There are not enough words for the tears in things.
I stumbled across my aunt’s obituary online. Don’t ask which of the names mentioned therein connect her to me.
I remember how in 1965 or so, I was billeted in her house and brought along on the car ride when she went to the wrong-side-of-the-tracks neighborhood to pick up “my ni&&er” for some yard work.
I remember what passed for her husband, rocking on the covered porch as if bereft of anything you or I might call intellect, as if rocking on that porch had always been his only occupation. I remember the stories of the gent she took up with after her husband died; how he died in his turn, burned (alive, they whispered) in a shop fire; how she survived breast cancer less than a year afterward, how we wondered if the shock had brought it on, how one of her sisters washed the sheets two and three times after she visited, in case it was catching.
The year she was born, American women could not yet cast a vote.
I don’t have anything to do with either side of my family, for a lot of reasons, the n-i-double-g word not the least of them.
It still made me cry, for some goddam reason I cannot elaborate.