(atlanta) the city I call home

the city I call home has
a terrible nickname: hotlanta.
like all slang, it was popularized
by white people who genuinely
thought it was cool long after it wasn’t.

the city I call home has
streets all named peachtree
which intersect a sprawling grid
that defies logic in its layout,
confusing drivers & bikers alike.

the city I call home has
the best parts of the deep south
(soul food, whiskey bars, & friendly residents)
without (as many) willfully ignorant people
outside the bourgey neighborhoods.

when patience isn’t a virtue

“Sometimes, I pretend to be retarded while in public.”

my hands curled to fists
(deep breaths)
ready to fight

“My little sister is autistic and mentally handicapped.
It’s really offensive for you to do that.”

don’t yell at this ignorant bitch —
you just met her; she’s your friend’s best friend.
surely she has hidden redeeming qualities.

“But I don’t do it to make fun of retards!
I love them — they’re hilarious!”

equally disgusted & incredulous,
i glanced at our mutual friend.

“Just watch — she’s so funny!”

i rolled my eyes & exited the room.
even at fourteen, i had no patience
for antagonistic bullies disguised as “cool kids.”

There is a direct correlation between the severity of my hangover & how successful New Year’s was.

There is a direct correlation between the severity of my hangover & how successful New Year’s was.

Shaina & Andrea at Paradise Park. Nashville, Tennessee.

Shaina & Andrea at Paradise Park. Nashville, Tennessee.

I rang in 2014 with Shaina & Andrea at the Aloft West End hotel drinking bourbon (Bulleit this time, not Jim Beam) and watching Beyoncé’s visual album. We ended the night at Paradise Park, a bar modeled after a trailer park. The cover band did a country rendition of “Wonderwall” that was truly spectacular. We danced, sang so loud our voices disappeared, and laughed at Andrea’s new cowboy hat.

I hope everyone had an equally safe and fun New Year’s Eve! Cheers to hoping 2014 is even better than 2013!

“I’m a minority where we live!”

The night before Andrea’s law school graduation, we had drinks with her mom Mrs. S, her stepdad Tim, and her uncles Lee and Jamie. Mrs. S and Tim are Republicans from Florida. They love Sarah Palin and hate President Obama. They’re outspoken Fox News conservatives.

Adding alcohol to this outing guaranteed one of two outcomes. Either Mrs. S and Tim would have fun and not bring up politics or everyone would get into a screaming match by the end of the night. Andrea was willing to risk the latter, in hopes that the former would occur.

By the third round of drinks, Tim surpassed drunk and proceeded to belligerent.

“I’m not represented in this country — not with the current president!

I rolled my eyes and took the bait. “Really, Tim?”

“I’m a minority where we live!”

“Y’all live in Orlando.”

“Most of our neighbors are Hispanic!”

“Let’s backtrack. How are you oppressed as a straight white man in America?”

“I’m not oppressed, I’m just sayin’ that more…y’know…”

“More what? Or whom?”

“More minorities are — ”

“Procreating? Living in your neighborhood? Taking jobs that were previously held by white people?”

“Yes!”

“Must be tough to feel isolated and shafted out of opportunities because of your skin color.”

“It’s very tough.”

“Imagine if generations of your family had to deal with that.”

Tim paused, pondering this.

“The thing is, they haven’t and it’s highly unlikely they will.”

“But what if — ”

“If we minorities outnumber y’all white folks, we’re not going to inflict reverse racism on you.”

“Not outta spite?”

“You’ve got white (and male) privilege. You’ll never know what it’s like to be discriminated against because of your race or gender.”

“I still don’t feel represented by Congress — ”

“The majority of Congress is made of middle-aged white men.”

“Who you callin’ middle-aged?!”

“Plus, President Obama is biracial. He’s half-white. Which you white dudes tend to forget.”

“Hmph.”

“Not that it should have any bearing on his leadership abilities. Just pointing out facts.”

“Obama may be biracial, but he’s still a socialist!”

“I need another drink before we continue this conversation.”

Three speeches I would’ve made for closure (if it existed)

(Zero)
Closure doesn’t exist. I don’t believe in it. No one really gets closure when a friendship or relationship ends. People grow up and apart. There’s no particular catalyst that sets off the dissolution. Fondness fades into apathy. Relationships in which people become ambivalent tend to disintegrate slowly over time.

People purposely hurt each other and don’t take responsibility for doing so. They become passive or blatantly aggressive. They play emotional chicken, baiting (daring) each other to break it off first. Toxic relationships tend to fall apart as they began — abruptly. I don’t believe in closure, but if I did, there are three speeches I would’ve made to obtain it.

One
I wouldn’t have survived senior year of high school without you. Neither of us belonged in Alpharetta. We had aspirations beyond suburbia. You sketched and painted. I wrote. Our goal was to get the hell out. You were the smartest girl in our class and my closest friend. Instead of going to keggers with classmates, we spent weekends watching foreign films and listening to indie music.

Though you went to college up north, we would have long phone calls a few times each semester. We hung out during Thanksgiving and winter breaks. During one phone call, you nervously told me you were queer. I didn’t think of you any differently after that. But if I had to pinpoint it, that was when you stopped returning calls or texts as much.

You posted articles about gender being a social construct and the need for LGBTQ safe spaces without heteronormative influence on Facebook. When I called you by your name, you explained that you wanted to be called a male name and be referred to with male pronouns. I did so without a second thought.

The last time we had lunch was a few summers ago. We went to one of the few decent sushi places in Alpharetta. You had just started working for as an LGBTQ advocate, focusing on teens and young adults. Your work was inspiring. I realized that I’d never be able to empathize with you about the struggle you went through in discovering your gender identity. I’d always be part of your past, when you hadn’t figured it out yet.

Thank you for being a great friend when I needed one. I wish we still hung out. I hope you’ve found happiness and fulfillment (or at least closer to it now).

Two
I’m not sure why, but even though I hadn’t spoken to you in five years, you insisted that I was your best friend. You’re the antithesis of everything a woman should look for in a man. When a woman sees you, she should immediately run in the other direction. My friends referred to men like you by your name — you became a common noun synonymous with the worst kind of douchebag.

You knew me best when we rode the same school bus to high school. I was triumphant. After you teased me throughout elementary school, you recognized I was better than you — in academics, besides math and science, and as a person because I was sympathetic to a fault, while you were oblivious to a fault. Yet, every time you would date someone new, you would talk to and hang out with me more. Your mother would harass you when I wouldn’t stop by because you would inevitably fall to the wayside without my guidance.

The last straw was when you expected me to sleep with you when we weren’t together. As if that wasn’t insulting enough, you were still dating your jailbait girlfriend. It was a disgusting plan (even for you). Cutting you off was one of the wisest decisions I ever made. Talking to you just to hear your pathetic apologies was hilarious. It was equally hilarious to discover that you haven’t changed a bit.

Thank you for being the biggest asshole I’ve ever met. I kicked you out of my life for good and everything fell into place. You were the archetype for everything I didn’t need. In being that point of reference, I found the man who is everything that I could ever want and need. I hope you never change, for entertainment’s sake.

Three
You were a two-faced redneck bitch. I knew that when Ames and I met you, but I was naïve. I didn’t trust my gut as much in my younger years. As I’ve gotten older, I discovered that my first impressions of people are usually correct (for better or worse).

You were a fun party friend we met through a mutual acquaintance (your boyfriend at the time), but we ended up hanging out aside from partying. Then we found out that you talked a lot shit — about us. You blamed us for any time you cheated on him or got blackout drunk. You lied to him and said you were on the pill, in hopes of getting pregnant. You were the trailer trash cliché of a woman trying to entrap a man by having his baby.

Thank you for reminding me to always trust my instincts. You inadvertently introduced us to one of our other friends — his ex. I hope to see you on Maury one day.

“What are those things under your shirt?”

As a teenager, I babysat rambunctious boys. They destroyed everything in their path. They brawled to resolve arguments. Their parents laughed, “Boys will be boys!” when I described their aggression.

When a couple down the street asked me to babysit their demure five-year-old daughter Ana, I was relieved. Playing with Barbies and reading stories would be a welcome break from the chaos of babysitting boys. I wouldn’t have to stop fights or put valuables in unreachable places.

After going over Ana’s bedtime routine and their contact numbers, her parents left for their date night. We had pizza for dinner and played hide and go seek. (Not as difficult with two people, she discovered.) Before bedtime, Ana insisted that we have a tea party. We sat at her pink table and sipped invisible tea out of matching teacups.

“Samantha, how do you like my tea party?”

“It’s the loveliest tea party I’ve been to, Ana. Thank you for being a gracious hostess.”

“What are those things under your shirt?”

“You mean…my bra?”

“What’s in your bra? My mommy said those are called breasts, right?”

“Uh — ”

“My mommy and daddy are doctors. They say you should use the real words for privates.”

“Scientifically speaking, I have breasts under my shirt.”

“When will I get those?”

“It depends on when you go through puberty.”

“What’s that?”

“When your body changes — actually, you should ask your mom about it, not me.”

“My mommy and daddy aren’t regular doctors. They talk to people to make sure their brains are happy. What’s that called?”

“They’re psychiatrists.”

“Why are they white and I’m brown?”

“…”

“My hair doesn’t look like my mommy’s either.”

“This tea party has been a fantastic one, but it’s your bedtime, Ana.”

“Already?”

“Teeth brushing and pajama time for you!”

“You’re not making me sleep early because I ask lots of questions, are you?”

“Not at all!”

While Ana slept, I decided two things:

  1. I would rather broker peace between battling brothers than field more awkward questions from this observant little girl.
  2. I would never babysit for a couple of psychiatrists ever again.