Sensing that I was losing my sense of self, I mentally ran a background check on myself, and from all available data, the generalized notion was that I didn’t know shit about me. And added to this numbing knowledge was the reality that I was suddenly beginning to feel trapped, but I didn’t know how far to run or how fast….or how soon. I just knew that it was somewhere else I needed to be.
Unfortunately, this strangling sense of entrapment became more vividly pronounced on a fall morning in early September, 1964. I didn’t feel like going to school that morning, so I decided it would probably be in my best interests to skip school since I might get into some trouble if I did go. Feeling that i had made the appropriate decision, I took a moment or two to weigh my options, which were few, and thought to catch the bus and just ride.
When the number 4 bus barreled up Seigle Avenue, I fished the correct change out of my pockets and hopped aboard. Driving down 10th Street, I hardly peeked at what was outside the window because I was still in the hood. Once the bus made its way uptown to The Square, I didn’t disembark as most people did, and as I usually do, but not this morning. I was going to ride the bus to the end of the line. What else did I have to do.
When Number 4 pulled out for the next leg of its journey, i was a little more interested in the scenery as I had never been this far from home before. We sped past the Charlotte Observer building where the newspaper was printed. I was just about to get bored when the bus turned onto Selwyn Avenue, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This could not be real. There was no possible way this could be real! On both sides of the beautiful-tree-lined street were row after row of breath-takingly beautiful homes, the likes of which I would had never dreamed existed. I had never witnessed anything any more spectacular or impressive. I was both shocked and surprised as well as being all shook up. I honestly didn’t know that such luxury existed anywhere on earth.
When i could finally manage to tear my face away from the window, i halted the bus and leaped through the door as if I had been launched. I innocently walked up the door of the first house and I knocked. The lady, whom I could see through the curtains, refused to greet me. Unfazed, I went next door. Here I was greeted with an angry snarl as the woman wanted to know the nature of my unannounced interruption of her day. I told her the truth. I wanted nothing more than to look around her spacious home, and to bask in the splendor of her exquisite resident. She shooed me away. Figuring I might have better luck across the street, I approached another house, but was told by the lady of the house that she had called the police on me, that I had no business there.
She was right. I had no business there, but all I wanted to know was what had they done to merit such wonderful provisions. I saw homes with lawns as big as the playground where I lived. I truly had no idea. I had never been in a white neighborhood, especially an exclusive white one at that. In First Ward, I had lived in a three-roomed wood shack with no hot water, and so did everyone else in the hood. It never occurred to me to bother myself with how white folks lived, Well, now I knew.
Sure enough, the police came for me. They drove me home, and when they let me out on the corner, my neighborhood seemed so dark. But thus began my lifelong, utter fascination with beautiful homes.