Pam used to scare me. She was a big girl, wearing a man shirt and some baggy jeans or maybe overalls. I could see she was filling out all those clothes, even when they hung kind of loose. She would come lumbering down the middle of the street with her friends being all loud. They seemed to take up the whole road, but really they were only talking and having fun. I saw her when I would go over to visit my cousins. She was their age – way older that I was. She kept her hair cut real short, almost shaved, but not bald, and she was light skinned. That’s all I remember about her. No wait. She had this laugh that I can still hear. Deep and hearty, all out loud, like it didn’t matter what anybody thought. There, that’s what’s scary. That there should be somebody out there, a woman even, that didn’t care what anybody thought, even my father.
Walking down Spruce street I could see all the houses of the people I knew – my teachers, girl scout leader, deacons, elders, mothers and sisters in the church. They all lived on this side of town. Not that town was so big, but somehow, my family had chosen to live across the way so that we were the only black family on the block. Not black back then. We were colored or sometimes Negro. I was Black, but that seemed to cause problems, too. Seems people thought I was uppity. I wasn’t. I just had come from LA and we were all saying it loud, “I’m Black and I’m proud.” I didn’t really know any different until I reached Hellhole with sides of town and egg throwing, and all other kinds of foolishness. But this is just to describe walking down this very personal everybody in your business street.
On down a couple of blocks was William’s and Angie’s house. William was really skinny and could be mean. Angie was way taller than I and played basketball with the boys and had a really deep voice and was mean too. It felt like everybody was mean walking down that street, but it was the safest way I knew to get to my cousins. At the farthest block was my grandmother’s house and this woman that makes me write this story. My grandmother lives with her sister in the same house where my parents lived when I was born, except they lived in the garage. The houses are big and old, with valances and curly post on the fronts. It always seemed the quietest of neighborhoods since all the kids were a block back and these houses had been here forever.
Ann lived in one of the houses. What I heard was that Ann’s husband came home and caught Ann in bed with another woman and beat her with the telephone until he broke her arm. I just heard it and tucked it away. Every now and then when someone talks about a lesbian community in Hellhole and I would remember that story. When I came out to my cousins, the same ones I used to visit, they told me that Ann was in bed with my cousin, Charles’ wife. So, I asked about Pam. Yep, big ole bull dyke. And Angie, too. I left Hellhole and the likelihood that I was going to associate with these people was low already. Other than school and that long walk down Spruce Street we had no other interactions. The list went on, but most of the other people on it were my seniors and I could find no memory to place them. Even the pastor of the church we sometimes had revivals with, his son, was gay.
Somehow I missed out on this rich and varied community. One, I lived on the other side of town. Two, my father was the pastor of what was probably the most conservative church in the area at the time. Even though we belonged to a denomination, the standards he set exceeded the current practices. He was all out to nip sin in the bud.