2017 in 30 pieces

Inauguration Day, outside the doors of the immigrant and refugee support event, the line of people stretches around the block.

My pal and I start texting each other music each day, a sweet, quiet pen pal habit. Friendship is in the small things sometimes.

I’ve talked in front of audiences my whole life in different ways. One time my voice cracks inside of my throat and I realize I don’t give a shit about being embarrassed by vulnerability anymore.

I walk with other women of color and their families at the Women’s March and a large group of pink-hatted white women yell at us for singing because they want the march to be a silent one. They shout “SILENT! SILENT!” They fail to see the absurdity.

My dude looks filled with delight every time I walk in the door. We laugh a lot, and I can’t wait to get home every night.

Community gatherings, organizing groups, volunteer events, committee meetings, talking circles, voter registration events, public hearings, memorials, petition writing parties, marches, workshops, talks, summits, rallies. I wonder when the moment I will burn out will come.

I hug my dear Delium in the middle of the street before he drives away to a different state and it is one more thing gone in a long tired line.

My version of reminiscing with my old dance school friends is counting out a difficult piece of choreography we learned at the age of 15. We argue about it a little, but the counts are still there, in all of our heads.

I sit at my parents’ dining table in Flint, relieved that the formerly abandoned house across the street is now occupied, even though I know this is just one small win. I wonder if I will love another city as much as this.

I walk into a surprise party in Michigan, making my friend scream in shock. Everyone claps. This is how Oprah must feel whenever she shows up at things.

I hold my brand new niece Meera while her sister, Uma, rolls on the floor singing Hindi songs better than I do. They both smile at me. They smile at everything.

Fires make the sky a gunmetal haze and the sun hang red, and I feel kind of sick. These things aren’t the most apocalyptic things of the year, not by a long shot.

We arrive at my dude’s mom’s birthday party as a surprise. She hugs him and cries. His sisters and I cry too. Sometimes there are complicated reasons for crying, and sometimes there are simple ones. Sometimes there are both.

We stand on our front porch in our eclipse glasses and stare at the sun as it slowly blots out. It gets cold and we stand closer. It warms up again and we stay close.

I get off of an elevator and walk onto a movie set that I didn’t know was there. I stand under the bright lights and gawk at Cate Blanchette and say “oops!” She says nothing back.

I go to DC and see several friends, all of them beautiful people who exude warmth and kindness. We eat and walk and laugh and talk. On the last day my dude and I sit next to the Potomac and watch boats go by, content and grateful.

I sit in a shelter for families experiencing homelessness and a kid tells me his favorite thing about himself is that he likes talking to people. “Just like I’m doing right now. I’m so good at it.” And he really is.

I dance with my friend at a Solange concert under a warm open sky. Red and pink stage lights make our faces bright and our teeth glow as we laugh.

I see Misty Copeland speak and the auditorium is full of little black and brown ballerinas in tutus. Before the program starts they do pirouettes in the aisles.

There hasn’t been a lack of sexist, racialized street harassment or microagressions in my life, but 2017 gets a prize. If you have never been spit at, yelled at, or otherwise menaced because of your identity, I congratulate you, I guess.

The work I do has, for many years, been about dismantling oppressive systems and rebuilding something else. This year my fatigue around this has been at an all-time high. My inner pilot light remains joyful though, and this is such a gift.

A friend says something ignorantly racist. I gently but directly ask her to consider her words. She unfriends me online and off, and I guess she will never talk to me again. This is not the only thing like this that has happened to me in life, but there were more of these this year. This is what it can look like to be in a poc/white friendship. Sometimes the chasm is too wide to cross.

I have a friend who, after the election, starts texting me, emailing me, staying in touch more often. She keeps showing up and authentically communicating, strengthening our bond. We snap into focus for each other. This is also what it can look like to be in a poc/white friendship. The chasm can be crossed.

I drive my two oldest friends to the coast where we walk up and down the beach and look at our grown up faces and see the 4 year olds, the 12 year olds, the 17 year olds, the 25 year olds we were together. When they look at me, I am seen.

My nieces and nephews sprout up and up, running full speed into life, just kicking shit down as they go, making me believe in things.

My partner stands with me in ways too deep to explain. Over and over and over again, he never fails me.

A primary friendship of mine trips along, with resentments under the skin like icy blue veins. She says she doesn’t want “big, tiring talks” in her life, so I wait, not knowing how to navigate a friendship that was built on authentically talking without, well, talking. While I wait, helplessly mute, she drifts away, and away, and away, and I watch her recede from the shore I am standing on. All the words I know to say are big, and tiring, and so I have no way that I can think of to call her back to me. I decide to let her go, pretending that the decision is even mine to make.

My mom and I talk on the phone almost daily, and her laugh is still my favorite laugh.

My dad is still gone, and his memory is still my favorite memory.

I am in a tiny karaoke bar packed full of biker club guys in their 60s, a few craggy longshoremen, a booth of librarians, some woo-woo 25 year olds, and several wilted souls of indeterminate age. I start to sing a melancholy “Stand By Me” and before the first verse is done, the entire bar is singing it with me, loudly, drowning me out. I look through the waving arms to the back of the room, find the eyes of my guy, and we smile and sing, and sing and smile. This is 2017.

If the sky that we look upon

Should tumble and fall

And the mountain should crumble to the sea

I won’t cry, I won’t cry

No I won’t shed a tear

Just as long as you stand

Stand by me

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5 comments

  1. I am crying and smiling at the same time. I love you in a million different ways and miss you like crazy. Maybe 2018 will be the year where I figure out how to teleport so I can see you more often.

  2. I found my way back here and you didn’t disappoint. It warms my heart that you are out there, fighting the good fight that will hopefully better things for all of us.

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