Through the years, on late nights, when she ached from the creases in her body and the cracks in the lead-painted walls, she woke me out of sleep in Brooklyn to cry. I’m just so tired. She told me again of her age, her loneliness, the fat packed on her bones, and the debt attached to her name. I rolled my eyes and put the phone on the other side of the couch as I spread myself over it. Barely listening, I imagined what it would be like if Ma and I talked of new movies and sermons, the tender, smothered neck bones that salted the air as we slept last night. Our thoughts on Wendy’s latest, my doodles, that strange thing Jesus said. I’m tired too, I tell her. I don’t say her grief is too near for comfort; I want space. On good days, we lug our exhaustion and boredom together, and on not-so-good ones, we fling it at one another until we bleed red. I can’t tell what today is.
I don’t say her particular desperation-for money, company, thinness-is starting to bore me; I want new despairs
A dank one-night stand once told me that the best way to ensure you don’t have to answer questions is to ask them. I’ve held onto those words throughout my walk through swanky social clubs and private universities, tucked them into my clutch alongside matte lipsticks at black-tie galas and posh cocktail receptions, and each time I nervously fumble through my bag, I remember them and wish I had slept with him one more time.
She sighs and then takes a deep breath. It’s a cumbersome process for reasons it really shouldn’t be. I’m posing some unexpected questions that are puzzling to the faculty, and the politics of it all is really starting to strain my relationships with advisers. I didn’t anticipate that, least of all from them. She shakes her head and sips her gin and tonic.
Who are they? I want to ask. But something deep pulls the question out of my throat. Mm, I say as I nod my head, trying to keep my eyes from twitching and swiveling through the room.
The top floor of the hallmarked Faculty House is a mix of well-read, well-traveled, young and old Black scholars in Christmas cocktail dresses and starchy, dark pants suits. I recognize a few faces in the room from CNN clips on my social feeds, but I don’t know any of their names. With one hand swirling their drinks and the other tucked into their tight front pockets, they ping-pong words like fo show and fraudin’ across the high cocktail table.
They tell me they grew up in Westchester County, and in the summers, they vacation in Oak Bluffs. Their parents are professors and board members and homeowners. They are the thirds and the fourths, having long been freed of cash loan services Georgia the burden of the first.
Now as I follow her down wide Walmart aisles and watch her file through wall art and area rugs and towel sets, I don’t think she’s primarily excited by the consumption of more, nor the importance she thinks that more will ascribe to her
I longed to be surrounded by the soundings of Black intimacy, Youse a clown … She said she didn’t feel like being vulnerable and I was like, Girl, bye, ain’t that friendship … You gotta tell her, bruh, otherwise you weak and you can’t sit with us no more. The wet, contagious cackles and witty banter of sweaty Black folks in tight and dimly lit spaces.