People hurt. At least, that’s what I was told, and I was born and raised in the Christian Church down on South Elm, and on Sunday mornings, Mama and all the women, they’d get up and bawl, wipin’ tears with their finest gloves on – their tall hats bowin’ to the ground in reverence, just floodin’ the floor, and all the while, Pastor Rooter seemed like he was screamin’ and screamin’. Then, they’d get up and dance ’round, and I never understood that.
But I understood the first part. That people hurt. I understood that really well. I mean, that was obvious the first time I skinned my knee when I was playin’ down by the railroad tracks on the other side, North Elm. Then, there were those school girls who teased and pointed a lot, because I looked a little different than the other boys, somethin’ ’bout the way I slouched. Lucky I was stupid, or that might have hurt too. Until a few years later when I understood, and then it hurt.
When Grandpa died, I’d never seen Mama so upset. She didn’t dance in church after she cried. She just kept crying, and even though the house was full of food and plants with huge leaves that I didn’t know existed, because I thought they died out with the dinosaurs or somethin’, Mama just kept crying. Course, at the funeral, when they talked and talked about a “celebration of life” and talked about what a good person Grandpa was and how he’d fought in the war, somethin’ ’bout the greatest generation, I didn’t understood why everyone just kept cryin’. I was smilin’ big. Grandpa wasn’t hurtin’ no more, but everyone else was. That’s when I started to grow up.
People hurt, and I did too when my first girlfriend, Leslie, kissed me and walked away. Now how does that make sense? But then girls don’t make much sense, and Mama said it had something to do with how dumb boys are ’cause God gave our rib away or somethin’. I didn’t really understand that either until she reminded me that Daddy left us and went on cussin’ as she walked into the living room, away from me. And Leslie never did kiss me no more neither.
People hurt, but my little sister, Hannah, who’s seven, who doesn’t usually say nothin’ smart, said somethin’ smart the other day. She looked at an ugly, brown cocoon hanging from one of the green Mimosa trees in the backyard, and I told her it hurt the caterpillars to live in the cocoon for weeks and weeks.
I teased her, ’cause that’s what big brothers are sup’osed to do, “How would you like to be inside there for weeks and weeks with no room to stretch yer arms and legs, just like when I lock you in yer closet?”
“I think if I came out a butterfly, it would be great,” and she smiled and scampered off while I cried and finally understood somethin’.