“I want… I want… What is it that I want?” she was squeezing herself into the corner of a vintage, peach-colored chair that couldn’t have been a better throne to her feminine divinity.
She scanned her eyes across the tiny room she’d made her home, as if the answer were somewhere around there: Was it under this tiny bed that she’d surrounded with her art and nature? Or had it fallen out of these mismatching picture frames in various degrees of hanging on and leaning against the walls, as if Frida Kahlo herself had been living, working, pacing here? Had she slipped it, by a forgetful accident, into the unfinished pack of cigarette on her windowsill — the only visible sign of her insomnia and self-destruction, committed in the name of the departed, then turned back into her art; her nature.
“I want to be adored! Because I — I adore!”
This entire evening I had been watching this face — and all that hair — and her gentle grace; and I had been wondering: Was I just like this, in my own youth? Or did I possess more corners: All anxiety about my self-sufficiency and my self-enough-ness?
I’ve arrived here from a harder history, you see. For centuries, it had been unforgiving to our women’s youth and tenderness. Back where I came from, we worshiped our men, but only behind the closed doors of our bedrooms. For the rest of the day, it was a nation filled with female fighters, women-survivors –hustlers — who assumed enemies in every living soul (especially other women, younger and more tender) and who are most content when standing in breadlines.
But by now, I had paid my dues around here. I had suffered and survived the often ungraceful — and sometimes undignified — existence of an immigrant. I had done my share of standing in different lines to get approved as worthy; only to rush myself back to the university library and learn at double the speed, just so that I could be more than that: Just so I could be equal. And I worked. I worked hard, harder than most of my colleagues, American or foreign-born, like me. And only behind the closed doors of my bedroom would I worship my men: For the rest of the day, I was just an Amazon, refusing to let them in on any of my softness.
“I want to be adored,” she repeated, then looked in my direction. Had I seen it laying around her artist’s quarters, by any chance: This adoration that she deserved and was willing to return ten-fold?
“You know?” she asked, then didn’t wait for my answer and said, “You do know.”
My comrades and enemies had so far been unanimous at calling me out on my generosity. In my motha’s fashion, I tend to grant it upfront, as if to back up my name with it. My name: Truth. (Or Faith, depending on which language you speak, or whom you ask around here.)
But even that has altered a little bit with age and cynicism: I am slightly more withdrawn these days; more careful. Because I have yet to raise a child, so I cannot give it all away. And because I myself haven’t finished dreaming yet, so I need my strength. Because these days, if a lover’s departure must be easy at all, it is only if I hadn’t lost myself in him. So, I take my time now. I only meet my people half-way. And I wait: I wait to see if I am — to them — indeed, the adored one, too.
Some souls though! They still know how to draw it out of me: this uncensored generosity, this kindness that hangs in the back of my first name, like the middle initial “V” by which I had been called for most of my life (in all languages). And she — the soul resembling the past child in me and the future one, at the same time — had been like this from the first embrace she’d once decided to grant me. Never once had I caught myself wondering if I was going out too far on the limb, for her sake. Because I knew that her need — was not all consuming; that I wouldn’t lose myself in it (even though, I’d much rather, at times). And in her case, my generosity felt returned ten-fold: The more I gave, the more it replenished me.
So, despite the exhaustion (that this late at night begins to feel like defeat), I had shown up to her home. Other women had come and gone already. I could tell by the variety of the pink shades of lipstick they had left of champagne glasses. A couple were in the midst of departing as soon as I arrived:
“Here! You look like you need a lot of space,” they seemed to be saying while peeling on their coats, and sweater, and ponchos, and shawls.
And I did. I did need (even though I had come here only to give). I immediately dominated her bed. I took over her library, dreaming of the day I could find my own name leaning on it, sideways. And after the last woman departed, I took over the kitchen too: Putting away the disorder, just so in the morning, she would find a clean slate.
She chirped behind me — my darling sparrow! — about whether on not to discard this aging chunk of cheese, or whether or not to dismiss this old lover. Occasionally, I would look back — at that face and all that hair — and wonder: Was I just like this, in my own youth?
But then, suddenly, I blurted out:
“Did the other women bring you food?” My words came out commanding and little bit too loud. She got silent. I landed:
“Oh my! So sorry! I’m so sorry!” Wiping my hands on the towel with force, like all the women in my family do, I gushed: “I sound like my motha. I’m so sorry!”
But her face showed no evidence of having been undermined or offended.
Instead, she rather seemed tickled by this hard softness of mine — an underbelly she must’ve suspected long ago (or why else would she decide to grant me her embrace?). She was in the midst of being adored — by me — and she knew it. She adored it.
And I, suddenly finding myself standing out on a limb, didn’t mind this incomparable generosity of mine: Because it was already replenishing me, ten-fold.