Professor Arsenault said that Memphis reeks of history. After walking around Beale Street at high noon, I also reeked of history. But honestly, I liked it. Blues saturated the very sidewalk, and every little store and restaurant proudly cashed it in.
Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr’s tragic death, has been turned into the National Civil Rights Museum. The boarding house from which MLK was shot was part of the museum as well, but I walked through it quickly, not wanting to honor the killing, but rather the memory of Martin’s life.
Oh yes, I caught myself thinking of MLK as “Martin.” We’ve been following his life so intimately that it’s hard not to think that we know him. I wonder if anyone really did, though.
The most visceral part of the museum is the room in which he stayed. If you look out of the window, you can see the railing over which he leaned, then fell backwards on the floor.
This area is particularly hard for Professor Bickel: last year, I was told, he collapsed crying with another student. He was fine this time, and was talking about something with some of my fellow students, when I saw a butterfly land on the window. It folded its taupe-and-chocolate swirl wings in front of us delicately.
“Look!” I said, but as everyone turned, it flew away.
I looked out the window for a long, long, long time. Eventually, my heart felt as though it was being squeezed. I did not feel like crying. I felt like there was not enough air in the world. Just pressure on my heart, all around, until it rested heavy as a stone in my chest.