Risky, thought Paul D, very risky. For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you'd have a little love left over for the next one.
She did not tell them to clean up their lives, or go and sin no more. She did not tell them they were the blessed of the earth, its inheriting meek, or its glory-bound pure. She told them that the only grace they could have is the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they could not have it.
Risky, thought Paul D, very risky. For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit; everything, just a little bit, so when they brok its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you'd have a little love left over for the next one.
Well, feel this, why don't you? Feel how it feels to have a bed to sleep in and somebody there not worrying you to death about what you got to do each day to deserve it. Feel how that feels. And if that don't get it, feel how it feels to be a colored woman roaming the roads with anything God made liable to jump on you. Feel that.
I'll tend to her as no mother ever tended a child, a daughter. Nobody will ever get my milk no more except my own children. I never had to give it to nobody else--and the one time I did it was took from me--they held me down and took it. Milk that belonged to my baby.... I know what it is to be without the milk that belongs to you; to have to fight and holler for it, and to have so little left.
But I been headin' in this direction for seven years. Walking all around this place. Upstate, downstate, east, west. I been to territory ain't got no name. Never stayin' nowhere long. But when I got here, and sat out there on the porch waitin' for you, I knew it wasn't the place I was headin' toward, it was you.
She knew Paul D was adding something to her life—something she wanted to count on but was scared to... His waiting eyes and awful human power. The mind of him that knew her own. Her story was bearable because it was his as well—to tell, to refine and tell again. The things neither knew about the other—the things neither had word-shapes for—well, it would come in time.