Sunday, March 8, 2020 – 12:33 p.m. – Cherie Flores Gardens
I’m proud of myself.
Even though Arnez had to work,
Even though Roc couldn’t join,
Even though HR fucked up my first full-time paycheck,
Even though whispers of pandemic were slowly starting to turn into shouts and screams,
After months of being in the house – waging a multi-front war against Jada F. Perfect with her measuring tape and Mean Girls caliber insults; Scary Spice Smith who pees her pants every time the phone dings; and Da Brat Tat Tat Tat who will turn over every jungle gym in this playground if recess ends even a second before she thinks it should end – I needed it.
I needed to see people. I needed to feel people. I needed to pass a mirror and behold something other than my ashy legs sticking out of a XXXL Jack Yates hoodie.
The last time I felt ready to be out in the world – a couple months after moving back to Houston – I went to a very Howard-esque brunch with a very Howard-esque nigga and revived a very Howard-esque part of myself. I drank a pitcher of mimosa, hopped off the bar stool, then did the bend and snap over a pair of make-believe winter boots.
“One thing about leaving the east coast,” I shouted over the brunch DJ, “you can dig deep in that closet when it gets cold out!”
I was looking forward to cold weather stuntin’. To stepping out at holiday parties like the worldly, intersectional, model-esque bitch I was. To ki-ki-ing about UBI in a leather pencil skirt. To bringing my best self to the world again. But December, January, and February came and went without me busting out one sweater dress. I hadn’t had nan interesting conversation. The world hadn’t seen me in months.
It was still chilly out so I went with the off-shoulder grey and black long-sleeve top – the one that makes it look like I have 1980s boobs, but in a good way – black skinny jeans, knee-high riding boots, and a red fucking lip because why the fuck not? It’s not over yet, I could hear Inner Parent whispering, guiding my motions. A steady stream of likes and retweets playing in my ear.
“Beautiful!” my mom said as I descended the stairs like Lena Horne in The Wiz. “Stop right there! Let me take a picture!”
Bly-yow, my hips responded, instantly striking a pose. Plackow, my calves followed, arching my ankle on a step. “Ahhh,” my tongue said, very Megan Thee Stallion.
For years I’ve been all “I’M NoT bIg ON SeLfiEs” and “uGh WHaT dO We nEEd aLL tHesE PiCtUrEs FoR?” Because a presumably smart person once said that we lose some essential, yet unnamable part of ourselves by interrupting our best moments with thoughts about how we will look in the future. That all this picture taking was feeding into our culture’s obsession with surface and vanity. That it took away from the authenticity of the human experience.
And, I mean, ok, yeah, sure, there’s probably some merit to those choices, but at the end of the day, fuck all that, ok? I had better preserve these moments. This body. These braids.
I heard about the event – an African Cosmologies art show – from @ilove3rdward’s IG page. I didn’t realize, until Google mapping, how close the venue was or how often I passed it without the slightest notion of the magic that was happening inside. According to their Instagram, they’ve hosted an African-centered exhibit on the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence; an installation about Mexican American fairy tales; a holiday “ashe market” where I could have been getting my shea butter and crystals.
At that exact moment, Jada F. Perfect cracked a wine bottle against a cortex in my pre-frontal lobe, squared up on my cerebellum, and prepared to shred my existence to pieces.
Girl!, she said, ruthless, unforgiving. Aren’t you supposed to be this amazing, connected, young-ish black creative? How do you not know there’s a black-owned art museum across from Kiwk Kopy? What kind of writer…? You just gon’ be out the loop forever ain’t you? You just like being the lame bitch, I see…
I felt the thoughts puncture my gut before my brain could finish forming them. But I also felt Inner Parent rise up to block the blow. Despite Brat Tat Tat Tat’s best efforts, I’ve been doing pretty ok with gratitude journaling and various other self-love praxes lately, so Inner Parent was feeling empowered. She put a hand in front of the glass shard that Perfect Jada was about to buck 50 me with, then clamped down on that thang till blood flowed out from the cracks of her fingers.
There’s still a chance, Inner Parent turned and told me, dashing the blood from her hands like a champion arising from battle. Go. Do it. Your time is now.
I shivered. And not from the bite of cold that was sweeping the city. I had a jacket and scarf over my bare shoulders – just in case, with this whole Coronavirus thing – but decided that the world, and this one dude I thought might be there, needed to see the contours on this collar bone. The full 80s-ness of my boobs. The length on this neck. All the parts that suddenly become sexy after 30. I tossed the jacket and scarf in the backseat and quoted from old testament Cardi B. “A hoe never gets cold,” I said as if in meditation.
I fuck with a good lecture like black baby boomers fuck with good cane syrup. Like 1st graders fucked with Old Town Road in 2019. And don’t let there be some semi-intellectual chit chatting going on. With free wine and olives? Whew. My shit. I love to hear someone broadcasting live from their Bag. I love the spark I get when something resonates.
One of the photographers said she had been in some kind of singing duo with her sister in the 80s, which, I imagined, involved keytars and Vanity 6 hair and night club tour dates around Amsterdam. Another artist talked about being forced to become a businesswoman so the art can make cents. The third page of a LaKeith Stanfield carbon copy was there, responsible for the towering piece of black Baptist aristocracy that I see whenever I pass the El Dorado Ballroom. He said he would die if he didn’t take pictures of the hood icons that haunted him, which I understood and believed whole heartedly.
I’d been a zombie myself for a while. Either halfway dead or halfway back from the brink; arms outstretched toward some former or future glory. History was happening all around me. Worlds were being built. People were hustling for platforms to get their voices out, while I was arguing with myself in group chats and getting on folks’ nerves at Sunday dinners. At this point, even they would pay for me to just shut up and go write the shit down already. What was I waiting for? What would it take for me to get in my own fucking Bag?
The work, Inner Parent answered. Just keep going.
After the artist talks, I walked the gallery and waited – yes, I said waited! – for ole boy to come find me. I saw him when I came in, looking like a dark chocolate and salted almond Kind bar, but purposely I avoided eye contact.
We chatted briefly, both to each other and to others close by. I flaunted my bare shoulders. Straightened my posture. Minded those 80s boobs. Gave him my number so he could “text me a link to some of the other shows.” Ahh (Megan). Okurrr (Cardi).
I caught up with a friend from high school’s mom, who turned out to be the gallery’s owner. She remembered me and asked how the writing was the going. It’s coming, I told her. Like I tell everybody.
Thoughts of the future assaulted my mind as I hugged myself close on the walk back to the car. I saw a whole, healthy me who’s fully in her Bag. Hosting readings for the writing I finally put out. With the type of partner who attends African Cosmologies art shows.
But at at at, Inner Parent said, and I knew what she was going to say before my brain could form the thoughts. Don’t start getting caught up in the future. Your happiness is here. In the moment.
And I was like you right.
And she was.