On a completely ordinary Thursday afternoon, I took a cab from Bed-Stuy to Laguardia. I was laying down my Brooklyn shield and exposing my under belly to my Deep Southern roots. The sky was cloudy and grey. I was also cloudy and grey. I was heading to my hometown of Shreveport, a northern Louisiana town famous for casino boats and gun violence. I’d grown up a bird in a box with a view of sky.
I’d spent a long time distancing myself from the words and expressions of those who could really hurt me. Southerners are known for hospitality but infamous for shade. It’s in our DNA. I arrived at DFW airport in the early evening. My brother lives in Dallas and it's cheaper to fly there. It was dusky and cool. I retrieved my life, deconstructed in two suitcases. The plan was to spend two weeks helping The Lady pack her things and relocate to the Dallas area. She was moving in with my high school BFF and her husband. Also known as my play cousins. She'd been robbed, pistol whipped, shot at, displaced, lost and outdone. She was in desperate need of rescue. The Lady and I had spoken consistently but not regularly. My lifestyle and independence had forged a distance between us.
Walking into her home was like being immediately transported into a trigger bouncy house. The street was lined with burnt grass and broken fences. The corners were crowded with despair. Her trauma had brought back her smoking habit and the house smelled of fear, Glade and cigarettes. There was consistent gunfire outside and every shadow presented potential danger. I awoke each morning to bright lights, blaring television, Pall Malls, a house phone with multiple ringers and the phrase 'You're not a morning person'. It felt a bit like performance art. My every move on display. My every moment an opportunity to dissect and label. I'd forgotten what it was alike to be watched this way. To be observed by your creator. It had been nearly twenty years since we cohabitated and it was a rocky ass start.
Since then the environment has changed and the bouncy house has morphed. It's more of a river filled with jagged rocks. It flows but that shit is painful and it leaves its marks. It has been a difficult transition for The Lady. In the beginning, she would awake seized with panic. She would obsess about the organization of the room and continually switch things around. She would go back and forth to her storage unit taking stacks of things and returning with stacks of things that she would later take back. She would panic driving because she was afraid she would get lost and she didn't understand "that bitch Google" and I don't know how to give directions and I have bad understanding and no she didn't want me to drive. She was untethered. I needed to give her a solid base. I've stayed four months longer than scheduled and in that time, I've catered to her every whim. I've not always been gracious. I've occasionally pointed out that going to the storage unit four times a week was ludicrous. I may have pointed out that being a Walmart regular was not my jam and I probably stood too firm on Tyler Perry's soap operas being hateful trash.
Yesterday morning, upon waking, The Lady called me selfish. This is something she's said almost every day. But instead of jumping in my fee fees and throwing myself on a fainting couch, I asked her what she meant.
Wait. What? "That's not selfish. That's not what that is or what that word really means" I said. She said, "It is to me." Ain't that the realest shit? It doesn't matter what something is or what something means. It only matters what it means to the person you're talking to. It only matters if they matter. I told her that if that's what selfish meant to her, I own it and that I would continue to be selfish. I suggested she get a little more selfish as well. I told her that if I left her with anything, that I hoped it would be that. The Lady is the goddess of gaslighting. She's called me "white" "butch" "selfish" "fat" "idiotic", everything but a child of God, as the old folks like to say. I shouldn't be offended by any of this because she doesn't mean anything by it and she hates talking to me because she can't say anything because I take everything personally and she just won't say anything and..............and...........and I take her walking with me and ply her with healthy food. I force her to figure out her phone and her computer for herself to remind her that she can. I force her to visualize and dream to remind her that she can. I encourage her to try new things and I get in that ass when she says things that are ignorant or racist. I remind her that she is a work of art.
I prioritize myself in the midst of all this to remind myself I can.