Conceding to Kismet

The Walrus Chronicles

Daheim & Sharazna

 

Yes, my name is Daheim.  My mother wanted to always remind herself that home was where she made it, so she called me home in her native language.  I was teased pretty mercilessly in my childhood, but suddenly my name was unique and exotic when the boys began to come calling.  ‘You got a pretty name.  You got pretty hair.  You got a pretty face.’  I was all pretty then.  There was nothing weird about my name.  There was nothing weird about my mother’s thick German accent.  It was as if she had blessed me with good looks that other black girls didn’t get.  I began trying to weed out the ones who only liked me because of it.  Not a very easy task.

                I thought perhaps I was going out of my mind and created another personality because I tried so hard to evaluate people when I first met them.  Then I realized it wasn’t me.  There was actually another person inside me.  I wondered why I had been chosen for this particular ability.  My father might have told me it was a gift from God, but God doesn’t let others spy on your innermost thoughts without your permission.  When I realized I had to share myself with others whether or not I liked it, I thought it best to get along.

                Fortunately, most of the transcorporants turned out to be nice or at least interesting.  I didn’t know if I was supposed to learn something from whatever this was, but sometimes I did.  I tried to dismiss the rest.  It wasn’t very easy sometimes because some people have a way of sticking with you long after they’ve gone.  I wondered sometimes if I had that effect on people, but I doubt it.  I was never the aggressive type, so I didn’t think I left that much of an impression on others when the time came for us to part ways.

                That was probably why I wasn’t so freaked out when I found out that other people could transfer their minds inside mine.  Neither of us ever knew how it happened, but I saw it as a chance to make my impression.  My life might mean something if someone else could take something from it.  I couldn’t think of another reason for my existence.

                This one felt different.  There was that fear and excitement that accompanied some transcorporants, but there was also a sense of opportunity.  This experience was supposed to be an opportunity for something this one had never had the chance before now.  When this happened, the person was usually white and the results were usually not good.

                “I don’t know what the hell’s going on,” was the first thing she said.

                “Unfortunately, I know all too well.  It’ll only last four days, so you don’t have to worry about it after that.  I promise that I’m not some weirdo who’s going to put you through some ordeal.”

                “Neither am I.  I just wish I knew why this happened.”

                “That we may never find out.  I’m Daheim.”

                “Sharazna.  Sharazna DeBerry.”

                Black.  This one was definitely black.

                “You don’t get black people all the time?”

                “I wish.  Things might go a lot more smoothly.  Just like I never know when this is going to happen, I also don’t know who’s going to show up.  It’s just so random.”

                “Oh, then maybe there’s no reason.  Some things happen because they happen.”

                For some reason, that seemed very wise.  “Could be.  I try to take it all in stride and go with it.  Might drive me crazy otherwise.”

                “Yeah.  So, Daheim, are you from around here?  I don’t think we’ve ever met before.”

                “Well, I’ve been here a few years.  I don’t get out much.  I like to stay close to home.  Guess that’s the curse of my name.  It’s a German word for ‘home.’”

                “Yeah, I know.  I was wondering if you had ever been there or if you’ve ever lived there.”

                She speaks German?

                “I don’t really speak it.  I can count to a certain point and I know a few words here and there, but I’m nowhere near fluent.  I sometimes just like the way words from other languages sound, so I look them up and find out what they mean.  If I’m really interested, I’ll look at where it’s from and if it’s evolved into something else.”

                “So you’re into, uhhh, damn what’s the word?”

                “Etymology.  Not formally but I don’t really study anything to make a career of it.  I just like to know things.”

                I flaked out on etymology.  I was usually the one who ended up explaining things to people, but she didn’t really seem to require much explanation.

                “Yeah, I guess that’s a good trait to have.  I used to be in the business of thinking, but no one wanted to hear what I thought.”

                “I think I know what you mean.”

~~~

Sharazna was inquisitive but in a good way.  There weren’t the usual questions about the texture of my pubic hair, what it was like to live between two worlds, what it was like to fuck a black man rather than a white one or other things that made absolutely no sense.  She wanted to know what it was like for me as a child and if I had ever been able to travel out of the country.

                “Well, I have been to Germany twice.  My mom was from Frankfurt, so she traveled between there and Dresden a lot.  I wanted to go to Weimar and Berlin, but she decided I should get to know her neighborhood and the places that meant something to her when she was a girl.  I guess she figured she could instill in me some of her German pride since I…”

                “Since you identify as black?  It’s not my place to say and I know she’s your mom, but she just doesn’t know what it’s like.  That’s the thing that white parents don’t get.  They try to tell their kids they’re not like the rest of us then wonder why life is still so difficult for them.  Hell, no matter who I ever have kids with, my kids will be black.  I couldn’t let them go into the world with delusions that a non-black parent means they’re some kind of gift from God made by love will overcome all bullshit.  No offense.”

                “None taken.  I feel that way myself sometimes.  I love my mom and all, but I agree with you.  I have a white parent, but that still doesn’t mean I’m not black.  I’ve always been accepted as black.  I had a friend like you once.  We didn’t really talk about my mom being white and what that meant.  She just saw me as a black person with a different experience than she had.  It was no big deal and she never made me feel like I had to explain myself.  Even when I was having black-white issues, she listened.  She didn’t judge and she didn’t offer advice.  I got so much off my chest with her.  You’re lucky to have a friend like that at least once.”

                “What happened to her?”

                “She died a couple of years ago.  Sudden case of food poisoning.”

                “Wow, she died of food poisoning?”

                “Didn’t get her help in time.  She distrusted doctors and we couldn’t get her to see one before it got too late.”

                “Can’t say I blame her.  Nobody in my family really trusts doctors either.  They always seem to find something wrong with you.”

                I had to laugh at that.  Usually thinking about Kate’s death made me sad, but there was something I liked about Sharazna.  She actually kind of reminded me of Kate.  There weren’t too many people who made me feel like I was interesting for something other than being mixed.

                “You’ve never been anywhere else except Germany?”

                “Traveled through a few of the states, but I tend to get to one place and settle.  If I had money, I would go all over the place.  You know.  I do want to get to Italy before it’s too late.  I happen to like wine, so the vineyards and Italy and France are high on the priority list.  What about you?”

                “Japan.”

                “Really!  Why Japan?”

                “I think Buddhism mostly.  Something about it makes sense to me.  I would love to go there and maybe get to see a shrine.  I feel like that’s something that I really need to do.”

                “Yeah, but they tend not to let you into shrines unless you’re a true believer.”

                “Who’s to say I’m not?  How would they measure it?  Is there some kind of test?  I’ve actually studied the way of life for years now.  I know I wouldn’t be disciplined enough to be a true Buddhist, but I still think there’s a lot to it that calls me.  I don’t actually call myself a Buddhist.”

                I didn’t know why I felt the need to explain that to her.  I didn’t know why I felt the need to explain anything to her.

                “It’s the name.  People always hear Sharazna and assume I must be some stupid ghetto rat.  Yeah, it makes it harder when I apply to stuff, but I did go to four-year university and earned a degree.  Still, family treats me like I’m stupid, friends do it all the time and don’t get me started on exes.”

                I felt myself growing red in the face.  I knew that was the truth and I felt ashamed.  Here she was being kind and understanding despite the peculiar predicament we found ourselves in and here I was assuming she had to be less intelligent than me because her family opted to give her a name emphasizing black and proud.

                “Don’t worry about it.  I’m used to it.”

                “You shouldn’t be.  You should never have to get used to other people’s ignorance even if it’s someone you love.”

                “Are we still talking about you and me?”

                “Maybe not.  I probably started thinking about my mom.”

                “Well, we don’t have to go into that.  We need to be thinking about how we’ll spend the next few days together.  As much as I would love to get out of the country, I seriously doubt that’s going to happen.  How about we go to a few places ‘we’ don’t typically go.  I’ve been wanting to see a ballet, opera or symphony since I’ve been here, but I still haven’t managed to get to one.  Do you think you could do that within three days?”

                “You like opera?  You are truly someone after my own heart.”

~~~

Like Sharazna, I told myself that once I got here I was going to take advantage of all the cultural events that I now had access to that I didn’t have in other places.  Like me, Sharazna had settled into a groove that did not include many nights enjoying a ballet as she had hoped.  A lot of reality got in the way.  Then there were those unspoken gestures that made a night out alone a bit unbearable.  We never failed to notice the drop in volume when we walked into a room and the strained attempts of at least one “kind” soul who decided she (yes it was usually a she) would be the one to show everyone else that we couldn’t be harmless if we were here.  Those were the things that others always said we must imagine because it never happened to them.  I said if I imagined it, then why does it keep happening over and over again.  No one had ever been able to come up with an answer.

                I didn’t know if I could get a ticket to a performance in just a matter of days, but there would be plenty of other things to do as a backup plan.  There were museums, free film festivals, gallery openings in coffee shops and other happenings that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else.  I found out that Sharazna and I had both gone barhopping despite being teetotalers in order to check out some of the local bands and get a bit of free music.

                Unfortunately, it was a bad weekend to try to get to a live performance, so we had to settle for something else.  I had thought about going to one of those film festivals that showed classic films I had already seen but still wanted to have the pleasure of a big screen experience, but I had never gone.  Now I would technically not go alone, so I thought the stares and the whispers might not bother me so much.  Sharazna knew how I felt.

                We decided to go to an academic lecture opened to the public first.  Neither of us had any idea who the featured speaker was, but the talk sounded interesting, something about local efforts at creating grassroots political alliances across color lines.  I tended to stay away from talks like these, especially if the speaker was white because it usually fell into the trap of being self-congratulatory claptrap about how whites had progressed by finally extending their hands to their poor unfortunate colored counterparts.  Sharazna felt the same way, but we decided we could use a little intellectual stimulation for ill or better.

                The lecture was dry and boring, but there was a slideshow.  I found out we both liked to look at old pictures even if they were only a day or two old.  Something about photographs felt good and right to me.  Something about photographs made me feel like I could step into a different time or place and know what the moment meant.  It never happened, but that was what it was like when I saw old photos.

                Still, both Sharazna and I had gotten bored within the first twenty minutes of the presentation.  I was passed over during question and answer time.  I guess I just looked like I wanted to ask why he decided to leave out the points of views of the ones he mentioned in passing were not so anxious to welcome his presence into their organizations.  Sharazna wanted me to ask that question as well, but our esteemed lecturer wasn’t about to field tough questions.

                “That was kind of fun, but now I remember why I’m not in any education field.  How bogus was that guy?”

                “Unfortunately, he’s the type they prefer to have in their ranks.  He pretends to be progressive, but all he does is reinforce the status quo.  He’s comfortable.  We should get a late lunch.  Nothing’s going to be busy around this time, so we can sit down a while.  After that, we can go to the Hancock Museum.  I think there’s something there right now that you would really enjoy.”

                I didn’t eat out much, but since this was a special occasion of sorts, I decided to go to one of those places that only stayed open until about three in the afternoon.  I was in the mood for crepes.  I kept finding that Sharazna and I had so much in common.  For instance, we both liked strawberries but not the little seeds that got stuck in the teeth.  Neither of us cared for maple syrup either.  So we settled for banana crepes with the syrup so sweet it created a toothache upon the first bite.  Neither of us had regrets.

                “I wish I could just do this on a regular basis, go out to eat then sit around for a while without having to worry about being anywhere else – or worrying about folks looking and wondering when I’m going to leave.”

                “I know right.  I really can’t believe we haven’t run into each other before.  I know it’s a big city, but you know how black folks have a way of finding each other here.”

                Sharazna was quiet a moment before she answered.  “I tend to stay home a lot.  When I do go out, I’m not at a lot of the places most black folks are.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my folks, but I just don’t have a lot in common with too many people.  Hell, we don’t like getting stared at and whispered about when white folks are all over the place.  It’s worse when it’s our own people doing it.  I got called a white girl all my life for being smart.  Then I stopped straightening my hair and people started to talk bad about that.  We’re bad about trying to police who belongs and who doesn’t as well.  When I stopped fitting into little boxes people wanted to create, I ended up spending more and more time alone.  Burned some bridges and didn’t look back.”

                “I’m starting to think that we might have been separated at birth.”

                “Stranger things have happened.”

                I went to museums less often than I thought I would, but here I found myself headed into one that didn’t charge an admission, only “suggested” a donation.  I no longer felt guilty about not contributing when I had to make a choice between paying the light bill and eating two meals a day instead of three for the next two weeks.  But sometimes people had a way of making you feel like you didn’t belong.  I walked into Hancock with Sharazna safely in my head.  I wanted to show her something specific, but she made me stop at these weird sculptures from Eastern Europe first.

                I then made my way to the special area held for “world” exhibits.  I felt something come over Sharazna as soon as we stepped in the room.  It came over me as well.  There were various forms of artwork inspired by and depicting Buddhism.  I knew then what she meant when she said she felt at home with Buddhism.  She felt completely at home here.  I felt safe as well.  I regretted ever telling her that she might not be a true believer.  Sharazna had more of a grasp on what this life meant than most people who got rich pretending to be experts unlocking the East’s secrets for the rest of us.

                “Look at his face.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with a look that peaceful before in my life.  Maybe I’ve seen it in a child’s face, but how many people do you know radiate that from inside.  Things like this shouldn’t be rare, but it is.”

                “Yeah, I think I see.”

                “No, you do see.  Don’t be afraid to admit it.”

                We spent a few minutes in that room just looking around, marveling at something that felt right.  Maybe I was getting overflow from Sharazna’s feelings, but by the time we left, I thought I was a convert.  I understood why she felt it would be best to go to Japan and have a firsthand experience there.  The art could only do so much.  I began to hope that she would find herself there one way or another.

~~~

We planned out the next day before we left the house.  There was a showing of Harold and Maude as part of a local film series. I had finally found someone who was as big a Hal Ashby fan as I was.  We agreed to watch Coming Home together before it was time for her to leave.  For now, we sat in a not so crowded auditorium and enjoyed a Cat Stevens’ fueled film about the unlikeliest of romances.  We found ourselves having a lively chat about it while enjoying a bacon turkey burger and garlic cilantro fries.  We had a couple of hours before our next stop, so we decided to read a book.  I went to the little free library and lucked out with a graphic novel.  I knew immediately I would add it to my own collection and not return it.

                “You’re worse than I am.  I rarely leave books in this place, but I sure take them all the time.”

                “Yeah, me, too.  People shouldn’t leave Nella Larsen in these places if they want to see her again.”

                We got through a good part of the novel before we decided we needed to get to the bar to see the live band.  I kept finding out what we had in common.  We would both make sure we got to places early just so that we could sit exactly where we wanted and make others have to consider their seating choices around us – little defensive moves such as that that really came from an offensive strategy.

                I hated not being able to bring a book with me to some places, but I had Sharazna to keep me company while we waited for the band to get started.  That novel had really got her going.  I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one who could obsess over things that seemed trivial to everyone else every once in a while.  The conversation in my head took me away from the need to look at the walls for something to read or keep scanning the room for something of interest.

                The music finally started.  Good but not great.  I always said if you weren’t going to be a cover band, then you should at least have a sound that didn’t instantly make the audience think you had just gotten over being a tribute band.  This little homegrown treat sounded exactly like it wanted to be the Dave Matthews Band.  And not the Dave Matthews Band that used Boyd and Leroi to make themselves unique – the post Before These Crowded Streets Dave Matthews Band.  That was only okay if you were the Dave Matthews Band, but these guys weren’t.  It still wasn’t a bad night out though.

                “I just so happen to have popcorn, so we can get good and settled while we watch the movie.”

                “Sounds great.  I love popcorn, but I just hate when those little kernel things get stuck in my teeth.”

                “I know.  That’s the worst.  But you just can’t stop eating it though.”

                “Not the kettle corn.”

                “Tell me about it.”

                I popped the DVD into my computer since it played better than the one hooked up to my television and we settled down for the next couple of hours to watch one of our favorite movies.  This was the one where we both got so involved that we found ourselves sleepless afterward wondering what happened to these characters after the cameras stopped rolling and we were no longer allowed to see what went on in their lives.  I had never been able to have an in-depth conversation with anyone about Coming Home before.  By the time I did get to sleep, I was convinced that I had found my hetero life partner with Sharazna.

~~~

“Damn, is it almost over already?”

                “I’m afraid so.”   I didn’t want it to be.  This had been one of the best weekends I had had since these strange people transplanted themselves in my head.  This was the kind of experience I wanted when they came.  This was the kind of friend I had wanted, especially since I lost Kate.  I didn’t want Sharazna to replace her, but I saw no reason why we shouldn’t keep in touch with each other once we stopped sharing a single body.  We were already of the same mind.

                “Yeah, I think it’s a shame it has to end, too, but reality has a way of creeping back in when you don’t need it.”

                “You make it sound as if you don’t want to hang with me anymore.”

                “It’s not that I don’t want to.  It’s that I probably can’t.  It costs money to have fun these days and there’s just not enough to go around.  I would love to go around traipsing through museums with you all the time, but every second I’m doing that, I’m not making the damn-near minimum wage I need to make the rent and buy groceries.  Time is money in my world.”

                She was right.  As much as I complained that I was broke, I still wasn’t really worried about being on the street any time soon.  Sure I wasn’t living a rap star’s lifestyle, but I was rather comfortable.  I was so comfortable that I had to check myself whenever it crossed my mind that anyone else who wasn’t as comfortable as I was only had himself to blame.  Still, I had to ask her.

                “You come across as an intelligent and reasonable person.  How come you haven’t been able to do better for yourself?”

                “I’ve tried, but try putting Sharazna on a resume.  No one looks at ‘Daheim’ and immediately thinks this must be a black person.  If you know anything about language, then you can see the European roots in that word.  No, I get that same reply that although my credentials are impressive, they’ve decided to go with someone more ‘qualified.’  The best I’ve been able to do is get Internet positions that don’t require an interview.”

                Damn.  The truth in that statement hurt.  I knew it wasn’t directed at me, but it pierced me somewhere I hadn’t expected.

                “I know you do the best you can.  I see it happen all the time, so you’d think I know better, but I guess the Kool-Aid runs deep.”

                “In all of us.”

                I really wanted to see her then.  I asked her permission first.  For some reason, I felt like I needed permission.  She said it was alright.  I filled my favorite metal bowl in the kitchen sink then waited.  I thought I might have been looking at my own reflection at first, then I began to see the differences.  I don’t know why I was so surprised to see what Sharazna looked like.

                “Wow.  You’re lighter than I am.”

                “You expected me to be dark, didn’t you?”

                “Well, yeah.  There’s not too many of us who… well, you know.”

                “I might be light, but I am the product of two black parents.  My color was never a problem with them.  I wasn’t treated any differently.  We were all just black – no better or worse than anyone else.”

                I couldn’t stop the smile then.  Even though she was of a lighter complexion, she was still so much like Kate who had been darker than the paper bag.  I felt blessed.  Maybe it was just coincidence that brought Sharazna into my life, but it was still just what I needed in my life.

                I began to feel a little odd.  She was about to leave.  Sharazna knew it, too.  She said one more thing before her consciousness set sail.

                “Next time, you’ll have to tell me more about your friend Kate.”

                I was glad she was gone then.  I always felt a fool when I cried in front of others.  I knew Sharazna would have understood, but I didn’t want to burden her with my own feelings when she had much more to worry about in her own life.  Yet, she had made a promise that we would meet again.  I was finally going to have that friend I needed, someone who understood what happened to me because it happened to her as well.

                I didn’t see her again right away.  I wasn’t sure where to start looking for her or if she would remember my address or anything.  I knew she meant it when she said we’d meet again, so I left the ball in her court.  Like she said, time was money, so she probably just had no time to come back into my life right away just because I was anxious for another play date.

                Still, I worried.  I was one of those people who didn’t have too many friends because I tended to wait until I was invited before I saw friends.  I never made the first move because I never liked to impose myself on others.  It hurt too much to feel like a bother when you showed up unexpectedly and friends made it feel as if you forced them to accommodate them.

                This was all going through my head as I set out for a walk that night.  I just got an irresistible urge to be anywhere but in my apartment waiting to see if Sharazna would drop by, knowing she wouldn’t even think it so late in the evening.  I had no destination in mind and no idea where I was heading.  Yet I wasn’t afraid.  I felt guided in some way.  I knew I was supposed to be afraid of the dark, but I was always drawn to it anyway.  At that moment, I thought perhaps I would finally learn why the dark held such beauty to me.

                That was when I saw it.  I had never before noticed it and was not entirely sure where I was.  There was a small out of the way diner that looked like it had come straight out of a scene from any pre-1960 film shown on Turner Classic Movies.  It was charming but disarming.  Why the hell would some lone black woman wander to a place where she might have been killed just for looking at not too many years ago?

                Then I saw that I was not alone.  There was a group of six women inside looking every bit like they belonged in the place, like the place belonged to them.  I got to the door right when another woman did.  We smiled at each other because we both knew then that we were in the right place.  Something had called the both of us there and we were about to get some answers about who we were and why we shared a common life anomaly.  She opened the door for the both of us and we headed inside.  One of the women spotted us before we reached the booth.  She smiled.

~~~

“Well, ladies, I guess we just found out how it feels to be the one inside the body instead of the one invading it.”

                Grace was matter of fact in her assessment, aware that she was stating the obvious.  The eight of them were not sure exactly what it all meant, but the four Walruses were all thinking the same thing Faith stated at the moment.

                “So, if we really want to, we can control the body.”

                “I thought we couldn’t because it would be too invasive,” Charity said.  “I guess just like with seeing the face, we have to really want to do it.”

                “I know that would make life a lot easier for me, especially when it comes to smokers or other people who do stuff I don’t like.”  Hope could not contain the self-satisfied smile that began to form with her.

                “I hope you’re not thinking of doing something – evil,” Katei said with concern.

                “Evil, no,” Grace answered.  “She’s not evil at all.  But sometimes you get caught in a situation and sitting back feeling helpless to do anything about it is no good.  Controlling the mind is one thing, but to be able to get some control over the body, well, that could be a good thing or it could be a disaster.”

                “Turned out okay for me,” Domi said.  “Look at what happened with Terry.”

                “Oh, yeah, how is Terry?” Faith asked with a little bit of playful devilishness.  They could all see from the sly grin how that had gone.

                “He’s even more than I expected.”

                “Have you heard from Sharazna again?” Charity asked Daheim.

                “Not yet.  I think it might be soon though.”

                “I tell you this much, Katei,” Hope said.  “You should learn about how they can potentially control the body.  You might end up with another Lance again and you don’t want that kind to get control of you.”

                They all laughed as Katei rolled her eyes at the memory of Lance.  She joined in their laughter despite her lack of mirth at the whole situation.  She smiled because it felt good to get it off her chest and know there were others who understood what she went through in those long four days.  Grace spoke again.

                “Well, ladies, I don’t know when the eight of us will get together again like this.  Let’s enjoy this and make sure we all remember we may not know exactly what all of this means, but we don’t have to go through it alone.

                A chorus of “amens” and “yes lords” met her at that moment.  The darkness was still around them outside and none of them felt the need to leave any time soon.  None of them noticed that Grace had gotten quiet as she sat in her usual corner and contemplated.  They could control the body if they wanted.  She wasn’t sure how this would change things, but she wasn’t so much worried for herself and the three Walruses she already knew as she was for the new four they had just met.
From October 19th

Katei’s Lance

 

She hated the biotransference and dreaded every coming one.  The biotransference could not have been more uncomfortable to Katei if it had left her in actual physical pain.  Sometimes it did when she found herself dry heaving after four days of not being able to eat and sleep without worry.  She knew they were judging her.  She knew they were looking at her surroundings and making their minds up about her based on what she had around her.  She knew they were making assumptions about her when she looked in the mirror and realized they could also see her reflection through her eyes.

                That was all they could see through her eyes.  She tended to get transcorporants who made no secret that they would rather be anyone except her.  She expected this one to be no different.  She kept track of how many there had been by writing down each encounter in her notebook.  She kept that notebook well out of sight until after an encounter.  It was then that she would drag it out and make a record of the latest transcorporant who decided he or she knew her life better than she did.  The encounters began to look so much alike that even she was beginning to think that perhaps she was imagining them to all be the same.  However, that might have meant that she imagined so much in her life.

                Katei could feel the unwelcomed presence.   No matter how hard she tried, she could not quell that sense of impending doom that overtook her.  When she was certain the biotransference was complete, she could no longer hold back the bile that roiled in her stomach.  She made it to the bathroom just in time to relinquish the nothing she had eaten that day.  She had lost so much weight when the whole thing started.  Her mother had begun to worry, so she spent every other day reassuring her mother she didn’t have an eating disorder.  She even let her mother feed her large feasts after she knew a transcorporant was gone for good.  Even though she had just flushed down the contents of her empty stomach, she had already begun to imagine a home cooked meal from her mother’s hand.

                “Ugh, pork.  Why do you people always eat so badly?”

                Damn, he was white.  He was male.  Katei could think of no deeper hell.

                “What are you thinking you’re in hell for?  I’m the one inside you.  I wouldn’t live in this skin if you paid me, but since I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t have any choice do I?”

                “Oh, dear God, just shut up.  I know you don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here, but you don’t have to go broadcasting it every possible second.  If you just stay quiet, it’ll all be over with.  Trust me.  I don’t want anything else other than to get through this as soon as possible.”

                “This happens to you all the time?  Well, why the hell didn’t you stop it?”

                “Because I can’t!  Don’t you think if I could keep assholes like you away, I would?  Believe me.  This is not a choice.”

                “Bet I could have figured it out by now.  You’re probably too stupid and lazy to figure it out.”

                “Just shut up,” she said weakly.  “You just got here and I already have a headache.”

                “Goddamit, I can’t believe I’ve gotten myself stuck inside some clueless idiot who doesn’t know her head from her ass.”

                “Look, this happens to me all the time, so I know the deal.  Just because you’re scared…”

                “Why the hell would I be scared?  I don’t have anything to be scared of.”

                “Because you’re scared I have control of you now.  The only thing that scares you more than my existence is the thought that for once you have to consider the fact that I’m a human being just like you.  I get your type all the time even when you’re not inside me.  You expect me to carry you with me all the time, but it would end you if you ever had to do the same for me.”

                That actually shut him up for the moment.  Katei knew it wouldn’t last.  It never did.

                “Still, this is not the way I planned on spinning my life.”

                “Well, plan on spending the next four days this way.  If it doesn’t kill you, I hope it at least scars you for life.”

~~~

His name was Lance Gardner.  The world existed for him.  No one else mattered as much as he did.  That was what had been engrained in him since his narrow brain had begun to process information.  Everything around him reaffirmed that.  That affirmation came in the opportunities he had unquestioningly had, the images he saw mediated all around him and the more he accumulated just because he had mastered the art of breathing.  Lance Gardner was a walking privilege, a fact to which he seemed blissfully unaware.

                Katei was aware of it.  That thought stayed close to the front of her own consciousness, but Lance was good at blocking it even though he had complete access to it.  He simply didn’t want to know. Katei wished she had the luxury, but it had never been her pleasure.

                “Why do you shop here?  The Valley across town is so much better and the selection is a better quality.  It’s like you people want to be unhealthy.  We build all these places and open them up to you, but you still stay stuck in your old habits.”

                “The Valley?  You mean that place that you have to be a part of a gated community to use?  The one that was built by those migrant workers who got chased out of town as soon as the project was finished?  The place that won’t even let people who don’t live outside the zip code work there?  That Valley?  Oh, please go on about how that store, hell that part of town, is accessible to everyone.”

                “You can go there.  I see black people there all the time.  If you’re uncomfortable, then it’s your own fault.  No one else is responsible because you want to see race everywhere.”

                “Yeah, that’s my problem.”

                “Jesus, you people are unreasonable.”

                “Lance.  Shut up.”

                “You shut up.  I have every right to speak whatever I want.”

                “You’re in my head.”

                “So?  If I have to be here, you should be nice to me.  I’m your guest.”

                “No, you’re a pest.  And I find it very interesting that you feel you have a right to tell me what to do in my own body.  It has nothing to do with you.  You don’t own it.”

                “Well I own my mind and it’s here whether or not I like it.  I’m going to make damn sure I’m comfortable.”

                “Your logic is amazing.”

                “Like you understand logic.”

                “No.  Explain it to me.”

                “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

                “I rest my case.”

                Most of the first day went this way.  Katei knew better than to try to engage Lance for any reason, knowing it would put him on the defensive and make her miserable.  It wasn’t the first time she had encountered someone like him.  The reason this whole thing happened to her was a mystery, but the reason she tended to get the same kinds of transcorporants was an even bigger one.  As far as she knew, she had done nothing in her life to deserve such a fate.  Even her past lives couldn’t be that bad.

                Lance wasn’t just content to let her be.  He seemed determined to go out of his way to make her miserable as if he had something to gain from it.  Perhaps he needed to feel a sense of superiority like he didn’t get that every day just by walking down the streets he believed he owned.  Katei could feel the sadistic pleasure he got from criticizing every little thing about her.  The cruel aspect of it all was that even though she could ignore it when it happened to her outside her head, she could hide from her aggressor how much the harassment truly hurt.  Lance had access to her innermost thoughts at any time while he was with her.  Knowing how much power he had to get to her when she couldn’t hide her true feelings would only fuel his desire to do more damage.  That was when Katei hated her vulnerability the most.  That was when she wished the superwoman myth was a reality.

~~~

She was running low on staples.  As much as Katei tried to stay close to home when a biotransference was in play, she could not ignore her need for food and supplies.  She made up a list for the grocery store and plotted her course to get in and out as soon as possible.  Grocery shopping was the only type of shopping she truly enjoyed, but the biotransference even took that pleasure from her.

                “Oh, I hate this place already,” Lance said upon their arrival.  “It just looks dirty from the outside.  They let the shelves get in disarray here and anyone can put their hands all over everything.  How do you even eat something that comes out of this place?”

                “It’s called cooking.  If you knew anything about it, you would have known that.”

                “Please, I can tell you don’t want to be here either.”

                “Well, this is the closest place with a good enough selection for me to get what I need.  It’s also less expensive.”

                “Oh, yeah.  You don’t make enough money to get a bag of beans from any store in town except this one.  Woe is you.”

                “You’re the one with absolutely no concept of what it’s like for anyone else to have to survive in the shitty circumstances you, yes you, created, but you want to criticize anything that doesn’t fit into your neat little concept of how things should be.  Excuse me for existing and disrupting your narrow little world.”

                “That’s more like it.”

                She sighed out loud.  Katei didn’t even try to hide her frustration.  Then it began.  She hated when it happened.  She would find herself looking at the others around her, especially the black folk, and start to see them in the way she thought her transcorporant might see them.  The judgment was not hers, but the guilt was.  Lance’s consciousness was telling her that the young black woman who just went past them with a cart full of not cheap meats, cereal, milk, candy and other sweets was a welfare queen who didn’t even have the good sense to use the money she bilked from the government every month to feed her children properly.  Never mind there were no children with her and she looked as if she just stepped out of a law firm office.  He was telling her that the young man heading out the door had probably just stolen something since he left without the paying.  He was telling her that the clerk who was still eyeing the young man even as she was about to check out was right to be suspicious.

                Katei pursed her lips as she tried to drown out Lance’s consciousness and focus on making sure the girl didn’t try to double charge her a second time.  She could hear him telling her that she wasn’t overcharged, that she had imagined it and wanted to make it a racial incident.

                “What does her overcharging me have to do with race?” she finally said to him.  He was actually stumped this time.  “Now who’s making this a racial incident?”

                Even though he was quiet, Katei could hear him stewing that she had shut him down.  He hated losing, especially to her.  His blind hatred and unwillingness to even consider that he might be wrong about anything scared her.  His type scared her most because they were unmovable.

                Katei made sure she checked her receipt while the clerk was still watching before she left the store.  She smiled to herself from the small amount of satisfaction in just letting the clerk know she was on to her.

                “You didn’t have to do that, you know.”

                “Are you speaking again?”

                “You tried to humiliate her.  What kind of sadistic little bitch are you?  You should apologize.”

                “I’ll apologize to her as soon as she admits what she is and that she thought she could get away with cheating me.  Oh, wait.  That’s never going to happen.”

                “That’s because she can probably sense who you are.”

                “And just who am I supposed to be according to you?”

                “You’re one of those race baiters.  You think everything that happens to you happens because you’re black.  But hell even I can tell you’re not really black.  You’re mixed with something else.  You have it easier than real black people.”

                When her blood began to boil like this, Katei made sure she took a moment to collect herself.  Otherwise, she might dedicate too much of her time to trying to look up Lance Gardner to find his home address.  She was tired of explaining this to people.  She was tired of explaining her life to others.  She was tired of justifying her existence as a human being.

                “Let me tell you this: I do not imagine a goddamn thing.  Just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it’s not real.  You want to keep telling yourself these things because otherwise you would have to acknowledge that you are part of the problem.  In fact, you are the problem.  Not just people like you but you specifically.  You go around thinking the world is supposed to accommodate you just because you exist, but when you find out that there are some of us who already know we don’t owe you a thing, you want to cry that you’re being mistreated.  You’re right about one thing: I am mixed, but that’s all you’re right about.  And for you to sit there and tell me I have it easier than ‘real’ black folks tells me that you have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be any kind of black.  In fact, that’s the reason you’re giving me such a hard time.  You know you would never be able to take the amount of bullshit I receive from people like you every single day, so you make damn sure you give it.  Well, look at you.  You’ve only had to share a mind with me for a couple of days and you are trying desperately to hold on to any bit of semblance to the life you’re used to while you’re here by any means necessary even if that means you have to harass someone you don’t know the first thing about.  Here you are with a chance to experience life as someone else, but the thought terrifies you so much that you are willing to be a complete asshole for no good reason.  Well, I’ll tell you this.  You are a weak little boy in need of a reality check.  You’ll get one.”

                He had tried not to listen, but Katei knew some of it got through.  She wouldn’t let his mind wander off too far during her tirade.  She didn’t know how she could force them to listen, but sometimes she managed.  That didn’t mean they always processed and Lance would not be one to process.  She could already feel him telling herself that she was just being a petulant child having a tantrum and that if he just ignored it she would stop.  Since she had indeed stopped, his reasoning must be right.

                “Oh dear God, why the hell does this keep happening to me?  I didn’t ask for this at all.”

                “Neither did I, but you don’t hear me complaining.  Not for the last five minutes, no.”

~~~

Lance was not the first transcorporant to drive Katei to her wit’s end, but he was bothering her more than usual.  She had begun counting the hours until day four and eagerly awaited its arrival.  It did not arrive soon enough.  The thought of spending one more day with Lance had to be torture in and of itself.  She just kept telling herself that soon it would be over.  Soon she would have her body back to herself.  Lance would be gone for good.  So far, she had resisted looking into water to memorize his face, but the temptation to burn every line, blemish and contour into her brain was strong.  She stopped when she told herself that getting even with every person who ever gave her a hard time was a bad idea because she would be the one to suffer the consequences.  She would definitely make sure Lance knew that by the time he left.

                “Hasn’t it been four days already?”

                “Don’t worry.  You’ll be out of here in a couple of hours.”

                “Good.  I need my life back.  Yours sucks.  You’re a half black, half – something – but you have the dullest life I have ever seen in my life.  No wonder you try to make yourself out to be such a victim all the time.  If you didn’t imagine it, nothing would ever happen to you.”

                “That’s strange.  The entire time you’ve been here, you never once mentioned what was so great about your life.  If things are so much better for you than they are for me, then prove it.  What is it in your life that’s so much better than mine?”

                “I don’t have to prove anything to you.”

                “You keep saying that.  It’s so sad.  At least others who’ve been with me have asked me to do things they’re too afraid to do, but you can’t even do that.  You’re too afraid that I might find out what you really want to do with your life because that would show how much of a loser you really are.  I have other people coming through and visiting my consciousness all the time.  I bet if this ever happened to you, others would be bored out of their skulls.  You’re a loser, Lance.”

                “Fuck you.  I don’t have to prove myself to you.  You sit here in this small apartment all the time like there’s nothing else to do and you call me boring.  I have a life.”

                “Let me guess.  You spend most of it on the golf course in a country club that makes you pay out of your ass just so that you can be alone with a whole lot of people like you?  Yeah, that’s the life.  Pay for the illusion that you’re something special when you’re an even bigger loser than those you judge.”

                “I don’t play golf.”

                “Oh, were you not good at that either?”

                “Shut up.”

                “I don’t have to shut up.  You’re in my head.”

                She could feel him getting hot under the collar.  He was losing control.  The game was not yet up, but he didn’t know how to keep control.  His frustration was growing.  Katei knew then that he was more uncomfortable about having to live a life outside a skin not his own than she was having her life laid out for all strangers to dissect and pick apart without her permission.  She faced that on a daily basis.  She might not have liked it, but she was used to it on some level.

                “Please,” he finally said.  “You think I’m closed minded, but look at everything you have here.  You’ve created your own little black world with black movies, black paintings, black clothes and everything.  I guess you call yourself opening yourself up with the Asian things here and there, but you’ve still got mostly black things.  I’ve had to put up with this for four days against my will.  Imagine having to put up with this every day.”

                “Oh, the irony.  Your willingness to remain ignorant is astounding.  And of course, I have some ‘Asian things’ among my ‘black things.’  One of my parents is Japanese, you idiot.”

                “Oh, I get it.  Your dad is some self-hating black man who knew better than to have kids with a black woman.”

                “Not that I have to explain this to you, but my father is Japanese.  He fell in love with my black mother and they’ve been together ever since.  Yes, I come from a two-parent home in which one of the parents is a black woman.  I know that totally destroys your illusion about whatever you’ve been taught to believe about black women, but if you took the time to get to know some of us instead of sitting back and judging what you don’t know from afar, you wouldn’t be such an ignorant bastard right now.”

                “So you’re an exception.”

                “No, I’m the majority.”

                The simple little indisputable facts were always the ones that got them.  Katei didn’t know why that was, but she could shut down ignorance better with a simple fact than with a pie chart, statistical analysis and eyewitness testimony.  It always worked better when it was someone who had never been told the simple fact.  Apparently, no one had bothered to explain to Lance that there were more of her in the world than there were of him.

                “Who really cares anyway?  If your numbers really mattered, you’d be the ones ruling the world right now.  You needed us to give you everything you have now.  Before we came along, you people were living in your own filth and killing each other with bones in your noses.”

                “Now I know you don’t know how to read because you obviously know nothing of the Moors and you would know you have that all backwards.  You didn’t give us civilizations.  You destroyed ours then tried to claim everything we achieved as your own.  You still do it now.  We’re not blind to it.  We know what you are.  We just have more of a conscious and more regard to other human beings than you do.  That’s why we haven’t all risen up and killed you yet.  Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad idea.  I’ll get together with others at the next International Coalition of Colored Folks and we’ll discuss how we’ll take you all out.”

                Katei felt it then.  Lance had been trying to hide it and did a rather exceptional job of it so far, but it can through clearly now.  Fear.  He was afraid of everything.  He was afraid he would find out something about himself he didn’t like.  He was afraid he would find out that there were people who suffered because of his actions, not just those of his ancestors.  He was afraid he would find out that there were people in his world who didn’t fear his position and actively fought against it.  Most of all, he was afraid he would be treated like the person whose body he now cohabited.

                Katei felt that fear.  She hated becoming one of them and taking advantage of a weakness, but she had no reason to feel any compassion for Lance.  Her mother had taught her to be forgiving of those like Lance and she had lived that way for years.  She still had that response ingrained in her, but she had also been slowly realizing that her mother’s way of surviving might not work for her.  Katei had been trying to teach herself that it was okay to fight back.  She had been teaching herself that it was okay to defend herself.  She didn’t hate her mother for teaching her her way.  She was a little disappointed in herself for not learning until very recently in her life that there was another way.

                “You do know that if I want to, I can see you and find out what you look like.  I know how you think, I know how you look, I can find you.  When I find you, I can call my friends and we can hunt you down like the lowlife you are.  If you so much as stick your head out of your door to get the morning paper, we’ll chop it off.”

                “Did you just make a threat on my life?  I know where you are, too.  I’ll have you arrested for… for conspiracy to commit murder.”

                “Oh, look.  You get scared and the first thing you do is try to hide behind a police force you know works in your favor.  Do you really think that scares me?  What would you say to them?  ‘I traveled into this strange woman’s head and she threatened to kill me?’  Go right ahead.  I hope you do go to the police.  I’ll sit and watch while they drag you kicking and screaming to the nuthouse.”

                She knew he was still scared but desperately trying to think of something to say so that he could once again get the upper hand.  This was one who never liked to lose at anything.  He also didn’t like for anyone to stand up to him.

                Their time was almost up.  She could feel it.  Lance must have felt something as well.  He then found what he thought would be the dagger that would put her down for good.

                “Nigger.”

                With that, he was gone.  Katei began to do the one thing she had always done when a transcorporant left her – she voided her insides.  She hated the purging, but just as with the biotransference, she couldn’t stop it.  It was if her body wanted to physically remove any trace of the consciousness that had just left her by any means.  Katei felt a little better afterward sometimes, but the emotional scars of the experience managed to stay with her.  However, this time, there was something different.  Lance had not hurt her as much as he would have liked.  His last resort was the most loathsome word she could think of, but it was also the easiest.  He was not as clever as he would like to have believed and now someone was privy to that.  She smiled.  Katei had just become Lance’s worst nightmare.

                She had never felt quite as liberated as she did at that moment.  Katei had never showed such defiance and fire at a transcorporant before.  She was exhilarated and delirious all in one.  She was also frightened.  To threaten a white man in her was one thing, but she knew she could never do that in a face to face setting.  She really would be in trouble.

                That feeling of confusion stayed with her for a few days.  She often got like that after such encounters.  She had a habit of reevaluating herself and asking if there was something she could have done differently.

                That was how she found herself wandering one sleepless night.  Katei might have managed to stand up to Lance, but he still infiltrated her thoughts and made his presence known long after he had disappeared.  She had never looked at his face, so every white one she saw on the street remained suspicious to her.  She didn’t like being on edge, but she had gotten under Lance’s skin and didn’t know how far he was willing to go to preserve his own sense of worth.  She had been excited about standing up for herself, but she no longer felt safe.

                Katei tried to make sure she didn’t focus on the ground and kept the volume of her music turned down enough so that she could remain aware of her surroundings but high enough so that she could feign not hearing the catcalls that sometimes accompanied her whenever she walked.  Despite her reservations of walking through strange places after dark, she could not resist the urge to head to a part of town unknown to her before this night.  She had usually been one to stay in her place, but she did not know why she felt so much like she had to get out right at that moment.

                Her nerves frayed a bit as she found the area nearly isolated, but she couldn’t stop moving toward the horizon before her.  It was as if she were being pulled by a tractor beam.  Soon her fear turned to curiosity.  Why was she so compelled to keep going?  Why had her determination grown so strong at this point in her life when she had left the excuse of ignorant 20s behind her?

                A structure began to take shape on the horizon.  Now that something was in her view, she was even more anxious to find out if this was the place that wanted to pull her in.  She forgot to stay aware of everything around her.  That was why the woman coming toward her from the opposite direction startled her.  They looked at each other for a moment before they both realized they must have both been in the same position.  They then turned their attention toward the inside of the diner, shocked to see that there were not only others there but a group of black women already making themselves comfortable talking to each other.  It became clear for the both of them then.  They knew they were in the right place.  They made it to the door.  Katei held it open for her knew comrade who stepped inside with her as they both looked expectantly at the six women who now stared back at them.

 From October 12th

Domi & Terry

 

I won’t lie.  The first thing I try to do is figure out a race, an ethnicity.  I don’t feel bad about it.  People do it to me all the time.  It becomes a game to them.  “Hey, what are you?  No, no!  Let me guess.  You’re Puerto Rican.  No, you’re Italian.  Greek.  You have got to be Mediterranean.”  Anything but black.  My mom is Swiss, but I don’t think that makes me not black. figure out a race, an ethnicity.  I don'

                As I said, I usually tried to guess a race first.  Something was different this time.  Something inside me felt an elation I didn’t usually feel.  It wasn’t often I felt happy just because of my own existence.  Whoever had entered me wasn’t simply happy about existing.  He or she was happy to be inside me.  It was like a miracle prayed for with no hope of ever seeing it come true.  I felt that way about peace on earth, but this was highly personal to whoever was sharing my world for the time being.

                That elation diminished somewhat when I looked in the mirror and my own reflection stared back at me.  Clearly someone else was supposed to appear if this was the answer to a prayer.

                “I don’t understand,” a man’s voice said.  “I thought I might have been reincarnated into another body, but something doesn’t feel like mine.  I don’t know what’s going on.”

                “Don’t worry,” I said.  “This happens to me all the time.  Regular occurrence actually.  You’re not dead.  You’re sharing my consciousness for a while.  You’ll only be here four days then you’ll be back to your regular self.  You won’t have to live with me for long.”

                I noticed it then.  His disappointment was heavier than any I had ever felt in my life, much heavier than finding out I was wanted for my looks rather than who I was.  He might have been surprised that I was a woman, but apparently there was something else about me that he wanted.

                “Is something wrong?”

                “It’s just that… I thought that I was getting a second chance.  I thought that just somehow I had beaten the odds and I would… I thought I had the chance to walk again.”

                He was a paraplegic.  Or a quadriplegic.  No wonder he was so happy to be with me.  Here I was standing around for no apparent reason just because I could.  The things we took for granted.

                “Oh, so do you mean you’re in a wheelchair?”

                “For the past six years now.”

                “Oh, well, believe me.  After being in my skin for the next four days, you won’t mind your life so much after all.”

                “I don’t see how that’s possible.  You’re awfully pretty.”

                “You would think, right.  No, this skin comes with more problems than you want to think about.  I love myself, but I do have to deal with others.”

                “Since I’m going to be here, I guess I’ll just enjoy myself for a while.  I’m Terry.”

                “Domi.  And don’t get too keen on enjoying yourself.  I don’t deviate too far from the norm.”

 

~~~

 

Terry was quiet.  I could feel him taking in every movement of my legs.  I could just get up and walk to the fridge and he would enjoy it like a baby going for a ride down the street in the car.

                “I couldn’t imagine it, really.  It’s like walking is supposed to be one of those things everyone can do, but then you realize that there are some who can’t for one reason or another.  Were you born without use of your legs?  Oh, wait.  You said you’ve been in a wheel chair for…”

                “Six years.  I was on a ski trip with some friends up in Aspen.  We went at least once a year.  It was great being on the slopes.  Have you ever been skiing?”

                “God, no.”

                “Oh, it’s the best.  Taking on a diamond run with some freshly packed snow.  You will never feel anything like it in your life.”

                “You’re right.  I won’t.”

                “You sound like my ex, Sarah.  She was afraid to try.  She never liked to try anything.  Part of the reason we broke it off.  I liked being out there.  I would do anything: skiing, rock climbing, water skiing, hiking.  You name it.  I was there.  That last day though.  I wasn’t even planning on doing it, but we stayed an extra day so my buddy Jack could get to know this ski bunny he’d just met.  Amazing.  This happened to me because somebody else was trying to get laid.  It might have been worth it if it was me.”

                I had to laugh.  “Why are men so silly when it comes to sex?  You think it’s the end of the world if you don’t get with every attractive woman you come across and you think it’s the last time if you don’t get her.  I swear you guys will ruin civilizations if you think a woman is banging enough.”

                “I wouldn’t have.  The perfect one I might have.”

                “Oh, so there’s a perfect woman?”

                “There is for me.  There was before the accident.  I wanted to be with someone who liked the outdoors as much as I did.  It’s nice to have someone by your side on the slopes, even taking a hike with you.  Sarah said she would come with me to places, but then she would never do anything.”

                “Let me guess.  She was the woman all your friends wanted, so you were willing to overlook the fact that she wasn’t exactly what you were looking for.”

                Terry grew quiet a moment.  He knew I was right.  “I thought she would get into the spirit.  How could you not be moved when you finally make it to the mountain and see all that pure white snow?  I didn’t understand it, so I finally gave up trying.  A couple of weeks after we broke up, I had the accident.”

                He had gotten sad.  Something in him was glad to share, but the memories of that day were strong with him as if he could still feel the impact that damaged his spine.  They were so strong that I began to feel his pain.  His physical pain began to manifest itself in me.  I couldn’t quell the sense of fright that began to come over me.

                “I’m sorry.  I don’t know how I did that.  Your body began to…”

                “I know.  That’s never happened before.”

                “You’ve never felt someone so strongly?”

                “Not a physical presence.”

                “I guess I just want it so badly.”

                “Want what?”

                “I want to walk again.  I want to feel my legs again.  Maybe hitting the slopes is a bit much to ask, but I’m just enjoying the hell out of how it feels to walk.”

                I felt badly for him, but I tried to keep that feeling down to a minimal.  I liked Terry.  He was full of energy and life.  It was contagious.  He didn’t need me to feel sorry him.

                “I’m glad you don’t have your heart set on skiing.  I have to tell you, honey, my life is dull as all hell.”

 

~~~

 

I wasn’t lying about my life being dull.  I worked a sedentary job sitting on my ass all day.  Then at night, I fancied myself a writer.  Nothing exciting but I had to do it for my own sanity.  It cut into the time I was supposed to be earning money to pay the rent, but I knew I couldn’t live on financial survival alone.  Hell, I was a single woman with some serious trust issues.  I wasn’t going to try to depend on finding a man to feed my soul.  Writing was how I did that myself.

                “I know this may be boring to you, but the bills don’t pay themselves.”

                “Yeah, I know.  I wish.  I am a little disappointed, but this is your life.”

                “As long as you remember that.”

                “What does that mean?”

                “So many people who enter me want to use me as an excuse to do something they might not do otherwise.  They think I’m some sort of vacation from a flavorless reality and that the color of my skin is automatically going to add a little pepper to whatever mundane groove they’ve carved.  When I go about living my life just the way it is, they can’t believe how dull I am.  Some even tell me it must be because my African blood is diluted.  I tell them ‘fuck you.’”

                He laughed at that.  I hadn’t expected him to, but I managed to keep it from spreading from my own lips.  I didn’t want anyone to see and think that I was listening to something funny and decide they wanted to be in on it.

                “You got quite a mouth on you, don’t you?”

                “It’s either cuss people out or hit them.  I’m a lot less likely to go to jail and lose what little I have if I just swear a lot.”

                “I understand, but I didn’t mean that I wanted to use you like that.  I just want to feel my legs, well your legs, again.”

                “You’ve never felt my legs before.”

                “You know what I mean.”

                “Yeah, I’m just messing with you.  This job is boring as hell.  I tell you what.  After dinner, we can go for a walk.  You know the walking trail by the lake?  I like to go there.  I know you’re into nature, so I think the woods would be perfect for you.”

                “That sounds nice.  I miss the trails.”

                “Where do you usually go?”

                “To the gym.  I still see a physical therapist every once in a while to make sure I still good strength in the upper body.”

                “Never catch me at the gym.  I just don’t like being in that particular atmosphere.  What’s the point of sweating it out if you’re not enjoying it?”

                “That’s exactly what I always said!”

                “I mean those guys doing strength training just for the hell of it?  I get that.  But, ‘oh I must lose five pounds by the end of next week.’  I’d rather just buy something that fits.”

                “I’m really starting to like you more, Domi.”

                “You’d be one of a few.”

 

~~~

 

I didn’t tell Terry just how much I enjoyed taking to the walking trails.  I usually got my headphones and just took off in the direction that felt right.  When I happened upon a walking trail, I went with it.  I had some favorites, one of which happened to be the lake area.  I would sometimes see the college kids on the rowing team practicing.  I didn’t like boys that age anymore, but they were something to watch.  Mostly I just liked the beauty of the area.  Terry was right about one thing.  There was nothing like being outside.  I worked all day inside.  Sometimes I just felt the need to get outside even if there was three feet of snow on the ground.  The walls just got to be too close.  I would grab my music and head out to block out the world while being in it.

                I had my device this time, but I didn’t turn it on.  I just didn’t want anyone talking to me.  I also didn’t want to drown out Terry’s voice in case he decided he wanted to converse.

                He did but not much.  He was too busy enjoying the feel of walking.  He saw the scenery through my eyes and felt things in a whole different way.  I could feel how much he missed moments like this.  I tried not to take them for granted but every once in a while they got away from me.  I knew then why I was able to enjoy it in a different way.  I always took these walks solo.  I wasn’t much of a people person because people ruined that for me, but I did appreciate good company every once in a while.  Terry was very good company.

                “Your feet are starting to hurt.”

                “Yeah, that happens pretty easily.  I don’t really do this that often to be in top condition.  I just get out to enjoy it.  That way it isn’t really exercise.”

                “Jack would have liked you.”

                “You make it sound like you don’t.”

                “I do, but…”

                “But what?”

                “Nothing.  It’s just strange.  We’re here together sharing all this, but it’s only because we’re the same person.  You don’t even know what I look like.”

                “Does it really matter?”

                “It does to me.  I’ve been with women since the accident, but I want to be with someone who’s attracted to me, not someone who pities me.”

                “I don’t pity you.”

                “No, you don’t, but I bet you get guys hitting on you all the time.”

                “Mostly for the wrong reasons.  You’d be surprised at how many say they love black women but obsess over what I’m mixed with.  I hate that with a passion.  Funny.  I want people to get past my looks and you want everyone to appreciate yours.  That’s kind of what I meant by you wouldn’t want to be me after four days.  You couldn’t handle having to live with this body every day.”

                “Don’t you think it’s unfair?  That you can’t see me?”

                “I could see you if I wanted.”

                “Really?  How?  I didn’t show up in the mirror.”

                I looked around to be sure we were alone.  The path was nearly empty.  I waited until a few stragglers passed by before heading to the bank of the lake.  I focused on the water.  I wasn’t sure how this worked, but if I focused hard enough, I could see a face that wasn’t mine.  Sometimes I didn’t want to see it.  If a person pissed me off enough, I thought it was best to not see a face.  I was a nice person, but an ill temper can be a funny thing.

                I sat still and looked at the water.  Terry was quiet, expectant.  He began to see it just as I did.  I knew he would be white.  So many of them were white.  He wasn’t a really bad looking guy.  He resembled Sam Rockwell a bit.  That might not have been a fair assessment because so many of that type just looked the same to me.  Still, I thought he was kind of cute for a Sam Rockwell lookalike.

                “See there, you’re not a bad looking guy.”

                “Thanks.  I’m glad you think so.”

                “Let’s sit awhile.  I need to rest my legs a moment.”

                “Sure.  Take all the time you need.”

                It wasn’t quite time for the sunset, so I thought about taking the long way around so we could enjoy it on the way back.  There was no way I was going to sit too long on that bank without a book to read.

 

~~~


Somehow getting through work the next day was a bit more tolerable with Terry there to keep me company.  Before, he had been anxious to get out for a walk just like a trained dog.  Now he talked to me about a lot of nothing so I could get through the day without being bored off my ass.  I was definitely going to miss him when he left.

                “What do you usually do on a Friday night?”

                “Do?  Well, I might walk.  I might work some more.  Usually I just settle with a bowl of rice and watch PBS.”

                “You’re joking right?  You’re an adult.  How can you live that way?”

                “I’m kind of a home body.  I don’t like to go where I’m not invited and I can’t afford to go to the places I really want.  People look at you funny if you sit in a bar alone without even a drink.”

                “Don’t they still have those dances at the top of the terrace on Fridays?”

                “I think I saw something about that.  Let me check it out.”

                I looked up the local event calendar and searched around a bit.  Sure enough, the weekly dances on the roof of the convention center had already started – and they were free.  I had no excuse.  I knew Terry was going to insist upon going.

                “But I can’t dance.”

                “Don’t worry.  I’ll show you how.”

 

~~~

 

I hadn’t been exactly too keen on going to the rooftop dances before.  The roof was actually a lovely terrace on top of the convention center, but it overlooked the lake.  I made the mistake once of standing next to the railing to get a better view.  As soon as I felt the sensation of falling, I backed away and vowed never to get that close to the railing again.  The live music was nice though.  The one thing I liked about this city was that there were lots of local bands with enough talent to keep a show going.  I could get out sometimes and see something pretty awesome.  The trouble was I tended to go places alone so I wouldn’t have to wait for someone else to be interested in it, so I had to endure the stares, the drop in conversation volume and the sideways glances that tried very hard to be inconspicuous.  Little things like that were annoying, but sometimes I just needed to get out.  After all, I came to this city to be closer to things to do.  I couldn’t just sit around in my apartment all the time after work.

                Besides, I could feel Terry’s excitement.  I didn’t know why I was surprised he was one for dancing before his accident.  It seemed unlikely to me that someone who was into rock climbing and skiing would also like to dance, but Terry told me that he knew how to get around a dance floor back in his day.  I had to take his word for it.  It had been a while since I had known anyone else to show such happiness from something that people did every day.  I was happy when I first came to town thinking it would be a new start for me only to fall back into old habits.  However, Terry gave me that sense of excitement again.

                When we got to the rooftop, I remembered another reason I hadn’t been so keen to get back – it was packed.  The early birds came to claim the tables and the others came by for seats where they could barely see the bandstand.  I could never be on my feet for too long because they would start to hurt after about three minutes unless I was moving.  I usually didn’t move.  I claimed my spot and made myself comfortable.  I was too old to do anything else.

                But Terry told me he had every intention of dancing until I dropped.  As soon as the music started and until it ended, he wanted me on that dance floor.  This time there was a cover band that specialized in old R&B and a band that played salsa.  There wouldn’t be any break here.

                The music started.  I tried to will my legs to move, but I didn’t let myself go too much.

                “Oh, come on.  You have to do better than that!”

                I laughed.  A transcorporant had never before made me move.  I had always kept control that way.  However, I felt something different in me.  It was more than just an overwhelming urge to dance, to move my feet and enjoy myself.  Something else was moving me or in this case someone else.  It was Terry.

                It was as if he was taking over and making me dance in his place.  I was scared.  The one thing I always felt safe about with this unusual affliction of mine was that no one could control me.  It might have been a harmless dance to Terry, but to me this was someone possessing my body and making me do things I wouldn’t do otherwise.

                “Don’t worry.  I just want to dance.”

                He had read my fears and promised this was not going any further than a dance.

                “How are you doing this?”

                “I don’t know.  Just go along with it.  This feels great.  I haven’t danced in so long.”

                There was something awesome about it.  I never liked to dance.  When I danced, people looked at me.  I didn’t like people to look at me.  I always felt like a specimen when they did.  Somehow with Terry in me, I seemed to have license to move my body with no shame.  They couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there.  He had never been made to ask permission to exist, so I knew he didn’t understand my hesitancy.  I understood his freedom and I decided at that moment to claim it for myself.

                He wasn’t a bad dancer.  At least he wasn’t from my vantage point.  I didn’t know how I looked to other people, but everything felt right.  I didn’t feel like I was moving in an odd or wrong way.  This felt right.

                “You’re better than you thought you were.”

                “This is mostly you.”

                “No, I just got you started.  You needed to loosen up a bit.  You’re working it on your own now.”

                I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t argue.  I danced with a couple of guys as the night wore on, but they could see they weren’t getting any further than that.  That happened to me a lot.  I could get attention but not keep it for long.  I never liked to be with anyone unless I was sure he was into me and not my color, my hair or anything else superficial about me.

                “Do you do that a lot?”

                “Do what a lot?”

                “Talk to a guy about a bunch of boring stuff to see how he’ll respond?”

                “I do it all the time.  It helps me weed out the ones who are only hoping for a quick score.  How is a book boring?”

                “It’s not.  At least I don’t think so.”

                “Good.  You’ve made a good impression so far, so I’d hate to think any less of you.”

                That got a laugh out of him.  We rested a while when the bands changed over.  I had been dancing for at least an hour and a half, but my feet didn’t hurt.  I wasn’t tired at all.  I felt a bit wired.  The last time I had felt that way, well…  I should keep that to myself.  That wasn’t something Terry needed to know about.

                I knew a little bit of salsa.  Terry knew more.  I spotted a young woman sitting with someone who didn’t look like he was about to break a sweat on the dance floor.  Since she looked like she really wanted to be on the floor, I decided to give Terry a little treat.

                “Excuse me, would you like to dance?”

                She looked a little confused at first and looked at her boyfriend who only gave a shrug.  She seemed to think why the hell not to herself and came with me out on the dance floor.

                The one thing I learned about salsa was that it was better to do it with someone else.   Even if you weren’t dancing cheek to cheek, just following each other’s rhythm, salsa was something that was to be enjoyed by a group.

                Her name was Sylvia.  I saw her through Terry’s eyes.  He wanted to hold her while we danced, but he didn’t ask me to do that.  I was glad to see that Sylvia had a blast as well.  It felt good to be a part of so much happiness around me.  I made no bones about being responsible for my own, but having a good time with others was something that eluded me for a long time.  By the time the night ended, I thought I would drop from that happiness.  I wanted Terry to stay with me for more than just another day.

 

~~~

 

We both enjoyed the good night’s sleep that came after our roof dance.  I loved being able just to lie around and not have to get out of bed, especially on those mornings when it had been cold overnight, but it was still too early in the season to turn on the heat.  I wrapped myself around my pillow, curled up under my comforter and enjoyed the coziness of my queen sized bed.

                “I know I keep harping on you to do stuff with your legs, but I have to admit this feels nice.”

                “I spend so much time working just to keep up that I forget sometimes that I need to just sit and breathe.  I try not to feel guilty when I’m not doing something, especially writing since I hope to do that full time in the near future.  But it just feels so good to not have to be on someone else’s time in the morning.”

                “Yeah, I know how that is.  Still, I might sell my soul to get that daily grind back.”

                “Terry, I might not get to tell you later, but it’s been so wonderful having you here.  I don’t meet too many men who see nothing wrong in wanting to lift me up instead of just laying me down.”

                “Can’t say the thought never crossed my mind.”

                I felt myself blush, but I tried to gloss over it.

                “Yeah, but you got to know me first.  You never did… you never did make me feel weird about it.”

                I could feel him get sad again.  “I haven’t made love to a woman since Sarah and I… I haven’t really felt strongly about anyone.  I don’t want to leave you.  I know I have to leave here sometime, but what about after?”

                I didn’t know what to say.  I had grown fond of the guy in the short time we’d spent together.  I just didn’t think he had seen me in that way.  It had nothing to do with his legs.  He only seemed to want to live in a different way for a while.  I figured he could have found that with anyone, but he wanted me.  His mood suddenly changed.

                “Who the hell am I trying to fool?  Why would you have anything to do with a guy who can’t even walk?  You get men looking at you all the time.  I saw it, but I didn’t say anything.  I probably couldn’t compete with someone who can take you to nice places all the time and…”

                I had to stop him there.  All the confidence he had shown me when he asked me to be his legs was dwindling faster than daylight on a winter day.

                “Terry, you may not be able to walk, but do you realize how much you’ve shown me these past few days?  So much I’ve taken for granted was given to me again.  I felt so good being with you.  You made me feel special.  You don’t need legs to do that.”

                That seemed to make him feel better.  “I just… when I’m out of your body, I wondered if we could…”

                We both hesitated a moment knowing what was going on between us at that moment.  We both felt it and we both wanted it.

                “We don’t have to wait until then,” I said.  “Can you give me your hand again?”

                He focused on trying to make his hand my own.  I could feel when he finally had control.  I took my free hand and guided his to my breast.  I then let him take over as much as one hand would allow.  He began to pay attention to my reactions, learning where I liked to be touched and making me respond in kind.  I could feel him getting his own pleasure while he brought me mine.

                I kept my hand where he had left his when I felt him leave my body.  He was still somewhere in me somehow.  He had left his mark.  I hoped he meant what he said about wanting to be with me.  I wanted to be with him. Terry Douglas had touched me in a way no one else ever had.  I felt things I didn’t want to feel.  I didn’t know if I regretted that he was the one who had to experience my life because I knew it was changed from now on.  A transcorporant usually did not do this to me.

                All these things went through my head that night when I felt compelled to get out and take a walk through the dark night.  I never did this because I was afraid of who I would meet on the street, but this time I couldn’t stop myself.  I had to get out from my walls.  I knew I wouldn’t run into any rooftop dances or other fun things, but my legs were carrying me as if I had no control over them.  I almost expected them to lead me to Terry, but I knew that wouldn’t happen.  Something told me he would find me though.  That thought made me happy.

                I found myself coming upon an all-night diner I had never before seen.  It looked like something out of a scene from a film set in a small town, a kind of setting I would usually try to write about because there was something so quaint and timeless about the whole scene.  However, people who looked like me were usually never included in that scene.  So of course I was surprised to see a table full of black women who all looked like they belonged in the place.  I then knew why I was there.  I knew there were others who understood what happened to me when I couldn’t control it.  There were others I could tell about what Terry had done to me in such a short period of time.  I walked to the door of the diner and let myself in.  I headed to the table.

From October 5th

They all felt each other’s confusion.  It was if they could all sense that neither of the others had a story to tell.  That was why they were confused.  Why had they been called together if none of them had experienced a biotransference since the last time they met?  Grace spoke first.

                “Well, I just have to admit I don’t know why the hell we’re here.”

                “Me neither,” Charity said.  “I felt compelled to come, though – like something important was going to happen.”

                “That’s how I felt,” Hope added.  “It didn’t feel like our regular gathering.  This is something completely different.”

                “I know, huh?” Faith said.  “I don’t think I even want my regular breakfast.  It’s like a special occasion or a field trip.  Always an excuse to do something different.”

                They each agreed and began to ask among themselves what they thought they should be doing differently this time around.  Just as they had decided they should have dinner instead of breakfast, they saw her.

                She walked in the diner with a look resembling a bewildered animal realizing it was trapped just when it was too late to do anything about it.  She looked around the diner as if she was expecting an answer to the question of why she was in an all-night diner in the middle of nowhere with no one she knew.  Her eyes stopped when she saw the Walruses.  She clearly was not expecting to see three other black women in this place.  She slowly began to make her way over to the others who gazed at her with interest.

                They hadn’t been expecting her either.  As long as they had been gathering, they had never seen another black woman at the diner.  In a way, that was part of the charm of the place, knowing they were something of a novelty.  However, something about the other woman’s presence felt right as if she belonged with them.  She nervously looked at the four of them before settling her gaze upon Grace.

                “You mind if I sit with you?”

                Grace motioned for her to sit down.  The woman took a place beside Hope and looked again as if she was trying to sort out some confusion in her mind.  Grace finally found something to say.

                “Are you lost?”

                “In a way I am,” she began.  “But I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.”

                The Walruses looked at each other with their secret safe among them.  It was Hope who first began to laugh, a raucous, mirthful laugh that rarely reared from her gut.  The woman looked at them uneasily at first as she wondered how her honest declaration could bring such a response.  Faith was the first to break the spell.

                “Sister, you obviously have no idea who we are, but I tell you, we’ve all had to get used to things we might not have believed otherwise.  You’re actually in good company.”

                She seemed to relax a bit.  “Then I think I’m in the right place.  I think I’ve been called or something.  Why now, I don’t know because this has been going on for a few months now.  My name is Casa.  I should get straight to the point.  Every once in a while, something happens to me.   I feel the presence of another person inside me.”

                The Walrus women looked at each other asking themselves the same question – had one of them been inside Casa?  They could remember every face and every experience they had ever had with others, but Casa was not one of them.

                Faith asked, “You’re a transcorporean?”

                “A what?”

                “Kind of like a host,” Charity filled in.  “You live with the consciousness of another person for four days.”

                Casa turned her wide-eyed stare to Charity.  “How did you know?”

                “We do the opposite,” Grace said.  “Our consciousness gets transferred to others.  We happen to be the invaders, but none of us knows you.”

                “Which means there are others,” Hope said quietly.

                “Excuse me.  I think I’m supposed to be here.”

                None of them had heard the second woman approach, not even Casa.  They all looked at her a bit startled but sensed something familiar with her just as they had with Casa.  The new woman sat down without being asked.  She appeared to be just as shaken as Casa, but she appeared to have an urgent need to get something off her chest.

                “My name is Domi.  I’m sorry to intrude on your party, but I have this incredible story to tell.  I’ve never told anyone this, but I think I’m supposed to tell you guys.”

                “You seem to be in the right place,” Grace said as she looked up toward the door again.  “Apparently, so are they.”

                Two more women had simultaneously made it through the door.  They looked in the direction of the other six before looking at each other wondering if they were supposed to join.  Charity managed to get out of the booth and pulled up some chairs so that they could all sit around the table.  The two women seemed relieved as they sat down with the others as they finally knew why they were in a strange diner in the middle of the night.  One of them introduced herself as Katei; the other was Daheim.  Grace suggested they all introduce themselves and let each other in on the secret they shared among themselves.

                “Well, the four of us have been meeting here for some time now.  We tell each other our stories and help each other get through the confusion.  It seems that you guys have been on the receiving end of what we’ve been giving.  Hope’s right.  There must be others out there that can do what we do.  But I guess it was time we heard the stories of someone who has to live with others inside them all the time.  This should be interesting.”

                Grace turned and looked at Casa, who appeared to be much more at ease than she had been when she first arrived.  Grace smiled at her.

                “Casa, would you like to start us off tonight?”

 

Casa and the Wind Chime

 

She was scared the first time she experienced a biotransference.  She thought she was finally afflicted with one of those modern mental breakdowns that wasn’t supposed to affect her.  Her transcorporant wasn’t very thrilled either.  They somehow managed to make it through four days together not knowing what was happening to them.  What Casa didn’t know was that she would go through the experience many more times.

                That was months ago.  She had never really gotten used to the biotransference even though she knew how to carry on with her life when it happened.  Still, most of the time, her experience left her drained.  So many people seemed to think being in her body would mean they would have license to do those things they would not normally do, especially if there was a chance it would get back to polite society.  Casa had to fight to keep control of her own body for the four days that someone else shared her consciousness when they thought they still had the right to live life on their terms under another’s skin.

                She expected no different from this transcorporant.  Casa always began with that expectation that this person would want to do something he or she would otherwise not be brave enough to do without the disguise of her skin.  It was her way of trying to prepare herself for the disappointment, but it didn’t work very often.  It didn’t work because there were so few who defied her expectation.  They wanted to use her body like an out of town trip or safari so that they could go back to their friends and give a report on how the other side lived.  Casa was sure that none of them had ever explained what really happened because claiming to be inside another person was a sure way to land in confinement.

                Casa felt this new person staring through her eyes in wonder.  The same purple themed bedroom that she saw every day was now a source of fascination for someone who had no business inside her personal space.  That was why Casa tried to spend as little time at home as possible when a biotransference was in session.  She liked being alone in her home.  She would have gotten a pet if she hadn’t.

                “Wow, this place is cool.”

                “I always thought so.  That’s why I call it home.”

                She used aloofness as a shield.  She was perfectly aware that if the wrong person got inside her, she could find herself with a stalker or someone who decided that she had something worth stealing.  She didn’t, but she never let go of the thought.

                “Don’t worry.  I wouldn’t dream of robbing you.  I might be just a graduate student, but I wouldn’t steal from you.  I wasn’t brought up that way.”

                “Most people usually aren’t, but they end up on that road anyway.”

                “Wow, you’re sarcastic aren’t you?  I don’t know why I’m here, but this is pretty cool.  You see I’m an anthropology student.”

                Casa felt the internal groan escape her lips.

 

~~~

 

Her name was Wind Chime.  Wind Chime.  Casa didn’t know if she had made up the name herself or if her parents were holdover hippies who fancied themselves in touch with nature.  She could have cared less at that moment.  When Wind Chime found out her name was Casa, she began plying her with questions.

                “But aren’t you black?  You don’t look Hispanic.”

                “What does a ‘Hispanic’ look like?”

                “Well, the lady who played La Colombina in Empire.  She was gorgeous.”

                “Yes, Isabella Rossellini is gorgeous, but she’s Swedish and Italian.”

                “Oh, well, she looked like a Hispanic.”

                Casa tried to keep herself from thinking that this woman was an idiot.  Wind Chime might not have heard her anyway.  She was too busily absorbed in her own wonder at finally being able to get an up close and personal look at the people she wanted to study and write about because she respected their cultures so much.

                “Wait.  You’re a black Hispanic, so that means you’re Brazilian, right?”

                Casa bristled at the question.  She got such stupid questions all the time, but they never failed to anger her to an uncomfortable level.

                “For an anthropology student, you know surprisingly very little about other people and their cultures.”

                “I just asked a simple question.”

                Simple is right.

                “Huh?  Anyway, a lot of Brazilians are black, but they’re not American.  If you’re one of those, you’re probably Brazilian.”

                “Jesus, my head is seriously starting to hurt from what you call logic.  I don’t even think I can decipher the levels of wrong with everything you just said.  But I will tell you this: my family is from Peru, not Brazil.  You can look it up on a map sometime.  Better yet, you can get an elementary school book that talks about countries of the world.  Second, Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese, so they don’t speak Spanish.  Third, there are black people all over the world, not just America.  However, I do happen to be American.”

                Casa hoped that would shut her up just for a little while, but the wheels were already turning in that little brain of hers.  She knew what was coming next.

                “But you’re still Black and Indian, right?”

                Jesus fucking… “You have rich parents paying your way through grad school, don’t you?”

 

~~~

 

Casa had never wanted to block out another consciousness before so much in her life.  She wanted to forget Wind Chime ever existed.  She began to long for those days when she stepped outside her home and instantly became invisible to those who were offended by her very existence.  She almost wished Wind Chime was one of those.  The opposite of her invisibility was just as bad.  Wind Chime kept insisting upon answers as if it was Casa’s responsibility to share every aspect of her culture for her to study, enjoy and “admire” as she was so fond of saying.

                Even worse, Wind Chime was not deterred by her aloofness.  The more Casa tried to shut her out, the harder Wind Chime pressed.  She was the worst kind of petulant child who demanded to have her own way no matter how much it inconvenienced someone else.

                “I’m a guest here.  The least you could do is be courteous.  You wouldn’t invite someone to your house and be rude would you?”

                “You weren’t invited.  You just showed up and I couldn’t stop you.  I can never stop it.  You’re in my space without my permission and you insist that I begin to live my life for you so that you can get your voyeuristic jollies.  I’m not here for your entertainment.”

                “But I’m not looking for entertainment.  I’m looking for understanding.  How are we all going to get along if you keep yourself closed off and not teach me about yourself?  You people keep saying things like all black people aren’t alike, but you won’t tell me anything about your Brazilian culture to explain how you distinguish yourself from the American blacks.  I mean you have to keep in touch with your African roots better than they do.”

                If I shot myself in the head, would she die, too?

                “That’s a horrible thing to think.”

                “So is practically everything you say.”

                These were the first two days.  Casa was mentally exhausted after only two days.  And she still had two more to go.  She had no idea how she would survive Wind Chime for another two days.  If she had pancakes for breakfast, Wind Chime asked if all people in Brazil ate pancakes for breakfast.  If she read Dashiell Hammett in her spare time, Wind Chime wondered if all black people liked books by white authors and why wasn’t she reading something like James Baldwin or Zora Neale Hurston?  If she turned on the television, well Wind Chime was amazed as if it took the skills of a rocket scientist.  By the end of two days, Casa began to consider looking into water so that she could see Wind Chime’s face just so she could take care of her later.

                Perhaps she would survive the third day.  She was meeting with a few friends who decided to get together just to be social.  Casa usually hated to be around other people during a biotransference.  She was afraid she might say something wrong or she would give herself away somehow.  However, the socializing might come as a relief.  She needed to be around people who would not give her the third degree about being human.  She already hated that Wind Chime had to see her naked as she was bathing and grooming.  Other times she had taken off her clothes in front of others did not leave her feeling so exposed, not even to those men she knew got a thrill out of seeing her naked body even if they tried to deny it.

                “Oh, why didn’t you tell me we were going to a party?”

                “Because we’re not going.  I’m going.”

                “What are you going to do, drug half your brain so that I’m unconscious?”

                “Apparently, you know even less about hard science than you do about social science.  No the onus is on you.  You are going to behave and act like a decent, civilized person.  You are not going to make the evening about you.  You are not going to ask intrusive questions as if you aren’t dealing with a human being.  Most of all, you are not going to treat my friends like they exist just for your thesis.”

                “That’s not what I do…”

                “Shut up!  Just shut up right now.  When someone tells you that you are hurting them, don’t deny it.  Just because you are walking around in my skin does not mean you understand how I feel or what it’s like to be me, especially when you insist upon treating this like some type of science project.  If you learn anything from me by the time you leave here, it will be that you need to learn to show other people the same goddamn respect to which you think you are entitled.”

                She could feel Wind Chime sulking.  This girl wore petulance the same way many people wore a tattoo.  Apparently, she never liked to be told when she was wrong and needed to be put in her place.  At that moment, Casa could have cared less about how she felt.

 

~~~

 

She needed these moments, people she knew and trusted even though she couldn’t let them in on her most closely guarded secret.  She had to keep the biotransference to herself.  Her friends were the understanding type, but she had no idea how to tell them about something she herself struggled to understand.  She might have had her other issues in the world, but at least with her friends they were the same kinds of issues.  Casa knew what happened to those who differentiated themselves too much from those around her.

                She found her friend Cheryl first.  She always found Cheryl first.  Cheryl was the one who usually put together their gatherings whenever she felt the gang had gotten too out of touch with each other.  They were usually simple affairs: a few snacks, a playlist bringing out the best of whatever was popular at the time and the latest gossip about who was screwing whom.

                “Oooooh, she’s mixed,” Wind Chime cooed.

                “Most of us are.  I told you to shut up.”

                The rest of the gang was intact: Joseph, Levine, Tia and Francis.  There were a couple of new faces as well, Lawrence and Bea.  Casa hoped she hadn’t let Wind Chime in on the fact that she thought Lawrence was fine.  She never felt bad about an attraction to anyone, but she never liked to let transcorporants like Wind Chime know she had sexual urges at all.  They tended to be surprised that she thought of anything else.  Once they found out that she had an all too human tendency, they let go of everything else they had learned about her and focused on that particular part of life that truly connected everyone but got swept under the rug because it wasn’t nice to speak of it in polite society.  They never saw Casa as belonging to polite society, so they found it not exactly unobjectionable to question her about sex as much as they liked, especially her sex life.

                Casa slowly began to get into a groove for the evening.  She could never fully turn off the knowledge of her transcorporant, but she could have a few blissful moments in which it didn’t matter.  Her banter with Cheryl became less guarded and more like the natural chatter they typically enjoyed with each other.  She was sorely reminded of her uninvited guest with occasional gasps and rumblings that let her know she and her friends were under examination.

                “I talked to Nisha the other day,” Joseph was saying.  “She’s not going to finish her graduate program.”

                “Really!” Casa exclaimed.  “Why?  She was moving through that program quicker than everyone else and her work was so important.  There was no one else looking at black female musicians in that way.”

                “I think you just answered your own question,” Joseph explained.  “You know that she was insisting on not doing a comparison with white women and her committee didn’t like that.  They really didn’t like that she was so critical of white feminism.”

                “But weren’t three of her committee members black?” Cheryl asked.

                “Two of them were mixed.  It was actually one of the mixed race women who didn’t want her to go ahead with her defense.  She felt that Nisha was excluding traditionally ‘fair-skinned’ women, which was problematic for her.”

                Casa saw Cheryl flinch uncomfortably but didn’t mention it.  “There aren’t really any in that genre she was looking at.  Hell, most of the women in that category get relegated there because of how they look.”

                “That’s what Nisha said, but her advisor actually went to Wikipedia to make her argument that Nisha was the one being exclusive.”

                Everyone in the group let out an audible groan at the mention of Wikipedia.

                “So her advisor is using Wikipedia because she obviously has no other evidence,” Tia said.  “Isn’t she the same one who gave that talk and just panned a workshop that told students how to properly use it?”

                “She expects people to take her serious as a scholar,” Cheryl said.

                “Well, she just got tenure,” Levine mentioned.  “I heard she was about to go to another school anyway, so Nisha was about to be without an advisor.”

                “I knew there was something shady about that woman,” Casa said.  “It was like she was jealous of Nisha because she didn’t think she had to go along with the white folks just to get her degree.  She wanted to be able to do the work they said she was going to be able to do, not what they thought she should.”

                “I know right,” Tia said.  “It’s like if you’re a black woman and look a certain way, ‘Oh, you must do hip hop studies.’  Nisha wasn’t having any of that.”

                “So, what’s she going to do now?”

                “She doesn’t know yet,” Joseph answered.  “You know how much she loved her work, but if she’s not connected with a school, she won’t be able to trade off on her expertise.  She’ll get shut out.”

                “That’s a damn shame,” Casa mused.  “Six years of her life just to get dogged like that.  If they didn’t want her to do her own work, they should have told her that from the beginning.  Just be upfront.  ‘We expect you to put whiteness at the center of everything you do so that we’re not uncomfortable and make sure you’re catering to us.  If we deem your work good enough, then we’ll be the ones to go out into the world and save it.’”

                The group laughed.  They shared the experience and knew how Casa felt.  There was also an uncomfortable element to their laughter.  As much as they admired the absent Nisha for her decision to stay true to her vision, they all knew they had been much more willing to compromise in order to make it to the finish line.  They didn’t like to think that they were chasing a degree like a carrot dangling in front of them in a greyhound race.  Instead, they told themselves that once they got the degree, they would be free to work within the system in order to change it.  That was what they told themselves.

                That was when the voice piped up again – that nagging little voice that had begun to chafe Casa until her flesh felt sore.

                “That’s so not fair.  Not all of us are like that.  No one wants to silence you.  We just want you to explain stuff to us so we can understand.  God, you people are so touchy.”

                Casa stopped laughing and almost began to hyperventilate in an attempt not to shout out loud at the voice only she could hear.  She was out of her safety zone again.  That voice had just reminded her that she was safe nowhere, not even in her own skin.  Someone else actually felt she had the right to tell her how to feel in her own skin.

                Lawrence was the first to notice that Casa seemed to be in some distress.  “Are you alright?” he asked.

                She looked at him like he was transparent.  The group’s laughter started to die down as they focused on Casa.

                “I’m fine,” she finally said.  “I’m going to get some more of this, uh, juice.”

                The silence followed her as she made her way to the kitchen.  Casa hadn’t realized that she was having a physical reaction to Wind Chime’s words.  She made sure she was still alone and grabbed a bowl to take into the bathroom with her.  After locking herself in, she filled the bowl and waited.  A rather plain face surrounded by light brown hair materialized and peered back at her.

                “You can see me,” Wind Chime said.  “I wondered if you could.”

                “I only see you because I want to.  And there’s a reason why I want to.  I want to remember every part of your face, memorize every line and every strand of your stringy hair.  Do you know why I want to remember this?  Because if I ever encounter you in real life, I will deliver you a message.  And that message will be a much needed, well-deserved punch in the face.  I have tried to tell you that there are some places where you just do not belong and never will.  Your presence is not a blessing to everyone.  Your presence can be just as hurtful and detrimental as anyone’s.  Yet you want to come into my world and think that it should revolve around you.  It won’t.  It never will.  If I ever even dream that you told someone that they were being too sensitive because something happened to them that never happened to you, I will give you an anthropology lesson you won’t soon forget.”

                A mix of emotions came over Wind Chime so strongly that even Casa felt them.  Fear and anger were the most prevalent.  Then confusion took over.  Wind Chime was honestly confused about why Casa had spoken with her so harshly and why she was wrong.  Casa didn’t even have to look at the bowl to know that Wind Chime had turned to an old but effective weapon: tears.  Wind Chime let her hurt feelings show all over the place and waited for an apology from Casa.  That apology would never come.

                Casa emptied the bowl and set it somewhere she hoped would not be too conspicuous.  She was glad she decided to leave it when she walked out of the bathroom and saw Lawrence standing outside the door.

                “I’m done.  You can go ahead.”

                “No, that’s not… I wanted to know if you were alright.”

                Her heart skipped before she could stop it.  Casa felt a heat rise through her as she looked at she looked at Lawrence’s smooth black skin and smoldering eyes.  Something in her could not believe this man had given her a second thought, much less wanted to know if she was okay.  He actually seemed genuinely concerned.

                “Oh, thanks.  I’m fine.  It was nothing.  Feel a little light in the head sometimes.  It passes.”

                “Good.  I was getting a little worried.”

                “Well, don’t be.  I’m sure a good night’s sleep will get me back right.”

                “I hope so.  I’d hate to think about anything happening to you.”

                She was glad that was difficult to tell when she blushed because Casa knew at that moment she had lit up like a red light.  That heat was all over her body and she couldn’t contain it.  If only he weren’t so fine…

                “You should go home with him.”

                A cold chill took over the heat.  Just as suddenly as the heat had overwhelmed her, it was gone.  Wind Chime had once again killed a nice warm feeling she had just by reminding Casa of her presence.  She tried not to let her dismay show on her face lest Lawrence think he was the cause.  She did something she had learned to do for most of her life in awkward situations.  She forced a smile.

                “I’m sure I’ll be fine.  I guess I’ll go on home now and get that sleep I need.”

                “Hey, how about I call you sometime and we can talk more about how things are going for you.”

                “Um, sure.”

                She gave Lawrence her number before she set out back home, irritated that her evening had ended earlier than anticipated.

                “You should have just gone home with him.  You didn’t have to only give him your number on my account.”

                “You would have really enjoyed that, wouldn’t you?  This isn’t the same as just renting a Blaxploitation film and getting a thrill out of seeing naked black people.  You want to be in the bedroom with us to see if that’s how we really do it.”

                “I just thought that you really liked him, so you should have just acted on your instincts.”

                “My instincts tell me that women like me are at the highest risk of HIV and no one gives a shit except us.  My instincts tell me not to go home with a complete stranger no matter how good he looks.  You may think you’re invincible, but I know better.  I also know better about you now.  You’ve played your hand and keep coming up with jokers every time, so don’t try to bullshit me sweetheart.”

                “I was just trying to…”

                “No you weren’t.  Politely shut the hell up now.  And don’t try to go for the tears this time.  They don’t work with me.”

                She felt Wind Chime stiffen, having been called out.  Casa felt somewhat vindicated.  Now all she had to do was get through another day.

 

~~~

 

“I should have known you were more American than Brazilian.”

                “You’re right about that.  I’m not Brazilian at all.  I’m Peruvian.  I know they teach you in school that Brazil is the only country in South America that has black people, but I guarantee that we’re all over the world.”

                “Whatever.  Same difference.”

                “No, it’s not.  Seriously, you want to deny that you have some privilege going for you when you call yourself an anthropology student who doesn’t even know the difference between Peru and Brazil?”

                “Who really cares anyway?  I’m interested in the real Africa.  All these other places are diluted.  No one knows anything about who they really are.  At least real Africans are happy that people are interested in them.  My buddies send back pictures of themselves all the time with the natives.  They smile and make us feel welcome.  They know we love them and want to see them get out of the horrible situation they’re in.”

                “Well, that makes sense given you’re the reason for the situation.”

                “People keep saying that as if I actually went over to Africa and brought back slaves here.  You know what?  I don’t even think my family had slaves.  We were probably abolitionists because I come from good people.  You people blame all white people for everything, but you wouldn’t have been able to get your freedom or any of your other rights if it weren’t for us.  Now you want to knock us down and exclude us from everything even if we’re trying to help.  I tell you that it really hurts when you’re just trying to be a decent human being.”

                “No you’re trying to be a decent human being on your terms in which you get to define not only decent human being but also human being.  You want the focus to always be on you and what you want.  You can tell yourself that you want to save the world and live in some love will conquer all Disney bullshit that’s not even real.  But this is the fact: you really want to be some kind of savior.  Not because you care but because you have your own selfish needs to fulfill.  The sooner you admit that to yourself, the less you have to worry about people like me wanting to beat some sense into you because of your bullshit.”

                Wind Chime stiffened again, knowing that crying wouldn’t have any effect on Casa.  She still felt sorry for herself.  Casa could feel that.  She could also feel Wind Chime looking for a way to restore the upper hand.  Wind Chime was telling herself that it was for the sake of her dignity, but Casa knew better.  At least it was almost time for Wind Chime to go.

                “I’ll admit you were right about one thing,” Wind Chime finally said.  “I did want you to go to bed with that guy, but I don’t need a vicarious experience to get black dick.  I’ve fucked plenty of them.  Probably more than you.  Black men love me.  All they ever talk about when they’re with me is how perfect I am and how better I am than black women.  Maybe you should take lessons from us to learn how to be more like real women.  Then maybe so many of you wouldn’t be raising 10 kids by yourselves and growing old and alone.”

                “Thank you, Wind Chime.”

                Casa felt a stronger confusion coursing through Wind Chime’s tiny close mind.

                “You’re thanking me for that?”

                “Yes, I am.  That’s the first honest thing you’ve said to yourself in quite some time.  That’s how you really feel about me and other black women.  You think you’re better and that black men value you for your pure white womanhood.  Well, you’re partially right.  They want your white womanhood, but they don’t think it’s all that pure.  They can see your type coming from miles away and know you’ll be just the easy pussy they need.  Why do you think you’ve fucked so many black men but apparently still haven’t kept one?  If you learn one thing from me before you leave, it should be this:  your life is a lie.  You are delusional and you will never change because you need that delusion in order to survive.  You’ll find some people who will help you maintain it, but I’m not going to be one of those people.  My earlier words still stand.  If I ever see you on the street or anywhere else, you will be delivered that much needed punch in the face.”

                The sensation came over her again as she felt Wind Chime’s consciousness leaving her own.  She had never been so relieved to have a biotransference come to an end.  With Wind Chime gone, she finally felt free to release the frustration and anger that built inside her for the past four days.  She took on all the things Wind Chime threw at her practically every day of her life, but the experience always hurt more when it was a biotransference.  The absolute refusal to see her pain and acknowledge that it was real hurt her more than she could bear.  She could dismiss some of the ones who dismissed her experience simply because they did not share it, but someone who actually had the unlikely advantage of actually experiencing her life in her skin could also tell her that she was wrong about her own life.

                That was why Casa sat on her bed and cried silent tears until there were no more to cry.  That was why she told herself it was not worth it to make good on her threat to Wind Chime because she would be the one to suffer even more consequences.  That was why she knew she had to tell someone about what she went through with these strange people invading her head without her consent and without knowing how to stop it.

                She had no idea what compelled her to go outside and take a walk that night.  She simply found herself wandering, thinking that perhaps she was about to experience another biotransference, but it never came.  She walked until she came upon a part of town she rarely visited since she had no reason to eat at an out of the way diner that appeared to be empty every time she drove by it.  She approached it anyway and got a huge surprise as she looked through the window.

                There were others there – black women sitting in an old-fashioned as if they belonged.  Casa had no idea who they were and wondered how she could have never seen them before.  Maybe they were traveling through town on their way somewhere.  Maybe they were new to town and didn’t know yet that they were in an area most black folks dared not tread.  Somehow she knew she had to go in.  They were the ones who needed to hear her story.

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