From the moderate midday blustery chill to the daylight saving month of may, summertime untucked from the clouds and awoke to its purpose brightly.
No more semi phantom rays.
Under the influence of it's outdoor boom a volley of bodies descend to the parks like amphibians first foray onto drier land. Summer time has changed the bedding
into a thinly threaded medley of cloth
that breath, with prints or without sleeves
and shorts folded above the knee or just below
so summer time could fall reflective
on bare flesh and perch like armour on bold heads.
Naturally, on one of summertimes earlier numbers,
a chronic bather springs alert and says,
'Wait! This heatwave began too soon,
like mocking the dead at the wake.'
Thereupon the jinx – summertime's glow undid itself.
August's sun became a nosey neighbour whom now and then,
peeped through dove grey venetian blinds. Morning's clear skies brought cunning signs of cool, nude shoulders became clotheslines hanging jumpers to split the difference...
and our quiet forecast was for the wind and the rain
to discomfort carnival – become the bow tie on a younger me back in the day. When Sunday came. Like,
'oh, my god. Church again...'
by chima nsoedo
It was just the two of us, at intervals of kisses, trying to understand each other. Soon we began to foster the basics of politics and race into our conversation. Kisses had to share a room. Wait longer to shower. We were both black and British. But she was secretly ahead. Kept it from me because men grow uncomfortable when outsmarted, they told her. Across the road from us was the home-time flurry of private primary school kids and their parents. Both of us watched, part broody, part parading our youthful freedom with mid day drinks and the smiles on our faces. “other people's kids have an odd way of making you feel young if you don't have any, and old all at once. Like, I could be that little boy over there's child to be's granddad.” “I know, as they grow into youthful adults, you're bones are getting progressively brittle.” “I barely see my godson,” “oh, but you must. My goddaughter is a measure of how well I've done in life. In two years, she can now walk, talk and feed herself. Those are huge milestones. 'What did you do in those two years?' she asks me without even knowing.” We both laughed... Then I said, “those children are so cute in their 19th century uniforms... I really think white kids are the cutest. I look at pictures of me as a toddler and see this mesh of features not yet formed. I had to grow into them.” After a moment's thought, she replied with actual curiosity, “so white babies are cuter than black babies, you're saying?”
And there it was, a slice of self-hate revealed to the tiny world we were building. There was no going back. My head used it's furrowed eyebrows to nod at her question. The muscles of my neck – the splenius capitis – felt odd so I rubbed it. “I see.” She sipped tea and politely looked away as I dealt with my nakedness. There was silence.
We sat. A comfy sofa each; chatting, never minding the TV. In fact, she reduced it's volume as we were deep into pebble counting the rosary of race. We were on the age of social media and it's explicit portrayal of police brutality. “It's like watching road kills become road kill.” She said. “It's the only way the West can believe race issues exist”, I said. I meant white people. “It does raise awareness, but what about the more ubiquitous racism that happens just by wearing the wrong lens?” I took the high radical route. She took another. Explained, with slight torment, she has close friends who are white. How can she be so militant and stay friends? I say it is easy to be friends with someone who is racist unknowingly. Just like you can love someone who hates themselves unknowingly. But it's funny how we find it hard to befriend the knowing racist or the 'all-knowing' radical. She half attacks the growing number of 'militant' posts on social media and then, blended perfectly, went on to highlight the sort of elephant in the room in all the police brutality situations. “It's not just the police brutality, but the men not complying.” I responded, “so if all these men complied to the point of giving up their human rights, they wouldn't have been killed or brutally attacked?” She nodded then turned to the TV. The TV's volume seemed to increase of its own volition. She looked at it as one looked disappointedly at a reflection of their thoughts. I sat back and tried to think of things to say that the silence hadn't already had a handle on.
I peddled hurriedly across the road to meet him and it came to me all at once, wearing baggy black tracksuit bottoms and a dark blue nondescript jumper, that the passing traffic may have discerned our handshake to be one between the dealer and the customer. He was stocky and brighter dressed. We laughed at the thought and it was perhaps this that spurred our next conversation. I saw a billboard of a white model less dressed and made a comment. Perhaps a sexist, male gaze one. He then brought into the conversation, “beauty is equal in all skin colours, but when it comes to average looks, white women are better looking. On average,” then he added pointedly, as in actually pointing at me, as if I were a part of his gut instincts about to put his summary to task; “and you know I'm right!” “I don't think, living in this country, we've truly seen the length and breath of beauty or averageness in black women. Perhaps go to sub-Saharan Africa and exploit the beauty there. The UK currency and your skin colour would make it easy. Many surprised white men do it.”
Written by Chima Nsoedo
She said, after peering down at my laptop screen, “you keep reading these things about race. You're letting it effect you,” “whether I read or not, it effects me," I replied.
“People make fun of my polish accent, I don't take it seriously,” she added, still standing over me. “it's not the same," came my response, all too familiar with such comparisons, "and by the way, if you did take is seriously – I wouldn't be sitting here telling you how better to react.”
She sighed floating back to her cut of lamb on the stove. “But there's no racism anymore,” she seemed forced to add. “Beyonce and Kanye West rule the world!”
I turned to my screen. Not fully resigned, but not wanting to go on. For both of us the day was already long in the tooth. We needed to eat and have some sleep. Not this.
The meat sizzled on the pan at medium heat. She wondered around the centre of the kitchen, head down focused on her cradled tablet, one ear plugged, the other free and facing my sat down, flat pack posture. Both of us whirlwinds about the internet.
“Is Rihanna black?" She startled me with, still staring at her tablet. “Yes,” “fully?” “I think so,” “she's not mixed?” “I'm not sure actually...” I said looking at her, openly expressing my disinterest. In the silence my honesty created, I felt bad. “My sister shares the same complexion and she's not mixed,” “Hmm,” she utters, unconvinced.
...My sister is the same complexion. Or is it that my sister's nose and lips aren't as pointy and thin for the comparison to be made? Is it that my sister shows up to the world carrying her hair the way it grows? Then I look at the tenants nose and it too isn't as pointy as Rihanna's, her her lips not as full. She hadn't an accurate line of things you could attribute to a race except her skin colour.
“hmm,” she reused to turn from me and acrobatically open one of the cupboards. Out came a pan. No other questions followed.
During the fry up, I google Rihanna's ethnicity to found she did have mixed ancestry; from Scotland and Ireland. Then I thought; couldn't the tenant just have googled it herself?
Our final discourse. One that only I could perceive as having a thing to do with race. We had already stripped away social constructs of relationships in this conversation. We had pushed boundaries on gender differences – sort of. Then; at that slippery juncture where trial blazers sit too comfortably, she summed up her divine right to get the man and relationship she desired by pointing out her obvious attractiveness. Fingers bending back towards her, scanning from her head to her chest. “I-am-pretty.” As self assured as I-Am-Caesar. The drum of war that didn't com from a confidence within - I had thought - but from a handle gifted by societies trusted and epicurean staple. A society that pitched long blond hair and a tall slim body as the pass go to beauty. She bottled the hair and killed herself in the gym for the other.
'I-Am-Pretty', because hordes of men with money matched her on dating websites and lavished her on dinners. Pretty because those billboards she passed on the way to work were like mirrors held up for her so whenever she declared, 'I-Am-Pretty', the world would reply, 'Yes-You-Are'.
'Yes-You-Are'. Pretty enough to not ruffle the fabric of the work place and make her Eastern European accent incidental to herfabric matching looks.
I wonder how pretty she'd feel if such stabalising clarity was swept from beneath her.
WRITTEN BY CHIMA NSOEDO