I am confused. Staring and studying photographs. Wondering why the captured images possess extended lips. I saw something else when peering into other’s worlds – Georgia stood in the corner ready to pounce. I admit Georgia’s was not a defined image. She still hovered much like she did when we were children, while commanding – “Put your lips in.” Georgia viewed the extended lip condition as defiance to her chastisement, whether verbal or physical. Georgia’s image in the photos is more ghost-like, an image engraved into my imagination. Causing me to remember, cry, but don’t cry too much; be careful not to extend your lips. Knowing, always knowing – engraved into a child mind – it will take her a little time to calm down because of our/us/we/she/he/me doing what we had done wrong.
A single mom attempting to keep seven children out of harm’s way, making sure we understood it was necessary for us to be frightened of at least one person on God’s green earth – her. Don’t be confused, we were afraid. We recognized Georgia as the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, running the roost – her roost – on Perry Street.
What strange poses? Arms extended outside of the frame, an unseen object in one of their hands, everyone’s lips pursed. I have never heard of Lime disease before – not Lyme disease, Lime disease. A disease caused from eating too many limes, causing ones lips to pucker. No, never have, but clearly these friends and strangers are so infected. The condition must be a communal disease; in every picture his/her/their lips seem to display the same distorted extensions.
What on earth! Poor souls!
Georgia’s wont and commands were simple:
“Stop crying!” “You will listen to my instructions next time!” “I will give you something to get mad at … don’t push your lips out at me!”
No, no, no, Georgia wasn’t an abuser, more of an enforcer; a benevolent ruler, who always extended a warning before taking action; one time, twice, three times. “If you don’t understand… if you do … if you do … You do understood, don’t you? Do it again, and I will beat you until your head roke like okra!”
We had never cooked okra when the warning was first uttered. We were children had eaten it, but never cooked it. The physical properties of okra were unknown to us. We didn’t have to ask what roke or rokes meant; having some understanding the origin of the word wasn’t necessary. Georgia’s sentence structure and the words used provided sufficient understanding of what she meant. The meaning wasn’t good.
Our lips – we couldn’t do anything about them. We be children of color, existing in a balmy South. The only thing we knew about lip altering procedures was to “drink plenty of water to keep them from cracking”. We were the “you know what Vaseline is, don’t you”, generation.
It took years before one of us finally explained to Georgia, “Momma my lips aren’t sticking out. They are made this way.” Her warning face was on at the time. This time – that time – the face melted. Not like okra. More like butter, losing definition and form, taking away structure; melting, clarifying, revealing a change in condition, converting from a solid substance to a liquid one. She bent her back forward; both hands grabbed both knees; a soft sound emitted initially, followed by a hearty laugh. She wiped both eyes, turned in the opposite direction, saying nothing else. The laughter had become personified. Or perhaps she permitted it to continue, giving permission. Either one, it resumed, resonating – extending out, filling the small space, granting permission for her charge to laugh. Laughter which invaded every nook and cranny; one of many cherished moments – knowing her love was greater than any contemplated punishment for our/my/his/her malfeasance.
Art Linkletter when he was nearing his 100th birthday explained the greatest invention in his lifetime was the advances seen in the medical sciences; extending lifespans, curing diseases, ceasing life-sapping plagues. Linkletter died on May 26, 2010, at the age of 97. With Linkletter’s quote in mind, oh how I wish the medical scientists figure out a cure for this terrible disease. None of its victims ever attach explanations to their social posts. Go Fund Me requests are absent. I am sure some of us would happily extend help with medical costs. I have seen no posts educating us with what “they too” are experiencing. Celebrities have remained quiet when they should not; Harvey Weinstein/Bill Crosby quiet, secrets contained in cloistered and exclusive circles.
Looking closely, I noticed some of their lips were “like that”, extended naturally; surely not that naturally. Others were not as naturally endowed – they too though were pouty, extended, afflicted by this horrible disease. A non-discriminatory predator – everyone pursed, soured, extended in a distorted manner. These electronic images remained engraved into my frontal lobes causing me to be concerned for the safety of strangers/friends/love ones/others.
So I pray. So I muse.