I Wish

I’m an “I wish” person. I wish I could speak seven languages like Maya Angelou. I wish I could dance like that. I wish I was brave like her. I wish I read a lot, like him. I wish I had a flat stomach like hers. I wish. I wish I knew all that stuff. Wish I was as disciplined to teach myself or read about it or stay up to date on things like that. I wish I took better care of my hair, of my body. Wish I was vegetarian. Wish I was a strong person. Wish I had a strong will. Wish I wasn’t so interested in what other people had to say. Wish I didn’t have to do this. Wish I didn’t have to deal with that. Wish things were different. Wish none of this had ever happened. I wish.

 

I wish and then I remain as I am, not doing a thing to change my situation or my thinking, not doing a thing to get closer to the thing I wish I had. I don’t study the languages. I don’t practise dancing. I don’t try to think positively and go out and do things. I don’t try hard enough to read. I don’t work out so I can have a flat stomach. I don’t push myself enough to do any of these things.

 

All I do is critcise, and berate. I put down and shame. I do this to my own self. The self I am supposed to love and take care of. Sometimes, from somewhere within myself, I tell myself it’s all fine. I’m just going through a phase right now. I’m trying to “find myself” or something and I’m going to feel like this. It won’t last forever and I need to go through this as a person. Besides, those things I want won’t come easily. They won’t happen overnight. That person who knows that one other language has been at it for seven years. I just started! Of course I’m not there yet. Calm down. Everything will be fine. I’ll get there one day…

 

I keep wondering which one of these voices I should pay more attention to. Should I listen to the harsh one and do something, or the comforting one and take my time? There is a problem either way. The harsh one makes me feel like crap and that I should just die, but I think if I continuously listen to the comforting one I’m going to become a bum. I’ll always relax and just wait for things to happen and then nothing ever will.

 

I heard something last night. A song probably. It said “it’s a dangerous thing; dreaming”. Not sure if that’s exactly what it said, but it was something like that. I held that line in my head and let the rest of the song play. It was talking to me. I told my class the other day, while we were having our wrap up session, that I hope, but I don’t expect. I have what I think are big dreams. I don’t ever think they’ll happen, but I would love it if they did. If I could. This may be a self-preservation thing, but it saddens me as well. I’m such an in-the-box person that anything too far outside I look at as impossible. I only see them as things that can happen for or to other people. Not me. Never me. When people tell me go ahead, I say I want to. And I do want to. But it’s likely that I never will.

 

And these are the things that swirl around in my head. The whispers that my memory has made of the things I used to hear. That I couldn’t sing. That I was ugly. That I should do that. That I can’t. The laughter. The other children together. Isn’t it weird how I keep remembering things from my primary school years? I mean, I’m twenty-one. That was a freaking long time ago.

 

And I keep thinking I’m too old to do anything. To learn to play an instrument. To learn ballet. To take drawing lessons. People who do that start when they’re four. It makes no sense for me to even think about that now. Never mind that my family will laugh at me if I ever tell them this, and then ask who will pay.

 

That’s why I’m just wishing for now. And not actively either. I leave my wishes in the back of my mind. I’ll leave them there until I see a way for at least one of them to come true. Then I’ll work on it, I hope. I hate being a wishing person. I want to be someone who does things. If not for myself, then for my mother at least. She would have been happy to see me travel and learn languages and dance and eat healthily. She would have been happy to see my wishes come true.

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Stuck

loveletterstoaghost

I wish my words
weren’t whispers
and instead
loud screams
selling love
not loss.
But they are only
gray raindrops,
fat with fancy tea cups
filled with sad.
These echoes
scratched into
zeroes and ones
only sigh out
in fast eyes
and bring pain
to more pain
and I want them
to shine
like misty starlight
inside white-tipped waves
but they merely sink
in sticky mires,
sucked down
by quicksand.
They are
as confused
as swallows
in snow
and as lost
as I am
on this path
to stuck.

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Repossession: Reclaimed Slurs and Lexicography

harm·less drudg·ery

[Ed. note: this post contains language that is considered extremely inflammatory. Caveat lector.]

People forward language articles to me all the time–usually the same article multiple times, until my inbox is nothing but language links and plaintive requests from Wine.com to buy more booze, please. But no one forwarded me Talib Kweli’s recent Medium post on language, probably because it was about the history and uses of the word “nigger.” I asked one of my frequent-forwarders if he had seen the post. “I had,” he wrote, “but I figured you’d have already seen it. I was not going to be the one to forward you a post on the n-word.”

The n-word. I think about slurs on a regular basis, in part because I have to explain to people why they’re entered in some of their dictionaries. It’s not unusual for me to open my email in…

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Lost Scribbles

I found this today while going through some papers in my room. This is how I kill time at work.

IMG_4533[1]

Writing my life on pieces of paper and strewing them across the earth. Wishing them well and hoping they won’t be found, but that they find what they need. Post-it notes carry my heart. The back of used letter sheets have my mind printed on them. Torn apart and thrown away in the blue recycle bin.

Colourful Lies

When I was around the age of sixteen I got into the Bible and the religion and it taught. Things got really serious really quickly and my life took a sharp turn. I was on a path to reformation and righteousness and nothing was going to stop me. I stopped all the things I was doing that my religion told me I wasn’t supposed to be doing, and I started doing all the things it told me I should. This included telling the truth. Not telling the truth really. I didn’t start blabbing my mouth off. I just decided I was going to try my best not to lie.

That became a problem when I came to America the next year. I realised that lying was something I was required to do. I hated that. I didn’t do it. Some things didn’t work out. Like job applications. No one wants to hire someone that isn’t available to work on weekends, particularly on Saturday. You also need to be able to work any time on Friday. I couldn’t do that. Addresses were also something that, under certain circumstances, had to be lied about. I hated that too. It was really bringing me down in my effort to be a righteous, sinless person.

I have a brother now who is three years old and he has a habit of lying. I’m trying to break him out of it, but sometimes, while I’m telling him not to lie, I’m wondering when I’m going to have to change this statement. While I would like him to be an honest person, I know that sometimes he will have to refrain from telling the truth. Lying out-rightly may not always be necessary, but sometimes it’s best not to speak. He’s not old enough to understand that yet, I don’t think, but he will be one day and while teaching him that lying is not a good practise, I will also need to teach him that telling the truth is also not always wise. I’m wondering what his reaction will be to this lesson.

I didn’t like having to learn that holding my tongue was sometimes the best thing to do. I didn’t like having to learn that what I considered truth was not welcomed by everyone. Since the time I was sixteen and now, being twenty-one, I’ve let go of my religion somewhat. My language has loosened and I now wear ear rings and nail polish, but I don’t make a habit of lying. It’s just that sometimes I’ve had to pretend I was someone else, or write a figure that was not so correct when filling out a form. I have to convince myself that I’m not doing something terribly wrong when I commit these acts, but at the times they were performed, they were necessary and urgent. The fact is, I did lie, but I needed to.

Should I Join the Bandwagon Too?

The thing is, I’m not from here. I know that’s a cop out, but that seems to be something I’m good at; copping out. Forget that my twenty-first birthday was just a few short weeks ago and that I’m legally an adult and whatnot, because in spite of that I’m still just a very scared little girl.

I come from a country where the majority of people look like me. There is a sprinkling of white people, a sprinkling of people from Asia, and a sprinkling of people from India. Besides that the rest of us are all black, different shades of black mind you, but black nonetheless. Now I am in a place where there are so few of us (blacks) that I sometimes count how many I see, that once I spent a whole day out and only saw one other than myself. A sea of white people is what I call it. I’m in a sea of white people.

In Jamaica, our motto is “Out of many, one people.” We are taught in school about the voyages of Christopher Columbus; the fighting that there was over the Caribbean Islands among the British, Spanish, French and Dutch; the extinction of the original people who inhabited the Islands; and the Atlantic Slave Trade and how it brought West Africans to the Caribbean and North America. We learn that it is the mixture of all these peoples and their intermingling with each other that accounts for the different shades of our skin and textures of our hair, and that it is a mixture of the languages of these peoples that account for the dialect we speak.

We know about slavery. It happened to our forefathers, in our land, but they fought, and they were freed. We were a colony of Britain, but we gained independence. That was a long time ago. There are no white people whipping us anymore. There were no white people stopping my mother from buying a house, or my sisters and I from going to school. They were all in America and Canada and England. They weren’t with us. Sure. Every February we got reminded of what they did to us and we got angry and we hated them, but they were all in America and Canada and England. We never saw them. I never saw them. As time went on some of us realised that it didn’t really make sense to keep hating these people because of something their forefathers did to ours such a very long time ago. We began to forgive a little. We considered them somewhat as friends.

I’m in America now, the land of the white people, or rather the land that the white people stole (I learned that once I got here), and, again, it doesn’t really make sense for me to hate any one of them because of what I learned growing up. Firstly, as far as I know, none of them have blacks as slaves right now. The white people who actually did that are all dead. Secondly, I work and go to school with white people and they’re really nice. I have no reason to hate them. But then things like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown happen – and those are the only two names I know because I never followed these stories in the news. I stopped watching the news several years ago. You can take a guess as to why. Apparently killing black people is something that is done here. And it’s fine. As long as you’re white, you can get away with it.

How the heck is that fine though?

Since coming here I’ve heard the word “diversity” a lot. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard it talked about. Apparently it’s something good and it’s something to be celebrated. It’s people from different backgrounds coexisting with all their differences, appreciating those differences, and using them to work toward different, or the same, goals in harmony. Everyone is valued.

Except that’s a lie. I’ve come to realise that a lot of the things being taught to large populations are lies. Just from things I happen to hear or read, because that’s how I come by most of what I know: it is less likely for someone to get a job if that someone has a black sounding name; out of a black and white man of similar build and facial features applying for the same job, both having extremely similar resumes and behaviour, the white man having a criminal record, it’s more likely that the white man will get the job; young black men get followed around all the time by cops, young white men don’t. I don’t really care to list all the injustices or wrongs that have been done to people of African descent by the hands of this nation, but I’m scared, uncomfortable then, knowing that some system is in place that is trying to kill me and everyone else like me. Some system is in place that is feeding and take care of white people. This is despite all the talk that we’re living in a new age of diversity and whatever else is being said that makes it look like non whites and whites are equal all of a sudden.

The truth is, in Jamaica there are corrupt police officers too. They kill poor, innocent youths and plant evidence to make it look like the innocent are guilty. They work on behalf of politicians that are less than upright. It’s unfair and it’s something we have to live with. However, something like that being done on such a large scale, as it is being done in this country, with what has gone on in history between the white race and the black race, with what has gone on between the white race and all other races, looks very different. I don’t know what to call it or what adjective to use to describe it; I don’t want to, but it does look drastically different. And I’m scared being here knowing that even though there are a lot of nice white people, there are still some who are trying to kill me and everyone else that looks like me, who are trying to kill everyone who is not like them. How am I supposed to respond to sketches and cartoons portraying the fear that black American mothers have for their sons? I can’t even relate well to black people in this country because their history is not the same as mine though we have in common the enslavement of our people. I feel like I have to now take on a history that does not really belong to me and live with this problem that is so large and present and I have absolutely no idea how I am to do that because if it was up to me I’d just close my eyes and have it not be there.

I usually refrain from speaking about things like this because of how uncomfortable they are for me and also because I know I am largely uninformed. I don’t think I should open my mouth and speak about something I know nothing, or very little, about. I’m only saying something now because I’m scared. It’s sad that I’m writing this out of fear but, unlike most of my fears, this one seems to have some ground on which to stand. Being a woman doesn’t save me from certain things like one would think. We get hurt in all the fighting too. We also get beat up. We also get shot. We get raped. We get killed.