Black Girl Magic
There is a magic show going on in the park across the street. Currently, the magician is asking if anyone in the audience would like to assist him with his next trick. I keep my head down, chin tucked into my chest, and pick up my pace.
I know how it feels to be the special card the audience is looking for.
I know what it is like to not be able to change out of your suit.
Though I myself say nothing (I am practically jogging at this point), my skin decides I would enjoy the experience and loudly declares to the magician my interest in participating in the show. I watch nervously as the hatted head swivels around, searching for the source of the voice that shouted so commandingly over the crowd. His eyes find me, and my skin quiets, shrinking under the intensity of his gaze. Our eyes are deadlocked. He smiles, sickeningly. He cocks back his head. He opens his mouth as wide as it can go. He breathes deeply. He counts down on his fingers. He braces his body.
Each word is vividly hued and pinned to the one before it. I am stunned by how dazzling the words are and how readily they fold into the soft, growing pile at his feet. I cannot help but notice that all of the words emerge eerily dry despite being energetically yanked out of the magician’s salivating mouth.
He is salivating.
Faster and faster he goes. The children are screeching with laughter. They have never seen such a trick. Their mothers are scooping them up into carriers; strollers; arms. They are pulling the laughter-raked bodies away. They do not like this show, and as they are yanking little arms and securing straps, they remember that this is an old trick. That they have seen it before. That he did not clean the words before using them again. That the words are the same.
But my skin was an especially willing volunteer. The words may be the same, but the fervor is stronger. And the magician is moving at record-breaking speed. A rainbow of words is pooling around us. The words are catapulting from his mouth before he can grab them, and his hands are trying desperately to keep up.
The women are scrambling away. The children are begging to stay. The men are approaching us with new words of their own. And the more and more words are uttered, the more and more men come to deliver them. From benches and picnic blankets they come. From the exercise bars and basketball courts they come. They come from apartments, from bus stops, from street corners. From fruit stands, from taxis, from offices. From rooftops, from subways, from restaurants, from schools.
Soon the whole park is coated in words – and they are all for me! And I am swathed in colors, and my skin is wondering what she got us into, and I am so proud to be part of a magic show in which everyone is in on the trick and I am the only illusion.
To All the Men Who Can’t Help but Say “Dios” When I Pass Them On the Street
Earlier today I wondered to myself, “If God exists, how many times is He interrupted by the exclamations of the men I pass on the street?”
I imagine Him busily at work, sorting out where to put each of our daily tragedies in His impeccably organized filing cabinet. He is bent over. Brow furrowed; nose scrunched; sleeves rolled. For the existence of Him he cannot decide if the plane crash last month should go in the overflowing, “Mysterious Ways” folder when an overweight, profusely sweating, winged being comes crashing into the study, trips, and spills his basket of all the latest divine supplications onto the rug.
(rug: burgundy, aged, sports a dramatic, jagged tear right down the middle; souvenir from a particularly influential day in Ancient Rome)
God quickly bunches the article into the folder, ripping open its feebler side and allowing numerous postcards of Santa-bellied African children to fall out. The cabinet drawer slams shut at exactly the same moment the angel falls prostrate before his Lord, mumbling incoherently, and reeking of expired milk and coagulated honey. As God reaches down to pick up some of the less wrinkled and hastily scrawled notecards, He realizes that, on half of the cards, the given justification for taking the Lord’s name in vain is my name. He rolls his eyes, drags Himself to his throne, and massages his temples. (He’ll deal with the article about earthquakes disrupting several church services around the world later.) He looks up from His hands, tilts His head to glance pitifully at the drooling puddle of light on the floor, and asks, “When did you say this Victoria girl is coming back from Argentina?”
This Was Not Inspired by My Frequent Comparison of Argentine Spanish to Parseltoungue
“Dioooooosssssssssssa . . .”
This particular tree is blooming magazines. Their colorful covers attract all sorts of passersby, and even those that do not care to sample the fruit momentarily pause to glance at the new buds the tree sprouts daily. Words and events that I only sometimes understand are draped tantalizingly from every branch and snake crisscross from the rolling roots of the tree all the way up to the metal ridged leaves of its crown. I cannot see well in the underbrush, blinded as I am from the stark bright bark of the Rasca cielos I was trying to pick my way through moments earlier. But even though I cannot yet see them, I know they are here. That hiss, that venom-tinged, head-snapping, how-dare-you-walk-into-my-territory-looking-so-delicious hiss . . . It is unmistakable.
I hesitantly look up. When my eyes adjust, I can just make out the strong, insidious bodies wrapped stranglingly around the bending branches. Their every feature evokes fear – from the slitted eyes peeking out from their baseball caps, to the forked tongues licking their chapped lips. Their dusty scales catch none of the painfully scarce light, but they glisten nonetheless. And these men cannot be blamed for the way they, entranced, are creeping towards me. After all, it is not frequently that one sees a creature like me, chin up; jaw clenched; shoulders back; clutching a backpack and sauntering through their jungle. Can you blame them for being surprised? For wanting to run their hands down the tight braids that swing with every step? For desiring to hear for themselves the peculiar way the gravel crunches under my feet as I hurry by? My thighs summoned them. My chest, beckoned them.
My mouth did not move, but I called them.
My hands did not move, but I pulled them.
My presence did not force recognition, but I made them look.
“I bet she’d wince if we touched her,” one of them whispers to the other.
“No me toquen,” she would say if they tried.
And the “me” would sound like “may” and the first part of “toquen” would sound like “toe”. And her skin would look like “please”, and her eyes would look like “no”.
Strange sounds she would make, this creature. As her arms flailed, trying to keep from stumbling backwards onto the yelping, broken being huddled at the base of the tree behind her. No legs, just stubs. No soul, just eyes. She would knock over its bowl of donations in her startled retreat into less dense growth.
I understand they were hungry. I understand I look like food.