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                            Southern Black Women: Their Lived Realities
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University of South Florida University of South Florida

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Graduate Theses and Dissertations Graduate School

1-21-2009

Southern Black Women: Their Lived Realities Southern Black Women: Their Lived Realities

Robin M. Boylorn
University of South Florida

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She used to touch them on purpose to make sure that somebody was there with

her. She would wake up searching with her hands for a familiar body. Lately, she

wished for her own bed, and her own room, and her own space. She shifted her weight

again, trying to get comfortable so she could fall asleep.

“Be still god-dammit!” This is Bebe, the oldest daughter, who thinks she is

grown.

Bread knew it wasn’t worth saying anything. Bebe liked to cuss, liked to be the

boss, liked to act like she was the mama when their real mama, Twiggy, wasn’t around.

She knew that Bebe would love to whoop her before she fell asleep so that it would be

tears and not saliva that wet her pillow. Bread remembered the time when Bebe beat

both her and Peaches for pissing in the bed. When Bebe woke up in a damp yellow

circle, she blamed Peaches, then Bread for the crime. When they both denied it, she took

the switch to them, calling them a “damn lie,” when they said they didn’t do it. It was

hard to determine the culprit since they all smelled like piss, having slept in it all night,

but it was Bebe’s pissy drawers that told the tale. She had punished them for her own

laziness in sleep and her inability to keep her legs together tight enough to hold the water

until morning or make it to the pee pot that was in the hallway. She didn’t apologize

because parents don’t apologize to children and Bebe thought of herself as everybody’s

mama.

Peaches, the baby girl, was already fast asleep. Bread figured that by daybreak

her legs would be tangled up in her sister’s, like always, and that she wouldn’t be able to

move when she first opened her eyes. A lot of times she would wake up not knowing

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where she was, but a slight turn of her head would reveal the cracked window and the

shadow of the outhouse.

*

Sleep was sweet but temporary. Bread’s eyes opened fast and she was facing

Peaches, already awake, her hazel eyes full of water. Out of all of the children, Peaches

looked the most like their father. Her eyes, giant circles of white with hazel centers,

looked just like Cake’s when he wasn’t drunk. Most days, though, his eyes were

bloodshot red and his pupils were so dilated that you couldn’t tell what color they were.

But on days when he wasn’t tired and wasn’t drunk (which wasn’t often) he had the most

beautiful eyes Bread had ever seen. Bread assumed that it was his white people’s eyes

that made her mother love him and always take him back. She secretly wished for eyes

like Cake’s but her eyes were oval and black. She also longed for hair like Twiggy’s.

Her mother’s hair, like all of her mother’s siblings, was dark and long, what folks called

good hair, Indian hair. Twiggy’s hair didn’t need a hard brush to lay down, while

Bread’s hair was stubborn, kinky, and short. Bread often wished she looked more like

Twiggy, more like Cake, more like Peaches. She didn’t know who she looked like.

Bebe was up, listening at the door, even though you could hear good enough from

the bed. It sounded like the sky was falling, like the roof was caving in, like the world

was coming to an end, but it was just Twiggy and Cake fighting—again. It was payday

and Cake came home empty-handed and drunk. The weekday peace was over.

Bread and Peaches rolled out of bed and followed Bebe into the boys’ room and

then outside. There they stood, three girls, two boys, barefooted with naked arms and

naked legs, standing in their t-shirts and drawers, on rocks and glass, throwing what

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