An excerpt from Marginal Eyes, Chapter 1
Their voices boomed, rolled, and penetrated the air with a strength that only Gospel can attain. Many in the pews were clapping, others were nodding their heads, and some stood and shifted their weight side to side, putting their hands in the air. As time went on, one or two people began to dance their way into the aisles, and nurses in white stood by, ready to aid anyone who might swoon in “the Spirit.”
The singing was joined with shouts from the congregation: “Yes, Lord!” and “Okay!” and “That’s right, thank you, Jesus!”
My feet didn’t reach the floor yet, and so from the first beat, they were swinging freely in the air. Soon, one of my knees was bouncing on the edge of the pew. I stepped to the floor, cut myself loose, and got lost in the music.
A smiling man across the aisle clapped his hands in time and said, “Okay! Go get it, son!”
A woman in a flowery hat behind him saw me and approved in that joyful but brow-furrowing, incredulous but encouraging way Black women did throughout my childhood.
“Oooh, Lord! Bless your heart!” she cried, clapping as she laughed.
It wasn’t the bright dress gloves carefully matched to the colorful outfits, the fire of a Baptist preacher, or even the uplifting words of songs that had gotten me dancing. I was touched when a woman knew me well enough put me in front of some good music. The feeling of moments like this, where I felt free to be myself, stayed ever fresh in the depths of my memory. Had I remembered that feeling more consciously, my life might have been different. But the essence of these moments, which became too rare, sat within me without being accessed. I spent the bulk of the next thirty years just trying to discover something like that simple freedom. Still, because I had these moments, I never stopped trying to find it. I knew it was a thing of goodness, something I deserved. It was the feeling of life that I knew from times and places where a solid beat was all I had to dance to.
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