[Relationships] do not cause pain and unhappiness. They bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you”- Eckhart Tolle
This was originally an open letter to Philly but the writing became too personal. I’m usually able to temper the personal with the public and find some metaphor or analogy or collection of poetry to mask what I really mean but this was more difficult. And unnecessary. After wrestling with this tribute poem to Nikki Giovanni, I have no room for poetry this morning.
It’s 7AM in Philadelphia, the sun streaming into my hotel suite is inviting a walk or a slow jog through this campus. Temple. One of my best friends since 8th grade went to school here. She loves this school, this city. Philly and I was always a slow confusing relationship. I like to joke that whenever I’m here, ‘Something stupid happens to me.” I call it the Philly curse or say that, “Philly hates me.” It started out as a joke but if I look back at my 15 year history with this city, I can assure you that like most jokes, there is enough kernel of truth to accept as reality.
I was here a year ago for the same event. A Celebration of Black Writers. Last night, I mistakenly thought I was in the same hotel and same room as last year. I realized this morning that though it is the same hotel, I am a floor higher. Same position, just a step or two from the elevator. This is a metaphor for my life. One I’m too tired, too 7-11 Nachos at midnight (Lord, why?) to figure out. Just know that it’s there and I see it.
I’m sitting in my bed writing this and eating grapes. I just spoke to Boogie on his way to school. He asked me if I was still in Barakadelphia. Sometimes I correct him, others times, I let him be a 3 year old and say what he wants. All the time, I love how he loves our President. I remove all grown up disappointments and remember how much my brown boy loves that black man and sees himself in him and I go back to stanning for the Obamas. Long hair, don’t care.
This campus is beautiful. It just is. The buildings are stately and lined with history. The sidewalks and trees all bear some kind of story. There’s an energy to this city that is undeniable. Despite the curse. Despite the way I feel like it would rather keep me away than hold me close, I do like this city. I do admire the way the people that are from here love it and hold it close. I do appreciate the way it manages to be what DC can’t and tries to be everything New York is. I love that it sits in the middle of these two cities and still maintains it’s own distinct identity. It’s love for complicated facial hair and cheesesteaks. I delight at the usage of the word “jawn” to mean anything from person to thing to well, cheesesteaks.
There’s more I could say about this city but it’s a conversation for a different time. One I’m still not sure I’m prepared to have. I’m flung from one extreme to another when I think about what it will look like. What it will feel like. Whether or not I’m ready for the closure. Whether or not this would be another quick good bye or a long, slow journey into a new hello. I wonder if my heart will drop. I wonder if it will race. I wonder if my breath will stop. I wonder if it will continue at some easy, accessible pace. I wonder if I’m ready for this. I wonder if there will be tears. I wonder if I will allow them. I hope there will be truth. I wonder if I will allow them.
This is no longer about this city. It’s about the fact, that a year later, I’m at the same conference, same week. Same hotel. But one floor higher.
My mission for the next few days is to remain at least one floor higher.
No time for nerves. I’m focusing on the next few hours. Eating these grapes. Washing my face. Brushing my teeth. Taking a walk around this campus. Coming back. Showering. Working on this poem. Breakfast somewhere. Then waiting for tonight. That’s all I allow for the next few hours.
I will my brain to stay in the present. Tomorrow doesn’t exist yet. Yesterday, no longer exists. And last year… well… that might as well been some hoax. All I got is now. So that’s all I’ll be.
I should end this. I’m babbling.
Love someone and mean it,