In Becky Birtha's short story of the same title, the character Johnnieruth undergoes a process of self-discovery during adolescence that climaxes in heightened awareness and joy when she views two women stealing a clandestine kiss in the park.
Johnnieruth is narrated by the title character. A skinny as a ôknifeblade turned sidewaysö young black girl, Johnnieruth acts more, feels more like, and fits in better with the boys than the other girls. The other girls in the neighborhood exhibit less adventure and curiosity than Johnnieruth, content to stay in the neighborhood in the evening ôwatching babies and running they mouthö (Birtha 201).
Johnnieruth is not content to stay in the neighborhood. She does not fit in with this crowd of people. She feels estranged from the other girls, the heavyset ladies who spend hours hiding their real self behind SundayÆs couture and makeup facades, and even her mother û ôyou just canÆt please herö (Birtha 203). Johnnieruth is not quite sure why she is driven to seek out a place where she will be more fulfilled, but she is quite sure there is such a place.
Johnnieruth knows she is different from the other children. She is not interested in babies or husbands, in fact she wonders why any woman would desire a husband only to make sure ôshe keep[s] on having babiesö (Birtha 201). Johnnieruth is also more at home playing with the boys or riding her bike in the evening like the boys do. She does not enjoy the idle and mindless pursuits of gossip and child-tending that the other neighborhood girls occupy their evenings with. Instead, she maintains her own paper route, rides her bicycle in the evenings, can ride her bicycle as fast as any of the boys, and she often sneaks off to a park called the Plaza.
The Plaza is the only place Johnnieruth can go to be alone with her thoughts and to escape the confines of what she views as a limiting home environment. JohnnieruthÆs desir<...