Culture  Loving Me Was Too Dark

From Our Literary Column "Isthmus"

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day you told me I was different. The day all my
childhood memories ran out of my room, fast like air escaping my lungs. My room no
longer safe, the white walls now tainted red.

The bright lights my dad had hung to scare the demon away became dimmer than ever.
I would stare at those lights everyday as I thought of the names of our children. The
dark wooden frame holding my bed together matched the colour of my heart. This was
my space to conjure the stories I would tell our children, the stories of us growing up
together. Under the blankets warming my 15-year-old self, I would tell my parents’
grandchildren of how mommy and daddy lived side by side, with only a couple of
houses dividing their love.

Each moment we spent together, I documented your smile, how your eyes reflected the
Earth’s finest soil, and how your skin was purer than the clouds. In the mirror of my
purple vanity, I see us having breakfast in our little kitchen nook with the sun pouring in.
Our kids staring in awe as we joyously narrate this story.

“That really happened?” they would ask in deep curiosity.

“Yes, that’s totally how I remember it! C’mon, you’re ruining the story, hun. I was on a
roll,” I say for myself, my small hand leaving the plastic frame of the vanity my parents
had bought me when I graduated elementary school.

I think what I loved about you most is how you made me feel.

You made me feel like I deserve to be here, there, and everywhere. In my body, in our
neighbourhood, and beyond that. You validated my experiences, my suffering, my pain.
Finally, a man, a fair one, with cheeks as red as my passion for him, unaffected by the troubles
of this world, and eager to conquer it all. And the best part — he isn’t scared to be seen with
me. Finally, a man with such privilege, playfully walking down the hallways with his arm
around me. Finally, a white man that can make me forget that I am me.

“I am not into Black girls, I think they look dirty.”

“You know, a group of white girls look clean. It’s just not the same when you see Black and Brown girls.”

“You know, you’re really not like a lot of Black girls in our area.”

This is the sound of love. This is what it sounds and feels like. It feels like going home after
a long day, like the sun after darkness, and like healing after pain. His saint-like ability to see
beyond my complexion and my body was love. To him, I wasn’t like the others. That was love.

I remember the day I lost you in colour. It had started as a foundation for another story
we could tell our kids in the park while having a picnic. I thought of the way I would
begin the story when I spoke to myself while lying down on the cold wooden floors of
my bedroom. Another memory to pull out of my memory box. We were doing our ritual
thing, hanging out in my room talking about life. You said:

“You know, I don’t understand why Black women are so angry all the time.”
“I think you should respect people’s preferences, I don’t like girls whose skin is darker
than mine, just like someone might not like someone shorter than them.”
“I don’t get why Black girls are so ghetto like that and put it on the internet, too.”

I loved how we could be so open around each other without any judgement. You really
trusted me, a Black girl, with your white thoughts. I laughed, but it was to hide the pain.
Your thoughts took away the blinders from my eyes, making me see how I really was.
The first man I ever loved couldn’t see beyond the darkness of my skin, the kink of my
hair, and society’s hatred of my body.

I had never seen the inside of your house because your parents didn’t like Black and Brown
people. Their space had more value than mine, so naturally it deserved to be protected.
You took away any love I could’ve ever had for myself, and when I cry to my friends, I
blame those everlasting tears on you.

I hate myself for loving you. I always wonder who I was to think I could fit in that
fairy tale. Stupid of me to think my outcome would be different, to believe that I was
worthy of being different. The man full of lightness doesn’t fall in love with a woman
full of darkness in fairy tales, he doesn’t save her battered and tired soul, giving her
the life that she is truly deserving of. The purity of his skin, the power of his body,
and the public acceptance of his presence are all things a girl like me could only ever
dream of. Finally, all these years of perfecting my speech, burning my hair, and trying
to look happy paid off.

The tribal pillowcases my mother brought me from Cameroon absorbed my tears. In
my bed, I imagined the life our lightly-melanated kids would never have to endure. It
would be vastly different from their mother’s. Theirs would be filled with validation,
gratification, and safety. How could their shimmering caramel skin or their bright eyes
make anyone cross the street in fear? My heart would fill with joy as I see my daughter’s
hair blowing in the wind, forever protecting her from the darkskin struggle. Her hair
bouncing as she runs to hug me, thanking me for the life I built for her. Her hair able to
grow quicker than her mother’s wit; her eyes brighter than her mother’s soul.

Growth. That is what I gave you. That is all I was good for. An endless bucket of
support that whenever life became too difficult. I made myself believe that this is what
you do when you’re in love.

Unconditional. The one-word story of the Black woman’s life.

Unconditionally unloved.
Unconditionally ugly.
Unconditionally used.
Unconditionally dark.
Unconditionally mad.
Unconditionally loud.
Unconditionally cold.
Unconditionally here.

Loving you made me blind; I couldn’t see how much you wanted me not to exist as I was.
Even love couldn’t transcend a Black woman’s stone-cold attitude or soften a Black
woman’s voice. Passed on from mother to daughter. Black woman to Black woman.
Darkskin femme to darkskin femme.

All love did was make me blind. Colour-blind to the very people who want nothing but
for me to not exist.

This is surely love.