NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 58

Twenty years in other places. She’d found that “there” was a verb, too. She’d felt all kinds of theres and thereings, the ways people could unknowingly there her. All kinds of ways. At every new job, people asking her the question and—without noticing her face—answering, “Chicago? Great place. Oh, I love Chicago, The Art Institute and we have friends in [fill in the name of whatever northern suburb]…”. My daughter lives near Wrigley Field. Ndiya wondered how everyone’s daughter could live near Wrigley Field? At first, she’d attempted to halt these thereings by stating merely and matter-of-factly that she’d never been to The Art Institute nor had she seen Wrigley Field. But, after a few rounds of those thereings, she found herself frightened by the urge to smash the visibly confused face staring back at her over a cubicle wall or via a favorable angle in an anonymously glossy, marble-veined women’s room wall or mirror. For a period of years, in self-defense, she’d called it pleasure the way those there-smiles she wore felt hammered on her face with hot nails. This was the period of her life she called Ndiya-Walking-Away. That didn’t last. 56 —silly of me BRN-FALL-2013.indb 56 Looking out the windows of the bus as it inched through traffic east on 63rd Street, she could smell it. Here. Chicago laid out on its back, its chest rising and falling as if its lying next to a deep, midnight blue lover. The lake. She thinks of the lake as Chicago’s truly unmapped East side. Forget State Street, she thought, the dividing line between east and west is Lake Shore Drive. As a child, she studied “Chicago” in the World Book. In third grade she found a map of the city in the H World Book under “Hydrogen Bomb.” There was a map of Chicago with a hydrogen bomb blast in the middle and concentric circles radiating outward. She’d asked Mrs. Cross where exactly on the map they lived and Mrs. Cross had swiftly taken the book away from her. Years before she’d ever really connected it to the actual lake, she’d had a fold-out National Geographic map that showed the contours of the bottoms of all the Great Lakes. She’d trace her way off of Navy Pier or The Point at 55th Street, or off of Jackson Park and imagine herself a mile out, floating 800 feet above the earth on the sound of the invisible water. Not the waves on the surface of the lake, her map showed the shape of all that space under what you saw on the surface. All that cold, dark water plunging down and away from anything one could ever know. While she stared at the map, she traveled as if she was underwater where sound comes at you from all directions at once. Suspended in this unknowable sound, her index finger with the mocha sliver of a moon at the top of the nail traced the shades of blue on the map that told how deep it was. Once, in elementary school, she’d filled a five gallon pail for their box garden project and found she couldn’t move it at all. Her second grade teacher, Ms. Willis, had to pour half away so she could carry it. So, it’s heavy, too, she’d thought, narrowing her eyes and checking both corners of her vision as if she’d just discerned a crucial secret. For weeks after that, she went to bed and lay there sleepless imagining how the lead-heavy depth of the whole lake would feel if it was her blanket and how nobody would be able to move it. Nothing in Chicago ever made sense to her without the lake. Strictly speaking, nothing much made sense with it either, but with the lake floating out there, in her mind, it didn’t matter as much. She remembers the Fourth of July when it seemed that the whole South Side lined up along the shore. She’s always wondered if they, “we?” she thinks now, as if somehow her limbs could blink for her eyes, she wondered if they, again, the limb-blink, thought the lake would open up and everyone just walk away…no music in Chicago makes sense if you can’t feel the Moses effect, the pulse-way people arrive but never get there, depart but never leave a city, in the song. No sense, not sense to feel that is, if you can’t. If you haven’t followed it as it blows out over the lake, at night, til the sound of the spilled light, which is just a gloss of all the never-lostness and not-foundity of the used-to-be-somehow and the not-quite-even-againness the people, of even one gone-person, of the city disappears into the waves. And you, that used to be or could have been but now never again you, with it. For her, no matter the pronouns and prepositions, every song was really sung to that unknown, invisible weight. And she had the chart on her map next to her bed. She listened to her clock radio at night, volume down so low she used it as a pillow to hear the songs played by her favorite dj, Misty after Midnight. She’d listen with her eyes closed and then open them up and place each song on her map of the emptied-out lakes according to 9/13/13 12:48 AM