The truth. Since the first Carolina daybreak I remember, hot and salty and yellow, loud and sweet and imbued with rancid secrets, I somehow wanted truth. A little sad, quiet Catholic boy in the wrong place, I sought ecclesiastical truth. These black faces on the bus, angry as a bird shot at and missed, spoke in triangles while all the lurid, blonde faces preached circles: no beginning and no end. Slavery left a trail of tears easier to follow than Cherokee genocide, and my wild squaw grandmother hated us all. And I wanted to get to the bottom of this.
From the grand dust-clouds of Enos Slaughter rounding the bags to the glaring headlights of whiskey runners and drugged-out hippies strewn through the dog-day streets of Greensboro and sweet Hattiesburg, there was more sleight of hand than anywhere in America. We filled the guts of our South and got sick on lust and the scorching wand of Sherman showed us a farther route West until we reached all there was to reach, and circled back again.
What went wrong? Through what wicked, wanton door did we pass in order to fall into such besotted despair? And to what end? All these secrets nauseate you until you understand that machete-hacking into this kudzu darkness and mountain-top-removal violence could lead to the grandest escape of all: the goodness of exoneration. The end of a plague of curses more austere than any penned in those bibles that hold faux Tiffany lamps and sweaty glasses of lemon iced tea.
You have got to drive all night to get to the perfect nowhere, and there you get to see the starry, hostile peace of all the great gatherings, the pow wows of Egypt and certain docile Greek authorities, all pleasantly alive in the pre-dawn Pisgah mishmash. The slurry of tideland fishing villages, creaking through the winter months, beyond Lowcountry diaspora to the reedy Gullah shores, a heartwarming jaunt not to be taken in anything other than a phantom frame of mind.
Glittery gothic banks rising like quartz in the foothills of Carolina and Georgia, no longer haunted by carpetbagger remnants, but now rowing the pliant waves of a bulging RTP economic jetliner – smooth as the verses of all the best priestly poets.
But is it truth? Is this the reality I wanted to find? How was I to know this would turn out to be my South, when I was smiling in the backseat of a howling I-95-bound Cadillac, purring along from Richmond to Miami, while Cubans were paddling up from the opposite direction, maybe some boys even my age and just as lost in blurry hopes and dreams.
There is no beginning, no end to the South. You go ahead and try to find it. All I ask is that you make sure I am one of the first to know how you got there.
Causes Sean Jackson Supports
PFLAG, Amnesty International, AA, Catholic Social Services