New York: The Un-Instagrammable_Finale
As we prepared for our second day in the city, I silently worried in front of the mirror, as my cheeks seemed to have started to hug the bones on my face. What if I never stopped losing weight, until, soon enough, I started to look sickly and eventually died? I told you, the extremes in my head… they have no bounds! Start me off with one scary thought and be sure that I’ll run with it.
My cousin, who had been talking to me seemed to have been reading my mind. Worryingly, she said; “You’ve lost a little more weight since Paris”. Karmen is one of the only people who can comment on my weight without pissing me off. On the continent, people comment very freely on weight, whether weight gain or weight loss… My goodness, if that ain’t the fastest way to get this woman mad!
The most frustrating part of this weight loss was the fact that I seemed to have no control over it. I was not trying to lose weight, like I had tried countless amounts of times in my life, yet, my clothes felt baggier and baggier, and my cheeks seemed to be disappearing, appearing to create with it, dark clouds around my eyes.
I answered that I really did not know why I was losing so much weight and without attempting to stop myself tears started to stream down my face. Panicked, Karmen started, “Oh, Meguy, please don’t cry, I’ll buy you some sweets okay?” she said half-jokingly, still worried. Humor it seemed, is our remedy for everything. “You want me to give you my pretty skirt?” She followed.
“I do, but you’re like an extra small, if I fit into it, we ain’t going nowhere sis, I’ll just get right back into that bed and cry”
“It’s not an xs” She answered, but she seemed so unsure.
I returned to the bathroom to finish applying a bit of makeup. I spied in the mirror as she nervously reached in her stuff for her new skirt I had admired the day before. She reached for the tag, to check the size, she obviously didn’t remember it. Both her and I grew more nervous, me looking at her in front of the mirror spying on her and her standing next to her suitcase, one hand on her skirt, the other on its tag.
I turned around to look at her and she dramatically snatched the tag off her skirt, afraid I would lunge at her to check the size. I don’t know what it was that made the moment so funny but in the minutes that followed, we found our faces drenched in tears, this time from having laughed too hard. When I finally caught my breath, I asked “So, what size is your skirt though, I feel like I could really fit in it”!
I could fit in it. And I did. It was an M though. I checked the tag, twice. What a relief that was!
The following days in New York City saw us traveling with ease. From Brooklyn to Queens (where we met Penda, hey girlllll!) to Manhattan again. It was as if, I was traveling in a city I knew well, and not the city I had left 14 years ago. I recall Karmen laying her head on my shoulder in the subway and asking me to wake her up when we were “home”. I felt like my sister’s keeper, navigating our way back from Central Park to downtown Manhattan, where our hotel was situated. Once out of the subway station, she would take over, stumbling here and there, never really sure of how we ended up actually finding our hotel, losing our way, over and over again.
One Saturday afternoon of unusually scorching heat, we met Herbie, the funniest guy ever. As he hooked me up with a new sim card, he made jokes, as I replied, and my cousin shyly laughed. I often forget I’m not the only shy girl. Though no two shyness are particularly alike, hers, I guessed, in that instance, was due to being afraid to make mistakes in English. I don’t think I ever told you that back in New York Karmen but if you read this, know that you’ve learned a new language in record time, and that has not ceased to amaze me yet!
In the record time of half an hour, Herbie introduced us (me really, I was the only clueless one) to Soca music and I left him with some Koffi Olomide, my favourite one being Calvaire! ^^ He recommended some churches in Brooklyn and the following day, we settled for Harlem.
Having put my wig back on in New York City, after almost two months of crowning my head with nothing but my haircut, I worried I would go back to feeling insecure without it.
Stepping out without it that Sunday was a scary thought, but much to my relief, only the thought was scary, not the action!
After tricking my cousin into waking up an hour earlier, we set off for Harlem, and after a panic attack (caused by the fear of missing the Spirituals in the Church), we settled for getting into an Uber, my dear cousin still pissed at me for the trick I had played and quite frankly not very awake or ready for my fits ^^.
We got to Harlem the first of our group. The number of people joining us increased until it finally capped at about 15. Karmen and I being the only black travelers, we questioned one another on our minority in travel and historical tours (something we were not realizing for the first time). In front of the church, what looked like a hundred people cued outside. With our super cool, Harlem native guide, we skipped the lines of people and were soon seated in an area reserved for the crowed of tourists that would progressively fill the space. The church congregation gathered below us and seemed to make up less than half of the number of tourists in the building. That saddened me. As the choir started, I was moved, though not as much as I wish I had. I recall sitting in front of Tyler Perry movies, where church scenes would be reenacted. The choir in full gear with their deeply soulful voices would amaze me…
As the Deacon called for prayer, with bowed heads, the congregation prayed for “black moms, and their children, who ran the risk of getting shot and killed every day on the streets”. I was reminded again of the importance of the black lives matter movement, and how real the risks against black people in America remained.
I walked in the steps of the greats in a guided tour around Harlem, singing “take me back to Harlem” behind a warm and funnily hyper active guide, who was giving his all, despite afterwards admitting, he had been a little ill throughout our tour. Harlem was the highlight of my trip, because history, especially black history with its diverse branches and intricacies never ceases to meet me with wonder…
A couple of days later, I was parting ways with my cousin very grateful for my trip and her amazing surprise. What lay ahead, we didn’t really know. We would approach with caution and wander, sad to part, grateful to have a love that made the parting difficult.
Thank you for reading me. Until next time.
Thank you for reading me. Until next time.