Saturday, May 15, 2010

Will you be ready?

Instead of adding interesting places to my travel list, I am slowly taking places away. Arizona and the reaches of the Grand Canyon were once a dream excursion. I am boycotting the dusty hills, now marred by a clumsily orchestrated piece of anti-immigration legislation. The idea of “reasonable suspicion” is farcical. It is an artful legal contraption—semantics, a simple proxy for racial profiling. They find “reasonable suspicion” the same way they find “reasonable suspicion” the stop, beat and humiliate black and Latino men in NY (see recent Times report). They, those foreigners, those brown people crossing over the border, are us.

I’ve also crossed out a visit to Israel on my list “100 things to do before I die.” I once longed to walk the cobble-stoned streets of the holy land and trace the steps of Jesus. But not any longer. What has been happening there for years, in the West Bank, is unholy. Every day I hear of a new settlement built or a new restriction placed on the people of Palestine, I am overwhelmed with sorrow. It is apartheid and American South Jim Crow all over again. They, the brown people of Palestine, trying to hold on to their home, are us.

I fear my contact with this life, this world, has been so precarious that I am closing unto myself like the mimosa. I once believed, somewhere, that people could be changed. I believed that if you greeted people with honesty and respect you would be treated accordingly. History has taught me otherwise.

It is utterly unnerving to know that I am invisible and horribly visible simultaneously. It is tiring trying to explain, assuage irrational fears-- to arrive, everyday, as whole and unstirred. I am giving up the act of normalcy. I am what I am. When they come for me, they won’t have to look far. I'll be ready.

Lessons

Tia (not her real name) smashes her face against the glass panel of my door about three to four times a day. I think she enjoys frightening me. What other pleasures do teenage girls have these days? She calls me her adoptive mom and begs to come to my house for dinner. I entertain her. She is funky—I probably would have been friends with her when I was in high school.

Yesterday she was in my room wearing her fedora hat and purple Converse sneakers. She is on a search for a job and got the bright idea to print her resume on pink, sparkly paper.

“Isn’t that a great idea, Ms. E.,” she said. “ I had to do something so they would remember me."

“Tia, one could never forget you, ” I replied.

“You know you love me.” She tilted her head forward in search of a response.

I looked up from my computer and gave her a smirk. “How could I not?”

“So when am I coming over to dinner?” she asked.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had this conversation with Tia, and how many times I’ve told her that she can come over in the summer. I shot her a look of exasperation.

“So what is your husband’s name?” she asked casually.

The sweat gathered down my spine. This was certainly not the conversation I was prepared to have.

“My wife,” I quickly blurted out. “Her name is R.“

Without skipping a beat, Tia reached up and gave me a high five.

“So, I’m coming over your house this summer, right? ” she asked again.

“Yes Tia, of course…”

Teaching 101

School will be over in one month. Time has gone by so quickly. I can’t believe I am almost one year into my new life. I’ve never regretted, not for one second, my decision not to practice law. What would have become of me?

Everyday I am more intrigued by my students. They sit with me during my free periods, sharing stories and seeking advice. I am so humbled by their trust in me. They feed my creative spirit. They give me permission to be young and free.

I have my summer to travel to Indonesia and take classes in psychology and art appreciation. And finally, I will have the space to start investing in my writing. I plan to finish the novel that woke me up at 5 am in the morning to begin.

Six whole weeks--touching and tasting every inch of this life.