From VONA Voices open studio. Originally recorded at Kelly Writers House.
Listen to original recording here.
Follow this link to hear the rest of the collection.
My colleagues are white people—nice, young white people, who all pride themselves on doing the right thing. They would’ve voted for Obama in ’08 and ’12 given the chance. They decried Cosby as a rapist, wept for Nabra Hassanen. They wrote think pieces on Facebook for Tamir Rice (and stayed silent when Adama Traoré died.)
My colleagues are white people—nice, young white people, who all pride themselves on believing in the right things. They loved Bernie’s agenda and thought Hilary wasn’t crooked—but too untrustworthy to inherit Obama’s legacy. They marched with their sisters to the Eiffel Tower to protest sexism and hijabs, topless in the street, baring their bodies to world for consumption and rage. They donated to the poor last winter, like the year before, because they believe that the world can be saved, one worn faux fur Zara coat at a time.
My colleagues are white people—nice, young white people, who all pride themselves on being approachable.
And just fucking exhausting.
Because they are themselves, my colleagues are also incapable of understanding the wear and tear that their presence bears on my body each time they want to engage in light conversation between class. Their love of Ryan Goseling’s singing voice in La La Land. Fears of the dangers of a Trumpean presidency on the social standing of the international political stage. Confusion over the perpetuation of racism in America after the sweeping horrors of WWII.
I leave my job each day drained (and not just because my terminalé students believe that they’re too good for my English course.) When I turn off the lights of my classroom and tumble out of the front gates, there’s more weighing me down than the weight of the sun in Cannes. I force myself to put one foot in front of the other until my body has found its way home and by then I have less than six hours to recharge before the next day.
It’s nearly not enough. But by the grace of God? the universe? that vast space in between? I trudge through each week until I find the weekend. 48 hours that just skim the surface of bliss. I live with white people too, but my roommates here are absent during these times. They go hiking and skiing with the friends they met in collège. They visit their families who live twenty minutes away. And for that I’m thankful.
In those 48 hours, I can walk the lengths of our apartment naked. Detangle my hair and leave behind trails of broken off knotted ends. I can play with myself. I can sing.
First to God. Then Jill, Erykah, and Janelle.
India when I’m feeling particularly unloved.
Bey when I’m feeling particularly free.
Songs lead to a dance—the sway of my body to beats that I can’t see but feel reverberating through the pores of my skin. My steps lead me to the kitchen, to the tradition of recreating meals from home that on any other night just don’t taste the same. I eat. I drink. And for the first time since that week begun, I am merry.
(And I don’t allow myself to think about the fact that I won’t feel this way again, until I conquered the near impossible again, and found myself at another week’s end.)