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TITLE: Hart & Soul, Part IV: End of Innocents

What is not easier gets no prettier.
Yes, I was still playing with my little girl toys by the time I turned 11. Other girls were talking about best friends and boyfriends. I wasn't interested in boys, and my best friend was a little homemade puddin' I called Mitsuki. Mitsuki came about as a result of my refusal to play with store-bought dolls. They were plastic, phony, ....white. Dolls of other races and nationalities were made by hand. Mitsuki started out as a black girl, but when I made a mistake with my magic marker and drew her eyes in a little slanted, she became Afroasiatic. She was scrap cloths from my grandmother's old sewing chest, with an old tan-colored silk stocking wrapped around her for a body and a small thin string of white polyester thread that made a neck, so she would have a head and I could draw in her face and black hair. When I finished, Mitsuki and I were about as close as two little girls could be. I talked about her to the other kids at school as if she was real. She was real. She talked back, and she had her own thoughts, very different from my own. She came from another nation, spoke broken English--but she was learning--and trying to accustom herself to American ways. I had a lot to teach her and she had a lot she was willing to learn; but I also asked a lot of questions about her homeland-Japaneria. It was a combination of Japan and Nigeria, a land I invented for her; and the entire nation had a population of less than 1,000 people like her.

Mitsuki always had something nice to say to me, unlike the rest of my family. And she was always there for me, nothing like my mother whom we barely saw during the week and definitely did not see on weekends. She didn't drink or smoke, like Mama...she wasn't into that kind of thing. We read lots of books about preparing fresh hot vegetables, salads, fruit cocktails, and exotic drinks made of ginger teas and wild spices from her native land. The thing I loved most about Mitsuki, she never cursed at me; or slapped me when I tried to hug her. She didn't say, "What's love got to do with anything?," when I said I loved her. She was nothing like Mama at all.

Mitsuki was supposed to be my little secret--kind of like Buffy Davis and Mrs. Beasley; but when the other girls started bragging about their friends and all the neat things they did when they hung out together, I kinda opened my mouth and mentioned Mitsuki. I didn't tell them, however, that she was just a doll. She wasn't just any old doll to me, so I wasn't lying--at least as far as I was concerned.

Carolyn was the girl at Claflin that I felt closest to. She wasn't what I would have called a friend, but the best thing I could say about my "friends" at the school were that they consisted of anyone who talked to me and wasn't my enemy. No one was allowed to come to Mommy's house and I wasn't allowed to go to theirs. According to mama, my friends "shot shit and ran rabbits." I never found out exactly what that meant, but I figured out that she was saying I had no friends, and would probably never have any.

Carolyn was also the one who told me I was "silly," because, as she said, "You giggle too much."; and she also laughed when I confessed to her and her only one day that Mitsuki was actually a doll. "You still play with dolls?" I never answered because I wish I hadn't said anything, but I got the gist of it. I was stupid--just as stupid as my mother had always said I was--because I played with dolls; because I still had make-believe in my heart. "I bet you still believe in Santa Claus, too," she continued laughing. "No, I don't," I lied. But I thought everyone did--even grown folks asked me about Santa, so I figured he must have been hanging around someplace. I was suddenly embarrased by my own childish thoughts, my own youthful innocence, my own naivete~other people had real friends. Mines were only pretend. Mitsuki probably wondered what happened to me because I stopped talking to her that day. About six months later, my brother snapped the thread off her neck and unstuffed her, putting her body over his head and jumping from behind doors with his stocking covered head that used to be Mituski's body. I had betrayed her and left her at the mercy of a ruthless murdering bastard.

We knew Poppy had a pistol, but no one knew where he kept it. Good thing, too. Instead, I went after the ax hanging on the back porch. It was the one Mommy used to use to behead chickens before she started buying them pre-plucked and wrapped in brown paper and paper tape from Rice's grocery store. I grabbed the handle of the thing, which was coming apart due to aging, and lack of use; and the dull head nearly fell off, but I pushed it back on and ran through the house screaming like a wild Indian on the rampage. Son of a bitch. I was going to kill him if it was the last thing I did on this earth.

My brother, three years my junior, ran screaming through the house like I had already struck him with the axe. I was glad he was rehearsing, because sooner or later it was going to land across his head and take it clean off. I could picture him like one of the chickens, nothing but a body and a bloody neck still flailing about until it dropped. I had had some angry moments in my short life, but I couldn't recall ever being as mad as I was at that moment. Only Lizzie Borden would have understood my plight.

It finally ended about five minutes later when Poppy, hearing all the commotion, came out of his room, with Mommy hot on his trail from the back of the house. They came out to beat our asses, but when they saw me headed straight toward that snotnosed brother of mine with the axe, I was the only one who got hit--with an extension cord on the back of my legs. The weapon of choice for the night was an extension cord. There had been leather belts, switches twisted together, even leather strops from old discarded barber chairs, but the one we always hated the most was the extension cord. It hurt and stung. I finally dropped the axe handle as the head fell on the floor and Mommy swooped quickly to recover both as she asked me if I had lost my mind.

I knew from past experience that they would never have understood just how badly I hurt inside the night my brother murdered the only friend, the only real family, that I had in the world. I said nothing. There were no words for that loss and pain. It hurt worse than the extension cord whelts on my legs and thighs, and all I wanted from that day forward was to see that *nigger* cold in his grave. I said nothing to my family about my feelings at all after that--I was tired of being ridiculed because of my emotions and I knew, somehow, that they simply didn't care.
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