My daughter returned from her first day of kindergarten with her very first offering for the art gallery, aka the refrigerator door. It was a Picasso-esque rendering of her family. There we were, all lined up, eyes forward, in descending order based on our height. Me to the left, Mom, slightly shorter, Morgan, then Tamara, then, shorter still, the five-year-old Tesse, followed by Kalopa, the bright orange cat. Stick figures, to be sure, but all with full, round smiling faces, all colored in–almost within the lines–a lovely shade of tan, like their Malaysian mother.
“Tesse, you didn’t color me?”
A frustrated frown of exasperation, followed by “I don’t know how to tell you this Dad, but you’re white!”
Which is a round-about way of saying I get where Laura is coming from, in this, the last of six semi-finalists to be posted. Here is
By Laura Elizabeth
First date, 8th grade, Star Wars premiere. We only had enough for the cheap family pass. “He’s my brother,” I told the lady behind the glass.
He felt like my brother. We talked for hours on the phone about our mother’s misery, our outsider status. Mine for being smart and skinny, his for lips soft as pillows and, as the girls said, an ass like two coconuts.
Why wouldn’t the lady hand us the pass? It worked with other friends. Then he pulled me, hard, behind the pinball machine. I hoped it was to kiss me.
“I’m black, stupid!” he said. He looked incredulous, a little sad.
I forgot his skin was a flag. “Well, you could be adopted. Or I could,” I laughed.
I thought it was a compliment, seeing no color, so close we could be family. But all evening, something was off. He never kissed me.
I know now I was wrong. Seeing no color sounds noble, and “Love Sees No Color” t-shirts sell like hot-cakes. But I’d looked past what life was like for him. Who he was.
Now, Ancestry.com sends me ads for DNA tests. I hope I’m a map of humanity, a tasty mix of everyone on the street. But why spit in the cup? I’m related to slave owners and asshole presidents. 50% Cro-Magnon, 100% privileged. My skin is the color of guilt.
When we pass on the street, you see the bright flag of my skin, a history I can’t scrub off. But if I just smile, it’s a new kind of flag. It cracks open a door. If we’re lucky, we’ll hear each other out, mix our spit, share our worlds. We’re all beautiful and broken. Brown or pale, blue or red. Love is a bridge, despite the news.