Jessamine

Mama and Charlie, they think I'm silly. Charlie, my own chile' my own little girl think that I ain't got no sense the good lord gave me. But I have it. I had sense enough not to stick around that bayou waitin' for the seasons to change and for myself to grow gray and miserable.

They don't understand the lure of the City. They don't understand the way the Lights call me to stand under their glow. They don't understand that I have always been afraid of the dark and the bayou is dark. I used to dream of walking into those murky waters and sinking so deep that light couldn't even begin to penetrate. I'd dream that I would try to swim to the surface, but something would hold me down and I was too deep to scream, so I jess let myself go. I let it have me...because I'm weak.

 

But they don't understand that. They know that I wear bright dresses, and bright lipstick and I dance with men who drive fast cars and dance with me until I done' worn hole in my shoes. People calls me fast and loose and too free with myself. But that's just fine by me. Sometimes, I get so drunk that I spin until I'm dizzy--spin until I can forget those dreams of the bayou and of the shadows that seem like living beasts that lurk under the water.

I know that bayou's gonna take me soon, you hear? I know it. So I had to live, I had to dance and I couldn't think about Mama or Charlie. Charlie's a good girl. She so quiet and so thoughtful and sometimes I wish I had been more like her. But I think she is all the good that was left in me. Sometimes I'm so ashamed to look at her because she so beautiful and I'm so flawed. Sometimes I hate her because...loving is too hard. Loving is sacrifice and I ain't ready for no sacrifice. Who gonna sacrifice for me? No one, that's who. My own mama chased me out of that lean-to with a shot gun in her hand and tole' me if I ever came back with a married man again, she'd shoot us both.

And she would.

Besides, Charlie better off without me. When I came to visit once, I let Charlie put on some of my lipstick and one of my dresses and I let her dance in the mirror. I got afraid when I saw that. I know I'm a bad mother--but I'm not so bad that I would want her to turn out like me. Charlie thought I was crazy when I suddenly wiped that lipstick from her lips so roughly that her mouth began to bleed. I tore that dress off and told her to get out and never come in here again.

I know what I am. I can't let my Charlie turn out like me. So I stayed away for a while. I sent her ribbons for her hair, and cotton dresses for church and even some books.

Mama didn't want me around so much...so I stay gone. She know about the bayou and how it wants to take me--so she didn't want me around.

We's all gotta die someday. But mama is under the impression she can tell death when and when not to do it's business. That's just her way though.

And I got my way too.

See now, I'm floating on my back in the bayou, but it's light out now. The sun is so bright that I'm blind and I can't see nothing but white. The water is warm against my back and my clothes are weighing me down but I'm not afraid anymore. I can't see nothing but white, and maybe that'll be heaven for me.

The End

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