Ed. Note: This article written by Eldridge Cleaver is reprinted from RAMPARTS MAGAZINE; Vol 8, No. 4. October 1969
Mrs. Brick was my teacher and she looked like Betty Grable. All the cats were in love with her. We’d rub against her and try to peep under her dress. We’d dream about her at night. She had a fine ass and big tits. She dressed sexy. I used to get a hard-on just looking at her. She knew that we wanted to fuck her, to suck her tits. One day when we were returning from the music room, Mrs. Brick marched the whole class up the stairs. I liked Michele Ortaga then. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. Her skin was white as milk and she had long black hair. She was very delicate, very feminine — even at that titless, shapeless age. What I liked about her was that whenever I looked at her she would blush, turn red from her neck up. Her ears would glow. I was the only boy who could make her change colors. While we were waiting at the top of the stairs that day, I found myself opposite Michele. I had been conscious of her beauty all afternoon. During music period I’d been staring at her, making her blush, and while we stood at the top of the stairs I was staring at her. I said to her: “I love you, Michele.”
Her neck caught fire, the red flames lit up her ears. “I hate you!” Michele hissed at me We traded words back and forth. For some reason, I wound up saying: “your mother is as fat as an elephant.” Michele, hurt and embarrassed, burst into tears. Mrs. Brick came to see what was happening. Michele told her I had called her mother an elephant. Mrs. Brick turned on me with flame in her eyes, and I could see a hatred the frightened me. “You black nigger!” she snarled and slapped my face. It sounded like a shot going off in my ear -the words I mean- I don’t think I even felt the blow. Her words brought tears to my eyes.
From that day on, Mrs. Brick still looked like Betty Grable. She still had a fine ass and nice tits, she still dressed real sexy and she still kept me with a hard-on. But my feeling for her was no longer the warm desire of her lover. What I felt for her was the lust hatred of the rapist. I felt about the same for Michele. I could still make her blush, but between us there was a deep abyss into which something of us that was bathed in sunlight had fallen forever.
Years after graduating from grammar school, me and Jap and Junior were pushing Junior’s car down North Huntington Drive, trying to kick the motor over. Behind us a woman stopped her car to give us a shove. I waved to the driver to guide her car’s bumper into Junior’s car, and I saw that the driver of the other car was Mrs. Brick. We recognized each other, smiled and waved. Junior, Jap and me were all in her class together. “That’s Mrs. Brick!” I shouted as I jumped into Junior’s car. She honked her horn and waved and smiled as she passed us by and disappeared in front of us.
I remember Mrs. Brick. I remember Michele. Do they remember me? Did we scar each other mutually? Can a girl you made both blush and cry not remember you in some deep rhythm of her soul?
This land of blood. This soil groans under the weight of how we cut each other to bits. The blood I have let. The blood I have bled. The pain I have given. The pain I have felt. Michele Ortaga, girl of black hair and white skin, girl with the flaming neck, I will carry your image into eternity – graven into my soul, burnt forever into my skull, a part of my life, real, significant, a memory of flesh and blood. This small thing -that we chanced to attend the same school on this civilized planet hurtling through space, that because we were in the same class I discovered the flutter of your heart. I knew how to make you feel anticipation of your budding womanhood by my way of looking budding manhood into your eyes. Whatever hatred of you I carried for years after that day on the stairs, I no longer have. I have for you now only the pure love of the memory of your flaming neck, your bright eyes, your smile at me, Michele.