When I was a kid growing up in Dallas Texas , say 10 or so, I remember seeing the bracelet for the first time. It was gold and had this wide banding around it. It was obviously fake. I remember seeing that the gilded surface was poorly painting on and was rubbing off revealing silvery metal underneath. The bracelet belonged to Sabrina, a good friend of my mother’s. Sabrina was a big girl. Bossy, loud and funny in all the ways central casting ordered up for a black woman of her age, somewhere in her late 20’s if I remember. A 1980’s ghetto chic princess, sparkling and always fierce, I’m almost certain in retrospect that momma and this uptown royal were secret lovers.
My momma had lots of girlfriends. That is to say she had good female friends throughout my childhood. However, none were quite like Sabrina. I can remember how she brought out the life in my momma. When they were together momma seemed more confident, had a little more pride, laughed more, and looked less lost and forlorn. I often think how a shame it is that the conservatism of the black community forbids the friendship and happiness that can and does exist in so many openly gay relationships. What I remember most about my momma, when I see her in my minds eye, was this backward sad look she’d betray through forced defiant smiles. I think she was looking for her friend.
I remember this bracelet. I’m not sure why it’s so powerful in my mind right now. I think it’s some stand-in for that sad-sweet nostalgia that middle-aged people get. The bracelet has become a talisman of regret and mid-life ennui. A reminder of yesterday. In the pictures of my mom – I have very few left – she always has it on. Why, I’d wonder. Before I came out of the closet way back in the early 2000’s it really was a mystery. I’ve always felt that detailing the long sad story of abuse and martial strife of my mother was a poor way to remember her to an audience. And so I chose instead to remember and to fantasize about the pure desire for deep affection that might have led my momma to Sabrina and her sweet charms. She passed a version of this desire down to her children – we all craved affections greedily – so I imagine she felt a yearning to be loved quite intensely. Whatever her reasons for fixing this desire on Sabrina she deserved love from someone. And Sabrina she was that someone. I think we all look for reminders in the objects we cherish of someone else’s affection. I think I understood that even as a little black gay boy on some level, I definitely understand that today
When I think about how they might have first met, my mind starts churning. In my imagination they saw each other at a party. My mother was a great dancer you see, and everyone would talk about the way she moved. She seemed to move to song-beats with her soul, not just her body. Sabrina no doubt saw this too. They would then have a cocktail I think. My mom never turning down a strong one, just like her son. They almost certainly would get high too. The smell of weed and incense was the smell of my childhood. I didn’t know weed was illegal until my teens, thanks Nancy Reagan.
At this imagined party the crown royal runs out prompting these two flirts, who’d eyed each other all night long, to hop into one or the other’s long stretch car to go to the corner liquor store. You know the one next to first Baptist. They’d, in my mind, have their first kiss in the car. Ever vigilant, they’d park by the dumpster next to the store so no one would see. Then, to deflect from their tender moment, console each other with a hailstorm of curses leveed against their dirt-bag spouses. Both in real life were abuse victims, long suffering in failing and desperate marriages.
Of course this almost certainly didn’t happen like how I imagined it might. Also my speculative fiction here no doubt betrays dozens of tropes about female attraction that my lesbian girlfriends would savagely disparage. At a pride event I went to recently I was told that stories involving women loving each other but that somehow involved a man is common in our culture and should be avoided. In my recollections of my childhood, Sabrina almost certainly consoled my momma. At one point I recall she let my brother sister and I live with her when my momma finally had enough of my step-father and moved out. So common lesbian tropes notwithstanding, I’m sure whatever romance existed between the two of them, their poor marriages was a feature.
I remember liking Sabrina a lot and being sad when momma and her stop seeing each other. Maybe the little gay kid in me was reaching out to a kindred spirit. I never remembered any kind of acrimony between the two at any point. I suppose my mom felt she couldn’t live with her special-privileges-friend carrying along 3 kids and decided to settle else where and adult through her pain and suffering. That bracelet though, I do remember her giving that to her, sort of as a parting something. I don’t know. Years later I look back at these moments and realize I witnessed a kind of magic between two people. I’ve been wanting to do work on this memory for a hot minute, and what I hope to achieve in whatever I end up making is something about a momentary love that reignites. I think Sabrina gave my mom the courage she needed to take us out of our troubled environment, and taught her that she had everything within herself to win at life
My musical tastes have been all over the map as per usual lately. I’ve been undergoing a tremendous amount of stress with school starting soon and exhibitions both large and small looming. My go to sound has been jazz. But I’d be hard pressed to say that a particular artist has been my go to. I built this playlist on my Pandora some years back based on John Coltrane’s, “Mr. Symns”, a song I think I want to be buried to its so lovely. On this list there are of course dozen of songs I’ve come to appreciate. Here’s one song I like a lot called, “Jet Song” by the Oscar Peterson Trio.
Kanye West is the kind of man who really should stick to what he’s good at and hire handlers to temper his excentricities. I say this on the way to a compliment of his recent release called Donda. Its incredible, and I love it! I just wished his media persona was less polerizing, but I guess that gives his music potency. Anyway the head single “Hurricane” is just everything. Here’s the YouTube clip.
I’ve been extremely slow this summer and I’m disappointed with my studio output. I think the scope of a couple projects were just too big for me and often what happens when things get to big for me is that I procrastinate and stop. Knowing that I think is half the battle, and the solution I’ve decided is to get really really deliberative with my schedule, like militantly determined. That’s probably gonna mean a big cut in my social schedule to get “caught up”. The ideas are still flowing though, which is a relief. I ‘ve never run out of things I want to paint about. So in a way my slow process lately allows for more urgent ideas to speak and come out of me. I hope as the fall comes into full swing and I get more scheduled I’ll be in a position next post to report on some amazing studio progress. Until next time, be well and stay safe!