For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide...

Ntozake Shange I stood there barefoot with my back turned, plumping the pillows I was about to pillow case, when a hand grabbed me from behind and stuck a knife to my throat. I shuddered, gasped, and cried. He was my neighbor who had barely looked at me before. He said, “Don’t scream.” He dropped the knife and grabbed my throat. That afternoon his eyes glared with evilness. Rage and bitterness dripped from his mouth. “Take off all your clothes,” he demanded, “and you better not scream.” The midnight black, lanky neighbor with bulging eyes ignored me when I said, “Please don’t.” I kept pleading with him, and the tears turned to sniffles. He picked up the knife and slid his fingers down the blade. He licked his lips. “If you don’t do what I say, I will cut you to pieces. Undress,” he said, pointing the knife at me. Don’t scream or try anything funny.” I was thinking about how I could get away, how to outsmart him, while undressing slower and slower. I pulled off the blouse and then pulled down the long, black skirt gathered from the waist. He lost patience, dropped the knife, grabbed my panties, and ripped them off. He threw me on the bed, unzipped his pants and raped me. I gritted my teeth and kept crying but he ignored me. My eight-year-old brother came to the middle room of the straight-back duplex. “What are you doing to my sister,” Ghent yelled. “I’m gone tell.” The man, a neighbor called LG, got off me, snatched his pants up, grabbed the knife, and walked out the door, looking smugly. An ashtray-like odor permeated the room. Our house reeked of scent from his musty armpits and cologne mixture, and I hoped the breeze from the window would cleanse the air before Mama and Daddy came home. Snot, tears, and blood soiled the sheet I threw underneath the bed. I decided to wash that sheet and to hang it on the clothesline outdoors. I dressed and headed to the bathroom on the back porch and wet a rag with cold water and washed. When I came out of the bathroom, my brother was standing outside the door. “I’m gone to tell Mama you were doing something nasty with that boy.” He wasn’t a boy. He was eighteen and I was only eleven. When I was in college, I read the part for Lady in Red from For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange, pronounced En-toe-ZAK-kay SONG-gay. The character resonated with me because Lady in Red talked about having a man over for dinner and getting raped. The role was mine. I could even see myself in that barefoot in that bright red dress. I had already imagined myself under those bright lights and speaking in a high-powered, melodious voice for Lady in Red. I did my best in the reading, but read for the part and a day later my name wasn’t on the casting list. I was crushed. I was flabbergasted. Maybe I was too timid at that stage of my acting and my audition reading wasn’t spectacular. I did not understand how she could praise my acting work and give me A’s but not cast me in the role with my name on it. Not just anyone would have related to the Lady in Red in the dramatic choreopoem. I believed that I understood Lady in Red better than anybody on campus. If I had the chutzpah, I would have challenged her because she even cast women who were not in drama. I am sure she would have put me in my place. I was a colored girl who considered suicide but the rainbow was never enough, and that's why Ithe choreopoem resonated with me. Now the by movie mogul Tyler Perry is out, and I wish I'd had a part in it. Lady in Red would still be my choice. Lady in Red women relinquish all personal rights in the presence of a man who apparently cd be considered a rapist Lady in Red we cd even have em over for dinner & get raped in our own houses by invitation a friend

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  • s Michelle

    Joyce, this is powerful writing - honest, brave, raw!