Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s “A Kind of Freedom” Quotes

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‘His pants legs are uneven,’ Ruby said about the new boy standing on North Claiborne and Esplanade wearing a brown wool suit, a grey V-neck sweater beneath the jacket. (2)


‘Whether you did or you didn’t,’ Renard went on, ‘it’s mighty nice on you. I reckon this is what an angel on earth looks like.’ He stammered all over that last sentence, every single word but an, but that was because he was nervous saying what he meant, and their nervousness together was like two negatives multiplied. (16)


From then on, Evelyn woke up each day with a renewed tolerance for the world; the feeling she’d been searching for her whole life had been missing because she hadn’t met Renard, and now that he was here, she could grasp the higher octave of joy her solitude precluded. (28)


‘You say what you want,’ her mother repeated. ‘You think you know everything, but one thing you can’t know is how much I love that child. You didn’t carry her, nor did you push her out. You’re a mighty good provider, but you didn’t learn her how to eat with a spoon and tie her shoes and write her first word, and for those reasons alone you can’t know.’ Her voice broke. ‘My love for her took over when I had her. There’s no room of anything else.’

Evelyn’s daddy’s sharper heels tapped, then stopped.

‘Well, I love her too, and I won’t have her fighting her way through this life. It’s already hard enough. I won’t make it harder, I can’t. I promised myself that. (40)


They almost made her forget her chronic grief, the guilt that tugged at her heart because despite everything Terry put her through, who knew what trouble he was in right that minute? Maybe she would have fought harder for him to stay. (43-44)


In fact, standing here now beside her sister who had never laid beside a man in bed, listened to his dreams, then saw them dashed at every turn, who had never become so entwined with someone it was impossible to kick him out without feeling like a part of herself had been rejected, she had a sudden urge to defend Terry. (53)


T.C. shook his head, but he didn’t protest. If you had to convince people who you were, it was too late, isn’t that what his grandmama always said? (65)


‘Bruh, I ain’t trying to think about that right now,’ T.C. said. He opened up the passenger door. The truth was it all he had been thinking about. it was jailhouse policy to declare you weren’t coming back. He didn’t know anybody who hadn’t screamed it across his cell at least once in a fit of rage or desperation, or repeated it to himself like a prayer during meal lineup, and that wasn’t easy to say he didn’t believe it. He did, but something happened when you walked away from those prison gates: Freedom and its expansive nature convinced you it could last forever. The promises you made to yourself flitted from the front of your consciousness. It was funny, but already, not even in the car that would take him away, he could remember the allure, the fast money, the easy power of his old life. The one thing was, he was never really good at it, and there weren’t too many other things he could say that about anymore. (69)


What happened to the face of a broken woman? Did it turn to convey the loss or did it conspire with her heart to hide it? Looking at her, she thought it was the former. (99)


She leaned closer to him now. ‘Well, Renard, I haven’t known you long, but I know you well, and the man I fell in love with is a fighter. He wouldn’t let somebody else define him one way or the other. He wouldn’t give up hope, not now, not when he needed it more than ever.’ (110)


‘What do you want me to say?’ she belted out. ‘I have to think about what they want, what they care about, because if this doesn’t go well, they’re all I have to depend on.’ She paused. She wondered if she should have let him into her worry, if it would infect him, send him back on those streets. She kept going. ‘I’m afraid, Terry. I’m terrified. I’m trying to stay in the moment, but I told myself I’d never let you in again, and here I am, looking forward to you coming home, letting the baby warm up to you.’ She started crying when she thought about her son. ‘I didn’t think it would be this easy to fall back into where we were.’

‘I didn’t think so either,’ he said. He reached for her hand again. ‘I’m scared too,’ he added. ‘I’m scared too.’ (132)


Tiger shrugged. ‘I just think it’s rare what y’all have, that’s all. I ain’t never had nothing like that, but if I did, I wouldn’t fuck around with it. I would treat t with respect, you feel me?’ (152)


And something about seeing her nurture his son made T.C. feel as if he was being nurtured, made him feel as if he would be nurtured for the rest of his life. (172)


It was easy to pretend to be good when you were courting someone, and everything rode their quick opinion of you, but when you had secured their love, and there was nothing left to fight for, it was the rare man who was in constant war with his own sense of himself. (185)


‘You got to live your own life. Bad or good, it’s got to be yours.’ (198)


It was about knowing that whatever pain had driven him out had managed to touch her too, and she didn’t have crack to deliver her from it. (210)


If she was listening, she would have heard the sirens building in the distance, then traveling off, meeting their target, but as it was, her mind was as focused as a tide breaking, ready to crash. On what, she didn’t know. (210)


But to see his best thing, the person he’d let down most throughly, witness what a fuckup he’d become, well that would have broken him, and he didn’t think he’d be able to recover. (214)


Evelyn’s father turned to her finally, gave her a look of sad surrender, and said, ‘Okay.’ Then he stood, shook Renard’s hand, picked up the sandwich Evelyn’s mama had packed for his next round, and left the table. (221)


All of a sudden, she wanted to reach backward, cling to the man who had been her most sturdy guide, but he was already joining Mama in the hallway, and she was left afloat with her man, yes, with her unborn child too, but weren’t they virtual strangers when she compared them to her family? What if she had mischosen? What if her father was right?

As if her daddy’s consent triggered her own mistrust, she found herself staring at the leg of Renard’s hem, which was still uneven if she looked closely, though it seemed someone had tried to mend it the night before. (227)

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