Having A Moment: The Unsolicited Blessing

The Unsolicited Blessing

witnessed by Stacey Rose

An act in one play.

Personae Dramatae:

Mother

Little Girl

First Lady of the Church of Self Righteousness Assumption

Setting:

Osborne Terrace, Newark, NJ (Outside Newark Beth Israel Hospital)

Time:

Early Evening

(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!

Mother:  Hi.

First Lady: Awww she’s adorable!

 Mother:  Thank you.

First Lady: Heyyyy Baaaaby!

Little Girl: –

First Lady: How old is she?!

Mother: Two.

First Lady: Oh my god! And you’re  already having another one?! Ain’t that somethin’?

Mother: –

First Lady: Where’s your daddy at baby?

Little Girl: –

Mother: At work. He at work.

(beat.)

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.)

Fin.

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That’s just how I feel.

  • 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:

  1. I’m human.
  2. I’m not ALWAYS self-centered and actually have times when I am incredibly generous.
  3. 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.

Rosie.

1-2-3 … Independence!

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!”*

Rosie.

* “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

I want to be a part of it …

Operative words: WANT TO BE.

See. To me it seems that the closer I get to New York City, the further away it is. Nothing is lining up the way I thought it would, and that little girl in me that was always taught not to ask for too much or expect much of anything out of life is sitting on a curb picking her nose and mumbling “told you.” And I’ve learned that slapping the shit out of her is not the answer.  Loving the shit out of her is. Helping her to see that there isn’t anything that’s too above her to reach.  Including big bad New York City. No, right now it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever be a part of that mad life that is captured so beautifully and simply on sites like Humans of New York. The little girl says “All the good ideas have already been had. You’ll never come up with anything original. Why bother?”, while the ice cream cone she grasps desperately in her right hand melts. She says I don’t deserve it. My resumé begs to differ.

In three weeks, I’ll make my way from the underbelly of Upstate New York into the New York metropolitan area.  I currently have no job prospects and far less money in my bank account than I’d anticipated. Everyone says: “It’ll work out, you’ll see.” Let’s hope they’re right. Let’s hope that the nightmare complete with me sitting on dingy street corners yammering to myself  donned in a floral print muumuu , wilted coffee cup for peddled change in hand that I have painted in my mind doesn’t actualize, or even worse (at least to me) a long bus ride back to my point of origin, dreams yet again deferred, with the little girl sitting next to me unfurling her thick braids saying “I told you.”

I can be a part of it. I will be a part of it.  You’ll see little girl.  You’ll see.

Rosie.

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If Wendell can, so can I.  (photo courtesy http://www.humansofnewyork.com   check it out. dopeness ensues.)

Truths being told, foreign homes and lonely bones.

I’m rounding the curb into my third week away from home. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to settle in. This is mainly due to the fact that I have been in perpetual motion since I arrived. NYC-NJ-Upstate NY-NJ-NYC-Amherst, MA-NJ-NYC-Upstate NY-Amerst,MA- and finally Upstate NY … again. I have had some AMAZING purpose confirming experiences along the way the most brilliant being the week I spent at the Summer Training Institute hosted by Ping Chong + Company.

The Institute is a week long writing intensive during which Ping Chong, Sara Zatz, Talvin Wilks, and Jesca Prudencio of Ping Chong + Company facilitate workshops, interview, and theatre exercises that instruct the technique used to developed their interview based theatre works Undesirable Elements. The intensive was so much more than I’d bargained for in that it wound up being an exploration into myself and into others in a way that I hadn’t conceived of before.  It deepened my appreciation for the value of a person’s story and challenged me to accept perspectives different than my own. I was allowed to sit into myself as a writer/theatre artist uninterrupted something I had not done in what felt like months. The potential for my work has been broadened as a result. Simply put, it was wonderful. But …

Now I am still. And it is quiet. And I live here …

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Schenectady’s answer to the Bates Motel.  Ok, so I’m exaggerating. I’m a writer goddamit, its what I do. It is different though, and feels more like a squatter’s colony than a place anyone should call home.  There is a weird hodgepodge of folks here. Some are professionals, like me. Some are professionals, like hookers.  There are displaced families, this makes me sad. Then there’s the park. The park with its rusty playground equipment long since abandoned by children. The park with it’s seedy goings on after sun down. The fucking park that is the view from my window hence I always have to keep the blinds drawn! Shitnhellfirefuck!

I know … I know what you’re thinking. “Well why didn’t you ask your company for better accommodations?” or “Why don’t you ask to be moved to a different room?” The answer to question one is: I’m on the bus.  This is the only “extended living” situation that’s on the bus line. Question two? It’s quite in this room. If I roll the dice to be moved elsewhere I may end up floor mates with the aforementioned “professional” and have to deal with all the undesirable elements that come with that situation … but damn wouldn’t that make for a good script! *digresses*

You wanna know the truth?  I miss home. There is still so much up in the air about school, and work, and finding an apartment.  This is scary. I don’t like it. There is not the comfort of my cats meeting me at the door when I get home. There is no Zion busting into my room demanding that I listen to the new rhyme he wrote. My mother is not speaking to me with the glare from her iPad on her face as she peruses weekly sales seculars online.

I’m incredibly lonely and afraid that at any minute this whole thing will come tumbling down on my head and I’ll disappear. Maybe in that fucking park even.  That’s it the park is gonna eat me alive! They’ll find my mangled flesh scattered between the rickety swings and the rotted through chain link fence outside my window.  Ok, I’m doing it again … the exaggeration thing. I’ll stop. Right now. The money will come or it won’t. School will work out or it won’t. Either way, life will go on and I will continue to do my part to follow the path I’ve been put on and keep the faith. More to come … if the park doesn’t swallow me whole ;).

Rosie.

Unity Mobs and other side effects of xenophobia.

It was the 80s. Cyndi Lauper was reppin’ Cap’n Lou Albano hard.  The then WWF was in its golden age and was the happy ending to many children’s (and adults) Saturday morning brain freeze. There were the rivalries. Oh, the rivalries! Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Superfly Jimmy SnukaRandy “Macho Man” Savage vs. The Ultimate WarriorGeorge “The Animal” Steele vs. any turnbuckle he encountered. The rivalries that really made you lick your chops though … I’m talkin’ the ones that would unite the neighborhood bully with the lithe bookworm whose ass he’d just kicked the Friday afternoon before; were the USA vs. the “Evil Foreigner” grudge matches .  The USA would usually be represented by the Sergeant Slaughters or  The Hulk Hogans of the world. The  “Evil Foreigner” would be represented by some one like say, The Iron Sheik. The shit felt real as hell too. It felt like the world was going to end and evil would run rampant throughout the planet if Sergeant Slaughter got snared in The Sheik’s deadly Camel Clutch.

This sort of sentiment is not new and it echoes throughout American life. It’s like the US can’t find shit else to unite about except a tragedy reigned down upon our innocent souls by a real or imagined demonic boogie men (exclusively from somewhere else, because you can’t honest and for true be American and evil simultaneously) or our hatred of other countries/races because of their refusal to bow down to our natural superiority.  I don’t say this from an “above it all” place either.  I was sitting on my couch, crying uncontrollably, and singing God Bless America on September 12th 2001 like many other Americans. As far as I was concerned, on that day, “W” coulda rendered the entire middle east dust. The fact is, at that time,  that level of violence on American soil was extremely foreign, at least to my generation. It felt like a complete violation of who we were and something had to be done, right  then, right there,  no matter the cost. America … FUCK YEAH.

Over ten years of hindsight has removed the rose-colored glasses that allowed us to continue the view of America as “Police Officer of the World” … well  some of us anyway. Many now recognize that we  may need to sweep around our own proverbial front porches before we go about taking on the liberation and democratization of nations around the globe.  However, lately when it seems every week POTIS is headed to another American city to give a speech of condolence and empowerment, the Unity Mob mentality seems to have grown and mutated (with the help of social media of course) into this beastly caricature of stock American values that rages like a new pimple for about a week, but is salved by a healthy dose of baby KimYe coverage.

As horrible as I felt about what happened in Boston, I could not help but cringe while listening  to the post capture rhetoric that began to sound like Oscar speeches. It’s fantastic that they caught this guy alive, and that we’ll  hopefully be able to peek into the mind of people like him to find out why they carry out horrific attacks like the one at the marathon, but does there need to be an exaggerated sense of celebration in a major American city being on lock down (to the tune I’ve heard of $33 million a day?!)  There were Lock Down Parties.  Jesus M. H. Christ what does it all mean?

At this point, I’ve become a little unpatriotic to some, sacrilegious to others,  and probably both to Newt Gingrich who would probably call me an ungrateful black slut if I ever made it onto his radar, but I would really like to know where the extended man hunts are for the crime trodden streets of the inner city of Chicago? Do they  not occur because you can’t encapsulate the issues of the inner city into a neatly boxed media package that can be consumed and shat out in under  a week? Where are the Unity Mobs when our kids are being fed directly from schools into prison by a sub par education system? Where are the Unity Mobs when young black and latino teens are privy to being target by NYPD on a whim because the police have carte blanche to determine who “looks” like a criminal? Is it that these segments of America not worth getting fired up over to  the angry masses?

Or are they so busy warming up their typing fingers for the new big “it” tragedy? Maybe they’re somewhere wracking their brains trying to figure out where the dreadful folks who do this type of thing come from? Well I’ve got a theory. I believe they come from Us. Yes, the great old US of A that has been creating sociological problems and ignoring the repercussions since inception.  We made these monsters, and instead of chasing them down desperately trying to connect them to the “other” via religion or race, maybe we should be trying to figure out and take action to heal the parts of our system that is creating such beautiful minds with a propensity for death and destruction.

Rosie.

Martyr May I.

The conversation usually goes like this:

Person: Wow! Congrats on getting into NYU! That’s an incredible opportunity.

Stacey: Aww, Thank you. I’m really excited.

Person: Is your son going?

(Here, as we say in theatre, is a “beat”. The length of the “beat” usually depends on how many times I’d been asked that question within 48 hrs. The extent to which I go to explain my choice is directly proportional to the level of maternal guilt I’m feeling that day, but it all boils down to this:)

Stacey: No, He’s not going (… insert excessive rambling here as needed.)

(Next, the reaction. It varies and is typically some combination of: 1. A “beat”, some type of facial grimace, followed by an expulsion of air … usually from the mouth and then 2: Oh … )

Person: … who is he staying with?

Me: …my mom.

(Now, the conversation either ends here or rambles on in some awkward dance between my guilt and the other person’s judgement/the judgement I perceive them to have, then dies an even more awkward death in pregnant silence.)

This post is not an explanation of why my son will not be moving to New York with me. This post is about the fact that this question is always the first to be raised with mothers pursuing lofty goals.

I have watched my mother, and countless other mothers “sacrifice”, martyr their peace, happiness, and in some cases their physical existence for children who didn’t benefit one way or the other from said sacrifice. In some cases this “sacrifice” was ultimately the child’s downfall. Why? Because all that additional motherly love was enabling, that’s why. Mothers and specifically single mothers have for far too long worn the badge of the martyr, forfeiting any dreams or potential they had before they gave birth. It’s as if your goals and desires for yourself can’t exist in the same space as parenthood, or if they can, those goals and desires had better damn well be minimal and involve a papoose. (I just pictured my 5’8” 155lb 14 year-old strapped to me as I navigated Washington Square and died a little.)

Ye verily I say unto all the mothers who think they have to give up happiness and personal satisfactions in order to be a “good” mother … fuck all of that … in its entirety. I am a 37 year old woman with a lot of life left (hopefully), and a lot of shit I want to do. I love my son immensely and will not cease to handle my basic parental responsibilities, while also continuing to do everything within my power to guide him into a successful life. That, for me, is what parenthood is about. I refuse to give up my life as a testament to what a wonderful mother I am. I would rather live a full and purposeful life that can serve to inspire and empower my child into a better way of living. My pursuit of a full and purposeful life just happens to involve me being away from my kid for a while. This is not an ideal situation, but it is not Life’s job to serve up ideal situations. Besides, I’m pursuing graduate education for baby Jesus’s sake, not smoking crack. (Unfortunately, the latter in the eyes of some, seems to be a more acceptable reason for a maternal hiatus :/.)

Then there’s the shitty male/female double standard. If I were a father, even a single father, I don’t think anyone would give a second thought to me taking off to school or even better enlisting with the military and leaving my son with family. In fact, it’d be encouraged. This, in the eyes of some, makes a father joining the army, potentially being deployed to war, and killed a better choice than me, a mother, pursing higher education. I don’t blame fathers. Hell, I don’t even blame the people who ask me this question. It’s kind of just the way things are. We exist in a patriarchal society where the man goes out hunts the meat, clubs us over the head then …

Maybe you think I’ve written this assuage my guilty conscious and maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t give a fuck* what anyone thinks. Maybe I do, but I shouldn’t because it’s my life. Square biz, I don’t know a parent who doesn’t have regrets about choices they’ve made raising their children. I know I will have regrets a plenty, possibly with the decision to leave him in Charlotte for two years topping the list. Time will inevitably reveal the decisions that will land my ass in a shitty nursing home per my son’s request. However, If I look at my parenting job so far I can honestly say the danger of me stewing in my own juices while medical staff is on break is pretty remote. All I can do is check with my gut, check with Sonny Jim, and pray for the best

Rosie.

*Please read the linked article ad nauseum. You will either become completely reckless, stop being afraid of what people think and live, or both. Shouts to KNKYTHT for sending it to me, it was the highlight of my week.