The Beast

Take a deep breath.

You haven’t bathed in several weeks.  And you haven’t even eaten for days.

You are caged in a tiny cell. Flies buzz around your mouth and you no longer care enough to swat them away.

In the cage, there are no books, no blankets, hardly any light and absolutely no communication with the outside world. Your throat is dry and you’re pretty sure if you tried to speak all that would come out…

is a hoarse croak.

You sit in the pits of hell.

You are an estranged animal. They chain you flat on your belly to constrain your movement.

Sometimes you urinate and defecate on the floor. You’re too weak to roar or whimper or cry. You lay there helpless in your own muck and think about darkness.

Your breath is slow with reluctance. And your giant frame heaves quietly up and down, its power restrained. You are but a shadow of yourself.

You think back to when you were 9.

Society deemed you unworthy at a very early age.

You’ve been caged for the past 23 years of your life; not in a real cage like this, but it may as well have been.

You remember one Friday morning, a conversation with your mother as she drives you to school.

“The Spelling Bee’s coming up…” your mother begins.

“Mmmhm,” you cautiously respond.

Your mother turns and smiles at you affectionately, “Would you like to compete this year, maybe?”

You freeze up a little and your mind starts racing with horrible images of the other children laughing. You see a sudden flashing image of your freakish self, standing on stage…exposed against pointed fingers.

“What if I mess up?” you think.

“What if they find out what I am?”

“What if my teacher doesn’t think I’m good enough to compete?”

Every reason why not to do it crosses your little 9-year-old mind.

But something inside you nudges you to give it a try.

You ponder the idea for the rest of the day as you float from class to class lost in your thoughts. Numb to the routine taunts around you. That weekend, your mother spends all of Saturday coaxing you to have confidence and give it a try. She tries to comfort you and even pulls out your spelling grades, as if to prove that you can do it regardless…

No…in spite of what you are.

By Monday, she has you convinced. Perhaps with a little preparation, you may have a shot at winning. Maybe. Maybe you’ll finally prove to EVERYONE that you are worthy of their respect.

That morning…

You stroll in with your mother, feeling a sense of fearlessness with her nearby. A bubble of excitement wells up inside you as you head to the front desk secretary and ask timidly for a Spelling Bee enrollment form.  The chubby lady moves sluggishly from her seat to retrieve the form, and slowly drawls at you,

“Are you sure you want to compete in this years spelling bee? You probably won’t win. None of your kind ever do.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” your mother retorts.

Your mother’s face is frightful as she sneers at the lady and growls. You watch expectantly.

The secretary is momentarily taken aback and fumbles for words.

“It’s just…I wouldn’t want you to waste your money on the enrollment fee, is all.  Your daughter probably won’t win.”

You look to your mother and wait for her reply. She collects herself and with a sinking feeling you sense her yield. A horrifying sense of defeat overcomes you and you begin to cry.

Your heart drops with pain.

You can’t believe how easily a few careless words could shatter your dreams….

Come back. Snap out of it!

You’re on the cold hard floor of your cage. A fly buzzes at your ear and snot trails from your nose to your lip. You feel salty tears creeping down your face and you heave with sobs, at the memory of your innocent nine-year-old self.

Did you ever have a chance?

Even as a child, there was no mercy or care. Experiences like this happened to you every day. One would think they might cripple a young freak, and make her weak.

But NO!

HELLZ no.  Hell-to-the-NO!

You were fueled by the battles you lost and you got stronger with age.

Soon enough, the little freak turned into a grown up. And the grown-up came at it with a vengeance. After all, isn’t this why they put you here…with the bars and chains?

You remember how it was…

Every time you went into an “uptown” restaurant and the greeter asked, “What? You’re here to eat?”,

YOU GOT FUELED!

Every time you walked into your local BMW dealership for car maintenance, and the receptionist asked, “Are you looking for someone?”,

YOU GOT FUELED!

Every time one of your customers heard your voice and asked, “Do you really own this business?”,

YOU GOT FUELED!

But, you know what? It’s the LAST STRAW when someone asks you to work and give up your blood, sweat, and tears and let them put their name on it, own it, and not allow you to profit from it.

NO. Enough is enough!

Your mind wanders again…

You remember Carl Brashear, the 1st Black navy master diver who was portrayed in the movie “Men Of Honor”.  You recollect when his wife asked him, “Why do you want this so bad?”

And you recollect his ferocious response:

“Because they said I couldn’t have it.”

All your life, society has deemed you unworthy of success. But now you fight.

You tear at the chains with your teeth. You get angry and you roar!

You rip at your bonds and rattle your cage. It topples and you push the bars apart until they bend, and you scream:

“NO! I WILL NOT BE CAGED.

“I am a PROUD African American woman!

“And I am my own Boss and Master – because they said I couldn’t have it.”

Now open your eyes.

Take another deep breath and relax.