeth like he in pain. I ask him if he okay and he tell me, he just fine but I know he ain't being truthful. I tells him to sit up and look at me.
"I'm fine, Zenobia. We's spose to enjoy ourselves. I ain't got much time before I need to head on back…" Cudie just kept going on and on cause he know I suspected something was truly wrong. I didn't say a word as he continued to defend the pain that I seen in his eyes. When you love someone, deep as I love Cudie, truth can't never hide lessen you made up your mind not to know someth'n.
I'se touch Cudie's arms and he look down. I run my fingers up to his shoulders. Cudie's eyes follow the movement of my touch until I stop beneath his chin. That's when he look deep into my eyes and he lean forward to kiss me softly on the lips. I remember feeling something just come over my entire body, not just on the outside but from deep within. Cudie bring me close and hold me tight and I wrap my arms around him, feeling like I never wanted to let go. That is, until I noticed Cudie's pain everytime I squeezed tighter. I touched his back and felt something strange beneath the shirt he wore. It didn't feel like a man's back was supposed to feel.
"Zenobia, don't, I be fine…"
Even though Cudie tried to warn me, I had to look. How could a woman not want to know what give her man so much pain? So, I force Cudie to turn around and then I pulls his shirt up. What I seen cause me to push him away though I didn't mean to. I looks again at all the deep wounds on his back. His flesh was just torn in places and his skin, no longer beautiful and dark. Cudie tell me that they pour salt in his wounds after they whip him under the sun. He try to make fun so as not to worry me so but my very soul wanted to die when I seen what they'd done to my precious man. Cudie got used to his whippings but for me, even though I'se no longer among the living, I never be used to so much suffer'n and so much pain. What I seen while I was alive make me never want to return amongst the living. Well, at least not till things get better. I'se pray to God that happen one day, for the sake of my daughter, I really do.