Today, I am on the bright side of the sickest period, physically, of my life. And days ago, while I lay on my bed, thinking I might be slowly dying, my darling father actually did. To say that I am not well is an understatement. My family and friends banded together to bring me back to the city to better care and I am feeling the effects.
The nausea no longer turns me inside out.
I no longer have to close my eyes while my best friend or my mom or my sister bathes me.
I can actually make tears and jokes and dear God, words.
But just now in this hospital, the sickness has rebounded in a way. I feel assaulted, so shaken, so fucking tired that I can only do the one thing I feel that I know how sometimes--write.
The other day, long dark hours ago, when I couldn't speak and my mother was telling one of the admitting doctors that I was a professor, and of history no less, I should've felt the warning come of him, but Lord I was so ill. He said something like, "A-ha! Is she ready?"
He came back today. I was not. He pulled his chair up in the middle of this room where my mother and I sit now and began with the questions. What did I teach? Surely I realized the broad scope of my fall classes? Had there been black films made in a protest tradition? Could I find copies of them?
Did I get the Amazon suggestions he left at my bedside table the other night while I was vomiting--books I should read as a historian, he assured me. My mom asked had he been a history major. "No," he said imperiously, "I just read."
Because of course she doesn't.
And then came the heart of his argument. Could I understand the position of white people like him who respected black people who had seen real racism in the 1940s and 50s but now had to deal with the anger of black people for whom racism was rare, and mostly a memory?
A memory of resentment, I think he said. No black person born after 1970 has really encountered racism--well, maybe me from Louisiana, but here? Oh no. No, we want to preserve our racial preferences without acknowledging our racism. We too often assume racism.
As an example, he'd grown weary of his black friend who often wondered if poor service was a result of her race. Anyone could be served badly in a Texas city by the end of the 20th century.
And yes, he understood the feelings of (black) nurses' aids who cared for (white) patients who were subjected to racist abuse. BUT Alzheimer's... delirium... old memories... and couldn't I understand that one of the greatest fears of old white women was that a black man would come do something to them into the night?
Also, when would I teach about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Wasn't Israel as guilty as South Africa? Step outside my comfort zone--it was as easy to teach about others as ourselves.
Finally, he prepared to leave after telling me I didn't talk enough for him. Me with the nausea and the phlegm and the cracked lips.
He doesn't see racism (or sexism I'm sure)
came into my room
turned down the TV my mama was listening to
disregarded my recently delivered dinner
ignored my signs of discomfort and final outright silence
advised me on what to teach--though he never asked my specialties
gave me homework
planned to challenge me and my authority from the moment he knew my title.
Before he re-situated his chair and left, he said, "I feel better now."
My blood pressure when they just checked it?
And all I can do
Will this be my life?
I don't want it right now.