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Casualty Management

As I walked out of The Momentary yesterday, I had a sinking feeling of loss.

Context: my adulting process has been coursework in 'casualty management.' I have always exalted relationships. I used to thrive on connections. The people I love give me purpose. They are my reason to keep going. I was always curating moments, gestures, and landmarks because they were the things I want to remember. So what happened? Adulting. Now that I have tasted the sharp edge of these acclaimed memories and the ugly aftermath, the goal then became to minimize the potential to get hurt. It is impossible to isolate myself totally. And people will hurt me, and I will hurt people, but I can reduce the sum total and gravitas of these incidents. Hence, casualty management. Or in other words, I have just grown up.

America is such an individualistic society. Everyone is about their business. Me sef, I carry eyes go front. I faced my lane. The only people I have really connected with in this country are four people in their 40s and 50s. I drink with them every Friday. (Does dating count? No.) This is the social and communal highlight of my life. With the few friendships I still have, I return the energy they bring to the table. I used to do too much. No more. When I meet someone new, I am already seeing the back of their head. I'm fully expectant that they will leave my life and I'm just waiting for how and when. I'm not trying to know them or create memories with them. They are a blip and nothing more.

So yesterday, when I walked into The Momentary and this pretty girl said I was pretty, I said thank you. I mean:

For reference. Just in case.

But she lingered and introduced herself. Aziza(t?) from Kenya. Just moved to Arkansas. I did the same. Ayotola from Nigeria. Grad school in Boise. Visiting Arkansas. The end right? But no. She then went on to talk about Kara Walker, whose work I was just engaging with for the first time. After she was done, guess what Ayotola did? I walked away. I walked away. I was distracted. I was flustered because I did not understand why this stranger was talking to me.

We saw each other a few more times in other galleries and sat near other when we watched a film by the same artist. Unfortunately, I was again distracted by Kara Walker and didn't realize she left.

Kara Walker, A Divided Landscape Exhibition at The Momentary

As I walked out, I remembered the usual complaint about how making friends as adults is a hard ordeal. It was then it hit me that this person was probably trying to connect with someone. She did most of the talking while I answered in monosyllables. She kept acknowledging me as we bumped into each other but I have so protected myself that I couldn't recognize the moment for what it was. If I had just moved to a small town in America and bumped into another young female African who seemed to share the same interest in art, I would be excited. If this was a year ago when I just moved to Boise, I would be over the moon.

Adulting is the ghetto. I asked S last night what the future of companionship looked like for our generation and the picture was so dismal and bleak.

I have been thinking about certain parts of me that have been stolen. By life. By people. By pain. By longing that would not go away. Parts so broken beyond repair. Parts long gone it feels like they were never there. The violence with which they were taken is unforgivable.

Season Two of Star Trek: Picard was a miss for me, but there were so many good moments. The over-arching theme was living a life weighed down by the past. Picard is a man well into his nineties but his whole life has been burdened by an incident from his childhood, the guilt he couldn't shake off, and an innocent mistake that changed the trajectory of his life. In his words:

There are moments in time we wish we could travel back to. Memories. Pieces of life better lived in reverse. In those moments, tragic endings might rewind into joyful beginnings. Moments of loss into those of gains.

I bawled like a baby when his love interest, Tallinn, after learning of this incident said this:

A lot of what we do is protective. It doesn't mean it's good for us.

Then Q came with the final blow:

Humans. Your griefs, your pains, fix you to moments in the past long gone. You're like butterflies with your wings pinned.

The imagery has stuck with me since: ...butterflies with your wings pinned. To remember a lesson from the past means I have to remember the past. If I'm remembering the past, how do I play a balancing act between just remembering and not staying frozen by it? I would be a fool if I didn't learn from the past right? So how then do I navigate this blur?

I have tried looking up Aziza on the internet. She mentioned where her sister goes to school and I have tried that angle. I should have asked questions. Is she here for work or school? I should have asked her to grab a coffee or play tourist like me. I should have said she was pretty too. Because she was.

I'm angry about what has been done to me. I am also angry with myself because I could have done this or that to avoid this and that. But there is nothing I can do about the past. It is written. It is done. It is history. I don't want to live life looking through a window. The future however is what I can still do something about.

So, please, I'm looking for Aziza. And, buy me a coffee for when I find her.

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