I am the youngest 7th grader in my school. I come home, and go to sleep. Everyday, same thing. My mom drags me out of bed, I sleep on the bus to school, I nod off in first period, sitting up. I sleep on the bus home from school, sleep when I come home, wake up for dinner, do as much homework as I can, fall asleep in my books.
(literally, I mean, many books at City Middle have chapters on my DNA)
As with most things she cannot control, my Mom is angry. She starts making a fresh pot of coffee when I come home from school. Maxwell House, like Uncle Leonard, becomes the fuel that shoots my GPA shoots on a steep trajectory towards 4.0. We forget the long naps and inconsistent nights, the talking dreams, and the hard mornings.
Fast forward to high school. Red Bull shrine in my mind. Monster’s in my dreams. Venom in my veins. Caffeine my IV, and comes before the 8-piece pen set that rainbows my notes and irritates my teachers. My appetite is spotty, and my hair is falling out, but I’m losing weight and getting good grades….that’s a good thing.
Black female doctor has a laugh that pierces the hallways of the crowded adolescents’ office in Spectrum Hospital. She morphs from experienced Doctor to Sister friend in our presence, and my Momma is from Detroit – she don’t play Black shit lest you know her, and trust me, no one Black from Grand Rapids is allowed to know my Momma.
We’re here because she is off work, and I wasn’t ready for the test today anyways. I bring a gallon bag of the hair that has tried to leave me. The Doctor cackles at my concern, grazes hands through my hair, calls me beautiful, laughs and tries to chat. Momma don’t play that – demands testing, and the ceasefire of that cackling laugh attempting friendship.
Test results are in – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Accompanied with an explanation of the commonality of this disease, and how it “won’t kill me”.
I wonder how many more times my Black mother will have to insist my health not be measured by its proximity to death. I wonder if the Black Doctor knows that she is following systems built for her demise, too. I wonder how many Black children are truly well.
I am a stubborn child stumbling towards adulthood under a Black mother’s righteous dictatorship.
I forget the medicine often, sometimes subconsciously to spite all the eggs in my basket.
I am not a cash cow, nor a dowry for reparations.
I trade the skin of my teeth for Dartmouth. I wave the acceptance email in the face of Asian professor who told me to “have realistic dreams”. I get a 5 on the AP test white teacher said I would fail. I neglect to mention the furious studying from 5pm to 5am, the 30 minute nap that slipped in before the essay section, the drool on the table.
I hope they always remember they were wrong.