August 17th 1960
In August of 1952, I murdered my daughter, Wilfred Agnes Langston Jr., and buried her in her favorite yellow toy box underneath the oak tree that overlooked our suburban house. The deed was not one of parental negligence nor was it an accidental cause. It was calculating and cold, it loomed like a dark cloud over my head, shielding my eyes from the deed when I drowned her underneath the running water of her bath. She didn't struggle, if not, at all. It was as if the months leading to her inevitable end protruded itself through the slight twitch of disgust in my eyes and this slithering feeling that wiggled beneath the broken skin of my hand, taking away its agency and that was when I became a different man.
Before this tragedy, I was married to a beautiful woman named Dianna Quincy. After my wife, Dianna Quincy's death, the running of the house became her duty as it is with regular families when the mother dies, leaving the father with things he shouldn't do and daughters who are their mothers. I understand now like how only time can teach wise man things about themselves, that a child of eleven years old with stubby, little fingers cannot practically sweep the house, clean the bathrooms, make breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a timely manner any good man would want to come home to.
"The epitome of a good home is the shine of the dishes, Wilfred," I said. "Grab a stool and come over here."
She grabbed the wooden stool underneath the cabinet of the kitchen and scurried over next to me. Her little feet cautiously climbed on with hands barely reaching the faucet. I grabbed a plate in the sink filled with last night's mashed potatoes and baked fish, crusted around the edges, and held it near her face, enough for her to smell the dead things that should be drained down the sink with bleach soap.
"Can you smell this?" I asked.
"Foul smells infest the house," I continued. "It brings out little critters, and those little critters brings about the ruin of this house. If you, my dear, prefer to sleep besides critters and rats, then by all means, leave the dishes in the sink unclean."
It was little things like dirty dishes and unmade beds that planted the seed of doubt of my love for Wilfred inside my head. You have to understand, the emasculating act of stepping into my wife's stead to teach our daughter things a girl her age should've known invoked a weakness within me. A vulnerability, dug up from its unmarked grave inside my head that my wife helped bury years ago when we were just youngsters in an unimportant town, west of Elkhart, Indiana.
I was nearing my twentieth birthday and in love with Grace Caddalery, a promiscuous woman with a round bottom that twisted and turned every direction that made all of us men forget our manners and the evil of Eve to Adam. But I was not like all men, for reasons you'd soon learn. My affair with Grace Caddalery ended as quickly as her arranged marriage to the town's prized bachelor, Edward Watson, due to her unexpected pregnancy with me, the town's poor. It was ironic how a perfect life could be knocked right out of your hands due to unforetold mistakes, like the marriage to my wife. Now, I consider myself a patient man, a romantic at heart. Upon hearing Grace's betrayal of wanting to marry Edward Watson, I made sure to buy enough gin to knock myself out silly inside an abandoned barn next to Grace's house, so that when I sobered up, I could throw the empty bottles at her windows.
Instead, as I was nearing the end of my second bottle, an angelic voice broke through my thirst. It was a church hymn, it was like the Lord to bring upon light within which darkness could not overcome. But the Lord tests the hearts, as the crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, yet the hue of Dianna Quincy was the making of the furnace and it was anything but gold and silver.
She was a nigger.
A rich nigger, an ironic juxtaposition if you will. When her family moved into the big white house on top of the hill that overlooked 50 acres of good land, nobody believed the town drunkard's gossip that a nigger man was the master of that house. What happened was that the drunkard stumbled upon their porch pretending to be ill, begging for money, like he does with every new family and when the door opened, revealing a nigger man, who was not the house's butler but the house's master, he bolted out of there. He said it was not because he was afraid of them, but because he wanted everyone to know what the devil got living next to us. Personally, I've never contributed to the gossip or agree out of community pressure in efforts to condemn them. I was too busy chasing Grace Caddalery and working my Pa's farm to wish misfortunes upon people I don't know. It was another thing I pride myself on, for most folks living in Elkhart, it was their first time seeing someone like them. I've worked some summers in big cities and seen them all the time, even served one coffee.
So when I stepped out of the barn and Dianna Quincy's eyes widened in fear, I quickly held up my hands to show her that I wasn't carrying anything she needed to worry about.
"It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you, girlie," I reassured her.
She stood her ground, though tensely.
"What are you doing out here?" I approached her slowly like one would approach a stray cat. "Enjoying the scenery I suppose, fall here is quite beautiful. Not like where you're from. Louisiana, was it?" She watched me, not saying anything. I did not know what possessed me to continue the one-sided conversation, but there was an itch in my throat that only talking could scratch.
"I, uh, my name's Wilfred Langston." I wiped my hands on the side of my pants and held it out to her. Narrowing her eyes, she watched my hand for a few seconds before offering her own hand to gingerly shake mine.
She wrinkled her nose.
"You must be smelling the gin on me, I apologize," I said, offering a smile. "What's your name?"
She said nothing.
"It's unfair to retain information I've already given you. I understand the need for precautions with folks around here, but I ain't like them, honest."
"Dianna," she said with a husk to her voice. "Dianna Quincy."
"Dianna," I said, tasting each syllable. "Well, ain't that charming."
From there, we met by the barn. More so due to her wanting companionship outside of familial eyes. For me, I needed someone who could not judge nor dismiss my thoughts due to tattered clothes and poor upbringing. Dianna Quincy was the perfect companion, because no matter the weight of my purse or lack thereof, a nigger cannot judge who they cannot become.
Eventually, I began to desire Dianna's touch and soothing voice and ears that eagerly awaited my every word. The way she listened like I was her preacher and she my worshipper. The feeling of being wanted—no, of being needed—something the town took away from me because I was not rich like Edward Watson, just a poor farmer's son who was humiliated by the town's slut, who rather jumped off the river edge than have his baby. I was hurt. I didn't grow up with many opportunities to climb myself out of generational poverty. But I am still a human being, we all bleed the same. So, when Grace off herself and our unborn child, it taught me that sitting idly by, silently, letting my women fall into other men's hands was not an option. No matter their credibility weighted in gold, I had to step up to the plate and play the game.
No more betrayal, I'd say.
For the next following years, I swooned in like crows during winter nights and seduced Dianna, playing on her weakness, convincing her that marrying a white man could get her a higher status in life. That our children would only be half-niggers. Such was my fate to be with Dianna Quincy, sealed by God to test my resolve for happiness promised by the Lord if I continued down a righteous path by treating her as my equal.
Marrying Dianna Quincy was my selfless sacrifice, I had to abandon my heritage for her.
The moment I found out Dianna was carrying my child, I asked her to steal her family's valuables and pack her bags so we could skip town to somewhere more suitable for our family's dynamic. Frankly, the decision was out of my own selfish need to hide the fact that I was screwing the town's nigger girl. Do know, my love was sincere. Dianna held my heart and I loved her unconditionally as much as a farmer's love for the land in which feeds and thrive him.
Do you understand now? How I felt when she decided to catch a fever and wasted the money from her family's valuables on porcelain bowls and fancy school supplies for our daughter who'd never go to college? It was like she forgot we ran away from Elkhart, away from her family's money and their nosy mouth, always asking questions. Though over the years, I let Dianna send home a letter or two, I wasn't heartless. When Dianna passed, it left a hole within my heart for my own critters to scurry out, clawing its way outside my back to burrow itself inside my head, making nests of my thoughts, festering and feeding upon it until the love I once held for everything beautiful dies out.
She left me penniless and a daughter with every image of her mother, but little to no resemblance in the manner in which I fell in love with Dianna for. I did nothing that could justify this cruel joke the Lord handed me. You would think that after sacrificing my possibility of a normal life with children no one would question, the Lord would grant us old age and a full stomach until we die peacefully on our beds, surrounded by our grandchildren who would mourn our death.
It was as if I was cursed. The Lord never intended for me to bear children and no matter what I did, fate would always be around the corner, ready for me. It took away my child when Grace decided to kill herself, it took away my Wilfred when my own sadness couldn't bear to have a Dianna lookalike who was not Dianna in actions nor words, an imposter.
That was what I saw when I looked at my daughter.
The weeks following her mother's death, she took it upon herself to disappear for God knows where, so the dishes piled and the floor reeked of stains and dirty laundry. When she did come back, she smelled like strawberries and clean laundry, something we didn't have. For those reasons, I was hell-bent on locking the doors, telling her that as long as she continued to live in my house, she needed to pull her weight around because there's no more Ma around to clean up her mess.
"Why don't you help around the house, too? You never drank when Ma was around, but that's all you ever do now!" she'd screech and throw a fit. After a good slap, something I'd never do when Ma was around, too, she reluctantly washed the dishes and cleaned the house. I'd then knock on her door and sat on her bed, apologizing for the harsh actions I had to take as the owner of this house and as my fatherly duty to maintain the cleanliness of our living quarters.
"Wilfred, Daddy's sorry," I said, placing a gentle hand on top of her bare knee. "Your mother's passing has been hard on me." I squeezed her knee while my thumb gently trailed back and forth affectionately. "How about tomorrow I go to town and pick up your favorite ice-cream, vanilla, right?"
Her eyes bugged out, like how Dianna would when I asked her the same thing.
"Yes, Daddy. I'd like that."
I smiled. Perhaps my daughter wasn't too different from her mother, it was just the tragedy that made me blind to Wilfred, hiding behind her mother's shadow. That was what I recited to myself to keep the vile roots within my mind to stay at bay, to stay where it could not go and devour what little of the patient, loving man I had left. That is, until my eyes wandered away from her rosy cheeks to the edge of her pillow that hid her secret.
"What's this?" I asked as I pulled out a piece of folded paper from beneath her pillow.
She scrambled to her knees on her bed with her hands outstretched, reaching for the paper, as if she could actually take it from my hold. I pushed her back down on her bed and stood up, unfolding the paper, reading the content. It was a love letter from a boy down the street.
There it was, the betrayal of a woman.
"You are never leaving this house ever again, do you hear me, Wilfred?" I crumpled the paper and tore it apart, letting the remains pool in front of my feet. "No daughter of mine will be with a nigger, much less talk with one."
"Ma was a nigger and you married her!"
I grabbed the collar of her nightdress and pulled her towards me as her feet barely touched the bed.
"You do not call your mother by that word you disrespectful brat," I growled. "She is not like those niggers, she's different. She was my wife, a fine woman that you could only dream of becoming." I threw Wilfred on her bed. "Get a new nightdress that covers your knees. At least if I'm raising a nigger-lover you could have the decency to not become a whore as well."
I did not mean half the things I said to her that night and I have come to regret them. As I said before, I don't have problems with niggers. You'd understand my plight when my daughter, who should be idolizing me as all daughters do with their fathers, was seeking the attention of another man, a boy. Calling Adam a man was to understate my own stature. Another point I'd like to make, not to defend myself from the past, is that there was a point in time when I did not view Wilfred as my daughter. For this altercation was something I have not made peace with and an issue I've come to regret the most from this ordeal.
A man's mind corrupted with the touch of a woman's betrayal works a certain way. Think of a knife and the betrayal as the rock that sharpens that knife. The only use of the knife is to cut, to slice apart things that are in the way or into things that'd make us feel satiated and full. And the only knife on a man is the part that the Lord gave to Adam to make Eve useful.
Wilfred's bashful and defiant manner only sparked and sharpened the fire within me to show her that there were consequences for her actions, that she forced my hand. I wanted to show her that despite her mother's passing, she would be who her mother was. That was my God-given right, as a father and a husband who was robbed of his wife far too soon. It started with lingering stares upon her bare shoulders as it bobbled when she cleaned the dishes. It continued with coincidently passing by her room far too many times a father should. It didn't stop until the daughter asked for new clothes because her old ones were shrinking and the father lied saying he couldn't because her mother spent all the God damn money on porcelain bowls.
By that time, the critters inside my head had attached itself to every nerve and the cruelty of a crooked man had become my eyes and hands. And that crooked man knew when he'd strike with his knife in every detail, plotted out like those cinema movies in stores he passed by.
It was just a matter of time when Wilfred entered the bathroom. The crooked man was counting now, waiting to hear Wilfred disrobe and her clothes hitting the tiles and the bath water running. And there it was. One by one, Wilfred did what the crooked man knew all along.
The crooked man slowly tiptoed his way toward the door. He gingerly held it around his fingertips, like how Dianna first held his hand, and turned it. Slowly, he creaked his head in, holding his breath like every boy on Christmas morning when waiting to open his present.
"Daddy's here, Wilfred," he jeered.
The crooked man was inside now, mouth agape at the naked silhouette of Wilfred, curtains an inch away from his lips. He could feel the moist warmth kissing his lips, trailing down his face, down his back, tickling his knife awake.
Until it couldn't anymore. Until it was about to burst and waste away the build momentum. That couldn't happen. So the crooked man used it. He teared his way through like a butcher through a turkey on thanksgiving, like a man does to things he loves and hates. He teared through it with passion and greed, and selfless need for himself while praising the glory of God. He did it hungrily, taking every slice, within every inches, ignoring the animal's cry because Man would always be on top. That Man are survivors and winners and Gods for those who cannot push back but obey. Be docile. Listen. Do what I say and you'll be alright.
It ended much slower than the crooked man had time to remember, because all he could do was feel. And when the knife dissipated into sinful lust disguised as false vengeance, I kissed the top of Wilfred's head and mumbled apologies and walked out.
The crooked man went into hiding somewhere in the back of my mind, laughing and pointing his finger at the trick he pulled and the cruelty of fate that made him into the crooked man. The clouds that once clogged my eyes has disappeared along with the energy the crooked man plummeted into Wilfred.
Everything was clear now.
I knew what I had to do to keep Wilfred happy and safe. For any of us to move forward from this, the crooked man had to come out one last time and finish what he had to do. As any father's mind would conjure anything but the last deed and I was still a father, as you know, I am a romantic at heart. The last image of Dianna Quincy should not be tainted with the likes of a girl who sat sobbing in the bathtub just because she performed what any woman would do in service of God.
But in honor of my unconditional love for my wife, you'd understand, I took it upon myself to gently push my daughter, Wilfred Agnes Langston Jr., beneath the warm water and whispered promises of vanilla ice-cream for a job well done. You cannot fault a man for getting rid of tainted images of his wife.
This act, but all, proved that I loved my wife unconditionally and by the time this confession reaches you, whoever this letter may concern, I'd have already taken my life to start anew with my family wherever they may be.
I've always fancy being a family-man.