The Unsolicited Blessing
witnessed by Stacey Rose
An act in one play.
First Lady of the Church of Self Righteousness Assumption
Osborne Terrace, Newark, NJ (Outside Newark Beth Israel Hospital)
(A braless young MOTHER no older than 23 labors her way down Osborne Terrace toward Newark Beth Israel Hospital. Her face is the struggle. At her hand is a tiny LITTLE GIRL, no older than two. They both have braid extensions that look to have been in about a month too long. They are, to be sure, clean. Their clothing, however, seems to have come from the nearest five and dime. The little girl’s sundress is too large. The straps are continuously falling off her shoulders. Mother’s top is being stretch to it’s ultimate tolerance with the swelling of her expectant belly. Enter coming from the opposite direction THE FIRST LADY OF THE CHURCH OF SELF RIGHTEOUS ASSUMPTION. She is a petite feminine woman. Her hair is cut in a smart cropped salt and pepper natural. Her clothing and accessories are the epitome of class and style. If one were to drift closer one would probably catch the aroma of an expensive Eau de toilette likely purchased at the nearest Lord and Taylor on credit. The three intersect. )
First Lady: Look at you!
First Lady: Awww she’s adorable!
Mother: Thank you.
First Lady: Heyyyy Baaaaby!
Little Girl: –
First Lady: How old is she?!
First Lady: Oh my god! And you’re already having another one?! Ain’t that somethin’?
First Lady: Where’s your daddy at baby?
Little Girl: –
Mother: At work. He at work.
First Lady: … oh. okay. okay.
(The first lady takes her hands and places them on the mother’s belly and begins to pray and unintelligible prayer. She moves her hands on to the little girl’s forehead and concludes the prayer.)
First Lady: Alright now. Y’all have a blessed day.
Mother: You too.
Little Girl: –
(Mother and little girl head in the opposite direction of The First Lady down Osborne Terrace. They may never see each other again. Amen.)
It’s happened to most people at least once. You’re starving. You’re on your lunch break, or a break during some godforsaken symposium, or between classes at school. Your blood sugar is about 10. You gallop your ass with the intensity of an antelope to the nearest vending machine and HOT DAMN they got those jalapeño pork rinds you geek out over. You are Pavlov’s dog. The saliva is forming. Your hands tremble at a rate that would measure about a 7 on the Richter scale. You shove the change through the slot. Finally it decides to accept the rusty dime that you found stuck in the cup holder of your car. You hit C7. You watch as the mechanical coil loops lazily clock wise and stops. Then … SON OF A BITCH!!! Your jalapeño pork rinds are suspended in midair, hung by a 1/18th inch section of the lip of the bag. There’s a hallway full of people and a small cluster of salivating antelopes behind you. You wonder if its a good decision. You wonder if people will think you’re crazy, but fuck that. Shake the machine.
Shake that bastard until all the jalapeño pork rinds in it along with the barbecue Fritos, glazed bear claws, fruit snacks, and packs of double mint gum have to surrender to the force you generate and come tumbling out of their individual mechanical coils. Shake that fucker til they call security and make sure they have to call reinforcements for your ass. Shake it until you have not an ounce of energy left, your blood sugar finally bottoms out, and they have to call an ambulance to drag your prostrate carcass out the door. Get all the other insulin deficient antelopes and dogs around you to shake it too because after all there is strength in numbers.
Keep going. Keep shaking. Til you get them damn jalapeño pork rinds, or whatever else it is you desire in this life.
“Stay Hungry. Keep Grindin’ ” – Barack Obama
- There is a polio outbreak in Somalia.
- There are comparisons being drawn between the conflict in Syria and the genocide in Rwanda.
- George Zimmerman got off scott free for killing an unarmed black teenager.
- Stacey Rose is struggling to find gainful employment, has a mere $70 in her bank account and only one more paycheck from her last job coming.
Guess which one of these headlines is keeping me up at night? As self-centered as it is I often have my head shoved securely up my own ass that I’m unaware the world has bigger problems than mine. Hell, people in my life have bigger problems than mine. At times I feel incredibly guilty about my tendency toward self-centeredness until I remember:
- I’m human.
- I’m not ALWAYS self-centered and actually have times when I am incredibly generous.
- The world doesn’t need me to help it rotate more than it needs me to participate.
When the stench and hot of being lodged into myself gets to be too much I am often rescued by an opportunity to volunteer or be of service to someone else. For the time I’m listening to someone, helping them with a task or otherwise engaging a situation that’s not my own, I feel better. My finger is off the panic button and I feel like a member of the broader human race.
When those other times return, I try to be conscious of when they arrived. I do what I need to ride them out, the most import part is knowing that despite whatever else is going on in the world the things that are going on in my life are important too. Does the world need give a shit because I have to have a varicella titer done and paid for out of my own pocket? Probably not. Do I need to? Yes, because caring for my own well being ensures that I’m contributing my very best to the world around me. What I can’t do is stay stuck or react in ways that will move my situation from bad to worse. I must acknowledge the fear (or whatever else I’m feeling) jump into the solution if there’s an immediate one, and accept the situation in it’s entirety. Being a self-serving dick head works in small spurts, no guilty trip required. That’s just the way I feel.
Confession: I never learned how to play double-dutch.
Well I did, but I was often called “double-handed” (a reference to my inability to catch the rhythmic turning of the two ropes) and when I made awkward knock kneed attempts to jump in they were always dismal failures that ended with me bound up like a newly captured slave (yes it was that bad). I was laughed at and almost always passed over for a turn when it was declared that there would be a game.
My transition into a life in New York has felt just as awkward and frustrating as my double-dutch exploits. Today I have been away from Charlotte, NC and everything else that is familiar to me for one month and three days. I often feel “double-handed” trying to catch the rhythm of this new life. At times nothing feels “safe”, not even a trip to the bodega or Stewarts (my upstate balm in Gilead). Every now and then though … I catch a rhythm.
The click-clack of the subway harkens the sound of ropes slapping in perfect time against the concrete. The rhythm is steady and sure giving me the courage to jump in. Into Brooklyn diners with waiters named Carlos who flirtatiously offer rice pudding as an after thought to the gut busting meal I just ate. Into the view of a gentrified Harlem from the Starbucks on 118th street where I find myself now. I smile at the kaleidoscope of skin tones passing the window to my left. I giggle a little as the men to my right discuss a friend who’s a “trust fund baby” that needs to get into filmmaking. I consider giving them my information should they need a screenwriter, but I think better of it. Missed opportunity? Who knows, time will tell. Guffawing maniacs cackle out the rhythm. Beautiful men bop to it. Breathtaking women with flip-flops and sandals that flap out the rhythm. I’m feeling it. Until Tomorrow …
Tomorrow I head back upstate for work that I will gratefully be done with on 7/20. I will get that double handed feeling again I’m sure. I will attempt to jump in only to be entangled in the ropes of Upstate New York‘s disjointed coldness. I know there is a rhythm there, I just can’t seem to find it. There are microseconds, while I’m at a recovery meeting, or when I receive a genuine “hello” or “good morning” but this doesn’t happen often. I accept it any how because I know that part of finding my rhythm/my place in this new life is being off rhythm for awhile.
It is during the times when I feel “double-handed” or unsafe that I learn the most. Those are the time I use the tools I was given. Those are the times I experience the most growth. So I embrace my double-hands and knock knees as red light indicators that I’m alive and on my way to catching a new rhythm and doper beat, a faster tempo, a deeper groove. I’m on my way to this:
Ok, well maybe not this, but dammit I’ll be close to “1-2-3 Independence!”*
* “1-2-3 Independence” is a double-dutch chant that was used back in my time while jumping. It was one of my favorites :). You can hear a few more here