November 7, 1988
I am a white man’s wife.
You may not understand the gravity of those words, unless you are in a situation like mine.
I am a black woman. I probably should have led with that. Is my cross coming into view?
You are probably already thinking of what could be wrong. A million questions dancing around in your head.
You probably think he hurts me. Or that he has me chained to a fence with a collar.
You are wrong.
It is you that hurts me.
Are you black? Are you white? It doesn’t matter. It is you.
Are you in my time? Are you a stranger from the future happening upon this letter? It is still you.
It is you because you are them. You are born of them. And deep down, you still think like them.
You are white. My husband’s people. And I see the way you look at me. You, women huddled like turkeys at the feed. I see your distaste as you eye my large buttocks pressing against my evening gown.
I see you hating the fact that the gown is wasted on an animal like me. I see you incredulous on how I came to snag the man who could afford such a gown.
“It must be voodoo”
I know that you ostracize me on purpose, flinging yourselves at my husband right in front of me, with malice in your eyes.
You don’t know that I am unbothered, because I know he accepts to dance with you to be polite. I know he enjoys to see these obscene buttocks bounce against his hips.
I see you, white men, leering at my voluptuous figure with yellowing, coffee-stained teeth, wanting, and hating that you do.
You are black. My own people. And I see the way you look at me. With your eyes full of hate and judgement.
“How can she lay with the monsters that label us animals?”
I see you, black man, the way you look at him. Your hunger for revenge, clear in your eyes, certain that he is the one that hurt you.
I see you, and I have to wonder. What do you know of him? What do you know of me?
I know more about the people that label us animals than you do. And I know they are not my husband.
I met him 31 years ago. It was 1957. His mother brought him to my zoo. I was nine years old, and I thought his blue eyes were beautiful. Not because of the color, but because they were the only pair that looked at me, like I was a person.
I moved towards him, accepting the piece of bread his mother offered, wiping my phlegm off, on my arm shyly, knowing he was watching me. I just wanted to impress. I will never forget that day.
“Look at her Tom. So dirty. Isn’t she the ugliest little thing you’ve ever seen?”
My heart broke, watching those blue eyes squint at me.
“I don’t think she’s ugly, mother. I think she looks like… Me.”
I was certain I was going to fly. He kept his eyes on me, as he was dragged away by his mother, and none of my zoo mates knew why I suddenly ran behind a cage to sit and cry.
He came back the next day, with his butler, and stood by my pen, until I came out to see him. He talked to me, Tommy Hill.
It took three days for me to finally get the courage to respond in my bad English I learned from the Zookeeper. Tommy didn’t mind, he was overjoyed at my response.
He handed me a page, and made me swear to never lose it. My zoo was moved that week, and it was not until 1969, after human zoos were banned, as a young woman, that I realized, that the page was a hand-drawn map, and a painstakingly lettered address.
He knew he would never see me again, unless he made a way for me to find him. And I did.
How long did it take you to realize that you are reading pages lettered with blood? I certainly am curious, sitting here going slightly dizzy from all the blood escaping my right wrist.
I just wanted you to know, that I see you. And that I forgive you.
I forgive you, black men, that took my Tommy from me. I know you have paid with your lives, but that only brings me sorrow for your families.
I forgive you, white men, that want to take the family house away from me. It is alright. Tommy and I have no children to inherit it. And I don’t want it.
I only want my Tommy.
Photo Credit: Me