how’d she do it?

Dear Ms. Jacobs,  

Over this past weekend, I attempted to replicate a space similar to your garret escape to try to begin to comprehend what you lived through.  Although I will never be able to truly understand what you experienced, I hope to gain some insight on what your reality was like during your time in the garret.  The space I choose was the back corner of my bedroom closet.  It has shelves dividing the space in half horizontally, making my space a cube rather than an angled ceiling.  It’s made completely of wood but remains quite warm.  It has no interior lighting, so I remained in the dark for the entire 40 minutes.  I sometimes opened the door a crack to replace the small finger-sized holes.  This was also very important to me during the exercise because the air often grew stale in the closet, it was nice just to breath a tiny bit of fresh air. 

What I felt was discomfort.  My back and butt began to hurt soon into the 40 minutes. I kept trying to adjust my posture to “get comfortable”, but there’s really no way to feel truly comfortable crammed in a dark corner of your closet.  Time felt like it stood still, making the exercise feel longer than it was.  Additionally, I just felt bored.  I was trying to entertain myself just in my own head.  I don’t often sit with just my thoughts for 40 minutes without some kind of sound.  I think I have music playing most hours of the day, even just lo-fi beats when I’m doing my homework or readings.  I think the silence was almost uncomfortable for me. 

What I still don’t know, and perhaps cannot know, is how you were fed and cleaned yourself during your time in the garret.  I cannot begin to know the logistics of actually spending years in any space as small as your garret.  I guess I’m just wondering how your managed bodily functions.  After spending only 40 minutes in my “garret”, I can’t even wrap my mind around your experience.  

1.) What do you think Harriet Jacobs exit from the garret felt like?

2.) If put in Jacobs shoes, how long would you, genuinely and honestly, think you could last in the garret?

1 Comment

  1. Having also done this exercise, I too was bothered by the silence and boredom. I’m almost always listening to music when I am sitting still/relaxing, so I found myself getting very fidgety really quickly. I wasn’t expecting that because I’m pretty good at being by myself, but to answer your reflection question I don’t think I would survive as long as I thought I would if I were in Harriet Jacobs’ shoes, maybe one or two days. There is so much we take for granted that Jacobs didn’t have, such as being able to eat, bathe, change clothes, and go to the bathroom whenever we want. It really shows how truly terrible her situation was with “Dr. Flint” (who stands in for her real-life master in the story) since living in the garret was better in her mind than slavery.

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