I’ve felt you hanging around here.
I see the slight ruffle of bed covers imprinted with the indentation of your body weight. The long silver hair on the pillow next to mine. I see the way you pull your pearls out of my jewelry box. And feel your hand on my back when I can’t sleep, rubbing slow circles. I hear you, just faintly, calling me by my middle name.
I will freely admit that having you around made me uncomfortable at first. You’ve been gone far longer than I prefer, and I have gotten used to referring to you in the past tense. Sometimes, I don’t tear up when I talk about you. Now most of the stories I tell of us, of you, tumble forth on hearty bursts of laughter. Every morning when I brush the hair we share, I think of you. When I smile, I always pay special attention to the bow of my lips and think of your smile. When I slip my rings on, I always smile at the crooked middle finger we both possess, and I remember holding your hand.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why you were hanging around in the begininng. Usually when you visit, it is so rare and so brief that I’ve gotten used to feeling you in passing, smiling at the fact that you can’t sit still, even in The After. So this lingering, this, occupation of sorts, threw me. I started to wonder, am I doing something wrong? Were you angry with me? Did you have something to tell me? Was I involved in something I needed to get out of?
As time went on, I realized, or remembered rather, that you never asked anything of me but me. So when my bedroom smells like your perfume, it doesn’t make me uneasy anymore.
It took me a minute, but I started to figure out that while you may have been here to keep me company, you were also acutely interested in he that I am sure you would call “that handsome yella boy”. I see you stopping the TV on MSNBC. (Rachel Maddow is brilliant right?)
I wish you were here so we could talk. So I could ask you about those dark years you hardly ever mentioned, what it’s like for you, a child of the Olde South, watching a black man run for the highest office in our land. Often when I daydream, I picture sitting on the floor at your feet in the old Elm Street house, listening to the furnace rumble and whatever piece of hilarity or wisdom the images on the TV would provoke you to say. I imagine hearing stories of what it was like growing up in the segregated confederation, long before you ever fathomed there could be integration, even before four little girls, sit-ins and marches. I’d like to see it through your eyes.
I remember the first time I felt you being a part of this movement. It was right after I’d heard one of my favorite quotes;
“In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.”
That isn’t exactly how you put it, of course. I believe your version said, “Hope is not a dream, if you protect it fiercely.” But either way, I teared up and heard you in the words.
If I know you as I think I do, I know that you never thought I’d see the day this might happen. You were always cautiously distrustful of the political process, as I imagine anyone who lived your experiences would. But I wish, more than anything, I could share this with you.
Stepping into the voting booth, I felt a kind of warmth I haven’t felt in so long. I fought tears and giddy laughter as I stared at the screen in front of me. I stood there for what felt like eternity, absorbing it, letting the moment wash over my skin. I felt my hand, barely my own, lifting, touching, and making it real. For a second I swore I tasted peppermint.
I know, too, that you are disappointed in me, in the choices I have made, the things I am not doing. I hear you fussing. I feel you shaking your head at me. And I know you don’t understand.
It seemed for so long that something was missing, some intangible thing that I couldn’t put my finger on and couldn’t shake. Some something bigger than the dreams you told me I should have for myself.
On the brink of what could or could not be an extraordinary day, I know I owe you, and many more before me, more than what I have been giving. And I promise that I will guard my hope fiercely. That I will become the me that you told me I could be. Because now I believe…
Yes we can.