i could love her. i don’t know her middle name. but i can love her. she’s different. she’s white. i hate that it matters. it shouldn’t. but we can’t kid ourselves here. she sees me the way i see her. different. maybe bad.we both come from places where the other won’t naturally fit in.
we’ll never use the same hair shampoo. we laughed at the other night over dessert that we shared. two forks. we’re different. for thanksgiving she’ll have stuffing and i’ll have dressing. we ordered three glasses of wine before we figured out we both eat too much bread over the holidays.
i see her on the train. i avoid looking at her. i don’t want to get caught up in that whole white beauty thing. she pretends not to see me. her fears of being attracted to the exotic and the darkness that is me.
our energy is aware and awake. it is excited and usually one of us gives in and we end up standing on the train talking. so fearful of what onlookers will think. will say. everything we’ve gained with over the years that we can stand and talk on the train together, one black one white, has been lost and frowned upon in a clown show of an election. we don’t sit beside each other anymore. we have our pride. it keeps us aligned with our proper pride. not love.
we had coffee that day. two weeks before the election. she touched my fingers. i heard her breath linger inside of her for just a moment. her eyes on my hand. and i knew she could love me back.
she cleared her throat and moved away from me as if my fingers were suddenly contaminated. i wanted to say, “it’s okay”, but i had to protect and defend my blackness. nothing is wrong with me. my dark skin doesn’t make it dirty skin. i paid for my coffee and found a reason to leave.
what the hell am i doing? i walked home in the rain. grateful for the weather to match my sullen mood. i could called for an uber. i needed to feel my pain that night.
love is love right? what do i do when i want to be touched and held? what if the person that supposed to touch and hold me doesn’t completely look like me? does that mean i never get touched or held again? do i have to settle for convenience instead of love? she could love me? why won’t she? i’ve tried to look the other way. toward the hue. and i’m not stirred or shaken. now. maybe i will be in five years. right now, it’s her. and i don’t want it to be her. she doesn’t want it to be me. why can’t we find ourselves in people that match our skin?
the tears dry on their own before i hit my front door. she texts me an apology. “apologies”. i don’t respond. i’m battling being loved in my blackness and in spite of my blackness. and i’m losing. maybe there is no love. only need. not desire. no crave. no longing. not even a sample of want. just need. like pet owners need their dogs to meet them at the door when they return home to be worshiped. it doesn’t matter if the dog rather continue his nap finish ripping up the papers in the trash. he must stop what he wants to do to meet the needs of his master.
i’m overthinking this. i know. that night i hurt. that one simple act made me relive all these emotional memories my ancestors have already gone through. haven’t we gotten past this already? haven’t enough died for this not to be a thing anymore? what do i do to prove i’m human? that i’m worthy of being loved? that it’s okay to touch me? my blackness isn’t contagious!
we see each other and we don’t speak. that goes on for over a week. i’m not even mad anymore. i go back and forth between feeling angry and rejected to hurt and ashamed. all those emotions keep from communicating with her at all. she feels guilty. ashamed. i want to talk to her. but i can’t. i stand my ground.
i find justification in why i need to. my family invested in the civil rights movement. they taught me black power before i knew i was black. grandma always warned against bringing non blacks home. you can always tell if they can’t use your comb.
maybe this is the way of the world now. so much latent racism has been awakened and given new life. i can’t go anywhere without wondering if i’m going to make it home at night. scared to laugh too loud. run too fast to catch the bus. hell, i stopped driving my car. not that walking blacks don’t get stopped and murdered by police. i don’t know what’s safe for me. and she moved her hand like she felt what the media is telling me they all feel.
if i don’t belong here, where do i belong? where do i go? this is home. the farm down south is still there waiting on us to come back and take care of it. i don’t understand the fear. the one really bad thing i did, i did when i was eight. i took money from mama’s purse. she was sleeping and it was five dollars. i’ve done nothing outside the law and i still get labeled.
she could love me. but the world made me a thing that can’t be loved long before i was born. and i know why so many single black women walking around single. they want to be loved and nobody loves them. say they can’t be loved. treat’em like they only good for labor. but no feeling. never feeling. i’m going to turn into them. and i hate the universe for making it so we got no other options but to die alone before we hear about how much we’ve been loved.
my phone rings. it’s her. i don’t answer. she never calls. maybe it was an accident. i don’t want to get all excited over an accident. i have a little pride in me left. i send it to voicemail. she calls again. and again. on the fourth call, i answer.
“i need to talk to you.”
“say what you need to say then.” i’m monotone. it’s intentional.
“what does that mean?”
“i’m at your front door. can you let me in? it’s raining out.”
i sigh and hit the button to buzz her in. she’s never been here before but she finds me. fifth floor at the end of the hall. i wait in the hallway. the phone is in my pocket.
she gets off the elevator in all black. the paleness of her skin stands out in her dripping black rain coat. who buys a black rain coat? she comes to me and i don’t move. she doesn’t need to come in.
“why are you here?” no sense beating around invisible bushes.
“you said that already.”
“no. not in that way. can i come in?”
“it’s black in there.”
“that’s a shitty thing to say.”
“true.” i move to the side so that she can come into my one room apartment.
i got every light on in the place. i now realize how savage that looks and immediately think of what she thinks of me overusing my electricity. i cross my arms. it would look obvious to turn it off now. she hangs her raincoat on my coat hook. puts her rain boots on the mat. she turns around still looking like a disheveled mess. i turn off my emotions. don’t think anything nice and sweet about her. it’s just rain. it makes everybody look pitiful. stand. your. ground.
“i wish i could take it back. i wasn’t thinking. it wasn’t because of you or me. i mean, it wasn’t about white or black. i thought about us being two women and sitting there holding hands at the cafe. it wasn’t about race. i’m sure i have my race issues. i’m scared. not of you. of what us together will bring out in other people. aren’t you?”
“i don’t know, jaime. people been looking at me crazy my whole life. i can’t see how this will be different.”
“i’m sorry. i want you to forgive me. you don’t need to. i want you to. i want you to want it for yourself too!”
“why? why would you care?”
“i want to be with you. i don’t know how to do that. it doesn’t seem you know how any better than i do. i want you. i see your blackness and it doesn’t scare me. i’ll never know your experiences but i don’t mind hearing them. will you forgive me? i was scared. but it wasn’t about skin color.”
“i forgive you.” i lean against the wall. two feet of space still between us. neither of us know how to close it up.
“you can’t put me in a pile of ‘all white people’. this election sucks but all white people are not walking around talking about building walls and giving more guns to cops to kill more black people. so, you can’t do that to me. i’m not all white people. i’m just me.”
“noted. ditto. i don’t want to be a representative for all black people. i don’t know all the black people.”
“heard and noted. i see you as just you, neel. do you truly forgive me?”
“why are you standing so far away from me?”
“well, it’s still strange. we got that whole skin color thing going on.”
“we can just be women. you’re a woman. i’m a woman. we’re just body parts. one of us can stay out in the sun longer than the other. and one of us hates the cold. we’ll deal with color along the way. we have time to figure it out. you in?”
“yep. just don’t run away or avoid me if color does come up. it will and i want us to deal with it.”
“i will open to listening. i don’t know if there will ever be much that i can say. you should decide if that will bother you. i support you. i’m here. my voice won’t be your voice.”
“i can deal with that. i think i prefer it.”
“by the way, i’m staying the night. you weren’t watching the election, were you?”
“no.” i laugh. she closes the space between us and takes my hand. she kiss my fingers.
“good. that’s the last thing we need. i’m here no matter who wins.”