Erin, er, "Chris" as he will continue to be known for the next year at least, sat on my bed next to my open suitcase while I was packing. I was struggling with the nitty gritty of it... all of this would still be here for the next Ahmir, (hopefully the original but we can't be sure) but I had to determine what he might need, whoever it is, when he wakes up in this beautiful black body one morning in a few weeks.
Being a white woman in a black man's body in a white man's world... I mean, you can probably tell by how little I wrote about it this year that it's a hard experience to wrap your head around. A lot of the time I just felt normal - aside from the fact that I was doing more physically demanding work - looking down at these thick, dark hands felt natural enough after a few months.
But I'm not going to lie and pretend I lived my life as Ahmir to the fullest. Even when I caught glimpses of "brothas" cutting loose and having a good time, my mind was never that far away from some recent tragedy. And how easily it could be me. I wondered how they could ever stand it. But being angry and afraid all the time is upsetting. Sometimes you want to just be.
Erin has been there for me. We're in a dangerous city and I go through phases where I'm scared to leave my apartment, and he is happy, usually, to come over and hang out. Then there are times when we go out and get a drink, and I'll feel strange because my only friend in the world is a white guy, and I feel other black men looking at me and think I'm not black enough. Well of course I'm not, but what business is it of theirs?
I wish I wrote more here, but every time I tried to, it felt like I was obsessed with the race thing. And if I tried to ignore it and talk about other stuff (it seemed like there were not many aspects of my life it didn't effect) I felt like I was being dishonest.
I wish it was more fun. I wish I could cut loose the way Erin does sometimes, throw myself into some lighthearted dating or something. I had Saraya, which was nice to have someone whose experience was so close to mine, but she decided I just wasn't enough of a man for her. (Maybe I'll see her again in Maine, maybe not.)
Still, I can joke about it, I jokingly say to Erin "Maybe next year you'll catch up to where I got." He blushes a bit. I know he wants to meet someone - female, it would seem - that he can share his time with. Especially now that his "buddy" is going away. He makes a great guy and now that he's got another year maybe he can stop worrying about it. "Nobody would want me," he used to say, self-pitying, "I'm a woman in a janitor's body." So not true. He's got great potential and I can feel this year is going to be great for him.
"You're lucky," I say. "The new-Erin seems like a great person - he'd have to be to agree to stay in your body for another year."
"Well, he got screwed over by the new-you," he answers, adding "no offense," as if he was talking about the real me.
"It's not my fault she's an asshole," I say, "You know, she invited someone else to the Inn to take his body?"
"Yeah, he put a stop to it," he said. "I can't believe he dated her."
"I'm not looking forward to seeing what she's done with my life," I said. But I suppose, deep down, doing anything is probably more use than I was getting out of it.
"Keep in touch, won't you?" he says as we go to the train station together.
"Of course," I say. I wrap him up in a big hug.
I board the train and take my seat, mind drifting off as my Broadway showtunes mix blares in my ears, when someone bumps my leg hard. I swear it wasn't sticking out that badly but I look up to see a very irritated looking white woman.
"Watch it," she sneers, as if it was my fault I've got long legs. I wonder if, mentally, she's adding "N****r."