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Category Archives: Randomness

Boots Tuesday

4-5-2016, 11:00am

“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.

 

~JustTab

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lovers. Friends. A Story.

A story.

As I remember it.

Eight years later.

We had met before. She was “hanging” with a classmate of mine.

I had recently moved to Philly to start grad school.

She was tall. Very tall. 6 feet tall.

I was 20. Head-strong. Bold. And Christian. Very Christian. More than I even realized at the time.

On this particular night- her, the classmate and this really zealous girl I had met at lesbian club my first night out in Philly. How that experience scared the hell out of me is a story for another day.

But they were over my house. We went to get barbeque. Those were the days I was in love with pork. I wrote poems about this love.

This night stands out to me for several reasons. 1. The overzealous girl called God a she. I was Christian remember, very Christian. The type of Christian that thought calling God a girl was blasphemy. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember telling them (all three of them some type of queer-identified) that they were going to hell for being gay. I was righteous with my condemnation. Because I was Christian, very Christian. Of course, I had gay friends….I grew up and in the theatre and church. I also went gay clubs, but that was them and not me. And I mostly kicked it with gay men. Lesbians scared me. I thought they were all predators. I made sure to keep my distance from lesbian women.

I had never kissed a girl. Because that was gay. And a sin.

Times passed. I learned more about Philly. Dated some guy. He took me on my first $100+ date. I was 20 and easily impressed. He was sweet. I should gave him some. But not because he paid for dinner or because he offered to buy me a winter coat.

Anyway she stopped “hanging” out with my classmate. I say “hanging” in quotes because they were dating. Something she still refuses to admit.

I would see her around. I think she invited me to a sex toy party. And we were Facebook friends. Sometime over Christmas Break we started interacting via the FaceBook heavily and decided to hang out when I got back.

This a good point to mention I flirt. A lot. Most of the time I don’t even know I am flirting until the person is trying to pull me into the restroom for a quickie. (That has never happened, but you get the point.)

She liked men as well. So we would go out and scoop out dudes. I know…anyway she wasn’t really a threat because we would talk about boys. And she wasn’t one of those scary lesbians. I told you, I had issues with lesbians. Thought they were all predators. Over the course of the next couple of months we hung out. Heavy.

I remember one time we made plans for a sleepover and cuddle sessions. All this sounds very gay. I promise you the gayness escaped me at the time. Cause I was straight. But everyone loves to cuddle.

For Spring Break that year I went to Jamaica. I came back with a hickey. Some drunken night with some guy who worked at Dunns River Fall…who still calls me. But that is another story.

She was so mad about the hickey. I did not understand why. Cause me and her was friends and I was straight.

One day when I left her place. She asked me why I never kissed her.

I thought that was the most ridiculous question ever.

“Because I don’t kiss girls!”

She knew this, remember I been told her all the gays were going to hell. I went to church every Sunday so clearly I wasn’t going to hell.

But all the next day I would wonder…”Hmmm…why don’t I ever kiss her. Her lips are pretty nice.”

I figure I can like a girl and not be gay. Looking back I don’t understand how the fact that we were basically dating the whole spring escaped me.

The next time I saw her. I fixed the not kissing her thing.

What came after is none of your noisy ass business. We begin dating consciously.

We begin dating…consciously.

But you remember I was Christian. Very Christian.

So this did not work well for my consciousness. I was a wreck. I would have to take shots to be intimate with her. I was on the “Jesus don’t love me” ride. Blasting Tonex’s “Lord Make Me Over” and crying. Would not hold her hand in public. Would jump when she touched me. All that self-hate shit.  Plus I did not know anything about dating a girl. Did not understand why she expected me to open the door for her cause she was a girl….I was a girl too. Very confused about so much.

We had good times but this did not bode well for starting a relationship. To add to this one of my closest friends was dying from cancer. I was an emotional wreck.

I was getting better though…I might have been down to one shot before. And I only jumped sometimes when she touched me.

I understand now why she eventually ended things. It was a lot. I had my own experience being some extra-Christian woman’s first. I understood even more after that.

(I am almost to the point.)

I spent weeks trying to win her back. Maybe I wasn’t in love, maybe it was deep infatuation. I would write her poetry weekly. They are still saved in my email…some are better than others. But Lorde, I was serious.

She was the closest to love my young heart had experienced. The months that follow was rough. I could not see a place for her in my life as anything other than my lover. Part of this was me not be comfortable with my sexuality. If she was the only girl I ever dated, I could convince myself it was just her and that in general I wasn’t into women. So somehow not as big of a sinner. This is my 21-year old logic.

She taught and showed me how to form a friendship with someone you were so intimately connected with. Eight years later, I can text her at 1am about how ____has moved on and doesn’t want me no more. (This happened last week, I been in my lightskinned feelings). I can go on trips with her. I can hear about her relationships and not feel jealous. Legit be her friend. This took time I got the (email receipts to prove it). This also meant time away from each other. Open communication.

She is finally (kinda) over the fact that she had the Tab who didn’t hold hands in public with girls in public and not the Tab who makes out with women in Baby Gap. (This has not happen but I would be open to it).

I read a facebook post the other day from a friend from college.

“For those of you who have break-ups, just know that love is not limited to a particular person or situation. If you have patience, love will find you again (and again if necessary lol).

For those of you who have a hard time celebrating the successes and happiness of those who you have dated and loved…maybe you did not love them in the first place…maybe you just loved what they were to you.

For those of you who are battling to make a relationship work, because you have invested time, you love the person, and it seems like the both of you are good people outside of the pressures and confines of a relationship… it is possible, though unconventional, to resort back to a friendship, and it may be healthier for you both.

It takes a different way of thinking, a greater understanding of life and love, and an appreciation for the person beyond the relationship once shared…but in the end, “friends can become lovers, and lovers can become friends”.

When I am feeling like I can only be in someone life as their lover. I am reminded of her. I am reminded of her teaching me how to be friends with a former lover. I might have to take time to mourn the person as a lover and have patience imagining what new space we will occupy in each other lives.  The love does not have to go away, like energy it can just be transferred or transform until a new shape. Another type of love.  Transitions. Love has the ability and power to help transform us. When I say I love you I mean that forever. Anyone I have ever loved is still in my life.

I am not very Christian anymore. I am still not gay though.

I wrote this for me. I might currently be in the phase of ceasing communication to stop myself from writing a poem a week to proclaim my love to someone and remind their new boo ain’t got nothing on Tab.  I wrote this to remember what it was like making a lover a friend. You know…a friend that I don’t have sex with. I wrote this because I needed to affirm that things will be ok. I’m be ok.

Oh and just because you waded through this long ass story. Here is an excerpt of a poem I sent during my poem a week to reclaim the love phase. Hey, before you judge let me remind you I was 21.

If you had never ask why I didn’t kiss you
I would have never kissed you
If I had never kissed you
I wouldn’t have wanted to taste you
If I would have never tasted you
I wouldn’t have desired all of you
If I didn’t desire all of you
I would have never ask you to be my girl
If I never asked you to be my girl
It could have never been over
If it had never been over
I would have never try to forget you
If I never tried to forget you
I would have never known how much I valued you
If I never knew how much I valued you
Then I would never had the inspiration to write a poem a week for you
If I never wrote a poem a week for you
Would you have ever known how much I cared for you?

~Just Tab

 

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Sleep Deprivation, Misogyny and Thug life.

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Around 3:30 am, Tuesday morning I pulled into a 7-11 somewhere in Maryland.

At this point, Mercedes and I had been driving for a couple of hours. She had to work that day so I told her she should sleep some.

Perhaps I should explain why I was in Maryland at 3am. I spent the previous weekend in Montreal for a Theatre conference. I should have been home Sunday night but due to bad weather, I missed my connecting flight in Toronto. I ended up at the hotel the airline got for me at 1:30 am, after landing in Toronto at 8:30pm. This meant no dinner for Tab. I have a lot of unkind things to say about Toronto’s airport and AirCanada but I can do that later. My new flight left Monday at 8:30am. Which meant I needed to be up before 6am to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Still wearing the same clothes from the previous day. I landed in Columbus at 10am.

Great. Tab can rest! Naw. Mercedes and I previously decided we would take her three nieces back to Philly on Monday. They had been staying with us for two weeks.  So I rented a car and drove to Philly, leaving a lot later than I originally planned. Remember I was supposed to be home Sunday night, in bed by 11pm. But since I am thug and driving long distance runs in my blood, the 8 hour drive (with kids) was not a problem.

Three kids, three different mommas meant I was playing bus driver making multiple stops. The run also included getting some of Mercedes stuff from her old place to bring back to Columbus. I had to pretend like being in a basement at after midnight didn’t scare this never had a basement Florida girl. Plus, I gotta impress my lady and show off my Crossfit strength.

Tab: “Don’t worry boo…what box you need? I got this.

You know I still aint really had meal since brunch the previous day. The thing about the drive to Philly, it is really expensive, $60 in tolls roundtrip. Damn, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. However, your girl was feeling bold and cheap. So I decided to take another route. Technically it was 45 min longer but would save $30. That’s like a lap dance and a half. We got on the road around 1 am but for some reason all the entrance to the highway was blocked. We spent almost an hour trying to get on. Remember, ya’ll I still haven’t really eaten or slept. The plan was to stop get some fruit for me during the drive. The first place was some rest stop type place. It was $5 for thing of grapes. Hell no. I ended getting a banana for free because the lady didn’t know how to charge me for it. So, since I was still hungry I stopped at the 7-eleven, I figured it would be cheaper.

Yeah. That was long intro. Hope you are still with me.

When I pulled up I notice this black man playing music in his car. He looked about 30ish. Nice beard and good build. I walked in and got what I came for. Mercedes is still in the car, half sleep. As I was in line, I noticed him talking to this woman. She was paying for her stuff and she appeared to either be going to work or just getting off.

She was clearly not interested in dude.

W: I’m married.

M: How long has that been a problem?

W: It’s not a problem for you, it aint a problem for me.

The man continues his advances.

Tab is in line behind them. And of course she has to say something.

Tab: “Yo, clearly she isn’t interested. Chill man”.

M: “Who the fuck was talking to you? Mind your fucking business.”

Can we just say that went from 15 to 100 real quick! I am not letting anybody talk to me like that. So me and dude went back and forth until he left. During this time he told me I was lucky the police was across the street and that I was a female. He also mentioned going to my car and getting at my girl. I pretty much told him he wasn’t going to do a god damn thing and he was an ignorant ass motha fucka…among other things. When I left he is staring at me smiling from his car. I pulled off and he attempts to try to follow me and scare me. He got stopped at a light and I sped off to the highway. I guess I will never know if he was really trying to follow me and do me harm or was just trying to scare me.

What bothered me the most about this situation was the (lack of) response of the other two Black men present. When the guy left, the clerk asks me if I knew him. I tell him hell no, I have never seen that man before. The clerk tells me I am “a tough lady.” He tells me that guy has been bothering every women that walked in and he should have left her alone because she said she was married. I told him even if she wasn’t married he should have left her alone.

As I drove away I reflected on how vulnerable women are in this world. This man watched another man verbal harass several women and threaten to assault me. Yet, he did nothing and said nothing. He could have easily asked the man to leave the store or even called the cops (who were camped out in the parking lot across the street). But he didn’t. Him and the other employee sat silently by despite knowing the man was wrong.

I am left wondering where are the men who will interrupt patriarchy and misogyny. Who will say not on my watch, not in front of me. Who will make it their business to speak up. I want my brothers to know that their silence makes them complicit. That their silence will never protect them.

Until then I guess I will have to stay on my thug life swag.

While I can joke about this now. I do want to acknowledge how scared I was. In that moment, I didn’t have the luxury to show fear.

I have never directly experience such aggression from a man. The reality was I had no clue where I was, what this man was capable of and despite the other men presence, I was alone.

I drove away fully awake but oh so tired.

~JustTab

 

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What not to do…

San Salvador was cool, in a very U.S.A. clone type way; every major U.S. American franchise-including Chilis, Wal-mart (I hate this corpation), Zara, Bennigans, Papa Johns, etc. While these brands are probably found in every Central American capital city, I was put off a bit by the “mini-malls” that look exactly like CityPlace or any other new shopping center in America.

The development and house that Carmen lived at looked like any other gated community that I have visited. El Salvador even uses American currency as their official currency. Everything I was doing, I could pretty much do at home. Carmen wanted me to stay another day, but I decided I wanted to visit Suchitoto. This town is away from the big city, safer and historic. Since watching the film “Innocent Voices,” I have been really interested in the civil war in El Salvador. The U.S. spent over a million dollars a day for years supporting the El Salvadorian army. Currently, with the massive influx of American franchises and businesses it is easy to see why the USA had such a vested interest in El Salvador. As I shed my Republican/Capitalist skin, I have been embracing my leftist and socialist side. I still really like George W….sue me. Suchitoto was a major stronghold for the FMLN, the guerilla forces who fought against the army during the civil war.

Noble intentions, right? Now for the part of the story that’s a short chapter in my “This is what you don’t do” book. Tuesday morning Carmen dropped me off at the bus station. I left my water bottle in her car, I am still upset about that. It was so perfect and my favorite color pink. Sadly, it was the wrong bus station, so I had to take another bus to the right station. So imagine me and my HUGE backpack and my smaller back on my stomach waiting at the bus stop along with all the other El Salvadorians going to work or whatever. As much as I like to show off my strength (see the million pictures of me picking up random people) carrying mi mochilla- which probably weighs at least 45 pds around with me is no fun and I think it marks me as a target. I might as well walk around with a fanny pack and Lonely Planet. This guy approaches me, David. He told me where to go, about how he used to live in the U.S., his divorce from his American wife and his job. Of course this ended with him giving me his number and telling me how he wants to take me out. David was pretty cute and under different circumstance he could have got it. In Guatemala, I rarely got approached by men. As I go further down south, this is changing-rapidly; this might have something to do with people getting darker and “curlier” hair.

I finally got to Suchitoto, with no place to stay. I had a vague idea about where I could possibly stay, the options were pretty limited. It was either really cheap ($7-15) or really expensive ($75-200) a night. I went with the cheap. Vista Al Lago. It got pretty decent reviews, but I should have thought about the source Lonely Planet. I think those books are written for an audience that is dirty and a bit punkish. Their idea of clean or unsafe is not exactly the same as mine. My room was basically a wooden box, with a fan and a bad light and no windows. The bathroom was outside, but was fairly clean. The owners were really nice and the view was good.

I spent the rest of the day exploring the town, mailing postcards and getting my tour set up for the next day. After this I went to this cyber café to plan my life or my next move. I wanted to leave El Salvador, for the capital city in Honduras. There was a theatre festival going and Thursday was the final day. Since I stayed in Guatemala an extra day I missed my chance to see a play in El Salvador. I basically had 2 options to get to Honduras.

  1. To leave directly after my horseback tour for the Honduras border using a series of “public” buses to make it to the border. Once in Honduras try to make it as close as possible to the capital before calling it a day. I researched places to stay at various place en route to the capital. The problem with this is no one could tell me how long it would take me to get the border.
  2. Go back to San Salvador after the horseback tour and try to catch the last “luxury” direct bus leaving for the Honduran capital. If I missed that bus I could stay another night with Carmen. Maybe go out dancing or something. Then take a direct bus from San Salvador to Honduras at 5am. I would still be able to catch the final performance of the festival.

While I was using the internet another woman came in. After I a while I decided to ask her eat with me. You know the whole hating to eat alone thing, plus I always need to practice my asking out skills. Her name was Kelly or something she was from England and was spending a year in Central America. We went to a bar that was owned by a man who parents were guerilla soldiers. The bar was covered with Che, FMLN, Socialist and leftist poster. He told us more about the war, which got me more excited about my tour the next day. It was pitch black as I walked back to my room. When I got to my room I started rethinking my decision to stay there. I Lysoled the sheets but was still not happy with cleanliness of them, so I slept in my sleeping bag. I didn’t want to shower or use the bathroom because I did not want to meet the animals that might be outside at night. I had to listen to my audiotape of Maya Angelou to fall asleep. I woke up at 5am, with the urgent need to use the bathroom. It wasn’t until 6 am that I had the courage to use the bathroom. It was cold in the morning and I did not have the desire to shower in the cold water outside. So I got dressed, packed and read until it was time to get picked up for the horseback riding tour. I figured I would eat later.

I don’t know why I thought a 5hr tour on a horse was a good idea. 5 hrs on anything is too much let alone a horse. Saddles were either not designed for women or designed to be a torture device for women. As good as I am at riding and I am pretty darn good, I think I prefer to be ridden. The tour was informative, I liked my guide. My horse, Katrina was slow as molasses and prefer to eat grass rather than walk.  We were riding through the jungle. At some points there was no path in my opinion, just trees and branches with the desire to harm me. Of course Katrina did not make it any easier, I swear she was trying to get me hurt. I got scratched by branches and Katrina ran my knee into a tree…I bled. After 3 hrs I was uncomfortable on the horse that I pretty much tuned everything out. I was also thinking about a possible scar that could be forming on my sexy legs. When we finally made it back, I was sore.

Still had not made a decision on what I was going to do next. After returning to town and getting my stuff I decided to make a run for the border. I knew I wouldn’t make the bus in San Salvador and I did not want to ask Carmen to wake up at 4am to take me the bus station. I left at 2pm took 2 buses and made it to the border at 5:30pm. I spent most of this time waiting for the busses to come. It should have taken me no more than 2 hrs if I didn’t have to wait on buses so much.

When I got to the area before the border, this kid took me on his bicycle contraption through immigration and border security for a $1. I then took a cab to the bus station in the town. I knew that there was a “direct” bus to Tegus that left there at midnight and since all the buses to other towns had stopped for the day I decided this was my best option. Now this is where stupidity takes over. I decided this was smarter than staying in a hotel and leaving early the next morning. I could just stay at the bus station!  Think about how pretty I am, I cannot possible be smart as well. I brought my ticket from this older toothless fellow name Luis. Then went to find food, at this point its 6:30pm and I have not eaten since 8pm the day before. The food I got was disgusting and greasy and nasty. I went back to the bus station. I thought the restaurant in the hotel next to/ attached to the ticket office was the waiting area. It was not. The waiting area was this semi covered area between the restaurant and the ticket office. In the back was a hotel, which seemed more like apartments and the front faced the street. This is where I was going to spend the next few hours. Then Luis came over started talking to me, about how nice and pretty I was. And where the “morenas” lived in Honduras and how much he likes morenas. He asked if I had a boyfriend. I told him yes. I learned to say yes to this question after a man repeatedly told me “Me gusta tu” as I waited for a bus earlier, followed by an invitation to his house. He told me it didn’t matter if I had a boyfriend when I was abroad. Luis was a little more touchy feely then I am comfortable with. This is when I started to think about the intelligence of my decision to stay at a bus station all night. At some point Luis goes back to the office. This other comes around and starts talking to me. He says he is going to clean one of the busses outside. I try to lay down on the chairs as I listen to music. He comes back shirtless and asks me if I wanted to sleep on the bus with him. “No, gracias. Estoy bien.” I tell him. I am starting to feel real vulnerable. I won’t say I forget that I am a girl sometimes, because I don’t. I always feel like a girl. However, I often forget how the world views my femaleness, particularly men. Just because I feel/ think I look asexual, does not stop others from sexualizing me. Many men worldwide have the tendency to believe that women are here solely for their pleasure. After all God did make Eve for Adam right? This tendency to see women as here for them sometimes makes men believe they can do whatever they want with us. Scary thought. Especially when one is alone in foreign country being approached by men who language and customs one is not familiar with. I am always reminded that a Black woman can not be raped.

I started thinking about my L.P. who always has a huge knife with her. Whenever we are hiking or going to see a play, she reminds me she has it in case someone acts up. She took ot her huge blade as I was paying for parking at ASU, I kept telling her she was scaring the white people. If I am going somewhere alone, she asks me if I want her knife. I always make fun of her knife. Suddenly, carrying a knife seemed pretty darn smart. I go back in the room where my bag was being kept and slyly found my knife and put it in my pocket. I was ready to cut somebody if anyone tried me! Luis left at 9:30. They shut off most of the lights and closed the area that led to the street. I was secure in the sense that no one could come off the streets and get me, but unsecure in the sense that I was pretty much locked in. I waited from 7-12:30 am for the bus to come. Once the bus came it was already pretty packed and not the cleanest vehicle. This was supposed to be a direct bus. Their definition of direct was very different than mine. It was supposed to take 9hrs. It took 12 hrs. We were always stopping either to let people off/get people or for the police to search the bus. I would wake up randomly to 4 police men on the bus. It was hot and nasty. Most people would use the side of the road for bathrooms. The places we stopped with bathrooms were disgusting. I longed for the mini-America of El Salvador and Carmen’s 3/2 cookie cutter home. There were always people coming on the bus trying to sell us random food and drinks. I am sorry, but I am not buying fruit or tamales off people who carry them on their head all day. At one place we stopped there was a black guy selling stuff. He immediately started telling me about how he used to live in the states but his baby mama got him deported for child support. He then went on to tell me about how God told him he needed a woman like me in his life…um ok.

I finally got to Tegus around 1pm. I had not showered since Monday night. If cleanliness is next to godliness, I was kicking it with the devil fa sho. No food since the crap I ate the night before. I got to hotel. Took a hot shower! Hot! I haven’t had a steamy hot shower since I been here. Put on a nice clean dress. Felt so fresh and so clean. Back to being next to godliness. Then went directly to a Pizza Hut which I have been craving since I had some in Guatemala City, my first in years. I went back to my room and slept. You know in a bed. Not next to somebody in hot dirty bus.

Once I got up I headed to the National Theatre of Honduras “Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla” for the final performance of the festival. I have been dying to see a live performance here. I kind of enjoy theatre, just a bit. I have only spent the majority of my short life being involved in some aspect of it. I was not concern about not really speaking Spanish because good acting (and bad acting) conquers language barriers. Also the name of the festival was “Encuentro Centroamericano de Mimo,” it focused on mime performance-which made the language difference mismo. The only issue I had was with the last piece that was very language heavy, angry and very confusing. The show started late, so I spent that time writing a very confusing and abstract letter to my parents about “life”. I am still writing letters, even out here. I have sent about 14 letters and 5 postcards. Take a wild guess who has gotten 3 letters and 1 postcard from me so far. Anyway the show was good. The theatre was old, historic and beautiful. People brought their children, Me encanta familias en teatros. I wish I had my camera, I took some shots with the Blackberry though.

Apparently people are told not to use flash photography in theatres in Central America.  So was it worth it? Being on a bus for half a day, not eating or showering for hours upon hours… I am reminded of the lyrics to one of the songs in A Chorus Line “I won’t forget, I can’t regret what I did for love.”

Lessons learned. I am sure there are more but this is all I could think of now…

  1. As down as I am with the people. I refuse to take transportation “common” people can afford to take on destinations more than 5 hours away. My republican side takes over and I can’t be chilling all dirty. If I took the “luxury” bus that was 2.5x as much I would I have arrived at the same time and they serve meals on there!
  2. I am woman. That makes me vulnerable to the sexual advances of men. I will keep my blade close. As I typed this its clip to inside of my jeans. Very easy access.
  3. Don’t try and “spend” a night in a bus station.

I am done with Tegus. I arrived in Tela Friday. It’s on the Carribbean side of Honduras. I am ready to chill at the beach. Sunday I am going snorkeling. I won’t lie, I am kind of excited to see some dark skin people with nappy hair like me. I like think that a lot of my life and what I do channels Zora Neale Hurston. The whole father being a pastor, growing up in Flordia and being brilliant…she sounds just like me! Zora did a lot of anthropological work in Haiti (check) and Honduras (check)- she was one of the first to do work all over the diaspora on African people. Once again I will try to find out more about the Garifuna and other African descended people in Central America, it didn’t go so well in  Guatemala. I am staying with Gaby and her boyfriend. Who is Gaby? Well according to her profile she is building Tela’s first mini-golf park…

~Just Tab

The biggest shout out to the Creator, God, Allah, Jesus the Christ, Oshun, Shango, Saint Peter, etc. for keeping me safe. It ain’t nothin’ but the blood, grace and mercy that keeps me safe.

 

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Eating alone

I live alone. Well when I am not in Florida with my parents. I like it. I have never been much of a roommate type person. People in my personal space tend to annoy me and of course I don’t like to wear clothes a lot. So living alone suits me fine and I feel like I am a pretty independent person. However, over the last year or so I have discovered something about myself- I hate eating solo. Hate it. I like cooking for others, hate putting forth the effort to cook if it’s only me. This is crazy coming from a girl who spent most major holidays eating in her room rather than eating with her family. I often skip meals or eat extra light since it’s only me. I find myself offering to pay for people food so I can have company. I tend to gain weight when I am home in Florida and lose weight when I am in AZ or someplace living/eating alone. My disdain for eating alone is precisely the reason I loved my time in Tactic so much. I never ate alone. Nabila’s parent’s house was a 4 min walk from her house. Her sister, Amanda lived within shouting distance. I would wake up in the morning- chill in Nabila’s house, read and listen to music. She would be at work and her daughter at school so I got my “personal” time. Then either walk to Nabila’s parents or sister house for breakfast. By lunchtime Anatye, Nabila’s daughter would be home from school and we would all eat lunch together. Some days I went to Coban and had lunch with Nabila while she was at work. I usually ate dinner at her parents’ house with the whole family. We would all walk back to our respective houses at the end of the night. I never had to eat a meal alone, which made me very happy. I spent the rest of my time on “excursions” with various members of her family, everyone wanted some “Tab time”. I went to a restaurant name Lo Ranch with her father, where the owner got camera happy with my camera and took about 40 photos of me “modeling”.

Then we hiked up to see the view at this man who house was in the hills above the restaurant.

I hiked to see the church on the hill with Nabila’s brother new wife Lili (7mths pregnant), Anayte (7)and David (3).  Anayte and David taught me how to pray to Jesus who was on a cross in the middle of the church with a really bad wig surrounded by flowers in a glass container. He had a little box for money behind him. They showed me how to give him the money and the Catholic way to make the cross after you pray.I suggest staying home and praying, a hour hike uphill is ridiculous. I am sure God understands.

I went shopping in Coban with Nabila, Amanda, Anayti and Amanda’s friend Nellie. I went walking around the stadium at 6:30 am with Nabila’s mother, Carmella and Amanda. They ran, I walked. It was a beautiful morning though. 

I also had a chance to visit the family I stayed with in Coban last year.

Oh and of course I spent too much time playing with David, Anayti and Christian, who thought I was the best playmate ever. I really enjoyed how close the family was. Since Nabila worked and Amanda did not, Amanda would clean up Nabila’s house and do her laundry for her. There was always some adult checking Anayti’s homework after school or picking her up from school. I couldn’t imagine cleaning my sister house for her, mostly because I don’t have a month to dedicate that process.

Everyone pretended to understand me and whatever language it was that I was speaking. I won’t disrespect the Spanish language and call what I was speaking Spanish. They really made me feel like I was part of their family. Just a bit taller and Black. Nabila’s mother told me I could come back anytime I wanted. I have my choice of houses to stay in. Hopefully, I can repay their hospitality when they come to the states.

Nabila walked me to the bus stop to head to Guatemala City. As we waited I felt something drop on my head, it had been raining a lot so I assume it was water and tried to brush it off. Nabila looked at me and asked what was in my hair. Turns out a bird took a crap on my head, which was now also on my hand. We clean my head and hand up the best we could with a combination of tissue, water and hand sanitizer, just in time to get picked up for the 4.5 hour bus ride. Once I arrived in Guatemala City I took a taxi to another bus station “Tica Bus” for my trip to El Salvador. We left at 1:30 ish and got to San Salvador at 7:30 pm. We spent about 2hrs doing immigration and getting our passport checked by Guatemalan and El Savadorian officials. Some people got their stuff searched; I guessed I did not look like a big enough threat to get harassed. I wrote letters as I waited. Remember, I still have the remnants of poop in my hair and I had been up since 5:30 am, I was tired and dirty when I arrived. It felt so good to see Carmen waving at me, ready with her car to pick me up.

Wait, who is Carmen? According to her profile she is a World Language teacher and a vegetarian. There were other things but that’s all that I remember. But most importantly according to her messages she was down to let me stay with her while I was in San Salvador. Couchsurfing is a website where travelers from all over the world can find people who open their homes to traveling strangers to crash for a couple of nights. When I first heard of this, I thought it was crazy and only for white people or people who wanted to get killed/robbed by strangers. It is actually pretty cool. A lot of the time you don’t sleep on people couches, it can be a floor or a private bedroom. I have my own room and bathroom at Carmen’s house. As well as access to her computer, kitchen or whatever else she has in her house. Oh did I mention this all for the free, it is supposed to offer some sort of cultural exchange. Last night she took me to dinner, I got some “authentic El Salvadoran” food- pupusa’s.Today, I went with her to work and will be exploring the city solo. Tonight I am going to a party with her and some of her friends. So far so good. I am not dead yet. And I am not eating alone.

~Just Tab

Randomly:  I have gotten quite used to “chicken buses” and being crammed in a mini-van with 50 people. I have also gotten quite used to people breastfeeding in front of me. I was totally ok with Yohana feeding her baby in front of me when I visited her in Coban. One night on the way back from Coban we were extra packed on this bus, a man’s crotch was 3.5 inches from my face. I could not even reach in my pocket to pay for the trip. To my right was a lady and her baby, the baby was fascinated with me- ok my earrings from the moment they sat down. The baby would grab my hand and try to reach for my earrings. The baby was probably about 5-7mths but I am not a good guesser when it comes to baby ages and it was a really big baby. The mother proceeded to take out a breast (of course the one closest to me) to feed the baby …I promise you I could literally smell the milk coming from this woman’s breast and the whole time her child yanked on my hand. Considering I never plan to have a creature come out of me, this is the closest I will ever be to breastfeeding a child. 

 

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The Story of Us.

I have had two great loves in my life, two great loves that I have never physically met but have touched and influence my life innumerable ways. They are Tupac Amaru Shakur and Oprah Gail Winfrey. The significance of Tupac on my development is a story for another day, but suffice to say obsessed is a term that was often use to describe my respect for this man. My focus today is on Oprah, or more specifically The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I remember being in Mrs. Williams (very white & Greek) costume class towards the end of my 9th grade year. For some reason my spoiled, middle class Black body which attended one of the most prestigious high schools in the country and who was raised in a two parent Christian home decided that I was a revolutionary.

Although at that time I would have not used that word, I was down with the movement- whatever that said movement was. Evidence of my downness was my decision at 13 years old not to get any more perms “I do not want to be a slave to the white man’s definition of beauty,” this is what I told anyone who questioned my disdain for the lye. On this particular day in class I was “educating”, perhaps a better word would be ranting on Oprah Winfrey being a pawn of white women/society and how she is just a sellout, etc. Mrs. Williams ask me was I serious…of course I was- I was Blacker than Black. (SN: I had just read a book about the Black Panthers and I have a tendency to embody books that I read). She explained to me how significant and remarkable Oprah was to all women and especially to Black women. I was half listening because, who was this white woman trying to tell me about Oprah and who should be significant to me as a Black woman!

She must have had some impact because that summer I happen to watch Oprah, probably for the first time ever.  Let’s just say I fell in love over that summer in 2001. I had a standing date with Oprah at 4 o’clock every weekday since. I wonder how different I might have been from who I am now if some white lady didn’t take the time to call me on my B.S. and encourage me to watch Oprah. Thankful I will never have to know.

It does not take much more than a short conversation with me to know that I love Oprah perhaps just a little bit more than most people. I have raced home to watch Oprah since the day I got my own car. I brought a VCR just to record Oprah in college. I have dropped classes or didn’t take classes that interfered with Oprah. As recently as this fall in grad school, I would wake up at midnight no matter how tired I was to catch the 2nd showing of Oprah because I did not have a DVR. Thankfully, I upgraded my cable this spring so I did not have to do that this past semester. The major reason I upgraded my cable is because the package I had did not include the Oprah Winfrey Network. In undergrad I was known as the girl with all those names, with a crazy fro, or the girl obsessed with Oprah. Professors used to ask me what was on Oprah that day, knowing I watched. My parents and friends understand that between 4-5pm I was not going to answer my phone- Oprah was on. I have a hard time talking about anything without saying “There was this episode of Oprah…” this is how much she has impacted my life over the past 10 years.

With this being said I do not worship or follow Oprah blindly. She is not my savior. In my head we are equals.She calls me Tabby, I call her Oppie. There are plenty of things that she does that I do not agree with including her love for Tyler Perry. I actually disagree with her a lot but my respect for her is endless. I imagine us lying in bed reading books or debating how harmful Tyler Perry is to the Black people as our dogs sleep at our feet. With Stedman bringing us tea.

I am fiercely protective of her. You want to annoy me…tell me Oprah does not believe in God and she is the anti-Christ or that she is secretly a lesbian.  I know way too much about this woman from her bra size to her shoe size. I know more about her than my own mother.

Here are 3 ah-ha moments (of many) that I learned from watching the Oprah Winfrey Show

The quote that remains with me:

  • November 2006 I was watching the show and Oprah said:“You are not your past. You are what is possible for you. Own this truth and move forward in your life. Forgive yourself, and others will be able to forgive you.”  In my head there are so many things that I feel like I have moved on from in my past but they keep coming back because I have not them go or forgiven myself for those thing occurring. How can I expect others to forgive me when I have not forgiven myself. This quote is a great reminder that my future is not defined by my past. I own my truth. I move forward.

The book that enlightened me:

  • March 2009, Oprah did a show called “Living without labels” on the show she featured a book by Lisa Diamond titled Sexual Fluidity. The book was about the fluctuation in sexual desire specifically in women. This further help informed what I was already coming to know that sexuality is more of a continuum than a binary. Those who know me, know that I do not do labels of any kind.

The show that change my perspective:

  • August 2004, Oprah did a show on transgender children. While there was someone at my high school who was transgender. I was really did not get it or think much about. I still don’t really get it but it’s not for me to get. Watching this little boy cry about not being able to play with Barbies or wear a dress and his mother telling him he couldn’t play with them because he was a boy. She explained boys have penises, the little boy told his mother he hated his penis and wanted it to fall off. Watching this boy and his parents struggle to keep him in his “proper” gender assignment when everything inside of him was telling him that this gender did not fit the person he was, made me rethink how I looked at gender.

But enough of this. The last episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show aired May 25, 2011, 2 weeks ago. I started writing this a while ago, but I never finished. Perhaps I did not want to deal with the end of an era. The morning of May 25th, I decided not to work- I had to get prepared. I got a haircut and ran my errands. Came home, showered and picked out my outfit. I even wore a bra for this momentous occasion. I had the house to myself; I pour my glass of wine and got out my tissues. Turned off the cell phone and computer- I was ready to focus on my Oprah.

I had been rather underwhelmed with the previous 2 final episodes, so I was not sure what to expect. Oprah did not disappoint. I would give you highlights but they would probably bore you and I rather tell you what the final show meant for me.

  1. I am 24 years old. Young. Perhaps naïve and idealistic. I will give you that. However at this young age I refuse to believe that I can’t have and be whatever it is that I want to. Oprah talked to about finding your passion, the thing that lights you up. The people in my program look at me like I am crazy because I don’t want to go on the tenure track or even desire a job in the traditional manner. I want to follow my passion. I want to do whatever makes me happy. That is success for me. I am chasing passion not paper. I look at my professors and they seem miserable. There is no way in the world I want to do that. When I explain to people all that I am going to accomplish in this world and they brush me off because I am young and idealistic, I know that because my goal is to give more than I take, learn as well as educate- I am going to be ok. Oprah taught me that.
  2. The other part of the final show that I am going to keep with me is being responsible for the energy you bring with you. This could be in a relationship or any physical space. This little nugget caused me to examine the energy I was bringing into relationships both platonic and romantic. While in my head I believe that I know I am worthy of love and awesome friendships, my actions don’t indicate this. People tell me that they love me, but in head I am constantly thinking why this is not true. They only love the funny Tab, or the smart Tab or the goofy Tab. Or they just think they love me. There was a point where I would constantly ask my mother what did I have to do to for her not to love me anymore. This concept of unconditional love seemed unfathomable to me. While I can see myself loving someone unconditionally, I can’t see that love being returned unconditionally. I find myself not envisioning relationships forever, because people always leave. I don’t really envision anyone in my future, but myself. These thoughts manifest themselves into actuality and people do leave my life. This only confirms my thoughts of people not really loving me and always leaving, perpetuating this negative cycle. Oprah reminded me on the last show that I need to take responsibility for my energy. That I alone am worthy. Not funny Tab, not pretty Tab, not crazy Tab…just Tab is worthy of love. This is easier said than done, but I am now more consciously on path to embrace and know my worth.

Oprah saying goodbye

The show itself exceeded all of my expectations and was a perfect ending to The Oprah Winfrey Show. No worries, ya’ll I am not suicidal. I have been coping just fine with the end of the show. In the end what I am taking from the 10 years I spent watching her almost daily is the motivation to live my best life ever. A lot of people don’t get Oprah’s appeal, it’s not for you to get. Just know that if a lil colored girl from Kosciusko, Mississippi can achieve all that Oprah has…why can’t this little black girl from West Palm Beach achieve all her dreams and more?

~Just Tab

I apologize for the length…but this Oprah I am talking about.

 

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What I Know For Sure

As I was cleaning off an old computer and copying my files to my external hard drive. I came across a folder located on the computer filled with things I had written: poems, old blogs and random writings. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly I wrote a lot of random things about Oprah. About particular episodes, random poems about her and just randomness. 

On May 28, 2007 I wrote this list inspired by Oprah. If you read her magazine you know that she ends ever issue with a short essay called “What I Know For Sure.” So here is the list that I wrote 4 years ago when I was 20 years old.  

What I know for sure….

That tears don’t compromise my strength

That forgiving is much harder than hating

I don’t need a man

Or woman

There is no one person I need in my life

And if there is someone I need they will never walk away

That only the love of God is unconditional

That George W. Bush doesn’t hate black people

That I am inspired daily by multiple sources to be the best

That I will miss you even if we never met

That dreams do come true

That it is a blessing and never a curse to be a black woman in America

That nothing last forever

That failure has never been an option

That you will always be in my heart

That he will never call when he says he will

That you can never place your trust in people

That white people are the best drinking partners you can have

That marriage is an overrated institution

That monogamy doesn’t equal marriage

That if anyone ever hurts you, I will make it my business to make sure their days on this earth are numbered

That I am not a feminist 

But I do have womanist thoughts and ideals

The fact that I would have sex with Oprah does not make me gay…

I am a republican we do it for the money

That broken hearts can always be mended by being around those who loved u first

No one can accept me for who I am until I first accept myself

That God sent his only son to die for me

That I look pretty damn good naked

That there is no one person we are put on the earth for

That boys lie

But girls lie better

That courage means being afraid but doing it anyway

That I prefer kisses to my thighs over kisses to my checks

I hate hand holding in public or in private

That books and the pursuit of knowledge is my Sun that allows me to grow

That I will never be the Greatest Of All Time but I will be pretty darn close

That I love my mommy and daddy

And I will do most anything for my nephews and nieces to succeed

That prayer has gotten me thus far

Faith will get me the rest of the way

That I enjoy dancing naked in my room

That I am not vain I just like the reflection of myself

That I know when someone is the real deal when I see reflections of God in them

That I have a hard time opening up and trusting people

That Terrell Owens likes black woman

That Jada and Will are swingers and given the chance I would join them

That the best is yet to come

The majority of the list I stand by. I would like to rescind the comment about being a Republican; I am not sure who I was referring to with the “you” on several entries to the list and I am surprised that even then I was not a fan of marriage. One major change is I LOVE holding hands now, I am way more affectionate in every way. I am still down with the nudity. Ask my parents and neighbors.  I find it quite sad that I still have MAJOR issues trusting people. That I continue to have a pessimistic attitude towards the relevance and importance of people and friendships. This is a problem, something I need to work on. Easier said than done.

 However, I would probably not make this type of list again. The one thing I know for sure now is that I know nothing for sure. Everything changes. One of the values of the Oprah brand is that it encourages one to look at their self, self-reflection is key to one’s growth. When I wrote this I was sure about so many things, I had my life pretty much planned. There were list of things that I did not do and would never dare to try. When ask to do anything that was on my list of no-nos I would reply “Tabitha does not do that, that ain’t my life.” Somehow life has a way of shifting everything that you know for sure. So as I face a chapter in my life without the security of knowing Oprah will be found Monday-Friday from 4-5 pm EST, I am challenging myself to reflect and embrace change in other areas of my life. There are very little things that I know for sure and I am ok with that.

Tomorrow is the final episode of The Oprah Show. Expect a post that more adequately deal with Oprah and her impact following the airing of the show.

~Just Tab

 

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