Guest Writer, a short story by ARAME

Harlem post-renaissance, pre-gentrification. When black people sat on the stoops of the brownstones they owned. When the chips were 25 cents and the bus fare 2 dollars. When there was block parties with smokey grills and a broken hydrant. I was born one summer in 1994 on a Thursday. I figured out Thursday when I went to Ghana and learned about Akan names. I am Yaa, a female Thursday born. 

God placed me in a Senegalese family who came to the U.S. just a few years before me.

They named me Arame. Say it Ah rahm. I think it means wise, deriving from the Wolof word yaaram. I might be lying but it sounds reasonable. 

Two more humans joined the family over the years. And we grew up together. With Senegalese heritage in America. I can write a book about our lives and experiences. I think Americanah is a piece of fiction that would be in the same section of the bookstore as my book. The “Africans in America” section. The “first generation” section. The “all my life I had to fight immigration to legalize my parents” section. But I do not want to write the book now because I am currently living through a major plot line and perhaps when it has passed and I have dealt with the trauma I can put it in text. For now, here are some bullet points:

  • I am not African American. Living in Harlem a good chunk of my life and learning about the American American legacy in this country, I realized how white supremacy lumps all black folx together to erase our histories. I am African. I am American and I benefit from the civil rights movement. The 60s helped my parents come to America black. Though we have a nasty history with the red, white and blue, it is the one with baguettes in Europe.
  • Sometimes I daydream about living a whole life in Senegal full-time.  But I hate dressing up and putting on makeup, cooking with the infertility spice (I mean Maggi), being in large gatherings (I have anxiety), and eating thiebou Jenn like it’s a food group.
  • Sometimes I daydream about living a whole life in Senegal full-time. I dream of having accessibility to some of the best tailors on the planet, sitting by the Atlantic after a casual stroll, going to a Youssou Ndour concert at Cices, and eating dibi like it’s a good group. 
  • The hardest academic assignment I ever had was to write a political history essay in Wolof. Essay question: “How can we use the lessons from the epic of Sundiata as a tool to address the problems of current African politics.” My thesis: Democracy did not exist in Africa post-colonization. It existed and was briefly interrupted. Once we disassociate democracy as a foreign tool post-oppression and associate it as an indigenous reality maybe our leaders will stop wearing suits and leading convenings in Français.
  • My parents don’t really know the weight of my accomplishments they are just really happy that I am not a scammer.
  • There is a whole market in Cape Town, South Africa with Senegalese vendors. I bought a bucket hat there and earrings from a dude named Ibrahima. I also randomly sat next to a Senegalese guy in a tro tro in Accra. And Malick cuts hair for the Africans in Bangkok. 
  • I didn’t like soup kandja growing up but now I love it. Try it with smoked turkey.
  • All I know is my able bodied family members in Senegal will not be getting any donations from me. Stop the generational yonni’ing. I might draft a petty graphic explaining who can ask me for money and for what purposes.
  • I sometimes think about how I will raise a baby Arame. Do I predetermine their identity and sculpt their experiences in youth so they can have the proper percentages of Senegalese and American. Or?
  • No shade, every Senegalese person- in the homeland and abroad needs therapy. The compounded trauma from Occupation and migration runs deep. 
  • “Lou metti yagoul.” Literal translation: what is hard is not long. Fancy translation: adversity is short lived. I remember some hardships in 30 second memories even though they actually occurred over months.
  • Senegalese men are so handsome but their toxic masculinity is like pineapple on pizza. 
  • Senegalese women. 
  • ^Senegalese women get their own bullet point because.

MARYAM

It all started with a gentle kiss upon my lips.

It then proceeded to consistent strokes down to my collarbone.

With the brisk evolution into an entanglement of emotions, I felt an ever-so-fragile embrace down the small of my back.

It just felt really right…almost intrinsic. 

I should have know it was poisonous.

But I didn’t.

I held onto the warmth behind his exhales and hoped that his fingers running down my spine didn’t leave a mark. 

I couldn’t afford any more scars…they were a constant reminder of what I left behind.

And promised to never look back on.

My weakness was highlighted by the silent whispers of lust as his breath glided over my stomach…

His sensual voice left trails of empty promises that sounded so familiar and so redundant.

His high had me in a maze and I searched for the nearest exit out of the mess I had gotten myself into.

But the colliding fields of interest held me back, the past versus the present versus the future.

The future that I never want to come…at least not with him in the peripherals.

Just as my mind began to roam, I was reminded of the compromising situation I’ve gotten myself into.

His eyes explored mine and I lost every ounce of oxygen I had.

A scramble for sanity catalyzed by our intertwined fingers—slow then a steady increase.

I throw my head back as he fed me stories of fulfillment, climactic anecdotes, and exhausting declines.

I saw it coming…disappointment at its finest. 

They were all false convictions and glorified thrusts of impotency.

It ended with heavy breathing, exhausted smiles and a gentle kiss upon my lips.

A smooth and swift release from his hold and the “next-day” regrets began as I realized…

They were all lies he told me.