When her aunt called her to ask her about what it was like, Eleanor didn’t let on that she thought she might be miserable, or that misery might be in store for her, incubating under her skin. She had noticed on the trip down, trailer of possessions in tow, that some of the names were magical here, too, and this made her hopeful. Golden, Falling Spring, Backbone. Maybe they’d be worth seeing.
Day: 17 September 2017
Two weeks later, a big envelope arrives in the mail. Her name is Lucia and she is seven years old. She lives in Ecuador. In the picture she looks small, and when he puts her height and weight into an online BMI calculator, it confirms that she is slightly underweight. Not horribly underweight, not exactly starving, but still. The organization sends a piece of stationary and he writes a short letter, with simple sentences.
Tanya kept her eyes on the elm’s slippery bark. Thanks to the Internet, she knew everything. She knew it was the size of a kidney bean, and if she waited any longer—a blueberry—then, a kumquat. She had never tasted a kumquat, and now she never would, because it was a fruit that she wanted to forget. She nodded yes.
I saw it on the Internet where people were pulling up these monster goldfish in Lake Tahoe. Those things will get as big as they have space, and now they’re eating everything, all the lake trash. I thought, I bet I can make a bigger one. I’d fill the pool with my junk and observe it every day at sunset. Then Fox would interview me, and I’d tell them how I really feel about foreign relations and bombs and breeding.
The woman looks confused. She stares at the girl, who is the only other moving thing in the dark of the new year. She says something that sounds like the hissing of water as it falls to a hot pan. The girl has gone through more than half the matches now, and the woman looks old enough to be her mother. She strikes another.
I think about what a happy vagina might look like, or what it would take to get an answer from someone about vaginal expression that isn’t based on irritation, indecisiveness, or weariness. I say, I wonder when vaginas look happy. No one responds. So I think about a list of physical attributes that are important to me in terms of sexual appeal. Balanced frame, comes to mind.
I walked past him and he complimented my purse. I was carrying a box-like silver Ivanka Trump purse, I smiled and thanked him for the compliment. He said the purse looked like a briefcase and that I reminded him of a beautiful government spy, (I fell for it and him, then and there). In letters he would write me years later, he would mention the Ivanka Trump purse as a moment of importance in our relationship and by the time Donald Trump became president I wished that I never bought the bag and never met Ray.
Two boarding passes and I’m sitting on a sofa in this airport, waiting for a plane again. I feel my fear in the palm of my hand. The old exhaustion. Familiar churning in my gut. It’s time to leave. I can’t wait. Outside’s a massive, swamplike heat. Humidity. I want to dip my head in acid. Clean myself out. Shake the dirt that’s all over me. It’s time to leave at last and I can’t wait, but I think something’s happened, this blinding flash of light.
My own mother wore the same handmade clothes until the day she never woke up. Try as I might, I am nowhere near the seamstress she was. So now I wear my daughter’s old clothes. She left a closet full of them, in perfect condition, after she moved out of the house. There are enough sweatshirts for me to live out my days in them.
It was nothing more to me than a mantra, and I didn’t see then that the motto was the invention of a school run nearly entirely by black women—teachers, school safety officers, the principal and assistant principal—designed to help us, we hundreds of black and brown children, to affirm our own dignity, while we were young, while school still served as a kind of shield, however insufficient, from the rest of the city, its hard facts and violence.