Fall. Nineteen-Hundred and Ninety-One.
I'd just started eighth grade, all of 13 and already a troublemaker of some notoriety, and my Civics class was visiting the Founding Father's home as part of field trip.
And during that tour of Monticello, as I stood next to the bed of one of the greatest minds of the 18th century.
Principle author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Founder of the University of Virginia. Third President of the United States.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fascinating stuff, really.
But I had a mission back in 1991.
I just had to, well, touch IT.
On this visit, while the tour guide rambled on about architecture and agriculture and life on the man's plantation, I just had to touch IT again.
* * * *
IT, as in, Thomas Jefferson's alcove bed.
The place where not only Jefferson slept, but...
... Probably, Sally Hemings as well.
* * * *
Everything's in that one bedchamber, unspoken and buried beneath every nail and plank, just about every aspect of the social fuckedupness that was Virginia pop culture, from 1607 through 1865. The three-fifths of a man horseshit, chattel slavery realities and plantation pipe dreams, the myths of racial superiority, inferiority, and eugenics, the utter insanity of the human concept of race itself.
And Jefferson's bed, well, represents the most controversial interracial relationship in U.S. history.
Hemings and Jefferson probably stole precious moments in that bed, clandestine kisses and witching-hour moments of foreplay, caught up in the blatant hypocrisy of Colonial and Post-Colonial North America.
IT's quite comfortable, actually.
Hell, I'd hook up with Tommy Boy in the sucker. Homeboy really knew how to design a built-in bed.
* * * *
I waited for my moment this time, waited for the tour guide to be distracted by some old lady from Madison, Wisconsin, or Peoria, Illinois, or Birmingham, England...
And then, when the time came, I reached right over the rope barricade, pushed my fist down into the replica down mattress, left my own wrinkles in the very fabric of American history.
Fall. The Year of Our Lord, Twenty-Hundred and Seven.
At 29, I'm only slightly less of a troublemaker.
* * * *
Back in 1991, I'd pestered a poor tour guide about Hemings and Jefferson's rumored sexual relationship, about how the man behind the All Men are Created Equal Doctrine may have Founding Fathered as many as six children with a woman that he owned as property.
My overzealous questioning drew the scorn of one of the teachers escorting the field trip. I was warned, threatened with a detention slip, if I didn't simmer down.
I was such a rebellious arrogant brat - I told the teacher, in advance, that I was going to do it, going to sit right on the edge of the bed of Thomas Jefferson. That act, the educator warned me, would lead to both a phone call to my parents AND in-school suspension.
So when we entered the bedchamber during our class tour, I waited for the guide to be distracted, waited for the teacher in question to look right at me, and plopped my 13-year-old ass down on the bed where one of the greatest minds of the 18th century once slept...
... And maybe his mistress, occasionally, too.
One whole day. My act of civil disobedience earned me one whole day in detention.
Technically, it earned me three days of in-school suspension, but I skipped class for the other two, forged a note from my high school's disciplinary official regarding my satisfactory completion, and never served out my full sentence. The teacher never called my parents.
It was so worth it.
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