Journey to Epiphany, From The Diaries of an American Black Woman, 1982-86

by Jacque Turner

April 1982

I was the new assistant editor for the Guam Daily News and Entertainment magazine. I really liked the job. There was so much to do, and I already knew most of it. I was a little rusty, but none of it was unfamiliar to me. It was what I had always wanted to do. I would get better with the stories, and I was surprised at how well I could type.

Maybe I would be able to go home for Christmas after all. The people in the office here were telling me about the tapes of television shows that I could carry over to the states as a courier, and get myself a free plane ride in the process. I was learning on my own, too, how to use the machines that typeset. I could not think of a job I was better suited for. So far, I could not be more pleased with myself. My Special Olympics story could had been better, but I just could not get it right. The interview just did not go that smoothly; everyone was trying to talk at once. I was not looking forward to the dummying, but I could do it all. This job was meant for me. I actually liked going to work.

Tomorrow, I would see about getting a telephone at my new apartment. Because the magazineís publishing company owned the cable company, I would get a free cable television hookup with the job. They were going to hook it up on Saturday. I already felt comfortable with the company, and I had only been there for three days. I liked the editor, Billie, too. I was good at my job, and I liked my work. I loved being her assistant editor. I was going to learn it all. In a few months, I would be able to run the place. Right now, though, I was going to keep pushing myself.

After more than two weeks, I still loved my job. The people in the office were a little strange, though. They were all too young for me to have anything in common with them; and Billie, I could not figure out at all. They had a strange way of laying out the magazine, and Billie did not seem to proofread it right. According to the chief print setter and the photographer, the typesetters should have redone the galleys, but they didnít. In addition, I wrote a story that Billie cut and rewrote, in order, she said, to save printing space. Her changes tended to change the tone of the story, and I thought the person I interviewed would complain about the final draft. I couldn't do anything about it, now, though. If that person called, I would just play dumb.

I had started getting phone calls from people on the island about the Guamanian guy I had been dating. Apparently, they resented his dating someone who was not from the island. I didnít anticipate such widespread prejudice on this little island. I guessed it was everywhere. Matthew said he would call me for lunch, but he didnít; I didn't know where he was. I got another phone call; this time, it sounded like a boy. He said something about Matthew and something vulgar about me. I hung up the phone. I had really made a mistake with Matthew. What kinds of filthy animals did he talk to about me, anyway? They had gotten me kind of scared. First, what sounded like bar girls called; then, children said obscene things over the phone. Next, they would probably be knocking at my door or staring through the windows. If he had just kept his fat mouth shut about seeing me, no one would have known or cared whether we were dating, or where I worked. I wished I could get rid of him, but I didn't know how. I was just sorry that I had him look after my things while I was gone back to the States. I didnít really even accomplish anything there, either, except to blow a lot of money by visiting everyone, when I could had used the funds to help me get resettled. At least, it showed me how alone in the world I really was.

Everything I had planned for in the States seemed to go wrongómy aunt and uncle had torn apart and decided to remodel the place in back of their house where I was to stay; the newspaper job I was supposed to get had been filled by someone with more experience; and the graduate school I applied to said they didnít have a graduate program in journalism; besides, I had to establish residency by living in the area for at least two years. I needed a job now. If I didnít have one, I wouldnít be able to go anywhere. No, thatís not true. I could still live with my aunt, as soon as they rebuilt my place. I loved my aunt. They got along great when I was visiting there.

I didnít think I wanted to have a baby any more. I didn't even want to be threatened with the prospect of having them. I should get a phone, I guessed, so that I could call if I was going to be late to work. But Matthewís callers had me afraid to take calls. He must have been telling a lot of people who I was and where I worked. Chances were he had been telling them where I lived, too.

My sister called me on my birthday. I didnít really want to make a big deal out of it, but it was nice of Matthew to send me the roses at work. I wished I loved Matt. He was just not interested in the same things that I was. He seemed to be just looking for an easy way through life. I read about that type of person somewhere. Matt would probably be happy if he could just run with women and drink all of his life. I was trying not to get too independent, but I really didnít need him, and sex wasnít a main priority with me. It was nice when I felt like it, but the conditions all had to be right. Too American-minded, I guessed. I would never go out with him socially, either. He bragged about it too much. Lord only knows what he had told the people on the island about me, but they would never see me with him to confirm it.

I could ít get Matt to talk about what he wanted out of life, or if he had any plans or ambitions toward the future. I doubted it. He didnít really want to do anything to improve himself. I guessed that was the reason why he was married for so long, until his wife finally threw him out. He probably got upset when he had to sign papers agreeing to let his wife get a tubal ligation. Now his big attraction to me was that I could still get pregnant. I could, but I didnít want to, not any more. I was afraid I was too good for him. I guessed I would never love anyone since Isaac. Love would be so great. I guessed it wasnít meant to happen to me.

May 1982

I didnít know about this job. I loved it, but it was so hard. I worked through lunch, but I still had too much space left over in my copy. If I hadnít come in on Saturday, I never would have had the pictures of the island ready in time. I worked so hard, and Billie never lifted a finger to help. And tomorrow, I had to start with the Saipan edition. I hoped it would get easier soon. Right now, I felt so stupid and inept, I could have cried.

June 1982

Matthew was driving me crazy. He was getting to be so much like my ex-husband. I couldnít understand why he was still coming around. I didnít care about him any more. I knew it could never work between us. He had no respect or understanding for me or for what I did.

I did still love this job. They had been giving me more responsibility, which was a good sign, even though I hadnít seen the increase in my pay, yet. So far, I was satisfied with my progress there. Matthew, on the other hand, I just wanted to leave me alone. I didn't want sex, and I would rather spend time by myself when I got home. I had to work seven days this week, and I needed some time alone. I had to do most things by myself, anyway. Matthew just wanted me to go out and party with him and his friends, or to do whatever else he was doing. He was not for me. I was taking life seriously right now, because I wanted to.

I was finding it harder and harder to remember what day it was. They were always working two weeks ahead on the schedules. I still loved my job, though. I was feeling better about it every day.

I was tired of waiting for love. I was getting old, and I had been alone for too long. I didn't know. Maybe love was something for very young people, or something that only existed in books. I was tired of looking for it; I knew that.

July 1982

I just couldn't love Matt. He had bad breath because he smoked, even though he had told me he stopped; his teeth were in terrible shape, as well, because he kept ducking his dental appointments; he smelled of tobacco and liquor all the time, from hanging out at the chief's club and local bars; he wouldn't shower enough; and he just wasn't the type of man I wanted to run to, nor to hug and kiss, when I was around him. I had never felt that way toward him. It was just not going to work. I wished he would leave me alone, but if I tried to tell him that, he would cry, beg and plead with me not to stop seeing him. I just wanted to be by myself. I would be better off that way. I knew I would.

I was finally getting through to Matthew. All he was getting to be to me was a source of groceries and a way for me to get my laundry done without having to go to Wash land. I wanted him away from me. I didn't know how I would make it without his help, but I would. I could do something to get food and still be able to survive on my own paycheck.

I didn't know if the store down the road on the island was worth it. Everything was so expensive. But I had lost my on-base shopping privileges when I got out of the Navy. That was one of the reasons for me to marry him, according to Matt. Many women on the island would have done it just for that reason; I couldn't, though, not just for military spousal benefits. It had to be love or nothing for me. I needed to meet someone else. I didn't know how I would leave. It would be hard, being alone and trying to figure things out, but I would do it. I knew I didn't want him. He was no good for me. I deserved better. If I couldn't get it, I would rather be alone.

I had locked myself out of the apartment. Like a fool, I was going to wait for Matt to rescue me, but he didn't even stop by. Luckily, the guy next door knew where the manager was. What a poor lot of people! They were packed into those little apartments like sardines. And the kids! There must have been a dozen of them. The girl who lived below seemed to have a nice-looking place, though. It looked clean, and it smelled good, too, like good, strong-smelling perfume.

One of the press machine operators at work was giving away kittens. I got two, to keep me company. Now, they were driving me crazy, meowing all the time. My hair was finally growing. Maybe if I kept it clean, it would get reasonably long, but I doubted that.

August 1982

I was never going to be able to keep track of what day it was. I needed a good watch, but I had spent more money than I had intended to, as it was. I was still waiting to hear from Olivia. I wanted to get out of this area, off of Guam. I would go ahead and write to my aunt and to the college again. Maybe they would finally give positive responses. I wanted to leave in six months. I guessed I could take it for that much longer, if I could get rid of Matthew. I wished there were someone else, but I couldnít put up with him any more, whether there was or not. I would just be alone. I would mail copies of my magazine to my mother. I was tired of working so hard for so little money, but I couldnít quit until I heard from Olivia. I had to know about my car and my furniture. I would write to Livvy again, too.

September 1982

I didnít know what it was with Matt. I had tried lecturing and scolding and talking logically, but he just kept on coming back, the same way he had been doing before. I had lost all interest in him. He just had no appeal for me any more. Nothing I did with him was enjoyable for me. No one else had come along, but I couldnít take it any more with Matthew. If my aunt didnít want me to come out to California, I was going home. At least I knew what to expect there.

I was so close to just giving up. The job wasnít doing it for me any more. Billie and her white people were not accepting me, and I was alone too much. I felt so close, sometimes, to being the way I knew I was; but then, it slipped away again. I knew for sure that I wasnít like this. I knew Matthew was holding me back in a lot of ways, too. It was too bad. If he was ambitious, or even if he had something worthwhile to contribute, I could see--no, I couldnít see myself ending up with him. He had set his goals in life for nothing. He had kids all over, and he had no sense of taste and no standards. I needed to find someone who believed in himself and in some sort of goals. Matthew never would. He just wouldnít make the effort or the sacrifice. He would have rather just wasted his life away, and I couldnít live with that. I had given up too much, already, in my life.

October 1982

I was ready to go home. I was too lonely, as usual. I thought I had gotten a chance to get in touch with Isaac, but I had changed my mind. I would never see him again, anyway. I wished I were pretty. I was too old. I had no real hobbies. I just worked, ate, slept, and cleaned. I didnít remember what it was like to be popular, if I ever was, and only Black men thought I was attractive; they were in short supply on Guam. I didnít know what to do, except to just give up. I was so tired all the time, and I didnít know how to get myself out of the rut I was in.

I was going to have to find out how to sell my stuff. Livvy had finally sold the car that she had been holding for me in the States, and I had received most of my furniture. Oh, God, but I was so tired of being alone and having to do everything for myself. I cried all the time, inside. How did I stop it? There had to be an answer. I wished I knew what it was. I worked so hard. Why couldnít I just be happy? I didnít know. I didnít want to try any more. I didnít know how.

November 1982

I had stayed home from work that day for the first time since I had been hired for the job. I was honestly sick, and I had needed a break. I wanted to leave. I wasnít selling my stuff that fast, but I wasnít really trying, yet. I had thought about Matthew and me. It just wasnít going to work. He and I didnít have enough in common. I didnít want to kiss him, and I couldnít tolerate his smoking habit. We just wouldnít have made it together. We hadnít grown together any. I had tried to overlook the differences, but there were too many. I wished he would stop begging me to talk to him. Too bad I wasnít interested in anyone else. Too bad Isaac wasnít available. Too bad. I gave up. I just wanted to go home. I was too alone, too lonely. I wanted to reconnect with my family. And I was going to.

I had written to my mother and to my aunt. I wanted to leave. I had been lonesome everywhere I had been, but here, I didnít understand the peopleís habits nor anything about them. I would have liked to explore them more, but it just wasnít right to go out and sit at places by yourself, not if you were a woman on Guam. I didnít have anybody to hang around with, since everyone was coupled off, so I went out in the daytime, and I was forced to be alone at home at night. I was itching to just have some fun, but Matthew was out of the picture, off with his friends and his women to go to seedy bars and play pool. I didnít know what to look for any more. What was the sense of living, if it was going to be like this every day? I should have been married, with a home and a family of my own. I didnít know what to do with my life any more, and whom did I ask? I was confused and unhappy, and I didnít know how to change things.

December 1982

Tomorrow would be my brotherís birthday. I wondered where he was. I still hadnít heard from Livvy about when I was going to get the money for the sale of my car. I was going to keep on them until I had to either sue them or go there and get it myself. If the moving company had given me the right information, I would need about $2,000 to ship my things. I had about $1300, and I should have gotten the rest in a couple of months. All I had left to do was get a dental exam in January and get my car checked in March; hopefully, there wouldnít be anything else. I could still count on the money from selling my other car and, sooner or later, Olivia was going to have to send it to me. It wouldnít be like Livvy to just keep it when it didnít belong to her.

I didnít know how it was going to go at the office, but I was glad Billie had found another job. The ownerís wife and she had disagreed once too often, and Billie had quit to work as business editor for the daily newspaper. Billie might as well have gotten used to the idea that she wouldnít be there any more, and stop criticizing the way the dummies looked. I would rather have worked with Ernie, all along. I could get the work done better, now. I had wanted to learn how to put the magazine together; now, I would get the chance. I still wanted to go home, but I hated to go without having a job when I got there. I didnít know how to get one from so far away, though. If worse came to worst when I did get back home, I could always apply for a federal job. I might have a better chance of getting one since I was a veteran. I would just have to see. I had been through so many changes in the past year that the next year wouldnít bother me. I wanted to go back to something familiar. I missed being around my own kind. I guessed I did belong around Black people, because I had been around nearly every other nationality, and I missed being with them. At least, I missed being around the ones I was related to.

It wasnít a bad Christmas for me. I got invited to a New Yearís Eve party; I bought more jewelry than I needed to; and I didnít hurt my savings, now that I had finally gotten the money from Livvy for the car. I owed it to myself to spend something on something I wanted, anyway, and I still spent less than I had intended. I had called the new manager of the magazine just for the heck of it and invited him to the party, and he had accepted. It turned out, he fell in love with Theresa, one of the typesetters. Now, I had become a matchmaker, too. I actually thought the next year was already showing signs of being better than this one had been.

January 1983

I had been working my tail off ever since Ernie had taken over as editor. He was good at kissing everybodyís tails, so I guessed it balanced out. The head typesetter would probably be fired if she screwed up one more time, and accounting seemed to be messing up the payroll on a regular basis. And someone stole the petty cash over the weekend; the owners hired a security firm to investigate. They questioned everyone in the company. Luckily for me, I had stopped coming in on the weekends to catch up since Billie had left. Ernie was just too slick at playing the "golden boy" for me. He seemed to garner more suspicion as time went on. I was glad I would be leaving soon.

February 1983

Matthew called me and asked me to marry him. I didnít know where that came from. I didnít love him, but he said he knew, since we had been apart, that he loved me. He had started hanging around my office all the time. No matter how Iíd treated him, he wouldnít be hurt or insulted enough to stay away. Actually, the only way I would even give him any time was after I had finished working for the day, on the way to my car. There were so many things I had to keep my eye on when he was around me. I had been right when Iíd told him he needed a babysitter, not a wife. I had always felt as if I had been raising him with the patience of someoneís mother. I didnít know if the guy I was looking for even existed, but I still couldnít accept Matt. I still felt ashamed to be around him in front of the guys who used to work for me in the Navy. I knew they would feel that I should have been able to do better. I was nearly 35 years old, and I was tired of waiting to meet Mr. Right. Maybe I should consider settling for Mr. Close Enough.

March 1983

My typesetters had been bugging me to death about Matthew. They acted like jealous old relatives. They wanted Matthew to marry me. I had considered going along with them if my parents would fly out there, but fat chance of that happening. I would have had to agree to stay there until that next April. One of Mattís old girlfriends told him she was pregnant. He said it was just part of a lie to get him away from me, but I wasnít so sure it was. I didnít know if the story worked out the way the girl thought it would, but I was ready to try working at another job. The weekly newspaper was looking for a columnist, and they had called me to see if I was interested in the job. They did mostly features of military families, and they paid more. I didnít know what kind of work was involved, but I would look into the job. I might sneak out and apply earlier than Matthew expected me to. Them, I could move to another part of the island and get rid of him once and for all. I was getting too lazy on my off time just sitting at home. Besides, I had nearly all the money I needed to leave and go back home.

I was so glad to hear from the editor of the Tribune. I really liked her. They had called me back as soon as I had returned to the office. I still didnít know what to do with Matthew. So many things about our past relationship had made me uncomfortable, confused and unhappy. He had all those bills and all that child support to pay. He was just not the kind of guy I wanted to end up with.

I felt like I had no real place to go in the States. No one seemed to have room for me, and it was so hard to try to sell everything and start all over again. I felt there was so much pressure on me; if I didnít work and make enough to support myself, I wouldnít make it.

I felt as if everyone was taking from me, and no one was giving. Matthew meant well, but he let his ex-wife take everything he had. I couldnít see being around him and having him depending on me all the time. I didnít know what to do. I couldnít live alone, but I couldnít live with a man, either. I couldnít go home, but I couldnít stay on Guam. I was lost. I just didnít know what to do next.

April 1983

Matthew was turning into less of a prospect for a life partner by the minute. He had started drinking again, and he was getting less and less able to talk to me. I waited all week to spend some time with him on the weekends, and he constantly came up with strange behavior or something else to keep us apart. And I got so sick of his grabbing on me all the time. He never saw any dirt, either. When he washed the dishes, he left food on half of them, and he always smelled of cigarettes and alcohol. It was as if he had never been taught to clean anything properly. He was probably at his motherís house, brooding around, and he hadnít even called to tell me anything, as usual. I was going to go out tomorrow and apply for editor jobs at the two other newspaper offices, if they were still in business; then, I would wait until June and cash in my savings bonds. If I wasnít working by then, I was going home. My aunt wouldnít have to make room for me. I would just give up on everyone who was supposed to be helping me. At least I already knew what was at home. I did know that I couldnít possibly marry Matthew; I didnít love him. I was getting sick of the heat, the bugs, and the smell of that island, anyway.

Well, it looked as if I stood a good chance of being a columnist for the newspaper. Now, I could get the experience I needed. I wondered if I could use it to get a federal job or maybe even go into the reserves. I would be working by my birthday, I hoped. Maybe by then I could finally get rid of Matthew once and for all. This would be great. I knew I was good at the job; I already had the training. Now, with a couple of weekís work, I could learn how to write straight news. After a year, I could go home and be able to get a job a lot easier. This plan certainly had cheered me up. I didnít even care what Matthew did, once I started my new job.

May 1983

Matthew was going to Oakland for two weeks. I was glad. I could get rid of him in that amount of time. Two weeks could really change things. Maybe he was thinking about that; it was probably the reason why he had gotten so drunk. He wasnít for me. I had really gotten myself into a situation. I didnít like it, either, but I couldnít see staying there unless there was a good reason to. I was getting to like my new job, even though I was still learning a lot about it. I would stay in it for a while, though. It was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

I had needed the break from Matthew; he kept me too upset. I was still letting him hang on to me for all the wrong reasons. I had wanted to love someone, but it just wasnít him. How many times had I gone through this? The ones I wanted to love never seemed to love me back, and the ones who loved me were never the ones I could love back. I wondered when it would finally be over. I didnít think it had been mutual since Isaac. That was the only time. Why did I have to be so different from everyone else? Oh, well, at least I had the chance to concentrate fully on my job.

This job was really putting me under a lot of pressure. I was breaking out, getting headaches, and losing my hair. I couldnít give up, though. It was my chance to see if I could make it on a daily news staff. Unfortunately, I also had nowhere else to go at the moment. Every time my aunt wrote and told me to come, she would change in her next letter and say how she didnít have enough room for me. There was nothing for me there, but there was nothing at home, either. I knew that I was handling it much better now that Matthew was out of the picture. He and the job together were too much for me. I knew I wouldnít have any kind of a love life if I stayed, but I wanted the work experience. I wanted to stay until I knew once and for all that I either could or could not work with a real newspaper. I knew I was going to give up eventually and beg my aunt to put me up for a while, but I had to stick this out. It was driving me nuts right then, but I would know, one way or the other, in a few months. Then, I would be able to make a definite decision whether to stay or go back to the States. In the meantime, I would get used to being free of Matt.

It was too hard. I was afraid this would happen. I had made a lot of mistakes, and I had misquoted people in my articles. Nobody trusted me any more to write a story. What had happened to me? This must be my epiphany, my cue to leave. I used to be so dependable. I wanted to be a columnist so badly, but I kept making mistakes, and I couldnít handle that. I thought I was losing my mind. I was so tired and run down all the time, and I seemed to keep getting worse instead of better. What should I do? If I went home, there were no jobs. Maybe I should have stayed in the Navy. What could I do? Marry Matthew? He was still asking. I didnít want to work any more. I was worn out. I had prayed for help, but I didnít know if God wanted to listen to me. I felt like a hypocrite just asking for His help after all this time. I had to do something. I was an emotional mess. I couldnít seem to learn any more. I was an idiot at work, and I hadnít even been there a month, yet. It felt like years. I hardly slept at all any more. And now, Matthew wanted to come back. I felt alone and humiliated. I had no one, and nowhere else to go. And I was so stupid at work. I could stand being anything but stupid. It was as if everything was working against me. How much time could I give it before I got an ulcer or lost whatever was left of my mind?

So many mistakes. It just wasnít like me. Was it I, or was it the way they ran that paper? I had to stick it out. I would know after six months, but would I last that long? Oh, God, I needed help. How did I do this to myself? Was I just too old? I felt it. I wanted to give up so badly, but where would I go? Everyone else seemed to have someone to turn to, somewhere to go, but not I. I didnít think it would get better. No one trusted me any more. I was tired and depressed. How could I concentrate? Nothing was sinking in. Where would I be better off? I didnít even know where I belonged.

I was feeling a little better about the job. At least I was catching on enough so that everything I did wasnít wrong. My back sure did hurt, though. Sitting in one position all day was hard on my body. I could do it, though. I wanted to learn this.

June 1983

I had been scared to death by a cockroach that had been sitting on my toothbrush case when I opened the medicine cabinet. They were so big over here. The night I spent at work hadnít gone too badly. I wished the sports editor would quit propositioning me all the time. I wasnít ready to spend any time with men right then. My hand was still shaking from trying to kill the roach. It had started flying around, but I finally sucked it up into the vacuum cleaner. I was so afraid of those things.

All I wanted was to get to someplace where I could fall in love and be happy for once in my life. What was the sense in being with men when I could do better by myself? Besides, they were too short or too tall, didnít want to kiss or did it all wrong, couldnít dance or wanted to do it too close, or they were just not that intelligent, had no class, and couldnít understand half the things I said when I talked. Still, I wished I were in love with someone. My life seemed so worthless. I was close to deciding not to even try, any more.

July 1983

I had made some important decisions in the past few days. I was very tempted by one of the guys at the paper, but all he had had was sex to offer, and I didnít really think it would have been worth it. Even though he said he was great at it, he couldnít give me anything I needed. He didnít have any stability or ambition, or the freedom to do whatever it was he wanted in life. I did have a good job, even though I hadnít liked it as much as I had at first, and I was considering taking up the invitation to go into the reserves. If I could do that, I would be doing much more than any man on the island could offer me, unless I was willing to let myself be bought and sold, which I wasnít. In any case, I had decided to let them call or come to me and ask me whatever they were willing to contribute to my welfare. If they were worth it, they could find out my phone number and I would be selective and decide whether I could bother to give them any time or not. I knew I wasnít ready for a real involvement, and that was the only kind I could see myself bothering with.

My body had finally gotten straightened out. It must have been the calcium pills I had been taking. If I didnít get into the reserves, I had decided to go back home. I would stick it out on the job as long as I could stand the pressure; then, I would give notice and pack my stuff. Matthew had said he would still ship it for me, but I trusted no one any more after Olivia. I still got pi--ed off when I thought about the things of mine that Livvy had not sent over with my furniture, like the stereo with the earphones, and the other color television. Damn! I wished Isaac and I could have gotten together before I ever had to go through all of this! I knew I was right, though, not to pursue that issue. He would just have to be a beautiful memory. Sometimes, it was better that way. That relationship never had a chance to go sour, at least.

I was going to worry myself into a nervous breakdown before I ever got home. The physical I thought would be such a breeze turned into a nightmare. The warrant officer who checked my heart said he found something wrong with the way it was beating. Now, he wanted me to go and see my "family doctor." Great. I didnít have one. So, I was going to spend both of my days off, or more of them, looking for a doctor who could give me a second opinion. The worst part was, what if something was seriously wrong with my heart? God knows, I wouldnít know what to do about that. They would surely turn me down for getting into the reserves. How could I go home, then? Where could I go, if I needed care? I had gotten to hate this job, now, and I wanted to quit it so badly, but where would I go if I quit, and I was sick? I wouldnít have any income at all. I had been having a headache all day already and my neck and shoulders were so tense. This heart thing was just another ego-shattering experience to go along with that job, and the closer possibility that I wouldnít get into the reserves. Did I bring this all on myself? I must have. How did I get out of it, now? I couldnít seem to stop the headaches, I was tired all the time, and if there was something wrong with me, I didnít have enough medical coverage to be admitted into a hospital. How did I keep from panicking? I was trapped over here. Why did I stay? I wanted so much to be a journalist, but nothing was working out. I must be a failure at everything. Where did I go from here?

I was still trying to learn to be a copy editor, and I still felt stupid. I was going to have to go to the doctor on Monday to see if there really was something wrong with my heart. Maybe I should have gone back into the Navy. It would have solved a lot of my current problems. I didnít know if I could stick this job out. It seemed to be impressive to other people, but I was just not happy with it. The reporting was okay, but I wasnít feeling right about the copy editing, and I just didnít know if I wanted to learn any more on Guam. Maybe a short visit home would be good for me. But that would cost a lot of money. If I had children, I would leave anyway. I wouldnít want them to be influenced by the lifestyle on this island. But, if my heart were really bad, I would have to forget the idea of ever becoming a mother. Where would I take them if I became too sick to support them? I was giving the job until the end of the month before I made a final decision, but, as it stood at the moment, I would be back in the States by next month.

I wished I could have begun a relationship and had time for it to die down before I would have had to leave the island. None of them ever seemed to last. It would have felt good just to have someone worthwhile to spend some time with, but there was no one. I was disappointed, after so long, that nothing seemed to work out; it was probably due to the fact that this was Guam, and I was so homesick, and I never did understand the mentalities of the people around there, anyway.

I didnít think there was anything wrong with my heart. The doctor talked about a "floppy heart valve" or something. I was counting on getting into the reserves before I got off of the island. If that fell through, I would just have to leave, and then continue processing once I got back home. That would be doing it the hard way; I would have to sell everything before I left. I didnít feel particularly worried about it, though. That doctor had to be wrong about my heart. Why did something always come up to worry me and complicate my plans? I wanted to be able to quit my job, go into the reserves, and go home. The alternative was so scary, but I would have no other choice. I didnít think my feelings about the job were going to change drastically in just three weeks. My best bet would be to go on and force myself to get up and see a doctor at the Seventh Day Adventist clinic and see once and for all if I did have a heart problem. And what if I did? How would I pay for the medical treatment? I just wouldnít; that was all. I hadnít felt any chest pains or anything. I had been more anxious than usual since I had taken this job, but it should have shown up while I was still in the Navy if anxiety caused heart problems. I was anxious the entire time I was in there. I would just have to find out and face the consequences. It would really floor me if I couldnít get into the reserves because of this.

I was pretty sure, now, that I was going into the reserves. So was the detailer. I would have to trust his judgment, because he had been doing this for a while, although not with officers. I knew I looked good on paper, and the job had gotten tolerable, even though I was goofing off today, for the first time in ages. I knew I was too hard on myself. Sometimes, it was good to goof off a little. I felt better knowing the clinic didnít find anything unusual with my heart. I just might be getting out of there very soon. I would be going anyway, but this would make it easier. I didnít want to do anything to jinx it, but it did look good. I still felt sorry for Matthew, but he had to realize that he was not for me. If I was lucky and did get into the reserves, I was going. If I didnít, I would still be leaving the island.

I was going to tell them tomorrow that I didnít want to learn to be a reporter, so I might not have a job after that. I knew I didnít like reporting criminal arrests and obituary entries. I didnít like getting up in the middle of the night to look at police reports. I didnít care that much for the newspaper, anyway, but I wanted to learn how to be a copy editor so that I would know every job the newspaper had. I had given the reserves all the time I could to make a decision. The thing about my physical condition had been dragging on for weeks. I was tired of waiting, but I couldnít go on working at the newspaper and letting them shuffle me around from job to job whenever someone else didnít show up on time. That wasnít supposed to be what I was hired for. I did have some self-respect left. I had been there for more than three months, and I still didnít have a permanent desk yet.

August 1983

It felt so good not to be at that newspaper any more. I had put ads in the paper to sell my stuff, and I knew I had enough money to last me for at least three months; not that I expected to be there for that long. I had cashed my check from last payday. They still owed me another one. In any case, I was set to just sit back and wait for the reserves to finish up with my interviews and make a judgment. If they turned me down, I would just have to leave on my own. They were all I was waiting for, besides selling my stuff and my car.

I was going to go to my auntís house first. I wanted to visit home, but not to really live there, especially since I had heard that my brother was divorced and heading there to start over, also. I would just show up at my auntís, whether I was expected or not. As soon as I heard the decision from the reserves I would get my act together and take it on the road, as they say. In the meantime, I had time to relax and forget all the horrible experiences I had encountered since I had come to that island, including that last one with the daily. I was right that I didnít belong with that kind of pressure.

For some reason, when I looked in the mirror lately, I looked ugly. I was glad I wasnít involved with anyone right then. I didnít feel pretty enough to pursue a relationship. There was no one to tell me I was, anyway. At least I could fantasize about people in my past, whether I ever saw them again or not.

As it stood, I wasnít going to be able to sell the sofa. If I couldnít, I would just have to take it with me. I had ironed everything in my closet. I was going to try to finish the needlepoint I had started last year. I didnít miss that last job, but I didnít want to start getting crazy with boredom while I was waiting for the detailer to call.

It had been a week since I had quit my job. Now, all I could do was wait. I had put the car up for sale. I just wasnít sure any more that I was going to get into the reserves. If I didnít, I was going to have to leave. I was nervous about having to learn my way around a new place in the States all by myself. I had never had a sense of direction. Maybe, if I did go home, I could get a civil service job, but it would have to be fast. Matthew was still calling and begging, and I couldnít stand him any more. Why was it that every time I met someone who fell for me, I ended up having no interest in them? Why was it always like that?

Everyone had bought my furniture so fast that it had made me nervous. The adjustment was almost too much to take. Then, the interview with the reserve board got postponed, all of a sudden. I just unplugged my telephone for the rest of the day. All the calls--people asking about the furniture and the car, strangers going through my apartment--it was nuts for a while. And lately, the lights and the cable service had been going out two or three times a week. It was so annoying. Tomorrow, I was supposed to go and get a follow-up check on my heart. I was so nervous about it. It would make all the difference between whether I got into the reserves or not. And I wasnít even sure I wanted to, any more. I wasnít sure what I wanted to do next.

The missionaries who bought my furniture said God would take away all of my nervousness and fears. I didnít want Him to, at least, not yet. I thought He was the one who put them there, to protect me while I was all alone over there on Guam. I knew that I would lose a lot of my apprehension when I needed to, but I had to have something to keep me from being robbed, or raped, or killed, while I was by myself so much in the world. I didnít think they understood as well as I did, that God, or fate, or destiny, or whatever it was, had already been guiding me. I had to believe that the things that were happening to me were supposed to happen. If the reserves turned me down, it would be because I hadnít been meant to go back. I still had the option of going back to the States and applying for grad school or for another type of job. I knew it was right for me to leave Guam. I felt it. And I knew that this part of my life was a part of my journey to my epiphany. I was coming to a point where I would have a sudden epiphany that would direct me to the plan that my life must follow. I felt that, too.


Journey to Epiphany, From The Diaries of an American Black Woman, 1982-86 by Jacque Turner

© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.


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