Friday, July 14, 2017

Driving while black: as a black woman with a black man

As a black woman, it’s often unsafe for me to drive alone. I realized this during my first year in very populated Northern Virginia as I drove back to my new apartment from the nearby mall. I went to Potomac Mills after work for whatever unmemorable reason, so time quickly shifted from late evening to dark night while I picked up purchases and dinner.

I approached the first stoplight leaving the shopping center, braking and stopping as the overhead circle of yellow flashed to red. A horn simultaneously sounded from my right. I turned my head to glance at a driver, a male silhouette whom I didn’t recognize, so I automatically assumed his attention-getting tactic was meant for someone else. Yet when I pressed the gas pedal at the green light, I noticed that he trailed me.

He honked a little longer at the next light. This time I took off at a higher speed, but the faster I went, the faster he went, too. We raced towards Dale Blvd – which led to my apartment – breezing past slower-moving drivers who obeyed posted signs and probably chastised my recklessness because they were oblivious to my situation and impending dilemma.

Story time: an outside view of a random traffic stop

“I’ll be back,” my cousin says to me one early Saturday evening.

He rarely left the apartment that he shared with his girlfriend except to go to work or dinner in Washington, DC, which were both only a few miles from their place, or the nearby gym to occasionally shoot hoops. The remainder of his free time was spent cooking Sunday dinners, sitting on the balcony sipping smooth Ciroc and diet cranberry juice, or watching football, “Stebie” J on Love and Hip Hop, and Swamp People on the History channel. He was more of a homebody that an out-in-the-street sort of man, so I expected him back rather soon.

The phone rings barely 15 minutes later. He’s only a few blocks away from home – Arlington. Crystal City, to be exact, which is a majority white suburban neighborhood that houses the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and a slew of restaurants and government contractors. A police officer has just pulled him over, and it sounds slightly more than a routine stop since he needs my help.

“Can you look in the nightstand and get my title?” he asks. “And can you bring it to [redacted]?”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A bout of Bell's Palsy

“Are you okay?”

I’ve just completed my weeklong “shift” of hostess duties: drafting and emailing a wedding announcement for the local newspaper, ironing crisp white tablecloths and chair covers, and decorating a spacious venue, to be exact. This is in addition to pulling frequent all-nighters for a daily entertainment writer gig and defaulting to a 24-hour nanny role that I never signed up for. So after the nuptials, I sit quietly, observant near the dance floor in figurative retirement.

If I danced, I would’ve sashayed to the dance floor. But that’s not my thing. I don’t like to be watched and scrutinized, and as the tallest person on the dance floor, I’m almost guaranteed to attract more attention that I can ignore. However, being a wallflower was more noticeable, eliciting a countless “Come on!” with each motion of a curved finger elevating my blood pressure five millimeters of mercury at a time. I remain at the front table with the purses, fuming, while everyone else shimmies, shakes, shuffles, slides, and steps across the dance floor. It sways my response.

“If one more person asks me…” I say before exhaling. “Yes!”

No one else inquires about my well-being, not even the next day during brunch when my physical features literally relax.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Story time: A bully dog and a drug bust

“Is he tied up?” my cousin asks me as we stand behind her friend’s car to remove my bags from the trunk.

It’s late. We had left Northern VA less than three hours earlier, enjoying the last official holiday of the summer along with the smoked ribs, brisket, broccoli salad, and spirits that normally complement it every Labor Day weekend. I had asked her to drop me off at another relative’s house. She’s tired, having to travel another hour or so, but she becomes alert to the gruff bark that belongs to the large golden dog next door.

My cousin has a small dog. Gizmo is his name. He’s an oftentimes shaggy, dirty-blonde Shih Tzu, who occasionally tries to get snippy with a select few of her guests. He yaps at those who cross the back yard because he knows visitors normally approach the door from the opposite side. And he senses the inherent fear or dislike that other guests carry with them toward dogs. As those visitors turn to leave, Gizmo jumps up from his rested position and runs them out the door faster than they intend to walk.

“Gizmo, stop it!” my cousin commands. “Come back here!”

But this owner watches us from a plastic chair on his front stoop at 11 p.m. His golden retriever – I think, because I really don’t know my dogs – is tied to a post with a thin, red, maybe plastic cord.

“Yeah, he’s tied,” I reply. “See the strap?”

But inside I’m a little jittery, too, because this dog is huge, much bigger than Gizmo. If he gets loose, we’ll all be severely injured, including the two passengers in the car. But we’re not going out as punks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The third house on the right

We watch the baby’s chubby thighs kick and wiggle from the metal bucket on the kitchen counter next to the sink. Although we can’t see the baby’s face, we can hear the infant giggle and coo from inside the pail.

I glace over at K and T, who stand less than 10 feet behind me by the open side door, mute, probably eager to make a hasty exit.

I look back at the baby. His feet continue to dance against the air as I grasp him by his ankles. I think I carry him upside down as I walk over to K and T, but I can’t quite recall.

“See, I told you something is wrong with this house,” I say to them.

Like something isn’t also wrong with the baby. It wasn’t always human. It was a mere doll before it was placed in the bucket. Not a Baby Alive, which mimics a real-life newborn, but a plain old, motionless, plastic toy. Yet somehow it sprung to life, begging to be comforted and cuddled.

They don’t acknowledge him or my words.

Sometimes I wish...

…I could utter an emphatic “NO;”

…my mind didn’t constantly run a marathon but rather walked an easy beach stroll;

…I’d followed my intuition;

…I didn’t give second, third, fourth, and fifth chances;

…I chucked the old notion that I’m no better than anyone else because, after all, I don’t strive to be average;

Friday, March 18, 2016

[xoNecole] Go get him! Study shows women who make the first move have better dating success

I’m sitting at the bar enjoying sushi and my second $9 cocktail when one of my friends taps the shoulder of the guy sitting next to me.

“Hi!” she says to him. “What’s your name?”

He tells her.

“Have you met my friend, Tee?” she replies, as she turns her back to us to continue conversing with the group behind us, as if she has just accomplished a major task.

It’s an awkward introduction. He’s confused and annoyed – mainly, I presume, because dude is already engrossed in a conversation with a young woman on the other side of him. So I’m initially horrified because all my friend has done is inadvertently let him know that I’m possibly 1) a relationship reject; 2) incapable of meeting men on my own; or 3) a homewrecker. Then I grow angry because I’m none of the above, and she’s placed me in a humiliating position all because I’m not flirting and mingling to her satisfaction. I’m left seething in my seat, mumbling under my breath that if I wanted to meet dude, I would’ve introduced mydamnself.