Ghost World 3 – Disillusionment
All my life, I have lived in this brown body. Skin once fresh and new, smelling of newborn fire, has been washed, burned, dirtied, pained, adorned, loved. I speak now in this single body, both living and remembering, trying to reconcile understanding. Every memory has been imprinted into my flesh, bound up with my soul.
But here on the other side I am a ghost. I am moaning spirit trying to make sense of who I was, who I am now, and who I will be. In my hands I hold resignation like a soft, flightless bird gently cooing with its eyes on a sky it will never reach. In my heart I hold disillusionment like a rigid corpse, the remains of some soaring thing that suddenly fell from the blue and landed, hard, on the concrete. In its last few moments it saw visions of where it once flew—the blinding sun, the thick, fleecy clouds, the endless sea of wind and sound, and all that rested below.
I am the ghost looking at the world I once knew, a world I’ll never know, and a third world that has not yet materialized.
“I know there’s nothing I can do.”
I am the ghost; wayward spirit clinging to nothing but the robes of Father God. I feel Him firm beside me: the only real thing.
What is the difference between resignation, and the feeling of disappointment that comes when you have realized that something, or everything, is not as good as you once believed it to be? A woman I respect asked me what my resignation looked like, what it felt like, and all I could say was,
“I know there’s nothing I can do.”
I try to detangle the two in my mind, to see where resignation ends and disillusionment begins. I type the words into a search engine and the results tell me they are different, but also the same:
- a feeling of disappointment resulting from the discovery that something is not as good as one believed it to be.
- the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable. To step down with compliance, passivity.
I see both definitions within me. I see all the words I didn’t say, all the times I was angry and didn’t express it, all the tears I kept inside. Each word attaches itself to my body, presses against my skin like a tattoo, places a lens in front of my eyes. I am one and the other; I am both at the same time.
I’ve been told I am a miracle.
I know that I am a miracle.
All of me—sinews and muscle, blood and bone and spirit—is a miracle.
I’ve been told that the black body (my body), the black family (my family), the black soul (my soul), should be cherished. That after all the black body and the black spirit have been through, it is a wonder that we still rise, still thrive, still persist. But there is a large part of me stuck in the mire of what was done to make us the miracle. I am waist-deep in the quagmire of slavery: the whip, the bit, rape, murder. At times I am sinking in the small comfort that I, my body, just narrowly escaped this trauma turned to testimony. But there is still trauma, and still evil, and still mess and muck and mire the world throws at God, at His children.
There is still evil great and small—black bodies are gunned down, fear is spread that the black body brings harm and so deserves harm, words and systematic actions still spoken and carried out—propaganda that destroys the black body and mind from the inside out.
But even still I have been told, and I know, the existence of the black person, black culture, is a testament to the tradition of perseverance carried in each of our bodies, in each of our souls. It is something woven into the DNA, a remembrance of those before and those to come. Even still I know that there was a time, and is a time, and will be a time, when the black body teeters close to being be wiped from the face of this earth—and maybe soon to follow, every other brown body, brown family, brown soul.
I look to God and ask why—why can’t miracle come from miracle?
There is a tug towards whiteness in this world—a collective understanding that fairer skin is better—and this divides even the brown people. It says there are black and brown, reminding me of the schism I experienced throughout my life, telling me that while I am brown-skinned, I am black. That there is more to it than just the color—that the color doesn’t dictate the culture, but the culture dictates the color.
I think of the genocide around us and within us, the message that tells us—has told us—that we are not allowed to exist. We are pushed to the fringes of society, of the earth, in hopes that we might fall into the sky, and in some happy accident take the lesser brown plague along with us until the world is cleansed white.
Do I go too far? Or is my disillusionment just too great? Is there a middle ground where I, in my body, can dwell?
I said, “I know there’s nothing I can do.” Resignation and disillusionment in one. And as I said this I felt something chip away inside, fall through the empty space of my body and settle somewhere at the bottom of my soul, the bottom of my understanding, like sand in water. Every now and again the sand is disturbed, kicked up by some force of hope, some serendipitous happening that whispers maybe things are as good as I once believed—maybe even better. The sand swirls and floats, turning clear water cloudy, and for a moment I can’t see what I know to be true. For a moment, I think it might settle into a new configuration, revealing a new truth that offers some middle ground—some compromise that tells me something is not better or as good but just good.
But the sand settles and the water clears, showing me that everything is as I thought it was. As I hoped it wasn’t.
I look at the landscape, this wasteland at the base of the ocean of my self, and I no longer feel pain the in the same way. I sit in the sand, the water swirling around me like shadowy ghosts in gossamer shrouds. I close my eyes and think about what is truth, about what I cannot change, about what I would not change: I am black I am black I am black I am black I am black . . .
The words unravel in my mind—I see them drifting away, letter by letter out into the swirling sea until they dissolve into nothing. The sand lays flat beneath me, gently swaying in the current, and as I breathe, I breathe in the letters, and the words, and the sentences, and the ghosts. They are within me and around me, part of me, wrapping themselves closely around my heart.
I look up and see a light at the top of the water—a bright spot in the clear blue of my self. I see God. Sometimes God is weeping, sometimes He is not. I still cannot tell if He is weeping just for me, or for all of us, all at once.
I send a question to Him, a pulsing heartbeat that disturbs the water, momentarily stirs up the sand. I ask Him why it has to be this way, why there is nothing I can do. His light flickers and the sand settles, showing me everything as it always was, as I always hoped it wasn’t.
I ask Him what this means, what He’s trying to tell me, what He wants and intends for this life. I ask Him, my voice bubbling up like a jetstream, to please just make everything clear. And I ask Him—urgently—that if everything can’t be clear to please just give me peace as I wait for His miracle.
Kathryn H. Ross is a Southern California based writer and graduate student. Her works have previously appeared in OCCULUM, Marauder Literary, and Linden Avenue. As a writer and a person, Ross enjoys and desires to get to the heart of relationships, stories, and people by stripping away the surface layers through contemplation, conversation, and time to reveal the inner soul. Read her other works and keep up with her at speakthewritelanguage.com
 See Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise” (1978).