Today I Lost Joy
Today I felt joy. I hadn’t felt joy in a very long time, but yesterday I finally got a bed frame so I don’t have to sleep on a mattress on the floor anymore. My room finally feels like a home and home is what I’ve been craving these last couple months of rupture and healing. Rupture and healing on an f-1 visa. Rupture and healing without a stable job and the niggling threat of deportation. And the overwhelming, complicated feeling that this country is where I’m meant to be right now.
Today I finally began to feel joy because I got a bed frame and I thought of all the good things I’ve already managed to build for myself in this new city. And I remembered my blessings. My talents. My worth. I remembered my family and my nephew who has more power than he could ever know. I remembered my day ones. The fact that I’m loved. The fact that I’m capable.
Today I got a job offer at a company I fell for last month and as I read the email, I took note of my muted elation. It’s funny how regular ‘good’ feels after you’d missed it so long.
This evening I took the subway to Playwrights Horizons where I was volunteering. I love theatre, and one of my dreams is to simultaneously have shows at the Public in New York and the National at home in London. I was happy to be in a theatre again even if just as a runner, money having kept me out of one for so long. I watched the actors in the green room, holding my walkie-talkie to my ear. I was not to miss a cue. I was to take the actors down to the stage door as soon as the call for standby comes through, and open the door for them as soon as I hear ‘actors go’. I laughed to myself about the high-strungness of it all. It’d been a while since these kind of stakes were my own.
It’s nearing the end of the show and I log onto Twitter. Earlier in the day I tweeted about standing inches from Leonardo DiCaprio as he bought a ham quiche. I scroll through my timeline and instantly, the joy is gone.
These last few months, I’ve been reminding myself to be thankful for the moments I don’t feel the physical aches of depression in my arms and weight in my heart. But just like that, the joy is gone. Terence Crutcher. I’ve lost it.
I’m sitting in a room of adrenaline-filled actors. Ready to celebrate the end of their performance. An audience of Dramatist Guild members begins to spill into the foyer. I was ready for this. This is where I should want to be. I was going to meet people, speak in my accent, talk about the plays I’ve written. But my body aches now and it’s taking every vessel in me not to burst. I can’t feel their normalcy. I can’t turn my body off. I can’t switch off the world. Fuck Twitter.
I down a glass of red wine and stuff a bunch of desserts in my bag for my impending late night binge. Grief manifests in so many ways. No one is moving out of my way, the foyer is crowded and no one seems to see me, to see that I need to get the fuck out. I look at the black actors and wonder if, with their post-show phone peruses, they know. Wonder if this is one of the times they feel it. Or if their bodies and brains manage to refuse.
I step out onto 42nd street and walk towards the Q. I’m in a rush, and there is so much light and so many people in my way. The world around me hasn’t stopped.
Black men stare at me in the way they sometimes do. I’m a woman with a body but they’ve killed another one of you and I’m exhausted. It’s exhausting, to lose such an overdue sense of joy in an unexpected second. I’m tired but I still rush. I’m playing Jamila Woods, VRY BLK. I’m trying not to cry. I’m playing Father Stretch My Hands, “I just want to feel liberated,” and trying not to cry. I’m playing Ultralight Beam “I’m tryna keep my faith” and I start to cry.
I just want to get home.
I get off the Q and walk down Empire Blvd to my house. It’s late. I look over my shoulder. The world hasn’t stopped. A drunk man, screaming at the top of his lungs, is staggering towards me. Music is no longer playing on my phone, but my headphones are still in. I glue my eyes to the picture of my nephew on my home screen.
I remind myself of the reasons I’ve chosen to stay here, away from my home thousands of miles away.
I get to my room in the house I live in. I lay on my mattress, thankful I at least now have a bed frame.