I don't live in Georgia any more. But many years and a job that pays more than my blue-collar Dad made can't make me forget who I am and where I came from. It can't make me push away memories of summer nights that sweltered with heat as thick as the rank swamp water next to my house. The mosquitos buzzed in mockery as I lay in my oven bed, trying to get my head as close to the screened window as I could. In doing so, I was simultaneously offering myself up to the bloodsuckers that kept me in a continual paradox of actions. Do I dive under the sheet until
I tire of breathing the hot air or come up to slap at the unseen attackers laying seige to my unprotected skin?
About the only relief to be obtained on these nights, the longest of my teen-aged life,was to be privileged to possess The Fan. We had two. One was the sole privilege of my hard-working parents, not to be bartered or begged for under the Code of Respect known to we children of the poor South. The other, was the "kid's fan", meant to be shared by my brothers and I. As there were two of them in a room and only one of me in mine, the battle raged on as to how The Fan should be shared. I was not willing to concede that they should possess the "whirling wonder" for two nights out of three, because there were two of them. My argument of course, focused on the fact that the cool air was provided to both simultaneously, and that the level of suffering should be kept equal among us. Heaven forbid that one of us should be sleeping over elsewhere for a night, as that set forth a new tangle of debates and pleadings the following night.
I can look back now, not with resentment at why my parents were unable to afford that other discount-store fan that would have seemingly made such a difference,but with a feeling that maybe that experience meant something. Trivial as it may seem, it was one of many such episodes that taught me fathomless patience and gratitude, not to mention a certain flair for winning an argument on the side of bonafide justice(albeit with some degree of self-interest)!
How many nights I lay there thinking that if I could just keep trying hard, one day I could claw myself out of that place where fans, and subsequently cool air, were plentiful.You wouldn't understand any of this if you've never felt the oppressive heat of a South Georgia summer night, where the air doesn't move and hopelessness hangs as thick and heavy as the spanish moss on the trees. Nowadays the cool breeze of an air conditioner feels pretty darn good, but nothing like the humbling breeze from a rusty old fan from K-mart.