How Sula and Nel Kept Their Eyes Closed to Make Their Dreams Come True
By Rebecca Joyce Lausch
Personal journal entry -- September 30, 1996
We talked about Sula and centering and life tonight in my Toni Morrison seminar and I could hardly breathe much less talk because it all spoke so deeply to me. I'm searching for my own Sula-ness; I'd rather have a loneliness that is my own than forfeit self. I understand Nel though, too, in a very real way. I understand why she's afraid to look at the gray ball in her peripheral vision. I know that it's her capacity to forgive, to love Sula and the part of herself that is Sula, the potential she has to be Sula as Sula is also Nel. There's a whole facet to their relationship that I think only I can see. Does no one else know the love of friendship and sisterhood that goes beyond and through disappointment, betrayal, giving too much, taking too much, good-byes, memories, being one eye/I? I understand it so well. It's such a blessing. It's what I love about me. I remembered why and even thanked Heavenly Father for it, in descending dark, outside, during the break of our class discussion. I love my strength. I love my ability to see, to watch, and to understand the difference between the two as both Nel and Sula do. I love my capacity to feel so intensely. It fills my life with such awfully beautiful complexities. It fills my soul and makes me real. I need to embrace this awakening and this loss that I am now experiencing, grieve for it, laugh with it, welcome and fear it. I need to experience it thoroughly in all its pain and complication, for these things increase my ability to live life more fully, to respond to, construct, identify, unbury, even share my Sula-ness. This is what I am. This, now, is what I feel, what I think, what I see. This, now, is not an always, but I am. I am an always. I have to make my always as much me as I can as I dream as I live.
I remember the interior chant of that silent prayer I said sitting on the second-floor landing of the staircase that winds its way up the south side of the G. Homer Durham Language and Literature Building at Arizona State University. I remember losing (and finding) myself for fifteen minutes in the interstices of my intimate self. I absorbed a sun setting orange in the fierce, but dying, heat of an Arizona September evening. I felt the towering palms and summer-withered orange trees turn silhouette. And when fifteen minutes had elapsed, I stifled the breath of meditation and gathered the pieces of myself before entering again the fluorescence of classroom and life outside my mind
All was well in my world.
I had decided when I was in fifth grade that I would one day be an English professor and was making great progress toward that goal. I had graduated magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 1994 and was beginning a third year of coursework in my Ph.D. program of study in American literatures. I was in love with words. (As I still am). I was in love with Nobel Prize-winning African American author Toni Morrison and the sheer grace and felicity of her words. (As I still am). I was teaching composition and loving every part of it, especially the light in students' eyes when they experienced anything near the passion I experience in putting words on the page well.
I had decided much earlier than fifth grade that by the age of twenty-five, I would be married and starting a family and was making great progress toward this goal, too. I had married in the Idaho Falls temple on a breezy day in early July of 1996. Our wedding pictures reflected the breeze, made us look as if with slight encouragement we could drift away, hand in hand, like leaves or angels. I was a newlywed. Our small apartment was sparsely and eclectically furnished, filled with wedding gifts and the newness of a life together beginning. I had just finished mailing thank you notes and I was getting used to a towel next to mine on the rack in the bathroom. We had a budget to which, both students, we contributed as much as each of us could. He opened the car door for me in the parking lot of the Tempe stake center and put his arm around me in sacrament meeting each Sunday. I was getting used to hearing our names linked on the answering machine each time I checked our messages.
And the ground beneath my feet was illusion.
Toni Morrison's novel Sula is not her most renowned work. Originally published in 1973 (significantly, only to me, the year following my birth), it was republished in 1989 with the success of her most acclaimed novel of 1987, Beloved. Like her first novel The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula captures the intimacies of community, centers life in small-town, fictional Medallion, Ohio. In Sula, Morrison traces the interior space of Sula and Nel, their minds from girlhood to womanhood, within the context of the ideologies that govern and unite the town as community.
Sula and Nel learn what it means to be women, the Medallion-conservative conventions of gender that teach them to yearn for heterosexual monogamy and the stability of white picket fences. They learn a Mellow House dream, a settling-down dream inspired by the whispering allure of men in "lemon-yellow gabardines" (50)1 who watch young girls on their way to buy ice cream at Edna Finch's Mellow House, and wait for them to be ready. It is a dream of a continuation of tradition that will make of them Medallion women.
Though both are Medallion girls, the girlhoods of Sula and Nel could not be more different. Sula grows in the homey-chaos of Eva Peace, one-legged grandmother and matriarch of a helter-skelter household of staircases rising to no destination, people coming and going, and never an uneventful hour. Nel lives under the (clean) thumb of Helene Wright, child of a New Orleans whore and woman who, in reaction to this fact of origin, knows and teaches only restraint -- quiet, order, decorum, and the superficial indelibility of appearances.
Sula and Nel, then, are drawn to each other through magnetic opposition. They meet through the ropes of a playground swing, face to face, and know through thick silence that what they share is and will be more than play.
"Their meeting was fortunate, for it let them use each other to grow on....they found in each other's eyes the intimacy they were looking for" (52).
"In the safe harbor of each other's company they could afford to abandon the ways of other people and concentrate on their own perceptions of things" (55).
"...their friendship was so close, they themselves had difficulty distinguishing one's thoughts from the other's" (83).
Sula and Nel are one eye -- their vision broader, complete, through seeing together, the lack in one's sight filled by a complementary abundance in the other's and always in exchange. And they are one I, one's experiences also the other's through connection inexplicable and profound...
Morrison's Sula and Nel met in the sharing of dreams. If dreams are what tell a story in a smile and sing a song in a glance, my Sula/Nel and I met the same way. The round tables of French 101 ("Je suis americaine. Et vous?") at Ricks College and roll call by Monsieur Sanford who called us both by a middle name we shared, were our "chocolate halls" and "ropes of swing" (52). We felt the "ease and comfort of old friends" (52), a friendship "as intense as it was sudden" (52). I knew that her heart beat as wildly waiting for me to walk daily through the door of French class as mine did the first time she invited me to walk with her up the hill to her dorm room where no one else was home.
We were lovers without saying so that year and through all of our BYU years. In our reality, no one ever knew. We didn't think anyone had to. We didn't even think we had to.
Mormonism was our Medallion, our universe of ideology dictating who we were -- young women of faith, daughters of Israel -- and who we would become -- wives to diligent priesthood holders who would be patriarchs of our homes and children as we worked together as families toward the celestial promises of Zion. Our Mellow House dreams included returned missionaries, temple weddings, homemaking meetings and spiritual living lessons, daily scripture study and prayer. Our Mellow House dreams included spiritual peace and continual learning. And love as the highest law.
My Sula/Nel had grown up primarily in the mission field of Vancouver, Washington, while I had lived most of my life in Mormon-entrenched Rexburg, Idaho. Still, the Medallion of Mormonism was the territory we both knew most intimately, and, the territory we shared. I was drawn to her more "worldly" knowledge -- that her best friends were not Mormon, that released-time seminary was not even in her vocabulary. She absorbed my naivete -- the daily integration of Mormon terminology and mythos to all wider understanding, my room's decorative scheme of Mormonads, cross-stitched placards of Mormon maxims, and tole-painted cubes in the colors of the Young Women's values. She liked to finger the Primary Achievement pendant I wore on a thin chain around my neck and I liked to linger in the knowledge that she hadn't earned her Young Womanhood Recognition Award. It was as if she had to fit the Church into her world and I had to fit the world into the Church. We met somewhere in the middle, somewhere in the gray of the slash between Morrison's Sula and Nel. It was the combination of Sula and Nel in each of us that matched, fit together like two halves.
We believed in Mormonism's Medallion-promises of stability and what should be.
We believed so hard we kept our eyes closed to make our dreams come true.
Stand for truth and righteousness.
Return with honor.
He never said it would be easy, he only said it would be worth it.
Choose the right.
We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love him. We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places..."2 as we strive to live the Young Women Values, which are: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works and Integrity. We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to make and keep sacred covenants, receive ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.
Be your own kind of beautiful.
I am a child of God.
Love one another.
We loved one another.
We loved each other as daughters of God, as witnesses of Christ.
We believed so hard we kept our eyes closed to make our dreams come true.
Where in our dreams were we?
We made room in our dreams for us. It wasn't a choice. We believed we were best friends who loved each other so much that our friendship had to be different. Quiet, we had been taught, was another word for sacred. What we shared, our love, was sacred.
From the earliest days of our togetherness, the immediacy and priority of our relationship was unquestionable, maybe even obsessive. We were in love. Without ever saying the "in" part. Enough hours of night and day did not exist for us. We had stories to share. Secrets to keep. Adventures to know. Life to learn. Love to be.
When we, for reasons unalterable by either of us, could not be together for more than a few hours, frantic phone calls would follow the absence. Vacations were lived imagining what the other might be doing and waiting perpetually for the phone to ring and for stifled, tearful conversations, no call less than an hour because it was torture to disconnect.
Each set of roommates -- first, hers at Ricks College while I lived at home (sometimes) and then our shared sets in each apartment we occupied together in Provo -- accepted our inseparability as a matter of course. Every part of our togetherness bore ready explanation: We loved one another, as commanded. We spent 24/7 together, like missionary companions. We ate together, to budget. We met on campus between classes, to help each other with schoolwork. We went to all of our meetings every Sunday, to family home evening, and to ward prayer together, to model sisterhood and to show that we believed.
We met in places where everyone met. Next to the windows, frozen with Rexburg winter, on the second floor of the David O. McKay library. At the humanities reference desk of the Harold B. Lee library where I worked as a student librarian. In the Ernest L. Wilkinson cafeteria. On the grassy hillside south of campus. On the quad in front of the administration building. At the Hart Auditorium and the Marriott Center for weekly devotionals. At the Creamery for ice cream cones. But our meetings were secret trysts that no one noticed, blind to the exchange of glances and affection extended longer than usual, blind to the possibility of two women loving each other as we did.
We covered our affection at home with a veil of innocence. We took "naps" together, hosted slumber parties, just to be able to wrap our bodies together with what we conjured as Nel Wright decorum. We massaged each other's backs, hands under shirts under the dark of bedspreads or blankets or night, drifting temptingly close, up and over shoulders or around ribcages, to softness we were only supposed to know as part of our bodies proper and, at that, to ignore as erogenous zone and to disassociate entirely from sexuality. We invited dog piles of bodies, always somehow ending up nose to nose under family home evening brothers and roommates.
We were too likable to hate, too normal to fear.
We crossed a line in the privacy of my Rexburg bedroom during the first year of our relationship and after four months of near-misses we never talked about.
As we slept in each other's arms that pre-dawn Rexburg morning as we had for weeks of mornings with our ears perked to the warning sound of footsteps in the hall that was my cue to leap from her warmth and twin mattress on the floor to the chill of my own four-postered childhood bed, I would have liked to have said that I was thinking of the view my bedroom window provided of the red-brown brick of the seminary building next door. But I wasn't. And I wouldn't like to say that I was now.
My eye/I woke up in those sleeping moments as we pretended still to be drugged by half-sleep, as if consciousness were detached from our mouths colliding in tentative gentle slow nibbling that turned more and more hungry. We consumed, eyes closed, bodies pressing together until I could not feel separation between us, could not tell where I began. I remember feeling surprised, surprised because I had never allowed my mind to create an image of this coming together.
The center of my being burned with fireflies. I wanted more and more and more.
When tears and a complicated, weighty silence descended together to dampen pillowcases, desire, joy, and the most spectacular moments I had ever lived, I was surprised a second time.
It was contradiction I would come to know more than I knew I could bear.
I knew we would not voice this shift.
But we did. That very day. We closed my bedroom door behind us mid-afternoon and immediately moved into the home of embrace. I, fueled by fireflies, lifted her chin, watching myself bring her face to mine from outside myself. A cosmic and trembling softness.
"What is this newness?" I asked. Brave.
She said, "Newness." Quiet and matter of fact.
It wasn't enough. But it had to be. "Newness" was our redefinition, desperate rationalization, a way to allow mind and heart to travel beyond Mormonism's Medallion.
Maybe we knew more than we were willing to admit in those first new moments of lovers' learning that Mormonism's Medallion is like a mother with eternal apron strings, a father who walks his daughter down the aisle and carries her over the threshold, too. Not a town that allows departure. There would be no traveling beyond for us, only traveling through and around and under and over and back again to begin again.
In the moment that "newness" made of us one eye/I, marking the departure of friend from lover, nothing and everything changed. Quiet as it's kept, we were best friends. To everyone. A decision made without discussion. Nothing and everything changed.
As lovers, we were enemies to our Medallion, a position neither of us wanted to occupy. Our defense, then, when necessary, was brutal denial, denial of the eye/I to all others and, by extension, even to ourselves. As lovers, we wounded and nursed, loved and hated each other. We wounded and nursed, loved and hated ourselves in each other and what we would be called if we said what we knew would be seen in the distorted clarity of the reflection Medallion provided for us.
We were wounded daughters of God.
Intent on loving each other, knowing the asperity of battle, knowing that we would always be as much enemies as lovers, we kept our eyes closed to make our dreams come true.
A tangle of years -- in a place where silence reigns and prohibits voicing what everything and nothing is changing and what being enemies and lovers at once is and feels like and why and how -- is too much to unravel.
Grief. Shame. Terror. Hate. Jealousy. Pain.
Kindness. Hope. Faith. Comfort. Home. Love.
We were "caught" in our quiet loving. More than once. And we recovered. Always the same and never losing the eye/I no matter what degree of effort we exerted, we worked through the awkwardness of partially acknowledging the reality of our relationship and regained the trust of whatever person or people close to us had glimpsed, without wanting to, that same reality.
Trust was the easy part -- Mormonism's Medallion welcomes no disruption.
We prayed and repented. We fasted and stayed in our own beds, listening to the rhythm of breathing without sleep.
We learned the landscapes of body and soul, every rise and fall and smell and texture.
An interior silence of years is just as good as going away for as long.
And silence is what led us forward, together and apart.
I graduated, moved on to graduate school.
She went on a mission to Northern Italy.
We believed in Mormonism's Medallion-promises of stability and what should be.
We believed so hard we kept our eyes closed to make our dreams come true.
I almost got my Mellow House dream, wanted it so bad, for me but also for my Sula/Nel. I imagined it a "cure" as she had imagined her mission could be -- and wasn't.
I had loved the man who was to be my husband for nearly as long as I had loved my Sula/Nel. He accepted and welcomed my intimacy with her without complaint, without knowing, of course, just what everything and nothing that intimacy was. He liked her for her and liked the smile I seemed to need her to know.
And I did love him. Authentically and as much as I was capable. Loved his gentleness, his ready laughter, the strength of his faith, the way his hands felt safe to me.
The difference was the fireflies.
My Sula/Nel and I slept on my Rexburg family room floor with my sisters the night before my wedding. Face to face, I braided a splay of her hair into mine. The weight of her hand against my thigh was an anchor familiar. I hovered over her sleep, breathing her breath.
The dresses for my bridesmaids were a soft, floating green. She had flown in from Portland to host my bridal shower. She was going to sing at the reception. She would be with me the entire day, carrying the train of my dress, re-affixing any straying curl. She would catch my eye when she knew I needed to know that I/eye had not disappeared.
She would watch me kneel across the altar in a sealing room and know as I knew that I was facing the wrong person.
I moved through that day in a haze of supposed-to. My mantra -- "You have to do this. You love him. It will all work out."
I knew better.
The "veil too heavy...to feel the core of the kiss" (85), I realized that I didn't need it -- couldn't feel it, didn't need it. But it felt too late.
But it felt too late.
Married, I lost my Sula self in the illusion of Nel, wasn't so good at being only Nel. I wanted my Sula self back.
My Mellow House visions paled and my Sula-ness, stifled by silence, finally spoke: "I don't want to make somebody else. I want to make myself" (92). Or, at least, find out what part of that (still unspoken lesbian) self I really could make and what to do with the parts that are pre-made through biology and culture.
My Sula/Nel moved to San Diego after my marriage. She didn't come back and sleep with my husband, like Morrison's Sula. She didn't come back to bare my bluff. She just watched, not seeing, betraying with me the eye/I.
I visited her the September I decided to break silence, to be Sula, to abandon my brief marriage close to three forever months after making a commitment that was supposed to change everything. A decision that changed both everything and nothing.
We sat on the beach, each of us part Sula, part Nel, sinking toes into sand in the dark, lost in dreams not shared, side by side, a gray ball between us.
"I'm worse than you are," she said, "I've ruined you."
She was Nel confronting Sula, or was she Sula confronting Nel or did it really make a difference? From the interior of Morrison's Nel, it doesn't seem so: "Talking to Sula had always been a conversation with herself" (95).
Tears came in the pushing away/pulling close struggle of love and memories and the retreat of denial.
Brave Sula. Finding voice, I said, "We both know what it was. We just never said it. It was okay because we were best friends and being close physically was the only way for us to be closer still."
"I know. But, I can't do this. Why are you doing this? Why can't you just be happy with what you have?" She rocked, rocked in pain so deep but nothing new to our eye/I.
"Because I can't have what I really want." Blunt Sula. I named around the silence.
"It's the way Heavenly Father wants it to be." Stand for truth and righteousness...He never said it would be easy...
But I am a child of God. "I can't believe that. You don't know yet how hard it is to want to love so badly, to believe so hard and not be able to make it come true. I really thought I could make it come true. It was the life I believed I could have, the 'supposed to.'" I wrapped my hands around my knees curled up to my chest, trying to hold onto myself enough to abide pain, mine and hers.
"I'll still have it," she pronounced.
How did I come to be the worldly one? How was it that she had the naive faith, the dogmatic denial of something I was prepared to speak?
I am a daughter of God lesbian. You, my Sula/Nel and I, we were, are, will always be lesbians.
"I know that's what you want. I'll respect that." I did know. Because I was Nel as much as I was Sula even when I sounded most Sula. Medallion is not a town that allows departure.
"I can't respect what you're doing with your life. I can't be your friend if you give up on him. I can't. You can't have it all." She turned her head away from me, not listening, wanting to avoid my tears, not wanting me to see hers. There was anger in her response, and desire. She would deny herself from me to deny me from herself.
"So, you can't be my friend if I'm not who you want me to be?" I did not want to hear the answer I knew would come. But I steeled myself for it, armor raised around my own idea of Sula/Nel that would possibly become only mine to guard and keep.
"I can't. You're not the Joyce I was in love with." Who was that Joyce? Nothing, not everything, had changed. I was still there. Couldn't she look at the gray ball, my Sula/Nel! Could she not leave me? I was breaking.
"I don't understand all of this either. I'm in the same place you are. I don't have answers, but I have to do what will let me be me." I had been tried by fire. My silence could be no longer.
"But..." She could not look at me. Defeated. I had wounded her. She had wounded herself.
"That me is the same person you've always known, will always know. It's a part of you." I am a mirror. I am her as she is me. She did not want to look at the gray ball just inside her peripheral vision, on the outskirts of Medallion that does not welcome it.
"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! How can you do this to me?...How can I love you and hate you so much at the same time?" Each repetition of that desperate assertion was morphed by a different emotion, a rage and a resignation and a screaming grief. But the hate she spoke was true. As true as the love. Lovers and enemies. That is our always.
My Sula/Nel didn't understand, couldn't forgive me or herself in me. It was like I had slept with her dream of a husband, a family, a house that would be a home. Her reaction was a different kind of silence, part of the everything and nothing changing. An enemy wounding a lover in the only way that protects self.
She retreated to Mormonism's Medallion, a bulwark of defense, her weapons scriptures and Ensign articles and arrows of condemnation, striking her more deeply than they did me.
Holding hands tucked in overlapping sweatshirt sleeves, we stared at the black Pacific Ocean, the black sky, orange street lights, each other. I walked to the water's edge, let the surf soak my jeans to the knees, wanted to go farther out, close my eyes against the pain, join the always of water and sleep. I stood still, kept my eyes closed to make my dream come true.
Being I/eye, my Sula/Nel felt the resignation in my bravery, the conflict still to come. She could not let me go, pulled me back, threw me to the sand, a wrestling match disrupting the wish for sleep. Sand in hair, belly buttons, between toes and clumped on wet jeans, we returned to life.
We were both Nel until I could leave. We slept in separate beds. And I hovered over her sleep, breathing her breath. We adopted silence as survival, alone and licking our own wounds.
I read Sula for my Morrison seminar that weekend I was in San Diego. When I reached the scene of Nel's visit to Sula's sickbed, I heard echoes of the ocean in the seashell of the narrative.
Nel rose to go. "Goodbye, Sula, I don't reckon I'll be back."
She opened the door and heard Sula's low whisper.
"Hey, girl." Nel paused and turned her head but not enough to see her.
"How you know?" Sula asked.
"Know what?" Nel still wouldn't look at her.
"About who was good. How you know it was you?"
"What you mean?"
"I mean maybe it wasn't you. Maybe it was me." (146)
I can still see my Sula/Nel's face behind the window of her red car door. Me, standing on the curb closest to the Southwest Airlines ticketing counter, hearing the door slam over and over in my head. "I'll still have it...It's the way Heavenly Father wants it to be." The Nel in me understands where she is. The Sula says, "How you know...About who was good?"
October 1, 1996 -- A letter to my Sula/Nel
Your e-mail message of yesterday was so cold and distant that the hurt was obvious. I sent a message back, wanting to be even more impersonal, adding hurt to hurt. I'm so afraid that the mysterious package that you're sending will contain all traces of me, that your plan is erasure, complete denial. It hurts so much. All of this does. I try not to think of you and am amazed that I can do it, but know that it's because I couldn't survive daily if I did. I wonder where the feelings have gone, but stop myself from finding them, ignoring the gray ball in my peripheral vision as you ignore yours. That's from Sula, a Toni Morrison novel, of course. Sula and Nel are best friends. They have a sisterhood that goes beyond giving too much, taking too much, betrayal and disappointment to the one eye/I that loves and is the other. Nel gets married. Sula skips town, returns years later, sleeps with Nel's husband. Indignant, Nel stays in her "appropriate" spot, not yet big enough to see the gray symbolic ball floating next to her head. The gray ball is her capacity to forgive Sula, to understand Sula, and to accept the part of her that is Sula. I see myself in both Nel and Sula. I am Sula trying to be, trying to be free and me and claim my loneliness as my own. I am Nel, trying to remain in the "appropriate," trying to see a freedom in where I am and claiming a secondhand lonely. Friend, I am more Sula now, pride and pariah. You are more Nel, pride and denial. I am inextricably you and you are inextricably me. Erasure will make a hole, but you'll never reach the bottom. What's there will be more obvious in its pseudo-absence. I can't erase you. I can't forget you. I can't deny the part of me that loves you because it is you. Nel and Sula. Sula doesn't say I'm sorry because it can't change the past, the present or the future. She can't mean it. She doesn't say it. Your pain hurts me. I can be sorry that you feel it, but I can't be sorry for causing it. I miss you so much. I ache for you and don't want to.
In the middle...
I never sent the letter. She wouldn't have read it.
I wonder if she'll miss me someday, walking down the road. I wonder if she will cry out to herself or the breath that we share -- "Girl, girl, girl...Maybe it was you."
She sits on the wide front steps of the Macaroni Grill in Irvine, California. Though my Sula/Nel and I have been in contact a few times during the years that have passed, she still endures in the Mellow House dreams of our Medallion, keeping a box of us inside herself for the survival of an eye/I that is her always. I look for it hovering near her head as I catch sight of her. Because I am recovering from a broken relationship six months past and just about to embark on a journey into the promise of another Sula like me, my Sula/Nel has agreed to see me while I am unattached enough to keep the box of us that she guards untainted by images of me with another Sula.
I have taken the wrong freeway. She knows I have no sense of direction and has patiently waited for more than an hour for my arrival.
The recognition is immediate. Midafternoon, we enter the home of embrace, hold onto each other with fierceness. Disengaging is painful recognition of absence, long and deep and not to be breached.
We order our late lunch and find ourselves sharing plates, habits of Sula/Nel leaching into the present, a presence of a Sula/Nel living always.
We talk around and through and over and under our silences and back again to begin again. And it is a sad wounding. As it is also the gentlest loving.
We spend the entire afternoon together. And we are not surprised at the ease with which the hours have flown.
I want to braid a splay of her hair into my own. Face to face.
When it is time to part again for absence long and deep and as familiar as together now, we enter again the home of embrace, again hold onto each other fiercely. Disengagement is painful recognition of absence, long and deep and not to be breached. Entirely.
She waves from her car window. A slate blue Nissan Sentra, the same minus the sportiness, as my car, a taupe Nissan 200SX.
She is waving something and shouting. I meet her face through the frame of windows.
"Wait! I have your books!" She waves three paperbacks I left with her that September I decided to be Sula.
Five years have passed since that September.
I am still trying to be Sula and never escaping Nel.
Medallion does not allow departure.
It is not uncomplicated.
It is nothing and everything changing.
It is Always.
It is bittersweet.
It is more contradiction than I thought I could bear.
It is keeping my eyes closed to make all dreams possible.
The light changes and I turn one way and she the other.
1. All documentation within the stream of the essay refers to Morrison, Toni. Sula . New York: Penguin, 1989.
2. The quoted section within the Young Women's theme is from the prophet Alma's plea for the people to enter the covenant of baptism at the waters of Mormon in Mosiah 18:8-10:
... And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection that ye may have eternal life --
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?