Monthly Archives: February 2014

Don’t say hi to me. Don’t ignore me either.

I’m not sure what I want to happen when we run into each other. Are you ashamed of what you did? You should be. But how will you deal with your shame? Will you keep your head down, pretending that I’m not there and that it never happened? Will you sheepishly make eye contact, knowing that you should apologize, but too afraid to do so? Give me the awkward nod and hand raise?

And what will I do? Will I ignore you? Pretend that you’re a ghost after what you’ve done, and that you no longer exist? I want to slap you in the face. I want to call you an asshole, a jerk, and make you understand the piece of shit that you are, but that wouldn’t be polite. So what will I do? We’re getting closer now, about to pass…

“Hey! How are you?” You greet me cheerfully, midstride. Before I’m even aware of what’s going on, my reflexes are kicking in and I’m smiling into your face, waving as I walk away from you. What just happened? 

That’s when I realize that you must not remember. Or if you do, you’re remembering incorrectly. You were drunk, and I was sober. While my back can still feel the wall that you pressed me into, and my body can still feel the grab of your unwanted ghost hands; while my arms remember the strain of trying to keep you away from me and off of me, my throat is hoarse with the memory of telling you “No,” and my cheeks can still feel the slobber from your forced kisses, what are you feeling? Maybe all you remember is annoyance, because I could tell you were annoyed when a friend finally forced you off of me. I was grateful; I was relieved. My arms had been about to give out. What a contrast that is, between annoyance and relief, and the beauty of escape into the outside air. You ruined that party for me, and scared me away from a few others.

And now you don’t even remember it? That’s bullshit. To you, everything is the same as it always was. If I suddenly stopped greeting you, I would be a bitch. If I complained about it, I would be overreacting. It happened too long ago. To bring it up now would seem foolish to everyone else who would have forgotten that night. I can’t help remembering every time I see you, and every time I automatically wave back my contempt for you grows almost to match the contempt I feel for myself. You have so much power over me, and you aren’t even aware of it.

The truly messed up thing is that I know if I got you in trouble, I would feel guilty. As if it was my fault, and not the consequence of your own actions. When did I turn into the girl who blames herself? Have I always been her?

I know that I’ll never get an apology, and that I’ll never feel safe around you. I know that you’ll always be ignorant of this. I just hope you haven’t done it to anyone else.

Jerk.

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The funny thing is that as I started this, two friends were celebrating their first anniversary.

That isn’t funny to you yet, or if it is, it’s for reasons other than mine.

It’s weird to me, the idea that certain days are remembered for certain things. Or maybe not that you remember things on certain days, because once a date is imprinted on your mind it tends to stay there, but that these days of memories supposedly become significant. Birthdays, holidays, death days, each date is marked off and when you reach it, it’s supposed to be meaningful somehow. You’re supposed to feel differently on this date than you would on any other day, despite the fact that it is just any other day to anyone else. But at this point, I’m tired of grieving when I’m supposed to grieve, or being happy when a calendar tells me to. So I sit here feeling nothing but fatigue, until I remember to feel guilty, and am confused. I realize that at this time last year, and even more so the year before, Sunday would have been a date of grief and fear. All I can do now is recognize that it was on this day, 2011, that my life was completely turned around.

I hate phones. I’m afraid of messages, and until I answer, I’m also afraid of calls. I realize that it’s selfish not to respond to people right away, and that a lot of the time I end up an inadvertent asshole for leaving my phone somewhere and then (legitimately) forgetting to respond to people, but I can’t help it. I hate phones.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The phone was ringing, and my dad and I were having a standoff.

“It’s Aunty,” I told him, reading the caller ID. He didn’t move, only looking at me expectantly. Since neither one of us was willing to admit we didn’t want to talk to her, and since I’d blown my own spot by walking over to the phone, I was forced to pick it up.

“Hiiiiii Ki,” she said, as I’d expected. I was also expecting a long session in which she would tell me about her son’s various conditions, a problem at work, or any other thing on the laundry list of hard luck that her family deals with. I love them dearly, and worry about them occasionally, but my aunt has a habit of calling whenever I’m content, and then making me feel bad without even trying. You can’t just go back to enjoying your chicken leg, or slice of pie, or whatever wonderful thing you were just taking part in without feeling like a shitty person, so because I know that she’s never calling to speak to me I’ve taken to yelling to my mother every time her name flashes on the screen, and then continuing with whatever I’m doing (my mom has good timing, and will fill me in on things later).

This time, the call was oddly short.

“Is your mother there?” she wanted to know. My mother was not home; otherwise she’d have already been on the phone.
“Can I take a message for her?” I asked.
“Oh, oh. How soon will she be back?” my aunt pressed. She sounded tense.
“Probably in about half an hour to forty minutes,” I told her. “Would you like me to tell her to call you?”
“No. No, no, I’ll call back later,” she said. “Goodbye, Ki.” That was it.

My mom came back with Boston Market. It was a wonderful day. I was thoroughly enjoying my chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, and corn bread when the phone rang again. It was my aunt, but this time only my mom had to talk to her. And talk to her. And talk to her. Everybody had finished dinner by the time she came back to the table. We had a South African cousin staying in the house, and my mom waited for him to go to his room upstairs before asking my dad and me to stay at the table for a minute.

On second thought, it’s really hard to write about this like a story. I’ve disconnected myself from the emotions of when it happened, which is almost funny, because at the time I was too numb to feel anything anyway. If you haven’t guessed already, this was when we first found out that Edward was suicidal. The aunt that called wasn’t his mom, because his mother was having a breakdown in the mental hospital where he was being held. He’d been at rehab for an eating disorder, and fortunately they’d found his note in time.

Looking back, I wish they’d kept it. I have no idea where that note is, or what was in it. It’s pretty ridiculous, seeing as how when he actually did kill himself, everyone turned to ask me why he must’ve done it. Y’all had the note. Y’all Also got goodbye texts. But at the time, I wasn’t thinking about this. I was thinking about how I’d been talking about suicide earlier that day, telling a friend that I had a cousin who by all accounts would be depressed enough to try suicide, but was too strong to do it. I was praising him for being my emotional and psychological foundation, as he was crumbling.

You know how in Wylie Coyote cartoons, he’ll sometimes be standing on the edge of a cliff that suddenly tumbles away? He’s left for a second in the air, looking around and down as if to question what’s happening. It doesn’t quite process, and then he’s falling, still confused as to what happened.
That was me. I sat there with my parents looking at me, my mom asking me to reach out to him. Reach out to whom? Reach out with what? What? I think they were waiting for me to cry, which I was not going to do. It wasn’t even out of spite. I just can’t process things with people staring me down, and nothing was making sense. I couldn’t see anything, and I didn’t cry until the next day in the school hallway, as I was walking to chem.

That started my 13 months of ghostliness, my thirteen months of terror and paranoia and breathlessness. I don’t know if at this point I would prefer that he’d succeeded the first time. I don’t know if it’s better that he took away my foundation, gave me hope, and then extinguished it. I got to see him two more times, two more glorious times. I got to meet his boyfriend, a boyfriend he would not have had if he’d succeeded, a boyfriend he would not have left behind if he’d succeeded. I honestly don’t know what I’d prefer, but I do know that it doesn’t matter. On February 16, 2011, my cousin attempted suicide, and it was the scariest thing I’d yet dealt with. You don’t just go on from a traumatic event. It traumatizes you, and things usually only get worse after that. But I don’t like reliving traumas, and have numbed myself to the dates. I didn’t spend Sunday tearing my hair or crying; I just spent it knowing. Always, at the back of my mind, knowing, and not being sure what to do with my knowledge.

I think that’s what I’ve done with all holidays and events now. In numbing myself to memories of Edward, I’ve accidentally numbed myself to the rest of the calendar’s Special Days. Christmas reminds me of him (we used to hide together) so Christmas can’t be marked. New Year’s is a chance to look back on whatever progress (or lack of progress) I’ve made without him. My birthday, while nice, will never be the same. It’s too soon after his Death Day, and celebrating the fact that I’m still alive, without him, seems twisted. I don’t know what I’ll do on his Death Day this year, or the day that I thought I would have to die to be with him, but last year they came and passed. The days don’t matter. It’s the thoughts, feelings and reflections that surround them that matter.

So there you go. I guess that I hate phones and calendars now. I deal with phones by leaving them alone, and I deal with calendars by trying to make them meaningless.

It’s the age-old story…

Boy meets girl. Boy dances on girl at party. Boy gets so turned on by girl’s dancing that he wants to take her home, or at least get some private time Somewhere. Girl has to tell boy that she’s asexual.

“Only at [this school] would I accept that as a response,” he said, before completely Not Accepting it. What followed was a pretty standard exchange, during which I had to explain what asexuality was, how I knew I was asexual, and that no, I wasn’t kidding. I’d gone through the same thing exactly one week earlier with a friend, while we were cuddling (does no one want to just cuddle anymore?). It’s funny how something can become so tiring and routine to you, while constantly amazing someone else. Especially tiring is that fact that the Someone Else will rarely understand your situation.

“Well it sounds like what you have is perfect for having just some casual thing,” he was saying. He’d clearly missed the part where I told him I need emotional connections to really be involved with someone. That, or he was okay with the idea of being on top of someone who would be numb and un-present, which wasn’t exactly a point in his favor. I tried to re-explain.

“So, you just don’t hook up?” he asked, like this was some foreign concept. Maybe it was.
“No,” I told him. “Except for on rare occasions.”
“Well, couldn’t this be one of those rare occasions?” he asked. “We could just go do this once.”
“And then make awkward eye contact for the rest of the semester?” I asked, incredulous. Who did he actually think I was? How big did he think campus was?

“No, no, we don’t have to. I’m really good about not making eye contact awkward,” he said, as if this was a selling point. “I just really wanna take you home and unzip your dress.”

My dress, it should be noted, was borrowed from a more brazen friend. It was essentially a tight-fitting jacket, in that its zipper went all the way up the front. As he said this last part, he motioned as if he would pull it down. I moved away, oddly feeling flattered, but also re-seeing the guy I was talking to as a sort of adult toddler. Had he never been turned down before? Was it inconceivable to him that he might not get his way? He was attractive, but all of this I-want-it-now, gimme-gimme stuff was detracting from my sympathy to him. I was sympathetic, because with any straight girl his approach probably would have worked. He was just unlucky enough to have tried me, and I felt sorry for letting him down.

So when he leaned down to kiss me, I really tried to kiss him back. I tried to be into it. I did! For about a second. It wasn’t going to take.
“That was hot,” he said, as I gently pushed him away, fervently shaking my head. “This would be so hot.” Was he kidding? I actually laughed in his face, but I did it in a way so that he would think I was being shy instead of offensive.

“I don’t think so,” I told him.
“Khalilah,” he insisted, “Are you being honest with me? You’re not just making this up, are you?”
“No,” I said, and then inspiration hit.

The following will probably be the most important part of this post, so if you read nothing else, read this:

At this moment, I knew exactly how to explain asexuality so that he would get it, and grabbed his hand. He thought I was bringing it to my body, and stepped closer. I stepped back and firmly placed the hand against the wall, moving it back and forth over the surface.

“What do you feel?” I asked him.
“The wall,” he said, unsure of what I was doing.

“But what does it feel like?” I prodded, and listened to whatever he said to describe its feel. “Now, do you feel sexually turned on by what you’re feeling, even though you can feel everything?”
“No,” he said, starting to understand.
“Exactly,” I told him. “That’s what it’s like for me. Now, if you’re very desperate to find someone tonight, there’s a cluster of freshman girls over there whom I can almost guarantee are not asexual.”
“That’s not what it’s about,” he said, although I didn’t believe him. “I really sorry. That this can’t work out, and about.. your thing.”
“Don’t be,” I told him. “Just appreciate what you have.”

And sending him on his way, I felt extremely proud of myself. I’m still proud of myself. Now, so long as there’s a wall present (or really anything you can touch), my routine may not need to be so tiresome.

Rambling

Sometimes I worry that I’m going to stop making sense to people.

Perhaps I should rephrase that. I already believe that I’ll be senile when I get older. Or, at the very least, that people will write me off as senile. I can completely see myself sitting out on a porch or a stoop, rambling at all the kids in the neighborhood, giving unsolicited advice and quoting poetry and speeches; telling people which books they should read.
“Oh, that’s just Miss Khalilah,” people will say, as they either hurry past me or actually stop to listen bemusedly. Most will think I’m a crazy but sweet old lady, and a couple people will actually take what I say to heart. I’m perfectly fine with that, because I know that for the most part, I’ll be allowed to live inside my head while still making contact with the world in whichever ways I want.

The problem is that when you’re a “crazy” old lady inside a young adult’s body, people just see you as crazy. Or full of shit. Neither view is benevolent.

Lately, it’s like my mind has been on a different wavelength from everyone else’s. This has always happened to some extent, where I make connections in places other people wouldn’t think to go, but I’ve always been able to tie things together in some way. It’s also usually been in casual conversation. Now, it’s like I know that the connection is there, but as I’m explaining, I realize that I cannot articulately tie anything together. This leads to too many trail-offs, as I desperately hope that someone will see where I’m coming from, but also know that as I seem to have forgotten myself, the chances of that happening are slim. It’s started to happen in class, and in more important conversations. It’s worrisome, because while I know that I’m not talking about Nothing, I’m not always sure if others will actually see it as Something, either.

I’m hoping that this is just a result of being sick, which I am at the moment. I become even more Out Of It whenever I’m sick; it’s like the aches and pains in my body and head cloud my brain. If this isn’t a side effect of being sick, I’m not sure what to do about it. There’s only so much thinking I can do before speaking. Maybe the solution will be to cut back even more on speaking, and really give in to listening. Or maybe the problem is that I’ve been listening so much that I haven’t had enough practice getting my own messages across. Maybe I literally need to start talking myself out of my situations, in the hopes that I’ll catch myself along the way.

Thoughtfully, of course. Ain’t nobody over here trying to be Michael Scott.

One Week Down

To all the people out there complaining about Black History Month, saying that “if we had something called White History Month, you’d say it was racist!” you’re probably right.

If there was a month that was nationally recognized as White History Month, people probably would say that it was racist. That’s why for the other 11 months out of the year, when all we’re really doing is learning White History, it isn’t called anything other than History. If people labeled the general history that we’re taught in school for what it really is, there would be so many complaints of racism that we’d be forced to change our textbooks to more accurately reflect the diverse range of cultures, histories, and viewpoints of which the world is comprised (and I just want to know: what would you put on the White History Month curriculum that you aren’t already learning? Have you thought about this, or is this just another case of feeling left out, because minorities are forced to blatantly state when they’re doing something in their own interest, and you’re stuck with having to force yourselves to realize when things are being done to privilege you?).

Last week, SNL had a skit/song about Black History Month. You’ve probably seen it. If not, here it is:

“They really don’t teach this stuff in school; it’s a mystery.”
The skit was funny, but also a bit worrisome. It seemed directed solely toward white people, and not even in an informative way. The only two reasons that you should respect black people are that they deserve a chance, and slavery? Ummm no. **

I understand that it was a skit, on SNL, and it was meant to be funny, but I wish it didn’t have to reinforce the idea so many people seem to hold: that February is only about reminding white people that slavery happened and that they should feel guilty. Feeling begrudgingly guilty for 28 days a year does nothing to help the still-oppressed descendants of slaves, especially when the begrudgement gives way to orders to “get over slavery” and “stop playing the race card”. The idea that race is a card that black people keep up their sleeves to “play” white people is ridiculous. It’s not a trick! It’s an actual thing!

Black History Month should be recognized as more than reminding people of slavery and asking for an equal chance. It should be about reminding people where they’ve come from, and showing people examples of stronger ancestors, besides Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and the watered-down version of MLK Jr. we’re given. Can we read the autobiography of Frederick Douglass(to show a black man who stood up to a white man and lived to become stronger)? Letter from a Birmingham Jail (for another side of Martin)? The Willie Lynch Letter (to shed light on some of the origins of lightskin v. darkskin and black hatred)? Amiri Baraka, for the rebel in each of us, “Dutchman” to show societal traps? Heck, let’s even throw in “Americanah”, because my girl Chimamanda was onto some racial shit. Really any black person who’s doing things, like the youngest person to pass the UK Bar exam, or the girl who won a scholarship without twerking. (Speaking of which, we should also try to stop associating twerking with ignorance, because it actually comes from a rather vibrous, religious culture that the West completely misinterpreted.)

And then, after being inspired, let’s point out the ways in which slavery has manifested itself today. Let’s talk about private prisons, and disenfranchisement, the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, white privilege, Stop and Frisk (which thankfully has been stopped, but never should have been considered justified in the first place)…

February is such a watered down month in school, and it never sends the right message. Either we come away from those 28 days thinking that things used to be bad but now are nothing to complain about, or thinking that even if we should be complaining, we don’t have any true models of resistance. There are no uprisings. No radicalism. And there can’t really be radicalism, if you can get shot for walking home at night in a hood, and your shooter can go on to star in a “celebrity” boxing match. (PLEASE, no one watch that).

At least, that’s the way we’ve learned things to be. That should change.

**By the way, I also do NOT like the fact that the one black woman in that video really had no significance other than being supportive. The white female teacher got to speak, as did the white male student. The two black men got to rap and be funny. All she got to do was look cute, dance, sing “twenty-eight reasons” over and over again, and hold a saxophone. Racism and patriarchy are most definitely entwined, with women of color on the extremely losing end of the spectrum.

Being Asexual is Lonely

I don’t just mean in terms of not having someone to cuddle with when I want, or not being able to feel physically present even when I’m touching someone else. What I mean is that I can never completely count on anyone else to be there for me if/when I need them. Oh, I have friends, and they tell me that they support me and that they’re here for me, but they can’t completely be. They’re sexual.

One night, I was lying in bed unable to sleep. It was 4am and I was scared. I was thinking about life, and people, and why people do bad things. I was thinking about corruption, about how it seems that at some point everyone has to kill a little bit of their humanity in order to go on living. Whether that means dulling your feelings so that pain won’t keep you from doing the things you need to do, or cutting off empathy so that you can continue to live without always worrying about others and the consequences of your actions, there are so many ways we are expected to give up bits of ourselves, and it’s scary to think of how completely Not-Ourselves we’ll be when it’s finally time for us to die. I was wondering if it was possible for me to live without giving up my humanity, and if I could live an entire life without harming others, unintentionally or not, or if it would be better to just kill myself before becoming corrupted along with everybody else. I don’t like thinking about suicide, because I always know that it isn’t actually a viable option for me, and it leads me to thinking about One, and how much better things would be if he were here instead of me. When I think about that, I’m always afraid that I’ll start hearing voices, either his or someone else’s.

I didn’t want to go through that. I didn’t want to think, or hear anything, or move. I was lying paralyzed. I managed to move enough to find my phone and turn it on. I was going to call my friend.

This was the first time in a long time that I had tried to call someone when I was scared. I knew that he would be up, and I knew that he would be able to talk me through it. Did I really want to bother him, though? It wouldn’t be bothering him. He’d told me earlier in the week that it would bother him more if I didn’t tell him when things were upsetting me, and that I shouldn’t worry about how he would react to what I said. So it was only with slight trepidation that I called.

“Hello?” He’d picked up! Was I imagining things? Would my voice work? Would he know that I was crying? “Hello…?” he was saying. I forced myself to speak.
“Hi,” I told him, trying to make my mouth form the words around my tears. They were slipping all over the place, and it felt like my face was numb. “How are you?”
“I’m good; what’s up?” he asked.
“I can’t sleep,” I told him slowly. “I can’t sleep and I’m really scared.” This was it.
“Yeahhh,” he said. “I can’t really talk right now.” What?
“Oh,” I said. “Oh- oh- oh- oh —  okay” I finally managed to choke out. A sad laugh shot out of me as I realized that he was with a girl.
“Yeahhh,” he repeated. “Is there someone else you can call?”
“Yeah,” I lied. “Have a good night.”

When I saw him the next day, I asked him how his night had been.
“It was okay,” he said. “Not much happened. We just watched a movie.”

They’d been watching a movie, while I was crying. I knew that I couldn’t really be mad at him, because as a sexual person, he was simply going after what I couldn’t have: closeness. I was only his friend; not someone he wanted to sleep with. My friends aren’t assholes. They care about the people they want any sort of relationship with, and they understand that they need to put in time with the people they want to be with. That means that they can’t really have time for me.
That’s great for them. It means that they’ll probably have successful relationships, and the people they’re with will be happy. But what happens when you have no one? I have nothing to offer sexual people. I’ve been told that I should just give up my body in order to get the closeness I want, but that’s sort of like giving up your humanity in order to keep living. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to do anything with people unless we have some sort of emotional connection. These days, it seems that no one else wants to form emotional connections until they’ve experienced something sexual with you. For me to put myself in a position I don’t want to be in would be like me raping myself. That wouldn’t be good for me, and I know I would only resent the person I was with because of it.

When I look down the line at a life of either loneliness or self-rape, I don’t know. It’s scary. It’s sad. I’m not sure how to fix it.

Living Ghosts

I look up to greet the next student in line.
“Hi,” I start cheerfully, then trail off as I realize I’m staring into the eyes of The White Boy Who Tried to Colonize My Vagina. I’m shocked, he looks uncomfortable, and this has the potential to be an extremely awkward situation. Still looking in his direction, I immediately un-focus my eyes so as not to show that I recognize him, then swipe his card quickly, giving a silent prayer of thanks when it goes through without a problem. I pass his card back without looking at him, greet the next person, and it’s as if he doesn’t even exist.

Even though he’s still so close that I could reach out and touch him. Or slap him in the face.

Being on a small campus constantly forces me to remember that it’s also a small world, and one at which I am not the center. When I decide not to contact someone anymore, they cease to exist in my world (the one in my head). I train myself to look away when I see them, until not noticing their presence is a reflex. I get myself to stop thinking about them, and eventually repress whatever negative memories they’ve left behind, unconsciously along with the fact that they still exist and have lives to live.
At this moment, my world has its fair share of people to whom I refer as living ghosts. Ghosting makes things easier, because it keeps me from worrying about these people until they sneak in under my radar and we’re blatantly confronted with each other. Then things are weird for a minute, and I struggle to decide whether it would be better to solidify them in my mind, in order to tell them off, or to keep them as ghosts and let them awkwardly float away.

The White Boy floated free, before I decided whether or not I wanted to ask about his girlfriend, or call him a creep. The “friend” who cyber-bullied me in the beginning of freshman year is continually floating around my peripherals, as is the sketchy drummer in my dance classes. I did such a good job of ghosting him that I legitimately got stuck outside the dance room for a minute, and was confused as to why I was still in the hall before realizing that there was someone in the doorway I was afraid to walk past. Over the summer, I had an issue with a manager at work who thought it was okay to rub my arms while telling me that my top was inappropriate. This was a guy who liked to talk about the girls at work, saying if he ever got the chance to sleep with one, he’d “tear her ass up”. Nothing about the situation was okay, and while he had to exist in my work world, I made sure my mind banished him from all other aspects of my life. I didn’t think of him until, while wearing a strapless dress on my day off, I all but walked into him on the street. All I could think to do was greet him and exit the situation as quickly as possible.

Thinking about it, there are so many other people who might as well be ghosts. In a life where you’re constantly making connections with others and figuring yourself out, people slip through your social cracks. They resurface in random Facebook posts, or materialize on the opposite side of the street. “I used to know you,” I think, as I wonder whether it’s more socially acceptable to greet or ignore them. “And it’s not as if I don’t know who you are anymore.” You don’t stop recognizing someone once they’ve made some sort of connection with you. Yet from the way a lot of us act, you’d think that was the case. It’s weird, this half-unconscious, feigned ignorance. Why does it happen? In what ways do we think it will make our lives easier? And how do we somehow automatically know to do it?

Many of the people I’ve encountered have supernatural fears. I’m not really afraid of spirits, I think because I’ve accepted that whether by choice or not, I’m already living with ghosts. I can’t run from them. They won’t disappear if I close my eyes, but half of them would probably look through me if I decided to make eye contact with them anyway.