I remember when I was a kid, really young, growing up in Baltimore, my brothers and I would spend the day with my grandmother, while my parents worked. On this one particular day, during the summer, my grandmother took us to the downtown area of Baltimore. I recall going to Lexington Market to get a chicken box and twisty glazed donuts (my favorites, growing up). On the bus ride back to the house, there was a disagreement between this young man and woman, that turned into an argument. It was one of those situations where is was more annoying than threatening, but I was that nosey kid trying to see what they were arguing about. Eventually they got into a physical fight - I can't quite recall who started it. The woman ended up pepper spraying the man's face, which incidentally caused it to cloud an spread. Chaos broke out. Folks were coughing and shouting, scrambling to get out of the way of the fight and the mist of the pepper spray. The bus driver slammed on the brakes and pulled the bus over, opened the doors, yelling for everyone to evacuate the bus.
Getting off the bus, I remember being pushed and then pulled, the atmosphere vacillating between hectic and orderly, in rapid shifts. My brothers and I made it off the bus, but there was still a great number of people needing to come off. I remember crying, wondering where my grandmother was and if she was okay. Finally, I saw her appear in the threshold of the back door, crying, nose running, holding on to both sides of the frame, trying to step off the bus. A middle-aged man, came to her rescue, helping her off. Once were reunited, it was a matter of waiting for the police to arrive and the okay to get back on the bus - or on a new bus. I know it had to have been at least 45 minutes that passed before we were back on the bus. I cannot recall if one or both agitators were detained, but I do remember the man apologizing to my grandmother; being both ashamed to look her in the eyes, yet looking for some sense of forgiveness or acknowledgement. It was like he was a child again, apologizing to his own grandmother. I'll never forget that.
This memory struck my mind, out of thin ether, last weekend. At first, upon memory, I was like "where did that come from?," and brushed it off. Now, reflecting on the first full week of rehearsal of having been completed today, I can see how the memory might have been triggered from reading and re-reading the script. Ironically, during one of the rehearsals, we got into an in-depth conversation about trauma and PTSD: from the basic definition of both, to how each is diagnosed, treated and coped with. I brought up that story about the fight on the bus, to my peers. During that recanting of the story, I got teary-eyed and started reliving some of the fear I felt that day - mind you, it was over 20 years ago. This wasn't the only memory that has re-emerged in my psyche, but possibly one of the strongest since the start of rehearsals. I have no idea what other memories may be triggered in the process, between now and the run of the show, but I certainly hope that it will only serve as a platform for inner healing and a reclaiming of my peace with the past. I, too, hope that anyone who comes to see this show, who might experience a similar trigger of a past memory, will able to do the same. Until soon...
Donnell E. Smith