We heard that the war was coming. We heard we were the victims & we were the perpetrators & we were the problem & we were the future. We heard a television man was coming with his camera & his vest & his eyes squinting against a hatless skyglare. We heard the newspaper man was coming with his funny script & how he called my sister little lady & how he called me little lady & my sister was married with two kids & I wasn’t yet grown into my knees. I wasn’t yet grown.
We heard the government cared & we heard the government had money for us & we heard we were bad with money & needed more education. But the government didn’t have money for education to give out like candy at the 4th of July parade. We heard a change was coming. We heard we didn’t work hard & we heard we were the backbone of America & we heard my daddy was a man among men & we heard my great-grandfather was a WWII vet & we heard my cousin stole all my great-grandfather’s money for heroin & we heard the preacher at his funeral call him a good man as he lay there in front of us all in his American flag-ed casket & we heard my grandmother ask who gets what the night we finally knew, standing ten feet from where his body rested for three days before anyone found him. We heard my great-grandfather laughing & hacking into the handkerchief he tucked into his shirt pocket & we heard it even in our dreams & we heard his truck coming up the gravel drive for years afterward & we heard him say tomatahs in our own tongue. We heard my cousin sobbing so hard he threw up at the funeral, clean two years, & we heard my great-grandfather forgave him because he had seen the whites in the eyes of evil & knew that not everyone can look away.
We heard we were angry & disenfranchised & lazy & wanted handouts & wanted those backbreak jobs to come back. But my daddy wanted me to go to college. We heard that we wanted to make with our hands but our hands are arthritic & gnarled, like our knees, like our spines, like one hunched shoulder accusing the sky. My great-grandmother lost inches off her life.
We wondered if the war would save us & we wondered if the world would end us. We heard we were upset & we were upset. We wanted more for our children & we wanted more for ourselves & we wanted to die in peace at home & we wanted to die more days than we didn’t & we wanted to fly too close to the sun but we had never flown. We wondered if they were coming to save us.
But nobody came down the mountain. We kept our ear to the ground but the cameraman & the newspaper man & the government had turned wide lenses elsewhere. We watched the sun go down from our front porch. The sun rests just on the ridgeline, you can watch it if you want, you can watch the day slip away from you bit by bit.
What dualities have defined and informed your upbringing? Tell us in the comments.