sidewalks // ongoing // NYC
sidewalks // ongoing // NYC
I take a step
a tip-toed pas de deux.
I have lain on this floor before,
though the dust is
I am not
a keeper any longer.
I take* only
what I can.
“Te quiero mi árbol.”
I just got back from an apartment viewing with my sister, Margie, and I feel bloated and disgusting. You see, we’ve just come from the Little Haiti of Brooklyn, and it’s got me thinking about cyclical abuse.
My extended family was verbally abusive. Simple as that. I used to think they were just mean, but it goes down deeper, to a line of ancestral trauma, to a place so scarred and tattered that being cruel to a child was seen as normal.
‘Meme loves us more ‘cause she mean to us,’ we’d say about our grandmother. She was saccharine to our male cousins, too sweet to be real.
Earlier on the train today, I saw several examples of fine parenting, and it made me acutely uncomfortable. A mother reading Harry Potter aloud in a phony British accent. Another letting her son climb atop her, mid-conversation. And in the corner sat a black boy leaning quietly against his mother. And I wondered if he had ever been read aloud to; if his mother would scold him, like my mother had scolded me, for interrupting as “grown ups” spoke.
I wondered if I’d ever be a good mother, because surely I’d scold too.
Karma is a heavy thing.
“Karma is a bitch,” they say, and ‘bitch’ is often a synonym for ‘black woman—‘ is karma black?
“Karma” is the second single off the Diary of Alicia Keys album. Alicia sings, ‘what goes around comes around/ what goes up must come down,’ but is that karma?
I stop to draw three lines just below my fingernail. I’m at the point where I’d like to get a finger tattoo, but haven’t yet divorced myself from the idea that I can never deface my fingertips.
My mother loves my fingers. “So long and elegant…” she’d sigh as she looked to her shorter and wider fingers. They are the one body part anybody has ever been envious of.
On me at least.
Back to Brooklyn—
It’s a beautiful day in the Ile de France, and I swear the air smells sweeter in Paris. Never did I imagine I would be a Paris convert, mais voila, it would appear that I am.
My final stop on this European sojourn is the town of Orléans, where I have an Airbnb that is promised to be absolument charmant.
Going back to New York feels like going to another world, and I guess, in a way, it is.
“The New World,” they called it, as Europeans left their homes in droves to discover what they could. But the world is always changing, the world is always new. Each day, we step into a brave, New World.
I look up and across at the woman sitting across from me. She looks like a singer named Rachael Price, and I’m convinced the world is full of doubles. Maybe one lives in the Old World, while the other lives in the New.
Which one am I?
A couple years ago, I was sent a photo of a woman the sender thought looked just like me. I thought I looked much better, so I didn’t respond (if you don’t have anything nice to say and all that jazz…)
“Did you get my message?” the sender asked a day or two later.
“Yeah, and I don’t look a thing like her.” I’m much prettier, I added to myself. But if we did look alike, I was certain that she looked like how I did in the past: wild and disheveled. I was no longer that; I was New.
Nouvelle Orléans, New England, New Jersey—the U.S. is filled with New. Maybe that’s why I like Europe so much—it feels old. Grounded—in itself and in its roots.
I am in constant search for my roots.
The solar eclipse is just around the corner, and a lot of old emotions are resurfacing for me, waiting their turn to be lovingly released to the Universe.
Today, for example, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw myself–really saw myself for the first time ever. Not through the lens of my parents or my relatives; the media or random passersby on the street. For the first time ever, I saw myself through my own eyes.
I hadn’t realized there was a time when I wasn’t doing that–all my life I wasn’t doing that! And, wow, what a difference my eyes make.
When I think of what I look like in society’s eyes, I am beautiful, with a question mark. Beautiful if I dress just right, make sure my waist is seen just so–blend in, play nice, be beautiful. Period. But when I wear baggy clothes or feel like I’ve eaten too much? The question mark returns.
I have been consuming media since I was a child. Media that told me it was never okay to be chubby, fat, or whatever nomenclature describes my body. Media that my parents and relatives had been watching, consuming, devouring. And the message kept getting passed down to me: that you wouldn’t ever truly be beautiful unless you were skinny.
When I was fifteen or sixteen, I became invested in my health. I learned that my diet was something that I could control, that exercising was something I liked doing, and that squats made the muscles in my leg stand out. I researched how to lose weight; I did workouts clipped from Seventeen; I began counting my calories, and I lost weight. Not enough weight to put me in the “skinny” category, but enough that I was immensely pleased with myself–that I didn’t feel like I had to keep losing weight. I had always been in awe at the bodies I would see at the beach that were full and fit, a blend of who I was and who I wanted to be, and I felt like I had achieved that, or very close to it.
“But you’re gonna keep going?” my uncle asked after complimenting me on my weight loss. And while I didn’t think I had to, because someone else did, I thought, well, I guess I’ll keep on going. Because the relatives whose words made me cry in bathrooms were now nice to me. Because I wanted to get a boyfriend, I kept on going. Because I thought I had to. Because there was someone out there, people out there, who would say that I did.
Well I say I didn’t, and I don’t have to anymore.