Did you read about this? Last spring, there was a Starbucks company directive where baristas were being encouraged to spark race discussions with the option to handwrite the words 'Race Together' on a customer's cup. I never did get a latte with the words on it, but if I had, I probably would have thought it was some kind of support for a marathon campaign to raise money for a disease.
Anyway did you get any Race Together cups? Did they spell your name right? I used to have a friend named Rebel. I haven't talked to her in such a long time. But she was really kind to me at a time when I needed kindness. She took me to get my wisdom teeth out, and waited in her SUV with my son and her daughters, watching Disney films while I had a procedure done before my divorce was finalized, thinking the insurance would cover. It didn't. But, I'm glad I was under the impression it would because those wisdoms were riddled. That was the word the oral surgeon used, riddled. I'm not sure what I said to his assistant after I came to, but I was crying softly. "It's okay," she said to me. "I know. It happened to me, too. I didn't ask her what she meant. She walked me to my car, and she hugged me. She was about my age. Her name was Olivia.
The other day one of my students was reading her creative nonfiction piece out loud, because I asked my students to do that. She couldn't finish. But she wanted it read. So I finished reading it for her, and my voice started to crack. I can't tell you what happened to her. I mean I can't tell you her story. I don't want to be the kind of shitty teacher who tells other people's stories and then publishes them online in a postcard meant for a literary journal. I said something. I think I said it was hard. You put a piece of yourself out there, and it's hard.
I'll give you words, instead. Burn, deportation, mother, spread-eagled, thug, hood, hoodie, beautiful bruise, words I don't want to use. I feel like an imposter today. I just feel kind of down. I mean I could write the words on the board when I teach creative writing, which is in thirty minutes, but what do I know about what it's like to have your mother sent away to another country? To have someone refuse to let you ring them up at the check out counter because of your hands. Nothing. I know nothing.
Nobody ever did hand me a latte with the words Race Together but I guess I would have asked what it meant, or maybe we'd have laughed, I don't know.
But let me tell you what got me thinking about Rebel in the first place. I keep up with her in Facebook. A few years ago, I used to see her almost every weekday on the playground. She is in my Facebook feed now, her hair in a pretty wispy cut, winking. She posted a picture of her paper Starbucks cup. Instead of her name, "Rebel," it said "Trouble."
I just thought that was so funny. I didn't say anything to her, I don't think, but it made me think of her, made me want to laugh that kind of deep belly laugh you wish you could share with someone. I was alone in my office, but I laughed inside my head until my nose ran and my eyes watered. I wish I could tell you I looked out my window at the sun setting like beautiful bruise over the Houston skyline, but although there are plenty of offices in my building that do overlook the skyline, my office has no windows.
Thanks for being my friend.
Yours in Trouble,
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