When it is Homecoming time, I feel like going home instead. All the way to Mimosa, Mississippi. Even if it takes me a week to do it. Aint Kit asked me to go with her to see about Bay, who is in jail, and I can say no to Eden classes and I don't want to say no to Aint Kit. "She done gone down there and got in trouble," Aint Kit told Mama, who told me, "Bay in trouble again." Because I am good and a student at Eden University, Aint Kit wants me to go with her to Mimosa. She has enough shame and worry to travel with; I am her escort of goodness and success. If she only knew. I can say forget you to Eden classes, but I don't want to forget Aint Kit.
I've been south before. Both times with Aint Kit. When I was four or five I went down with Aint Kit on the City of New Orleans. A milk-chocolate bar of a girl no bigger than a Hershey's Kiss with a silvery bow propped in a braid upside my head. I've seen her in a photo a friend of Aint Kit took. One of her husbands I think. At the end of my hand in that picture is a woman in a pair of white gloves, black silk stockings, and a flamboyant dark hat that dips over her eye. She wears a dark skirt and suit jacket with no blouse underneath. The jacket buttons up the front in single file. It must be blue. Deep blue. This suit that rolls across her bust and hips like rich night sky. She hugs her big pocketbook tighter than she hugs me. She is not my mother. She is Aint Kit and I am the kid.
We stand next to the train. Like fishermen showing off a gigantic fish they've yanked along on a line, we show off the train, the City of New Orleans.
No photos as perfect as this one remind me of my second journey to the birthplace. That summer after Eddie died, Littleson and I went south to hide from the hauntings in all our playing places. In the center of that Mississippi summer we grew through grief like flowers absorbing sunlight and water. I imagine we gave away a bare-stalked beauty that ended in a burst of wild-headed color. I imagine.
But I remember stories. Stories out of synch with transistor radios; they don't come in over them. Stories planted too deep in the brain cells to bloom on television screens. They can only be outlined. Stories that I tell no one now.
Excerpt from Angela Jackson's novel, Where I Must Go (TriQuarterly Books, Northwestern University Press, 2009); reprinted with permission.