What would drive a nineteen me to ask for true love and everything that comes with it?
|this is a rough draft - I have more detail I wish to add and will do so. This is by no means polished -
Chapter One - The Wish
This isn't a memoir, more of written out angst and thoughts trying to put a timeline to the eternal question, how did I get here, exactly? When I began to unravel the muddy thoughts of my mind, I realized I needed to go back to a point, a starting point. Could I have started when I was a toddler? I could but it would be memories and not thought. As Descartes wrote, I think, therefore I am. I didn't begin to think critically until the concord Air France touched down at the Charles De Gaulle airport. This is where the beginning of my adventure and search for the holy grail of love began. At nineteen, I should not have felt like I'd already lived a few lifetimes several times over. Typically, I did what most were supposed to do after graduating with honors from high school, I went on to college. I took a month before the start of the semester to travel around France with my French class. At the time, I assumed being in that country is what finally what prompted my decision to go to school in Washington DC. I had twiddled my thumbs and procrastinated with several offers, but I wasn't sure where I should take my talents. I had my choices of Princeton, MIT, Northwestern and UCLA and a few others, but I could not make up my mind on where I should go. A trip at the end of my senior year to France was supposed to clear my mind. It was supposed to clear my mind, but the trip did nothing but put more thoughts into my cranium that I was not equipped to handle. While I immersed myself in the francophone language and could speak the language, my eyes saw the same treatment as I did at home. The same happens in France as it did in my wintery, up north state of Minnesota. I am still an oddity just because of the color of my skin. I had spent years reading on how France treated us people of color differently, in a good way. From Josephine Baker to Langston Hughes, what I had been fed was France was where one who looked like me escaped to be considered human. I dived into learning the French culture and the French people because I thought, mistakenly, that the mocha, coffee, espresso hued of us should journey to France as that is where we are accepted. That was not the case. Even as I stood out against my classmates being the only brown one of the group, I stood out amongst the whole country. My skin was not the beautiful hue of the Nairobi or Egyptians that the French seemed to welcome. No, my tone was of the Americanized, ruddy, rust brown color with the tones of the odd mix of heritage I may be. The French pointed at me, and snickered whether it would be my skin, my accent, my lack of chic Parisian clothing that my classmates could afford to buy while we were in France. They would point more at me than my Caucasian class mates because I stuck out, I was tall, American, and black. After a month of France, I learned that Mrs. Baker and Mr. Hughes were in France at a different time altogether and people thought differently, but I did not feel embraced. I felt 'othered'.
So my decision to attend a historically black college was a flight from feeling this otherness. At least everyone would look like me, or felt what I have felt, or done what I have done. It is funny how the rose colored glasses quickly come off once you are no longer having your meals prepared by mom and dad. Once you have to pay for the roof over your own head, the pretty picture of life being your oyster wears off.
The first year of college was a numbing on all levels. One would assume that getting a scholarship would be the way to get the education you need. No, that paid for your body to be allowed on the campus. My scholarship did not pay for room and board. My first year of college I spent working odd jobs around campus, to buy the books, borrowing books, and looking in the trash for food that some of the football team didn't finish eating. I did not gain the infamous freshman fifteen pounds, my body lost twenty-five pounds from the bare minimum food, learning how to make four packages of ramen noodles last two weeks. I also learned that if you waited behind someone who used the sandwich vending machine, you could usually stick your hand into the door before it fully closes and swipe the next egg salad sandwich. Those sandwiches are probably disgusting to some but those small yellowed egg and mayonnaise sandwiches saved my life on more than one occasion on those nights.
The students I went to school with, most of them were the overachievers, the debutantes, valedictorians and high performers and I felt odd. I was just trying to be a student. I tried to do it all, homecoming, football games, going to every event I could. My dormitory floor mates were women of all different tones, from all different states. Yes, this is where I could grow and find where I belonged. That was not the case. I thought, as my den of aunts told me, when a group of black women get together, and they have all different skin tones, no one didn't think they would get singled out. We are all family. Yet, I did, for not being black enough. My heritage and DNA were not in question, it was my voice. My voice, refined from a month of speaking nothing but French accents and living in Minnesota, did not sound like theirs. Sure, I could drop my 'g' and make myself sound like everyone else, but that was not my natural speaking tone. So again, I was 'othered' by my own just because of how I chose to articulate words. Yet, feeling like an outcast in a school that most looked like you, it is almost a slap in the face, but that was the least of my troubles.
I was a scholarshipped student, digging in the garbage right along with the homeless to eat so I could afford to buy the books I needed. Food or books and I chose the books. I tried to find a job, but it was the late nineties, everyone in DC was trying to find a job. So while being outcaste by my own peers, I found a community of homeless or derelicts that were more forgiving than kids my own age. My college about 16 blocks from that infamous address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, right where the green line drops off the well suited folks to their nice townhomes, however, one turns the corner and there is a homeless community complete with oil cans burning fires to stay warm. These became my people after I opted to burn my homework and essays as opposed to keeping them as mementos of my college years. I brought things to burn and stolen bread from the cafeteria when I could sneak inside. We bummed cigarettes off each other, if one of us would ever scrounge up enough change to buy a pack of More cigarettes, we buy one and split them up between three of us regular dumpster divers. I made seven cigarettes stretch for three weeks, lighting one, snuffing it out after two quick inhales, and putting it back in a pack. My mother, bless her, thought by sending me twenty dollars every two weeks was enough to sustain food and books. It just wasn't enough, not in the District of Colombia where the taxes alone would break you.
The summer I came home, I looked skinnier, tired. My mother talked a mile a minute as she helped me load the little luggage I had left into the car. I didn't come home with all of what I went there with. I sold some things, put some other stuff in storage that I never saw again, all so my mother did not have to spend extra money to send it home. She rattled and prattled on about how good I looked and it seemed as though I grew up overnight. She was a mother who showed she cared by telling you what you can do better. I rolled my eyes and told her I wasn't going back. I was not going to tell her that no college did not agree with me, and that I was eating out of a dumpster and finding a job in DC was impossible. I turned to her on the long drive from the Hubert H Humphrey terminal and with all the certainty I could muster I said, "Mom, I am going to save money and go to community college near home. I already had enough college credits from high school that I only needed two more years of college anyway."
She nodded in agreement and said alright, as long as I promised to do everything to better myself. I resigned from college after one year, my view of the world jaded in the course of twelve months. I started community college immediately, not knowing what I was even going to school for. I had no desire to be the civil rights attorney I thought I was going to be. To me, life took an abrupt 'u-turn', and there was nothing but a blank slate in front of me. I came back home and immediately went back to work as a waitress because my boss told me I could always come back and I had worked at the restaurant for most of high school.
One fateful day, after a long night of work, I took myself out to eat, to sit at one of those chain diners, Perkins, because I had a need for pancakes after a year of starving myself. I usually dined out alone, even at that age because I preferred to be alone with my thoughts. Not to mention my mother didn't cook except on Sundays because she worked 3 jobs. My step dad was never at home working 12 hour shifts, my older sister moved out of the house, and my two younger siblings were in some scouting event or after school activity. It was just me and my journal, a serious writer's journal I told myself way back then, with its non-lined pages and tie string closure.
As I perched in a corner booth, finally getting to smelling the smells of food and not having to hide the fact my stomach growled or having to dig it out of a garbage can, I looked around, everyone was dining with someone. I had no one. No close friends, no one to call my best friend, no one to call up and say "Hey are you bored?" I'd spent my high school years doing what I was told, nose in the books, working and keeping my grades up, it didn't leave me enough time to develop a friendship with anyone. My lack of friends was bad enough that my science teacher said after congratulating me in front of the entire 8th grade class for acing a minerals test that 'it must be easy to get a perfect score when you have no friends'. I was still that lonely. So that night, sitting at the diner, sipping coffee, I took out my fountain pen and began to pen my pleas to God.
Lord, please send me true love and everything that comes with it, is what I wrote, the beginning of my entry that day. It was a plea for love, a companion, a life, and for someone to share some good times and bad times with. I had no one to tell of my struggle of my first year in college, my mother lives in the state of denial, and she never heard my complaints or my attitudes about life, her favorite motto is that there is never a reason to cry.
I thought I was playing around just letting my pen take the thoughts out of my head and put them to paper. I was a young innocent nineteen, my idea of true love was someone who will watch every movie that you have an interest in, whether it was Tombstone or Iron Man. I thought true love and everything that came with it was getting an apartment, maybe finding a puppy, and partying too hard once you turn twenty-one. True love was supposed to be what was in the movies. If my life couldn't be like the movies, at least my love life could be.
I sat at that diner writing a full blown thesis about what love was to me, what I was looking for, and where would I find it. After two hours of sitting alone, wondering, writing, enjoying my stack of pancakes, hashbrowns and coffee with cream, I packed it up and took the bus home. My Sony Walkman was turned up loud and I had new pep in my step. I had a course of action, my goal in life was not to seek love, but to tear down every barrier of myself that kept me from it. I did not know who Rumi was at the time, but his philosophy on love would begin to take shape one month after that fateful journal entry.