BEFORE JOINING THE US ARMY
Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana
MY FRONT-PORCH DRAMA
After school was out for the summer, my favorite place to play outside was on our wooden front porch. The thing I loved to do was to color in one of the coloring books my dad bought for me. I would grab my box of Crayolas and head out to the porch to sit. Then I would work my little butt off to make those black and white pictures come alive with vibrant colors. This hobby allowed me to slip into my own private world of solitude with no effort.
Sometimes, I would hang one or two of the pictures on the wall next to my bed. I cherished whatever I created, always being careful to stay within the lines of the images. Neatness was always important to me. I took pride in all things being in order and just so. As an adult, I am still the same way.
One Saturday morning, as I sat on the porch coloring in my book, something distracted me. I looked up and saw a little ragamuffin boy standing at our gate. He looked to be about 3 or 4 years old. He was bald-headed, barefoot, and dressed in a mismatched shirt and shorts. I didn't know his name, but I knew he lived down the block from me. I never played with him because I hardly ventured outside of our fenced-in front yard. Besides, there was no need for me to go anywhere else in the neighborhood because I had everything I needed and wanted at home. He didn't say anything at first, and neither did I. So, I ignored him, hoping he would go away. But he didn't.
I remember that this creepy-looking kid got brave and spoke to me. He mumbled something like, "What you doing?" He couldn't even speak proper English, so I knew right then and there that I didn't want anything to do with him. I looked up from my coloring book and on the tip of my tongue was, "Can't you see that I'm coloring, you idiot?" But he was young. I could sense that he was short on brains and wouldn't be able to understand me. So I kept my response short and stuck to using a simple word that he would understand. Like an irritated lioness, I snapped back at him with, "COLORING!"
I thought he would go away on his own and go bother someone else. There were plenty of kids at other houses in the neighborhood on our block. God only knows why he picked my house. Then he spoke again and asked if he could come i...