*This the last segment of a four part series, between myself and Tabias Olajuawon of Blaqueerflow. After witnessing weeks of violence birthed from white supremacies, coupled with bursts of queer victories, we decided to create a healing space together where could process the intersections of our Black & Queer existences. We invite you to join us. To catch up on the dialogue, read the Tabias’ original post here, my response here, and the third segment, to which this is in response, here.*
I have stopped and started this letter over and over for days now. I keep finding myself writing my thoughts down for just a few moments before erasing them. Breathing. Thinking. Writing again. Erasing. Breathing. Thinking. Refusing to feel. There’s so much to feel right now. It’s as though my skin has been rubbed off and every speck of dust in every gust of wind creates a new abrasion. So I’ve been wrapped away, unable to write to you because my words were packed behind this covering I’ve put on to keep the dirt from my raw skin.
But, yes, feeling is something. Maybe feeling is everything. Today, I feel good again. No, not happy. I haven’t been happy since Charleston, but good. Uncovering myself and letting myself feel loneliness, sorrow, pain, anger and grief has been freeing. The dust doesn’t sting anymore. You’d have never guessed, but it actually seems to be creating a new layer of protection! These are human feelings. They exist for a reason. Who said they have no purpose? Why do we try so hard to suffocate them? They are a part of me. Not just sadness, no, but not just happiness either. All of them.
It’s so funny that you mention it because I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the master’s house and Audre Lorde’s quote on how the master’s tools will never dismantle it. I don’t think tools always have to be used according to their design, though. Let me tell you a story: yesterday, I found myself finally putting together the shelf I bought for my room. I needed to drill holes to affix it to my wall, but I didn’t have the right drill bit. I used a larger bit that I had lying around to create an indent big enough to rest the screw so that it could make its own hole. These are the kinds of things you learn when your father insists that men know how to use tools, and you hate him for it.
My point is, the scalpel may be designed to maintain the order of the plantation, but maybe you can also use it to cut the wires that power the lights so that you can make your escape? Maybe we too often forget the next part of Lorde’s quote, “They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game”?
Maybe, sometimes, that temporary relief is just what we need?
I see now that I never valued that inner home that you describe. I knew it was there, but I did not like being alone and I didn’t know how to let others in, so I was forever away from it. It’s still unfurnished, cold and bare. I had abandoned it, covering my skin from whatever was in the wind, using that scalpel the way it was designed – for this bloody cultural and political circumcision, severing parts of me to be with a collective.
I know now I need this home. I know it is, at the very least, safe. I know it houses all of me and all of my emotions and I know that each of them play an integral role in my life. I know no one will ever live here with me.
I want visitors, though. While I’m buying furniture and finding comfort and making this neglected place livable, I’m also pulling the shades and opening the blinds. I’m unlocking the door and playing in the yard. I want you over for wine and hookah. Not every day. Not everyone. But some days. Someone. People like you.
No one will ever know all of my secret nooks and crannies. No one will know exactly who I am and what I am feeling. I’m still discovering new rooms and windows myself, and I certainly need to spend more time doing that, but I can’t stay here alone all the time.
I think building a community and maintaining one’s home are not mutually exclusive. And yet, I cannot seem to find a balance. I am traumatized by my family, friends and loved ones, or I am wallowing in loneliness. I am trying to understand others, but spending no time understanding myself. I am welcoming someone into my circle, and they stab me in the back. I am choosing to survive and forgetting to live. I am choosing to live and forgetting to survive.
I have to be both/and and not either/or – I know that now. I need to survive AND live. I have to allow myself to feel joy AND despair. I must respond to loneliness AND overcrowding. Have my home AND my guests. That’s easier said than done, I know, but I’m tired of complaining about the fucking tight rope and ready to learn how to walk it. Will you train with me?
I’m sorry I could not respond more consistently while you were at The Slave Lodge. My skin was still raw then. I could not think about the millions who died before us and those who are constantly dying today at the same time. I am bombarded with Black death. It’s there and it’s real, but so is Black joy. So is the amazing weekend we spent together in DC. So is that Black baby’s smile I saw today in the arm’s of his father who wasn’t supposed to be holding him because Black fathers are absent. We can have both. I should have responded. Black death does not mean Black lives don’t exist. Black joy does not have to mean the Black struggle isn’t real.
And your smile is not a finite resource. I’ll make sure of that.
Going to buy this tightrope now – I hope to hear from you very soon.
With much love,