There’s a 98% chance I do not look like Naomi Campbell, that the jokes I make are not funny, and that I’m not a reincarnation of an In Living Color Fly girl. I’ve spent much of my life wishing I were another. I have prayed, flipped coins into fountains, and even made a vision board (I know), but I still wake up the same (vision boards don’t help they only take up space). I am this person, in a body that is woven by my parents DNA, stamped by societies ‘isms, and sold to whatever can give me the pleasure of understanding myself.
After years of sob-stories, broken violins, and failed therapy sessions, these are the things that I know I am: an artist, a writer, a cutter, a shopper, a nigger, a partier, a crier, a eater, a Trump hater, a lactose-intolerance denier, a Prozac taker, a flaker, a binge drinker, and a dreamer.
I am in the twilight of my youth, but it feels more like it is 3:33 AM, the witching hour. The ghoulish thought monsters of my childhood appear from my past, reminding me that my body is not wanted, telling me I have been transplanted into life, which I don’t own.
There are powers above me that I don’t understand. Example, there is a white man on the train who just said the office is home, and he is currently looking for his territory. As a mutt whose ancestors were bred to work the fields, I cannot believe that we both are searching for a territory when he has had the privilege of coming to this land by choice.
In this witching hour, the past, present, and future all collide. And during this collision, violent colors appear around me, staining everything I see. Example, the train has just passed a confederate flag, and I don’t know whether anyone else has noticed. The Snap chat filter my millennial mind added to the flag was a black & white and then a burnt orange. So silly, I know. I wanted to believe I was in another decade.
I know this belief is a form of escapism, a skill that I mastered in college, but lost once I walked across the stage, and then entered into the “real world” that I avoided by reading books and writing papers about philosophies that won’t give the answers I need. Derrida, Descartes, and even the poetic Aristotle can’t answer why my deductible is so high? Or if I can opt out of taxes if my money is going to a wall I don’t believe in? Or why men feel compelled to give me answers to only the questions they think of?
I have no answers, and all I have left is imagination. I imagine floating in an ocean. My face in the water, my arms and legs spread open. When I wash up on the coast, my grandmother cups my cheeks, and she is unable to smell the Americanisms that have clogged my pores for 22 years. As I stare into her eyes, which life has tired, I am given a memory of a past, present, and future, which tells me the secret to owning this life.
About the author...
Jennifer Chukwu is a writer and visual artist based in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in English Language and Literature and Gender & Sexuality studies. She has presented her writing, art, and research at University of Wisconsin-Madison, National Louis University, and UC Berkeley. She is currently co-hosting “Connections” a reading series at Beans Gallery.
Overall, her writing is rooted in examining the everyday strangeness of race, gender, and class. You can find her contact information at www.dollarstoreartist.com