The first time it is confident, and casual–a thought voiced that leaves me scrambling in shock, while I seek to correct you.
It begins as a slow, sinking pit at the bottom of my stomach, and ends in the pitter-patter-boom-boom-boom of my heart.
At first, it is difficult to think of you, and associate such thoughts–carried on breaths that are as much mine, as yours–with the boy who has walked the same stairways, and corridors as, I.
It begins insidiously; wafting through the air, until the toxins enter, and my hidden gasps become a painful tangle in my lungs:
You have become one of them.
I am collected, and indifferent–my usual tongueless self, as that afternoon seeps into pleasant normalcy; debating almost excitedly, the rights, and wrongs of walking down the middle of an empty residential street:
You should understand, I think, you who have always dismissed authority for the corrupted will it is;
You who have gritted teeth, and straightened shoulder, in solid defense against the onslaught of injustices wielded casually at you.
In the end, we leave it all ‘pleasantly’ enough:
Me, with a promise to return to you with unquestionable data of how different our worlds are;
You, with an oath to read, and concede…
If need be.
When your voice has faded, and my earphones provide me an imperfect silence, something within me feels a second of grief.
I wonder what it is I truly aim to prove. That I am worthy of you?
The second time, it is brutal:
More incongruous than all the times you have questioned my blackness when I failed to fit the mould;
Lacking in the amusement we share when we blame my white ancestors for my limbless, hipless dance;
Less subtle than your amusement that I am somehow more Indo-Guyanese, than Afro-Guyanese
(Are not a majority of our stations more filled with Indo, and Euro-American content than African vibes? Did I not meander between rusty, sharp-edged cutlasses, and the cracked, mud-covered skin of primarily Indo cane-cutters in Lusignan, and Blairmont?).
It is not as innocent as your words that first afternoon when you shocked me.
It is angry; it is virulent; worsening in despicable as I sit silent, and read–separate heart from mind–with a disbelieving smile.
I step back; I step back; I step back; then, I wait. But it is only a few seconds–and no, time does not stop.
‘Are you sure this is what you want to say?’ I ask.
‘Are you sure this is what you mean to say?’ I ask again.
In real time, in blue, and white chatbox, I reply, ‘Do you hear yourself? Do you realise what you’re saying?’
I stare at the words that have begun it all, and coldness seeps in:
‘Black people in this country getting real…’
I settle in, and the calmness that’s within me, reminds me of the days before love, and fury, melted me into the person I am with you, and her.
I let you tell your story–the one about how one black man’s words to your close Indian friend, somehow, now defines, and belongs to my entire race.
In my head, I am curious, my bemused, incredulous smile growing:
How ‘un’black do you think I am–you who like to speak of your dougla* place, and ‘our’ music–that you would expect to find a complicit partner, in this farce of a conversation?
Later, when I leave you to stew in your ignorance, while my friends tell me to ‘address’ this, the awakening is slow.
I look back at our last ‘break-up’, the one before the predominantly black, and ‘mixed’ party wrests control from the primarily Indo-and-proud-of-it incumbent government in the elections, and suspicions creep in;
And even though we’ve discussed why we were so distant those few weeks during the peak of the campaign, when there were rumours of fires, and mob beatings,
I think, ‘Was it this bias that infiltrated the space between us, and caused that particular break?’
I ask myself again, ‘Did he hear himself? Does he realise what he’s done?’
I don’t think you have, and perhaps, even then, you did not.
Now, it rises, and falls in my mind;
That scale that did not exist before.
I measure, and weigh, everything you say, packing it away.
I am as conscious of the smoothness of your curls, as I am, of the coils that make up mine;
And where we once sat side by side, the complexion of our skin one in the same sun,
There sits another beside us, who looks at me with her questions, and wariness, and disappointment, wondering…which bias will reveal itself next.
Something died within me, murdered by your words, although my face, and smile are as placid as they have always been–Do not the dead remain unaffected?–
Yet, you said it is ‘black people’ who commit the ‘majority’ of the most violent crimes.
I suppose, we must blame the quarter black side of your dougla heritage for this one?
K.N.O.W. Sabbath, May 21, 2016. 10.47 a.m.
For some reason this part of last year just keeps bugging me, so yeah, I’m kind of bitter at the end. 🙂
*Dougla: Often refers to a person of Black, and Indian, descent in Guyanese parlance