June 10, 2017

CNF/Essay by Elizabeth Brooks: "Scared by Red"

Elizabeth P. Brooks is originally from Trinidad and Tobago and now calls Tampa Bay home. She is deeply concerned about human dignity and the need for social justice. She is outgoing, loves the sound of laughter and the power of the word. She is a performance poet and has had several poems and two non-fiction essays published in Indiana Voice Journal. She is the author of a recently published chapbook ,“You May Applaud Now and other poems” and she is currently working on a novel and many other projects. Elizabeth is a reference librarian at Saint Leo University in Dade City, Fla., and volunteers as an adult literacy tutor in Tampa. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post. Elizabeth writes the column "A Call to Love" for Spirit Fire Review. You can visit Elizabeth at her Facebook page here:  Elizabeth Brooks 

Scared by Red
My talented Auntie Desi, a dressmaker in high demand from the city, designed and made two beautiful dresses for me. One day, she had asked me what my favorite color was, and I beamed as bright as the blazing sun and said, “yellow.”  She mentioned that she would make me a beautiful yellow dress and the other color would be a surprise.
She kept her promise.  I owned the most fabulous yellow dress.  The other was a disaster for me; a red silk dress that everyone raved about, yet, that dress intimidated me. “Auntie Desi, How could you, a red dress? This is too much attraction and attention.” I pouted.  Staying true to her style, she smiled. I was coaxed into wearing that red dress on special occasions because it met everyone’s expectations. It was a red evening dress with a jeweled collar, red glass beads around the high - neck and deep cut armholes: a loosely draped swing dress which ended at the top of my knees.  My aunt tried to bring me out of my shyness. I was full of humor, laughter, and joy, very playful and childlike but mentally bright and I believed I was mature.  But, I had always been troubled that some people interpreted my constant laughter for childishness. Then again others expressed that I was too shy and unsophisticated to accept a compliment.
Back in the day,  we talked about our zodiac signs.  Taurus is my sign. The symbol for Taurus is the bull and I was proud of my sign and intrigued by the fact that the bull seemed proud, content and strong. He knew his place, yet he was powerful and direct in his gaze. I thought it was the most captivating and powerful sign of the zodiac. I saw two or three of these exotic bulls in a pasture daily on my way to school. The color appeared bronze, brown or black mixed with white and the simplicity of the curved lines showed the rhythm of muscles and movement, full of grace.  I identified very strongly with the bull, with its traits and characteristics. But my vision of the matador’s intention created havoc in my head. I had seen several bulls but never a matador (except in the movies or in a book).  A matador wearing red would be such a  threat to a bull. Falsely, I believed I had to be very careful around the color red.  The color red represented danger for me.  I became frightful and resisted that color which indicated blood and gore.  I was so traumatized by blood, that the color red symbolized;  I did not think about the fact that bulls are colorblind and reacted to movement. Too many bulls, matadors were non-existent. Few bulls had a matador in its reality.
Was that frightening image, the fear of red embedded in my head, from my experience with Mr. Superville?  He was a neighbor who unknowingly gave me food for thought. He tarnished the innocence of my childhood. The homes in my neighborhood surrounded a large circular park; a verdant landscape, with swings and beautiful grounds and a cricket field. During the nights of the full moon, we were on another planet, encased in moon glow.  Our community congregated
outdoors while children played games and parents roasted corn on the cob or peanuts. These moonlit nights were a big part of my community where we created fond memories.  We celebrated with family, friends, food, fun, song, and laughter.  One of those nights,  I was wearing a pair of red shorts.  The only pair of shorts I owned, then; a gift from Auntie Ruby another aunt who lived in the city.  I was around 5 or 6 years old. My younger cousin liked to sit on Mr. Superville’s  lap when we played outside, on those nights.  One night I jumped onto his luscious Santa Claus lap. I remember sucking on a stick of sugar cane and swinging my legs happily. It was then he put his fingers underneath my shorts and tried to touch my noonie, my soft spot. I jumped off immediately and never sat on his lap again. He cast an evanescent shadow though unforgettable.  I assumed the burden of being vigilant until my childhood pleasures wooed me away from that shocking reveal, so vile, a pedophile.  I had no idea why he did what he did and what it meant. I was a child but I knew it was not right.
I encountered Mr. Superville on another occasion.  I was riding a bike on my way to visit my cousins, approximately 4 or 5 years later.  He told me explicitly what he wanted to do to me.   I had just learned that four letter “f…” word but I pretended I had no idea what he was talking about. (We spelled the  four letter word then with the vowel “o” not “u”) Besides being afraid, I was too ashamed for him.  How could a grown man have no shame and speak with such a filthy mouth? I had not yet met an adult who spoke like that.
In my late 20’s I consciously decided to erase that fear of red which I resisted – that alarm bell in my head.   I was still enamored by the strength and presence of the bull so  I embraced my bull-headedness,  my determination,  my stick-to-it-iv-ness attribute of the bull.  I love the appeal of being in control; so it was time to deviate, become a victor and never a victim. It took courage and self- discipline. I also shared my story about that moonlit night with my family and shed my fear. My mental spirit became the curved lines, flexible. The curvature became my sensuality as a woman and transcended “my bull” into a dimension of victory.  I  had become confident and at the end of the day with all of life’s challenges that I confront, by the grace of God, I am left standing. Red is my favorite color because I am a conqueror and I make every effort to conquer my fears daily.  Intimidation in my life is non-existent.
© Elizabeth Brooks

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