Ever met a Morale Officer? It is this officer’s duty to see that the troops are happy or, at the least, not dismally unhappy. To help maintain healthy mental and emotional behaviors while in the midst of struggle, the Morale Officer plans diversions and activities for the troops to help lift the oppression of battle and add a bit of light and levity to an otherwise brutal situation.
Once I quit my man, I discovered I had need of such an officer. It takes time to recover from a romance, no matter how long or short the affair. My man was raising his voice at me, calling me names. He couldn’t kiss me right. One night, he didn’t come home. I had to leave him.
I petted and cossetted that man as if he was a spring lamb, but he was never satisfied with me. He didn’t like the way I dressed (too modest), the way I spoke (to low and like a white girl), the way I ate (too international). He yelled at me to talk like a Black person, otherwise he wouldn’t hear or understand what I was saying. He actually seemed to want me to behave like a street woman. I had to leave him.
Having nearly lost myself, collapsed myself into his world, I needed to get me back. Whenever I feel like I’m losing my sense of self, I head to the library. Reading prevents the loss of self and can often help when regaining self is imperative.
I have to walk 20 minutes to get to a library in the local strip mall. The library doesn’t even have a bathroom for patrons. You have to go to Mickey D’s or Food 4 Less if you need the toilet. But there are books, videos, and free wi-fi, so off I go.
Along the main highway there is plenty of traffic, liquor stores and churches on every other corner, some homes, and many apartment complexes. I wonder how people live with their front doors so close to the sidewalk and pedestrian traffic, how they sleep with the constant traffic noises, how they breathe so near the pollutants of the road.
About midway in my journey, I pass in front of a large apartment complex, in front of which are usually a number of men. They stand around, smoking blunts and cigarettes, pants hanging way below their waists, profanities flying. Often, there is someone who is very high on some substance. They are said to be “on one.” Once, I encountered a brother draped over the trash receptacle that stands in the corner in front of the complex. His pants had fallen to his knees as he leaned his upper body along the side and top of the container. I was returning from the library when I saw him and stopped to ask if he as alright or needed me to call 9-1-1. I stood with him for about 5 minutes before a oouple of men who knew him came from the liquor store across the street and informed me that he was on one and proceeded to help him get himself together. After their arrival, I continued home.
When I pass, I always speak to any man I see. I don’t want a scene and it costs nothing to speak. It’s always, “Good morning/Good afternoon, Brothers.” The first time I did this, there was a visible change in attitude and I was greeted in a like fashion. Then, I began to get compliments. “God sure did bless you. You’re summery and stylish, and you’re pretty, too.” My favorite is,”You’re a real woman!” If the corner men could see my virtues, why couldn’t my man? “If yo man ain’t treatin’ you right, I will!”
They were so good for my morale with their ego-boosting comments. I started going to the library twice a day for a while, just so I could hear something sweet said to me while I worked to get that man out of my system and regain my sense of me.
The Corner Brothers, often high as Coota Brown, eyes red as crimsonite, sagging and looking crazy, became my Morale Officers. In passing, they treat me like a queen, pulling their pants up, saying excuse me, always with the compliments and sweet words like brothers used to use in the ’60s. With their help, and immersing myself in my books, I got that man out of my system, regained my composure, and took back my life.
In the most unlikely locations, among the most unlikey people, it is good to find Morale Officers on duty.