by Lorain Ohio
I like white women. I just don't expect much from them. Sooner or later she reminds me that I'm black. Sooner or later the race/gender issue arises.
Coffee or tea?
Sparkling or still?
Race or gender?
I choose race. Hmph. Like I gotta choice..
Now listen, I like white women. I just…I mean, what can you expect?
See, last time Miss Anne was my supervisor. Or at least she was supposed to be.
Once, she reached out to touch my hair, then had the nerve to stare at me looking all bewildered and shit, when I pull back. You know, like, I sorta tense up and shrink?
One day she tells me, where she's from, in SoCal, "it's not racist." I nod in agreement.
Miss Anne's boss makes a big deal about attending the Christmas party. I'm puzzled that my Jewish boss is holding a Christmas --not holiday --party. It's December. Miss Anne presses me, "Are you gonna bring someone to the Christmas party?"
I shake my head, “No.”
I sense the urgency in her voice when she asks me a third time, if I'm going to bring someone.
Here, I rest the heels of my palms on the desk. My fingers hover above the keyboard.
I turn and meet her with equal urgency, "Am I supposed to bring someone?"
Injured, she sighs, "No, that's not what I'm saying."
At the Christmas-not-holiday party, Miss Anne's boss mentions he hopes that I will bring someone next year.
I nod, like I get it.
At the Christmas-not-holiday party, I want to leave.
I never know how to exit these things other than to fake like I'm going to the restroom. Then, en route to the bathroom, I snatch my coat and dip.
I can't this time.
One reason is Miss Anne won't stop chatting, and so, I can't stop nodding.
The other reason is Miss Anne's boss ? His arm's draped around my shoulder. Intermittently, his hand floats up and caresses my head. It makes circles at the crown of my head.
I'm not facing him (if I do, then I got pause my nodding) but somehow I know his face is moist and sleepy. I can feel his warm heavy hand making rounds at the crown of my head.
Now I remember why I didn't want to come. I'd have to compromise my pact.
I'm confused. This time it would be different, I assured myself.
The office is glaringly white. Lily white. But they're diff--
I catch myself using the master's tools. How? For as long as I can remember, people of all colors assure me that I am not "black black."
I'm still nodding at Miss Anne when Brad interrupts her with a slurred, "Isn't she great?" Vodka makes his cadence clumsy. His hand still floats between my shoulder and head. If he is clairvoyant, then my head is his orbuculum.
A professor who was supposed to mentor me once explained, "white guys just get it." Then, I nodded and smiled at him, similar to how I do with Miss Anne.
I made a secret pact to prove him wrong. I could get it too. And then, with Kanye West-resolve, I confirm, shit I know I got it."
But here, at the Christmas-not-holiday party…nodding at Miss Anne…I have serious doubts about my ability to "get it." Can I get it? Will I ever get it?
By now the caresses are heavier. More pronounced. Miss Anne prattles on with periodic tinkles of laughter. Her husband, sitting beside her, takes a lazy drag on his cigarette. I feel him glance over my head and then at my head.
Without permission, my shoulders creep up to my ears. My back pinches, my shoulder blades wishing to make contact. My body does this when it senses that I'm uneasy.
In another universe? I'd snap my neck at homeboy and scorch, "kick rocks."
Except, not here. I have to disprove the professor-supposed-to-be-mentor.
I've got to show him, that I too, can get it. At the Christmas-not-holiday party. With a drunk white man's arm floating between my shoulder and my head.
Except, Miss Anne rises. Excuses herself. Goes to the bathroom.
I dig my heels into ignorance. No one is patting my head. Here. At the Christmas-not-holiday party.
Later? Miss Anne's boss will email me. He will express "serious concerns about my ability to grow with the firm."
And 48 hours after that email? He and Miss Anne will call me into a white conference room, and with faux apology, they will inform me that I am "terminated."
And when I jump up to exit? To leave? Miss Anne will reach out to console me. But here I put an end to this touching.
This time, I will sharply flick off the cool nimble pest that is her arm.
I won't snap at her though. I won't berate her.
Because if I do, then it proves that I can’t get it. Even after I had my head caressed like some damn dog at a Christmas-not-holiday party.
And anyway, I like white women. I just don't expect much from them.
Lorain Ohio is a postmodernist based in the Pacific Northwest. Her work centers on the Black Millennial Woman's experience, intersectionality, and respectability politics.