M. told me her life story while we were driving to Huntsville, Alabama for the Dixie Rugby Tournament in her gold beater of a car.
"Daddy left," she began. I nod. This I know. "Mama married this fool, and our house burned down."
My house is made of stone, but I still nod. Her accent is long and nasal, as east Tennessee as you get.
"The fool decided to convert the barn into a house with the insurance money, but ain't no money in the world could've turned that barn into a nice house," she continues. "Anyway, he was beating on my Mama, and so we locked him outside and called 911. You know, it takes 45 minutes for the police to get to our house."
I bat my eyes to express sympathy.
"And let me tell you 'bout my brothers," M. says. She twists and yanks up her shirt over her back. There's a heart with two names on her left shoulder blade.
"One ran around all the time in high school. He got girls pregnant, did e all the time, and then he ups and becomes a Jehova's Witness. Can't even talk to him anymore, he's all the time Jesus this and Jesus that."
I have no brothers.
"The other, he's my sweetie, my bitty baby brother J., and I just love him. He about died when I left for college. You know how I decided to go to Vanderbilt?"
I shake my head. How did I decide?
"We watched this movie in 8th grade that I thought was awesome, can't even remember what it was about, but it was produced by Vanderbilt. So I worked my ass off-- no one thought I was smart cos I hung out with all the black kids-- but I ended up valedictorian and got a full-ride here."
Wow, I say. That's amazing.
"I thought so, but no one in my county had ever gone anywhere 'cept the U of Tennessee. Why do you want to go to Vanderbilt? they'd ask. They don't got very good football. I'd say, do I look like I play football, you jackass?"
She kinda does.
Epilogue: she's doing graduate research in psychology about aggression and schizophrenia, and she has married a black man even taller than she is named Brown.
Delivering a wedding present.
3 months ago