Returning from New Orleans, now two planes, one stopover and many states away, I knew I was home, really home, when my taxi passed the local poolhall at midnight, one window wide and lit with blurry bodies intent on that last game of pool.
Hello. Hello to myself, newly returned.
I don't feel like I've been away. Maybe I've only stepped out for a brief interlude in the city, gallivanting through streets that no one ever stumbled upon before my sandaled feet. But now I find myself hesitant to pen letters, dash off e-mails, or call friends and acquaintances.
I guess I have this nagging sense of displacement (or no-placement, no real place for this one, me.), like I should be somewhere else. Or that I have no place, not really.
Look, the idea of community is seductive. It's comforting to think you and I share certain qualities and necessities, despite age, race, gender, sexuality, etc.-that our needs are aligned by the heavens, that we are human, after all, and beautiful, regardless of those "pesky" factors.
But that's a naive and sentimental desire.
I guess I'm still reeling from New Orleans.
Imagine this: me with six other girls living in a hotel room in a deeply segregated city along the Gulf Coast, for roughly six nights and five days.
Seven girls, seven complicated histories and politics, one knot of seven entangled threads of inescurities.
Imagine the drama.
And imagine me standing on Decatur St. in the French Quarter, watching "a past that is not past" as a middle-aged white man videotapes black children tap-dancing in sneakers improvising as tap shoes, metal chips glued to their soles. They dance, for spare change, his camera.
There is no tenderness here in the French Quarter, only spectacles for your voyeuristic pleasure.
And yeah, I know, it's here too, in Berkeley and San Diego and Seattle, in numerous cities I've loved and left. Only I wasn't painfully reminded of the lack of tenderness, the absurd lack of historical consciousness that is American as apple pie, until I left familiar places for new places that became only too familiar.