My face is out of porcelain smiles to give. My lips will not, shall not turn up here. My eye brows have forgotten their natural state and stretch out in a Dominican-inspired arch. My ears cannot, will not, shall not hear you..because my eyes won’t see you. But I’m here–ish. Your presence is heavy. This air is stale and familiar. Pieces of my peace–the tattoos of my flesh–are being picked off prematurely, much a clan of vultures of nipping at the skull of a tired hippo. I feel you. I know you’re here. You pain me but I cannot deal. My soul won’t cash the check my mind wrote and my lips signed.
The responsibilities are light. I could do them in my sleep. But the environment is heavy like thick afro’s in pouring rain on throbbing heads. Heav–y. I feel every drop. Many generations of black folks have survived worse sentences of counseling, coddling and low-key racists. Many queer folks have massaged, beautified and sanitized heterosexist/homophobic men and women only to be held face down blood-stained mud. The worst part is the psychological war-fare, the reminder that the work you are doing, the cuts they administer to your flesh, are for you and people like you. “We just have to get this done. You’re doing great. They know what’s best for you (us, those people). Don’t take it personal.” Of course, one cannot take something personal if they aren’t deemed a full person, there is no access to self and self preservation becomes more nightmare than precursor to an American Dream.
This is my job. It is not my calling. It stocks my fridge and starves my soul. I smile and laugh and make (white) people feel good about the (meager) services they provide people (of color). I look cute, dress up and beam rays of warmth to make (hiv negative) people feel good about the state of HIV (survivors) in MA. I am a soother. I am foundation–I cover up the scars, the bruises, the blemishes and craters that we all know exist. I cover myself.
But every now and then, increasingly so recently, I must bust out and puss over. That is my natural state–to rupture. I spill over with truths and light and pain and liberation so unsightly that they wonder how I live. That is when I explain the difference between they and I. I’m a survivor. I survive the racial-sexual microagressions of the work place. I note the implicit seronegativity in the way they speak about folks dealing with HIV as “infected” as opposed to Survivors…as a matter of strict policy. I view the overwhelming whiteness of the workspace and it’s leadership against the bright black/brown backdrop of bodies surviving and dying, beautifully so. And I puss over. Drip by drip. My truth leaks out. And then, I swell further, until I’m no longer discardable or able to be ignored…and I explode on everything, on everyone, marking them with the secrets of violent realities and beautiful existences they know but cannot see, they hear but cannot feel, I make them know what they never knew in red, black and brown. This body is a battlefield and I refuse to die alone.