“Do you have a hard time asking people for things?”
“I don’t really need to ask people for things. I am pretty self-sufficient.” That’s the response that first came to my head. I didn’t respond. I sat with it. This woman stays trying to see me. To read me. Demanding I drop whatever mask I think I am wearing. This annoys me. This makes me uncomfortable. So I fade away.
I met her last summer at the Movement for Black Lives. While the conference was officially over, we just had an impromptu action against the Cleveland Police. Afterwards- in victory we chanted, “we gonna be alright,” in unison with over a hundred Black people. Someone started a healing circle. Others dealt with those who were pepper sprayed. I noticed her boots before I noticed her. Cowboy boots and shorts. She stood out. She was cute and different. As you might already know, I am smoother than freshly churned butter. I went to her and asked her about her boots. Somehow this turned into a whole conversation, where she gave me the origins of her boots. She got them on a trip to Arizona with her ex-girlfriend. She was quick and witty. We exchanged info, for you know community building, the revolution and what not.
Power to the people.
7-27-2015 Facebook messages
Me: Nice meeting your boots as well as you yesterday. Stay in touch. I’m sure you have great stories about the places the boots been.
Her: Ha! So many stories.
Me: Maybe you should do Boots Tuesday and tell me a new story about you and those boots i lusted after. (I’m good now, I have accepted they are yours :))
And just like that, she started sending me weekly stories. She never told me which ones were fiction. Her stories were great. Moving. Interesting. Insightful. All keeping with the theme of the boots. I found out later that she majored in creative writing. So yes, she had skills.
Eventually, I asked what I could give her in return. I was enjoying the experience of a weekly story so much. I didn’t want to take and not give. There is beauty in exchange.
I was going thru a Tab love crisis at this point. Feeling like I was fucking up with multiple people. I abruptly ended a relationship that I had been cultivating. You know Tab shit. She wanted me to write through this. Sometimes she gave me a prompt sometimes she didn’t. I would write about my journey of being a better person.
This went on for almost 2 months. In retrospect, this impromptu writing exchange/collective was pretty amazing. It gave us both an audience and reason to plan writing into our busy lives. She was always on a plane flying somewhere. I never knew what city she would be in.
Maybe it was one too many ignored questions that made me call her secretive. Maybe I am. I just don’t like questions. I like the control of the information. I will tell you everything if you just don’t ask.
She told me that sharing was invasive. She wasn’t willing to be vulnerable and share aspects of her when it wasn’t reciprocal. She heard my confession that I struggled to be open and honest. She pushed me to know why (more for myself than for her knowledge), She asked did it help with others are open and honest with me? She pushed me on my evasiveness. I answered briefly. And then stopped answering. You know Tab shit.
In the last two months, I have spoken to her more. Thanks to the snapchat and a new phone that makes texting easier. She mentioned my disappearance early on in our “reunion.” I think I briefly addressed it. But we continued. No stories tho. And not many questions from her.
This morning I was reminiscing on Boots Tuesday. Sent her an email inquiring about restarting Boots Tuesday.
She replied “Dr. Chester, don’t you believe in assessment and reflection before repeating a course.”
Guess who didn’t respond.
She texted me about a favor I asked her to do for my class. I told her never mind. That we can try for another time. Maybe next semester. Some shit about me knowing she had a lot on her plate.
She responded: “Do you have a hard time asking people for things?”
I remembered how much I hated her questions and her ability to not only see me but ask me the questions I hate to answer. She doesn’t know me but she knows me. She is a reminder of how transparent I am even when I believe I am performing cryptic and complex.