She carries with her more than clothes, shoes, and personal effects. She also carries a small bag for memories, pieces from each country she has ever called home. Home, a word that grows stranger on her tongue as the year passes. What is a home? Does she, an itinerant woman, even have a home anymore? Will her friends and family still love her, remember her, will they be able to understand that she has changed? Will they be able to understand or even articulate on the smallest level what it means to go from home to home, country to country? To experience both pain and pleasure within moments. To understand her need to be alone at times just so she can have time to digest and reflect.
Here I was in South Africa, Johannesburg and Cape Town, thinking that Africa would easier than India. After all, I was black and the country was 90% black I would blend in, and be at peace. No longer would my body become a sideshow attraction. But if it was invisibility I was searching for, she would soon be disappointed. There was no blending in for an American here. They heard it in my “good English.” The gawked and stared. Some were kind enough to ask me about my story; others looked at me smugly as if my “good” English made me stuck up. My blackness would not be an easy pass, if I wanted to belong here, I would have to earn people’s love and respect. Challenge accepted.
The friends and memories I made in Johannesburg will always be a part of me. This poem is dedicated to the city that literally stole my heart:
Heart heavy, tears raining down my face.
Each step was like a blow to my heart.
Each step took me further from where I wanted to be.
We had a love hate relationship. Like any other couple.
We fought for days on in. There was times when I wanted to fly as far away from you as possible.
I did not want to spend my life consumed by your mysteries, your curves.
I did not want to be caught up in spells of culture and glamor.
Yet I reached out for you every time.
Hungry for you contradictory stories of oppression and then hope.
Enamoured by the way you tried to mask inequality, like a black eye on your sweet face.
I felt your pain. I understood why you could never reveal yourself to me.
I understood why secrets and distance kept you from loving me how you should have.
I carried my own burdens. Strapped to my back, never forgetting the times that I wanted to crawl under a rock and disappear from reality.
It was your pain that attracted me to you.
I thought we could relate.
I thought we could hold each other on the bad days and laugh with each other on the good days.
We did neither as much as I would have liked.
We fought mercilessly about what a city, a country should be like.
Enigmas were no longer attractive, they became a nuisance.
I just wanted you to show me something.
It was not until I left that realized you did.
It was not until I swore for the now fourth time, that I would come back and visit.
That I would see you soon.
That I realized you like so many other places gave me honesty.
You smiled as the lie came from lips, knowing I may never come back.
If I did it would be a long time coming.
The look you gave me before the plane took off, killed me.
You caught my lie.
You knew I had rehearsed this a thousand times before. To me they had turned into words.
You wanted them to be reality.
So as I said good-bye for the last time, I realized that I loved you for your honesty.
I loved that you loved me like you knew how and not how you should.
I loved that goodbyes became less painful, because you were so sure of the future.
I left heartbroken and you left content.
All the time I begged you to show me something and you secretly wanted the same from me.
For every tear drop that hit the stone cold ground, you took as honesty flowing from my unmoving lips.
We finally came to peace.